• Category: Our Work
Human Development and Poverty

Poverty affects a large proportion of the world’s population. Reducing poverty is one of the main goals of Islamic Relief. There are many elements of poverty that overlap. While those who are socially excluded will tend to have fewer opportunities to realise their capabilities, those with lower monetary income will also encounter the same difficulties.

The work we do in this area aims to provide sound analysis and reasoning behind the dimensions of poverty, effective measures to combat poverty, the issue of human rights and how our work is linked-in with Islamic values.

Well-being and human development

Not too long ago, development was believed to be synonymous with modernisation and industrialisation and its understanding was limited solely to the satisfaction of material needs and desires. However the concept of development has now evolved such that humans and their wellbeing are now its central concern. Material progress on its own is now recognized as an essential component but not the ‘be-all and end-all’ of human development and wellbeing.

Human wellbeing has been variously described and measured as the satisfaction of basic needs, absence of fear and wants, providing capabilities to basic functionings, opportunity for decent work, access to health and education, as well as elimination of poverty. At Islamic Relief, we are re-examining this concept in the context of our faith perspective so as to improve our approaches and practice.


The understanding of poverty, its causes and the strategies deployed to tackle it have changed over time. Community development practitioners and those engaged in participatory rural appraisals have strongly criticised definitions of poverty that come from so-called ‘experts’ as being remote from the realities of poor people. It is now widely accepted that the simplistic notion of ‘one-dollar-a-day’ does not reflect the complex reality of poverty. When the poor are asked what poverty means to them, they indicate that in addition to material deprivations, non-material factors such as vulnerability, insecurity, social isolation, powerlessness and affronts to their dignity and honour are highly significant.

This deeper and more realistic view of poverty means that poverty must be tackled on many fronts. Therefore we have undertaken investigations on several topics ranging from macroeconomic issues relating to trade, aid, debt and corruption to microeconomic issues dealing with household poverty.

Human Rights

One of the five core Islamic values of Islamic Relief is social justice. Our work is founded on enabling people and institutions to fulfil the rights of the poor and vulnerable. We work to empower the dispossessed towards realising their God-given human potential and developing their capabilities and resources. We will tackle the structural causes of poverty that present barriers to human development within society which include the denial of rights and justice. To do this, we will increase our faith literacy and increase our understanding on the common grounds as well as tensions between the UN Bill of Rights and the rights provisions within Islam.

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