There is a growing consensus that vulnerability undermines growth and human development progress, and so social protection to prevent downward mobility and poverty is an important third policy leg. This paper argues that nowhere in the current mainstream policy discourse is there a strong or systematic focus on the poorest people in society and posits several arguments as to why this is of critical concern. Three aspects of ‘the problem’ are introduced, which are then pursued in detail further in other CPRC Working Papers. First, policy processes and approaches may need adjustment. Second, specific measures are important and may require considerable re-prioritisation of effort and resources. Third, approaches to international aid require reviewing or adjusting. We conclude that this is not only important and useful (particularly in contexts of high poverty concentrations, rising inequality or state fragility) but also that it can be done, it is morally important and that necessary policy rethinking should be undertaken urgently.
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