Defining Poverty and How to Aid Those in Need

Poverty as a social construct is a very complicated issue. There are many levels of poverty, and many approaches to attempting to help victims of it. Because poverty can be defined at many different levels, people disagree on how to send help and make a real difference. In Jacqueline Novogratz’s TED talks, she speaks of how many people assume these victims of poverty are large, organized groups of people wanting to be free, when in reality they are the everyday workers that make between $1-$3 dollars a day. They are the people who keep their society on its feet – farmers, factory workers, drivers. She speaks of how sending monetary aid, while helpful, is not a long-term solution to their poverty. They must make sustainable advances by themselves – changes that they can grow on. She gives an example of how a loan to a mosquito net factory allowed them to hire thousands of workers that can create and maintain the production of these nets. If Africans are given opportunities such as this, the ability to change their own destiny, they can begin to advance towards sustainability.

Progress of the MGDs as of 2008.

There are many organized efforts to end poverty. MDGs, or Millennium Development Goals, are an ongoing effort by many nations to find an approach to fighting poverty and other issues. Beginning in 1990, this 8 step plan has played a major role in helping move developing countries towards brighter days. The 8 goals, as listed by McArthur in Own the Goals, are: “eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; achieve universal primary education; promote gender equality and empower women; reduce child mortality; improve maternal health; combat HIV/AIDs, malaria, and other diseases; ensure environmental sustainability; and forge global partnerships among different countries to achieve development goals”. The MDGs are set to expire in 2015, when world leaders will decide how to continue. Since 1990, these goals have drawn attention and resources to many overlooked problems around the world. They have helped NGOs cooperate with other public and private organizations to send aid to where it is most needed.

While these goals have shown improvement in many ways, McArthur explains that because of diplomatic differences between the United States and the United Nations, much aid that could have been used to help see the MDGs through was squandered, or unorganized. The US saw MDGs as a UN quota for aid, and decided instead to send aid separately, by their own ideals. He explains that many officials in Washington have a long-standing aversion to fixed foreign aid spending, especially when the spending is not decided by their own government. However, the Obama organization has shown much openness to cooperating with the MDGs, and in 2015 the US should be considering the new goals set by the UN, and offering their aid whenever possible.

Another issue plaguing the success of the MDGs is Neo-Liberalism. It has slowed the development of many countries by attempting to remove government interference and focusing on the private sector and free market systems. By removing government programs, many people suffered from a lack of organized medical aid and employment. A quote from JD Corpus in The MDG Promise summarizes the effects of Neo-Liberalism well: “In practice, the MDGs are embedded within the broader context of the neoliberal restructuring of the global economy (trade and investment liberalization, privatization, deregulation) which has actually worsened many human development indicators in most regions.”

In How to Help Poor Countries, the authors speak of the effects of monetary aid on poverty. They show that while there are many success stories, they are mostly highly organized and narrowly targeted specific issues. When the recipients of the aid have the correct outlook and leadership to apply the aid correctly, great changes can occur. However, it is showing that funding doesn’t necessarily mean sustained productivity and wages. Many donors have a specific objective that they are donating to, and not all of these objectives align, making it difficult for the budgets to be planned adequately. Typically the countries that require the most aid are the ones who aren’t organized enough to use it well. The correct way to begin developing a sustainable increase is by letting these poor countries develop their own unique economic course. They must experiment and find what works for their society.

Because poverty is a global problem, it must be approached with a global outlook. The MGDs are a great step in organizing aid, and have made great leaps in helping developing countries. Perhaps in 2015, with the reorganization of the goals, these heads of state can find an even more successful approach to defeating global poverty.


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