Peter Bell, president of CARE, speaks on world poverty

Feb. 12, 2001 12:03 a.m.

Bell, president of the international relief organization CARE, gave a Princeton audience a personal account of the growing gulf before poor and prosperous nations Sunday, and outlined a five-component strategy to attack poverty.

"It is jarring to travel back and forth between two worlds -- a world in which Americans buy groceries on the Internet and a second world in which one child in three - in a country like Angola - dies before age 5," said Bell, a Princeton Graduate School alumnus. "We ought to and can bridge the gap between these two worlds and affirm the ties that bind all human beings to one another."

Bell's address was the fourth lecture in a yearlong series called "Frontiers of Knowledge," which celebrates the centennial of the Graduate School with talks by distinguished graduate alumni. Bell received his master's degree in public affairs from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs in 1964.

Bell illustrated the wealth divide with examples from his own life. He described how he and his wife chose the name of their daughter, Emily, two weeks before she was born. But in poor communities in Bolivia, parents typically do not name their children until they are a year old because so many children die before their first birthday.

When his son turned 15, Bell recounted, his biggest concerns centered on obtaining his driver's license and preparing for college-entrance exams. By contrast, he said, 15-year-olds in South Africa must cope with a 50 percent chance of dying from AIDS.

A self-described idealist, Bell said it is possible to end poverty in this century. He advocated a systematic attack on the roots of poverty, often engendered by discrimination and exclusion, conflict, poor governance, the HIV pandemic, environmental degradation and population growth.

First, he said, ending poverty requires action at every level, including rethinking the process of globalization. "Right now, globalization helps rich countries more than it does poor countries, and sometimes it helps rich countries at the expense of poor countries," he said.

Second, the international community needs to work in concert to end poverty. Third, the United States must support and lead the effort. "No other nation is as well positioned to provide diplomatic support for resolving conflicts or to correct the failing of globalization," Bell said.

The fourth component is promoting strategic investments that should have high impact in poor communities. For example, CARE strives to establish basic education, safe water and control over the spread of HIV/AIDS.

And finally, governments and other agencies must increase dramatically the resources dedicated to the task. "Not just financial resources, but political, diplomatic and peacekeeping resources as well," Bell said.

Bell urged his listeners to work to end poverty by lobbying elected officials, supporting organizations dedicated to relief, and volunteering with such groups as the Peace Corps. "Be a voice for inclusion, equality and social justice," he said.

Bell has spent more than 35 years in public and international affairs. As president of CARE for the past five years, he has been credited with expanding the scope of the organization from providing immediate relief to focusing on the root causes of poverty. CARE's work in development and emergency aid reaches tens of millions of people each year in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America.

In addition, Bell has held leadership positions with other organizations dedicated to reducing poverty and improving the quality of life in the U.S. and abroad, including the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Inter-American Foundation and the Ford Foundation. He served in the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare during the administration of President Jimmy Carter.

Contact: Justin Harmon (609) 258-3601