Ten Years of War Against Poverty: What Have We Learned?

Michael Edwards says welcome to Manchester

Ten years of war against poverty - what have we learned? That’s the question that brings 500-or-so scholars and activists to Manchester this week to debate the causes of, and remedies for, global poverty, and I’ll be blogging from the conference on openDemocracy for the next three days. Coming just a fortnight before the UN General Assembly meets for its own review of the Millennium Development Goals, the Manchester conference provides a less official, and hopefully more self-critical, opportunity to discuss what has gone well and not-so-well in the first decade of concerted efforts to eradicate extreme poverty worldwide.

Read on
Michael Edwards
7 September 2010

Of course, Manchester is no stranger to discussions about poverty. As one of the cradles of Britain’s industrial revolution, the city has witnessed both innovation and exploitation in roughly equal measure, and has always attracted those seeking to understand the links between economic development and public policy. In the 1840s, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels met regularly at the same window seat in Chetham’s Library to discuss economics, and to exchange ideas about the “Communist Manifesto” that they published together in 1848. Engels had been sent to Manchester to work for the textile firm of “Ermen and Engels” in which his father was a shareholder, on the grounds that his son would reconsider his radical leanings after working in a ‘proper’ job for a time (some things never change!). Instead, the widespread use of child labor and other practices in Manchester’s factories led Engels to produce “The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844.


A hundred years later, the “Manchester Schools” of labor economics (led by Arthur Lewis) and anthropology (under Max Gluckman) had a tremendous influence on the nascent discipline of development studies after 1945, which has been a specialty of the University of Manchester ever since, eventually spawning the “Chronic Poverty Research Center” and the “Brooks World Poverty Institute” (BWPI) which are organizing this week’s conference. In full disclosure, I am an Honorary Visiting Fellow at BWPI, but my experience of Manchester is more personal than that, having been raised in Burnage (now an area of unlikely urban chic), and then in Beswick and Bradford, one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods, when my father was rector of the Church of the Resurrection there in the 1970s. Somewhat ironically, much of that area, including the notorious “Fort Beswick” sink estate, was demolished in the 1990s to make way for the City of Manchester Stadium, now the home of the world’s richest football club (who play in blue by the way, not red). But while Manchester City may no longer be poor, poverty still exists in Manchester, though in different places, and, perhaps, with different causes and solutions.

In investigating these evolving patterns of global poverty, it’s unlikely that this week’s conference will produce anything as memorable as Marx or Engels, but with an all-star cast it should generate some useful insights. I hope you’ll tune in tomorrow and join the conversation, when I’ll be blogging around the opening session’s speeches by Nobel prize-winner and critic of all things neo-liberal, Joe Stiglitz, Margaret Kakande from Uganda’s Ministry of Finance (one of the most successful countries in reducing poverty in Africa), and David Hulme, BWPI’s incomparable director.   

Had enough of ‘alternative facts’? openDemocracy is different Join the conversation: get our weekly email


We encourage anyone to comment, please consult the oD commenting guidelines if you have any questions.
Audio available Bookmark Check Language Close Comments Download Facebook Link Email Newsletter Newsletter Play Print Share Twitter Youtube Search Instagram WhatsApp yourData