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How Everyday Violence is Undermining Development

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02 February 2015

Davos, Switzerland, January 23, 2015

By Gary Haugen, President, IJM

In the midst of this busy week at the World Economic Forum (WEF) I have found myself reflecting on WEF’s slogan of “Improving the State of the World.” While that is a very ambitious statement, in the past few days I have experienced tangible proof that there is indeed progress toward this goal. I’ve witnessed and participated in conversations between the business sector and the non-profit community that I believe will lead to actual good in the world, in the lives of very poor people.

And yet, I also often find myself asking, “Improving the State of the World… for whom?” It seems some here are beginning to ask the very same thing. One focus this week is inequality, especially as leaders at WEF attempt to respond to things such as a report published last year by Oxfam that made headlines with its stark picture of global divide: The richest 85 people in the world hold the same wealth as the poorest 3.5 billion people. Now Oxfam says it’s only 80 people. The divide grows. There are many obvious ways in which the lives of those wealthy 80 differ from the poorest 3.5 billion, but one way that is the least discussed and, arguably, the most important, is that poor people do not get law enforcement.

In developing and middle-income countries, these 3.5 billion poorest people live with a constant threat of being raped, robbed, assaulted and exploited. They frequently name violence as their "greatest fear" or "main problem." For them, vulnerability to violence is just as much a part of being poor as illness, malnutrition, dirty drinking water or inadequate education.

This is the hidden devastation of "everyday violence” – that is, common acts of criminal brutality that are already against the law. My colleagues and I at International Justice Mission see how terrifyingly ordinary this violence is through our work to protect the poor from rape, slavery, trafficking, property grabbing and police brutality in 18 communities throughout the developing world.

Global statistics bear out the realities we see every day. Violence against women is an...

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To read the rest of this article, go to the IJM website here.