Spiralling food and fuel prices have signalled the start of a new "age of scarcity" which could drag millions of people into poverty, according to a new book released by Oxfam today. Urgent action must be taken to tackle the huge inequalities that prevent poor people from having access to increasingly scarce resources such as food, fuel and water. "We have entered a new age of scarcity," said Duncan Green, author of the book and Head of Research for Oxfam GB. "Unless we act quickly, the gap between the 'haves' and the 'have-nots' will grow uncontrollably, exacerbating existing inequalities and condemning millions more people to poverty." Published today, From Poverty to Power is the latest of Oxfam's once-a-decade, flagship studies on the state of global poverty.
Challenging the view that progress in developing countries is predominantly driven by changes in rich country behaviour, it instead seeks to demonstrate that change happens from the bottom-up, driven by effective states that are held to account by active citizens. The book argues that predominant economic thinking is not equal to new global realities, and that a "New Deal" on power, the economy and global institutions is urgently needed. At the heart of this approach is empowerment - of poor people in communities and of poor countries in global institutions. "For too long experts have been crossing their fingers and hoping that growth alone will be sufficient to draw people out of poverty," said Green. "The fact that inequality prevents growth from being effective in tackling poverty has been largely ignored. Now it is clearer than ever that the only way to end the gross inequalities that have condemned more than a billion people to linger in poverty is through a massive redistribution of power, assets and opportunities."
The book goes on to argue that success in tackling poverty is critically dependent on how effectively we respond to the growing impact of climate change and rapidly diminishing resources. "Dirty, carbon-hungry growth is no longer an option," said Green "Unless we can find a route to low-carbon growth then we face either catastrophic climate change or serious economic decline. Either way, the poorest will be hit first and hit hardest." In his foreword to the book, Nobel prize-winning Economist Amartya Sen writes: "In telling us what can be achieved by ordinary people through organised action, this book generates hope even as it enhances understanding of what is involved in the removal of poverty".