NEW YORK, USA – The COVID-19 pandemic that gripped the world during the past year has resulted in reversing decades of progress in the fight against poverty and extreme poverty.
Ending persistent poverty, respecting all people and our planet
According to the World Bank, between 88 and 115 million people are being pushed into poverty as a result of the crisis, with the majority of the new extreme poor being found in South Asian and Sub-Saharan countries where poverty rates are already high”. In 2021, this number is expected to have risen to between 143 and 163 million. These ‘new poor’ will join the ranks of the 1.3 billion people already living in multidimensional and persistent poverty who saw their pre-existing deprivations aggravated during the global pandemic. As a matter of fact, the measures imposed to limit the spread of the pandemic often further pushed them into poverty – the informal economy which enables many people in poverty to survive was virtually shut down in many countries.
As we embark on the post-COVID recovery and getting back on track with the Sustainable Development Goals, many are talking of “building back better,” but the message is clear from the people living in extreme poverty that they do not want a return to the past nor to build back to what it was before. They do not want a return to the endemic structural disadvantages and inequalities. Instead, people living in poverty propose to build forward.
Building forward means transforming our relationship with nature, dismantling structures of discrimination that disadvantage people in poverty and building on the moral and legal framework of human rights that places human dignity at the heart of policy and action. Building forward means not only that no one is left behind, but that people living in poverty are actively encouraged and supported to be in the front, engaging in informed and meaningful participation in decision-making processes that directly affect their lives. In building forward, we need to let ourselves be enriched by the wealth of wisdom, energy and resourcefulness that people living in poverty can contribute to our communities, our societies and ultimately to our planet.
In a world characterized by an unprecedented level of economic development, technological means and financial resources, that millions of persons are living in extreme poverty is a moral outrage. Poverty is not solely an economic issue, but rather a multidimensional phenomenon that encompasses a lack of both income and the basic capabilities to live in dignity.
Persons living in poverty experience many interrelated and mutually reinforcing deprivations that prevent them from realizing their rights and perpetuate their poverty, including: