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Ending Poverty – With No End in Sight

By: Paulina Zajac,

Welcome to our blog, the Human Righter. We shed light on contemporary human rights issues and comment on human rights developments. We dig deep into our focus areas within human rights, discuss SDGs and human rights. You will also find book reviews and analyses of new laws.

This blog post was written by Paulina Zajac, Communications Intern at Raoul Wallenberg Institute’s HQ.

On the 17th of October, the United Nations marks the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. In this year’s Sustainable Development Goals Report Special Edition by the UN, a grey cloud looms over the approaching deadline for the implementation of Agenda 2030.

The report highlights some of the hard-to-stomach truths about the progress of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to date. In relation to the topic in discussion, SDG 1 ‘No Poverty’, the conclusions are as follows:

  • If current trends continue, 575 million people will still be living in extreme poverty and only one-third of countries will have halved their national poverty levels by 2030.
  • Despite the expansion of social protection during the COVID-19 crisis, over 4 billion people remain entirely unprotected. Many of the world’s vulnerable population groups, including the young and the elderly, remain uncovered by statutory social protection programmes.
  • The share of government spending on essential services, such as education, health and social protection, is significantly higher in advanced economies than in emerging and developing economies.
  • A surge in action and investment to enhance economic opportunities, improve education and extend social protection to all, particularly the most excluded, is crucial to delivering on the central commitment to end poverty and leave no one behind

The issues targeted under SDG 1 are ultimately worsened by many unpredictable and unprecedented circumstances, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, climate disasters, and national economic crises. Taking Covid-19 as an example, the UN states that ‘In 2020, the number of people living in extreme poverty rose to 724 million, surpassing the pre-pandemic projection by 90 million and reversing approximately three years of progress on poverty reduction’. These circumstances are beyond prediction, yet the response to them is still severely inadequate, particularly when it comes to government spending in developing economies.

Furthermore, The UN highlights Southern Asia as one of the regions hardest hit by poverty. As exemplified by Pakistan, dealing with the lowest per capita income in South Asia, some states are suffering from amounts as large as 40% of the population living below the poverty line. Non-monetary dimensions of poverty propel the already existing problems. Many, be it in Pakistan or elsewhere, are experiencing a decline in safe shelter, limited access to food, and diminishing income. It is an all-encompassing human rights issue. Despite the UN’s self-critical capacities, the goal to “eradicate” poverty by 2030 is out of reach, if not nigh impossible.

This year, the United Nations has chosen to highlight the International Day for Eradication of Poverty with the theme Decent Work and Social Protection: Putting dignity in practice for all. The theme emphasises the crucial role of work (under decent conditions) and social protection as an instrument of upholding human rights standards. Along with decent work comes a better standard of life, increased wages, and overall dignified recognition of workers worldwide. The UN hones in on human dignity as a concept to advance decision-making processes which will shift focus from corporate gains to a fulfilment of human rights for all.

The UN proposes that in order to achieve SDG 1 and overcome the greatest global challenge of today there is a pressing need for “visionary policies for sustainable, inclusive, sustained and equitable economic growth, supported by full employment and decent work for all, social integration, declining inequality, rising productivity and a favourable environment”.

It is important to remember on this day that poverty is a pertinent, large-scale issue, regardless of how it does or does not dominate current headlines. All human beings are interlinked, and in circumstances such as the growing climate crisis, all linkages impact every one of us in different ways. Education, research, understanding, and unity is necessary for poverty to at least be decreased, if not eradicated by 2030.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

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