Tackling family poverty

United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda UNAMIR UN Photo John Isaac

Family poverty has many immediate and lasting negative effects. With insufficient funds families are not able to comply with their duties. They become incapable to provide nutrition and education for their children as well as adequately care for other family members. The importance of family-oriented strategies for poverty eradication has been increasingly gaining ground in development efforts around the world.

DESA’s Division for Social Policy and Development hosted a panel discussion with the theme “Confronting family poverty and social exclusion” at UN Headquarters in New York to mark the International Day of Families 2011 on 15 May. The discussion focused on the challenges faced by families living in poverty and strategies to tackle them.

Social transfer programmes is one way to tackle family poverty. Roberto de León Huerta, Permanent Mission of Mexico, discussed the effectiveness of Mexico’s programme “Oportunidades”. The conditional aspect is what makes this programme effective. Regarding educational funds, children are required to keep their attendance in school to get funds, which makes it economically beneficial for a family and reduces the risk of  families having to send their children to work.

Distribution of the income is extremely unfair. Isabel Ortiz, Associate Director of Policy and Practice at UNICEF, noted that “inequality grows over time”, which further highlights the urgent need for a new approach. One way to increase the fiscal space is to negotiate developing countries’ debt relief that will allow money to be spent for better causes, instead of ending up in banks of wealthier countries.

Ms. Ortiz also stressed that “child poverty is beyond a few cents”; it is multidimensional and there are more issues at stake. She concluded on a positive note “social development can be done”.

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