First chapter for ending extreme poverty

By John Podesta
May 30, 2013

Children queue for free porridge at a local government feeding program in Tondo, Manila, Oct. 29, 2011. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

President Barack Obama believes it. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia believes it. I believe it, too: By 2030, we can eradicate extreme poverty.

This is not a hollow platitude. The generations living today are the first in human history that could eliminate extreme deprivation and hunger. It is critical that all nations strive to meet this goal. Not only for our own security, though we know that a more prosperous world is more stable, but because ending extreme poverty is the right thing to do.

Since 2000, international development has been shaped by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), an ambitious agenda of measurable targets that the world’s nations committed themselves to strive to achieve. In no small part because of this agenda, the past 13 years have seen more than half a billion people work their way out of extreme poverty.

The target date for these goals is Dec. 31, 2015. That is why, last summer, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed 27 leaders from around the world — including me — to a high-level panel charged with formulating an agenda for global development beyond 2015.

Our report is set to be released Thursday. It is the result of passionate and informed discussion among panel members in meetings across the globe. It grew out of hundreds of conversations with civil society leaders, activists, women, young people, people with disabilities, businesses and development professionals. It respects what the MDGs have been able to achieve and demonstrates clear-headedness about where the Millennium agenda has fallen short.

Our post-2015 agenda first strives to build on the accomplishments of the Millennium agenda by finishing what was started: We seek a world in 2030 where no person must survive on less than $1.25 per day, and where no one goes hungry.

To make these gains permanent, we must address the root causes of poverty and better connect the very poor to the economic, social and political lives of their countries. This means taking straightforward steps — like ensuring that every person has a valid and recognized legal identity.

Eradicating extreme poverty will also require more difficult measures, such as achieving broad, sustainable economic growth that sees more women, young people and people with disabilities in formal employment around the globe. It will require us to ensure that all have access to education, healthcare, sanitation and physical and energy infrastructure. With this, the poorest of the poor and those on the cusp have the tools and resources they need to stay out of extreme poverty.

We know, too, that any progress can be easily offset by environmental degradation and climate change. So the post-2015 agenda must move beyond the framework of the MDGs by fully integrating sustainability into the development agenda. All countries — including the United States — must engage in responsible stewardship of their natural resources, alter their consumption habits and increase use of renewable energy sources.

By 2030, we can expect a world that is even more interconnected than the one we live in today. But the post-2015 agenda gives us an opportunity to harness the forces of globalization for good.

That means we need a commitment from individuals, governments, philanthropic organizations, the private sector and the development community to forge a new broad, ambitious global partnership, to be more transparent in their actions and practices and to hold one another accountable for the new development agenda.

Our report is just the first chapter, not the final word, in setting priorities for post-2015 development. But the vision it lays out is one in which, by 2030, we can save more than 1 billion women and girls from being killed or harmed violently. It can ensure that as many as 6.9 million children under age 5, who would otherwise die each year, can live and prosper. Our vision is one in which 1.2 billion more people will have electricity, and at least a third of that power will come from renewable sources.

These numbers are huge because they are commensurate with global ambition and with the hopes of people around the world – especially young people. They reflect the scale of the challenges we face — but also the incredible scope of what we can achieve by working together.

The United Nations members plan to begin debating the post-2015 agenda at the General Assembly in September. This dialogue will continue for many months.

But if the experience of our high-level panel is any guide, the global conversation will be passionate, respectful and, above all, optimistic about the future we can build for – and with – one another.


PHOTO (Insert A): U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at a meeting in Sochi, May 17, 2013. REUTERS/Maxim Shipenkov/Pool

PHOTO (Insert B): A child looks on from a house at La Chureca, Managua’s municipal garbage dump, which is located near Lake Managua, June 9, 2012. REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas




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Zero Sum applies to finite resources. Wealth is not finite. The more leaps and bounds we see in agriculture, the larger the source of food is. The higher tech the water plants become, the more water will be available in urban areas. The overall wealth “total” expands exponentially with each passing minute, and the creator of new wealth is generally the beneficiary.

Why should there be a free ride for those who may not contribute any wealth to society? Because it’s “humane”? It seems that lately the moochers in society are winning the political war… as long as there are other planets to colonize, the only limiting factor is technology to expand and utilize those wasted resources (from water to minerals).

I feel we should be encouraging entrepreneurs, not punishing them with a huge tax burden. We’ll get a Star Trek fantasy like society when we have the technology.. until then, stop slowing down it’s advance by punishing the creators.

Posted by NorthernLight | Report as abusive

@satori23 – Yes, I do think so. What is the “corruption”, or what are the corruptions, that the idea I described would eliminate? That may be an “idea and derivatives” worth airing? Why be coy? Are you sure they are “profoundly anti-establishment”.

No one is “perfect”, but those settlements may be the only way of making homesteader establishments that can’t be had any other way in the modern world? Or the country may just face growing poverty that can’t be overcome. OOTS and many others always seem to want a system that sheds people rather then changes the practice. Or one could change the practice in a way that OOTS et al, probably wouldn’t even notice, and keep the people? Historically, the larger the population, the greater the country was.

I forgot to add a sentence about Japanese bonds. The country is forced to feed on it’s own tail now. The central bank must buy the bonds the government issues because private investors are increasingly reluctant to take them. The money that would be parked in bonds is shunted to stocks and other assets like gold, but those investments – especially stocks, are facing brick walls too. The government is trying to ignore the obvious: that it is bankrupt. Inflation and devaluation of the currency will be the result of that short circuit. The bank deposits of the country are now being put to service of the national deficits. The government is eating it’s own tail. The same is happening here and seems to be happening all over the industrialized world.

Are you suggesting that a good idea can be deadly to the status quo? Would you say the idea is illustrative of satori? “a state of intuitive illumination sought in Zen Buddhism” according the Webster’s?

I forget to mention – the communities would have modern water supply, waste disposal and electrical service. Being “off the grid” is optional. But they may like the idea of starting from scratch and phase in and creating a lifestyle and pattern of consumption they created from scratch. It could be an interesting and very educational way of life. They would also be bound by the constitution of this country and their home state. The local ordinances would be the responsibility. It could incorporate the goal of “sustainability”: another topic the UN is enthusiastic about. That is very much an ideal too.

Sustainability may not be a matter of choice anymore, but it is not at all well defined. It is obvious countries are being forced to eat their own tails or they will eat each other alive, and that isn’t much of an option either.

I didn’t say a word about the role of religion. They might want to start that from scratch too or honor those of their inhabitants? That may be one of the ways these communities would establish their identity. The constitution answers that question but allows for areas like the Amish that dominate their traditional geographic area. I don’t think it is necessary for the homestead to be dominated by a religious tradition but sometimes that helps people feel like they all know what they are talking about. I tend to think people can do better than that. The constitution of this country does too.

This country, the states and municipal governments use lower tax rates all the time for profit making enterprises to encourage their growth. They could do the same thing with these communities to encourage outside investment and make the start up period easier for the inhabitants. They may be full of people who otherwise might only collect welfare, may live of shrinking incomes or fixed incomes. I think they should make sure they are not buried alive in investment and product lines meant for the benefit of the manufactures or investors who could sap its goals and strengths before they even get off the ground and who may have no real sympathy for any other aspect of the life of the community but their won bottom line. They should be vetted for participation the way some high-end condos make sure they get only “the right sort”. Otherwise they will not be able to keep the cost of labor and living down and will kill the idea before a stone has been put in place.

Of course, “corruption”, whatever that means, could be so well along, the world dies of gangrene?

Posted by paintcan | Report as abusive

I made a mistake – It was Brunelleschi’s eggshell. Bramante was involved with St. Peter’s in Rome.

Posted by paintcan | Report as abusive

The first chapter is to address birth control… Or is the failure to address birth control, the reason why ending extreme poverty is so far out of reach?

Posted by StevenMitchell1 | Report as abusive

@StebemMitchel- You do that – Send a polite letter (or the “first chapter” of that population control manual) kindly requesting that all those you deem surplus will please responsibly stop having children – and include a big box of rubbers, and diaphragms and even a few sex tips on how to do it without consequences. And pack a few bottle of Viagra while you’re at it, for morale, and maybe they will tell you to mind your own business, if they bother to read it all. The UN is already addressing birth control.

After all, how ignorant of the masses not to appreciate that their way of life threatens your way of life, that can’t seem to use and abuse far more of the planets resources than they could ever dream of and increase the cost of them beyond their reach.

While you’re sending that advice – send one to the people here: that they really don’t need to eat so much food or consume so many resources that they have some of the highest numbers of morbidly obese people on earth, they waste more gasoline for not much of anything productive, and consume massive amounts of metal, lumber, plastic and fabric in so many goods, that yard sales have to be held regularly so people’s here don’t plug up their homes – some of the flimsiest on the planet – like they plug up their arteries, the refuse of which filled up so many landfills it is now expensive to dispose of it.

If life – raw life – the majority of which is non human – had to make a choice between the over stuffed and the barely surviving – whom do you think it would favor?

I know who it will favor: those who can still live like the majority of all life on earth – with little or nothing above it’s most basic needs. There will be no argument about it either because they will not be burdened while those who have too much will loose it all. That is history, especially in a time of crisis or war. Atilla and the Huns knew that 2000 years ago when they saw the ancient “civilized” Romans. The Roman world collapsed and the Huns moved on.

Refugees carry what little they can on their own bodies. Anything else is superfluous. It’s been a long time since this country saw wagon trains and had to decide what was important to stay alive. It happened to the most civilized people on the planet (so they thought) the Europeans, the Russians and the Chinese, not quite 80 years ago.

I’m not writing with a sense of self-righteousness or as one eager to learn this lesson. I just know it is the most raw and basic lesson of life. This country is in no condition anymore to teach itself any lessons and its way of life is seductive but has very little credibility.

The future could well belong to those who aren’t afraid of a few flies, body odors or some dirt on their skin. It usually does. If mankind ever succeeds in making the rest of life on earth irrelevant – it will make it’s own body irrelevant too.

I think you overestimate the developed world’s ability to control or address much of anything now. It’s trapped in its own appetites as the developing world is trapped in its own desperate needs.

Posted by paintcan | Report as abusive