Innovative approaches and more effective action are needed to improve the welfare of the world's poorest and hungry.

October 17, 2007

Taking Action for the World’s Poor
and Hungry People: A Way Forward

International Food Policy Research Institute, October 18, 2007

Concerned that millions of the world’s poorest and hungry people remain in poverty and hunger, we at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) facilitated a consultation process, which includes the conference “Taking Action for the World’s Poor and Hungry People” on October 17–19 in Beijing, to examine what new and different action is required to improve their welfare. This statement is a synthesis of our conclusions to stimulate debate on the way forward and action. It is understood as a “living document” subject to further debate and change in the coming months.

The following are excerpts from the “Way Forward” statement:

We have established the following facts about those who remain poor and hungry today and in 2015:

1. The poorest are becoming increasingly concentrated in Sub-Saharan Africa and in countries where growth has been stagnant and conflict has been present. More than three-quarters of those living on less than half a dollar a day live in Sub-Saharan Africa. And although South Asia still accounts for the highest share of those living on less than a dollar a day, Sub-Saharan Africa’s share is increasing.

2. Poverty and widespread hunger remain even in regions that have experienced rapid economic growth and substantial reductions in poverty.

3. Although the urban poor are increasing in number and the prevalence of hunger is increasing in urban areas, the poor are still predominantly rural and will remain so for the next few decades. Poverty reduction remains strongly connected to agricultural development in many countries.

4. Poverty and hunger reduction has been slower among the poorest and among excluded groups—ethnic minorities, disadvantaged people, and the disabled—causing poverty and hunger to be increasingly concentrated in these groups. In addition, poor women and children are particularly vulnerable to the long-term effects of poverty and hunger on health.

5. Although the total number of people in poverty may change little, this stability masks substantial movements in and out of poverty. Some above the poverty line are vulnerable to become poor, and some below the line may move out of poverty. Others far below the line (usually the very poorest) will be there for longer, perhaps for generations.

We propose the following areas of action to end poverty and hunger:

1. Focusing on inclusive growth—A different pattern of growth, that includes the poorest and hungry in a sustainable way, is needed. In most countries, such growth will generally involve accelerated rural and agricultural growth and require increased investments in infrastructure, technology, education, and health.

2. Improving access to assets and markets—The asset-poor need to be connected to markets. Appropriate property rights are needed to address inequality in assets. Even where redistribution of existing assets (such as through land reforms) is not feasible, a larger share of new assets created could be directed to the poor. In addition, millions of small farmers need improved access to value chains, and many poor households need access to nonfarm rural employment. Infrastructure investments are important in achieving this access, as are investments in knowledge and information for poor people so they can take advantage of opportunities to improve their livelihoods. Enabling the poorest to save and use credit is also central in allowing them to invest in assets and skill acquisition and to mitigate the effect of adverse shocks.

3. Phasing in social protection more quickly and comprehensively—Policies that encourage “pro-poor” growth need to be re-balanced with social protection policies. Social protection needs to be phased in much more comprehensively and earlier in the development process to reach those who will not benefit sufficiently from general economic growth (such as children and the elderly). Social protection helps the poor, and those at risk of becoming poor, to reduce the risk of shocks, to mitigate their impact, and to cope with the aftermath. As a result, effective social protection will also promote growth.

4. Accelerating investments in health and nutrition programs, particularly for children and women—Many of the poorest, including children and women, need special interventions that address the health and nutrition constraints that impede their improved well-being, productivity, and livelihoods over the long term.

5. Including the excluded—The above-mentioned actions all require an effective state that is responsive to the needs of the poorest and the socially excluded. Actions to empower women are also particularly important to ensure their full participation. Reaching these goals requires governance reforms that empower the poor and the excluded to exercise their voice and demand accountability and that increase service providers’ incentives to respond to their needs. And ensuring peace and stability remains a priority for sustaining improvements in welfare.

You can read the full statement at: Taking Action for the World’s Poor and Hungry People: A Way Forward

Related documents:

Statement by UN Secretary-General on the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, October 17, 2007

Ending Hunger Soon and Cutting Poverty Fast, speech by Joachim von Braun, Director General of IFPRI, October 17, 2007