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Outrage of poverty: Simple lifestyle is part of the solution

8 January 2022 01:59 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


For 2022 one of the world’s most important missions is the eradication or alleviation of poverty. At present it is known that about 10 super billionaires own or control about 70 per cent of the world’s wealth and resources. This is created by the globalized capitalist market economic system which is designed to make the rich richer and the poor poorer. 

In a statement on the mission of alleviation or eradication of poverty the United Nations says we need to work on the principle of building forward together to end persisting poverty respecting all people and our planet. The COVID-19 pandemic that gripped the world during the past two years has resulted in reversing decades of progress in the fight against poverty and extreme poverty. According to the World Bank, between 88 and 115 million people are being pushed into poverty as a result of the crisis, with the majority of the new extreme poor being found in South Asian and Sub-Saharan countries where poverty rates are already high”. In 2021, this number is expected to have risen to between 143 and 163 million. These ‘new poor’ will join the ranks of the 1.3 billion people already living in multidimensional and persistent poverty who saw their pre-existing deprivations aggravated during the global pandemic. The measures imposed to limit the spread of the pandemic often further pushed them into poverty – the informal economy which enables many people in poverty to survive was virtually shut down in many countries.

According to the UN as we embark on the post-COVID recovery and getting back on track with the sustainable development goals, many are talking of “building back better,” but the message is clear from the people living in extreme poverty that they do not want a return to the past nor to build back to what it was before. They do not want a return to the endemic structural disadvantages and inequalities. Instead, people living in poverty propose to build forward.

Building forward means transforming our relationship with nature, dismantling structures of discrimination that disadvantage people in poverty and building on the moral and legal framework of human rights that places human dignity at the heart of policy and action. Building forward means not only that no one is left behind, but that people living in poverty are actively encouraged and supported to be in the front, engaging in informed and meaningful participation in decision-making processes that directly affect their lives. In building forward, we need to let ourselves be enriched by the wealth of wisdom, energy and resourcefulness that poverty-stricken people can contribute to our communities, our societies and ultimately to our planet.

The UN says that in a world characterized by an unprecedented level of economic development, technological means and financial resources, that millions of people are living in extreme poverty is a moral outrage. Poverty is not solely an economic issue, but rather a multidimensional phenomenon that encompasses a lack of both income and the basic capabilities to live in dignity. Poverty-stricken people experience many interrelated and mutually reinforcing deprivations that prevent them from realizing their rights and perpetuate their poverty, including dangerous work conditions, unsafe housing, lack of nutritious food, unequal access to justice, lack of political power and limited access to health care.

As the international community embarks on the third decade for the eradication of poverty, an estimated 783 million people lived on less than $1.90 a day in 2013, compared with 1.867 billion people in 1990. Economic growth across developing countries has been remarkable since 2000, with faster growth in gross domestic product (GDP) per capita than advanced countries. This economic growth has fuelled poverty reduction and improvements in living standards. Achievements have also been recorded in such areas as job creation, gender equality, education and health care, social protection measures, agriculture, rural development, climate change adaptation and mitigation. 

In Sri Lanka we saw the tragedy of an unprecedented increase in cost of living last year. Among the worst affected people were farmers and the fisherfolk. While the Government and the international bodies such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund need to take mega steps to reduce poverty, individually we could contribute towards rebuilding a just and fair society. One way is Alpechchathawaya, a simple and humble lifestyle where we learn to manage with our basic needs and what we save we can share with the poverty-stricken people. If ten families do this, it means ten poverty-stricken families will see a restoration of their human dignity. If 100 families 1000 families or 10000 families live in a simple way it could mean that 10000 poverty-stricken families will see their human dignity being restored. All our major religions tell us it is more blessed to give than to receive. So we need to become givers not grabbers. 

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