Sunday 22 Jul 2018 | 22:42 | SYDNEY
Sunday 22 Jul 2018 | 22:42 | SYDNEY

Reviewing ten years of war against poverty

16 September 2010 17:06

Kate Higgins is a Research Fellow with the Growth and Equity Programme at the Overseas Development Institute. She is based in Sydney. 

Last week, the Chronic Poverty Research Centre (CPRC) marked ten years of poverty research with an international conference titled, 'Ten Years of War Against Poverty'. There was a star-studded line-up and a plethora of papers which sought to review the 'state of the art' in poverty reduction, showcase the CPRC's key research findings on chronic poverty and set the research and policy agenda for the next ten years.

I spoke with colleagues who participated, and followed the blogs of Duncan Green and Michael Edwards in search of pearls of wisdom from the conference. So what did I glean'

  • Andrew Shepherd, Director of the CPRC, argued that there are three overarching policy pillars to tackling chronic poverty: transformative growth, progressive social change and effective social protection programmes and systems.
  • Joseph Stiglitz shared his two big lessons on poverty reduction from the last twenty-five years: growth is necessary but not sufficient for poverty reduction ('trickle down' economics doesn't work and inequality can be bad for growth and poverty reduction); and policies matter (both negatively and positively).
  • Social protection 'has mushroomed from a fringe issue to magic bullet with extraordinary speed', said Duncan Green, and now requires more experimentation and evidence. It was given loads of air time at the conference. See the recently published 'Just Give Money to the Poor' and Michael Edwards' commentary for more.
  • We have not done a good enough job of grappling with the politics and power of poverty reduction, yet tackling poverty is a deeply political process. 
  • David Hulme believes the task now is to work out how to spread international norms about our 'moral obligation to help distant strangers', in a similar way to women's suffrage, the abolition of slavery or the anti-apartheid struggle.

Why does this matter to Australia' Because decisions about scaling up Australian aid should be informed by the sort of evidence and know-how presented at conferences like this. This will help to ensure that Australia's aid is doing its bit to tackle chronic poverty. Kevin Rudd will be at the MDG Summit in New York next week.  Let's see how much of this thinking is captured there.