The UN has declared the ten years from 2008 to 2017 the period for poverty eradication. UN member states have agreed to “eradicate” extreme poverty by 2015 as part of millennium development goals. There are presently 1.4 billion reasons why it won't succeed. What causes world poverty is the key question since if you don't get the answer right, you're not going to get the solution right either.
From the beginning of time there have been attempts to deal with poverty but the fact still remains “the poor will always be with us” as the Bible says. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. We have a lack of understanding about the root cause of poverty. What most countries and NGOs seem to be doing is to deal with it through legislative and regulatory palliative measures and to provide resources that will alleviate or reduce poverty by making people more self-reliant and self-sufficient. Many well-meaning activists claim that the policies of governments and multinational businesses cause poverty.
Socialists recognise the huge numbers of people worldwide who work hard in the belief that they can improve some of the conditions for some of the people. However, we also recognise that with all the hard work, time and money injected into so many projects over so many years that whilst there may be some temporary amelioration conditions for the majority are actually deteriorating. Our position is clear. We must address the cause not the effects.
The basic cause of the poverty socialists locate in an economic system that put the profits of the few before the needs of the many. Governments don't pursue policies that put profits before poor people because they have chosen to do this rather than chosen not to. Nor have they given in to pressure from the rich and powerful to pursue policies that favour them. They don't have any choice in the matter, because they are not in control of things. Governments operate within the framework of an economic system, and the current economic system - capitalism, to give it a name - is based on wealth being produced for sale on a market with a view to profit and on the competitive pressures of the market dictating that these profits be accumulated in the form of more and more capital invested to make yet further profits.
The aim of production under capitalism is not to satisfy people's needs but to accumulate profits. This is not a policy choice but an economic necessity imposed by the operation of impersonal and uncontrollable economic laws which governments have to abide by, unless they want to risk making things worse by provoking an economic crisis and stagnation in the area they rule over. In short, governments put profits before poor people because they are obliged to by the impersonal workings of world market forces, not out of choice. The same goes, even more forcefully, for capitalist corporations. Their whole purpose is to make a profit on the capital invested in their businesses so that their shareholders can benefit. That's the nature of the beast, and we can't imagine that the development charities are really so naïve as to believe that private companies, whether national or multinational, could pursue any other policy than to maximise their profits.
Campaigners make the classic reformist mistake by blaming policies pursued by governments rather than the economic system, seeing the solution to poverty in changing policies rather than changing the economic system. And to be perfectly honest, to be frank, NGOs and charities have got no chance at all of getting governments, and even less so, the multinational companies, to change their practice of putting profits before people. As long as the international capitalist system continues to exist, its economic laws will operate to put profits before people, and governments will have no choice but to dance to this tune. What is required is not a reform of this system but its abolition and its replacement by one in which the Earth's resources become the common heritage of all humanity. Only on this basis can these resources be mobilised to eradicate world poverty and ensure a decent life for every man, woman and child on the planet. Yes, the world does have the wealth and means to end world poverty. And it's high time we solved the problem.