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Poverty

There is no famine in South London today

Gonzalo Castro de la Mata's picture

Not a likely headline in today’s world, and yet this is among the most important news in recent history. Since Homo sapiens appeared on the planet, societies have experienced steady progress on all issues related to their wellbeing: access to food, sanitation, life expectancy, poverty, violence, the environment, literacy, freedom and equality. More importantly, progress in the last two centuries has accelerated to the point that the great majority of humans today live longer, better, healthier and richer lives than did their parents and grandparents.

“Progress” is indeed the title of the recently published book by Swedish author Johan Norberg. In it, and after building and analyzing a robust set of metadata compiled from the OECD, the World Bank, UN agencies and other reliable sources, he concludes categorically that “by almost any index, things are markedly better now that they have ever been for almost everyone alive.”

Some examples. Norberg points out that harvests failed frequently in Sweden in the 17th century, and a single famine between 1696 and 1697 killed one in 15 people. There were even some accounts of cannibalism. As economies in Europe grew, per capita consumption of calories increased from around 1,800 in the mid-18th century to 2,700 in 1850. Famines disappeared, and Sweden was declared free from hunger in the early 1900s. But progress is not circumscribed to Europe. Globally, undernourishment fell from 50 percent of the world’s population in 1945 to about 10 percent today. Similarly, access to water and sanitation has increased steadily in its coverage, going from 50 percent to 92 percent in terms of access to clean water, and from 25 percent to 68 percent in terms of sanitation in the last 50 years. The consequence is the removal of one of the main sources of death and disease.

Campaign Art: Food Waste

Darejani Markozashvili's picture
People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.
 

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), annually around the world 1.3 billion tons of food is lost or wasted. In the world, where about one in nine people do not have enough food (that’s some 795 million people), food waste presents an enormous opportunity for tackling food insecurity.

In order to bring more attention to the issue of food loss and waste and promote food loss reduction, FAO is leading the Save Food global initiative, partnering with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and others in the private sector and civil society.

#NotWasting

Source: Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

Weekly wire: The global forum

Darejani Markozashvili's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Measuring the Information Society Report 2016
International Telecommunication Union

The period since the conclusion of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in 2005 has seen rapid growth in access to and use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) throughout the world. However, the potential impact of ICTs is still constrained by digital divides between different countries and communities. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) documents the pervasiveness of ICTs and the extent of digital divides between regions and countries through its annual ICT Development Index (IDI), which aggregates quantitative indicators for ICT access, ICT use and ICT skills in the large majority of world economies.

Cellphones have lifted hundreds of thousands of Kenyans out of poverty
Vox

In Kenya, a so-called “mobile money” system allows those without access to conventional bank accounts to deposit, withdraw, and transfer cash using nothing more than a text message. It turns out that using cell phones to manage money is doing more than just making life more convenient for the Kenyans who no longer have to carry paper notes. It’s also helping pull large numbers of them out of poverty. That’s the central finding of a new study published in Science Thursday, which estimated that access to M-PESA, the country’s most popular mobile money system, lifted hundreds of thousands of Kenyans above the poverty line. By allowing people to expand the networks they draw from during emergencies, manage their money better, and take more risks, the mobile phone service provides a substantial boost to many of the most socioeconomically vulnerable members of society.

#2 from 2016: The 2016 Multidimensional Poverty Index was launched last week. What does it say?

Duncan Green's picture

Our Top Ten blog posts by readership in 2016. This post was originally published on June 14, 2016. 

This is at the geeky, number-crunching end of my spectrum, but I think it’s worth a look (and anyway, they asked nicely). The 2016 Multi-Dimensional Poverty Index was published yesterday. It now covers 102 countries in total, including 75 per cent of the world’s population, or 5.2 billion people. Of this proportion, 30 per cent of people (1.6 billion) are identified as multidimensionally poor.

The Global MPI has 3 dimensions and 10 indicators (for details see here and the graphic, right). A person is identified as multidimensionally poor (or ‘MPI poor’) if they are deprived in at least one third of the dimensions. The MPI is calculated by multiplying the incidence of poverty (the percentage of people identified as MPI poor) by the average intensity of poverty across the poor. So it reflects both the share of people in poverty and the degree to which they are deprived.

The MPI increasingly digs down below national level, giving separate results for 962 sub-national regions, which range from having 0% to 100% of people poor (see African map, below). It is also disaggregated by rural-urban areas for nearly all countries as well as by age.
 

#4 from 2016: What is your challenge? Creating Jobs and Livelihoods for the bottom 40%

Parmesh Shah's picture
A farmer harvests mung beans in Cambodia's northern province. Our Top Ten blog posts by readership in 2016. This post was originally published on February 12, 2016.  

Extreme poverty in the world has decreased considerably over the past three decades. In 1981, more than half of citizens in the developing world lived on less than $1.25 a day. This rate has dropped dramatically to 21% in 2010. Moreover, despite a 59% increase in the developing world’s population, there were significantly fewer people living on less than $1.25 a day in 2010 (1.2 billion) than there were three decades ago (1.9 billion). However, 1.2 billion people still live in extreme poverty—an extremely high figure, so the task ahead of us remains herculean.

Among the poor, 78% live in rural areas, and 500 million of these are small farmers. Of these, 170 million are women farmers. Globally, 2.5 billion are dependent on small farms as a source of livelihood and employment.  Agriculture contributes one third of GDP in Africa and more than 65% of the workforce depends on this sector. There has been significant progress in increasing agricultural production and expansion of livelihood and economic opportunities in rural areas. There are about 40 million enterprises, from very small to medium-sized, involved in agribusiness. 

Weekly wire: The global forum

Darejani Markozashvili's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Commodity crash has dragged back world’s poorest countries, finds UN
Public Finance International
In a report on the progress of the world’s least developed countries (LDCs), published yesterday, the United Nations warned that a drop in international support also means these countries are likely to remain locked in poverty. It predicted the world will miss its target to halve the size of the LDC group by the end of the decade. The 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, which were agreed by world leaders last year and include targets on ending extreme poverty, are also at risk. “These are the countries where the global battle for poverty eradication will be won or lost,” said Mukhisa Kituyi, secretary general of the UN Conference on Trade and Development, which produced the report. “A year ago, the global community pledged to ‘leave no one behind’, but that is exactly what is happening to the LDCs.” Global poverty is increasingly concentrated in the 48 LDCs, which comprises mostly of African and Asian nations alongside some Pacific island states and Haiti.

OECD Recommendation of the Council for Development Cooperation Actors on Managing Risks of Corruption
OECD
There is strong awareness among the global community that corruption poses serious threats to development goals and that international development agencies have a common interest in managing and reducing, to the extent possible, the internal and external risks to which aid activities are exposed, in order to obtain effective use of aid resources.  This Recommendation of the Council for Development Co-operation Actors on Managing the Risk of Corruption (Recommendation) promotes a broad vision of how international development agencies can work to address corruption, including the bribery of foreign public officials, and to support these agencies in meeting their international and regional commitments in the area of anti-corruption.

Weekly wire: The global forum

Darejani Markozashvili's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

For Every Child, End AIDS: Seventh Stocktaking Report, 2016
UNICEF

Despite remarkable achievements in the prevention and treatment of HIV, this report finds that progress has been uneven globally. In 2015, more than half of the world’s new infections (1.1 million out of 2.1 million) were among women, children and adolescents, and nearly 2 million adolescents aged 10–19 were living with HIV. In sub-Saharan Africa, the region most impacted by HIV, three in four new infections in 15–19-year-olds were among girls. The report proposes strategies for preventing HIV among women, children and adolescents who have been left behind, and treating those who are living with HIV.

Navigating Complexity: Climate, Migration, and Conflict in a Changing World
Wilson Center/USAID Office of Conflict Management and Mitigation
Climate change is expected to contribute to the movement of people through a variety of means. There is also significant concern climate change may influence violent conflict. But our understanding of these dynamics is evolving quickly and sometimes producing surprising results. There are considerable misconceptions about why people move, how many move, and what effects they have. In a discussion paper for USAID’s Office of Conflict Management and Mitigation, the Environmental Change and Security Program presents a guide to this controversial and consequential nexus of global trends. Building off a workshop held at the Wilson Center last year, we provide a background scan of relevant literature and an in-depth analysis of the high-profile cases of Darfur and Syria to discern policy-relevant lessons from the latest research.

Why aren’t ‘Diaries of the Poor’ a standard research tool?

Duncan Green's picture

I’ve been having lots of buzzy conversations about diaries recently. Not my own (haven’t done that since I was a teenager), but diaries as a research method. The initial idea came from one of my all-time favourite bits of bottom-up research, the book Portfolios of the Poor. Here are the relevant paras from my review:

‘A financial fly-on-the-wall account of how poor people manage money. To find out, the researchers set up ‘financial diaries’ with 250 households in selected communities in 3 countries (Bangladesh, India and South Africa). For a year, researchers visited every fortnight and picked over people’s financial affairs. The book then assimilates the findings, and intersperses them with unmistakably real-life examples from among the 250 households (‘Pumza is a sheep intestine seller living in the crowded urban hostels of Cape Town……’)


The first and perhaps most striking finding is the sheer complexity, scale and variety of poor people’s financial activity. People living in poverty need financial skills more than the better off. Just to get by from day to day, they borrow, save, and exchange cash with a huge variety of friends, family, neighbours and institutions, both formal and informal. These last include savings clubs, savings-and-loan clubs, insurance clubs, microfinance institutions, and banks. ‘At any one time, the average poor household has a fistful of financial relationships on the go.’ Every one of the 250 households had both savings and debt of some sort, and no household used fewer than four types of financial instrument over the course of the year. Rural households have turnovers (i.e. total cash flows in or out) between 10 and 30 times greater than their asset value at the end of the year.’

Blog post of the month: A sidekick for development

Maya Brahmam's picture

Each month People, Spaces, Deliberation shares the blog post that generated the most interest and discussion.
For October 2016, the featured blog post is "A Sidekick for Development" by Maya Brahmam.

October 17 was End Poverty Day – and we at the World Bank in Washington had a small celebration and a lively discussion around the new Poverty report: Poverty and Shared Prosperity 2016: Taking on Inequality. Topics ranged from 2 billion people living in countries affected by conflict to the work on social inclusion – which included a two-part definition of social inclusion: “The process of improving the terms for individuals and groups to take part in society” and “The process of improving the ability, opportunity, and dignity of people, disadvantaged on the basis of their identity, to take part in society.”

A Sidekick for Development

Maya Brahmam's picture

October 17 was End Poverty Day – and we at the World Bank in Washington had a small celebration and a lively discussion around the new Poverty report: Poverty and Shared Prosperity 2016: Taking on Inequality. Topics ranged from 2 billion people living in countries affected by conflict to the work on social inclusion – which included a two-part definition of social inclusion: “The process of improving the terms for individuals and groups to take part in society” and “The process of improving the ability, opportunity, and dignity of people, disadvantaged on the basis of their identity, to take part in society.”
 
Then I happened to notice a tweet from Owen Barder on the Sidekick Manifesto (with a cool pop art look) with the apt tagline: In the story of poverty’s end, we can only be sidekicks. I particularly liked the statement: “The poor are not powerless or waiting to be saved.”
 
It seemed to be a good reminder that economic development is a complex and costly process, which requires political buy-in from a broad range of actors, including the local community. Progress is built over time, and there are no quick wins. In the larger scheme of things, the poor are the main actors, we’re just the sidekicks for development.

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