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Jim Yong Kim's blog

What Can You Do to End Poverty? Take It On!

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Often, people ask me how they can get involved in a social movement to end extreme poverty. Not so long ago, I participated in a MOOC – a massive open online course – organized by Wesleyan University called “How to Change the World.”

Wesleyan President Michael Roth asked me for advice to students who wanted to get engaged in a social movement to end poverty. My response is that we’re going to need everyone – doctors, writers, engineers, lawyers, social workers, and visionaries in governments and in the private sector.

So what is it going to take to build a successful social movement to end poverty? What role can you play? Take a minute to watch the video. What I really hope is that it inspires you to get involved, to take it on. Please share this with your friends, and let me know what you think.

How We’re Taking On Extreme Poverty

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Next week, we’ll be hosting our Spring Meetings in Washington, D.C., which will attract a few thousand leaders in development from around the world. To set the stage for these meetings, I talked this week about the fundamental issues in global development and how we’re undergoing dramatic changes inside the World Bank Group to meet those great challenges.

We live in an unequal world. The gaps between the rich and poor are as obvious here in Washington, D.C., as they are in any capital. Yet, those excluded from economic progress remain largely invisible to many of us in the rich world. In the words of Pope Francis, “That homeless people freeze to death on the street is not news. But a drop … in the stock market is a tragedy.”

While we in the rich world may be blind to the suffering of the poor, the poor throughout the world are very much aware of how the rich live. And they have shown they are willing to take action.

Why Investing in Poor Countries Helps All of Us

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Many people have the misconception that my field -- global development -- is just about do-gooders and charities helping the poor. To be sure, many charitable groups are doing generous, laudable work. But global development extends far beyond charity and has a greater impact on the global economy than most people think.

Strong economic growth in developing countries became an engine for the global economy after the 2008-09 financial crisis, accounting for roughly 50 percent of all global growth. In addition, fully half of the United States’ exports now go to emerging markets and developing economies.

Global economic development can be good for your bottom line. Our focus is on helping more than a billion poor people lift themselves out of extreme poverty and on boosting the incomes of the poorest 40 percent in developing countries. To do that, we need to find economic growth strategies that help all segments of society in emerging markets -- reaching even fragile states striving to put years of conflict behind them and to create good jobs for their people.

The question I ask my team all the time is, what’s our plan? Increasingly scarce public funding isn’t enough to get the job done. We need to attract private sector investment that creates jobs. Ninety percent of all jobs in the developing world are created by the private sector. If we have high aspirations for the poor and vulnerable, there is no argument: We need the private sector to flourish, even in the poorest countries.

Food Waste -- a Bigger Problem Than You Thought

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Here's a shameful statistic: up to a third of the world's food is wasted. In the developing world, that's 400 to 500 calories per person per day. But in the developed world, it's as much as 1,500 calories per person.

We cannot afford to waste that much food. About 842 million people today don't get enough to eat, and 98 percent of them live in developing countries.

In developing countries, food is lost on farms or on the way to market due to poor infrastructure and storage. In developed countries, food is wasted at the retail level and by consumers.

All of us have to take action. Every country -- and every person -- needs to minimize food waste as a part of the fight against poverty and hunger.

3 Blind Spots for Gender Equity: Work, Education, and Violence

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Woman in Nepal

As we mark International Women’s Day, women and girls are better off than just a few decades ago. Boys and girls are going to school in equal numbers in many countries. Women are living longer, healthier lives.

But even with the steady progress we’ve seen over the past few decades, one of our biggest challenges today is to avoid falling prey to a sense of self-satisfaction.  We don’t deserve to, not yet. 

We need a renewed sense of urgency and a clearer understanding of the remaining obstacles.   When it comes to improving the lives of women and girls, we have blind spots.  In fact, we know of three shocking inequalities that persist in education, the working world, and women’s very security and safety.

Blind Spot No. 1: Education of Girls.

We have made impressive gains in achieving universal access to education, but what we’re failing to see is that girls who are poor—those who are the most vulnerable—are getting left behind.  

While wealthier girls in countries like India and Pakistan may be enrolled in school right alongside boys their age, among the poorest 20 percent of children, girls have on average five years less education than do boys.  In Niger, where only one in two girls attends primary school, just one in 10 goes to middle school, and stunningly only one in 50 goes to high school. That’s an outrage.

Best Advice: Give It a Shot

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One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received sounds pretty simple: Give it a shot.

Dr. Ted Alyea, a senior resident at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, gave me this advice in 1991 when I was the most junior of physicians, an intern.

We were standing outside a patient’s room in the Intensive Care Unit. Our team was discussing the plan for treating a very sick patient when Ted said to me, “Tell us what you think we should do next. Give it a shot.”

During patient rounds, interns take turns outside a hospital room presenting the patient’s background; reciting what is known about the patient and the disease or condition including careful recounting of symptoms, laboratory data, diagnostic studies and current treatment. Then the intern and senior resident go into the room to examine the patient and afterward the team decides on a plan for treatment.

Want to Build a Movement? Learn from AIDS Activists

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Building social movements. I often hear about the need to create social movements to tackle a number of entrenched global challenges such as ending extreme poverty, promoting greater income equality, and combatting climate change.

History is full of social movements that have succeeded and failed. The lessons from one ongoing movement that I know well – the fight against AIDS – should be examined closely by those looking to build movements today.

Lesson No. 1 from the AIDS movement is to believe only in the possibility -- not the inevitability -- of success. Opponents will fight and appear immovable. As those of us who lived through the early days of the AIDS fight, it was always far from certain that we would reach our goals.

Myanmar's Chance to Boost Prosperity, End Poverty

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YANGON, Myanmar — The government here has put forward ambitious plans to dramatically increase access to electricity and health care, especially in rural areas. Both are huge problems; some 70% of all people in Myanmar do not have access to electricity, and public health issues, including the spread of TB, need to be more effectively curtailed. What can we can do about these problems? Actually, quite a bit. Watch the video from the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon.

Inequality Isn’t Hopeless. But You Need a Plan

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DAVOS, Switzerland – When we talk about particularly difficult issues at the World Bank Group, I always ask my team a simple question: What’s the plan?

If they have a plan, the next question I ask is whether the plan is serious enough to match the scale of the problem. Here at the World Economic Forum at Davos, one of the main issues before us is an extraordinarily tough one – how do we reduce the growing income inequality around the world? Income inequality has grown to enormous proportions but my question to World Bank staff and folks here in Davos is the same: What’s the plan to lessen income inequality across the world?

Income inequality can appear to be an intractable problem. But the fact is we already know a lot about how economies can grow in a way that includes even the poorest. We need a plan to tackle inequality and we think there are at least five things that we can do right now that could help.

From Davos, A Plan to Fight Income Inequality

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DAVOS — The theme of this year's World Economic Forum here involves income inequality and how to close the wide gap between rich and poor. I think this is a smart choice for the meeting, which attracts some of the most powerful and wealthiest people in the world. But to battle income inequality, you need a serious plan. Watch this video from Davos to hear what we recommend as a smart plan of action.

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