Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 1 aims to end poverty in all its forms everywhere. The international poverty line is currently defined as 1.90 US dollars per person per day using 2011 purchasing power parity (PPP). From 2002 to 2012, the percentage of the global population living below this poverty line dropped by half, from 26 to 13%.
However, today more than 700 million people, or 10% of the world population, still live in extreme poverty.
Poverty comes in many forms, mainly its causes revolve around unemployment, social exclusion, and the high vulnerability of certain populations to disasters, diseases and other phenomena that prevent them from being productive. It is also directly related to basic needs, such as health, education, and access to water and sanitation.
One of the main aspects we have to understand is that in the global world we already live in our well-being is linked to that of other people. Inequality anywhere in the world has negative effects on our lives, for example on economic development or political or social tensions which drive instability and conflicts.
The big question of course is if we will be able to achieve this goal. According to economist Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, yes, we can. He calculated that in order to end extreme poverty worldwide in 20 years the total cost would be about $175 billion per year, less than one percent of the combined income of the richest countries in the world.
Poverty and work
Having a job does not guarantee a decent living. In fact, 8% of employed workers and their families worldwide still live in extreme poverty. Among this group, young people are most likely to be affected.
However, the evolution of this figure is positive. In 2015, actually 10% of the world’s workers and their families were living on less than 1.90 US dollars per person per day, down from 28% in 2000. The bad news is still that young people aged 15 to 24 are most likely to be among the working poor: 16% of all employed youth were living below the poverty line in 2015, compared with 9% of working adults.
The highest rates of this still-to-be-solved challenge are located in two main regions: Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia. As you can see on the graph, percentages have fallen from the year 2000 to the year 2015, but one-third of all workers in Sub-Saharan Africa and more than 18% of workers in Southern Asia were still among the group of the working poor.
Poverty and social protection
Poverty affects children disproportionately. One out of five children lives in extreme poverty. Ensuring social protection for all children and other vulnerable groups is critical to reducing poverty.
Social protection programmes include social assistance, such as cash transfers, school feeding and targeted food assistance. Social insurance and labour market programmes are other forms of social protection, covering old-age and disability pensions, maternity benefits, unemployment insurance, skills training and wage subsidies, among others. Most poor people remain outside social protection systems, especially in poorer countries: about one in five people receive any type of benefit in low-income countries compared with two in three in upper-middle-income countries.
Social protections have expanded globally since 2000, as many developing countries adopted related. Pension coverage in particular is expanding rapidly. Over half (51%) of people above retirement age received a pension according to data available for the period from 2010 to 2012. Almost all countries have child or maternity benefit programmes, and cash transfer schemes are increasing.
But increasing social protection for those most in need remains a priority. Globally, 18,000 children still die each day from poverty-related causes, and only 28% of employed women are effectively protected. Most poor people remain outside social protection systems, especially in low-income countries. Again, the coverage gap is particularly acute in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia, where most of the world’s poorest people live.
What does this mean and what does this look like?
As the numbers show, poverty is still an acute problem in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia. But what exactly does this mean and what does it look like? Numbers are helpful to understand the global picture, but underneath lie the challenges that affect real people.
Niger is one of those Sub-Saharan countries. According to the Human Development Index (HDI), Niger is at the bottom of the global rank. This rank takes into account data regarding life expectancy at birth, expected years of schooling, mean years of schooling and gross national income (GNI) per capita. 90.5% of its population lives in multidimensional poverty. 19,44 million people of a total population of 21,48 million. Or 9 in every 10 people you will encounter in Niger.
So what does life look like in Niger? We can find many stories on the global web. I have selected two of them to bring this country a bit closer. The stories I found have a different background, mainly there are stories that have been selected by NGOs working in these countries, some are from the national government and some from tourists visiting the country. This means that we will always stumble upon biases in these stories which are hard to avoid.
I actually invite you to add another bias when watching these videos, that of our common humanity. Can you find similarities when looking into the eyes of these people? In their smiles? In their tears? We might not understand their cultural background, but we clearly are all human beings. I consider that in order to be able to transform our world and co-create a better world, we have to look at the existing one with curiosity and respect for our differences. So let’s put on some new glasses and start looking for our common humanity.
Education by Plan International Ireland
Health by Unicef
And last but not least, a music video from a Nigerien hip-hop artist to change the world through the SDGs: