Eradication of Poverty: A key factor in achieving social justice

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Dec 22, 2017
The excerpt “as long as poverty … exist in our world none of us can truly rest” drawn from the speech given by Nelson Mandela at the Make Poverty History Campaign in London in the year 2005 reveals the pertinence of the eradication of poverty in achieving social justice. Kofi Anan’s statement which reads thus, ‘’poverty devastates families, communities and nations. It causes instability, political unrest and fuels conflict’’, further elucidates the imperativeness of the eradication of poverty as to the achievement of social justice.
This piece is aimed at revealing how the eradication of poverty stands as a key factor in the achievement of social justice. Without much ado, it is pertinent to reveal what the subject matters really mean. An inductive meaning is mostly ascribed to poverty to mean lack of funds alone. To counter this, the United Nations in their Sustainable development goals made it clear that poverty is more than the paucity of funds but includes hunger, mal-nutrition, limited access to education and other basic services, social discrimination and exclusion as well as the lack of participation in decision making. No consensus has been reached globally as to the definition of poverty due to the fact that poverty appears relatively different in countries which are affected by it. But a common key criterion for the identification of poverty is the level of income in a country. Reason why development is been measured by a country’s per capital income growth.
Social justice simply put, is the protection of human dignity whereby the social formation gets an equal distribution of income and wealth, opportunities for work and employment and access to social services especially education and health. From historical examples, it has been revealed that poverty inhibits the achievement of social justice. Africa and other continents like Asia are characterized by social injustice because they accommodate poverty stricken countries. However, Africa’s rate of poverty measurement is higher than any other continent. In fact, the word chronic was and is used to describe Africa’s level of poverty by the Institute of Security Studies. Statistics has revealed that 36.3% of African citizens live on less than one dollar a day i.e. about 207 million people. The World Economic Forum in September 2017 released the latest economy rankings of African countries. The report showed that some countries fared more than the other. For example, in the report Nigeria moved from 127th to 125th out of 137 economies making her economy better than some sub-Saharan African countries like Liberia which is 134th, Sierra Leone which is 130th, and Chad which is 135th. While, Ghana, Cameroon and Gambia in 111th, 116th, 117th position respectively are better than Nigeria. These rankings still show that all West African countries experience poverty though at different levels. A country like Ghana has experienced rapid economic growth but it has been unable to transform this to poverty reduction. While countries like Chad and Liberia have been relatively efficient in transmitting income growth to poverty reduction. Thus, insinuating that each of these countries struggle with the achievement of social justice because poverty exists. Liberia, Nigeria and Chad are examples of countries in West Africa with highly concentrated poor populations. Reasons for the eradication of poverty in achieving social justice are shown below.
The aura of poverty is an all-encompassing phenomenon. It affects everyone as Kathleen Blanco puts it that, “poverty is everyone’s problem. It cuts across any line you can name: age, race, social, geographic or religious. Whether you are black or white, rich, middle class or poor we are all touched by poverty.” For instance, if seventy-five percent of the populace in a country suffers poverty, the remaining percentage that seem to be modestly rich and satisfied will also be affected. Since human existence is dialectical in nature, the effectiveness of relationships will be at a reduced functionality and benefits. If the poor gets employed by the rich, they will work with the sole aim of only acquiring cash for sustenance. Thus, any hindrance to their goals and aspirations will trigger frustration if need be or might even cause reduced performance at work if salaries are not paid on time or even when paid it is no longer sufficient to meet ends and scarce means. Meaning, if eighty-five percent of the employees in such organization fall within the range of the poor, the objectives and aims of the organization will never be met due to the effects of poverty on the employed. Furthermore, if such organization and other organizations are characterized by this malady, especially if they are the back bone of such country’s economy there will be crisis in the economy. With crisis in the economy, inflation reigns, hoarding of goods persists, crime rates increases and these can cause terror attacks which might ultimately culminate in the reduction of the population of such country. Here, social justice can never be achieved due to the prevalence of poverty because an ambience of negative peace is predominant.
Importantly, poverty is a major inhibition for the full expression of human rights; which is an integral for the enjoyment of social justice in practice. The nexus between social justice and human rights is the cultural phenomenon. Human rights are embodied not only in legal concept but also in cultural norms. The rights to work, leisure, education, cultural participation, freedom of expression etc. are all hindered at one point or the other due to poverty. For instance, a situation of a hypothetical student with an interest in researching the cause of disease attends a school that is practically falling apart due to poor funding; the student will achieve little or no success because laboratory necessities were not available. Meanwhile, a well-funded school, if fees have been subsidized by the government would have made the nurtured dream achieved. Undisputable, a just society is one that understands and values human rights and the dignity of all human beings. The indigenous peoples in West Africa are common victims as their rights have been violated and infringed on due to their close rapport with poverty compared to other heads in the society. Reason why Baldry elucidated that social justice “ is essential to ensure people who need to claim human rights but do not have the ability, capacity or position to do so, can…”
According to Nelson Mandela, “poverty is not an accident…and can only be removed by the actions of human beings.” Thus, poverty can be reduced with the concerted efforts of the people in a social formation.
Miscellaneous ways include, provision of public work program that will guarantee basic income security for the sick, unemployed, maternity and disabled. There should also be recognition and value of unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of public services and the promotion of shared responsibilities within the household and the families as naturally as appropriate. In addition, health coverage should be achieved for everyone in the society. This includes financial risk protection, access to quality essential health care services and access to safe effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all. There should also be available, full and productive employment and decent work for all: women, men, including the youths and persons with disabilities and equal pay for work of equal value. Social protection expenditure should also be applied because it reduces poverty and simultaneously ensures social justice. Social protection expenditure plays a prominent role because it avoids inequality and addresses the issue of social inclusion. In fact, Chronic Poverty Research Center claimed that social assistance and social insurance will reduce poverty, where the former includes the conditional and unconditional cash transfers and income supplements in cash or kinds and the latter ensures that the vulnerability of the population reduce as they adapt to shock without suffering common kinds of losses. Also very important is the, availability of cheap information that will improve the awareness of the public about their social rights. This can also be in form of providing free and affordable educational services be it through scholarships, constant supply of free books to schools and subsidized fees. This is because the poor most times have no fund to acquire information that can enlighten them especially in this advanced technological age. For example, the governor of Osun State in Nigeria, in 2013 provided free tablets that have in-built books with past questions to bolster success in exams for students in schools in Osun State.
In conclusion, it is obvious from dynamic historical epitomes, statistical reports and scholarships that the presence of poverty inhibits social justice. In addition, the above analysis emphasizes on the eradication of poverty as a pathway that ensures an all-encompassing achievement of social justice and also reveals ways to eradicate poverty. As long as a country accommodates poverty stricken populace, social justice will be achieved in mediocrity. And a society characterized by this, will experience negative peace which is not suitable for a country that intends to participate effectively and efficiently in the international system. Further revealing that, the eradication of poverty is a key factor in achieving social justice. It is therefore, pertinent to remove the root hindrance; poverty and allow social justice become achieved.