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  • Print publication year: 2007
  • Online publication date: June 2012

24 - Global poverty and inequality

from Part 3 - The new agenda: globalisation and global governance



This chapter examines poverty and inequality in global politics. The first section provides the background for our analysis of global poverty and inequality. We demonstrate how different perspectives of development and the causes of poverty have implications for how one responds to poverty and inequality. The second section examines three key contemporary initiatives for global development. The final section focuses on the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) initiative. Through an analysis of the MDGs we reconnect to the key points put forward in the first section of this chapter.

Background to poverty and inequality

Global poverty and inequality are high on the agenda in world politics at the start of the new millennium. At the same time, the capacity of developed countries to eradicate poverty and address inequality has probably never been better. However, contemporary research continues to make clear that there is not only a growing gap worldwide between the rich and the poor, but also that there has been an unprecedented rise in insecurity and vulnerability in the everyday lived experiences of many people, specifically the poor. There is no shortage of figures and statistical evidence to draw upon in order to substantiate these claims (see for example, the World Bank's World Development reports since 1990 and the United Nations' Human Development reports). Activists, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), policy-makers, politicians and scholars are all engaged in rigorous debates about the scale and character of global poverty and inequality.

Further reading
Berger, Mark T. 2004, The battle for Asia: from decolonization to globalization, London: Routledge Curzon. Provides a detailed overview of the history of the theory and practice of international development from the end of World War II down to the Asian financial crisis of 1997 and beyond.
Berger, Mark T. and Weber, Heloise (forthcoming), Rethinking the Third World: international development and world politics, London: Palgrave. Provides a much more elaborate and detailed discussion of the key themes raised in this short chapter on global poverty and inequality.
McMichael, Philip 2004, Development and social change: a global perspective, third edition, Thousand Oaks: Pine Forge Press. Engaging and accessible account of the history of development that challenges the reader to rethink problematic assumptions about development.
Rahnema, Majid with Bawtree, Victoria (eds) 1997, The post-development reader, London: Zed Books. Unconventional collection of essays on development and poverty; challenging and inspiring.