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International Day for the Eradication of Poverty
17 October

Secretary-General's Message for 2001

Just over a year ago, Member States of the United Nations gathered at the Millennium Summit to set out an agenda for the 21st century -- a plan for achieving freedom from fear, freedom from want, sustaining the resources of our planet, and renewing the United Nations. They pledged to free their peoples from "the abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty, to which more than a billion people of them are currently subjected” and resolved “to halve, by the year 2015, the proportion of the world’s people whose income is less than one dollar a day”. 

Just over a month ago, tragic events brought home to us the need for the international community to work together even more closely in addressing the complex challenges of our time. Our mission to fight poverty, to improve the lives of peoples everywhere and decrease their vulnerability, has become more important and urgent than ever. For the impact of 11 September threatens to reverberate around the world in ways that will render many millions of people more vulnerable to poverty than before. 

Today, more than 1.2 billion people live in extreme poverty. Following the 11 September attacks, the world economy is expected to slow down significantly, threatening to unravel hard-won gains in development. The World Bank already estimates that as a result, a further 15 million people could find themselves living in poverty next year. The effects of falling commodity prices, political tension, lower oil prices, lower investment, loss of tourism revenues, escalating trade costs and movements of refugees will take their toll on many of those who can least afford it.

It is clear that additional efforts will be required urgently if we are to meet the goals set out in the Millennium Declaration. Countries must devise more effective poverty reduction strategies, centered on the Millennium Development Goals and supported by the international community. Growth must be encouraged, but the benefits of growth must also be distributed more widely. Governments must ensure that their expenditures on education and health reach the poor. Access to microfinance must be improved. Development strategies need to focus on rural areas, where three quarters of the world’s poor live. 

Development partners in the international community must provide a supporting environment for development. We must ensure that a new round of trade negotiations is launched next month, with a focus on development. Official flows of capital must increase, to make up for smaller private flows. Broader, faster and deeper debt relief is needed. And we must mobilize the political will necessary to make next year's International Conference on Financing for Development a success.

On this International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, let us resolve to keep our focus firmly on the goals that the world's leaders have set for the new millennium. Governments worked together to give us the Millennium Declaration, and they must work together, for the sake of the most vulnerable on this earth, to translate that vision into reality.

Kofi Annan

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