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Poverty.... April 19, 2006 1:47 AM

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“Of all pollutions we face, the worst is poverty” –Indira Gandhi

Poverty is a man made human condition characterized by the sustained or chronic deprivation of the resources, capabilities, choices, security and power necessary for the enjoyment of an adequate standard of living and other civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights… Poverty is not only deprivation of economic or material resources but a violation of human dignity too. (UN Human Rights Commission)

Poverty Defined
Poverty is a great deal more than simply lacking sufficient funds to provide for one’s basic needs. Indeed, poverty is much deeper, broader, amorphous and insidious than the absence of money. The World Bank describes poverty in the following way:

Poverty is hunger. Poverty is lack of shelter. Poverty is being sick and not being able to see a doctor. Poverty is not being able to go to school and not knowing how to read. Poverty is not having a job, is fear for the future, living one day at a time. Poverty is losing a child to illness brought about by unclean water. Poverty is powerlessness, lack of representation and freedom. Poverty has many faces, changing from place to place and across time, and has been described in many ways. Most often, poverty is a situation people want to escape.

One billion people earn less than $1 a day – in development economic terms, this is the definition of “extreme poverty”. While development aid and economic growth have made some strides in alleviating extreme poverty, the impact varies according to region and class. A recent study by the University of Cape Town found that about forty-six percent of Africans survive on less than $1 a day, and the ultra-poor, about six percent, live on less than $0.25.

 Poverty in the developing world: Not our problem?

When the richest one percent of the population owns as much wealth as the poorest fifty-seven percent; when worldwide women earn approximately fifty percent of what men earn; when every day millions of people are forced into jobs that exploit them and place their health and lives at risk; when children are laborers and sex workers instead of students, the results are a continual downward spiral of even more poverty. Social and economic inequality causes a vicious cycle of exploitation and poverty that lasts from year to year and from generation to generation. Poor people work hard but have limited access to resources that would otherwise enable them to improve their quality of life. This leads to even more exploitation – and even more poverty.

In our interconnected world, globalization is neither a new phenomenon nor a neutral one. But at the beginning of the twenty-first century, the technology and communications revolution has eradicated divisions and borders as never before. We are increasingly interdependent on one another as producers and consumers – but also as human beings.

For those of us living in the “global north”, our world is defined by seemingly endless possibilities and ever-expanding opportunities. Yet in our privilege lies the limits of life for those living in extreme poverty. When several billion people are forced to lower their expectations of life, while at the same time seeing and understanding their own lack of power and development, it has serious implications for us all. In a time of disappearing borders, the violence, insecurity and conflict that emanate as a result of poverty have far-reaching consequences. Ending poverty will allow individuals, families, communities, and countries to realize their full potential; ending poverty will help to create new paths toward global peace and international security.

Making Change Happen

We have the ability to make poverty history right now and to end extreme poverty within the next generation. Currently, the United States government spends just 0.16 percent of its national income on helping developing nations. If we convinced our government to increase its aid to 0.7 percent to match the percentage pledged by other rich countries, we could help stop poverty in its tracks, end the vicious cycle, and transform the lives and futures of generations of people.

Poor people all over the world are defining what they want and need in order to live a good and sustainable life. Further, they are reclaiming their rights to direct the strategies that will work for them. Local initiatives, micro credit programs, fair trade advocacy, environmental awareness, and respect for cultures and resources have all contributed to a popular movement for change. As a result of this, five years ago the world agreed upon the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a set of targets for international development. By 2015, governments around the world pledged to have canceled the debt of poor countries, increased foreign aid, and made trade rules fair. There is less than a decade to go and AJWS is working at all levels to help make this a reality.

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