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Safer world for all pic 4

What will it take to make a safer world for all?

In association with: Micah Australia

Drawing on Tearfund UK’s recently published Restorative revolution report and material developed for the aid sector’s new Safer World for All campaign, Tearfund’s Head of Advocacy Emma Wyndham Chalmers outlines the global challenges that are undermining progress to end poverty, and what can be done to get back on track.

Beginning with the good news


“I’ve seen a big difference in the yield. The maize I’ve kept for my family’s consumption from the last harvest will last to March next year.” That means food all year round for Eunice Moyo, who is seen standing in her field, the soil freshly prepared for planting using a climate-smart method that has transformed her livelihood as a farmer, thanks to support from Tearfund’s local partner the Reformed Church in Zambia Diaconia Response.

In previous years, Eunice would gather 15 bags of maize. Last season, thanks to the new approach, she gathered 23 bags – despite increasingly unreliable rainfall. Her improved harvest is having a significant impact for her household: “My household is food secure, able to have three good meals per day as a family.”

Between 1990 and 2019, there were one billion stories like Eunice’s. One billion people around the world who lifted themselves out of extreme poverty and for whom the future became more hopeful and secure.

It’s stories like these that we love to tell, and love to celebrate. They remind us of what is possible, of how much we share, and that regardless of when or where we happen to be born, regardless of our race, our gender, or our ability, we each have a place in God’s story of reconciliation and restoration.

The reversal of progress

Yet still, not everyone in our world has these good news opportunities or experiences and, after decades of decline, poverty is increasing and global hunger is on the rise. On our current path, instead of achieving the global goal to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030, we could see 575 million people – seven per cent of the world’s population – living in extreme poverty, and even more living with chronic hunger and malnourishment.1

What went wrong? Why are we seeing this reversal of the great gains we had made? And what can we do now to put ourselves back on track towards a future in which all people have the opportunity to reach their God-given potential?

The answer lies in understanding the paradox in our progress over these decades: that our economic growth has come at the expense of equality and the environment, and, for too many people, has pushed a more safe and certain future further from reach.

Extreme wealth, extreme poverty: the problem of inequality

A report published in 2020 showed that the combined wealth of 22 men at that time was more than the wealth of all the women in Africa. Since that time, nearly two-thirds of all new wealth created has been captured by the richest one per cent.2 During the COVID-19 pandemic, people in lower income countries were four times as likely to die from the disease as those living in high income countries.

The pandemic both highlighted and worsened what was already becoming increasingly apparent: that our current economic system fails to serve all people equitably, and there is a widening gap between those who have more than enough and those who cannot afford to meet their basic needs.

Aside from the intolerable injustice of the failure to share both the opportunities and the responsibilities of wealth, systemic inequality makes poverty a more difficult problem to solve. Those at the bottom of the wealth ladder lack access to sufficient nutrition, health services, education, and secure housing: all the basic building blocks from which social and economic potential can be realised. Those at the top hold far more power but far less incentive to change a system that is working in their favour.

Furthermore, inequality within and between countries contributes to breakdown in the political stability, social trust and civic cohesion that are essential to effectively address the shared challenges we now face.

The groans of creation: the problem of ecological overshoot

Each year, Global Footprint Network calculates the date on which humanity’s demand for ecological resources exceeds what the earth is able to regenerate within that year. The inaugural Earth Overshoot Day was 23 December 1970. In 2023, that date was 2 August.

All the earth’s systems upon which we depend – the air, land, water, plants and animals – are under immense strain. Species extinction rates are estimated to be 100 to 1,000 times higher than historical averages, up to one million people die each year as a result of mismanaged waste, and extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and severe. We have exceeded six of the earth’s nine planetary boundaries,3 and face biodiversity loss, environmental degradation, pollution levels and climate change at unprecedented scale.4

This affects us all, but again, not equally. The one in four people whose health and livelihoods are burdened by the lack of access to safe waste management disproportionately live in the world’s poorest communities.5 The Middle East and North Africa are heating nearly twice as fast as the global average.

Australia’s new international development policy states that “climate change is the greatest shared threat to all countries”.6 The current East Africa hunger crisis, the worst in decades, comes off the back of years of successive drought, combined with other climate and economic shocks, and has resulted in more than 46 million people experiencing severe hunger.7 Beyond the immediate crisis, humanitarian disasters like these can have long lasting impacts on development. We will continue to see worsening inequality and a reversal of progress in the fight against poverty until considerably more is done to limit further heating.

Fear and fracture: the problem of conflict

Conflict and poverty are inextricably linked, both driver and consequence, and both are the outworking of broken relationships. Conflict affects essential supply chains, contributing to inflation and cost of living pressures. Conflict is also a cause of mass displacement as people are forced from their homes to avoid violence, and seek safety and better livelihood opportunities.

The majority of humanitarian needs in our world today are driven by conflict. In 2023, an estimated $51.5 billion was needed to meet humanitarian needs. And while global military spending in 2022 exceeded $2 trillion, the average shortfall in global funding for humanitarian aid over the last five years has been 44.35 per cent.8

Beyond the circumstances of acute conflict, our world is experiencing increasing economic volatility. This economic uncertainty and division creates anxiety and mistrust, and is leading nations and communities to retreat and turn inwards. At this time when cooperation and partnership are so crucial to solving global challenges, this only makes progress harder to achieve. This fearful and fractured response leaves space for populist and polarising narratives to take root, contributing to further division, and conflict.

Beginning again with the good news

That we face these multiple and intersecting crises makes the work of alleviating poverty more challenging and more complex. But arguably the biggest threat to overcoming these challenges and complexities is the loss of hope. We need the hope that gives us the conviction and courage to act.

As Christians, this hope is central to our story. A faithful God, a reconciling Christ, and a Spirit at work in the hearts of people willing to step out in faith, hope, and love to bring transformation in the face of overwhelming challenges.

Right now, our choices matter. There are steps we can take to repair and reform our systems to take us down the path of another billion good news stories to tell.

Steps towards a safer world

This year, Tearfund, as a member of Micah Australia and together with a broader coalition of aid and development agencies, will be working to influence our government to play its part in addressing the systemic drivers of poverty under the banner of a campaign entitled Safer World for All.

As a wealthy nation, Australia has both a responsibility and an opportunity to play its part in addressing these big global challenges by:

  • Rebuilding Australian Aid
    with a commitment and time-bound plan to increase our contribution to poverty alleviation and building shared security through overseas development assistance and humanitarian aid.

  • Taking action for a fairer global economic system
    so that developing countries can achieve sustainable development in the face of cascading crises and rising debt risks.

  • Ensuring a safer climate for all
    by contributing adequate and accessible funding for climate adaptation, mitigation, and loss and damage, while also acting to protect the right to a healthy environment for all current and future generations.

As with all our campaigns, there will be opportunities for you to be part of the action, and to be a voice of hope, as we work together for a more just and compassionate future, and a safer world for all.

Act Now for a Safer World for All

Threats to our world are intensifying – dangerous weather, increased wars and soaring inequality – but decisions made by this generation can put the world back on track. Add your voice and show political leaders that Australian Christians want to see action to build a Safer World for All.

Add your voice

1 Restorative revolution: A movement of the church to transform wealth, power and communities for a flourishing world, Tearfund UK, 2023, p7; Safer World for All, p8.

2 Restorative revolution, p7.

3 Safer World For All, p7.

4 Restorative revolution, p9.

5 Rubbish Campaign, Tearfund.

6 Safer World For All, p16.

7 Restorative revolution, p9.

8 Safer World For All, p10.

Written by Emma Wyndham Chalmers - Tearfund's Head of Advocacy