The Treaties - 18 - Poverty Treaty


1. Poverty is the state of deprivation of essential elements necessary for a human being to live and develop with dignity physically, mentally and spiritually, while accounting for specific needs relating to gender, ability/disability, cultural values, age and ethnicity.

2. Every year 13 million children die from hunger related diseases due to poverty. In a world of abundance, this is ethically intolerable.

3. The unequal distribution and accumulation of wealth and over consumption are the greatest causes of poverty, leading to the destruction of life, the erosion of people's civil rights and cultural identity. Destruction of cultural identity makes people vulnerable to many forms of social, economical and political domination.

4. Historically the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few has led to poverty. Within the last few hundred years colonial expropriation has led to concentration of poverty in the South and concentration of wealth in the North. Dominant policies of international trade and structural adjustment programs, as well as exploitative practices of national and transnational corporations are responsible for the growing poverty in the South as well as the North. Also the undemocratic policies of national governments have increased poverty and concentrated wealth in the hands of the elite. Particularly in the South, these processes lead to the disruption of traditional agricultural systems and to the conversion of land to unsustainable production for export. The loss of local food production and national food self-sufficiency has been a major cause of starvation.

5. Poverty is the result of the present development model rooted in the exploitation of people and of nature. Social inequalities result from unequal access to resources and from people's exclusion from the political decision-making process. The centralization of power to control natural resources causes, simultaneously, poverty and environmental degradation.

6. In some parts of the world, natural calamities and wars contribute to increased poverty. Since population growth is not a cause of poverty, while women must be empowered to control their own reproduction, it is unacceptable to enforce policies of birth control as a means of combating poverty and environmental degradation.

7. As demonstrated by the 1991 United Nations Human Development Report, even governments recognize that poverty does not result from a lack of resources but rather represents a lack of political will to eradicate it, pointing to debt and militarism as the leading causes of continuing poverty.

8. It is unlikely that the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) will reduce international inequities. Implementing economic environmentalism similar to that defined in Agenda 21 will, according to projections of the World Bank, result in the per capita Gross National Product (GNP) of $60,000 in the developed world and $400 in Africa by the year 2030.

9. In order to build a democratic world based on social justice and ecological equilibrium, poverty must be tackled through real changes in development models, international relations and local structures.

Action Plan

Stopping the Causes of Poverty

10. We pledge to undertake educational campaigns on and popular mobilization against the following major causes of poverty, showing that:

  1. The net outflow of resources from the poor countries to the rich countries due to debt servicing must be stopped and debt must be cancelled
  2. Unfair terms of trade which benefit wealthy nations or wealthy social groups inside nations should be eliminated
  3. Military expenditure should be reduced enabling the reallocation of vast financial resources to sustainable livelihoods and ecological integrity
  4. The concentration of physical wealth should be controlled by laws or by taxes on unnecessary consumer items, non-durable resources or directly on physical wealth
  5. The basic rights of all human beings should be guaranteed through sustainable livelihoods which permit them to satisfy these rights
  6. Corporations, national or international, which concentrate wealth increase the unjust distribution of resources. Boycotts can be used against these corporations
  7. Structural adjustment conditionalities that divert resources from basic services and ecological protection should be eliminated
  8. Over consumption aggravates poverty and inappropriate patterns of consumption cause ecological degradation
  9. The feminization of poverty requires the development of alternative economic models which take account of the full roles of women as unpaid workers.

Empowerment Of Local Communities

We pledge to:

11. Work with already existing community councils and grassroots organizations and to create alternative local structures to acquire the management and control of all socio-economic processes and environmental dimensions of their community. This implies a decentralization and democratization of social and economic decision making in order to ensure people's access to food, shelter, health care, education, secure land tenure and sanitary infrastructure

12. Support and create locally-run cooperative banks to support local efforts for self-sufficiency, permitting grassroots organizations, such as indigenous peoples, women, small farmers, to control their resources for the development of their programs and projects according to the political and social reality of each country

13. Work to empower those sectors of the society most affected by poverty, i.e. women, children, indigenous peoples and other marginalized groups through their full participation in decision-making at every level, full employment, equal property and legal rights, and entitlement and access to education and full information

14. Recognize the value and encourage the use of traditional sustainable knowledge. Encourage local capacity to develop appropriate technology adapted to local skills, needs and environment. Create community-based knowledge banks to facilitate access to these technologies

15. Create self-sufficient alternative communities based on an integrated, sustainable approach

16. Integrate educational programs about basic rights and legal instruments to fight poverty and environmental degradation into all school curricula

17. Promote cooperatives on a grassroots level which increase employment opportunities and help to raise the standard of living and empower communities

18. Form a coalition of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and social movements at a local, national and international level on poverty issues to share experience, information, resources, develop joint strategies, campaigns and policies on poverty eradication

19. Use these coalitions to focus government's primary care structures on providing essential elements for all human beings to live with dignity and to democratize the decision-making processes

20. Set up local systems to monitor and to control the quality of drinking water, food and other essential elements in both rural and urban areas

21. To make greater use of the media in order to promote the above-mentioned strategies and alternative ways of living that contribute to the elimination of poverty

22. Monitor the activities of major multilateral bodies - the United Nations (UN), General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank - to prevent policies that abuse sustainable livelihoods

23. Support the institutionalization of a global network of NGOs and social movements to facilitate communication between NGOs and communities on an ongoing basis. Part of this exchange should be disseminating success stories

24. Support social movements and grassroots communities to create environmental and social impact assessment committees to evaluate projects which affect their communities.

© 2001 by Ulrich Schmitthenner • Bildschirm-Version