Extreme poverty

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Graph of global population living on under 1, 1.25 and 2 equivalent of 2005 US dollars a day (red) and as a proportion of world population (blue) from 1981 to 2008 based on data from The World Bank

Extreme poverty, absolute poverty, or abject poverty is stated as “a condition characterized by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information." It depends not only on income but also on access to services.” [1] Extreme poverty was defined in 1996 by Joseph Wresinski, the founder of ATD Fourth World as:

the absence of one or more factors enabling individuals and families to assume basic responsibilities and to enjoy fundamental rights. The situation may become widespread and result in more serious and permanent consequences. The lack of basic security leads to chronic poverty when it simultaneously affects several aspects of people’s lives, when it is prolonged and when it severely compromises people’s chances of regaining their rights and of reassuming their responsibilities in the foreseeable future.[2]

This definition was adopted by the United Nations Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in The Despouy Report on Human Rights and Extreme Poverty. The World Bank defined the new international poverty line as $1.25 a day for 2005 (equivalent to $1.00 a day in 1996 US prices).[3] The eradication of extreme poverty and hunger was the first Millennium Development Goal, as set by 189 United Nations Member States in 2000. Extreme poverty is most common in Sub-Saharan Africa, though it also exists in parts of Asia and Latin America.[4]

International cooperation to deal with extreme poverty[edit]


1. Millennium Summit 2000

In 6–8 September 2000, world leaders gathered at the Millennium Summit held in New York and adopted the launch of Millennium Project suggested by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Millennium project set goals directed at reducing extreme poverty and related problems that hinder human well-being and are sources of global instability. Jeffrey Sachs managed the project and in 2005, the final report named “Investing in Development: A Practical Plan to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals” was published.[5]

2. 2005 World Summit

2005 World Summit was a follow-up Summit to take stock of the progress towards the achievement of the Millennium Declaration was held from 14–16 September 2005 bringing together more than 170 Heads of State and Government.

While world leaders at the summit were encouraged by the reduction of poverty in some countries, they were also concerned about the slow and uneven progress towards poverty eradication and the realization of other development goals in some regions. In the 2005 World Summit Outcome document they reaffirmed the strong and unambiguous commitment by all governments, in donor and developing nations alike, to achieve the MDGs by 2015.

3. United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries

First United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries Paris, 1–14 September 1981

In 1979, the General Assembly decided to convene a United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries in order to finalize, adopt and support the Substantial New Programme of Action for the 1980s for the Least Developed Countries. At that Conference, the international community unanimously adopted the Substantial New Programme, containing guidelines for domestic action by the least developed countries, which were to be complemented by international support measures. However, despite the major policy reforms initiated by many least developed countries to carry out a structural transformation of their domestic economies, and the supportive measures taken by a number of donors in the areas of aid, debt and trade, the economic situation of these countries as a whole worsened in the 1980s. Factors which contributed to that worsening state of affairs included domestic policy shortcomings, natural disasters and adverse external conditions. In addition, external debt servicing emerged as a major problem for most of the least developed countries in the 1980s.

Second United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries= Paris, 3–14 September 1990

Pursuant to a recommendation made at the seventh session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the General Assembly decided, at its forty-second session, held in 1987, to convene the Second United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries. Attended by representatives of 150 Governments, this Conference reviewed the socio-economic progress made in the least developed countries in the 1980s, as well as progress in international support measures during that decade. It also formulated national and international policies and measures for accelerating the development process in the least developed countries for the 1990s. Drawing on the experience and lessons of the 1980s, the Conference was able to agree on the strategies and development priorities for those countries for the 1990s. The outcome of the Conference was embodied in the Paris Declaration and Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the 1990s, wherein the international community committed itself to urgent and effective action, based on the principle of shared responsibility and strengthened partnership, to arrest and reverse the deterioration in the socio-economic situation in the least developed countries and to revitalize their growth and development.

Third United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries Brussels, 14–20 May 2001

In 1971, the international community recognized the existence of a category of countries whose distinctness lies not only in the profound poverty of their people but also in the weakness of their economic, institutional and human resources, often compounded by geophysical handicaps. Currently, 49 countries with a combined population of 610.5 million - equivalent to 10.5 per cent of world population (1997 estimates) are identified as "least developed countries" (LDCs). These countries are particularly ill-equipped to develop their domestic economies and to ensure an adequate standard of living for their populations. Their economies are also acutely vulnerable to external shocks or natural disasters. The group of LDCs thus constitutes the weakest segment of the international community and the economic and social development of these countries represents a major challenge for themselves as well as for their development partners.

The Fourth United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries Istanbul, Turkey, in May 2011

The United Nations General Assembly, in its resolutions 63/227 and 64/213 decided to convene the Fourth UN Conference on the LDCs, in Istanbul, Turkey, in May 2011 for a duration of five days. It also launched a process of national, regional and global reviews of the Brussels Programme implementation that fed into the preparation of a new development framework for the LDCs expected to be adopted at the Conference.

OHRLLS, as the focal point of such preparatory process, worked closely with the host country on mobilizing the entire United Nations System, relevant international and regional organizations as well as Member States, to deliver a comprehensive, action-oriented and meaningful outcome at the pf the Conference.

The preparations for the Conference provided an opportunity for in-depth reflection on the continued vulnerabilities faced by the LDCs. An assessment was made of the progress made so far by the LDCs, the obstacles and constraints encountered and the actions and initiatives needed to overcome them. This important process took place in the context of a very different economic and political landscape from the one prevailing a decade ago.

Furthermore, emerging economies have increased their share in global trade, foreign direct investment flows and migration and the LDCs have established increasingly significant economic relations with them. Significant structural changes have taken place on the international stage, more recently with the emergence of the G-20 leaders’ summits which formally comprise many countries of the South.

The face of development cooperation is also changing. While aid from OECD/DAC countries is still predominant, especially to the LDCs, a growing number of developing country partners for trade and investment, and sources of finance, have emerged to help LDCs meet their development aspirations. This was especially needed in the wake of the multiple global crises, food, energy, financial and economic, as well as climate change, that have had a specific, negative impact on LDCs’ economic and social development and threaten to roll back much of the hard-fought advances made. The food crisis has hit the most vulnerable people the hardest, particularly those living in LDCs; LDCs have also suffered from the impacts of the global financial crisis and the resulting global economic recession; and the drastic effects of climate change are already being experienced by many LDCs.

The national and regional reviews of the Brussels Programme have underscored the urgent need for an enhanced global partnership in support of the LDCs, with focused attention to the areas of: (a) strengthening productive capacities to build resilience and reduce LDCs’ vulnerability to external shocks; (b) promoting agricultural development to reduce hunger and ensure food security; (c) strengthening financial resource mobilization and targeting aid to productive sectors; (d) improving access to export markets; (e) developing infrastructure; (f) managing climate change and ensuring a new green deal for LDCs; (g) ensuring universal access to essential services and accelerating progress towards the MDGs.

With the increased challenges that the LDCs are confronting, it is was important to ensure that the Fourth UN LDC Conference, and its preparations, involved a wide range of stakeholders, not least from the LDCs themselves.

Related organizations[edit]


1. OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs)

In order to eradicate extreme poverty, a number of organizations from different nations work simultaneously in one area. Therefore, in order to prevent confusion in relief operations, coordinator, as OCHA, is required. Humanitarian coordination seeks to improve the effectiveness of humanitarian response by ensuring greater predictability, accountability and partnership. OCHA is leading the international community's efforts to develop a better architecture for the humanitarian system, including strong in-country humanitarian leaders (Humanitarian Coordinators); representative and inclusive Humanitarian Country Teams; an effective and well-coordinated framework within which all humanitarian organizations can contribute systematically; and predictable funding tools.[6]

2. UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund)

UNICEF was created in December 1946 by the United Nations to provide food, clothing and health care to European children facing famine and disease after World War II. After the UN General Assembly extended UNICEF’s mandate indefinitely in 1953, it is actively dealing with children in extreme poverty in more than 190 countries and territories through country programmes and National Committees, trying to overcome the obstacles that poverty, violence, disease and discrimination place in a child’s path. Its focus areas are 1) Child survival & development 2) Basic education & gender equality 3) Children and HIV/AIDS 4) Child protection 5) Policy advocacy & partnership.[7]

3. UNHCR (The UN Refugee Agency)

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was established on December 14, 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly. The agency is mandated to lead and co-ordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. Its primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees. It strives to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another State, with the option to return home voluntarily, integrate locally or to resettle in a third country. In more than five decades, the agency has helped people restart their lives. Today, a staff of some 7,685 people in more than 125 countries continues to help some 33.9 million persons.[8]

4. WFP (World Food Program)

WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide. On average, WFP aims to bring food assistance to more than 90 million people in 75 countries. As the United Nations frontline agency in the fight against hunger, WFP is continually responding to emergencies. We save lives by getting food to the hungry fast. But WFP also works to help prevent hunger in the future. It does this through programmes that use food as a means to build assets, spread knowledge and nurture stronger, more dynamic communities. This helps communities become more food secure. WFP has developed expertise in a range of areas including Food Security Analysis, Nutrition, Food Procurement and Logistics to ensure the best solutions for the world's hungry.[9]

5. WHO (World Health Organization)

WHO is the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations system. It is responsible for providing leadership on global health matters, shaping the health research agenda, setting norms and standards, articulating evidence-based policy options, providing technical support to countries and monitoring and assessing health trends. WHO also tries to combat diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis which are induced from poverty, manage water safety, deal with maternal and newborn & child health.[10]

World Vision[edit]

World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. Working in nearly 100 countries around the world, World Vision serves all people, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or gender.[11]

GHA (Global Humanitarian Assistance)[edit]

The GHA programme works to provide objective, independent, rigorous data and analysis around humanitarian financing and related aid flows and has developed detailed and robust methodologies for calculating the true value of humanitarian assistance that underpins all of our work. It wants to enable access to a shared evidence base on resources to meet the needs of people living in humanitarian crises, because we believe that decisions should be informed by evidence and that reliable information is fundamental to accountability and to improving performance.

Annual GHA reports, which have been published since 2000, provide the most comprehensive assessment of the international financing response to humanitarian crises, including how much the total response was, where the financing came from, where it went and how it got there.

The reports also consider how the financing response measures up to humanitarian needs. The GHA Report is relied on by a wide range of donors to inform their funding strategies and by civil society organizations for their advocacy and policy work in holding donors to account against their commitments, and more broadly by a wide range of stakeholders to understand the major global trends influence global humanitarian needs and the international financing response.[12]

Campaigns around Extreme Poverty[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ [UN declaration at World Summit on Social Development in Copenhagen in 1995]
  2. ^ (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1996/13)
  3. ^ Ravallion, Martin; Chen, Shaohua; Sangraula, Prem (May 2008) (PDF). Dollar a Day Revisited (Report). Washington DC: The World Bank. http://www-wds.worldbank.org/servlet/WDSContentServer/WDSP/IB/2008/09/02/000158349_20080902095754/Rendered/PDF/wps4620.pdf. Retrieved 10 June 2013.
  4. ^ [data.worldbank.org/topic/poverty]
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ retrieved April 6, 2013
  7. ^ retrieved April 6, 2013
  8. ^ retrieved April 6, 2013
  9. ^ retrieved April 6, 2013
  10. ^ retrieved April 6, 2013
  11. ^ retrieved April 6, 2013
  12. ^ [2]

External links[edit]