Poverty has been one of the most important and challenging global problems during all the times of human existence. Economic resources and social benefits have never been allocated equally among the individuals. Furthermore, inequality spreads to the nations’ level dividing them into poor and rich, developing and developed. The question of development is closely associated with the issue of poverty though does not precisely coincide. Hence, although the ratio of poor individuals in developing countries is certainly higher, there are also people living under the line of extreme poverty in highly developed industrialized countries. The present paper aims at considering the major questions concerning the notion of poverty, its causes and measures taken by the international community to overcome its most terrible consequences.
The issue of poverty is a very controversial one and there are difficulties in defining and measuring it. Since August 2008, the World Bank estimates the global poverty by the number of people living on or below the line of $1, 25 a day. In the article by Anup Shah, one can find striking facts about poverty rate in the world. For example, it is unbelievable that nowadays approximately 3 billion people (half of the humanity) have less than $2.50 a day. Moreover, more than 1.4 billion people live on or even below the defined poverty line of $1.25. Furthermore, 1 billion children (it implies every second child) live in poverty. It means that poor adults and children do not have a proper shelter, or access to safe water, health services, and enough food. They do not receive education, become victims of severe diseases, and consequently, about 21 000 children die every year from hunger, malnutrition, and illnesses. According to the United Nations Rule of Law, 11 million children die from preventable diseases, and more than half a million women die from the lack of care during child delivering.
Shah admits that it is not just to blame the poor for their own predicament and accuse them of being lazy or unable of making successful decisions. Furthermore, he considers a variety of global causes of poverty, including ineffective government policies leading to inequality and increase of poverty. First of all, powerful nations and people make global decisions and distinguish policies. Therefore, the rich receive gains and profits, growing their wealth while the governments of poor countries and the majority of inhabitants keep on struggling to survive. Shah calls structural adjustment policies to be the major cause of poverty. The reason for that could be the fact that developing countries’ governments have to cut health, education, and other social services to get loans from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
In fact, this phenomenon is called globalization and its effect turns out to be the increase of poverty and inequality. Overall, the rights of over 4 billion poor citizens are not protected by the so-called “rule of law. There is evidence speaking for the correlation between the poverty, on the one hand, and legal exclusion and injustice, on the other. The governments of poor nations cannot guarantee the equal treatment of all the population categories. Hence, it happens so that laws, economic and social policies do not protect and thus marginalize large groups of citizens, including people with low income, minorities, women, and others. These numerous disadvantaged meet various barriers preventing them from achieving equal access to legal protection of their rights. Injustice, corruption, and abuse of power, most characteristic of developing governments and economic systems, affect the most vulnerable categories. Virtually, informal justice mechanisms and norms, which favor the few rich, control the lives of the majority, which is poor.
The United Nations (UN) organization has recognized the importance of the rule of law for economic growth and equal opportunities for all human beings. The Millennium Declaration proclaimed eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2005, directed at the eradication of extreme poverty, hunger, disease, and other issues linked with inequality and dramatically low incomes of certain population groups. Thus, the UN rule of law aims at enhancing justice, security, and legal protection for all cohorts of citizens. The UN produced numerous treaties, declarations, guidelines, principles, which proclaim international norms and standards. Their principal goal is enhancing universal justice and equality of all human rights, such as economic, social, cultural, civil, and political rights.
Achilleas Galatsidas and Finbarr Sheehy discussed what the above-mentioned MDGs achieved within their key areas, including: “poverty, education, gender equality, child mortality, maternal health, disease, the environment and global partnership”. Thus, the authors state that the number of people living below the extreme line has lessened from 1.9 billion in 1990 to 836 million in 2015. Similarly, the proportion of undernourished people reduced from 23.3% in 1990-92s to 12.9% in 2014-16s, as well as the number of out-of-school children of primary school age – from 100 million in 2000 to 57 million in 2015. Furthermore, Galatsidas and Sheehy inform that the child mortality rate has reduced from 90 to 43 deaths per 1,000 live births (more than half) and maternal mortality ratio has fallen by nearly half. There have also become fewer victims of HIV/AIDS infection and much more people have gained access to safe water. All in all, the UN movement has brought significant outcomes in fighting poverty around the world, although the issues have not disappeared completely.
To fight the remaining poverty-related problems, the UN has put forward new goals, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It happened on 25-27 September 2015 in New York City. The most important target is to end extreme poverty everywhere in the world by 2030. However, the author is afraid that about 8-9% of the population in developing countries will not overcome the crucial line of $1. 25. It is explained by the objectively existing principles of uneven economic growth in poor and rich countries.
Apart from the UN, there are many other organizations whose principal goal is to overcome poverty and all the related issues and consequences. Shah defines them as non-governmental organizations whose activities are motivated by eternal human values of doing good and which depend on charities and voluntary service of certain individuals. These private, non-profitable organizations strive “to relieve suffering, promote the interests of the poor, protect the environment, provide basic social services, or undertake community development.” The Takepart website described the top ten non-profit organizations fighting poverty, some of which will be mentioned further.
For instance, Kiva’s purpose is to support entrepreneurs in the developing countries through lending them money for the development of businesses. More specifically, it is a micro-lending website, which enables individuals to lend directly to persons who need it. ONE is supported by over 2 million people worldwide whose main concern is fighting against extreme poverty and preventable diseases, especially in Africa. The next organization is Oxfam International, which is actually a confederation of 13 organizations whose single purpose is to produce an influence within the discussed global issue. This non-profit group approaches communities and the powerful of the world with the purpose of giving the poor right and opportunity to improve their lives and influence the process of taking decisions. One of the biggest groups aiding the poor and disadvantaged individuals is Mercy Corps, which has spent $1.5 billion in 106 countries since 1979. It helps people overcome disasters, conflicts, and lack of security. Moreover, the agency enhances secure, productive, and just communities with favorable conditions, which could enable all the individuals to discover and realize their potentials. Mercy Corps has its principal offices in North America and Europe while its global programs work worldwide, employing 3 500 staff and supporting 16.4 million people in more than 35 countries. Finally, the examples of the organizations fighting hunger in the world are the Hunger Site and the Hunger Project. The first strives to eliminate world hunger utilizing the resources of the Internet. The site started in June 1999 and since then, has provided the hungry with food donated by its visitors. The Hunger Project aims at ending world hunger, particularly in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. All the efforts combined, the humanity can get and realize the chance to promote economic and social security and decent living conditions of all its representatives.
In spite of its controversy and challenging nature, the issue of poverty is addressed by the world’s community. Gradually, the number of individuals living under inhuman conditions due to the absence of means is reducing, and more and more people are getting opportunities to lead decent lives and develop their personalities. Humanity can only survive and solve its problems on condition that all its representatives ground on eternal values and absolute good. The latter are the principles that empower the UN organization as well as many other international organizations aiming at alleviating poverty and other sufferings on our planet. All in all, it seems human beings have a chance to survive and improve their lives by common efforts and strivings.