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Global Poverty: The Hard Questions

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Can we end global poverty? Although it wasn't top of the list of topics at recent party conferences, it is in Britain's national interest to be a leader on the issue of global poverty. It helps ensure stability at home and around the world.

Where do we start? First, we need fewer handouts and better results. While there are many success stories, there is much more to do to reach our goals. In this challenging financial and political environment, where we cannot afford to waste any resource, human or otherwise, we need overseas aid that helps countries build public and private infrastructure to solve problems, not create cultures of complacency and dependency.

We need to clarify our goals, both globally and on a country basis, and then create measurements for the effectiveness of aid in meeting those goals. Put simply, we need to define what success will look like, and what kind of impact we want to have with our aid.

To do this, we need to work with other governments, donors, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and the private sector to design smart, effective and bold solutions that will bring people out of poverty and improve a country's infrastructure and ability to compete globally.

Women are central to aid reform

Any strategy we pursue needs to involve women and girls. We must see women as effective agents of change, not just beneficiaries of our aid.

Women, who comprise over 50 percent of the world's population, perform 60 percent of the world's work, but only earn 5 percent of the world's income. Rural women produce half of the world's food and in developing countries, between 60 and 80 percent of food crops. Globally, 1.4 billion people subsist on less than £1 per day. Most of them (829 million) are women.
Women - still one of the world's great untapped resources - are central to building global peace and prosperity. Despite the imbalance in income, women invest 90 percent of their income in their families and communities compared to men who invest only 30 to 40 percent.

If our overseas aid is successful at valuing women and girls, we will have better outcomes across the board. When a girl in a developing world receives seven or more years of education, she will marry four years later and have 2.2 fewer children. An extra year of primary school boosts girls' eventual wages by 10 to 20 percent; an additional year of secondary school boosts her wages by 15 to 25 percent.

Investing in results

We also need to rethink where we invest our aid. While there are needs everywhere in the world, we must think long and hard about where Britain can have the biggest impact and deliver results.

We should reward countries that are making progress and meeting goals. But, looking at results and working backwards may be the best way to proceed. Do we need to provide overseas assistance to countries with strong emerging economies like Brazil, China, Russia and India? Do we need to put conditions on any of our aid?

In addition, our investment must be transparent and we must measure results. We should consider annual, in-depth evaluators to look at aid, its effectiveness and whether what we are doing on a country by country basis helps us meet our collective goals of ending poverty.

Finding the right partners

We must, however, make sure we do this right. The funds we invest must be invested in the right programmatic work and get to the right people.

First, we must ensure that we coordinate across our various governmental departments, so that our aid complements existing programmes.

Second, we need strong partners from every sector. It is important that we continue Britain's leadership in strong multilateral international organizations, such as the United Nations, the International Labour Organisation, the European Union, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, as well as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, to name a few.

Third, we need to engage the private sector, and be innovative in how public-private partnerships can leverage resources and help drive change. This may mean incentives for companies to work with governments on developing technologies that work.

Fourth, it is critical to partner with NGOs that are credible in this country and impoverished regions, can work across multiple sectors and can deliver results and are transparent in their financial dealings.

What should our programmatic goals be?

There are many ways to focus aid, but if we centre our approach on addressing issues faced by women and girls, there is some key programmatic work to be done here.
First, it is important that we address legal barriers that women face, whether those barriers are to property ownership, citizenships rights, access to capital or access to education. We must promote our values of fair treatment for all.

Second, we should continue effective aid programs that support maternal and child health, family planning and nutrition, education and fighting diseases such as malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.

Third, we should begin to focus on issues that have arisen as a result of global climate change. Our development aid should be 'green' so that we are not contributing to the devastating effects of climate change.

Fourth, we should look at investments in food security to strengthen the world's food supply. Providing more financial support to women, (the majority of small holder farmers in sub-
Saharan Africa), should go hand in hand with efforts to reform property rights and providing farmers with technical assistance to grow and get more food to market.

Fifth, we should ensure that our programs spur economic growth and entrepreneurship and ensure that women have financial identities. This includes micro-finance and also access to capital and skills development so that women can graduate to small and medium sized businesses over time.

Finally, we need to ensure that there are women represented in every body that makes these decisions. Having women at every table and in every hall, board room, and legislature, makes a difference in terms of the policy and programmatic issues that get raised.

Global poverty, although it is seemingly intractable, can be addressed effectively if we invest in women, put aid where it achieves results and even in these times of economic challenge, continue to recognise the value of creating more sustainable and stable economies abroad.

Baroness Goudie is a senior member of the House of Lords and is also Chair of the Women Leaders' Council to Fight Human Trafficking at the United Nations. She launched the global initiative to fight human trafficking and is involved with the G8 and G20 promoting the role of women and children in the global economy. She is actively engaged in numerous philanthropic organisations including her role as a member of the Executive and Board of Directors of Vital Voices Global Partnership. In recognition of her work, she was awarded the 2010 GlobalPower Award by the Center for Women Policy Studies. www.baronessgoudie.com