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What Are Social Safety Nets?
Now that extreme global poverty has an expiration date, we can begin to think more closely about the methods that are helping us achieve this momentous goal. While some of them may seem obvious, such as providing better education and increased numbers of job opportunities, others are not so obvious. One of these methods is the idea of social safety nets.

Social safety nets are programs that help the poorest and most vulnerable people stay out of extreme poverty. These are the people who teeter on the edge of poverty and could fall back into their old lifestyle quickly if not helped. The programs help cushion them from unexpected crises, such as if a family member gets sick or their crops are destroyed in a natural disaster.

These social safety nets come in many forms and from many places. They can be in the form of cash, food, healthcare, or schooling, and they can come from the state, donors, or the private sector. The programs can also be altered to fit the particular needs of the country, and are not limited to countries with certain income levels. Also, increased technology is helping spread the rate at which people receive help from the programs, as well as allowing the aid to go to the people who need it most, therefore increasing its efficiency.

Social safety nets are one of the most important factors that can help not only eradicate extreme poverty but also make sure it’s gone for good.

Katie Brockman

Source: The Guardian
Photo: NCRW

jim-yong-kim-within-our-grasp
On April 2, President of the World Bank Group Jim Yong Kim gave a speech at Georgetown University outlining the goals and actions the world must to take to reach the 2030 Millennial Development Goals and eliminate global poverty. The President encouraged listeners to “seize the opportunity to end extreme poverty” because the goal is “within our grasp.”

Amid various challenges that threaten the elimination of poverty, such as inequality, global climate change, and an increasing number of natural disasters, Kim remains hopeful. However, to ensure that progress continues, he believes that we must change the way we work together. Kim outlined two lessons learned in the last decades of poverty reduction. By accelerating the end of extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity, he believes that poverty can be reduced below 3% within the next generation of activists. The role of the World Bank Group becomes critical in reducing and eliminating world poverty as it encourages the cohesion of these two lessons through its mission and focuses on equity. “We must collectively work to help all vulnerable people everywhere lift themselves well above the poverty line,” said Kim.

While working together is essential, Kim outlined four roles that the World Bank Group will play in reducing poverty. Identifying worthy projects, closely monitoring these projects, conveying advocacy to policymakers, and working with partners to share knowledge are essential aspects to making progress and meeting the Millennial Development Goals.

In closing, Kim noted that April 5 marked 1,000 days to execute the Millennial Development Goals. While he acknowledged the challenges that poverty reduction faces, he remained confident that these goals and the ultimate elimination of poverty are within grasp. To view the transcript of Kim’s speech, visit The World Bank website.

– Kira Maixner

Source: The World Bank
Photo: The Guardian

LesMiserables
The World Bank’s Director of Economic Policy and Poverty Reduction Programs for Africa, Marcelo Giugale, recently wrote about the current progress and development around the world in regards to extreme poverty. He explains that the 2013 World Development Indicators (WDI) have recently been released, evincing the status and evolution of people who live on $1.25 or less. Giugale’s detailed description of what it would be like to live on such a meager number really captures the essence of poverty and contrasts it with the expectations, advancement, and materialism of the 21st century. It allows the reader to visualize life in another light, one that is much different than what would be expected from the 21st century. Giugale writes, “If you had something that could be called a house — [it] would have no electricity, gas, running water or sewer.”

Out of the world’s human population of 7 billion, 1.2 billion live in extreme poverty. However, Giugale expresses his optimism in commenting on how it has been proven through one region’s shift away from poverty that rapid economic growth can tackle poverty. For example, in the past 20 years through 2010, China’s fast economic growth played the main and most prominent role in lifting approximately 700 million people out of poverty. Giugale also sheds light on the fallacy that the 2008-2009 global financial crisis raised extreme poverty; that is not true, according to Giugale. The financial crisis “if anything…only slowed [down] temporarily the downward trend that extreme poverty had been on.”

The Director also shares that although almost half of all Africans still live in extreme poverty, the rate of poverty declined from 60% in 1993 to 48% in 2010. Taking into account economic growth while noting that Africa is home for a third of the world’s extreme poor emphasizes that growth is not enough; that much more can be done. Finally, he comments that, according to the World Development Indicators’ predictions, 250 million people will be lifted from poverty by 2015 (mainly people in South and East Asia).

It is intriguing to note the title of Marcelo Giugale’s article, Les Misérables, because it denotes a certain theme. In Victor Hugo’s novel Les Misérables, the story’s structure is described as a “progress from evil to good, from injustice to justice, from falsehood to truth, from night to day, from appetite to consciousness, from corruption to life.” Those deep words parallel Giugale’s point that more can be done, and that it is not costly for governments of countries with plenty of natural resources to alleviate their people’s misery. It is time to progress from injustice to justice, from hell into heaven.

– Leen Abdallah

Source: Huffington Post, Liturgy
Photo: Google

Academy Award winner actor Ben Affleck is taking part in the Living Below the Line challenge. Next week, he will be living on just 1 dollar and 50 cents a day. The challenge requires participants to bid farewell to their comfortable and stable lives for 5 days to experience poverty on a personal scale. Living Below the Line was “cofounded in 2009 by Rich Fleming from the Global Poverty Project and Nick Allardice from the Oaktree Foundation in Australia.”

The U.S. Country Director of the Global Poverty Project, Michael Trainer, said that last year approximately 15,000 people were part of this Living Below the Line challenge and more than 3 million dollars were raised. According to the Yahoo report, Ben Affleck’s participation will build awareness and raise funds for the Global Poverty Project. The Project’s main emphasis is to get people to recognize their potential effectiveness by coming together and fighting to end global poverty. Next week anyone can be, and everyone should be, in solidarity with the poor with this humbling poverty experience.

Leen Abdallah
Source: Examiner

IMF and World Bank Back Bold Poverty Agenda
On Saturday both the IMF and World Bank backed a bold poverty agenda to eradicate extreme poverty within a generation. The goal comes from the Development Committee – a subcommittee of both the IMF and the World Bank.

This bold poverty agenda serves as a “historic opportunity” to make a difference. World Bank president Jim Yong Kim has called the initiative an important step towards the eradication of world poverty, but one that will require focus, innovation, and commitments from everyone in order to succeed.

The logistics of the Development Committee’s plan include reducing the percentage of people who currently live on less than $1.25 a day to three percent of the global population by 2030. Additionally, the committee would like to work towards raising the incomes of the poorest 40 percent of people in each country.

While this seems to be a noble and necessary goal, the committee did note the obstacles they will need to overcome to be successful. The committee and agenda will need to be supported by strong growth across the developing world, as well as an unmatched translation of growth into poverty reduction in several of the world’s poorest countries.

Among the aforementioned challenges, the committee has also recognized the institutional and governance challenges that will have to be overcome, along with substantial investments in infrastructure and agricultural productivity. All of the above challenges, while difficult to overcome, express the World Bank and IMF’s renewed commitment to eradicate extreme poverty.

The committee’s exuberance for this goal stems from Dr. Kim’s passion for eradicating global poverty. The committee members have supported Dr. Kim’s vision. Committee chairman, Marek Belka, explains that Dr. Kim has been very influential in expressing the World Bank Group as a partner in the fight against extreme poverty.

This announcement aligns closely with the World Bank’s core mission of creating a world free of poverty and follows the recent spring meetings in Washington.

– Caitlin Zusy 

Source: AFP
Photo: Google

The World’s Poorest Live in Sub-Saharan Africa
Global poverty dynamics have drastically changed since the 1980s. China once had the highest extreme poverty rates in the world at 80 percent, followed by India at 60 percent. These numbers have dropped from 1981 to about 10 percent in China and 30 percent in India. The “Developing World” has also seen decreases in its poverty levels by almost half over three decades.

The only region of the world that has increased its extreme poverty rate is Sub-Saharan Africa. The region experienced a slight decrease in poverty levels in 2010, but even this decrease is only three percent less than in 1980. This part of the world currently has a population where about 48 percent of the people live in extreme poverty, the highest percentage in the world.

Since 1980, global poverty has decreased from 1.9 billion people to 1.2 billion people, even with a 60 percent increase in population in third world countries. This means that 30 percent fewer people in developing countries live on less than $1.25 a day. With all of these advancements, Sub-Saharan Africa continues to struggle to reduce its poverty rates.

According to the World Bank, the main factor pulling people out of poverty is urbanization. Countries like China focused on switching from a rural to urban society in order to reduce its poverty levels by 60 percent. In 2010, about 75 percent of the world’s poor lived in rural areas. Urbanization, however, can be difficult to achieve in a region that is conflict-prone and often lacks humanitarian rights. The fact that Sub-Saharan Africa is experiencing decreases in poverty, no matter how minimal, is reason to be optimistic.

– Mary Penn

Source: WSJ
Photo: The Borgen Project

AllAfrica
As the world continues to deal with economic financial crises, there is still a need for global contribution and aid to countries of extreme poverty. With the amounts of Western foreign aid decreasing, there is a need for new and innovative means of development to lift people out of poverty. The main themes that are the current focus include taxing, gender equality laws, inclusive growth and regional integration.

The Chief Economist and Vice President of the African Development Bank, Mthuli Ncube, urged the need for transparency between investors and the African people. He points out that it is problematic how even when commodity prices increase, African governments’ revenues do not follow the pattern. He suggests that international investments in African natural resources should be monitored so that they “benefit the African people through job creation, protecting the environment, developing African entrepreneurs,” and then using all the resulted revenues to create a diverse African economy.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has stated that there has been a shift in aid from extremely poor countries to those of middle-income, and it emphasizes the point that in order to meet the U.N. Millennium Goals by 2015, this shift must be reversed to prioritize and address the extremely poor countries. A professor of Development Policy and Practice at the University of Warwick in the U.K., Franklyn Lisk, discussed how African countries suffer from an irony where their natural resources have not been giving them any returns on improving human development. He argues for tax justice, citing that there are many extranational companies who enter developing nations “paying little or no taxes, through manipulation and connivance with corrupt regimes.” With taxation, Lisk says, revenue would increase to 6 times the amount of total aid.

In 2012, 9 members of the Development Assistance Committee increased their aid, and those members are: Australia, Iceland, Austria, Korea, Luxembourg, Canada, Norway, Switzerland, with other donors including Poland, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates.

Leen Abdallah

Source: All Africa
Photo: National Geographic

Neglected Tropical DiseasesNeglected tropical diseases, which are chronic and barely heard of by the public, have been proven to cause poverty and destabilize communities. Neglected tropical diseases generally affect people in poor regions, primarily those living on one dollar a day. However, recent research shows that the worst neglected tropical diseases, NTDs, happen to the poorest people living in “large emerging market economies that comprise the G-20,” which have a GDP close to that of Western European countries. NTDs cause various things including, “greusome limb disfigurement and skin sores to bladder and liver cancers to neurological damage,” and they tend to last for years or decades.

India, Brazil, China, and Italy are the world’s leading G-20 countries where more than 2/3 of cases of visceral leishmaniasis (this disease causes a chronic illness like leukemia) are reported. In addition to that, G-20 countries and Nigeria account for “almost half of the world’s cases of hookworm infection, while…schistosomiasis cases [which are] responsible for chronic renal disease, female genital ulcers, and liver disease – are [found largely] in Nigeria, South Africa, Brazil, China, and Saudi Arabia.” There are also several types of NTDs including Chagas, which is a type of heart disease, that are found in Eastern and Southern Europe and Southern U.S. Therefore, it is safe to say that NTDs exist everywhere in the world but affect those who suffer from extreme poverty, as opposed to assuming that these diseases are exclusive to poor developing nations only where GDP is low.

The good news is that USAID support led to low-cost packages of necessary medicines that will tackle such diseases to be delivered, and their access is enabled, to more than 250 million people in low and middle-income nations. However, other countries besides the U.S. and Britain, are barely contributing to defeat these diseases. Thus, there is a need to pressure G-20 countries to commit to what the World Health Organization (WHO) labels “preventive chemotherapy,” referring to these medicines that would help fight NTDs. Preventive chemotherapy is proven to be extremely cost-efficient because it typically costs about $ 0.50 per person a year. According to the World Health Organization, 1.9 billion people need such preventive chemotherapy measures and only 700 million are currently receiving these medicines.

Leen Abdallah

pro-poor-tourism-development

The World Travel & Tourism Council predicts that travel and tourism will be one of the world’s fastest growing industries between 2013 and 2021, and the best part is – this will create about 66 million jobs.

According to the World Tourism Organiza­tion (UNWTO), international travel to developing countries is on the rise and the tourism boom is driving development, exports, and jobs. Tour­­ists are increasingly looking for cultural and natural attractions in rural areas, thereby exploring more developing countries. Overall, two-thirds of people living in extreme poverty live in rural areas, so these communities will benefit from this pro-poor tourism according to the Rural Poverty Report 2011 (International Fund for Agricultural Development).

Tourism requires local labor and thus presents more employment opportunities for even low-skilled people. According to the UN International Trade Center (ITC), “tourism offers superior poverty reduction opportunities.” And the UNWTO points out that women and young people, who are generally proportionally disadvantaged, have more opportunities to find jobs within tourism.

It is not all trouble-free, tourism is vulnerable to natural disasters and political instability, and poor communities do not automatically benefit as some companies prefer to import supplies and services. But the ITC is taking measures to promote “inclusive tourism” and elevate the priority of this industry with international organizations and corporations. In 2003 it launched a project in Brazil’s Coconut Coast to increase capacity building activities for  agriculture, arts and crafts, the hotel business, computer science, English, environmental education, design, and culture, all as part of the tourism industry. They even installed an organic waste processing plant, providing balanced fertilizer at subsidized rates to 300 farmers. Today, 70 percent of the 3,000 beneficiaries of the project have found employment (mostly in nine five-star partner hotels) and the monthly income of 390 local women artisans has risen from $40 US to $250 US. The portion of the population earning less than one minimum salary has also decreased from 40 percent to 28 percent. The success of this and other projects confirms the fact that tourism represents an important opportunity for developing countries in their fight against poverty.

– Mary Purcell

Source: UN ITC

economic-development-sustainability
Since 1945 the United Nations has established the contemporary global, obligation to address the economic and social well-being of ordinary citizens. A very new concept when written into their charter: “The United Nations shall promote higher standards of living, full employment, and conditions of progress and development in the economic and social order.”

Over time, for at least economists and policy makers, this development agenda has become synonymous with “improving economic opportunities through increased production of goods and services.” The implicit assumption is that economic growth will increase quality of life standards, life expectancy, improve nutrition and health.

Since 1945, there have been impressive advancements in the elimination of extreme poverty, but still many professionals wonder how to accelerate growth even more throughout the world – particularly in Africa and South Asia, two regions with a great number of poor. The issue has prompted economists and policymakers to analyze the importance of several factors, policies and institutions, finding six factors for successful development:

1. Social inclusion – With a healthier and more educated population, nations can enjoy a more effective economic and political life. Illiteracy is a major barrier to participation in the economy. Without widespread education, citizens are more easily manipulated by un-just governments – allowing for the empowerment of counter-productive leadership.
2. Quality management – Governments must manage their national macro-economic environment; if there is no over-arching/holistic governance, the nation loses its credibility both in private sector business, and the citizenry. The “political capital” of a country cannot be wasted, and moreover, if public resources and urgent needs are not continually addressed, then the country falls into a burden of “catch up” where they are always behind in development, comparatively.
3. Transparency and accountability – Transparency is essential to prevent corruption and financial fraud, and promotes citizen participation. Experience shows that trust in one’s government encourages citizens and businesses to pay their taxes, thus advancing development and social services. Companies invest and expand more, creating greater confidence in the government and a “virtuous circle” of development ensues.
 4. Technology and innovation – Economic production is no longer just about capital and labor, now knowledge and innovation are just as important. It has been proven that technology gaps can explain the disparity in productivity between different countries. Technological adoption, knowledge dissemination and information communication technology (ICT) are imperative for national competitiveness.
5. Economic opportunities – Increasing the access and use economic resources to citizens is imperative. Free and open access to markets can contribute significantly to development; access to goods, labor and financial markets for personal use, production and exchange; especially the promotion of small-businesses.
6. Administrative Infrastructure – Business and society often come down to bureaucratic needs:  issuance of licenses, permits, birth certificate, passport, filing taxes, starting a business, registering a title, property rights, contract settlements, foreign trade authorization, hiring an employee, use the public health services, etc. The efficiency of bureaucracy is pertinent to advancing greater and more equal access to public resources.
 – Mary Purcell

Source: ITC
Photo: amateurinafrica.com