For several decades the development assistance community has worked with the people and governments of developing countries to improve their living conditions. Progress -- though often unrecognised -- has been remarkable. In the past 30 years alone, life expectancy increased by more than 20 years (to 62). Infant mortality rates dropped by half. Primary school enrolment rates have doubled. Major developing countries, particularly in East Asia, have passed rapidly from low- to middle-income status.
These results are highly encouraging. They demonstrate that poverty can be overcome. But the battle is far from over. Extreme income poverty still ravages the lives of one in four persons (or 1.2 billion people) in the developing world and progress in tackling it has been uneven. Although Asia has advanced rapidly, it still accounts for most of the world's poor. Sub-Saharan Africa has struggled with slow growth and rising poverty, partly linked to conflict and governance problems, and it now faces the scourge of HIV/AIDS.
Emerging threats loom large. Social and economic inequality within nations is an obstacle to sustainable poverty reduction. The marginalisation of ethnic and other minorities continues to trigger outbreaks of violent conflict. And poor people continue to be excluded from economic and political life in many countries and from the global mainstream. Both the challenges and the stakes for eradicating poverty are high -- and they are rising.
Changing global dynamics are adding new and troubling dimensions to poverty. The accelerating pace of economic integration among nations will fuel future growth in incomes and jobs. It will stimulate new patterns of production and exchange. And it will create unprecedented opportunities for communicating, learning and sharing knowledge with others. Globalisation holds great promise for empowering people and for promoting greater international understanding, linkages and partnerships. But it also threatens to widen the divide between rich and poor,leaving some poor countries and regions increasingly behind.Globalisation will not deliver its potential benefits if it works for only a few.
At the same time,in a rapidly globalising world the social ills associated with poverty -- disease, illicit migration, environmental degradation, crime, political instability, armed conflict and terrorism -- can spread with greater ease across borders and continents. Compounding this are the pressures of population growth.Of the estimated increase of 2 billion people over the next 20 years, 97% will live in the developing world. Eradicating poverty is thus more than a moral and humanitarian imperative. It is also essential for global security and prosperity and for reducing environmental stresses. It is an international public good of the first order, serving the interests of all.
The current conjuncture for confronting poverty is promising. There is now broad global commitment to halving the proportion of people in extreme income poverty and hunger by 2015. Developing countries are establishing and implementing strategies to achieve this goal. And the international development community is putting together a co-ordinated and focused response,mustering the political will and establishing the frameworks and mechanisms for organising a more effective assault on poverty.
The time is right to seize the opportunities at hand: rising political will to tackle poverty, the potential of globalisation for all and technological advances in telecommunications, information and the life sciences.It is essential to deliver on promises, convictions and goals, following through with commitment,resources and well-founded efforts on the ground. Everyone has a stake in working more effectively,with greater scope, to reduce global poverty.