17 October 2008 There is no time to waste in the fight against poverty, the Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro warned as she led a gathering at the United Nations to symbolically stand up against poverty today, the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.
“We join millions around the world today standing up against hunger and malnutrition; Standing up against deaths from preventable diseases; Standing up against poor living conditions,” Ms. Migiro told participants.
The event at UN Headquarters is part of the global “Stand Up and Take Action against Poverty” campaign, involving some 67 million people – or about 1 per cent of the world’s population – in over 2,000 events across more than 100 countries this weekend.
The campaign is aimed at mobilizing support to fight against poverty and call on world leaders to deliver their commitments to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the internationally agreed targets to halve extreme poverty and address other social ills by 2015.
“There are still 1.4 billion people living in extreme poverty. More than 30,000 people die of malnutrition, avoidable diseases and hunger every day. There is no time to waste if we are to achieve the MDGs by the target year of 2015,” Ms. Migiro told UN staff, senior officials, diplomats, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and students pledging their support.
“We are standing because everyday 50,000 people die needlessly as a result of extreme poverty, and the gap between the rich and poor is getting wider,” participants read out as part of their pledge taken on the front lawn of the Secretariat building.
President of the General Assembly, Miguel d’Escoto, said in his address to the event that “the persistence of poverty represents a flagrant violation of the human rights of most of the world’s people.”
“This poverty is inexcusable, since it is a man-made problem caused by the dominant culture's perverse logic of selfishness and is within our power to eradicate,” Mr. d’Escoto added.
“I call on all parties not to reduce aid in these trying times; instead, we should triple it. Let us not wait until the poor and excluded take to the streets to demand it.”
Cast members of the Broadway musical A Tale of Two Cities also performed at the ceremony, which marked the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Meanwhile more than 10,000 people from all parts of Thai society took part in an event in Ayutthaya province, north of Bangkok, where the UN and Thai Government pledged their commitment to stamping out poverty and inequality.
The event started with a walk, symbolizing unity behind the goal of eliminating poverty, and ended with Government officials signing a promise committing them to on behalf of the approximately 5.4 million Thais living below the national poverty line.
The UN Millennium Campaign, responsible for initiating the annual Stand Up events, says that luminaries such as Bono, Archbishop Tutu and Martin Luther King III will join the millions demanding governments keep promises made at the Millennium summit in 2000 to achieve the MDGs.
“From Friday to Sunday, in rich and poor countries, at concerts and sporting events, in universities and in houses of worship, millions of people will show that they will not remain seated in the face of poverty and broken promises to end it,” said Salil Shetty, Director of the UN Millennium Campaign.
“This mass mobilization will demonstrate to world leaders that citizens do not consider the global financial crisis to be an excuse for breaking promises, and they must commit to concrete plans of action now to eradicate extreme poverty and achieve the MDGs by 2015.”
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