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The Myths that Keep the World Poor

December 2005

By dispelling the myth that “under development” causes poverty, Vandana Shiva, a member of Grassroots International’s Resource Rights Advisory Group, provides a dose of reality as the World Trade Organization (WTO) prepares for its ministerial meeting in Hong Kong (December 13-18th).

Pascal Lamy, WTO Director General, claims that the outcome of the negotiations will determine the development fate of the world’s poorest countries (WTO Committee on Trade and Development, 11/28/05). He says, “What is already on the table can translate into a good result for development…it would certainly be disastrous if what we have disappears because we fail to move the negotiations forward.”

Shiva points out that “development” is not the solution for the world’s poor. Rather, access to land, clean water and genetic diversity–resource rights–is the key to making poverty history.

Shiva explains, “The reality is that people do not die for lack of income. They die for lack of access to the wealth of the commons [e.g., clean water and fertile soils].”

She reminds us that poverty creation is an active historical process that continues today via the economic development discourse of institutions like the WTO.

The problem is, she argues, that “development deprives the very people it professes to help of their traditional land and means of sustenance, forcing them to survive in an increasingly eroded natural world.”

At Grassroots International, our Resource Rights for All initiative provides finanical support to community-based organizations and social movements that are defending their rights to land, water and seeds. Only through the protection of resource rights can we make poverty history.

You can read Shiva’s article online at Ode Magazine here.

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