Monday, February 19, 2007

The End of Poverty?

I recently read Jeffery Sachs’ The End of Poverty. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but was excited to pick up at development best-seller- not a common combination! While I usually try to avoid non-fiction when I’m not at school or working, and tend to have a fiction addiction, I think TEOP will find its way onto my 2007 top ten list.

The book does a great job of summarizing most of my four year international development degree, from discussions of absolute versus relative poverty, to the best way to address the issues of environment, health, education and livelihoods in the developing world. And Sachs does it in a way that makes development concepts accessible: he looks at development as a ladder, and those facing extreme poverty have not been able to get their feet on even the first rung. Thus, the requirements of aid can be seen as inputs to help that group reach the bottom of the ladder and begin to work their way up. He also brings down the issues to a single number: $75billion dollars a year until 2025, at which point he believes that all human kind could be on the development ladder and extreme poverty would be eliminated. Hence, the End of Poverty!

Situated, as he is, in the heart of American development politics and economics, Sachs was also able to do a good job of explaining the successes and deficiencies of his country’s aid contributions. Like the discussion in the previous post, this has helped to give me a more detailed view of America’s role in the development world, which I find really interesting. He called on a number of American thinkers and activists to give power to his arguments for the potential of the end of extreme poverty. Paraphrasing Martin Luther King, Jr, Sach’s says “The bank of international justice is not bankrupt,” and explains how people like King, Gandhi, and Mandela “transformed the impossible into the inevitable.” While many people think ending poverty is impossible, and that we in the West can't afford it, Sachs is busy making us realize that we can, and we should.

His point is obviously more and better action, which is heralded over and over again by poverty activists like Bono, Angelina Jolie or Bob Geldof. But the good thing about Sachs is that he manages to mainstream his ideas about aid and development, and introduce them in more conservative economic circles than would usually listen to the rockstar rolemodels. In his final "to do list", Sachs calls everyone to “make a personal commitment,” something I believe in very strongly. He ends the book with this quote:

Let no one be discouraged by the belief that there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world’s ills- against misery and ignorance, injustice and violence…Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation. -- Robert Kennedy

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

"I am Canadian" from an international development perspective

In a Canadian politics class in my first year of university, my professor did a survey on the first day: “What makes us Canadian?” Of all the varied answers, the one most consistent was, “we are not Americans.” This attitude is practically spoon fed to us at birth, and leads to a slight tendency to over-assert our Canadian-ness when we’re overseas. It is a direct product of our view of Canada as a soft power, working steadily and enthusiastically towards world peace and the end of poverty. Needless to say, I was taken aback when I began to be confronted with attitudes to Canada and America that surprised me.

Based on my academic understanding of aid, where sustainability is key and more does not necessarily mean better, I felt that Canada as a donor country would be in such a poor country’s good books, and America would be chastised for food aid: dumping agricultural products in developing countries and thereby undermining markets. Yet, when I arrived and started getting my NGO bearings, I found that this wasn’t the case. Instead, Canada’s institutional inconsistencies (particularly, withdrawal of bilateral aid, but as yet no return to NGO funding) were trumped by America’s long-lasting bilateral commitment to the country, even if the aid itself wasn’t the best kind. Morally as well, America comes up number one here, as its government continues stand up against gay marriage where ours doesn’t.

Yet, within the ex-pat community, this pro-American attitude is completely reversed. Out socially in Addis, I’m shocked at the number of times my American roommate is asked to claim responsibility for all his country’s missteps. He has been faced with unsolicited shouting, finger pointing, and dirty looks as he is questioned, “Why don’t you get your troops out of Iraq,” as if a withdrawal is within his power as an individual. One Canadian even went so far as to tell him that she hated him, simply because of his nationality.

By realizing that my perception of Canada as the “ideal developer” is certainly skewed, and coming face to face with my tendency to scapegoat America for the lack of global momentum towards development, perhaps I will be able to be more constructive in finding development solutions as a North American.

Monday, February 05, 2007

To Have a Voice, To Have a Choice

It's currently International Development Week 2007. Sponsored by CIDA, universities and NGOs, there are many events going on around Canada. This year's topic is Gender and Equity, focusing on "To have a Voice, To have a Choice."

Here are some links to events going on around the country. I know I should have gotten them up earlier, but I hope that you get the chance to attend at least one throughout the week.

CPAR Canada

Ontario British Columbia Nova Scotia

I took this picture in Dibate district, located in one of the most underserved regions of Ethiopia, where CPAR has one of its program areas. This girl is the daughter of one of CPAR's beneficiaries who participates in a income generating scheme: CPAR has helped to establish a beekeeping business for this family so they can break away from subsitance and afford school and medical fees. For me, this photo epitomizes the issues of poverty, and specifically gender, here in Ethiopia. Because her family is so large- 12 brothers and sisters, including some orphans taken in- she is needed at the house to help her mother. Even at such a young age, she's in charge of her two younger brothers, which means that it is unlikely that she'll ever attend school. Yet despite the extreme poverty that she inhabits, this young girl is staring me in the face with strength and confidence.

I think about this girl when I think about the topic of this year's International Development Week. I wish she had a Voice, and had a Choice.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

World Health Day Challenge 2007

In honour of World Health Day, April 7th, 2007, CPAR is holding its 2nd Annual World Health Day Challenge . CPAR is extending the challenge to physicians and health care professionals all across Canada to donate part or an entire day's worth of their income to CPAR in support of important health and development projects in vulnerable rural African communities.

Last year, over 60 physicians and health care professionals from across Canada raised over $30,000 and demonstrated their commitment to health and development by taking the first ever World Health Day Challenge. I sincerely hope that you will participate this year and help make this year's event even bigger and better!

This year we are asking participants to register online. We have created a special website for the World Health Day Challenge which will allow you to easily recruit colleagues to join your efforts and even to ask friends and family to support the cause by sponsoring your participation. If you prefer to remain anonymous you can do that too by opting out of these options.
To register please CLICK HERE

If you have any questions about this campaign or about CPAR's work in building healthy communities in Africa, please do not hesitate to contact