Global Poverty

updated April 2016

In September 2015 world leaders approved a package of Sustainable Development Goals which include the ambitious task of eradicating global poverty by 2030. Whether such mutual resolve can hold firm within fickle national governments, buffeted by global economic and political insecurity, remains open to question.

The scale of the challenge is formidable; by reference to the internationally recognised poverty line, over 700 million people lived in extreme poverty in 2015, excluded from the prevailing economic model of wealth creation.

The symptoms of this model’s inherent dysfunction – boom and bust economies, volatile food and fuel prices, inequality, climate change and unsustainable use of resources – impose a disproportionate footprint on both poorer countries and poorer families. This injustice is yet to be adequately acknowledged in the corridors of global governance.

Understanding Poverty

Extreme poverty strikes when household resources prove insufficient to secure the essentials of dignified living. The consequences of persistent poverty include hunger, children out of school and exposure to unnecessary health risks. As reserves of household assets diminish, psychological tensions of shame and anxiety undermine resilience to the economic shocks of everyday family life.

Attempts to understand and tackle poverty often fail to do justice to the reality of its experience and too readily subside into an abstract mix of emotion and ideology.

Take for example the images of poverty published by humanitarian agencies to inspire support for their appeals. These often provoke a complex mix of outrage at the inhuman circumstances and awe at the determination of the protagonists, especially children.

The label of “poverty porn” sometimes pinned to this otherwise altruistic material provides early warning that poverty is a sensitive subject to be approached with caution.

Very poor people are not passive agents resigned to their fate – indeed, exhaustive ingenuity is required to manage tiny amounts of money through an unpredictable annual cycle of household misfortune. Far from crushing the human spirit, the extreme poverty of the developing world instead draws out many of its finest qualities.

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Human Life Is Getting Better
A vlogger’s assessment of the annual letter of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is emphatically positive on the outlook for global poverty and the role of foreign aid

from vlogbrothers


Why Poverty: Wilbur Sargunaraj – irony and complexity lurk beneath the surface humour, satire and song in these three short sketches about poverty and inequality in India

more Global Poverty briefings
Global Poverty Statistics
National Poverty Line
International Poverty Line
Causes of Global Poverty
Should We Care About Poverty?
Sustainable Development Goal for Poverty
Global Poverty Solutions
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