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What will it take to end poverty by 2030?

By Babatunde Omilola - posted Monday, 19 October 2015

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were instrumental in lifting about a billion people out of extreme poverty. Using an updated international poverty line of US $1.90 a day, the World Bank estimates that global poverty rate will decline to 702 million people, representing 9.6 per cent of global population in 2015 from 902 million people or 12.8 per cent of the global population in 2012. This highlights significant progress toward ending extreme poverty in the world.

The news of progress toward ending global poverty comes shortly after world leaders adoptedthe 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and committed to 17 new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the United Nations Summit in September 2015. Ending poverty by 2030 in all its forms and dimensions is at the core of the 2030 Agenda. As we commemorate the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on 17 Octoberand as countries transition from the MDGs to the SDGs, what will it take to achieve the historic goal of ending poverty by 2030?

Economic growth has unequivocally been the biggest single factorresponsible for poverty reduction during the MDG era. No country has succeeded in reducing poverty without economic growth. Some estimates suggest that two-third of the reduction in global poverty is as a result of rapid growth, especially in East Asia, with the other third coming from sound social policies. In the SDG era, economic growth is still required but it must be inclusive and sustainable by ensuring that no one is barred from reaping its benefits.


An analysis of 117 developing countries between the early 1990s and late 2000s finds that on average those that grew at faster rates, irrespective of initial income level, experienced larger increases in inequality than those that grew at slower rates. Therefore, inequality reduction, in all its forms and dimensions, remains a crucial issue to resolve in order to end poverty. At the same time, countries must address social exclusion, risk and vulnerability, and reduce or eliminate barriers to women's economic empowerment.

Volatile commodity prices and natural disasters are taking a considerable toll on lives and livelihoods of the poor. Economic and livelihood diversification and accelerating structural economic transformation especially in low-income countries by creating more decent jobs for rising young population will significantly reduce the prospect of many people falling below poverty lines and into poverty traps.

Eradicating poverty also requires well-designed social protection systems that provide social assistance to the extreme poor, especially for groups that are traditionally vulnerable or excluded.

Sound social policies and sustained investment in people through the provision of quality social services - including education, health, nutrition, water and sanitation- are critical to end poverty.

It is impossible to end poverty without addressing the environmental degradation that places a disproportionate burden on the poorest.

Most of the poor live in rural areas and agriculture is the largest employer of the poor globally. Promoting a balanced rural-urban growth by targeting the poorest areas and transforming the agriculture sector through inclusive value chain development will have the largest impact on poverty eradication in the developing world.


In a growing number of countries, terrorism, political instability and civil strife have exacerbated poverty levels, resulting in numerous and significant humanitarian crises. Eradicating poverty requiressupporting the transition of such countries from recovery to sustainable development pathways. It also requires multi-dimensional approach that simultaneously addresses development, humanitarian issues, and peace and security.

Finally, eradicating poverty requires strong partnerships between governments, private sector entities, civil society and other stakeholders. In particular, strong domestic political engagement and initiatives around the 2030 Agenda are crucial ingredients for achieving the historic goal of ending poverty by 2030.

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About the Author

Dr. Babatunde Omilola is the Regional Practice Leader for Poverty Reduction and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Regional Service Centre for Eastern and Southern Africa.

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Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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