The World Bank estimates that 1.1 billion people live in extreme poverty where people get by on less than $1 per day. This means they cannot meet basic needs for survival. They are chronically hungry, unable to get health care, lack safe drinking water and sanitation, cannot afford rudimentary shelter and basic articles of clothing. This is a poverty that kills. Eight million people die each year because they are too poor to survive.
Today, the gap between the world’s rich and poor is wider than ever. Global injustices such as poverty, AIDS, malnutrition, conflict and illiteracy remain rife. Despite the promises of world leaders, at our present sluggish rate of progress the world will fail dismally to reach internationally agreed targets to halve global poverty by 2015.
World poverty is sustained not by chance or nature, but by a combination of factors: injustice in global trade; the huge burden of debt; insufficient and ineffective aid. Each of these is exacerbated by inappropriate economic policies imposed by rich countries.But it doesn’t have to be this way. These factors are determined by human decisions.
High technology, globalism, and neoliberal policies in the world's economy have created today's enormous disparity between wealth and poverty. In the U.S. this polarization is the greatest it has been since the 1920s, when such data were first gathered. For example, in 1997, the 225 richest people in the world had total wealth of more than $1 trillion. This was equal to the combined 1997 income of the poorest 47% of the world's population - or 2.5 billion people.(1) Over 25% of the super-rich - 60 people - come from the U.S. alone. They are the largest concentration in any one country and had a combined wealth of $311 billion.
The total assets of the world's three richest people were greater than the combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the world's 48 least developed countries. At the same time, it is estimated that an additional $40 billion per year (over what is currently spent) would secure access to basic social services for all the world's people - food, safe water, education, health care, women's reproductive health care, and sanitation. This would cost less than 4% annually of the total wealth of the 225 super-rich.
This growing disparity between wealth and poverty is the inevitable outcome of a global economy organized to produce and distribute goods and services via the market for maximum profits. It has several other important features: continually advancing technology; ever larger transnational corporations and mergers; an increasing glut of products and competition for markets; unrestrained currency speculation and devaluation; an accelerating race to the bottom in terms of wages, working conditions, and environmental destruction; destabilization of the middle class; and an intensifying political attack on the most vulnerable members of society.
To better manage today's global economy, the world's richest countries - led by the nations of the G-8 and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and serving the interests of global corporations - are implementing neoliberal policies that are global in scope, and that rely on older bodies, such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank (WB), as well as newer bodies such as the World Trade Organization (WTO)
Now is the time to forge ahead in building a strong and powerful movement to end our poverty and market-driven scarcity, and to distribute the abundance that surrounds us to secure our well being and prosperity. Popular education within the movement building process is essential to anchor and advance our emerging movement for economic and social justice and to make the local-global linkages necessary for our success.
World Bank Poverty Thresholds: Because national poverty lines are so diverse and culture-bound, the World Bank decided to establish a uniform standard for assessing global poverty. And it set the bar amazingly low. In fact, the World Bank regularly uses two thresholds, namely $1 per day for “extreme” poverty and a higher $2 per day standard for less “severe” poverty.Based on household surveys in over 100 nations, the World Bank classifies over a billion people as being in “extreme” poverty (<$1/day) and nearly three billion people as being in “severe” poverty (<$2/day).
In the 1960s American ecologist Paul Ehrlich argued that while the growth of population could eventually outrun resources, poverty was the consequence of the worlds goods flowing disproportionately to wealthy countries like USA and Australia, leaving other economies comparatively or absolutely poor.
- In poor countries, 66 out of every 1000 children never make it to their first birthday.
- In rich countries, only 6 out of 1000 children die before age one.
- Nearly one-third of the world’s rural residents do not have access to safe drinking water.
- The richest 20% of the world’s population own 74% of the world’s wealth.
- The poorest 20% of the world’s population own 2% of the world’s wealth.
- Nearly 78 million people worldwide, aged 15-48, are living with HIV/AIDS; and 73 million of them live in less developed countries.