Poverty Reduction

David Hulme, O. Turner, T. Weiss (Editor), R. Wilkinson (Editor)

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In today’s affluent world approximately one-third of the human population lives in astate of poverty. Around 870 million people—more than the populations of the United States and European Union combined—suffer from chronic hunger and nearly 900 million people have no access to safe drinking water. More than 350,000 women die every year during pregnancy or childbirth. In the 30 minutes it takes to read this chapter, approximately 400 children under the age of five will have died, mostly from readily preventable causes. Every day around the world hundreds of millions of people are denied the opportunity to lead a secure and productive life—but it does not have to be this way. Humanity has developed the technology and accumulated the recourses to satisfy the basic needs of all. Food, education, healthcare services, and others could be provided if our world was organized differently. In short, poverty can be reduced if tackled more efficiently through the structures of global governance.As this chapter shows, key international organizations along with myriad additionalactors have long been involved in the challenge of alleviating global poverty. The United Nations, the World Bank, civil society groups, and even celebrities have been, and remain, variously active in this regard, with mixed degrees of success. At times poverty has been elevated towards the top of the global agenda, attracting focus and investment from heads of state and other political elites. At others it has been relegated so that issues including national security and economic stability have drawn attention and resources away from the world’s poor, often with predictably lamentable results. This chapter’s cursory examination of how the mechanisms of global governance have approached the issue of world poverty nonetheless aims to demonstrate that resolving the problem will require those mechanisms to function more effectively. The chapter begins with a brief historical and contemporary overview of how globalpoverty has been conceived and approached within the international arena, particularly since the mid-twentieth century when the first multilateral institutions capable of providing leadership on the matter were established. It then asks why poverty persistsand where in the world it is most pervasive, before exploring the various arguments which have been advanced over time as to how the problem may be solved. The chapter then describes the multitude of actors who make up the vast framework of global governance structures active in attempted poverty alleviation. It ends by exploring potentially critical future issues and developments which are likely to have an impact on world poverty, as well as on efforts to reduce its severity. The chapter concludes with a consideration of how the seemingly unattainable feat of consigning poverty to history may not be as unrealistic as might be believed.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Handbook of Global Governance
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages11
ISBN (Print)978-0-415-62760-3
Publication statusPublished - 26 Sept 2013


  • Global poverty
  • International organization
  • Global Governance
  • Poverty Reduction

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Global Development Institute


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