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1.3 billion people are multidimensionally poor
by Achim Steiner, Sabina Alkire
UNDP, Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative
July 2019
New UN poverty report reveals ‘vast inequalities’ between countries. (UN News)
There are vast inequalities across countries, and among the poorer segments of societies, says a new UN report published this week.
The 2019 global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) from the UN Development Programme (UNDP), shows that, in the 101 countries studied – 31 low income, 68 middle income and 2 high income – 1.3 billion people are “multidimensionally poor”(which means that poverty is defined not simply by income, but by a number of indicators, including poor health, poor quality of work and the threat of violence).
Poverty is everywhere, inequality within countries is ‘massive’
“Action against poverty is needed in all developing regions”, the report states, noting that Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia are home to the largest proportion of poor people, some 84.5 per cent.
Within these regions, the level of inequality is described as “massive”: in Sub-Saharan Africa it ranges from 6.3 per cent in South Africa to 91.9 per cent in South Sudan. The disparity in South Asia is from 0.8 per cent in the Maldives, to 55.9 per cent in Afghanistan.
Many of the countries studied in the report show “extensive” internal levels of inequality: in Uganda, for example, the incidence of multidimensional poverty in the different provinces, ranges from six per cent in Kampala, to 96.3 per cent in Karamoja.
Children bear the greatest burden
Over half of the 1.3 billion people identified as poor, some 663 million, are children under the age of 18, and around a third (some 428 million) are under the age of 10.
The vast majority of these children, around 85 per cent, live in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, split roughly equally between the two regions. The picture is particularly dire in Burkina Faso, Chad, Ethiopia, Niger and South Sudan, where 90 per cent or more of children under the age of 10, are considered to be multidimensionally poor.
One section of the report evaluates the progress that is being made in reaching Goal 1 of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, namely ending poverty “in all its forms, everywhere”.
The report identifies 10 countries, with a combined population of around 2 billion people, to illustrate the level of poverty reduction, and all of them have shown statistically significant progress towards achieving Goal 1. The fastest reductions were seen in India, Cambodia and Bangladesh.
Pedro Conceicao, Director of the Human Development Report Office at UNDP, told UN News that the report “gives a more comprehensive picture of poverty, and gives an indication of where to target policies that may address the dimensions in which people are deprived, whether it’s education, health, or other aspects that could enable people to be lifted out of poverty if these investments are made.”
However, the report notes that no single measure is a sufficient guide to both inequality and multidimensional poverty, and that studies such as the MPI, Human Development Index, Gini coefficient (which measures countries’ wealth income distribution) and the Palma Ratio, can each contribute important and distinctive information for policy action to effectively reduce poverty.
This year’s MPI results show that more than two-thirds of the multidimensionally poor some 886 million people live in middle-income countries. A further 440 million live in low-income countries. In both groups, data shows, simple national averages can hide enormous inequality in patterns of poverty within countries.
For instance, in Uganda 55 percent of the population experience multidimensional poverty; similar to the average in Sub-Saharan Africa. But Kampala, the capital city, has an MPI rate of six percent, while in the Karamoja region, the MPI soars to 96 percent; meaning that parts of Uganda span the extremes of Sub-Saharan Africa.
There is even inequality under the same roof. In South Asia, for example, almost a quarter of children under five live in households where at least one child in the household is malnourished and at least one child is not.
“We need to understand people’s different experiences of deprivation. Are they malnourished? Can they go to school? Only then will poverty reduction policies be more effective,“ said Pedro Conceicao.
Deprivations among the poor vary significantly: in general, higher MPI values go hand in hand with greater variation in the intensity of poverty.
Results also show that children suffer poverty more intensely than adults and are more likely to be deprived in all 10 of the MPI indicators, lacking essentials such as clean water, sanitation, adequate nutrition or primary education.
Even more staggering, worldwide, one in three children is multidimensionally poor, compared to one in six adults. That means that nearly half of the people living in multidimensional poverty; 663 million are children, with the youngest children bearing the greatest burden.
But the new data also reveals an encouraging trend in some countries with those furthest behind moving up faster.
“We looked at data for a group of ten middle- and low-income countries and we found encouraging news that the bottom 40 percent were moving faster than the rest,” says Sabina Alkire, OPHI Director. “A pro-poor pattern that reduces inequalities in several Sustainable Development Goals.”
Within these ten countries, data show that 270 million people moved out of multidimensional poverty from one survey to the next. This progress was largely driven by South Asia: in India there were 271 million fewer people in poverty in 2016 than in 2006, while in Bangladesh the number dropped by 19 million between 2004 and 2014.
In other countries there was less or no absolute reduction, with numbers of multidimensionally poor rising by 28 million across the three African countries considered.
The 2019 global MPI paints a detailed picture of poverty for 101 countries and 1,119 subnational regions covering 76 percent of the global population, going beyond simple income-based measures to look at how people experience poverty every day.

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The weakening of the laws and norms that bind and safeguard humanity
by Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
The Responsibility to Protect and the Prevention of Genocide, War Crimes, Ethnic Cleansing and Crimes Against Humanity.
Today, 27 June, the United Nations General Assembly held a meeting on “The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) and the prevention of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity” as part of the formal agenda of its 73rd session.
This was the second consecutive formal debate on R2P and it presented an important opportunity for the UN membership to take stock of efforts to prevent or halt mass atrocity crimes since 2005.
During today’s meeting, 54 UN member states and the European Union spoke on behalf of 94 countries.
Today''s debate takes place amidst a historic weakening of the laws and norms that bind and safeguard humanity and at a time when a record 70.8 million people around the world have been displaced by persecution, conflict and mass atrocities.
As noted in this year''s annual report of the UN Secretary-General on R2P, Lessons Learned for Prevention, “there is a widening gap between the 2005 World Summit commitment to the responsibility to protect and the daily experience of vulnerable populations.”
In far too many situations in the world today, populations are experiencing indiscriminate attacks on schools and medical facilities, widespread rape and sexual violence perpetrated as a weapon of war, disproportionate and deadly force being used against peaceful protesters, and institutionalized persecution of minority groups.
Nevertheless, R2P remains the most effective principle around which the international community can coalesce when vulnerable populations face the threat of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.
Utilizing R2P as a mobilizing principle, the international community has helped save lives in Côte d''Ivoire, Central African Republic and elsewhere. R2P has also helped mobilize support for international accountability, as witnessed by last month’s announcement by The Gambia of their intention to take the case of the Rohingya to the International Court of Justice, citing the government of Myanmar’s breach of the Genocide Convention.
R2P is a promise to those people for whom these crimes are not abstract words, but real acts that pose anexistential threat to them, their loved ones and their communities.
We hope that member states who recommitted to R2P during today’s debate uphold their promise to vulnerable populations and help enable the international community to take effective preventive action wherever and whenever mass atrocity crimes are threatened.
* UN Web TV: UN General Assembly meeting - The responsibility to protect and the prevention of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity:
* UN WebTV: United Nations Economic and Social Council; June 2019: 70th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions: Achieving collective commitment to international humanitarian law and putting fundamental protections into practice:
# UN Web TV: Protection of civilians in armed conflict - UN Security Council Open debate:
* UN Secretary-General’s report - Responsibility to protect: lessons learned for prevention:
* UN Secretary-General’s report on the protection of civilians in armed conflict:

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