Ending extreme poverty is an ambitious goal, but it is possible in our lifetime. Despite the fact that world leaders are lagging behind, there is still time to act.
With enough mobilization, governments, institutions, big business, and billionaires committed to the cause, the world can ensure that no more than 3% of the world’s population lives in extreme poverty by 2030 — the deadline set in 2015 by the United Nations as part of the Global Goals.
The first step is to debunk misconceptions about the global issue so as to understand how to truly tackle it. Here is a list of common — and harmful — myths about the fight to end poverty that prevent us from getting ahead.
1. Foreign aid is a waste of money.
Many of the world’s wealthiest countries are failing to live up to foreign aid commitments made under the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development founded in 1961. One of the biggest misconceptions about foreign aid is that it “does nothing,” but the truth is that not only does it make a great difference to recipient countries, it also works to strengthen donor countries, too.
Smaller developing countries rely on support from the international community. Foreign aid can save lives by improving education, supporting health care, agriculture, and infrastructure, and helping to create jobs and long-term economic growth.
The 2015 earthquake interrupted the education of nearly one million Nepali students.— USAID (@USAID) January 25, 2020
To protect their #humanrightseducation, USAID and @UNICEF built safe spaces for Nepali children https://t.co/l7LKrHnEKipic.twitter.com/XVdL74TyCw
The number of people living in extreme poverty has halved since 1990 thanks to US aid. The connection between global health progress and foreign aid is also undeniable. Global infant mortality rates have declined significantly since 1960 when a newborn baby had an 18% chance of dying before their fifth birthday, compared to 5% in 2017.
When donor countries make small investments in foreign aid, they benefit in big ways back home, from gaining more stability to building a stronger economy. Conflict can quickly spread beyond borders when communities lack access to basic needs, and spending on prevention rather than security is more sustainable in the long run.
Foreign aid alone will not end poverty, but it is a key component in stabilizing countries so they no longer have to depend on aid in the future.
2. We are spending too much on foreign aid.
Americans commonly believe foreign aid takes up a significant part of the US’s federal budget, but in reality, the country only spent 1% of its budget on foreign aid ($39.2 billion) in the fiscal year 2019.
Humanitarian organizations around the world have only received 27% of the required funding to provide relief to people affected by global issues worldwide. As the number of people displaced by extreme weather and climate change increases, foreign aid is more necessary than ever.
3. Climate change has nothing to do with ending extreme poverty.
Climate change could potentially undo years of progress in the fight to end extreme poverty. People living in poverty are especially vulnerable to climate change and are hit the hardest by droughts, floods, and natural disasters. Shifting rain patterns are destroying agricultural systems and water supplies while making extreme weather events more likely.
Conflict:— ICRC (@ICRC) January 21, 2020
❗ Creates poverty.
❗ Weakens public services.
❗ Disrupts the means of survival.
Climate change makes this even worse.
The most vulnerable countries to climate change are often also suffering conflict. #Davos2020pic.twitter.com/19SCTVXspm
Desert expansion and rising sea levels are forcing people from their homes and as a result, 143 million people could be displaced by 2050. Extreme weather is already responsible for wiping out food sources malnourished communities rely on.
4. Extreme poverty is rising.
People around the world, mostly in wealthier countries, believe extreme poverty is rising, but it has actually significantly declined over the past two decades. The world reached its first Millennium Development Goal target to half the 1990 poverty rate by 2015 — five years ahead of schedule, in 2010. According to the World Bank’s most recent estimates, 10% of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty in 2015, down from nearly 36% in 1990. For those living in low-income and conflict-affected countries however, the decline in progress has slowed.
5. We can end extreme poverty without addressing gender inequality.
Women’s empowerment is crucial to uplifting communities and ensuring they are able to escape — and stay out of — poverty. Women are more likely than men to live in poverty and are the lowest-paid workers in the world. They are less likely to find decent work, work longer hours, and do more unpaid work at home like caretaking and chores.
When countries prioritize closing the gender gap, income levels rise across the board, greatly contributing to poverty reduction.
6. Saving lives leads to overpopulation.
Poverty and lack of access to education actually lead to higher birth rates and overpopulation.
If we do not end extreme poverty soon, the least developed countries could double or even triple their populations by 2050, increasing the number of young people seeking employment and trying to achieve financial stability.
When more children survive, parents have fewer children. Developing countries with high youth populations and declining fertility rates could see their economies boom if they were to invest in young people’s education, health, and rights, according to the UN Population Fund.
Providing women with access to reproductive health care and education is one of the most effective ways to slow population growth, as it leads them to have fewer children, and do to so later in life.
Maternal health remains a challenge in #SierraLeone.— UNFPA Sierra Leone (@UNFPASierraleon) January 27, 2020
As we advance into the decade of action, #UNFPA with support from #UKaid is working to enhance the quality of maternal health care for women in #SierraLeone to ensure no one is left behind. pic.twitter.com/7uDl0IMsRD
7. Eradicating poverty is too difficult.
The world has more than enough resources to end extreme poverty — the main roadblock is that they are not distributed properly. World leaders set 17 Global Goals in 2015 to end extreme poverty by 2030, but have fallen behind and must mobilize quickly to make the deadline.
Investing in an additional $350 billion annually, in addition to the current funding in place would make it possible to achieve the Global Goals. Reaching this target would give 1.7 billion people in the 59 poorest countries access to food, clean water, education, health care, and employment opportunities.
8. There’s nothing you can do.
Everyone has a part to play in the fight to end extreme poverty, it is not just up to corporations and philanthropists. Learn how to ensure all people have the resources they need to reach their full potentials by supporting girls and women, education, health, nutrition, water and sanitation, and more by taking action here.
Global Citizen and its partners are calling on stakeholders to recommit and reprioritize the Global Goals as part of Global Goal Live: The Possible Dream. The campaign will culminate in a historic 10-hour live event on Sept. 26, 2020 in seven cities across the world, including New York City; Lagos, Nigeria; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Seoul, South Korea, and more to be announced in Europe and Latin America.