Definitions of Poverty and Development

Topics: Poverty, Brundtland Commission, Development Pages: 6 (2200 words) Published: November 18, 2012
Every human being needs a range of basic necessities, such as food, water, clothing, shelter, education, and health care, for his or her daily life. The economic condition of lacking these essential goods and services to meet basic needs of life is called poverty. An increase in poverty leads to stagnation of development, Seers (1977:3). This paper will attempt to look at the theoretical definitions of poverty and development visa a vise the definitions of a common man. This paper will further analyse remedies of poverty from the theoretical and common man’s point of view.

This part of the paper gives sample definitions of poverty and development from the scholarly perspective. According to the World Bank (2000), “poverty is pronounced deprivation in well-being.” Well-being in this regard is the one articulated by Amartya Sen (1987), who argues that well-being comes from a “capability” to function in society. Thus poverty arises when people lack key capabilities, and so have inadequate income or education, or poor health, or insecurity, or low self confidence, or a sense of powerlessness, or the absence of rights such as freedom of speech. Also Nolan and Whelan, define poverty in terms of the inability to participate in society as a result of lack of resources’ (1996:188). It should be noted therefore that there is no single ‘correct’ definition of poverty. However, as most researchers now accept that any definition has to be understood, at least in part, in relation to particular social, cultural and historical contexts. Development has been pursued since time immemorial as persons sought ways to improve on their standard of living (Kendie 2011:17). “Development is the process of change through which a society evolves the values, political leadership and other forms of social organization necessary to mobilize and utilized resources in a such a way to maximize the opportunities available to the majority of its members for the realization to the fullest possible extent of their potentials as human beings” (Curry, 1973:21). Also, “development consists of a set of practices, sometimes appearing to conflict with one another, which requires – for the production of society – the general transformation and destruction of the natural environment and of social relations” ( Rist 1997:13). According to Seers (1977:3),”The questions to ask about a country’s development are three: What has been happening to poverty? What has been happening to unemployment? What has been happening to inequality? If all three of these have declined from high levels, then beyond doubt this has been a period of development for the country concerned.” These three things are considered the central challenges that nations battle with and try to combat or at least try to minimize. To Seers, all these 3 must be at low levels before we can declare that society as a developed one. This invariably means that a rise in any one of these central challenges disqualifies that society from being called developed. There are a number of development theories. To mention but a few are sustainable development, modernization and dependency theories. The term sustainable development came into popular use after the 1987 report of the World Commission on Environment and Development, popularly known as the Brundtland Report and the Brundtland Commission, respectively. The report was largely a response to the growing international environmental and ecological lobby. It defined sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs´ (WCED 1987:43). The modernization theory on the other hand, saw development as an evolutionary process in which countries, specifically those from the third world, progressed through a known series of stages to be modern. Members of the third world were seen to be traditional and are characterized...
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