October 28, 2021

Launching the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Extreme Poverty

The inaugural meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Extreme Poverty was held on Monday, 26 October at 5pm, chaired by Chris Law, MP for Dundee West and the Scottish National Party (SNP) Spokesperson for International Development and Climate Justice.

The aims of the new APPG, which will be coordinated by BRAC UK, are to:

  1. Provide a focal point in the UK parliament for discussion on extreme poverty.
  2. To convene key stakeholders working towards the eradication of extreme poverty.
  3. To provide practical recommendations for the UK Government to tackle extreme poverty.

The meeting marked the formal election of parliamentary officers to the APPG, with a chance for additional MPs to put themselves forward to be members. In total, 13 parliamentarians from across the UK political spectrum have joined the Group, including Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee,  Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs, International Development, and International Trade Spokesman Lord Purvis, and Labour MP Virendra Sharma, member of the International Development Committee.

The event was attended by over 50 parliamentarians, CSO and NGO representatives and 7 parliamentarians (Conservative, Labour and SNP members).

In his introductory remarks, Chris Law provided a definition of extreme poverty – which the World Bank defines as living on less than £1.40 / $1.90 a day. He explained how the APPG would examine existing solutions to extreme poverty, and play a leadership role in advocating for poverty alleviation, pushing Britain to lead the way in protecting the world’s poorest people.

The first speaker was Baroness Minouche Shafik, Director of the London School of Economics. Baroness Shafik spoke powerfully about how the reduction of the UK aid budget from 0.7% to 0.5%, combined with the effects of COVID-19 and the growing threats of climate change, had pushed hundreds of thousands of people back into extreme poverty.

Baroness Shafik described how the global response to COVID-19 had been the worst example of global cooperation she had witnessed in her career, creating a “perfect storm” for the development of new COVID variants. She was sceptical about the role the upcoming COP26 Summit would play in advocating for the world’s poorest people, unless the $100 billion commitment to the world’s poorest countries was met.

Following Baroness Shafik’s remarks, Dr Andrew Shepherd and Dr Vidya Diwakar from the Chronic Poverty Advisory Network at the Overseas Development Institute provided a joint presentation.

They focused on the state of extreme poverty before COVID-19, and how the pandemic was now reversing years of progress. Dr Diwakar provided examples, including India, where poverty alleviation had been seen as a success story but was now in reverse.

Dr Shepherd spoke about how to sustain escapes from poverty, and how the voices of poor and vulnerable people have been muted in policy-making. He explained that non-contributory social protection measures like cash transfers help get people up to the poverty line, but still prove hard to keep them out. He cited BRAC’s Ultra-Poor Graduation Initiative as a way of enabling sustained poverty escapes for rural communities.

Before opening the discussion, the Group heard a pre-recorded video from UN Deputy Secretary General Amina J. Mohammed, who spoke of the importance of driving systemic change to eliminate extreme poverty. She emphasised the need to strengthen public institutions and for governments to invest in social protection, education, universal healthcare and innovating financing models to lay the groundwork for a gender equal, green, pro-poor world.

The discussion provided fascinating insights from key players in the CSO and academic space who are working to eliminate extreme poverty – including UNICEF and Compassion Worldwide.

The APPG will now be formally registered and begin it’s programme of work. For any questions or ideas for what the Group should be focusing on in it’s first few months, please contact the BRAC UK Advocacy team: nina@bracuk.net.

*Due to some technical problems we only have a recording of the second half of the session. You can watch that here.