Issue 1 August 2012
Contents The Moral Argument to End Extreme Poverty A discussion with Peter Singer
Live Below the Line in New Zealand A message from GPP NZ Director Will Watterson
Poverty & Perseverance AUT Law student Ben Mugisho talks about his experiences as a child refugee and his vision for Africa
Food and Nutrition Solutions in East Africa Anne Perera talks about her VSA assignment in Tanzania and some incredible uses for the Banana Flower
Focus on the Children A conversation with Dennis McKinlay, UNICEF NZ Executive Director about his recent work in Somalia & the Sahel
The End of Poverty within a generation Simon Moss COO GPP talks about the inspiring vision of a world without extreme poverty
Live Below the Line: Why is global poverty a moral issue? Peter Singer: It is a moral question in that the resources exist. I think the world has the resources to overcome most of the extreme poverty that there is. Obviously there are going to be specific problems given certain situations, civil wars, droughts, famines, That are difficult to overcome in the short term but overall I think we have the resources to change the world so there is nothing like 1.4 billion people living in extreme poverty. LBL: What can be done to engage people’s moral conscience about extreme poverty? SINGER: That is the big question, obviously. And if I knew the answer I suppose I would be doing it. I think that there are some people who are reached by moral argument which is why I wrote The Life You Can Savebecause it is essentially based on moral argument. There are definitely people responding to that. I’m not going to claim that everybody is responsive to those moral arguments, but I do think that the more people you can have taking that view the easier it becomes to recruit more. In other words there is a kind of critical mass problem that you need to build up and then you can have something that can becomes more widely accepted and easier for people to join in. So that’s really what I’m trying to do. The other problem of course is to give people the factual information that often they don’t have, that is information about the lives of people in extreme poverty, of our ability to help them- which I think a lot of people feel somehow it is hopeless or it’s just a bottomless pit or all of the money gets skimmed off by corrupt governments. So I think a lot of people are not well informed about their ability to help, so that’s another blockage that needs to be removed.
The Moral Argument to End Extreme Poverty A discussion with Peter Singer
LBL: Do you think the media are addicted to disaster stories about Africa? SINGER: I certainly think that the media could be more positive, yes. I mean obviously a shipment of aid goes astray, falls into the hands of bad people- that’s a news story. A shipment of aid does what it was intended to do- that’s not a great news story. So that’s part of the problem. I’m not really keen to play the blame the media game. I think the media responds to what it perceives it’s readers as wanting to read, or viewers- what gains it a bigger audience. So I think we have to start with the audience and hopefully the media will improve as we educate the audience. LBL: What are some of the psychological factors in getting people to engage in this issue? SINGER: One of the problems with getting people to do something about global poverty is that we have evolved a psychology that is reasonably responsive to helping people whom we can see directly, who are close to us, particularly if we know them but at least if we can see them as individuals. And we are also responsive to dealing with problems that we can solve, where as if we intervene that is the end of the problem that finishes the issue. And thirdly we have evolved to be more responsive I think to things where we feel it is up to us, where if we don’t do it there is nobody else who can.
‘If you saw a small child falling into a shallow pond you would be very likely to rescue that child if the child is in danger of drowning.’
So for all of these reasons, to use and example I used in the book, if you saw a small child falling into a shallow pond you would be very likely to rescue that child if the child is in danger of drowning. Because the child it there, you can see the child, you can solve the problem- pull the child out of the pond an there will be no one in danger now. And there is no body else, there is only you there who can rescue the child. So those are 3 factors which unfortunately don’t apply in the case of global poverty. We can’t really see the people we are helping, I mean organizations do feature individuals but we know that really we are not necessarily helping that specific individual and that’s not the most effective way to overcome global poverty anyway. That sort of adopt a child programs are not the best way to eliminate global poverty. So that doesn’t really apply. Secondly- the problem is bigger than what you can do. You can’t resolve the problem entirely. And thirdly, you think well there are all these other people who could help. Why am I the one who should help. There’s lots of people who aren’t doing anything, why should I be any different.
So those are the psychological issues that we face I think, and there is research going on into how can we make a difference to this psychology, how can we work around it and over come it, and that is interesting. But to refer to the examples that you refer to, the commercial examples like drink more Coke, or eat this burger or whatever it is, I think they have an easier time of it really. It’s not just that they are more sophisticated, although certainly far more money gets poured into it but they can build on something that I guess is part of our nature, that we have inherent tastes for certain things. They might not be very good for us but we have a taste for them and so it makes them attractive or we want to feel part of some ‘in’ group and so the ads suggest to us that we will be part of some ‘in’ group, or we want be attractive to the opposite sex and the ads suggest that we will be if we do what they suggest.
‘I think we should try to follow the evidence and put our money where it can be most effective’
So, they’re able to work with elements of our nature that perhaps are better suited for their product that they’re selling than the idea that we should contribute to reducing global poverty in places distant from us. LBL: Were you surprised by the lack of transparency in aid organizations accounting practices? SINGER: To some extent when I started looking into this seriously it was hard to get good numbers, and I had always wondered about some of the numbers that were around. I mean aid organizations sometimes put up numbers that are very low numbers like, you know, you can buy an anti-malarial net for $10 or something like that and the implication is that if you do that you will save a child’s life. But obviously that is a bit loose- not every net saves a child’s life. And so it was hard to get real figures and to get real transparency on decision making by aid organizations. That is something that is improving and we are still not really there, or we are not there for the majority of aid organizations, I think that is true. Perhaps in some respects we will never quite get there because not all the forms of providing aid actually have measurable outcomes which you can do control studies and say that if it wasn’t for this program these children would have died or these people would have remained in poverty. But increasingly, we are able to do that for specific interventions and obviously I think we should try to follow the evidence and put our money where it can be most effective, because there are huge differences in the effectiveness of different aid programs. 5
LBL: Are you surprised by the enthusiastic response to your book? SINGER: Obviously I’d hoped for a strong response so I’m pleased that there is a response, I would clearly like it to be even greater because it is not nearly enough. But yes, there has been a very positive response to the book from a lot of people- it’s getting around it’s getting read by people who are interested in this issue and it’s getting read by other people who hadn’t really thought about it, and that’s nice actually. I keep meeting people who say, ‘Oh you’re Peter Singer, you know you cost me a lot of money!’ and that’s because they’ve given it to good organizations so that’s great. I have established a website, thelifeyoucansave.com, which I encourage people to do to to pledge to meet the standards of giving that I have in the book and which are also on the website- and I think it’s relatively modest in relation to the proportion of income that people have. That is now somewhere over 13,000 pledges, which is really good but you have to say why isn’t it 13 million? The web has the capacity to spread things virally. Certainly a lot more than 13 million or even 130 million people are out there who could comfortably give according to the guidelines that I’ve suggested and that is really the kind of scale that we want to get to.
‘A lot more than 13 million or even 130 million people are out there who could comfortably give according to the guidelines that I’ve suggested.’
What does the Global Poverty Project do?
Living Below the Line
The vision of the Global Poverty Project (GPP) is to see an end to extreme poverty – that’s the 1.4 billion people living on less than $2.25 NZD a day – within a generation. It’s an exciting time to be alive. Extreme poverty has more than halved (proportionately) in the last 30 years and our generation is uniquely placed - with the resources and know-how at our disposal – to finally end extreme poverty. Worldwide there are already a plethora of great organizations tackling poverty, both at its roots and at the ‘coalface’. The way that GPP adds value to this picture is by catalyzing the movement to end poverty…that is, growing the number and the effectiveness of people who are taking action on this issue. The way we usually work, both in New Zealand and globally, is to identify obstacles to fighting extreme poverty; identify a policy change opportunity that will overcome this obstacle; and develop campaign tools, inspirational content, online campaigns and grassroots events to build the public groundswell that is needed to achieve the change we need. This results in attitude change and a stronger NGO sector (because we partner so widely), and ultimately social, business and political action on extreme poverty.
A conversation with Global Poverty Project NZ Director Will Watterson
Tell us about Live Below The Line. Live Below the Line is a GPP campaign that challenges people to live on $2.25 a day for five days to raise money for eight amazing partner charities, all tackling poverty in different and unique ways. But it’s not just about the money. The ‘$2.25 a day’ challenge is a transformational experience. You learn how time consuming it is to gather the food you need on such a small budget. You suffer as those around you at work munch their sushi or kebabs, and then you remember that the majority of the world’s poor live in middle-income countries, and are familiar with such inequality. You throw a hunger tantrum when you accidentally burn the rice you had set aside for a day’s worth of meals. This is a thought-provoking, deeply empathic experience. It gets under the thick skin we have developed to cope with the images of a broken world we see in the media. Live Below The Line has the power to ‘Trojan Horse’ poverty issues into the minds and hearts of an entirely new demographic of people, creating awareness on a mass scale and driving long-term engagement with extreme poverty issues. What's the fire in your belly that sees you sacrificing a more conventional path? The only time I find myself daydreaming about having a fuller bank account is when I get the urge to travel (I have an extensive bucket list, including walking the entire Great Wall of China). Other than that, I have everything I really need already. My happiness comes from quality time with friends and family and from doing a job that I love and that makes a real difference in the lives of other people. How many people can wake up each morning and say “I’m making the world a better place?” It’s a real privilege. I also get to meet some of the most beautiful, selfless people on the planet so my work environment is really life-giving too.
‘This is a thoughtprovoking, deeply empathic experience. It gets under the thick skin we have developed to cope with the images of a broken world we see in the media.’
How has your passion for this work shaped the way you bring a person into the world? Becoming a father has made me think more about the legacy I want to leave the next generation. I know that children tend to role model themselves off their parents more than anyone else. You’re their hero. And so I had to ask myself “What kind of hero do I want to be for my son?” The answer wasn’t hard. I find myself constantly inviting my son to question the world around him. Kids are actually some of the most critical thinkers I know. No one has taught them to stop asking that most important question “Why?” I found it fascinating to explain to a five year old what poverty was and how some people couldn’t get enough food or go to school. I’ve tried hard to instil a sense of empathy in him as well, always considering how others are feeling and how our actions affect them. How do you use storytelling as a tool for your work? Essentially almost everything we do at GPP is storytelling. You see, people act not just on what they know but on how they feel about what they know. Storytelling is unique as a means of communicating because it can convey both factual and emotional content at the same time. We connect the stories of everyday New Zealanders with the larger ‘story arc’ of poverty alleviation, making it not only relevant to them but meaningful. Most of us are all looking for meaning in our lives - ‘bigger than self’ - meta-narratives that we can weave our personal life stories into. When people find out that they are uniquely placed as a generation to see an end to extreme poverty, it's a powerful message. It gives many people a new found sense of purpose. It’s wonderful to see. Who inspires you? Lots of people inspire me. I have larger than life heroes, selfless people like Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, Dorothy Day. They show us what is possible with great compassion and perseverance. But I’m also inspired by anyone I meet who chooses to live their life in such a way that leaves the earth better than how they found it. To inspire literally means to ‘breath life into’. Knowing I am not alone but part of something much, much bigger breathes life into me.
‘Most of us are all looking for meaning in our lives - ‘bigger than self’ - meta-narratives that we can weave our personal life stories into.’
‘It’s amazing what we can achieve if we work together and believe that something is possible.’
How can collective action change the world? In 1967 the World Health Organisation launched an intensified plan to eradicate smallpox. The "ancient scourge" which at the time threatened 60% of the world's population, killed every fourth victim, scarred or blinded most survivors, and eluded any form of treatment. The human energy it took to eradicate smallpox was immense. At the time it was the largest non-violent army ever assembled. Thousands of volunteers around the globe gave their time and energy to deliver the vaccinations. Together, they managed to eradicate a disease from the face of the planet. Every dollar spent on smallpox eradication is now worth roughly $70 in saved lives and human productivity. It’s amazing what we can achieve if we work together and believe that something is possible. What could we each do to help the work of GPP? Our message is essentially the same and was best expressed by Anne Frank when she said, “No one need wait a single moment before starting to change the world”. Saving the world is also really fun. Check out our websites for more info.
Extracted from an interview with the 1% Collective
Poverty & Perseverance LBL: What was life like for you growing up in the eastern Congo? I grew up in the Congo and I was separated from my parents when I was 9 years old. So life really for children in those particular areas in the Congo is not something that you can compare to what children are facing in Western countries. LBL: How did you get separated from your parents? MUGISHO: It was just during an ambush, during the war when they were trying to get rid of the dictator Mobutu. There were tones of people just running everywhere. I couldn’t find them. LBL: What were the conditions like in the place you ended up after you lost your family?
AUT Law student Ben Mugisho talks about his experiences as a child refugee and his vision for Africa
MUGISHO: Well, not really good. Yes of course we had food, which was actually beans, rice every day. We didn't have much chance to go to school, and stuff like that. Sometimes we’d go to school and then get off again because of the situation with more attacks. So life wasn’t at all that easy. Many people died. LBL: Were you aware of the lives that people were living in the West? MUGISHO: Well, I mean, I think in the Western life has another definition comparatively to the life that most of the children are experiencing in Africa. Here there is nothing you can compare to what actually children are facing down there. I don’t know why children are facing that because the Congo has the capacity to look after the lives of all its children. But the Government doesn’t really do anything to take care of those in a particular community. Unlike here, particularly in New Zealand, where the Government takes care of children and how the children have many opportunities to do the many things that they want to do.
All of those things we don’t have, like nothing actually being offered to children. Here in the Western Countries, education for children is free, but in the Congo nothing is free. It was more than 15 years they were saying they were going to offer that, but today children are still paying for school. LBL: What sort of contact did you have with aid organizations? MUGISHO: Red Cross, UNICEF, UNESCO also UNHCR and other organizations- and I think actually they are doing their best to learn with the community and to reach the needs of the community. But I believe the need is too much somehow many people don’t have access to all the funds and to the projects those organizations can offer. The aid workers face attacks and ambushes as well. Yet they continue to distribute food and other material. LBL: In your opinion, what is the best way to eradicate extreme poverty? MUGISHO: I think what many organizations should be thinking about is to educate as many people as it can. Because many people in central Africa and areas of the Congo, which have actually more than 70million people, many of those people are not educated and are doing things they don’t really understand. I mean, the situation that is around them they don’t really understand all that situation means or why actually those things are happening. So the only way forward at this moment is to help as many people become educated as possible, and to help them understand what life means and how they can survive by themselves. There are many things that surround the population in the Congo, there are many things that they can use to help their life, to live better, but they don’t really know how to do that currently because there is no knowledge, nothing that they can do to do it better. So mostly I would recommend just to give an education, although people still need something to eat and probably something to wear and other essentials. But I think that the only way you can build your future is to be educated, and from there you can start taking care of your self.
‘In the Western Countries, education for children is free, but in the Congo nothing is free.’
‘If you look back in the history of independence there were only about 18 people who had been educated at that time among millions on Congolese.’ LBL: Does the Belgian colonial history still play a role in the events in the Congo? MUGISHO: It is very good that you are touching on that point. The strategy, the way that had been used in the colonial days in the Congo was deemed too hard. Because if you look back in the history of independence it was only about 18 people who had been educated at that time among millions on Congolese. So how could they expect those 18 people, almost overnight, to lead a country which is coming from a situation of slavery. So from then I think that was the one key factor, that Belgians and also Americans used to not really give access to education to many Congolese.
LBL: What are your plans for helping children in central Africa? MUGISHO: Well what I’ve been thinking of since I arrived in New Zealand, I was lucky enough to get access to schools and also to train and prepare myself. So I’m planning to go in the Congo with 4 other Kiwis in December to make a documentary. Our aim is to open an NGO called 'Imani' which will be based here in New Zealand and Australia so that we can provide educational material to many people in the Congo, also in Rwanda, Burundi, and in some refugee camps in Uganda. But all of that is going to depend on how successful we are gonna be. But that is the thing I think I can contribute to the community back home, to get those children, the orphans, access to education.
‘The most important goal of this project is to somehow to raise awareness of what is going on down there in the Congo.’
LBL: What is the goal of Imani? MUGISHO: The most important goal of this project is to somehow to raise awareness of what is going on down there in the Congo. Because since 1996 more than 5 million Congolese people been killed. And all of this is documented in UN reports, and not one of the other aid organizations are talking about it. So it would be good to raise awareness about the crimes which are happening down there. Those people who have been doing that should be taken to account- either the International Court or a Court down there. So the pressure and also people talking more about these things could really help the life of these people to be better .
Anne Perera talks about her VSA assignment in Tanzania and some incredible uses for the Banana Flower LBL: Where was your VSA assignment? Anne Perera: I was based in this region of Arusha in Tanzania to advise the people on nutrition. It was mainly through the training of trainers, because these trainers would go to the villagers or gather people from different groups and help them to build little businesses, and in this case businesses related to food.
Food and Nutrition Solutions in East Africa
And in addition to entrepreneurial food processing, I also understood that there is a whole lot of raw material in their own backyard that they were not currently using as human food. And one example was the banana, you know they eat the raw banana, cooked as well as the ripe banana. But in the banana bunch you get this flower, called banana blossom, and that is either thrown away or fed to animals. That really is very very delicious and it’s quite a nutritious food product. Raw materials, and it’s a good dish you can make out of that. You know I have been using that stuff for a long time coming from my ethnic background from Sri Lanka, so I started showing them how to cook that food. So that was a real hit among a lot of village groups, church groups who invited me to demonstrate how to make this banana blossom. LBL: Where there lots of banana trees in the region? PERERA: Hundreds of years and thousands and millions of acres of banana. That’s what I thought when I first went there and saw all these bananas growing everywhere, I thought now these people really don’t have to go hungry at all you know. The reason is they have always been throwing that away. I have no idea why it was never developed.
LBL: So you were focused on helping train people to run small nutrition businesses? PERERA: In the area that I was working and with the organization that I was working with, it was mainly in business development. You are right, business development was the main focus, but there are places which are outside the main centers that are in extreme poverty. So some of the people who got trained by me were those people who would go to those places and educate them in eating the right kind of food, and also HIV related issues that they want to train people on. So, I have trained several NGO groups who are doing that kind of work, so although I didn’t come directly in contact with the very poor people, some of them I did through church groups but the groups that I taught, who are called trainers, that I trained, they reached out to the very low level. LBL: What’s the local speciality in Tanzania? PERERA: Well the local food, the staple local food is based on a maize meal, and it’s called ugali It’s like a very stiff porridge, you know if you were to cook porridge and make it into a very hard, think product, and then use that to scoop a little of the vegetable and meat that they cook into. Not so much of a curry or a gravy, but it’s semi dried cooked and quite delicious although it’s just one dish with the leafy vegetable with some meat in it, sometimes they even serve fish and a leafy vegetable This porridge is the staple food and that is kind of like the national food of the people. And that is sustainable, except you know they eat almost the same thing day after day.
‘This porridge is the staple food and that is kind of like the national food of the people. It’s sustainable, except you know they eat almost the same thing day after day’.
LBL: How did you work to increase the diversity in the local diet? PERERA: The banana flower was very obvious to me, and I kept thinking why aren’t these people eating this? And because they didn’t know and they were so surprised when I said do you know that this can be eaten as a vegetable, they kept saying ‘show us, how do you eat?’ So I showed them, and every time I prepared this they would go and cook ugali to eat that with and it went very, very well. And also not only banana blossom but green peel of banana can also be cooked into a very delicious vegetable, and they were so surprised because it is something that they produce as a biproduct in large amounts because banana, unripe banana, is cooked in all different forms. LBL: Coca-cola and other soft drinks have incredible market share in Africa. Did you notice that and what sort of alternatives are there? PERERA: One of the areas that I sort of promoted is making juice out of the fruits that are abundantly available. And one of the reports that I read said 70% of the fresh fruit get’s wasted, because there is no post harvest technology to preserve this. So I kept introducing juice making, even to drink at home rather than going for the soda. I thought that soda culture was just, you know everywhere you go, even if you go to a meeting- there is soda on the table or water. Bottled water is very very common, but mostly people drink soda, carbonated beverages- coca cola, pepsi. You see it in every town, bottling and distributing centers. LBL: Sounds like you had a very positive Volunteer Abroad Experience. PERERA: It was very very rewarding, and people there really appreciate it. And the emails that I receive now are amazing, you know, I just feel that part of me is still there. And the amount of work that I did in Tanzania over the 2 years, is just very small in my mind when I consider what I could offer to that country and to that continent as a whole.
A Recipe for Banana Blossom
1. Discard tough outer layers and slice the blossom thinly, first cutting it in two lengthways if it is large. 2. Put the slices in a bowl of salt water, rubbing it well to reduce the browning 3. Leave for 10-15 minutes, squeeze out juices, rinse under cold water and squeeze dry. 4. Heat oil in a wok or frying pan and saute onion and garlic until golden brown.
! 1 large banana blossom
! salt water (2 table spoons salt in a litre of water)
! 2 tablespoons oil
! 1 large onion, sliced
! Chives or any other green vegetable
! 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
! Spices of your choice such as Masala / Curry Powder
! 2 medium tomato, diced
! 2 tablespoons vinegar (optional)
! salt and pepper to taste
5. Add the spices and mix well to develop aroma
6. Add banana blossom and add tomato, stir for 3 minutes. 7. Mix in the chopped chives or other green vegetable... 8. Add vinegar and bring to the boil. 9. Simmer for 5 minutes. 10. Taste and add salt and pepper as required. 11. Cook until blossom is tender, then stir in coconut milk and remove from heat. 12. Serve with rice or ugali, bread or chapatti.
Live Below the Line: Where do you begin when you’re trying to help people the developing world? Dennis McKinlay: We usually work with Governments, and so we would go to the Governments and say, you know, whereabouts do you perceive the need- that might be one way. We might do our own survey and arrive at some information that would be a good basis for planning an education system, whether it is around curriculum, whether it is infrastructure, schools, water sanitation, whether it’s teacher training. So, we would look at the full picture in that country and say where can we make the most impact, (what is the, you know,) what are the building stones for an education in this country. Normally our main partner would be the Government and of course other NGOs, and other educational sector partners possibly. So it could be a range of interventions, it could be helping with the curriculum, it could be building some schools- I mean for example UNICEF has had a hugely successful schools in Africa program which was a joint venture with the Mandela Foundation. That has built thousands of schools and now we are doing a similar program in Asia. So, you know, those are infrastructure, but then there is the software if you like, of teacher training, curriculum, making sure children have paper and pencils and learning material. LBL: Given the success of water projects in reaching the Millennium Development Goal early, do you feel that Education is lagging behind? MCKINLAY: Yeah, I think that’s a fair comment because with water you can go in quite quickly and put a well in, and people can access it, and so from day one there are benefits from that well. If you go and build a school it takes years for the benefits to flow through. If you take one statistic alone, if a girl child goes through a primary education then she will marry four years later and have two and a half less children. So that takes the six or seven years it takes to get through primary school, then there is all the teacher training that has to be done, there is books and what have you. So education outcomes take longer to filter through, but water, it’s immediate.
Focus on the Children
A conversation with Dennis McKinlay, UNICEF NZ Executive Director, about his recent work in Somalia & the Sahel
LBL: What have been some of the more successful models of UNICEF projects in the developing world? MCKINLAY: Well probably the ones that work most successfully are the ones that have good local buy in, both through government and through local communities, and their participation, so that they have some ownership and some thinking into them and you help build their capacity. I mean I suppose the areas where we have most difficultly is access, and that access could be due to political reasons or conflict. If you take the Horn of Africa Crisis last year, Somalia was hugely problematic in terms of access, and that’s not something that is within the control of NGOs generally, it’s really more a political issue. So, those are the biggest constraints really. I mean I think that in doing the work we’ve had so much experience, we know how to actually implement projects and who to work with and who to bring in to the recipe to get the right, you know, cake at the end. But it’s the bigger picture in conflict, politics, and maybe even climate change is an issue too in some areas that make projects very problematic. LBL: Do you ever have to walk away from a crisis when it gets too dangerous?
‘The projects that work most successfully are the ones that have good local buy in, both through government and through local communities.’
MCKINLAY: Well about eighteen months ago, when things were getting really difficult in Somalia in terms of leading into a famine and the politics was hard- we said to UNICEF staff, look, if you want to leave the country, you go, no criticism. But nearly everybody said no they wanted to stay. We had 6 offices operating there last year in the most difficult environment you could imagine, and they had something like 120 local partners that they worked with. So, even in a difficult situation like that some times you can operate. Since then things have got worse and one or two of our offices have had to close, but you know, sometimes there are ways around those difficulties. Sometimes there aren’t.
‘How many New Zealand women would walk 25k’s carrying a child in 40 degree heat?’
And the other is using phones again, for cash transfers. In some countries we put cash onto peoples phones so that they can go and buy food at a shop or something like that, and it is controlled where they go. So they can’t go spend the money on something that wouldn’t be in terms of the development objectives we have. But the money can be redeemed for some services that will help the family, you know, it could typically be the purchase of food. And again that is using phone technology- I’m sure there are other things, they’re just a couple of examples. And if you think about the connection between the field and the non-developed country and the developed country who is giving the money, then probably photos and video and going online in terms of Facebook or other online platforms to show people visually what their money is being spent on and what is the impact of that spend. LBL: Where do you get your inspiration from? MCKINLAY: Well I think I get most inspiration from the field really, when I go and see the work that those field workers are doing. And even some of the families that you meet, the children you meet, the mothers you meet. I was in Chad about 6 or 8 weeks ago, and I was inspired by the women. I saw the huge challenges that women face bringing their children to health clinics, it was 40 degree heat. I met one women who had walked 25 kilometers to get her malnourished child to a health clinic. Well that is pretty inspirational, you know, would we do that in New Zealand? How many New Zealand women would walk 25k’s carrying a child in 40 degree heat? And these women themselves are not being well fed, their health isn’t good, so they have huge challenges. I think women are hugely inspirational in developing countries. LBL: Are there ever problems that are so big, that you don’t know where to begin? MCKINLAY: You know after years of experience of dealing with these situations, which are just replicating themselves with slight variations in different parts of the world- we do have some models that give us an immediate template almost, that can be used and modified for the local situation. So if you look at the Horn of Africa situation last year and now the Sahel crisis in 2012, they are really nutrition crises. So nutrition is the key issue here and UNICEF is the largest organization dealing with children and nutrition, so we have ways of reaching out to communities, identifying the children in need, putting the resources where they are most going to have an impact, and then measuring ongoing impact and following through. So, you know, there is a lot of experience in our organization and often when there are crises like this we bring in extra staff for what we call surge capacity- so we bring in staff from around the world in to an area, bring in an extra 100 staff to meet the needs. So there are ways, we usually know how to do it. Usually the biggest challenge is getting the money to pay for what you want to do.
‘We treat our donors as engaged with what we are engaged with and talk to them as partners, rather than as donors.’
LBL: How do you find new ways of engaging the public to maintain their support for your initiatives? MCKINLAY:I think you have to accept that your donors are intelligent, and that you can explain something. Sometimes it’s simple, but then sometimes things are a bit more complex, and you do need to explain them to people. I think, you know, people who are interested in the world and who want to contribute financially to improve the lives of families and children, they want to be treated as intelligent people who can understand and get to grips with what needs to be done. So we generally treat our donors as engaged with what we are engaged with and talk to them as partners, really, rather than as donors. LBL: What role does the media play in telling the stories from the developing world?
MCKINLAY: There does tend to be a responsive approach sometimes to when situations get to their worst. It would be good to get the story out there as it’s a developing story rather than at the end point because that way it would help mobilize public support for the issue if it was teased out in the early stages, and say you know this is where we are headed with this if we don’t act now.
And that is really what many people around the world tried to do with Sahel, was to say last year with the Horn of Africa we were too late, thousands of people died because we didn’t tell the story soon enough- but with Sahel there is quite a widespread feeling amongst the NGOs, that we needed to tell the story early and alter donors and alter the Government and other people that we need to get in there at the top of the cliff and put a fence up rather than be dealing with the bottom of the cliff.
The End of Poverty within a generation Global Poverty Project COO Simon Moss talks about the progress over the last decade and the roadmap for the next generation LBL: What are the indicators that make you think that extreme poverty can be eradicated? Simon Moss: I think the world has made some really remarkable progress in the last ten years, and in the last generation, which shows us that it is possible to make huge progress fighting extreme poverty. There are an extra 50 million kids who have been able to complete and go to primary school over the last 10 years, we have reduced the number of kids who die from preventable diseases by 2 million a year in the last 20 years and are tracking to reduce that even more quickly. We’ve reduced a disease like polio from 300,000 cases a year in 1988 down to 650 last year and just 80 something so far this year. So to me there are all these indicators to say you know what we are heading in the right the direction Now that doesn’t mean it will be quick or simple but I think what we do have is a huge list of things that we know can work really really well in getting us towards that number. LBL: While the percentage of people in poverty has dropped, the population growth means that just as many people are still living in poverty. Aren’t we running to stand still? MOSS: Yes and no. In sub-Saharan Africa the number of people living in extreme poverty has gone up slightly in the last sort of 25 years or so but that’s actually started to come down despite population growth in the last 5 years. But all around the world the numbers have gone from 52% in 1982 down to 25% in 2005 and we think about 21% now so that is a huge drop percentage wise. In terms of absolute numbers we’ve gone from 1.9 down to 1.4 billion people living in extreme poverty so that’s still a really really big drop.
LBL: How do we tackle things like compassion fatigue? MOSS: I think that compassion fatigue is something that’s real and I think the first thing I’d say to people is look, look at the remarkable progress that’s taken place. That hasn’t been just because of what we’ve been doing but we’ve made a significant and important contribution to support people living in extreme poverty themselves, their countries, their companies, their governments to be able to fight extreme poverty that have lead us to make so much progress. And I think that the source often of that fatigue is that people will never hear about the good news. LBL: How reliable are the statistics when in places like Somalia there is hardly a functioning government, let alone accurate data?
‘And I think that the source often of that fatigue is that people will never hear about the good news.’
MOSS:You’re absolutely right in saying that in places like Somalia where there is not even really a functioning government that it is incredibly difficult to get really good data and this is going to be one of the big challenges we face in fighting extreme poverty. Because really fighting extreme poverty relies on having a decent government in place to look after the interests of it’s own people. And that is one of the reasons why our work at the global poverty project isn’t just about saying lets give more foreign aid, because giving aid a really important element of it, it helps people life themselves out of poverty. But what we also need to do is try to shape and change the broken systems and policies So that people in places like Somalia are actually able to ensure that their government is safe and functioning themselves. And as we support people to do that, along side that the researchers, the statisticians can be seeking to build the quality of data that they’ve got. So we’ve got a small role to play with citizens in places like New Zealand doing what we can but recognizing that this is a massive movement of people all around the world who are going to need to play their part, and this is why it is going to take a generation.
‘We’ve had a generation worth of conditioning that makes us in our minds think that news from Africa equals conflict or corruption or celebrities or catastrophe.’
LBL: If there is so much good news coming out of Africa, why are journalists not telling those stories? MOSS: Good news isn’t really news. I mean if a dog bites a man, who cares. If a man bites a dog, that’s wacky and interesting and different. So for us we’ve had a generations worth of conditioning that makes us in our minds think that news from Africa equals conflict or corruption or celebrities or catastrophe. And those things aren’t easily going to be broken. So it doesn’t surprise me really that an extra million kids getting to go to school in Kenya because they made school free a few years ago is really that interesting because if I’m sitting at home in New Zealand that doesn’t mean that much to me. I’d actually see that it is the fault, if you will, of charities, that those of us who are constantly talking to people about the need need to do a lot more to go back and talk to people about the results that have been achieved as well. We need to talk to people about when we fail because sometimes doing really difficult things like this doesn’t work. We need to say you know what this thing worked incredibly incredibly well and the good news really is that you stop hearing from charities about the problem once it goes away. Because they don’t need to raise money for it any more and I think that the really great examples that we’ve got to look at there are seeing that a place like Thailand by and large doesn’t receive aid any more, yet ten, twenty, thirty years ago it was receiving huge amounts of aid. The Philippines, parts of the Pacific, places like Ghana in West Africa is likely to graduate from receiving aid in the next five to seven years. These are all good news stories that I wouldn’t expect the media to cover because, well, it’s not that media and news worthy.
LBL: What are the Millennium Development Goals and how have they changed the way aid works? MOSS: The Millennium Development Goals are basically a set of eight goals and a series of other targets and indicators that the worlds leaders came together to agree, back in the year 2000, and the idea was- that if we are going to make good progress fighting extreme poverty, let’s all agree on what it is that we are trying to fight. So they came up with some really specific targets like we want to get every single child around the world into primary school and have them finish primary school by the year 2015. We wanna reduce the number of kids who die before the reach the age of five by three quarters from 1990 until to 2015. So what it did was gave us some really clear goal posts as to how we were going. And by getting 190 countries to agree, it meant that whether you’re a donor, like a country like New Zealand, an individualsomeone like us, whether you’re a charity or whether you’re a business or you’re a government, you all had a common set of things you could try and decide how to invest your resources on. So the millennium development goals are a really great way of giving us a rough sense of how we are going and how we’re making progress. LBL: So we just need to go down the list and tick things off? MOSS: Now they don’t cover everything so you don’t say we do the millennium development goals and poverty is over. But what we can see is that it is like a score card or a report card that is telling us roughly how we are doing on some of the different things that we know are going to be really important. And the good news is we are making fantastic progress on a whole heap of them. However there are also a number of them that we a not doing very well at.
‘The millennium development goals are a really great way of giving us a rough sense of how we are going and how we’re making progress.’
Editor: Patrick Rose Transcription: Sam Taylor Special thanks to Peter Singer, VSA, UNICEF NZ, Ben Mogishu, Simon Moss and Anne Perera
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