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Globalisation exacerbates plight of poor, research finds

The wellbeing of many poor people has deteriorated in the past 15 years as a result of factors beyond their control such as environmental degradation, rapid changes in crop prices and economic crises, a report from Catholic aid agency Cafod says.

Often, the worst situations of poverty are caused by a combination of old and new factors, according to the report, “Setting the post-2015 development compass: voices from the ground,” which is part of the organisation’s Compass 2015 project.

Some issues have existed for ­decades, such as land-inheritance practices, a customary duty of care disproportionately burdening women and exploitative tenancy agreements.

Others are new: changing family composition because of HIV, increasing frequency of droughts and rapid fluctuations in international commodity prices.

“One factor present in nearly every story is gender inequality, which intersects with other issues to create new forms of social exclusion,” said the report, which is based on the views of 1 420 people in 56 communities including Bolivia, the Philippines, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

Part of the global Participate initiative to bring the perspectives of the poorest into the post-2015 debate, when the millennium development goals (MDGs) expire, Compass 2015 aims to identify the priorities and aspirations of the poor or marginalised.

Their underlying themes are a secure livelihood and living without fear. Participants also put a strong emphasis on their own ability to live well, looking at the government and others as partners in their efforts.

“Some of the issues focused on in the MDGs have seen real improvements, from reducing the number of people living on very low incomes to increasing people’s access to medicines for HIV,” said Neva Frecheville, Cafod’s post-MDGs policy analyst.

“But what this research reveals above all is that poverty is hugely complex and controlled by myriad forces. The interconnectedness of the world through globalisation means that the poorest and most marginalised face negative pressure from all quarters, making it harder and harder to sustain a livelihood.”

Health and education are the two most important services discussed by participants. Though they acknow-ledge improvements in provision, they keep returning to issues of quality of service and economic barriers such as fees and hidden costs.

In Uganda, rural communities described large, overcrowded classes without teachers, furniture and teaching materials. They argued that without enough trained teachers, packing students into an ill-equipped classroom wasted their time.

In rural areas poor people make a considerable effort to send their children to school rather than having them in the fields, and expect this investment to be worthwhile.

Being secure and prepared emerged as a priority, with participants emphasising the loss caused by natural disasters and conflicts. Even when small in scale, they can destroy years of progress and undermine wellbeing for years to come. — © Guardian News & Media 2013

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