Our global conversation on “What Will It Take to End Poverty” has been woven throughout the 2012 Annual Meetings this week. As part of the effort, we asked people attending the meetings in Tokyo to pick up a postcard and write down their thoughts about what it will take to end poverty.
What Will It Take
At the World Bank Group, we want to help create a social movement to end poverty and to enhance shared prosperity. But how do you do that? More broadly, how do you start any social movement?
It's not easy. The world is littered with failed attempts. The roadblocks are numerous - including skeptics casting doubt, saying the task is impossible and that others have tried and failed. Why spend time on a futile endeavor? Even if Albert Camus thought he was happy, Sisyphus never did get the boulder to the top of the mountain.
But in nearly three decades of working to fight poverty, I have come to conclude that optimism in the face of seemingly intractable problems is a choice. If your cause is just and you are working in an institution with the means to truly make a difference in the lives of the poor, optimism of the spirit is a moral responsibility.
What inspires change? What has impact on policy? What really motivates us to do social good?
Here’s one story from my past that I’ll never forget.
In 1987, Dr. Paul Farmer and I and a few others helped start a group called Partners in Health to provide access to quality health care to the poor. In the beginning, the majority of our work was centered in Haiti. Seven years later, in 1994, we set up a program in Carabayllo, a settlement on the outskirts of Lima, Peru.
We began our program in Peru because a good friend of ours -- Father Jack Roussin – said we must. He said the area needed a much stronger primary health system, and so we helped build a cadre of community health workers. Our organization there, Socios en Salud, worked to improve the health care of people in the community, employed 20 local young people, built a pharmacy, and then conducted a health assessment for the town.
Then Father Jack became ill. He started losing weight. I urged him to return to his home in Boston. When he finally did, tests revealed that his lungs were full of tuberculosis (TB). And it wasn’t any TB. It was multi drug-resistant TB (MDR-TB). His disease was resistant to the four major drugs used to treat TB. Soon after, Father Jack died.
We went back to Carabayllo and investigated. Why did he have drug-resistant TB? We found an alarming number of cases of MDR-TB. We did two things: First, we immediately started looking for supplies of the drugs that could treat TB cases we discovered. We gave those to patients, and to our great relief we were able to cure most of them. Second, we started to push for a global program to treat poor people everywhere suffering from drug-resistant TB.
UNITED NATIONS | It has been a week of inspiring ideas and action plans at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. I met with a number of world leaders, including Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. We talked about the importance of creating jobs for ex-combatants, the pressing need for more energy sources, and more. You can hear my thoughts on our meeting in the video below.
Our World Bank community has been out in the field with video cameras asking families, farmers, workers and parents from all corners of the globe: What will it take… to improve your life?.. to get a better job? … to end poverty?
As part of our global conversation on social media and multimedia, we have received video from countries like Brazil, Ecuador, Tanzania, Laos and India. People are sharing their ideas, their hopes and their solutions for creating a better life for all.
Here are three views on #whatwillittake:
In Brazil, Maria José dos Santos tells us that providing more schools and childcare would allow mothers to get fulltime jobs. “It would be great if everybody had more access to child care and all day schools. That would enable mothers to work in peace.”
It’s not every day that you see a video in the back of a New York City taxicab asking people to tweet about ending global poverty. Though the most recent data tell us that global poverty has been declining, it’s shocking that some 1.3 billion people live on less than $1.25 a day.
That's half the amount of the base fare of a taxicab ride in Manhattan. It's not right.
The taxicab video, which is airing this week during the UN General Assembly, is part of a new conversation we’ve launched at the World Bank. We’re asking a simple question: What will it take to end poverty?
What will it take …to improve your life? …for your children to be better off? …for mothers to be healthy? …for all to get a good education? …to end poverty? More than 1.3 billion people around the globe live on less than $1.25 a day. Fighting poverty in times of crisis may be challenging, but we can’t take our eyes off the most vulnerable.