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Gary Haugen's TED Talk Highlights What's Missing in Fight to End Poverty

“The Locust Effect” author warns until everyday violence against the poor ends, development efforts will disappoint

In a new TED Talk released today on TED.com entitled “The hidden reason for poverty the world needs to address now,” International Justice Mission President and Founder Gary Haugen offers up the missing link in the decades-long fight against global poverty: putting an end to everyday violence against the poor.

“You can give all manner of goods and services to the poor, but if you don’t restrain the violent bullies from taking it away—we are going to be disappointed by the long-term impact of our efforts,” Haugen says in the talk.

The 19 minute talk on the TED stage gives a snapshot into a phenomenon that Haugen refers to as “The Locust Effect.” Haugen’s bestselling book by the same name, which released in paperback today, takes a deep dive into the dark world of everyday violence against the poor:

“For those who care about poverty alleviation and economic development for the global poor, the facts and data will no longer allow us to carry on as if the locusts of violence are not laying waste to our efforts,” write Haugen and co-author Victor Boutros in The Locust Effect. “Slowly but surely, deep experience and significant data is accumulating to clarify the way common lawless violence is devastating the efforts of the poor to carve out a better future in the developing world.”

The TED2015 conference took place in March in Vancouver, Canada and featured over 70 speakers who delivered short talks on topics ranging from 3D printing to storytelling to the power of art. As part of a panel entitled “Just and Unjust,” Haugen highlighted how despite decades of anti-poverty efforts, there are still the same number of people living on less than $2.00 a day than there were 35 years ago. This is in large part due to the fact that common everyday violence against the poor rages on, and keeps them in economic despair.

Today, there are an estimated 36 million slaves in the world according to the Global Slavery Index, and 2 million children in the commercial sex trade according to UNICEF. The UN estimates that approximately 4 billion people live outside the protection of law.

“The path forward is really pretty clear,” Haugen says. “We have to start making stopping violence indispensable to the fight against poverty. In fact, any conversation about global poverty that doesn’t include the problem of violence must be deemed not serious.”

IJM’s model of holding perpetrators accountable through justice system transformation has proven highly effective in areas such as Cambodia, where a new IJM study has found a significant reduction in the prevalence of minors available in the commercial sex industry, and in Cebu, the Philippines, where in 2007 IJM launched “Project Lantern” thanks to generous funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and saw a 79% reduction in the prevalence of minors available for exploitation in the commercial sex trade over just four years.

As world leaders consider the Sustainable Development Goals, which will take over post-2015 where the Millennium Development Goals left off, IJM is strongly advocating that justice would be prioritized as a key element in ending global poverty, particularly through strengthening the capacity, accountability, and professionalism of public justice systems.

Haugen concludes the talk by raising the question of what kind of legacy this generation will leave behind:

“When our grandchildren ask us, ‘Grandma, Grandpa, where were you when 2 billion of the world’s poorest were drowning in the lawless chaos of everyday violence? I hope we can say that we had compassion, that we raised our voice, and, as a generation, we were moved to make the violence stop.”

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