The problem with terms like Ã¢??global povertyÃ¢?? is that we hear them so frequently that we become numb to this simple reality: when we talk about poverty, we are actually talking about real people. The global poor are fellow human beings who see so little hope that anything will ever be any different.
The Locust Effect takes us into their lives as we witness the magnitude and prevalence of the violence perpetrated against them. The accounts are disturbing and haunting. They expose the gut wrenching truth: poverty in the developing world is perpetuated by brutal violence and intensified by broken, ineffective systems of justice.
The authors are well credentialed to write The Locust Effect: HaugenÃ¢??s own experience as Director of the U.N. investigation of the Rwandan genocide frames the introduction to the book. Prior to founding International Justice Mission (IJM) worked as a prosecutor for the US Government in matters of police corruption and brutality. His work fighting human trafficking and slavery has been publicly acknowledged and honoured by the US State Department. Victor Boutros shares HaugenÃ¢??s background as a prosecutor, having worked in the areas of police misconduct, hate crimes, and human trafficking.
To read The Locust Effect is to see the human victims behind every story. Every statistic represents hundreds of thousands of people, further dehumanised by broken and corrupt public justice systems and the dysfunctional governments who support them. Ã¢??The world does not know that violence is endemic to being poor in the developing worldÃ¢??. We donÃ¢??t see it, so we donÃ¢??t stop it.
If it were only statistics, the reality may be easier to accept. The Locust Effect does not let us off so easily. We are taken through four specific cases which graphically demonstrate the plight of the poor in the developing world. These horrific accounts are a minuscule sample of an existence the western world rarely, if ever, sees.
But wait. What about the vast improvements in developing world education, food production, and technology? DonÃ¢??t they tell us we are soon to turn the corner on world poverty?
Surprisingly, these improvements have had little impact on the very poor. The reason? Violence against the poor has been left unchecked. It turns out Ã¢??violence is as much a part of what it means to be poor as being hungry, sick, homeless or jobless Ã¢?Â¦ indeed, we will simply never be able to win the battle against extreme poverty unless we address it.Ã¢??
Interestingly, even when people with a sophisticated understanding of global poverty do connect developing world poverty with violence, Ã¢??they overwhelmingly try to solve violence by addressing exacerbating factors rather than prioritising the direct solution first, and then addressing the exacerbating factors.Ã¢?? The core argument of The Locust Effect is that the direct solution to violence against the poor is law enforcement. How can a society restrain violence if it only addresses the exacerbating factors in the absence of a functioning justice system? The Locust Effect proceeds to lift the veil on the more common forms of violence against the poor in the developing world. In the process we see how dysfunctional justice systems aid and abet violence and intensify the crushing poverty of the developing world.
Sexual violence is one of the most insidious and common forms. The disturbing reality is that Ã¢??physical violence against women appears to be widespread and considered part of everyday life.Ã¢?? In some nations over 60% of women have experienced sexual violence. In the developing world Ã¢??gender violence kills and disables more women and girls between the age of 15 and 44 than cancer, traffic accidents, malaria and war combined.Ã¢?? The formidable body of evidence just keeps coming. We are driven to admit that such violence is invisible to most in the developed world, and it is invisible because these situations are not considered real news. But it is real and it is deadly. So much so that an MSF report labelled violence against the poor in the developing world a global medical emergency. Unlike other developing world problems like malaria, contaminated water, or sickness, sexual violence is big business. Women and young girls are frequently deceived into forced prostitution with a cruel promise of economic opportunity. Enter Maya, who was trafficked into a Kolkata brothel, then made to witness the murderous beating of another girl. Maya was then assaulted, raped, and then offered to a stream of other men.
We move from sexual violence to forced labour, where violence is put to work as an economic enterprise. People are stolen and violently thrust and kept as modern day slave labour. Some are coerced into slavery through phoney debts, which can leave them and possibly their children in slavery for their lifetimes. They are fed a little water, given minimal rations, put to work for many hours a day, seven days a week, year after year. Slave owners have been known to beat labourers to death with impunity. About 11 million slaves were taken from Africa during the 400 years of the transatlantic slave trade, whereas today conservative estimates indicate there are a breathtaking 29 million - in real numbers more than ever before. We cannot escape the gnawing reality that these are real people, fellow humans. Yet local justice systems fail to investigate and prosecute perpetrators.
Violent land seizures, where strong prey upon the weak, are commonplace in developing world. Typically, widows and women are often thrown out of their home, off their land, losing their very livelihoods. Susan was awoken one Ugandan night to find their neighbour breaking down their mud walled home. He just came with his pick and broke the house down. Susan and her orphaned grandchildren fled for their lives, losing their home and income. What would Susan do now? Ã¢??This is the terrifying question for millions of people in the world who at one time or another find themselves thrown out of their home and off their land by violence and threats.Ã¢??
To us, it seems outrageous that people can simply be thrown out of their home and off their land. Haugen & Boutros explain that around 1.5billion of the globeÃ¢??s urban poor live in informal settlements and slums without any secure right to their property. This situation is complicated by traditional and cultural issues. In many African countries, 99% of property is owned by men, men whose families have an interest in keeping the property should he die. Widows are typically forced to resettle into a generally poorer area, with even less support and services.
At this point, The Locust Effect delivers its most confronting revelation: the law enforcement institutions which are supposed to deter predatory violence are more often a source of it. Worse: these same systems intensify the trauma by protecting the bullies and perpetrators. Such violence against the poor is routine and there is nothing there to stop it.
How do we live with the reality that the most pervasive criminal and predatory presence for the global poor is frequently their own police force? Police detain at random, and then demand a bribe for release. Detainees are routinely beaten and tortured. They might languish without charge in unspeakable conditions for months, or years on end. There are generally no penalties for wrongful arrest. So in a bizarre irony, the law enforcement officials people would ordinarily most depend upon turn out to be the ones the global poor most need to fear. We might want to believe that such things are far form a daily occurrence, but Haugen & BoutrosÃ¢?? work rests on such a depth of research and is drawn from such a broad array of reputable sources that we cannot escape the realities presented.
The Locust Effect draws its name from the locust plague which swept across the American Midwest in 1875. 27 million tons of locusts swarmed over 200,000 square miles, devouring everything in their path. Farmers, their families, their livestock were left to starve. Many did. The authors suggest that when the locusts came, people wouldnÃ¢??t have been thinking about how to improve their agricultural methods, or their water supply. All they wanted was for the locusts to stop, or be stopped. Similarly, Haugen & Boutros observe Ã¢??we are approaching a pivotal moment in history where agreement is beginning to emerge that if we do not decisively address the plague of everyday violence that swarms over the common poor in the developing world, the poor will not be able to thrive and achieve their dreams Ã¢?? ever.Ã¢??
The human and economic cost of such violence against the poor is staggering. It erodes social relationships, destroys social fabric, disrupts communities, restricts physical mobility and increases levels of tension. There are hidden factors like depression, suicide, substance abuse and post traumatic stress disorders. There is no treatment available. People do not heal. The inevitable question becomes Ã¢??how do we make the violence stop?Ã¢?? and Ã¢??why do the poor suffer such disproportionate levels of violence in the developing world?Ã¢??
To address this situation the world needs to focus their attention on developing world systems of justice. We are introduced to Ã¢??the public justice pipeline:Ã¢?? 1. police intervention and protection of the innocent, 2. prosecution in court, 3. just judgement of innocence or guilt, application of appropriate penalties. This system can only work if all the stages function effectively. With sobering clarity, Haugen & Boutros take each stage of the pipeline apart, and show just how broken these systems are in the developing world.
Police: The authors cite numerous examples of systemic corruption in police forces, such that Ã¢??extortion and bribery are the expected norm for interactions with police.Ã¢?? Ignorance, incompetence and corruption combine to produce a lethal chaos of perverse behaviours and outcomes. The only incentive for police to act are the bribes paid by those who can afford it. Even though this initial stage of the pipeline is so toxic, the relative scarcity of police in developing countries make it even more difficult to enter the process in the first place.
Prosecutors: In Malawi there is one prosecutor for every 1.5million people. It is not very different in many other parts of Africa. Court systems are almost impenetrable, violent abusers go free, and capacity to prosecute cases a sheer improbability.
Courts: with the first two stages of the public justice pipeline so broken, there is no surprise that courts get the judgement wrong. The most basic indication of justice is how the system works for the weak, the poor and the vulnerable. On that count developing world courts are a cruel and dismal failure. The degree of ineffectiveness is unbelievable: it has been estimated that it would take Indian courts 350-400 years to clear the backlogged cases.
Haugen & BoutrosÃ¢?? thesis now comes into full focus: if violence and broken justice systems are the largest factor contributing to global poverty, then addressing their dysfunctions may be one of the most powerful ways to secure hope for the poor of the developing world. Billions of aid and development dollars can be poured into developing countries Ã¢??but if there is no rule of law and the ruling class are predatory then your achievements wonÃ¢??t add up to much.Ã¢??
Haugen & Boutros then explore why developing world systems should be in such a state of collapse. We look at the development of the UN Declaration on Human Rights date, which stated that every human being had the right to be safe from violence. Following the declaration, nations set about working the declaration into law. As a result, many parts of the developing world are now entitled to global standards of justice and equity under local law. The glaring reality is, however, that this only has value if laws are enforced. And for the global poor, these laws are rarely enforced because they are part of dysfunctional justice systems. So the principal reason that hundreds of millions of the worldÃ¢??s poorest people live outside the protection of the law is the absence of a functioning public justice system to enforce those laws.
One historical complication is that many developing countries have legal systems which have been handed down from colonial occupiers. These systems were often designed to protect colonial powers from indigenous people. These systems are no only outdated, these systems have never been transformed to serve a new purpose. So, many former colonies have been left with hand-me down laws which favour the rich and leave the poor powerless. With justice systems so broken, private justice systems work effectively for the wealthy but such justice remains out of reach for the poor.
The natural question is what about the massive global movement to address poverty in the developing world? Haugen & BoutrosÃ¢?? blunt answer: it has not made a significant effort to address the problem. ItÃ¢??s not that the $3trillion spent over the last fifty years to address challenges like health, education, food, clean water, and housing has been poorly spent. ItÃ¢??s more that programs directed to meaningfully assist the rule of law are virtually non existent. There are glaring realities here. When institutions like the World Bank and USAID are prohibited from making investments in law enforcement systems in the developing world, we are left to wonder what ultimate value any aid will have if corruption and violence are not addressed.
So, is it all gloom and doom? The Locust Effect says no. Haugen & Boutros observe that at least at some point in history corruption, violence, and dysfunctional justice systems characterised New York City, Los Angeles, the State of Pennsylvania, Tokyo and Paris. They leverage this history to inspire our hope that broken justice systems of the developing world may yet be transformed.
After the dispiriting terrain of previous chapters, final chapter of The Locust Effect blesses us with tangible proof that things can, and do, change. Haugen & Boutros call upon wealthy donor nations to tie development aid dollars to the willingness of authorities to enact processes that make law enforcement and justice systems work for the poor.
This is no mere justice system pipe dream. The Locust Effect cites several Ã¢??stories of hopeÃ¢??, the most outstanding example being the work of International Justice Mission in Cebu City, Philippines (one of the authors of The Locust Effect, Gary Haugen, is Founder, President and CEO of IJM. Any hint of author bias evaporates as the reader learns how Lantern was objectively monitored by outside auditors working under strict parameters). Having secured funding from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Ã¢??Project LanternÃ¢?? set out to reduce sex trafficking of minors by a courageous 20%. The result? A scarcely imagined 79% reduction! Ã¢??Project LanternÃ¢?? rescued about 250 child victims, and lead to the successfully prosecution of perpetrators. IJMÃ¢??s efforts demonstrated that it is possible to transform a demonstrably broken justice system in the developing world, and that such transformation contributes to a meaningful reduction in violence toward the poor.
Other stories of transformation include recent mobile courts in the Democratic Republic of Congo, efforts to protect the poor in Brazil and to address police corruption in the nation of Georgia. Over a period of seven years, the Georgian Police force regained public trust through effective law enforcement. The process proved that corruption is not a culture but a choice. The Locust Effect concludes with several pertinent suggestions of what the world must start to do. None of these are out of reach. All of them make good sense.
I am not widely read in the area of developing world poverty, but I find the pervasive violence and the profound dysfunction of developing world justice systems depicted in The Locust Effect as surprising as it is abhorrent. The matters chronicled by The Locust Effect may seem so bad that some might doubt their veracity. The book, however, represents an impressive body of research, with some 15% of this considerable work devoted to references and research footnotes.
The Locust Effect opens our eyes to a world where the poor of the developing world lying before us beaten, bruised and bloodied. The primary factor contributing to their poverty is violence, exerting its ugly dominion because laws are not upheld. Haugen & Boutros allow the inevitable question to settle: Ã¢??At this historic inflection point in the struggle against poverty are we prepared to do something different?Ã¢??
The Locust Effect lifts our gaze to a greater reality: change and transformation is possible. Ã¢??Where laws are enforced, the violence stops.Ã¢??
The problem of global poverty may be massive, and our understanding may be limited, but if efforts are concentrated in areas where there is a likelihood of success, we may see a new locust free day dawning for the poor in the developing world. That day may see the first few signs that the violence which has bound the developing world in poverty might come to an end, with the glorious consequence that the poorest and most vulnerable people on earth might find justice, and at last begin to thrive.
The brokenness of developing world justice systems, and its outrageous impact on the worldÃ¢??s poor, hangs conspicuously on the shoulders of the wealthy, developed west. It is time to act. Time for us to do what The Locust Effect proves can be done.
It is impossible to read this book and say we have not seen, or we did not know. God forbid we pass by on the other side.show more
by David Groenenboom