Progress in the fight against global poverty: Editorial
The Human Development Report for 2013 shows the once-benighted ‘South’ is rising, lifting millions out of poverty.
Editorial, Toronto Star, February 19, 2013
The news is better than anyone anticipated. This year’s Human Development Report, which measures how well countries are doing economically and socially, shows a profound global shift. Forty nations – not just economic tigers such China, India and Brazil – are rapidly lifting their people out of poverty.
The United Nations Development Program (UNDP), which has issued 21 of these annual reports, called this year’s edition, which will be officially released on March 14 in Mexico City, “The Rise of the South.” It is the most upbeat report in years. But it also challenges the once-dominant North (Europe, North America and Japan) to cede some its policy-setting power to such nations as Turkey, Mexico and South Africa as well as the emerging superpowers.
“People throughout the developing world are increasingly demanding to be heard,” the agency says. They have the digital technology to raise their voices and the will to foment change.
It had been clear for some time that the world’s economic axis was shifting. What hadn’t come to light was the improvement in people’s lives in dozens of countries once considered backward. The UNDP compiled evidence on everything from income and literacy levels to gender rights and longevity to draw up its 2013 rankings. When researchers looked at the numbers, the theme of this year’s report was obvious.
The UNDP would not disclose individual country rankings in advance of the report’s release. But officials did say that a fifth of the nations they surveyed – all in the developing world – did better than expected. And their success looks sustainable.
Surprisingly, there was no common pathway. China relied on a rising economic tide to lift all boats. Brazil, on the other hand, deliberately put in place in anti-poverty programs to ensure that the gains of growth were shared. Others countries used tools that reflected their values and priorities.
Less surprisingly, and disappointingly, all 10 countries in sub-Saharan Africa were excluded from the “rising” South.” So were Asia’s chronic laggards: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar (Burma) and Yemen. There is plenty of work to do.
While the good news merits applause, the pockets of desperation and disease, incubators for human unrest, leading to outright 'animal preying' by some on others, for a variety of heinous and desperate motives, continue to ooze their toxicity onto the world's headlines, and into the lives of too many human lives.
And, both the notion and the need for 'foreign aid' is also changing, amid the details of this report.
Some respected observers are calling for a less patronizing, less condescending and less "power-over" kind of support and more "accountable, transparent and dignified" assistance, requiring donors and recipients to partner in the development of the marginalized people and nations.
What is not mentioned in the editorial is the degree to which religions are evangelizing, prosletyzing and thereby seeking dominance by numbers on behalf of different faith communities. There are bragging rights for 'converting the greatest numbers' to a particular faith and there are armies of recent and ambitious converts working to "convert" the masses to some of the already dominant faiths, in the belief that their numbers will significantly empower the sustainability and growth of that religion.
And while "God" is marching through the impoverished and the undeveloped and the underdeveloped countries and peoples, there are disturbing signs that some of those converts, as would be expected, adopt a highly rigorous and literal and militaristic and frightening brand of those faiths, including segments of Christianity, Islam, Mormonism, among the more aggressive conversion machines.
And when a faith becomes attached to development, the conflicts between religions and between differing dogmas within faith communities can serve to block not only human development but also national development.
One of the most glaring of divisive schisms within the faith communities, in the developing world, is the attitude to the gay, lesbian and transgender communities. In some countries, people are being killed for being gay. And in the developed world, still, there are pockets of contempt, even bigotry, toward the gay community, while at the same time, there are increasing numbers of jurisdictions that support gay marriage.
It would seem clear that training to bring the margins into the muddy and often confusing middle, on attitudes of religious dogma, social acceptance, economic and intellectual development, gender equality and different forms of power-sharing collaboration will take a dramatic shift in many of the same files in the developed world. And those of us living in the developed world must not leave social and political and intellectual and equality initiatives to either the corporate giants or the religious realots, both of whom consider success in numbers more than in the quality of their relationships.
And any reports that point only to statistics also leaves gaps in the social/political/religious/philosophic narratives, all of which must be considered when accounting for human development.
And only governments can leven the bread, in the landscape where profit-driven or convert-driven
over-achievers control the rules of the game. And only those governments prepared to confront dominating ambitions, ambitions that will do more to divide than to unite different perspectives, will be able to moderate the influence of those feathering their own nests with numerical accomplishments, at the expense of authentic human growth and development, based on the tolerance, respect and dignity that can come from both self and other acceptance.
What will it benefit the world if we leave nations so deeply divided, even if they are able to feed and clothe themselves, because we have ignored the really difficult tasks of growing states of protected people, respected others and especially respected "others from outside"....something many so-called developed countries are struggling with themselves, in their wildly diverse policies and attitudes to immigrants and immigration and the integration of others into the social fabric of those developed nations.