From the horrifying scenes in Ivory Coast, Mali and Brussels to the tragic refugee crisis in Lebanon and on Europe’s borders, it is clear the world is at a crossroads. There are a growing number of conflicts becoming increasingly deadly and protracted. There are more displaced people than at any time since the Second World War, and more people than ever are in need of urgent disaster relief. Extremism is on the rise and the effects of climate change are contributing to new crises. Now, more than ever, the world needs a sustained, coordinated response to these challenges. And when necessity dictates, the international community can act. The Syria donor conference in London this year and the subsequent political momentum seen on the ground in Syria is proof enough. Read more

Poverty is sexist. When a girl lives in poverty, every aspect of her life will be harder than that of a boy. It’s a shocking fact that in 2016, half a billion women can’t read – twice the number of illiterate men. A hundred and fifty five countries still have laws that discriminate against women, and three quarters of adolescents contracting HIV in Africa are girls. And yet, evidence shows that when girls and women are invested in, everyone climbs out of poverty more quickly – including boys and men.

On International Women’s Day, the ONE Campaign’s Poverty is Sexist report underscores this reality. It includes a country index looking at where life is toughest for girls based on data for some the biggest opportunities and threats a girl may face in her life, such as economic opportunity, health, nutrition, education and political empowerment. Read more

By Sanjay G. Reddy and Ingrid Kvangraven, The New School for Social Research

Should we really have new global development goals? The push for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – meant to guide the process of global development from 2015 to 2030 and expected to be adopted by governments at the UN in September – assumes the answer is yes.

Activists, lobbyists and government officials scrambled during the last two years to make sure that their respective interests were reflected in the new agenda and that has contributed to its bewildering complexity (17 goals, 169 proposed targets and 304 proposed indicators). Given that the goals were all but sure to be adopted, it is hardly a surprise that an imperfect political process governed their creation.

However, why adopt goals at all? Any systematic effort to answer this elementary conceptual question is disturbingly absent. Read more

Are governments prepared to invest in the world’s poorest women and girls? A resounding “yes “ according to panel after panel at last week’s UN Financing for Development Conference in Addis Ababa. At this, the first of three UN summits aimed at eliminating absolute poverty by 2030, it was clear that gender has moved from side meetings to centre stage, from a women’s issue to one supported by male leaders. The World Bank President and the UN Secretary General both described how they overcame their conservative Korean upbringing to become women’s rights advocates. Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven declared, “Gender equality is not only morally right. It is also an extremely potent development and growth booster.”

But women’s groups, while grateful for the rhetoric, were critical of the lack of quantifiable commitments in the action plan that emerged from Addis. Will the trio of UN summits provide any help to women like Birtukan, a widow with four children from Ethiopa’s Amhara region, who spoke up at an FfD side meeting on how uncertain rains make feeding her family difficult? Read more

This year, global leaders could set the world on a path to overcoming extreme poverty by 2030. Achieving this will require political leaders to prioritise the very poorest, particularly girls and women. As diplomats negotiate in New York in preparation for a global meeting on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa in July, leaders and ministers must set their ambition high for what must be a game-changing conference.

ONE’s flagship 2015 Data Report, published today, calls for a deal between developed and developing countries to help the poorest in society prosper in the coming years. Read more

By Eloise Todd of ONE

There is a simple truth that the world ignores at its peril: poverty is sexist. These three words must be a rallying cry for the rest of the year, not only because girls and women living in the poorest countries are hit harder by poverty than boys and men, but also because when we challenge that truth, when we invest in girls and women first, everyone benefits. And this year is the year we need transformative change. Chancellor Angela Merkel in particular, who is hosting this year’s G7, has an historic chance to lead the world in agreeing that at least half of overseas aid goes to the poorest countries. And we will be cheering her on – and holding her accountable – every step of the way. Read more

By Mohga Kamal-Yanni, Oxfam senior health advisor

Gone are the days when cancer was seen as a problem only faced by rich countries. With the trend of rising cancer rates set to continue because of changing lifestyles and increasingly ageing populations in developing nations, cancer is becoming a huge challenge for emerging economies and the situation is being exacerbated by a lack of affordable medicines. Read more

Given the shifts taking place in European politics, particularly in the wake of Syriza’s assumption of power in Greece, the decision of another sunny country in south-eastern Europe to write off the debt of tens of thousands of its poorest people has naturally made a splash.

Croatia’s unprecedented “emergency” debt-relief initiative, launched on February 2 under the name “Fresh Start”, will be welcomed by those it targets. It is also indicative of continental political currents. But the tight parameters of the deal mean that it is unlikely to have a substantial stimulus effect, and that it may be seen as an electoral gambit by the beleaguered government. Businesses are not too rattled by the move – many have signed up in support – but it may push costs up for other borrowers and taxpayers in the medium-term. Read more

By TMS Ruge

Two events have the potential to radically affect how the world tackles extreme poverty and climate change in 2015. On September 25, United Nations Member States will gather to adopt the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at a summit in New York City. In December, the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) will attempt to sign long-overdue, universally binding agreements on the climate in Paris. We have been here before: this will be the 21st year of the COP meetings and the SDGs are set to take over after 15 years of development work driven by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). In the boardrooms in New York and Washington, the voices of those at the “last mile” – a term in development jargon that refers to poorest of the poor – remained largely silent. Read more

We are living through the era of Big Data with all its promises and consequences. But is the world also splitting into the data “haves” and “have nots”?

That’s the contention of a new report out today from a UN panel of independent experts from academia and business which warns that the world needs to do more to bolster the data capabilities of developing countries in order to fight poverty more effectively. Read more

By Mark Malloch Brown, former United Nations Deputy Secretary General.

The conventional wisdom behind the renegotiation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – eight targets for reducing poverty and its attendant woes that followed a resolution by United Nations members in 2000 – is that there were not enough of them and that they were too simple. So a UN industry has developed to write a lot more of them.

As one of the original drafters, my view is the contrary. It is not the goals that need changing (although they can certainly be improved at the margins) but rather the vision of development that lies behind them that needs reworking. And indeed adding goals risks detracting from the successful single-issue global campaigns – such as child mortality,which has halved globally since 1990 – that developed around them. Read more

By Mark Goldring of Oxfam

From the IMF to the Pope, from President Barack Obama to the World Economic Forum, there is a growing consensus that extreme economic inequality is one of the defining challenges of our time and that failure to address it is both economically and socially damaging. Yet despite this consensus, very little is being done.

The number of billionaires in the world has more than doubled since 2009. But while those at the top have recovered from the recession quickly, the benefits of economic growth are not being shared evenly. This means that while the wealthy are getting richer, we are not eradicating poverty at the speed that we could. Read more

By Catherine Blampied of the ONE Campaign

For the first time, an end is in sight to the injustice of extreme poverty. The proportion of people surviving on less than $1.25 a day has halved since 1990 and could fall to almost zero by 2030. Contemplating this, governments the world over are about to enter the final stage in a UN process to hammer out a new set of aspirational ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ aimed at accelerating this progress over the next 15 years. But this new global development agenda has little hope of succeeding unless those same governments – together with private-sector partners and many others – also agree an effective strategy to finance it.

While sustained aid investments will still be necessary in supporting vital services and providing the building blocks of growth in the poorest countries, the vast bulk of money will come – and is already coming – from developing countries themselves. Yet, despite this fact being widely acknowledged in development circles, there is remarkably little discussion about exactly how countries are actually spending their resources. Read more

We at the FT have this week been running a series on the “Fragile Middle”, defined as some 2.8bn middle class people in emerging economies who are vulnerable to ebbing fortunes. The issue has been provoking fresh debate on just what it means to be “middle class” in the world today.

Here is a run down on some of our thinking. Let us know what you think in the comments field below.

 Read more

The wrong sort of jobs

Sub-Saharan Africa has enjoyed rapid growth over the past 20 years but its citizens seem not to share the zeal of some frontier market watchers. The region’s levels of poverty have not sunk nearly as quickly as East Asia’s (see chart below). Africans routinely complain that wealth has not trickled down.

Why is this? Read more

Viene-vienes at work

By Ron Buchanan and Pan Kwan Yuk

They call them the “viene-vienes”. In cities throughout Mexico, red rags in their hands, they wave down motorists into available parking spaces and receive modest tips for their trouble in “looking after the cars”.

Their name comes from their shouts of invitation to their clients: “Viene! Viene!” – “Come on! Come on!”.

The “viene-viene” men occupy one segment of Mexico’s vast informal economy. And their ubiquity is a glaring reminder that – for all the praises that are being lavished on the country’s economic resurgence – poverty remains an obstacle to Mexico’s ability to unlock its full economic potential. Read more

“How to spend it?” is the question which bothers many a billionaire (one suspects), but an increasing number are opting to give it away instead. South Africa’s richest black man, Patrice Motsepe, has joined the likes of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett in opting to give away a good deal of his money to the cause of philanthropy. Read more

Critics of lotteries the world over often describe them as taxes on the poor, and for good reason. From the US to Spain, lower-income citizens are the biggest buyers of lottery tickets, and, as a group, they will lose at least 35 per cent of what they spend.

In China, though, it is more accurate to describe the lottery as a tax on hope. Those buying tickets tend to earn more than average, but they have run into the chasm that is China’s wealth gap and see the lottery as their best bridge across it. Read more

Jin-Yong Cai, IFCBy Jin-Yong Cai of the International Finance Corporation

Four years after the global financial crisis struck, the world still faces major economic challenges. Shocks from Europe, Asia or the US could undermine recoveries in many developing countries, hurting the poor the most. Read more

Chileans are, in many ways, as unlike their next-door-neighbours, the Argentines, as it is possible to be. But allegations that Santiago is massaging official poverty data sound stomach-sinkingly familiar to anyone used to Buenos Aires. Read more