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Is UK aid good at lifting people above $1.90 a day?

9 December 2021

The International Development Committee, which scrutinises the development work of the UK government, is starting an inquiry into Extreme Poverty and the Sustainable Development Goals. The inquiry will look specifically at how the development work of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) impacts on United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 1, Target 1.1. This goal calls for the eradication of extreme poverty by 2030, where ‘extreme poverty’ is defined as earning less than $1.90 per day.


For the thirty years or so to 2020, both the relative and absolute number of people in extreme poverty around the world was falling. In 2018 the rate of decline began to slow, putting the goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030 at risk.

The Covid-19 pandemic will cause a reversal of the prevailing trend. Some estimates suggest that over 88 million people could fall into extreme poverty because of the pandemic. In the coming years conflict and climate change could push yet more people into extreme poverty.

The new inquiry will aim to:

  • understand what the change in the rate at which extreme poverty is declining means for the FCDO’s development strategy and its current policies and programmes;
  • examine the extent to which the FCDO’s strategies, policies and programmes target extreme poverty and make recommendations on how they might need to be changed;
  • follow up on the work previously done by the Committee, and its predecessor in the previous parliamentary session, on the pandemic and its secondary impacts; and
  • connect to the work the Committee is doing to ensure that the UK government’s foreign aid spending is effective and achieves good value for money.

Scope of the inquiry

The IDC is happy to consider written evidence from people with lived experience of extreme poverty, experts, aid agencies and others with an interest in the topic. This written evidence will be accepted until a deadline of 2359 HRS on Friday 18 February 2022 A guide on how to submit written evidence is here The call for evidence for this specific inquiry is here.

After considering written submissions the Committee will invite selected witnesses to public evidence sessions where MPs on the Committee will ask them questions.

Written submissions are invited on the following topics (the list is not exclusive and those submitting evidence do not have to address all the topics):

  • How well is UK Official Development Assistance (ODA) targeted towards tackling extreme poverty and how effectively do the FCDO policies and programmes contribute to the achievement of Target 1.1 of SDG 1?
  • How might the FCDO’s strategy, policies and programmes need to change as the number of people in extreme poverty grows due to the global pandemic or the effects of climate change?
  • How effectively do the FCDO’s strategy, policies and programmes address the needs of women and girls in extreme poverty?
  • How effectively does the FCDO review the outcomes of the projects and programmes it funds that tackle extreme poverty? What evidence is there that UK aid is being used to build pathways from extreme poverty to sustainable livelihoods?
  • What evidence is there to suggest the FCDO is learning and applying lessons from its policies and programmes, so they more effectively tackle extreme poverty and does the FCDO have a good evidence base for what does and does not work?
  • What effect have the cuts in UK ODA had on the FCDO’s ability to address extreme poverty? What evidence is there to suggest poverty was a key consideration in deciding where the cuts should fall?
  • How the FCDO can play a more effective part in the eradication of poverty as a convener, thought leader and investor.
  • How has the merger of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development affected the UK’s approach to extreme poverty?

Further information

Image: United Nations via Flickr