Global Poverty Education
On April 25 at the University of Kentucky, Habitat for Humanity and the Global Poverty Project hosted a free, educational event that was open to the public. Representatives from the Global Poverty Project made a multimedia presentation that addressed issues surrounding poverty in the world. Questions about global poverty were answered such as ‘What is extreme poverty?’, ‘What are the barriers to ending extreme poverty?’ and ‘Why should we care?’ Currently there are 1.2 billion people living in poverty and living on less than $1.50 a day. Logistics Coordinator for the Global Poverty Project Michelle Riepe said that strategies for reducing poverty are working. As announced by the World Bank, in the last 30 years, the number of people living in poverty has decreased significantly from the 1.4 billion of the past. The Global Poverty Project works around the world to educate people about extreme poverty and to mobilize supporters in taking action to end it. The organization advocates for action from government, businesses, and consumers to create important systemic change for the world’s extreme poor. This is a goal that is shared by Habitat for Humanity, the sponsor of the event at the University of Kentucky. “The Global Poverty Project shares the same vision as Habitat for Humanity- to improve the lives of people around the globe who are struggling,” said Emily Andrews, UK Habitat for Humanity president. The Global Poverty Project frequently tours the country to offer global poverty education to students and to draw support. To attend an event or to host one, visit the GPP website. – Kira Maixner Source: UK Now Photo: Gender and Poverty

Data from the World Bank released last week reports twenty fragile countries who are starting to reach development goals.  As the Millennium Development Goals near the end, news of progress is exciting and hopeful. Progress in fragile countries ranges from efforts in reducing poverty, improving the education of girls, and cutting down on deaths during child birth.

The Millennium Development Goals are set to expire in 2015 and these 20 countries were not on track just a few years ago. The progress that has been made since 2010 is remarkable. In addition, six more fragile countries are on target to hit the goals by 2015. Countries like Afghanistan, Nepal, and Timor-Leste have seen a 50% reduction in people in extreme poverty and increased the number of girls in school.  These are strong accomplishments for any nation, but for these nations who are coming out of war and devastation, the results are even more extraordinary.

The data serves as a call for the global community to not strike countries off as hopeless or lost causes, but to seek the development of all nations.  While these twenty have seen remarkable progress, many war-torn nations are still lagging far behind the benchmarks set up by the Millennium Development Goals. These nations are also very prone to relapse as is the case of Yemen who was on target to meet the goal of reducing death during childbirth until the violence during the Arab Spring in 2011.

World Bank leaders are calling for a bridge between long-term development and humanitarian assistance to help countries in the middle of crisis.  When the international spotlight leaves a country in distress, often so does the humanitarian aid, leaving the country devastated and struggling to rebuild itself. To rebuild requires support that focuses on clear actions, steps, and transparent and accountable goals. As nations tighten their spending in the midst of the economic downturn, effective aid is even more important. The World Bank is committed to working more closely with the United Nations to see that long-term development happens in fragile countries.

Community involvement is also key in addressing and meeting needs and designing appropriate projects.  As aid organizations work together with communities, they can address the causes of conflict and also create programs and plans that emerge as long-term solutions.  In the final push to accomplish the Millennium Development goals, this type of aid is going to be increasingly important.

– Amanda Kloeppel
Source: Reuters
Photo: World Hunger

Millennium Development Goals

Twenty nations have made huge strides in just a few years towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The Millennium Development Goals are a series of international development goals set by the United Nations in 2000 that aim to eradicate poverty, hunger, and disease and improve the quality of life for the world’s poorest by the year 2015. Nations, that were described as troubled and conflict-hit, had not met any of the MDGs in 2010 have now at least met one. The World Bank cites better data collection and monitoring that have made progress more discernible.

The World Bank noted that countries Afghanistan, Nepal and Timor-Leste have decreased the number of people in extreme poverty by fifty percent or increased the number of girls enrolled in schools.

The World Bank aims to find ways to help countries that have relapsed such as Yemen which until the Arab Spring in 2011 was on course to reduce maternal mortality. It also aims to help conflict-hit countries transition from receiving humanitarian aid that ends once the cameras leave to building foundations for long-term development. To do so, the World Bank is working with the UN which has historically assisted with peace-keeping and humanitarian assistance.

World Bank President, Jim Yong Kim, called the results a wake-up call to “the global community [to] not dismiss these countries as lost causes. Development can and is being achieved, even amid fragility and violence.”

The World Bank plans to focus on aid effectiveness by studying how aid money is used and if it actually impacts the poor, particularly with the reduction of aid from the U.S. and Europe.

– Essee Oruma

Source: Reuters
Photo: A Celebration of Women

Can we really end global poverty? Earlier this year, World Bank announced that we can virtually end extreme global poverty by 2030, meaning that the number of people in the world living on $1.25 per day or less would be reduced to 3%.

But while that would be a huge victory for the world, we should set our standards higher. Right now, extreme poverty is defined as living on $1.25 per day, and poverty is $2 per day. But even many of those with $2 to live each day don’t have access to other essentials such as drinking water and electricity. In rural areas of the poorest countries, 1 in 10 children die before their first birthday from easily preventable diseases, and $2 per day cannot afford these children the medication or vaccines they need.

Furthermore, the people who make more than $2 in poor countries (i.e. those not living in poverty) still have five times higher infant mortality rates than the poorest and most deprived areas of rich countries, which shows the gap between poverty in rich and poor nations.

Some economists suggest that the “global middle class” earns approximately $10 per day. But if we were to change the definition of “poverty” to living on less than $10, rather than $1.25 or $2 per day, we would find that 98% of people in sub-Saharan Africa would be living in poverty.

But is it really feasible to get everyone in the world living on more than $10 per day?

Economists crunched the numbers and say yes. By 2050, the population will be around 9 billion and global GDP will quadruple. They predict that the GDP related to getting everyone to the $10 per day mark would take less than 1/5 of the $300+ trillion output. In other words, it’s entirely possible if we raise our goals and fight harder to end global poverty. $1.25 will get most people the bare necessities they need to survive, but $10 will give them a much better standard of living.

Katie Brockman

Source Businessweek

2.5 billion people around the world, many of whom live in extreme poverty, are excluded from the formal financial system. Consequently, this exclusion results in the use of risky and expensive financial alternatives that slow individual and macro-level economic development. In the past, microcredit schemes have been used to solve the problem. Recently, a more holistic understanding of financial inclusion is emerging that focuses on savings, credit, financial literacy, and access to services. However, as these new systems take root, debate can be heard in regards to how the systems should be implemented, who the stakeholders will be, and how to ensure that this new financial ecosystem will function in the long-term.

These issues were addressed in early April at a Guardian conference where Banking on Change outlined the future of the financial ecosystem in developing countries. Banking on Change is a partnership between Plan UK, CARE International UK and Barclays that hopes to help around 400,000 people in 11 countries by developing access to basic financial services. The organization has used savings-led community finance groups in poor communities to help people save, build up assets, access loans from the community “pot”, develop financial literacy and eventually link into formal services. The scheme showed that due to erratic incomes, poor people have a high demand for savings accounts and products in contrast to credit lines and accounts.

Living conditions and finances aside, Ashok Vaswani, Barclays’ CEO for retail and business banking in the UK, Europe and Africa, believes that all people are the same. “People’s hopes and aspirations don’t vary too much,” he said. “We all have them, and people who live in much worse conditions than us have hopes and aspirations that are not very different to ours. They want to send their children to school. They want more for their children, just like we do. People with limited means still have the desire to move up, to put something away.” The difference is that people living in poverty do not have sufficient means to even start a savings account. Vaswani also believes that the money that potential customers save annually, about $58 multiplied by the 2.5 billion people living in financial exclusion, could be much more powerful if linked into the formal financial system rather than stashed under people’s beds.

Aside from defining the customer’s needs, financial literacy is important to the development of the financial ecosystem as well. Governments should do more in educating citizens, especially the youth, about their finances, commented Michaela Kelly, head of Plan’s Programme Delivery Unit.

As the demand for personal banking increases, the needs of potential customers will need to be assessed accordingly. While many view various forms of credit building important, savings accounts and related programs are just as important to the beginning of a financial ecosystem in developing countries. With the implementation of a financial system, both individual and macro-level, economic development will flourish and raise billions of people out of poverty.

– Kira Maixner

Source: The Guardian
Photo: Business Fights Poverty

According to a study done by the World Bank, urbanization has proven to be a key factor in eradicating poverty. The bank’s Global Monitoring Report 2013 offers statics that positively reflect urbanization in developing countries and in countries that have made the most progress in reaching the 2013 Millennium Development Goals.

The Global Monitoring Report says that countries with large population centers such as Southeast Asia or China have made large strides in reducing poverty in comparison to sub-Saharan Africa, where 70% of the population lives in rural areas. Infant mortality rates are also up to nine percentage points lower in urbanized areas than in rural cities and villages.

Urbanized areas create jobs and are generally better at service delivery such as access to sanitation, health care, education and electricity. Access to sanitation varies as much as thirty percent, 80 percent in urban areas to 50 percent in rural areas. Poverty is also significantly lower in urban areas at 11.5 percent versus the 29.5 percent in rural areas. In Africa, poverty in urban areas stands at 33 percent in urban areas to 47 percent in rural areas.

The next step to urbanizing is to ensure resources are available and to move forward at a steady pace to avoid slum areas. Some people favor state support and the finance of health and education systems while others support a combination of public and private financing. The World Bank encourages countries with oil and mineral resources to use the revenues to finance urbanization and health care systems. However, countries such as Uganda, that do not have an abundance of natural resources, prefer to use those revenues to improve the infrastructure in rural areas. According to Maria Kiwanuka, Uganda’s Minister of Finance, there are trade-offs. When the government uses the oil revenue to strengthen the infrastructure in rural areas, it allows the people living there to make more money to eventually contribute to the health care system.

While there are many different ways to fund health and social services and contribute to urbanization and the ultimate end of poverty, the assurance of resources to create the change is most important, says Joe Verbeek, the lead economist for the Global Monitoring Report. By improving the health and education services for people living in rural areas, it will make the transition easier and improve their job skills if they choose to migrate to a city.

– Kira Maixner

Source Voice of America
Photo World Bank

In a recent study by the World Bank, the top twenty most fragile countries are beginning to see improvements in education, health, and poverty reduction. The World Bank studied the development of these countries over the course of a few years and was pleased to announce that the standards of living in each country had improved.

The World Bank studied countries deemed conflict prone and economically unsound and judged based on United Nations standards regarding poverty, hunger and disease that each country must strive to achieve by 2015. These Millennium Development Goals hope to eradicate extreme global poverty by 2030. With the help of foreign aid, six more developing countries are expected to meet the deadline. In 2010, none of these fragile countries were in line to meet the Millennium goals.

Improvements can be seen in places where extreme poverty has been cut in half or girl’s education has improved, like in Afghanistan, Nepal and Timor-Leste. “This should be a wake-up call to the global community not to dismiss these countries as lost causes,” World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said. “Development can and is being achieved, even amid fragility and violence.”

Despite these positive results, there are still many countries that are predicted to not reach the Millennium Goals by 2015. There are several possible reasons as to why some developing countries are not progressing. One may be that wealthy countries cut foreign aid programs when they do not see immediate results, or possibly the country is experiencing a war, making poverty and hunger eradication even more difficult to achieve.

The key to successful reduction of poverty and improved human rights is transparency and accountability of governments, says President Kim. As the World Bank and United Nations develop a closer relationship, they hope to combine financial growth with humanitarian rights. The organizations also hope to work together to uncover the root causes behind conflict and poverty in a given country. This combination will ensure a country’s growth, both economically and socially.

– Mary Penn

Source: Reuters
Photo: mtholyoke

Human Rights a Priority for World BankIndependent United Nations experts are advising the World Bank to include human rights standards in their criteria for giving loans and all other interactions with developing countries. The World Bank will hold a review in the upcoming months to discuss its social policies and is expected to adopt international human rights standards.

When the World Bank does not consider the human rights of a specific country before investing, the organization risks unintentionally hurting the extremely poor in that country. This happens because some development ends up benefiting the wealthy people while the poor suffer. For example, poor farmers may lose their land, and therefore livelihood, in order to build new housing structures that have been sanctioned by the World Bank.

The group advocating for human rights standards in the World Bank includes representatives for the Special Rapporteur (and its sub-groups on extreme poverty and human rights, rights of indigenous peoples, and rights to food) and the Independent Expert on foreign debt and human rights.

As such, the World Bank can expect to hear arguments from this group urging them to consider issues like “disability, gender, labor, land tenure, and the rights of indigenous people” in the meeting. These suggestions will also be open for public comment. The goal of adding human rights criteria to World Bank standards is to ensure that the poor benefit development as well as wealthy people.

The World Bank will update its “safeguard policies,” its social and environmental policies, to make sure that the voices of the poor are not overpowered by the wealthy. This review, which will analyze the activities of the World Bank for the past two years, is a huge opportunity for the organization to begin to reach out to the world’s poorest.

– Mary Penn

Source: India Blooms
Photo: The Foundry

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