The article below was originally posted here by Oliver Wiseman at The London School of Economics Students' Union online newspaper - The Beaver - on October 24th 2010.
It provides a brilliant and succinct summary of our work. Thank you to Oliver for the piece, originally titled "Save the Bottom Billion."
Often the simplest messages are the most important. That we should all do more to eradicate the fact that 1.4 billion people in the world live in extreme poverty is one such message. Reminding us of this is the Global Poverty Project (GPP), an organisation on the eve of a breakthrough. Founded in 2008 by Australian humanitarian, Hugh Evans, GPP exists to raise awareness of poverty’s causes and cures, catalysing a movement to end extreme poverty in our lifetime. This is a sentiment with considerable weight behind it. Indeed, Harvard economist Jeffrey Sachs, has agreed that poverty could come to an end within one generation. This week the charity premieres its DVD, 1.4 Billion Reasons, essentially the Inconvenient Truth of development, taking a small-scale lecture programme along an exponential trajectory.
Poverty campaigns tend to be one of two things. Some come across as the playthings of the rich and famous – a convenient excuse to pile your glamorous friends into a recording studio for a sing-a-long. Others reduce their efforts to shameless guilt-tripping. Either way it seems that the message has become desensitised. Despite the honourable intentions, mass media has taken a once poignant truth and diluted it down.
The GPP approach is something wholly different. The organisation’s primary output is a 90-minute presentation that takes the audience through the web of problems that surround extreme poverty and seeks to provide practical solutions that begin at the individual level. For GPP the fight to end poverty hinges upon filling a gap in our knowledge. The manner in which GPP goes about achieving its goals is a testament to the strength of their arguments; neither cynical tugs of heartstrings, nor the promise of a party are necessary in persuading people to commit to the eradication of extreme poverty.
As well as a predictable array of celebrity endorsements – including Hugh Jackman – the movement has the backing of eminent intellectual Jeffrey Sachs, international health expert Hans Rosling, and director of the UN’s millennium development programme, Stephanie Dujarric. In addition to the gravitas and sincerity evident in these endorsements, teams of student organisers at some of the world’s top universities give GPP genuine grassroots credentials.
Much of GPP’s focus falls on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), objectives that Sachs calls “practical and obtainable goals. The goals of our generation.” The MDGs, agreed on with much furore in 2000, tackle hunger, disease, child mortality, environmental damage and other critical development issues. These targets remain a mirage. Halfway through the time frame, 86 per cent of the work is still to be done. It is this kind of complacency that GPP combats.
At the core of GPP is an admission that there exist more than enough ways to give. In this sense, GPP is not a charity – rather, it is an umbrella organisation that improves the ways we currently try to effect change. If we think about extreme poverty when we “volunteer, talk, buy, learn, shout and donate” then the brave aim to eradicate extreme poverty might become a reality.