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International Day for the Eradication of Poverty
17 October

Secretary-General's Message for 2003

Yesterday, we observed World Food Day.  Today, we observe the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.  This year, we are holding joint events in recognition of the close links between hunger and poverty.

Approximately 1.2 billion people struggle to survive on less than a dollar a day.  An estimated 840 million suffer the gnawing pain of hunger, and as many as 24,000 people, many of them children, die every day as a result.  People who are hungry are more susceptible to disease, and find their capacity to work diminished as well.  Hunger also impairs children’s ability to learn, with consequences that are felt long after childhood is over.  There is no time to lose if we are to reach the Millennium Development Goal — agreed by all the world’s countries -- of halving by 2015 the proportion of people who live on less than a dollar a day and the proportion of people who suffer from hunger.

The achievement of that goal — and all the other Millennium Development Goals — depends on many things.  But none is more vital than forging a truly global partnership for development — which is itself one of the Millennium Development Goals.  Such a partnership requires bold reforms from many developing countries.  But it also requires bold action from developed countries.

An essential component is a trading system that is both free and equitable. The failure of the recent World Trade Organization meeting in Cancún to reach agreement on reducing and ultimately phasing out tariff and non-tariff barriers is a source of great concern.  These barriers shut out many developing countries from the markets of developed countries — stunting growth, stifling opportunity and starving millions of people who want to trade their way out of poverty.

The Monterrey and Johannesburg conferences on financing for development and sustainable development also set out key parameters and commitments for building a global partnership for development.  Some progress has been made, but much more needs to be done to meet those commitments.

A world that is not advancing towards the Millennium Development Goals — a world mired in the deprivation of hunger, the prevalence of disease and the despair of poverty — will not be a world at peace.  On this day, as we recall the link between poverty and hunger, let us also recall the link between development and peace.  And in that spirit, let rich and poor alike rededicate themselves to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

Kofi Annan

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