Obama Pledges To End Extreme Poverty In Two Decades

During last night’s State of the Union address, President Barack Obama pledged that the United States would work towards ending extreme poverty around the world within the next two decades.

“[P]rogress in the most impoverished parts of our world enriches us all,” Obama said standing before the combined Federal government. “In many places, people live on little more than a dollar a day,” he continued, referring to the much cited World Bank definition of extreme poverty.

Obama then described exactly what ending such abject poverty would entail:

OBAMA: So the United States will join with our allies to eradicate such extreme poverty in the next two decades: by connecting more people to the global economy and empowering women; by giving our young and brightest minds new opportunities to serve and helping communities to feed, power, and educate themselves; by saving the world’s children from preventable deaths; and by realizing the promise of an AIDS-free generation.

Obama’s declaration came amid a section of the speech talking up other, seemingly higher profile international issues — such as the use of targeted killing in the fight against Al Qaeda and warning North Korea against further provocations. The firmness of the statement, however, stood out as the first time that a President has directly set such a target during a State of the Union Address.


Obama’s commitment echoes the eight principles in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), set forth by the United Nations in 2000. The MDGs have managed several successes since their implementation, including cutting global extreme poverty in half ahead of schedule. Other goals, including reducing the number of urban-dwellers living in slums and improving access to clean water, have been met early as well.

Many goals, however, will remain incomplete when the 2015 deadline set for many of the MDGs is reached. CAP Chair John Podesta was named to be a part of the High-Level Panel on Development, charged with charting a post-2015 course for development, by Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon last August. The panel has met several times already, discussing a wide range of issues, including those in the President’s call to action. Podesta has written a white paper detailing possible approaches to connect the poorest of the poor to the global economy and give the poor the tools they need, like access to education and health care, to contribute to the development of their countries. The Panel is due to present their findings to the Secretary-General by June.