World Poverty Day

Lifestyle Editor | Kyrie Roxby

Despite advances made in technology and numerous charities working to abolish global poverty, it is still vastly prevalent. The World Bank estimates that over one billion people around the world are living in extremepoverty, earning less than an average of £1.25 a day. However, it cannot only be measured by a living wage, but in the poor conditions found around the world and lack of opportunities.

Extreme poverty is the crushing and deadly reality for so many people around the world, resulting in nine million people dying from hunger every year and more than 3,000 children dying daily from diarrhoea caused from unsafe drinking water. It is said that ‘a child will die in the time it takes you to read this sentence’.  According to research done by the Borgen Project (a non-profit organization fighting poverty and hunger) one-third of all human deaths occur due to poverty related reasons, most of which are considered easily preventable.

Extreme or absolute poverty (when families struggle for basic survival needs like food, shelter and water) is most prevalent in developing or third world countries. Even though relative poverty also exists in developed countries with the resources to reduce it just through inequality, excluding those people living in developed countries with a lower income from what’s considered an ordinary living there. It’s the poorest people in society who are most vulnerable to severe human rights abuses. This not only includes the poor in developing countries, but those with inequality and an unfair distribution of wealth in developed countries.

The United Nations (UN) created the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty (or World Poverty Day) in 1993 to promote awareness of poverty around the world and recognise the need to eradicate it. This year’s World Poverty Day coincides with the 70thanniversary for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, creating the theme of ‘coming together with those furthest behind to build an inclusive world of universal respect for human rights and dignity’. This presents the interdependent connection between poverty and human rights with how poverty is affecting people in countries with the largest human rights violations.

Poverty isn’t always regarded as a human rights issue but rather seen as a sad but inevitable consequence of inequality and an unfair distribution of wealth. However, inequality in many countries with a population suffering from poverty is often the result of corruption within that country. Corruption as a neglected human rights violation allows extreme poverty in places such as the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, India, Equatorial Guinea and many more.

A human rights perspective of poverty approaches it as a question of justice and considers which governments are responsible and accountable for the populations currently living in constant need. It begs the question of whether poverty continues solely from policy choices and corruption, an overwhelming need for aid or a continuing inequality between large parts of the world.

However, we cannot say that because someone may lack clean water or medical care that their human rights have been violated. Just because they don’t have it, doesn’t mean that it’s being taken away from them unfairly and is therefore a violation. This is probably where the phrase ‘cycle of poverty’ comes in. Although poverty itself can be considered a human rights violation, with or without government corruption or influence. Anyone that lives without clean water, food, shelter and fair wages is living without their basic human rights.

In terms on inequality with an unfair distribution of wealth: Oxfam have found that the number of billionaires has risen over the past year at a record rate of one every two days, during a time when 50% of the world’s population didn’t experience any rise of wealth. This grossly unequal distribution of wealth is not sustainable for such a small amount of the world’s population struggle with hardly anything. An Oxfam report in 2012 also showed that if the top 100 richest people in the world pooled their earnings from that year and put them together, they could have ended world poverty four times over.  Oxfam’s chief executive Mark Goldring said that this “concentration of extreme wealth at the top is not a sign of a thriving economy, but a symptom of a system that is failing the millions of hardworking people on poverty wages who make our clothes and grow our food”.

If we want to ‘build an inclusive world’, we can’t continue with this amount of unequal distribution of wealth where poverty sections off struggling families and countries from the richer ones. Any society divided this way creates conflict and suffering.

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