santos7_ERNESTO BENAVIDESAFP via Getty Images_poverty Ernesto Benavides/AFP via Getty Images

Keeping Poverty Reduction Front and Center

The latest update to the global Multidimensional Poverty Index shows that many countries have made significant progress in improving the lives of the poor over the past decade. Rather than allow these gains to be reversed by the COVID-19 pandemic, governments must seize this moment to redouble their efforts.

OXFORD – Today’s pandemic-induced humanitarian and economic crisis represents an unprecedented opportunity to go beyond emergency responses and address our economies’ structural flaws. Many governments’ stimulus and recovery packages are already shaping the future. But leaders across all sectors of society should recognize this moment as a rare chance to build a more inclusive and sustainable world, which will be possible only if we end poverty in all its forms.

Ending poverty might seem like an impossible dream, but so did abolishing slavery and ending apartheid. The launch of the global Multidimensional Poverty Index 2020 can serve as a catalyst. Recently released by the United Nations Development Programme and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, the MPI shows that 65 of the 75 countries studied reduced their poverty levels significantly within the last decade. Moreover, the country that reduced poverty the fastest, Sierra Leone, did so despite the Ebola epidemic that began in 2014.

The risk now is that these gains could be reversed. The COVID-19 crisis requires the commitment of global and national leaders not only to preserve hard-won progress, but also to turn a corner in the global effort to end poverty. This will not be easy, given that the pandemic is exacerbating pre-existing inequalities.

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