The first of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is ‘No Poverty’. It’s a goal the UN have to bring people all around the world out of poverty and give everyone an opportunity to earn a wage that, at the very minimum, allows people and countries to develop.

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Goal 1: No Poverty

The United Nations defines poverty as those living below the international poverty line which is US$1.90 (just over £1) per person per day. There are an estimated 767 million people around the world that are living in poverty, with many of those located in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia.

Poverty is more than just what people earn. Whilst what people earn is a good measure to measure poverty, given that a lot of other measures are dependent on what people earn, malnutrition and hunger, access to education and basic services, and social discrimination are all important when considering who is living in poverty.

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Data from the World Bank on Poverty rates in countries around the world.

UN Targets

The UN Sustainable Development Goals run until 2030 and its goals to end poverty run until then. If they’re unsuccessful in eliminating poverty before 2030 then the goals that replace the SDGs will continue on with the work the UN has done between 2015 and 2030.

The goals to eliminate poverty are:

  • Eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere, currently measured as people living on less than US$1.25 (75p) a day
  • Reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women, and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions
  • Implement nationally appropriate social protection systems and measures for all, including floors, and by 2030 achieve substantial coverage of the poor and vulnerable
  • Ensure that all men and women, in particular the poor and vulnerable, have equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to basic services, ownership and control over land and other forms of property, inheritance natural resources, appropriate new technology and financial services, including microfinance
  • Build the resilience of the poor and those in vulnerable situations and reduce their exposure and vulnerability to climate-related extreme events and other economic, social and environmental shocks and disasters
  • Ensure significant mobilisation of resources from a variety of sources, including through enhanced development cooperation, in order to provide adequate and predictable means for developing countries, in particular least developed countries, to implement programmes and poverty to end poverty in all its dimensions
  • Create sound policy frameworks at the national, regional and international levels, based on pro-poor and gender-sensitive development strategies, to support accelerated investment in poverty eradication actions

Declining Poverty

Global poverty, based on the US$1.90 international poverty line, has fallen dramatically since the inception of the Millenium Development Goals and subsequent SDGs. In 2000, 25.8% of the global population was thought to be living below the poverty line. However, in 2014 that figure was just above 10% of the global population and is thought to have dropped even further in the following years.


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Poverty rates have reduced from around 26% to less than 11% in 13-14 years (Data: WorldBank)


Alongside the falling global poverty, other related factors like malnutrition and those without access to education have also fallen, but they will be looked at more closely in other goals in weeks to follow!

Falling Back to Poverty

Whilst the UN has been successful in helping people out of poverty, a number of conflicts in recent years have caused hundreds of thousands of people to return to poverty, often relying solely on aid for basic survival.

The Syrian civil war, as well as the fight against ISIS that crossed into Iraq, is thought to have displaced two and a half million people, with 600,000 refugees that have fled to countries around the world to escape the violence.


Those displaced by the Syrian Civil War often live in makeshift camps


Even more recently, the Rohingya Muslim crisis in Myanmar (Burma) has led to the displacement of millions of people as they attempt to cross the border into Bangladesh to escape persecution by government security forces in the country. Human Rights Watch estimate that more than a third of the 1.2 million Rohingya Muslim population have crossed into Bangladesh with tens of thousands more displaced within Myanmar.


Rohingya Muslims escape atrocities carried out by the Myanmar Government security forces


Eliminating poverty has been a goal of the UN for a number of years. Going back to the Millenium Development Goals and now the Sustainable Development Goals, poverty has long been a problem but the data since the turn of the century has shown that the % of the population living in poverty is reducing quickly, even as the global population rises.

Poverty won’t disappear quickly. It has reduced at a fast rate over the past few years, but that will tail off and with as the share reduces. Conflict and violence that is being seen in Syria and the Middle East, and in Myanmar will always add to the number living in poverty as people are displaced and end up as refugees.

The UN’s goal of ‘No Poverty’ may not be entirely possible in that they can only go so far. The role of war and conflict, natural hazards and environmental disasters will displace people and create refugees that may slip below the international poverty line. As poverty reduces further and further it will increasingly come down to individual countries eliminating poverty themselves.

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