International Day to Eradicate Poverty

10-17-12

Today marks the United Nations designated International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.  Around the world people are working to raise awareness of the plight of those struggling with low-income. Here are a few events  CWP is involved with:

Dignity for All: the campaign for a poverty-free Canada is marking the the day with a public event in Ottawa and the release of Poverty Trends Scorecard – Canada 2012, a report that highlights the need for continued federal investments to assist those struggling to make ends meet.  (See Citizen’s for Public Justice’s website for information on the report.)  In the evening there will also be a slam poetry event at The Hub, 71 Bank Street, as a fundraiser for Canada Without Poverty.  Doors at 8pm, and more details on Facebook.

Also out today is an Op-Ed in Embassy – a foreign policy online magazine –  jointly written by CWP Executive Director Leilani Farha and Julia Sanchez, President-CEO of the Canadian Council for International Co-operation.  The full article is listed below:

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A wealthier nation doesn’t necessarily mean lower poverty rates

The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty has been observed every year since 1993, when the UN General Assembly designated a day to promote awareness that poverty and destitution in all countries must be eradicated. This has become a stated development priority for most donor countries as well as many national governments and local groups working on the ground in both developed and developing countries.

Despite the multiple commitments and efforts to do away with extreme poverty, there are as many poor people today then there were in the early 1990s, with poverty in some nations, including Canada, being stubbornly persistent.  Despite the progress made on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and in particular Goal 1 which tackles poverty and hunger, the fact remains that there are only 4 – 5 % less poor in absolute terms in the world today. And, notably, the vast majority of those living below the poverty line today (72%) live in countries now considered “middle-income” (MICs) whereas these same States were low-income countries (LICs) in the early 1990s. At that time, 93% of those below the poverty line lived in LICs.

In other words, the increasing wealth of a nation does not necessarily correspond to decreasing poverty rates. High income countries like Canada are a good example of this phenomenon. Canada is one of the richest countries in the world.  And yet, there are between 3 and 4.4 million people living poverty, representing 10 – 13% of the population. This level of poverty is unacceptable in an affluent country well capable of a poverty rate close to if not right at zero.

How do we explain that middle income countries (such as Pakistan, India, China, Nigeria, and Indonesia), that have increasing resources to combat poverty, and even developed countries like Canada, allow for such sizeable numbers of their citizens to remain unable to meet their basic needs? Part of the answer is in the limited attention that has been given at the global and national levels to the underlying causes of poverty – including inequality, discrimination and disempowerment. To date, mobilization to eradicate poverty has focused on addressing the symptoms of poverty instead of on the policy changes needed to do away with the causes of poverty.

Canada has a historic opportunity in the years to come to provide leadership at the international level on this critical global issue. In 2013, the UN has convened a major event to assess progress on the MDGs (before they expire in 2015) and prepare the ground for the post-2015 development framework. Global leadership is urgently needed to ensure that in the next round of goals for the international community, the structural causes of poverty are boldly addressed.

Canada can provide that international leadership, building, for example, on its role in maternal child health. But to do so with credibility, Canada must first show leadership and robust action at home. The federal government must address the issues of poverty, homelessness and hunger in Canada on an urgent basis starting with the adoption of national intergovernmental strategies based in national and international human rights principles including equality and non-discrimination, and which include rights-based participation, such as complaints mechanisms and independent monitoring and review with enforceable targets and timelines. Canada must also show leadership by increasing and enhancing its aid commitments directed exclusively at ending poverty in the world.

The theme for this year’s International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, “Working together out of poverty“, highlights the need for all levels of government to work in concert to end poverty in Canada, as well as for a truly global anti-poverty alliance, one in which both developed and developing countries participate actively in addressing poverty issues everywhere. We are encouraged by the fact that today parliamentarians will be attending an evening panel discussion entitled “Ending Poverty Together:  Real stories, Real Solutions”, organized by the All-Party Anti-Poverty Caucus (APC). And also that today a group of civil society organizations, working on poverty issues internationally, are launching the “Reverse the Cuts” campaign, aimed at garnering popular support for the needed increase in the quantity and quality of Canadian aid. We are moving in the right direction, and with federal leadership we could make significant progress.

Julia Sanchez is President-CEO of the Canadian Council for International Co-operation (CCIC), Canada’s coalition to end global poverty.

 Leilani Farha is Executive Director of Canada Without Poverty and the CWP-Advocacy Network, organizations dedicated to the elimination of poverty in Canada.