Progress Update: Ending Poverty

Gallage Ariyaratne is a chapter leader at UNA-Montana State University and Global Goal Ambassador for SDG 1: No Poverty. 

The Sustainable Development Impact Summit hosted by World Economic Forum was an inspiring summit which took place during the UN’s Global Goals Week.  The summit focused on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and mainly leaned towards describing the background on which causes pressing issues in the society.  I previously worked with the World Bank Group to help implement its “End Poverty” program in Asia. This session primarily focused on the connection between the economy and the SDGs. The economy plays a critical role in achieving SDG 1 as it impacts living standards of populations across the world.

According to the World Economic Forum, experts believe between 70 and 100 million people could slide into extreme poverty in 2020 and 2 million preventable deaths could occur because of the pandemic. Governments and individuals should work together to build resilience for future shocks and to eliminate the threats that would ultimately lead more people into poverty.

Poverty reduction and development have always been inextricably linked. The adoption of the 2030 Agenda has increased the scope for monitoring poverty around the world. As stated in the Preamble to the Agenda, “…eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including extreme poverty, is the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development.”

Poverty can be reduced or made more severe as a result of a range of decisions or situations related to economic development, such as investment and job creation, distribution of wealth, access to services, such as education and health care, mitigation of the effects of climate change and disasters, and peace and security.

In the recent years, some progress has been made – like real income growth for the poorest 40% of the population in 73 countries, including growth higher than the national average in about half of them. But progress has mostly been slow, particularly on poverty, according to the UN SDG Progress Report 2020. Now, with COVID19 and economic crisis, we should expect we’ll lose gains made on many of these targets. The proportion of people living in extreme poverty fell from 15.7% in 2010 to around 8.2% in 2019. But even before COVID19 and interrelated economic crisis, 6% were still projected to live in extreme poverty in 2030 – thereby missing the target (Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals Report).

According to the World employment and social outlook of International labor organization (ILO), workers living in extreme poverty fell from 14.3% in 2010 to 7.1% in 2019. But in 2019, global unemployment was 5%, and as high as 11% in Northern Africa and Western Asia. For women and young workers, rates were higher.

The impact of COVID-19 is expected to be severe. The poverty rate is projected to reach 8.8% – the first increase since 1998.World Economic Forum and its partners are creating fairer economies through the forum’s COVID Response Alliance for Social Entrepreneurs which brings together over 50 leading global organizations to coordinate responses for social entrepreneurs as they overcome the significant impacts of COVID-19.