Calling extreme poverty a “complicated problem” would be an understatement. There’s no one reason why it exists, which means there’s no one solution to solve it. But there is one clear step that Congress can take right now to reduce poverty and violence in fragile countries.
This week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed the Global Fragility Act of 2019 (S.727). The bill, which has already passed the House of Representatives, rethinks how we provide assistance to fragile states. This approach would not only save more lives, but also create a better future for those living in extreme poverty.
There are currently more than 735 million people living in extreme poverty. Almost two-thirds (over 514 million) of these people are living in fragile and conflict-affected states. If we don’t take action, more than 80% of people living in extreme poverty will be concentrated in fragile states by 2030.
Countries and regions are considered fragile when they are unable to cope with shocks, like natural disasters or economic crises. When a shock happens in a fragile area, citizens are far too often caught in situations that make it even more difficult for them to escape extreme poverty.
In short: if we want to end extreme poverty, we must figure out how to address the root causes of fragility, and find a way to prevent crises before they happen. That’s exactly what the Global Fragility Act aims to do.
“This bipartisan bill will help modernize and shift our strategy to focus on crisis prevention, not response, to save more lives and create a better future for those living in extreme poverty,” said Tom Hart, North America Executive Director at ONE.
The bill calls on government agencies to work together to develop 10-year strategies, focusing on the root causes of fragility in specific countries. This creative approach would allow the United States to coordinate across agencies and more effectively reach vulnerable populations. Doing so will help reduce poverty, conflict, violence and corruption in fragile states.
This bill is a good step forward and would not have been possible without Chairman Jim Risch and Ranking Member Bob Menendez, as well as Senators Lindsey Graham, Chris Coons, Jeff Merkley, Marco Rubio and Todd Young, who introduced this smart proposal and helped cultivate strong bipartisan support for it.
The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration. By lending your support for the Global Fragility Act, you can ensure that our leaders push this bill over the finish line and bring us one step closer to ending extreme poverty.