Senior UK committee calls for eradication of poverty

Tom Berry reflects on the UK Parliament’s International Development Committee report on the post-2015 development goals. 

Momentum gathers towards the UN High Level Panel in Liberia next month with the publication of the UK parliament’s International Development Committee report on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). This is particularly significant as UK Prime Minister David Cameron is co-chairing the panel.

The Committee  make a number of significant findings. In particular the report:

  • supports the goal to eliminate extreme poverty
  • supports linking the poverty reduction and environmental sustainability agendas
  • supports global goals but differentiated targets and indicators at country level to address inequality and ensure people are not left behind
  • suggests measurement should be based on disaggregated data, for example on gender and disability
  • supports the notion of governance as being central but invites Prime Minister Cameron to offer a consistent definition of his ‘golden thread’
  • identifies job creation as crucial and supports an employment goal
  • recognises that simplicity and measurability were key to original MDG success and that these must be retained.

Urging further commitment

The report goes on to recommend a single health goal based on Universal Health Coverage (as suggested by many voluntary sector organisations). On education, it says a new goal should include primary enrolment and completion rates plus a right to secondary education and action to address quality. The report recognised that simplicity and measurability were key to success and that this should be retained with no more than 10 goals, all with quantifiable targets.

The Committee expressed some concerns in the process. It was concerned about the delay in appointing the secretariat for the panel and its small size – much smaller than the Africa Commission for example. It also expressed regret that the panel won’t publish notes of its meetings, highlighting that transparency is increasingly important and this should have been done to secure public buy-in.

Finally, the Committee urged Prime Minister Cameron to secure further commitments to development during the UK’s G8 presidency and for him to remain engaged following the formal process. The Committee called on Cameron to “use the two years before the new goals are finally unveiled to lobby other heads of government to back the new goals, and mobilise public opinion to support the panel’s agenda.”

Ending poverty – an achievable goal

Summing up findings, Committee chair Sir Malcolm Bruce said “Aiming to eradicate extreme poverty is ambitious, of course, but for the first time in human history it is also eminently achievable. The MDGs have been successful in halving extreme poverty, but progress has been very unequal. Now is the time to focus on those who have been left behind.”

It’s disappointing that the report does not mention either access to information or social protection and their role in ending poverty; the Committee are clear that they did not want to go into detail on content at this stage. We very much hope that both of these issues will be subject to greater consideration at Monrovia and beyond.

We are however, really encouraged that the Committee support a zero goal for eliminating absolute poverty. This is a key concept for those involved in drafting the post-MDGs to recognise if we are serious about ending poverty. We also welcome the push for greater transparency with regards to the process and recognition of the need for good governance and would re-emphasise the importance of empowerment in this context.

Development Initiatives evidence to the Committee can be seen here. The press release, report and main evidence can be found here.

Tom Berry is Head of Communications at Development Initiatives. Contact Tom at