(MENAFN - Jordan Times) Half the world's population, nearly three billion people, live on less than 2 a day. Poverty is hunger and not knowing when, how and where the next meal is coming from.
Poverty is not having a roof over one's head; being sick and not being able to see a doctor; not being able to read and not being able to go to a school; being unemployed and having little chance of getting a job. But poverty is not just lack of material resources. Poverty is lack of power, representation and freedom. Poverty is no or little hope of change. It is a lack of opportunities and security.
Eradicating poverty is the overarching goal of development cooperation. In the efforts to fight poverty, three main issues are especially worth emphasising: the importance of support to democracy and human rights for poverty reduction; the importance of pluralism as a starting point for socio-economic development; transparency as a tool for democratisation.
Rule of law, and respect for civil and political rights are crucial elements in building functioning democracies and for reducing poverty in all its dimensions. Openness and transparency enhance opportunities for all citizens to monitor budgets and government performance.
Increased accountability means that states generally deliver better what citizens need and expect. Rule of law and equality before the law, upholding the ground rules of a market economy, including the protection of property rights and contractual freedom, protecting free media and freedom of expression, all create conditions conducive to economic growth.
Democratic development, in turn, is more sustainable when combined with social development in which all individuals in society are included. Gender equality is a prerequisite for long-term democratic development and societies cannot afford to exclude half of their population.
It is also essential that all parts of the society be included in the process and efforts to reduce poverty: the state, the civil society and the business sector.
For a long time the business sector was left out of development cooperation, but in recent years, focus has increasingly been on the business sector's potential contribution to development, through its economic resources, as well as with expertise and knowledge. This includes the promotion of corporate social responsibility, whereby a business monitors and ensures its active compliance with the spirit of the law, ethical standards and international norms, and at the same time, through its activities, it has a positive impact on the environment, consumers, employees, communities and all other members of society.
Most economic growth is today built upon ending non-sustainable resources, but a serious policy shift is needed to be able to face the challenges of air and water pollution, climate change and diminishing fossil fuels resources.
We need to promote economic and social development for today, but also enable sustainable economic growth for the future. To be able to do so, innovations are needed, allowing more people to rise out of poverty. Productivity growth should be about "doing more with less".
The problem is that innovations often are expensive, in the research and development process, but also in the starting up and establishing process. It is also often a high-risk investment since it is impossible to know for sure if the investment is going to pay off. For this reason, many potentially good ideas are never fully developed or launched on the market.
To promote innovation and contribute to reducing poverty, Sweden, through the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, in cooperation with PricewaterhouseCoopers, has developed a programme called "Innovation Against Poverty". This is a risk-sharing mechanism aiming at helping with funding for potential innovations. It is a global programme, opened to the Middle East region, and it was launched in Amman this week. (For more information see: http://www.sida.se/iap)
Based on the idea of sustainability, the "Innovation Against Poverty" programme aims at improving the innovation climate and, at the same time, addresses social aspects of business in an inclusive manner. The programme aims at promoting not only economic growth in a sustainable way, but also at addressing needy people, i.e., directly involving marginalised people, not only as consumers, but also as innovators, entrepreneurs, producers and distributors.
Extra emphasis will be put on addressing youth unemployment, as well as on sustainable use of water resources and regional economic development. All these challenges are crucial factors for the region's future development.
Innovations have an important role to play in the challenge to eliminate poverty. It is hoped that the Innovation Against Poverty programme can contribute to poverty alleviation, economic development and innovation in the Middle East region as well.
It is also hoped that innovations in one market can benefit the whole region, given the relative ease with which innovations can be disseminated.
Strengthening the capacity of the workforce and developing the private sector through innovations is important for the economic development of Jordan. By tackling youth unemployment and increasing the rate of female participation in the workforce, Jordan can tap into its most valuable resource: its people.
The writer is the ambassador of Sweden to Jordan. She contributed this article to The Jordan Times.