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We thought that we’d share some videos that have caused some discussion in the GPP office over the past year:
We posted about the campaign to end the #FirstWorldProblems epidemic in November and it is still a topic of discussion. Some say that the hashtag is harmless and just a bit of fun. Others say that there is a serious point behind it, and we really need to take it seriously. Either way, the video has sparked off crucial discussion.
This next fun filled video, sponsored by the government of Norway, is a poignant way to highlight the realities of developing countries. ‘Africa’ is not helpless, and its citizens are no 'less' than anyone else in the world. This one is definitely worth watching.
At first glance, the task of ending extreme poverty might seem impossible. We are regularly overwhelmed by the enormity of the task at hand. But is any progress actually being made?
My friend, Terry Vo, was selected the first Trek Ambassador to the Taiwanese National Youth Commission earlier this year. When I, in turn, asked what she most wanted to gain from this trip, she replied, “I want people to take their own treks to this amazing place, because most people I know can’t even locate Taiwan on a map.” I knew I was guilty as charged—and became determined to change that. A mere three months after Terry’s trek to Taiwan, I was in Taipei myself, serving as a Trek Ambassador to the National Youth Commission, Executive Yuan. The NYC’s Youth Trekkers and Working Holiday Campaign invites international youth ages 18- 30 to submit travel itineraries and videos designed around themes of their choosing that they wish to explore in Taiwan. The NYC then chooses a select number of Taiwan Trek Ambassadors to come to Taiwan, fulfill their itineraries on an allotted allowance, and promote the island overseas.
Taiwan has much to be proud of. The island has gone from aid recipient throughout the 1950s and ‘60s to aid donor and foreign investor today; alongside Hong Kong, Singapore, and South Korea, Taiwan is one of the four “Asian Tigers.” It seems no accident that the NYC was developed in 1966, alongside this global attainment, as a government initiative to foster domestic enterprise and professional skills amongst youth. Hyperinflation following World War Two gave way to growth so extensive in the latter half of the twentieth century that it is referred to as the “Taiwan Miracle.” Investments in IT, infrastructure, and productivity boosts through land reform are commonly cited as reasons for this miracle, and while growth has been modest since the late ‘90s, Taiwan— especially Taipei—is as cosmopolitan a city you’ll find. With the world’s second tallest building (Taipei 101), Michelin restaurants such as Din Tai Fung, one of the world’s oldest collections of Chinese artifacts in the National Palace Museum, and endless upscale shopping, the rewards of local enterprise are clear.
So what can we learn from Taiwan? I think the answer is twofold. First, the island’s an example of how “good aid” - investments in local business, education, and infrastructure - now allow it to thrive without global assistance. In GPP’s “1.4 Billion Reasons” presentation, countries such as India, South Korea, and China are cited as examples of countries that have achieved this goal. They share a common reason for success—the ability to make and sell products external economies want and need. With HTC having emerged from Taiwan and Samsung from South Korea—as well as an ever-expanding telecomm market across the continent of Africa—financial support for enterprise is one of the ideal examples of “good aid.”
The second concerns importance of education. While touring the National Palace Museum, I came across an exhibit on maps that discussed how they were once conceived of as art, with accuracy second to how their makers believed space should exist. Unable to read or understand geography, minority tribes were abused by those in power, who used manipulated maps to move various groups around to their own liking. Educating a population is essential, so citizens can recognize and then challenge corruption. And it is this which will lead to pulling them out of extreme poverty.
So, at first glance, ending extreme poverty might seem impossible. But countries like Taiwan- which has not only overcome domestic poverty- but gone on to contribute to the global market- show that with the right tools, the opposite is true. We can end it. And together, we will end it.
On Wednesday 5th December, against a backdrop of prolonged austerity, Chancellor George Osborne MP presented the UK government’s Autumn Statement. The bleak economic outlook across the Eurozone heightened apprehension, with lower-than-expected growth figures and the battle to reduce public debts plaguing critics’ minds.
The statement did, however, provide positive news for International Development. The government reaffirmed its much-needed contribution to spend 0.7% of national income on overseas development assistance, adding pressure on other donor countries to meet this 40-year old UN commitment.
It should be noted that the 0.7% target is not an arbitrary figure, but has been in use since the 1970s, and found in 2002 by the United Nations Millennium Project to be the level required from all rich nations to meet the Millennium Development Goals (or MDGs) by 2015. As such, the Autumn Statement marks the first time in history the UK will have met this 40-year old promise.
Meeting the 0.7% target will secure the UK’s foreign aid budget and crucially means that the Department for International Development (DfID) will have the resources to continue its important work in social advancement across the globe. This is extremely good news both globally and nationally for a number of reasons:
Firstly, it fuels momentum towards the achievement of the MDGs by 2015- for example the charity Save the Children, in a recent report, indicated that UK development assistance has drastically helped to reduced child mortality, with the number of deaths of under-fives falling from 12 million in 1990 to 6.9 million in 2011. Our aid has also contributed to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, helping to save at least 4,000 lives every day, and has saved an estimated 7.7 million lives in 150 countries.
Secondly, improved funding for DfID is also of extreme importance in the fight to finally eradicate polio. In the last 20 years polio cases have been reduced by 99%, from 123 endemic countries to just 3. However, with an almost $1bn shortfall in funding for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (the public-private partnership which leads eradication efforts) without securing development assistance from donor countries, there is a serious risk that polio may continue to disproportionately affect the most vulnerable.
In addition to these clear moral reasons to improve the livelihoods of the 1.3 billion people who live in extreme poverty, there are also strategic benefits from the increase in the UK’s overseas development commitment. By investing in developing structurally stronger, healthier and more productive economies abroad, we simultaneously improve the UK’s ability to engage with these nations in international trade.
This is increasingly important given that the proportion of total exports fell to the EU, in the three months to May 2012 to 49.6%, whilst there was a growth of non-EU exports to 50.4%. Moreover, a recent Centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR) report predicted UK export growth over the next five years of 30% to Asia, over 40% to Latin America and at least 60% to Africa.
Aside from these intrinsic benefits, perhaps what this year’s Autumn Statement has most lucidly shown is that collective political action can yield tangible change.
Despite the austerity we continue to face in the UK, it is a testament to the work of the Global Poverty Project and the commitment shown by our Ambassadors on the ‘Protecting 0.7’ campaign, as well as other organisations, that has resulted in the UK government committing to raise its overseas development contribution to 0.7%.
Of course there is still much to be done. Whilst today we have honoured a 40-year old promise to those most vulnerable, tomorrow our work resumes- advocating, campaigning and working towards a vision for a global society without extreme suffering.
Sameer Gulati is an intern at the Global Poverty Project.
Diane is a supporter of the Global Poverty Project.After watching the live stream of the Global Citizen Festival, Diane decided to take action in her community to bring an end to extreme poverty.
What would $1.50 buy me today? A loaf of white bread, 1 and 1/2 pounds of apples, a soda from a convenience store or a cheeseburger. What if this is all you had to spend each day for not only food, but your entire livelihood including shelter, clothes and medicine? 1.4 billion people are faced with this reality each day.
At the age of 44, I am back in college and see where life has taken me.One day I was doing some research and I ran across an article that stated the Foo Fighters would be playing a concert benefitting the Global Poverty Project. Being an avid fan, I tuned in. I streamed the concert on my laptop and enjoyed the show. I heard the stories of current GPP partners and what they have accomplished with so little funding.Adam Braun, CEO of Pencils of Promise, said that he used to not be sure how he, as one of billions on this earth, could ever make a difference. One day, he started his journey with $25 and is now opening his 100th school. WOW! One person can make a significant difference! First, even if something we do is significant to one person, it was worth the effort. Second, if we all work together, we can accomplish much.
I looked further into GPP and found more information pertaining to living on less than $1.50 a day. I thought to myself,”I can’t even get a decent sandwich for less than $5.00 “. This started me thinking of how my existence on this earth could benefit someone else. Wristbands, everyone loves wristbands. Color? Several internet sites agree orange is the color of hunger and poverty, so orange it is. What should it say? Simply, $1.50 a day. This would not only remind the wearer of how fortunate they are, but provoke conversation. I also added the GPP web address to remind the wearer to continue to follow the GPP’s progress.
I found a company that would make the Silicone (latex free) bands in the US and use the scraps to make children’s playground bedding. Perfect! Great for allergies, great for the environment, and made in the US!
I have had these wristbands for a week and have had a great response! I get asked about mine several times a day. Will I save the world with these wristbands? No, but all of us together will make a difference in so many lives.
The Global Poverty Project is so wonderful at pulling resources together, that I decided I wanted to be a part of their mission. Orders can be emailed to email@example.com. They are $5 each.$3 from each wrist band goes to Global Poverty Project, $1.50 goes to local non-profit charities in the US, such as food banks purchasing bulk food ( 25 cents buys one pound of bulk food! ) and non-profits dedicated to promoting volunteerism, $.50 will purchase another wristband to pay it forward!
After discussions with Diane, the Global Poverty Project has decided to devote the money that is donated through the purchase of wristbands to help fund our Spring Tour.In Spring 2013 GPP will send a team of skilled presenters on a tour across the United States.The team will give presentations to 100 community groups, universities, and schools.Are you interested in booking a presentation for your group of 150+?Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last week, there was a great quotation doing the rounds on Twitter, Pinterest and other social media from the Mayor of Bogota in Colombia. The quotation was "A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It's where the rich use public transport".
Credit: Smart Move Campaign
I think the reason people seem to like the quotation so much is that it appeared to turn usual, simple ideas of what development means "on their head". It was similar to the effect the book Poor Economics had when it was published last year with the headline "Why would a man in Morocco who doesn't have enough to eat buy a television?" The headline was intriguing. But once you started reading Poor Economics it made sense. The authors explained that even though nutrition is important, poor people – just like rich people – have desires and aspirations like TVs or mobile phones. It's just that poorer people need to sacrifice more in terms of their nutrition and basic needs to meet those pressures or desires, compared to rich people. Denying the reality of people's aspirations just isn't realistic - and that means that poverty reduction can, surprisingly, involve TVs.
In the same way, with a bit of explanation, the sentence by the Mayor of Bogota about aiming for public transport makes a great deal of sense once you understand the importance of aspirations.
Part of the argument is to do with costs of private transport.
For example, back in 2000, the WHO estimated that 1.3 million people die around the world from traffic accidents. That's more people than malaria kills. Such accidents are the leading cause of death for young people aged 5 to 29, 90% of which occur in developing countries. Cars also create congestion – wasting fuel and time that could be spent increasing productivity and trade. A 2011 IBM survey reported that 86% of respondents in Beijing, 70% in New Delhi and 61% in Nairobi said traffic was a key inhibitor of their work or school performance. Furthermore, 1.3 million people are killed every year from the effects of urban outdoor air pollution (the same number as deaths from indoor air pollution), with vehicles being one of the major emitters of such pollution alongside industry. Given that over half the world's population is forecast to live in urban areas by 2020, this number is likely to keep rising. These are costs that no-one, rich or poor, aspires to. And they are one of the reasons why DFID has recently said it will allocate £1m over three years to the Global Road Safety Facility.
But, despite all these costs, I doubt that I, the Mayor of Bogota, or an institution such as the World Bank (who recently published a paper on low-carbon transport), would say that investment in roads – which will attract some degree of private car ownership – is bad. Roads are crucial, for instance to connect rural areas to markets or cities. But policy makers can still try to encourage lower-carbon, more pro-poor and safer road users such as buses or car-sharing schemes, or, in cities, encourage alternatives such as Metro and Bus Rapid Transit. Although they might be more complex, require higher upfront investment, or a particular type of contract to be viable, such alternatives could also offer opportunities for new markets around public routes – which would not exist if people used private cars. This is why, for example, DFID is helping Nigeria create a public-private partnership to build a train system in the capital city, Lagos, hopefully by 2016.
The cost argument also suggests we need to plan infrastructure carefully. In another World Bank report, there's this great picture comparing the "sprawl" of Atlanta and Barcelona, two relatively well-off cities with a similar population:
Source: World Bank 2012 & Betraud, 2003
If you were a developing country, what kinds of cities would you aspire to build?
Clearly, Atlanta has fewer options for “going green” than Barcelona will. Investment in electric vehicles alongside renewable electricity will be key for Atlanta. But if developing countries aim to build cities more like Barcelona they'll be able to invest in and get around on public transport more easily into the long-term.
But what exactly made the Mayor of Bogota think that using public transport can really be something to aspire to? We tend to think of cars as something that people everywhere want, especially if they are rich, just like TVs. But it seems they're not. A recent Economist article observed a declining trend in car use and ownership in rich countries. Here in the UK, people now only use their cars slightly more often than they did in the 1970s. The article suggested this could be due to a number of factors, including rising fuel costs, interconnectedness (e.g. so people can buy online rather than drive to shops), and the rise of public transport, cycle routes and car-sharing schemes.
Combined with the fact that private transport can be inequitable for the poorest people (because it requires cash up-front and expensive fuel thereafter) – these arguments made me think that Bogota's Mayor might just be right. If the route for developed countries involves regretting not investing in public transport, it might be wise to avoid that route on the path to development full stop. Now that is something to aspire to.
Hannah Ryder is Senior Economist for DFID. The original blog can be found here.