ALTHOUGH economic growth rates in many developing countries improved during the 1990s, many of their people continue to live in extreme poverty. Progress is being made—for example, in increasing life expectancy, school enrollment, and rates of adult literacy and in reducing infant mortality—but it has been painfully slow, and the gap between the industrial and developing worlds remains enormous. In Africa, setbacks in efforts to combat poverty have occurred in countries suffering from armed conflicts and the ravages of the AIDS crisis. More needs to be done if the international development goals proposed in 1996 by the United Nations (see article by Sanjeev Gupta and others in this issue) are to be met.
Focusing development cooperation on accelerated poverty reduction is today’s central development challenge. The extent of the challenge is such that efforts will need to be made simultaneously on a variety of fronts:
• National development programs must become more responsive to the needs of the poor.
• The programs and procedures of international development agencies and other lenders need to reinforce country-led efforts to reduce poverty.
• Countries’ own efforts need to be complemented by global action to increase aid flows, remove industrial countries’ trade barriers, more effectively combat AIDS and other pandemics, and ease cross-border conflicts.