Pope Francis has given the UN 7 priorities to end poverty in the world. Now Fordham students assess the world’s progress.

In 2015, Pope Francis spoke to the United Nations about world poverty, a cause that would come to define his papacy. “To enable these real men and women to escape extreme poverty, we must enable them to be worthy agents of their own destiny,” he said. “Integral human development and the full exercise of human dignity cannot be imposed.

Pope Francis has called for both material and spiritual support for the world’s poor, meeting people’s survival needs while empowering them to become leaders and agents of change. The seven areas that Francis called on the world to improve – access to the material requirements of food, water, housing and employment, as well as the spiritual requirements of education, civil liberties and religious freedom – caught the attention of Henry Schwalbenberg, director of International Political Economy and Development at Fordham University.

With his students, he asked: how is the world doing on these seven fronts?

“What we’ve done is come together to figure out how we can measure that and aggregate that, and [we came] with a measure of human well-being,” Schwalbenberg said. America.

Overall, 26% of the world’s population lives in poverty, according to the index.

So began the Fordham Francis Index, now in its sixth year of comprehensively documenting material and spiritual poverty around the world. Schwalbenberg and his team recorded the highest poverty score this year since the study began: Overall, 26% of the world’s population lives in poverty, according to the index.

Increased rates of malnutrition, greater discrimination against women, and growing restrictions on religious freedom have contributed to a higher rate of material and spiritual poverty around the world.

The FFI for 2022 was released Nov. 11 at a United Nations event marking the World Day of the Poor, which Pope Francis designated as the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time. This year, the day fell on November 13.

The index reflects an assessment of data collected between 2019 and 2021 from various UN agencies and non-governmental organizations.

Discrimination against women increased in 2021, according to data collected from the World Economic Forum. Using the sex ratio at birth and the gender gap in healthy life expectancy, the data showed that around 51% of women in the countries surveyed experienced discrimination, according to the report.

Meanwhile, in 2019, 59% of people, or nearly 4.5 billion, lived in countries “where religious freedom is severely restricted,” the report said.

According to the index:

  • 10% of the world’s population, or approximately 787 million, would not have access to drinking water in 2020.
  • 9%, or about 710 million people, suffered from malnutrition in 2019.
  • 17%, or about 1.3 billion people, lived in substandard housing in 2020.
  • 13% of the world’s adult population, or approximately 776 million people, were illiterate in 2020.
  • 23% of the global labor force, or about 804 million people, were out of work or employed at less than $3.20 a day in 2021.

The UN’s Human Development Index uses certain measures that show poverty at scale and relative to other countries: life expectancy at birth, years of schooling and gross national income per capita. . By contrast, the poverty measures in the Fordham Francis Index look at crude measures that are easy to understand, Schwalbenberg said. For example, where the HDI uses a country’s per capita income to determine overall poverty, the FFI simply tracks the number of people earning less than $3.20 a day.

“[The H.D.I. was] looking at the number of years completed in school,” he added. “Our measure of education, or lack of education, is illiteracy. So [we’re] really trying to watch people from the sidelines.

The highest material poverty scores occurred in small, low-income states, while the spike in spiritual poverty was greatest in more developed countries with large populations such as China, India, and Russia.

The “three Cs” (Covid-19, conflict and climate change) have combined to create global food shortages and high commodity prices.

“The lack of religious freedom is concentrated in East Asia and the Asian continent,” said Fordham graduate student Khutso Segooa. She said religious repression in the region has remained high since 2017.

When asked how the world should respond to this data, Schwalbenberg said, “We identified four areas that have worsened”: unemployment, food insecurity, religious freedom and gender equity. sexes. Some of these issues will be easy to answer, he said; others will require more extensive interventions.

Unemployment soared during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the index. Schwalbenberg expects those numbers to be lower next year as the global economy continues its post-pandemic recovery, but some countries have suffered significant economic damage during the downturn.

Food insecurity has also increased in part due to the pandemic. Mr Schwalbenberg explained that the “three Cs” – Covid-19, conflict and climate change – have combined to create global food shortages and high commodity prices, adding that conflict and climate change appear to be permanent features of life in many poor countries.

“It’s time for us not to be discouraged but to renew our initial motivation. The work we have started must be completed with the same sense of responsibility.

Religious freedom and gender equity have been affected by the choices made by politicians and government leaders. Now that democracy itself appears to be under threat around the world, the dynamism of civil liberties remains closely tied to the presence of authoritarian or populist governments, Schwalbenberg said.

“There is a kind of tension between countries that believe in these kinds of freedoms and those that don’t. This is perhaps a more fundamental problem that is happening around the world, and we just reflect that in these two numbers,” Schwalbenberg said.

Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, the Vatican’s permanent observer to the United Nations, and Bill O’Keefe, executive vice president for mission, mobilization and advocacy for Catholic Relief Services, also spoke at the announcement of the latest Index. Mr. O’Keefe described the daunting impact of climate change on CRS-sponsored relief and development work around the world

“It’s up to us to decide,” Mr O’Keefe said. “We need to care for creation and care for the poor and make sure that these two ‘cares’ come into our politics and our economy.

And just over seven years after his first address to the United Nations, Pope Francis had this to say on the 2022 World Day of the Poor: “Now is the time for us not to lose heart but to renew our initial motivation. The work we have started must be completed with the same sense of responsibility.

With reports from the Catholic News Service

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