Rapidly spreading pandemic brings 100 million more people into poverty | Print output

UNITED NATIONS (IPS) – The United Nations’ ambitious goal of eradicating extreme poverty by 2030 has been severely undermined by a myriad of problems worldwide, including an escalating coronavirus pandemic, ongoing widespread military conflict and the devastating effects of climate change.

According to published estimates, more than 700 million people worldwide live in poverty and live on less than $ 1.90 a day.

But the fast-spreading pandemic, whose origins date back to December 2019, has been cited as the main driver behind the rise in global poverty – for the first time in 20 years.

A woman in a burqa begs on a street during a snowfall in Kabul. AFP

A World Bank report, updated last October, said an additional 100 million people are now living in poverty as a direct result of the pandemic.

Extreme poverty – the first of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – has steadily declined for almost 25 years. Now, for the first time in a generation, efforts to end poverty have suffered a setback, the report said.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says the pandemic has “exposed” challenges – such as structural inequalities, inadequate health care and the lack of universal social protection – and the high prices societies pay for them.

Fighting poverty is at the heart of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and is the first of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Nevertheless, according to Guterres, after decades of progress, poverty and hunger are on the rise.

In his New Year’s message last week, he said the world is welcoming 2022 “while our hopes for the future are being tested” by deepening poverty and worsening inequality through uneven distribution of COVID vaccines Climate commitments that fail to achieve their goals and through ongoing conflicts, divisions,
and misinformation.

“These are not just political tests. These are moral and real tests. And they are tests that humanity can pass – if we commit to making 2022 a year of recovery for all, ”he said.

Sir Richard Jolly, Institute of Development Studies, Sussex, UK, told IPS that at least the World Bank stresses that global poverty has increased – after many years of being pointed out in countries with positive economic per capita growth, that poverty has declined, or will soon.

He admitted to being “a fan” of the UNDP’s annual Human Development Report (HDR) and said, “So for me, multidimensional poverty is a more realistic and relevant indicator”.

“I would like to know how it is about life expectancy, access to education and the income of the poorer sections of the population, those below the poverty line or the median income”

For example, the number and percentage of the population are below $ 10,000 in many countries, and lower in some, particularly in Africa. Even if poverty increases according to income measurements, a multi-dimensional measurement is much better, he said.

“What are the staff at the UNDP HDR office saying about recent poverty trends?” Asked Sir Richard, former Oxfam trustee and chairman of the United Kingdom.

In an interview with IPS, Roberto Bissio, coordinator of Social Watch, an international network of civic organizations that monitor how governments comply with internationally agreed commitments, pointed out that the World Bank again underestimates poverty by using the extremely low reference value of A day measures 1.90 US dollars.

Assuming the tide will raise all boats equally, it is claimed that the Covid-induced poverty “tsunami” of 2020 will be reversed by economic growth in 2021.

“This ignores the conclusion of the World Inequality Report 2022 (which was published on December 7, 2021 and is available here: https://wid.world/news-article/world-inequality-report-2022/) which shows that inequalities were exacerbated. especially in the south, where the states do not have large pockets to finance emergency social protection ”.

The bank is right that SDG1 on reducing poverty by 2030 will not be achieved without major policy changes, but SDG10 on reducing inequalities will also not exist, said Bissio, who is also a former member of the UN administrator’s civil society advisory committee was a development program and has worked as a journalist on development issues since 1973.

“And it shamefully ignores the fact that World Bank-sponsored privatization and deregulation policies exacerbate inequalities,” he argued.

“Instead, the guidelines recommended by the World Bank’s infamous and now-discontinued Doing Business report are still part of the conditions imposed on countries to receive emergencies from the bank.”

The institution that claims to have poverty alleviation as its main mission is part of the problem, not the solution, said Bissio, who is also an international representative of the Uruguay-based Third World Institute.

Vicente Paolo Yu, Senior Legal Adviser at the Third World Network, told IPS that the setback in the fight against global poverty in 2020 due to the Covid pandemic will reduce the impact of other crises such as climate change, biodiversity loss and the development gap on the world poor people, especially in developing countries.

“Global poverty and inequality between and in all countries, climate change, loss of biodiversity and unequal pandemic reactions are among the results of historical injustices on the world today

Global South is committed to the name of Western civilization and globalization, ”he said.

“The past is part of our present that shapes our future. These crises are interconnected and cannot be fought effectively in individual steps or in silos. “

Global poverty and inequality does not exist because people do not work hard in their own homes and communities, but because the way the global economic, financial and trade system is built makes it difficult for poor peoples and countries to get out of poverty, he argues.

Developing countries that have recently managed to fight poverty are the ones that have implemented various development policies, said Yu, former deputy executive director of the South Center in Geneva.

Poverty and inequality are therefore not natural phenomena, but result from the actions and decisions of human societies. They can also be undone by human decisions, he noted.

He predicted that 2022 should be the year when all peoples come together to free one another from the shackles of global poverty and inequality.

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