Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Poverty and Terrorism

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:33 pm on 27th February 2002.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Astor of Hever Lord Astor of Hever Conservative 6:33 pm, 27th February 2002

My Lords, there can never be any excuse for terrorism. The root causes are many and varied and we have heard several interesting reasons and theories during the course of the debate this afternoon. The wealth divide certainly plays a part but, as my noble friend Lord Moynihan pointed out, the terrorists who attacked the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon were not living in poor, third world countries. Many of the hijackers were well educated and middle class. Many of the foiled terrorist attacks since September 11th have been carried out by people from this country, the United States, France and North Africa, not third world countries. Behind every terrorist organisation there is a financial, recruitment and training infrastructure.

Terrorists such as Osama bin Laden are not motivated by poverty, but by ideology, religion and a festering resentment of the West. Most of the recent acts of terrorism have been prompted by religious or nationalist extremism, not by poverty itself.

While poverty may not automatically lead to terrorism, poor people in countries with bad governments are vulnerable to influence by terrorists. This harmful indoctrination can be programmed into the minds of the poverty-stricken, who suffer inadequate education, a lack of decent sanitation, healthcare and human rights.

Some 80 per cent of the world's population has just 20 per cent of its wealth. Vast tracts of mankind live on less than one dollar a day. We must reduce that number. The circumstances of under-development do matter. When an African child dies every three seconds, the developed world has a clear duty to act. We must continue vigorously with well-targeted development assistance. We need to help create capable states that encourage economic growth and invest in public services.

When poor countries are committed to good governance, there is a better opportunity to encourage a reduction in poverty while discouraging the control of terrorist networks. Under good governance, public institutions function transparently, accountably and responsibly on behalf of their citizens. Without it, the benefit of public programmes will not reach their targeted recipients, notably the poor.

It seems almost callous to suggest that anything positive might have come out of the events of 11th September. But a greater awareness of the misery that engulfs much of the world's population and a real determination to do something about what everyone has come to see as a morally indefensible divide, may be one of the lasting legacies of those terrible events.

After September 11th, the West must show that it is serious about constructing a just global economic order. Rich countries have responsibilities to the poorest of the world to open our markets and to transfer resources. Growth is essential for poverty reduction. This depends on having market-based policies which promote investment and deliver effective macro-economic management. At the same time, however, policies are needed to protect poor people from shocks and adjustment costs.

Trade has played an important role in encouraging the spread of democracy to the developing countries. Western economies need to create new markets into which global capitalism can expand. Louis Schweitzer, the chairman of Renault, has said that the market for cars in the West is saturated. To sell more cars, a prosperous middle class in other, less developed parts of the world, will have to be developed. In that way, poverty reduction in developing countries is good for developed countries. As incomes rose in Far Eastern countries such as South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand, so too did the people's expectations for the establishment of democratic forms of government. China's entry into the World Trade Organisation is leading to such significant changes in its economy that its political system will also become more open.