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Intellectual secularism: The sickness of all times

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The human nature and its knowledge is entirely and linearly entwined, overlapping each other and inseparable from each other. With the passage of time, social evolution, in a sense, has consummated sagaciously and hence at a same time, for every political man (is the economic man, ethical man, juridicial man, intellectual man, esthetical man).

We diagnostic ate universe as world (of mind, life, matter) and correspondingly we study physical, biological and social sciences to peg an understanding of this interdependent and inseparably complex phenomenon.

As far as knowledge regarding world of matter is concerned, it’s gasconaded, western scholars have managed to make a stupefying and confounding anabasis. Today they describe splitting up of an atom and how Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Pakistan, Kashmir, Hiroshima, Nagasaki et`al can be brought into its radius. They have pierced space and pictured Venus as never before. They have an unsatisfactory research result in biological sciences and hitherto pretense it as “comme il faut” and therefore forfend them to peevish its arrant paucity. Nevertheless contrasting is the scenario in fields of social sciences, wherein they agree by aphorism “heretofore utter disorder in social sciences, succumbing and oxidizing of western civilization if social sciences are not systematized and developed, impediments in their development is because of beggared perspicacity regarding human nature.

There are enough experienced authorities to support my claim but let me quote just one. In his celebrated book “world chaos”, author and well known psychologist Mcdougall says “our ignorance of the nature of man has prevented and still prevents the development of all social sciences. They are the crying need of our time; for lack of them our civilization is threatened gravely with decay and perhaps complete collapse”. “What then in practical terms is the remedy? I give my answer most concisely by suggesting what I would do if I were a dictator. I would by every means seek to diver all our most powerful intellects from the physical sciences to research in the human and social sciences”.

There arises a question: in spite of the fact that if social sciences are not adequately developed, western civilization will corrode and senescence, why have western scholars failed? They have pierced the atom’s invisible heart but fail to do so in the case of human mind, which essentially is the society’s atom, why? If development stages of various philosophies are minutely viewed, then only it can be answered. Western scholars have a predominant and diacritic attitude of mind which results in an acute chauvinism and antagonism con to every intellectual idea pertaining to psychological, biological or physical sciences and bout of intellectual theory, explanation or conclusion, we climactically usher towards concept of god. Learned men have termed this predisposition or antagonistic attitude of mind as INTELLECTUAL SECULARISM and mutually shared by all western scholars but highly manifested in a different form within atheists (Harris, Hitchens, and Dawkins) about whom I have already made a reference in my last column.

We know every object has a definite and ultimate origin and hence knowledge pertaining to ultimate origin becomes a part of the total knowledge regarding that object and we aim and aspire for the same by our very nature. For a believer, a rose didn’t came as bolt from the blue but created by god out of his infinite love of beauty, wisdom, power etc but an atheist perceives being of rose as an operation executed by nature’s mechanical and material forces. As human beings we are bound to attribute penultimate origin to things known to us and when goofed attributes are associated by very same nature, then the object and related knowledge can by no means be right.

Certainly yes, scientists must travail to elucidate whole enchilada not beyond laws of nature framework. However if this universe was created by god or is the source of this creation then it implies aesthetic, moral and mental attributes of creator wriggle in the laws of universe, in the same manner, when an artist makes a picture, all his aesthetic, moral and mental traits gain entr`ee into that picture or for that matter a seed has the potential to exfoliate in the form of flowers, branches and leaves. Therefore it’s futile to comprehend the nature of that deity and the laws of nature in segregation. This correlation has been beautifully summed up by philosopher-poet of the East, Sir Muhammad Iqbal. He says “Nature as we have seen is not a mass of pure materiality occupying a void. It’s a structure of events, a systematic mode of behavior and as such organic to the ultimate self. Nature is to the divine self as character is to the human self in the picturesque phrase of the Quran it’s the habit of Allah”.

When books written by Muslim scientists and scholars where translated in Europe, there was a frequent reference to god in texts, reflecting their indebtedness towards god who provided them with knowledge and through these texts they wanted readers to know the creator in a better way. They invented modern science and scientific methods on account of spiritual leaning universe. In Briffault’s book “making of humanity” there is an important passage which starts as “it was under their successors at the oxford school that roger bacon learned Arabic and Arabic science. Neither Roger Bacon nor his later namesake has any little to be credited with having introduced the experimental method. Roger bacon was no more than one of the apostles of the Muslim science and method to Christian Europe; and he never wearied of declaring that knowledge of Arabic and science was for his contemporaries the only way to true knowledge. Discussions as to who was the originator of the experimental method are part of the colossal misrepresentation of the origins of European civilization. The experimental method of Arabs was by Bacon’s time widespread and eagerly cultivated throughout the Europe. The Greeks systematized, generalized and theorized but the patient ways of investigation, accumulation of positive knowledge, minute method of science, detailed and prolonged observation and experimental inquiry were altogether alien to Greek temperament. The spirit and those methods were introduced into the European world by the Arabs”.

But currently what is hampering scientific growth in various essential spheres is the intellectual secularism of western scholars who succeeded Muslim scientists. An evident chasm was created between divine, spiritual or celestial and temporal, secular or mundane, between world of spirit and world of matter by Jesus Christ, when he sundered dues of Caeser and god. The roots of intellectual secularism would have been on top of the heap only in unique Christendom’s intellectual environment, since its references rest in Christianity intrinsically. Amidst Christianity, is a contradiction between this and next world. Fruits of next world depend on sacrifices made here. Science and religion live in separate spheres because religion in this world becomes extraneous in the life of a man when it’s meant for the betterment of next world. On the contrary, intellectual sciences are for the prosperity of this world. Belief without reason is what religion impresses on. It is irrational, dogmatic and transacts with an invisible world but scientific conclusions rest on experiment, observation, intellect and reason. Hence when god is referred as part of intellectual argument annihilates the logic of rationale and debate skews in the sphere of religion, where focus is on belief without reason instead against reason, irrationality, prejudice and dogma.

This western intellectual secularism has been accentuated by atheists mentioned earlier and further engendered by suppression and penalization between separation of state and church. The moment religion lost its foothold in the polity courtyard officially; it lost its thrust on community and individuals as well. The immediate outcome appeared as secularization of intellectual activity, social education, economic and legal activities. The 21ST century physicists, who perceive matter as visible and real have now added fuel to fire and corroborated prejudice against religion and god. Consciousness, spirit and god appear unreal due to invisibility and can’t be subjected to experiments. When the views of Darwin, a product of rigid and cold materialism and mechanism were raised to pedestal, this prejudice enhanced and was accorded cachet of intellectual idea. He described man as causatum of survival of the fittest, natural selection and struggle for existence. He termed faculties of imagination, conscience and reason as mere chance.

Describing man as a refined form of chimpanzee, Darwinism perfectly suited the western loathing of religion and now every object and natural phenomenon is seen as outcome of chance. Their prejudice against deity being an intellectual concept is so strong that “their ignorance of human nature which they believe to be fraught with dangerous possibilities for the entire human race may be due to the fact that they are ignoring the possibility of notion of god being the only key to a scientific understanding of human nature. Indeed they are not prepared to acquire a scientific knowledge of man at the cost of their intellectual secularism. They cannot conceive the possibility of a theory of human nature being at once spiritual and scientific. When they complain of their ignorance of human nature they have in mind that a scientific theory of human nature, when formulated will be secular or non-spiritual. But it can never be so, for man has something divine in him”.

In one of his letters to Charles kingsly, T.H. Huxley wrote “sit down before fact as a little child, be prepared to give up preconceived notion, follow humbly whenever and to whatever abysses nature leads or you shall learn nothing”. Following the Darwinian concept of evolution which, of course, suits eminently their intellectual secularism, they believe that what comes first in the sequence of the results of evolution is matter with its physical laws and then comes the animal with his instincts and last of all there appears the human being with his gift of self-consciousness or personality and its capacity to love ideals. The animal is a modified product of matter which becomes alive on account of this modification. It is nothing but matter in its origin. They conclude therefore that since the urge for an ideal in a human being has its origin in his animal nature it can be only a modified form of one or more of his animal instincts. They derive man from the animal and the animal from matter so that ultimately the reality of man is matter.

Thus we see Freud explaining the human urge for an ideal as a distorted and modified form of his sex instinct the object of which is to provide man with a substitute activity in the form of religion, morality, art, science, philosophy, and politics to compensate him for the thwarted and obstructed activity of his sexual instinct. According to Adler man’s urge for an ideal is a distorted and modified form of his instinct of self assertion which has been operating all along in the history of organic evolution for the protection of the life of the animal against other hostile and aggressive animals. When an individual is unable to satisfy a particular desire for power he creates. The desire for a relevant ideal and strives after it to compensate himself for his sense of inferiority. Karl Marx is of the view that the urge for ideals in man is only an unconscious distortion of his economic urge. Man strives after an ideal apparently but really his activity is motivated by his economic conditions which he desires to improve. McDougall explains the urge for an ideal in man as a result of the occasional reinforcement of the sentiment of self-regard itself a peculiar compound of all his instincts by the instinct of self assertion. But all these explanations: of the source and purpose of ideals in human nature are logically defective, incoherent and inconsistent. Freud for example does not tell us why and how*a man’s ideal which according to him is born of his sex instinct is sometimes able to rule and control his sex instinct to the extent of eliminating it totally from his life.

Adler is unable to explain how the instinct of self-assertion the primary object of which is the protection of life creates an ideal for the sake of which man becomes ready sometimes to lay down his life. Similarly the view of Karl Marx does not explain why if the, function of a man’s ideal is to improve his economic conditions which are only a means for the preservation of his life, why does he become ready to starve himself to death for the sake of his ideal whenever his ideal calls upon him to do so. Such questions are very, difficult to answer consistently with any of the theories of ideals put forward by these writers. Hence none of them has even faced such questions. The mental attitude of each of these writers is no more reasonable than that of a man who, not knowing how and why tree grows, may insist upon telling us that what exists first of all in the history of the growth of a tree is its stem and later on there appear its branches and leaves and finally there is its seed embedded in a flower. He ignores the original seed of the tree out of which the tree grows simply because it was hidden from his view below the soil and he did not see it. He saw instead only the stalk of the young tree growing out of the soil. Just as he in his ignorance explains the tree out of its stem and not out of its seed which is its real origin so these writers in their ignorance explain the human being out of matter and not out of self-consciousness which is his real origin.

As a matter of fact there is no idea of the place and role of ideals in human nature and human activity more satisfactory and more convincing than this that “the urge for ideals is neither derived from nor sub serves any of those human impulses known as instincts, which man shares with the animals below him on the ladder of evolution. On the other hand it is man’s natural and independent urge for beauty and perfection which rules and controls all such impulses in spite of their biological pressure for the sake of its own expression and satisfaction.”

To be brief, the implications of the only true and the only possible explanation of the place and role of ideals in human nature which lead irresistibly to the concept of God, are such that the scholars of the West cannot accept it in view of their creed of intellectual secularism. So strong is this prejudice against the idea of God that when they feel that their study of nature has brought them very close to this idea and it may become difficult for them to avoid it they are horrified and refrain from using the term God and use some other term instead and thereby stop following nature further in the same direction. But since unfortunately the Western scholars are accepted by the world as the leaders of mankind in the intellectual field their prejudice has passed for a rational view and spread far and wide to the comers of the earth. The results have been already very disastrous and more disastrous results are bound to follow. The world’s progress in the knowledge of human nature has come to a dead stop and the human and social sciences which could be formulated only on the basis of a correct view of human nature are in a state of disorder. The biological sciences too are not in a hearty state. The theory of the fundamental cause of evolution, which if properly formulated could have made the human race hopeful of a glorious future, has been misunderstood. Its errors are being perpetuated by a clique of influential biologists who insist on maintaining its secular character at all costs.

If the scholars of the West had not been suffering from theophobia and had had the courage and the good sense to accept the advice of one of them, Mr. Huxley, quoted above, that is, to “follow nature wherever and to whatever abyss>it may lead,” they would have successfully crossed the point at which their knowledge of the human and social sciences has come to a halt and would have accepted as true the only explanation of the role of the urge for ideals in human activity that is rationally possible. In such a case intellectual secularism would have disappeared from all sciences including the biological and the physical sciences automatically. For when we change our view of man we have to change our view of the entire universe. A spiritual view of man is incompatible with a secular view of any part of the universe and its knowledge.

Some of the most eminent physicists of the world have already come to the conclusion that the ultimate nature of electric energy which has caused the material world to evolve to the stage of its perfection is a conscious force which has a mathematical mind. Yet they refuse to accept the conclusion, which is obvious to a man of religion, that this conscious force is the will or the creative desire of God. Similarly some eminent biologists have arrived at the conclusion that there is an internal conscious drive in an organism which regulates its growth in a chosen direction and which is the cause of all organic evolution from its earliest stages to the last. They call it the life-force, the elan vital or the vital’ impetus and attribute to it some qualities of mind consciousness. But they like their physicist brothers also refuse to come to the next conclusion which is equally obvious to a man who believes in God that this life force is the will or the creative desire of God which has expressed itself in a form that is appropriate to the animal stage of evolution. Again all psychologists believe that man has an urge for ideals and some of them believe also that it is an urge for beauty and perfection. But no psychologists have. cared to arrive at the next immediate conclusion that this urge can be perfectly satisfied only by an ideal of the highest beauty and perfection which can be no other than God and that it is the will or the creative desire of God that is expressing itself in the historical process urging the human society to act for the achievement of their own highest beauty and perfection.

A physicist may say, “do not know anything beyond the mathematical nature of the Reality of matter that I have discovered. I do not know that it has moral qualities and I do not want to compensate my lack of scientific knowledge as a physicist by the teachings of revelation although I believe in revelation.” Similarly a biologist may say that he has no scientific knowledge of the other qualities of the life-force that it may be possessing and he has no reason to suppose that it is God on the authority of revelation. A psychologist too may make a similar reply. But really there is nothing to prevent the physicists, the biologists and the psychologists from adopting the will or the creative desire of God instead of a mere mathematical mind a life force or an instinct as a provisional conclusion or hypothesis explaining the cause of material, biological or human evolution just to discover how far it can explain other facts of which no satisfactory explanation is yet available. If they had done so they would have found that the hypothesis does really explain a host of such facts and also opens the way to the knowledge of a host of new facts of the worlds of matter, life and mind. What is more they would have been able to coordinate and integrate their separate sciences into one Science of the Universe which would have ultimately explained everything, would have served as the Common Weltanschauung of humanity and would have united them as a single family of God. But what has actually stopped the physicists, the biologists or the psychologists from doing so is nothing but prejudice aversion from religion and an irrational secular attitude towards the universe.

My plea is that there is a point in the development of secularized scientific knowledge where the most fundamental of all the facts of revelation common to the teachings of all the great religions of the world, namely the idea of God and scientific knowledge, embrace each other as two inseparable companions each merging itself in the other and giving a tremendous rational support to the other, so that it cannot be distinguished which is science and which is revelation. When that point is reached scientific knowledge can no longer progress without its other companion. That point has been already reached and now scientific, knowledge cannot progress headlong unless it is made to embrace its inseparable other companion from whom it was unfortunately separated and whom it has been travelling through the centuries to rejoin. The idea of God is no longer a myth. It is a scientific fact which explains, orders, enlightens, enriches and reveals other scientific facts.

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New Social Compact

The Tyranny of Opinion: Book Review

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Russell Blackford has written The tyranny of opinion: Conformity and the future of liberalism, which explores the conflicts between freedom of expression and political correctness (P.C.).  Much has been made of the P.C. phenomenon by commentators on both the political left and right.  Steering clear of blind partisanship, Blackford is careful to explain the many nuances of such complex issues as Internet privacy, the 1st Amendment and hate speech.

Blackford starts with an in-depth analysis of John Stuart Mill’s classic ON LIBERTY.  Mill fiercely wrote about freedom of speech, expression and thought, arguing that these liberties should be respected by not only the government, but society as a whole.  The main reason to curtail these rights, argues Mill, is the harm principle.  People should be shielded from threats and libel.

How exactly the law should define threats and libel can be a tricky process, however.  People have argued that slurs, especially racial slurs, threaten the mental wellbeing of their victims.  Certain ultraliberals argue that even academic discussion of controversial topics, such as sexual orientation, can be threatening.  Libel, if anything, has, as a definable term, experienced the opposite problem.  In the West and especially the US, libel is notoriously hard to prove in court.  Since the authoritarian Sedition Act expired in 1801, the American press and private citizens have had almost absolute power to make unflattering and even unsubstantiated statements about individuals and institutions, under the protection of the 1st Amendment.

Blackford is generally supportive of the harm-principle standard for censorship, but stresses that harmful statements must be defined under very narrow criteria.  In terms of threats, Blackford seems to find only direct threats of violence, doxxing, revenge porn and explicit epithets (which he write de-humanize whole groups of people and thus pave the way for persecution and violence) as necessitating censorship in the name of protecting citizens’ wellbeing.  On the issue of libel, Blackford agrees with the legal standard that a statement must be found to be both false and malicious in order to be found libelous.  A newspaper can’t be shut down for publishing an honest mistake, since that would create a chilling effect that would neuter a lot of bold reporting.

Such caution with regards to censorship is warranted by Blackford’s citations of history.  When people and journalists don’t feel safe to speak their mind, this can stifle social and scientific progress.  Blackford cites a Victorian Englishman who knows of many individuals who privately support gay rights, but are too afraid to speak up.  When well-intentioned people are muzzled by the status quo, Blackford concludes, injustices can continue and erroneous beliefs can continue to be treated as fact.

For this reason, Blackford argues that religious fundamentalism may be fundamentally at odds with not just free expression, but free society as a whole.  Theocratic societies have traditionally cracked down on any perceived dissenters, from the Spanish Inquisition to the imprisonment of the revolutionary scientist Galileo.  If eternal salvation through observing divine law is the ultimate goal of life, then civil law would appear inconsequential by comparison, points out Blackford.  Small wonder then that evangelical groups devote decades and countless of millions of dollars trying to erode established legal protections for reproductive healthcare and gay rights.  Blackford writes extensively about the 1989 fatwa demanding the assassination of author Salman Rushdie, issued by the theocratic government of Iran, as being the logical endpoint of the conflict between faith and freedom.

Much of the book is devoted to how political correctness (P.C.) is used as a cudgel by people from both sides of the political spectrum.  This is an important point to make, since the mainstream media mostly focuses on the P.C. of the political left.  Countless news stories are devoted to ultraliberal P.C. culture on college campuses.  Meanwhile, the P.C. of people who refuse to bake cakes for gay couples or who demand that NFL players be fired for peacefully protesting institutional racism is never called out as being political correctness.

As previously mentioned, rightwing P.C. culture usually centers on forcing religious values onto corporate and law codes.  By contrast, leftwing P.C. culture generally revolves around enforcing cultural sensitivity in society.  Ultraliberals are obsessed with virtue signaling via exposing statements that in any way are insensitive to women, LGBT or ethnic minorities.  Frequently, liberal social justice warriors cannibalize their fellow liberals, such as Bret Weinstein.  The Evergreen State College professor was mobbed by hysterical college students after he (correctly, yet civilly) pointed out a case of hypocrisy by racial activists on campus and was eventually forced to resign.  The book also cites the case of Erika Christakis, a professor at Yale who was, like Weinstein, mercilessly harangued by students, to the point of resigning.  Her offense: writing a thoughtful email exploring the nuances of cultural appropriation and policing of controversial Halloween costumes.  Ironically, Christakis the whole point of the email was stick up for the students’ freedom of expression.

Modern P.C. culture largely seems to be facilitated by social media.  Every unflattering sound bite or allegation can immediately permeate across the Web.  Tweets and Facebook posts, which encourage spontaneity, can encourage people to post now and think about the repercussions later.  The nature of social media algorithms creates an echo chamber that only shows users content that agrees with their political sensibilities.  As Blackford warns, this leads to group polarization, wherein likeminded people amplify each other’s beliefs, causing everyone in the group to become more radical than they were before joining.  This psychological phenomenon is particular evident in the far-Left, where people constantly feel the need to publically pass ideological purity tests, which they then subject to other people.

I wish Blackford had written more about how P.C. affects academic research.  Many biologists, sex researchers and psychologists have spoken out about how studying contentious matters of race and sexuality can be major taboos in academia.  Blackford touches on Alice Dreger’s GALILEO’S MIDDLE FINGER, which is about several modern scientists who came under fire for producing controversial, yet scientifically sound research.  Dr. Sandra Soh and Dr. Brian Hanley, among many others, have spoken out about the intense culture of self-censorship in the life sciences when it comes to researching issues relating to human sexuality (such as the incidence of sickle-cell anemia and heart disease).  Prof. Vernellia R. Randall is one of many who has risked being called a racist for pointing out documented medical disparities between people of different ethnicities, when it comes to maladies like heart disease and sickle-cell anemia.

In my own research, I’ve found cultural relativists who try to downplay the severe physical harms that female genital mutilation causes, in politically correct deference to non-Western cultures.

I also wish Blackford had conducted some research into the quantitative, as opposed to qualitative, reach of P.C. attitudes across society. Due to the media’s frenzy in reporting incidences of P.C. on (mostly elite, blue-state) college campuses, the problem may seem much larger than it really is.  According to The US Faculty Termination for Political Speech Database, only 45 professors were fired between 2015-2017 for political speech… out of the estimated 378,865 full-time professors currently teaching in American universities!  Multiple surveys conducted over several years by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation find that teenagers equal or even surpass adults in their support for the 1st Amendment.  I suspected that a silent majority of Americans are opposed to many, if not most, of the most extreme positions of social justice warriors.  Almost all of the coverage and analysis of P.C. by the media is negative, which would further suggest that P.C. is not a movement with widespread support in civil society.  Hopefully, Blackford will produce some clarification via quantitative data in future editions of the book or a whole separate book.

The tyranny of opinion is a very impartial book on the implications of political correctness in a free society.  Blackford outlines the framework of freedom of expression through analysis of philosophers such as John Stuart Mill and Frederick Schaeur.  He then explores many concepts of psychology and sociology, such as information cascades, group polarization and the research of psychologists like Solomon Asch and Stanley Milgram.  The book does a good job at exposing the liberalism of both liberal and conservative social justice warriors.  Through historical and empirical analysis, the book both prescribes the dangers of self-censorship in society and offers reasonable solutions.  Anyone who has felt chills after watching a news story about crazy SJWs on a college campus or witnessing a P.C. mob on Twitter should read this book for a more nuanced understanding of political correctness and the 1st Amendment, in general.

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World population set to grow another 2.2 billion by 2050

MD Staff

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The world’s population is set to grow by 2.2 billion between now and 2050, the UN said on Wednesday, and more than half of that growth – 1.3 billion – is likely to be in sub-Saharan Africa, where women’s rights are hampered by limited access to healthcare and education, along with “entrenched gender discrimination”.

Monica Ferro, Director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) in Geneva, said the trend globally is towards smaller families, indicating that more people are making choices about exactly how many children they want, or can afford to raise.

Despite the gradual transition to lower fertility rates, which began in Europe in the late 19th century, no country can claim that all their citizens enjoy reproductive rights at all times, Ms Ferro told journalists at a press briefing. “No matter if it is a high fertility-rate country or low fertility-rate country, in both of them, you will find individuals and couples who say they don’t have the number of children they want. They either have too many or too few.”

In 43 countries, women have more than 4 children

According to UNFPA’s State of World Population 2018, there are 43 countries where women have more than four or more children, and 38 of these are in Africa.

In all but five East African countries, fewer than half of all women surveyed, said they would prefer not to have any more children.

If UNFPA’s predictions are correct, Africa’s share of the world population will grow from 17 per cent in 2017, to 26 per cent in 2050.

Staying with the African continent, fertility rates are “significantly lower” in cities than in rural areas, the report indicates. In Ethiopia, for example, women have around 2.1 children in cities, whereas they have around five in the rest of the country.

Bigger families in conflict zones

Underlining the link between conflict and insecurity with bigger families, the UNFPA data also shows that Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, Timor-Leste and Yemen have higher fertility rates than the overall average of 2.5 children per woman.

The UNFPA official urged all countries to implement a range of policies and programmes that would increase the “reproductive choices” of their populations.

“In developing countries, 671 million women have chosen to use modern contraception,” Ms Ferro said. “But at the same time, we know that 250 million in the developing world want to control their fertility, and lack access to modern contraceptive methods.”

Prioritizing quality maternal healthcare for all is key, according to the UN report, which highlights the need for access to modern contraceptives, better sex education, and an emphasis on changing male stereotyping of women.

Couples who want to have more children should also be helped to do so, Ms Ferro said, explaining that economic barriers which preventing this from happening could be better addressed, through measures such as affordable child care.

France and Norway had seen their birth rates pick up after taking such steps in recent decades, the UNFPA official said.

Nonetheless, many developing countries lack the resources or political security they require to improve reproductive health and rights for all.

They “are struggling hard to meet the demand for education, the demand for jobs, the demand for even having healthcare services that are accessible to everyone,” Ms Ferro said. “What the report tries to show is that in these countries, the unmet need for family planning is typically very high.”

Reproductive rights have improved ‘substantially’

In the nearly 25 years since the landmark International Conference on Population and Development was endorsed by 179 Governments, people’s reproductive rights have “substantially improved around the world”, Ms Ferro said.

She noted that States agreed then that it was important for couples and individuals to decide the number, spacing and timing of their children, and that such decisions were made free from discrimination, coercion or violence.

A similar commitment is reflected in the Sustainable Development Goals agenda, agreed by the international community in 2015.

Nonetheless, hundreds of thousands of women continue to suffer from the failure to implement this programme of action, the UNFPA official insisted.

“Every year, 300,000 women die during pregnancy or childbirth because they have no choices in maternal healthcare; every day, thousands of girls are forced into child and early marriage and are victims of female genital mutilation. They have no choices.”

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New Social Compact

Poverty should be our history, not present

Dr. Rashid Bajwa

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17th October presents an opportunity to not only acknowledge the struggle of our fellow humans suffering from poverty but also gives us a chance to examine what we in our capacity have done and plan to help them in their struggles. Martin Luther King once said “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”. Going by that, there should come a time in every person’s life when they break the shackles of silence and talk about things which matter on a larger scale. When UN General Assembly adopted the Vision 2030 agenda with 17 SDGs, the first goal out of the these 17 was to eradicate poverty. I have had the distinct opportunity of leading Pakistan’s only countrywide rural development programme i.e. National Rural Support Programme (NRSP) for more than two decades. NRSP (combined with NRSP Bank) is the largest microfinance provider in the country focusing on rural areas. A key principle in our strategy for combating poverty is to harness people’s potential, enabling them to participate in local development activities.

One of the worst manifestations of poverty is exclusion from participation in decision making process whether at local or national level. Having said that, it is important that we realize that no one intervention is sufficient against poverty. If the challenges are multi-dimensional, the response needs to be the same. From my personal experience, I can state with some certainty that for an effective strategy on poverty eradication, a people-centered approach is the key. A policy that combines infrastructure development and livelihood strategies, with the assurance that the target community is capacitated enough to participate and make their own decisions whether political, economic or about their social life.

NRSP social mobilisation model follows an established three tiered people centric mobilization strategy to organize local communities into sustainable community institutions (CIs). The lowest tier is called community organization (CO). With an 80% representation of local households, a CO is federated into a village level organization called Village Organization (VO). Members from both CO and VO after going through capacity building trainings are federated into Local Support Organization (LSO). Village Development Plan (VDP) and Union Council Development Plan (UCDP) are two important outcomes from these CIs. Because this model ensures participation from the grassroot level, one can be sure that needs and problem identification follows a bottom to top order. Currently NRSP has formed 209,860 COs, 7,574 VOs and 820 LSOs with a total of 3,351,687 community members. 56% of these members are women.

At every CI level, members are requested, trained and facilitated to identify what are the opportunities in their lives which would help them to come out of extreme poverty. Every household makes a Micro Investment Plan (MIP) for their own house. What makes this model unique; are the four qualities that become the guiding principle of these CIs, inclusion, transparency, accountability and good governance. For any CI, to be eligible for development support, it has to meet a stringent criteria. Adherence to these principles makes these CIs sustainable, brings a sense of ownership and empowers them to address their issues themselves.

Based on the plans proposed by these CIs, the activities could be categorized in two different categories, Individual/household activities (Income generating grants, asset transfer for the destitute Access to loans capital e.g. CIF, micro credit, savings, Skills enhancement trainings leading to employment generation) and Community/Village level activities (Access to technical and financial services to accomplish the identified plans, Support for project design, resource mobilization and development of linkages with local government and other development organizations). Individual activities lead to ‘private goods’ which once sold to the consumer bring financial capital to the seller. Community/Village level activities lead to ‘public goods’ thus enhancing the functioning of the particular community. Reports on poverty in Pakistan show that as much as 40% of the population, almost half of us suffer from some form of poverty. Poverty in urban areas stands around 10% as compared to 54 % in rural areas. FATA with 73% and Balochistan with 71% poverty rate are the most affected provinces due to poverty. In 2016, Pakistan was declared of having the lowest Human Development Index (HDI) in South Asia. We have a bulging youth population and continuously increasing unemployment rate. These statistics and facts paint a grim picture.

Humans are always willing to improve their lives irrespective of their ethnicity, education, social, education or religious backgrounds.This assertion has to be the key ingredient in the policy making process for poverty eradication. NRSP is currently implementing two large scale five year projects based on the same philosophy in Sindh and Balochistan. Sindh Union Council and Community Economic Strengthening Support Programme (SUCCESS) and Balochistan Rural Development and Community Empowerment (BRACE) with support from European Union (EU) and Local Governments. Especially SUCCESS in Sindh is focused on inclusion of women in the development process and all community institutions formed are women only. Women are leading the change in rural Sindh. BRACE in Balochistan also ensures that 50% of the total beneficiaries and participants of the programme are women.

These are interesting times for Pakistan. The world is changing and so is Pakistan. ICT for development in shape of digital innovation offers a new intervention for poverty alleviation. Improved access of services and products, sharing of information and ideas can open new avenues of positive change (E-Kissan is an example). Whether its health, education, agriculture or capacity building, ICT offers many tools to its users. In terms of accessibility and training, established Rural Support Programmes (RSPs) can play a lending hand. Public-private partnership can act as a catalyst in this digital transformation process. As large as the menace of poverty is in Pakistan, our response needs to be equally larger. A joint platform of all involved stakeholders can be the first step towards policy reforms that safeguard these marginalized communities against threats arising from poverty. We are not short of resources or manpower needed to do the work, what is needed is the will and effort to point us in the right policy direction.

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