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Poverty and development

Opinión
01/07/2008
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There is a narrow and reciprocal relation between the reduction of poverty, development and human rights, because human development consists in the fulfillment of human rights and therefore, in the progressive reduction of poverty. Human development must be centered in the populations and the people who forms them, and its objectives are the improvement of their well being and respect for their dignity and identity. Therefore, to the extent that poverty supposes the antithesis of social development, it is a brutal and violent denial of each and every human right which substantially limits the scope of public freedoms of the poor, depriving them and the communities to which they belong of the necessary goods to lead a worthy life. And this should be a matter of interest in the science and praxis of economy.

There is a narrow and reciprocal relation between the reduction of poverty, development and human rights, because human development consists in the fulfillment of human rights and therefore, in the progressive reduction of poverty. Human development must be centered in the populations and the people who forms them, and its objectives are the improvement of their well being and respect for their dignity and identity. Therefore, to the extent that poverty supposes the antithesis of social development, it is a brutal and violent denial of each and every human right which substantially limits the scope of public freedoms of the poor, depriving them and the communities to which they belong of the necessary goods to lead a worthy life. And this should be a matter of interest in the science and praxis of .

Just like sustainable human development, poverty has a multidimensional and complex nature since it implies material elements such as hunger, malnutrition; lack of security, potable drinking water as well as for hygiene; health problems linked to easily curable diseases with the actual medicines and knowledge; precarious and unhealthy housing conditions; unemployment and subemployment, the scarcity of income; non-material elements such as illiteracy, restricted access to educational centers and several other public services; exclusion and social marginalization, violence, and ultimately, the lack of perspectives and expectations that the situation can improve, which leads to despair.

Likewise, poverty implies an important limitation of the rights of political participation. Therefore, it is valid to ask what freedom means to those who do not have enough to eat and even die of starvation, since human and civil rights have no meaning for those who vegetate in hunger, sickness and ignorance.

The World Bank (WB) established one dollar per day as the threshold of what has been called "extreme poverty", which is quite arbitrary, since the dollar is the currency of a developed country and its monetary value not only is not equivalent to the same amount of goods in different parts of the planet, but also the disparity can be very high. Moreover, establishing one dollar per day as the threshold of extreme poverty allows hiding that there is also this kind of poverty in countries that are presumably more "developed". In any case, if we take this dollar as a reference even with all its imprecisions, estimations are that between 1,200 and 1,300 million people all over the world live (sub-live) on less than one dollar a day. This presumes that one out of every four or five people live in conditions of "extreme poverty" and with scarce perspectives that their situation may change in the short term, since the number of people living in these conditions is not decreasing.

Some of the main difficulties that third world countries face are referred to the enormous burden of the foreign debt, the deterioration of the relation of commercial interchange, the decrease in the Official Development Assistance and the shortage of private capitals and human resources that go to those countries. Likewise, we must draw attention to the difficult situation that Africa faces, where poverty has reached particularly serious levels:

"Most of the continent is affected, among other things, by an insufficient physical and institutional infrastructure, scant development of human resources, lack of food security, malnutrition, hunger, epidemics, generalized diseases, unemployment and subemployment. Several conflicts and disasters must be added to this. These varied limitations and restrictions make it difficult for Africa to benefit fully from the processes of globalization and liberalization of commerce, and to fully integrate world economy" (paragraph 17) (1). This is the reason why "Africa’s critical situation as well as that of less advanced countries demands that they be given priority in international cooperation for development and in the allocation of Official Development Assistance funds" (paragraph 185).

This dramatic situation leads many young Africans to desperately try to emigrate to Europe or other industrialized countries, many of them dying, or being ill-treated or injured, in the attempt of crossing increasingly difficult frontiers which are turning the richest and industrialized countries into a sort of inaccessible fortresses, openly contradicting their repeatedly self-proclaimed "freedom".

Extreme poverty supposes the denial of every human right and that freedom without respect and fulfillment of economic, social and cultural rights is but an illusion. One particularly relevant summit was the World Conference on Social Development which took place in Copenhagen in 1995, which ended with the approval of the Declaration about Social Development, which put forward the eradication of poverty as the main objective of the international community as an ethical, social, political and economic obligation of humanity. Poverty is defined as a complex and multidimensional problem that requires an integrated and intersectorial approach, just like human and sustainable development. In the end, poverty is the consequence of the denial of development and therefore, of human rights, including economic, social and cultural rights.

According to what was said in that Summit, one of the relevant aspects of poverty expresses itself through the lack of participation of the most vulnerable groups and individuals in the adoption of decisions in civilian, social and cultural life. This is because poverty is a strong disadvantage for communication and the access to the institutions, markets, employment and public services, which causes these sectors of the population to remain forgotten and marginalized by those in charge of elaborating and deciding policies. Moreover, the satisfaction of basic needs is considered essential for the reduction of poverty, and in order to achieve this, creating worthy jobs is a must.

Another fundamental aspect in order to understand and define poverty consists in what is called the relational aspect, which is a factor that is often left aside by liberal authors. This relational component is closely linked to the feeling of dignity and self-esteem, which is an aspect that the poor themselves often stress when they define and describe what poverty is and what makes them feel poor.

Poverty isn’t only the mere shortage of income, but also the lack of development of the capabilities of personal faculties due to hardships or lack of means and basic resources in order to fulfill personal development. Thus, poverty means a deficient standard of living, of security and self-esteem. Therefore, poverty is subdivided into two main dimensions: the economic one, linked to the shortage of income to satisfy basic needs, and social, which is closely linked to "social exclusion" and where the relational aspect mentioned before is highly important, especially in the richer and industrialized countries.

Nicolás Angulo Sánchez

Author of the book El derecho humano al desarrollo frente a la mundialización del mercado, editorial Iepala, Madrid, 2005

Translation by “Mirada Global”

https://www.alainet.org/es/node/128443

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