SEATTLE, Washington — Currently, the United States is enveloped in a new civil rights era. Despite the risks of COVID-19, millions of citizens have sparked protests and riots in their cities to demand justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and the thousands of other victims killed by police brutality and violence. Furthermore, these protests highlight the decades of systemic racism that has persisted and dominated the nation. Since the start of these protests, citizens have realized that the power of advocacy organizations can bring monumental change to society. While this movement of ending systemic racism may seem different from the goal of reducing global poverty, they are united by the way advocacy has spotlighted these salient social issues.
The Power of Advocacy Organizations
Advocacy organizations advance and vocalize the problems that many people face around the world. In terms of Black Lives Matter, citizens across the world are connecting to this movement to draw attention to the injustices that black people face on a daily basis. Black Lives Matter is about social justice and equity-like global poverty reduction efforts.
An article written by Global Citizen relates the Black Lives Matter Movement to eradicating global poverty. Specifically, the article states, “People living in extreme poverty — like girls and women, and black men in the U.S. — have been discriminated against and excluded by societies and institutions that sought to treat everyone equally without recognizing pre-existing inequalities.” Here, Global Citizen reveals the difficulty of ending extreme poverty, especially when its existence is rooted in discrimination.
Global poverty and racism work together to exclude, which makes it harder to reduce both problems. Additionally, many global poverty advocacy organizations also focus on the detrimental effects of racial and structural discrimination. As a result, many people across the world experience poverty and limited resources simply because of the color of the skin or gender. For instance, certain parts of Latin America and the Caribbean have incredibly high levels of inequality. As resources are largely reserved for the elite, other members of society experience systematic exclusion.
In 2013, researchers Edward Telles and Stanley Bailey examined structural explanations and belief in discrimination in eight countries: Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guatemala, Mexico and Peru. Their findings revealed that “in seven of eight countries, they specifically recognize discrimination against ethnoracial minorities.” Furthermore, each country showed a high percentage of people who believe that structural discrimination perpetuates minority disadvantage. These ranged between 62.7% and 89.1% depending on the country.
This example reveals the similarities between the Black Lives Matter Movement and the issues surrounding global poverty. Many members of society, along with governments, have been able to structurally discriminate against people without societal deemed privileges. As a result, these citizens then fall victim to extreme poverty and have a hard time escaping this persistent cycle, largely created by structural discrimination.
In addition, factoring in corrupt governments, underfunded healthcare systems, food insecurity, lack of resources and commodity-dependent economies, these issues and systems become harder to break down and dismantle. If people around the world do not understand the structural difficulties of overcoming racism and extreme poverty, then it becomes even harder to ameliorate the issue and instigate change.
Countries like Brazil divulge this pattern as afro-descendant populations have had a higher poverty rate consistently from 2005-2015. Although poverty rates have declined over the years, racial disparities continue to persist. For example, poverty for the “non-afro-descendant” population declined from 25% in 2005 to 12% in 2015. For the “afro-descendant” population, the poverty rate started at 51% and fell to 26% in that same time period.
This is where advocacy organizations are powerful and instrumental. They use strategic communication to spread awareness, educate and publicize their message for all people to hear and understand. They have the ability to spark social change and get their leaders and representatives to follow. For example, the Congressional Management Foundation created a study where it examined the effect of constituent meetings on Congressional decisions. It concluded that “constituent visits to their offices have ‘some’ or ‘a lot’ of influence on an undecided member of Congress.”
Advocacy organizations are powerful because they have the ability to generate change from the root of the problem. In terms of Black Lives Matter and global poverty, that means funding, legislation and resources controlled and managed by state and national leaders. Advocacy groups not only have the power to enact change from their leaders but also the power to mobilize other people within their community. For example, the current Black Lives Matter movement consists of millions of citizens protesting in the streets and educating their peers.
Additionally, advocacy organizations centered on global poverty, like The Borgen Project, teach members of the community how to mobilize for a number of important causes. For example, The Hunger Project works to empower women to help strategically end world hunger and global poverty.
Organizations like Bread For the World Institute have created a toolkit for governments and other charitable groups around the world in order to apply a “racial equity lens” to the mission of reducing global poverty and hunger. This toolkit highlights breaking down policy and resources to ensure that poverty reduction plans allow racial groups to thrive and also certify that these groups are not excluded from aid.
Overall, the power of advocacy organizations shows in all sectors because they can introduce and sustain long-term change for people all over the world. Currently, the Black Lives Matter movement and efforts to deconstruct systemic racism also fall in line with global poverty reduction. Supporting advocacy organizations in both of these fields, individually and jointly, have the ability to create vast amounts of change for millions of people.
– Sophia McWilliams