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Recap & Response: Poverty and Violence

On September 23, 2016, CAPP-USA and Fordham University co-sponsored a conference called “Pope Francis’ Call for Escaping Poverty: Practical Examples and New Proposals.” The conference examined the definition and measurement of poverty and proposed specific, practical efforts which operationalize Pope Francis’ insistence that people “be dignified agents of their own destiny.” What follows is the last in a series of posts authored by graduate students in Fordham University’s International Political Economy & Development Program that offer a summary and response to a topic discussed at the conference.

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The last panel of the conference was devoted to the problem of poverty and violence. This sphere is vastly understudied and sometimes misunderstood, mainly because the exact causal relationship and means of measurements of poverty and violence are still unknown.

In order to understand the problem, it is important to have a clear definition of violence. Statistics show that nearly two billion people now live in countries where development outcomes are highly influenced by fragility of the state (World Bank), and by 2030 almost 50% of the world’s poorest will be living in a region affected by violence. However, when we talk about violence and development we shouldn’t forget that wars are not the only form of violence. The violence of everyday life is one of the biggest obstacles today, resulting in nearly 45 million people, including children, subject to some form of modern slavery. Finally, violence can include economic abuse of power, any form of domestic violence, land-grabbing, among other things.

Nicholas Michael, a member of UN negotiation team on Syria, introduced essential steps required to overcome the violence. He pointed to ten steps on how to solve the conflict and associate people:

  1. construct an open dialogue with civil society organizations;
  2. include women in sufficient number in the process (in addition to official delegations’ women representatives);
  3. consistently remind the parties of the conflict their obligations under the international humanitarian laws, international human rights, and criminal laws;
  4. encourage and assist people in starting business processes;
  5. develop responsible a media environment;
  6. relate to religious communities;
  7. design adequate accountability, truth telling, and reconciliation mechanisms in order to deal with the past and create a sustainable situation;
  8. reshape sanctions regime by lifting the sanctions that have no impact to solving the conflict and adversely affect civilians;
  9. assist the parties to agree on principals of a new constitution that will effectively protect human rights;
  10. and create conditions for the safe return of refugees to the country.

Armando Borja, Jesuit Refugee Service North America Regional Director, talked about how poverty can contribute to violence as the poor often have no other way to protect themselves except to fight. The main focus of his speech was on refugees and their impoverishments. Refugees often find themselves in the bottom economic level, being pushed to the limit, without access to health services, education, adequate nutrition. They also suffer from other consequences of poverty and, tragically, repeated displacement. One of the ways to effectively help them is through the provision of education as it is a vital lifesaving intervention that can provide means for better future. Simple hospitality informs how we can integrate refugees into the new communities.

The problem of violence and poverty is one of the hardest for mankind to solve. What level of poverty in the particular region triggers the violence? If there was an accurate answer to that question, perhaps, it would be easier to predict possible conflict and try to solve it before it evolved. On the other hand, violence, being an abuse of any power, can be hidden from society and thus contribute to the development of poverty. While the Fordham Francis Index does a great job determining different factors contributing to poverty, it barely touched the problem of violence. It would be interesting to try to conduct research including different types of violence and analyze how it might trigger poverty and vice versa. However, this type of data is hard to aggregate and comparisons are difficult, which leaves this important question open.

Liya Khalikova is a first-year student in Fordham University’s Graduate Program in International Political Economy & Development.

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Recap & Response: Pope Francis’ Charge to End Poverty

On September 23, 2016, CAPP-USA and Fordham University co-sponsored a conference called “Pope Francis’ Call for Escaping Poverty: Practical Examples and New Proposals.” The conference examined the definition and measurement of poverty and proposed specific, practical efforts which operationalize Pope Francis’ insistence that people “be dignified agents of their own destiny.” What follows is the latest in a series of posts authored by graduate students in Fordham University’s International Political Economy & Development Program that offer a summary and response to a topic discussed at the conference.

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His Eminence Theodore Cardinal McCarrick.

At the recent CAPP-USA / Fordham conference, His Eminence Theodore Cardinal McCarrick took the time to elaborate on comments made by Pope Francis in his 2015 address to the United Nations about social justice, armed conflict, escaping poverty, and environmental abuse. In his speech, Pope Francis said the following:

“Integral human development and the full exercise of human dignity cannot be imposed. They must be built up and allowed to unfold.”

Cardinal McCarrick opened his discussion of Pope Francis’ quote by telling a story:

At the last papal conclave, when it became apparent that then Cardinal Bergoglio was going to receive the votes necessary to become the next Pope, Cardinal Hummes from Brazil leaned over to Bergoglio and said, “Don’t forget the poor.” This is a charge that Pope Francis has not forgotten nor taken lightly.

With this as a compass, Pope Francis has worked to bring an end to extreme poverty and to do so with the dignity of those involved kept intact. Cardinal McCarrick expanded on Pope Francis’ words, asserting that the poor are “not our lower brothers,” but, instead, are our equals and that we must all recognize the freedom of choice, especially in the realm of religion, an issue that effects the poor more than anyone else. He went on to reiterate the Pope’s call to allow the poor to make their own way in the world and to “offer them the pride that comes with being agents of their own future.” We should look for opportunities to facilitate the poor coming into their own, becoming part of their society, and to simultaneously acknowledge the dignity and rights that are inherent in human beings.

These words are meant to inspire and spur those of us who live in the developed world to look upon our less fortunate brothers as equals in the human family. They urge us to look upon those living in conditions of poverty as whole, complete people and recognize in them their rights to make choices in life. It is demanded that we show respect for those who find themselves in situations that many of us cannot fathom, much less relate to. The Pope and the Cardinal ask us to treat the poor, even when giving them a hand up, with the basic dictates of decency.

These points are striking, and the Pope has created a meaningful discourse in shedding light on them. There is sometimes a belief that a person who needs or takes assistance is of a lesser caliber, and, once perceived as such, is treated accordingly. How many of us know what it takes to humble ourselves in such a way? How often have we had to put aside our pride in order to pursue our vision of a better life? These individuals do not require pity or condescension; their needs cannot be solved with handouts and pittance. We should look on those who are brave enough to ask for help as fellows in a common struggle attacked from different vantage points. We are charged with the task of offering the respect that all individuals deserve so that the less fortunate may cultivate within themselves their rightful dignity.

Robyn Emory is a first-year student in Fordham University’s Graduate Program in International Political Economy & Development.

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Recap & Response: Measuring Poverty

On September 23, 2016, CAPP-USA and Fordham University co-sponsored a conference called “Pope Francis’ Call for Escaping Poverty: Practical Examples and New Proposals.” The conference examined the definition and measurement of poverty and proposed specific, practical efforts which operationalize Pope Francis’ insistence that people “be dignified agents of their own destiny.” What follows is the latest in a series of posts authored by graduate students in Fordham University’s International Political Economy & Development Program that offer a summary and response to a topic discussed at the conference.

When Pope Francis spoke at the United Nations in September of 2015, he delivered a powerful message on poverty calling all to action “to enable these real men and women to escape from extreme poverty [by allowing] them to be dignified agents of their own destiny.”

Professor Henry Schwalbenberg and his students at Fordham University answered this call.

Using Pope Francis’s speech as a guidepost, they developed a new tool to measure areas of human need, titled “Fordham’s Pope Francis Global Poverty Index.”

Dr. Henry Schwalbenberg.

Dr. Henry Schwalbenberg.

From the speech, they identified seven indicators across two categories: material well-being (water, food, housing, and employment), and spiritual well-being (education, gender, and religious freedom).

Unlike previous indices, such as the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), Fordham’s includes measures for both gender equality and religious freedom.

The index was created with easily obtained public data, focusing on impact indicators. This led to some interesting results—for example, the study found that literacy is correlated to graduation rates, but not to primary school enrollment, nor spending on education. This may suggest the importance of focusing policy to help students stay in school and get their diplomas.

The study also found that access to water was strongly related to several other indicators, especially housing and gender. This is an area where the index can be improved, with future work looking at different measures for gender and housing.

Fr. Elias D. Mallon expounded on the inclusion of religious freedom in the index, raising several philosophical questions with which the development field is currently grappling:

  • Does the right to religious freedom reside within the individual or within the corporate body?
  • When does the right to religion impinge upon the rights of other religions (intentionally or otherwise)?
  • At what point does one group’s right to religious freedom end?

According to Fr. Mallon, these issues become political when one group calls on the state to promote their own beliefs.

Fr. Elias Mallon

Fr. Elias Mallon.

The potential for these issues to unravel into myriad loose ends is great, but Fr. Mallon pulled everything back to the centrality of our humanity.

“When Pope Francis talks about, ‘goods,’” said Fr. Mallon, “he means more than just physical things. He means ‘the common good’ as well.”

“Thus religious freedom is a shared space, built with everyone’s participation. We are to regard all as brothers and sisters, with our work done in the service of the common good.”

Because Fordham’s Pope Francis Index strongly correlates with the standard Human Development Index (HDI), it provides a powerful new way to begin to not only address the material needs of people, but to identify ways to attend to spiritual well-being as well.

IPED Conference (Sept. 23, 2016) Photo by Bruce Gilbert

Luther Flagstad is a first-year student in Fordham University’s Graduate Program in International Political Economy & Development.

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Recap & Response — What is Poverty?

On September 23, 2016, CAPP-USA and Fordham University co-sponsored a conference called “Pope Francis’ Call for Escaping Poverty: Practical Examples and New Proposals.” The conference examined the definition and measurement of poverty and proposed specific, practical efforts which operationalize Pope Francis’ insistence that people “be dignified agents of their own destiny.” What follows is the second in a series of posts authored by graduate students in Fordham University’s International Political Economy & Development Program that offer a summary and response to a topic discussed at the conference.

Dr. Sabina Alkire

Dr. Sabina Alkire

What image comes to mind when asked, “What is poverty?”

Often one pictures empty pockets, bounced checks, or simply being poor.

Until recently, economists used income (e.g $1/day) as a “good” measure for poverty in trying to identify who was poor. But using income alone can lead to incorrect diagnoses—and prescriptions—by policymakers addressing poverty.

To correct this, Sabina Alkire and James Foster developed a new measure called the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), and it has significantly changed the way economists and policymakers look at what it means to be poor.

The conversation began to change about fifteen years ago when the World Bank conducted a study titled “Voices of the Poor” that approached the question in a new way.

Field researches sat down face-to-face with people who self-identified as poor and asked them, “What is poverty?” The answers spanned several categories: material wealth—sufficient food or a roof over one’s head, bodily well-being—health and appearance, social well-being—dignity and respect, and security in neighborhoods and communities.

Poverty, in other words, is more than just lack of income; it has many dimensions.

The MPI is comprised of ten indicators that span health, education, and living . This allows for a much more comprehensive and detailed look at who is poor and in what ways, and it’s having a big effect on policymakers around the world.

The magic in the MPI is that it doesn’t dictate broad or vague policies, but rather alerts policy makers to areas of issue. This allows for policies and funding to be targeted to specific geographic regions and initiatives within the ten indicators.

Examples include President Santos of Costa Rica, who declared that government spending has to match MPI indicators. This means specific areas that scored poorly, such as education, receive more funding as a result. In Colombia, businesses in the private sector use the MPI as a management tool to drive their social enterprises.

And because the MPI is now employed in over one hundred countries, it allows countries to compare and contrast with one another—and to compete to lower their MPI scores.

As Dr. Alkire stated, “The clustering of disadvantage is a defining feature of poverty.” By acknowledging and defining the multidimensionality of poverty, policymakers and practitioners alike can better identify and serve the interests of the poor.

Luther Flagstad is a first-year student in Fordham University’s Graduate Program in International Political Economy & Development.

Global Multidimensional Poverty Index.

Global Multidimensional Poverty Index.

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Recap & Response — Insights into Pope Francis’ Views on International Poverty and Development

On September 23, 2016, CAPP-USA and Fordham University co-sponsored a conference called “Pope Francis’ Call for Escaping Poverty: Practical Examples and New Proposals.” The conference examined the definition and measurement of poverty and proposed specific, practical efforts which operationalize Pope Francis’ insistence that people “be dignified agents of their own destiny.” What follows is the first in a series of posts authored by graduate students in Fordham University’s International Political Economy & Development Program that offer a summary and response to a topic discussed at the conference.

The Most Reverend Archbishop Bernardito Auza

The Most Reverend Archbishop Bernardito Auza

Optimistic is the word that the Most Reverend Archbishop Bernardito Auza repeatedly used to describe “Pope Francis’ Views on International Poverty and Development,” in his presentation at the CAPP-USA and Fordham University conference last Friday. Above all, the Archbishop emphasized that in the words of Pope Francis, the poor are “dignified agents” of their own destiny. As such, they should be empowered to actively participate in the fight against “undignified” poverty.

According to the Pope, there are three “illnesses” that cause and perpetuate poverty: the globalization of indifference, consumerism and over consumption, and “ferocious idolatry of money.” To those suffering from these illnesses, Pope Francis ascribes a lack of empathy, a blunted conscious, and a loss of ethical control. In spite of this, the Pope’s message remains hopeful, asserting that spiritual renewal, restrained consumption, and a return to God are antidotes that will resolve the three illnesses.

Just as each of the three illnesses has an antidote, so does extreme poverty. The Pope’s answer is “integral human development.” The key components of this holistic approach to development are solidarity, a preferential option for the poor, and the three T’s: Tierra, Techo, and Trabajo (Land, Lodging, and Labor). Integral human development entails a return to the culture of encounter that is central to the Church and incorporates a renewed focus on the Gospel. This guide for treatment of the poor underscores the necessity of basic prerequisites for a dignified life. The Pope’s final sentiment is, unsurprisingly, highly optimistic. He insists that international poverty can and must be defeated and that we have the power to accomplish this task if we all work together.

In the midst of relaying the Pope’s views, the Archbishop seemed to caution us against blind optimism, reminding us that it is difficult to classify poverty. He inquired, “how do we know that only 1.2 of 7.2 billion people live in extreme poverty today? Can we trust the statistics presented by the World Bank?” The Archbishop reveals a cynicism of international institutions and arguably a bit of exasperation at the extent of the challenge before us. Nevertheless, he echoes the Pope’s optimism, especially when it comes to the growing recognition that religion and religious organizations are receiving from the United Nations, as catalysts for change at the grassroots level. Perhaps the Archbishop’s purpose, in voicing his concerns regarding multilateral organizations as well as his pleasure at the credit being afforded to the Church for its work on the ground, is to offer clarification. In order to effectively answer the Pope’s call to work together to fight poverty, we should turn not to the IMF or World Bank, but rather to the Church.

Kelsey Garcia is a first-year student in Fordham University’s Graduate Program in International Political Economy & Development.

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