The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are global goals adopted by the United Nations (UN) in 2015 that hope to initiate actions in order to reach major milestones such as ending poverty, protecting the planet, and guaranteeing peace and prosperity among other things by 2030. The first Sustainable Development Goal is that of “No poverty”. It is an ambitious goal that sees governments around the world attempting to combat the existence of poverty, an issue that is present in most parts of the world.
People who live in extreme poverty are considered to be those who live on less than $1.90 a day. According to this, recent studies estimate 10 percent of the world’s population, or 734 million people more specifically, live in extreme poverty. These people struggle to fulfill even their basic human needs such as access to health, education, water, and sanitation. Women have gained global attention as studies convey they are more likely to fall into this demographic when compared to men due to less paid work, education, and property ownership. In order to approach the many aspects of this issue, “No poverty” as a SDG, targets to eradicate poverty by 2030 regardless of gender or age according to national definitions. Ensuring equal rights to economic resources, ownership and control of land, building the resilience of the poor, reducing exposure and vulnerability to climate-related extreme events, and increasing international cooperation to promote investments in poverty eradication actions are some aims that fall under this SDG. Thus, it is crucial to identify that the SDG “No poverty” is not limited to a narrow scale but it is a bold commitment to eradicate poverty in all forms and dimensions around the world.
The COVID-19 pandemic is revising decades of progress relating to poverty eradication efforts. The current trend of “No poverty” aims to continue the targets of the goal as well as to prevent the global increase of the poverty rate due to the ongoing pandemic. Thus, the UN has initiated a framework for immediate socio-economic response to provide social protection to the subjects of extreme poverty to curb the adverse effects of the pandemic. The ‘United Nations COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund’ was established to support vulnerable groups in order to alleviate the economic impacts of the pandemic. These measures are taken as precautionary steps to prevent the potential increase of the poverty rate due to the unfavourable effects that stem due to the pandemic. Apart from these, there are other recent projects that are carried out at the state level to eradicate poverty. Projects such as the training of goat rearing to increase the income of Zambian women, improving the health of Tonle Sap lake to increase income of the poor through fish production in Cambodia, improving the status of farming business in Sudan and establishing a solar power business to support Yemeni women in the fight against poverty are some of the recent projects one can identify in this regard.
Sri Lanka’s progress
Sri Lanka has made considerable progress in the pursuit of reducing poverty as the population under the national poverty line has declined from 15 percent to 4.1 percent in 2016. The Sustainable Development Council of Sri Lanka (SDC) along with other external participations have played a pivotal role in the attempt to eradicate poverty. As 2017 was declared as the year of poverty alleviation, many steps were undertaken to realize this vision in Sri Lanka. Continuation of economic activities and free vocational training programs have resulted in the reduction of the unemployment rate to 5% and also in reducing the number of women falling victim to poverty. Moreover, the improvement of universal free health and education policies and the establishment and improving the status of Samurdhi payments, elderly payments, and kidney patient payments have benefited people who live in extreme poverty. In addition to these actions, the Government’s continuous allocation of funds towards rural infrastructure development have also contributed in boosting the income of the poor. Sri Lanka has initiated actions to serve the disabled, women, men, and children who live in poverty alike to achieve the Sustainable Development goal of “No poverty.”
Poverty entails more than a lack of resources to ensure sustainable livelihoods and the goal of “No poverty” under the SDGs has become more challenging due to the emergence of food security issues, the current global pandemic as well as ongoing critical climate change events. Amidst these teething troubles, the United Nations along with other state governments contribute their best to eradicate poverty by 2030. Thus, it is important to continue the progress that has been made as well as to advance the approaches already in place in order to achieve the first Sustainable Goal which envisions the end of poverty.
– Rtr. Thilini Chandrarathne