Poverty is a human construct. The way economic resources are distributed isn’t a function of unchangeable economic laws, but of political, – that is, – human choices. Our social and economic structures are organized to support the inequitable distribution of Earth’s resources
Consider: the net wealth of the ten richest men in the world is one and a half times greater than the total national income of the 54 poorest countries. And in 1996, Southern countries sent $187 billion more to Northern creditors for debt repayments than they received in aid.
Armed human conflict, – war, in other words, – makes matters worse. When countries spend more on weapons than on education, then talk about the elimination of poverty is hollow.
Poverty, after all, means deprivation: not enough food, money, housing, health care, and education. If the generosity of good people was what it took to eradicate poverty, then the problem would be manageable. Year after year, numerous non-government organizations channel the contributions of concerned Canadians to thousands of Southern development projects, helping others to confront forces over which they have little control. Similar efforts help to feed and clothe many of the poor within this country.
Personal acts of charity make a concrete difference to many, but they can’t begin to attack the root causes of poverty. Nor can we depend on economic growth alone to do the job. But people uniting to fight poverty could accomplish what neither the corporate sector, nor individuals acting alone, could do.
What is required is a vision and a will; a vision of what’s possible when we work together, and the will to implement it. Today, more than any other time in human history, we recognize the fragility of our planet, and understand that there is an intimate inter-connection between its citizens. As well, most of us are aware that the growing gap between rich and poor is not only morally reprehensible, but causes instability and insecurity for everyone.