Post One: Understanding poverty in order to solve it

1. Jacqueline Novogratz in her TED talks brings up the question on how to define poverty. What is her answer? What is her main message?

In her TED talks, “Invest in Africa’s own solutions” and “An escape from poverty,” Jacqueline Novogratz’s defines poverty as a complex topic that covers not only income, but also choice and the lack of freedom. Many people think of poverty as a one-dimensional topic relating solely money; Novogratz disagrees and discusses how it’s much broader than just income. Novogratz’s main message is the idea that in order to end poverty, systems that are “financially sustainable and scalable” must be put in place to enable the poor to provide for themselves, rather than constantly relying on outside aid. She told a few stories in her TED talks about personal experiences she had with these types of “systems”. For example, Novogratz discusses how one family went from living in a three-walled shack to owning a ¼ acre of land in the span of 2 growing seasons because of the agricultural lessons they were taught. She goes on to say how ending poverty is heavily reliant on engagement and understanding how buying and selling and the psychology behind doing so differs in different areas of the world.

2. What is the vision, the goal of the SDGs? What is the effect of neo-liberalism (cutting government spending promoted by the World Bank and IMF)?

The overarching goal of the 17 SDGs is to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. Each goal is to be achieved over the next 15 years. The 17 SDGs range from affordable and clean energy to zero hunger and everything in between. The goals are “to help guide the future course of economic and social development on the planet” according to Jeffrey Sachs in his article, “The Age of Sustainable Development.” The argument regarding the effect of neo-liberalism is that government spending is not the best way to end poverty. Studies have found that teaching people how to be self-sustaining is a much more effective tool in ending poverty all together. Countries and areas that were less reliant on government aid and interference were shown to be “the best and most efficient allocates of resources in production and distribution” during the time that the MDGs were being measured. During the time that MDGs were the standard, many countries and governments that received aid money ended up spending the resources fraudulently and/or wastefully. So, instead of simply sending money and hoping it will be spent how it is meant to be, neo-liberalism would allow people to learn the skills they need to reach goals and be more self-sufficient, ultimately creating a more sustainable life for themselves.

3.  John McArthur in Own the Goals talks about “Players on the Bench”. Who are they and what does he criticize?

In his article, “Own the Goals,” John McArthur speaks about what he calls “Players on the Bench.” What he is referring to are the various world leaders (mostly from wealthy nations) who believe in the idea of ending poverty, but don’t directly agree with the goals laid out within the Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs. One of the people McArthur considers a “Player on the Bench” is President George W. Bush. He goes on to criticize Bush’s Millennium Challenge initiative and how it didn’t seem to directly connect to any of the target goals. He also criticizes the “aversion” that Washington as a whole had against the term “Millennium Development Goals.” Many advocacy groups stopped using the term in fear of how people in Washington may react. McArthur also criticizes how he thinks the United States lost out on an important opportunity when it didn’t “engage directly with MDGs in their early years.” He criticizes the inactions of the U.S. by stating that early engagement with MDGs would have been a good opportunity to highlight involvement in foreign affairs and “foster international goodwill.”

4. The article “How to Help Poor Countries” (2005) addresses the question of more aid money. Please elaborate. What are suggestions made by the authors?

In the article “How to Help Poor Countries,” the authors address the argument of sending more aid money to developing countries. One of the arguments made is that much of the development made in poor countries depends on that country, not just the “rich” country sending the aid. They compare Vietnam and Nicaragua, two countries with “primarily agricultural economies.” The authors write that “assistance does work well, but only when the recipient countries do the right things to help themselves and have the capacity and the leadership to spend the money wisely.” So, where the aid money is being sent is important to research beforehand as well. One of the suggestions made in the article is to abolish TRIPS, the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, which is charging exuberant prices for medicine in places that need it the most, but can’t afford it. Another suggestion is to allow countries to create their own economic policy, rather than force one’s own on them. Specific policies focused on a country’s unique needs has been found to provide a better economic environment because it is not realistic to enforce the same policy across various nations. One last suggestion made in the article is to have wealthy nations “take action against corrupt leaders in developing countries, assist research and development global labor mobility.” You cannot expect a developing country to make progress if their leaders don’t want change. So working with the local governments is the first step in order to address larger problems later on.

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