| what is poverty? |
millennium development goals | measuring poverty |
responding to poverty | sources
does it mean to be poor? How is poverty measured? Third World countries are
often described as “developing” while the First World, industrialized nations
are often “developed”. What does it mean to describe a nation as “developing”? A
lack of material wealth does not necessarily mean that one is deprived. A strong
economy in a developed nation doesn’t mean much when a significant percentage
(even a majority) of the population is struggling to survive.
Successful development can imply many things, such as (though not limited to):
An improvement in living standards and access to all basic needs such that a
person has enough food, water, shelter, clothing, health, education, etc;
A stable political, social and economic environment, with associated political,
social and economic freedoms, such as (though not limited to) equitable
ownership of land and property;
The ability to make free and informed choices that are not coerced;
Be able to participate in a democratic environment with the ability to have a
say in one’s own future;
poverty? Poverty is hunger. Poverty is lack of shelter.
Poverty is being sick
and not being able to see a doctor. Poverty is not having access to
school and not knowing how to read. Poverty is not having a job, is fear
for the future, living one day at a time. Poverty is losing a child to
illness brought about by unclean water. Poverty is powerlessness, lack of
representation and freedom. Poverty is a call to action - for the
poor and the wealthy alike - a call to change the world so that many more may
have enough to eat, adequate shelter, access to education and health, protection
from violence, and a voice in what happens in their communities. Poverty
is the state of being without, often associated with need, hardship and lack of
resources across a wide range of circumstances.
Why is this? Is it enough to blame poor people for their own predicament?
Have they been lazy, made poor decisions, and been solely responsible for their
plight? What about their government? Have they pursued policies that actually
harm successful development? Such causes of poverty and inequality are no doubt
real. But often less discussed are deeper and more global causes of poverty.
increasing interconnectedness promised by globalization, are global decisions,
policies, and practices. These are typically influenced, driven, or formulated
by the rich and powerful. These can be leaders of rich countries or other global
actors such as multinational corporations, institutions, and influential people.
In the face of such enormous external influence, the governments of poor nations
and their people are often powerless. As a result, in the global context, a few
get wealthy while the majority struggle.
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Millennium Development Goals
uneven progress of development is worrying. The flows of trade and capital that
integrate the global economy may bring benefits to millions, but poverty and
suffering persist. Responding to such concerns, governments and international
development agencies have begun to reexamine the way they operate. In September
2000, 189 countries signed the Millennium Declaration, which led to the adoption
of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The MDGs are a set of eight
goals for which 18 numerical targets have been set and over 40 quantifiable
indicators have been identified. The goals are:
- Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
- Achieve universal primary education
- Promote gender equality and empower women
- Reduce child mortality
- Improve maternal health
- Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
- Ensure environmental sustainability
- Develop a global partnership for development.
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Measuring poverty at the
A common method used to measure poverty is based on incomes or consumption
levels. A person is considered poor if his or her consumption or income level
falls below some minimum level necessary to meet basic needs. This minimum level
is usually called the "poverty line". What is necessary to satisfy basic needs
varies across time and societies. Therefore, poverty lines vary in time and
place, and each country uses lines which are appropriate to its level of
development, societal norms and values.
Information on consumption and income is obtained through sample surveys, with
which households are asked to answer detailed questions on their spending habits
and sources of income. Such surveys are conducted more or less regularly in most
countries. These sample survey data collection methods are increasingly being
complemented by participatory methods, where people are asked what their basic
needs are and what poverty means for them. Interestingly, new research shows a
high degree of concordance between poverty lines based on objective and
subjective assessments of needs.
Measuring poverty at the
When estimating poverty worldwide, the same reference poverty line has to be
used, and expressed in a common unit across countries. Therefore, for the
purpose of global aggregation and comparison, the World Bank uses reference
lines set at $1 and $2 per day (more precisely $1.08 and $2.15 in 1993
Purchasing Power Parity terms). It has been estimated that in 2001, 1.1 billion
people had consumption levels below $1 a day and 2.7 billion lived on less than
$2 a day. These figures are lower than earlier estimates, indicating that some
progress has taken place, but they still remain too high in terms of human
suffering, and much more remains to be done.
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Responding to Poverty
Achievement of the
Millennium Development Goals (a .pdf
Document; 3.12 MB) requires
rising above current trends and substantially accelerating progress toward these
goals. There is an urgent need for all parties — developing and developed
countries, as well as multilateral agencies — to scale up action.
Global Monitoring Report 2004 (3.12 Mb PDF) suggests areas for particular
attention for the three main groups of actors involved.
Priorities for developing countries:
improving the enabling climate for private
strengthening capacity in the public sector and
improving the quality of governance
scaling up investment in infrastructure and
ensuring its effectiveness
enhancing the effectiveness of service delivery
in human development
Priorities for developed countries:
sustaining stable and strong growth in the
ensuring a successful, pro-development and
timely outcome of the Doha Round
providing more and better aid
improving policy coherence for development
Priorities for international financial institutions:
refining and strengthening institutional roles
in low-income countries
furthering progress on the results agenda
improving selectivity and coordination of
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Facts of Poverty
Half the world —
nearly three billion people — live on less than two dollars a day.
Why does poverty appear? Why so many people live
in poverty? Find out here.