The G-8 was created out of the eight richest countries in the world in order to fight poverty in Africa. Poverty affects more people throughout the world than all of the citizens represented by their leaders in the G-8 conference. But poverty happens even in these countries, including the United States. It is not a third world problem, it is a global one. Given this chapterâ€™s theme of social class, inequality, and poverty, it seemed like the G-8 conference was the most obvious choice.
This chapter outlined the way sociologists approach social classes, how those classes create inequality, and how that can lead to such things as poverty. The conference was attended by eight of the most powerful men in the world, politically speaking, so it was hoped that they would be able to make a powerful statement against unnecessary suffering. They were unpersuaded by terrorist attacks in London, even though they occurred in Tony Blairâ€™s political home and in the middle of the conference.
All species strive to elevate themselves out of poverty, even if they do not realize that is what they are trying to do. But humans exist in a unique situation: we are the only species that is capable of recognizing, analyzing, and eliminating something as complex as poverty but seemingly unwilling to actually do it. This is not to say that the $50 billion in aid and cancellation of 18 nationâ€™s debts shows a lack of concern; there are many people who are willing and capable of helping. As individuals we are more distracted by our own concerns, and not as moved by the plight of people on the other side of the world, so to speak. Poverty affects our collective conscience, and ignoring the problem does not make it go away.
At least one-third of all humans live in poverty (Curran & Renzetti, 130). Though there is no way of knowing with a great deal of accuracy, the fact is that approximately 30,000 Africans die every day of preventable circumstances (3). The members of the G-8 committed to doubling the current aid to Africa from $25 billion to $50 billion and agreed to cancel the debts of 18 nations in order to ease their economic burdens (1). The United States, the richest of the eight countries, currently gives 0.16 percent of its national income, the least of any country in the G-8 (4).
Poverty in Africa (and other nations, including the United States) kills thousands of people every day. Though death is natural part of life and people die every day, this type of suffering is preventable and within our means to do so. Our nation is the richest one on the planet, and yet we spend less than any other G-8 nation. Japan had to provide our share at the last minute to meet the $50 goal set by Blair (2). It is clear that poverty cannot be eradicated over a short period of time, but it is hoped that the relief they will provide can stimulate a change in the continent of Africa. After that, the idea is that the seed of prosperity will spread to parts of the continent, making their lives relatively free of suffering.
The United States has committed to a fraction of the desired percentage that Tony Blair wanted; however, we are certainly involved, both politically and financially. Other than that, I have been having trouble finding statements from Bush on the topic. Because of the tragic bombings in London, he and the other leaders focused on condemning the â€œbarbaric actsâ€ (4). One can only hope that the official response to poverty is that it must be eradicated as quickly, efficiently, and thoroughly as possible.
The organizers of the G-8 conference and the concurrent â€œLive 8â€ concert series lauded the successes of both events, but it did not completely satisfy everyone. In fact, there were several organization that still had serious criticisms even after learning about the $50 billion compromise. One particularly stinging criticism came from the World Development Movement, which called the conference â€œa disaster for the worldâ€™s poorâ€ (4). This may seem overly critical at first, but the UN Millennium goal demanded that $50 billion per year would be necessary to alleviate most of the suffering in Africa. The G-8 summit did commit to $50 billion, but that was all. It would be $10 billion per year for the next five years, a fifth of what was expected (2). Though no one was criticizing the aid that was agreed to, many organizations still contend that considerably more needs to be done.
Poverty affects so many people in this world that, as a powerful and supposedly compassionate nation, we should feel compelled to help end such correctable things as poverty and famine. In an increasingly global environment, which our nation is inexorably headed towards, it is vital that we ensure that all of our neighbors are at least allowed to exist with an acceptable level of nutrition, shelter, and reproduction. The nature of poverty is such that it creates a dark stain on everything we do, no matter how noble. Terrorism is the use of force by one group to induce fear in the other, and a lack of prevention enables an environment for it to flourish. Likewise, a lack of prevention can enable an environment for poverty to flourish. With terrorism, dozens, hundred, perhaps thousands may die in a series of catastrophic incidents; but with poverty, tens of thousands are dying on a daily basis and millions more are suffering constantly.
For the most part, the media seems unbiased on this, mostly because it seems heartless to take up opposition to the idea. After all, how does it look for a citizen of the richest nation in the world to be vocally reluctant to spend money to help poverty-stricken people? However, I noticed a bit of media spin I discovered and felt obliged to put it under the category of media objectivity. In one article I found an interesting fact, and used it in this paper under question 3. Then, while I was looking at another article on the same subject but from a different source, I realized that I had already read a certain paragraph. I went back and compared the two articles, and was amazed at the subtle but obvious differences. The first source composed the two-sentence paragraph this way:
U.S. President George W. Bush had refused to be bound
by the 0.7 percent target. The United States is giving 0.16
percent of national income, the smallest percentage of any
of the G-8 countries. (4)
The second source composed their paragraph the same way:
Blair failed, however, to get all summit countries to commit
to boosting foreign aid to an amount equal to 0.7 percent of
national income by 2015. U.S. giving is currently 0.16
percent of national income, the smallest percentage of any
G-8 country. (5)
The second quote was published a day later than the first. Though it could be a coincidence that the syntax of those paragraphs are identical, they seem far too similar.
Notice, too, that the two sources have a different emphasis on where the blame falls. The first source talks about President Bushâ€™s refusal to increase U.S. spending to match the other countries. Conversely, the second source points to Prime Minister Blairâ€™s failure to convince the other countries to boost aid, ignoring the fact that the United States is the primary country that Blair â€œfailedâ€ to convince. This is unrelated to the issue of poverty, but it is an interesting side effect of political influence in the media.
It would be nothing but positive if this G-8 conference was the beginning of a major paradigm shift towards ending poverty around the world, and if this is the case, then a very pressing social problem could dissolve into near obscurity. Admittedly, this is unlikely to happen, at least in the next few years. Change on the scale we are hoping for could take years or, more realistically, generations. If this initial effort can stimulate the economies of the nations in need, it could eliminate a major portion of poverty-stricken regions in an important part of the world. If the world can witness success in Africa, confidence might then spread to the rest of world, enabling the poorest of the world to live at a level that no one could consider unacceptable.
List of Works Consulted
1. BBC News: Live 8 helped aid deal says Blair. – www.bbc.co.uk
2. The Epoch Times: After the G8: What Now for Eradicating Poverty? – www.theepochtimes.com
3. Human Events: Live 8 Ignored Pervasive African Corruption. – www.humaneventsonline.com
4. CNN: Reaction polarized as G8 concludes. – www.cnn.com
5. FOX News: G-8 Leaders Unveil $50B Africa Aid Package. – www.foxnews.com