Skip to Global Futures Initiative Full Site Menu Skip to main content
April 25, 2015

Responding To: Global Futures Contest: The End of World Poverty

The Journey Toward Zero Extreme Poverty

Chapa Perera

It is the year 2030, and we have now achieved a goal we have been working toward for decades: the worldwide elimination of extreme poverty. Looking back, the journey was filled with challenges and sweet victories. This is a small summary of that journey.

First of all, we realized that the biggest challenge in eradicating extreme poverty was the lack of inclusiveness in strategic planning and policy design. During the process of setting the Millennium Development Goals, we failed to consider that development and growth are not necessarily about quantity, but mainly about quality. 

In setting the development goals that enabled us to achieve zero extreme poverty in 2030, we understood the necessity of recognizing and including all communities’ contributions equally. Development and economic advancement, we realized, come in tandem with equality and quality of life; in order to achieve our goal, the journey had to be all-inclusive. 

Having realized this, we ensured that all cultures and religions across the world are given equal treatment. There can be no development in any community if it is hindered and constantly pulled back due to ethnic and religious tensions. Thus, we encouraged countries to conduct awareness campaigns promoting religious harmony and cultural diversity. Through state and non-state actors, we reached out to grassroots-level communities, motivating more public discourse on the importance of diversity and the benefits of having a multicultural society. We recognized cultural diversity as a driver and an enabler of development in the Post-2015 Development Agenda. 

These efforts not only resulted in promoting cultural harmony, but also encouraged more cultural professions to come to the forefront. With increased attention given to culture, young people understood the value of and the immense opportunities presented by engaging in cultural industries. This, in turn, created more job opportunities for individuals as well as more diversified national economies, as increasing productivity across communities. 

We also recognized the significant contribution of women to any economy. Two decades ago, women bore the brunt of extreme poverty. In many societies, women were not only‘victims of gender inequality but also of extreme poverty. The significant contribution made by a housewife was not recognized, and women were relegated to a position of caregiver and burdened with domestic responsibilities. In many countries, women were discriminated against both at the workplace and in various social circles. They constantly suffered due to unequal pay, while women from conservative societies who engaged in competitive professions were criticized for ignoring their primary duty of domesticity. 

To find solutions for this problem, which we identified as a significant hindrance towards economic development, we utilized the support of state and non-state actors. We encouraged states to institute equal-pay laws, and to ensure strict punishment for any sort of abuse or discrimination against women in the workforce.  Companies and workplaces were constantly pushed to adopt zero-discrimination policies, and this resulted in an increased number of female employees being recruited. The knowledge that they would not face discrimination in terms of work, pay, and promotions motivated women to seek their maximum potential. This not only resulted in women being empowered individually, but increased the economic strength of families and communities. 

Empowerment and recognition of women as vital stakeholders in development also encouraged more children to pursue education. On one hand, families were given the opportunity to send their children to school, as opposed to being forced to employ them in hazardous jobs and other forms of child labor. This ensured that the future generation has the potential and the required knowledge to rise up to challenges, while also contributing towards narrowing the social divide. Before our initiatives were implemented, the gap between social classes was on the rise, due to the concentration of wealth and opportunities in one social class. This factor created a lot of bitterness within societies, frequently resulting in violence. However, through our efforts, we were able to allow the opportunity to succeed and strive towards social mobility. 

Above all, we ensured that countries would be held accountable to international agreements. Though adherence to the development agenda varies according to cultural, economic, and political backgrounds, we insisted on follow-up mechanisms and transparent processes. Young people were encouraged to take active roles in decision-making processes. The dynamism of youth, their creativity, and above all, their desire for a better future drove them to act as a mode of checks and balances within their own communities. Their involvement helped local authorities to customize policy implementation projects to suit the needs of their particular communities. This ensured that the international anti-poverty regime was implemented universally and effectively.

Our journey to success was strewn with hurdles. Each and every member state had different ideologies to live up to and barriers to cross. However, our success is also due to this very diversity, which forms the basis of new opportunities. We sought success through diversity, and through ensuring inclusive processes which cater to the needs and aspirations of all these communities. In this way, we achieved our goal of zero extreme poverty.

Chapa Perera is an undergraduate student in the University of Columbo's Faculty of Law in Sri Lanka. Perera was the Gold Award-winning marketing director at the Young Entrepreneurs of Sri Lanka Company Program , and she and her team represented Sri Lanka at the Asian Pacific Young Entrepreneur Competition 2011. Perera is an active member of the Faculty of Law's Moot Court and Debating Society, and she has represented Sri Lanka at several competitions held in India and Indonesia. She is also trained in mediation; her team won the Most Outstanding Newcomer award at the Inaugural Dubai Invitational Mediation Competition. Perera is the coordinating minister for the Senate in the Sri Lanka Youth Parliament. She was also a member of the International Youth Task Force for the World Conference on Youth and the official youth delegate to the United Nations to the 68th UN General Assembly, representing Sri Lanka.

Other Responses