Opinion articles

David Soler Crespo, Research assistant at the Navarra Center for International Development (ICS-University of Navarra)

José Manuel Cuevas, Research assistant at the Navarra Center for International Development (ICS-University of Navarra)

Five keys for fighting poverty

17/10/18 Publicado en El Norte de Castilla, Diario Montañés y Hoy (Extremadura)

Instituted in 1993 and celebrated till the present day, the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty is October 17. The commemoration, approved by the UN in 1992, has its origin in the 1987 Paris protests that defended victims of poverty and violence. Father Joseph Wresinski, founder of the human rights movement ATD Fourth World: All Together In Dignity to Overcome Poverty, fomented this social action. Wresinski argued that situations of extreme poverty give rise to human rights violations and, in that regard, the UN has called attention to the fact that poverty does not just refer to income. It also refers to the things that people need to live with dignity atevery stage, which includes, among other things, the political context, the surrounding institutional capacity and access to basic rights and opportunities for participation, education and employment. In what follows, we highlight five keys for combating poverty thus understood.

Governance and absence of conflict: Although there are different ways of measuring poverty, the World Bank standard establishes extreme poverty as an income per person of less than $1.90 per day. Governance is a key factor since state institutional capacity is meant to guarantee freedoms and respect for human rights. In this sense, even though peace does not necessarily imply the eradication of poverty, violence and wars, in addition to causing death, give rise to situations of extreme poverty due to the loss of goods and services, which in many cases causes displacement.

According to data from the World Bank’s Poverty and Equity Portal, by 2030 the number of people living in extreme poverty in South and East Asia, as well as in the Pacific and Latin America, will be reduced. However, extreme poverty is expected to increase in sub-Saharan Africa, where it is estimated that by 2030 nine out of ten people will live in extreme poverty. The latter region is also most affected, along with Asia, by corruption and a lack of democracy, according to Transparency International's 2017 Corruption Perception Index and the 2018 Freedom of the World report from Freedom House.

Investing in health: Guaranteed access to health care and coverage of basic services are important for combating (or preventing) extreme poverty; indeed, they are a starting point for a decent life. For example, according to the World Health Organization, 56% of the deaths that occurred on the African continent could have been avoidedas they were based in communicable, maternal, neonatal and nutritional health issues that can be combatted with adequate access to drinking water, food and a decent health system.

Education. Education is a human right that must be guaranteed to all equally. In developing countries, enrollment rates have increased, but efforts should now focus on extending required schooling years and ensuring quality through textbooks, quantity and quality of teachers, among other things.

In addition, parents need resources so that they can stop depending on their children's labor and, in turn, they need to see that schooling is profitable in the long term. For example, a recent study by the Navarra Center for International Development shows that, in Guatemala, each additional year of schooling translates into an increased income of 6% per year and college graduates enjoy a salary up to 113% higher than to those who do not complete a degree.

On the other hand, the majority of adolescents (71%) continue to study after finishing high school in Western Europe and North America, while in Latin America only 38% continue studying and, in sub-Saharan Africa, only 6%.

Going beyond development aid: Development aid is necessary in situations of poverty or where conflicts cut off a population’s development. However, aid should be given more efficiently because, in many cases, the government in power manages it andtends to distribute aid based on its own ends and then to those most in need. Initiatives such as GiveDirectly, for example, seek to eliminate these barriers and get money directly to those who need it.

In the same way, we must empower those without resources by giving them opportunities for study and employment so that they can demonstrate their own abilities. For this, it is necessary, among other things, to support schooling and invest in research, which is a long-term initiative towards ending extreme poverty.