July 19, 2013

Let's be the generation that ends extreme poverty

In support of The World Bank Group|

By Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group

The world is at an auspicious moment. For the first time ever, we have a real opportunity to end extreme poverty within a generation. But achieving this goal won’t be easy. Not only do developing countries need to maintain strong economic growth, there’s also a need to accelerate efforts to reach the poorest and most vulnerable people.

We at the World Bank Group are ready to step up to the challenge. Last spring, I announced an ambitious agenda for the global community to end extreme poverty by 2030, and to promote shared prosperity by fostering income growth of the bottom 40 percent of the population in every developing country.

People have talked for years about ending poverty. But this time is different.

Poverty reduction efforts have yielded tremendous gains in recent decades. The share of people living in extreme poverty in the developing world fell from 43 percent in 1990 to 21 percent in 2010, according to World Bank estimates. But really ending extreme poverty will require governments to stay focused. Developing countries must maintain the prudent policies that supported growth and stability in the years leading up to the global economic crisis, and that boosted their resilience once crisis struck. They must also improve their business climate to strengthen competitiveness and spur private sector job creation. And officials will need to increase investment in human and physical capital to boost productivity.

All these steps represent the essential ingredients to maintain the strong pace of poverty reduction seen in recent years. But we will also require new efforts.

Setting targets injects a sense of urgency that helps teams meet their goals.

I experienced this when I headed the World Health Organization’s HIV/AIDS efforts. We set a global target called the 3 by 5 Initiative, which aimed to put 3 million people living with HIV/AIDS on antiretroviral treatment by 2005. We did not meet the target until 2007, but because we released data every six months on progress toward the goal, leaders in countries became more accountable and helped speed up the response. Likewise, the targets set by the Millennium Development Goals injected urgency into government efforts to meet crucial development objectives by the deadline of 2015.

At the World Bank, we believe setting a target to end extreme poverty by 2030 will accelerate results. We will measure progress against this target every year, and publish our findings. We will also encourage partner governments to incorporate this poverty goal into their Country Partnership Strategies with the Bank, so that the target of ending extreme poverty by 2030 helps focus and drive government policy.

The World Bank and its partners have long talked about the need to provide hope and opportunity to the world’s poorest. In recent decades, we’ve made considerable progress toward this objective. Today, with the goal of ending extreme poverty more achievable than ever before, we have a moral imperative to go the last mile and deliver opportunity to all of the world’s people.

Prudent policy, enhanced delivery, and a relentless focus on meeting targets will help us achieve the world we all want: One free of poverty.

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