Curing Poverty with Collective Effort

By Vajpayee, Atal Bihari | Presidents & Prime Ministers, September 2000 | Go to article overview

Curing Poverty with Collective Effort


Vajpayee, Atal Bihari, Presidents & Prime Ministers


In spite of the human endeavor for peace, prosperity and cooperation among nations in the century gone by, the world is not free of conflict, often with terrible consequences. Much of this conflict is attributable to hostile aggression, lust for territory or, simply, hegemony.

However, conflict is also born in failure of equitable development among and within nations. For long, it has been established that poverty threatens peace and social cohesiveness within nations. It now needs to be recognized that the continuing poverty of some nations, even while others prosper, not only taunts our conscience; it also threatens peace among nations.

Poverty can neither be wished away, nor accepted as a reality beyond redemption. The affliction that strikes at the core of human dignity has to be cured through the collective will and effort of all nations, rich and poor.

The century we have just left behind had many turning points in the history of humanity. The last 100 years were both the best of times and the worst of times. There were moments of utter despair and flashes of soaring hope.

In the 20th century, we have seen colonialism peak and collapse. We have seen totalitarian and racist regimes rule with an iron fist, only to crumble in the face of assertive desire for liberty and human dignity. We have seen death and destruction caused by wars rekindle humankind's urge for lasting and durable peace.

It has been a century of contrasts. Giant strides in science and technology marking the conquest of new frontiers of knowledge have helped us grow more food, produce life saving drugs and send satellites into space. Yet, millions still go hungry, die of easily curable diseases and are deprived of the enlightenment and empowerment that education ensures.

The emergence of a global economy has led to undeniable benefits like faster growth, higher living standards and new opportunities. The rapid spread of information technology, riding the crest of a knowledge revolution, has virtually led to the creation of a digital world where the click of a mouse can span vast distances in less than a fraction of a second. A "New Economy" drives the world today.

Yet, nearly a quarter of the people this Assembly represents have neither prospered nor gained from these developments. Often, they find themselves further marginalized and more vulnerable as development economics gives way to unbridled market economics and social objectives are erased by profit motives.

Globalization was supposed to deliver economic equality among all nations through free flow of goods, services and capital. The reality we see today is an asymmetry in the benefits from globalization between the developing and developed worlds. This asymmetry has further accentuated income disparities, thus increasing the scope of conflict and strife.

If one in four of the world's people still live in severe poverty, there is something wrong somewhere in the manner in which we have been managing global development issues. The situation is made worse by the fact that developing countries with decreasing resources, both natural and financial, are finding it harder to meet their social obligations.

Therefore, removing economic inequality, both between and within nations, and ensuring that development does not suffer for want of funds, are two of the challenges that we have to collectively meet in the new century.

We also need to actively consider a fresh global initiative to fight poverty. In a globalized economy, poverty eradication cannot be treated as the exclusive responsibility of individual nations. Therefore, a new global strategy against poverty is called for.

Even as poverty severely inhibits the socioeconomic progress of developing countries, the alarming spread of HIV and AIDS drains their productive capacities. The correlation between HIV incidence and poverty is too compelling to ignore. …

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