Reducing poverty

Alleviating poverty
Combating poverty
Addressing chronic poverty
Relieving poverty
Fighting poverty
Fighting against poverty
Acting against poverty
Countering poverty
Addressing poverty
Developing effective solutions to poverty
Eliminating poverty
Eradicating poverty

The eradication of poverty in the world requires decisive national actions and international cooperation to promote full employment as a basic priority of all economic and social policies, enabling all men and women to attain secure and sustainable livelihoods through freely chosen productive employment and work.


Poverty is a violation of human rights. With some 1.3 billion people living in extreme poverty, it is the most widespread violation of human rights in the world. Poverty exists not only in the developing countries, but is also a dramatic and hidden reality in the industrialized countries. Particularly affected are disadvantaged and underrepresented groups - indigenous people, people with disabilities, women, children, youth, and the elderly. Hunger and the HIV/AIDS pandemic are also highly related to poverty. Processes of impoverishment inherent in the global economic system are resulting in increasing inequity, social injustice and violence worldwide.

Taking both rural and urban poverty into account, the International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that the number of people in the third world living in extreme poverty increased from 819 million in 1980 to 881 million in 1985. This is a rise of 62 million, or 7,6% in just five years. At the regional level, Asia, with its rapid income growth, continues to be the most successful at alleviating poverty. Poverty has worsened in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. Moreover, on the basis of present growth projections and assuming the distribution of income remains unchanged, the ILO projects a further rise in the number living in poverty to 913 million by 1995. It must be one of the objectives of an international development strategy for the 1990s to ensure that the projections of the ILO do not in fact materialize.

Rising poverty is most serious in Africa. Between 1980 and 1985, extreme poverty in Africa increased by 68 million and if nothing is done to reverse the trend, poverty is expected to rise by a further 127 million by 1995. In Latin America, extreme poverty rose by 18 million in the first half of the decade. This is much less than in Africa, but because of the smaller base, the proportional increase was larger: 38.3% in Latin America, compared to 32.4% in Africa. Under present conditions poverty in Latin America should decline between 1985 and 1995, but according to the ILO's projections, the number of poor people in 1995 will still be higher than in 1980.

The unfavourable developments in Africa and Latin America were partly offset by favourable trends in Asia. The number of poor people in Asia is estimated to have declined by 24 million during 1980-1985, and the ILO projects a further decline of 88 million by 1995. The Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), however, takes a different view and regards progress towards the elimination of poverty as being "disappointing throughout the region". This judgement appears to be based on a relative, rather than an absolute, view of poverty and in particular on the high degree of inequality, the apparent stability of the overall distribution of income and in one or two cases (Bangladesh, Sri Lanka) on the fall in the share of household income received by the poorest quintile. At the very least this assessment of the situation in Asia shows that there are no grounds for complacency, particularly when one considers that under the ILO projections, there still will be more poor people in Asia than in any other region, and almost as many as in Africa and Latin America combined.

The minimum objective for a new international development strategy should be to reduce the absolute number of people living in poverty by the year 2000. The present tendency for the numbers in absolute poverty to increase is not acceptable; the trend must be reversed. Each country should set its own standard, its own definition of poverty, and then direct its energies to ensure that by its own standard, development is accompanied by a reduction in the number of people living in conditions of severe poverty and deprivation. This is a readily attainable goal, and it is one that is so central to what development is all about that its enunciation as international policy could serve as a rallying point for renewed national commitment and enhanced international co-operation.


Humanist Institute for Cooperation with Developing Countries (HIVOS) is a development organization which stands for emancipation, democratization and poverty alleviation in developing countries. For this purpose financial support is given to 706 local private organizations in 30 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Their activities aim at economic independence, art and culture, sustainable development, gender, aids prevention and human rights.

In 1992 the United Nations General Assembly unanimously proclaimed October 17 as International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. In 1995 Secretary General Boutros-Ghali announced 1996 as the International Year for the Eradication of Poverty. This called for member states to develop precise definitions of absolute poverty for their own countries; devise and implement national poverty eradication plans to address structural causes, and to promote actions within national plans for employment creation, increased health and education services, and other measures to generate household income and afford access for people to productive and economic opportunities. At the 1995 UN Social Summit in Copenhagen 117 nations agreed the need to "eradicate" poverty and not just "alleviate" it.

The 10 year period 1996-2006 has been declared the first United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty. This 10 year effort considers one in every five people to be living in poverty, mainly women, children, youth, the disabled, the elderly, indigenous peoples, migrants and refugees.

The International Centre for Eradication of Poverty attempts to address poverty by (a) lobbying governments and politicians; (b) Undertaking some hands-on self-employment projects through various community based groups; and (c) undertaking research and development work.


Poverty means having inadequate resources for one's needs. Alleviating poverty is both a moral imperative and a prerequisite for environmental sustainability. If prosperity is everyone's right then poverty is everyone's responsibility.

Counter Claim:

The world spends $96bn a year on pet food. Conversely, it cannot find less than one-tenth of that for the most dispossessed people in the world.

Using poverty
Society Disadvantaged
Type Classification:
C: Cross-sectoral strategies
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 10: Reduced Inequality