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what causes global poverty
As governments, aid workers and activists search for solutions to the urgent problem of widespread poverty and seek to combat its many negative effects, there is a need to identify the causes of poverty in order to create sustainable change. Understanding what causes global poverty is a crucial part of the process of devising and implementing effective solutions.

Most analysts would agree that there is no single root cause of all poverty everywhere throughout human history. However, even taking into account the individual histories and circumstances of particular countries and regions, there are significant trends in the causes of poverty.

 

Top 5 Causes of Poverty

 

  1. History
    Many of the poorest nations in the world were former colonies from which slaves and resources had been systematically extracted for the benefit of colonizing countries. Although there are notable exceptions (Australia, Canada and the U.S. being perhaps the most prominent), for most of these former colonies, colonialism and its legacies have helped create the conditions that prevent many people from accessing land, capital, education and other resources that allow people to support themselves adequately. In these nations, poverty is one legacy of a troubled history involving conquest.
  2. War & political instability
    Whatever the causes of war and political upheaval, it is clear that safety, stability and security are essential for subsistence and, beyond that, economic prosperity and growth. Without these basics, natural resources cannot be harnessed individually or collectively, and no amount of education, talent or technological know-how will allow people to work and reap the benefits of their labor. Laws are needed to protect rights, property and investments, and without legal protections, farmers, would-be entrepreneurs and business owners cannot safely invest in a country’s economy. It is a telling sign that the poorest countries in the world have all experienced civil war and serious political upheaval at some point in the 20th century, and many of them have weak governments that cannot or do not protect people against violence.
  3. National Debt
    Many poor countries carry significant debt due to loans from wealthier nations and international financial institutions. Poorer nations owe an average of $2.30 in debt for every $1 received in grant aid. In addition, structural adjustment policies by organizations like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund often require poorer nations to open their markets to outside business and investors, thereby increasing competition with local businesses and, many argue, undermining the potential development of local economies. In recent years, calls for debt reduction and forgiveness have been increasing, as activists see this as a key means of reducing poverty. The United Nations has also made it a priority to examine how economic structural adjustment policies can be designed to place less pressure on vulnerable populations.
  4. Discrimination and social inequality
    Poverty and inequality are two different things, but inequality can feed widespread poverty by barring groups with lower social status from accessing the tools and resources to support themselves. According to the United Nations Social Policy and Development Division, “inequalities in income distribution and access to productive resources, basic social services, opportunities, markets, and information have been on the rise worldwide, often causing and exacerbating poverty.” The U.N. and many aid groups also point out that gender discrimination has been a significant factor in holding many women and children around the world in poverty.
  5. Vulnerability to natural disasters
    In regions of the world that are already less wealthy, recurrent or occasional catastrophic natural disasters can pose a significant obstacle to eradicating poverty. The effects of flooding in Bangladesh, drought in the Horn of Africa and the 2005 earthquake in Haiti are examples of the ways in which vulnerability to natural disasters can be devastating to affected countries. In each of these cases, already impoverished people became refugees within their own countries, losing whatever little they had, being forced out of their living spaces and becoming almost completely dependent on others for survival. According to the World Bank, two years after Cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar in 2008, the debt burden of local fishermen had doubled. The Solomon Islands experienced an earthquake and tsunami in 2007 and the losses from that disaster equaled 95 percent of the national budget. Without foreign aid, governments in these countries would have been unable to meet the needs of their people.

These are only five causes of poverty. They are both external and internal causes; both man-made and natural. Just as there is no single cause of poverty, there is no single solution. Nevertheless, understanding the ways in which complex forces like these interact to create and sustain the conditions of widespread global poverty is a vital step toward combating poverty around the world.

– Délice Williams

Source: Global Issues, USCCB, World Bank

 

 

human trafficking

There are numerous causes of human trafficking, but the root of most causes is money. Reaping approximately $150 billion and victimizing close to 27 million people, human trafficking is the fastest-growing illicit industry in the world. It includes sex trafficking, child sex trafficking, forced labor, debt bondage, domestic servitude, forced child labor and the unlawful recruitment of soldiers. The common factor lurking behind the different causes of human trafficking is the victim’s vulnerability to exploitation.

Characterized by low costs and high returns, human trafficking is an extremely lucrative enterprise. Harvard’s Siddharth Kara discovered that the cost of today’s slaves is, on average, $420 and modern slaves can generate more than 500 percent in annual return on investment. In comparison, the cost of slaves in 1850, after adjusting for inflation, was between $9,500 and $11,000. During the time, the return on investment from a slave was significantly lower, around 15 to 20 percent in annual return on investment. Furthermore, traffickers face low risks, although more governments around the world are actively penalizing human traffickers, and have a steady stream of vulnerable people to exploit.

 

Poverty & Causes of Human Trafficking

 

Although the world successfully reduced global poverty by 35 percent in the past 27 years, 767 million people still live in poverty and make up a portion of the pool of those vulnerable to human trafficking. The structural causes of human trafficking are poverty, lawlessness, social instability, military conflict, natural disasters, weak law enforcement and racial and gender biases. These structural causes represent the broader, necessary requirement for human trafficking to thrive: vulnerability.

Many times, poor families will give their children away to traffickers posing as agents promising their children better lives. Refugee camps are prime locations for this kind of exploitation. Where displaced people lack many forms of proper care, shrewd traffickers build relationships with corrupt officials and freely prey on the weak.

In a more recent example, migrants who cross the Sahara to escape war and terrorism are often captured by traffickers in northern parts of Africa. The International Organization for Migration reported that many of these migrants are falsely promised jobs and then are sold publicly in Libyan slave markets. Many do not make it to Europe.

Human trafficking can happen anywhere, as long as the environment contains vulnerable conditions. The New York Times estimates that one-fifth of homeless youth are victims of human trafficking in the U.S. and Canada. In West Africa, traffickers pose as teachers and enslave optimistic students to become beggars. In 2015, the Associated Press discovered that young migrants and impoverished Thais were forced to catch seafood that later ended up in the world’s seafood supply, including on the shelves of America’s major retailers and supermarkets. Thai agents recruited children and the disabled, some of the most marginalized and vulnerable groups in the world.

Today, many countries are collaborating together to reduce the causes of human trafficking. The U.S. State Department Trafficking-in-Persons Report is the world’s most comprehensive resource on anti-trafficking efforts, including 188 countries and territories. Countries that fail to meet the report’s minimum requirements fall to tier three status, which can result in sanctions on the country. In 2016, Thailand was recognized for making significant strides in eliminating human trafficking.

Locally, ordinary people and nonprofits are continually impacting their communities. Nonprofits, such as Mango House in Chiang Mai, Thailand or FOREFRONT in India, continue to address these structural issues that breed vulnerability.

– Andy Jung
Photo: Flickr