Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 23, 2005
Poverty can be eradicated in 10 years, says Oblate priest
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
The proportion of the world's extreme poor fell from 29 per cent in 1990, 15 years ago, to 23 per cent in 1999. That's supposed to be good news.
"But the reality is that a huge number of people are still extremely poor," lamented Father Daniel LeBlanc, an Oblate priest who does development work in the United Nations.
"In 1999, 2.8 billion people lived on less than $2 a day in our world, with 1.2 billion living with less than $1 a day. That's a lot of people.
"It may be true that we are all equal under Christ, but our differences don't seem to indicate that. We should all be able to live a good and decent lifestyle if we were all equal."
The good news is that poverty and other inequalities can be eradicated in 10 years if all countries of the world, especially the rich ones, contribute a portion of the GNP to this cause, he said.
LeBlanc, who did missionary work in Peru for 25 years and is currently an advocate for Latin America with Franciscans International at the UN, gave a keynote address on justice, peace and human rights at the Social Justice Institute at Newman Theological College May 14.
LeBlanc spoke about the UN's eight-goal Millennium campaign that commits rich and poor countries to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, eliminate gender inequality and environmental degradation and ensure access to health care and clean water by 2015. The heads of 189 countries, Canada included, adopted these goals at the Millennium Summit in 2000.
"It was not easy to get 191 countries at the UN to agree that these goals should be met by the year 2015, which doesn't mean that all problems are going to be solved," LeBlanc said.
"But if these goals were met, we would be well on our way to solving some of the most crucial problems faced by poorest people in the world."
The priest urged his audience to be vigilant because "governments agree to many things, but carry out very few."
Only four countries are currently meeting their aid quotas and Canada is not one of them, he said, urging his audience to pressure the federal government to fulfill its obligation to the poor. Canadians should consider using their income tax return to make a statement on this issue, he added.
Is it possible to eradicate poverty by 2015? "The reality has shown that if there is the will, there is absolutely the possibility of eradicating poverty by the year 2015 in our world," Leblanc said. "The resources are there, the finances are there. If each country from the poorest to the richest really put 0.7 per cent of the GNP into a pot, there would be more than enough money to meet all of these goals."
The second goal of the Millennium Summit is to ensure that all children complete primary school.
Forget the girls
"I still remember when I used to hear parents in Western Canada say, 'Let's send the boys to school; the girls, they'll probably just get married and have kids anyway so why bother.'
"And that was here in Canada. That's still very much the case in many parts of the world.
"To accomplish this first we have to change mentalities.
"But the reality is that it's been shown to be possible for every boy and girl to get at least primary school education by 2015 if the world wants it to be a reality."
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