child poverty Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

How Can Countries Reduce Poverty Faster?

While the total number of impoverished people worldwide is declining, the rate of progress is not as fast as it needs to be to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030. To increase the pace of poverty reduction, lessons from the recent past can help.

KUALA LUMPUR and MANCHESTER – Can the world end poverty by 2030, the target set by the United Nations Agenda for Sustainable Development? The UN General Assembly recently reaffirmed this deadline but conceded that meeting it will require “accelerating global actions” to tackle poverty’s causes. As the international community explores new solutions, lessons from the past could be instructive.

Poverty reduction has been central to development policy for decades. During the 15 years of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the predecessor to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the percentage of people living in poverty – defined as less than $1.90 a day – declined significantly, from nearly 27% in 2000, when the MDGs began, to about 9% in 2017.

At first glance, the rate of poverty reduction in the first few years of the SDGs has also been impressive. Between January 2016 and June 2018, an estimated 83 million people were lifted out of extreme poverty. And yet, to remain on track to meet the 2030 target date, about 120 million people should have escaped poverty during that period. Despite the welcome gains, the pace of progress has been less than satisfactory.

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