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Background on Global Poverty

We are living in a time when one-quarter of the world's population lives in extreme poverty, when 1.2 billion people have no access to drinkable water, and 2 billion live without electricity. The wealthier countries of the world, including our own, have a responsibility to assist those who are in dire need of basic resources -- food, clean water, medicine and health care.

Along with other religious, human rights, and relief service groups, the Reform Movement has worked hard to fight against cuts on development and humanitarian assistance for developing countries. In the past, our efforts have been geared toward securing substantial levels of aid for developing nations, particularly in Africa.

As the world's richest nation, the United States can, and should, do more to respond to the needs of the world's 800 million hungry people -- especially in light of the strong U.S. economy and projected national budget surplus. The United States continues to rank last among donor countries in the percentage of national income devoted to development assistance. As a leader of the world community, the U.S. must not shirk from its moral obligations to help those less fortunate around the world.

Millennium Development Goals

In 2000, international leaders, including President Clinton and Canadian Prime Minister Chrétien, gathered for the UN Millennium Summit to combat global poverty. They acknowledged that in an age of unprecedented prosperity, there can be no excuse for the ongoing plague of abject poverty. These "Millennium Development Goals," endorsed by all 191 members of the United Nations, provide a clear plan to alleviate poverty, hunger, and disease by 2015.

1) Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger;
2) Achieve universal primary education;
3) Promote gender equality and empower women;
4) Reduce child mortality;
5) Improve maternal health;
6) Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases;
7) Ensure environmental sustainability;
8) Develop a global partnership for development.

In endorsing the Development Goals, the leaders of the world proclaimed: "We will spare no effort to free our fellow men, women and children from the abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty, to which more than a billion of them are currently subjected. We are committed to making the right to development a reality for everyone and to freeing the entire human race from want."

Five years out from the 2015 target date, the United Nations’ 2010 MDG report states, "Many countries are moving forward, including some of the poorest, demonstrating that setting bold, collective goals in the fight against poverty yields results." Among the positive developments towards achieving the MDGs include the overall poverty rate, expected to fall to 15 per cent by 2015 – half the number in 1990 – and the number of people receiving antiretroviral therapy increasing tenfold, from 400,000 to 4 million.

However, the report goes on to observe that "unmet commitments, inadequate resources, lack of focus and accountability, and insufficient dedication to sustainable development have created shortfalls in many areas." The report cites the estimated 1.4 billion people were still living in extreme poverty in 2005, and "only about half of the developing world’s population…using improved sanitation."