Member States, representatives of non-governmental organizations and United Nations officials met in New York to commemorate the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on 18 October, under the theme “From Poverty to Decent Work: Bridging the Gap.”
As 2010 marked the launch of the International Year of Youth, this year’s commemoration focused on practical measures that can be taken to alleviate the disproportionate burden of unemployment on young people. It was also emphasized the situation of domestic workers, who are particularly affected by poverty and lack of labour protections.
In his message, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for special attention to be paid to the situation of young people that are three times more likely to be unemployed than adults. “Last year, more than 81 million young people were unemployed, the highest on record,” he said in his message. “One of the best ways for youth to see a future of hope is through the prism of a decent job,” he added.
Testimonies from people who have experienced poverty and the search for decent work were at the heart of the commemoration. Speakers included middle-schooler Veronica Jurado of New York City, who told of her experience collecting cans for recycling to help support her family and save money for her college tuition using the ‘Sure We Can’ bottle and can redemption centre in Brooklyn. She told of her dream to become a lawyer in order to defend those whose rights had been infringed.
Emphasis was also placed on how organizations, Member States and civil society could empower people in poverty by promoting and supporting decent work, as well as learning and training opportunities.
The screening of a video entitled: Information Technology for All, showed how the International ATD Fourth World Movement had led a non-abandonment computer training programme in Madagascar. This initiative helped under-privileged youth living in the rubbish dump slums of Madagascar get access to IT training, internships and, eventually, jobs. The non-abandonment policy proved effective in empowering students, allowing them to work together and to help each other to complete the training.
The Permanent Representative of Burkina Faso, HE Mr. Michel Kafando, has focused attention on the National Youth Forum, which encourages young Burkinabè to participate in the development of their country by taking responsibility within society. “Work humanises, Man is born to work” he declared, adding that, “work valorises … work liberates” Mr. Kafando then expressed thanks, on behalf of his country, to ATD Fourth World for the work carried out by the association in Burkina Faso.
The Youth Delegate of Thailand, Ms. Pacharaporn Panomwonna Ayutthaya, told of how a change of mind-set, from dependency to self-sufficiency, had transformed rural life in poor agricultural communities in northern Thailand, which had learnt how to overcome droughts and poor soil quality by generating their own compost thanks to enterprising members of the community.
France’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, H.E. Mr. Gerard Araud, spoke of his country’s long battle to obtain decent working conditions during the industrial revolution of the 19th century. “It took us 100 years to obtain a social protection system,” he said, “we know it isn’t easy” he added. “So work, yes, but not any kind of work and not in any kind of conditions!” said Mr. Araud.
This sentiment was echoed by Diana Skelton of the International Movement ATD Fourth World. “History is against us” she said, “our economies were designed to benefit the few at the cost of the many” she explained. “But this can change” she added, “the social scourge of extreme poverty can be eradicated if we – young and old, rich and poor – act together in unity at the local, regional and global levels.
Ms. Joycelyn Gill-Campbell, of Domestic Workers New York, spoke on behalf of people striving for decent work. She highlighted the plight of domestic workers, many of them immigrant women of colour, who she described as a vulnerable workforce often subjected to exploitation and abuse. She called for more to be done to protect those who work in the domestic services industry and to uphold their dignity as workers.