Marking human solidarity day, UN officials stress collective responsibility to help poor

15 December 2006 –

The world has a collective responsibility to alleviate the plight of the poorest people, and to promote economic development and break the cycle that traps so many people in poverty by devising more innovative solutions, United Nations officials said today as they observed the first International Human Solidarity Day.

Speaking at a meeting organized by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) to commemorate the Day, General Assembly President Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa noted that more than one billion people – mostly in Africa – live in what is known as extreme poverty, subsisting on less than $1 a day.

“The burden of responsibility is on our shoulders to enable the poor to take charge of their own destiny, so that they can enjoy their right of happiness,” she said, stressing the importance of working together to try to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The Goals are a set of eight targets to reduce poverty and other social and economic ills, such as reducing child mortality, achieving universal education at primary level and combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, all by 2015.

ECOSOC President Ali Hachani stressed the importance of innovative mechanisms, citing the World Solidarity Fund established by the UN, the International Drug Purchase Facility (UNITAID) and the solidarity levy on airline tickets as examples of positive recent initiatives.

“The [microcredit] model launched 30 years ago by this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner, Dr. Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank, illustrates that such initiatives can grow and extend and are recognized as contributing to peace and stability,” he said.

Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs José Antonio Ocampo said cooperatives, mutual societies, voluntary groups and other “social enterprises” offered a solidarity-based model for achieving development and social integration.

“Many of these organizations produce goods and services for the market economy, but they redirect their surplus to reach community objectives… And all empower community members and encourage social change through responsible citizenship that exercises control over production, consumption, savings, investment, and exchange,” he said.

Anwarul K. Chowdhury, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, said the concept of solidarity in eradicating poverty is becoming more and more important thanks to globalization.

He said debt cancellation, enhanced development aid and greater South-South cooperation offered ways to enable the world’s poorest nations to devote as much of their resources as possible to tackling entrenched poverty.

Under-Secretary-General and Associate Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), Ad Melkert, said that even though economic growth over the past five years has been as rapid as it has ever been, the inequality gap was rising as the world’s poorest countries fell further and further behind.

Strong and inclusive multilateralism was therefore the best model for advancing human development, Mr. Melkert said, adding that given this “the UN has an opportunity to assume more prominence than before in the quest” for tackling poverty and inequality.

Proclaimed last year by the General Assembly as an initiative in the fight against poverty, International Human Solidarity Day is formally observed on 20 December.

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