Newsletter of the Asian Coalition for Housing Rights Sept 2014: special Issue on how poor people set their own poverty lines
When the World Bank's new president announced in April 2013 that his institution was going to "end extreme poverty by the year 2030", he set a poverty line of $1.25, which is the bank's previous dollar-a-day poverty line adjusted for inflation (but actually worth less). That $1.25 will definitely not be enough to keep kids at school or to access healthcare or decent housing or secure tenure or basic services, but it may be enough to just barely keep a person in most places from starving to death - which is the World Bank's disappointingly unambitious definition of "absolute poverty".
So who really is poor and who isn’t? And who should be making that call and defining those poverty lines? Sadly, it's almost never the poor themselves - the ones most intimately acquainted with all the multi-dimensional fine points of deprivation, and the first to laugh at the notion that $1.25 a day could ever clearly separate the poor from the non-poor.
Yet billions of poor people around the globe are being left out by policies that are based on those inappropriate top-down poverty lines, and hundreds of countries are cutting their urban poverty programs because those figures tell them poverty is disappearing.
ACHR and IIED decided to challenge this with some bottom-up research into poverty in Asian cities. But instead of getting a few professors to gather the information and write up a paper, in the style of most conventional development research, this regional poverty study has been organised to create space for urban poor people around Asia - the ones who understand poverty best - to think, examine, discuss and sharpen their own understanding about what constitutes poverty in their own particular contexts.