A Report from GlobeScan Salon, Addressing Extreme Poverty

Reducing World Poverty: Companies and NGOs Expected to Collaborate

October 2008


Global companies and international NGOs could strengthen their collaboration to reduce poverty, according to a group of directors, strategists and professionals that met in London, at the GlobeScan Salon, on 14 October 2008. Companies, in particular, should adopt a more ‘activist’ approach to poverty reduction, said participants at the Salon, ‘Addressing Extreme Poverty.’ Participants were mostly from the corporate sector, but also included representatives of NGOs and government.

The discussion took place as extreme poverty looked set to return to the global spotlight, amid recent rises in food and fuel prices, a potential reduction in international aid donations, and the unfolding global financial crisis. The rise in food prices alone is expected to push many more people—an estimated 100 million—into absolute poverty.

Participants heard how leading global companies, NGOs and governments were addressing global poverty. While the international community struggled to meet its poverty reduction targets, however, it remained unclear how global companies and NGOs would collaborate further to help meet poverty reduction goals.

International poverty reduction in doubt

Doubt over achievement of poverty goals is certainly widespread. Salon participants doubted that the Millennium Development Goal ‘to cut in half extreme poverty and hunger’ in the world would be achieved by 2015. When asked, 78 percent of the participants said they were ‘not confident’, and only 18 percent were ‘fairly confident’.

Due to gaps in international support, according to the UN, even despite massive poverty reduction successes in China. According to an Oxfam-commissioned global opinion survey conducted by GlobeScan last year, “Attitudes and Beliefs towards Global Poverty,” most people are not optimistic that extreme poverty will ever be solved, even though they see poverty as one of the most serious issues facing the world.

Still, panelists at the Salon remained optimistic about poverty reduction. “We may not meet the MDG by 2015, but that's not a reason to give up,” said Adam Leach, Chief Executive of the International Business Leaders Forum (IBLF). Chris West, Deputy Director of the Shell Foundation, observed that an interest in development required optimism, “and I am cautiously optimistic for development in Africa.” Roy Trivedy, Head of Civil Society Department at DfID, pointed out that the world had seen an overall reduction in poverty since 2000, even if inequality had increased. For a UN assessment, click here.

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