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.
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.