4 March 2011


There has been some success in reducing global poverty levels. The number of people living on less than $1.25 a day in developing countries declined from 1.9 billion to 1.4 billion between 1981 and 2005 and the proportion of people living in extreme poverty dropped from 52.0 to 25.7 per cent during the same period and it is predicted that at the global level the first target of the Millennium Development Goals will be met.

Nevertheless the absolute number of people living in poverty has gone up in several regions including Sub-Saharan and Northern Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and Central Asia totalling 1 billion people who are living in extreme poverty. In fact, today’s poverty situation is even more serious if we consider its wider definition.

As recent report of United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) points out poverty is not simply a lack of adequate income it is the deprivation of one’s ability to live as a free and dignified human being with the full potential to achieve one’s desired goals in life.

DESA has put forward what it believes is a more accurate measure of poverty which takes into account those vulnerable households that move above and below the poverty line as their circumstances and fortunes fluctuate as well as deprivations in health care, education and living standards.

The new index estimates that about 1.7 billion people live in multi-dimensional poverty while 1.3 billion are suffering from income poverty. This shows that even though countries might have succeeded at reducing income poverty, they are still unable to ensure access to education, health care and food.

Reducing poverty requires sustained, inclusive and equitable economic growth. Unfortunately, recent economic changes have resulted in higher unemployment rates thus removing an important pathway out of poverty and in addition conflict, weather-related disasters and other impacts of climate change adversely impact on economic growth.

The achievement of the MDG’s depends on co-operation between national governments and civil society. In the Australian context it is disappointing therefore that the leader of the Opposition would urge a reduction in the level of Australia’s Overseas Aid (already below its agreed commitment of 0.7% of GDP) as an alternative to the modest levy proposed by the government to fund reconstruction following the recent disastrous floods.

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