It’s a snowy Saturday evening in Syracuse, and I am freezing. My day began many hours earlier when I packed my belongings in two bags, said good-bye to my family and piled into the van that would be my home for the next 14 weeks. Now, five hours and two gas station coffees later, I am here – quite cold, a bit tired, but ready to talk.
In particular, I am ready to talk about Bon, a seven-year-old Burmese refugee who I met while working with an arts therapy program in Thailand.
Bon is unique because he is tiny – really tiny. He dances Gangham-style like a pro and somehow manages to get the teachers to help him more then we ever should.
If you happen to be curious, you’ll ask Bon why he’s so small. He’ll tell you, “It’s because I drink Coke and not milk, because Coke is cheap.” Then, he’ll grin at you and add, “and more delicious.” Bon’s family cannot afford to feed him the things he needs, and because of it, he does not grow.
It was around the time that I came to know Bon that the Global Poverty Project offered me a position as presenter on the spring 1.4 Billion Reasons tour. And it was because of Bon and others like him that I accepted it.
Extreme poverty means a lack of choices. It’s why David, the young Zambian who was my best friend during my time as a Peace Corps Volunteer, probably won’t be able to access an education above a ninth grade level. It means no healthcare, no sanitation, and no shelter. It’s about not having options, or having only the heart-wrenching ones: which child to send to school, which mouth to feed, which basic necessity to sacrifice in order to pay for another.
Bon and David are just two of the 1.4 billion people who live on less $1.50 USD a day. But to me, they are important – because I know them. I drew on the floor with Bon. It was David who came to my hut’s doorstep every morning, asking to read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and review his math homework. I can no longer reach these friends around the world. I cannot write a letter, or send an e-mail, or dial a number and know that they will be on the other end. Since they cannot share their stories with the world, it falls onto us to share them with you.
So, it’s Saturday in Syracuse and I’m excited. I’m excited because change is possible. I have read enough statistics to know that extreme poverty can be eliminated in our lifetimes. I have seen enough in my travels over five continents to know that such poverty is intolerable in any form.
If Bon and David were able to tell their own realities, they would do it in a way infinitely more eloquent and vivid than I will. But in the absence of that, you’ll have to settle for me. I encourage you to share your stories – with your friends, family and co-workers. I tell a story, and you tell a story, and more and more people tell a story, we won’t have 1.4 Billion Reasons. We’ll have 1.4 Billion Friends. And when that day comes, extreme poverty will be a part of history.
On 23rd January, The Global Poverty Project together with over a hundred development organisations launched the Enough Food for Everyone IF campaign.
Devised to build momentum and inspire action to end global hunger ahead of the UK Presidency of the G8 in June, The IF campaign brought together charities, policy-makers, politicians and celebrities for its launch event in Central London, at Somerset House last week.
The purpose of the IF campaign is to fight hunger, calling for a concerted focus on its underlying causes, namely: insecure development assistance, land grabs, tax dodging, and a lack of transparency over investments in poor countries. These issues were in turn brought to life through a 3D animation projected onto Somerset House, and presented by Lauren Lavern who introduced influential guest speakers such as Bill Nighy, Olympic athlete Mark Foster and GPP Ambassador Bonnie Wright.
We have made great strides in human progress. From halving the number of people who live in extreme poverty (the equivalent of £1 per day) since 1990, to reducing the incidence of polio by 99.9% since 1988, and enabling more than 50 million children to start going to school in sub-Saharan Africa in past 10 years, we are measurably improving the lives of our global citizens.
But in spite of these incredible achievements, an important issue still remains:
In a world where there is enough food to feed everyone, why do 1 in 8 people live with the pain of hunger? Why does hunger continue to kill more people than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined?
The answer, whilst complex and multi-faceted, broadly lies in the actions of our governments and corporations. We can be the generation to end global hunger, and strive for greater human well-being, IF we choose to fix the problems inherent in our global food system:
Firstly, in persuading richer nations to secure Official Development Assistance (ODA) (otherwise known as ‘aid’).
This is crucially important, as it finances the ability to meet a range of development goals, including tackling hunger and food insecurity. UK aid, for example, will help to reach 20 million pregnant women and children under the age of five with nutrition programmes by 2015.
Mobilising greater international support to secure aid is therefore vital to honour existing commitments and is importantly financially feasible. For example, to provide half the funding to tackle global malnutrition (an exiting obligation), which kills more than 2 million children every year, represents a mere 0.015% of G8 countries’ collective national income.
Secondly, there must be a global imperative to prevent irresponsible investment into the purchase of land (‘land grabs’). Although foreign investment can be a major driver of development, according to recent UN analysis, the current wave of land deals, which represents an area the size of London being sold or leased every six days ‘is damaging food security, incomes, livelihoods and environment for local people’.
Lastly, in order to effectively tackle hunger, the Enough Food for Everyone IF campaign looks to encourage action on tax, and transparency. Ensuring companies do not dodge tax owed, which currently represents 3 times more than developing countries’ receive in aid each year, could raise enough public revenues to save the lives of 230 children under the age of 5 every day.
Combined with guaranteeing greater transparency in the operation of governments and corporations; creating an open forum for dialogue with local communities and small-scale producers surrounding public sector contracts, will further ensure that decision-makers are held to account for their actions.
With the upcoming Food and Hunger Summit coinciding with the UK Presidency of the G8 Summit in June, as well as the UK Prime Minister David Cameron playing a lead role on the successor framework to the Millennium Development Goals, 2013 could truly represent the beginning of the end for hunger…IF we choose to act now.
This Valentine's Day we plan to “share the love.” Not just with our close friends and family, but with disadvantaged communities across the world. We don’t plan on making opulent donations or holding fiery protests. We’re putting down the petitions and simply picking up a different kind of present - a Fairtrade present, to be precise.
Purchasing Fairtrade products is one very simple and effective way for people to take action against poverty. In Australia, Fairtrade is still an emerging concept with consumer recognition of the Fairtrade label at only 44% in 2011. The good news though is that retail sales of Fairtrade products have steadily been growing since 2010, with a $35m increase within a year indicating that as time passes, more people are starting to catch on to the benefits associated with Fairtrade.
To try and shed some light on this important and growing movement, the Global Poverty Project sat down with two passionate Fairtrade advocates to help explain.
Changing people’s lives, one chocolate at a time Karen Ngoh, founder of Fairtrade chocolate brand Heart of Chocolate says she was compelled to sell ethically sourced and produced chocolate bars after discovering that in many instances, the forced labor of children played a big role in producing the commercial chocolate that so many of us unwittingly enjoy today. CNN’s documentary ‘Chocolate Child Slaves’ focuses on the chocolate production industry in the Ivory-Coast. In the investigation, children as young as seven have often been trafficked over borders to harvest cocoa, even though some have never even tasted chocolate.
Although Fairtrade is a top priority to Karen, her consumers’ needs are equally important.
“People feel that they’re somehow being asked to do farmers a favor [when purchasing Fairtrade] and that they are compromising the selection, the packaging or the ultimate quality of the product they are receiving,” says Karen.
But Karen’s chocolates have proved that companies can deliver products of an outstanding quality whilst still enhancing and contributing to the lives of the less fortunate. She's the exclusive Australian distributor of Seed and Bean chocolate, which has won five Great Taste Awards by the Guild of Fine Food, two from the Academy of Chocolate, and scored 100% in the UK's Ethical Company Organisation’s 2012 ranking.
Ensuring that farmers are self-sustainable all year round is another key part in being Fairtrade, and the Divine Chocolate range, which uses cocoa from the Kuapa Kokoo Cooperative, Ghana’s largest Cocoa farming union, enables farmers throughout the off-season with a credit union that gives them access to credit and banking services at affordable rates. The women in particular are supported through a soap making initiative that makes use of the waste material from the burnt cocoa plants that can be sold so that they are less dependant on their husbands to provide for their families.
Instant karma comes back to you, and it feels great! The notion of helping producers to be independent also compelled Ric Webster who alongside his wife Jen Chaput, founded Instant Karma Roses, the first Fairtrade certified rose importer and distributor in Australia. By purchasing Fairtrade, farmers receive premiums that they can invest back into education, health care, transport and other crucial community sectors.
“It’s not just about helping people - its about helping people help themselves,” says Ric.
Instant Karma Roses come from Kenya and whilst Ric sees a lot of value in consumers buying local, he stresses the problem occurs when people mistakenly think they are buying domestic, when they’re actually buying imported flowers.
"It's matter of knowing where [the flowers] come from,” says Ric. “Eighty percent of flowers are raised in Australia, and 20% are from overseas. But we want to give people the option to buy flowers where they always know the source is ethical."
He describes Australians as being ‘worldly’ people who he genuinely believes would make ethical purchasing decisions given the correct information. He urges other Fairtrade retailers to embrace the same optimism about their consumers.
“You have to trust that customers do want to make a difference,” says Ric.
Making a difference Getting people to understand the impact their purchasing decisions make is an ongoing challenge in promoting Fairtrade. People seem to think that the concept of Fairtrade stops at workers receiving a fair wage, but there’s more to it than that. Workers receive a Fairtrade premium to invest in social, economic and environmental community development projects that promote sustainability in their communities; and farmers have the security of long-term contracts and use environmentally sustainable farming methods. Under the Fairtrade banner, forced and abusive child labour is prohibited and women receive equal pay to men.
“We can’t keep maintaining the status quo to keep going where workers and producers aren’t getting a fair share of what they produce,” says Daniel Mackey, Business Development Manager of Fair Trade Australia and New Zealand.
He hopes that through the partnership with the Global Poverty Project, people will become more aware of the issues surrounding Fairtrade and therefore, consider the whole picture before picking up a product.
“Sharing the love is what Fairtrade is all about. When you buy a Fairtrade product you move beyond just buying a product for yourself - you’re buying a product you know has an impact on other people,” says Daniel. “It moves people away from individual consumption to conscious consumption.”
He hopes that once people start to realise the merit in Fairtrade, ethically produced products will be the norm that will eventually push unethical products off the shelves. Dan ideally hopes that producers get to a level in which they can “develop the kind of voices that can negotiate on the world stage with industries and governments” so that over time they can be fully self-sufficient.
Help us Share the Love! As the name of our latest campaign suggests, we’re asking people to share the love with the people behind the products we give as gifts. Whether it's roses or chocolates, by choosing to buy Fairtrade gifts for every occasion you can ensure the presents you give to the ones you love give back to those most in need. To find out more about how you can support Fairtrade and take other actions to help end extreme poverty within our generation, go to www.sharethelovefairtrade.com. You can also share and show your support for Faitrade this Valentine’s day by “liking”http://www.facebook.com/imbuyingFairtradethisValentinesDay
Hello, I have a confession. As a partially rehabilitated industry economist, I have committed outrageous sins.
Sins against data. Sins such as deliberately crude estimates in order to save time. Sins such as having a hunch, and then selectively quoting data that lends legitimacy to my hunch, while conveniently ignoring the data that would scuttle the whole thing. And sins such as using data that I know is hopelessly outdated or incomplete, but, in the absence of anything better, pretending that it’s solid.
I have sinned, and I cower at your feet.
While my sins have generally been inflicted upon large companies in wealthy countries (sorry again, pals), the international development community has problems that are hauntingly familiar to me. I used to think I was suffering if I couldn’t find German manufacturing data newer than 12 months old. But how on earth would I have gone about calculating educational attainment in the Sudanese countryside? Nobody knows how many people are actually there, schools may or may not be running, there are no standardised tests for achievement. Oh, hang on, part of Sudan is now no longer Sudan. Let me just drop that into my spreadsheet. Ok, educational attainment in Sudan is now up 3.2% in 2013, validating our investment of aid funds.
An article in Foreign Policy last week by Morten Jerven reminded us of an even deeper problem. Even the official statistics in many developing countries are rubbish. Either hopelessly out of date, of incorrect scope, or poorly gathered and presented. Ghana “revised” its GDP by 60% in 2010, Nigeria is about to do something similar. Any conclusion I could have reached have based on the old data is not worth the pixels it’s displayed upon, or the sheets of paper that I’m supposed to think about before printing upon. Back to square one.
There’s also an additional emotional hazard at play, too. I didn’t really care whether I made the German economy look good or not. The Germans are fine, and aren’t at risk of anything truly disastrous. People creating data in the development community are all too aware of the human suffering and peril being experienced behind many of their data sets. The temptation to “focus” the numbers to make a moral or ethical point is infinitely greater.
But bending numbers this way and that ends up making the whole thing unstable and internally contradictory, in addition to being dishonest. Credibility is vital in the development industry, and there are quite enough sceptics circling with their highlighters and Twitter accounts. It’s no secret that incorporating data into a report or discussion lends it extra gravitas, but it’s pretty tough to win back credibility after you’ve blown it on an ill-fated data bluff.
So, I ask you this. Is solid data a non-negotiable starting point for a solid argument? To what extent does the ethical obligation to effectively communicate poverty issues justify the creative use of vague data? Are there alternatives?
Photos, respectively: Adam Birkin, Jim Merithew/Wired.com
Yesterday, Bill Gates published his fifth Annual Letter. In it he “makes the case for using a tool of business to improve the health and welfare of more of the world’s people.”
The day before Bill was at London’s Royal Institute speaking to a room of around 300, including some of our accomplished Global Poverty Ambassadors, as part of the prestigious BBC Richard Dimbleby Lecture. He – “The Impatient Optimist” – charismatically and articulately addressed a world free of polio.
"The best of who we are – our capacity for innovation, our resilience, our sympathy for each other – has gotten us to this threshold. Only disease, poverty and indifference still stand in the way. The fight to eradicate polio is a proving ground, a test. Its outcome will reveal what human beings are capable of, and suggest how ambitious we are about our future."
The six chapters within Bill’s Annual Letter include: Measuring Progress, The World’s Report Card, Global Goals / Local Change, Mapping the End of Polio, Feedback for Teacher Growth and The Way Forward.
So, where do we begin? At the Global Poverty Project we want to see an end to extreme poverty in a generation. But with that comes commitment, funds and resolve – Bill also agrees these are key variables.
In Bill’s letter he demands that we must begin with accurate measurement and clear goals in order to improve the lives of poor people around the world. And only through quantified measurement can we, as a global community, achieve the task ahead. He highlights progress with education in the United States to the prenatal health care in Ethiopia.
“I have been struck again and again by how important measurement is to improving the human condition,” he writes. “…In previous annual letters, I’ve focused a lot on the power of innovation to reduce hunger, poverty, and disease. But any innovation — whether it’s a new vaccine or an improved seed — can’t have an impact unless it reaches the people who will benefit from it."
He uses examples from Colorado, Ethiopia and Nigeria to show how gathering and organizing data with increasing speed and money is making a difference. The Microsoft co-founder also discusses how polio is close to being eradicated from the world and how new advances in measuring teacher effectiveness are providing opportunities to improve education.
“…the progress we’ve made towards each [MDG] is staggering.”
Gates also wrote about the United Nations-created Millennium Development Goals as an example of how the world can make changes with the right goals in place.
“While we won’t reach all of the goals, the progress we’ve made toward each is staggering. The MDG target of reducing extreme poverty by half has been reached ahead of the deadline, as has the goal of halving the proportion of people who lack access to safe drinking water.” We at the Global Poverty Project are humbled and proud to be part of this movement and education campaign. Become an Ambassador or Global Citizen and show us your commitment today.
Gates is also encouraging others to speak up and contribute ideas for how to improve the world for the next generation. You can help him out by submitting your idea on the Hopes for 2030 Facebook page.