Paul Downey
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Can we end poverty by 2030?

The United Nations Sustainable Development Summit announced 17 new goals last week. The first of these is to 'end poverty in all its forms everywhere' by 2030. Is this just a lofty ambition, or is it realistically achievable? 

In short, yes, it is achievable. The specific goal is to end extreme poverty. Extreme poverty covers anyone who is living on less than $1.25 a day.

Within my lifetime, global poverty rates have seen impressive rates of reduction going from nearly 50% of people living in extreme poverty in 1980 to just 21% in 2010. That rate of reduction is unprecedented in history and if it continues, then we should be able to end extreme poverty by 2030. China's economic growth and subsequent reduction in poverty rates has played a significant part in this reduction, but there has been progress throughout Asia, Africa and Latin America.

While we cannot be certain the current trends will continue, we should celebrate recent progress. Life expectancy is increasing, diseases like malaria and measles are retreating, and more children are in school than ever before. Significantly, the number of children who die each day has halved since 1990: that’s 17,000 more children, every single day, who will now live to realise their potential.

Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) won’t be easy. A billion people remain trapped in poverty, predominantly in the world’s war zones and ungoverned spaces, where the ascent out of poverty is harder than ever.

The SDGs follow on from the Millennium Development Goals, agreed back in 2000, which have helped galvanise and focus efforts in poverty reduction and human flourishing. However, to meet the challenge of the SDGs, we need to go beyond international aid and address the kind of global economy we need to fight poverty, reduce inequalities and enable us to live within the earth’s natural limits. The Pope reinforced this message in the strong language he used earlier this week when he addressed the UN: 

"The poorest are those who suffer most from such offenses, for three serious reasons: they are cast off by society, forced to live off what is discarded and suffer unjustly from the abuse of the environment. They are part of today's widespread and quietly growing 'culture of waste.'"

At Tearfund, we welcome the way in which SDGs have an expanded scope - to address hunger, reduce inequalities, create sustainable cities and partnerships and promote responsible consumption and production. Expressions of faith have an important part to play in this as it requires a big shift in how we live, which is as much a moral issue as it is a development one.

Earlier this year Tearfund launched it’s ‘Restorative Economy’ report outlining both policy ideas and lifestyle choices that could lead to these changes. Amongst other things we are calling people to live their own lives within a fair share of global resources (diet, travel, energy, commodities); and for economies to do it by moving to zero-carbon, zero-waste models.

Governments around the world are waking up to this, and the next global milestone is the UN Climate talks in Paris in November. But we all need to take responsibility for the future of our communities and planet - it's too important to just leave to politicians. Together we can respond to the global scale of the challenge to ensure we can all live life and live it to its fullest. You can join us. Tearfund are calling on 'Ordinary Heroes' who are willing to make small but significant changes that will collectively address the issues we are all facing and readdress the balance between the rich and poor of our world.

For more information on Tearfund's Ordinary Heroes campaign go to tearfund.org/heroes 

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