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From Poverty to Power: How Active Citizens and Effective States Can Change the World Paperback – July 11, 2008
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"Green (of Oxfam Great Britain) argues that approaches towards reducing inequality and poverty require the combined efforts of "active citizens" and "effective states." He explores a range of issues that arise out this formulation, including characteristics of the active citizen, the role of markets in tackling poverty and inequality, issues of vulnerability and the search for human security, the impact of climate change on poor people, changes to global governance, and the responsibilities of citizens and states in rich countries. Most of his perspective and areas of focus are drawn from his experience with Oxfam." (Book News Inc)
"This volume provides a wide-ranging examination of the nature, causes, and consequences of poverty, particularly in developing countries. Green (head of research, Oxfam Great Britain) covers the lack of material means (e.g., lack of schools, absence of health facilities, and unavailability of medicines, food, shelter, and clothing) as indicators of poverty, but he also emphasizes the social and psychological effects of poverty, which depress human dignity. To eradicate poverty, material needs must be addressed, but Green also emphasizes the importance of enhancing the political and social power of poor people to ensure that poverty reduction measures are effective and self-sustaining. Using various case studies, he discusses the policies adopted in various countries and their effectiveness. Although the book is well written, it does not provide essential, readily available statistical information in support of the various arguments made. In this way, the study is more general than analytical. Policy makers dealing with issues related to poverty will benefit from this work. Summing Up: Recommended. Research and professional collections." (Choice)
“From Poverty to Power is essential reading for anyone involved in change processes around the world. A new take on development for the 21st century, Oxfam International's new book provides critical insights into the massive human and economic costs of inequality and poverty and proposes realistic solutions. The best way to tackle them is through a combination of active citizens and effective nation states. Why active citizenship? Because people living in poverty must have a voice in deciding their own destiny, fighting for rights and justice in their own society, and holding states and the private sector to account. Why effective states? Because history shows that no country has prospered without a state structure than can actively manage the development process.” (CIVICUS Newsletter)
"Oxfam's great strength is that it channels the moral outrage that global poverty evokes into effective action based on solid research. Green's new book is a comprehensive look at development in this tradition. Read it so you can understand why development requires not just effective governments, but also active citizens; not just good policies, but also good politics, not just local action, but global cooperation as well." (Dani Rodrik, Professor of International Political Economy)
"From Poverty to Power has masterfully put in one place the tools we have all been waiting for: a strong analysis of how the forces of globalization and power are affecting the world's poor, inspirational examples of how effective states and enlightened citizens are shaping a more sustainable society in parts of the world, and a roadmap showing the rest of us to get on the path to a better world. This is not Green telling us what to do, its him showing us what the best of us are doing and letting us know they lead by example, and we can join." (Kevin P. Gallagher, Boston University and editor of Putting Development First: The Importance of Policy Space in the WTO and IFIs)
"Tells us what we must do in the limited time we have to prevent a human and ecological tragedy that will affect, in one way or another, each and every one of us." (Larry Elliott The Guardian)
"From Poverty to Power reaches the parts of the global poverty agenda which most other analyses fail to reach–combining politics, markets and vulnerability, incorporating income distribution and grass roots action, drawing on Oxfam experience, and showing what citizens and states need to do. If you want to understand the challenge in a book which combines experience, intelligence and hope, this is it." (Richard Jolly, Research Associate)
"Oxfam has a high reputation for books which combine careful and objective analysis with deep empathy for the poorest people on the planet. This one is no exception. Duncan Green’s focus on global inequality brings into the open a moral challenge and a practical issue which is all too often ignored. He tells us that the world needs both active citizens and effective states–a simple phrase but one which requires significant change in both rich and poor countries. This is a readable and relevant text." (Simon Maxwell, Director)
"From Poverty to Power offers a panoramic and sophisticated view on how the world changes and how we can change it, based on a unique blend of solid academic understanding, serious activist experience, and political acumen. It deserves be a standard reference for social activists and policy-makers as well as a required reading for students in economics, politics, sociology, and development studies." (Ha-Joon Chang, Department of Economics)
“From Poverty to Power demonstrates a simple but profound truth: that the only form of human development worthy of the name is that which can successfully tackle the scourge of poverty. Freedom from poverty is not only a basic human right but also a public good and an essential component of the virtuous nexus between empowered citizens and accountable and effective states. I dare anyone to argue otherwise.” (Professor Robyn Eckersley, Head of Political Science)
About the Author
Duncan Green has been Head of Research at Oxfam Great Britain since 2004. He is the author of several books on Latin America, including Faces of Latin America (third edition 2006) and Silent Revolution: The Rise and Crisis of Market Economics in Latin America (2003). He has been a Senior Policy Advisor on trade and development at the UK's Department for International Development (DFID) and Policy Analyst on trade and globalization at CAFOD.
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Only the state can provide free access to primary health care, education, clean water and sanitation, the free public services that emancipate women. Countries need `massive and long-term investment in public health services'.
But the IMF still forces privatisation and liberalisation on countries wanting loans. Under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Debt Reduction Initiative and the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative, developing countries must implement Structural Adjustment Programmes for decades, to get the debt cancellation promised as the swift solution to their urgent problems.
Africa has 24% of the world's disease burden, but only 3% of the world's health workers, too many of whom migrate to the West. Poorer countries give the West $500 million a year in health workers. Jamaica and Grenada train five doctors for every one that stays. Yet Green writes, "Increasing the quantity and quality of migration is one of the most effective ways to tackle global poverty and inequality." But increasing the supply of labour cuts its price - which increases poverty.
He reminds us that profits taken from developing countries rose from $17 billion in 1990 to $169 billion in 2005. The banks profit from every debt crisis, while the crises have cost the developing countries a quarter of their output in the last 25 years. As NatWest boasts, "Currency and interest rate volatility provided significant trading opportunities."
Green then says that powerful states and corporations must stop doing harm. Indeed, that would be nice. He admits, "the private sector on its own has never achieved growth with equity", but he says this is because we haven't understood markets properly.
He notes that reform proposals are blocked by `powerful governments and financial interests', that "Powerful interests profit from the lack of regulation ... global institutions are weak or are dominated by governments in thrall to those vested interests" and that `local elites' violently oppose land reform. He observes, "To curb the extreme volatility of capital flows will be politically difficult, as volatility has acquired its own constituency in the shape of powerful financial institutions which profit from the daily surges of capital markets. But the alternative is that an increasingly uncontrollable world of international finance will destabilise governments, drive up inequality, and precipitate deeper and more frequent financial crises."
After all this, he writes, "Sustainable growth means ... acknowledging that the private sector and trade ... are the ultimate drivers of the economy, and it means supporting them with policies, investment, and institutions." That will make them change their spots! He admits the flaws in development thinking, chiefly `excessive reformism without politics or history' - which this book exemplifies.
Green observes, "the misguided actions of global institutions and the short-sighted policies of wealthy countries often pose threats to development." But is the problem really a lack of knowledge and of vision, to be put right by Oxfam's wisdom? This is the academics' fallacy, that if only our rulers knew better, they would do better.
Does Oxfam really think anyone can persuade the world's capitalist classes to act against their own interests? We need the world's working classes to act in their own interests, to get rid of this failed, destructive system.