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National or International Poverty Lines or Both? Setting Goals for Income Poverty after 2015

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Joshua Greenstein, Ugo Gentilini, Andy Sumner

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)132-146
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Human Development and Capabilities
Issue number2-3

King's Authors


Debate on what should follow the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) from 2015 onwards has mushroomed. A focus on "ending" poverty (however defined) is likely to form a central part of the future framework. This paper discusses MDG 1, income poverty. Our paper is a commentary written to contribute to the set of papers in this special issue. In this paper we argue that there are, alongside valid rationales, important critiques of the targets and indicators selected for the income poverty goal from both the human development and human rights perspectives. These should be taken into account more fully in the debate on what should follow MDG 1 on income poverty reduction (and the implicit hierarchy of placing income poverty as the "first-among-equals" goal). We review the institutional history of the MDG income target along with the critiques, and present data trends to date and projections with regard to income poverty, as well as discussions on the relationship between and relevance of nationally set versus internationally set poverty lines and their use in any post-2015 UN agreement. We argue for the importance of national ownership and the incorporation of context-specific measures of poverty, and that any new poverty goals should be designed with political mobilization as a consideration.

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