Readers respond to 'An End to Poverty'
We asked for your feedback on a vision to end poverty for the last billion poor.
Local culture is generally responsible for poverty and unless you change the culture you cannot improve the economy. A plan that focuses on changing culture is the only one worth my tax dollars. Part of this will involve exposing people of other cultures to our culture. We should make sure they understand why we do things the way we do. People so trained are more likely to be able to make positive changes back in their home cultures than we are.
This is an example of what the Monitor does so well – taking a complex subject that traditionally invokes despair and shedding light on it that makes one realize we can solve this! I discovered the video portions add a lot of value. I'm going to encourage our church to host a weekly discussion group to explore what we can do to help end poverty in our lifetime.
This series is incomplete in its extreme delicacy about mentioning the overt warmongering of the United States and its allies and client nations, theft of resources by protected multinational corporations, and deliberately destabilizing activities by entities that see the poor as irrelevant barriers to their own profit.
My hope is that equal attention will be directed to the "extreme" poverty in America. Some of the solutions Mr. Lange proposes for other countries could be beneficial in our own country. However, his articles reinforce the delusion most of us Americans hold that poverty is something that happens in other countries.
The entire world has come to hope and expect that international development will knit us together as a human family, helping those in need by fighting global poverty. Resources are an important part of the solution. US assistance for developing nations rose from about $10 billion in 2000 to $24 billion today. A missing piece, however, is a forum where concerned actors from all walks of life can come together to exchange ideas and forge solutions for the toughest problems. The US Agency for International Development (USAID) has launched the Global Development Commons to wrestle with the kinds of questions raised in Mr. Lange's thought-provoking articles.
As Lange rightly observes, imposing "top down" solutions from the West has rarely worked. Addressing the underlying causes of poverty means empowering men and women through education, healthcare, nutrition, and economic opportunity. Eradicating poverty and ensuring social justice go hand in hand.
Market forces are not perfect, but experience teaches that they are the surest way to improve living standards. When our presidential candidates debate trade policy, they need to remember that what we do at home affects hundreds of millions of less fortunate people living elsewhere.
One aspect that deserves more attention is the connection between hunger and poverty. Simply put, without adequate nourishment, people become too sick and too weak to work. We know what children need to have a shot at making it to their fifth birthday. It's inexpensive, and the products are available.
Vulnerable communities are powerful agents for reshaping society and triggering sustainable development when mobilized from within. We can provide the resources, but we must trust the communities themselves to draw the blueprint.
President, American Jewish World Service
Climate change has the potential to massively increase global poverty and inequality, punishing first and most severely the people least responsible for greenhouse-gas emissions. Up to 250 million Africans could face severe water shortages by 2020. Building resilience and promoting adaptive strategies must be a critical component of a global solution to climate change, as well as integrated in our actions to fight global poverty.
Poverty will not end until and unless the girls and women of the developing world are empowered. We have no chance at ending poverty when half of the population that does the vast majority of the work continues to be marginalized, oppressed, and unsupported.
Nearly 20 years ago, I started to sponsor a 3-year-old-child, Wilson, in Guatemala. I chose educational help, rather than direct handouts, thinking it would lead to employment. Wilson graduated with a teaching certificate but there were not enough jobs. He is now helping his father sell vegetables in local markets, precisely what he would have done without his education. I then realized the need for well-intended efforts like mine to be coupled with a larger-scale effort to improve the local economy and create jobs.
While I do not agree with China on most basic human rights issues, its mandate on only one child per couple is an environmental and economic necessity. In Africa, South America and the Middle East, large families seem to be encouraged by a mixture of history and religion. That norm needs to be challenged and broken. Without addressing this aspect of the causes of poverty, all other proposals will go nowhere.
Economic growth is only valuable to those who get to participate in it.
Mr. Lange has not listened to what more than 22 nations have been trying to tell the World Trade Organization since before 2003: some regulations are not "barriers" but essential to enable a country to develop without being overwhelmed by outside resources that would destroy any hope for self-sufficiency or stable economic processes that are eliminating poverty.
The one group that is the most important in these poorer nations is the family unit. In their poverty they are eternally ahead of us in some of their priorities. Love the Lord your God above all things and love thy neighbor as thyself: If this were truly lived out, there would be no abject poverty in the world.
The best example of how to achieve the goal of providing "the basics essential to human survival" I know of is Cuba. Its socialist economy has achieved well-distributed access to housing, food, healthcare, education, and culture.
No one ever talks about the leaders of these last billion extreme poor. Are they not required to help their poor first? Some of them live in palaces and huge estates while their fellow countrymen struggle to eat everyday. Shouldn't we some how make them accountable before we pour money on the problem?
We in the wealthier, donor countries can point fingers at corrupt regimes, but until we stop feeding them with unrestricted aid flows and unlimited weapons sales, we share responsibility for the relentless violence that continues to destabilize and devastate these poorer countries.
Donors are too strict with their demands, and they do not allow local people to begin to develop from what they have been doing. Donors should first talk to the poor and listen to their real needs and how to address them. They should not impose solutions.
Poverty cannot be measured by an arbitrary figure such as the "dollar a day" benchmark. Lack of access to the justice system, the political process, or even one's inability to provide for reasonable leisure or entertainment would also contribute to one's poverty. It is not merely the summation of costs required for procuring one's organic needs that are considered the basic rights of citizens.
Author Mark Lange responds The views on this page – and the many others that couldn't fit – underscore the complexity of the problem. Among many issues I didn't address, I think the most glaring are the implications of climate change, water shortages, and birth-control policy in the worst-off nations. Thank you for contributing to the conversation. I hope you'll visit thelastbillion.blogspot.com and raise the bar there, too. The five parts of this series were published March 10 through March 14.