UN Research Finds Defects in Poverty Reduction Approach

A slum in the Dominican Republic. Photo by: Michelle Brea / CC BY Michelle BreaCC BY

The United Nations has failed to fully incorporate the role of employment and income equality in combating poverty, researchers of the global agency said in a report.

The approach to achieving the Millennium Development Goal on halving the number of people living on less than USD1 a day by 2015 has some shortcomings, according to a report by the U.N. Research Institute for Social Development.

The report, titled “Combating Poverty and Inequality,” calls for a shift from safety nets and welfare program to mechanisms that help to generate employment opportunities and curb income inequality.

The report underscores three crucial elements of a sustainable and inclusive development strategy: “sustained growth and structural change that create jobs and improved earnings for the vast majority of people; comprehensive social policies that are grounded in universal rights; and civic activism and political arrangements that ensure states are responsive to the needs of all citizens,” according to the UNRISD Research and Policy Brief 10.

“Where poverty has been reduced successfully and sustainably, governments used policy interventions to facilitate [employment-centered] structural transformations of their economies. They invested substantially in infrastructure; channelled credit to specific productive activities; and pursued wellmanaged industrial and agricultural policies, as well as social policies that improved the skill levels and welfare of the population,” the policy brief adds. 

“[C]ontemporary poverty reduction strategies have increasingly focused on ‘targeting the poor’. Such approaches often fail to consider key institutional, policy and political dimensions that may be both causes of poverty and inequality, and obstacles to their reduction,” the brief adds.

The report notes that the MDGs do not directly address inequality problems.

“Equality and redistribution matter for poverty reduction,” according to the policy brief. “Poverty and inequality are part of the same problem. Inequality manifests itself in relation to class or income status, gender and ethnicity, and also across various dimensions, such as employment, earnings and access to social services. There is a strong case for redistributive policies to address these dimensions of the poverty problem.”

Nick McGowan, a spokesman for the U.N. Development Program, said the report is “a welcome and timely critique of conventional wisdom and current policies that seek to reduce poverty,” The Associated Press reports.

About the author

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    Ma. Rizza Leonzon

    As a former staff writer, Rizza focused mainly on business coverage, including key donors such as the Asian Development Bank and AusAID.