Achieving SDG 1: “End poverty” - How much progress has the world made?
In September 2015, the first goal of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was defined as “eradicating poverty in all its forms through promoting sustainable development.” This mission entails identifying the most vulnerable populations, increasing basic resources and services, and supporting communities affected by conflict and climate disasters.
Although the number of people living in extreme poverty fell from 1.9 billion in 1990 to about 650 million in 2018 according to the U.N., too many people are still struggling for basic needs. About 736 million people still live on less than 1.90 U.S. dollars a day, lacking food, clean water, and sanitation.
As for young people, a report published this year by U.K. charity The Children’s Society shows that children living in poverty are more likely to have weak physical health and mental health problems, underperform at school, face employment difficulties in adult life, and experience social deprivation and stigma.
However, it is undeniable that considerable improvements have been made during the last few years. Which countries have made the most significant progress toward the achievement of Goal 1? And which ones still show high poverty rates? Let’s explore the current landscape.
According to the 2018 SDG Index and Dashboards Report, countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia are performing well on SDG 1. This was possible as economic growth and increasing productivity reached many parts of the world, leading to a significant reduction of global inequality and poverty. In each of Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Ghana, and China, for example, more than half of the population lived in extreme conditions in 1990. But after two decades of growth, the rate of extreme poverty was cut at least in half in these countries. Since then, their economies have grown faster than many of the richest countries.
The concentration of the world’s poorest shifted from East Asia in the 1990s to South Asia in the following decade. According to the World Bank, 87 percent of the world’s poorest are expected to live in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2030 if economic growth follows the same trajectory as in the past. Based on the data, poverty declined in the last decades because the majority of the poorest people was concentrated in countries with strong economic growth. Likewise, many of the world’s poorest today live in countries that show very low economic growth. New threats related to climate change, conflict, and food insecurity mean that more efforts are necessary to save people from poverty.
The chart shows the projection made by the World Bank’s Development Research Group. If the economic growth of the past decade continued until 2030, the amount of people in extreme poverty will stagnate at almost 500 million.
According to the U.N., countries can ensure that our planet meets SDG 1 by implementing the following measures:
Provide appropriate social protection for all;
Ensure inclusive access to basic services, economic and natural resources, and new technology;
Reduce the poor’s exposure to economic, social and environmental shocks and disasters;
Ensure significant mobilization of resources, in order to provide adequate means for developing countries to implement programs to end poverty; and
Create sound policy frameworks, based on pro-poor development strategies.
As millennials, we are the future — and arguably the present — and have thus a responsibility to individually contribute whenever possible to achieving the fundamental and prime goal of ending poverty of all kinds.