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Poverty in the Pacific

15 December 2016

Pacific Island

Research by Cardiff University is helping to improve the lives of people living in some of the most vulnerable communities in the world.

Dr Shailen Nandy of the University’s School of Social Sciences, and Professor David Gordon of the Townsend Centre for International Poverty Research, are helping the Pacific Island Countries and Territories, to adopt and apply a better method of assessing poverty.

Until now, poverty assessments in the region have relied on imperfect methods and indicators which fail to reflect the nature of poverty in small island developing states. These include the use of food-based poverty lines, which are rarely, if ever, used to assess poverty in high and middle income countries.

The new method – the Consensual Approach - enables adult and child poverty to be assessed separately using reliable, age-appropriate indicators of poverty in all its dimensions, based on what the population as a whole consider to be an acceptable standard of living.  The first Sustainable Development Goal, to eradicate poverty, requires countries to track progress in reducing multidimensional poverty based on national definitions.

As part of the research, Dr Nandy and Professor Gordon are providing technical help, expertise and training to national statistical offices, and working with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community to ensure the effective adoption and implementation of a survey module to improve national assessments of poverty.

In a recent visit to Fiji and Tonga, Dr Nandy and Professor Gordon met with official government statisticians from six countries to highlight the advantages of a scientific measurement of poverty, and to raise awareness of the Consensual Approach.

“Poverty is the underlying challenge for international and sustainable development; enabling countries to generate better data and evidence about poverty will improve understanding of its extent and nature; this will help policy makers to direct resources to groups and areas with the greatest needs.”

Professor Shailen Nandy Professor of International Social Policy

The training Dr Nandy and Professor Gordon provide has helped national statisticians understand the need to incorporate valid and reliable indicators and measures of poverty in their national surveys. This will lead to the generation of better data, and the eventual change of policy and provision of resources to tackle poverty.

While in Fiji, Dr Nandy and Professor Gordon met with staff of the UNICEF Pacific Region Office, to show how the Consensual Approach could be applied to assess child poverty.

Dr Nandy said: “UNICEF has long been a supportive partner of our work on child poverty, and we look forward to working together to improve the way child poverty is assessed and tackled across the world”.

Over the last 15 years Dr Nandy and Professor Gordon have worked to improve the measurement of poverty in low and middle income countries, helping countries to develop more effective anti-poverty policies.  Their work on child poverty led to the UN General Assembly adopting a new international definition of child poverty in December 2006, which has shaped the way child poverty is now assessed around the world; their work formed a central part of UNICEF’s Global Study on Child Poverty and Disparities, run in over 50 countries, including China, India, Brazil, Mexico, Bangladesh and Nigeria.

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Research in the School of Social Sciences is interdisciplinary, innovative and has impact. We are committed to theoretically informed research with a clear policy focus.