OECD Development Matters, 24 October 2024

Progress on poverty eradication is fading fast. We’re halfway to 2030, the deadline for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, and the number of people living in extreme poverty is higher than it was four years ago.

This reversal in progress can be attributed to multiple crises over recent years – from COVID-19 to the spike in global inflation caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – that the world simply wasn’t prepared for. Too little had been invested in the social protection systems that would have prevented millions from falling into poverty.

Despite being one of the most effective anti-poverty programmes we have at our disposal – as well as a universal human right – social protection coverage remains shockingly low. Over four billion people globally receive no benefits at all, with the situation particularly acute in Africa where over 80% of the population have no access to any form of social protection. Estimates show that an additional 165 million people fell into poverty between 2020 to 2023 as debt servicing was prioritised over spending on social protection, health and education.

Future crises – economic, climatic, sanitary – will continue to hit, and billions of people are still unprotected, mainly in low-income countries. Time then, to question why social protection accounted for just US $2.4 billion, or 1.2% of total Official Development Assistance (ODA) in 2019.

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