Global poverty is still a priority

Wednesday 18 March 2009

Of the six billion people sharing our planet, almost half live under the poverty line of $US2 per day. Though growth predictions vary it is likely that, by 2020, the population will increase by approximately another 1.2 billion, of which some 95 per cent will live in developing countries. Such figures highlight the need to address the issues surrounding global poverty as a priority. 

As part of the Economic and Social Research Council's (ESRC) Global Financial Crisis lecture series, the second of three seminars looking at various aspects of the recession will focus on 'Recession and Global Poverty'. 

"How will the global financial crisis impact the extremely poor and extreme poverty?" asks Dr Peter Boone, of the ESRC's Centre for Economic Performance. "Subsistence living and lack of accumulated wealth mean many of the extremely poor are well-insulated from the current crisis. However, the problems are in the future: reduced public finances, less global growth, less foreign aid, and possibly more civil wars, will mean the extremely poor do not get the health services, education and opportunities needed to pull themselves and their children out of poverty. This doesn't have to be the case: despite all these problems, we have the knowledge and capacity to make large inroads towards ending extreme poverty." Dr Boone will outline steps that the international community can take to ensure that we can lessen the impact of the crisis for the most vulnerable. 

Prof of Economics, Tony Venables, of the University of Oxford, will discuss the impacts of the recession on developing countries, focusing his presentation on Africa. Africa has had strong economic growth for nearly a decade, but the latest forecasts have growth in 2009-10 dropping to around 3 per cent, barely more than population increase. As a consequence tens of millions more people will remain in poverty and attainment of the MDGs made less likely. "Different economies are affected through quite different transmission mechanisms; drying up of capital flows; reduced export prospects; lower remittances; and lower commodity prices which affect some economies positively and others negatively." explained Prof Venables. "The key question for the future is whether the recession is a one-off reduction in income and increase in poverty, or whether it will also reduce Africa's growth prospects over coming decades, returning it the stagnation of the 1980s and 90s."

Considering how the global financial crisis will exacerbate poverty for the most vulnerable households in developing countries will be Dr J Allister McGregor, Leader of the Vulnerability and Poverty Reduction Team at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex. Dr McGregor will also outline the potential outcomes of a failure by the global community to respond to the possible negative impacts of crisis on developing countries.

The seminar, to be chaired by economist and journalist, Evan Davies, of BBC Radio Four's Today programme and Dragons Den, will take place on Thursday, 19 March 2008, at One Great George Street in Westminster from 18.30. 

For further information contact

ESRC Press Office:

Notes for editors

  1. 'Recession and Global Poverty' takes place on Thursday, 19 March from 18.00 - 20.00 at Sixty One, Whitehall, Westminster, London, SW1A 2ET and will be followed by a drinks reception.
  2. This is a free event, open to the public.
  3. The ESRC have created multimedia press briefings which include podcast interviews, give background information and specific research examples on Britain and the global financial crisis. 
  4. Prof McGregor is also Director of the ESRC's Wellbeing in Developing Countries programme.
  5. Peter Boone is chair and founder of Effective Intervention. Effective Intervention designs, sponsors and implements aid projects and research trials in Africa and India that focus on measures to reduce extreme poverty at reasonable cost. They are currently implementing two large trials that aim to reduce maternal and child mortality. They also run projects that aim to improve children's literacy and numeracy in regions where there is very poor education. Most projects are run as randomized controlled trials in partnership with medical statisticians, local governments and other non-government organisations. 
  6. Tony Venables is Prof of Economics at Oxford University where he also directs the Oxford Centre for the Analysis of Resource Rich Economies. He is a Fellow of the British Academy and of the Econometric Society. Former positions include chief economist at the UK Department for International Development, prof at the London School of Economics, research manager of the trade research group in the World Bank, and advisor to the UK Treasury. He has published extensively in the areas of international trade and spatial economics, including work on trade and imperfect competition, economic integration, multinational firms, and economic geography. Publications include The spatial economy; cities, regions and international trade, with M. Fujita and P. Krugman (MIT press, 1999), and Multinationals in the World Economy with G. Barba Navaretti (Princeton 2004).
  7. The final event in the series will be: 
    • 'Recession and the green economy' on 22 April 2009 at Sixty One, Whitehall, Westminster, London, SW1A 2ET from 18.00. 
  8. The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK's largest funding agency for research, data resources and postgraduate training relating to social and economic issues. It supports independent, high quality research which impacts on business, the public sector and the third sector. The ESRC's planned total expenditure in 2008/09 is £203 million. At any one time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and research policy institutes.  
  9. Global poverty rates from the World Bank Group, Global Poverty Monitoring. Growth predictions from the UN, 2006.