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George Soros for FT: Rule of law can rid the world of poverty

September 26, 2012 | About:
Holly LaFon

Holly LaFon

279 followers
Poverty is on the retreat. Despite the global economic downturn, the World Bank and UN reported this year that the number of people living in extreme poverty has dropped in every region of the world for the first time since record keeping began. Though progress on the UN’s Millennium Development Goals has been uneven, we should be heartened that we have already reached, three years before the target date of 2015, the first of these eight goals – that of halving the number of people still living on less than $1 a day. However, we risk allowing these gains to come undone if we fail to strengthen the rule of law in developing countries.

Without basic legal empowerment, the poor live an uncertain existence, in fear of deprivation, displacement and dispossession. A juvenile is wrongfully detained and loses time in school; village land is damaged by a mining company without compensation; an illiterate widow is denied the inheritance she is entitled to and is forced on to the streets with her children. By what means can individuals and communities protect their rights in daily life?

Tens of millions of people live without a legal form of identity, such as a birth certificate. This identity is the cornerstone of justice. Without it, one may be denied opportunities to overcome poverty, including access to immunisations, school, land deeds and welfare. One of the first MDG 2.0 targets, therefore, should be reducing statelessness and providing universal legal identity: the enactment and enforcement of legislation ensuring every citizen has universal access to a documented legal identity and is registered at birth.

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