After two years of declining world aid, last Tuesday, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released new figures that demonstrated that aid had reached a record high in 2013 and increased by over 6.1%. In the face of what appears to be a gratifying headline, beneath the surface lies a far more depressing state of affairs.
The world over, we are seeing ever more cases of extreme weather, from the recent floods in the UK to wild fires in Australia. With each incident comes the familiar assurances that - this time - the necessary action will be taken to make sure there is no repeat. The reality is we have no choice, as every country faces the fact that climate change - and its impact on the weather - is no longer a distant prediction, but a daily reality. And for the poorest people on the planet, the need to change is not just a matter of saving money, but saving lives.
When Antony Jenkins took the helm at Barclays he promised to clean up a bank that had been badly scarred by a seemingly relentless stream of scandals. To re-enforce the point he sent an email to his 140,000 staff saying that he wanted to bring new ethical standards to Barclays. Those who didn't want to sign up to them were told they should leave.
When I launched Live Below the Line in the UK in 2012 I didn't think doing the challenge was going to be difficult at all. I thought those who screwed up their faces when I proposed the challenge were simply lazy. I remember being a student - the Smart Price pies, Pot Noodles and spaghetti shapes. Living on so little for over three years, how hard could living on £1 a day for five days really be?
I wonder if I can persuade you that, despite the utter horror of this week's headlines from Syria, we are lucky to live in an era of unprecedented human progress. Yes, I'm going to try to convince you that for more people, in more places, the world has more to offer now than at any time in the history of our species.
The Bill would massively restrict the amount that campaigning charities and other UK community groups could spend in the year before an election whilst silencing us with unnecessary red tape. And if you're wondering why US-style funding systems don't yet exist in the UK, it's because they're already illegal.
The biggest tragedy of all is, if we're lucky enough to survive until we're old, grey and wrinkled, and our grandchildren ask us what we gave to the world we lived in, we are only able to say that we took more than we gave. For the man who dies without giving more than he has taken can take no triumph from his life.
You don't have to be a Marxist to feel a sense of outrage at these statistics. I trust that most of us with an ounce of sympathy for the suffering of fellow human beings would sense that the global economic system that engineers such disparity in the way people live is dysfunctional and requires serious reforms.
Kanchi Tamang is a waste-picker in Nepal. A mother and a grandmother, she works long hours in unsafe and unclean conditions for a pittance. After contracting Hepatitis C, then developing painful gallstones, she faces the prospect of medical treatment that will require her to be absent from work and hospital bills that, together with the loss of work income, might mean that she loses her home and cannot support her family. Yet if she does not receive treatment, she might lose her life, not just her livelihood.
We don't yet have enough reliable information to make difficult decisions. That also means we didn't have it when past decisions were made - and we often don't even know what those decisions were. For example, the report reveals that the total aid donors say they have spent is typically far higher than what recipient governments say they've received.
Five days on a £1 per day allowance for food & drink. No meal gifts, no using what's already in the cupboards, just budgeting a fiver. This was not going to be easy. It would mean willpower, possible hunger, monotony and sacrifice of both luxury and well, a social life not to mention my beloved wine.
I've been working with Save the Children and have travelled to a few countries with them now including my mum's homeland, the Philippines. What I've seen there as well as elsewhere is why I'm writing this blog. It's the reason why when I look into my fridge, my cupboards or at my daughters' dinner plates, I remember the people I've met there. You see, I've seen real hunger. Here, when we say we're starving, we've usually missed a coffee break or are late on lunch. Over there, in the Philippines, Bangladesh and countless other countries, it's literally true and it's utterly devastating.