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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 since 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 less 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

NTDs

Neglected 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 be 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

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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

indonesiaUnequal

The 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 less 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 the availability and equal access of 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

Environmental Issues
A 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 most grave impediments to lifting human development,” the report says. “The longer action is delayed, the higher costs will be.”

– Rafael Panlilio

Source: Guardian

Extreme Poverty in Brazil President Dilma Rousseff
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

David Cameron

At 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 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 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