UNITED NATIONS: The total number of people living in extreme poverty is over 1.2 billion out of a total world population of more than 7.2 billion people. India, with a rising population of over 1.3 billion people, and an annual population growth rate of 1.3 per cent, is projected to become the world’s most populous country by 2035. Currently, more than 400 million people in India live in poverty, mostly in rural communities.
Mayank Joshi of India says that development was only sustainable when all sections of society realized their full potential and contributed their fullest. India, which has a high percentage of rural poverty, has adopted a governance model that was focused on a faster, sustainable and more inclusive growth approach that focused on the welfare and well-being of its people. At the moment, he said, India was implementing the world’s largest cash transfer programme, allocating $5 billion in funds, to bolster national efforts towards inclusive economic growth.
The success of the UN’s post-2015 development agenda is predicated on one underlying theme: no one should be left behind – and certainly not the world’s rural poor –in the fight to eradicate hunger and poverty by 2030. Over 70 percent of the world’s poor live in rural areas and amongst indigenous communities which are deeply entrenched in rural environments.
The United Nations says these include subsistence farmers and herders, fishing communities and migrant workers, artisans and indigenous peoples – all of them struggling for economic survival.
But the world body points out that empowering rural people– largely in Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean– “is an essential first step to eradicating poverty”. In today’s world, says UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, too many people continue to face exclusion, too few economies have attained inclusive and sustainable growth, and people were frustrated at “working harder” while “falling behind”.
He said economies must be put at the service of people, through effective integrated social policies, particularly in a world where inequality was still too high and where too few economies had attained sustainable growth.
Perhaps one of the most successful weapons in the fight against rural poverty and economic inequality is social protection—as evidenced in several developing countries, including India, Kenya, Namibia, Cuba, Rwanda and Botswana.
These include state-funded health care, free primary and secondary education, cash transfers, economic subsidies, social security, old age pensions and affirmative action towards eliminating discrimination against women, indigenous peoples and the disabled.
The UN’s post-2015 development agenda provided an unparalleled opportunity for the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the World Bank to join forces to make social protection a reality for everyone and everywhere, he told a meeting of the UN Commission for Social Development (CSD) in early February.
He said States could consider elaborating on a draft Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) resolution on national social protection floors as a step towards universal protection. Kunal Sen, Professor of Development Economics and Policy at the University of Manchester, told a recent UN panel discussion that weak administrative capabilities and lack of political commitment are some of the reasons for the poor implementation of social and economic policies.
On social protection, he said, current policies were an integral part of anti-poverty programmes in Latin America, Africa and Asia. Singling out his research in Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia, he argued that political commitment and sharing best practices, as well as funding, were keys to success.
Takyiwaa Manuh, Director of the Social Policy Division of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), said Africa was close to achieving universal enrolment in primary education and it had posted the highest increase globally in women’s representation in parliament between 2000 and 2014 while reducing the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.
Still, progress had been slow and uneven in many social areas. Nearly half the population remained poor, hunger and malnutrition had fallen by only 8 per cent between 1990 and 2013 and youth unemployment remained a serious development challenge. Overall, few jobs offered secure employment and social protection. Highly educated workers tended to migrate, creating a dearth of skilled professionals.
The rapid growth of urban poverty coupled with climate change had had serious adverse consequences for the region. The African Agenda 2030 complemented the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The main challenge, he said, was to unlock the continent’s resource potential through suitable macroeconomic and social policies that would lead to sustained high economic growth.