Record-breaking 117 million people stand with UN against poverty

Banners against poverty in the UK (file photo)

22 October 2008 – Shattering previous records, nearly 117 million people in 131 countries stood up last weekend as part of a United Nations-led campaign to demand that world leaders keep their promises to halve extreme poverty and achieve the other Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by their target date of 2015.

Over 8,000 events were held around the globe, from Afghanistan and Burundi to Thailand and Uganda, as part of the “Stand Up and Take Action against Poverty” campaign held from 17 to 19 October.

“We are very proud that there has been such a massive citizen response for the Millennium Development Goals and against poverty,” Salil Shetty, Director of the UN Millennium Campaign, which initiated the project, told reporters in New York today.

Nearly 117 million people – close to 2 per cent of the world’s population – took part in Stand Up-related events, breaking the Guinness World Record for the largest social mobilization ever on a single issue. Another 5 million people took part in events that were not submitted before the Guinness deadline.

This represents a huge increase over 2006, when some 23 million people stood up against poverty, and 2007, when that number grew to almost 44 million.

Mr. Shetty said the biggest mobilizations happened in Asia (over 73 million people), followed by Africa (more than 24 million) and the Arab States (nearly 18 million).

“It’s very appropriate that the parts of the world which are having to live with the daily reality of poverty are the ones who did the biggest mobilization,” he noted.

Highlights of the campaign include the more than 35 million people, or one-third of the population, in the Philippines who stood at various events throughout the country. In addition, Rwandan President Paul Kagame exhorted 10,000 of his fellow citizens to use their hard-won peace as a foundation to fight poverty, during an event at Rubavu Stadium in Western Province.

Meanwhile, 400,000 students in the West Bank and 200,000 in Gaza stood up as part of an annual programme to teach them about the MDGs.

Mr. Shetty added that with the countdown to 2015 well under way, many of the events held around the world were a “wake-up call and a reminder to governments that time is running out and we expect leaders to take action.”

In a message issued for the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on 17 October, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reminded governments of their commitments to achieving the MDGs, saying that many had pledged new resources to bolster food security, eradicate disease, ensure access to water and sanitation, and manage the financial crisis.

“These commitments are not a matter of charity, but an obligation in the pursuit of human rights for all. If we fail to keep our promise on the MDGs, we create the conditions for greater human misery and global insecurity,” he warned.


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