Poor people must be main players in anti-poverty action, says charity chief

By agency reporter
December 12, 2008

People must be “at the centre” of their own development if they are to lift themselves out of poverty, Progressio’s Executive Director, Christine Allen, told charity leaders this week.

Referring to the estimated 88 million Latin Americans living in extreme poverty[i], Christine Allen said that development is “not a one-size-fits-all”.

“Although a great deal has already been achieved in Latin America, which is now on course to meet its Millennium Development Goals, millions of Latin Americans have also been left behind”, she said, stressing that women, children, ethnic minorities and people living with HIV and AIDS are amongst the most vulnerable.

“It is clear that not all our development models are working for all of these people”, said Allen, adding that there was a responsibility to go beyond the orthodoxy of rapid economic growth being the “silver bullet” to solving global poverty.

Progressio is the name of the former Catholic Institute for International Relations (CIIR).

Christine Allen was speaking alongside Mike Foster, Minister for International Development at the UK’s department for International Development (DFID) to mark the launch of its innovative new £16.8 million partnership programme agreement (PPA).

The agreement - a unique collaboration between 12 UK agencies and DFID - represents a considerable injection of funds for projects across Latin America which broadly aim to tackle the underlying causes of inequality and poverty.

Mike Foster said voluntary-sector organisations are on the “frontline of tackling social, economic and political exclusion in Latin America.” Supporting these organisations is “an excellent way to deliver DFID’s priorities in the region”, he said, adding: “Latin America is a region of huge potential and diversity – but also of huge inequality. DFID and our civil society partners will continue to work to build on that potential and to reduce the inequality and poverty that affects so many lives”.

Progressio’s development model is based on sending skilled workers to share their knowledge with local grassroots organisations who work with poor and marginalised people in 11 countries. This helps to provide poor people with the skills and confidence they need to empower themselves, thereby ensuring they can take control of their own lives.

“People need to be at the centre of their own development”, said Christine Allen. “Though people and grassroots communities know what they need, all too often they don’t get the chance to influence policy decisions and governance. They need to be part of the process not simply objects in it.”

Progressio development workers also strengthen advocacy skills at a local level, allowing poor and marginalised people to influence policy makers and opinion formers in their own countries. At the same time, Progressio backs up their struggles with international advocacy in the UK and Europe.

The 12 agencies to share the funding are: ActionAid, CAFOD, CARE, Christian Aid, HelpAge International, International HIV and AIDS Alliance, Oxfam, Plan, Progressio, Save the Children, World Vision and WWF.

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