The end of extreme poverty is President Obama’s bold vision, central to the mission of USAID.
For as long as humans have existed, so have the travails of poverty.
If you were born in 1980, you had a 50 percent chance of living in destitution — a life without enough food, medicine, education or freedom to live a decent life.
But there is reason to believe in a world of less disparity: In just two decades, we have cut global rates of extreme poverty in half, and we now have the tools to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030.
At a recent TEDx talk, one of our agency’s top experts on poverty policy, Alex Thier, shared USAID’s vision for manifesting this reality.
Thier shared the three critical principles that drive how USAID and its partners collaborate to end extreme poverty: fostering economic growth globally; cultivating transparent, democratic systems of governance; and embracing a “new model for development” that is built on partnerships, local ownership, innovation and a relentless focus on results.
“Ending extreme poverty will be perhaps the greatest accomplishment of our human civilization,” Thier told the audience of 1,500 people who attended TEDx Foggy Bottom in Washington, D.C., last month.
Strong governments are the cornerstone of healthy and resilient societies and one of the key factors to ending extreme poverty.
Thier shared contrasting stories of how good governance — and the lack of it — impacted how two countries rebounded from separate, devastating earthquakes that occurred weeks apart in 2010.
Chile’s government set the right course in advance of the earthquake by preparing for such a disaster, creating and enforcing rigorous building codes that protected its population. The government built institutions and infrastructure while investing in its people.
Haiti did not. When the earthquake struck the island, the most vulnerable population — those living in extreme poverty in poorly constructed buildings of densely populated ghettos — experienced the loss of not only their homes, but thousands of their lives.
“What’s particularly tragic is that it’s avoidable,” he said. “It’s not theory or fate. It’s not about geography or natural resources. It’s about the choices that governments and their societies make every day.”
Cultivating more resilient, democratic societies like the one in Chile is just one of the ways that USAID is working to make Obama’s vision of ending extreme poverty a reality. With our international partners, we are well on our way to solving one of humanity’s greatest challenges.