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The Unequal RealityThe next global development agenda has been set. The President of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, hosted the meeting to determine such an agenda; he also served as the co-chairman to the UN High-Level Panel for the post-2015 plan with an emphasis on eradicating extreme poverty. Despite the general success of the UN Millennium Development Goals which includes pulling people out of poverty since the 1990s, an increasing number of children are attending schools, and much fewer children are dying due to curable causes: “political will and commitment can bring about real change.”

The issue is that the majority of these successes are happening on the surface, on the “aggregate” levels as opposed to on the extremely low levels. A report done by Save the Children evinces the hidden inequality behind improvements arguing that only wealthier parts have been directly affected by these successes. For example, rich women in Indonesia now have a skilled attendant; however, between 2007 and 2010, children in poorer households continued to experience severe malnutrition despite overall nutrition improvements.

“Aggregate targets” are dictating such unequal distribution of improvement vs. worsening because governments are naturally choosing to aid and invest in what is easier to help; “this means that those close to the poverty line experience improvements while the very poorest are left behind.” Children are the most vulnerable group affected by such inequality because they are dependent on others for development and growth. Therefore, price increases affect their meal intakes, health budget cuts could cause deaths, and low-quality schools have the potential of keeping these children in poverty. In order to fight off inequality, there is a need for quality services such as availability and equal access to schools and health facilities to all kinds of people.

– Leen Abdallah

Source: South China Morning Post

Bono’s TED Talk has compacted twenty-five years of anti-poverty campaigning into a ten minute presentation for a TED conference which was held this past February. The result is a passionate call for people to stay involved and stay informed about all the great work that is and has been happening in the fight against extreme poverty.

Much of the progress that has been made does not make the news but Bono sees how people, technology, and the sharing of information is turning inequality on its head; sighting the Arab Spring as a momentous shift in history. He emphasizes how facts change minds and hearts, bring new awareness and action, bring better action, and bring change in a phenomenon he names “factivism.”

Here are some facts. Since 2000:

  • Eight million AIDS patients have been receiving retroviral drugs
  • Malaria deaths have been cut in some countries by 75%
  • Child mortality rate of children under the age of 5 is down by 2.65 million deaths per year
  • 7,256 children’s lives are saved each day

The global rate of extreme poverty has declined from 43% in 1990 to 21% in 2010.

The population of people living on less than $1.25 per day has been cut in half in the last 20 years, and the facts show that this extreme poverty can be cut to virtually zero within a generation — worldwide. Bono encourages everyone to continue their efforts for lasting progress by:

  • Telling politicians not to cut foreign aid funding
  • Join campaigns that make sure all natural resources (and their profits) are shared with the people of that country
  • Continue citizen participation by demanding transparency of government spending (anti-corruption)
  • Become a “factivist” – share the facts with others about successes and hardships within global inequality

– Mary Purcell

Source: ONE.org

UN Warns Environmental Threats Increase PovertyA report released by the UN warns that the number of people in extreme poverty could rise by 3 billion in 2050 unless immediate action is taken to combat environmental threats.

The 2013 Human Development Report had stated that more than 40 countries have shown significant improvement on health, wealth and education with rapid increases in Brazil, China, India as well as many other developing countries. The percentage of those living in extreme poverty, or living on $1.25 a day or less, had fallen from 43% to 22% from 1990 to 2008. This is attributed to significant successes in poverty reduction and economic growth in China and India. In response to this statistic, the World Bank has said that the Millennium Development Goal of decreasing extreme poverty by half by 2015 was ahead of schedule.

However, the UN had also reported that if environmental challenges such as climate change, deforestation, and air and water pollution were left unaddressed, human development progress in the poorest countries could come to a halt and possibly be reversed. Environmental threats and ecosystem losses are worsening the living situations and hindering the livelihood opportunities of many poor people. Building on the 2011 edition of the report arguing for sustainable development, the UN warns that unless coordinated global action is taken to combat environmental issues, the number of people in extreme poverty could rise.

“Environmental threats are among the gravest impediments to lifting human development,” the report says. “The longer action is delayed, the higher costs will be.”

– Rafael Panlilio

Source: Flickr

Extreme Poverty in Brazil Almost Gone
Last Tuesday, President of Brazil Dilma Rousseff increased the monthly stipend of people living below the poverty line to 70 reals or roughly $35 a month. Through its Bolsa Familia or Family Grant program, Rousseff’s administration has successfully managed to improve living conditions and lift 36 million people out of extreme poverty in Brazil. President Rousseff claims that “soon there will be no Brazilians steeped in extreme poverty.”

Founded by President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in 2003, the monthly stipend program has provided financial assistance to people living in extreme poverty in Brazil, allowing for access to proper education, healthcare and the like. More than 48 million Brazilians, a quarter of the population, are registered to these social programs, costing the government 24 billion reals a year. This increased monthly stipend will affect 2.5 million people and will cost 800 million reals. Currently, there are 700,000 families still living in extreme poverty in Brazil that are not yet registered with government social programs. Rousseff’s administration will work to seek out these families.

The monthly stipend increase will come into effect on March 18. Also, Rousseff has added stipends for children and adolescents, farmers engaging in conservation practices, and people beginning technical training. The government is also now focusing on improved access to public services, extending school hours and availability to electricity, water, sewers and basic housing. Rousseff is expected to run for re-election in 2014 and her success against extreme poverty would work immensely towards her advantage.

Her new slogan for her fight against extreme poverty is: “The end of poverty is just beginning.”

– Rafael Panlilio

Source: The Guardian

Accountability Promised on Aid PledgesAt the African Union Summit, British Prime Minister and Chairman of the G8, David Cameron re-asserted his conviction today to end extreme poverty. Patrick Wintour of The Guardian notes Cameron’s emphasis on “responsible capitalism” and accountability, the latter to which Cameron cited there will be “an accountability report when the G8 meets in Northern Ireland in June”.

Accountability seems to be a buzzword in recent politics as the pressure mounts for the United Nations to succeed in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, set to expire in 2015. The time is coming for individual nations to own up to the promises they had made to succeed in these goals in 2010.

The Guardian reports that Cameron promises to pressure western countries that have been less proactive on their aid pledges. The news source contends, “Britain has maintained its pledge to ringfence 0.7% of its gross domestic product for aid, something which has been fiercely opposed by some in Cameron’s party.”

This percentage yields a large impact and is a higher percentage of the gross domestic product than what the United States has contributed, which was reported to only contribute 0.19% of its gross domestic product in 2010. Although the size of the American economy is much bigger than that of most nations, the country may be held accountable for its false promises. In the past few years, the allocation of funding for foreign aid in the U.S. Budget has decreased because politicians seek to assuage the repercussions of the 2008 financial crisis.

– Nina Narang

Sources: The Guardian, The Huffington Post
Photo: The Muslim Weekly