UNESCO Social and Human Sciences
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Poverty, from an international point of view

International Conference
22 and 23 October 1998, The Hague

Netherlands National Commission for UNESCO

An international conference was organized by the Netherlands' National Commission for UNESCO, in co-operation with the research schools AWSB (Netherlands School for Social and Economic Policy Research) and CERES (Research School Resource Studies for Development), and the Institute of Social Studies (ISS).

The conference examined current trends in research on poverty and in the application of research results to the development of national, bilateral and multilateral policy related to the alleviation of poverty. The aim of the conference was to compare research on poverty in developing countries with poverty research in The Netherlands (and other industrialized countries).
The conference also offered a forum for discussion on how to strengthen the role of UNESCO, and in particular its MOST Programme, in this area. 
The conference had four sessions occupying two days:

  1. Three keynote speeches representing three different approaches in the morning of the first day
  2. Two parallel workshops in the afternoon of the first day
  3. Two parallel workshops in the morning of the second day
  4. Concluding discussion led by the three keynote speakers plus several other invited guests.

Keynote addresses (summaries)

Welcoming address
Prof. Dr. Arie de Ruijter, Director CERES Research School Resources for Development (Utrecht University), Member of the Sub-Commission for Social Sciences of the Netherlands Commission for UNESCO, and Member of the Scientific Steering Committee of the MOST Programme

The thrust of this talk hinged on the observation that there is real growing inequality in terms of income and capital not only between but within nation states, caused in part by the severe cutbacks to the welfare system. Multiple deprivation, caused by family stress, insecure employment and poor housing result in growing crime, feelings of loneliness and isolation in major urban centres across the globe. An argument was made for addressing social exclusion separately from the issue of poverty and informality, this hitherto not being the case in much of the development literature, and for research to focus on the conceptual connection between poverty, exclusion and informality. Disentangling these concepts can be one way for new studies on social exclusion to contribute to the debate on poverty alleviation.

Urban Poverty and Social Exclusion in the Advanced Industrial Countries
Prof. Enzo Mingione, University of Padova, Italy

Central to this presentation was the premise that the type of poverty seen today in third world city slums is similar to the Victorian city poverty which arose through exclusion of a percentage of the population from being able to compete and enter the market economy driven by industrialisation. It was argued that social capital in the form of family, networks, community bonding and shared values is increasingly necessary for excluded groups to survive in light of the State’s incapacity to provide minimum conditions for all to gain an entry passport to the market. Stripped of the capacity to compete in a market economy, deprived of state welfare support and devoid of social capital, results in turning to illegal activity for survival. A strong argument was made for considering the concept of social exclusion as separate from the issue of poverty. Furthermore, it was emphasised that economic policies based on the assumption that financing economic growth leads to the creation of employment and the expansion of welfare services are fallacious, because there is not a positive relationship between growth, job creation and welfare expansion.  In view of this ruptured relationship, social capital becomes increasingly valuable for enabling individuals to secure the minimum resources necessary to compete in society. It was pointed out that the traditional welfare system is insufficient and inadapted to today’s society because family structures have changed significantly over the past twenty years, and is no longer based on the nuclear, male breadwinner definition of a household. Finally, consideration must be given to the way in which state services discriminate against the poor, and ways in which the state does not guarantee same rights to its citizens : one example is the homeless who, because they do not have a permanent address, are ineligible for a range of welfare services.

Defining Poverty and identifying the Poor
Mrs Elizabeth Morris-Hughes, World Bank

This presentation focused on the Bank’s poverty data collection activities in developing countries in Africa, covering basic household demographic data, public expenditure data and legal data. The data underscored the need to have gender disaggregated information on household structure without which patterns of family systems could not be adequately understood. Data from Mauritania, for example, showed that 77% of households were male headed but that both men and women were highly mobile, resulting in only one parent being in the household at a time over a given period. Data from the Ivory Coast showed that female-headed households were predominant in rural areas, thereby underscoring the spatial importance of gender disaggregated data. Further, the recent World Bank household survey in South Africa revealed five different types of female headed households, each type with different sources of income, activity and coping strategy, thereby illustrating that there is no standardized type of household. The Bank is examining ways in which male productivity in the African economies can be increased, which requires overcoming traditional patterns of social behaviour and traditional and accepted forms of gender relations.

A European View on Poverty
Prof. Dr. Godfried Engbersen, Erasmus University Rotterdam

This presentation focused on two new forms of poverty in urban cities. The first form arises from illegal immigration, and the social dynamics of multicultural neighborhoods in western European cities where illegal immigrants enter into the informal economy and eventually into criminal activity. The second form of poverty is the exclusion of citizens from the formal labour market in European countries and their dependence on social security. In this respect, the paper argued that real unemployment figures are masked and that, for example, in The Netherlands, real unemployment was around 10%. Five percent, however were registered as "disabled workers", thereby reducing official unemployment figures by about half.

The presentation discussed the growing spatial importance of poverty, with some neighborhoods in Rotterdam boasting 50% of the population dependent on social security neighborhoods. Conversely, those living in these neighborhoods, are not jobless since the research work showed that they are frequently engaged in informal work or criminal activity. Further, they are excluded from the formal employment structure but their strong system of social capital, networks and bonding enables them to survive and feel integrated into a community. The presentation argued that the concept of poverty should be reserved for those who are jobless, living for a long period of time (to be defined) on social security and who are unable to mobilise social capital.


Poverty and Coping Strategies
Dr. Wil Pansters, CERES

The first paper, presented by Cecília Loreto Mariz from the University of the State of Rio de Janeiro, focuses on religion as a cultural strategy in the struggle against poverty. The paper concentrates on Latin America, the author arguing that the culture of the poor living in this region being closely related to religion. The author distinguishes between different types of religious strategies: material strategies, political strategies, and motivational or psychological strategies. Material strategies are those generating goods and income for the poor. Political strategies involve political activity. Motivational/psychological strategies refer to the attitudes, beliefs, symbols and values the poor adopt to motivate themselves to survive and to improve their living conditions. The paper argues religion encompasses these different types of strategies, and thus plays a strategic role in the daily coping with poverty.

The second paper of Mirjam de Bruijn, from the Dutch African Studies Center, is a case study on poverty and mobility of pastoralists in the Sahel. Through this study of a nomadic population, it is argued poverty is not only material, nor only social. Poverty is also experienced on an emotional and existential level, and is closely related to identity. Poverty is also gendered. The paper suggests that mainly men migrate to escape from poverty.

The third paper of Henri Gooren, Utrecht University, is a study of small-scale enterprise in La Florida, western Guatemala City, as an important coping strategy. Having conducted life histories interviews with thirteen key informants, the author studies the origins of informal entrepreneurship (how do people become small entrepreneurs?), the individual requirements (what is needed on an individual basis to start a small-scale enterprise?), and household requirements (what are the demands the enterprise makes on the owner's household?).

Finally, a paper was presented by Annelou Ypeij, Erasmus University Rotterdam, entitled "Poverty, survival and identity in two distinct worlds. A preliminary ethnographical comparison". The paper, based on ongoing research, examines how people cope with their situations both in Lima, Peru, and in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Migration and Poverty
Dr. Erik Snel, AWSB

A first paper by H. Silver of Brown University looked at the issue of Astronaut families, particularly immigrants from the Dominican Republic to the east coast of the United States. The paper argued that the effectiveness of transnationalism as a mechanism to fight poverty and to develop the economies of low-income communities depends upon the institutionalisation of different transnational networks. Again the concept of social capital as the capacity to use social networks and group norms to gain information, command scarce resources and make contacts from which others are excluded, was emphasised in the context of migrant communities.

The paper argues that the new phenomena of astronaut or transnational migrants is that new technology enables them to participate in the community life of two difference places at once. Trade liberalization, which has encouraged market globalism, and advanced communications and transportation have facilitated exchanges of money, ideas and other scarce resources to flow back and forth more frequently. This phenomena gives a new dimension to the notion of migrant communities, their capacity to mobilise ethnic social capital and to engage in political entrepreneurship

The paper by P. de Mas focused on Moroccan immigration to the Netherlands, Italy and Spain and the impact of this migration on the sending and receiving countries and on the migrants themselves. The survey showed that wanting to migrate was correlated with higher levels of education, contrary to what could initially be suspected. The study also discussed how the Moroccan community living in the Netherlands is spatially located in cities and particular neighborhoods. The paper argued that Moroccan immigration from the North went to predominantly English speaking western European countries whereas outflows from southern Morocco tended to be French speaking and to immigrate to France and Belgium. It was argued that the English speaking communities integrated more easily into the receiving society and its formal economy than the French migrants and was economically more successful.

The paper by R. Staring was an interesting study of 169 illegal migrants in Rotterdam. Through indepth interviewing the study revealed the critical importance of social networks and social capital in determining the patterns of mobility. It examined trajectories, looking at socio-economic and cultural differences amongst those who immigrated directly to Rotterdam, those who came first to Amsterdam, those who arrived in another European country and then moved to Rotterdam. One of the findings was that migrant communities with networks across several European countries tended to move from city to city across Europe, once arriving illegally in the continent. These different patterns of economic immigration are key policy questions for the European Union.

Poverty alleviation as policy objective
Dr. Paul Hoebink, Third World Centre

Fred Opio, Executive Director of the Economic Policy Research Center in Uganda, presented a paper related to poverty driven policy objectives in Uganda.

The paper by Timo Voipio, from the University of Helsinki, focuses on the way different European aid agencies deal with poverty and poverty reduction, based on a case study in Tanzania. Thus, the paper distinguishes between several ways of thinking of European donor agencies which are also called "narratives".

B. Pronk, Chairman of the social affairs commission of the European Parliament, gave an overview of European strategies in the field of poverty alleviation.

Central to this workshop was the call for field level impact. The lack of this type of research was said to be the weakest part of poverty research in the South as well as in the North.

Macroeconomic determinants of poverty: toward pro-poor strategies
Dr. Geske Dijkstra

Focusing on eastern and central Europe, the first paper by Chris de Neubourg examined whether structural adjustment processes have had consequences for the nature of poverty and whether poverty before adjustment differs from poverty during and after the process.

The paper by G. Pyatt argued that the conceptualisation of poverty underpinning the Washington consensus can be misleading and suggests an alternative approach that differentiates the destitute from the poor and that proposes a reformulation of supplyside economics and an alternative perspective on poverty analysis. This paper was undoubtedly one of the most interesting. Its author, a former world bank staff member, now at the Institute for Social Studies in the Hague and currently evaluating the World Bank’s poverty assessments for more than twenty countries in sub-Saharan Africa, is a name to bear in mind for the developments of the MOST Programme’s initiatives on poverty and social exclusion.

The previous summaries do not engage the responsibility of the authors.

List of participants

    Ms N. Auriat
    MOST Programme

    Mr E. Berner
    Institute of Social Studies
    P.O. Box 29776
    2502 LT The Hague
    Tel. 070-4260598
    Fax 070-4260799
    E-mail berner@iss.nl

    Mr J. Botter
    Ministry of Transport and Public Works
    Parnassusplein 5
    2511 VX The Hague
    Tel. 070-3405545
    Fax 070-3406719

    Ms M. de Bruijn
    Africa Study Centre
    P.O. Box 9555
    2300 RB Leiden
    Tel. 071-527 33 60
    Fax 071-527 33 44
    E-mail bruijnm@rulfsw.fsw.leidenuniv.nl

    Mr M.T. Crump
    Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment
    Department BZ/UK
    P.O. Box 90801
    2509 LV The Hague
    Tel. 070-3334444
    Fax 070-3334045

    Drs M.J.J. Diderich
    Netherlands National Commission for Unesco
    P.O. Box 29777
    2502 LT The Hague
    Tel. 070-4260261
    Fax 070-4260359
    E-mail diderich@nuffic.nl

    Dr G. Dijkstra
    Institute of Social Studies
    P.O. Box 29776
    2502 LT The Hague
    Tel. 070-4260558
    E-mail dijkstra@iss.nl

    Mr H.J. Dirven
    Central Statistics Office
    P.O. Box 4481
    6401 CZ Heerlen
    Tel. 045-5707220
    Fax 045-5706272
    E-mail hdrn@cbs.nl

    Professor Dr G.B.M. Engbersen
    Erasmus University, Rotterdam
    Faculty of Social Sciences/AWSB
    P.O. Box 1738
    3000 DR Rotterdam

    Professor B. de Gaay Fortman
    Institute of Social Studies
    P.O. Box 29776
    2502 LT The Hague
    Tel. 070-4260618
    Fax 070-4260799
    E-mail fortman@iss.nl

    Dr N. Gestring
    Universitaet Oldenburg
    FB 3: Institut fuer Soziologie, Arbeitsgruppe Stadtforschung
    Postfach 2503
    26111 Oldenburg
    Tel. 49-441-9706 368
    Fax 49-441-9706 366
    E-mail gestring@psychologie.uni-oldenburg.de

    Mr W. van Ginneken
    International Labour Office
    Planning, Development and Standards Branch, Social Security Department
    4, Route des Morillons
    CH 1211 Geneve 22
    Tel. 00-41-22-799 6445
    Fax 00-41-22-799 7962
    E-mail ginneken@ilo.org

    Ms P. van Golen
    Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment
    Department BZ/UK
    P.O. Box 90801
    2509 LV The Hague
    Tel. 070-3334444
    Fax 070-3334045

    Mr H. Gooren
    Utrecht University
    Weerdsingel O.Z. 66
    3514 AG Utrecht
    Tel. 030-253 31 01
    Fax 030-253 46 66
    E-mail h.gooren@fss.uu.nl

    Professor Dr J.W. Gunning
    Vrije Universiteit
    Department OAE, Economics Faculty
    De Boelelaan 1105
    1081 HV AMsterdam
    E-mail jgunning@econ.vu.nl

    Dr L. de Haan
    University of Amsterdam
    Faculty of Environmental Sciences
    Nieuwe Prinsengracht 130
    1018 VZ Amsterdam
    Tel. 020-5254063
    Fax 020-5254051
    E-mail l.j.haan@frw.uva.nl

    Dr P. Hoebink
    University of Nijmegen
    P.O. Box 9104
    6500 HE Nijmegen
    Tel. 024-3615786
    E-mail p.hoebink@maw.kun.nl

    Ms T. van der Hoek
    Erasmus University, Rotterdam
    Department of Sociology
    P.O. Box 1738
    3000 DR Rotterdam

    Mr/Ms N. de Jong
    Institute of Social Studies
    P.O. Box 29776
    2502 LT The Hague
    Tel. 070-4260609
    Fax 070-4260799
    E-mail dejong@iss.nl

    Ms B.A.S. de Klerk
    Netherlands Commission for Unesco
    P.O. Box 29777
    2502 LT The Hague
    Tel. 070-4260266
    Fax 070-4260359
    E-mail bklerk@nuffic.nl

    Professor Dr D. Kruijt
    Utrecht University
    Department of Cultural Anthropology
    Heidelberglaan 2
    3584 CS Utrecht

    Drs D. Lageweg
    Netherlands National Commission for Unesco
    P.O. Box 29777
    2502 LT The Hague
    Tel. 070-4260262
    Fax 070-4260359
    E-mail dlageweg@nuffic.nl

    Professor N. Long
    Rural Development Sociology (LUW)
    Department of Social Sciences
    P.O. Box 8130
    6700 EW Wageningen
    Tel. 0317-482015
    Fax 0317-482842
    E-mail norman.long@alg.asnw.wau.nl

    Dr C. Loreto Mariz
    Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro
    Department of Social Sciences
    Rua Cesário Alvim 55 apt. 403B
    Humaitá 22 261-030 Rio de Janeiro RJ
    Tel. 00-55-21 527 83 22
    Fax 00-55-21 527 83 22/569 80 49
    E-mail cemariz@ax.apc.org

    Mr P. de Mas
    Institute for Migration and Ethnic Studies (IMES)
    University of Amsterdam
    Rokin 84
    1012 KX Amsterdam
    Tel. 020-525 36 27
    Fax 020-525 36 28
    E-mail demas@pscw.uva.nl

    Professor E. Mingione
    Department of Sociology
    Via San Canziano 8
    35122 Padova
    Tel. 00-39-049 827 4316
    Fax 00-39-049 657 508
    E-mail mingione@ux1.unipd.it

    Ms E.M. Morris-Hughes
    World Bank
    Senior Operations Officer, AFTH3, Room J8-093
    1818 H Street N.W.
    Washington, DC 20433
    Tel. 00-202-458 8508
    Fax 00-202-473 8065
    E-mail emorrishughes@worldbank.org

    Dr A.L. van Naerssen
    University of Nijmegen
    Faculty of Policy Sciences
    P.O. Box 9108
    6500 HK Nijmegen

    Professor Dr C. de Neubourg
    Maastricht University
    Department of Economics
    P.O. Box 616
    6200 MD Maastricht
    Tel. 043-388 38 22
    Fax 043-326 15 55
    E-mail c.deneubourg@algec.unimaas.nl

    Dr F. Opio
    Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC)
    51 Pool Rd, Makerera University Campus
    P.O. Box 7841
    Fax 00-256-041 541022

    Dr W. Pansters
    Utrecht University
    Muntstraat 2A
    3512 EV Utrecht
    Tel. 030-2539058
    E-mail w.pansters@cbm.ruu.nl

    Mr/Ms I. Peerboom
    Utrecht University
    Heidelberglaan 2
    3584 CS Utrecht
    Tel. 030-2531925
    Fax 030-2534666
    E-mail I.Peerboom@fss.uu.nl

    Ms N.R.M. Pouw
    Institute of Social Studies
    P.O. Box 29776
    2502 LT The Hague
    Tel. 070-4260484
    Fax 070-4260799
    E-mail pouw@iss.nl

    Dr M.P. Pradhan
    Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
    Economic and Social Institute
    De Boelelaan 1105
    1081 HV Amsterdam
    Tel. 020-4446080
    Fax 020-4446127
    E-mail mpradhan@econ.vu.nl

    Mr B. Pronk
    European Parliament
    Fax 00-32-2-284 98 65

    Professor Dr F.G. Pyatt
    Institute of Social Studies
    P.O. Box 29776
    2502 LT The Hague

    Mr G. Rugalema
    Institute of Social Studies
    Room 3.15
    P.O. Box 29776
    2502 LT The Hague
    Tel. 070-4260475
    Fax 070-4260799
    E-mail rugalema@iss.nl

    Professor Dr A. de Ruyter
    Utrecht University
    Research Institute CERES
    P.O. Box 80125
    3500 AC Utrecht
    Tel. 030-2534815
    Fax 030-2537482
    E-mail ceres@fsw.ruu.nl

    Dr L. Schulpen
    University of Nijmegen
    Third World Centre
    P.O. Box 9104
    6500 HE Nijmegen
    Tel. 024-3613062
    Fax 024-3615957
    E-mail L.Schulpen@maw.kun.nl

    Professor H. Silver
    Brown University
    Am Schlossberg 23
    26122 Oldenburg
    Tel. 00-49-441 501 097
    Fax 00-49-441 970 6366
    E-mail silver@psychologie.uni-oldenburg.de

    Dr E. Snel
    Erasmus University, Rotterdam
    Faculty of Social Sciences/AWSB
    P.O. Box 1738
    3000 DR Rotterdam
    Tel. 010-4082083
    Fax 010-4525870
    E-mail snel@soc.fsw.eur.nl

    Mr R. Staring
    Erasmus University, Rotterdam
    Department of Sociology
    P.O. Box 1738
    3000 DR Rotterdam
    Tel. 010-4254328
    Fax 010-4525870
    E-mail staring@soc.fsw.eur.nl

    Drs I.A.L. Stoop
    Planning Office for Social and Cultural Affairs
    Head Department of Data Services and Information Technology
    P.O. Box 16164
    2500 BD Den haag
    Tel. 070-3407000
    Fax 070-3407044
    E-mail stoop@scp.nl

    Mr/Ms P. van Tilburg
    Tilburg University
    Institute for Development Problems
    P.O. Box 90153
    5000 LE Tilburg
    Tel. 013-4662986
    Fax 013-4663015
    E-mail p.t.vtilburg@kub.nl

    Ms F. ten Velde
    Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment
    P.O. Box 90801
    2509 LV The Hague

    Professor Dr M.L. Vellinga
    Utrecht University
    Faculty of Spacial Sciences
    Heidelberglaan 2
    3584 CS Utrecht
    Tel. 030-2532995
    Fax 030-2540604
    E-mail M.Vellinga@geog.uu.nl

    Mr T. Voipio
    Institute of Development Studies
    University of Helsinki
    P.O. Box 127
    FIN 00161 Helsinki
    Tel. 00-358-19-752005
    Fax 00-358-19-13416062
    E-mail timo.voipio@pp.inet.fi

    Professor Dr J. Vranken
    University of Antwerpen, CASUM
    Department of Sociology and Social Policy
    Prinsstraat 13
    B-2000 Antwerpen

    Dr B.E. van Vucht Tijssen
    Utrecht University
    Board of Governors
    P.O. Box 80125
    3500 AC Utrecht

    Ms P. van Vucht Tijssen
    MOST Programme

    Professor Dr. C. Wallace
    Institute for Advanced Studies
    Department of Sociology
    Stumpergasse 56
    1060 Vienna
    Tel. 00-431 59991-213
    Fax 00-431 59991-191
    E-mail wallace@ihs.ac.at

    Drs R.F. Wijnstra
    Netherlands National Commission for Unesco
    P.O. Box 29777
    2502 LT The Hague
    Tel. 070-4260267
    Fax 070-4260359
    E-mail wijnstra@nuffic.nl

    Dr A. Ypeij
    Erasmus University, Rotterdam
    p/a Jasmijnstraat 16-I
    1031 EW Amsterdam
    Tel. 020-637 27 24
    Fax 020-636 51 70
    E-mail A.Ypeij@HetNet.nl

Contact information:

    Ms B.A.S. de Klerk
    Netherlands Commission for Unesco
    P.O. Box 29777
    2502 LT The Hague
    Tel. + 31 (0)70 4260266
    Fax +31 (0)70 4260359
    E-mail bklerk@nuffic.nl

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