High level focus on eradicating poverty

OPHI at the UN High Level Political Forum for Sustainable Development
July 2017

The theme of the United Nations’ High Level Political Forum for Sustainable Development at this year is eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions. This is the first time that the multiple dimensions of poverty have had such high level attention. Many MPPN country leaders who have pioneered multidimensional poverty measures and policies will be speaking, as will OPHI’s director Sabina Alkire.

For example, on the opening day starting at 3pm EST a session will discuss multidimensions of poverty and inequalities. This will be livestreamed on the UNTV channel. Colombia’s Director of Economic, Social and Environmental Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Claudia Vazquez Marazzani and Executive Director of UNICEF Anthony Lake will join Dr Alkire on the panel.

The panel will debate how to design a multidimensional approach to address poverty and who the key stakeholders are to engage. Discussion will cover what institutional changes are required; how well are we measuring multidimensional poverty and what are good criteria for measurement. Emphasis will be placed on what readily available tools should be recommended to policymakers to better address the multidimensions of poverty. High Commissioner of India to Canada and noted novelist Vikas Swarup will be the moderator for the session. Laura Stachel, founder of WeShareSolar and WeCareSolar, and Mpho Parks Tau, president of the United Cities and former Mayor of Johannesburg, will be the lead discussants.

The focus of the HLPF this week is Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 1, which recognises poverty in all its forms and dimensions. The focus is on policy and action. So why are governments talking about multidimensional poverty indices (MPIs)? There is a reason: they have found that MPIs are governance tools, that show interlinkages across indicators and are used for policy coordination, allocation, targeting, disaggregation, and so on. MPIs complement monetary measures but also are management and accountability tools.

Many governments say in their Voluntary National Reviews that they are already reporting or intend to report a multidimensional poverty measure using the global MPI measure of acute poverty for SDGs. These include VNRs of Bangladesh, Chile, Costa Rica, Egypt, Honduras, Indonesia, Panama, Philippines, Sierra Leone, and Tajikistan.

Many other countries already use national Multidimensional Poverty Indices. These include Colombia, Mexico, Pakistan, El Salvador, Mozambique, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, and Armenia among others.

All existing MPIs cover multiple SDG indicators and show the interlinkages between them. So they reinforce key poverty-related indicators in other SDGs.

The MPIs can be disaggregated to highlight child poverty. According to the global MPI that covers 75% of the world’s population and 93% of low and middle income population, half of the world’s poor people are children.

The World Bank’s 2016 Atkinson Commission Report recommended a multi-dimensioned measure with the same methodology as the existing global MPI, and including (presently unavailable) on employment and violence, be developed and used alongside US$1.90.

Data-permitting, MPIs can be disaggregated into subnational regions, by urban-rural areas, ethnicity, gender, caste, disability, indigenous groups, etc.