Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Issues in the region

Changing nature of poverty and food insecurity

Despite increasing urbanization, most of the poor still live in rural areas, where levels of investment in human resources and social services are low.  Much urban poverty is a spillover effect of rural poverty, as the lack of opportunity in rural areas drives the poor to migrate to the cities in search of productive employment.  Persistent poverty and rising inequality threaten social coherence and harmony, creating the potential for instability.

Poverty persists in certain areas and social groups for various reasons: lack of access to productive assets because of either poor resource endowments or disenfranchisement or both; decline in the quality of natural resources; poor services, infrastructure and links to the mainstream economy or growth centres; circumstance-based deprivation caused by shocks such as natural disaster or death of the family wage earner; and social exclusion resulting from such factors as gender, ethnicity, religion, social class or caste.

The last two categories do not typically respond well to the usual agricultural and rural development activities.  As several regional member countries have recognized, reducing this type of poverty needs more effective and innovative approaches, including rights-based solutions.