This month’s guest blog is from Tony German. Tony sits on the SIID Advisory Board and is Strategic Advisor at Development Initiatives, an international NGO specialising in the analysis and evaluation of data and information with the aim of ending extreme poverty by 2030. 


The number of global goals agreed by world leaders at the UN in September has more than doubled, from eight Millennium Development Goals agreed in 2000 to seventeen Sustainable Development Goals agreed in 2015. But the first item for action on Agenda for 2030 rightly remains ending poverty. Not only income poverty, but poverty in all its dimensions.

Most people instinctively understand that even if you are above the international poverty line of ‘$ a day’ (now revised up to $1.90, see here) you may very well be in extreme poverty: because of poor nutrition, lack of education or lack of access to such basics as health and reproductive services or  water and sanitation.

Whilst the scope of the global goals covering social, environmental and economic progress is all important, the simple moral imperative remains, to end poverty. And it is an urgent imperative. The kids growing up stunted, the girls growing up illiterate, the women dying in childbirth – today – won’t get a second chance.

But alongside intensified efforts to end extreme poverty, the 2030 Agenda emphasis on universal goals offers an opportunity to get beyond 20th century north/south, rich/poor, donor/recipient mindsets. It isn’t only on climate where interests are shared. On gender, on nutrition, on ageing and LGBT rights, action is required in every country.

On nutrition for example, still sometimes portrayed as mainly a problem in ‘developing countries’ there is a clear symmetry between a quarter of the population in Sub Saharan Africa being undernourished and the quarter of the UK population categorised as obese (see here).

Priorities such as cities safe for women and girls are just one dimension of an empowerment agenda shared across the globe. On youth unemployment and financing care for older people, on migration, security, FGM, the exclusion resulting from gender identity, penal reform and energy, governments and civil society groups everywhere face similar challenges.

In agreeing the global goals, governments underlined two key commitments that are applicable everywhere. The commitment that ‘no one will be left behind’. And a commitment to ’reach the furthest behind first’ (see Transforming Our World Report). Delivering on these goals, globally and in every country, we are more likely to succeed if we adopt some fresh thinking.

First, we need to get beyond income as the sole measure of progress and outdated categorisations such as middle income countries which mask the very large differences in progress among different groups of people. The global goals are explicit about the importance of inclusion and equitable growth.  The logic is unavoidable – to know whether growth is inclusive you have to see who is making progress and who is left behind, within countries, not just between them. The Data Revolution provides new opportunities to get beyond averages and modelling and to target resources more effectively to individuals, families and communities most in need.

Second, the imperative of ending poverty in all its forms, everywhere, does not diminish the need to address discrimination and lack of opportunity in every country. Leave no one behind underlines the importance of ensuring that as we lift a billion people out of extreme poverty, we also tackle the factors that cause and perpetuate exclusion in every country.

Third, the increasingly borderless nature of challenges highlights the need to get beyond familiar groupings and reflexes. The universal appeal of the global goals requires us all to get beyond assumptions based on where an idea comes from (north or south, OECD or UN, G7 or G77, NGOs or the private sector)  and focus instead on the merits of the idea itself.

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