Globalization and Poverty Reduction

Globalization and Poverty Reduction

Can the Rural Poor Benefit from Globalization?
8-9 November 2001, New York
Organized by the Division for Social Policy and Development
Venue: Conference Room, 23rd Floor, DC2 Building
Time: 9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.


The impact of globalization on poverty eradication has increasingly become the focus of attention of governments and international organizations. The economic arguments in favour of globalization stress the positive relationships between increasing international trade and investment flows and faster economic growth, higher living standards, accelerated innovation, diffusion of technological and management skills, and new economic opportunities.

Reality has proven not to be so rosy. First, the benefits of globalization are not equally distributed and tend to be concentrated among a relatively small number of countries, particularly the more advanced ones. The poorest countries such as the least developed countries in Africa have not been able to sufficiently harvest the benefits of globalization. Second, most efforts have been placed in facilitating free trade flows, particularly in products which are of importance to the developed countries, as part of the globalization process.  Other dimensions of globalization like labour market standards, the environment, sustainable development and poverty alleviation has received much less attention. Third, globalization has also led to an increased vulnerability among many countries to international economic conditions, as clearly demonstrated by the Asian financial crisis of 1997-1998.

The ongoing focus of countries and national and international organizations on poverty alleviation has created a much clearer picture of the magnitude, nature, determinants and possible routes out of poverty. Recent estimates by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) indicate that 75 percent of the poor work and live in rural areas. Rural poor have restricted access to and control over assets – land, water, credit, information, technology, health, education and skills – and to markets. As such their lives have limited links to the macro-economic environment in which  globalization takes place.

Developing countries have been given the main responsibility to harness the potential benefits  of globalization for the rural poor and to counter possible negative effects. They are urged to adopt  appropriate structural and social measures that promote macro-economic stability essential for  economic growth and poverty alleviation. High-income countries are urged to support these  initiatives through increased aid, debt relief, experience exchanges e.g. on policy making and good  governance, liberalized market access for products of importance to low-income countries, and  increased resources for the fight against communicable diseases. However, many low-income  countries already face tremendous and often contradicting challenges in achieving poverty-alleviation  goals e.g. implementation of education for all programmes with reduced government expenditure,  or ensuring sufficient income-generating and employment prospects for the rural poor without  intervention in agricultural output prices or in investment allocation policies.

Developing countries are in need of concrete guidelines on the appropriate social, market and  political instruments and delivery mechanisms (meso-economic measures) that can bridge the micro  world of the poor and the macro world of national economies and on appropriate sequencing of  instruments and mechanism to ensure fast and optimal benefits for the rural poor. The EGM  will focus on these instruments, mechanisms and processes.

Special considerations

Globalization and poverty alleviation are important themes outlined in many recent  resolutions and declarations adopted the General Assembly including: sections II and III of the  Millennium Report of the Secretary-General of the United Nations; section III of the United Nations Millennium Declaration adopted by the General Assembly under Resolution 55/2; and resolution S-24/2 on “Further initiatives for social development” adopted by the General Assembly at its twenty-fourth special session in July 2000.

Objectives of the EGM

  • To review poverty reduction strategies and to examine the experience with rural poverty alleviation;
  • To examine and exchange views on the impact of globalization on the reduction of poverty among the rural poor, and how the benefits of globalization are transmitted to the rural poor;
  • To examine and recommend policy options to national governments in both low-income and high-income countries to enhance the benefits of globalization for the rural poor, and;
  • To examine the role which the United Nations, in particular, can play in these processes


Summary of the proceedings of the meeting

Report of the meeting

Malcolm Bale
Reaching the rural poor in a globalizing world

Peter S. Gudgeon
Globalization and rural poverty reduction: The role of the United Nations
system—contrasting styles and competing models

Olympios Katsiaouni & Jaroslaw Gorniak
Globalisation and rural poverty in transition economies

Linda Low
Globalization and poverty reduction: Can the rural poor benefit from globalization? An Asian perspective
[Powerpoint presentation]

Atiqur Rahman
Experience with rural poverty alleviation [Powerpoint presentation]

Paul Shaffer
New thinking on poverty: Implications for poverty reduction strategies

Peter Townsend
The role of the United Nations: Directing global resources to the rural poor

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