Over the past two decades, Asian societies saw abrupt changes in their political, social, and economic spheres. Rapid and sustained economic growth lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. Well over half of Asia’s residents are now middle class and Asia is the engine of economic growth across the globe. This tremendous growth and its impact, however, are by no means uniform. The extent and type of change varied within and between countries, and many populations did not reap the same benefits as others.
Significant pockets of poverty still exist throughout the region. In fact, two-thirds of the world’s poor live in Asia. Recent data suggest that more than 800,000,000 Asians exist on less than USD 1.25 a day and 1,700,000,000 live on less than USD 2 (Kuroda, 2013). Life in Asia is especially challenging for populations living in the margins of everexpanding mega-cities, isolated rural areas, areas affected by conflict, and groups that are marginalized and excluded due to biased government systems and services or social prejudices.