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What We Do

Concept of the NOPOOR Project

The Concept

The concept of poverty is intrinsically a philosophical issue that calls for methodological choices. The Nopoor project considers that poverty is a dynamic, multidimensional phenomenon that calls for dynamic assessment at individual level. All progress towards a theory of poverty has to be empirically founded by quantitative and qualitative studies in Southern partner countries and other relevant countries. A comparative approach gives rise to a better understanding of idiosyncratic and universal determinants of poverty

 Relevance of Indicators

Despite the proliferation of alternative indicators and survey data, most existing measures imperfectly capture poverty because they use overly restrictive definitions. Poverty is usually defined by a monetary income criterion (“living on less than US $1.25 PPP per day”; 1$ PPP in the MDGs), which raises a host of well-known problems. One of them concerns the arbitrary definition of the poverty line and the fact that, by classifying people as poor and non-poor, the negative effects of poverty are considered to be discrete rather than continuous, whereas someone earning just above the poverty threshold might be no better off than someone just below the threshold. In addition, the use of a static definition of poverty for the MDGs means that poverty reduction initiatives are based on direct action on each target or indicator without any attention paid to paths and processes. This disproportionate focus on targets and indicators sometimes prompts overestimation of the progress that has been actually achieved. For example, improved access to primary education as measured by higher enrolment rates may conceal a downturn in the quality of schooling (recruitment of unskilled teachers and overcrowded classrooms). Moreover, the indicators do not cover the dynamic process of entries into and exits out of poverty, nor do they differentiate between transitory and chronic poverty.

Comparative Effectiveness of Development Paths

The dynamics of poverty have yet to be explored. In addition to the heterogeneity in the achievement of the MDGs, substantial heterogeneity is found in the strategies themselves and in the effectiveness of policies and instruments. Developing countries have taken different paths. Nopoor aims to provide new and accurate analyses explaining the increase in, decrease in and persistence of poverty in some parts of the world. Nopoor investigates whether progress in countries that have successfully reduced poverty is likely to last or could be threatened by factors as diverse as climate shocks, increased rivalry for access to resources, food prices, market volatility, political instability, etc. The analyses take comparative approaches, including case studies, to identify which poverty alleviating strategies work (and why) in some countries and not elsewhere. Comparative studies with more successful regions may be very useful to identify relevant poverty alleviating strategies. It is generally acknowledged that globalisation – seen in the freer flow of trade, investment, labour and capital together with a faster spread of new technologies – has a strong impact on national policies and wealth distribution, between and within countries. Nopoor takes international comparisons further to consider interdependencies in a globalised world. Although globalisation can be a powerful engine of growth for developing countries, is does not have an automatic impact on poverty reduction, especially when growth is highly unequal. Globalisation has been shown to generate structural changes and to reallocate poverty within and between developing countries, creating "winners" and "losers" and jeopardising internal and external stability.

Role of Politics

Being poor diminishes and renders impossible the effective exercise of rights, individual autonomy and full participation in public decisions. Nopoor looks at the bi-directional links to explore the relationship between poverty and politics in developing countries. It considers the political challenges ahead for the poorest countries. Special attention is also paid to the political economics of foreign aid in an environment of emerging players pursuing their own goals, possibly with different and disjointed principles.

A Forward-Looking Approach

Since the adoption of the MDGs, extensive changes have been seen in the distribution and nature of poverty within and between countries. The recent worldwide financial turmoil has turned up unexpected phenomena such as resilience of emerging countries to the crisis and their increased role in global governance (G20). It is crucial to investigate the factors that have contributed to this relatively good performance. One possibility has to do with the financial sphere in these countries being less developed, more regulated and less open than in developed countries. This could make them less vulnerable to the volatility of financial flows. If this were true, it would call into question the doctrines that have been defended by international financial organisations so far. At the same time, the developing world is facing new challenges that will exert even more pressure in the post-MDGs era, such as global warming and the consolidation of democracy. To capture these trends, Nopoor is examining poverty issues in a forward-looking way.