|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Commission for Social Development
4th & 5th Meetings (AM & PM)
Anti-Poverty Experts in Commission for Social Development Offer Ways to Keep
Ranks of People without Adequate Food, Clothing, Shelter from Swelling
Disconnect between Reality of Poverty — Actions of Governments Explored,
As Panellists, Delegates Alike Call for Alternative Poverty-Eradication Paradigm
As Governments around the world mapped out strategies that would truly help reduce the ranks of hundreds of millions of people living in abject poverty, the United Nations Commission for Social Development today heard four anti-poverty experts offer ways to keep the ranks of people living without adequate food, clothing and shelter from swelling.
Reflecting the day-to-day experiences gathered while working and living in Asia, Africa and Latin America, the panellists offered their views as the Commission opened the second day of its forty-ninth session. The week-long session aims to shape new approaches that would filter down to the 900 million people whose lives would still be mired in extreme poverty in 2015, even if the first Millennium Development Goal was reached in that target year, the meeting heard today. That benchmark was understood as a call to end poverty by halving it among those whose income was less than $1 a day, a figure revised by the World Bank in 2008 to $1.25.
Pointing to that target, during the panel discussion, as an example of the dissonance that existed between the reality of poverty and the actions and targets laid out by Governments, Jimi Adesina, Professor of Sociology at Rhodes University in South Africa and the Director of the Transformative Social Policy Programme, said that in his small town in South Africa, that target would tally about 9 rand per day. Yet a loaf of bread could cost more than 8 rand. “The idea that we could set a target of 9 rand a day is highly problematic,” he said, stressing the need for greater coordination between “what we know about poverty and what we do”.
Noting that China’s poor population, or those who lived on less than $1 a day, tallied 150 million, Lu Mai, Secretary-General of the China Development Research Foundation in Beijing, said China’s Government aimed to alleviate poverty with a development-oriented strategy that zeroed in on education, medical care and insurance, and on building infrastructure in rural areas, where most poor people lived. It had set up a nationwide system of basic medical and health services and launched a programme to reduce maternal mortality and end neonatal tetanus in poor areas. It also was distributing free folic acid supplements to mothers of infants in rural areas. Those efforts had significantly slashed poverty.
Sharing her experience with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Isabelle Ortiz, the Agency’s Associate Director of Policy, said macroeconomic policies that supported the growth of jobs and structural changes in industry and agriculture were needed to curb poverty. So were financial services that fuelled real economic growth and spurred the development of small enterprises, family businesses and cooperatives. Social protection floors — which would let everyone tap into health care, education and other basic social services, and social transfer vehicles such as old-age pensions and disability benefits — were also crucial. Those vehicles not only eradicated poverty, but helped to ensure political stability, increase productivity and, simply, built a nation.
The final speaker on the panel, Pedro Sassone, representative to the Council of Delegates of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) of the Ministry of People’s Power for Foreign Affairs of Venezuela, stressed the need for Governments to reframe social policy as States assumed that responsibility and guaranteed their citizens fundamental social rights. They must not withdraw from that role. The social and economic policies had to meet collective and public interests.
In the afternoon, the Commission continued its general discussion on poverty eradication, begun yesterday. In an effort to learn from each other, delegates outlined national progress and the steps and programmes under way to curb poverty within their own borders.
The Republic of Korea, its delegate said, had reduced poverty through rapid economic growth over the last several decades and had introduced specific programmes, including the National Basic Livelihood System in 2000, the Old-Age Pensions Scheme in 2008 and the National Pension Scheme for Person with Disabilities last year. Those and other specific programmes had paid off. In 2010, the Republic of Korea had become the twenty-fourth member of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee, the first committee member that had once belonged to the ranks of the least developed countries.
On the African continent, Bostwana was helping to elevate the living standards for its poorest citizens with a national strategy for poverty eradication and its national vision 2016, its speaker said. One of the pillars of that vision was called “A Compassionate, Caring and Just Nation”, which aimed to ensure that every citizen lived a dignified life free from deprivation by 2016.
To break the vicious poverty cycle in Guatemala, the Government had developed macroeconomic policies that focused on job creation and social policies to raise the living standards of women and indigenous people, its speaker said. The “My Family Makes Progress” cash transfer programme was an example of that. While the chronic malnutrition rate had dropped between 1990 and 2009 and the number of children in primary school had increased over the same period, the Latin American nation still had a long way to go to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
Also speaking today during the general discussion were representatives of Mozambique (on behalf of African Group), Antigua and Barbuda (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), United States, Pakistan, Egypt, Venezuela, Indonesia, Peru, Qatar, Cuba, Andorra, Iran, Israel, Slovakia, Syria, Viet Nam and Australia. A representative from the Baltic Sea Forum also made a statement.
During the panel discussion, representatives of the European Union, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Morocco and Ethiopia, as well as a representative of the International Presentation Association posed questions.
The Commission will reconvene at 10 a.m. Friday, 11 February, to continue its discussion.
The Commission for Social Development met today to continue its forty-ninth session. For background, see Press Release SOC/4770 of 7 February.
Commission Chairperson Jorge Valero of Venezuela opened the meeting, which began with a panel discussion on the theme “poverty eradication”. The discussion would focus on the key factors impeding poverty eradication, successes in poverty eradication thanks to specific policies, as well as ways to successfully mobilize public resources for poverty eradication and make the process a priority in national policy and government planning. It would consider how to measure poverty eradication beyond 2015, given that even if the global 2015 poverty target was reached, 900 million people would still be living in extreme poverty.
The panellists included Lu Mai, Secretary-General of the China Development Research Foundation in Beijing and a senior research fellow of the Development Research Centre of the State Council of China; Jimi Adesina, Professor of Sociology at Rhodes University in South Africa and Director of the Transformative Social Policy Programme; Isabel Ortiz, Associate Director of Policy at the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); and Pedro Sassone, a representative to the Council of Delegates of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) of the Ministry of People’s Power for Foreign Affairs of Venezuela.
Mr. MAI began his presentation with an account of poverty trends in China. In 2009, the country, the world’s most populace, had 43 million people living below the poverty line, classified as earning less than ¥1196 annually. Of that total, 36 million lived in rural areas. In 2011, the Government would raise the poverty line threshold to ¥1500 annually, resulting in a substantial increase of poor people to more than 100 million. According to the United Nations poverty threshold, which defined a poor person as someone who lived on less than $1 per day, China’s poor population stood at an estimated 150 million.
He said China’s Government was now aiming to alleviate poverty through a development-oriented strategy focused on building rural infrastructure, bolstering income and basic services such as medical care and insurance, and investment in education. For example, it had set up a nationwide system of basic medical and health services, launched a programme to reduce maternal mortality and end neonatal tetanus in poor areas, and it was distributing free folic acid supplements to mothers of infants in rural areas. Such efforts had significantly slashed poverty. But poverty among infants and young children in rural areas — 96 per cent higher than that of the total rural population — was still a severe problem, due mainly to child malnutrition. Moreover, children in poor mountainous areas had scant access to preschool education, if any at all, causing impaired verbal and cognitive development.
To change that, his Foundation had launched an early childhood development pilot programme that provided rural women with nutritional supplements and education at “mommy schools” in local towns and villages, and physical exams for infants at township hospitals, he said. As a result, rates of anaemia, diarrhoea and fever had fallen significantly among infants aged 6 months to 1 year. The pilot programme also involved creation of early education centres in mountain villages, which had led to a significant improvement in mountainous children’s cognitive development, problem-solving abilities and social skills.
He said the Foundation’s “2100 Plan” of distributing nutritional supplements and education materials aimed to eliminate the root causes of poverty. It was based on findings of the United Nations and the World Bank that quality nutrition during the first 1,000 days of a child’s life, starting at conception, and early brain stimulation during the first five years of a child’s life, could reduce the early development gaps between rich and poor children.
Mr. ADESINA discussed the need for a new global anti-poverty agenda. He pointed out the significant dissonance between what was known about poverty, the actions of Governments and organizations, and the poverty eradication targets set at the global level. There was a need for greater coordination between “what we know about poverty and what we do”, he said.
He said the current global consensus made abject poverty the focus of policy attention. For example, Millennium Development Goal 1 was understood as a call to end poverty, starting by halving the number of people living on less than $1 a day, a figure revised by the World Bank in 2008 to $1.25. In the small town in which he lived in South Africa, that would tally about 9 rand per day. Yet a loaf of bread could cost more than 8 rand. “The idea that we could set a target of 9 rand a day is highly problematic,” he added. That meant people would be living without clothing, or even homes — a life of destitution. Those targets conflicted with a basic United Nations document, the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, inherent in which were the basic rights to food, housing, clothing, medical care and necessary social services.
He discussed a category of people which he called the “the precarious non-poor”. Those people technically lived above the poverty line, but were so close to it that any shock would push them into poverty. It was very harmful for Governments to not pay attention to that category of people. There was a clear need to reframe anti-poverty strategies. If less than 10 per cent of a country’s population was living in poverty, policies could focus on the redistribution of wealth. But if the percentage of people living in poverty reached 50 or 75 per cent, then it was necessary to raise people’s productive capacity, as well as improve solidarity among them. Economic policies should address that issue. “We can’t have economic policy pulling in the opposite direction.”
Reluctance to confront the dominant, privileged deregulated markets risked undermining the global poverty-reduction agenda, he said, adding: “We can’t leave the poor to the generosity of the non-poor.”
A sustainable anti-poverty strategy meant focusing on all members of a society, not just the poor, he continued. Such a strategy would develop a social compact that enveloped all members of a society, including the working and middle class. That would help curb the resentment of working people who paid taxes but did not directly benefit from the payments made to poor people. An inclusive strategy also made it easier to reform social policies when they faced challenges. He also discussed the importance of social investment in health care and education, as that would reduce intergenerational poverty and enhance national economic development. Indeed, countries needed social policies that encouraged economic growth and development.
Ms. ORTIZ, citing data from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said 82.7 per cent of the world’s wealth was owned by just 20 per cent of the world’s population. In statistics that assessed poverty levels, a few cents made an enormous difference in measuring the number of poor people. For example, in Indonesia, in 1996, there had been 22 million poor people, if one based the poverty line on people living on less than 0.27 cents per day. But when the poverty line threshold was changed to 0.34 cents per day, the number of poor people more than doubled to 49.7 million. There was an overwhelming need for public investment in food, education, sanitation facilities, safe drinking water, housing, health care and income. Poverty was particularly acute among children in the developing world. Youth unemployment and gender inequalities, whereby women worked longer hours than men and often for no pay, were major challenges.
She said poverty eradication required a new paradigm, as too often economic decisions were made without considering their impact. Global imbalances could only be addressed through more equitable global, regional and national decision-making that focused on public investment in socio-economic development, education services, decent work, social protection floors, implementation of human rights standards, anti-discrimination measures to end gender inequity and conflict prevention. Equity was not just about social justice, it was also economically efficient and led to political stability by alleviating social tensions and violent conflict.
To eradicate poverty, macroeconomic policies that supported employment-generated growth and structural change in industry and agriculture were needed, she said. So were financial services that fuelled real economic growth and promoted the development of small enterprises, family businesses and cooperatives. Social protection floors that gave everyone access to health, education and other basic social services, as well as social transfer, such as old-age pensions and disability benefits, were important not only for eradicating poverty, but also for political stability, social development, productivity and nation-building.
Addressing discrimination and citizens’ grievances were vital to resolving disputes before they escalated into full-blown conflict, she said. Even poor countries had the fiscal space to fund socio-economic development. But they might have to move away from orthodox approaches and focus on, among other things, expanding the tax base to increase domestic revenue, using global reserves for national development and creating a more flexible macroeconomic framework that allowed for some level of inflation and fiscal deficit in order to foster development.
Mr. SASSONE said that when investigating the determinants that had led some countries to overcome poverty, it was necessary to look at the design of social policy and its foundation. Erroneous unilateral assumptions had been made when developing those social policies. Social policy needed to be comprehensive, whereas economic policy needed to integrate social policy. Economic growth frequently had benefited people who held capital in their hands.
He stressed the need to reframe social policy. The State should assume that responsibility and guarantee its citizens fundamental social rights. It could not withdraw from that role. There was no good social, or even economic, policy without legitimacy, meaning that those polices had to meet collective and public interests. The “re-polarization” of social policy was necessary, which meant that the State had to guarantee the interests of the people, who were stakeholders and players in the social policy.
As for why the numbers and indicators surrounding poverty were not improving, he said it was necessary to look at the underlying issues of inequality that remained in the social fabric. That inequality needed to be changed in order to improve the numbers surrounding poverty levels. In short, the minority could no longer exploit the majority. Poverty was a consequence of social exclusion. The State must lead the way in changing social policies. “Co-determination” went hand-in-hand with the development of social policies. The socio-economic model should be discussed and questions such as “growth for whom?” should be asked. The capitalist model had to be addressed.
He said the resources to overcome world hunger existed; what was necessary was to change how food was distributed. Latin American was one of the “most unequal” continents in the world, even with its many natural and human resources. That inequality related to distribution. Political resolve and will would lead to change and transform Governments. Social inclusion was a cross-cutting policy that underpinned all aspects of the Venezuelan Government. A principle of universality and basic human rights should guide a Government’s social policy.
Delegates asked panellists to discuss good practices in poverty eradication and how their respective countries dealt with differences between rural and urban poverty, the main challenges to eradicating rural poverty, and how to address poverty’s root causes rather than the current practice of treating its symptoms. They asked them to elaborate on alternative poverty-eradication models and critiqued the merits of a model that aimed to reduce unemployment, instead of inflation. One speaker asked about the feasibility of agreeing on a legally binding social policy in 2012, which would be a policy year for the Commission. One delegate asked about UNICEF’s experience with using education to eradicate poverty and the main challenges in doing so.
In response, Mr. SASSONE said quality employment must be a goal in poverty eradication. A decent job and dignified working conditions was a basic right of all. In Venezuela, the development model had focused more on urban areas. Poverty was a symptom of inequality and an expression of exclusion in development. It was a structural problem that could only be corrected through structural change. Venezuela had adopted a socialist approach to do that.
Ms. ORTIZ said the findings of United Nations bodies like UNDP and the International Labour Organization (ILO) questioned the merits of orthodox approaches by financial institutions to target inflation in poverty-reduction strategies and suggested that it was wiser to focus on social needs like job creation. Each country should look at viable alternatives and options. UNICEF focused on health, education and nutrition to eradicate children’s poverty. Its main challenge was reaching the poorest children.
Mr. ADESINA said the most successful anti-poverty measures did not start by trying to address poverty specifically, but had focused on areas like education, health care, infrastructure and employment. In educating the current generation, and giving it adequate health care, a country reduced the main causes of poverty and improved its citizens’ chances at life and their standard of living. When one rolled back the services of the State based on, for example the false presumption that there was overconsumption of health care, people died. The social compact must be respected and fulfilled. Doing so would enable countries to achieve higher performance in education and health care than their neighbours even if they had lower levels of per-capita income.
Mr. LIU said that 20 per cent of the global population lived in industrialized countries. But another 40 per cent were in countries like China and India, which would join the ranks of the highly industrialized nations in the next 20 to 40 years. If two thirds of the world’s population lived in industrialized countries, it would be easier to help the remaining nations alleviate poverty. He noted the trend towards urbanization in developing countries, saying it was important to look at how to help people who migrated from rural to urban areas in those nations fully enjoy their socio-economic rights.
Posing questions during the discussion were representatives of the European Union, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Morocco and Ethiopia, as well as a representative of the International Presentation Association.
In the afternoon, the Commission resumed its general discussion on poverty eradication.
DANIEL ANTÓNIO (Mozambique), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said Africa was committed to making poverty eradication a key priority of national development policies. As part of its commitment to expediting human-centred and sustainable social development, African Union Heads of State and Government had adopted in Addis Ababa, in January 2009, the Social Policy Framework for Africa. In the past decade, Africa had made significant progress in some aspects of socio-economic development. But it continued to be at the bottom of any list measuring social development and economic activity, due in part to the economic, financial and food crises, climate change, conflicts and disease. African leaders’ commitment to fight HIV/AIDS was evident in the Abuja Declaration and Plan of Action on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Other Infectious Diseases. African Union leaders had pledged to allocate 15 per cent of their national budgets to health care.
In September 2004, he recalled, African Union Heads of State had adopted the Ouagadougou Declaration on Employment and Poverty Alleviation. In March 2010, the Committee on African Experts from ministries of finance, planning and economic development had met in Malawi to discuss how to achieve high-quality growth through employment-focused development policies. Adequate financial support was crucial, as were broader, stronger partnerships to ensure supportive global frameworks for trade, taxation, technology and climate change mitigation. More efforts were needed to move away from a macroeconomic policy framework focused on controlling inflation and budget deficits to one that addressed the social dimensions of development. Fiscal policies and space were crucial to enable countries to address the human and social impacts of crisis and put social protection in place, in order to put Africa on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
CONROD HUNTE (Antigua and Barbuda), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the Secretary-General’s report observed that global employment had grown 30 per cent between 1990 and 2007, but that was insufficient to absorb the growing labour force. It revealed that the recent global economic crisis had heavily impacted job creation. It showed that small and medium-sized farms provided employment to most people in developing countries, and that domestic urban markets were key drivers of agricultural productivity. That fit in with the push in many CARICOM countries to link agricultural production with both local urban markets and with the tourism market. Tourism had become a leading driver of many CARICOM economies in the past two decades.
Despite concerted efforts, he said, more must be done to change attitudes so that people recognized the importance of the agricultural industry and its potential, if efficiently run, to generate profits. The recognition that small and medium-sized enterprises were the main drivers of labour must accelerate the push to integrate as many people as possible into the recently developed tourism industries in the Caribbean. There was also a need to promote entrepreneurship focused on supplying inputs from agriculture to information technology. People must be at the heart of development. Non-communicable diseases, which posed a challenge for CARICOM States, could be prevented and controlled. Affordable solutions existed. But CARICOM States could not do it alone. He looked forward to the upcoming General Assembly high-level meeting on communicable diseases.
ROBBIE MARKS (United States) said his country’s new development strategy strongly supported the full realization of the Millennium Development Goals and reaffirmed the commitment to poverty alleviation. The purpose of development was to create conditions where aid was no longer needed, and, with that in mind, the United States reaffirmed its commitment to partnering with developing nations to “unleash transformational change” through broad-based economic growth. In areas such as food security, global health and climate change, the United States was partnering with nations committed to their own pro-growth strategies. A business environment that encouraged entrepreneurs and promoted trade and investment set the conditions for sustainable growth. With that, he called for redoubled efforts to assist nations as they adopted proven policies and best practices to unleash broad-based growth.
SULJUK MUSTANSAR TARAR(Pakistan) said his country had produced four reports on the Millennium Development Goals, including in connection with the September 2010 summit at the United Nations. The last of those reports provided a frank account of the Government’s achievements in that regard, including in the area of poverty eradication. The country’s reform strategy rested on seven pillars, including good economic management based on a pro-poor growth strategy, which incorporated better fiscal and monetary discipline. Other pillars enveloped governance, investment in human capital and empowerment of women and minorities. There was an emerging consensus that social protection programmes were important in reducing poverty. One of those social protection programmes was the Benazir Income Support Programme, a cash transfer vehicle that focused on empowering women, providing basic services and investing in human development. Another, Pakistan Bait-Ul-Mal, provided financial assistance to the destitute, widows, orphans and persons with disabilities.
MAGED ABDELAZIZ (Egypt) said poverty eradication was the cornerstone of achieving social development. It was the primary responsibility of Governments to develop a comprehensive strategy that focused on the best interest of the poor and marginalized, and addressed all aspects of poverty. The current Commission session should focus on translating the decisions of the Copenhagen summit into real political results on the ground, particularly through programmes aimed at eradicating poverty and reducing unemployment in developing countries; multiplying support for national policies and programmes aiming at reducing unemployment, among other goals; enacting effective policies and programmes to implement United Nations actions plans related to family, youth, ageing and persons disabilities; and enhancing regional and international cooperation in their implementation.
He said his country had placed poverty eradication at the top of its national priorities and had adopted several related policies. Those included a June 2010 insurance and pension act to reform the State social security system with an emphasis on special protection of the elderly, persons with disabilities and the unemployed; the creation of new job opportunities in full cooperation with the private sector; economic empowerment through the reinforcing of mechanisms that provided microcredit grants to families and medium-scale projects; the subsidizing of major commodities for the poor and marginalized; and the establishment of a Ministry of Family and Population. As Chair of the Non-Aligned Movement, Egypt was also pleased that the declaration adopted at the Movement’s Sharm el-Sheikh summit in July 2009 gave a priority to addressing the special needs of Africa, including food security and poverty eradication, among others.
LAUTARO OVALLES (Venezuela) stressed the need to build a new development model truly centred on the human being and the promotion of social issues. For that to occur, all Governments must show the strong political will to introduce profound changes to the economic and social structure as an essential step towards eradicating poverty and overcoming inequality. “It is imperative to move towards building an inclusive social structure that allows us to establish a new society based on a new productive, socialist, humanist and endogenous model,” he said.
Turning to Venezuela’s social polices and aims, he said the Government had made significant achievements through, among others, implementation of an inclusive policy based on the strength of social investment in the country; putting in place a food-security policy that ensured access for large segments of the population; and implementing policies to generate employment and provide social protection, which, when sustained over time, would allow for independent income generation and poverty reduction. Over the past 12 years, the Government had also fostered and strengthened peoples’ participation in various spheres of national life, in the belief that local communities should chart their own course.
WILLEM RAMPANGILEI, Deputy Coordinating Minister for Social Welfare of Indonesia, supporting the statements made on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as well as the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said it was critical to consider steps to protect development gains. Solutions must be sought to persistent inequalities that exacerbated poverty, in view of the current economic environment and the fact that work on poverty eradication was falling short of international goals. Urban and rural poverty must be discussed together, with a focus on employment, productivity and agricultural infrastructure. Increasing market access and mobilizing resources for social protection in developing countries was also crucial, he added, outlining his country’s measures to assist its 31 million poor through community empowerment, micro-finance and social protections.
GERT ROSENTHAL (Guatemala) said about half of Guatemala’s rural inhabitants lived under the poverty line and almost 20 per cent lived in extreme poverty. Despite the Government’s best efforts, Guatemala’s poverty indicators were still among the highest in Latin America. The Government’s macroeconomic policies focused on job creation and social policies aimed at raising the living standards of women and indigenous people and on improving education, health and nutrition. The “My Family Makes Progress” cash transfer programme was an example of that. To break the vicious poverty cycle, one programme brought health and education services to poor children in 80 per cent of the country’s 333 municipalities. The chronic malnutrition rate had dropped from 57.8 per cent in 1990 to 43.3 per cent in 2009. The number of children in primary school had increased from 43.7 per cent over the same period. Despite progress, there was still a long way to go to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. The impact of the global financial and economic crisis, coupled with natural disasters, had exacerbated that challenge. Guatemala still urgently needed to overcome its fiscal weakness and environmental degradation, and put in place good public management policies.
GONZALO GUTIÉRREZ (Peru) said social exclusion and inequality were responsible for much of the extreme poverty that existed. Poverty was especially prevalent along the lines of gender, ethnic background and among vulnerable groups such as children and the elderly. States needed an equity-based approach that would take account of the needs of those groups. The Millennium Development Goals laid out only minimum standards. To counter poverty, Governments had to eliminate the lack of access to basic services, such as health care and education. The needs of migrants should also be taken into account as Governments and international groups drew up action plans to eliminate poverty. The Peruvian Government had tabled plans to curb poverty, including ensuring that all Peruvians had access to water and electricity, and that elderly people had access to pensions. A stable democracy was essential to alleviate poverty, as it provided a foundation for investment, economic growth and jobs.
NASSIR ABDULAZIZ AL-NASSER(Qatar) said that despite achievements in poverty eradication, rampant poverty still existed in many regions of the world. The number of people living in extreme poverty was more than 1 billion. More must be done to honour the commitments made at the Millennium Summit. Qatar had made many strides nationally in socio-economic development. In 2008, the Qatari Government had launched a comprehensive review, which had led to “Qatar Vision 2030”, based on social protection and three other pillars to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Qatar also had created its first national development strategy for 2011‑2016. In early 2011, it had set up a new entity for small and medium-sized enterprises. The family strategy for 2010-2019 underscored the identity of the Arab family and combined Islamic tradition and modernity. Qatar had given more than $2 billion between 2005 and 2009 in development aid to more than 160 countries, as well as emergency relief to countries suffering from natural disasters and armed conflict.
RODOLFO ELISEO BENÍTEZ VERSÓN (Cuba) said the international community had agreed 15 years ago that poverty eradication was the main road to development. Yet, today, injustice and exclusion by the current economic order had increasingly marginalized many Southern countries. More people suffered premature death, illiteracy and lack of access to basic services. Those who suffered the most were the least to blame for the crisis. Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitments had not been met, technology transfer was limited and highly conditional, and the markets of the most advanced economies were closed to exports from poor countries. More than 1 billion people in the world survived on less than $1 per day. It was shameful to see the growth in military spending, which now totalled $1.5 trillion annually, much more than ODA levels. Cuba had achieved many of the Millennium Development Goals, even though it had suffered through a decades-long illegal economic blockade and several hurricanes. It had a modern universal health system that was free and accessible to everyone. No one was illiterate, and life expectancy was more than 77 years.
KIM SOO GWON (Republic of Korea) said his country had reduced poverty through rapid economic growth over the last several decades. For example, it had introduced the National Basic Livelihood System in 2000, the Old-Age Pensions Scheme in 2008 and the National Pension Scheme for Person with Disabilities in 2010. It had also launched last year the Consolidated On-Line Information System for Social Welfare Services. That system allowed for the central management of a database that organized, stored and retrieved information on all individuals who received welfare services. The Seoul Development Consensus for Shared Growth, adopted at the Group of 20 (G-20) Seoul summit in November, sought to achieve robust and sustainable economic growth in developing and low-income countries, thereby reducing poverty levels. Last year, Republic of Korea had become the twenty-fourth member of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee, the first committee member that had once belonged to the ranks of the least developed countries.
NARCÍS CASAL DE FONSDEVIELA (Andorra) lauded progress, notably in East Asia, to eradicate poverty, but lamented the fact that the global targets set for 2015 would not be achieved, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. To eradicate poverty, complex global responses were needed. Poverty meant social exclusion, hunger, malnutrition, ill health and lack of basic social services. Access to health and education were key to reducing poverty. Governments should promote policies that created employment and eliminate those that perpetuated poverty. The Government of Andorra had chosen to improve social services to prevent poverty and lift people out of it. In 2010, the Government had approved a comprehensive plan to combat unemployment, as well as a national action plan for equality; it improved the social services system and reorganized the health care network. Andorra’s Government had adopted cross-cutting measures. Its development assistance budget was in proportion to the country’s small size. Andorra had given development aid to Guatemala, Madagascar, Cameroon and other countries, and had assisted financially Haiti, Pakistan and others suffering from natural disasters.
MOHAMMAD KHAZAEE (Iran) said that to eradicate poverty it was necessary to redouble efforts to ensure that all segments of society, including youth, the elderly and persons with disabilities, had access to resources and opportunities. That approach underpinned Iran’s social policy agenda. Iran’s national poverty-eradication programmes focused on the equitable distribution of resources and on providing job opportunities. Poverty-eradication goals were integral to Iran’s current national development plan, which focused on providing job security, increasing unemployment insurance, better access to education and employment, stronger social security systems, affordable housing, food security and better health services. The number of people living on less than $1.25 per day had dropped to 0.46 per cent in 2008, while the number of people suffering from hunger had been halved from 1990 to 2005. Iran’s Parliament had enacted a poverty-eradication bill in 2005. Iran had also launched a massive “rationalization of subsidies” programme to give poor people a better share of national resources. With that, an insurance fund for villagers had been set up along with a programme for subsidized milk for poor families.
LOETO DILAMPI, Director of Social Services, Ministry of Local Government of Botswana, aligning himself with the statements made on behalf of the Group of 77 and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said his country had developed a national strategy for poverty eradication. It focused on promoting food security at the household level; enhancing the capabilities of the poor by investing in services and infrastructure such as schools, hospitals and roads; and providing social safety nets for people unable to tap into available employment opportunities. One of the pillars of Botswana’s National Vision 2016 was “A Compassionate, Caring and Just Nation”. To fulfil that goal, the Government sought to ensure that every citizen lived a dignified life free from deprivation by 2016. It had implemented various programmes to cushion the distinctly vulnerable groups from poverty’s adverse effects.
NOA FURMAN ( Israel) said access to health care and education was crucial to breaking the vicious cycle of poverty. Israel recognized the importance of an inclusive social policy and guaranteeing universal access to social services for all, including free public health care and education. Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation closely collaborated with global partners to implement development methods most effective for reducing poverty. The Agency’s capacity-building activities focused on “training the trainers” so that developing country participants would gain the skills necessary to achieve broader growth in their respective communities. Israel tailored those programmes to the needs of each recipient country in such areas as agriculture, education, health and economic enterprise. Women’s empowerment was crucial for poverty eradication, bearing in mind that women faced discrimination in both developed and developing countries. To enable women to participate more fully in the development processes of their communities and countries, the Carmel Centre in Haifa focused on women’s role in local Government, community development and entrepreneurship as a tool for poverty alleviation, education and gender equity.
JAROSLAV KOVÁČ, Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Family of Slovakia, said social protection was provided in various ways, notably by offering “material need assistance”, as a preventive measure. To reduce social exclusion, job creation was given priority, and in 2008, a medium-term development strategy for Roma minority had been adopted. To reduce poverty and mitigate its effects, it was important to secure access to reasonable, sustainable and quality social services. Moreover, observance of human rights and principles of equal treatment were essential to protect against social exclusion, as those at risk had limited opportunities to protect their rights. More broadly, the issue was of vital importance to the European Union, as seen by its declaration of the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion in 2010. Slovakia had joined activities within the Year by preparing a national strategy and action plan.
MONIA ALSALEH (Syria) said the Commission’s commitment to the Copenhagen goals was steadfast. Poverty and hunger continued to overwhelm the world, and required combining all international, regional and local efforts to devise effective solutions. Syria had implemented just economic and social policies and created a balanced economy based on a fair distribution of wealth and increasing the living standards of its citizens. It had created programmes to assist persons with disabilities, youth, the elderly, migrants, internally displaced persons and refugees. The Secretary-General’s reports had ignored the catastrophic effect on socio-economic development of the Israeli occupation of Arab territories in Palestine, Lebanon and the Syrian Golan. Noting the disabilities resulting from the use of certain types of weapons, such as cluster bombs, she called for full attention in his reports on the use of such weapons by Israel in Arab territories.
BUI THE GIANG (Viet Nam) said there was no better time than now to discuss the relationship between poverty eradication and social development. He noted that the distribution of wealth remained unequal, and even if Millennium Development Goal 1 was reached, there would still be hundreds of millions of people living in poverty. Poverty reduction demanded a universal approach that was inclusive of all people and addressed inequalities. Viet Nam had achieved the first Goal ahead of schedule. Nutrition, access to health care and other social services was essential to reduce poverty. Viet Nam had worked to provide those services and to minimize the impact of the financial crisis. Education deserved great attention and played an important role in breaking the cycle of poverty passed from one generation to another. The poor’s access to education meant access to jobs and better opportunities. Viet Nam had increased spending on education, which now reached more than 20 per cent of total Government spending.
ANDREW GOLEDZINOWSKI (Australia) expressed concern over the vulnerabilities of and challenges facing the least developed countries, which must build their resilience to shocks and crises, in order to eradicate poverty and get on a more sustainable path to development. Only true development outcomes for the least developed countries would lead to success in achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Enhancing those countries’ productive and trade capacities was instrumental. Agricultural productivity and rural development were essential to promote economic growth in rural areas, to ensure better food security and to promote stronger markets that could withstand shocks. Australia would spend $1.8 billion on food security over the next five years, including on strong programmes in agriculture and rural development, research and development, a multi-year partnership with the World Food Programme (WFP) and funding in 2013 for the World Bank’s Global Agriculture and Food Security Programme. Enhanced economic management was essential, and the country would spend $177 million on such programmes to ensure effective resource mobilization and management from all quarters. One fifth of Australia’s aid programme, or $1 billion, was given to least developed countries.
A representative of the Baltic Sea Forum said that fighting poverty was a key issue, which developed countries could not afford to ignore. As a non-profit organization in the Baltic Sea region, the Forum was committed to the exchange of best practices and it welcomed the venue provided by the Commission. The Forum worked within the European structure. By pursing strategies that involved partnerships, countries could help establish peace and stability. Ending poverty was about human rights and was one of the key goals of the Millennium Development Goals. An economic model was needed to fight poverty that set out a more sustainable means of existence for all people. The health of a country’s citizens played a key role in economic development; illness prevented developing nations from tapping into one of their key human resources.
* *** *For information media • not an official record