Report on the parlous state of poverty eradication


Published:
7 July 2020
Issued by:
Philip Alston , the Special Rapporteur for extreme poverty
Presented:
To the Human Rights Council at its 44th session

Summary

In this report, the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, criticizes the mainstream narrative that extreme poverty is nearing eradication, based on the World Bank’s measure of extreme poverty. The report points out that more accurate measures show only a slight decline in the number of people living in poverty over the past thirty years. By single-mindedly focusing on the World Bank’s flawed international poverty line, the international community mistakenly gauges progress in eliminating poverty by reference to a standard of miserable subsistence rather than an even minimally adequate standard of living. This in turn facilitates greatly exaggerated claims about the impending eradication of extreme poverty and downplays the parlous state of impoverishment in which billions of people still subsist.

The report further argues that the international community’s principal policy response to poverty, through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), is inadequately framed, failing, and in need of revitalization. It concludes that poverty is a political choice and its elimination requires: (i) reconceiving the relationship between growth and poverty elimination; (ii) tackling inequality and embracing redistribution; (iii) promoting tax justice; (iv) implementing universal social protection; (v) centering the role of government; (vi) embracing participatory governance; and (vii) adapting international poverty measurement.