Ending Extreme Poverty

  • The End of Extreme Poverty: Tackling the Greatest Challenge Known to Humankind

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  • Getting to Zero: A USAID Discussion Paper on Ending Extreme Poverty

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  • Frontiers in Development - September 18-19, 2014

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“...The United States will join with our allies to eradicate such extreme poverty in the next two decades...which is within our reach.” – President Obama, 2013 State of the Union address

For the first time in history, we have the tools, technologies, and approaches to end extreme poverty and its most devastating effects -- including widespread hunger and preventable child death -- within two decades. Extreme poverty widely refers to earning below the international poverty line of a $1.25 per day. But extreme poverty is more than just a measure of daily income – it is the denial of basic freedoms and basic human dignity. People living in extreme poverty are forced to make impossible choices daily between food, medicine, housing or education.

Today, roughly 1.2 billion people live in extreme poverty.

That is still an overwhelming number of people, but it represents great progress. Compared to 1990, today nearly 700 million fewer people live in extreme poverty. In 2010, the world achieved Millennium Development Goal 1 - to halve the poverty rate among developing countries - five years ahead of schedule.  The global rate fell to 20.6 percent (from 43.1 percent in 1990). Aggregate poverty rates are now falling in every region, including in sub-Saharan Africa.

If we accelerate our progress and focus on key turnarounds in some challenging contexts, we believe we can lift one billion more people out of poverty by 2030.

What Will It Take to End Extreme Poverty in Our Lifetime?

This will not be an easy task. We can get there - but only if we come together as a global community in support of this effort. We must:

  • Leverage existing development capacities and priorities towards ending extreme poverty - such as increasing food security, promoting child survival, expanding access to renewable energy, and improving education.

  • Invite new ideas and fresh perspectives to development efforts, to find innovative solutions to longstanding and seemingly intractable development challenges.

  • Bolster economic growth and connect people to the global economy and more effectively engage in fragile contexts, where we project extreme poverty will become increasingly concentrated in the coming decades.

What is USAID Doing?

There is still much to learn. To help address the question: How will we eradicate extreme poverty by 2030?, we are engaging a dynamic community of global thought leaders and development practitioners. Even as we apply ourselves to understanding the drivers of extreme poverty reduction, we will need to:  

  • Focus and integrate existing efforts: Poverty is multi-dimensional. Elements of each of the eight interrelated development objectives in USAID's Policy Framework will be essential to address the causes and consequences of extreme poverty and promote inclusive growth.

  • Enhance work in fragile contexts and prioritize resilience: Capitalizing on our experience and expertise in fragile states, USAID is prioritizing the intersection between extreme poverty and fragility - and, in particular, building on our leadership on the New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States and on resilience to recurrent crises. We also need further analysis - including delineating the links between fragility and persistent poverty - in order to identify the most strategic opportunities in policy, programming, and partnership.

  • Invest in science, technology and innovation: From the Green Revolution, to the eradication of polio, to the exponential spread of mobile technology throughout the developing world, investments in science and technology have yielded many of humankind's greatest development breakthroughs. Through the U.S. Global Development Lab, USAID is harnessing the power of basic science and applied technologies, while forging innovative partnerships with the private sector and academia, to leverage talent, take risks, and use American creativity and ingenuity to transform more lives than ever before.

  • Expand partnerships: As the international community coalesces around a global goal of ending extreme poverty, USAID has an opportunity to unite governments, organizations, businesses, and individuals in partnership. Our power to convene and bring together disparate actors with complementary perspectives and capabilities is one of the most important tools we have. USAID, building on successful models like Power Africa,  GAVI Alliance, the Open Government Partnership, the Partnership for Growth, and the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020, is looking to help catalyze an all-hands effort to end extreme poverty within a generation.

Last updated: December 10, 2014

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