Lifelong severe poverty has always been the fate of a majority of human beings. What is new in recent decades is that such poverty is almost entirely avoidable.
- In the year 2010, the poorer half of humanity had under 2 percent of global household wealth while the richest percentile had 43 percent.
- In 2005, the poorest half of humankind had only 2.9 percent of global household income, and the poorest quarter just 0.78 percent.
The dominant narrative, produced by the World Bank, presents the persistence of poverty as due to various local problems that the affluent countries are working to overcome with their experts and development assistance. This narrative ignores that economic polarization takes place in the context of a highly integrated global economy, governed by an elaborate regime of treaties and conventions about trade, investments, loans, patents, copyrights, trademarks, double taxation, labor standards, environmental protection, use of seabed resources, production and marketing of weapons, maintenance of public security, and much else.
The dominant global regime fails by and large in human-rights terms by perpetuating poverty and dependence and by bringing on new risks and vulnerabilities with which the poor are least able to cope: economic crises, for example, as well as environmental degradation, resource depletion, climate change, and extreme weather events. Yet, this regime also includes some positive elements — such as the recognition of human rights, women's rights, equality and non-discrimination standards, labour rights and environmental protections — which were typically gained by activists from South and North in protracted struggles and now provide openings in many countries for the poor and disenfranchised to hold their governments to account and to protect their human rights.
Building on these achievements, CROP will work for the prominent incorporation of the imperative of poverty avoidance into the design of the global institutional order. Such incorporation in turn requires a much fuller understanding of the nature, extent, depth, distribution, trends, causes and effects of poverty. We need a better grasp of what poverty consists of than some poverty line denominated in international dollars — an understanding that is responsive to the lived experiences of poor people and can be shared by them. We need better explanations of how the emerging rules of the world economy have affected the global distribution of income and wealth, education and health care, job opportunities and disease vectors, violence and environmental burdens.
One of our key goals in 2010-2011 is Developing a Critical Global Poverty Research Agenda:
- A key strategic action is a broad, consultative agenda-setting or visioning exercise which would serve also to reach out to existing networks, build new ones, and raise CROP’s visibility
- A workshop in May 2010 aimed at producing framing papers on key thematic clusters