We’re Losing the War on Poverty — And It’s Only Getting Worse

UN human rights expert Philip Alston breaks down why we’re failing to meet the goal of ending global poverty by 2030

Max Ufberg
GEN
Published in
6 min readJul 8, 2020

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A photo of a homeless person on the street against a blue background with grey spray paint effect.
Photo illustration; Image source: Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

The world is losing its war on poverty. A new report by Philip Alston, the outgoing UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, says that politicians and philanthropists who boast of an impending victory over poverty are in fact relying on the World Bank’s flawed poverty line, and thus aren’t giving us a real sense of our global impoverishment. In reality, Alston says, the UN’s member countries are not on track to meet their goal of ending poverty by 2030, and climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic are sure to make matters even worse. Alston also denounced the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) approved by UN member states in 2015, which offered a road map to poverty eradication. “The UN and its member states are sleepwalking towards failure,” he said in a statement accompanying the report. “Five years after their adoption, it is time to acknowledge that the SDGs are simply not going to be met.”

GEN spoke with Alston about the sustainable development goals and why a neoliberal approach will never end poverty.

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Max Ufberg
GEN
Writer for

Writer and editor. Previously at Medium, Pacific Standard, Wired