By Elaina Conrad | Communications Associate, BRAC Ultra-Poor Graduation Initiative
Even before COVID-19 disrupted poverty alleviation efforts around the world, the global community was off track for reaching SDG 1: Ending poverty in all forms everywhere by 2030.
This theme was shared across the panel at the event “Ending poverty by 2030: Transformations needed to achieve SDG 1” on July 13th, co-hosted by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), BRAC Ultra-Poor Graduation Initiative (UPGI), and the Permanent Mission of Nigeria.
“In over a year, we have seen that more than 100 million people were pushed back into poverty and hunger,” said Adriana Dinu, Deputy Director of the Bureau for Program and Policy Support at UNDP, “Ending poverty by 2030 seems an elusive achievement unless governments make bold changes.”
Although COVID-19 has exacerbated vulnerabilities in global efforts to eradicate poverty, progress had slowed before the pandemic. From 2015 to 2019, global poverty rates fell by less than half a percentage point per year. As long as we maintain a status quo where those living in extreme poverty and marginalized communities are excluded from programs and policies, these most severe forms of poverty will persist.
“No one is served until everyone is,” said H.E. Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, Ambassador Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the United Nations and Chair of the Alliance for Poverty Eradication.
In order to make meaningful progress toward poverty eradication, we must strengthen and transform existing programs to reach those living in extreme poverty and address their complex, multidimensional needs. COVID-19 has exposed the limitations of existing social protection coverage, but even before the pandemic almost 80 percent of the poorest quintile of the population in low-income countries was not covered by even a single social protection program.
Social protection programs started in response to COVID-19 often rely on short-term, emergency cash and food aid rather than long-term, holistic approaches that build resilience and support participants as they build sustainable livelihoods to lift themselves out of poverty.
“We really have to look at the multidimensional, complex aspects of extreme poverty,” said Shameran Abed, Senior Director of Microfinance and Graduation Programs at BRAC.
Cash transfers may help consumption and provide short-term relief, but transformation requires holistic approaches that address the economic, social, and health dimensions of extreme poverty and build resilience among participants. These programs require precision targeting that ensures they reach those living in extreme poverty.
One such program is BRAC’s Graduation approach, a comprehensive program with proven results that has reached over 14 million people worldwide. Based on the four pillars of meeting basic needs, income generation, financial support and savings, and social empowerment, the Graduation approach is proven to help households build sustainable livelihoods and break out of the poverty trap long-term.
Graduation specifically targets women due to both their higher risk of extreme poverty and shocks and their ability to serve as agents of change and leaders in their community. COVID-19 has disproportionately affected women and girls through increased job insecurity, burdens of unpaid care work, and loss of hard-won rights, making it more urgent than ever for anti-poverty efforts to be gender-inclusive.
“We cannot build forward if half the world is being held back,” said Sofia Sprechmann Sineiro, Secretary General of CARE International at Tuesday’s event.
All of these programs require a collaborative effort as pointed out by Violet Shivutse, Founder and Coordinator of Shibuye Community Healthy Workers. Key actors from the global, national, and regional levels must invest more resources in inclusive, comprehensive programs that reach those living in extreme poverty and address their multidimensional experiences.
That is why BRAC UPGI partners with multisectoral partners from governments, civil society organizations (CSOs), and multilateral organizations to scale Graduation and reach people experiencing extreme poverty around the world. While governments play a critical role in scaling and integrating Graduation into national policy, CSOs provide vital expertise and sustain local demand through their proximity to the issues facing marginalized communities.
“No one country can go it alone in this work. We must try to improve each other. We all can teach each other. We all can learn from others,” H.E. Muhammad-Bande stated.
Working together through multilateral partnerships and alliances is crucial in our efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. Governments, multilateral institutions, NGOs, and civil society all bring unique expertise and skills that can be leveraged to transform systems to achieve long-lasting, sustainable change.
Among the necessary changes raised during the panel on Tuesday is that of a global fund for social protection. Social protection is a human right that must be upheld by extending coverage to all people and ensuring policies go beyond basic consumption support to holistic, inclusive programs that are sustained by multisectoral will and resource mobilization.
“The resources exist. The knowledge exists. We need to marry the two things to achieve the impact we want to see,” Abed said.
While COVID-19 has exacerbated inequalities and structural vulnerabilities around the world, there is still time to transform global approaches and eradicate poverty. Global collaboration, shared learning, and inclusive social protection can reshape progress toward SDG 1 and ensure that all people are included in meaningful progress toward eliminating poverty.
Watch the entire recorded event here.