Mobilising coalition to tackle poverty
Where are we on poverty? Poverty has always been a painful idea to discuss. For decades, societies and Governments across the world have dealt with this subject with lot of intensity. Policy-makers have introduced varied programmes to alleviate poverty. NGOs have worked on a diverse set of programmes to meet the objective of eradicating poverty. Yet the facts remain grim on this front, it is little surprising that the United Nations (UN) has spelt out the goal of ending – “poverty in all its form everywhere by 2030.” If we are to reach anywhere closer to realising the goal of ending it we must launch a broad-based coalition of efforts including all.
Both developed and developing countries are grappling with poverty. It may come as a surprise to many that there are an estimated 30 million children who are growing up poor in the world’s richest countries, according to the UN. Data by the UN also reveals that world over more than 700 million people still live in extreme poverty and are struggling to fulfill the most basic needs like health, education, and access to water and sanitation, to name a few. The overwhelming majority of people living on less than $1.90 per day live in Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa and they account for about 70 per cent of the global total of extremely poor people. Lower middle income countries, including China, India, Indonesia and Nigeria are home to about half of the global poor.
Early in May this year, Deputy Secretary General of the UN, Amina J Mohammed, had said at the opening of the 2017 Integration Segment of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), “Addressing poverty, inequality, climate change, food insecurity and a sluggish and unpredictable global economy requires integrated responses and engagement by all actors.” It is also an indispensable requirement for sustainable development, she stressed, and called for a collective and comprehensive approach that recognises the multidimensional nature of the issue and its interaction with other aspects.
A comprehensive approach is indeed needed given the fact that growing inequality is detrimental to economic growth and undermines social cohesion. Increasing political and social tensions and in some circumstances, driving instability and conflicts, according to the UN, which also prescribes some simple to-dos for all major stakeholders of society including the youth, private sector, scientific community and Governments. If you are a young person, “your active engagement in policy-making can make a difference in addressing poverty. It ensures that your rights are promoted and that your voice is heard, that inter-generational knowledge is shared, and that innovation and critical thinking are encouraged at all ages to support transformational change in people’s lives and communities.”
For policy-makers, the UN call of action emphasises on creating an enabling environment to generate productive employment and job opportunities for the poor and the marginalised. It also recommends formulating strategies and fiscal policies that stimulate pro-poor growth, and reduce poverty. The private sector, as an engine of economic growth too comes in the ambit of the framework that UN recommends. “This sector can play a critical role in determining whether the growth it creates is inclusive and hence contributes to poverty reduction. It can promote economic opportunities for the poor, focusing on segments of the economy where most of the poor are active, namely on micro and small enterprises and those operating in the informal sector.”
The UN also spells out role of scientific and academic community in enhancing awareness on the impact of poverty. “Science provides the foundation for new and sustainable approaches, solutions and technologies to tackle the challenges of reducing poverty and achieving sustainable development. The contribution of science to end poverty has been significant. For example, it has enabled access to safe drinking water, reduced deaths caused by water-borne diseases, and improved hygiene to reduce health risks related to unsafe drinking water and lack of sanitation.”
For a country that is highly affected by this scourge, and for which the problem of poverty has always been the preserve of the policy-makers, it may be time for India to tweak its approach and ask for a broad-based coalition of all stakeholders to tackle poverty. This can be a step ahead in India’s bid to join global race of ending poverty by 2030.
(The writer is a strategic communications professional)