Woolcock lectures on poverty

Dr. Michael Woolcock, research director of the Brooks Institute and professor at the University of Manchester, addressed students and faculty concerning the problems and possible solutions of global poverty in a lecture sponsored by Impact Humanity at the Commonwealth Auditorium last night.

Woolcock began by citing statistics that underlined the magnitude of global poverty and explained that while the percentage of people living in poverty has decreased, the absolute number has remained the same.

“Twenty-five thousand people needlessly die each day from poverty, and one-half of humanity, about 3 billion people, live on $2.50 each day,” Woolcock said. “The poverty levels of Africa, in absolute numbers, have been rising, while the number of people living in poverty has decreased in China and India.”

He identified inequality as a distinct cause of global poverty, noting, over the last 200 years, rich countries have gotten richer at the expense of poorer countries.

Woolcock shifted his focus to combating poverty and identified 10 issues to reduce poverty, formally known as “Development’s Greatest Hits.”

“The DGHs include universal vaccination, community health, property rights, microfinance, conditional cash transfers, rural roads, girls’ education, green revolution, basic information technology, and economic growth and migration,” Woolcock said.

Despite the fact that researchers have identified where their attention must be to combat global poverty, Woolcock said that there are problems that hamper international organizations’ efforts.

“These issues are urgent, time is short, resources are finite, and politicians are skeptical,” Woolcock said. “I think the focus should be on finding solutions to prevailing problems, not re-working problems to fit the solutions we happen to have.”

Woolcock believes that there are short-term and long-term improvements to be made, and outlined what international organizations should do.

“In 21st-century development, we should harness local knowledge, see development as good struggles and level the playing field about decision-making,” Woolcock said. “The short-term implications of these goals are to redefine, adapt, expand access and lower costs. In the long term, we should change the whole operating system and think about global problems in a different way.”

Impact Humanity member Long Vinh ’10 remarked on Woolcock’s enthusiasm for thetopic, despite that Woolcock flew in from England earlier in the day. Vinh also noted Woolcock’s ability to encourage college students to get involved.

“Individuals can volunteer, be generous with their time and money, stay informed, beware of anyone with a simple solution, support immigration in the short-term and figure out what they’re good at and find a way to help serve those less fortunate than them,” Woolcock said.


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