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Poverty is defined as the lack of universal basic needs. These needs include food, shelter, clothing, basic education, clean water, and sanitation among other wants. The definition of extreme poverty differs with the basic one. Absolute poverty refers to the number of people living below one dollar per day. Out of around 1219 million people, twenty-eight percent in low and middle-income nations live in absolute poverty.

International relations being the study of how countries relate with each other and the role of governments, inter-governmental organizations, non-governmental organizations, multinationals corporations and other departments has a huge responsibility in poverty alleviation.

Some of the factors that cause poverty include natural calamities such as drought, floods, tsunamis, earthquakes etc. However, the main causes of poverty in third world countries are because of bad governance, foreign influence, scarcity of basic needs, and third world debts.

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One of the major reasons for the poverty and slow rates of development in third world countries is their dependency on foreign aid from developed nations. This school of thought has its roots in Marxist thinking. Marx observed that third world countries act as outlets for excess goods of the Industrial capitalist countries. This leads to breaking down of the indigenous production systems in the third world countries. Andre G. Frank (1967) a renowned Latin American scholar argued, "The massive and persistent poverty in Latin American countries is a result of exposure to economic and political influences of the advanced countries." As long as third world countries continue being subject to the dominance of western economic imperialism, their poverty will persist.

Huge international debts compound poverty in third world countries. Most poor countries take loans from developed countries in a bid to sustain their budgets and fund their development programs. The most unfortunate thing is that most of the money borrowed ends up in the pockets of a few corrupt government officials. The debts from developed nations carry huge repayment interests and other hidden terms and conditions that impoverish third world nations. For example, in 1997, Zambia spent forty percent of its budget in repayment of international debt and only seven percent in provision of basic state services.

Intergovernmental organizations such as United Nations, European Union and international monetary fund have a great responsibility in alleviation of poverty. The policies they create and implement have a lot of bearing on the state of affairs in third world countries. For example, policies that discourage environmental degradation will reduce the undesirable effects of Global warming. The United Nations gives carbon rights to nations that involve themselves in planting of trees. The policies meant to reduce poverty include economic liberalization, privatization of state assets, reduction of barriers to trade, elimination of state subsidies etc. It however comes as a great surprise that the main countries heading these organizations do not follow the policies they themselves make. For instance, they subsidize most of their industries and agricultural sector. The result is that the goods from third world countries become relatively expensive.

The millennium development goals were set in 1990 aimed at eradicating global poverty by the year 2015. The economic policies formulated have been hugely successful in some parts of the world such as Asia, South America, and China, which have seen their poverty rates half in the short period. The main contributory factors for this reduction include globalization, easy access to knowledge and information, changing gender attitudes like feminism and improved diplomacy between countries.

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