Statement by Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs on the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty
New York, 19 October 2009

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, girls and boys,

I am so pleased to be with you, once again, to mark the observance of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

As the Secretary-General stressed in his message, the economic crisis means many more households are struggling to make ends meet. Fulfilling basic needs, like securing a roof over head and food on the table, is becoming more difficult or even impossible for many poor families.

Yet, families, first and foremost, are responsible for children – for supporting and nurturing their physical, intellectual, emotional, social and cultural development. Therefore, when families are vulnerable – whether unable to find work or living in poverty despite a job, whether in poor health, recovering from a natural disaster or socially marginalized – it is children who tend to suffer most.

In my own life, I have experienced the hardships of poverty and seen with my own eyes the painful toll it can take on the young. I understand how hard it is for poor families to access opportunities to improve their children’s future.

During times of crisis and financial instability, when government budgets are challenged and face competing priorities, investments in social welfare and development are nevertheless an important strategic investment. Under-investment in education, health and nutrition can drive poor families into chronic poverty and deprive children of opportunities to realize their full potential that may never be regained.

We know these investments, such as school feeding programmes, are vital for the welfare and development of children. In particular, investing in the education of girls has proven to be one of the most successful strategies to fight poverty and promote development. We must protect these gains and build upon them.

My Department, like the entire United Nations family, is deeply committed to promoting effective strategies for poverty eradication, based on the promotion of human rights and the full participation of children and families.

On this very special day, we are privileged to hear the voices of people living in poverty, especially families and children. We honour their significant contributions, as well as the contributions made by those who work alongside them.

I extend my sincere thanks to our speakers today for sharing their important stories with us. Let these personal messages inspire renewed commitments and accelerated action to end poverty everywhere.