USAID Summit on Ending Extreme Poverty

Following President Obama’s February speech USAID’s programme has ending extreme poverty as its top line goal – excellent that the biggest international bi-lateral donor has this as its goal. Andrew Shepherd attended the USAID Summit on Ending Extreme Poverty, an event for senior USAID staff in May in Washington D.C., with a draft USAID Vision on Ending Extreme Poverty on the table, and presented the Chronic Poverty Report 2014-5 on getting to zero extreme poverty, as well as the ODI Poverty, Disasters and Climate Extremes 2030 Report. The purpose was to help lay out the programming challenge, and to highlight the interaction between poverty and climate change-induced disasters.

Highlights of the day included Martin Ravallion’s case for focusing on whether the consumption floor is rising going forwards, which shows that the poorest have gained little over the last 30 years; Shanta Devarajan’s idea that aid has supported the education of the technocrats who have been steering developing countries’ recent growth paths; the feasibility but very substantial costs of sustainably lifting people out of poverty through BRAC’s Graduation Model presented by Rachel Glennester; and a great panel on how extreme poverty can be eradicated, where ODI’s Leni Wild talked about Doing Development Differently.

As so often in development discourse this applies thinking on process projects and aid to current bigger pre-occupations with policy making in its focus on learning by doing and adapting to the local context, including the political context. When talking about the eradication of extreme poverty over a relatively short period, there seems quite a gap between this often locally or micro-focused approach and the macro-level changes which are needed to include the poorest people in development on good terms – for example some of the macro-political and constitutional changes needed to improve the fortunes of people experiencing identity based intersecting inequalities (or multiple disadvantages). This needs further thinking.

 USAID’s draft Vision for Ending Extreme Poverty has including the poorest people in economic growth as its central proposition – and this is what a number of programmes now try to focus on. There are specifics of this, as demonstrated in CPAN’s growing portfolio of policy guides which should help in achieving this, since they have gathered together the evidence on what works.