In 2000 the world's eight richest nations set the Millennium Development Goals, one of which is to halve the number of people living in extreme poverty (defined as living on less than $1 a day) by 2015. If they succeed, they'll accelerate a trend of growing worldwide prosperity hundreds of years in the making.
University of Groningen economist Angus Maddison calculates that average annual global per capita income fell, in real dollars, from $445 in 1 A.D. to $436 in 1000 A.D. By 1820 it had increased to $667, and by 2001 it was more than $6,049. The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that by 2050 average global per capita income will be somewhere between $7,200 and $20,800.
In December the World Trade Organization will meet in Hong Kong to encourage poverty alleviation through trade. The goal is to persuade the developed countries to reduce their agricultural tariffs and farm subsidies (which keep prices artificially low) and boost the access of poor farmers in developing countries to markets in wealthier ones. Cutting a fair deal in Hong Kong could help those who have yet to benefit from a growing world economy.
Graph: The End of Poverty? (not available online)