A graphical expression of the milestones achieved in reducing poverty globally. Sub-Saharan Africa has a lot of ground to cover to halve poverty in the next 15 years. [Photo: Njenga Nelson]

Following the adoption of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda (SDG) and 17 Global Goals by 193 UN Member States, this heralds a new approach to a sustainable world.

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said

“Every so often the world takes a historic step forward as a global community. Today, nations of the world moved forward together on a pathway to a sustainable future. The 2030 Agenda agreed to today by 193 nations is an important and unique moment in our shared history. For the first time, we have a development agenda that is focused on sustainability in both the developing and the developed world.”

Steiner added that the 17 Global Goals are at the centre of the 2030, crucially incorporate environmental sustainability and social equity with economic progress.

“That integration will be critical to a sustainable pathway forward for the planet and its peoples,” he said.

And against this backdrop, a report by Development Initiatives (DI) indicates that ending extreme poverty over the next 15 years will be a much more difficult task than halving it.

Titled ‘Investments to End Poverty 2015, Meeting the challenge of getting poverty to zero’, the report shows that when data is disaggregated, people are left behind in extreme poverty.

The Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) adds,

“Many of the world’s poorest countries need a significant change in trajectory if they are to see an end to poverty by 2030. Ending extreme poverty is a critical step toward ending poverty in all its forms everywhere. The countries where poverty is deepest will require the most substantial shifts in current rates of poverty reduction.”

The report gives a grim picture of Sub-Saharan Africa, where Kenya falls, saying the region faces the greatest challenge in ending poverty by 2030.

“Progress in the region must be accelerated to reduce poverty faster,” it adds.

Sub-Saharan Africa must rapidly accelerate progress if it is to end extreme poverty by 2030 – from experiencing a small rise in the number of people in extreme poverty during the MDG period, to realizing a faster pace of poverty reduction over the preceding 15 years.

Despite placing high priority on key sectors such as education and health, low revenues mean very low spending in many countries.

In sub-Saharan Africa, health accounts for an estimated 10 percent of total spending – the second highest of any region – yet this equates to just Sh3,399 (US$33) per person, just over half of the World Health Organisation (WHO’s) recommended US$60 (Sh6,180) per person benchmark.

The report notes that Sub-Saharan Africa is the second highest regional spender on health, but the second lowest per person.

All regions, except sub- Saharan Africa, have met the MDG 1a target to halve extreme poverty rates. Here, the proportion of people living in poverty has fallen 28 percent whilst absolute numbers have remained roughly unchanged.

The report adds that national institutions are the main drivers of poverty eradication but their resources are fewer where the challenge of ending poverty is greatest.

ITEP reveals that the ways in which domestic resources are both mobilized and spent have a significant impact on the poorest people. It is clear that developing countries can’t end poverty alone and international assistance is a critical resource where poverty is deepest.

The world’s poorest region faces the greatest challenge in ending poverty by 2030. It is home to 32 of the 33 countries with the greatest depth of poverty and has seen the slowest progress in reducing poverty. In addition, regionally government revenues are lowest in sub-Saharan.

Sub-Saharan Africa, which committed to the Abuja Declaration target to spend 15 percent of government resources on healthcare, has moved towards this target: health spending increased from 7.4 percent of total spending in 2000 to 8.3 percent in 2013. This pattern is also reflected in education spending, which increased from 14.1 percent to 17.3 percent in sub-Saharan African within a similar time period.

And as has been noted in ITEP, Steiner said of the SDGs that,

“UNEP is committed to working toward the 17 Global Goals and supporting countries in integrating the environmental dimension in their development ambitions. We have a unique opportunity to now work on a global agenda that unites us as a planet and a community of nations. Embracing this task with commitment and ambition can make the 2030 Agenda a pivotal moment in the history of our world.”