New IRC report reveals extreme poverty increased by 80% in certain countries

New York, NY,  October 9 2023 — New research from the IRC reveals that since the early 1990s, the number of people living in extreme poverty has spiked by more than 80% in 13 Least Developed Countries (LDCs) impacted by conflict. Meanwhile, the number of people living in extreme poverty globally dropped by more than half over the same period – exposing a new geography of extreme poverty.

These 13 LDCs are home to almost a quarter of all people living in extreme poverty today, and by 2030 – the target year for the fulfillment of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – the World Bank estimates up to two-thirds of those living in extreme poverty will be in fragile and conflict-affected countries.

The IRC’s report, The new geography of extreme poverty: How the World Bank can deliver for communities impacted by conflict, highlights the World Bank’s increased commitment to serve conflict-affected communities. It shows that to fulfill this ambition, and reach people caught in conflict living in areas where governments’ reach or control is stretched or absent, the World Bank will need to reform risk-averse, government-first approaches that can stall or suspend vital projects and services. The geography of extreme poverty is changing;  the institution and the tools to tackle it must  keep pace to serve the worst affected communities.

The IRC welcomes World Bank steps to increase its resources and engagement in countries impacted by fragility, conflicts and violence via increased International Development Association (IDA) financing and a dedicated strategy. The proposed World Bank Evolution Roadmap, due to be discussed at the World Bank Annual Meetings in Marrakech this week, recognizes that a focus on fragility, conflict, and violence – alongside global challenges like climate change – is a precondition for eradicating poverty and calls for broader partnerships with civil society and other actors to deliver effectively in conflict-affected countries.

This latest report from the IRC calls for expanded partnerships with non government actors such as civil society and humanitarian organizations to reach communities at risk, along with increased available and affordable World Bank financing, channeled to conflict affected LDCs. These operational and financing improvements will help maximize the World Bank’s impact in this “new geography of extreme poverty” and support the fulfillment of the Bank’s mission. The report’s recommendations include:

  • Develop “people-first partnerships” between the World Bank and non-sovereign actors – such as civil society organizations, including Women’s Rights and Women-Led Organizations (WROs/WLOs), NGOs, INGOs, local authorities – to assess and navigate conflict-related risks within each context and deliver projects to populations beyond the reach, capacity and/or control of the government.

  • Ensure World Bank projects are designed with affected populations and marginalized communities in mind, in collaboration with locally-led and women-led organizations, and with primary objectives to transform the discriminatory gender hierarchies, norms and roles that marginalize or otherwise harm women.

  • World Bank member countries gathering in Marrakech should support the proposed Roadmap’s commitment to prioritize action in conflict-affected LDCs via dedicated operational reforms to the World Bank and increased resources via the International Development Association (IDA).

Daphne Jayasinghe, Policy Director of the International Rescue Committee, said:

“These numbers tell an undeniable story – despite the development gains of recent decades elsewhere, extreme poverty is growing and becoming more entrenched in countries where it commingles with conflict and climate shocks, stalling any potential progress towards sustainable development. To fulfill its ambition to end poverty everywhere, the World Bank will need an overhaul of business as usual approaches to reach those in danger of being left behind. This will rely on new partnerships with non-government actors, better systems for consultation with civil society and vital World Bank financing reaching the conflict affected geographies of extreme poverty. Without swift action to resource and operationalize these reforms, there is a risk of divergence between the evolution of extreme poverty and the evolution of the institution charged with eradicating it.”