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Lowy Institute for International Policy | Poverty

Overview Despite sustained economic growth in much of the developing world, the causes of poverty have not been addressed in many countries and living standards remain low. The World Bank estimates that in 2015 there will still be one billion people living in extreme poverty. Growing economies in Australia’s region such as China and India still face a major economic challenge from poverty. The influential Brookings Report, The Final Countdown: The Prospects for Ending Extreme Poverty by 2030, as its title suggests, shows that extreme poverty could be greatly reduced by 2030. However, as Asia develops, extreme poverty is becoming increasingly concentrated in the least developed nations of the South Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and the Pacific. Today, a third of the world's poor live in fragile states. By 2030, fragile states could be home to nearly two-thirds of the people in poverty. The Brookings Report shows that if the World Bank is to meet its target of reducing extreme poverty to under three per cent by 2030, there must be sustained economic growth in the developing world and greater income inequality. The first Millennium Development Goal is to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger by 2015. With this first horizon fast approaching, it is important to recognise the progress made in global poverty, but also the challenges that remain. Poverty in Australia’s neighbourhood Poverty is a major issue in Australia's immediate neighbourhood, the Pacific Islands. In Papua New Guinea the largest and most populous nation in the Pacific Islands region, 40 per cent of the population are said to be living in poverty.   Papua New Guinea is not on track to meet any of the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. This is despite strong economic growth from its resources boom and massive investment in the PNG LNG project. This is a major concern  for Australia, Papua New Guinea's largest aid donor and trading partner with $19 billion of investment in the country. The new Australian Government's aid program is focusing on economic growth through supporting education, training, infrastructure and empowering women to create jobs and lift people out of poverty. A number of Australian NGO's are also working within Papua New Guinean communities and across the wider region to address the causes of poverty. The causes of poverty in Papua New Guinea are many and varied but include a lack of access to land, poor access to and involvement in the cash economy, the demographic challenge of a youth bulge creating child poverty and youth unemployment and poor provision of services. Poverty is not restricted to urban settlements but is widespread in rural and remote areas. Poverty is reflected in malnourishment, limited access to health and education services, poor infrastructure, low life expectancy and high child and maternal mortality and very low cash incomes. What the Lowy Institute does The Lowy Institute's Melanesia Program provides forums for discussion and debate among emerging leaders and experts as well as research on poverty in Papua New Guinea and the wider Pacific. In 2009 the Lowy Institute published an Analysis, Linking Growth and Poverty Reduction in Papua New Guinea by Laurence Chandy, now a fellow at the Brookings Institution.  The Analysis found that 'the high rate of growth presaged by the LNG project will reinforce the existing structure of the economy in which the poor are largely excluded." It recommended investment in human capital, elimination of wasteful government spending and the improvement of service delivery to take advantage of PNG LNG and address the causes of poverty. In 2009 Peter McCawley's Lowy Institute Policy Brief Mass Poverty in Asia and the GFC, he identified the parallel crisis of global poverty, in developing Asia, where more than a billion people live in bitter poverty. He argued that Australian economic diplomacy should place a greater emphasis on addressing mass poverty in Asia. In 2009 the Lowy Institute and CARE Australia convened a conference at the Lowy Institute in Sydney on 'Tackling Extreme Poverty in Papua New Guinea'. The conference brought together politicians, government officials, academics, the private sector and non-government experts to look at how to address the poverty statistic of over one million people living in extreme poverty in Papua New Guinea. The conference produced recommendations for deeper cooperation between government, NGOs and the private sector. In May 2013 the Lowy Institute, together with the Asia Foundation and the Development Policy Centre at ANU, hosted the conference 'The Future of International Development in the Asia Pacific', in Melbourne. The conference included diverse thinkers discussing the future of aid and development in the region beyond 2015. The conference looked at the role that Australia could in play in facilitating South-South cooperation to harness the economic growth of Asia to develop the broader region. In 2012 and 2014 the Lowy Institute convened the 'PNG New Voices Conference' in Port Moresby. The Conference provides a platform for emerging Papua New Guinean leaders to present and debate key challenges facing the country. Poverty and development issues have been central to both conferences with participants providing novel and innovative solutions to the causes of poverty.

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