After decades of steady progress in reducing the number of people living in extreme poverty, the COVID-19 pandemic brings the first reversal. In 2020 global extreme poverty rose for the first time in two decades. About 100 million additional people are pushed into extreme poverty with the majority of the new poor being found in South Asian and Sub-Saharan countries where poverty rates are already high.

In January’s Goal of the Month editorial, we focus on Goal 1: Ending poverty in all its forms everywhere.

What is poverty? 

Extreme poverty, defined as living on less than $1.90 a day, is more than a problem of lacking incomes or livelihoods. It is a multi-dimensional issue that is manifested by social injustice and inequalities, and has profound consequences on education, social cohesion, health, and wellbeing.

Why ‘Ending Poverty’ is important?

The well-known anthropologist and UN Messenger of Peace Jane Goodall once said: to fix the world’s environmental crisis, we must fix poverty. People living in extreme poverty don’t have the luxury of making choices. They must do what they must to survive and may cut down the last trees just to grow a bit of food for their family.

In 2021, it is estimated that 711 million people live in extreme poverty worldwide.

As the world recovers from COVID-19, we cannot go back to the endemic structural inequalities that perpetuated poverty even before the pandemic. Ending poverty requires systemic change, from raising awareness of social inclusion and providing universal access to education to reducing inequalities and demolishing the social, economic, and legal systems that reinforce the cycles of poverty.


  • World Economic Situation and Prospects 2022 launch | 13 January
  • Global Goals Week at World Expo Dubai | 15-21 January
  • 5th UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC5) | (postponed)

The World Economic Situation and Prospects Report looks at major global and regional economic trends and examines the COVID-19 economic recovery against new waves of infection, labour market challenges, supply-side constraints and rising inflationary pressures.

To be released in New York, this flagship UN report warns that the pandemic is far from over and the growth outlook remains uncertain. Additional regional launches will take place in Bangkok, Geneva, Mexico, Moscow and Doha (tbc).

For more information, please contact Sharon Birch-Jeffrey birchs@un.org.

There are 1.1 billion people living in the world’s 46 least developed countries (LDCs). The pandemic has severely affected developmental progress in these countries.

The 5th UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries, which will take place in Doha, represents an opportunity for the international community to agree on a ten-year action plan to get development back on track. Investment in these countries will help drive a just and inclusive COVID-19 recovery.

A SDG Media Zone will be held during the LDC5 conference in Doha. Stay tuned for live conversations on vaccine equity, gender equality, climate action and so much more – also available at UN WebTV.

For more information, please contact Francyne Harrigan harriganf@un.org.

For the first time in its history, Global Goals Week leaves the UN General Assembly and comes to life at Expo 2020 Dubai. Through more than 20 special events, advocates, partners and activists from around the world will join forces and mobilize to accelerate the Decade of Action to deliver on the Global Goals.

A SDG Media Zone will be held in Dubai during the Global Goals Week and will be streamed on UN WebTV.

For more information, please contact Francyne Harrigan harriganf@un.org.

The number of women in extreme poverty far outpaces that of men. Even before the pandemic, the 22 richest men in the world had more wealth than all the women in Africa – and that gap has only grown.

We cannot recover with only half our potential. Economic investments must integrate deeper gender dimensions. Read more about gender and poverty from UN Women.

A new UNDP report projects that war-torn Yemen, currently among the poorest countries in the world, can end extreme poverty within a single generation, by 2047 – provided that the conflict devastating the country for the last six years ends NOW.

Read more here.

Urban poverty in Myanmar will triple under the combined threat of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing political crisis, according to a new UNDP survey. The report warns that the rising poverty rates could produce severe knock-on effects for the country’s overall development.

Read more here.