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Global Goal 1: Ending poverty in all its forms

One major takeaway from Global Citizen’s exploration of the Global Goals is this: all 17 Goals are interconnected and they cover a lot a ground.


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I’m talking about gender equality and clean oceans, protected forests and enlightening classrooms, healthy cities and efficient energy systems, global peace and full stomachs and much, much more.

The Global Goals are the definitive roadmap to a better world. If you look at 169 targets underlying the 17 main goals, you might think that they are exhaustive to the point of futility. How can so much be accomplished?

But that’s a pessimistic way to look at it.

The Global Goals don’t want to leave anything out. Those who devised the goals realize that a world that truly works for everyone and the environment can only be achieved if every variable is considered because every variable is related.

These goals touch on basically every major issue affecting the world and they’re driven not just by morality but also economics; they’re not just the right thing to do, they’re also the smart thing to do.

Smart because they aim to elevate every person to their full potential and they work to restore the planet to a healthier, more productive state.

But for the goals to work, they have to be pursued in unison across the globe. If any of them are shirked, then others can't be achieved.

This brings us to the bedrock goal, the goal that allows everyone around the world to get on the same page, the goal that aims to End poverty in all its forms everywhere: Goal 1.

Hold on.

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Is that even possible? Can poverty be eliminated in all its forms everywhere?

Since 2000, more than 1 billion people have been lifted out of extreme poverty, which is defined as living on $1.25 a day or less.

But that’s not a lot of money any way you look at it.

Ideally, the world would be able to point to one definition of poverty and measure how well countries stand up to it.


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That definition would look something like this: poverty is when someone cannot afford a healthy diet, comfortable shelter, electricity, adequate healthcare, clean water and safe sanitation, sound education and access to dignified work.

But poverty obviously differs from country to country. An impoverished person in a wealthy country will no doubt have better access to resources than an impoverished person in a poor country. A lot of the time, this is because of basic infrastructure: roads, hospitals, water systems, etc.

The UN currently has a measurement called the Global Multidimensional Poverty Index or MPI that uses the same formula to measure poverty across nations, but generally measurements are relative to a country’s circumstances, which leads to varied approaches to poverty eradication. 

It’s common to see phrases like: “educating girls is the key to ending poverty.”

While there’s nothing false about this statement--it’s essentially true--it can divert attention away from the full nature of poverty, which is fundamentally about the unfair distribution of resources.

Humanity lives in a world of abundance. Poverty can be alleviated when this abundance is fairly shared.


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To that end, goal 1 encourages investments in poor communities so that all citizens live in areas with stable infrastructure, are protected against environmental disasters, have fair access to markets and financing mechanisms, have social programs that ensure a baseline level of comfortable existence and have equal political representation.

It also entails developing social equality for all women and all racial and ethnic groups.

Who are the leaders?

China has shown that poverty can be aggressively cut through economic growth. From 1981 to 2010, the country reduced its poverty rate from 84% to 10%. In 1978, the economy’s GDP was $147.3 billion USD. In 2009, it grew to $4.9 trillion USD.

But, again, poverty is being measured by the $1.25 a day level, which dims the glamor of this success. After all, how many people are living just above this line? And China’s industrial transformation has come with many costs, including heavy pollution.

Nonetheless, China should still be applauded. The country is also investing heavily in infrastructure projects around the world (even if these projects are also tainted), which can help countries cut their own poverty rates by unlocking access to new industries, global markets, better education, better telecommunications and energy systems and more.

Uganda is another role model. The country slashed its poverty rate from 56% in 1992 to 24.5% in 2009.

The country has helped small farmers grow, improved public and private sector interactions, built infrastructure, improved revenue collection and committed to other poverty reduction efforts.

Brazil devised a conditional cash transfer program called Bolsa Familia, which gives poor families cash if they send their kids to school. In a decade beginning in 2003, the country’s poverty rate fell from 9.7% to 4.3% since 2003.

This list wouldn’t be complete if Scandinavia wasn’t invoked, the land of the strongest social safety nets in the world. In Norway, Sweden and Denmark for example, economic growth and social welfare benefits rise together, creating societies that have remarkable quality of life in material terms.

What can you do?

Support companies that treat their employees fairly, engage in fair international trade and do not corrode the environment.

Support small businesses so that economies grow evenly.

And, most importantly, stay aware of conditions around the world. Many countries are plagued by poverty because of corruption. And governments and industries are able to stay corrupt for so long because of a lack of scrutiny.

Also--go to TAKE ACTION NOW to make sure all 17 goals are championed by world leaders.