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Blog Action Day 2008 on Poverty

Caroline Jaine's picture

I was asked to join forces with other bloggers to blog on Blog Action Day (October 15) and write about Poverty.  What better platform than the World Bank’s People, Spaces, Deliberation blog?  I encourage others to do the same. 
 
I have been discussing with fellow bloggers what “being poor” means to them.  Interesting how varied the response – but one thing is clear, in this current economic crisis everyone around the globe is thinking about it.  I don’t know when I stopped thinking about it, but I know I am guilty of taking cash and credit for granted over the years.
 
Growing up in inner city Bristol in the West of England, I remember a handful of families disappearing off to go and live in South Africa.  Our middle class parents shook their heads in disgust as their perceived classless peers sold their tiny terraced two-up-two downs and exchanged them for poolside villas in South Africa and (it was rumoured) handfuls of black staff to help support a decadent lifestyle. 
 
It seemed clear to me that the excess was not deserved.  I understood with adolescent passion that it was wrong to live luxuriously off the blood and sweat of another human being.  So we stopped eating South African oranges, sang “Free Nelson Mandela” and honestly felt that we had made a difference.  Apartheid ended.  And now South Africa is ranked in the top third best countries to do business with (World Bank figures).  Forget oranges South Africa’s exports are diverse and today include wine, technology and paint.
 
But then the water became murky for me.  Over the years our supermarket shelves filled with strange and exotic foods from around the globe, and it was no longer possible to assess the karmic damage we could potentially be causing.  Britain has been sliding towards food dependency ever since the mid eighties and some figures suggest 90% of our fruit (including oranges of course) is sourced from overseas – and from countries known for human rights abuses and even slavery (yes, sadly it still exists in some parts of the world).  And now there is another thing to consider – the impact our purchases may have on climate change.
 
I’m not really sure whether a ban on South African fruit helped to end oppression there, but I am well aware of the power of my purse.  And of all of our purses put together.  My question is this, what can I do in terms of my spending habits to help global poverty?  Should I buy British and support local economies, or should I seek out produce from regions that are suffering the most to support theirs?  In today’s climate I haven’t got much to spend, but I want to ensure I do so wisely.

Why not pause for thought on Blog Action day and have a look at Ten Things you Never Knew about the World Bank.
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Footnote: The World Banks mission is simple: to reduce poverty.  From The World Bank main page:
 
The World Bank is a vital source of financial and technical assistance to developing countries around the world. We are not a bank in the common sense. We are made up of two unique development institutions owned by 185 member countries—the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the International Development Association (IDA).

Each institution plays a different but supportive role in our mission of global poverty reduction and the improvement of living standards. The IBRD focuses on middle income and creditworthy poor countries, while IDA focuses on the poorest countries in the world. Together we provide low-interest loans, interest-free credit and grants to developing countries for education, health, infrastructure, communications and many other purposes.

Comments

Submitted by Anonymous on
Buy your fruits and vegetables locally! This will: - help reduce supply chains that result in more carbon emissions - give you a stake in local labor conditions - encourage your farmers to grow organic produce, because they won't need to add preservatives and pesticides to their tomatoes to make them last a 10,000-mile journey around the globe. I'm all for globalization. But buying locally can do a whole lot more for the environment!

Submitted by Jaffer on
Let me mention to you an example, although not concerned with poverty, but is related to the type of boycott you mentioned.

In 2000 after the second Palestinian uprising, many people in decided to boycott American products because they thought it was one way to protest against Israel.

The American corporations were not hurt but it was the local Saudi investor, whole seller, and distributors who suffered - even when it was not the intention of the protesters.
Local businessmen around Saudi Arabia had to let their products go to waste and lost millions of dollars.

In short, it will only hurt your local grocer, if you are collectively boycotting goods that are already in his store.

I get your point Jaffer, thanks for sharing this. It is difficult to know who you would be helping and who you would be hindering for sure. Maybe we should think in terms of what products you WOULD buy instead of what you wouldn't buy. For example, Fair Trade goods are a popular choice.

Thanks for your contribution - I generally agree. But there are some goods not produced in the UK coffee, wine (good wine that is), and mangoes to name a couple of favourites. Otherwise I do shop locally whenever possible.

Submitted by Rushda on
Caroline you have hit the nail on the head. As the world gets smaller (economically, communication wise, socially..........) we become more and more dependent on each other. Strangely the logic of globalization says that everyone in the world should have an access to everything in the world. Local needs are defined in global terms. So Britain does not grow spices, but needs to have an access to it-- from South Asia or South Africa or South America. To pass a judgement on it would mean that we are taking a moral stand like nationalist fundamentalists, or religious fundamentalists. Solutions therefore become very complex and defiant of every logic as we know it. One view is that you integrate the world production system and let that dictate the market. So all of Brazil grows only coffee. The money they get from selling coffee will enable them to buy other good............in brief the world colonizes itself. I am not even going to list out the problems that this system would bring about. Somewhere among the entire maze of solution, the only one remotely feasible, according to me, is to let the market forces fight it out. As economies and systems evolve, humankind should be able to design a solution that would bring a semblence of balance to ecology and politico-economic chaos. Instead of having faith in God, it would be feasible to have faith in the more visible and tangible human being who is messing with the earth.

Everyone has own decision and choice financially. Helping strategy will depend on how or what is the best way, which do you think would give help global poverty even in a simple way. The United States of America isn't the only nation affected by the recession, and we don't have the only people in the world heading for the cover of payday loans. Our neighbors in the Great White North, the Canadians, are getting shaken up about it too, at the governmental level. It is easy to forget just how closely tied our economy is to theirs, since they are one of our most significant partners in international trade. The effects of the recession have thrown their government in turmoil, and it is creating a political crisis. The conservative headed government has been racked with partisan problems, with the liberal coalition refusing to cooperate with the Prime Minister. As the other party's members in Parliament are completely unwilling to work with him, they were headed towards a vote of No Confidence. In order to stem the partisan quibbling, the Prime Minister sought, and received, a suspension of Parliament from the head of Parliament, the Governor General. This action, called prorogation, is a rare thing to see, and it has been decades since it was last called for. The Prime Minister did this in order to give him time in order to get a working plan together to weather this crisis. Bear in mind that we here in America aren't the only ones that have been affected by recession and tougher times, but just like in Canada, we have the option of payday loans in times of sudden financial need.

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