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Austerity works! Poverty reduction policies succeed!

Some people will be surprised to read this. But yes, the narratives on austerity and poverty reduction do exactly what was expected from them. Most people believe them and protest when the promises are not met.

But we should wonder if these promises are real promises? Or just a way of distracting the attention away from the real goals of the policies that are put in place.

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Exposing the great 'poverty reduction' lie

The UN claims that its Millennium Development Campaign has reduced poverty globally, an assertion that is far from true.

The received wisdom comes to us from all directions: Poverty rates are declining and extreme poverty will soon be eradicated. The World Bank, the governments of wealthy countries, and – most importantly – the United Nations Millennium Campaign all agree on this narrative. Relax, they tell us. The world is getting better, thanks to the spread of free market capitalism and western aid. Development is working, and soon, one day in the very near future, poverty will be no more.

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The long and ugly tradition of treating Africa as a dirty, diseased place

This week’s Newsweek magazine cover features an image of a chimpanzee behind the words, “A Back Door for Ebola: Smuggled Bushmeat Could Spark a U.S. Epidemic.” This cover story is problematic for a number of reasons, starting with the fact that there is virtually no chance that “bushmeat” smuggling could bring Ebola to America. (The term is a catchall for non-domesticated animals consumed as a protein source; anyone who hunts deer and then consumes their catch as venison in the United States is eating bushmeat without calling it that.) While eating bushmeat is fairly common in the Ebola zone, the vast majority of those who do consume it are not eating chimpanzees. Moreover, the current Ebola outbreak likely had nothing to do with bushmeat consumption.

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Promoting the social commons

 
What's the point of the post-2015 agenda?

The UN Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals completed its outcome document a few weeks ago, putting forth 17 goals and 169 targets.  The optimistic take: that’s only just over twice the number of goals in the Brazil-Germany World Cup match.  But for all the space devoted to targeting almost every conceivable area of global progress, there was one topic on which the OWG was notably silent: what’s the purpose of all of this?

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Illicit capital flowing out of Africa often benefits foreign invetors

The US-Africa Summit in Washington DC has built enormous expectations for the development of Africa, particularly in what concerns economic ties, trade relations, investments and business between the nations of the African continent and the US.

Despite enormous human-rights violations, conflict, widespread disease and other ills commonly known to Africa, the focus of the conference was largely business-oriented, a forum hosted by Bloomberg Philanthropies and the US commerce department. There is certainly no harm in focusing and prioritising economic ties for growth; in fact, business is necessary and it can be tremendously beneficial for the continent through the creation of jobs lifting some of the poorest of society out of poverty and building a firm middle class. The main issue is whether investments pledged at the summit and increased trade will bring that type of prosperity to ordinary Africans.

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Culture as a cause of poverty has been wilfully misinterpreted

When the term “culture of poverty” was first used by the anthropologist Oscar Lewis in 1959, it was seized upon as “evidence” that poverty is not caused primarily by an absence of material resources. This was never Lewis’s intention. In a 1966 essay for Scientific American, he wrote: “A culture of poverty is not just a matter of deprivation or disorganisation – a term signifying the absence of something. It is a culture in the traditional anthropological sense in that it provides human beings with a design for living, a ready-made set of solutions for human problems, and so serves a significant adaptive function.”

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The tragedy of the private

Throughout the world, public service workers, alongside their fellow community members, are not only defending public services but also struggling to make them democratic and responsive to people’s needs and desires.

This is the conclusion of “The tragedy of the private, the potential of the public”, a report published by PSI (Public Services International), which looks at how these alliances are working at different levels – local, national and international.

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The unbelievable, unknowable wealth of the super rich

Back in May, when the Financial Times published an attempted takedown of the data on wealth inequality underpinning Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century, the newspaper managed to prove pretty much one thing. It wasn’t that Piketty had misled readers or botched his math, as the paper claimed—by almost all accounts, his response put those criticisms to rest. Rather, it was that measuring the riches of the global elite is a complicated, inexact science that economists are only beginning to grapple with. Even Piketty says that the data set he used in Capital to illustrate the American wealth gap is probably outdated. He prefers a new set that shows an even greater disparity.

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CORPORATE INFLUENCE THROUGH THE G8 NEW ALLIANCE FOR FOOD SECURITY AND NUTRITION IN AFRICA

In recent times, new partnerships models between governments, business and civil society are increasingly gaining attention. One prominent example is the "New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition" (G8NA), inaugurated at the G8 summit 2012 in the United States.

A new working paper published by Global Policy Forum, Brot für die Welt and MISEREOR, puts a spotlight on how business interests are promoted through the G8NA. To that end, the paper shows how the initiative bundles existing policy initiatives and aligns national policies to corporate interests.

The paper concludes that the approach and objectives of the G8NA are highly problematic. The initiative serves as an enforcing mechanism for corporate driven blueprints for agriculture and sidelines national plans and international standards. It is dominated and tailored towards the interests of big corporate actors and is based on a reductionist approach of agricultural “development”. And lastly, the G8NA is poorly institutionalized and disregards fundamental principles of transparency participation and accountability.

For these reasons, the demand for radical change of this initiative – or in case of inaction its complete stop – is still valid, when the initiative enters its third year.

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Discussing the social commons

 
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