We can spend all the aid money in the world on education, shelter, food, and programs designed to help the poor–but without functioning justice systems and better anti-violence initiatives, it’s mostly for naught.
In a TED talk just posted online, civil rights lawyer Gary Haugen discusses the quandary of global poverty. Rates of poverty have actually gone down in the last three decades, with the percentage of people living on $1.25 dropping from 50% to 15%. That’s an impressive feat, but only a marginal one: up that dollar amount to $2, and the exact same percentage of people are living in poverty as they did 30 years ago. So what’s the problem?
According to Haugen, the founder of International Justice Mission and author of The Locust Effect, violence against the poor is a big part of the problem. “You can give all manner of goods and services to the poor, but if you don’t restrain the violent bullies from taking it away, we are going to be disappointed by the long-term impact of our efforts,” he says in the TED talk.
Impoverished girls and women between ages 15 and 44 are some of the hardest hit by violence. Haugen cites a striking statistic: among this age group, domestic abuse and sexual violence is responsible for more death and disability than war, malaria, and car accidents combined. There are nearly 36 million slaves in the world today, and 4 billion people living without any protection from law enforcement. In India alone, over three quarters of the police force has no training in criminal investigation.
It’s hard to imagine that poverty can be alleviated systematically as long as so many of the poor are living in fear of violence. Check out Haugen’s full talk above–it’s worth watching the whole thing.