The 3 misconceptions of global poverty you should know

An innovative campaign working to make poverty a focus of U.S. foreign policy

Advocate for The Borgen Project, Kailee Yan, shares the biggest misconceptions of global poverty. This national campaign believes that leaders of the most powerful nation on earth should be doing more to address this major issue. 

I am an advocate for The Borgen Project, and my eyes have been opened to the global issues that severely impact the developing world. I thought I knew about some of the issues because of the classes I took in college, but my perspective has changed since I started working with The Borgen Project. It is interesting to continue to learn about what the U.S. is doing to address global poverty and how much further we need to go. 

The 3 misconceptions of global poverty you should know

The Borgen Project is a Seattle-based nonprofit that is fighting to eliminate global poverty through advocation, education, and mobilization, as it operates in 931 U.S. cities. Being part of one of the most influential and powerful countries in the world, we at The Borgen Project believe that we have to push for legislation that addresses foreign policy to set an example for others and lead the charge in the fight against global poverty.

Advocating for the world’s poor not only is the right thing to do, but it also lifts up their economy, and ours as well. I work with The Borgen Project because there are too many people who are suffering; in developing regions, one in ten people live on less than $1.90 a day. There are many misconceptions surrounding global poverty. I feel that I am a person of privilege who has the opportunity to advocate for those without a voice, therefore it is part of my duty to reeducate those who do not understand and change perceptions surrounding the issue. There are three misconceptions that I am trying to change the most.

The 3 misconceptions of global poverty you should know

The 3 misconceptions of global poverty you should know

1. A common critique of supporting global poverty efforts is: “Why to focus on global poverty when there is poverty at home?”

I agree that poverty at home should be addressed and eliminated because leaders are not doing enough. However, domestic and global poverty are not competing issues. I believe that global poverty should be a focus in our foreign policy, similar to how poverty at home should be a focus in our domestic policy. The Borgen Project’s main focus is improving our foreign policy through advocation of particular legislation by mobilizing others and discussing these issues with state representatives. 

Also, by focusing on global poverty, other domestic issues are addressed, as overpopulation, national security, immigration, and job creation improve when global poverty decreases. We all do better when we all do better.

The 3 misconceptions of global poverty you should know

2. Another misconception is about “The U.S.’ effort in addressing global poverty: doesn’t the U.S. already do enough?”

The short answer is no. What percent of our budget do you think we allocate to foreign aid? Generally, Americans believe it is around 25 percent. But it is actually only about only 1 percent. 

In 2016, the U.S. gave $49 billion in foreign assistance which is quite a bit of money. However, some nations are giving over 1% of their Gross National Income (GNI). Compared to other nations, the U.S. does astoundingly little per capita to help eliminate global poverty. 

The U.S. spends less money on all of our aid efforts combined than on our largest defense contract. Taxpayers are spending more money on a defense contract to one company than to helping the world’s poor. European countries such as Sweden and the Netherlands give over 0.7% of their GNI to help the world’s poor, while the U.S. gives just 0.2% of their GNI, rating towards the bottom of developed and wealthy nations. Putting some of our contributions in perspective, we spend more on one aircraft carrier ($6 billion) than the World Food Program ($4 billion). 

The 3 misconceptions of global poverty you should know

3. The last misconception is that “aid is bad and creates issues”. 

This may be easy to say if you are sitting comfortably in your house, but it would be more difficult to truly believe that, sitting in a refugee camp. Investing in long-term solutions and education is beneficial as it provides resources to people experiencing extreme poverty by allowing them to learn the skills necessary to become self-sufficient. Providing small loans to women to start their own small businesses and training farmers to improve their crop efficiency and productivity are long-term solutions that will help their country grow over time. 

The power of microloans to raise a country out of poverty


At The Borgen Project, it is my goal to change the way we view global poverty in the U.S. As I reflect on some of our domestic issues, such as the current global pandemic that has now claimed over 100,000 American lives, I am also thinking about how people in developing countries are going to battle COVID-19. With all of our resources and access to healthcare, it is unimaginable how those experiencing extreme poverty will be able to combat the virus. Their countries simply do not have the infrastructure to handle the virus nor to develop and disperse their own treatments. 

The 3 misconceptions of global poverty you should know

We have been able to influence members of Congress to cosponsor bills and two bills supported by The Borgen Project have been passed: the Global Fragility Act and the End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act.

It is not just my job, but all of our jobs to advocate for those without a voice and push for lasting change.

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Kailee Yan

Kailee Yan is a collegiate basketball player and advocate for the world’s poor with The Borgen Project. In her free time, she enjoys playing basketball and baking, but currently, she is trying to watch classic movies (recommendations are welcome!)

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