THE BLOG
19/02/2015 07:42 GMT | Updated 19/04/2015 06:59 BST

Why International Development Needs to Be More Like Victoria Beckham

When Victoria Beckham pulled off the unthinkable and became a world respected fashion designer she didn't decide: "I'm going to be the next H&M of the fashion industry". She thought big and decided to be the next Yves Saint Laurent.

2015 is supposed to be the year for a development revolution: the beginning of the end of world poverty - which should be history by 2030.

It's the year when world leaders will meet to set development goals for 2030 - including things like access to health, education, jobs and energy as well as measures to tackle climate change and gender equality - and just as important agree how to pay for them.

While these goals should be broad in remit, a narrative is developing which focuses only on a part, although a very important part, of what ought to be done by 2030: to end poverty for good.

So what exactly is the problem? It's ambition.

When Victoria Beckham pulled off the unthinkable and became a world respected fashion designer she didn't decide: "I'm going to be the next H&M of the fashion industry". She thought big and decided to be the next Yves Saint Laurent.

The problem is that we're barely trying to be H&M - and that is just a cheaper version of what we could be.

A person is worth much more than $1.25 a day

The 2015 development revolution is to a large extent premised on the objective that by 2030 no one should be living on less than $1.25 a day. This is certainly a good thing, but just not good enough.

If you're a woman, living on less than $1.25 a day might mean that you often do not have enough food. It means that almost certainly one of your children won't develop their physical and intellectual capacities owing to a lack of nutrition.

It means that some of your children will die before they reach the age of five because of a lack of access to clean water and that you yourself will be lucky if you're still alive after giving birth.

Say you are lucky enough to be lifted out of poverty by 2030 and that you manage to live with as much as $3 or $4 a day. What would your life look like? You'll probably still have a high chance of losing one of your children to easily avoidable diseases. You will have to work long hours each day, seven days a week, in highly exploited conditions to barely meet your children's basic needs.

And your dream that your daughter makes it through secondary education and has better life chances than you did will be that, just a dream; instead you might see her dying in childbirth too early in life.

In the meantime, the world's GDP is projected to increase to more than $300 trillion by 2030. The fact that this wealth is not trickling down probably doesn't sound quite right to millions of poor women and men.

So what would a Victoria Beckham-type of ambition look like for development?

Defining poverty is a complex matter. Many of us think that poverty is best understood when you don't just take monetary dimensions into account.

Also, the idea of poverty as dignity is highly contextual, as our feeling of self-worth depends very much on the relative position that we occupy in the societies where we live in. Hence the importance of relative poverty lines which are country specific.

However, in a world dominated by fast-paced and short communications, sometimes a figure can help focus attention on a complex problem. This might be why some suggest that $10 a day is the minimum needed to lead a life without the constant threat of falling back into poverty.

A number is always arbitrary and has been and will be largely criticised. But the number is not the point; the attempt to give everyone a decent life is. And so anything far below the number of $10 a day simply won't do.