The COVID-19 pandemic dealt the biggest setback to global poverty in decades. The economic recovery has been uneven, affected by rising food and energy prices—due to the war in Ukraine and climate change, among other factors—and high indebtedness in many countries. In addition, extreme poverty is now more concentrated in places where it will be hardest to eradicate, including in conflict-affected and rural areas.
Strategies to reach the least well-off must be tailored to each country’s context, considering the latest data and analysis, and the needs of the population. How the world responds to these major challenges today will have a direct bearing on whether the current reversals in global poverty reduction can be turned around.
The World Bank provides recommendations for a complementary two-track approach: responding effectively to the urgent crisis in the short run, while continuing to focus on foundational development problems, including conflict and climate change.
Closing the gaps between policy aspiration and attainment
Too often, there is a wide gap between policies as articulated and their attainment in practice—between what citizens rightfully expect, and what they experience daily. Policy aspirations can be laudable, but there is likely to be considerable variation in the extent to which they can be realized, and in which groups benefit from them. For example, at the local level, those who have the least influence in a community might not be able to access basic services. It is critical to forge implementation strategies that can rapidly and flexibly respond to close the gaps.
Enhancing learning, improving data
From information gathered in household surveys to pixels captured by satellite images, data can inform policies and spur economic activity, serving as a powerful weapon in the fight against poverty. More data is available today than ever before, yet its value is largely untapped. Data is also a double-edged sword, requiring a social contract that builds trust by protecting people against misuse and harm, and works toward equal access and representation.
Investing in preparedness and prevention
The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated that years of progress in reducing poverty can quickly disappear when a crisis strikes. Prevention measures often have low political payoff, with little credit given for disasters averted. Over time, populations with no lived experience of calamity can become complacent, presuming that such risks have been eliminated or can readily be addressed if they happen. COVID-19, together with climate change and enduring conflicts, is reminding us of the importance of investing in preparedness and prevention measures comprehensively and proactively.
Expanding cooperation and coordination
Contributing to and maintaining public goods require extensive cooperation and coordination. This is crucial for promoting widespread learning and improving the data-driven foundations of policymaking. It is also important for forming a sense of shared solidarity during crises and ensuring that the difficult policy choices by officials are both trusted and trustworthy.
Overall, with more than 60 percent of the world’s extreme poor living in middle-income countries, we cannot focus solely on low-income countries if we want to end extreme poverty. We need to focus on the poorest people, regardless of where they live, and work with countries at all income levels to invest in their well-being and their future.
The goal to end extreme poverty works hand in hand with the World Bank Group’s goal to promote shared prosperity, focused on increasing income growth among the bottom 40 percent in every country. Boosting shared prosperity broadly translates into improving the welfare of the least well-off in each country and includes a strong emphasis on tackling persistent inequalities that keep people in poverty from generation to generation.
Our work at the World Bank Group is based on strong country-led programs to improve living conditions—to drive growth, raise median incomes, create jobs, fully incorporate women and young people into economies, address environmental and climate challenges, and support stronger, more stable economies for everyone.
We continue to work closely with countries to help them find the best ways to improve the lives of their least advantaged citizens.
Last Updated: Nov 30, 2022