“The goal of eradicating poverty has been a central aim of the United Nations throughout its history. I am determined to re-double our efforts to make poverty history […] Lives disfigured by poverty are cruel, mean and, often, short. Our goal must be a world of dignity, opportunity and well-being, where no-one is left behind.”
– Ban Ki-Moon
Poverty is a destructive vicious cycle with no end yet in our sights.It is leads to malnourishment, unemployment, lack of education, crime, and, conflict, and poverty has the same causes as its effects on the society, thus making it a vicious cycle and long term effects further propagates poverty. In today’s politics, poverty remains a fundamental challenge, and still policy makers are unable to identify the true causes of poverty nor are able to measure the extent in the society. The United Nations (UN) defines poverty as “the inability of getting choices and opportunities, a violation of human dignity. It means the lack of basic capacity to participate effectively in society.”The World Bank defines poverty as “pronounced deprivation in well-being […] It includes low incomes and the inability to acquire the basic goods and services necessary for survival with dignity. Poverty also encompasses low levels of health and education, poor access to clean water and sanitation, inadequate physical security, lack of voice, and insufficient capacity and opportunity to better one’s life.”
Today, billions of people are living in poverty, defined by UNESCO as people living under 1$ a day, around the world; going back into history, poverty especially extreme poverty has hit the least economic developed countries hard. Experts blame the reasons on geographical, demographic, and political factors. In US alone, more than 1.4 Billion people live under $1.25 a day.Asia and Africa has the highest rates of people living in extreme poverty.Almost 400 million of these resides in India while China records around 173 Million. Focusing our discussion on the percentage, sub-Saharan Africa leads the highest percentage of people living in absolute poverty, standing with 47 percent. In 2013, the Human Development Index (HDI) calculated life expectancy, literacy, education, standards of living, and quality of life for 185 nations discovered that the top 10 poorest countries in the world in and around the Sub Saharan Africa.
Possible causes of poverty include population growth, climate change, unsanitary conditions, lack of natural resources such as water and fertile land, lack of equal rights, and most importantly, war and conflict. However, as poverty effected nations share the common issues, each of the effected nation is unique in its own way. Taking all these issues in mind, eliminating is a top priority for international agencies such as the UN and the UNDP. Their efforts to combat poverty can be credited through their establishment of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and now the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
From Millennium Development Goals to Post – 2015 Sustainable Development Goals
Since the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) were closely reaching the deadline, the UNDP worked tirelessly with governments, corporate entities, researchers, and members of civil society and created a new set of goals, they named it the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), designed particularly to combat poverty and inequality. The World Commission on Environment and Development were the first organization come up with the term “Sustainable Development”. They defined it as “Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Rio + 20 (the UN Conference on Sustainable Development) marked the beginning of a new conclave where nations came together and deliberately discussed issues and causes of gender inequality, poverty and effective strategies to combat it. Today, the SDGs comprised of 17 goals and 169 targets, ranging from eradicating poverty and hunger, to education, to improving health. These goals were refined and were approved in the September session of General Assembly, 2015.
Let us take a look at the first formed MDG’s and their goals:
- Eradicating extreme hunger and poverty
- Achieving universal primary education
- Promoting gender equality and empower women
- Reducing child mortality
- Improving maternal health
- Combating HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
- Ensuring environmental sustainability
- Developing a global partnership for development by 205
For the first goal, to eradicate extreme poverty, the UN Millennium Declaration stated that, “We resolve further [t]o half, by the year 2015, the proportion of the world’s people whose income is less than one dollar a day and the proportion of people who suffer from hunger and, by the same date, to halve the proportion of people who are unable to reach or to afford safe drinking water (A/ RES/55/2 II. 19).”Currently, the UNDP invested almost US $1 billion a year globally to fight against poverty. Thus, not only UNDP, but many international organizations and individual states made remarkable progress. In 1990, the data showed less than 50% of the people living in the US less than $1.25 a day; and by 2010 the data dropped down by 22%. In other words, can say, the first MDG was a tremendous success however, there is much more work to be done yet.
Additionally, policy makers focused on inequality, environmental sustainability, food and nutrition security, sustainable energy, solidarity, human rights, and peace and security.The UNDP also connected organizations and nongovernmental groups for extensive support and innovative ideas on improving economic and social conditions. Some of these resources included microfinance providers, agricultural assistance, public health educators, literacy initiatives, and more.
Actions or Words
We all agree to the fact that there is no generic solution to eradicate poverty in the world, but what we need is rather we are in need of innovative, effective and efficient solutions. It is no doubt that policy makers throughout the world is dedicated in reducing poverty on an individual, state, regional, and global basis, however, coordination is what they lack. As mentioned above, poverty is vicious cycle and they are the symptoms and the causes— mainly poor health and malnutrition. One such example of this complex cycle is the strong correlation between poor health, malnutrition and overpopulation, one of the major causes of poverty, unemployment results in poor access to basic health care which completes the cycle all altogether. Thus one way to deal with this issue will include teaching of proper sanitation, establishing health care centres, focusing on maternal health, and addressing child nutrition in an effort to prevent poor health.
Another potential way to address poverty is by providing microloans which has shown progressive results in some of the countries where this method ran successfully. A pilot program was run in Namibia and the results of this project amazed the policy makers involved. In this project US $13 per month assistance were provided to the people along with educational services, improved nutrition, and proper medical care, this heavily increased the productivity of the people involved and in the final term of the project, people were able to sustain with better hygiene as compared to the days before the project.Creation of jobs is another form of financial investments that has directly involved community and have improved the lives who were earlier impoverished. Many experts unanimously agree that corruption too has a role in poverty and improving policies of the government towards the impoverished helps in combating it.
Integrating women into the society helps focus on maintain equality which is also important for improving economic development in the region. In Africa, Single mothers along with their children remains away from education, skills, and lack of rights to work. In the past, studies have shown that women provide increased economic opportunities in the family and in turn helps in boosting the nation’s economy has a whole. Today, education remains a strong effective way in eliminating poverty and hunger. Policy makers should focus on primary, secondary education and vocational training of individuals as it is essential in maintain a long-term economic growth and empowering youths and women in the society, which further increases economic growth and development.
Anant Mishra is a former Youth Representative to United Nations. He has served in numerous committees including United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and United Nations Security Council (UNSC).