Global Positioning System for a better future – the 2021 global MPI launches

8 October 2021 – The findings of the 2021 global MPI report Unmasking disparities by ethnicity, caste and gender were discussed on 7 October at a high-level online event with an expert panel who linked the troubling analysis to policy action.

Anjali Kwatra, Director of Advocacy, Marketing and Communications, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), moderated a discussion which included remarks from Achim Steiner, the Administrator of the UNDP, a presentation on the results by members of the author team, Sabina Alkire, Director of OPHI, and Yanchun Zhang of the Human Development Report Office, and a panel discussion featuring Mamta Murthi, Vice President for Human Development, World Bank, Yolande Wright, Global Director Child Poverty, Climate and Urban, Save the Children, and James Foster, Vice Dean and Oliver T. Carr Professor of International Affairs and Professor of Economics, George Washington University.

Co-authored by OPHI and the United Nations Development Programme Human Development Report Office (UNDP HDRO), this year’s joint report uses disaggregation and intrahousehold analyses to highlight inequalities along the lines of ethnicity, caste and gender to show who is being left behind and which interlinked deprivations are hindering progress in poverty reduction.

The speakers shared their insights on the findings. These included the World Bank’s affirmation of the multidimensionality of poverty and how the Bank is seeking to inform their financial assistance with multidimensional information. Yolande Wright, representing Save the Children, observed the grim continuity of global child poverty, but also highlighted the shocking findings on disparities in girl’s education which warrants further attention. James Foster expanded on the methodological techniques of disaggregation, and linked gendered and intrahousehold analysis employed in the report.

The event inspired a wide range of questions from the audience including how to address the impact of climate change on poverty, how the MPI can help inform policy decisions, and the impact of covid on poverty data.  Sabina Alkire closed the event inviting the creativity and commitment of readers and policy practitioners to complement the study and turn knowledge into action.

Highlights from the speakers included:

Achim Steiner, Administrator, United Nations Development Programme,

The MPI offers a “much more complete picture of how people are affected by poverty, who they are and where they live”.

“In many ways, the MPI data is a global positioning system that can help navigate towards a better future for the 1.3 billion people living today in multidimensional poverty. In doing so, it will also help to get the SDGs back on track.”

“Today’s report, together with the national reports that will follow in countries like India, provide a detailed picture of where we were when the pandemic struck.”

“It also offers hope and insights for tomorrow showing how and how much progress was made in the fight against poverty in the years BC or Before Covid.”

Mamta Murthi, Vice President for Human Development, World Bank

“At the World Bank we recognise that poverty is multidimensional. And we actually use multidimensional indicators. So we don’t use only the income poverty measure, which is useful, but has its limitations.”

“We often end up focusing in these discussions of poverty [on] countries where there is a very high rate of growth of population. But there are also countries where the rate of growth of population is slowing, and often these countries face challenges…to have the resources for education and healthcare and water and all the other things that are all important. These countries also face the situation of needing to care for their elderly. And often the burden of care falls on women…So it’s an extremely important dimension to take into account.”

“Why do we talk about human capital? Of course, we should invest in people because it’s morally the right thing to do. But we wanted to make sure that ministers of finance, the ones who hold the purse strings – we wanted them to see this investment as an investment, and not as recurrent spending… That’s why we emphasise this concept of human capital.”

 “Sometimes, it’s very difficult to analyse these issues because there is no information on ethnicity or caste at the level of disaggregation that one would want.”

Yolande Wright, Global Director Child Poverty, Climate and Urban, Save the Children

“In some countries we are really continuing to see children falling behind”

“Investing in children is an incredibly important investment for any country to make. Not just from the Human Capital point of view, but also morally, and we know that childhood is such an important time.”

“This MPI is really important to us. It picks up some really key indicators about how children’s childhoods are going, and how that will affect them for the rest of the lives. We know that things like malnutrition in the first 1,000 days can affect a child’s long term life outcomes; education similarly.”

On gender findings, “for children this is really critical…how important the education of girls is. We see how many of the households that remain in poverty have no women or girls who have completed 6 years education.”

“We really need to step up policies that we know work for children such as child-sensitive social protection, child benefits, but also other targeted measures to deal with these inequalities that we see in society, including those that are based on ethnicity, disability, gender. We need to have some universal policies that are inclusive, but also some targeted measures to really make a dent on this continuing problem of child poverty.”

“Making information accessible is incredibly important and one of the things that Save the Children wants to do as a child rights organisation is also make information available to children and young people in suitable formats.”

James Foster, Oliver T. Carr Professor of International Affairs and Professor of Economics, George Washington University

“Because the MPI measures deprivations of each household directly, this gives it a precision, a disaggregation possibility, that’s not possible in other global measures like the $1.90/day, as good as these are for other purposes.  So, the MPI is a good choice if you want to unmask disparities.”

“The basic idea [of the linked intrahousehold and gendered analysis] is that for each person you know their individual data on age, gender and schooling, as well as their MPI deprivation profile. You know that for others in their household. So, after you compute the MPI you go back and look within the household at this individual and intrahousehold data, and at the MPI profiles, at the same time. This creates an powerful layer of insight using existing data. And it’s not possible if we have bubbles of big data floating about that can’t be linked to each other.”

Yanchun Zhang, Chief Statistician, United Nations Development programme, Human Development Report Office

“UNDP is involved in those global MPI and national MPI work and we also work very closely with academic institutions like OPHI and James’ centre, IIEP, and also working with World Bank and UNICEF in helping countries to attract and report SDG target 1.2. So, a lot of work is done at UNDP to support multidimensional poverty research and, also, programme work. Then, going forward…it’s not only about the what question, but also the why question and how question. It requires more participation from countries themselves, and also from young people and from all citizens interested in eradicating poverty in all forms everywhere, so this is a mission for all of us.”

Recording of 7 October launch event

2021 Global MPI Report