The group of superheroes is growing. And that means the goal is closer… Which goal? Weren’t they 17? Yes… well… let me explain. Today we will talk about “the goal”. It is the first one, but it also encompasses all others, and if accomplished, it will make the world a better place on its own. Since I’m backed by a group of superheroes, let’s think big, shall we? We want to “put an end to poverty in all of its forms across the globe”. It is clear that the definition of poverty is not the same everywhere, which is why it is important to take into account particular conditions for each country, for each region. This is the reason why I like so much the slogan chosen by the United Nations for the ‘Global Compact Leaders Summit’ which took place in New York last June 22nd and 23rd, which is a clear example of this vision: “Think global, act local”.
Millennium Goals had also set eradication of poverty as a goal. This was not achieved, it’s true, but we will not waver in our resolve to accomplish it. In any case, the fact that extreme poverty indexes have been halved since 1990 still holds true. What does this mean? That, at the time, “just” 1 out of 5 people in developing regions (particularly Africa and Asia) live with less than 1.25 dollars/day. Around 1.2 billion people are thought to be in this situation nowadays around the world.
On the Canary Islands we are fortunate. We can almost claim there is no extreme poverty. Still, INE’s Living Conditions Survey data shows we have a 28.5% at-risk-of-poverty rate. This poverty is “relative”, not comparable to that of the most destitute areas of the planet, but it is a warning about the enormous inequality existing in our land. Even when, unfortunately, this is the norm. Did you know that the 62 richest people on the planet are as wealthy as the poorest half? How could we put an end to such an inequality when we criticize those –for example– 62 people both for being rich and for donating their wealth to the less fortunate? Does it matter if they do it to “show off” –a wink to my students– and boost their ego if this gets to diminish social inequality? That’s something to ponder.
SDG 1 has set as a priority goal to (at least) eradicate extreme poverty for all people in the world and to reduce by half the rate of people living under the poverty line as per each nation’s definition of poverty. In the case of the Canary Islands, our goal would be to bring the amount of people at risk of poverty and social exclusion down to 14% by the year 2030. But, is this an attainable goal, or is it a utopia?
Here, each one of us has a lot to say (and do). Not only is it necessary to create solid guidelines to improve cooperation towards development (starting by local development), or to design strategies that boost individual growth for the less fortunate, but it is also necessary for every citizen to get involved in setting these strategies in motion and to participate in their design.
A few weeks ago, while speaking to my students about the SDGs, all I saw –at first– were sceptic faces. “It’s nice, but unattainable” or “what could we do to end world poverty?” I simply reminded them: “Think global, act local”. After just an hour of documentation, reflection and discussion, around twenty measures they considered they could get underway by themselves were proposed. The first step towards ending poverty in the world involves eradicating poverty in our immediate surroundings. With a small economic investment, optimizing the use of our idle time, with a touch of creativity, a little effort, and the certainty that achieving the goal is a necessity, the miracle happened, dispelling the initial scepticism. This is the youth that will lead the change, they just have to believe it. I believe in them; do you?