15.07.2021 – 21:18
We are accustomed to repeating the disruptions that the Covid-19 pandemic has placed in our lives, such as reduced mobility, disruption of normal social relationships, domestic violence, financial coercion, mental health issues, and increasing poverty and inequality.
Our simulations, conducted a year ago, revealed that 131 to 547 million people, globally, may have joined the ranks of “The poor newly”, potentially reversing years of progress. As we look to the future, if the topic of poverty is raised, we may wish to look far.
But what if it were not so? What if strategic action by Global Britain shifts the trajectory?
In December 2013, the UK led the international response when Ebola struck Sierra Leone, working with partners to end the outbreak quickly, while training medical staff and supporting early recovery in health, education and social protection. The worst case scenario was averted and, in March 2016, Sierra Leone was declared Ebola-free.
The poverty impacts of that Ebola response then became apparent in 2020, when our team’s research, funded by the then UK Department for International Development – showed trends in multidimensional poverty reduction. We found that during the Ebola pandemic and response, multidimensional poverty levels in Sierra Leone fell from 74 percent to 58 percent – the fastest decline for any country. Between 2013 and 2017, the terrible burden of poverty did not increase; fell, sharply.
Recently, the Global Multidimensional Poverty Index 2020 report showed that, before the Covid pandemic, 65 of the 75 countries surveyed, estimated at 5 billion people, had achieved a significant reduction in acute multidimensional poverty. This is defined as families experiencing multiple deprivations, such as malnutrition, child mortality, lack of education, inadequate hygiene, unsafe water, no electricity, sliding shelters, etc.
So even though we are approaching 18 months of the current Covid-19 pandemic, and it seems scary to assess poverty reduction on a scale similar to that of Sierra Leone, this may be possible.
As the pandemic has spread and evolved, country after country has decided to invest in social protection, health systems, job creation and economic stimulus measures to recover better. This year, the UK also has a leading voice at the G7, G20, COP26, Global Education and Food and Nutrition Growth Summits.
What if he used that voice to consolidate a new paradigm, based on the latest research and data, and create a new legacy of agile humility and underestimated cooperation?
Based on the UK Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), created with UK support and covering 5.9 billion people, there are clear action points that could make this year a turning point towards ending acute poverty in all its forms. her:
Put Britain’s voice and energy behind an integrated, non-broken agenda. The most cost-effective responses to multidimensional poverty are multisectoral, not boat. What if Britain used all the 2021 meetings to defend a joint, high-impact strategy to address disadvantages, as Indian economist Amartya Sen put it? “Striking and reducing” the lives of poor people. Instead of having independent strategies for education, food, or nutrition, can there be a set of core, consistent, regularly measured goals? The goals in which poverty reduction according to the poverty line measure of $ 1.90 per day and the multidimensional global poverty index are prominent? Before the pandemic, 47 countries were on track to reduce multidimensional poverty by half or more between 2015 and 2030, this can be done.
Focus on the children. According to the global MPI, 1.3 billion people are multidimensionally poor. Of these, half are children, under 18 years old. One in three children in 100+ countries in developing regions is multidimensionally poor, compared to one in six adults. Using global MPI data, we can identify the gender of these children. We know the composition of their poverty, the size of their family and whether all children in their age group are deprived or not. This evidence can inform a high-impact strategy.
Recognize the protagonists. Poverty can seem daunting if its compensation were above all governments. But, as Sen reminds us, poor people are not passive victims of cunning development strategies. On the contrary, participatory studies consulting with those who have moved out of poverty find that, in more than three-quarters of cases, they cite their initiative as the most important driver of change. Recognizing the steely determination, creativity, and penetration of poverty protagonists, poor people, and their communities, changes the nature of the task.
Return to South Asia as well as sub-Saharan Africa. More than 84 percent of multidimensional poor people live in South Asia (530m) and sub-Saharan Africa (558m). In the most recent period, South Asian countries also lowered the fastest MPI of each region. India saw 270 million people leave multidimensional poverty in the decade by 2015/16. In Bangladesh, it was 19 million in just five years, 2014-19. Evaluating and continuing these trajectories is vital.
We have the data and know the framework for a strategy to meet global poverty reduction goals. This strategy requires international cooperation, joint engagement and global leadership. The pandemic should not reverse the great progress that has been made in recent decades in overcoming poverty. Rather, it can be a motivator, a wake-up call, the basis for a new determination to build a better world for today’s children and tomorrow’s generations. This year of the 2021 summits and the UK’s leading global role, provides the platform to seize that opportunity as a central part of Britain’s Global vision.
* Sabina Alkire leads the Oxford Initiative for Poverty and Human Development in the Department of International Development at Oxford University
Translated and adapted for Konica.al by Financial Times