In-depth: Poverty Reduction

PeopleUNDP / ADF working to reduce poverty through community development in Kurukubaru (Photo Credit: UNDP)

Guyana, like most developing countries, has been seeking new ways to improve the living standards of its citizens. Positive growth is evident, but a long-term trend analysis reveals that there is still room for improvement; real growth averaged 1% between 1970 and 2005. But steps taken to address the disproportionate number of citizens with income or consumption levels falling below the poverty line have delivered positive results. The Household Income and Expenditure Survey and Guyana Living Conditions Survey, each show that the proportion of households living in moderate poverty (on US$2 daily) has declined from 43% to 36.3% in seven years. Extreme poverty dropped from 28.7% to 19.1% over the same period; a clear sign that Guyana is on track with the targets identified in Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 1. Despite this positive outlook, data reveals that for particularly vulnerable groups, such as Amerindians, the outlook is less positive.  Seventy seven per cent of Amerindians are classed as poor, and they remain the poorest group of citizens in Guyana.

UNDP Guyana supports innovative pilot projects, shares global best practice and resources.  It also promotes the role of women in development and brings governments, civil society and external partners together to coordinate efforts to tackle poverty.


UNDP’s approach to poverty eradication is undertaken from a human development perspective. Generally the contribution of UNDP in this area focuses critically on the pursuit of the MDGs. By monitoring its progress and that of the poverty reduction strategy, UNDP encourages an environment of enablement, and one where access to finance and investment leads to inclusive growth. In Guyana, UNDP uses its resources to:

  • Support activities to make aid more effective;
  • Strengthen statistical and other capacities;
  • Deliver important policy advice; and
  • Work with the private sector and with communities to build livelihoods.

UNDP operates through strategic partnerships to ensure that essential work to reduce poverty is ongoing.  To this end, UNDP works with civil society, the private sector, international entities and the Government of Guyana.  Through its engagement with the government, UNDP ensures that work programmes are implemented and that plans for future activity are made and delivered. The participation of key stakeholders, beneficiaries, and vulnerable groups, is the cornerstone of the partnership building process - which is aimed at reducing poverty.


  • UNDP supported the preparation and publication of Guyana’s 2007 and 2011 MDG Reports, capacity building for monitoring the MDGs and the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper through the PCPMU . UNDP has supported the preparation of a Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP 2001) including the PRSP progress reports in 2004 and 2005.
  • Support was provided by UNDP to help build capacity in the public sector and establish statistical units in all Ministries, the Bureau of Statistics and the Office of the President to establish monitoring and evaluation procedures to enhance accountability, planning and policy design.
  • UNDP worked towards the economic empowerment of vulnerable groups, for example it improved the economic status of indigenous Amerindian communities located in Guyana’s rural interior. A Public/Private Partnership was formed to strengthen the community’s Capacity for Income Generation and Poverty Eradication.   The resulting joint venture led to the setting up of a Hart of Palm Plantation within the Drumhill community (in Region 1 – Barima/Waini) and the setting up of Amazon Caribbean (Guyana) Ltd (AMCAR).
  • EMPRETEC Guyana is a UNDP initiative that began as a project to boost entrepreneurial activity among the local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).  Its dynamic and innovative approach has helped it to evolve and it is now a registered self sustaining non-governmental organisation that continues to support SMEs.
  • The National Working Group, which was established in 2005 and continues to operate with the support of governmental and non-governmental organisations.  It has been supporting farmers in the Kuru Kururu community through local economic activity projects (e.g. beehives) by establishing links with the private sector (e.g. marketing the honey being produced). It is planned that such activities will continue to grow and serve private sector organizations.
  • Pro-poor growth has also been promoted through the establishment of community livelihood projects (that create jobs, supply commodities etc.) in eight out of 10 regions.

Plans for the Future

In the short to medium term, more emphasis will be placed on policy support so that the extent to which the MDGs have been achieved can be monitored. For example, the following will be undertaken: the publication of regular MDG monitoring reports; capacity development to aid the monitoring and evaluation of the outcomes of development policy decisions; and support to coordinate development aid to make it more effective. There will be a greater number of partnerships with the private sector as a means by which to secure the MDGs, and there will be a focus on promoting inclusive business practices.

In the longer term, the link between poverty and the environment will be explored further and addressed through the Poverty Environment Initiative (PEI) as a means of supporting the Low Carbon Economy.  Vulnerable groups, including Amerindians, will continue to be at the centre of UNDP’s poverty-reduction strategy.