Term Paper: International Relations Making Poverty History

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International Relations

Making Poverty History

For more than fifty years now, it has been recognized that the nations of the world are divided between the "haves" and the "have nots."

The "haves" are the developed countries - technologically advanced and economically successful. Their populations are educated and by and large enjoy a high material standard of living. Decent healthcare is reasonably accessible, and endemic ill-health, scarcity of food and other basic resources are virtually unknown. And there are the "have nots" - countries lacking a modern infrastructure and whose economies are poorly developed. The people in these countries frequently endure grinding poverty, hunger, and disease. Conditions here have barely improved despite half a century of efforts on the part of the developed world. The United Nations, other international groups and non-governmental organizations, together with individual countries in the technologically-developed world have initiated numerous anti-poverty campaigns and developmental programs. Huge amounts of money, and vast physical and educational resources, have been poured into parts of the globe desperately in need of assistance. 2005 was to be the year that would "Make Poverty History" - the culmination of efforts by economically and technologically advanced societies "to eliminate global poverty, by introducing fairer rules on trade that end the discrimination in favor of rich countries and multinationals; by canceling the debts of the poorest countries; and by increasing aid from rich countries." (Furtado, 2005, p. 2) A wonderful goal, but these same ideas and proposals have been put forward many times before. The war against global poverty has been waged unsuccessfully for decades, with the same old strategies tried again and again. The community of advanced nations must begin to explore more deeply into the true nature of the problem in underdeveloped countries, and at last find workable solutions.

Make Poverty History" is not only a cause, it is a movement. Make Poverty History was the name given to a group of approximately four hundred fifty non-governmental organizations, or NGO's, that determined to bring the plight of Third World nations to the attention of the governments of the fortunate few, and to force the developed nations to re-formulate their policies in accord with this agenda. (Quarmby, 2005) In particular, the movement hopes to compel the leading economic powers to put into effect the blandishments of the Millennium Development Goals. The Millennium Development Goals, or MDG's, were adopted in September 2000 meeting of heads-of-state at the United Nations as part of a comprehensive program to address the problems of developing nations:

The goals put human development -- poverty and people and their lives -- at the center of the global development agenda for the new millennium, a shift away from growth as the central objective of development.... provide a framework for accountability.... define concrete goals that can be monitored [and].... address not only development outcomes but also inputs from rich countries, thus forming a compact that holds both rich and poor governments accountable for opening markets, giving more aid and debt relief, and transferring technology. (Fukuda-Parr, 2004)

Specifically, the Millennium Development Goals demand a halving of global poverty by 2015, and also by that date, universal primary education with the removal of all gender disparities in schooling; universal access to reproductive healthcare, reductions in infant, child, and maternal death rates; and an ambitious agenda to not merely halt, but to reverse environmental degradation.

("Targeting Development: Critical Perspectives on the Millennium Development Goals," 2005)

Nonetheless, such programs are not new. The Millennium Development Goals are but the latest in a line of United Nations initiatives, the most recent previous plan being the International Development Targets of the 1990s. Like the current MDG's, the International Development Targets also sought to halve the number of people living in poverty, improve education, lower infant and maternal mortality rates, and reverse environmental degradation... By 2015. (Short, 2001, p. 54) The idea was to provide assistance in accordance with sound economic principals; principals that if followed, should have made the re-issuance of essential the same plans unnecessary. The theory was fairly straightforward, that donor nations base their awards of aid on a small number of clearly measurable outcomes: GDP growth, poverty reduction, and a limited number of other policy measures, all carefully designed to ensure that the country receiving the aid was maintaining at least macroeconomic stability as determined by a simple International Monetary Fund (IMF) test. (Beynon, 2002, p. 232) The simple truth, however, is that simple economics, has not yielded the desired results. The Millennium Development Goals are a tacit admission that the prior program has not gone according to plan. Naturally, those that support the present and former programs will tend to blame, not the programs themselves, but a lack of commitment, or good faith on the part of those who have pledged themselves to help the impoverished peoples of the planet. "In an increasingly interdependent world, all can benefit if each meets agreed economic, social, and moral obligations for change." (Brown, 2003, p. 330) The developing nations must also meet the mission in good faith; agreeing to end corruption in their respective administrations, implement stable economic policies that encourage foreign investment, and guarantee that moneys received actually go toward fighting poverty, providing quality healthcare, and extending education. In an increasingly interdependent world, all can benefit if each meets agreed economic, social, and moral obligations for change." (Brown, 2003, p. 330)

The meeting of obligations by recipients of aid is central to much of the philosophy that informs the Millennium Development Goals. Development is envisioned as a kind of partnership - an agreement to work together to the mutual advantage of all parties.

Key concepts include shared ideals, trust, transparency, dialogue and frequent review. The main fault lines in the debate are about how to achieve genuine, reciprocal accountability, and about the extent to which partnership arrangements should be contractual. (Maxwell, 2003, p. 39)

To begin with, financial aid to developing nations is increasingly linked to conditions that are imposed on the nation receiving that assistance. Wealthy donor nations wish to see measurable results from their contributions to the budgets of developing countries. (Cling, Razafindrakoto, & Roubaud, 2003, pp. 161-162)

For their part, economically-disadvantaged nations, in particular those seeking assistance under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative, or HIPC, must draw up Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers. The Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers, or PRSPs, represent a collaborative effort by domestic stakeholders and foreign participants that often include the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. (Vallee & Vallee, 2005) The PRSP lays out a comprehensive plan for future macroeconomic, social, and structural development in the recipient nation. (Vallee & Vallee, 2005) The concept is one of planned growth in response to planned aid. The element of chance inherent in previous systems was intended to be replaced by careful regulation. In applying for aid, the low-income nation would, in effect, be committing itself to a complete reform of internal economic and social conditions - funds could not simply be appropriated for other uses, or diverted into the pockets of the few. The idea for embedding control of global finance in civil society goes back at least as far as 1971 with James Tobin's proposal for a redistributive global tax on foreign exchange trading - a concept known appropriately enough as the Tobin Tax. (Scholte & Schnabel, 2002, p. 23) The application of local controls is meant to spur a greater involvement on the part of recipient nations, thereby mitigating some of the more oppressive aspects of contemporary globalist ideology. By instituting local controls, the local peoples appear to be in charge of their own destinies; to be planning their own futures rather than simply submitting to an externally-imposed formula for growth and economic and social development.

Critiques of globalism have played a large role in playing up the benefits of local control and partnership arrangements. Throughout the developed world, globalism has come under attack for exploiting, rather than helping, the peoples of developing nations. (Brown, 2003, p. 324) These individuals see the Millennium Development Goals as too often a tool for insinuating multi-national corporations into the lives and society of the developing world, and of using international financial arrangements to take control of developing economies. Globalism is both friend and enemy in the war on poverty,

To some people in civil society, who apply a narrow definition, it is a bogey word, implying the destruction of local culture and the domination of their sovereignty by international financial institutions and multinational corporations. To people from other sectors, it is the answer to the problems of the world, offering trade liberalisation, an end to terrorism and corruption and even a nuclear weapons-controlled universe (as long as the weapons of mass destruction are only in the hands of the 'right' people). (Julian, 2006)

As part of the attempt to re-focus anti-poverty efforts on people, as opposed to business interests, improvement of education has come to be viewed as critical. Poor quality educations, and lack of educational opportunities, are considered major factors… [END OF PREVIEW]

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