UNCTAD's new LDC Report 2010 once again criticizes the poverty measures of the World Bank and pretends that 53 % of the population in LDCs is extremely poor (at less than 1.25 $/day) and 78 % of the population is poor (at 2 $/day). It proposes a new International Support Mechanism, which in turn requires a new International Development Archtiecture. This is the most urgent challenge facing the international community today.
At the 20th anniversary of its first Human Development Report, UNDP proposes an Human Development Index (HDI) corrected for inequality and a new Multidimensional Poverty Index. A new methodology has also been developed for measuring the HDI, though it is already very controversial.
There are serious problems with the conceptualization of ‘poverty’. There are no clear definitions and monetary and multidimensional poverty approaches continue to amalgamate causes and consequences of poverty. In this contribution, I want to focus on the comparison of income and multidimensional approaches and question the relevance of measuring child poverty. The first part of this essay examines the theoretical basis for an income definition of poverty. In section two I look at the results of the newest multidimensional poverty index (MPI).The third section looks at the arguments for a multidimensional approach to child poverty. In the final part I examine the ideology of poverty and propose some alternatives for eradicating poverty and promoting development.
Money, money, money …
In this contribution, I want to highlight the long and tortuous way of official development thinking on social policies and poverty reduction. In the first part, I look at the early social thinking of the World Bank and the United Nations. In the second part, their parallel strategies to fight poverty in the 1990s is examined. Section three looks at the re-conceptualization of ‘social development’ and the new discourses on social protection. Section four points to the lack of reliable data on global poverty and the changing methodologies of the World Bank. Finally, section five highlights the new old ideas of the United Nations concerning economic and social development. Neoliberalism is far from dead, and the international community clearly is at a crossroads with, furthermore, serious resistance from post-development social movements. The climate crisis, which has to be taken very seriously, may strengthen the neocolonial and military approaches to development.
To a large extent, the reality of global inequality is ignored or at best downplayed. However, this has not always been the case. Indeed, in the early 1950s, the first UN resolutions on development focused on inequality rather than poverty. Unfortunately, this decline of interest in inequality is not an indication of any improvement in global equality.
Despite the expenditure of billions of dollars on development aid and the launch of high-profile initiatives such as the Millennium Development Goals, the blight of hunger has not been defeated. If anything, its grip on hundreds of millions of people is as tight as ever.
In 2000, some 790 million people in the southern hemisphere were deprived of basic food security. According to the World Bank's 2009 Global Monitoring Report, the number of chronically hungry people—those consuming under 1,800 calories a day—rocketed upwards when the global economic crisis hit. The number went from 850 million in 2007 to 960 million in 2008. By mid-October 2009, the figure had risen to over a billion, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization. To put this in perspective, this total exceeds the combined population of the European Union, the United States, Japan, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
The report from the Working Group on solidarity levies made for the Task Force of the Leading Group for Innovative Finances is now on the website.
From September 20 to 22 a ‘High Level Plenary Meeting’ will be held at the UN in New York to look at the achievements concerning the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Once again, non governmental organizations in wealthy countries are mobilizing their troops in order to push for more development aid.
For those who might not remember: the MDGs are 8 objectives, 16 targets and 60 indicators concerning development cooperation. They aim at halving extreme poverty between 1990 and 2015, providing primary education for all children, gender equality and empowerment for women, fighting HIV/aids and malaria, reducing child and maternal mortality and caring for a better environment. The eighth and not quantified objective concerns the obligations of rich countries: more development aid, debt relief, access to their markets, affordable medicines and new technology.
The UN wants its member states to take vigorous action. Five years before the final date, the aim is to see what has happened and what remains to be done.
Twenty years after the World Bank introduced – for the second time – its proposals for poverty reduction strategies and ten years after the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals and the Poverty Reduction Strategies Papers, some very difficult questions remain: Why is poverty such a persistent problem? What are its root causes? Why do some countries have success and others have not? And most of all: how to correct the situation?
Since the international organisations put poverty on the political agenda in the 1990s, little has been heard about inequality. This is quite amazing, since it was the income gap between rich and poor countries that gave rise to the development project after the Second World War. The first UN resolutions on development do not mention poverty, but they do refer to the huge inequalities between developed and under-developed countries.
With the new poverty agenda of the World Bank and the human development programme of the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme), both introduced in 1990, people, if not individuals, clearly have become the objects of development. There certainly are good reasons to welcome this shift, since development without benefits for people would be rather meaningless. But one also has to recognise the perfect convergence of this shift with the emergence of a neoliberal agenda that tried to weaken states and deprive them of their economic role. If countries are neither the objects nor the driving forces of development but only have to create an enabling environment and care for the extremely poor, there clearly is a new development agenda and there are good reasons to analyse all its consequences.
It is a real pleasure to read the books of Ha-Joon Chang. In fact, his most recent work has nothing new. It presents in a very clear and comprehensible way the results of his former research. His objective is to give people more knowledge and to equip the reader with an understanding of how capitalism really works.
Reading this book is real fun, however serious the catastrophe of 2008, created by free-market ideology, has been.