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  • To be honest, by personality,

  • I'm just not much of a crier.

  • But I think in my career that's been a good thing.

  • I'm a civil rights lawyer,

  • and I've seen some horrible things in the world.

  • I began my career working police abuse cases in the United States.

  • And then in 1994, I was sent to Rwanda

  • to be the director of the U.N.'s genocide investigation.

  • It turns out that tears just aren't much help

  • when you're trying to investigate a genocide.

  • The things I had to see, and feel and touch

  • were pretty unspeakable.

  • What I can tell you is this:

  • that the Rwandan genocide

  • was one of the world's greatest failures of simple compassion.

  • That word, compassion, actually comes from two Latin words:

  • cum passio, which simply mean "to suffer with."

  • And the things that I saw and experienced

  • in Rwanda as I got up close to human suffering,

  • it did, in moments, move me to tears.

  • But I just wish that I, and the rest of the world,

  • had been moved earlier.

  • And not just to tears,

  • but to actually stop the genocide.

  • Now by contrast, I've also been involved

  • with one of the world's greatest successes of compassion.

  • And that's the fight against global poverty.

  • It's a cause that probably has involved all of us here.

  • I don't know if your first introduction

  • might have been choruses of "We Are the World,"

  • or maybe the picture of a sponsored child on your refrigerator door,

  • or maybe the birthday you donated for fresh water.

  • I don't really remember what my first introduction to poverty was

  • but I do remember the most jarring.

  • It was when I met Venus --

  • she's a mom from Zambia.

  • She's got three kids and she's a widow.

  • When I met her, she had walked about 12 miles

  • in the only garments she owned,

  • to come to the capital city and to share her story.

  • She sat down with me for hours,

  • just ushered me in to the world of poverty.

  • She described what it was like when the coals on the cooking fire

  • finally just went completely cold.

  • When that last drop of cooking oil finally ran out.

  • When the last of the food, despite her best efforts,

  • ran out.

  • She had to watch her youngest son, Peter,

  • suffer from malnutrition,

  • as his legs just slowly bowed into uselessness.

  • As his eyes grew cloudy and dim.

  • And then as Peter finally grew cold.

  • For over 50 years, stories like this have been moving us to compassion.

  • We whose kids have plenty to eat.

  • And we're moved not only to care about global poverty,

  • but to actually try to do our part to stop the suffering.

  • Now there's plenty of room for critique that we haven't done enough,

  • and what it is that we've done hasn't been effective enough,

  • but the truth is this:

  • The fight against global poverty is probably the broadest,

  • longest running manifestation of the human phenomenon of compassion

  • in the history of our species.

  • And so I'd like to share a pretty shattering insight

  • that might forever change the way you think about that struggle.

  • But first, let me begin with what you probably already know.

  • Thirty-five years ago, when I would have been graduating from high school,

  • they told us that 40,000 kids every day died because of poverty.

  • That number, today, is now down to 17,000.

  • Way too many, of course,

  • but it does mean that every year,

  • there's eight million kids who don't have to die from poverty.

  • Moreover, the number of people in our world

  • who are living in extreme poverty,

  • which is defined as living off about a dollar and a quarter a day,

  • that has fallen from 50 percent,

  • to only 15 percent.

  • This is massive progress,

  • and this exceeds everybody's expectations about what is possible.

  • And I think you and I,

  • I think, honestly, that we can feel proud and encouraged

  • to see the way that compassion actually has the power

  • to succeed in stopping the suffering of millions.

  • But here's the part that you might not hear very much about.

  • If you move that poverty mark just up to two dollars a day,

  • it turns out that virtually the same two billion people

  • who were stuck in that harsh poverty when I was in high school,

  • are still stuck there,

  • 35 years later.

  • So why, why are so many billions still stuck in such harsh poverty?

  • Well, let's think about Venus for a moment.

  • Now for decades, my wife and I have been moved by common compassion

  • to sponsor kids, to fund microloans,

  • to support generous levels of foreign aid.

  • But until I had actually talked to Venus,

  • I would have had no idea that none of those approaches

  • actually addressed why she had to watch her son die.

  • "We were doing fine," Venus told me,

  • "until Brutus started to cause trouble."

  • Now, Brutus is Venus' neighbor and "cause trouble"

  • is what happened the day after Venus' husband died,

  • when Brutus just came and threw Venus and the kids out of the house,

  • stole all their land, and robbed their market stall.

  • You see, Venus was thrown into destitution by violence.

  • And then it occurred to me, of course,

  • that none of my child sponsorships, none of the microloans,

  • none of the traditional anti-poverty programs

  • were going to stop Brutus,

  • because they weren't meant to.

  • This became even more clear to me when I met Griselda.

  • She's a marvelous young girl living in a very poor community

  • in Guatemala.

  • And one of the things we've learned over the years

  • is that perhaps the most powerful thing

  • that Griselda and her family can do

  • to get Griselda and her family out of poverty

  • is to make sure that she goes to school.

  • The experts call this the Girl Effect.

  • But when we met Griselda, she wasn't going to school.

  • In fact, she was rarely ever leaving her home.

  • Days before we met her,

  • while she was walking home from church with her family,

  • in broad daylight,

  • men from her community just snatched her off the street,

  • and violently raped her.

  • See, Griselda had every opportunity to go to school,

  • it just wasn't safe for her to get there.

  • And Griselda's not the only one.

  • Around the world, poor women and girls

  • between the ages of 15 and 44,

  • they are -- when victims of the everyday violence

  • of domestic abuse and sexual violence --

  • those two forms of violence account for more death and disability

  • than malaria, than car accidents, than war combined.

  • The truth is, the poor of our world are trapped in whole systems of violence.

  • In South Asia, for instance, I could drive past this rice mill

  • and see this man hoisting these 100-pound sacks

  • of rice upon his thin back.

  • But I would have no idea, until later,

  • that he was actually a slave,

  • held by violence in that rice mill since I was in high school.

  • Decades of anti-poverty programs right in his community

  • were never able to rescue him or any of the hundred other slaves

  • from the beatings and the rapes and the torture

  • of violence inside the rice mill.

  • In fact, half a century of anti-poverty programs

  • have left more poor people in slavery

  • than in any other time in human history.

  • Experts tell us that there's about 35 million people in slavery today.

  • That's about the population of the entire nation of Canada,

  • where we're sitting today.

  • This is why, over time, I have come to call this epidemic of violence

  • the Locust Effect.

  • Because in the lives of the poor, it just descends like a plague

  • and it destroys everything.

  • In fact, now when you survey very, very poor communities,

  • residents will tell you that their greatest fear is violence.

  • But notice the violence that they fear

  • is not the violence of genocide or the wars,

  • it's everyday violence.

  • So for me, as a lawyer, of course, my first reaction was to think,

  • well, of course we've got to change all the laws.

  • We've got to make all this violence against the poor illegal.

  • But then I found out, it already is.

  • The problem is not that the poor don't get laws,

  • it's that they don't get law enforcement.

  • In the developing world,

  • basic law enforcement systems are so broken

  • that recently the U.N. issued a report that found

  • that "most poor people live outside the protection of the law."

  • Now honestly, you and I have just about no idea

  • of what that would mean

  • because we have no first-hand experience of it.

  • Functioning law enforcement for us is just a total assumption.

  • In fact, nothing expresses that assumption more clearly than three simple numbers:

  • 9-1-1,

  • which, of course, is the number for the emergency police operator

  • here in Canada and in the United States,

  • where the average response time to a police 911 emergency call

  • is about 10 minutes.

  • So we take this just completely for granted.

  • But what if there was no law enforcement to protect you?

  • A woman in Oregon recently experienced what this would be like.

  • She was home alone in her dark house on a Saturday night,

  • when a man started to tear his way into her home.

  • This was her worst nightmare,

  • because this man had actually put her in the hospital from an assault

  • just two weeks before.

  • So terrified, she picks up that phone and does what any of us would do:

  • She calls 911 --

  • but only to learn that because of budget cuts in her county,

  • law enforcement wasn't available on the weekends.

  • Listen.

  • Dispatcher: I don't have anybody to send out there.

  • Woman: OK

  • Dispatcher: Um, obviously if he comes inside the residence and assaults you,

  • can you ask him to go away?

  • Or do you know if he is intoxicated or anything?

  • Woman: I've already asked him. I've already told him I was calling you.

  • He's broken in before, busted down my door, assaulted me.

  • Dispatcher: Uh-huh.

  • Woman: Um, yeah, so ...

  • Dispatcher: Is there any way you could safely leave the residence?

  • Woman: No, I can't, because he's blocking pretty much my only way out.

  • Dispatcher: Well, the only thing I can do is give you some advice,

  • and call the sheriff's office tomorrow.

  • Obviously, if he comes in and unfortunately has a weapon

  • or is trying to cause you physical harm, that's a different story.

  • You know, the sheriff's office doesn't work up there.

  • I don't have anybody to send."

  • Gary Haugen: Tragically, the woman inside that house

  • was violently assaulted, choked and raped

  • because this is what it means to live outside the rule of law.

  • And this is where billions of our poorest live.

  • What does that look like?

  • In Bolivia, for example, if a man sexually assaults a poor child,

  • statistically, he's at greater risk of slipping in the shower and dying

  • than he is of ever going to jail for that crime.

  • In South Asia, if you enslave a poor person,

  • you're at greater risk of being struck by lightning

  • than ever being sent to jail for that crime.

  • And so the epidemic of everyday violence, it just rages on.

  • And it devastates our efforts to try to help billions of people

  • out of their two-dollar-a-day hell.

  • Because the data just doesn't lie.

  • It turns out that you can give all manner of goods and services

  • to the poor,

  • but if you don't restrain the hands of the violent bullies

  • from taking it all away,

  • you're going to be very disappointed in the long-term impact of your efforts.

  • So you would think that the disintegration of basic law enforcement

  • in the developing world would be a huge priority

  • for the global fight against poverty.

  • But it's not.

  • Auditors of international assistance recently couldn't find

  • even one percent of aid going to protect the poor

  • from the lawless chaos of everyday violence.

  • And honestly, when we do talk about violence against the poor,

  • sometimes it's in the weirdest of ways.

  • A fresh water organization tells a heart-wrenching story

  • of girls who are raped on the way to fetching water,

  • and then celebrates the solution of a new well

  • that drastically shortens their walk.

  • End of story.

  • But not a word about the rapists who are still right there in the community.

  • If a young woman on one of our college campuses

  • was raped on her walk to the library,

  • we would never celebrate the solution of moving the library closer to the dorm.

  • And yet, for some reason, this is okay for poor people.

  • Now the truth is, the traditional experts

  • in economic development and poverty alleviation,

  • they don't know how to fix this problem.