Last week I took a Thursday off work because I had no childcare, and I went to our church toddler group. There I met a new guy who was babysitting his niece. He asked me what I did, and when I told him I worked for a charity that helped people to get out of poverty he asked me what three things I would do to eradicate poverty on a worldwide scale. Just a small question then. Just some regular small talk while the toddlers played happily.
At the risk of looking a fool, I thought I’d share my answers, mainly because I’d like to hear yours!
The only thing I should probably mention before plunging ahead is that I get really annoyed by those headlines that claim it would cost this many billion pounds or dollars, or the amount you personally spend on ice-cream each summer, to eradicate poverty. You can read another blog I wrote about believing shabby stories, and this one would probably be top of my list. Or course it takes money (please don’t stop giving) but poverty is caused by a web of broken relationships, and writing a cheque doesn’t fix all of that.
So, my big three.
First, I would END ALL CONFLICT. (This is my wish list and I’m dreaming big). On top of the violent conflict itself, the horrific use of rape as a weapon of war, the drafting of young children as soldiers, and various other direct atrocities that destroy lives in every way, conflict also makes everything unstable. Government infrastructure (healthcare, education) falls apart, funding can’t reach projects, it’s not safe to do normal things like grow crops or send your kids to school. You can’t eradicate poverty while there is war.
(I am not sure how I would END ALL CONFLICT but I wasn’t asked to specify my methodology).
Second, I would impose an international limit on carbon emissions, forcing governments (and therefore citizens) to find ways to cut back and live more sustainably, and thereby prevent an increase in the earth’s temperature which would lead to catastrophic changes in the climate. Boom. (I wasn’t sure exactly how much of that capitalise). The poorest communities in the world are by far the most vulnerable to climate change – to natural disasters like floods and earthquakes (they’re more likely to live where these things happen and have less resource to cope) as well as to severe changes in weather (like droughts) which will destroy their livelihoods. It’s not just an environmental issue, it’s a justice issue, and if we don’t do something then all those amazing strides we’ve made forward in the past 30 years (like halving the global child mortality rate) will all just get undone.
Third, I would make possible universal free primary healthcare. (This one probably does have a big price tag). It was hard to choose a third – education is so crucial and the building block to everything else. And I could have gone with my husband’s favourite – rewire the global economic system, which is also appealing because the current set up institutionalises such enormous injustices and makes it pretty much impossible for the poorest nations to catch up (if catching up is even the point). Yeah, I probably would have gone for that one on reflection, but I’ll be honest that in the moment I went for healthcare. A National Health Service for everyone.
So that was my wish-list. What three things would you go for?by