This year the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty stands out from previous years. It falls at the dawn of a new era in the efforts to end poverty, and more specifically to ensure a clear new focus on poverty among children.
The global community have placed eradicating extreme poverty as Goal 1 and the heart of the new Sustainable Development Goals. Crucially – and for the first time in global goals – child poverty is being specifically recognized and targeted. Further, the goals underline the universal nature of the challenge: child poverty isn’t just a problem in poor countries – but an issue that faces all societies, and must bind us, globally.
Beyond these important commitments, we are seeing indications of encouraging progress around the world. The revisions of those living under “$1 a day” (now $1.90) show that extreme poverty is on the decline and if we follow this trend we could eradicate extreme poverty by 2030.
This progress should be celebrated, but must not obscure the challenges that remain: hundreds of millions of children still struggling to survive on less than $1.90 a day; those living above this extreme poverty line but far from able to fulfil their potential; those living in multidimensional poverty and suffering major deprivations such as stunting; and the children living in relative poverty in richer countries. See some key facts that show the urgency of taking actions to end child poverty now.
These are universal challenges that should guide us in the coming years, and today a coalition of partners are releasing a Joint Statement on Child Poverty, to stress both the urgency of the situation affecting our children, and some of the steps that can be taken to address child poverty.
The statement underlines that children are much more likely to be poor than adults. While they make up about a third of the population, almost one half of those living in the most extreme forms of poverty are under 18. Children are also more likely to experience multidimensional poverty than adults.
Because of their vulnerabilities, the effects of poverty on children are particularly pernicious. Where a girl or boy lacks nutrition early in life, misses out on health care or education, or experiences violence and neglect, this results in diminished capabilities and opportunities that can last a lifetime. Further, child poverty drives the intergenerational cycle of poverty and disadvantage with broader and often profoundly negative impacts on societies and economies.
The statement points to some ways forward on the path to ending child poverty:
- Ensuring universal measurement and focus. What is needed to address child poverty will vary hugely in different contexts, but some things are universal. If the problem is not known and there are no plan to address it, progress is likely to be limited. There are many places where child poverty is not being measured, and where it is it may be just one among many, rather than in the hands and minds of policy makers. Guided by the SDGs, the measurement and focus on child poverty should become universal.
- Concerted effort is need to improve access to services for the poorest children. Challenges may include the availability and quality of services, but also reducing barriers that may be rooted in both monetary poverty and deeper discriminations and exclusion.
- Child sensitive social protection systems and programmes have now been widely proven to have significant and positive impacts in many dimensions of child poverty. Expanding these programmes and ensuring the inclusion of the worst-off children and families can make a significant and lasting difference to children’s lives.
These and other measures are critical for the sustainable, equitable and prosperous futures to which world leaders aspire, as exemplified in the SDGs. They can help ensure that no person will be left behind as we move towards these goals – and that children, above all, will no longer suffer the deprivations and exclusion that come with poverty. And children in conflict, on the move and affected by humanitarian crises need our attention and support most urgently of all. This is both a matter of children’s rights, and what is right for the world we share.
On Monday October 19th the Governments of Luxembourg, Mexico and Tanzania together with the coalition to end child poverty will be hosting an event at the UN to discuss the SDGs and the ways forward. Please join us live at the event at 13.15 New York (EST).
This joint statement on child poverty brings together a wide range of institutions working to address child poverty, but this is an issue that concerns everyone. Please share your thoughts and experience on the situation and what can be done to #ENDchildpoverty in all countries in the comments section below.
Richard Morgan and David Stewart
Co-Chairs, Global Coalition to End Child Poverty
Richard Morgan is Director of the Child Poverty Global Initiative at Save the Children
David Stewart is Chief of the Child Poverty and Social Protection Unit, at UNICEF HQ