Where does the world stand in the fight against poverty?

01 Nov 2006

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If the developed, wealthy international community does not make significant progress in the poverty challenge by the year 2015, 41 million more children are expected to die by then.

New Horizons - If the developed, wealthy international community does not make significant progress in the poverty challenge by the year 2015, 41 million more children are expected to die by then. 210 million more people will not have access to clean water. 380 million more people will go on living on less than 1 dollar every day. 47 million children (19 million in Africa) will not be able to go to school.Worldwide poverty has declined by one fifth in the past decade, compared to the previous 10 years. But in spite of the overall progress, some countries suffer unprecedented reversals. For example, in sub-Saharan countries in Africa, the number of people living on less than 1 dollar per day was 100 million more in 2001, than it was in 1990. Another declining region is Central and South European countries and the republics of the former Soviet Union.

If the developed, wealthy international community does not make significant progress in the poverty challenge by the year 2015, 41 million more children are expected to die by then. 210 million more people will not have access to clean water. 380 million more people will go on living on less than 1 dollar every day. 47 million children (19 million in Africa) will not be able to go to school.Worldwide poverty has declined by one fifth in the past decade, compared to the previous 10 years. But in spite of the overall progress, some countries suffer unprecedented reversals. For example, in sub-Saharan countries in Africa, the number of people living on less than 1 dollar per day was 100 million more in 2001, than it was in 1990. Another declining region is Central and South European countries and the republics of the former Soviet Union.

The ratio of the populations in these countries living on less than 2 dollars per day was 2% in 1990; it increased to 20% in 2001. Life expectancy in both sub-Saharan Africa and in the former Eastern Bloc countries also declined, contrary to the global trend. Children in the sub-Saharan regions of African are born with the risk of living 33 years less than children born in rich countries. Average life expectancy in Russia in mid-1980s was 70 years, as opposed to today’s 59 years.

Inequities in income distribution is also extremely high: Total annual income of the richest 500 people of the world is greater than the total annual income of the poorest 416 million. The cost of eliminating absolute poverty, on the other hand, is around 300 billion dollars, which is approximately 2% of the total yearly income of the richest 10% population of the world.

Turkey’s situation in Human Development Index

Turkey ranks medium in human development indicators. (It ranked 94th among 177 countries in the Human Development Index of the previous year.) However, it is steadily increasing its scores. With its per capita annual income of 6,772 dollars (in the 2005 Human Development Report), Turkey ranks 75th. Average life expectancy is 68.7 years (100th among 177 countries) and school enrollment ratio is 68% in Turkey.

Although extreme povery in Turkey (i.e. living on less than 1 dollar a day) does not strike as remarkably high, the ratio of the population living on 4.5 dollars and less constitues 24%.

The fact known as “new poverty” is also in ascend in Turkey. Especially after the economic crisis of 2001, the number of permanently poor people has increased to a level which has become difficult to cope with methods of traditional social aid. The ratio of child mortality is also alarmingly high (37% according to the data of the period 1998-2003).

Inequalities between regions and between women and men are significantly large, as well. In the area of women’s participation in social life, Turkey ranks 76th among 140 countries. Turkish women are represented in the parliament by a mere 4.4%. Women occupy 30% of professional and technical jobs, and only 6% of administrative and managerial posts.

How can we break the vicious circle of poverty? 

Human Development Reports underline the fact that the world has the technology, financial resources and accumulated knowledge to overcome extreme poverty and in order to break the vicious circle of poverty the only thing needed is the political will to do so.

UNDP Human Development Report has some specific suggestions in three areas to overcome poverty and reach the global development targets, which were promised by the world leaders at the UN summit in 2000 to reduce poverty by 50% by 2015. These areas are aid, trade and security.

First, on aid, it calls for more and better assistance for the poor countries. It also calls for an end to tied aid and excessive policy conditionality and better coordination among the donor countries. Secondly, reform of the current trade system, deep cuts in barriers to developing country exports, deep cuts in government support for agriculture and an immediate prohibition on direct and indirect export subsidies are needed. High international barriers, agricultural and export subsidies in rich countries damage the economies in developing countries. These countries loose about 24 billion US dollars a year from agriculture protectionism and subsidies. Together with reduced employment and investment, this cost gets as big as 72 billion US dollars in developing countries, an amount equivalent to all official aid extended in 2003. Thirdly, it calls for more aid for conflict prone countries, integrated approach to collective security, greater transparency in managing natural resources, which can easily be causes of war, and an end to small arms sales to areas of violent conflict.