Billion suffer Extreme Poverty
28 July 2003
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) issued its annual Human
Development Report for 2003 on July 8. The report documents the progress
of 175 of the worlds poorest countries in the implementation of
eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) agreed to at the UN General
Assembly summit in 2000.
The MDGs were ostensibly
designed by the UN as a means of halving poverty, hunger and illness
in poorer countries by 2015 and encouraging the so-called mutual
responsibilities of developing and rich countries. But seven of
the eight Millennium Goals are directives aimed towards the economies
of poorer countries, emphasising the fact that UNs thrust is in
line with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank. The
MDGs place the main responsibility for poverty reduction on the governments
of poorer nations and not on Western governments and institutions and
the impact of structural adjustment programmes they have imposed.
The MDGs call on
developing countries to focus on improving governance, especially
in mobilising resources, allocating them equitably and ensuring their
The UN report also
makes the point that the MDGs can only be achieved if poor countries
pursue wide ranging reforms.
Only Goal 8, which
calls for a strengthening of the partnership between rich and poor countries,
places any responsibility on the activities of the more economically
An arrogant and
shortsighted attitude runs right through the Human Development Report
and sets the agenda. But despite this the report is forced to highlight
a number of issues that reveal the devastating impact of global capitalism
on the vast majority of the worlds population.
The UNDP report
notes that 54 nations are poorer now than they were in 1990. Twenty
of these countries are in Sub-Saharan Africa, while 17 are in Eastern
Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States.
has fallen in 34 countries due primarily to HIV/AIDS. Of 59 priority
nations 24 suffer from a high incidence of HIV/AIDS and 31 have unusually
high foreign debts.
of 21 countries are hungrier today than in 1990. In 14 countries more
children are dying before the age of five and primary school enrolment
is declining in 12 nations.
According to the
BBC the UNDP says of its own report that it documents an unprecedented
backslide... in some of the worlds poorest nations and,
More than one billion people still live in extreme poverty, and
for many living standards are getting steadily worse.
A statement by Deputy
Director for the UN Development Program Jean Fabre sheds some light
on the massive redistribution of wealth from poorer nations to richer
ones over the past decade. He told reporters, Economic and political
developments in past years have enabled considerable increases in the
worlds wealth, but at the same time, many countries have
completely regressed in the past 10 years.
The report notes
that in 31 of the poorest countries listed progress towards the MDGs
has stalled or begun to reverse. On an assessment of current financial
trends some countries would not overcome poverty until the year 2165
and it would take 20 Sub-Saharan African nations until 2147 to halve
extreme poverty and until 2165 to cut child mortality rates by two-thirds.
According to the
UN Human Development Indexwhich measures levels of life expectancy,
education, adult literacy and income in the poorest nationstwenty-one
states have experienced a decline. These included 14 African countries
as well as Russia and six former Soviet Republics.
Commenting on the
situation in the former Soviet Union after capitalist restoration, Fabre
stated, We have catastrophic falls in several countries, which
often are republics of the former Soviet Union, where poverty is actually
increasing. In fact poverty has tripled in the whole region.
Per capita income
in each of the 42 highly indebted countries in the report is less than
$1,500 and between 1990 and 2001 these economies grew on average by
only half a percent per year. Despite calls in the report for rich countries
to provide debt relief to poorer nations the UNs own statements
unwittingly highlight the intransigent and ruthless position of these
wealthy countries in enforcing free market policiesand demonstrates
that the demands made by the UN on donor countries are just empty phrases
that fly in the face of global capitalist reality.
Fabre admits that
the richest countries have established various barriers to the
entry of goods on their own territories. There are also important subsidies
given to agriculture, artificially maintaining these rich countries
agriculture (sectors) above world prices. He went on, there
is, even worse, a dumping of agricultural products from rich countries
on countries having weaker economies.
The UN report states
that current foreign aid is up from $52.3 billion in 2001 to $57 billion,
but still falls well short of the $100 billion minimum needed annually
to meet its declared goals.
But the UNDPs
administrator, Mark Malloch Brown, told BBC News Online that he felt
the situation concerning foreign aid was in fact getting worse and quite
critical: Italy, France, Germany, Japaneven the Netherlands,
one of the most generous donorsare all making cuts in spending.
Youve got a real difficulty keeping people on track. Development
assistance is the first to go when public spending faces cuts,
impact of the Washington consensus of the World Bank and
IMFthe insistence on budget discipline, deregulation and the liberalisation
of trade and financemeans that the UNDP report was forced to distance
itself from these policies and call for a broader view of development
that looked at each country individually. But the report still insists,
Successor failurein economic growth is closely linked
to how an economy is integrated with global markets.
In one section the
UNDP looks at Mali and asks how can this small country become a successful
manufacturing exporter like China. The report states, investors
consider the countrys education and skills level too low to justify
the costs imposed by landlockedness, poor health, low nutrition, a tiny
domestic market and related barriers. In other words foreign investors
will not see a return on their investment and so will not invest. The
UNDP goes on to state, in short Mali does not meet the thresholds
required to attract many foreign and domestic investors.
This bizarre section
continues by claiming, Mali could become a successful garment
exporter (like Bangladesh) tourist destination and processor of tropical
agricultural products. But the country can only do this after,
Key thresholds in health, education, water, sanitation, roads,
ports and power are reached.
The glaring contradiction
of how an impoverished country is to achieve such a level of development
on its own without huge international aid is not raised, or even thought
about by the writers of the report.
The approach of
rich nations to poorer countries should be to base their support more
on performance rather than entitlement, the
report states. The countries with wealth should increase assistance
to poor countries that demonstrate good faith efforts to mobilise
domestic resources, undertake policy reforms, strengthen institutions
and tackle corruption and other aspects of weak governance. This
statement reads just like any other issued by the World Bank and IMF.
What the Human Development
report of the UNDP will not saybut is revealed by an honest and
objective reading of its findingsis that the social and economic
disaster destroying the lives of masses of people is the product of
the very policies it espouses.