world poverty
Despite the ever-pressing need to lend aid to the global community, as of recently, world poverty has been declining-presumably from a convergence of factors such as foreign aid, economic stabilization and increased development. As a result of increased investment in education, health, housing and facilitated access to water, living conditions around the globe have undergone improvement, further contributing to the decline in world poverty. According to a development report by the United Nations, the decline of poverty in the developing world was surpassing predictions.

The UN reported that “The world is witnessing an epochal ‘global re-balancing’ with higher growth in at least 40 poor countries helping lift hundreds of millions out of poverty and into a new ‘global middle class.’ Never in history have the living conditions and prospects of so many people changed so dramatically and so fast.” Furthermore, shortly after the release of the UN report, Oxford University conducted a study supporting the UN’s findings.

According to Oxford University’s poverty and human development initiative, poverty in many regions of the world is no longer as acute. According this initiative, acute poverty in the poorest countries could become eliminated within the short time frame of 20 years. Among the countries that could experience the eradication of severe poverty are Nepal, Bangladesh, Ghana, Tanzania and Bolivia.

Furthermore, the method of gauging poverty has also changed. Sabine Alkire and Maria Emma Santos of the UN engendered the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) in 2010 to provide a more compressive measure of poverty. The MPI measures poverty along ten dimensions, such as nutrition, child morality, schooling, cooking fuel, water, sanitation, electricity and infrastructure. Unlike older measures of poverty that overlook critical indicators of poverty such as nutrition and health, the MPI is a far more thorough assessment.

Despite the economic crises of 2008 and 2009 that had catapulted the global economy into a recession, the world’s poorest nations are still able to rapidly approach the achievement of Millennium Development Goals. According to estimates by the World Bank, the global poverty rate is projected to fall below 15 percent by 2015, implying that other consequences of poverty such as hunger and death are also projected to decline significantly.

Phoebe Pradhan

Sources: The Guardian, UN
Photo: Dreambook

UNDP Assist Sudan's River Nile State's Villagers
From hand-outs to hand-ups, nations, non-profits, and individual donors do a great deal towards poverty reduction efforts. These efforts see varying levels of success, as judged against many diverse standards. Though most people have a general idea of what it means to reduce poverty, the concept of poverty reduction as such seems to evade a static definition. On the contrary, “poverty reduction” continues to evolve and grow, alongside poverty reduction strategy innovations.

Many years ago, the United States Agency for International Development, or USAID, began to address global poverty by way of financial contributions to governments of poverty-stricken nations. Early relief initiatives also included donations of agricultural commodities, often dropped in shipments from airplanes and helicopters. The idea was simple: people are hungry, give them food. Since then, the concept of poverty reduction has become a much more complicated idea.

Traditionally, the term has been used as short hand for the kind of economic growth pursued in less-developed nations, by more-developed nations, to achieve a goal of lifting as many people above the poverty line as possible. As years have passed, there has been a shift from hand-outs (i.e. simple financial and agricultural donations) toward long-term poverty reduction, which includes extended relief programs and education programs focused on sustainability in target communities.

At least one paper from the Center for Global Development in Washington D.C. argues that the traditional definition of poverty reduction fails to encompass efforts to reduce poverty that, though not falling into a category of efforts to promote long-term growth in target communities, nonetheless contribute to an ethically tenable position in the fight against global poverty. In this paper, Owen Barder argues that poverty reduction has other dimensions, for example, in the trade-offs between tackling current and future poverty or dealing with the causes and symptoms of poverty.

The danger of ignoring the various dimensions of poverty relief, Barder suggests, lead to the adoption of poverty reduction strategies that fail to take a holistic view of poverty. As a result, relief and aid programs may be less efficient, while aid agencies may be operating on underdeveloped objectives and incentives. For a more in-depth discussion of poverty reduction as an evolving concept and the working paper on this topic, click here.

– Herman Watson

Sources: Center for Global Development,UNDP, UNFPA, USAID