14/02/2014 05:56 GMT | Updated 12/04/2014 06:59 BST

My 25-Year Long Mission for Social Justice and Poverty Eradication

Later this month, the United Nations' Member States will observe the World Day of Social Justice - a day established in 2007 to support the efforts of the international community in poverty eradication, the promotion of full employment and decent work, gender equity and access to social well-being and justice for all. The significance of this day cannot be underplayed and serves as a prompt for me to reflect on my own 25-year-long mission towards achieving the same goal.

As the founder of FXB International, a non-governmental organisation dedicated to lifting people out of extreme poverty, and its FXBVillage programme, my mission was to provide a solution to the key drivers of extreme poverty through a holistic and self-sustaining approach.

In the 1980s, the international aid world was dominated by specific interventions to deal with specific problems: if there is a famine, send food. If there is poverty, provide micro-credit to start a business. And, of course, much of the aid provided by Government was intended to achieve a foreign policy outcome, even as the Cold War was entering its final days.

In trying to break the cycle of poverty for the most disadvantaged in the world - and in order to raise very poor children and orphans suffering from AIDS, I soon realised that a single, specific method of intervention would never be enough: interventions had to be integrated.

I rejected the then vogue for micro-credit as a solution to global poverty; as it was clear to me that the extreme poor would never be able to provide a sufficient return to repay loans.

Similarly, one of the founding and guiding principles of the United Nations World Day of Social Justice, among others, is to recognise that broad-based and sustained economic growth is necessary to sustain social development - it is the same principle that sits at the very core of the FXBVillage programme, which I established in 1991.

Since its inception, the FXBVillage model empowers families by simultaneously addressing the five drivers of extreme poverty - the lack of healthcare, housing, education, nutrition and business.

Each of these drivers relies on the others to help break the cycle of poverty. After all, there is no point building a clinic if once patients return home they have no drinking water; no point building schools if once children go home they have no food; and no point helping someone set up a business if they have no roof or no healthcare.

But the key driver to breaking the cycle over the long term is undoubtedly business: the means of generating revenue to go on delivering the other drivers to make the community self-sufficient in the long term, and remain out of extreme poverty.

As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the FXB International and the achievements of the FXBVillage programme, I hope part of its legacy is demonstrating to anyone serious about dealing with the terrible consequences of extreme poverty can only do so by tackling all five drivers in an integrated and coherent way. Our model has stood the test of time and shows unequivocally that this approach works.


Through the structured three-year programme, encompassing 80-100 families per FXBVillage, FXB international has helped more than 12,000 families and 75,000 people out of extreme poverty in Uganda, Rwanda, DRD, Burundi, Thailand, India, China and Colombia, with more than 86 per cent of participants remaining fully self-sufficient after graduation.

One example of how the model has broken the cycle of poverty is Nite, a Ugandan woman who was given one cow by the FXBVillage programme in 1995. After ten years she had three cows, two pigs and some chickens, as well as land on which she was growing pineapples and coffee and a plot that she used to build a house for her eldest son. This had provided enough income to put all her children through school, two of whom went on to university, and one who got a job abroad.

So as we celebrate our 25 year anniversary I stand by the fact that we don't provide charity. Instead, we equip individuals with the training and resources so they can achieve lasting self-sufficiency and stability - a mission also being observed this month on the United Nations World Day of Social Justice.