“Poverty anywhere is a threat to prosperity everywhere.” This ingenious statement has in fact been picked up from the International Labour Organization (ILO) Declaration of Philadelphia, on the tenth of May, 1944, where it had been declared as one of the key principles to achieve the centrality of human rights to social policy, and in the need for international economic planning.
The statement aims to imply that the effects of poverty are scarcely, if ever, localised. They spread far and wide, and have a tremendous impact on prosperity too. It will take the world by a sweep, and has been proved true in many instances already.
What is Poverty?
Poverty can have multiple definitions. It could be the lack of material possessions, a deficiency of income, or the scarcity of the basic necessary things required for a person to live. It is, in the easiest terms, that state of being extremely poor, wherein an individual has no access to the basic amenities of life.
The World Bank Organization, whose main goal is to eradicate poverty completely, describes it in a very pretty way. “Poverty is hunger. Poverty is lack of shelter. Poverty is being sick and not being able to see a doctor. Poverty is not having access to school and not knowing how to read.
Poverty is not having a job, is fear for the future, living one day at a time.” Of course, although it sounds poetic and melodious, if you take a moment to understand the depth of meaning behind the words, it is easy to comprehend what exactly poverty is.
To be considered poor, one’s income should be falling below the minimum income level necessary to provide for the basic needs of a person in their daily life. This minimum level, also known as the international poverty line, is set at $1.90 a day. But as the World Bank Organization has so appropriately described, poverty cannot be defined solely by the income level. It depends on multiple other factors, beside the monetary factor. The best guide to poverty is one’s compassion and conscience.
What are the instances of poverty threatening prosperity?
“Extreme poverty anywhere is a threat to human security everywhere.” This statement was quoted by Kofi Annan, who was the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations. It means exactly the same as the statement, “Poverty anywhere is a threat to prosperity everywhere.”
An excellent example of how poverty anywhere threatens prosperity everywhere is North Korea. As an aftermath of the Second World War, Korea was divided into two parts: North Korea and South Korea. South Korea adopted a system of democracy as the government.
In the due course of time, South Korea became one of the most highly developed countries in the whole of Asia. On the other hand, North Korea adopted and is currently under a dictatorial regime.
The conditions that the people of North Korea are subjected to are atrocious in comparison to the people of South Korea. People there do not have basic human rights. They are living under extreme conditions of poverty and have multiple socio-economic problems.
The world we live in is more or less a globalised village, where the world is like one small village. It is obvious that the actions or developments of one country will most definitely affect the developments in other countries. Hence, eradication of poverty is a necessity in our current conditions. It is in fact, one of the goals of the Sustainable Development.
Steps to be taken to decrease the poverty levels of the world
To quote Nelson Mandela, “Poverty is not an accident. Like slavery, and apartheid, it is man-made and can be removed by the actions of human beings.” He had also once said, “Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life.”
There are several steps that should be taken in order to reduce the levels of poverty in the world. Most of these steps must be taken by the government. However, that is not to say that the common citizens cannot chip in to help. There are multiple charitable organizations to join, or even websites and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that accept donations, which they then carefully spend in helping the people who fall under the category of poor.
On the other hand, here are some steps that should be taken by the government:
- The first step to be taken is most definitely the creation of jobs. The unemployed and the jobless cannot possibly earn money to support either themselves or their families. This problem can only be solved by creating more employment opportunities. The best way out of poverty is most certainly a well-paying job.
- Another necessary step that must be taken is that corporations, companies and all businesses in general should provide paid leaves and paid sick days. Without these added benefits, most individuals cannot manage to balance work and home affairs without sacrificing on their income. Paid leave is proclaimed to be one of the most important and beneficial anti-poverty policies adopted by multiple countries. Nearly 4 in every 10 private sector workers and 7 in every 10 low wage workers do not have a single paid sick day.
- Probably the most important step that needs to be taken is the provision of free healthcare and medicare. Medicines are the biggest drain on all income, making it impossible for some people to survive, while they are in fact fighting a disease. The price of a single vial of insulin currently in the United States of America is almost $275.
There is a very beautiful saying that goes like this: “In the well-being of each lies the well-being of the whole.” Of course, this ancient proverb cannot be argued with in any form or way. This is because of a very simple reason. The ‘whole’ in question is formed up by multiple individuals.
So if each of the individuals have not been fine, as a result the whole will not be fine. We can compare this to our own bodies. Our body is made up of several organs that work together to form multiple systems, and each system corresponds with the others to ensure functional working of the body as a whole.
For example, we can use the excretory system, the endocrine system and the nervous system. The endocrine system gives out certain hormones for the excretory system to work, among other functions. The nervous system controls the endocrine system, so directly, as well as indirectly, the excretory system is also responsible to the nervous system.
Now for example, if the endocrine system gives out a deficit in a certain hormone, it is possible that the excretion of wastes of our body will suffer. Due to this, there will be excessive urea content in the body, which could prove to be fatal. This could occur even if the nervous system was in top-notch condition, and there was nothing wrong with it.
In this analogy, we have compared the body to our country. The different organs are the different individuals or citizens of our country. The systems are the classes of people, or the families. When one family or class, suffers under any condition, the whole country will shut down, in spite of the other class working in perfect order. In this way, poverty anywhere is a threat to prosperity everywhere.
But there is a silver lining too. If the nervous system were to recognise the poor condition of the other systems, and make amends to help it, the whole body would survive. Similarly, if the prosperous are generous in nature, and make actual efforts to help the poor out, then the condition of both our country and our world would be supreme.