Ending Extreme Poverty by 2030: A New Initiative

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

Over the past few months, global leaders representing a wide spectrum of faith communities collaborated on a  project convened by the World Bank Group to send forth a collective moral call to end extreme poverty by 2030, a goal development experts consider feasible. The group worked together to draft a narrative titled “Ending Extreme Poverty: A Moral and Spiritual Imperative,” due to be officially released tomorrow (April 9th) at noon EDT. The statement, which grounds the imperative to end extreme poverty in humankind’s spiritual and religious traditions, should open a new front in our global efforts to create a more just and equitable world, a world that works for everyone.

Buddhist Global Relief has been an integral partner in this project, whose aim corresponds to our own guiding vision: “the vision of a world in which debilitating poverty has finally been banished; a world in which all can avail themselves of the basic material supports of a meaningful life.” I had the privilege of serving as a member of the committee responsible for drafting the statement and helped to ensure that the final formulation would be acceptable to Buddhists as well as to representatives of the monotheistic faiths.

According to the document, achieving the goal of ending extreme poverty will take two commitments: to be guided by the evidence of what works, and to use our voices to compel and challenge others to join in this urgent cause. While meeting the first commitment will be the task of policy experts, members of the faith communities must rise to the second. To fulfill our responsibility we must continually insist that no one suffers the indignities of chronic hunger, destitution, homelessness, and medical neglect. We must affirm that everyone has an intrinsic human right to sufficient nutritious food, shelter, medical care, and a sustainable environment. And we must do more than speak; we must also demand and inspire concrete action.

The document calls for a holistic approach, proposing that we go beyond mere cosmetic patches to tackle the underlying causes of poverty, including preventable illness, lack of access to quality education, joblessness, corruption, and violent conflicts. It calls for an end to discrimination against women, ethnic minorities and other groups, and demands that women and girls be able to enjoy the same basic human rights as men. It also highlights the need to mitigate climate change and combat extreme inequality, both of which increase the extent and severity of poverty.

The narrative proposes a deep systemic shift, calling on the global community to move away from a paradigm that focuses narrowly on the quest for ever-expanding profits toward “a new paradigm of socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable economic growth.” It sees faith and spirituality as playing an essential role in facilitating this transition, which must be “rooted in the spiritual visions of our respective faiths, and built on a shared recognition of the intrinsic dignity and value of every life on Earth.” It reminds us that our faiths tell us that “the moral test of our society is how the weakest and most vulnerable are faring.”

A media teleconference with global faith leaders and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim on the call and commitment to end extreme poverty will be held on Thursday, April 9, 2015 at 12 p.m. EDT. Call-in information is as follows:

Within the US and Canada –
Free phone/Toll Free Number: 888-469-1378
International number: 1-415-228-3891
Participant passcode: 1619782

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