| Summary - 1993 State of the World's Children, UNICEF |
All of these developments, and the hopes to which they have given rise, come at a time of extraordinary change in world affairs. And it is possible to hope that the cause of overcoming the worst aspects of poverty will also draw sustenance, for the long haul ahead, from the changed political and economic environment of the 1990s.
At the moment, that environment remains extremely difficult for most nations of the developing world. There is as yet no sign that the ending of the cold war is leading to any increase in the resources available for development. Indeed, much of the developing world is today facing its worst financial famine of the modern era, starved of resources by its own high levels of military spending, by the continuing debt crisis, by the further falls in commodity prices, by the restrictive trade policies of the industrialized nations, by the lingering recession in large parts of the world, by the costs of post-war reconstruction in the Persian Gulf, and by the channelling of new aid, credit, and investment to the nations of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.
But despite all of these problems, the prospects for progress have been profoundly improved by the enormous political and economic upheavals of recent years: the advance of democracy throughout Latin America; the liberation of Eastern Europe; the collapse of the Soviet Union; the ending of the cold war; the spread of democratic political reform through most of Africa (including the erosion of apartheid); the almost world wide retreat from the ideology of highly centralized government control over all aspects of economic life; and the growing acceptance of the necessity of joint international action in response to both humanitarian and environmental problems.
These changes amount to one of the most rapid transformations in history. And for all the suffering that is surfacing in the turbulent wake of these changes, from Somalia to the former Yugoslavia, it can still be said that this is a transformation which holds out new hope for world development. If the various forms of free-market economic policies now being adopted are not crushed under the weight of military spending, debt repayment, and trade protectionism, then there is real hope of achieving sustained economic growth. And if the steps now being taken towards democracy do not falter under the assault of continued poverty and social unrest, then there is also real hope that the poor will eventually begin to share more equitably in the benefits of that growth.
These developments are changing the overall environment in which the developing world must earn its living and within which its people must struggle to meet their own needs. Whether those needs are met or not depends, first of all, on whether families have jobs and incomes. Second, it depends on whether governments fulfil their responsibilities for providing the essential services and safety nets in support of families so that even the most disadvantaged do not suffer from preventable malnutrition, from disease borne by unsafe water and sanitation, or from the lack of even basic health care and education. The great changes of the last five years by no means make such progress inevitable or automatic; but they do make it more possible and more likely.
This coming together of both general and specific developments means that a new threshold in the struggle to overcome the worst aspects of poverty has been reached in the early years of the 1990s. Broad-scale political and economic change is creating an environment more conducive to a renewal of progress against poverty; and advances in technology, in strategy, and in political commitment to meeting basic social goals have given that challenge both a specific focus and a new impetus.