Deeper understanding … and taking action
The Serenity Prayer
God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the Courage to change the things I can,
and the Wisdom to know the difference.
During your time as a volunteer you may well have been confronted with the consequences of poverty in the developing world. Perhaps you have witnessed life in a slum, child labour, prostitution, malnutrition, begging or some of the many other aspects of poverty and inequality. For most people from the developed world the first reaction to these sights is one of shock and horror, followed quickly by one of gratitude for their own more comfortable lives. It is of great importance that we go beyond this – to ask questions about why these problems exist and what can be done about them. Undoubtedly you will have realised during your placement that your service as a volunteer could not solve all the world’s problems. Instead we need to look for a longer-term involvement to continue playing a part in change. Recognising also that other factors, such as faith, play a part in motivating people to action, it is hoped that the diagram below can guide volunteer experiences towards longer-term contribution for social justice.
These pages attempt to offer guidance on finding information about the causes and consequences of poverty in the developing world, and suggest ways in which you might choose to take action.
It is broadly split into a number of root causes and consequences of poverty, although this separation is clearly a little artificial; some things can be both. It is certainly not an exhaustive list – there are many other issues and campaign groups, many of which can be found on the internet.
Taking action…may involve:
• Supporting one of the organisations mentioned below, through campaigning and/or financially
• Raising money
• Taking/creating opportunities to tell others about these issues and action they can take (this is known as Development Education)
• Justice and peace groups (focused on a range of issues or a single issue– such as debt or fair trade) at church, university or work
Some root causes of poverty
“The world’s most impoverished countries are forced to pay over $100 million every day to the rich world in debt repayments, while poverty kills millions of their people.”
• Unfair trade
The Trade Justice Movement campaigns for fundamental change to the unjust rules and institutions governing international trade which adversely affect developing countries while protecting richer ones such as the U.K.
• Arms Trade
Money spent on arms (by both developed and developing countries) could be spent on development. War is clearly often a huge barrier to improvement. The Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) is a broad coalition of groups and individuals in the UK working to end the international arms trade.
• Climate Change
Climate change, largely caused by developed countries and their business interests, is affecting developing countries first, sometimes causing a scarcity of resources (food, land etc.).
• Corruption and lack of good governance
Human rights campaign groups and monitoring organisations help ensure that those in power are accountable to those they represent.
Some consequences of poverty
• Street children
The term ‘street children’ can refer to both those who live or work on the street. For many street children education is a ‘luxury’ they cannot afford.
• Unfair labour, child labour and sweat-shops
No Sweat is an activist, campaigning organisation, fighting sweatshop labour worldwide. They believe that “from the small, back-street sweatshop to some of the biggest corporations in the world – child labour, forced overtime, poverty wages, unsafe conditions, harassment of women workers and intimidation of trade unionists are commonplace.”
• Child soldiers
The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers works “to prevent the recruitment and use of children as soldiers, to secure their demobilisation and to ensure their rehabilitation and eintegration into society.”
• Child abuse and prostitution
ECPAT stands for End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and the Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes. It is a children’s rights organisation campaigning against the commercial sexual exploitation of children (such as those exploited in tourism).
The National Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Children.
General sources of information and campaign groups
• Research on Development Issues
Information on development issues
Tourism Concern “works with communities in destination countries to reduce social and environmental problems connected to tourism and with the outbound tourism industry in the UK to find ways of improving tourism so that local benefits are increased.” They fight exploitation in tourism
People & Planet – UK Students (universities and schools) campaigning on world poverty, human rights and the environment.
“Poor people empowered to transform their lives. That’s our vision. People powered development is how we will make it happen – inspired by our values of respect, solidarity, passion and boldness”.
CAFOD is the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development. It is the official overseas development and relief agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales.
Christian Aid is an agency of the churches in the UK and Ireland.
Oxfam GB is a development, relief, and campaigning organisation “that works with others to find lasting solutions to poverty and suffering around the world.”
SPEAK “combines campaigning and prayer because they believe that they make a powerful combination to bring social transformation.”An excellent resource on all issues is ‘A Good Place to Start: The IDS Knowledge Services guide to finding development information online’, which can be down-loaded from www.ids.ac.uk/info