Yesterday, Administrator Shah and I participated in an excellent panel at the Brookings Institution to discuss a bold vision of a world without extreme poverty by 2030 – a commitment outlined by President Obama in his 2013 State of the Union Address. At USAID, we recognize that – for the first time in history – a world without extreme poverty is possible.
This is an ambitious challenge: to lift more than 1 billion people out of extreme poverty. But we have built a solid foundation. USAID and the international community have improved economic opportunity, health, food security, education, equality, stability, and accountable governance for millions of people. In fact, nearly 700 million people have moved above the $1.25 per day poverty line since 1990. If we continue on this trajectory, we could reach zero by 2030.
Major initiatives are underway in areas like food security and energy to promote economic growth, and have begun to address the fundamental pathways out of poverty. In Feed the Future countries, extreme poverty rates fell by an average of 5.6 percent from 2005 to 2011. The energy-economic development work of Power Africa aims to reach 20 million new households and commercial entities in power-starved sub-Saharan Africa and expand opportunities for growth for the 85 percent in rural areas lacking any access. Efforts to promote democracy, human rights, and good governance; accelerate child survival; empower women and girls; create resilient societies; and mitigate climate change are also essential to ending extreme poverty.
But can we accelerate momentum towards ending extreme poverty? To be successful, we need to employ broader, more coordinated efforts and more innovative solutions: we must leverage resources, build high-impact partnerships, harness technology, and prioritize evidence-based analysis. Throughout the Agency we are adapting a new model for development – incorporating extreme poverty into our strategic planning and programming at the country level and increasing our use of inclusive growth diagnostics, which are rooted in and relevant to specific country contexts.
In addition, new and exciting partnerships are leveraging additional resources. Just this week, USAID, the Swedish International Development Agency, and Volvo forged a partnership to promote sustainable development in Africa through workforce development to include vocational training, traffic and road safety, and workplace health and wellness including HIV/AIDS prevention.
USAID as an Agency is postured to lead the global discussion and elevate the discourse on the challenges we face to continue this momentum. We need to grapple with such questions as: Do we know who poverty is and how they experience it? How inclusive is economic growth and is it effective in fragile states? Can we say with certainty how to accelerate poverty direction and what investments are the most effective?
Our discussion at Brookings was an impressive start to what we hope will be a fruitful, collaborative step forward toward global change. It will only be through continued global partnership and determination that we will be able to truly lift one billion people out of the most abject poverty in the next two decades—and eradicate extreme poverty entirely. But it is possible.
Learn more about how USAID is working to end extreme poverty.
Read Administrator Shah’s remarks at the Brookings Institution event, “Ending Extreme Poverty: Can It Be Done? If So, How?” on November 21, 2013.