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Poor no more

  • Published at 06:02 pm November 1st, 2016
Poor no more

We are the first generation in human history that can end extreme poverty

- Jim Yong Kim, President, World Bank Group

According to World Bank’s estimation, the number of people living in extreme poverty fell to under 10% of the global population in 2015. The percentage may look small but, unfortunately, extreme poverty players around the globe are still struggling to pull out the remaining extreme poor population into secure, sustainable, and resilient livelihoods due to the multi-dimensional and complex characteristics of extreme poverty.

In such circumstances, is it possible to achieve the ambitious Sustainable Development Goal 1 “No Poverty” within 2030?

The answer may lie in the last and final target of the SGDs that seeks to “strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development.”

To recognise the importance of partnership, we have to understand that pulling people out of extreme poverty, which is sometimes referred to as “graduation,” does not only mean financial inclusion or increase of income.

According to Aude de Montesquiou and Syed M Hashemi: “Graduating is also about creating the enabling conditions -- confidence, knowledge, skills, and linkages to public and other services -- that allow for continued, sustained upward mobility. Relevant issues include malnutrition, health, children’s education, wider occupational choices and women’s agency. For this, of course, extreme poor households need to link up with other social protection elements, such as health care, schooling, or insurance.”

It is high time to combine the efforts of governments, NGOs, donors, and all extreme poverty players around the world, and start working together for a world free from poverty. Collaboration centring the graduation approach could be an excellent jumping-off point

Hence, it is not possible for the NGOs or donors alone to ensure all the above-mentioned services for the extreme poor households living in hard-to-reach areas and in socially-excluded communities like refugees, ethnic minorities, slum dwellers, etc.

Now, if we look at the government’s side, we see large numbers of social safety net programs being conducted. Unfortunately, in most cases, the ultra poor, located at the bottom of the poverty line, do not have access to these services. Social safety net programs are generally designed for short-term recovery without any exit mechanism. Hence, effective exit strategies are needed for cost minimisation and for giving opportunity to other vulnerable households to join such programs.

In this context, effective partnerships between governments and extreme poverty players could play an important role in mobilising and sharing knowledge, expertise, technology, and financial resources to fight poverty.

Implementing the “graduation approach,” a well-researched model for poverty elimination, could be an excellent example in this regards.

Governments around the world are gaining interest on the graduation approach, many graduation programs based on this approach have already been implemented successfully through GO-NGO partnership (in Pakistan, Burundi, Yemen, Tanzania, etc).

The graduation approach utilises a comprehensive package of interventions to “graduate” extremely disadvantaged households into sustainable livelihoods, and include them into mainstream development within a fixed time period.

Pioneered by BRAC in 2002, the graduation approach has been able to reach 1.9 million extreme poor households through BRAC’s Targeting the Ultra Poor program in Bangladesh. The graduation approach has been adapted internationally by BRAC in South Sudan, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. It has also been adapted by governments, NGOs, development partners, etc.

International study conducted on the graduation program in Ethiopia, Ghana, Honduras, India, Pakistan, Peru, and Yemen shows that 75% to 98% of the total participants of these countries meet the country specific graduation criteria.

Step by step

In Rwanda, from the designing process to the end, the government was actively involved with the graduation program of Concern Worldwide. In Tanzania, BRAC is working with the government’s flagship social protection agency, the Tanzania Social Action Fund, to unpack cost drivers and introduce variable permutation of graduation that best suit the needs, capacity, and resources of the government.

Currently, the governments of 22 countries, including Chile, Mexico, Ethiopia, have included graduation components on their social protection systems. Recognising the importance of GO-NGO partnership for poverty elimination, the Bangladesh government, in its newly-adopted National Social Protection Strategy, states that “there is significant scope for collaboration between government and NGOs in supporting the working age population.”

Therefore, adaptation and replication of the graduation approach could play an important role in establishing a strong and effective GO-NGO partnership to fight poverty.

The final SDG, “partnership for the goals,” has created the opportunity to establish partnership for poverty elimination. It is high time to combine the efforts of governments, NGOs, donors, and all extreme poverty players around the world, and start working together for a world free from poverty. Collaboration centring the graduation approach could be an excellent jumping-off point.

Upoma Mahbub is working as a Manager, Global Advocacy for BRAC’s Ultra Poor Program.

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