IDS: Sussex Development LecturesWell-Being without growth? A new approach to combating global poverty

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The eradication of poverty has traditionally relied on growing the economy, combined with redistribution: GDP growth, in this approach, is essential to the fight against poverty, a condition for financing public services and social policies.

Prof Olivier De Schutter argues that we now need to move beyond this approach, and to expand our toolkit in the fight against poverty. Understood as the increase of the output of economic activity measured in monetary terms, economic growth remains important in certain areas, such as housing, education or public transport, especially to raise living standards in low-income countries. This is especially true if it is guided by the duty to realise human rights.

Selective growth thus understood may be required to improve the fulfilment of basic needs through the provision of public services and social protection. This may serve poverty reduction and the fight against inequalities. As a universal prescription however, economic growth (measured in GDP terms) cannot continue to guide poverty-reduction efforts. This is both because GDP growth generally implies increasing the metabolism of the economy (the amount of energy and material resources used), which is not sustainable, and because persistent income inequality largely annuls the impacts of growth on poverty reduction.

This lecture will take stock of the current debate on the relationship of growth to development, and it will seek to build the argument for the next Development Goals to be agnostic about growth: well-being and the realisation of human rights, not increasing the size of the economy, should guide macro-economic policies in the future.


Professor Olivier De Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights. Co-chair, International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food). Institute for Interdisciplinary Research in Legal Sciences (JUR-I), University of Louvain (UCLouvain).


Professor Melissa Leach, Director, IDS.


This lecture is held in the IDS Convening Space which is on the 1st floor of the IDS Building. You can access this by the IDS lift and press floor 1A. If you have any accessibility needs then please email:


This lecture will also be streamed on the platform Zoom. You can view Zoom’s privacy settings here.

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