YORK, 17 October--Efforts to reduce poverty have improved living
conditions for millions of people around the world, but the results
are so uneven and gains in some parts of the world have been offset
by deteriorating conditions in others, according to the Secretary-General's
report on the implementation of the first United Nations decade for
the eradication of poverty, which runs through 2006.
Over half the world's six billion people live lives of substantial
deprivation, living on incomes that amount to $2 dollars a day or
less. There have been improvements, as more people are living longer
lives, in developing as well as developed countries, more people are
attending school than ever before, and more people have access to
health care. Still, far more must be done.
Globalization has been heralded as a major force that could be harnessed
to push the poverty eradication agenda. Globalization has helped make
the world increasingly interdependent, and has presented many new
opportunities, yet only those countries--generally those with a highly
educated and skilled labor force--have been able to benefit from the
global economy. Most developing countries, and the least developing
countries in particular, continue to be left largely untouched by
the globalization process.
In the last five years:
percentage of people living in extreme poverty--on less that $1
a day--has declined substantially.
Asian financial crisis has led to an increase in the numbers of
people living in poverty.
greatest decline in the number of people living in poverty took
place in China.
Sub-Saharan Africa, the proportion of people living in poverty went
down, yet more people are now living in poverty.
More people are living in poverty in Latin America. In countries
with economies in transition, poverty rates and numbers have gone
up sharply, with far more people living in poverty than before 1989.
Some poverty indicators:
More than 110 million primary-school age children in developing
countries do not attend school, and for many who do, the quality
of the education is in question.
There has been progress in all regions on infant mortality, yet
poor people still suffer from far higher infant-mortality rates.
Some countries have made progress: the poorest 20 per cent in Brazil
have a lower infant mortality rate than the richest 20 per cent
in Ghana or Pakistan.
People in developing countries are living longer: the average life
expectancy went from 55 years in 1970 to 65 years in 1997. The average
for the industrialized countries in 1997 was 78 years.
HIV/AIDS is shortening life spans, mostly in developing countries.
In 33 developing countries, life expectancy has declined due to
Natural disasters and civil conflicts have severely limited opportunities
for improvement in many countries.
Globalization has not helped everyone
are growing inequalities between and within countries:
The fifth of the world's people living in the highest income countries
accounts for 86 per cent of the world's GDP, 82 per cent of the
world's export markets, 69 per cent of foreign direct investment,
and 74 per cent of the world's telephone lines.
In contrast, the poorest fifth of the world's population contributes
to less than 1.5 per cent of the GDP, export markets, foreign direct
investment, or phone lines.
Foreign direct investment, which exceeded $644 billion in 1998,
has not gone to the poorest countries. The 48 least developed countries
attracted less than $3 billion in 1998, or 0.4 per cent of the total.
The United States received about a third.
Foreign direct investment was concentrated in about 20 middle income
countries in South East Asia and Latin America, as well as to some
Employment growth in developing countries has been slight, and the
quality of employment generated by globalization has been questioned.
Labor standards have eroded due to increased competition for export
markets and foreign investment.
targets for progress
poverty and promoting development is a prime United Nations objectives--on
an equal basis with its mission to promote peace. The UN works with
its 189 Member States to set policies and programmes that have a direct
impact on poverty reduction. In addition, the UN has sought out other
partners, such as non-governmental organizations, private businesses
and corporations, the international financial institutions, religious
organizations, and members of national parliaments to help bring about
a concerted effort to help people improve their living conditions.
The United Nations convened the World Summit on Social Development
in 1995 in Copenhagen, Denmark, where representatives of 186 countries--including
117 world leaders--agreed to make poverty reduction efforts a governmental
priority. The goals and objectives of the Social Summit were recently
reaffirmed at a special session of the General Assembly, held in Geneva
in June, where countries adopted even further-reaching proposals to
assist poverty-fighting efforts.
At the Millennium Summit, 150 world leaders agreed to a number of
steps to help people escape the misery of poverty. These include:
By 2015, halving the proportion of people living on less than a
dollar a day.
By 2015, halving the proportion of people who suffer from hunger.
By 2015, halving the proportion of people who are unable to obtain
safe drinking water.
By 2015, providing primary education to all girls and boys, on an
By 2015, have halted--or even reversed--the spread of HIV/AIDS and
the scourge of malaria.
By 2015, reducing maternal mortality by three-quarters and child
mortality by two thirds.
By 2020, improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers.
What should be done?
poverty is a complicated process, requiring the cooperation of many
actors--in communities, towns, national governments and in international
institutions. There is no quick fix for poverty. Globalization can
help, but it must benefit everyone. The following measures can help.
new trading opportunities for developing countries.
Reduce tariffs on goods from developing countries.
Establish a mechanism to stabilize commodity prices.
Establish more education and job training opportunities in developing
Improve various channels to promote greater transfer of technology
to developing countries.
Strengthen the international financial system to reduce the negative
impacts of financial turbulence and crises.
Speed up action on debt relief to ensure that the benefits can accrue
to people in developing countries as quickly as possible.
Develop the private sector within developing countries while at
the same time, encouraging corporate social responsibility