Poverty Reduction

Kyrgyz family inside their yurta covered with pieces of traditional fabric
Taras' family lunchtime inside the yurta in the Altai Mountains, Kyrgyzstan

Almost 30 percent of people in the region either live in poverty or are at risk of living in poverty; and increases are expected by approximately five million people for every one percent decline in gross domestic product (GDP) (World Bank, 2009). 

Some six million people in Central Asia live in poverty and recent United Nations predictions estimate that the number of people in Europe and Central Asia living on less than $1.25 per day increased by one million in 2009 (Regional MDG Report, 2011).

If high commodity prices persist, it is estimated that an additional 5.3 million people could slip into poverty (measured at $2.50 per day) because of higher food and fuel inflation, increasing the rate of extreme poverty from 5.5 to 6.7 percent over 2000 levels (Regional MDG Report, 2011).  

Issues to address include unemployment, risks to water and food security, and cost of health care and energy - the latter affects low income households in particular. Women are also vulnerable to poverty due to increased unemployment, declining incomes and an increasing burden of unpaid work (United Nations, 2012).

Economic growth in the region has been uneven, with large and persistent disparities between countries, as well as among geographical areas of people within countries. Most countries in the region face rising inequalities, a significant setback in social protection, an expanding informal sector, a decrease in male life expectancy, and a massive surge in migration. In Central and South East Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States youth unemployment declined to 9.6 percent, after peaking in 2009 at 10.4 percent - the highest regional rate in the world (International Labour Organization, 2011).

The region has experienced the highest increase in socio economic inequality in the world over the last 20 years. One third of people surveyed in the region say that they are excluded - from economic life, social services and participation in society.

What we do

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UNDP works with national partners to ensure that economic growth benefits everyone, including those at greater risk of poverty (ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, internally displaced persons, rural populations, women and young people).
This includes:

  • Promoting human development and ways to include Roma and other disadvantaged groups in society
  • Integrating the Millennium Development Goals into national development strategies
  • Providing advice on how sector-specific policies and macro-economic policies can help reduce poverty
  • Working with policymakers and civil society organizations on making better use of available socio-economic data
  • Supporting policy reforms and private sector investment that increase market access for people living in poverty
  • Helping to develop agribusiness and agriculture sectors that benefit producers in marginal rural areas and generate income
  • Strengthening capacities in the private sector to gain from trade

Some results so far

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Armenia included civil society partners during the development of its national strategy on sustainable development, helping to bridge socio economic gaps in the country. Citizen groups collaborated with municipalities to identify and set budget priorities, which were presented and discussed at public hearings (See: UNDP Annual Report 2010/2011).

A national network of 42 business centres in Bulgaria is in place, providing assistance to small and medium sized enterprises. Employment training, business support and micro finance helped create over 37,700 jobs across the country. Business centres have given minorities and vulnerable groups a critical lifeline, providing vulnerable groups with tailor-made services and programmes – notably in tourism, herb growing and crafts.

In Moldova, integrated, easy-to-access support services help women and youth who survive abuse, domestic violence or human trafficking. To model how this could be done, UNDP sponsored combined legal aid, social care and financial services, along with job training to open doors to employment. 

A project that began by offering small loans to poor farmers has grown into a set of professional regional finance institutions serving local communities in the poorest regions across Tajikistan. Micro finance funding has benefited 120,000 households, with more than half a million people, and the loan portfolio has doubled from $3 million to $6.5 million in five years. 

After an influx of people returned to the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine, UNDP helped people organize to convey their concerns to authorities and initiate development projects to improve local conditions. This participatory model worked so well that it spread to the entire country - 2,000 communities have carried out 1,700 projects with local financing.