By Richard Johnson | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis
GENEVA (IDN) – “What does it mean to live on US$1.25 a day?” asks GCAP’s Michael Switow, and points to photographer Stefen Chow and economist Lin Hui-Yi’s interesting approach to answering this question. In their photo essay they shows how much food an individual at the poverty line can buy. In Brazil, for example, where the poverty line is US$1.23/day, someone could buy one pineapple. In Switzerland, the poverty line is much higher at more than US$10 per day, but this still only buys two sausages or one bunch of romaine lettuce.
The import of the question lies in the fact that US$1.25 is a number at the heart of the Millennium Development Goals, which the UN Secretary-General’s High Level Panel on Post-2015 suggests should still be used as a primary metric through 2030. This, says Switow, is “ridiculous” because US$1.25 a day is “not a poverty line, it’s a starvation line”.
Switow served on Global Council of GCAP (Global Call to Action Against Poverty) from 2007 to 2013 as a representative from GCAP Asia, and who is currently part of the GCAP Secretariat, working to support communications. And, he is right in stressing the need to distinguish between the ‘poverty line’ and ‘starvation line’, particularly as preparations are under way for eighth session of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals from February 3 to 7 at the United Nations headquarters in New York.
The Open Working Group will focus on: oceans and seas; forests, biodiversity; promoting equality, including social equity, gender equality and women’s empowerment; conflict prevention, post-conflict peacebuilding and the promotion of durable peace; and rule of law and governance.
With an eye on Sustainable Development Goals, GCAP’s Co-Chair Amitabh Behar pleads for “inverting the pyramid” for effective development cooperation. In a blog, he tells the global leadership – “the UN, Member states, G20, G77 and many others” – that they have “a historic opportunity to create a new global developmental framework for the post-2015 world that builds on the aspirations and ethos of the Millennium Declaration including the Millennium Development Goals and newly coined Sustainable Development Goals.”
This must also break radical new ground to ensure that the aspiration of wiping extreme poverty from the face of earth becomes a reality and does not remain a part of the “declaratory activism” of the United Nations, writes Behar who is also Executive Director of the National Foundation for India.
He calls on the global leadership to revisit its own aspirations and dream bigger. “In a world where the multidimensionality of poverty and its roots in political economic factors are established facts, a focus only on eradicating ‘extreme poverty’ is designing for failure. The vision for a new world post-2015 has to be rooted in a just, peaceful, humane and sustainable society,” writes Behar. He adds:
“To achieve this ‘new deal’ dream, the focus must be on fighting a comprehensive battle against injustice, inequality and unsustainable development models, not limited to only looking at the manifestations of these structural and systemic issues. This is going to be the real test for our leadership.
“Even partial success in creating a just and sustainable society depends on radically altering the path that the United Nations and Member States design for making these dreams a reality. It is ironic that a very tiny population of global economic and political elites, and in some cases national elites, design international development frameworks and the paths for implementation entirely on their own.”
No or mere token participation of the poor
Presently, there is no or mere token participation from the poor and ordinary people, who constitute an overwhelming majority of the world’s population, and for whom the targets and goals are being set. Their voices and aspirations are not being taken into account by development frameworks. These poor, ordinary and excluded people continue to be on the fringes of implementation pathways created by international and national governments.
While a new and bold narrative of citizen’s anger is being spontaneously crafted across the world as already witnessed in the form of Arab resistance, occupy movement or protests demanding end to violence against women in Delhi, surprisingly, the ivory towers of the global developmental architecture, including the UN, remain defiantly oblivious to this brewing anger.
GCAP’s co-chair adds: “People’s anger and disenchantment with unjust national and global economic and political structures, and with their own governments, are spilling over to the streets; ready to explode. The time has come to invert the pyramid; to acknowledge the marginality of think tanks, development experts and developmental bureaucracies in comparison to the energy of peoples’ anger and aspirations and make way for peoples’ leadership is designing the future course of human history. It cannot continue to be State centric, centralised and top down implementation planning.”
Behar stresses the need to focus the implementation plan first and foremost on empowering people and making them equal stakeholders and drivers of the development process. “Inverting the pyramid needs to happen from multiple perspectives including social exclusion, gender and Southern sensibilities. Traditional development actors and models of development co-operation will have to make way for new actors and models like South-South solidarity – going beyond South-South co-operation, which still is rooted in a national interest framework – and, most critically, a commitment to complete transparency and accountability to the ideals of justice and democracy.” [IDN-InDepthNews – January 21, 2014]
Photo: Coffee Handler with Beans from Coffee Cooperative | Credit: devcooperation.org
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