“Driving new thinking” – high-level panel on poverty discusses the 2023 Global MPI

13 July 2023 ­– The 2023 global Multidimensional Poverty Index launched on 11 July at an official Side Event hosted by the Permanent Mission of Fiji on the margins of the UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.

The global MPI is an annually updated and internationally comparable index of acute multidimensional poverty for over 100 countries in developing contexts. It offers a multidimensional perspective to complement international monetary poverty lines.

This year’s report – Unstacking global poverty: Data for high-impact action – explores the reach of poverty around the world. The report is jointly produced by the United Nations Development Programme Human Development Report Office and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative at the University of Oxford.

Unpacking the findings of the report, the launch event featured an innovative and focused discussion that looked forward beyond 2030, returning repeatedly to the need to develop sustainable and broader approaches to development.

This year’s global MPI included Fiji for the first time. In a recorded message, H.E. Lenora Qereqeretabua, Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs, Republic of Fiji, observed the importance of monitoring and addressing vulnerability to poverty – people close to the thresholds of poverty who are deprived in 20–33.3 percent of the weighted indicators – within the context of Small Island Developing States. Since February 2022, the Honourable Assistant Minister explained how a high-level panel among SIDS has been working to explore multidimensional vulnerabilities, and how the global MPI can add value to these discussions.

Mr. Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator, who also appeared by video, referenced comments by the UN Secretary General in June relating to a Policy Brief on moving beyond GDP to be discussed at the SDG Summit in September and the Summit of the Future next year. Mr. Steiner highlighted that the UN Secretary General had described how measures such as the MPI were ‘driving new thinking’ on how to move beyond the traditional focus on GDP and how both the MPI and the HDI were ‘key alternative approaches’ to measuring progress in development. Mr. Steiner closed with the observation that the MPI with its broad analysis of how poverty affects people is ‘helping to nourish our understanding of poverty’.

Dialling in to the event, H.E. Maria Ines Castillo de Sanmartin, Minister for Social Development, Panama spoke about her experience of using an MPI to guide poverty reduction policies in Panama. ‘MPI works’, she said emphatically. The Minister for Social Development drew attention to the extent of child poverty globally – where one-half of poor people are children – and in Latin America and the Caribbean where 45% of poor people have not yet turned 18 years old. The Minister also touched on the theme of vulnerability. Across Latin America and the Caribbean, while 33 million people live in acute poverty, an additional 39 million people experience multidimensional vulnerability, she explained.

Mr. Burton S. Mguni, Statistician General, Statistics Botswana, represented a country which is currently developing a national MPI. Botswana, he mentioned, will report their national MPI under SDG Indicator 1.2.2 and intend to use their MPI to guide policymaking. The Statistician General reviewed the findings for the global MPI report on Sub-Saharan Africa, highlighting how the report compares 40 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, how half the population are poor but how the incidence of poverty ranges from one percent in Seychelles to 91 percent in Niger. He noted that electricity and clean energy are key priorities for Sub-Saharan Africa – where 83.1 percent of poor people (444 million) lack access to electricity. He also affirmed that ‘this report does a good job at encouraging us’ and pointed to how out of the 36 Sub-Saharan countries with data poverty trends, 32 countries significantly reduced MPI in at least one period, and 12 countries reduced every indicator.

Ms. Barbara Adams, Board Chair of the Global Policy Forum, focused on the potentially distorting impact that measures can have on the outcomes of policy initiatives. She reflected on the importance of a multidimensional approach which already captures how one cannot achieve one SDG at the expense of another. Returning to the comments of the UN Secretary General in June, she argued it was time for senior political decision-makers to ‘dethrone GDP as the main and only measure of development’ and challenged the audience to think about what it would look like if we used different measures of progress in a world where currently many countries use more public finance to service debt than they can contribute to healthcare.  She urged the assembly to continue to engage the Beyond GDP process energetically so that it can reach its intended objectives with rigorous measurement tools that do not require ‘trade-offs’ between important aspects of well-being but are truly multidimensional in scope.

The Side Event’s host, the Permanent Representative of Fiji to the United Nations H.E. Filipo Tarakinikini, responding to the interventions of the panel, remarked on how interesting and important a multidimensional approach is with its capacity to ‘unpack’ poverty into manageable challenges for policymakers and how he hoped that Fiji will pursue multidimensional measurement.

In the Q&A that followed, Sabina Alkire expanded on details of how national MPIs are developed and work in practice. Heriberto Tapia discussed the empowering nature of MPI as a measurement and the value-added of having the global MPI analysis complemented by a national MPI analysis tailored to national definitions of poverty. Barbara Adams reflected on how valuable MPI would be to assess the depth of externalities such as climate change, biodiversity and food and water security. Burton Mguni reinforced how important it is that data continues to be collected to measure MPI and that funding is safeguarded for these efforts, a point that the chair, Pedro Conceição, firmly reinforced. As the world looks forward to the post 2030 agenda, Barbara Adams encouraged fresh thinking to address global challenges, observing in her closing remarks: ‘This is an unusual moment’.

Watch the recording of the launch – UN WebTV Link 

The timings of the main interventions by our high-level speakers were:

Mr Achim Steiner, Administrator, United Nations Development Programme (05:29)
H.E. Lenora Qereqeretabua, Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs, Republic of Fiji (02:34)
H.E. Maria Ines Castillo de Sanmartin, Minister for Social Development, Panama (31:16)
H.E. Filipo Tarakinikini, Permanent Representative of Fiji to the United Nations (52:00)
Mr. Pedro Conceição, Director of the Human Development Report Office, UNDP (Chair)
Mr. Burton S. Mguni, Statistician General, Statistics Botswana (35:50)
Ms. Barbara Adams, Board Chair of the Global Policy Forum (44:02)
Ms. Sabina Alkire, Director of OPHI (19:00)
Mr. Heriberto Tapia, Research and Strategic Partnership Advisor, HDRO, UNDP (09:55)

More information:

Download the Global MPI 2023 report: Unstacking global poverty – Data for high-impact action

Global MPI resources

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