Monday, October 31, 2011

Poverty and promises

Money Matters

Poverty and promises
By Irfan Aamir

When leaders deceive but not lead the way they ought to and when they make promises they don’t intend to fulfill, very bad things happen. Street rage driven by hunger and economic injustice is the catalyst of many modern day revolutions and urban movements. They are not caused by social media or cell phones alone as the establishments across the world have come to believe.

What is more unjust than the injustice itself is the omnipresent economic injustice and inequality across North and the South. Intensity of emotions is peaking and the mood of the crowd on the streets throughout the world has become ominous to say the least. Discontent with the elected leaderships of democratic societies is loud and rowdy and the 2nd decade of the 21 century appears set to be written in the annals of history as an era when the global economic system, built on the principles of the free enterprise collapsed, and political leaderships, driven rhetoric, failed their people like never before.

At the Millennium Summit in September 2000, the largest gathering of world leaders in history adopted the UN Millennium Declaration, which was ostensibly an across the board commitment to a new global partnership to reduce extreme poverty and outline a series of time-bound targets with a deadline of 2015 that were to later become known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

In 2000, the US and its many well meaning Arab and non Arab allies -- which pretty much covers the entire ‘civilized world’ -- were yet to discover the cache of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) in Iraq. Iraq had not been invaded for the 2nd time to rid it of evil leaders and the most expensive War on Terror (WOT) was yet to go on air for another year and a few months. Little had happened in the space of MDGs when things got hotter around the WMDs, followed by crude oil hikes and social chaos in the Arabian Peninsula. Understandably, global concerns for poverty eradication were replaced with fears of national security and uncertain times around things more urgent and alarming than things more important and critical.

If human life is invaluable then those lives that are lost each day due to preventable diseases, poverty and hunger are way more unfortunate than those lost as a consequence of wars and terrorism. The former is more regrettable perhaps as it also highlights the love of modern man for war and his disregard for human misery. Wars are expensive and bread is still cheap, but poverty, the trigger of extremism, perhaps is the most expensive of all things to manage. It is unfortunate and ironic that trillions for wars are easily available and none by comparison for poverty eradication.

The targets set out by the largest gathering of world leaders outlined urgent and immediate efforts and 8 fundamental goals were outlined. The goals in order of priority are/were, End Hunger and Extreme Poverty, Universal Education, Gender Equality, Child Health, Maternal Health, Combat HIV/AIDs and Global Partnership.

The ever committed and well meaning leaders realised in the year 2000 that their long held belief that economic injustice and poverty “is an unfortunate but unalterable state of affairs” is quite wrong. They also realised that the world had become progressive, prosperous and technologically advanced to address improvement of economies and reducing hunger. What they have done in this space since and as they find themselves around the corner from 2015 can be easily described in one word, nothing.

The world congress of leaders also realised that every human being should have the opportunity to make a better life for themselves, but also noted with regret (in the year 2000) that many children in the world (then and now) grow up without this chance because they are denied their basic right to even attend primary school. “A sustainable end to the world poverty as we know it; as well as the path to peace and security requires that citizens in every country are empowered to make positive choices and provide for themselves and their families” further felt the global leadership.

It is apparent that come the deadline for the Global MDGs in 2015, many if not all the nations who committed to these targets in the year 2000 will find themselves scrambling for answers and reasons for their combined failure to achieve the goals. If the leaders have disappointed the people, media in general and the civil society groups have also done the same by staying away from the most fundamental issues and focusing on trivia and political entertainment.

At the home front, the economy might be bankrupt but the leadership in Pakistan, rulers and the non rulers, delusional as it may be is still up to brims with misplaced confidence, lack of vision and driven more by concocted recipes of rhetorical expressions. From primary health to primary education, the shambolic state of institutions in Pakistan has moved in one direction and that is DOWN the rankings in all the global indexes of performance and competitiveness. These are not very happy times for those who are led continuously into believing that the next regime will be a better one. Leaders can be oblivious, but those being led are NOT. Not anymore.

“One of the darkest characteristics of poverty is that it seems to prey on the vulnerable and defenseless.” –

The writer is a Karachi-based communication consultant.
Irfan can be reached at his email:

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