Statement by Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs on the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty
New York, 17 October 2007

Delivered by Ms. Rachel Mayanja, Assistant Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women

Children,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am honoured to join you today, on behalf of Under-Secretary-General Sha, for this commemoration of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

Mr. Sha wanted very much to be here with you, but he has a personal obligation to which he must attend. He has asked me to convey his warmest greetings and best wishes to you all – and to deliver the following message on this special day.

Today, we honour the hundreds of million of people living in poverty who are acting as agents of change to improve their own lives and the lives of other poor people within their communities. Their voices, experiences, and contributions to the global fight against poverty deserve to be recognized.

As we mark the 20th anniversary of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, I cannot stress strongly enough how important it is to intensify our efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, especially the overarching goal of reducing poverty. This is why I am so delighted that today’s observance is joined with the “STAND UP and SPEAK UP Against Poverty” event, which aims to mobilize global support to the MDGs.

The task before us is daunting. Despite our efforts so far, almost one out of every five human beings struggles to survive on the margins of society. A far greater number earn incomes that are not sufficient to support a decent living for their families. Each day, many families face the difficult choice between putting food on the table and paying for other necessities, such as medicine.

To overcome poverty, we must vigorously promote social and economic development, particularly the creation of productive employment and decent work, as this is critical for sustained reduction of poverty. The United Nations places great importance on development as the path to poverty reduction and as the foundation for lasting peace and security and for the realization of human rights.

Without freedom from hunger and deprivation, human rights are threatened and societies are destabilized. We have a collective responsibility to mobilize all means to ensure that all human beings live a life free from want. This will not be easy, but we can do it.

This was the focus of the International Children’s Art Competition to celebrate this 20th anniversary of the International Day for Poverty Eradication. My department, the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, organized the competition in cooperation with the Department of Public Information and the United Nations Postal Administration. The challenge we put out to children everywhere was to design a UN postage stamp on the theme “We can end poverty”.

The response from children around the world was tremendous. Over 12,000 children from 124 countries participated. My staff tells me that reviewing all the artwork was a mammoth effort, yet a wonderful one – and a privilege.

Through their artwork, the children show us, in a pure and powerful way, the pressing need for greater solidarity and cooperation among all peoples and countries in the fight against poverty. Many of the children focused in on education and employment as ways to empower the poor. Many also pointed up the role of the UN in helping to lead the way to a world where poverty has been defeated.

I thank all the children. You are our citizens, workers, parents, and leaders of the future. I hope that you will continue to work, together, to end poverty, through art and other ways. You already have inspired others to join in the pursuit of this great goal.

Our panel of judges selected 50 best designs. I encourage everyone here to go see the exhibit in the Visitor’s lobby later today – you will not be disappointed by the wonderful talent and imagination of children from all over the world. We have also created a website where you can see a large selection of the thousands of entries received.

Six designs have been selected as the winners of the competition, and will be issued next year as UN stamps. The winners are: Elisabeth Elaine Chun Ning Au (China, Hong Kong), Ranajoy Benerjee (India), Rufaro Duri (Zimbabwe), Bryan Jevoncia (Indonesia), Mariam Marukian (Armenia) and Grace Tsang Ji Yan (China, Hong Kong).

Elisabeth, Rufaro, Bryan, Mariam, and Grace are actually here with us today. I have the pleasure to present each of you with an award certificate. Please, everyone, join me in congratulating our winners.

Let all of us seize the opportunity today to renew our commitment and determination to eradicate poverty everywhere. And let us also stand in solidarity with poor people everywhere who fight poverty every day.

Thank you.