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Conflict, State Fragility Are Key Drivers of Extreme Poverty

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By 2030, nearly two-thirds of the world’s poor will live in economies experiencing conflict, state fragility or both, according to a World Bank report published on Feb. 27.

This is a dramatic shift from 2000, when most of the world’s poor lived in non-fragile communities.

Since that time, poverty in such locations steadily declined, while poverty in fragile and conflict-affected situations (FCS) remained largely stable until recently – seeing modest decline from 2000 to 2012 before beginning a steady increase.

Extreme poverty globally has been reduced from 36% in 1990 to 10% in 2015, while poverty levels in non-FCS declined from 26% in 2000 to 5% in 2019. It is projected that non-FCS poverty will decline to 2.4% over the next decade.

Meanwhile, the number of people in poverty living in FCS has been on the rise, rising from 22% in 2012 to 37% in 2019.

Those living within about 37 miles (60 kilometers) of conflicts has more than doubled since 2007, while the number of displaced persons has reached all-time highs.

Sometime during 2020, the number of impoverished persons living in FCS is expected to surpass those living in non-FCS for the first time in history, with projections that FCS will account for two-thirds of all persons living in poverty by 2030.

Of the economies with the highest poverty rates, 43 are located in sub-Saharan Africa or FCS. Rates in these locations are 19% or higher, with some economies having poverty rates of nearly 80%.

Globally, the current rate of extreme poverty is 9.9%, but the report suggests this rate should be at least 0.5% higher when fragile and conflict-affected situations are considered – access to concrete data is often limited or non-existent in such areas, the report explained.

A higher rate of 10.4% would mean an additional 33 million persons are living in extreme poverty, with just over half that amount located in FCS.

A disproportionate number of the world’s poor live in FCS – accounting for only 10% of the global population but representing 48% of those currently living in extreme poverty.

“A two-speed world is emerging, sharply demarcated by conflict. On one side, economies free of FCS have strongly reduced extreme poverty, paving the way for additional development progress. On the other, economies affected by FCS confront intractable poverty and faltering growth, with development targets slipping out of reach,” the report said.

“In the decades ahead, as economies not plagued by conflict and institutional fragility likely continue to climb the development ladder, global poverty will increasingly be concentrated in economies in FCS.”

The full report is available here.