Thursday, November 30, 2006

Expert Espouses Marriage To Reduce Poverty

from The Hartford Couriant

By COLIN POITRAS, Courant Staff Writer

Is promoting marriage a key to lifting Connecticut's low-income children out of poverty?

A national expert on welfare reform believes it is.

Ron Haskins, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C., think tank, and a special adviser to President Bush on welfare policy, pushed marriage - including same-sex marriage - as a tool for reducing poverty during an appearance this week in Hartford.

Haskins, a Republican and former staffer on the House Ways and Means Committee who helped write the country's 1996 welfare reform legislation, said his research shows marriage as the second most influential factor in reducing poverty rates, according to a computer simulation he created based on census data for 2001.

The single most effective factor was an obvious one, full-time work. But marriage ranked second, Haskins said, more effective, in fact, than increasing education, reducing family size and doubling cash payouts for welfare recipients.

Haskins was a guest speaker at the Connecticut Association for Human Services' annual release of its Kids Count report Monday at the Legislative Office Building. This year's report focused on helping children of low-income working families. The association recommended creating a state earned income tax credit, expanding worker training and education and restoring budget cuts to state-funded child care as ways to address the issue.

The report mentioned nothing about the advantages of promoting marriage, which has become a hot-button issue among some conservative Republicans in Congress.

"If you are concerned about children, then children will have a better chance in a married-couple family," Haskins said. "There are advantages to children living in a married-couple family," Haskins said. "And government cannot make up that difference."

Haskins told his audience that the "bully pulpit" - politicians, policy-makers and other opinion-formers must stress the case that marriage is one of the surest means of furthering the interests of poor children. He did not press for any specific governmental policies.

Notably, Haskins said that his theory on the benefits of marriage includes gay couples, an admitted break from the position held by many conservative Republicans. Creating jobs, providing support for low-income parents entering the workforce and expanding quality preschool programs are also crucial in helping improve the lives of impoverished families and children over the long term, Haskins said.

The human services association had invited Haskins to spark a dialogue about addressing poverty in Connecticut, a major social issue here yet one that often gets overlooked because of the state's stature and wealth.

In 2006, 215,770 children - one in four - in Connecticut live in low-income families, defined as those families with income below 200 percent of the federal poverty level or $40,000 for a family of four, according to the association for human services report.

And while the Constitution State continues to enjoy its stature as one of the wealthiest states in the country, it has the third largest income gap in the nation. Over half of urban Connecticut children live in low-income families, according to the Kids Count report. Only 15 percent of children in Connecticut suburbs live in low-income families, the report said.

Hartford continues to have the second-highest child poverty level for a city its size in the country - 41 percent, second only to Brownsville, Texas.

Jodie Levin-Epstein, deputy director and senior policy analyst at the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Law and Social Policy, conceded that Haskins' position on marriage has some merit. Research has shown that children reap significant benefits when they are in stable, supportive married couple households, she said.

But Levin-Epstein, who was also an invited speaker Monday, said that some of that benefit is a direct result of having two working parents and two incomes in the average family.

Levin-Epstein said putting money into the hands of low-income parents through an earned income tax credit also helps. She said existing research in the United Kingdom, where officials are trying to eradicate poverty by 2020, shows that low-income families do not use the additional money for alcohol or tobacco as some might believe, but for work-related costs such as improving their transportation, buying a phone or getting better food for their kids.

Levin-Epstein, a Democrat, said her main concern about advocating marriage is when it becomes a matter of government policy. She said there are also studies that show children of couples who divorce are sometimes worse off than those in single-parent households because of the resulting emotional turmoil and other issues. Stability and support in a two parent home is key, she said.

Haskins, who also serves as co-director of the Center on Children and Families at Brookings and is a senior consultant to the prominent Annie E. Case Foundation helping disadvantaged children in Baltimore, countered that government is already in the marriage business. He listed state regulations regarding marriage licenses and the federal tax code for married families as two instances where government directly intervenes.

Connecticut's requirements for issuing a marriage license - that there must be a man and a woman - are being challenged in a lawsuit now before the state Supreme Court. The suit, filed by eight same-sex couples, says the state law authorizing civil unions did not go far enough and that gay marriages should not be denied.

Levin-Epstein said that Connecticut, with its Republican governor and Democratic legislature and with its commitment to reduce poverty by half by 2014, stands to be a national model for other states to follow.

The gap between Connecticut's most wealthy and most needy is growing, she said. Research shows that the greatest competition for new jobs in Connecticut through 2012 will be for either highly paid, highly skilled jobs or low paid, low-skilled jobs.

Unless currently low-paid workers get training, education and support for advancement, the despair and disparity that now exists will only grow at taxpayer expense.

"Hope fosters creativity and risk and it is that creativity that brings advancement," Levin-Epstein said. "With increased disparity, we increase despair and with increased despair it is hard to move forward as a community."

Contact Colin Poitras at

The full Kids Count report can be found at

HIV Driving People Into Extreme Poverty In The UK

from Medical News Today

On World AIDS Day, 1 December, Crusaid and the National AIDS Trust launch a shocking report into the rising numbers of people living with HIV in extreme poverty in the UK.

The report launched to MPs at the House of Commons on World AIDS Day highlights the effect of stigma and discrimination in driving people living with HIV into poverty. Hate crime and discrimination not only have a damaging effect on the physical and mental health of people living with HIV, but can also lead to isolation and poverty. Recent research shows that a third of people living with HIV have experienced discrimination.

The report calls for action in tackling the root causes of poverty among people living with HIV, including addressing high levels of hate crime, unemployment and poor housing among people living with HIV.

Policies restricting asylum seekers right to work and appallingly low benefits also means that many HIV positive asylum seekers are living in substandard housing and are unable to afford basic food and clothing.

Poverty is far too common among people living with HIV. Since it was established in 1986, one in three people diagnosed with HIV have turned to the Crusaid Hardship Fund for support. In 2005, the average income of applicants to the Hardship Fund fell to £60 per week, while the number of applications for basic needs such as food and clothing has risen.

Key Facts (Crusaid Hardship Fund 2005)

* In 2005 the fund gave out £400,000 to 2,400 people
* The average grant was £140
* 10% of UK nationals applying to the hardship fund had no income
* Over one in five people receiving grants from the Hardship Fund have one or more dependants.

Information on the Crusaid Hardship fund

The Crusaid Hardship Fund helps with basic needs such as food and clothing as well as access to respite care, mobility equipment and household goods. The vast majority of applications are to cover basic needs such as food, bedding or a fridge to store medication at the correct temperature. It also helps people re-train in new skills in order to find a long-term route out of poverty. Applications are made via referring agencies, including social workers and GPs, and are rigorously tested to ensure that grants are made to those most in need.

Key recommendations

1. The Government and police must address HIV related hate crime and enforce policies on HIV related domestic violence

2. Public sector bodies should introduce HIV awareness training and act as champions to encourage the private sector to break down barriers to employment for people living with HIV.

3. Local authorities should prioritise the housing and social care needs of people living with HIV particularly those with poor health.

4. Subsistence for asylum seekers should be increased to a level that is equivalent to income support and they should be granted permission to work after six months.

Case studies

Graham was employed by a well-established retail chain as a store assistant. When he was diagnosed HIV positive, his condition was made public at work without his consent. " My bosses…kept making it clear that I should consider taking a long rest and maybe not return to work at all. But I wanted to work and was able to work." Said Graham.

A colleague bought him a cup, plate and fork so Graham did not infect anyone in the canteen. An anonymous petition was posted to request Graham be given his own toilet cubicle and he received an anonymous letter telling him not to attend the staff Christmas party as "no-one wants AIDS for Christmas."

Graham felt so isolated he felt he had no option but to resign, and as he had made himself voluntarily unemployed he had to wait 14 weeks before being eligible for benefits. His wife also moved out taking his daughter and he applied for support to the Crusaid Hardship Fund to cover his gas and electricity bills.

John Aged 36 year, John lives in the Midlands and was diagnosed four years ago. After a fall out with his long-term partner, John's HIV status and home address were displayed on a card in his local shop window, warning people that he was an 'AIDS carrier'. A few days later, John came home from work to find two guys in his flat. They beat him with chair legs, putting him in hospital for six days. John said: "I spent years coming to terms with living with HIV, then just one person turned my life around through pure spite."

Alice's story Alice suffers from chronic asthma, pains in her legs and feet and chronic weight loss relating to being HIV positive. The property she lives in is in very poor repair - it has been invaded by mice, is so damp there is black mould growing on the walls and she has to climb 40 steps to reach her room. She has been on a re-housing list for five years. "When you are chronically ill, society assumes you have nothing left to offer and thinks its OK to leave you on the scrap heap" said Alice. Alice applied to the Crusaid Hardship Fund to replace mouldy bedding, towels and curtains and for help with the costs of running an electric heater.


Author: Emma Bickerstaff
Communications Manager
National AIDS Trust

For further information please go to:
National AIDS Trust And

Grants creates programs to fight poverty

from The Advance Titan

by Felicia Clark, of the Advance Titan

UW-Oshkosh will participate in a new project through classes to try solving poverty issues in the Oshkosh community during the 2007 spring semester.

The program’s projects are put into the syllabi of the classes taught by assigned faculty members. These chosen faculty members will teach students before sending them to work with people of all ages in the community.

“I think this is an important resource connection as women, children, and persons of color are disproportionately affected by poverty,” said Jennifer Castillo, director of the Women’s Center.

Students will use their knowledge and skills to work with elementary, middle and high school children, as well as adults in the Oshkosh community.

“As an instructor I will be able to provide some ideas and/or feedback on the activities, but the fun part is that it really is the students’ activity,” Castillo said.

The UW-Extension Innovative Project Fund awarded Oshkosh a $20,000 grant for the program. It is also sponsored by the American Democracy Project.

“This is another ‘planned giving’ program, with students and faculty interacting, partnering, sharing and giving to this community in a variety of ways,” said Margaret Michelina Manzi, assistant vice chancellor for curricular affairs.

The money will be divided among eight faculty members participating, so each will receive enough for the professional development of their class’s project.

“We focused on community engagement, making this another American Democracy Project that is reflective of civic engagement opportunity on this campus,” said Manzi.

Judy Lambert, an education professor, will let students give children literacy training from the Fox Valley Region’s Big Brothers Big Sisters, using games and other activities at the Oshkosh Public Library.

Another education professor at Oshkosh, Kelli Saginak, will let students, with help from the Light School House, develop ways to expand career development and social skills for Webster Stanley Elementary School students.

Castillo’s class will teach students to work as a team to initiate hands-on activities that will address local poverty needs and issues.

“I think this is a great idea. It provides an innovative way of learning for students and beneficial outcomes for the community,” said Castillo. “Both the university and community benefit.”

Students interested in taking one of the courses can contact one of the faculty members to check for availability of the programs.

“I have been a big sister for about 12 years,” said Lambert. “I know first hand the impact one can have on a child.”

Driven by poverty, man kills three children, self

from The New Kerala

Raipur, Apparently crushed by acute poverty, a disabled man allegedly killed his three children before taking his own life in Rajnandgaon district of Chhattisgarh.

The children, including a girl, were poisoned and strangulated by their father Lalit Chaturvedi last night, police said adding he later jumped in front of a train near Joratarai village, about 95 km from here.

Chaturvedi apparently gave poison-laced bananas and `samosas' to his children. His other daughter, a five-year-old who was put on the railway track by her father, survived after she woke up before the train came.

Chaturvedi was working in a local company as a crane operator, but an accident two years ago left him disabled and without a job, police said. His eldest son was a tuberculosis patient.

Uganda: Finance Ministry Spent Global Fund Cash On Poverty Alleviation

from All Africa

New Vision (Kampala)

Emmy Allio

The Ministry of Finance used the money it borrowed from the Global Fund (GF) to sensitise its staff on poverty eradication, The New Vision has learnt.

The GF money is meant to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

Documents show that the finance ministry, which is the principle recipient of GF and overall coordinator and supervisor of the fund's activities, embarked on a health awareness campaign of its staff.

The ministry borrowed sh316,175,441 in two installments from the Ministry of Health. But according to the draft White Paper approved by the Cabinet last week, the ministry has only refunded sh100m.

In an April 22, 2005 letter written on behalf of the Secretary to the Treasury, the finance ministry's director of administration and finance, Betty Kasimbazi, gave a detailed programme of how millions of GF were spent on workshops.

Kasimbazi's invitation letter to the project coordinator for the Project Management Unit (PMU), Dr. Tiberius Muhebwa, said, "The ministry is organising a health awareness campaign, which is aimed at sensitising the ministry staff on keeping healthy to enhance productivity and eradicate poverty.

This is to invite you to attend and participate in the campaign, which is scheduled for April 28 and April 29, 2005," she said.

The PMU was responsible for overseeing the implementation of GF programme.

Lectures delivered during the workshop included "Critical concerns in implementing the public service HIV/AIDs policy' and 'stigmatisation at the work place' and 'Anti-Retroviral treatment: Accessing and Managing ARVs'.

Meanwhile, The New Vision has learnt that organisations owned by the minister without portfolio, Dorothy Hyuha, and the assistant coordinator of ISO and ESO, Brig. Elly Kayanja, are among the recipients of GF.

The Cabinet has ordered the organisations to refund the money and be probed further by CID and the IGG.

Hyuha's Bunyole Women Association borrowed sh20,700,000 and has been asked to refund it.

Kayanja's Kifamba Zukuka Progressive Association took sh37,992,500 and is to refund sh.27m.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Bono urges Japan to lead fight against poverty

from The Guardian

Justin McCurry in Tokyo

Japan's prime minister, Shinzo Abe, received a ringing endorsement from the unlikeliest of people today: the outspoken rock singer and poverty campaigner Bono.
The U2 singer, who is in Japan on the latest leg of the band's Vertigo 2006 tour, ditched his usual criticism of rich nations and said the world could learn from Japan's commitment to developing countries.

"The world doesn't really understand that Japan in the 90s led the world not just as a percentage contribution to the world's poor but as the volume contribution," he told reporters after the meeting at Mr Abe's office.

Despite evidence that Japan is dragging its heels on the millennium development goals agreed at last year's G8 summit, Bono said he believed Tokyo would make good on its promises.

"Japan made a promise in the G8 in Gleneagles to double its aid to Africa," he said. "Some countries make promises and they don't keep them. Japan, we trust to fulfil their promise, and the world believes in the honour of a Japanese promise."

Bono suggested that Mr Abe's popular image as a rather dour, quiet man was wide of the mark. "I found prime minister Abe to be a very warm man, very interested in these issues, and I was surprised he gave me twice the time I was asking for," he said.

The singer lauded Japan's pivotal role in setting up a global fund to fight Aids, TB and malaria in 2000, saying that hundreds of thousands of people are now receiving the drugs they need thanks to the initiative. "I told the prime minister that this is one of the greatest ideas of the 20th century," he said.

Japan's efforts to help the developing world have been hit by falling aid budgets and a lack of popular interest in Africa's problems.

In return for Mr Abe's pledge to continue the fight against global poverty and disease, Bono presented the Japanese leader with a pair of his trademark Giorgio Armani "Red" sunglasses, which are sold partly to fund Aids programmes.

Mr Abe then showed he could be every bit as rock 'n' roll as his new friend by immediately trying them on. "I've always seen George Bush looking at my sunglasses ... and George Bush never put them on," Bono said. "The last pope put them on, and prime minister Abe - very cool."

South Africa: Fight Poverty On Global Front - Skweyiya

from All Africa

BuaNews (Tshwane)

Nozipho Dlamini

Social Development Minister Zola Skweyiya has called for the issues of poverty eradication and development to be tackled from a global perspective.

"As a country, we recognise that in order to achieve a better life for all, poverty eradication and overall development must be pursued from a global perspective," Dr Skweyiya said Monday, addressing the United Nations General Assembly's informal thematic debate on development.

The minister reiterated South Africa's belief in the need for responsible global partnerships within the UN system, towards this end.

"Collective efforts towards eradication of global poverty could only be achieved if all member states of the United Nations fulfilled their commitments according to the means and the resources at their disposal."

The debate, held at the UN's New York headquarters, was aimed at strengthening partnerships for the achievement of the Millennium Developmental Goals (MDGs), by reviewing progress on the implementation of internationally agreed upon development objectives.

"We all need to focus on concrete programs to accelerate development in Africa and to prevent it from sinking further into poverty and underdevelopment. We cannot merely accept the situation that Africa will not achieve the MDGs by 2015," said the minister.

"We have the responsibility to end the rhetoric and to form a global partnership that would ensure that all human beings on the continent live decent, humane and prosperous lives."

The eight MDGs were agreed upon by UN member states in 2000 with a target date of 2015. They include halving poverty, cutting child mortality by two-thirds and providing access to water and sanitation.

"On MDG, 1 South Africa has embarked on programs aimed at sustainable development, eradicating extreme poverty and hunger by providing social assistance grants, financial allocation for which increased nearly 4 fold between 1994 and 2004," the minister said.

In terms of the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa, the country aims to halve poverty and unemployment by 2014, a year before the target date of the MDGs. Through AsgiSA, government also aims to attain 6 percent economic growth by 2010.

South Africa also recently hosted the launch of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) 2006 Human Development Report with the theme "Water and Human Development."

The report was launched in acknowledgment of the efforts the country has made to promote access to safe water and sanitation.

"In Africa we are working to respond to the many challenges facing the continent through the developmental program of the African Union, the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD)," Dr Skweyiya said, outlining yet another initiative the continent was spearheading for its upliftment.

NEPAD, he explained, seeks to engage different sectors to mobilize internal and external resources for the sustainable regeneration and expansion of the full spectrum of human capability in the continent.

Government has also put in place other job-oriented interventions to address extreme poverty including the labour intensive Expanded Public Works Programme, the Agricultural Starter Pack Programme and the Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme.

Uganda: Nakasongola Land Problem Rises Poverty

from All Africa

The Monitor (Kampala)

Ephraim Kasozi

Land insecurity in Nakasongola district has lowered production efforts among residents, thereby leading to high poverty levels. According to the district Chairman James Muruli Wandira most people are squatters and because they are not sure of their future on land, production efforts are low.

He told Daily Monitor on Saturday that most of the land is gazetted under the old system of land ownership (Mailo land) and most of the landlords stay in Kampala.

The Mailo Land system existed during the colonial era where highly respected people like chiefs would be allocated land measured in miles.

Such people have since owned that land to date.

Wandira said many people have been evicted by such landlords who sell their land in the villages and make transfers to new owners who claim the land. "The land is fertile for those who practice farming but people are being evicted every now and then," he said.

He said some people had leased parts of public land in the area and later abandoned it but recently they came back and started evicting those who had occupied.

Wandira castigated the land tribunal for not helping the peasants.

"The Tribunal is meant to help peasants access justice but no help is seen," the angry chairman said.

He said the tribunal takes long to decide and that many peasants lose cases with low chances of appealing. "An appeal has to be made in the High Court which is not accessible to the peasants," he claimed.

Wandira, flanked by the district executive committee, said the district has intervened to stop some of the evictions basing on the provisions of the Land Act.

He appealed to the government to make Nakasongola district a beneficiary of the Land Fund. Wandira said the district is being challenged by the lack of a district hospital, which has led to the suffering of many people, especially expectant mothers.

He said the district only has an ill-equipped health centre.

He said the nearest hospital is Kiwoko Hospital, which is 80 kilometres away from the district yet there are no ambulance services.

"Can you imagine a whole district having a health centre as the biggest health unit?" Wandira wondered.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Poverty Dialogue That Wasn't

from CBS News

What Became Of The Post-Katrina Dialogue On Poverty?

(AP) Don't tell the Rev. Randall Mitchell that Hurricane Katrina somehow opened people's eyes to the depth of poverty in this nation. Americans knew the extent of the problem long before the storm, he says.

They'd just learned to live with it.

"They've come into acceptance of it," the preacher says from the apartment he evacuated to, in Dayton, Texas, 300 miles west of New Orleans. No, rather than revealing poverty to Americans, he says, the storm "exposed ... the people who maintain it. That's all."

When Katrina struck Aug. 29, thousands of people who had not known loss suddenly knew what it was like to be homeless and jobless. To taste hunger and feel thirst. To go without medical care or even toilets.

And those who didn't experience the misery and chaos firsthand saw it in graphic detail every day and night on television. The desperate, angry masses stranded at the Superdome and convention center. The rampant looting. The floating bodies.

With much of New Orleans still under water, President George W. Bush declared the nation had "a duty to confront this poverty with bold action."

Katrina was the cataclysmic event that was supposed to launch a vigorous "national dialogue on poverty." It didn't happen, many say.

"From my perspective, it's kind of like one hand clapping," says Maria Foscarinis, executive director of the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. "We'd love to have a dialogue, but there needs to be someone to have a dialogue with."

Not long after Katrina struck, the Census Bureau released figures showing that the poverty rate had climbed for the fourth straight year. More than 37 million Americans live below the federal poverty level, including 12 million children.

Five million of those children live in families that earn less than half the poverty level.

Stanford University researchers Emily Ryo and David Grusky, hearing pundits insist that Katrina "unleashed a newfound commitment among the public to take on issues of poverty and inequality," decided to measure this supposed awareness-raising effect.

The researchers analyzed data from Syracuse University's Maxwell Polls on Civic Engagement and Inequality, conducted in 2004 and shortly after Katrina. Ryo and Grusky divided respondents based on their answers to detailed questions on their attitudes toward poverty. They created four basic categories: "activists," "realists," "moralists," and "deniers."

Activists, defined as those who support state intervention to reduce poverty, went from 58 percent of respondents in the 2004 survey to 60 percent post-Katrina; and there were small gains for deniers, who believe poverty and inequality are "neither substantial nor growing" (from 21 percent to 25), and for moralists, who see poverty as a motivator, not a social problem (from near zero to 1 percent).

The most dramatic gain was among so-called realists, who don't believe in the state's ability to reduce poverty or inequality; their numbers nearly doubled to 11 percent.

Interpreting the findings, Grusky, a professor of sociology, says they show a majority of people already accepted that there was a problem and were doing something about it. The rest, he says, either see poverty as an individual problem or simply don't care.

"This idea that it's a dirty little secret, this poverty and inequality," he says, "just doesn't pass muster."

News coverage could partly explain the rise in denier and realist views. Some "did not take well to the liberal lesson that they no doubt regarded as foisted upon them," Grusky and Ryo wrote in their report, and so "the `call for action' story ... was countered by the equally powerful lesson that government intervention is all about inefficiency and ineptitude."

If President George W. Bush, faced with falling support for the war in Iraq, has had little time to address entrenched poverty, there is activity on the state and local levels, says Bruce Katz, director of the metropolitan policy program at the Brookings Institution. A growing number of states are passing minimum wage laws and adopting their own earned income tax credits, Katz says.

But Katz and others say recent federal actions to reduce funding and flexibility in public housing programs threaten to undermine these efforts.

"Just about anything you can think of needed to address the needs of poverty is on the chopping block," says Avis Jones-DeWeever, study director for poverty, education and social welfare programs at the Institute for Women's Policy Research.

She contends that many Americans believe that most poor people must have something wrong with them.

"This is a huge, cataclysmic event, and it's sad to say that even that is something that hasn't maintained a push or momentum to address poverty in America," she says.

Jones-DeWeever and others accuse the Bush administration of using the Iraq war and the Katrina recovery effort as excuses for not addressing poverty nationally. Others say, war or no war, the needs of the poor never top the agenda of politicians.

For his part, Rev. Mitchell is tired of seeing people beat up on the president and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Disabled in a work-related accident 20 years ago, the 56-year-old preacher turned his attention to social issues in New Orleans. He says the despair in parts of his city was just as deep during the two terms of Democrat President Bill Clinton, and that elected officials in New Orleans have to accept some of the blame for money wasted and opportunities squandered.

"The national dialogue has to be an honest dialogue," says Mitchell, who lives on $600 in disability payments and $65 in monthly food stamps. "We have to look at ourselves first. That's honesty."

He says it's time for a little less talk and a lot more action.

"Talk is cheap and costs nothing," he says. "And something from nothing leaves us exactly that.


Islamic nations agree to pool alms to fight poverty: Malaysian PM

from The Khaleej Times

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - Wealthy Islamic nations have agreed to pool their alms into a global fund to be used to help pull Muslim countries out of poverty, Malaysia’s leader said Tuesday.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who chairs the 57-member Organization of Islamic Conference, said an agreement was reached in principle, and a panel of experts will soon flesh out details of a proposed international zakat organization. Zakat is the Islamic concept of tithing and alms.

In many countries, Muslims give alms to local zakat organizations that use the money for community development. Abdullah’s proposal aims at pooling funds for use internationally.

With a large number of Muslim nations living in dire conditions because of poverty, natural calamities and war, Abdullah said zakat funds can be used as development aid to improve social and economic conditions.

We should aim to use zakat as a means of providing assistance that will have a lasting effect,’ Abdullah told an international zakat conference here.

We should not merely feed the hungry with fish to eat. We should have programs to teach them to catch fish so they can take care of their own welfare long into the future.’

Out of the 50 least-developed countries _ the poorest in the world listed by the United Nations _ 22 are members of the OIC.

Abdullah Mohamad Zin, minister in charge of religious affairs, said Malaysia’s zakat collection last year reached 573 million ringgit (US$159 million, Ð132 million), up from 473.6 million ringgit (US$131 million; Ð102 million) in 2004.

He told The Associated Press the proposed zakat organization for international development was an initiative led by Malaysia, together with the Islamic Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Islamic Development Bank.

The proposal is still in its infancy, but steps are being taken to get support of all OIC nations, he said.

Saudi banker Sheikh Saleh Kamil, who heads the Dallah AlBaraka Group and is also president of the Islamic Chamber of Commerce and Industry, has pledged US$1 million (Ð833,333) to the zakat fund.

African envoys to meet in Nigerian capital to tackle poverty

from The Angola Press

LAGOS, Ambassadors of African countries are to converge in Nigerian capital Abuja on Tuesday to discuss issues relating to poverty and underdevelopment afflicting the continent and seek ways of meeting the Millennium Development goals, local media reported on Monday.

The envoys will attend a forum to discuss with technical experts and professionals on how to best articulate the economic problems of Africa, the report said.

According to a statement by the organizer, the meeting will also harp on the need to employ the gains of debt relief into fruitful ventures and discourage corruption in the region.

Hugues Davin, the Dean of African Ambassadors in Nigeria, was quoted as saying that the African Diplomatic Group is "mobilizing support for efforts to help the continent realize its developmental objectives."

The forum is under the auspices of African Business Round Table, Ministry of Cooperation and Integration and a body known as Third Resource.

Mayors from Asian countries seek eradication of urban poverty

from New Kerala

Dehradun, The first Asian mayors conference today adopted a declaration pledging to eradicate urban poverty, fixing a uniform tenure of mayors and recommending measures to strengthen infrastructure facilities in cities through public-private partnership.

In the 12-point 'Doon Declaration' adopted at the end of the three-day meeting, mayors, converged here from various asian nations to deliberate urban problems, said solutions to many of the problems of urban poor have to be found locally through measures like slum upgradation.

Mayors from over 80 cities from countries including Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Iraq, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Bhutan besides India participated in the conference. A mayor from Israel was also present.

"We, therefore, resolve to jointly look for the solutions for enhancing the quality of life of the urban poor through slum upgradation, implementation of livelihood programmes, housing, health, education, environment and better living conditions of the poor'',the declaration said.

In this regard, it said the mayors will work toward establishing an Asian mayors forum on alleviation of urban poverty.

The declaration sought a greater role for the private sector in building city infrastructure, in application of e-governance and in the delivery of civic services.

"This is a responsibility of the private sector to plough back gains made from the citizenry. We shall, therefore, attempt to pro-actively engage with the private sector through diverse public-private partnerships...," it said.

Monday, November 27, 2006

[Muhammad Yunus] Nobel Peace Prize winner: 'Poverty is a threat to peace'

from USA Today

He's an anti-poverty crusader who doesn't believe in handouts, a free-market disciple who says for-profit businesses should pursue social goals and the latest recipient of an honor that has gone to Mikhail Gorbachev, Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus was an economics professor in Bangladesh when he launched the Grameen Bank in 1983. Since then, the innovative bank has made small loans to almost 7 million of the poorest people in one of the world's poorest countries.

Grameen's "micro" loans, usually totaling less than $100, go to people with no collateral. Borrowers (almost all are women) use the money to start small village businesses, which often catapult them from squalor to self-respect.

Grameen, which is profitable, has a repayment rate of nearly 99%. Unlike wealthy borrowers, the poor know that if they default on one loan, they'll never get another, Yunus says. The micro credit concept has spread to more than 100 countries, including the USA. Now, Yunus, 66, seeks to rally support for eradicating poverty in this century. Last week, USA TODAY's David J. Lynch interviewed him in Washington.

Q: Do you really believe that poverty can be eliminated or is that just a motivating goal?

A: Poverty is not something created by the poor people. It is created by the system. ... One good example in the context of this country would be the welfare system. The welfare system is designed to keep people in poverty rather than take them out of poverty. ... We should be aiming at creating poverty museums where children will go to visit ... to find how poverty used to be.

Q: Is Grameen Bank easing suffering or really changing lives?

A: We have now an environment where 100% of the children of Grameen borrowers are in school — not only they're in school, they're graduating ... going to college. Many are becoming professionals, doctors, engineers. The sons and daughters of (illiterate) borrowers. ... So you're creating a dramatically different generation.

Q: Why do you say that access to credit is a fundamental human right?

A: Fundamental rights include the right to food, right to health, right to education, right to work and so on. ... OK, who guarantees that right to food to me, that right to shelter to me? ... Is it my government? ... (No), basically it's the citizen who has to do it. ... Right to credit means right to self-employment. Credit means I can take money and create income for myself, so ... if everything else fails, I can take care of myself.

Q: Why have micro credit programs had only limited success in the USA?

A: There are more than 700 micro credit programs in the U.S. A common experience of them is that they are not self-sustaining. They cannot cover their costs. Impact is good. Repayment is good. Explanation? (Staff) salary level is too high. Business volume is too small. ... In Bangladesh, (salaries are) so small we can do anything.

Q: How well is globalization working?

A: It's not working for people who are poor. ... Sometimes, it acts like a 20-lane highway running across the world. But the problem is the big trucks from the USA (are) taking over all the lanes. No lane is safe for Bangladeshi rickshaws. ... So if that image is correct, why don't we have traffic rules? This lane is reserved for rickshaw ... this lane is for heavy vehicles. Today, heavy vehicles are taking over everything. ... So we need traffic rules and traffic police. Today, in globalization, there is no traffic police. There is no traffic rules. This is an anarchic situation. And that is why poor people are scared.

Q: You say labor should be able to move across borders as freely as capital. Given the tensions in this country over illegal immigration, is that realistic?

A: It's practical. ... Doesn't mean on day one, everybody comes in. We'll gradually open it up. ... Some desperate ones will still swim the river anyway. But the desire to swim or take that risk will be less because you have a genuine chance. ... If every country is taking people like that, a lot of options open up. So the pressure on one country will not be tremendous.

Q: You've been critical of the World Bank's approach to fighting poverty. What do you think of World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz's emphasis on fighting corruption?

A: On corruption, we all support him ... but what happens to poverty? ... If I was the World Bank and I gave (an) infrastructure loan to Bangladesh or any country, I would make a deal with the government: Yes, we'll give you the loan to build this bridge, but our condition is this bridge should be owned by the local poor people. ... So that this becomes an independent company where the profit goes to the local poor people and the surplus will be invested into building another bridge.

Q: What has the Nobel meant for Grameen Bank?

A: It's a tremendous explosion of attention and visibility. Another thing the Nobel Prize has done (is focus) on the relationship between poverty and peace. Poverty is a threat to peace. That has been clearly stated by giving the Nobel Prize for something which works for the poor people. That relationship is something which was never clearly understood. ... They gave their verdict that it is related. ... Poverty is a threat to peace.


Title: Founder and managing director, Grameen Bank.
Headquarters: Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Age: 66.
Book: Banker to the Poor.
Family: The third of 14 children (five of whom died in infancy), he is married and has a grown daughter.
Honor: "The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2006, divided into two equal parts, to Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank for their efforts to create economic and social development. ... Every single individual on Earth has both the potential and the right to live a decent life."

[UK] Cameron pledges action on poverty

from The Financial Times

By Ben Hall,Political Correspondent

Tax credits will not lift more people out of poverty, David Cameron, the Conservative leader, said yesterday.

Promising to act against the "moral disgrace" of poverty, Mr Cameron said a Tory government would seek to engineer a "big shift" away from fiscal transfers by the state towards action by voluntary groups and social enterprises.

"Trickle-down economics is not working," he said. "But neither are the mechanisms of centralised redistribution."

In a lecture intended to underline the Tories' shift to the political centre ground, Mr Cameron said he now believed in addressing relative poverty, rather than simply providing a safety net against absolute levels of deprivation.

But while promising to keep tax credits, he appeared to suggest the Tories would not increase them. Tax credits created a benefit trap for people in work, discouraging higher salaries or promotion, and had failed to help the poor who have neither a job nor children, he said.

The £15bn-a-year tax credit system has become the government's principal weapon against child poverty. Unlike most benefits, the child tax credit rises in line with average earnings, helping to lift poorer families out of relative poverty, defined by the government as 60 per cent of median family income.

But a recent report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation concluded that to halve child poverty would require an extra £4bn in tax credits a year by 2010, and to end it would cost an additional £28bn a year by 2020.

"The current approach cannot succeed in substantially reducing relative poverty without unaffordable spending increases," Mr Cameron said.

He said the solution lay in using charities and non-profit groups to address the causes of deprivation, such as low educational attainment, drug addiction and family breakdown.

Specialised charities were more successful than government agencies at getting the long-term unemployed back into work, he said.

The Conservatives' policy review was drawing up plans to relax planning rules to allow voluntary and community groups to use public buildings and facilities. The party was also looking at how to enable non-governmental organisations to compete with the public and private sectors for government contracts while people doing voluntary work could be rewarded with tax breaks and extra benefits.

But poverty campaigners said Mr Cameron could not simply rely on the voluntary sector but would have to increase welfare payments.

"Now that we have welcomed Cameron to the debate, he must understand that social enterprise is only part of the solution," said Kate Green, the chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

[Canada] Almost 50,000 kids live in poverty in Manitoba: report

from The Winnipeg Sun


Child poverty rates dipped slightly in Manitoba in 2004, but there were still nearly 50,000 kids living in poverty, according to a child poverty report released yesterday by the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg.

"If anyone wants to see the consequences of poverty, go for a drive in the core area," said Melodie Dubois, a concerned parent who attended a press conference on child poverty yesterday. "We, as adults, are responsible for looking after children, whether they be our own or in our community."

The province was ranked fourth worst in comparison with other provinces by the Social Planning Council.

Poverty among aboriginal children living on reserves is not included in the 2004 figure.

If these children were included, Manitoba's poverty rate would be much higher, said Trudy Lavallee, with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.

Family Services Minister Gord Mackintosh said the slight improvement in the fight against child poverty is no comfort to those still living in poverty.

"While we can be encouraged by this trend, it is no comfort to a Manitoban living in poverty today. Much more work needs to be done," said Mackintosh.

Mike Owen, executive director for the Winnipeg Boys and Girls Club, said a reduction in clawbacks of social programs has helped reduce poverty. However, Owen said the province hasn't really made any significant gains in permanently reducing poverty.

"The good news is we're no longer last or second last in terms of the percentage of kids in poverty but when you look at the trend, we're approaching our 1989 levels, so there's not much progress made," said Owen.

Owen is calling on the province to increase minimum wage to $10 per hour to help the working poor.

Friday, November 24, 2006

[UK] Cameron: poverty is a 'moral disgrace'

from The Guardian

Hélène Mulholland and agencies

David Cameron will today denounce the continued existence of poverty as a "moral disgrace" and commit a future Conservative government to action on the issue.

In a speech to mark the 25th anniversary of the Scarman report into the Brixton riots, the Tory leader will argue that poverty should be seen in relative terms to the rest of society.

Mr Cameron is likely to cause fury within the government by claiming that Labour policies have failed to root out endemic poverty at the sharp end.

"I believe that poverty is an economic waste, a moral disgrace," he is expected to say.
"In the past we used to think of poverty in absolute terms, meaning straightforward material deprivation.

"That's not enough. We need to think of poverty in relative terms, the fact that some people lack those things which others in society take for granted.

"So I want this message to go out loud and clear: the Conservative party recognises, will measure and will act on relative poverty."

His comments mark another break with the tradition of Margaret Thatcher, the former Conservative prime minister, and represent a fresh attempt to take on Labour on what has long been regarded as its own territory.

It follows a call by one of Mr Cameron's key policy advisers, Greg Clark, the MP for Tunbridge Wells, for the party to look for inspiration on social policy in Polly Toynbee, the Guardian commentator, rather than Winston Churchill.

Toynbee has written widely on the social exclusion faced by people living on benefits or in minimum-wage jobs.

Churchill, prime minister during the second world war and again in the early 1950s, saw social policy as defined by a ladder of opportunity with a safety net at the bottom for the very worst off.

Mr Clark, a member of the Tories' social justice commission chaired by Iain Duncan Smith, the party's former leader, warned that British society was in danger of being pulled apart if the poorest were allowed to fall ever-further behind the rich.

He said that earlier Conservative governments had made a "terrible mistake" by ignoring an "alarming" increase in relative poverty, contributing to an "atmosphere of anger and mistrust".

Asked to define relative poverty, Mr Cameron told BBC Breakfast: "Relative poverty is if some people don't have what others take for granted.

"It is important not just to say that poverty is destitution and there is a safety net but as society grows richer we want everyone to grow richer."

He said that Labour had managed to help people just under the poverty line but had failed to give assistance to those in "deep" poverty.

"People who are in that deep poverty are there for just as long as they were 10 years ago.

"The problem with Labour is they just tend look at redistributing money and they treat it all as a money issue rather than looking at the causes of poverty."

The Conservative leader said he wanted a bigger role for volunteers and social enterprise groups to tackle causes of poverty such as debt, homelessness and drug abuse.

However, the party came under attack today by the Liberal Democrats after a video produced by the Conservatives implied that people in debt were allowing the "tosser within" to make financial choices for them.

The Lib Dems' Treasury spokesman, Vincent Cable, said that the video was "an insult to hard working people" who, he said, had "no alternative" to borrowing because of pressures on family budgets.

He added: "This is the kind of insensitive crass nonsense one might expect from a party led by rich young men, who have never had to balance a budget in their lives."

Thursday, November 23, 2006

[Colorado] Hunger Hitting Home

from The Denver Post

Growth rate of Colo. households seeking food 3rd-highest in U.S.

In the past three years, the number of Colorado households struggling to put a meal on the table every day rose nearly 3 percent - the third-highest growth rate among states, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data.

The USDA estimated that 12 percent of Colorado households had "low food security," meaning they had difficulty providing meals at some point during a year.

"People can say what they want about the economy turning around, but this speaks to the huge gap between those doing well and those with a rough time," said Jim White, spokesman for the Colorado branch of Volunteers of America.

Other groups that feed the poor in Colorado say the statistical rise in the number of hungry people in the state has been noticeable - particularly as the holidays arrive.

Typically, it takes Volunteers of America two weeks to give away 1,000 vouchers for free Thanksgiving food baskets.

This year, it took three days.

And when Food Bank of the Rockies let metro Denver pantries know it had more than 1,000 Thanksgiving food baskets available, officials were stunned at the response - more than 7,000 requests.

"There's nothing in the middle anymore," White said.

An annual average of 216,000 Colorado households - an estimated 479,000 people - experienced some form of hunger between 2003 and 2005, according to the USDA and U.S. Census Bureau.

Maine and South Carolina had a rise in hunger rates slightly above 3 percent. Colorado's 2.8 percent increase was matched by Ohio.

Nationwide, the number of people who didn't have enough money or resources to regularly get food at some point dipped to 35.1 million in 2005, from 38 million the year before.

The USDA hunger study gave only three-year averages for state data.

"It's startling news," said Debbi Garrity, a spokeswoman for Food Bank of the Rockies.

"The sheer effect of poverty shocks me here," she said. "I always think of Colorado as an extremely enlightened place to live."

The report said the nation's hungriest people, those who are worst off, increased by about 100,000 Americans last year to 10.8 million.

From 2003 to 2005 in Colorado, that number climbed to 70,000 households, or about 155,000 people, the report shows.

The number of hungry people is affected by factors including the economy and the availability of food stamps and other social-welfare programs.

If families that are eligible for food stamps do not apply for or receive the stamps, the number of families living in poverty and lacking "food security" increases.

Colorado's poverty rate increased in 2005 to 10.7 percent of the population from 9.8 percent the year before, according to federal figures. The poverty level is an annual income of $20,000 for a family of four.

And just 56 percent of Coloradans who qualified for food stamps received the benefit in 2004, the most recent year for which state data were available. The national average is 60 percent.

It makes sense that some food pantries and community groups are seeing more and more people asking for help.

The Denver Rescue Mission, long known for its Thanksgiving meals, has seen a sharp rise in the number of people seeking food during the holiday.

The mission passed out more than 1,000 food boxes Tuesday, according to spokeswoman Greta Walker.

"We're already planning to increase the number of food boxes for next year because the demand is high," Walker said. "It shouldn't just be a Thanksgiving thing to help the needy."

Staff writer David Migoya can be reached at 303-954-1506 or

[Pennsylvania] Nuns make Thanksgiving possible for poor

from Pittsburgh Tribune Review

By Jennifer Reeger

Before the men and women lugging boxes and laundry baskets arrive, the nuns and the volunteers join hands and pray.
They stand in a circle, eyes closed but hearts open to what Sister Margaret Tuley has to say:

"Lord, we ask you to bless us. ... We ask you to open our hearts today to the people who will come as we serve them with respect and reverence."

Then those they serve arrive -- filling up their boxes and bags and laundry baskets with bread and frozen meat and cereal and ramen noodles -- enough to help them avoid starving until it's time to return.
In a tiny Dunbar Township home that served as the starting point for the Pechin's discount-retailing empire, the sisters of Rendu Services work to offer the poor of Fayette County not only respect and reverence but a helping hand.

They have been working for the past six years, aiding the underprivileged by working with other agencies in Fayette County to provide food, after-school programs and health care. As Thanksgiving approached, the sisters directed those in need to community meals or places to get a free turkey to make at home, so that each of them would be able to celebrate the holiday.

For many, there would be no Thanksgiving dinner without the sisters' guiding hands.

"If it wasn't for the sisters ... they're miracles -- they are," said Tammy Dailey, 42, of Dunbar Borough, who gets food from the pantry at Rendu Services every month.

In 1999, the Daughters of Charity Northeast Province was looking for ways to serve the poorest communities.

"We were challenged by our province to really dream so this was a dream project," said Tuley, Rendu's executive director.

The nuns went searching for rural areas with high poverty rates.

"The group that came here to Fayette County really studied," Tuley said. "It's one of the poorest in the Northeast. We felt we wanted to try to make a difference in people's lives."

In Fayette County, 18 percent of residents live below the poverty level, and the child poverty rate of 30 percent is the highest in the state, according to the Fayette County Community Action Agency.

In June 2000, four Daughters of Charity arrived in Fayette County to start Rendu Services -- named for a French nun who worked with the poor of Paris -- and it was officially incorporated the following year. Three of the original nuns remain -- Tuley, Sister Mary Fran Bassick, who runs the after-school program, and Sister Ellen McElroy, who is a caseworker.

Others have joined over the years and have come from two other religious orders -- the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill and Vincentian Sisters of Charity. Vincentian sisters Sarah Geier and Alice O'Connell along with Sister of Charity Annette Frey work on health care. The latest nun to join Rendu, Sister of Charity Mary Philip Aaron, is working on fund development.

When they first arrived, the nuns visited 50 agencies, trying to figure out what was being offered and what they could do to fill the gaps.

"We try to collaborate as best we can," Tuley said. "We don't want to duplicate services."

So they serve as a monthly food pantry site for Fayette County Community Action. They offer an after-school program at the Marion Villa Apartments near Belle Vernon for the Fayette County Housing Authority.

They deliver Meals on Wheels in the Brownsville area. They do in-depth case management interviews at the St. Vincent de Paul store in Uniontown -- offering people ideas on where to go for help with utility bills or food. The sisters' health van takes trips across the county, offering health information and free blood pressure screenings.

On a morning earlier this month, Geier and Frey set up shop at the St. Vincent de Paul store in Uniontown.

On a table are placards about diabetes and cards explaining blood pressure. One display shows the effect of plaque build-up on artery walls. Every month, the nuns focus on a different health topic -- from mammograms to diabetes.

When someone says they can't afford a visit to the doctor, the nuns give them help locating free or reduced-cost health care.

"For some people, they're afraid to go there because it's another bill," Frey said. "They get to the point where husband or wife dies and one of the Social Security checks isn't coming in, and they just can't afford to live."

Joe Burnette, 69, of Springhill Township, stopped by the store to check his blood pressure. He used to be on medication but has managed to get off.

"Usually when I come in here, they're here, and I get it checked," Burnette said. "I like to take advantage of it. I think it's a nice thing.

"I think what they do is really an admirable thing," Burnette said. "There's probably a lot of people who don't even go to the doctor."

Volunteers assist the nuns, especially at the food pantry.

"Some of them are actually recipients, but they help us and we encourage that," Tuley said.

Vi Swank, 66, of Dunbar Borough, has been volunteering since the beginning.

"I've only missed one month because I was sick," she said. "Then it came so we needed it."

She and her husband live on Social Security. She volunteers at the pantry and gets help herself. The pantry serves about 100 families; 50 to 70 come on a regular basis. Many bring similar stories, of working lives cut short by the unexpected.

Dailey used to work several jobs to take care of her three boys. Only one is home now. He's 19 and has special needs. Dailey started coming to the pantry after she had to stop working.

"I got sick, had a heart attack," she said. "I left myself go to take care of my mom and kids. It was hard. It was really hard."

Tuley said Dailey's situation is typical. "If you're the breadwinner in the family and you lose your job, what does it do? Your whole budget is off," Tuley said.

Ten children in the community room at Marion Villa Apartments vie for Bassick's attention.

"Sister, I need help," they say. "Sister, I'm done."

She patiently makes the rounds -- offering each of them help on their homework or with the computer.

"One time, I said, 'Do not say sister anymore. I'm changing my name to Sam,'" Bassick said. "About three seconds later someone said 'Sam.' "

The children come here two days a week after school for homework help, board games, time on the computer and snacks. On Fridays, the kids come for a 4-H program. In the summer, they come to camp.

"I like how sister will help me on science, social studies, reading, spelling everything," said 12-year-old Arielle Sisley.

They've had lessons on photography. They've maintained a garden in the summer. They're learning how to save. The kids collect points for attendance and completed homework and other work they do during the program. Then they can spend it on toys or save it up for bigger prizes.

Bassick said the kids have learned to play with each other and not get so angry. Some come from homes where their parents are addicts or dead or in jail.

"I really want them to remember that when they're here, they're in a safe place and they're in a happy place," she said.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

[Australia] G20 'failed to tackle poverty'

from Yahoo News

A charity group led by Federal Treasurer Peter Costello's brother, Reverend Tim Costello, says the G20 economic summit has missed an opportunity to address security and environmental issues by failing to tackle poverty.

Make Poverty History says it wanted the delegates at the summit to provide a clear timetable on how they would deliver aid promises made at the G8 summit in Scotland last year.

Treasurer Peter Costello says the summit has covered a range of topics and has been very successful.

He says G20 delegates have agreed there should be higher levels of investment in the energy sector and the International Monetary Fund should be reformed, so it better represents large Asian countries.

But Make Poverty History co-chair Reverend Tim Costello says the G20 forum could have addressed climate change and terrorism by increasing aid.

"There is simply no way we can win the war on terror or the war against global warming if we don't deal with poverty because the poor will go on cutting down forests, including rainforests," he said.

"The siren songs of Osama bin Laden will recruit desperate poor people as suicide bombers."

Saturday, November 18, 2006

[Australia] Bono, Pearl Jam rally anti-poverty crowd in Australia

from Live Daily

U2 frontman Bono made a surprise appearance with Pearl Jam Friday (11/17) during an outdoor concert in Melbourne on the eve of the G-20 economic meetings set to take place in that city.
The outspoken Irish singer/activist used the occasion to protest the meetings and call for an end to world poverty.

"Politicians have to do what you tell them to do. We are gonna make poverty history," Bono said, according to Australian news reports, before launching into a cover of Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World" with the Seattle grunge-rock veterans.

Three days of potentially violent protests are expected during the meetings, which continue Saturday and Sunday. Police have locked down parts of Melbourne, Australia's second-largest city, in hopes of containing possible flare-ups.

Bono and Pearl Jam were performing as part of a benefit for Make Poverty History, an organization--very vocally supported by the singer in the past--that campaigns for countries to forgive debts of poor and developing nations, among other concerns. Thousands of people were in attendance at the concert, which was beamed live via satellite to locations around the world, according to news reports.

The G-20 is a group consisting of economic leaders and finance ministers from the 20 largest global economies. The group meets once every year in a different member city to discuss international cooperation regarding economic issues.

The group has been a lightning rod of criticism for anti-globalization foes, who view the organization as having too much influence over the world's economy, and worry that its existence promotes the enrichment of member states at the expense of developing nations around the globe.

Authorities were expecting up to 20,000 people to attend a protest march on Saturday in the city's downtown business district. A group calling themselves "The G20 Christian Collective" set up a "pray embassy" behind police barricades, according to Australian media reports.

"We think it's obscene that the world's finance ministers are the ones who are making the decisions about what happens in our world, and we think the voices of the poor need to be heard and certainly the voices of those who know about the environment," an anonymous member of the group was quoted as saying.

U2 was set to play back-to-back concerts in Melbourne over the weekend. Pearl Jam, not currently touring, is scheduled to open for the Irish band at its Dec. 9 show in Honolulu.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

[Nigeria] Globacom Extends Poverty Eradication Scheme to 17 States

from All Africa

This Day


Second National Carrier and Africa 's fastest growing network, Globacom, in collaboration with state governments, local government Councils, the National Agency for Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP) and well-meaning individuals, now has poverty alleviation projects in 17 states of the federation including the Federal Capital Territory , Abuja .

Globacom's Chief Operating Officer, Mr Mohammed Jameel, in a statement, said the company has also pledged to take the project to all states of the federation and to as many Local Government Areas as possible. The statement said that Globacom is embarking on a nationwide partnership to bring succour to citizens by creating employment opportunities.

Globacom, in conjunction with the partner states and organizations, gave out complete telephone business packages including Glo SIM packs, handsets, tables, chairs and parasols.

The company said it intends to get more Nigerian youths off the streets into gainful employment.

States that have so far received the poverty alleviation package include Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Cross River , Edo , Imo and Edo . Others are Kwara, Lagos , Niger , Ogun, Osun, Rivers, Oyo and Jigawa.

The last two stop-overs of the Glo poverty eradication train were in Abia and Bayelsa, while plans are in top gear to reach out to the remaining states in the next few months.

Beneficiaries of Globacom's poverty alleviation scheme are of the opinion that Globacom has, more than any other network, touched the lives of the masses.

In his comments at the launch of the scheme in Minna, the Niger state capital, the State Governor, Engr. Abdullahi Kure urged the rich to assist the under-privileged in the society as Globacom had done.

The Senate president, Chief Ken Nnamani, who presented the product to the beneficiaries at the occasion, praised Globacom for identifying with the people.

In addition to commercial telephone facilities, Globacom is giving out public telephone facilities to rural communities where individuals may not be able to afford personal telephones. In such situations, the whole community would have access to the telephone.

To facilitate this, the network is also connecting remote communities where it may otherwise, not be profitable to extend coverage.

Throwing more light on the rural connection scheme, the statement said that on specific request from states, Globacom has been deploying its base stations to rural areas where it "may not fully recoup its investment".

Monday, November 13, 2006

[Canada] Ottawa pledges millions to break cycle of world poverty

from The Globe and Mail

HALIFAX, N.S. — The federal government pledged more than $40-million on Sunday towards microfinance projects in Asia, Africa and Latin America that help poor people access financial services.

Foreign Minister Peter Mackay said the money will be dispersed through Développement International Desjardins, Canadian Co-operative Association and Oxfam Québec.

It's unclear, however, how much of the federal government's announcement represents new money. The Canadian International Development Agency said late yesterday the new funding will be spread out over several years and will likely fall within the $32-million it already spends annually on microfinance.

Mr. Mackay made the announcement to about 2,000 people from around the world, who gathered for a four-day summit in Halifax to discuss how to increase financial access for the poorest people on the planet.

The Global Microcredit Summit comes just a month after Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank he founded won this year's Nobel Peace Prize. The premise of his bank is simple: providing tiny loans and training to poor people – women in particular – can create self-sufficiency and benefit whole communities.

Mr. Yunus said Sunday access to financial services will help create a system of inclusiveness in the world where “no one is left behind.”

“We are no longer a footnote in the financial system of the world, we are a part of the mainstream – and hopefully we will be the core of the mainstream,” he said.

In an interview, Mr. Yunus praised the federal government's move but said Canadian funding has been on the decline in the past several decades.

That said, he'd like to see microfinance organizations exist without any support from foreign donor companies.

Grameen Bank hasn't received any donor money since 1998 and says on its website it “does not see any need to take money or even take loans from local or external sources in the future.”

The summit's goal is to provide 175 million of the world's poorest families with credit and financial services by 2015. As of last year, microcredit institutions had about 81 million clients.

It also aims to lift 100 million people who are subsisting on less than $1 (U.S.) a day out of poverty.

Mr. Yunus, along with world leaders from Pakistan and Honduras, spoke at opening ceremonies of the four-day conference that will also include representatives from some of the world's largest financial institutions such as Citigroup Inc. and American International Group Inc.

The summit “is a significant milestone in progress towards an inclusive financial system that will look after the neediest in society,” said Queen Sofia of Spain.

Microfinance aims to give access to financial services to people, predominantly women, who lack collateral and credit history.

Much of that is in the form of tiny loans, which have been hailed as a key part of global poverty reduction. At Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, which has loaned $5.7-billion since its inception in 1983, repayment rates run at nearly 99 per cent.

Replicas of the Grameen Bank model now operate in more than 100 countries around the world.

The sector has grown by more than tenfold in the past decade and is expected to explode in the years ahead as money pours in from the likes of Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and international banks.

It is now branching out from credit for small businesses to savings, micro-insurance, home loans, pensions and educational savings accounts.

[Ireland] Poverty in North 'unacceptably high', says Hain

from Ireland On Line

The number of people living in poverty in the North is unacceptably high, Northern Secretary Peter Hain said today.

Announcing a new anti-poverty strategy he pledged the Government's commitment to work to eliminate poverty and social exclusion in the province by 2020.

"Despite Northern Ireland now having more employment than ever before and unemployment being at an historically low level, the numbers of households, families and children living in poverty remains unacceptably high," he said.

Speaking at the launch of the strategy - Lifetime Opportunities - he said it focused on different priority needs at different times in people's lives, from early years through to late years and defining specific goals and targets for each of the stages.

Addressing an audience of voluntary and community sector workers at the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action in Belfast, he said: "Early intervention is the key to preventing poverty.

"It is our aim to provide a children's centre in disadvantaged areas throughout Northern Ireland and to provide better services for children and their parents to ensure that the cycle of poverty is broken."

A priority had to be ensuring that the barriers to people joining or rejoining the labour market were removed by providing support to those who were unemployed or economically inactive, said Mr Hain.

"We are determined to eliminate the scourge of poverty which blights the lives of so many people in Northern Ireland and with continued economic growth and political stability there is perhaps now the best opportunity for decades to achieve this," he said.

Save the Children welcomed the strategy despite saying it had a number of concerns about the detail.

Alex Tennant of the charity said: "Given that one in three of our children are living in poverty, we believe that we need strong political direction to ensure that Northern Ireland gets on track to see the eradication of child poverty by 2020."

Describing the strategy as "a move in the right direction" he said it was encouraging children and poverty were two priorities coming out of the Comprehensive Spending Review.

"We hope that this will mean that we will see new and innovative policies and programmes developed which will focus on the children living in the most severe poverty," said Mr Tennant.

[Pakistan] PM urges Global community to alleviate poverty

from The Pak Tribune

HALIFAX: Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz has urged the global Community to help alleviate global poverty, by providing means of income for masses of under developed nations.

While addressing the International summit about micro and macro financing, in the Canadian city of Halifax here Sunday, he termed poverty as the biggest challenge for the mankind, since it fosters injustice, extremism and a sense of deprivation among the suffering masses, and presented his 5-point agenda for micro and macro financing solutions in the most under developed countries for well being of the poor masses and specifically women.

He said that various reforms have been successfully implemented in Pakistan and account for the current success in economical progress and development of the Country, and a significant decline in poverty has also been witnessed.

While presenting the facts and figures, he informed his audience that due to these conducive policies the figure of Pakistani masses living below the poverty line was 34.5 % in year 2001, which was reduced to 23.9% until year 2005, indicating that the government was able to relieve about 30,00,000 persons from the curse and menace of poverty in a short spate of four years.

He cited the four-prong strategy, which had helped evolve this progress, namely, speeding up the development, investment for human resources, self-employment schemes via micro and macro financing, and social protection for the under privileged sections of the society. He said that Khushali Bank has played an important part in its establishment, while legislation for monitoring micro and macro financing is also being carried out.

He said that about four district level banks have been established, and also cited other small outfits providing micro/macro financing for poor and the needy, and include such programmes as poverty alleviation funds, assistance for rural folk, and micro and macro financing through leasing companies and banks.

While concluding his speech the PM stressed on providing a comprehensive strategy to combat the global menace of poverty using all the available resources.

[Pennsylvania] Summit emphasizes impact of poverty in area

from The Herald Standard

BELLE VERNON - A regional poverty summit targeting Fayette, Westmoreland and Washington counties was recently held in Rostraver Township to emphasize how poverty impacts learning, work habits and decision-making in children and adults.

The goal of the summit, according to Susan Lee, executive assistant of Communities in Schools (CIS), who sponsored the event, was to make a long-term positive difference in the community.

Individuals involved in education, public policy, social services, community development, health care and law enforcement learned how to be more effective with adults and children through a deeper understanding of economic class issues.

Lee explained that the role of Communities in Schools (CIS) is to help kids stay in school and prepare for life. She additionally said that CIS is the nation's largest nonprofit stay-in-school network that services more than 2,000,000 at-risk children annually in 245 school districts at 1,550 project sites.

"The CIS mission is to identify youth at-risk of school failure and provide them with school-based, supportive services necessary to successfully learn, stay in school and prepare for life," said Lee.

CIS was organized as a private, nonprofit corporation in 1989 with more than 23,000 students receiving specific CIS services since that time. Services are provided to students in Fayette County at Laurel Highlands, Albert Gallatin, Frazier and Uniontown school districts; Southeastern Greene in Greene County; Belle Vernon, Derry, Monessen, Southmoreland, Yough and Laurel Valley school districts in Westmoreland County; and at the Success Academy at Uniontown Mall and the Pregnant and Parenting Teen Program.

Summit speaker Jim Littlejohn of Columbia, S.C., told the 100 or so participants that in order to escape poverty individuals must understand the "hidden rules of economic class." He explained that "The Framework for Understanding Poverty," written by Dr. Ruby K. Payne is simple to understand.

"Whether we come from poverty, middle class or wealth, we think and act differently," said Littlejohn. "As each environment produces different strengths to ensure survival along with its own hidden rules, too often teachers or employers don't understand why an individual from poverty does not learn or respond as they think they should even after repeated explanations."

Littlejohn said that unspoken cues or hidden rules that govern how we think and interact in society are taught differently in different classes. He additionally said that poverty isn't just about money but the extent to which an individual does without resources.

Littlejohn explained the difference in education in each of the three classes and said that each child learns the same lesson differently. He said that poverty tends to lower childhood expectations while middle to upper income class children tend to have higher expectations placed on them from the beginning.

"More is expected of middle to upper class children by their parents because of their parents' social standing in the community," said Littlejohn. "Upper class children are taught that tradition counts and are told that certain things are expected from them because 'it is the family way of doing or handling things.'"

Littlejohn said middle class children are taught that "it's the right thing to do." While most children of poverty are generally told "you'll do it because I said so."

"All three ways get the job done," said Littlejohn. "However, the middle class and upper class children are taught the reason for doing the task while children of poverty are taught its just the way things are."

Littlejohn said with upper class families the rules tend to change if the money is generational. "If its new money then the parents are probably still operating on a mid to upper middle class level," said Littlejohn. "If it is generational money (money that has been passed down through the generations) then the rules generally support the first theory."

Littlejohn also explained that language is often a barrier between the classes and told participants to listen more carefully to what kids are saying.

He said that many children who come from poverty understand that they don't have as much as everybody else even though they have the basics such as food and housing. He said that most children of poverty are not violent, are not on drugs, have hope for themselves and understand the hidden rules of their peer group.

He also told those assembled that children of poverty often don't express themselves as clearly as children of college graduates.

[India] Bihar minister in below poverty line list

from The Hindustan Times

Believe it or not, the name of a cabinet minister in Bihar's Nitish Kumar government figures in the list of people living below poverty line(BPL).

Baidyanath Prasad Mahto, the state's Rural Development Minister, under whose supervision the new BPL list is being prepared, is himself shocked over inclusion of his name in the list from his native Pakadia village.

"I have been given just six points instead of 42 despite the fact that I have a pucca house, a jeep and also farmland," he said.

The minister, however, said an inquiry by the Tirhut Divisional Commissioner ordered by him on Sunday found that his name was 'inadvertently' included in the list.

Mahto said the inquiry revealed that though his name was not in the master copy, it was present in the subsequent copies due to an error in entry made by the computer operator while composing.

"I have asked the concerned authorities to rectify the mistake," he said.

[Nelson Mandela] Fight against poverty will cement African democracy

from Yahoo News

MIDRAND, South Africa (AFP) - Success in the battles against poverty, unemployment and AIDS is crucial to the viability of democracy in Africa, Nelson Mandela has told a meeting of the continent's own parliament.

In a rare public appearance, the Nobel peace prize winner told members of the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) that a greater effort was needed to deliver the citizens of the world's poorest continent from a life of poverty.

"Poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, lack of sanitation and clean water and
HIV/AIDS remain some of the biggest challenges on our continent," said the ageing former South African president.

"Let all rededicate ourselves to deliver a better life for our people."

The parliament was set up in 2004 as a sign of a commitment to democratic ideals in a continent which has all too often been blighted by coups and dictatorships in the post-colonial era.

Although it has no formal powers, it aims to be seen as the voice of the people across Africa by bringing together 265 MPs elected by members of 53 national legislatures.

"Let the PAP be the voice of the African poor. Let their voices be heard loudly and clearly in the corridors of power," said Mandela.

Mandela's appearance at the start of the sixth sitting of the parliament, which will continue over the coming fortnight, was timed to coincide with the launch of a trust fund to supplement the parliament existing budget which is met by the African Union.

Mandela said the fund was a worthy initiative that would provide resources and expertise needed to "make the continent a better place to live in."

"The trust fund has an equally great obligation to be an example of good governance and transparency," said Mandela.

Earlier the vice-president of the German Bundestag pledged 500,000 dollars (390,000 euros) to the trust fund on behalf of the government in Berlin.

"Germany wants to be a partners for a strong Africa. As chair of the G8 (group of industrialised nations) we are going to make this very clear in the coming year," said Sussane Kastner.

The United Nations has also pledged 50,000 dollars towards the fund.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

[Canada] Miracles by microcredit

from The Chronicle Herald

Summit delegates say small loans key to ending global poverty
By CLARE MELLOR Business Reporter

A Nobel Peace Prize winner, the queen of Spain and dignitaries from across the globe are coming to Halifax, all because of a retiree from Charlottetown.

Bill Campbell, a volunteer working to end global poverty, is the man behind bringing the Global Microcredit Summit to Halifax.

The event starts Sunday, with more than 2,000 people from more than 100 countries expected to attend.

Participants include Queen Sofia of Spain and Bangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus who, along with the Grameen Bank, was awarded the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for tackling poverty with microcredit.

Microcredit involves small, unsecured loans with a reasonable interest rate, that allow people to start generating an income.

"I’ve been amazingly successful in bringing the thing here to Canada. It is more good luck than good management in my mind," said Mr. Campbell, 61, who volunteers with Results Canada, a grassroots advocacy group that lobbies governments to end world hunger.

"It’s an incredible kind of a story. I can’t take all the credit . . . Everyone who gave me a penny even, that is what made this possible."

A retired teacher and federal civil servant, Mr. Campbell has attended several global microcredit summits and organized several microcredit meetings in Atlantic Canada.

While attending a global microcredit summit in New York, Mr. Campbell questioned organizers why the annual summit had never been held in Canada.

"They just said ‘You never asked.’ "

The rest is history.

With a push from Jean-Guy Poirier, a manager of business development with the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, Mr. Campbell put in a formal proposal to the bring the summit to Halifax and began raising the $3.3 million required from corporations and government agencies.

"They had big plans to go to Spain or Egypt . . . before I knew it they were coming to Halifax to have a look to see if it was possible."

The summit, a project of Results Educational Fund, a U.S. advocacy group, has been held annually since 1997. Participants expect to reach 100 million of the world’s poorest families with microcredit by the end of this year.

The small loans, often targeted at women, have enabled those in developing countries to start small business ventures and become self-sufficient. Some industrialized countries are now adopting the same microcredit models.

Mr. Campbell began researching microcredit years ago and quickly became fascinated with its potential for ending poverty in the Third World and addressing the problem of high unemployment in areas of Atlantic Canada.

"There are about two billion people on the planet who live in what we call the informal economy. They live on less than one or two dollars a day. These people have no hope at all. All the economic development policies of the World Bank and the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and organizations like that, they are all policies that are targeted to the formal economy," Mr. Campbell said in an interview.

"I saw microcredit actually going into the informal economy and touching the lives of these people and creating miracles in their lives just by a small, little loan that would give them enough money to buy the material to make a bamboo basket or some kind of an artifact or craft."

Mr. Campbell said he really wanted Charlottetown to host the summit, but the number of attendees meant it was logistically impossible.

"He wanted the summit to come to Canada and basically chased it," says Jeff Turner of Destination Halifax, a public-rivate partnership that recently gave Mr. Campbell an Ambassador Club award for bringing the conference to Halifax.

The conference is expected to generate several million dollars in economic spinoffs for the city.

Michael Hayes, an account manager with ACOA, describes Mr. Campbell as the champion of the summit.

"He got the interest going. He also went cap in hand to many corporations."

The summit received $500,000 from ACOA and $250,000 each from the province and the Canadian International Development Agency. Other agencies and corporations have also contributed.

However, just a couple days before the summit, Mr. Campbell was on the phone still trying to raise funds.

"I’ve got a lot of balls in the air and I’m trying to bring them all in," he said.

"We are about $200,000 short of our $3.3-million budget. A lot of that money goes toward making it easier for these brilliant lenders in the Third World to get here. The value of their currency would prohibit them from actually coming to such a summit. What we try to do is raise about $3,000 to facilitate their airfare and lodging."

While some microcredit projects are taking flight in the Atlantic provinces through co-operatives and credit unions, Mr. Campbell hopes the summit will serve as a "lightning rod" for the creation of more small-loan programs in this region.

"More and more people are looking at it," he said.

"Could this (microcredit) be the little miracle worker for Atlantic Canada?"

Friday, November 10, 2006

[US] Poverty fight cheaper than war: Clinton

from The London Free Press

MONTREAL -- Investing in the global fight against poverty is far cheaper than paying for the eventual consequences of inaction, former U.S. president Bill Clinton said yesterday.

"All of the things we can do are much cheaper than dealing with the aftermath of calamity," he told several thousand people who attended the Montreal Millennium Promise conference. "And they also parenthetically are much cheaper than going to war," he said to thunderous applause. The Americans have spent US$400 billion on the war in Iraq and US$100 billion on Afghanistan, yet have failed to honour their commitment to provide $30 billion a year in foreign aid, he noted. "It's quite astonishing the comparative costs of avoiding calamity with dealing with the aftermath," he said, referring to hardships in Darfur, Congo and Rwanda.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

[North Carolina] Economist to boost anti-poverty effort

from The News and Observer

CHAPEL HILL - Jeffrey Sachs, economist and author of "The End of Poverty," will speak this week at UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke University to highlight a student effort to raise $1.5 million to support an African village.

Sachs will speak at 11 a.m. Friday in UNC-CH's Memorial Hall, and at 1:30 p.m. in Duke's Page Auditorium. He also will participate in a student rally against poverty at 12:15 p.m. in the Pit, a popular gathering spot at the center of UNC-CH's campus. The events are free and open to the public.

Sachs' visit will focus on the alliance among students at Bennett College, Duke and UNC-CH who are leading an effort to raise $1.5 million for the Millennium Village Project. This project aims to lift small African villages out of poverty in five years. The students are sponsoring the village of Marenyo in western Kenya.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

[South Africa] IMF says South Africa needs more growth to fight poverty

from Yahoo News

MIDRAND, South Africa (AFP) - Record growth rates have not been enough for South Africa to make significant progress in battling poverty and unemployment, a top International Monetary Fund official has said.

John Lipsky, the bank's first deputy managing director, said the continent's economic powerhouse "has been enjoying its longest macroeconomic expansion on record" and forecast 4.2 percent growth in gross domestic product (GDP) this year.

But he warned it was not enough to fight South Africa's high unemployment which affects at least one out of three people, according to experts, and redress economic imbalances from the apartheid era which ended in 1994.

"While recent growth has been impressive by South Africa's historical standards, it has not been enough to make significant inroads into unemployment, poverty and underdevelopment," Lipsky told reporters on the last day of his maiden visit to the country.

"The acute income and wealth disparities inherited from the apartheid era are still painfully evident, poverty is still widespread and ... HIV/AIDS is extracting a heavy social and economic toll.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

[Bono] urges Australia to make poverty history

from The ABC

Reporter: Donna Field
ELEANOR HALL: Tonight Irish rockers U2 will take to the stage in Australia for the first time in nine years.

Since their last performance the band's campaign to rid the world of extreme poverty has become as important to them as their music.

And when he's not on stage, lead singer Bono will be using his time in Australia to urge the Prime Minister to commit more money to aid.

In Brisbane, Donna Field reports.

(sound of U2's song Vertigo)

DONNA FIELD: About 50,000 people will fill a Brisbane stadium tonight to hear the Irish supergroup U2.

Aside from playing their vast catalogue of hits spanning more than two decades, front man Bono will use the Vertigo tour to talk about his campaign to make extreme poverty history.

He says he's prepared to talk to the Prime Minister about the idea, but only if John Howard is willing.

BONO: You know I'm not that fussed. If he would like to meet me, if he is serious about 0.7 per cent, then I'm sure we'll find out about it, and I will be very pleased to meet him.

If he's not serious, I don't want to meet him. And neither should you.

DONNA FIELD: Bono wants developed countries, like Australia, to commit 0.7 per cent of GDP to aid. He says that's all that's needed to transform lives in Africa by 2015.

BONO: And I would suggest that in these dangerous times, when a lot of people around the world are not sure of who we are, what our values are, if we have any values at all, this might be a smart thing to do.

And look, we're just your humble rock and roll band. We just come to preach for you now tonight ladies and gentleman!

Sorry about that, apologies. Rock star gets confused!

DONNA FIELD: But Bono isn't confused at all. He says U2's music has always been more than just entertainment.

BONO: All music is political in a certain sense. You know, when Elvis appeared on TV and they only shot from the waist up. It was a political thing, and as Larry was just saying, we just try not to be boring about our politics.

And we try to be... to inspire people that the world is more malleable than you think.

DONNA FIELD: The band was forced to cancel the Vertigo tour earlier this year, but the 40-something rockers are back and they say they aren't tiring of their perch at the apex of world rock.

BONO: I'd like to think that we're doing our best work now, and a lot of people seem to agree with us on that. Critics, and things like that.

But two crap albums, and we're out. That's the deal.

DONNA FIELD: U2 will also perform in Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne.