Friends of the Earth International

Poverty is the greatest shame and scandal of our era. As we kick off the 21st century, more than one billion people around the world live in extreme poverty. Some 25 million people die from hunger each year, and a billion people lack access to clean drinking water. Nearly half of all Africans live on less than one dollar per day. The figures are numbing; however, a growing number of people believe that it is possible to eradicate poverty within the next few decades.

As an environmental organization, Friends of the Earth International campaigns to protect forests, agricultural lands, fisheries, wetlands, rivers and the climate, all of which support the livelihoods of people and communities. In fact, some 70 percent of the world’s poor live in rural areas and depend upon their local environments for their daily survival. There is a direct and critical link between environmental degradation and rural poverty. Our groups on the ground and the communities they work with can also bear witness to the fact that neoliberal economic globalization has increased environmental devastation and poverty among natural resource dependent people. In this publication, we will illustrate the tragic cycle between the over-exploitation of the environment; loss of cultural, political and economic self-determination; inequity; hunger; and poverty.
We will also look on the bright side, and offer living proof that communities around the world are able to lead rich, dignified and fulfilling lives when they are in charge of their natural resources. Rural people, especially women and indigenous peoples, often have a long-standing symbiotic relationship with their local environment. To many of these people, and particularly those who are considered ‘poor’ in the economic sense of the word, a fulfilling life is about much more than simply money or possessions. It is about their access to and control over natural resources and their involvement in decision-making processes about these resources. We do not claim to have all of the solutions to the poverty crisis, but we can offer some essential insights into the relationship between the environment and sustainable livelihoods. Our approach to redressing poverty and inequity includes providing strong support to those local people who are promoting alternative models of development. We are also campaigning for measures to redistribute resources and wealth from the rich to the poor, such as addressing the historic ecological debt which is owed by the North to the South. At the same time, we are pressuring international financial institutions, trade bodies, corporations and governments to axe their environmentally and socially destructive policies that destroy natural wealth and create human poverty. We believe that the absolute eradication of poverty, and not simply its partial alleviation, is the most important challenge facing humankind today.