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Why All Countries Should Contribute to Ending Global Poverty

In 1969, richer countries agreed to commit 0.7% of their gross national income to international development aid. The world has changed since then, and a new era calls for a fresh approach to poverty eradication, involving a scaled financial commitment from all countries.

LONDON – Trillions of dollars have already been spent on the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and no one knows what the final bill will be. Is it possible to respond to a much longer crisis – global poverty – with even a fraction of these resources?

Richer countries are currently committed to spending 0.7% of their gross national income (GNI) on international development aid. This target was established by the Pearson Commission in 1969, and approved in a United Nations General Assembly resolution the following year. Countries reached this agreement a half-century ago in a world in which global poverty was at very high levels. At the time, the world was justifiably perceived in binary terms: The North was wealthy, and the South was poor.

Much has changed in the intervening 50 years. Some countries have met the 0.7% target, but many others have yet to do so. Many developing countries experienced rapid economic growth in the 2000s – not only China and India, but also a number of African countries. Although all gains are currently in jeopardy, prior to the pandemic, at least, the world had entered a new era, with fewer low-income countries. At the same time, the higher global ambitions set out in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), committed countries to end poverty in all its forms by 2030.