What is poverty?

The Preamble of Agenda 21 states:

"Humanity stands at a defining moment in history. We are confronted with a perpetuation of disparities between and within nations, a worsening of poverty, hunger, ill health and illiteracy, and the continuing deterioration of the ecosystems on which we depend for our well-being."

One entire chapter of Agenda 21 (Section 1, Ch 3) is dedicated to Combating Poverty:

"Poverty is a complex multidimensional problem with origins in both the national and international domains. No uniform solution can be found for global application. Rather, country-specific programmes to tackle poverty and international efforts supporting national efforts, as well as the parallel process of creating a supportive international environment, are crucial for a solution to this problem. The eradication of poverty and hunger, greater equity in income distribution and human resource development remain major challenges everywhere. The struggle against poverty is the shared responsibility of all countries."

Editors note: Poverty is such a complex topic, because the notion of what is poverty can change according to context. In Australia, conditions of poverty are seen to include a loss of income, and inability to provide enough food, as well as poorer housing conditions. In Africa, conditions of poverty include an inability to access the most basic human needs such as clean, fresh drinking water. There is a considerable difference between these two situations. As such, there are different understandings of what poverty is.

Key questions for this area

If you are studying or teaching issues around poverty, or are looking to add content to your unit, following are some key questions you should be able to answer and/or consider:

  • How is poverty measured? How effective are the various methods?
  • Who are the poor? What groups are more vulnerable than others?
  • Through what means can poverty be reduced?

If you are interested in finding out more about this topic, check out our  resources for inspiration

Content owner: Office of the Vice Chancellor Last updated: 31 Oct 2019 4:14pm

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