Week One: TED & MDG

a) Jacqueline Novogratz in her TED talks brings up the question on how to define poverty. What is her answer? What is her main message?

Jacqueline’s main takeaway on poverty is that there needs to be more viable action being taken to conquer the issue in a socially and economically sustainable manner. That is her answer on making poverty history. We first must understand who is actually “poor”; people she says are defined as making between $1-$3/day. They are expecting to pay for food, water and health care at a higher rate than people of higher economic class. She wants to spread awareness on how to combat poverty by creating “viable systems on the ground that deliver affordable goods and services to the poor in ways that are financially affordable and scaleable.”

b) What is the vision, the goal of the MDGs? What is the effect of neo-liberalism (cutting government spending promoted by the World Bank and IMF)?

The vision and goal of the MDGs is to address extreme poverty, from hunger to disease, while promoting gender equality, education and environmental sustainability. I think the greatest effect of neo-liberalism is the shift in morale as a country. Neo-liberalism is allowing public expenditure for social services, like education and health care, to be cut. This reduces the safety net for the poor. Also neo-liberalism eliminates the concept of the public good, replacing it with “individual responsibility”.

c) John McArthur in Own the Goals talks about “Players on the Bench”. Who are they and what does he criticize?

The players McArthur is referring to is the United States government (under both President Bush and Obama’s terms). He criticizes the fact that the MDGs was not an initiative the Bush administration backed up despite the fact that MDG targets were directly drawn from the Millennium Declaration, which was backed by the administration. Because the US did not actively engage with the MDGs initially, the country missed the chance to foster international goodwill and highlight alleged aid efforts. He goes on to criticize the lack of adequate funding for MDGs on the ground level.

d) The article “How to Help Poor Countries” (2005) addresses the question of more aid money. Please elaborate. What are suggestions made by the authors?

As far as suggestions regarding more aid the author’s says boosting assistance to the poorest countries is a start if not better market access as a whole. Wealthy nations burden underdeveloped countries with international trade taxes that are ultimately imbalanced and harsh. And lastly, we must start with taking action to enhance our governments to better global aid.

The Millennium Development Goals

In defining poverty in the TedTalk, Invest in Africa’s Own Solutions, Jacqueline Novogratz first addresses who the poor are. The poor, to her, are categorized as the four billion people around the world that make less than four dollars a day. They pay thirty to forty times what those of their own middle classes pay for critical goods and services, such as water and healthcare. The poor are willing to and do make good decisions. Their being poor is not a fault of their own life choices. To me, the main message from Jacqueline Novogratz was the underlying connectedness of all people on earth. She shared the idea that “accountability counts,” and that the only real way to help people is to assist them in finding a way to help themselves. Jacqueline’s passion to help the poor and impovershed was evident in all that she said.
“The question, though, is not ‘Why can’t we?’ the question is ‘How can we help Africans do this for themselves?'” — Jacqueline Novogratz on malaria nets in Africa

The Millennium Development Goals or MDGs focus on eight challenging possibilities: eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; reach universal primary education; empower women through the promotion of gender equality; reduce the child mortality rate; improve maternal health; battle HIV, AIDS, malaria, and other diseases; environmental sustainability; and the creation of global partnerships to help achieve development goals. The target is for these goals to be reached by the end of 2015. An issue within the goals has been the effect of neo-liberalism. This involves the cutting of government spending that is being promoted without the actual input of those most affected.

In Own the Goals John McArthur names the “Players on the Bench” as the United States, specifically President George W. Bush and the Bush Administration, and the World Bank. McArthur highlights the missed and lost opportunities of these global players. He also states that their fear in fixed aid spending was “baseless” and that the MDGs do not require any aid commitments, just targets. He later reflects on the positive progress of both the United States and the World Bank, explaining how they are beginning to realize the actual successes of the MDGs and starting to play a more active role in contribution. The Obama administration has already given stronger support to the MDGs and through doing so can begin to set an example through action.

The article How to Help the Poor first explains, through example, the good that can and has come from aid. Not much farther along it counters those examples with words like, overwhelming, inconsistent, and uncertain in describing the effects aid can have on receiving countries. The article states: “Aid is only as good as the ability of a recipient’s economy and government to use it prudently and productively.” The article also explains how many of the countries that are most in need of aid are often the least able to use it effectively and efficiently. The authors suggest positive steps that could be taken by wealthy nations in order to benefit the developing countries in a more lasting way. Some suggestions include: taking action against corrupt government leaders, encouraging research and development within the poorer countries, and enhancing the mobility of global labor.