Ending Extreme Poverty

“...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 corollaries - including widespread hunger and preventable child death -- within two decades. But if we're going to tackle this great challenge, we must take stock of what we know, assess what we don't know, and work together to apply new approaches to help us eradicate extreme poverty. By bolstering inclusive growth and coalescing in partnership around this goal, the end of extreme poverty is within our reach.

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

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 this end - such as increasing food security, promoting child survival, combating HIV/AIDS, expanding access to renewable energy, and improving education; AND
  • Invite new ideas and fresh perspectives to development efforts, to find innovative solutions to longstanding and seemingly intractable development challenges; TO
  • Bolster economic growth and connect people to the global economy, and better engage in fragile contexts, where we project extreme poverty will become increasingly concentrated in the coming decades; AND

A New Focus

In the 20 years from 1990 to 2010, poverty reduction has, in most cases, followed economic growth. Connecting more people to the global economy - through, for instance, financial inclusion, greater access to markets, and the institutions that promote decent and sustainable employment - is thus critical to long-term poverty reduction. Yet not every country has seen growth, nor has this rule been without exception. While constraints to poverty reduction are highly context-specific, from a global perspective, two broad trends, in particular, may hamper continued progress:

  • Slow or volatile growth
  • Vulnerability and non-inclusive growth

Fragility - and weak institutions more broadly - can exacerbate each of these constraints. This can include for example: conflict that halts growth or destroys people's assets; governments that are corrupt or illegitimate and divert public resources from development or exclude certain populations; or recurrent crises that hamper agricultural production or displace populations.

What We've Been Doing

“Helping communities to feed, power, and educate themselves...”

Hunger hurts everyone. It cannot be ignored, especially for the 870 million people who go to bed hungry each night around the world. Hunger devastates opportunities for good health, growth, and prosperity. But hunger is not hopeless: It is solvable.

  • Through the Feed the Future initiative, the U.S. Government brings donors, researchers, agricultural innovators, private-sector companies, and developing countries together to break the cycle of hunger and poverty. This Presidential initiative aims to reduce poverty and undernutrition, each by 20 percent over five years, in the areas where it works.
  • The New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, launched at the 2012 G-8 summit, has engaged 70 local and multinational companies and garnered more than $3.5 billion in investment for African agriculture to help lift 50 million people out of poverty over 10 years.
  • Power Africa has committed to increase clean and efficient energy capacity by 10,000 MW and connect 20 million households to reliable on-, off-, and mini-grid electricity
  • Our education programs, including the Room to Learn initiative, seek to improve the reading skills of 100 million primary school children, with better teaching techniques, materials, curricula, and tests, and strengthen higher education and workforce development programs so young people can find good jobs.

“Saving the world’s children from preventable deaths”

While the past decades have brought remarkable gains which have saved millions of lives, almost 19,000 children under 5 years of age still die every day from largely preventable causes. A child dying anywhere is heartbreaking, 6.9 million children dying a year from preventable causes is unacceptable.

  • In 2012, the Governments of Ethiopia, India, and U.S. with UNICEF co-hosted the Child Survival Call to Action, launching a movement to end preventable child death – accelerating progress to drive down child deaths from roughly seven million per year, to fewer than two million by 2035.
  • Through A Promise Renewed, a renewed commitment to Child Survival, we are targeting interventions, expanding services, and helping to mobilize a global community to achieve the ambitious, but achievable goal of ending preventable child deaths.

"Realizing the promise of an AIDS-free generation"

Only a decade ago, AIDS was wiping out an entire generation in Africa. Today, global efforts have greatly reduced new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths, making an AIDS-free generation without our reach.

  • Through PEPFAR, the U.S. has played a critical role in ensuring that over five million people received life-saving antiviral drugs (accounting for a significant proportion of the eight million people receiving treatment in low and middle income countries, while helping host countries provide critical support to ensure drug therapy occurs - and on terms that will make it effective.

"Connecting more people to the global economy and empowering women…"

Broad-based economic growth is essential to sustainable, long-term development and creates opportunities for those living in poverty to raise their living standards and chart their own prosperous futures. However, this long-term, sustainable development will only be possible when women and men enjoy equal opportunity to rise to their potential.

  • The Power to Lead Alliance, in partnership with CARE, promotes leadership in girls aged 1-14 years in vulnerable communities.

"Giving our young and brightest minds new opportunities to serve…"

We must increase our nation's ability to respond to the development programs that are so critical to U.S. foreign policy. We must also harness the global youth population, which holds enormous potential to drive and sustain economic growth in low income countries. This effort includes:

What We Need to Do

  • 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 states: 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 crisis. 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. 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 on 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 we have. USAID, building on successful models like the 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.

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Last updated: August 21, 2014

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