UN Reports on Poverty Highlight Opportunities for Policy Coherence
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In advance of the 2017 sessions of the ECOSOC High-level Segment and the HLPF, the UN Secretary-General released two reports on eradicating poverty in line with SDG 1.

The ECOSOC segment will focus on the theme, ‘Eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions through promoting sustainable development, expanding opportunities and addressing related challenges,’ while the HLPF will address the theme, ‘Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world’.

June 2017: In advance of the 2017 sessions of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) High-level Segment and the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), the UN Secretary-General released two reports on eradicating poverty in line with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 1 (no poverty).

The reports identify poverty eradication in all its forms and dimensions as the “greatest global challenge,” and highlight opportunities for integrated implementation of the SDGs.

The 2017 session of ECOSOC focuses on the theme, ‘Eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions through promoting sustainable development, expanding opportunities and addressing related challenges,’ while the 2017 HLPF will address the theme, ‘Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world.’

The report titled, ‘Eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions through promoting sustainable development, expanding opportunities and addressing related challenges’ (E/2017/64), issued on 5 May 2017, discusses poverty-related challenges in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the SDGs. The report states that over 1 billion people were lifted out of extreme poverty between 2000 and 2015, one of the fastest rates of poverty reduction globally. At the same time, the report stresses that the number of people remaining in extreme poverty “remains unacceptably high” with many people who have escaped poverty in the last 15 years living “precariously close to the poverty line.” The report raises additional concerns related to: pervasive non-income dimensions of poverty and deprivation, such as access to basic health services and quality education; unevenness in shared prosperity; and susceptibility to shocks, including from climate patterns and natural disasters, global market fluctuations, volatile capital flows, and conflicts and displacement.

On synergies, the report highlights synergies between SDG 1 and other SDGs and targets, using an example of integrated employment policies that account for gender dimensions, which can lead to gains across the SDGs. The report explains that efforts related to expanding education (SDG 4), ensuring gender equality (SDG 5) and enhancing women’s employment through SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth) contribute to progress on SDG 1. The report further emphasizes that women who participate in the work force invest in improved nutrition (SDG 2, zero hunger), health (SDG 3) and education for household members, which then increases living standards and reduces non-income poverty. To ensure inclusive, broad-based growth for all, the report underscores the importance of SDG 8 and SDG 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure) in progress on SDG 1 and SDG 10 (reduced inequalities), further emphasizing the importance of social protection floors in eradicating poverty. To ensure sustainable land management, the report describes synergies with food security under SDG 2, gender equality under SDG 5, making human settlements and cities inclusive under SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities), and conservation of terrestrial ecosystems under SDG 15 (life on land).

On policy integration, the report emphasizes that complex integrated policies and approaches will be needed to achieve the SDGs. For example, to achieve SDG 11, the report stresses that action will also be needed on SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy), SDG 13 (climate action) and SDG 15.

The second report, titled ‘Beyond gross domestic product: multidimensional poverty and the SDGs’ (E/2017/69) and issued on 8 May, recognizes the absence of a common understanding of a definition on dimensions of poverty that should be included in approaches to address multi-dimensional poverty. However, it notes general agreement that income and other money-based dimensions are not sufficient for measuring poverty. The report reflects on the evolution of approaches to address poverty, including a capabilities-approach, a human-rights based approach and integrated approaches, such as through the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The report then discusses tools to measure multidimensional poverty and related challenges.

The report also presents national and regional approaches to multidimensional poverty. Colombia uses a national multidimensional poverty index based on five dimensions, each of which is accorded equal weight: education; childhood and youth conditions; work; health; and public services and housing. The index sets specific targets and tracks progress at the household level. If one person in the household is considered deprived on a metric such as literacy, the entire household is considered deprived in literacy. The report highlights benefits of this index, including its ability to break down the contribution of each indicator to overall poverty levels and the ability to analyze poverty among specific groups and regions.

Mozambique measures multidimensional poverty across four dimensions: education; health, including access to sanitation infrastructure and water; living conditions; and durable goods. According to the report, this index enables policymakers to address specific development challenges in different regions, highlighting persistent gaps and areas to target. The report further showcases examples from Mexico, the Philippines, South Africa, and Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam, as well as regional experiences. The report observes that nearly all countries incorporate education, health and living standards in their approaches, and highlights additional commonalities related to the adaptation of poverty strategies to national legislative contexts and geographic location and mapping.

The report concludes by emphasizing opportunities for countries to develop, apply and adapt existing approaches to country contexts, including through national approaches to wellbeing that go beyond gross domestic product (GDP), and for collective work on multidimensional poverty to build on commonalities and link them to national efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda. The report emphasizes the potential for the global SDG indicators and a multidimensional poverty analysis reflecting national circumstances to mutually support each other in assessing progress and recommends that the UN system and development partners support countries to strengthen their statistical capacity to measure progress towards the SDGs and multidimensional poverty.

Also on poverty, the mid-year update of the World Economic Situation and Prospects (WESP), issued on 16 May, stresses that growth in many regions around the world is below the levels needed to achieve the SDGs, particularly SDG 1 and SDG 8. The report advocates for increased commitment to international policy coordination and coherence to ensure that “no regions are left behind.” [Eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions through promoting sustainable development, expanding opportunities and addressing related challenges (E/2017/64)] [Beyond gross domestic product: multidimensional poverty and the SDGs (E/2017/69)] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on WESP Update]


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