Maintaining Faith in the Future

Photo By: Abhijit Dey

The past twenty-five years have been the best time for overall human well-being. International cooperation and a widespread commitment to advancing human dignity and well-being has resulted in sharp decreases in global poverty, child mortality, interstate conflict, and many other barriers to human wellbeing. We all know that massive gaps remain but as wealth has spread, opportunities have increased for millions. The resulting economic, cultural and personal exchanges have opened up new windows of understanding between people in different corners of the world.

The InterAction community has been proud to be representative of and leaders in support of this vision of inclusive globalization. However, it has become evident that globalization has bypassed a lot of people. The fast moving globalization trends reshaping our world have created new winners and losers, people whose livelihoods and sense of stability have been reshaped in disruptive ways. The result of this unequal distribution of gains is different views of modernity, some seeing progress whereas others see humiliation and loss.

These disruptions have led to those being left behind to feel hopeless. In fact, some of the poorest people in the developing world find more hope in their lives than a family in an American rust-belt town or a member of the French working class. A recent Pew Research Center poll shared that 51% of those surveyed in the developing world believe their children will be better off financially than they are while 65% of those surveyed in advanced economies believe that their children will be worse off.

Unfortunately, in the absence of hope for opportunity, the forces of populism have risen up in response. Nativism taps people’s fear and sense of material insecurity while offering scapegoats, others who we need to fear. What gets lost is our human decency and ability to empathize with someone else’s needs. Preying on emotion opens the door to a dangerous lack of trust and an inclination towards othering and accepting authoritarian tendencies.

A comparative sense of opportunity is a powerful force in shaping the narrative of one’s worldview. It demonstrates that development is not just a process that transforms lives and institutions over time but it is also tied to maintaining a sense of faith in the future. A core role for U.S. NGOs has always been to open opportunities, to explore the art of the possible, and to push back against political obstacles when needed. The InterAction community was founded to provide people with a sense of material security and hope for their future. It is based on inclusion, human rights, and by its very existence it is global. We will counter attempts to push away the outstretched hand we extend to the world. We will continue to lead with the solutions that work as they make our world healthier, safer, more just, and more equitable.

Wherever U.S. NGOs work, whether at home or abroad, we have agency to reshape the narrative and advocate for international ties that benefit everyone. This means we will do everything in our power to bend the forces reshaping our world to create lands of opportunity, not just abroad but also at home. One step we must take is to make the case that our efforts to offer new futures for people living in extreme poverty are important to the well-being of all Americans.