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Can We Really End Poverty?

On 5 December, thought-leaders from the world’s leading development think tanks, the OECD, civil society and national governments offered different perspectives on this question, and discussed what an international development framework could look like beyond 2015.

At the 2000 UN Millennium Summit, the largest ever gathering of world leaders pledged to work together to help the world’s poorest people. They agreed on a set of targets that became known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The deadline they set themselves to meet these was 31 December 2015. With just over two years until the MDGs expire, how much progress has been made and what should happen next?

There have of course been successes: the world has already met the first MDG target of halving the world’s population living in extreme poverty (on less than USD 1.25 per day). But 1.2 billion people are still living in extreme poverty and vulnerability remains high. At the same time, problems in measuring poverty present barriers to effective policy making. Progress has also been uneven – not all countries, regions, age groups, social sectors or genders have benefited equally from the advances that have been made. The truth is, the quality of life has not improved for all.

This December, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) will launch their new report on Ending Poverty. To coincide with this, Intelligence Squared will host a panel of experts to discuss the key issues that the report raises. How should we measure poverty? What can we learn from local solutions for tackling poverty? How can the fast progress made by middle-income countries like China provide lessons for Africa? How can we be “smarter” about how we use aid flows? How do we ensure that the next set of goals will be not just about “getting to zero” poverty, but about staying there?

On 5 December, thought-leaders from the world’s leading development think tanks, the OECD, academia and civil society offered different perspectives on these questions, and discussed what needs to be done to end poverty after 2015.



Matthew Taylor

Chief Executive of the RSA and soon-to-be Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation

Chief Executive of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) and soon-to-be Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation. Former head of the Number 10 Policy Unit under Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Jamie Drummond

Executive Director and Head of Global Strategy at ONE

Executive Director and Global Strategy at the advocacy group ONE. Prior to co-founding ONE with Bono, Jamie helped start DATA, and worked as the global strategist for Jubilee 2000 Drop the Debt. Working with key partners, these movements made sure $110bn in developing country debt was cancelled, and that overall aid to Africa increased from $17bn in 2001 to $40bn in 2010, with significant initiatives to combat AIDS, TB, and malaria. In 2007, Jamie was elected a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.

Priyanthi Fernando

Executive Director for the Centre for Poverty Analysis

Priyanthi Fernando is Executive Director for the Centre for Poverty Analysis (CEPA) in Colombo, Sri Lanka. She has over 20 years experience in the development sector in Sri Lanka and overseas, coordinating a global network, leading the country team of an international NGO and working with local NGOs. She is a Board Member of the Energy Forum, Sri Lanka and the Chairperson of the Lanka Forum on Rural Transport Development. Fernando has specialised in social development issues with special reference to the transport and energy sectors, gender analysis, networking and communications. As the Executive Director, she provides overall leadership and direction to the CEPA team.

Erik Solheim

Chair of the OECD Development Assistance Committee

Erik Solheim took the lead of the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) in January 2013, a position to which he was unanimously elected. He is now also serving as United Nations Environment Programme’s special envoy for environment, conflict and disaster. From 2007 to 2012 he held the combined portfolio of Norway’s Minister of the Environment and International Development; he also served as Minister of International Development from 2005 to 2007. During his time as Minister, Solheim brought Norwegian aid up to 1% of the GDP, making it with Sweden the highest in the world. From 2000 to 2005, Mr. Solheim was the main negotiator in the peace process in Sri Lanka. He has also contributed to peace processes in Burundi, Nepal, Myanmar and Sudan. Solheim was leader of the Socialist Left party (SV) from 1987 to 1997 and served as a member of the Norwegian parliament for twelve years.

Homi Kharas

Senior Fellow and Deputy Director for the Global Economy and Development program

Homi Kharas is the Executive Secretary of the UN High Level Panel, advising the U.N. Secretary General on the post-2015 development agenda. He is also a senior fellow and deputy director for the Global Economy and Development program at the Brookings Institution. Formerly a chief economist in the East Asia and Pacific Region of the World Bank, Kharas currently studies policies and trends influencing developing countries, including aid to poor countries, the emergence of a middle class, the food crisis and global governance and the G20.

Sabina Alkire

Director at the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative

Sabina Alkire directs the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) at ODID. In addition, she is a Research Associate at Harvard University and Vice President of the Human Development & Capability Association (HDCA). Her research interests include multidimensional poverty measurement and analysis, welfare economics, the capability approach, the measurement of freedoms and human development. Publications include ‘Valuing Freedoms: Sen’s Capability Approach and Poverty Reduction’, as well as articles in Philosophy and Economics. She holds a DPhil in Economics, an Msc in Economics for Development and an MPhil in Christian Political Ethics from the University of Oxford.