This article was originally posted on the Huffington Post as a rebuttal to "Is The Global Poverty Project's 'Live Below the Line' Campaign An Effective Way to Help The Poor?"
The Global Poverty Project welcomed the recent post, "Is The Global Poverty Project's 'Live Below the Line' Campaign An Effective Way To Help The Poor?"
GPP staff, volunteers and supporters ask this question every day.
This is important -- debating the merits of what we do and why we do it is integral to who we are. This is because GPP's purpose is more than just raising awareness about extreme poverty; it is about inspiring debate and raising the pressure to do something about it. We don't just want people to know the problems, we want them to act in realistic, informed and highly focused ways to force solutions.
More than anything, we don't want business as usual.
This week, people have been taking real action around the globe to fight extreme poverty with the Live Below the Line Campaign. They've used social media and reached out personally to friends, family members and their communities. Over 10,000 people have taken part in the campaign -- raising over $1.2 million globally to help lift people out of poverty.
Our partner in this campaign is CARE. A leading humanitarian organization, CARE works in 87 countries, implementing long-term programs to fight poverty, responding to humanitarian emergencies, and advocating for policy change to improve the lives of the poorest people. Working together, GPP has used our unique strengths to help bring attention to global poverty, inspiring everyday people to live below the line and fundraise for CARE -- who are the experts at doing this work on-the-ground and doing it successfully.
But we don't stop at fundraising. We are interested in systemic change. Global poverty is the product of reversible policy failures overseen by politicians, past and present. The poorest of the poor don't vote in American or European elections. They don't make donations to political parties or hire lobbyists in D.C., London or Canberra. In an environment of budget-slashing austerity measures, funding allocated to development assistance is ripe, low-hanging fruit.
The Global Poverty Project's mission is to stand up for the world's poorest people. We fight for the full funding of Millennium Development Goals and advocate meaningful change to government and corporate policies that block progress and entrench injustice. We get there by inspiring and educating people, expanding the number of informed voices calling for change. This can include celebrities like Hugh Jackman and Charlize Theron, but more often it is our friends, family, classmates, neighbors and colleagues.
Live Below the Line raises real money to help the world's poorest people but it is also a symbolic demonstration aimed at highlighting -- not replicating -- the plight of the world's poor. Mocking participants for the mildness of their hardship may be good fun, but it misses that point. History shows that all protest movements rely on symbols -- boycotts, strikes, sit-ins, flags, songs. Symbolic action on whatever scale -- from the Montgomery Bus Boycott to wearing a simple wristband -- is designed to disrupt our everyday complacency and force people to think.
GPP has made real, tangible progress in this fight. We played a pivotal role in the government's decision to double aid and development spending in Australia -- an additional $4.3 billion for the world's poorest. We worked alongside other organizations to persuade Cadbury to adopt fair trade practices, improving the livelihood of 40,000 farmers in Ghana. Our U.S. co-founder led a movement to end America's involvement in the war in Northern Uganda through the passing of the LRA disarmament act through U.S. Congress.
Funds raised for GPP are helping fight the root causes of poverty. This fall, we'll also focus on creating systemic change by educating and engaging over 15,000 Americans in advocacy campaigns that target issues like preventable diseases like Polio, transparency and corruption, and making trade fair.
Together, we have so much more to do.