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Poverty & SDGs

U.N. Panel Projects a Poverty-Free World by 2030

Extreme poverty makes women more vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Credit: Dionny Matos/IPS

UNITED NATIONS, May 31 2013 (IPS) - A U.N.-commissioned high-level panel of eminent persons, led by three world leaders, has moved the goal posts for the halving of extreme poverty and hunger: from the current 2015 deadline to a new targeted date of 2030.

In a long-awaited report released Thursday, the panel called for a new global partnership – between the world’s richest and poorest nations – to be underlined by “a spirit of solidarity, cooperation and mutual accountability” to battle global poverty.

"If this agenda is acted upon, we can realise a global vision of eradicating poverty, improving prosperity and protecting the planet." -- Manish Bapna of the World Resources Institute

Summing up the recommendations, British Prime Minister David Cameron, one of the co-chairs of the 27-member panel, said, “This report sets out a clear roadmap for eradicating extreme poverty by 2030.

“We need a new global partnership, to finish the job on the current Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), tackle the underlying causes of poverty, and champion sustainable development.”

The other two co-chairs were Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

One of the primary targets of the MDGs, which were launched in 2001, was the halving of extreme poverty and hunger by 2015.

But the global economic crisis and widespread austerity measures over the last few years undermined the efforts of the international community in its battle against poverty.

Despite limited progress, there are still more than 1.4 billion people, out of a total population of seven billion, who live below the poverty line of 1.25 dollars per day and on the razor edge of starvation.

The panel’s recommendations will be part of the post-2015 development agenda.

A final report, incorporating some, or all, of the recommendations, will be presented to member states by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon next September.

The report says: “We should ensure that no person – regardless of ethnicity, gender, geography, disability, race or other status – is denied basic economic opportunities and human rights.”

A profound economic transformation can end extreme poverty and improve livelihoods by harnessing innovation, technology and the potential of business.

“We must act now to slow the alarming pace of climate change and environmental degradation, which pose unprecedented threats to humanity,” the panel warns.

Manish Bapna, managing director of the World Resources Institute, told IPS the panel’s recommendations represent a major breakthrough that puts sustainability at the centre of the development agenda.

In a profound shift, he pointed out, the recommendations recognise that reducing poverty “is inextricably linked with how we treat our natural environment”.

“If this agenda is acted upon, we can realise a global vision of eradicating poverty, improving prosperity and protecting the planet,” he added.

Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, executive director of the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA), told IPS he strongly agrees with the eminent persons’ declaration that people should be at the heart of any development agenda and no person denied universal human rights and basic economic opportunities on any grounds.

“We also echo their call for a people-centred agenda that ensures the equal rights of women and girls, and empowers them to take leadership roles in their societies,” Osotimehin said.

He said UNFPA strongly believes that women and girls should have the means to exercise their right to make choices on their health, particularly their sexual and reproductive health, freely and without coercion.

The eminent persons’ report shows, once again, that investing in women’s health is not only the right thing to do, but also smart economics. “We also fully support their proposals to decrease maternal death and ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights,” he noted.

Judith Randel from Development Initiatives said, “The absence of transparency, accountability and participation as explicit aims within the current Millennium Development Goals is part of the reason why not all of them will be achieved. We are glad the panel has learnt the lessons from the past and very much hope their proposals will be adopted by governments and institutions around the world.”

In a statement released Thursday, John Podesta, the U.S. representative on the panel and chair of the Center for American Progress, said, “Our ambitious report calls for the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger by 2030”.

“But we also recognize that, if we are to build upon the successes of the MDGs and to end poverty for future generations, we urgently need to create more environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive economies and societies. We must leave no one behind,” Podesta added.

“I’ve said before that this report is the first chapter, and not the last word, in the post-2015 agenda,” he said.

That is still true today, he said. “But I urge the American people and U.S. policy makers to take seriously the recommendations in the High-Level Panel’s report, and to begin thinking about how we can work together to achieve the world we want in 2030.”

Stephen Hale of the London-based Oxfam said, “This report is an important contribution to the post-2015 process. We hope that it will be a reference point for the forthcoming negotiation.”

Still, Oxfam warned that the failure to target soaring income inequality would weaken efforts to achieve equitable and sustainable development progress. “The panel has failed to recognise the growing consensus that high levels of inequality are both morally repugnant and damaging for growth and stability,” Hale said.

Without targeted efforts to reduce inequality, social and economic, he said, progress will be undermined, he said.

He said a plan for reducing inequality was a major omission in the original MDGs, and ignoring income inequalities now will undermine the struggle to eliminate poverty and injustice.

For example, the richest one percent of the world’s population has increased its income by 60 percent in the last 20 years. And the world’s 100 richest people amassed 240 billion dollars last year – enough to make a huge contribution to ending extreme poverty more than three times over, Hale said.

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  • Brian Hammond

    Thalif, I have been a regular reader of your IPS news articles for many years. I am glad to see you featuring this new report on the post-MDG goals to tackle poverty. But as someone who helped to develop the MDGs and their indicators, I cannot leave unchallenged your assertion that “one of the primary targets of the MDGs, which were launched in 2001, was the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger by 2015”. The first of the MDGS was to HALVE the proportion of people in extreme poverty by 2015. This goal was achieved at a global level by 2010 (see first two paragraphs of the Economist’s excellent briefing on this report: So the progress is far from “limited” as you state. But as this UN Panel report makes clear, we now have a chance to continue the progress over the past 25 years and eliminate extreme poverty by 2030. That would indeed be a major achievement across two generations.