The World Bank (2012) points out that “…nearly 1.3 billion people remain below the extreme poverty line with an income of U.S. $1.25 or less a day.” The global financial institution further points out that “another 2.6 billion live on less than U.S. $2 a day, another common measurement of deep deprivation”(World Bank, 2012). It is important to note that although inequalities in terms of wealth exist regardless of which country one comes from, developing countries have been hit worst by the same.
In general terms, unemployment levels in Australia are relatively low. The levels of education in this case remain relatively high. Further, given the high average incomes of a vast majority of Australians, most citizens do not encounter many of the problems faced by millions of people from other nations. In a way, some of the most common problems the word’s poorest people face are occasioned by the limited access such individuals have to education, health and other services regarded important for human survival.
In so many ways, poverty is an issue of both justice and common good. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights according to Joseph (2011) defines poverty as:
A human condition characterized by sustained or chronic depreciation of the resources, capabilities, choices, security and power necessary for the enjoyment of an adequate standard of living and other civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights.
In a just society, individuals are expected to not only recognize the dignity of the human being but to also understand and respect human rights values. In that regard, any society that promotes any form of equality and has little concern for the suffering of fellow human beings cannot be regarded just from a social perspective. Poverty according to the definition floated above deprives human beings of factors necessary for the enjoyment of standards of living considered adequate. Towards that end, poverty threatens and undermines liberty and justice for the world and its inhabitants.
Groups and People Having a Stake in the Issue
Several groups as well as people have a stake in the poverty issue. These groups and organizations include but they are not in any way limited to the governments from across the world, Christians, volunteer groups, business entities as well as the private sector. In this section, I will address the interests a few of these stakeholders have in the issue at hand. To begin with, governments from across the world are interested in enhancing the social well-being of their citizens. In that regard, governments have over time developed policies aimed at empowering the poor via public expenditure reorientation, reduction of inflation, etc. In so doing, governments seek to not only uplift but also cushion their most vulnerable citizens from economic and natural shocks.
Civil society organizations also have a stake in the global poverty issue. It is important to note that in so many ways, the poor lack a voice to rake in support for their various needs. Non-governmental organizations seek to amongst other things articulate the needs of those living below the poverty line. Driven by altruistic reasons, most NGOs have a genuine interest in ending the suffering of humanity by acting as the voice of the voiceless. It is however important to note that some NGOs most particularly in developing countries are in operation so as to serve the selfish interests of their founders. In that regard, it is unlikely that individuals behind the formation of such organizations would want the issue of poverty addressed conclusively.
Over time, the Christians have also added their voice to the global poverty debate. According to the World Council of Churches (2006), “poverty threatens life and human dignity.” In that regard, the inequalities existing in the society are not by accident. To some extent, this assertion does have some truth in it. For instance, accountability and transparency issues have been blamed for the loss of billions of dollars in some of the countries with the highest number of people living on less that $1 a day. The World Council of Churches (2006) views poverty as an issue that effectively “undermines the very basis of life of billions of children, women and men who are denied not only the benefits of growing wealth, but even of access to basic necessities of life.”
The private sector is yet another group that also does have an interest in the issue of poverty. In basic terms, the wealthier people become, the more income they have at their disposal. Higher income levels would most likely lead to enhanced purchasing power and hence increased profitability for businesses. It is also important to note that the private sector also plays an important role in wealth creation. This it does by investing in new and existing opportunities in an attempt to stimulate wealth creation.
Over time, developed countries have also stepped up their effort to help less developed countries address the poverty issue once and for all. This they accomplish by offering the said nations development aid which is essentially meant to support development initiatives. It is important to note that development aid is different from humanitarian aid in that the latter is meant to alleviate human suffering in the short-run. Development aid on the other hand aims to address the issue of poverty in the long-run.
Although most stakeholders are genuine in their resolve to end poverty, some could be in support of the status quo for a wide range of reasons. For instance, there are those who have in the past questioned the real intention of international donor aid. According to Deen (2004), “donor money that comes with strings attached cuts the value of aid to recipient countries 25-40%…” According to Deen, recipient countries are in most cases required to import goods that are un-competitively priced so as to access the said aid. This finding came from a U.N. study conducted a few years ago on African Economies. It is also important to note that as I have already pointed out elsewhere in this text, the authenticity of some NGOs in some developing economies have been put to question. Although a vast majority of NGOs that get funding from developed nations are genuine in their support of poverty eradication programs, some could be established as a way to enrich their founders. Money meant for development projects is in this case never put to its intended use. In that regard, some stakeholders would be disadvantaged was the situation to change for the better.
An Analysis of the Issue
To reach their full potential, human beings must uphold and respect a number of principles that promote human flourishing. Although there are a wide range of principles that in one way or the other promote human flourishing, only a few of these would come in handy in my analysis of poverty as a serious global issue. To begin with, the principle of equality according to Mizzoni (2009) requires that the interest of all individuals be given the same consideration. For instance, what is considered just for persons X and Y should remain just even when the positions of the said persons are interchanged. According to this principle, human beings are equal and in that regard, they should be treated as though they are equal. Poverty fosters inequality. In such a case, we have some individuals living in abject poverty as others live in absolute (and even wasteful) abundance. There are various causes of poverty. One of these causes is the lack of equal opportunities in terms of access to education, etc. In my opinion, there exists a need to ensure that each individual has access to equal opportunities to foster equality. A world made of haves and have-nots has little or no regard for equality.
Yet another useful principle in this case is the principle of least harm. In basic terms, this principle suggests that only those options presenting or occasioning the least harm should be selected. In some scenarios, we are faced with a multitude of decisions which require prompt and decisive action. In those instances where there is an inherent probability of harm based on the choice of alternative, decision making can be rather complex. In such a case, the most appropriate alternative should be that that brings about or occasions the least harm. In regard to our discussion, decisions made by the government should result in the least harm to citizens. For instance, governments must not embrace economic decisions that end up impacting negatively on the well-being of people.
Utilitarianism in basic terms “advocates actions and policies that produce the maximum aggregate utility or happiness” (Galston and Hoffenberg, 2010). According to the authors, Singer remains one of the best-known proponents of the utilitarian approach to global poverty. Singer is convinced that by sacrificing just a little of what we have for the sake of others, we would essentially be satisfying the interests of a greater number of people. Towards that end, Singer seems to suggest that we should donate to charities…