“Lack of power is a universal and basic characteristic of poverty. Poverty is not solely a lack of income, but rather is characterized by a vicious cycle of powerlessness, stigmatization, discrimination, exclusion and material deprivation, which all mutually reinforce each other.”
– Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona (2013)
In post-Cold War era, with the resolution of peace and disarmament, self-determination, economic equality, cultural equality and multilaterism, newly independent countries yoked together and refused to align themselves with any block or alliance led by the Unites States and Soviet Russia. At the Bandung Conference, in 1955, twenty nine Asian-African countries marked themselves as Neutral to power politics and zeroed down five principles called “Panchsheel” based on mutual co-existence. India’s then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was believed to be the architect of this Non-Aligned Movement. While Fidel Castro announced the humanitarian zeal of the Movement, Non-Aligned Movement was founded to meet the fundamental needs of people struggling to achieve freedom, equality, justice, peace and emancipation from the colonialism, neo-colonialism, racism and hegemony by a repudiation of regimes founded on relation of dependency and dominion. It is in one way a positive treatise that aimed to avoid hostility to other countries and safeguard peace.
Non Aligned Movement has been successful in retaining neutrality during and after the Cold War. Arab, India, Yugoslav, Africa, Latin America were suffering both ideologically and psychologically as well as economically and socially after the WWII. Non-Alignment was a means to rebuild the politics of the country that needed to achieve a genuine national renaissance. The world of newly emergent countries is poverty-stricken and oppressed that long for a revolution of civilization. According to NAM, it is empowerment that can aid in bringing the NAM populace above poverty level. It believes empowerment happens when individuals and organized groups are able to imagine their world differently and to realize that vision by changing the relations of power that have kept them in poverty, restricted their voice and deprived them of their autonomy.
NAM understands that poverty remains a challenge forcing people to face other adverse conditions such as high levels of unemployment, food insecurity, and inadequate access to basic services such as energy (electricity); water and sanitation; health; and education services especially in rural and very remote areas. In this regard measures should provide people with tools that build resilience and self sufficiency to break the cycle of poverty. NAM suggests few basic means to empower the masses, thereby aiding in poverty reduction in NAM member states:
The main driver of empowerment is economic: Governments’ main role should be to deliver inclusive, pro-poor growth. In this approach, both the quantity and quality of a country’s growth are decisive in empowering poor people, both directly, in terms of liberating them from hunger and want, and indirectly, by providing them with the means to acquire education, voice and agency. Historical examples include the post-war reconstruction of Europe and Japan, and more recently, successive waves of East Asian “tigers” or Botswana’s sustained growth record.
Governments such as Sri Lanka, or more recently, Brazil have used effective social policy to empower people living in poverty by providing access to quality health, education, water and sanitation systems, along with social protection systems.
This has enabled poor and excluded groups to acquire rights and voice earlier in the development trajectory, with no need to wait for the benefits of economic growth to trickle down.
Governments should focus on creating an enabling institutional environment for empowerment, for example through transparency and access to information, use of information, decentralization, participatory governance reforms and communication technologies, mass registration drives, anti-corruption measures and ensuring access to justice and a free media.
Empowerment from below
Empowerment can be achieved through protest and organization by people living in poverty.
The key role of the State is to respond positively to such pressures (and not attempt to suppress them).