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Thanks to the leadership of Global Poverty Project Advisory Board Member, Jack McConnell, the UK's House of Lords yesterday debated extreme poverty.
You can read the full text of the debate in Hansard, and we've excerpted some highlights below:
"Next week, some members of this House will take part in an innovative campaign organised by the Global Poverty Project—an organisation on whose advisory board I am pleased to sit—called Live Below the Line. The Global Poverty Project seeks to abolish extreme poverty within a generation. It wishes to keep alive the spirit of the Make Poverty History campaign of 2005 but to deepen and widen that movement for change to involve many more people the world over in a movement that will finally eradicate extreme poverty. Live Below the Line is an awareness and fund-raising campaign. It involves a number of partners with the Global Poverty Project. It is supported by the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for International Development, the shadow Secretary of State for International Development and many others."
--- Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale
"We are all here in the Chamber because we care about this issue. It is the reason that the noble Lord and I will be joining thousands of others across the world who are supporters of the Global Poverty Project by participating in the challenge to “live below the line” for five days next week." ... "Live Below the Line is one way of standing up for what we think is right in the world. In addition to the soup kitchen, next week the Lord Speaker will host an event in the River Room on Wednesday evening to which you are all most welcome. We cannot offer noble Lords lavish canapés, or even a glass of wine, but please join us at that event to learn more, or over lunch on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, and share with us our 33p or 40p meal."
--- Baroness Jenkin of Kennington
"I am grateful to the Government for ring-fencing the aid budget, especially in the current economic climate. This decision reflects the continuing commitment of the British people to assist the world's poorest and affirms the United Kingdom as an example within the international community. I believe that churches and other faith communities with deep convictions and roots in poorer communities around the world will continue to uphold and monitor the Government's decision on the aid budget, even as other funding pressures are faced at home. I urge the Government also to encourage other EU and G20 Governments to uphold their commitments to the world's poorest, who inevitably have been most acutely affected by the global financial crisis."
--- The Lord Bishop of Gloucester
"Yesterday in this House we spoke of the core curriculum. I was late in getting up and did not get my question in. Is there not a place for a global overview in the core curriculum? It is a small world compared to the one I was brought up in. It is a world in which there is so much poverty, but so much knowledge and so much to be learnt. I wonder if our children are learning about the great needs of this world in which we live. Is there not some way that the core curriculum could involve something such as international development or world need among its subjects? "
--- Lord Roberts of Llandudno
"On 12 April the US Government announced a cut in their aid budget roughly equivalent to the aid the United Kingdom gives from its Exchequer every year. The United States still remains the largest global cash giver but it is the smallest contributor in terms of the percentage of its GDP of any major nation. Will the Prime Minister face down President Barack Obama at the G8 about his responsibility and that of his nation to ensure that development does not take place on the back of the poor, which is precisely what this Government said they would not do with aid?"
--- Lord Hastings of Scarisbrick
"This is not a time for pessimism and cynicism. Great leaps forward have been made and more is certainly needed and possible in the battle that has to be waged against the endemic inequities which keep the people poor, excluded and powerless. Some countries have suffered serious setbacks and economic growth has been extremely unequal. The UN asserts that while the gaps in human development across the world are narrowing they remain huge. Now, however, is not the time to peddle doom and gloom about these issues, but rather to show that aid works and that effective development can and must be supported. That is why donors should focus on what they do best and should work with Governments on health, education, good governance, and support for justice and taxation systems."
--- Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead
“But it’s just 50p? How can we not have done anything about it?”
So asked an incredulous friend last week when I was talking to them about what it takes to treat five of the neglected tropical diseases (which we blogged about here). To be honest, I found it tricky to answer beyond the glib statement that worms and snail parasites aren’t as sexy as mosquitoes and unprotected sex.
The neglected tropical diseases – including Trachoma, Schitsosomaisis, lymphatic filariasis, river blindness and worms – are the poor cousin of Malaria, Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS in terms of international attention. Although it’s believed that more than 1 billion people suffer from at least one of these diseases, they’re barely mentioned in media coverage, policy discussions or by charities.
To be honest, before working in this field, I’d never heard of them. And, once I did, I only knew them as the exotic things I couldn’t pronounce but could catch whilst on field visits, often dismissed with the comment that I “shouldn’t worry too much, they’re perfectly treatable.”
That they are – so long as you’ve got access to the drugs.
Even better, the drugs are mostly donated and the ones that aren’t are inexpensive in total to distribute the drugs and train the distributors and treat a child costs less than 50p a year, and involves swallowing just a couple of tablets. You can treat a whole country in sub-saharan Africa for $10m a year.
It wasn’t until I had a chance to see a documentary about them, Distant Places, Forgotten Lives, that I was able to see just how possible treatment and real progress was for these diseases. It’s well worth watching below, and if you’re inspired, like I was, to take action, you can help more people get treatment by giving at 50pence.org.
UPDATE 10/10/10: DfID have just announced £25m for neglected tropical diseases over the next 5 years, allowing treatment for 75 million people. More at the Guardian.
This is the first in a new series of blogs, perspectives on poverty, which takes you inside the world of communicating the fight against poverty to the public.
A few months ago, we had a bit of a rant about poverty p**n, the phenomenon of well-meaning westerners using guilt-inducing photos for fundraising. Today, we want to open it up a little more and show just how easy it is to a use a photo out of context to achieve this purpose.
The post is inspired by UNICEF, who despite doing some amazing work on the ground in some of the world’s most challenging places, have a habit of producing poverty p**n. The image you can see here comes from a newspaper website and was snapped a couple of weeks ago.
And, seeing how the photo’s been cropped, we wondered how easy it is to create a similarly desperate looking and guilt-inducing image from any photo.
So, we did a shout around the office for people’s travel photos, and found a photo that resembles one that most people who’ve spent time in developing countries would have – being swamped by local kids.
The intern who gave us the photo explained that the photo is of him “being mobbed on the local football field in the township by local kids who wanted to tackle me to the floor (WWF wrestling is all the rage out there) and play with my camera and sunglasses.”
It’s an innocuous image. It’s fun, it’s bright, it’s hopeful, and it’s representative of life in the townships a lot of the time. But, it’s not really in line with many of the images that the media and some NGOs choose to use to shock us.
So, with the challenge of making the image look like a dodgy fundraising poster, we took 5 minutes on a free, unsophisticated editing program to crop, colour and zoom. Here’s what we came up with. Throw on a caption such as ‘Help them have a better future’, and there go.
It’s not the most guilt-inducing image, but it’s a sample of how easy it is to strip an image of context and use it in ways that the people in the photo, and often even the photographer, never intended.
Beyond editing an actual photo, you can put people in a context that makes them look poor and needy, like Duncan McNicholl in this blog at Water Wellness.
The moral of the story?
People living in poverty aren’t just there for us to use as icons for fundraising. The story of those living in poverty is not the single narrative of need and deprivation that we often see in the media. In the words of Chimamanda Adichie in a recent TEDtalk, there’s danger in the “single story of poverty.”
World leaders have gone home, the news is back to covering local stories, and the traffic in New York has returned to its usual crawl after last week’s MDG Review Summit.
After all the fanfare, the reports, the receptions and the endless speeches, we wanted to take a step back and ask – where are we at with the MDGs?
There are two big trends that we’ve pulled out and will focus on here:
Good, but not fast enough
It’s about more than aid
Good but not fast enough
Time and again, leaders took to their feet to declare the possibility that the MDGs can be achieved, but that we needed to work harder, faster, smarter, better . On education, on gender equality, on child and maternal mortality, on sanitation. And, although there’s no denying our potential to do each of these things, we need to take a step back and work out why we’re off-track on many MDGs.
To take the detail of just one example - child mortality has fallen to the still devastating figure of 22,000 children a day, down from 36,000 a day back in 1990. We’re off track on this goal largely because we made very little progress between the baseline year of 1990, and the actual setting of the MDGs in 2000.
In 1990, child mortality was 89 per 1000 live births. Fast forward to 2000, and it’s 77 per 1000 live births. Today, it’s 60. That’s a drop of 12 in the first 10 years, and 17 in the next 9. To quote UNICEF, “The annual rate of decline in under-five mortality has accelerated from 1.4 percent over the 1990s to 2.8 percent over 2000–2009.”
In the case of child health, what we’re doing now is working. Being off-track is a consequence of poor early progress, not failed interventions in recent years.
It’s in that context that the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki Moon, announced a new Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, a $40b pitch to reach our goals on child and maternal health. It’s an ambitious strategy that brings together governments of both rich and poor countries, foundations and business.
It’s well worth a read as a summary of the things that we know work, and how we can continue to make progress. But, it’s also worth noting that there’s nothing much new in there – either in terms of policy or financing. We know what to do, what’s missing is the ongoing political will and resources to ensure that promises are followed through on.
It’s about more than aid
Perhaps it was because the rich countries are a little strapped for cash at the moment, but for the first time in almost a decade, leaders were keen to talk about the non-aid elements of development.
President Obama was the most strident in this respect, outlining a new Global Development Strategy for the US, arguing that,
“First, we’re changing how we define development. For too long, we’ve measured our efforts by the dollars we spent and the food and medicines that we delivered. But aid alone is not development. Development is helping nations to actually develop -- moving from poverty to prosperity. And we need more than just aid to unleash that change. We need to harness all the tools at our disposal -- from our diplomacy to our trade policies to our investment policies.”
“the purpose of development -- what’s needed most right now -- is creating the conditions where assistance is no longer needed. So we will seek partners who want to build their own capacity to provide for their people. We will seek development that is sustainable.”
We wholeheartedly agree with the President’s statement here, and for anyone who’s seen the 1.4 Billion presentation, we talk about governance, aid and trade as essential ingredients to drive development.
Yet, despite the rhetoric moving beyond aid, there are as yet few signs that rich countries will follow with action. The US maintains massive subsidies on cotton, undercutting poor country farmers and keeping millions poor. The EU’s common agricultural policy prices out dairy farmers in places like Kenya, and the weak regulation of financial institutions around the world enables corrupt monies to be transferred without scrutiny.
As we work towards the MDGs, we need to recognise the sprit and implications of the eighth goal, a global partnership for development. It’s about more than just giving aid, it’s about changing the things that keep people poor.
Ten years into the promise, we’re seeing that change is possible, it’s happening, but it’s going to take more than just kind words and a small bump in aid. It’s going to take aid programs that are really focused on the poorest, it’s going to take trade and foreign policy that creates a fair playing field, and it’s going to take changes from every one of us to ensure that we hold our leaders to account whilst taking personal action in support of the world’s poorest.