Understanding poverty as a poverty of assets is to recognise that poor people have a diverse set of physical, human, social, and environmental assets. Assets can be tangible or potential and material or social, and individuals, households and communities can draw from them in times of need or crisis. A shortfall in these assets results in individuals living in poverty.

Poverty as a breach of human rights is often understood, not as a form of poverty, but as a strategy through which poverty alleviation can be based on international law. Many agencies apply this notion through a Rights-Based Approach (RBA). RBAs hold that a person for whom a number of human rights remain unfulfilled (such as the right to food, health, education, or information), is a poor person. As such, realising human rights is not distinct from alleviating poverty.

There is no consensus and there are many definitions, most of which partly overlap. However, there is broad agreement that an interpretation of poverty that looks at monetary income alone is too simplistic. Comparing the various interpretations of poverty with Islamic guidance on justice, development and support, Islamic Relief understands poverty as a multidimensional phenomenon, with a special focus on capability deprivation. Poverty encompasses not only material deprivation (measured by income or consumption), but also forms of deprivation such as unemployment, ill health, lack of education, vulnerability, powerlessness, and social exclusion.


IR Policy & Programmes (2008). Definitions of Poverty. [Online] Available: http://policy.islamic-relief.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Definitions-of-Poverty.pdf


IR Policy & Programmes


Policy Paper


Islamic Relief Worldwide






Definition, Human Development, Human needs, Islamic Relief, RBA, UN