Highlights from ‘Multidimensional poverty measurement in the post-2015 context’

At a stimulating side-event at the UN on 24th September 2013 the governments of Colombia, Mexico, Chile, Philippines and Nigeria, along with the World Bank, UNDP and OECD, all called upon the UN to adopt a new multidimensional poverty measure, the MPI2015+, to track progress toward the new goals adopted after 2015. Some of the highlights from the discussion are provided here, and a full video of the discussions is also available.


The organisers – the governments of Germany, Colombia and Mexico, OPHI and the Multidimensional Poverty Peer Network – were honoured that the event was introduced by Gudrun Kopp, Parliamentary Secretary of State in Germany, who welcomed a multidimensional approach to poverty reduction:

kopp_50“In order to accurately measure our progress towards sustainable lifestyles we feel we need to look beyond GDP measurements,    approaches like the multidimensional poverty index could help us to adequately consider the multiple and mutually reinforcing the privations of people in that experience.”

She stressed the importance of multidimensional measurement in the context of post-2015 development debates: “Multidimensional measurement is not only relevant within the framework of the current MDGs but it is particularly important as a topic for a future framework also and set of goals we will be discussing until 2015”.

Sabina Alkire, Director of OPHI, then underlined the need for a multidimensional approach with research showing the lack of correlation between reductions in $1.25/day poverty and reductions in non-monetary MDG indicators such as child mortality, school attendance or access to clean water.

sabina_50She showed how a Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) can zoom in on the lived experience of poverty like a high-resolution lens, showing who is poor – which social groups and in which regions – and how they are poor: which deprivations batter their lives.

By shedding light on the inequalities among poor people, a national or regional MPI enables policymakers to target the most marginalised and vulnerable, to ensure that no one is left behind. An MPI 2015+ supported by better quality, more regular data could be used to track progress towards nationally defined goals.

Bruno Baranda, Minister of Social Development in Chile explained how Chile is moving steadily towards a multidimensional approach to poverty measurement, stressing:

Baranda_50“…we acknowledge that income poverty does not capture all the complex dimensions of poverty and that if public policy were exclusively driven by traditional income poverty measures resources could easily be misallocated. Therefore we recognise the importance of a complimentary approach, just as OPHI’s Multidimensional Poverty Index, to design public policies that result in effective implementation”.

Gonzalo Hernandez, Executive Director of the National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy (CONEVAL) Mexico, described how his country’s innovative adoption of a multidimensional poverty measure in 2009, which includes a social rights approach, measuring access to health, housing, education and access to food, as well as income, has enabled public policy to focus on those who are hardest to reach.

Hernandez_50He stressed that post-2015 national multidimensional poverty measurement needs to accelerate following the examples of countries such as Mexico, Colombia, El Salvador, Moroco, Chile and the state of Minas Gerais in Brazil. He also said a global measure of multidimensional poverty is required and that better data is needed, stressing that “the rush on poverty needs much more than good will and guesses”.

Arsenio Balisacan, Minister of Socio-Economic Planning in the Philippines strongly supported the push for the inclusion of multidimensional poverty measures in the review of poverty measures in the post-2015 development agenda and warned of the dangers of a silo approach to poverty reduction:

Balisacan_50“As all of us know the MDGs number 8 in all and these are internationally translated into 48 indicators… we have been reporting on our progress for each indicator almost as if they are unrelated. I would not even be surprised if our strategies towards MDGs follow a silo approach, in fact we may have even encouraged this practice by not specifying a multidimensional poverty target”.

Yemi Kale, Statistician General, National Bureau of Statistics, Nigeria stressed that because those who are multidimensionally poor are not necessarily income poor, and vice versa, policies focussing on the monetary poor may fail to reduce or eradicate acute multidimensional poverty. He said that “If you look at poverty in just income terms, you start to miss the point, and then… you get more problems.”


  “As far as Nigeria is concerned, this is an excellent initiative, and I’d like to encourage all represented governments here to take a critical look at the MPI and the parameters by which it defines poverty in an effort to orientate our thinking,” Kale stressed.

Paula Caballero Director of Economic, Social and Environmental Affairs, Colombia said that in order for us to eradicate poverty in an irreversible way, we cannot do it through income alone, we also need a multidimensional approach. She spoke of Colombia’s Multidimensional Poverty Index which tracks and monitors a variety of social and economic variables, beyond income, and shapes the government’s social programmes and interventions. She also stressed the importance of taking a structural integrated look at what development means and what is necessary to eradicate it.

caballero_50Finally, she echoed calls for a new MPI2015+: “We are convinced of the need to apply this kind of approach at the global level and believe that a new global MPI post-2015 would be a complement to the other work that’s ongoing”.

Jaime Saavedra, Acting Vice President Poverty Reduction and Economic Management, World Bank Group said that a multidimensional approach has clear advantages over a dashboard approach to poverty measurement as it captures the joint nature of deprivations:

“The advantagSaavedra_50e of an MPI, of aggregating those goods and services, is that having a joint distribution of services or a joint distribution of deprivations, will give us information on the need to provide sometimes bundles of goods and services to certain populations, so doing a multivariate analysis can lead to very different recommendations in terms of how to attack poverty.”

Hildegard Lingnau spoke on behalf of Erik Solheim, Chair, Development Assistance Committee, OECD and said that “Poverty is more than just income poverty and income inequality. The big challenge today is to identify and combat the multidimensional poverty, the many poverties, deprivations and inequalities in many regards”.

lingnau_50 The OECD presentation concluded with the recommendation that “…the post-2015 agenda considers a new approach for measuring human progress one that goes beyond income poverty to measure multidimensional poverty deprivations and inequalities.”

Olav Kjorven, Assistant Secretary General, UNDP, used his speech to reiterate UNDP’s commitment to strengthening national and global measures of multidimensional poverty and their links to the post-2015 agenda. He also called for a Data Revolution to build on the world’s work on tracking the MDGs and 2015 preparations, such as the World We Want report which involved over one million people around the globe.

Kjorven_50 He concluded by saying “Let’s continue to work together to measure multidimensional poverty and in so doing help eradicate poverty once and for all”.

John Hammock, who was chairing the event, recognised the presence of Alexander Segovia, Technical Secretary of the Presidency of El Salvador, who is leading the effort to establish a national MPI in his country.

Full video of the discussion is available, along with a briefing paper about why a multidimensional poverty index such as the MPI2015+ is needed. Detailed event information is also available.

Photo credit: Christine Butler