Global Poverty

There's a group of influential people in the business world, and some in politics, who believe it's possible to eradicate global poverty. One of the leaders of this effort brought that message to Houston business and civic leaders this week, as Houston Public Radio's Jim Bell reports.

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It's called the Initiative for Global Development. It was cofounded five years ago by Microsoft CEO Bill Gates, former EPA Administrator Bill Ruckleshaus, and several other former government and corporate officials. Ruckleshaus is in Houston enlisting decision makers in a network that will work to make elimination of global poverty a national priority. Ruckleshaus says developed countries have the technology, the know-how and the wealth, all it takes is the will and he thinks it can be done.

"We currently give, if you take both private and public, about $39 billion a year. So if we double that, which is what the U-N recommends, their estimate is that if properly addressed, if we'd use it properly, and that's a big "if", we could eradicate that extreme poverty. "

Ruckleshaus says universal education and economic opportunities are key to raising a society out of poverty, but the conditions caused by poverty must be dealt with first. People need food, clothing, shelter, health care and cleaner environmental conditions. Then they need political institutions that make education important and available to all, and help their country develop an economy that can support itself.

"Giving them money without giving them the ability to grow economically won't do it. Money alone won't do it. The purpose of aid really has to be to winnow people away from the use of aid, and get on their own two feet and begin to grow."

Ruckleshaus says Congress has created the Millennium Challenge Corporation to help this global initiative, by encouraging businesses to invest in countries that have social and political conditions that give them a fair chance of succeeding, and, most important, the will to develop their own plan for using their resources.

"Under those conditions then the Millennium Challenge will match their efforts at development and put significant amounts of aid in. That idea we think has enormous potential, both to stimulate the countries to do the right thing, and at the same time get business investment to follow behind it."

Ruckleshaus says leaders from Houston and ten other cities will meet in Washington in June to finalize this global strategy, at a summit hosted by former Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Madeleine Albright. There's more information about the Initiative for Global Development and the Millennium Challenge Corporation on our website KUHF dot org. Jim Bell, Houston Public Radio News.