It is evident from current literature that developing and developed countries define poverty differently. On one hand, developing countries define poverty in absolute terms as recommended by the World Bank while developed countries on the other hand define poverty in relative terms. Absolute terms in this case evaluate poverty in terms of what one requires to purchase certain basic needs. On the contrary, relative terms evaluate poverty in terms of mean or median incomes thereby one is poor if he/she falls below the set mean or median income. The 1990 World Bank development report defined poverty as the minimum amount of money that each individual required to purchase the services and goods that deemed essential at that time. In relation to this definition, the World Bank estimated one U.S dollar per day to be the minimum amount of money each individual required to purchase the most essential services and goods. For this reason, poor people were considered to be the groups of people that were unable to make one U.S dollar on daily basis or US$370 in a given year. Over the years, this definition of poverty has been criticized with some people arguing that poverty is a multidimensional aspect that cannot be defined in terms of income and consumption only (Domfeh, Bawole, 2009). Following these criticisms, the UNDP introduced human development into the definition of poverty.
Although not a single definition of the term poverty exists even today, this research paper defines poverty as the state of an individual or a household to be unable to meet the basic needs. Nonetheless, the research paper acknowledges the fact that identifying basic needs could be theoretically difficult thereby does not define such basic needs. On the other hand, the paper defines poverty reduction as the processes that countries and communities utilize to ensure that scarce resources available to them are utilized effectively to reduce vulnerability to lack and improve the living conditions of all people (Domfeh, Bawole, 2009).
According to Domfeh and Bawole (2009), the process of eradicating poverty has evolved with time. This is in relation to the fact that back in the 1950s and 1960s people considered big investments to be the only ways of fighting poverty. Nonetheless, in the 1970s things changed when people realized that such investments were not the only ways that fought poverty. During this time, health and education became parts of the processes of fighting poverty. In the 1990s, the World Bank became part of this articulation and started arguing that both education and poverty were important aspects in the eradication of poverty because they promoted growth of incomes among poor people. Besides advocating for this articulation, World Bank has also supported labor-intensive exercises and investment in infrastructure as parts of the processes that help in fighting poverty (Domfeh, & Bawole, 2009). Thesis statement: this paper argues that different countries utilize different strategies to fight poverty.
Theoretical origin of poverty
From a theoretical viewpoint, five theories can explain the origin of poverty. The first theory argues that poverty emanates from people themselves. In this respect, some community based programs address poverty by making sure that people work. This theory is quite evident in anti-poverty programs that focus their attention on creating job opportunities for the poor people.
The second theory argues that poverty emanates from cultural beliefs. This theory presumes that it is possible to pass poverty from one generation to the other through cultural beliefs or values (Bradshaw, 2005). In spite of this fact, the theory makes it clear that individuals should not be blamed for such type of poverty. In addressing poverty that emanate from cultural beliefs, poverty eradication measures tend to address themselves to belief systems. The most obvious method of addressing poverty of this nature is to do either of the following. First, replace the dysfunctional culture with a more functional culture. Second, work with the young generation and transform it. Third, define a culturally acceptable strategy that can improve the well-being of the people living in that community.
The third theory argues that poverty may emanate from social, political, and economic discrimination or distortion. As it can be seen from this definition, this theory focuses its attention on political, social and economic systems. For this reason, the poverty eradication processes should focus their attention on these systems. Although it appears easy to reduce poverty by addressing these systems, this has proved to be one of the hardest methods of reducing poverty as seen in many developing countries.
The fourth theory claims that poverty emanates from geographical disparities. For this reason, we tend to have rural poverty, third-world poverty and ghetto poverty among other geographical types of poverty (Bradshaw, 2005). From theoretical perspective, this type of poverty can be addressed by dealing with the factors that contribute to underdevelopment in the areas that experience poverty. Consequently, we tend to have community-based programs to address this type of poverty.
The fifth theory claims that poverty emanates from cyclical and cumulative interdependencies. Given that this theory looks at poverty as a complex aspect, then the most efficient method of addressing this type of poverty need to be complex as well. In other words, the method that addresses this type of poverty needs to address many issues.
At different countries, the exercises of fighting poverty take place at national, community and at individual levels. At national levels governments are usually the ones involved in fighting poverty. At community levels, people come together to fight poverty while at individual levels, people fight poverty on their own. In terms of responding to poverty, current literature demonstrates that governments have been in the frontline in the fight against poverty. In relation to this fact, Domfeh and Bawole claim that governments especially in developing countries play critical roles fighting poverty. The two authors claim that governments do this because either majority of the people living in developing countries do not have capacity to create wealth for themselves or they are vulnerable to poverty (Domfeh, & Bawole, 2009). On the other hand, non-state actors are also some of the strategies used in fighting poverty. In Ghana, the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are the most prevalent non-state actors. These organizations specialize in teaching the members of the public alternative strategies of improving their incomes. In Nicaragua and in other countries, NGOs also play critical roles in fighting poverty. International community is also critical in the fight against poverty. The following part of the paper evaluates the different roles that different players play in the fight against poverty. The first part evaluates the different strategies that international community utilizes in the fight against poverty while the other part evaluates the different strategies that different countries in different parts of the world utilize in this fight.
International community in the fight against poverty
In realization of the impact that poverty has on individual countries, the international community has responded in the fight against poverty in different ways. This community-led by the World Bank and United Nations has responded by imposing some restrictions on poverty stricken nations as well as providing the guidelines for fighting poverty.
The United Nations in particular has responded in this fight by developing the millennium development goals. These goals were articulated in 2000 at a millennium summit. To ensure that the said goals were achievable, the UN defined the time boundary for the goals and made sure that they were measurable in terms of what they were to achieve. The first goal was to eradicate extreme hunger and poverty (Ohiorhenuan, 2011). The second goal was to ensure governments were empowered to offer universal primary education. The third goal was to promote gender equality as well as empower women because women were considered to be vulnerable to poverty. The fourth goal was to reduce child mortality while the fifth goal was to improve maternal health. The other goals though did not address poverty directly; they addressed it indirectly. At an international level, the UN millennium goals have been the globally accepted blueprints of fighting poverty. Accordingly, some developed countries have been supporting less developed countries based on these goals (Bret, 1998).
As evident from Nicaragua and other countries, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have been instrumental in the fight against poverty. These organizations help in building schools, developing some projects aimed at eradicating poverty and providing housing to poor people among other things. Some of these organizations include Oxfam, Red Cross and world vision. Governmental agencies such as Canadian international development agency (CIDA) are also among the agencies that help in fighting poverty. Initially CIDA was responsible for distributing foreign aid, but of late, it has been leading the fight against poverty by helping people become self-sufficient (Domfeh, & Bawole, 2009).
At the same time, the international community has responded in the fight against poverty by providing both bilateral and multilateral aid. In terms of bilateral aid, some governments provide assistance to specific governments in terms of grants rather than loans. On the other hand, in terms of multilateral aid, different countries come together to offer aid to less developed countries. However, in some instances, bilateral and multilateral aids are often tied aids meaning that they come with some restrictions. Some of these restrictions include buying products from countries that offer aid or expressing total commitment to poverty eradication. In terms of reducing the impact of diseases, the UN through the world health organization (WHO) helps less developed countries fight poverty by assisting these countries control diseases through immunization programs. The World Bank, on the other hand, lends money to developing countries to help them eradicate poverty by financing mega projects. Although the World Bank does not lend money to LDCs anyhow, the LDCs that utilize such money efficiently reduce poverty in their countries. Apart from offering tied loans, developed countries in some instances also offer debt reliefs to LDCs that are unable to repay loans as a way of reducing poverty (Domfeh, & Bawole, 2009).
Addressing poverty through PRSPs
In the recent past, many developing countries have adopted poverty reduction strategy papers (PRSPs) as the blueprints of fighting poverty. The principles underpinning these strategy papers suggest that for these papers to be effective and sustainable then the following should take place. First, this strategy should be country-driven and owned by the citizens living in the country that develop the papers in question. Second, these papers should be resulted-oriented meaning that they should be aimed at benefitting the poor people. Third, the scope of these papers should be comprehensive in terms of the causes of poverty and the processes of attacking poverty. Fourth, these papers should be partnership-oriented meaning that they should provide basis for active participation of all development partners. Fifth, the basis of these papers should be medium and long-term perspectives of fighting poverty because poverty cannot be fought overnight. Majority of the African countries use poverty reduction strategy papers (PRSPs) in their fights against poverty. Some of these countries include Kenya, Malawi and Benin among others. These papers were introduced in the late 1999 and they have been instrumental in fighting poverty in developing countries (Booth, 2003).
After independence Ghana started fighting poverty by developing a seven-year development plan back in 1963/1964 to 1969/1970. Later on, with the help of international monetary fund (IMF), Ghana developed an economic recovery programme in 1983. This programme ran for four years and it focused its attention on stabilizing monetary and exchange rates, restructuring financial sector and stabilizing fiscal policies.
In 1996, Ghana developed vision 2020 as another program of fighting poverty. This program is still in place even if little seems to have been achieved by this program. The program focuses on promoting economic growth and enhancing development in the country. The main goal of this program is to promote economic growth in the country thereby enable the country to become a middle-income level country. According to the World Bank, Ghana needs to do more to achieve poverty eradication goals in this program. In recent past, Ghana has also developed poverty reduction strategy I and II. These two strategies are also aimed at eradicating poverty in the country.
Since the end of the Second World War, the Philippine government has been on the frontline in the fight against poverty in the country. The government started this exercise in 1970s and 1980s. Since then, incumbent governments have been committing their efforts towards eradicating poverty as they develop their national budgets. In spite of this fact, Asian development bank claims that the exercise has not made significant impact on the lives of Philippines (ADB, 2009). This notwithstanding, the government has not relented its effort towards fighting poverty. Back in 2001, the then president announced that medium term Philippine development plan was the only government’s plan for fighting poverty within a period of ten years. With the help of this plan, the government approached poverty from a macro economic perspective. In this exercise, the government started by acknowledging the fact that critical roles were played by good governance, human development and economic growth. The government also identified some sectors as being vulnerable to poverty than others and addressed those sectors. During this period, the government committed itself to fighting poverty by doing the following.
First, the government committed itself to creating job opportunities for its citizens (ADB, 2009). Second, the government committed to promoting economic growth and developing the energy sector. Third, the government committed itself to developing and enhancing opportunities for the youths in the country and promoting education. Fourth, the government committed itself to fighting corruption and promoting good governance. Fifth, the government committed itself to promoting basic needs and social justice. After the end of ten years, the government targeted to reduce poverty incidences by 10 percent. According to the Asian development bank (2009), the Philippine government was unable to reduce poverty by 10 percent as it had projected. This has led to formulation of other strategies of fighting poverty in the country.
The other poverty reduction program in Philippine is the Kapit-Bisig Laban SA Kahirapan (KALAHI) framework. This framework is aimed at improving governance and empowering communities to help them reduce poverty at local levels. In line with the basic strategies of fighting poverty, this framework was developed after the government consulted with relevant sectors and participants. The framework applies the following strategies in fighting poverty. Firstly, to reduce poverty in the country, the government should start by accelerating asset reforms in the country. With regard to this issue, the framework works towards distributing financial and physical assets to the poor people in the country with an aim of enabling them improve their lives. The framework also works towards enabling poor people access capital and land. Secondly, the framework works toward improving access to human development. In this case, the framework tries to ensure that poor people in the country have access to basic health, education, water, sanitation and food. Thirdly, the framework tries to increase the number of job opportunities in the country to enable the poor people secure employment (ADB, 2009). Fourthly, the framework also works towards enabling basic sectors to participate in governance.
Since the country was hit by hurricane Mitch and a good number of people lost their properties, civil societies have been on the frontline in the fight against poverty. Majority of these civil societies formed after the country was hit by hurricane and from that time they have been major players in the fight against poverty (Bradshaw, & Linneker, 2003).
The focus of this research paper has been poverty in various parts of the world and how different actors respond to it. The first part of the research paper has evaluated the theoretical origin of poverty and the most efficient methods of addressing different types of poverty. With regard to what the international community has done in the fight against poverty, the research paper has established that this community has done a lot in this fight. The research paper established that UN has responded by developing the millennium development goals while the World Bank has responded by putting the necessary mechanisms that can help poor countries improve the living conditions of their citizens. The research paper has also established that developed countries have also joined hands with developing countries in the fight against poverty. At the same time, the research paper established that different NGOs have been developed to support the fight against poverty by developing schools and health centers in LDCs. With regard to what LDCs themselves have done, the research paper established that these countries have developed various mechanisms to fight against poverty. On one hand, the research paper established that these countries have developed annual programs while on the other hand, the research paper has established that these countries have formulated different strategies aimed at creating job opportunities. Briefly, the research paper has established that different strategies are utilized in the fight against poverty.
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