Global Poverty

Principles

As Christians, in accordance with the Scripture, we are called to care for the poor and the vulnerable and to uphold human dignity. As well, seeking to imitate the life of Christ, we are called to stand with the widow and orphan, the marginalized and disadvantaged of the world.

The Issue

Today, in the midst of unprecedented global wealth, over 1 billion people live in abject poverty on less than $1 a day, and 3 billion (half the global population) live on less than $2 a day. 50,000 people die each day from preventable, poverty-related diseases. Such poverty is a major threat to life, security, and sustainable development, and it is unnecessary; global resources are more than adequate to end extreme poverty.

Canada's Commitment to the Poor

In December 2000, countries around the world, including Canada, signed the Millennium Declaration, committing themselves to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a set of targets aimed at cutting abject poverty in half by 2015. In order to fulfil its commitments to the MDG’s - and ultimately to the world’s poor - Canada must make global poverty reduction a high priority in its international policy.

Making global poverty a high priority means meeting the 0.7% GNI goal for Official Development Assistance, developing agricultural trade rules and practices that benefit the poor, and committing to debt relief for poor countries. These aims are achievable, but the current pace of action is much too slow. If we hold the present course, we will fail to meet these important targets. And the poor will pay the price.

Why Aid, Debt and Trade?

More and better aid, debt relief and trade justice are the pillars of global poverty reduction. When we follow through in these areas, we create the necessary conditions for poor communities to fight disease, grow more food, start small businesses, and escape the relentless cycle of poverty.

Current Status

In the federal government’s 2005 International Policy Statement, international development was low on the priority list.

Aid/Official Development Assistance (ODA)

Canada presently allocates less than half of what was promised 35 years ago under former Prime Minister Lester Pearson, who led the world in setting an international ODA target of 0.7% of Canada's Gross National Income (GNI). Canada’s current allocation is less than 0.4% of GNI.

Although the government ‘locked’ an annual 8% increase to ODA, studies by civil society groups indicate that for Canada to achieve its goal of contributing 0.7% GNI to ODA by 2015 would require a 12-15% annual increase in ODA spending. [1]

Debt Relief

Canada has shown leadership in forgiving bilateral debts. But, for every dollar of Canadian debt relief, sub-Saharan African countries owe another $94 to multilateral financial institutions - having already paid international creditors an estimated $9 ½ dollars for every $1 owed in 1980. Because of this heavy debt load, poor countries are unable to provide basic healthcare, education or clean water for their citizens.

In 2005, the G8 agreed to cancel the debts of 27 countries that owed the World BankInternational Monetary Fund (IMF) and African Development Bank a total of nearly 70 billion dollars. This reduced their debts by an average of two-thirds, allowing these countries to focus their resources on poverty reduction.[2]

Canada must continue to push for cancellation of all debts owed to multilateral financial institutions, and work with G8 leaders on a financing plan for debt cancellation that does not include cuts to foreign aid.

Trade Justice

Current international trade structures and rules keep poor countries poor by stripping them of the ability to manage their borders and sustain their markets. The December 2005 Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization , held in Hong Kong, had disappointing results. Rather than implementing strategies that benefit the poor and take global poverty reduction seriously, rich countries failed to take the necessary steps to correct some of the gross imbalances in world trade. Overall, the major developed countries took positions that favoured the interests of the rich over those of the world’s poor. There was, however some useful progress in providing special measures to protect vulnerable farmers in poor countries. 

Footnotes

[1] Canadian Council for International Cooperation, “Achieving the Millennium Development Goals: A Role for Canada,” (2003) http://www.ccic.ca/e/docs/002_aid_2004_commentary_federalbudget.pdf. [16 August 2005].
[2] G8 Gleneagles 2005 Policy Issues, “Africa,” (2005) http://www.g8.gov.uk/servlet/Front?pagename=OpenMarket/Xcelerate/ShowPage&c=Page&cid=1094235520151. [2 August 2005].

Statistics

Poverty

  • Nearly half of the world’s population lives on less than US$2 a day
  • 1.2 billion people live in abject poverty, on less than US$1 a day
  • 800 million people go to bed hungry
  • 880 million people lack access to basic healthcare
  • 50,000 people die from poverty-related causes every day 

Aid

  • According to the Development Assistance Committee at the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, in 2004, Canada gave 0.28% of Gross National Income (GNI) to Official Development Assistance (ODA).
  • This ranked Canada 14th of 22 donor countries.
  • Eleven countries have reached the 0.7% GNI commitment or have timelines for doing so. Canada is not among them.

Debt

  • Between 1970and 2002, the poorest African countries received $294 billion in loans, paid back $298 billion in interest and principal, but still owed more than $200 billion.
  • Zambia spends twice as much servicing its debt payments as it does on education

Trade

  • The United Nations estimates that unfair trade rules alone deny poor countries $700 billion every year (that’s approximately $2 billion per day).

Sources

Canadian Council for International Cooperation (www.ccic.ca)
Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (www.oecd.org)

What You Can Do

Responding to the Issue:

And remember, small actions can make a big difference!

Resources

Helpful Links

Micah Challenge Canada: www.micahchallenge.ca 
World Vision: www.wvi.org/wvi/home.htm