International development expert and author Stephen C. Smith asks a debatable question: Can we end global poverty? He posed that question Tuesday to an audience of about 150 at UCF and gave possible answers.
The presentation, which was organized by the UCF Global Perspectives Office, is part of a year-long theme examining “The Changing Face of Freedom in Today’s Turbulent Times.”
Commenting on the reach of global poverty, Smith said 1.25 billion people live on less than $1.25 a day, but that there are positive trends. The fraction of the world population living on less than $1 a day, he said, has dropped by 50 percent since 1980. According to Smith, the “evidence from the past 20 years concludes that ending global poverty is possible.”
But he also said it is not inevitable.
Explaining why it is so difficult to make further progress, Smith described six “traps” whereby poverty is cyclic. Traps include the low skill of workers, working capital, information, under-nutrition, farm erosion and subsistence. The under-nutrition trap, for example, occurs when people have so little money for food that they do not have enough energy to work productively and earn money. “Poverty is being vulnerable to falling back into poverty,” Smith said. “As four people come out of poverty, three people fall back in.”
Poverty limits the potential for entrepreneurship that could contribute to economic growth, he said. While it is clear that faster growth can cause poverty reduction, he explained that it is also true that poverty reduction, itself, can cause growth. Smith used this argument to suggest that it is in the leadership’s interest to work against poverty, whether in a country or at a company.
Smith is the author of “Ending Global Poverty: A Guide to What Works.” The book examines different strategies around the world that are working to eradicate poverty. When asked what students can do to help, Smith stressed the importance of learning more about poverty, sharing what you know and contributing to charities wisely. Information about how to make an informed decision when donating can be found in Smith’s book.
In addition to the Global Perspectives Office, sponsors and partners included the UCF Global Peace and Security Studies Program, UCF Student Government Association, Lawrence J. Chastang and the Chastang Foundation, Pre Med American Medical Student Association, UCF Political Science Department, UCF International Services Center, UCF Book Festival 2013 in association with the Morgridge International Reading Center and the Global Connections Foundation.