Free «Poverty as a Contemporary Development Challenge» Essay Sample

Development is the key objective that all countries in the world are pursuing. This means that there are different measures to ensure that the path of development is kept on a trajectory. Countries are competing fiercely to ensure that they are at the top in terms of development. This means that there are different strategies used by different countries to pursue development in different ways. As countries take extra efforts to achieve the highest levels of development, they encounter different obstacles at local and global levels. These problems can be of political, economic, or even social nature. Although these obstacles have been experienced for a long time, the manners in which they are experienced in the modern word are different. This makes these obstacles modern since they are faced and tackled differently in the current world. In other words, these problems can be said to be contemporary development issues due to their hindrance to development in different parts of the world. Poverty is one of the most notorious contemporary development issues. McDougall (2007, p. 333) defines poverty as a part of a vicious cycle that is characterised by marginalization, discrimination and social exclusion of the affected population. Poverty is the leading cause of denial of human rights. According to Bradshaw (2005, p. 4), poverty can be defined using the simplest terms as the lack of necessities. This means that people create poverty in different ways that depend on how they govern themselves. It is also arguably true that politics play a crucial role in influencing how poverty affects different populations.



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Politics is not only played at the local but also at a global level meaning that poverty is a global development issue. This paper seeks to evaluate poverty as a contemporary development issue with respect to whom and how it affects people in a global perspective. Louis and Harnett (2009, p. 63) indicate that in the year 2007, the United Nations developed  a programme commonly referred to as the Millennium Development Goals which were drafted with poverty eradication being the man target. These Development Goals are expected to start yielding results by the year 2015 when the world is expected to have eliminated the basic problems. Some targets of these goals lie in the integrated realm of human freedoms that include the right to health, clean environment, gender equity, fair trade, disaster management, among many others, all of which are hindered by the low economic potential otherwise referred to as poverty. Therefore, succinct evaluation of how poverty affects development in the contemporary world will be based on such topics. This will be accompanied by the evaluation of different approaches used to tackle the issue of poverty and the strengths and limitations faced in the different parts of the world.

Causes of Poverty from the Theoretical Point of View

There are many factors known to cause poverty or increase its level in the society. However, these causes vary depending on the population under question. There are different theories that can be used to identify the actual causes of poverty especially in the developing world where the effects of poverty are immense. In this regard, two theories can be used to identify the issue of poverty as a hindrance to global development.

First is the theory of underdevelopment, which is based on external causes (Haque 1999, p. 96). These causes are normally attached to colonial disruption, interference, among other forms of interventions by foreign forces. This means that a country could be forced into a situation of poverty by other countries, which may interrupt vital development processes within a certain country. Shah (2012) asserts that the world is currently interconnected to the extent that different policies, decisions and even practices are made at a global level. This means that global politics takes the center state in influencing such weighty development factors. In such a scenario, there is a huge possibility that countries with a greater economic power can influence what weaker one pursue. This means that they interfere in the internal affairs of the poor countries, courtesy of global politics. The result is that governments of poor nations become poorer as those of developed or influential countries. For instance, the gross domestic product of 41 heavily indebted countries that are poor is far much less that the gross domestic product of the world seven richest countries. This means that external influence is a principal driver of politics in the world, hence affecting the development agenda of many countries today.

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Poor countries are more vulnerable to various economic pressures that may lead them to development dilemmas. Since these countries are characterised by high poverty levels, they are likely to turn to the wealthy nations for assistance. This implies that they develop a dependence culture where they seek for the assistance of foreign countries. This presents wealthy countries an opportunity to influence how these countries run their economic progress. It is worth noting that most of rich countries in the world are capitalistic and will always pull the hide to their direction, hence making poor countries poorer. Haque (1999, p. 95) views this as a situation where weaker countries depend on the rich nations that are capital monopolies driving their development agendas. The dependency theory postulates that weaker nations may depend on wealthy ones to complete that full circle of development that embraces creation, accumulation, and expansion of capital. In relation to poverty, it means that poor countries will continue languishing in poverty given the fact that capitalism takes a bigger portion of the international development agenda. When the two theories, underdevelopment, and dependence are incorporated into a common perspective with regard to poverty as a global issue that affects development, it is evident that the most affected societies are in the developing world.

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Victims of Poverty and Other Vulnerable Groups

Poverty is a common phenomenon in virtually all places in the world. This implies that every part of the world is affected by poverty including the developed world. However, the severity of poverty and the status of people affected are different, hence introducing the question on the criteria used to assess and establish the degree of poverty in different parts of the world. In developed countries, poverty has been defined using the difference between the rich and the poor. This rationale could not be any further from the truth since it does not incorporate the essentials of poverty, which revolve around the provision, and availability of necessities. However, poverty can be measured effectively using the economic abilities of the subject population. Most poverty studies have classified populations as poor if they live on less than one dollar per day. These studies have revealed that the developing world is the most affected and most of such countries are in Africa, Asia, and some parts of the South America (Shah 2011). However, this does not mean that wealthy nations do not have poor people at all.

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Causes of poverty in these regions include poor government policies, individual irresponsibility, and exploitation among other combinations. Studies have shown that poverty-stricken nations have unstable political environments, which culminate into deadly civil conflicts. Similarly, these countries do not have enough freedom to make choices without coercion. This can be explained using the theory of underdevelopment, which describes poor nations as subjects to the wealthier ones. In addition, the United Nations term poverty as an element hindering the full potential of human development. The global body identifies poor nations as the most affected in terms of inability to make choices that can enhance human development (Shah 2011).

Politics of the poorest nations have exposed their populating to more exploitation by other countries hence making poverty more rampant. For instance, international political interests have compelled developing countries into dependence, especially in trade. For example, Shah (2011) asserts that many resources have been diverted into channels created by the developed world for selfish gains. Therefore, the poor nations continue becoming poorer as the developed ones become wealthier. One of the most common features of such influence on resources is the diversion of local resources meant for domestic consumption to foreign markets. This lives the local population without sufficient resources to drive their development agenda, hence making them even poorer and less developed.

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Minorities have also been identified as the groups affected by poverty around the world. This is the essence of poverty even in the developed world. When talking about minorities in a certain country, different groups are addressed. They include nonwhites in a country dominated by the whites, small tribes/ethnic, or religious groupings among many others. In a study carried out in Brazil in 2002, it was established that 8.3 percent of nonwhites (Afro Brazilians) were living on less than one dollar per day compared to 4.3 percent of their white counterparts (McDougall 2007). This means that Afro-Brazilians were poorer compared to whites, meaning that certain necessities were lacking. This example can be used to demonstrate how poverty affects the developed world thus, quantifying the fact that poverty affects even the rich countries.

Similarly, McDougall (2007 p. 335), also reveals that immigrants and ethnic minorities (North Africans, Pakistanis, Turks, French, and Bangladeshi) in the European Union have been found to carry out  labor-market activities that are 15-40 percent lower than that of their natives or immigrants from the Western world. This is another indication that minorities are among the significant number of the people most affected by poverty in the world. One notable feature in this observation is that minorities are associated with poor nations in terms of their origin. This implies that the effect of dependence and underdevelopment haunts them even when being in a foreign country. Poverty has different trends when it comes to gender. Bloom (2009, p. 260) posits that poverty has been feminized in most parts of the world. This is the reason behind the fact that 70 percent of the world's poor are women. This can be observed using various indicators such as migration trends. Women have been found to have high migration trends in search of employment. To make the matter worse, women have been found to be underpaid, underemployed and allowed little or no space in running development projects, in different societies. This means that children are affected by poverty in equal measures as women.

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Effects of Poverty as a Global Development Issue

At its inception, the United Nations adopted unanimously a universal human rights policy in 1948 (Bloom 2009). This was to ensure that inherent dignity and equal and guaranteed rights of everybody were respected and upheld. This means that everyone has to enjoy all rights accrued as long they are within a certain stipulated legal framework. These rights include the right to education, freedom of speech, equal justice among others. Poverty can be said to be an agent of abusing the rights since it encourages unfairness.

Poverty has a negative effect on the economic rights of affected people. According to Bloom (2009, p. 255), the Universal Declaration of the United Nations, article 25, guarantees everyone the right to a standard living, which is closely attached to health and well being of a person. Poverty has given neo liberalisation and globalisation an opportunity to ignore and dismiss such rights. This is because developed nations have a bigger hand on global issues that affect poverty levels. Ironically, poor nations and population have been accused of being behind their predicament, meaning that they are responsible for their situation. However, Bradshaw (2005, p. 6) uses the poverty theory of individual deficiencies to insinuate that poverty is due to personal choices. Although this could be true, the responsibility still lies with those in the positions of influence, especially the political leaders.

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Lack of basic needs in poverty-stricken populations is the most conspicuous effect of poverty; most countries are unable to take care of the health needs of their people. This is the reason why there are high mortality rates and lower life expectancy. In addition, the general economic development of the countries is poor; hence they are classified as second or even third world economies. Different mitigation measures have been taken by different governments to curb poverty not only in the developing but also in the developed world.

Equality in terms of sharing national resources has been termed as a significant effort that will ensure decrease in global poverty levels. Studies have shown that inequality is a prime cause of poverty, and hence its eradication will mean eradication of poverty, as well. This is true because poor nations have the high levels of inequality in resource utilization. The table below shows the distribution of inequality in various regions in the 90’s (Halvorson-Quevedo et al. 2000, p. 63).

Table 1.

Region Levels of inequality using a total mark of 100
Eastern Europe 28.94
South Asia 31.88
East Asia and Pacific 33.75 
Middle East and The Pacific 38.09
Middle East and North Africa 38.03
Sub-Saharan Africa 46.95
Latin America and the Caribbeans 49.31


These figures show that poor nations are self destructive in the sense that they embrace poverty via rampant inequality when it comes to sharing their resources. In this regard, countries are being advised to adopt fair and equitable sharing of resources as it reduces poverty with ample margins. India and Indonesia have been identified as countries that have reduced poverty by sharing their resources fairly.

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Dealing with fragile democracies is another effective tool being used to fight poverty. This is expected to reduce external influence on local economic policies of different countries and hence minimise the effect of neo liberalisation. This will deter powerful nations from influencing poor nations in a self-destructive fashion. Similarly, human rights will also be respected if respect is attained at the national level. According to Kokaz (2007, p. 318), poverty is due to gross injustices of the ruling elite and other superior forces leading to the gross violation of human rights. In this regard, there should be a collective approach that would allow to develop the laws tackling poverty. Senia and Nhamo (2006, p. 305) reveal that such efforts have taken South Africa where the target to halve poverty levels by 2015 has been set. Therefore, appropriate measures to provide education to as many South Africans a possible have been taken. However, the overall effort taken to eradicate poverty at the global level is the formulation of the Millennium Development Goals.

In conclusion, the manner in which poverty is affecting the world reveals that the development agendas in many parts of the world are under jeopardy. This implies that poverty qualifies to be a contemporary development issue affecting the world. The fact that poverty affects everyone in the world means that it derails many development issues. However, it is also evident that the most affected communities are in the developing world, which is mainly composed of poor countries. The most critical factor to consider when highlighting various causes and solutions to poverty is the leadership or the political environment. Countries with exemplary leadership and favourable political environment have been observed to have lower poverty levels. Therefore, political leaderships of poverty-stricken countries should ensure that there are enough efforts taken to minimise poverty and at the same time prevent external forces that act mainly in favour of neo liberalisation. Otherwise, poverty will be eliminated if the available resources are exploited and shared logically among the people.


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