by Jorge Rojas-Ruiz, Humanitas Global
In his 2012 Democratic National Convention speech, former President Bill Clinton stated that “Advancing equal opportunity and economic empowerment is both morally right and good economics, because discrimination, poverty and ignorance restrict growth, while investments in education, infrastructure and scientific and technological research increase it, creating more good jobs and a new wealth for all of us.” While this speech was directed at U.S. citizens, it is applicable for everyone around the world.
As former President Clinton argued, education and empowerment are successful tools in generating income and growth, and possess the potential to have a significant positive impact for sustainable development in the long run.
A report released earlier this year by the U.N. High-Level Panel on Post-2015 created a platform for increased discussion in the field of international development on rethinking strategies to promote and measure sustainable development. Among the many arguments posed on the implications of that report, one in particular caught my attention; “as the report makes clear, a rising tide does not necessarily raise all boats, thus a clear commitment to combating inequality and advancing social and economic inclusion must be at the core of the global development agenda,” it said.
I do not only agree with the statement, but believe it plays a central role in the fight against poverty and in the advancement of sustainable development worldwide.
Identifying a clear pathway to foster equality and social and economic inclusion in the aggregate has been a constant struggle, but sometimes the creation of a new approach is not necessary. Tangible progress can be made by replicating what has been successful in the past in a way that adapts to cultural traditions and particular regional characteristics, allowing excluded populations to leapfrog into social and economic inclusion.
Education is an important tool for vulnerable populations as it can enable them to be more proactive in their growth and development. For example, learning a particular skill on how to make a sellable product with the available resources or how to manage their scarce funds and arable land in a sustainable manner, gives a person the opportunity to have greater control over their overall wellbeing. Empowering underprivileged communities with access to microcredit, training and technical assistance is a tool that – combined with education – unlocks the door of opportunity.
The Korea-UNDP MDG Trust Fund is a program that does the later and has scaled up targeted interventions that improve economic livelihoods of the poor and vulnerable in nine countries around the globe, including Haiti, Colombia, Rwanda, Mongolia, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In Haiti, for example, the success has been exemplified by the creation of 450 new jobs and 350 micro enterprises established. Additionally, more than 400 businesses have been reinforced through training, mentoring and access to credit, and more than 900 women from Port-au-Prince’s most vulnerable neighborhoods benefited from employment and entrepreneurship programs.
Ninite Eltebe, a beneficiary of the program in Haiti, is now able to care for her family and send her kids to school. She enrolled in a three-month skills development training program on chicken rearing and now employees two young men. Programs such as these not only have direct beneficiaries but also indirect ones as well. They create an economic cycle that enables vulnerable populations to enter the market economy and engage in consumption, eventually boosting the local economy.
Education and empowerment are a means to combat inequality and promote social and economic inclusion. These tools award vulnerable populations with the opportunity to care for their livelihoods in a sustainable manner while progressively gaining self reliance and positively contributing to their communities.
As we can see through Ninite’s story, placing the issues of equality and social and economic inclusion at the center of the global development agenda is essential in making pivotal societal changes as we move towards meeting the post-2015 MDGs.