• Confessions of a first time letter writer

    Posted by Laura

    11 April, 2012


    I think the last time I went to Canberra was back in 2002, for a Year 6 excursion. Back then, the highlight was, undoubtedly, Questacon. I love that place! 

    A few weeks ago, I spent two days in Canberra, but this time I was at Parliament House with the WASH Reference Group - representing 26 water and sanitation NGOs and academic research institutions. We met with politicians, and government agencies, with the specific purpose of talking about water, sanitation and hygiene.

    I'm far from being an expert at water and sanitation. But the more I'm learning about the impact that simple sanitation measures can have on the lives and well-being of people in the developing world, the more I'm becoming a fan of focusing our attention and aid dollars on that sector. The WASH Reference Group includes a huge range of expertise - engineers, public health practitioners and researchers, with specialties and experiences a number of different of countries, contexts and program types. The overwhelming feeling is that money spent on water and sanitation, is money well spent. For every $1 invested on water, sanitation and hygiene, the economic return is $8. That's huge. 

    And so, when we met with politicians down in Canberra - MPs and Senators, from both sides of Parliament, from every state and territory, I was genuinely surprised at how receptive they were. I thought that politicians, on the whole, wouldn't be interested in talking about hand washing and toilets. Even the ones that weren't that fascinated, were intrigued to know that their constituents cared about these issues. 

    Despite my aversion to spelling Millennium correctly (that double "n" always gets me!), I've put pen to paper these last few days, to express my concern that the Government appears to be waning in its commitment to reach 0.5% of GNI for Overseas Development Assistance, and its stated intent to "spare no effort" in working towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals. As the Government does all it can to fulfill its promise bring the budget back to surplus, we need to make it clear that we don't want the budget to be balanced at the expense of the world's poor. It seems that sometimes people think the Government sees aid as an easy spending cut, with no strong constituency. We need to show them that that is not the case. 

    By writing to the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister, or members of the Expenditure Review Committee, either with the wonders of technology via the template on our website, or old-school snail mail, complete with a stamp, address and signature, we are making our voices heard. It is showing the Government that we care about the aid budget, and we will notice if it gets cut. 

    As a newbie intern at Micah Challenge, a first time political letter writer, and after having just returned from my first series of meetings with politicians down in Canberra, this is all new to me as well! But with the 2012-13 Budget nearing finalisation, and spending cuts on the agenda, there is no time like the present to do all we can in the coming days to ensure the Government delivers on its commitment to increase aid - to start and continue engaging with politicians, showing them that we care, and are watching closely. 

    The love of Christ compels us to seek justice and mercy for the poor - let's do all that we can to ensure that this year, the Government fulfills its commitment to reduce poverty and injustice in our world.

    Laura Scott is the 2012 Political Engagement Intern at Micah Challenge