By: Jill Danne
This week marks the 25th anniversary of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.
The day, first commemorated in 1992, celebrates a massive gathering in Paris on October 17 five years earlier where over 100,000 people came together to recognize victims of poverty and call on world leaders to honor the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights acknowledging poverty as a violation of human rights.
While a multifaceted concept, financially speaking, extreme poverty is most recently defined by the World Bank as living below the poverty line of 1.90 USD per day.
Concerted global efforts to fight poverty were even more challenging prior to the 21st century. It was not until the end of the 1900s that the World Bank finally saw that poverty rates were improving in East Asian countries such as South Korea, and recommended that other countries also focus on private sector growth in addition to human capital – especially in agriculture – to fight poverty. As research and support expanded, the World Bank also recognized the need for social assistance to supplement growth.
These efforts continued into the new century with the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that set eight major objectives for the year 2015 including halving extreme poverty. Based on statistics from the pre-MDG rates of development, various programs have saved at least 21 million people from death and 471 million from extreme poverty. Though still behind, the UN has claimed that the MDGs “produced the most successful anti-poverty movement in history.”
Last year, those new development goals were replaced with a new set of objectives called the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be accomplished by 2030. Goal one? No Poverty. This time, the world is facing even more new challenges. A UNDP-World Bank Report late last year, which pulled together main lessons from reviews of the MDGs, concluded that there needed to be cross-institutional collaboration between the UN and the World Bank, better cross-sectoral work, and increased advocacy in order to successfully transition into the SDGs. In order to do this, some of the interventions include: maintaining collaborations as well as expanding to the private sector through round table discussions, assisting governments, and collectively tackling the SDGs.
From non-profit organizations to the private sector, motives to fight poverty have grown tremendously. Consumers have been expecting more from businesses, and firms have been incentivized to increase their contribution to humanitarian goals through donations and paid volunteers. Schools and universities demand minimum volunteering hours and encourage students who want to pursue careers in the nonprofit sector.
The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty reminds us that millions of people today still live in poverty, and encourages everyone to come together to help build a sustainable future. Without joint support from governments, organizations, and citizens, the agenda to eradicate poverty will not succeed by 2030. This Day should not only be a reminder of the billions of people living without human rights; the 2017 International Day of the Eradication of Poverty is also a ‘Call for Action.’ Let this day not be an observance of the people living in poverty but, instead, a remembrance of the suffering and a commemoration of the combined efforts to abolish poverty.
Jill Danne is an intern in the Asia-Pacific department for the EastWest Institute. She is a senior at New York University, majoring in Education Studies, and focusing on the relationship between international education and politics.