• Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  • Achieve universal primary education
  • Promote gender equality and empower women
  • Reduce child mortality
  • Improve maternal health
  • Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
  • Ensure environmental sustainability
  • Develop a global partnership for development

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Where the Candidates Stand on the Fight Against Global Poverty

In six days, Americans will vote for a new president. Much has been made of the policies of both Obama and McCain regarding health care, taxes, the war in Iraq, etc. Not much has been said about how the candidates will tackle global poverty and related issues. This is understandable. Most people consider which candidate will do the most for them, not for people of another country. However, when we are at our best, we concern ourselves not just with the issues that affect us personally, but with issues that concern all of humanity.

So, where do the candidates stand? Fortunately, ONE Action has done some of the work for us and have created a comparison chart. This is not a partisan effort or an endorsement of a particular candidate. Rather, it is a compilation of statements made by the candidates regarding these important issues.

If you want to know where they stand on reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS, eradicating malaria, improving child and maternal health, and other issues with which the Millennium Development Goals are concerned, click to go to ONE Action's "On the Record" page.

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Self-Giving, Other-Regarding Love - A reflection on Matthew 22:34-46

A 6th century mosaic of :en:Jesus at Church Sa...Image via WikipediaIn the Gospel appointed for tomorrow in the Revised Common Lectionary, we read of a lawyer who asks Jesus which is the greatest commandment in the law. Jesus responds with a two-part answer: "`You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: `You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets" (Matt. 22:37-40).

Both of these, love of God and love of neighbor, deserve significant attention. Martin Luther said that since God needs nothing, then true service to God must always be in service to our neighbor. The same applies to love. The way that we live out our love for God is by loving our neighbor. This is not always easy. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who knew something about difficult love, said, "We can love our kith and kin, our fellow countrymen and our friends, whether we are Christians or not, and there is no need for Jesus to teach us that. So what does it really mean to be a Christian? Unreserved love for our enemies, for the unloved, love for our religious, political, and personal adversaries. In every case, this love was fulfilled in the cross of Christ." Love of the unlovable, of those who would do us harm, is the hallmark of true love, the kind of love to which people of faith are called.

The Institute for Research on Unlimited Love defines love this way:
The essence of love is to affectively affirm as well as to unselfishly delight in the well-being of others, and to engage in acts of care and service on their behalf; unlimited love extends this love to all others without exception, in an enduring and constant way. Widely considered the highest form of virtue, unlimited love is often deemed a Creative Presence underlying and integral to all of reality: participation in unlimited love constitutes the fullest experience of spirituality.

According to its website, the unique mission of the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love is:
(1) to study the benefits of benevolent love for those who give it and for those who receive it
(2) to bring the results of research to the wider public in understandable and practical format
(3) to sustain an international dialogue around the possibility of global human enhancement through the application of a new science of love
(4) to encourage discussion within spiritual traditions about love for a shared humanity, rather than for some small fragment of humanity
(5) to develop an ongoing dialogue between spirituality, theology, and science around the idea of unlimited love as the ultimate ground of reality.

A premise of the Institute is that far more attention is given to negative states of mind than to those that are life giving and positive. For instance, over 100,000 scientific articles have been written on depression and pschizophrenia. Yes, only a few dozen have been written on "other-regarding" love. They say, "The dignity of the human species demands that this imbalance in scientific focus be corrected by providing an alternative to the “disease model.” Interesting! Can self-giving, other-regarding love be the key to living to our full human potential? I believe so!

So, we come back to Jesus' words from Matthew. We are called to love our neighbor. Of course, neighbor does not mean only the person who lives next door or down the street. The neighbor is anyone who needs our attention, anyone in this global community who suffers, who is hungry, who needs shelter, who needs to know that they are not alone. The neighbor is not limited to those like us, who have the same skin color, who worship the same way, who's politics align with ours. Our neighbor may just be someone with whom we have serious disagreement, someone who might just seek to do us harm. I'm reminded of Martin Luther King's principles of nonviolence. He said that nonviolence does not seek to defeat the person, just the evil. He said that love is the ultimate tool that will defeat the forces of evil in our world.

We have the ability to harness the power of love if we chose to do so. However, it will not happen as long as we fear those who are different, or as long as we seek to exert military control without also looking for the common ground that results from our common humanity.

Love of God and love of neighbor - embrace this concept and change the world around you!

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Zimbabwe - Now There's an Economic Crisis

SADC LogoImage via WikipediaCheck out these tragic figures from The Economist:
- official inflation running at 231m% (yes, that's an "m");
- more than 80% of the people have no job;
- some 3m in a population of around 12m have fled abroad;
- more than 1.4 million suffer from HIV/AIDS
- the UN's World Food Programme is feeding 2m people who otherwise may well die of starvation;
- more than 3m more may need feeding by early next year

Add to these figures the fact that the government is still run by the very corrupt Robert Mugabe, despite the fact that he was beaten by Morgan Tsvangirai in a general election. The two agreed a power sharing plan when Mugabe refused to step down.

Zimbabwe desperately needs world leaders to pressure Mugabe to step down and to let the country begin to rebuild. The lives of millions of people are at stake. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has tried to do something, but their effort is led by Thabo Mbeki, who recently lost the presidency of his own country, thereby calling into question the weight of his authority. Jacob Zuma, South Africa's likely next president, needs to offer the leadership necessary to limit this human tragedy. The Economist suggests that if Zuma can't or won't do it, then the SADC should ask Kofi Annan, the Ghanaian who ran the UN for ten years. He recently negotiated Kenya's warring parties into a power-sharing compromise.

Whatever the answer, something needs doing - and soon!

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Bono Speaks about ONE at the CA Women's Conference - 10/22/08: Highlight Reel

ONE CampaignImage via WikipediaBono spoke last night to the CA Women's Conference about the ONE Campaign, of which Bono is one of the founders. He reminded his listeners that over one billion people live on the equivalent of less than a dollar a day. He also reminded them that over 2.5 million people have become ONE members, simply by going to the ONE website and signing up. In addition, he pointed out that over 53,000 people have signed the petition asking Barach Obama and John McCain to keep their commitment to fight global poverty even in this tough economic time. Watch the video, join ONE, sign the petition, and make a difference in the lives of those who suffer the most!

In his speech, Bono said: "“When America looks outside of itself, its view of itself is never clearer. Its faith in itself is never firmer. Its purpose is never stronger. Today, at a time when America, again, is tempted to turn inward, turn away from the world and its troubles, it is more essential than ever that you look outward.”

Words to think about during these last days before the election and during this troubled economic time!

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Vote for Hope - A Hip Hop Video for Obama

"Vote for Hope" was written by MC Yogi to "encourage and inspire the hip hop generation . . . "
Pretty cool!

Obama '08 - Vote For Hope from MC Yogi on Vimeo.
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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Poverty Resources

Blog action dayImage by foodistablog via FlickrHere is a list and description, posted on Mashable, of eight great sites that will help you to understand issues concerning poverty and will give you great ideas about what you can do. Take the time to read this and think about how you can make a difference.

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Self-Forgiveness Begets Compassion

Free...Image by TonyƧ via FlickrIn order to free us for compassion toward others, Jesus calls us to accept his compassion in our own lives, to become gentle, caring, compassionate, and forgiving toward ourselves in our failure and need.
- Brennan Manning

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How Much Would You Give to Decrease World Poverty?

Voice of America logoImage via WikipediaThe Voice of America posted an interesting article yesterday titled, "Hunger Poll Indicates Widespread Global Support for Millennium Development Goals." The poll was conducted by World Public Opinion for the Washington-based Program for International Policy Attitudes.

The first goal is to cut hunger and poverty in half by 2015. The World Bank estimates the annual cost of achieving this goal at $39 billion. People in twenty countries were asked if they would give a specific amount annually to make MDG #1 a reality. Here's how they came up with the dollar amount for people from each country: "the pollsters used an accepted World Bank estimate of $39 billion and divided it proportionally according to the Gross Domestic Products (GDP) and population sizes of the countries being polled." The result: Americans in the survey were asked to donate $56 annually per person. People in Turkey were asked to give $11, reflecting the much smaller size of its economy. Other countries: Britain - $49, France - $45, Germany - $43, Italy - $39, South Korea - $23, Russia - $11.

The end result of the survey was that the majority of people surveyed said they were willing to contribute necessary funds - good news!

Here's the challenging news, according to the article:
"Thursday in Rome, World Food Program director Jacques Diouf remarked that donor countries have made good on only 10 percent of a $22 billion aid package pledged for this year to help starving nations. He and others urged wealthy nations not to cancel aid or limit trade in ways that hurt poor countries. While US and European financial institutions begin to implement substantially larger-scale government rescue commitments to remedy the current economic crisis, Ramsay says the process of galvanizing public consensus behind such complex, multi-faceted initiatives takes significant time to develop. In contrast, he believes his new poll bears out that the public mind-set across cultures firmly accepts the moral responsibility for advanced societies to help the poor fight hunger and poverty.


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Friday, October 17, 2008

World Poverty Day - Today

Circum Asian Pacific GlobeImage by ocean.flynn via FlickrToday is World Poverty Day, otherwise known as the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

Hilary Benn, UK Secretary of State for International Development, has this to say on this important day:

"Today is the UN’s official World Poverty Day. But every day is poverty day for the two billion people worldwide who have less than two dollars a day to live on. Of those, just under one billion live on just one dollar a day. In September 2000, 189 countries pledged to halve the number of those in poverty by 2015. When we look at the results so far, hope mixes with despair. Over 100 million children are still unable to go to school. Each year, 10 million children die before their 5th birthday. 40 million are living with HIV and AIDS, and 5 million die of it each year.

"And yet … progress is possible. China is reducing poverty, and India promises to do the same. More people have been lifted out of poverty in the last 50 years than in the previous 500. In the same period, adult illiteracy rates have halved, and life expectancy in developing countries has increased from 46 in 1960 to 64 now. The fight against global poverty can and must be won.

There is much to celebrate and yet so much more to do in the global effort to meet the UN Millennium Development Goals (see the top of this blog for the list). There are bright spots, however, as an increasing number of people learn about the fight. This month, Helene Gayle, president and CEO of CARE, was featured in the October 6 edition of Newsweek magazine as one of 10 "Women in Leadership." CARE is one of the largest humanitarian organizations in the world, focusing especially on working alongside poor women because, according to CARE, "women have the power to help whole families and entire communities escape poverty.:

So, on this World Poverty Day, lets think about what it must be like to live on the equivalent of one, or even two, dollars a day. Of course, very few of us truly can imagine it because we have the luxury of taking our next meal for granted. So, even if you can't imagine what it is like, imagine what you can do to make a difference. How can you get involved? Check out the links in the right column of this blog for some examples of organizations that could use your help. Get involved! You'll be glad you did!


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Monday, October 13, 2008

International Day for the Eradication of Poverty

In 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Declaration consists of thirty articles, the first of which reads: "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood."

The Social Perspective on Development Branch of the UN defines poverty this way: "Poverty can be seen as a human condition of deprivation of resources, capabilities, choices, security and power necessary for the enjoyment of an adequate standard of living and other civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights."

On the sixtieth anniversary of this declaration, the UN has chosen the theme "Human Rights and Dignity of People Living in Poverty" for its annual International Day for the Eradication of Poverty (World Poverty Day), on October 17. On that day, millions of people around the world will join together to draw attention to the devastation of global poverty. Leading up to World Poverty Day, bloggers world-wide will participate in Blog Action Day by dedicating October 15th’s postings to raising awareness about global poverty. So, if you write a blog, mark your calendar and think about what you want to say to your readers about the effort to eradicate global poverty.

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Friday, October 10, 2008

ONE Commitment Worth Keeping

ONE CampaignImage via WikipediaThe message below comes from the ONE campaign. Yes, its tough out there. We can't deny the economic turmoil that makes headline everyday. Its bad. But, that doesn't mean that we should lose our macro view of the world in which we live. The commitments that our nation made to support the MDGs, and the personal commitments that many of us made are as important today as ever. The poor of our world can't afford for us to lose sight of them. We cannot simply hunker down and turn our attention inwards. Only as we continue to live out our core values (values that include, for many of us, the promise to respect the dignity of every human being) can we gain the perspective that will see us through our own hard times.

Senators Obama and McCain have much work to do. One of them will face challenges not seen in this country for many years. However, as holder of the most powerful office in the world, one of them will have a moral responsibility to harness the economic power and human will of America to offer true leadership to those who suffer - leadership not seen during the current administration. They need to know that we care. Many of us were disappointed that in the recent debates no question was asked regarding our nation's commitment to fight global poverty. Perhaps it will happen at the next one, although I doubt it given the panic that is growing stronger every day.

Go to the link below and let your voice be heard. And lets not lose hope. Lets not get lost in a cycle of fear. Lets believe that good can come from even the darkest moments.


From ONE:


Even in tough economic times, we want to make sure the next president, no matter who that is, keeps his commitment to fighting global poverty.

The total spent on all poverty-fighting programs make up less than one percent of the entire U.S. budget, yet we are saving millions of lives and helping the world's poorest people break free from crippling poverty. These efforts will be even more critical as the effects of any global economic slowdown are magnified in already struggling countries.

I just took action with ONE to tell my leaders to keep their promises to the world's poor, and you can too, here.
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Saturday, October 4, 2008

Palin’s Alternate Universe ( or reality challenged?)

This is Bob Hebert's latest Op-Ed piece in the NYT. It makes some good points. Personally, I have nothing against Sarah Palin. However, I am concerned that such fundamentals as grammar, diction, and the ability to answer questions coherently seem not to matter anymore. Also, why does intellect seem to be devalued? Why is Biden criticized for seeming "professorial" in the debate? Don't we want leaders who understand the nuances of policy - who can explain in some detail the issues that really matter? Yes, I want my leader to make me feel good, to instill confidence, to rally us around the cause. But I also want to know that he or she is brilliant, intellectually far above average, and able to grasp the intricacies of a very complex world. As Hebert says, Governor Palin and the McCain campaign have four weeks to prove that she fits the bill!

Bob Hebert:
In such a serious moment in American history, it’s hard to believe that someone with Sarah Palin’s limited skills could possibly be playing a leadership role.

read more | digg story
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Friday, October 3, 2008

Just for Fun

Here is a wordle for my entire blog. Make your own wordle here.

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The value of human life

I am participating in a course through the Harvard Alumni Association called "Justice: A Journey in Moral Reasoning," basically an introduction to moral and political philosophy, taught by Harvard professor Michael Sandel.

The first assigned reading was the well known British criminal trial of 1884, The Queen v. Dudley and Stephens. Dudley and Stephens, along with two others, were shipwrecked and found themselves on a small, open boat some thousand miles from the nearest land. When it becomes obvious that they would starve to death, Dudley and Stephens decide to kill the young cabin boy and eat his flesh and drink his blood. They reason that the cabin boy is very weak already and not likely to live and that he, alone among the four, has no family at home. They do, in fact, kill and eat the boy, and several days later are rescued. Tried for murder, their defense is that their action is justified given the circumstances. The question at hand is whether it is morally (or legally) defensible to take one life so that three can be saved? (Read the case here and decide for yourself.)

Consideration of this case is, of course, prelude to the examination of the form of consequentialism called utilitarianism, as described by Jeremy Bentham in Principles of Morals and Legislation. (You can learn more about Bentham in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.) Bentham, argues that the principle of utility (whatever promotes pleasure or prevents pain) should be the basis of morality and law. Bentham says, "A thing is said to promote the interest, or to be for the interest, of an individual, when it tends to add to the sum total of his pleasure: or, what comes to the same thing, to diminish the sum total of his pains" (1. v.) Bentham lists seven circumstances that serve to quantify the value of a pleasure or of a pain: its intensity, its duration, its certainty or uncertainty, its propinquity or remoteness, its fecundity, its purity, and its extend" (IV. iv.)One way to simplify Bentham's philosophy is to say that the moral thing to do is whatever will produce the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people.

Utilitarianism certainly has its pitfalls. It fails, at least as described by Bentham, to deal with such evils as genocide or racism, whereby one group of people, who happen to be in the minority, suffer so that another group, who are in the majority, can increase their happiness. However, despite its pitfalls, utilitarianism has its uses in our modern world. One such use, very popular with governments as well as businesses, is cost/benefit analysis. For instance, lets say that the EPA has to decide whether to clean up a toxic waste site that happens to exist in proximity to a populated area. Cost/benefit analysis requires the EPA to determine how much it will cost to clean up the site, but also to quantify the value of cleaning up the site. To do this latter task requires that estimates be made of how many lives are likely to be lost if nothing is done. If the site stays as is, how many people will die. On the other hand, if the site is cleaned up, how many lives will be saved. This is a benefit. But to determine the benefit, a monetary determination must be made as to the value of the lives saved. That, of course, is tricky business. Once the value is set, the cost/benefit analysis can be completed and a decision made as to what to do with the toxic waste site. The greatest happiness for the greatest number of people lies in which side of the ledger is more favorable - does the benefit exceed the cost?

My questions for you are these. How can we put a monetary value on human life? What seems to you a reasonable number (if any)? Does this form of cold, hard calculation seem morally repugnant, or necessary given the complexities of our world. Lest you think that this kind of cost/benefit analysis doesn't really happen, consider what Ford did in the 70s regarding the Pinto, or what Philip Morris did in the Czech Republic regarding the cost benefits of smoking cigarettes. In the real world, we make decisions frequently based on how many people are affected.

I believe that this has ramifications for the work of eradicating global poverty - but I'll save that for another post.

In the mean time, please feel free to respond to this post by clicking on the word "comments" below.
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