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Mariela Baeva
Mariela Baeva
Member of the European Parliament for Bulgaria
2007 - 2009
(first direct EP elections in Bulgaria);

LEED to OECD partner (Nanotech)

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 Alarm: “By 2030, there will be 800 million children – half the children in the world – who will not finish school with any qualifications whatsoever. That is indeed a crisis that has got to be dealt with.” – Gordon Brown, former UK PM

Alert: Syria: shocking images of starving baby reveal impact of food crisis (credit: The Guardian)


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Promoting Pro-poor Growth: The Role Of Empowerment

In reality, an individual’s life chances are largely determined by factors outside their control such as their place of birth, the wealth and education level of their parents, their gender and race.

In a world undergoing an enormous shift in wealth, why are some countries still poor?

The question might seem obvious, but the answers are not.

Investigating the causes and many facets of poverty is essential. In the face of rising food prices, environmental degradation, or political and economic crises. As shown by both the 2008 global financial crisis and the 2011 turmoil in North Africa and the Middle East, such crises can come with little warning.

Elites tend to use their greater power to defend the status quo, while poor and marginalised people are relatively powerless to demand fairer treatment or hold institutions to account. Approaches to tackling inequality must therefore involve efforts to promote empowerment of the poor and marginalised so that they are better equipped to make such demands. Groups which face discrimination in society generally have simultaneously low access to political, social and economic opportunities and benefits, a combination known as social exclusion. A leading cause of conflict, gang violence and insecurity. “Wider alliances” for change are needed, which go beyond marginalised or excluded groups to include middle classes and parts of the elite who support the equity agenda. There are societal benefits of greater equity (e.g. reduced crime and risk of conflict), and these arguments may help convince some elites to support a pro-equity agenda.

Economic empowerment of women in particular is critical. Where women are denied opportunities for skilled work because of social and cultural norms, or suffer from wage inequality, lower job security and a high likelihood of intergenerational transmission of poverty, and the wasted opportunities for productive work by half the population place a drag on economic growth (OECD, 2006b). Almost 70% of those living in extreme poverty in the world are women (DFID, 2005).

Inequitable access to infrastructure such as roads, electricity, irrigation and communication systems places a serious constraint on growth by limiting overall economic opportunity.

Equitable access to public services for excluded groups is also critical for empowerment and poverty reduction, or extending coverage of services to underserved areas or groups, or targeted action for disadvantaged groups, for instance indigenous peoples, people facing disabilities, children, etc. Civil society organisations often play an important role in delivering services where the state does not, for example in conflict-affected areas or slums, in supporting excluded groups to exercise their rights and obtain redress if denied, and in helping to change attitudes, promote debate and challenge discrimination (DFID, 2005). The risk that civil society organisations can be captured by interest groups which are not necessarily representative of marginalised groups or communities, or which may be primarily interested in their own empowerment. Civil society partners should be chosen carefully.

Providing economic security (e.g. through social protection, insurance or asset redistribution) enables the poor to enter markets at lower cost and brings faster, more pro-poor growth.

Other aspects are political opportunity, representation and voice; access to justice, central to the realisation of rights (UNDP, 2000; Pieterse, 2010).

Improving governance – supporting marginalised groups is often easier than engaging governments in dialogue about governance reform, but the two must go hand in hand. Researchers at the Overseas Development Institute** identified six core principles that they argue are now widely accepted in both developing and developed countries as being essential to good governance:

  • Participation: Do people who are affected by decisions have a say in how they’re made?
  • Fairness: Do the same rules apply equally to everyone?
  • Decency: Do the rules of society humiliate or harm people or segments of society?
  • Accountability: Are politicians, officials and other political actors held accountable for what they do?
  • Transparency: Are decisions made in a clear, open way?
  • Efficiency: Are human and financial resources put to good use, without waste, delay or corruption?

Poverty is not simply about income and wealth. It’s also about resources – access to things like clean water, food, education and basic healthcare, without which people face an uphill struggle to improve their standard of living and quality of life. Core dimensions, among others like mentioned above:

  • Political: Human rights, a voice and some influence over public policies and political priorities, and basic political freedoms, including from arbitrary, unjust and violent action by the state and its representatives.
  • Socio-cultural: The ability to participate as a valued member of a community, reflecting conditions like social status and dignity. In some societies, factors like caste, occupation or geographical location can effectively lead to people’s social and economic exclusion.

 

*Promoting Pro-poor Growth: The Role Of Empowerment – © OECD 2012; Conflict and fragility analysis – © OECD 2011

**British independent think tank on international development and humanitarian issues.

6 Responses to Promoting Pro-poor Growth: The Role Of Empowerment

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