Life is difficult for the people of the impoverished neighbourhood of El Alto, situated on the edge of the Bolivian capital La Paz. But in 2006 they won a major victory – with the help of Christian Aid partner Fundación Solón.
Fundación Solón helped them to protest against soaring water costs after the privatisation of El Alto’s water system. In 2006, the government cancelled the contract with the private company and took back responsibility for connecting homes and providing water - a huge relief for the thousands of households that had been unable to pay to connect to the privatised water.
The victory is a good illustration of one of Christian Aid’s major concerns: giving people the information, skills, tools and confidence they need to get what they need from those in authority – access to water, health and education services, for example - and ensuring that local leaders and government officials listen and respond to people living in poverty.
This focus derives from our understanding that at poverty’s core are unequal power relations within and among countries, and within and among groups and individuals.
Poverty is a lack of power and the injustices that result.
The corruption and human rights violations endemic in many countries we work in are symptoms of this power imbalance.
What we do
A related focus of our work is challenging the discrimination against and marginalisation of particular groups – be that women in Afghanistan, dalits in India or Haitian migrants in the Dominican Republic.
We also work to provide people with security from violence. In some countries the situation is so dangerous that before people can engage with local authorities they need security. This is why we focus on building peace in many countries. In others such as Colombia we support groups like Peace Brigades International who defend human rights activists.
But simply working at a national level to empower people will be unsuccessful unless we challenge the broader global problems.
To end poverty, we must seek justice on the international level, tackling the root causes of poverty such as unfair international trade rules that rob people living in poverty of economic opportunity or the multinational tax dodging that strips developing countries of natural resources and massive tax revenues.
Ending poverty will also require a global commitment to systems of governance that are sensitive to the needs of the poor – democratic, just and transparent.
More on our rights and justice work in Bolivia
More on our rights and justice work in India
More on our rights and justice work in Brazil