A day in the (dollar twenty-five) life
Today UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon was handed a report written by David Cameron, Indonesian President Yudhoyono and Liberian President Johnson-Sirleaf. Essentially, they will have told Ban Ki-Moon what they think will be the most effective ways to reduce extreme poverty.
As the co-chairs of a 27 member High Level Panel established by Ban Ki-Moon to advise on the global development framework after the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) reach their 2015 deadline, this report is the first step to negotiating a new deal for people in developing countries.
Extreme poverty is measured by money. If you’re living on $1.25 a day (or less), then you’re living in extreme poverty. It’s a useful number to have: without it, we wouldn’t know that the amount of men, women and children in extreme poverty has halved since 1990 from 43% to 21% of the world’s population. And we certainly wouldn’t be able to start addressing the problem without being able to identify it.
But this is part of a wider perception that poverty is about money, or rather the lack of it. The perception that the way to reduce poverty is by giving ‘alms to the poor’ does not paint an accurate picture of what it’s like to live in poverty, including the forces that trap people in poverty and prevent them from escaping.
This is not to say that aid isn’t important, but we need to change how we think about poverty.
How much someone spends in their day tells us nothing about their life. In the many times you’ve been asked “how was your day?”, have you ever thought to answer that with how much you’ve spent that day? I doubt it.
No human experience can be budgeted.
Poverty – as defined by those living in it – is about the experience of deprivation, insecurity, powerlessness and exclusion. It’s about a lack of choice and power in your own life. It’s about being vulnerable to abuse and that there will be little to no accountability for those abuses. It’s about being denied a voice.
It’s also about being discriminated against because you are poor and this is compounded by other factors. Despite being half of the world’s population women and girls represent 70% of the world’s poor. Add in other factors such as race or indigenous status and we see – for example – shocking levels of women dying during childbirth.
In January, Amnesty wrote to the High Level Panel and asked them to ensure that human rights and justice must be put at the heart of current MDG efforts, discussions about the post-2015 development framework as well as the framework itself.
So we’re glad to see that tackling inequality and ensuring accountability are dominating the debate about what lessons can be applied to the MDG successors. David Cameron recently announced 10 new development goals which included ‘empowering girls and women’ and ‘effective and open government’ and the Shadow International Development Secretary Ivan Lewis recently announced his vision which is centred in social justice, tackling inequality and promoting human rights as well as the traditional ‘good governance’.
But this commitment to justice, inequality and rights must go further: the post-2015 framework must be rooted in human rights and move from a model of charity to one of justice.
We’re now well into the last 1000 days before the Millennium Development Goals’ deadline and Ban Ki-Moon is working hard to keep up #MDGMomentum, but most of them won’t meet their 2015 deadline. We might have halved extreme poverty, but that still means that 1.4 billion women, men and children are forced to live their lives without the dignity to which we are all equally entitled to.
The human rights framework was designed to be the mechanism through which we can achieve freedom from fear and freedom from want. They go beyond what we need to (barely) survive and are the framework through which we can claim our rights to live our lives with dignity.
“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.” Nelson Mandela
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.