SDG NO.1 – NO POVERTY
You walk into a gallery and see two pictures on the wall. The first one depicts wealth and a world of plenty. A world where billions of people are living longer thanks to modern healthcare, and where education institutions are brimming with eager students. The caption reads that the world economy is estimated to produce an outstanding $90 trillion worth of output per year. An unprecedented figure.
The second picture is the mirror opposite of the first. It is one of extreme poverty where people are still living in slums, children can't go to school and people are dying because they don't have enough to eat. Its caption is a gloomy one: Nearly one billion of the world's seven billion population is living in such extreme poverty they are struggling to survive. As hard as it is to believe, both pictures are of the very same world.
In September 2000 the largest gathering of world leaders in human history convened for the Millennium Summit at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. The outcome was a list of eight goals and eighteen targets to be achieved by 2015. Recognising that poverty was a pressing issue that needed addressing, it was firmly put at number one. Last year, the MDGs expired and the question on everyone's mind was- Did the last fifteen years amount to anything? Extreme poverty was not completely eradicated, but that does not mean that there wasn't a measure of success. Statistics show that in 1990 there were 1.9 billion people living in extreme poverty and this was reduced to an estimated 836 million by 2015. An encouraging figure, true, but not one that should inspire slackness. The fight continues with a new set of seventeen “Global goals” for the next 15 years with poverty still at the very top of the list. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Fund supports initiatives that tackle poverty from a multisectoral perspective and addresses the dimensions such as promoting better government policies. This fund has been as far reaching as Honduras, Côte D’Ivoire, Bangladesh to name but a few countries, and empowering women, backing training and ensuring food security as best as it can.
But what is it about poverty that makes it such a pressing issue? Simply put, from the existence of poverty stems all manners of problems. Where there is extreme poverty there is more likely than not a low literacy rate (education). Where there is extreme poverty you’ll find inequalities between men and women. Where there is extreme poverty you'll find poor healthcare and sanitation. Therefore, with poverty running rampant in countries, how can economic growth be achieved, sustainable cities be built, climate change be kept in check and inequalities be reduced? All the other sixteen Sustainable Development Goals depend on the success of the first one.
Seychelles is blessed enough to have made such great strides economic wise. Although there is an open discussion on what the degree of poverty that still needs to be tackled in Seychelles is, there is no denying that free education means that the majority of children are in schools, public healthcare is provided for all and the issue of inequality in any form is constantly on the agenda. The World Bank depicts Seychelles as having Poverty rates that “are expected to remain among the lowest in the world outside the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).” Using the International poverty line which was at $1.90 in 2011 (SCR 25.70 as of 18/11/16), extreme poverty in Seychelles stood at 1.1% of its population in 2013. This means that as of 2013, 1.1% of our population lived on less than SCR 25.70 a day (World bank figures). If we remain committed, we are definitely on track to eradicating poverty in Seychelles by 2030.
Seychelles also participates actively in regional and international discussions regarding such issues to create sound policy frameworks that can be implemented to better the lives of our citizens. In recent years, we have been among the few countries to bring the blue economy to the forefront of international discussions, an initiative which former president James Michel has implemented nationally. Since the Seychelles territory (including its land area and EEZ) is 99% ocean, the sustainable development of our blue economy plays a vital role to further improve the economic situation of our country. Sustainable development is the key phrase here, as it is the only way to ensure that we do not deplete our resources, leaving future generations lacking and struggling with poverty due to our actions.
We need to be clear on this- the eradication of poverty is not a load that falls solely on the shoulders of the government. The effort to lift ourselves out of poverty, like everything else, requires first a renewal of mind. Students must seize the opportunity that free education provides. What projects we feel society could benefit from, let’s lead. Community development, tackled by each and every member of our neighbourhood. Clean streets, rivers and beaches, the responsibility of every citizen of Seychelles. Educate yourself on the importance of education that goes beyond school textbooks. In the end, our progress and actions will speak much louder than words, and other countries will come to us for words of wisdom. As former President James Michel once said at the opening of the AOSIS Ministerial meeting on Climate change (November 2014) “Too often we are treated as bystanders. And more often than not, we allow ourselves to be treated as bystanders.” No, we cannot afford to let ourselves be bystanders any longer.
Join the global conversation. Use the hashtags #sey4sdg , download the SDG Action app, visit globalgoals.org – help make the SDGs famous and tell the leaders of the world that this is what we want.
You can also visit http://www.globalgoals.org/take-action/ and choose an NGO to get involved with: Global Citizen, Save The Children, UNICEF, UNDP – the choice is yours.
Contributed by Lisa Bastienne