The World Bank has gathered the might of the international community behind its audacious plan to eradicate extreme poverty within a generation.
"This is it. This is the global target to end poverty," said World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, visibly pleased after the International Monetary Fund and the Bank endorsed the effort.
"For the first time in history, we have committed to setting a target to end poverty. We are no longer dreaming of a world free of poverty," Kim said at a news conference on Saturday. "We have set an expiration date for extreme poverty. With commitment, co-operation, and the vision of leaders from around the world, we have great faith that we can make it happen."
Kim, a US physician and global health activist who became head of the Bank last July, announced two weeks ago the plan to eradicate extreme poverty - defined as living on less than US$1.25 a day - to 3 per cent or less of the world by 2030.
The plan also aims at raising the incomes of the poorest 40 per cent in each country, so that prosperity is more fairly shared.
"This will be hard work. The target of 2030 is closer than you think - just 17 years away," Kim warned.
To reach the 2030 goal, the international community must halve global poverty once, then halve it again, and then nearly halve it a third time, Kim said.
New figures released by the World Bank show that extreme poverty globally has plunged to 21 per cent in 2010, from 43 per cent in 1990, with most of the world's poor in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, as China has successfully slashed extreme poverty.
Over 25 years, the rate of extreme poverty has fallen from 42 per cent to 21 per cent in 2010.
"We will learn every year where we are making progress and where we are not."
Calling the initiative a "historic opportunity" to make a difference, the Development Committee, representing the IMF and the Bank on development issues, announced its endorsement.
But the 25-member committee of finance and development leaders said the goals must be met without jeopardising the environment, increasing economic debt or excluding vulnerable people.
Kim welcomed the endorsement as "an important step".
"I have no doubt that the world can end extreme poverty within a generation. But it's not a given and we cannot do it alone. It requires focus, innovation and commitments from everyone," he said.
Kim had made adoption of the poverty agenda his top priority for the IMF and World Bank spring meetings in Washington.
He had pledged that if it won the endorsement, the Bank would present, for the first time in its 66-year history, an integrated strategic plan for the group.
"Ministers unequivocally supported Dr Kim's vision and stated that we can count on the World Bank group as a partner in the endeavour of ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity," Marek Belka, the chairman of the Development Committee and head of Poland's central bank, said.