Monday, 25 November 2013

Ending chronic poverty: Breaking down a policy no-man’s land

This post by Marie-Claire Tuzeneu, Production Manager of the Development Co-operation Report at the OECD, provides a first look at Andrew Shepherd’s piece for the OECD Development Co-operation Report 2013.

The previous two blog posts on the Development Co-operation Report (DCR) 2013 – which discussed key points from Andy Sumner and Li Xiaoyun’s chapters – focused on what is needed to help people get out of extreme poverty (defined as an income of USD 1.25 per day). In his chapter “How do we get to zero on poverty – and stay there?”, Andrew Shepherd (Chronic Poverty Advisory Network, Overseas Development Institute) emphasises the importance of also developing policies to support those that have escaped extreme poverty and are just above the poverty line, thereby ensuring that that they don’t fall back into extreme poverty. To achieve this, he calls for a post-2015 framework that directly addresses and includes targets for ending chronic poverty.

Who are the chronically poor? Within his chapter, Shepherd defines chronic poverty as “extreme poverty experienced over many years, a lifetime, or perpetuated from generation to generation”. Chronic poverty is often multidimensional in nature and, therefore, cannot be fully captured by measures of income poverty alone. Using a measure combining income and consumption, the 2008-09 Chronic Poverty Report estimated that there are currently between 320 and 443 million chronically poor people.

What policies could help end chronic poverty? The local context – as well as related economic, societal, political or institutional factors - plays an important role in whether or not a household is able to escape extreme poverty over the long term. These factors may create barriers that make it more difficult to end chronic poverty. These barriers cannot be removed through “Business as usual” policies and programmes. Shepherd calls for a root-and-branch re-orientation and reprioritisation of policies and programmes under the following four categories:

  1.   Social protection: Solid systems of social protection must be backed by national political commitment. For example, employment guarantees must be extended to jobs within the informal economy so that all employment is an avenue out of poverty, not just a survival option.
  2.  Growth that reaches the poorest: Within the agricultural sector, policies should focus not only on crop productivity, but also on building the asset bases of poor farmer households. Policies and programmes must be put in place that help increase access to electricity by reducing the upfront costs for families to connect to electrical grids.
  3.    Human development for the hard to reach: For this category, policies in a wide variety of areas – ranging from health to gender equality – must be revisited. Taking the example of education, current development programmes, which focus on increasing attendance rates for primary education, should be expanded to also include pre-school and post-primary education.
  4.   Transformative social change: Regardless of the specific model chosen to support the chronically poor, a country must have “far-sighted political leadership with a strong nation-building plan” in order for its programmes and policies to be effective.

What targets and goals should be included in the post-2015 framework? Shepherd calls for a post-2015 framework that focuses on eradicating extreme poverty, arguing that “If the factors keeping people poor over long periods of time (or in chronic poverty) are not explicitly addressed, there is no chance of getting to or near zero.” To that end, the post-2015 goals and targets should not just focus on USD 1.25 per day income poverty, but should also look at the poverty lines just above that threshold. Under the current system, those households that have escaped USD 1.25 per day income poverty and are living on USD 2 or USD 4 per day fall within a “policy no-man’s land”. If programmes and policies are not also developed to support those just above the extreme poverty line, they risk falling back into extreme poverty. To address these concerns, Shepherd would propose a series of three targets that are illustrated in the figure below. While this specific set of targets only addresses income poverty, it could also be adapted and applied to the other dimensions of poverty.

Ending chronic poverty and other topics explored in the Development Co-operation Report 2013: Ending Poverty will be discussed in a live panel debate, which will be held in London on 5 December and will be viewable via live-streaming. For more information, visit the Intelligence Squared event page or follow the discussion on Twitter using #povertydebate.

A dynamic post-2015 goal: Eradicate extreme poverty

Note: Target 1 should be combined with Target 2 for each country, since some countries need to do more of 1 and less of 2, and vice versa.
Source: This figure is taken from Chapter 4 of the DCR, “How do we get to zero on poverty – and stay there?”, by Andrew Shepherd.

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