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How can anti-poverty measures be strengthened?

Anti-poverty measures must be better supported, more comprehensive, and scale-able.

From 1990 to 2019, the number of people living in extreme poverty (defined as $1.90 per day by the World Bank) fell from 1.9 billion to 648 million. Much of this progress has been reversed because of Covid-19. The epidemic will have pushed about 150 million people back into extreme poverty by the end of 2021.

However, even before Covid-19, the world was not on course to eradicate severe poverty within the next decade. Long before the epidemic, progress on poverty reduction had slowed, with global poverty rates dropping by less than half a percentage point per year between 2015 and 2019.

Even if Covid-19 had not been developed, 537 million people would have been living in severe poverty in 2030, suggesting that the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, particularly SDG 1, would have been missed.

Decades of planning, executing, advising on, and changing poverty reduction initiatives have given us insights into how to make anti-poverty programs and policies more effective at BRAC, the world’s biggest Global South-led NGO.

First and foremost, initiatives must reach the poorest of the poor. Access to social programs and services is difficult for people living in extreme poverty. They are less likely to have bank accounts, fixed addresses, or official identity, all of which could be required for registration.

They also endure social stigma as a result of obtaining government assistance, and they frequently lack enough information about the programs for which they are eligible.

In low-income countries, 79 percent of the lowest-earning quintile receive no support at all. Governments and their partners must devise policies and programs that overcome the challenges that people living in severe poverty confront and incorporate them into existing social safety nets to guarantee that support reaches those who need it most.

Second, initiatives must give people in extreme poverty the tools they need to build long-term resilience. Governments and their partners must do more than just increase basic needs provision.

They must also invest in allowing those living in extreme poverty to get the skills and resources they require to avoid relapsing into poverty. This strategy is critical in times of crisis, as our team at BRAC found while advising the Philippine government on a recent anti-poverty initiative in collaboration with the Asian Development Bank.

During the epidemic, the program connected members to national government financial assistance and local government food assistance. Meanwhile, it gave them the tools and skills they needed to diversify their income streams. As a result, even under stringent lockdowns, 76 percent of participants were allowed to continue working.

Third, initiatives must address poverty as a complicated and context-dependent problem. Extreme poverty has many faces. The many areas of deprivation that individuals living in extreme poverty endure, from lack of clean water and electricity to malnutrition and social marginalization, must be taken into consideration in a precise description.

These deprivations, as well as the measures required to alleviate them, differ by population and geography. Governments and their partners must develop more holistic solutions that empower disadvantaged people to address their particular problems based on an assessment of characteristics connected to individual geographies and socioeconomic settings.

Fourth, these programs must involve local communities and governments, whose active engagement can enable anti-poverty policies better reflect people’s daily experiences and earn local support.

Including civil society in the process can also help to hold the government accountable and maintain demand for more effective policies and services. Local governments can also assist national governments and their partners in identifying and supporting marginalized households.

Fifth, governments and their partners must figure out what works and what doesn’t, and then adjust their programs accordingly. Governments and their partners must commit to monitoring, evaluating, and learning from anti-poverty policies as they are implemented, then revising them as needed, to optimize the impact of anti poverty intervention at scale.

Such evaluations should start by establishing the concepts that guide the creation of programs. Then, with those ideas in mind, program components must be adjusted and tested, with the results closely monitored.

Governments and their partners can only ensure that the programs they deploy have a long-term impact and modify to suit the unique and evolving needs of their people through evidence-based adaptation.

This will have to be a team effort. Anti-poverty initiatives and policies can become more inclusive, flexible, and comprehensive if the international community takes these steps.

Governments, in addition to engaging civil society and academics, require development players, such as multilateral institutions and donor countries, to assist them in closing resource gaps until they can mobilize adequate domestic resources on their own. Many low- and middle-income countries simply do not have the fiscal room or state capacity to pursue large-scale poverty-reduction initiatives on their own.

From guaranteeing gender equality to advancing sustainability to boosting nutrition, SDG 1 is inextricably linked to the other SDGs.

If we are to recover from Covid-19’s reversal of decades of progress in these areas, we will require cross-cutting measures that promote numerous areas of development at the same time. The only way to avoid leaving many people behind is to make anti-poverty efforts more well-funded, holistic, and successful at scale.

-Project Syndicate

Source – The Kathmandu Post

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