In September a new framework aimed at fighting inequality, poverty and catastrophic climate change will be agreed, named the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The proposed 8th SDG is economic growth & development; a target that is achievable but only if we’re willing to make the necessary changes. While it also may seem quite broad, the aim is summarised as ‘sustainable economic growth, full & productive employment with decent work for all.’ It also incorporates the previous Millennium Development Goal of ‘eradicating extreme poverty; this is defined as living on less than $1.25 per day.
The role of individuals in the UK must also not be overlooked; every person has a part to play in order to make the reduction of poverty realistic. Whether we are willing to admit it or not, rich countries and multinationals benefit from poverty in the form of cheap labour and cheap goods.
The impact of globalisation has made poverty an advantage for the larger companies, the lower the wages in any country; the cheaper it becomes to produce goods there. This in turn has allowed large multinationals to exploit workers in developing countries. For example, workers producing Nike goods earn roughly $1.60 per day, with a 70 hour working week; essentially a form of modern day slavery. Via legal loopholes, Nike avoids prosecution over the use of these workers not to mention child labour.
By carefully selecting the goods we demand, it’ll send a message to these firms that these types of practices are unacceptable & it’ll go further to meeting the 8th SDG than many other methods. By pressuring firms to provide a decent wage, millions will be dragged out of extreme poverty and it’ll provide ‘productive and decent work for all’ as the goal aims to do.
The other issue is the role of governments themselves in reforming tax laws; tax laws currently facilitate tax avoidance. Oxfam estimates it costs developing countries $114bn per year; this is tax that is vital for developing countries to invest in infrastructure & social spending. If this money continues to go missing, then the cycle of poverty will continue. As long as companies are allowed to shift profits away from where they were earned, the companies will continue to move money to avoid these taxes.
Finally comes the issue of third world debt, debt has crippled many developing countries who were given loans they would never be able to repay. These loans grow at a rate faster than these countries can pay off & because of these unfair debts millions face lower living standards. For example, Nigeria in 1986 borrowed $5bn; it has paid back $16bn yet still owes $28bn.
The Jubilee and Cancel the Debt campaigns have had successes in this regard yet once again these debts are on the rise. To really help reduce the levels of poverty, these loans must be cancelled or heavily reduced, the loans have already been repaid many times over; it’s just a case of whether the biggest economic powers are willing to reduce the unreasonable obligations they’ve placed upon the developing world. If that is the case, only then will we see real progress towards this SDG and countries will have the necessary finance to drag people out of poverty.
So arguably the goal in itself is realistic, but it depends entirely on whether we are willing to change our behaviour and if our governments are willing to make the necessary concessions at a cost to themselves. If not, the 21,000 children that die daily due to poverty will continue to grow and in 2030 our world leaders will sit around another table discussing how to end poverty.
Junaid Shah – action/2015 Youth Panelist.
For more information on the action/2015 campaign and youth click here. The action/2015 Youth Panel is co-facilitated by British Youth Council, BOND, Islamic Relief, Progressio and Restless Development and Y Care International.