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Chronic Poverty Report 2008-09: 'Escaping Poverty Traps'

Time (GMT +01) 16:30 17:30


Salil Shetty - Director, Millennium Campaign


Tony Addison - Associate Director, Chronic Poverty Research Centre

Margaret Kakande - Ministry of Finance, Uganda

Simon Maxwell - Director, ODI


Rt. Hon. Malcolm Bruce MP - Chair of the House of Commons International Development Select Committee

The CPRC is an international partnership of universities, NGOs and research institutes funded by the UK’s Department for International Development which exists to:

  • focus attention on chronic poverty
  • stimulate national and international debate
  • deepen understanding of the causes of chronic poverty
  • provide research, analysis and policy guidance that will contribute to its reduction.

The Chronic Poverty Report 2008-09: Escaping Poverty Traps is the second report in a series from the Centre. There are also national reports from Uganda and Bangladesh.

The first successful report was published in 2004. It highlighted the key processes by which many millions of people are trapped in chronic poverty. The new report provides a policy response to the first. It asserts that there are currently between 320 and 443 million people trapped in chronic poverty, and sets out the challenge for what policy makers should do.

The meeting was chaired by the Rt Hon Malcolm Bruce MP, Chair of the UK International Development Select Committee, who welcomed this authoritative report and its timeliness. He commended the Centre on this achievement and on the utility of the report.

Salil Shetty, Director of the UN’s Millennium Campaign, provided the keynote speech. Dr Shetty congratulated the international effort of producing the report and remarked that its timing could not be better as the G8 leaders meet in Japan and leading up to the MDG review in New York in September 2008. He drew attention to the fact that successes against the MDGs are often understated and that much progress is being made. However, huge challenges remain.

Dr Shetty welcomed that the report sought to find answers to some of the big questions. Such as, who are the people who are being left behind even as we see progress at the macro level? Why is the rising tide not lifting their boat? The report identifies poor people not poor countries. Thus, the telescope is inverted as we look outwards from the lens of poor people.  Right down to the household and even individual.   It is at the next stage these people are located in geographies. Even that is done more cleverly, through four country categories – in his view, a far more realistic view and certainly a far more helpful approach from a policy perspective. By approaching the idea of poverty traps from a people perspective the trap of associating poverty with Africa is avoided.

Dr Shetty welcomed the emphasis the report puts on the need to address inequality if chronic poverty is to be addressed. The report has very practical recommendations on how to address this challenge. Distilling the key policy-practice recommendations from this report for the 25th September High Level UN MDG event and more importantly in setting the agenda for the second half of the MDG period is a key task facing all of us collectively. Great policy clarity without applying political pressure will be futile.  Dr Shetty entreated the audience to please read this great report and join the campaign to achieve and exceed the MDGs.

Professor Tony Addison, Associate Director of the CPRC, then presented the report in more detail. He outlined the independent, international, nature of the report, recapped on the who, how and why of chronic poverty, and the imperative of tackling chronic poverty. He discussed the five poverty traps identified in the report: social discrimination, poor work opportunities, spatial disadvantage, insecurity and poor health, and limited citizenship. The five proposed policy solutions were then presented: social protection, public services for the hard to reach, building individual and collective assets, anti-discrimination and gender empowerment, and strategic urbanisation and migration. He stressed that these aren’t either/or policies but all are required to build an effective social compact between the state and its people. The primary function of the state is to reduce individual risk through implementing policies and in return commitment and revenues (through taxation) are achieved.

Prof. Addison presented the cartogram from the report illustrating the global distribution of chronic poverty. He emphasized that politics is key, and that there is a vital role for social movements. He illustrated the above with the story of Bakyt, a 12-year-old miner from Kyrgyzstan, which showed the traps experienced by the chronically poor and how policies could help them. The report concludes with a call to extend the MDGs beyond 2015, with the goal of eliminating extreme poverty by 2025, and for the establishment of a global social protection strategy by 2010.

Margaret Kakande of the Ministry of Finance remarked on the utility of the report for her country, Uganda. She remarked that the report was timely as the Government of Uganda wrestles with a number of anti-poverty policies. The Government of Uganda is already working on a national social protection strategy and has long struggled with policy on gender empowerment. To date the possibilities of policies around strategic urbanisation have been little addressed in Uganda, and the report illuminated how and why this should be considered. In all these areas Ms Kakande emphasized how useful the report will be in bringing topics to the table for discussion and then framing those discussions. She welcomed that a series of policy briefs had been produced to accompany the report, which would be ideal for policy makers.

Simon Maxwell, Director of the Overseas Development Institute, synthesized the discussions and recapped on the core messages of the report – the five traps, five policy solutions and key recommendations. He recommended the report to all in the audience.


The first Chronic Poverty Report published in 2004 highlighted the key processes by which many millions of people are trapped in chronic poverty. Speaking at the launch Rt. Hon. Gordon Brown MP, then Chancellor of the Exchequer said, “I want to congratulate the Chronic Poverty Research Centre. This report is a landmark report. It is a challenge to any complacency, it is a call for change and it is a demand for urgent action.”

This, the second Chronic Poverty Report 2008-09 - Escaping Poverty Traps, provides a policy response to the first and for the 320 to 443 million people trapped in chronic poverty, it presents a set of policy solutions, with an emphasis on tackling exclusion, extending social protection and building assets.

The report will be presented by a panel of speakers and the launch will be attended by representatives of bilateral and multilateral agencies, research institutions, non-governmental organisations, and representatives from developing country governments.