Eradicating World Poverty: Inspiring a New Generation to Act

This is a summary of a Davos session on “The Post-2015 Goals: Inspiring a New Generation to Act” on the eradication of world poverty and the millennium development goals. It featured, among others, David Cameron, Bono, and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (the Nigerian Finance Minister and the most impressive person I heard at Davos):
  • David Cameron: tackling poverty is a holistic issue. We can’t tackle poverty without tackling climate change, governance, corruption, justice, democracy, gender equality. Many of these reasons are why North Korea is poor but South Korea is rich
    • Growth is insufficient. It must be in areas that create jobs for poor people (e.g. agriculture, housing), and we must create a social safety net
    • People want two things: a job, and a voice. Can’t just focus on the former
  • As a result, the Millennium Development Goals (established following the 2000 Millennium Summit of the United Nations) cover eight different areas:
    • Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
    • Achieve universal primary education
    • Promote gender equality and empowering women
    • Reduce child mortality
    • Improve maternal health
    • Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, other diseases
    • Ensure environmental sustainability
    • Develop a global partnership for development
  • Bono: I write lyrics like I write poetry. But, goals must be the opposite: hard and precise.
  • Bono:
    • We should get out of the way of poor people. Ask them what they want, rather than presuming that we know
    • Capitalism can be a great creative force, but also a great destructive force. Even if it’s not immoral, it’s amoral
  • Bono: to me, transparency is even more important than debt cancelation
    • If a firm is registered on the NYSE, it must publish what it pays executives. But, declared and actual pay is different.
    • Companies always lobby against transparency. The American Petroleum Institute lobbied against the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, which requires oil, gas, and mining companies to disclose the payments they make to governments for extractive projects
    • The government must also be open. The question shouldn’t be “are we open for business?” but “are we open”?
  • Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (Nigerian Finance Minister):
    • Nigeria is forward-thinking compared to the rest of Africa, but shouldn’t try to be an oasis in a desert, because the desert always wins
    • Africa needs to move beyond extracting resources and use them to create wealth and equality
    • Nigeria’s policies are targeted. Use conditional cash transfers to encourage kids to attend school. Don’t just receive aid, but use it to leverage private sector resources better
    • We write off whole countries when there’s a bit of sectarian conflict. But, even in such countries, we can try to get kids into school. As peace is being brokered, the next generation can get an education
  • Cameron:
    • I reallocated the aid budget from India and China to other countries. India and China have resources to help themselves
    • Some of the fastest-growing countries in the world are in Africa. But, there’s lots of red tape hindering trade between African countries. Thus, lots of infrastructure has been build to export goods out of Africa, rather than trade within Africa
  • Ngozi: gender inequality isn’t limited to developing countries. Only 15% of Davos is female. But, because Nigeria is poorer, we can least afford it. I have to take the bull by the horns
    • Girls’ literacy is key. With the UK’s Department For International Development, we pioneered conditional cash transfers to get kids into school. Attendance rose 40%
  • Ngozi: everyone agrees we should invest in developing countries
    • But, we typically think of investment being in hard assets – building schools and infrastructure
    • We need to invest in soft skills: training midwives, teaching a mother to give water to a baby with diarrhea
    • An educated woman has 2.1 kids, an uneducated woman 8.9
  • Cameron: the UN must agree on a set of specific, measurable, inspiring goals that apply to everyone. We shouldn’t have separate goals for the rich and poor. Anti-corruption, justice, transparency are goals for all countries
    • Jasmine Whitbread (CEO of Save the Children): goals are universal, but the strategy to achieve them may differ across countries.
  • Tidjane Thiam (CEO of Prudential): we don’t want to talk about Africa changing. Africa is still the same – it’s weather and resources are the same. Instead, we want to talk about Africans changing – a change in people’s attitude
  • Bono: next year will be the 30th year of Live Aid. I hope that Bob Geldof and I are just guests – that we won’t need Live Aid any more
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