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How the World Bank defines success in fighting global poverty

world bankTwo weeks ago, the U.N. children's agency UNICEF and the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced that the Millennium Development Goals target of halving the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water (part of MD Goal 7 on environmental sustainability) had been reached in advance of the 2015 deadline. Furthermore, according to preliminary estimates by the World Bank, endorsed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the number of people living in extreme poverty has declined in all regions of the world and thus the global target of halving it proportionally was already achieved in 2010.

While welcoming these achievements it is being pointed out that the applied measurement threshold of people living on less than $1.25 a day does not mean that people don’t still face painful trade-offs when spending their resources on food or shelter. As a comparison, the U.S. poverty line is around $13 a day. Almost half the world — three billion people — still live under $2.50 a day. In this context the UN Secretary-General had to stress that there is still massive disparity in social development between regions and countries and world hunger still remains a global challenge.

Despite progress made with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and proven successes in raising living standards in a number of regions around the world, there are still good reasons why UN climate convention (UNFCCC) chief, Christiana Figueres at the Barbara Ward Lecture in London, calls the situation “morally unacceptable”. One billion people are still without access to clean water, 2.4 billion without decent energy sources and 1.2 billion people are still suffering from chronic hunger.

“We must reach those left behind or at risk of being left behind, [those] who are not well represented in the aggregate figures because of deep inequalities”, said Rebeca Grynspan, the Associate Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP).


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