SECOND COMMITTEE DEBATES STEPS TO HELP MEET INTERNATIONAL POVERTY-ERADICATION GOALS

12 October 2001
GA/EF/2960

SECOND COMMITTEE DEBATES STEPS TO HELP MEET INTERNATIONAL POVERTY-ERADICATION GOALS

12/10/2001
Press Release
GA/EF/2960


Fifty-sixth General Assembly

Second Committee

11th Meeting (AM)


SECOND COMMITTEE DEBATES STEPS TO HELP MEET


INTERNATIONAL POVERTY-ERADICATION GOALS


Speakers Discuss Proposed World Solidarity Fund to Combat Poverty


Delegations highlighted a variety of measures needed to meet the international community’s poverty-reduction goals, as the Second Committee this morning began its consideration of the implementation of the First United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (1997-2006).


In the area of trade, South Africa’s representative said that developing countries, especially African countries, were currently not reaping the benefits of world trade due to trade barriers, protectionism and lack of capacity, among other factors.  There needed to be a review of the practices of the multilateral trade system to eliminate all impediments to development in Africa and all obstacles standing in the way of increasing the continent's exports.  For that reason, he called for a round of trade talks that was development-oriented and focused on trade as a tool for poverty eradication and development.


Many developing countries, said the representative of Kenya, depended on agriculture and exports of agricultural products.  Agriculture accounted for 80 per cent of total rural incomes and employment, making it an important starting point in poverty eradication.  While necessary reforms were being undertaken at the national level, genuine efforts were also required from trading partners, in order to eliminate trade distortions and all forms of barriers with a view to improving market access for agricultural commodities.


Norway’s representative stressed the need to find innovative ways of promoting investments in developing countries, especially the poorest ones.  Foreign investors appeared to view the degree of capital flight from a country as an important signal when deciding where to invest.  In some developing countries, financial assets invested abroad by their residents were significantly larger than those invested at home, and there was an obvious need for improvements in the environment for investments.


He added that all donors should strive to increase official development assistance to the targeted level of 0.7 per cent of gross national product (GNP).  Norway would reach 0.9 per cent in 2002 and was aiming at one per cent.


Indonesia’s representative said that tackling poverty eradication meant that the poor must be empowered to help themselves.  That required both the incorporation and acceleration of pro-poor development policies and programmes at the national level.  It would also include further strengthening efforts to

improve public services and infrastructure for the poor, the reduction of their vulnerability and their increased participation in decision-making.


John Langmore, Director, Division for Social Policy and Development, introducing the Secretary-General’s report on the item, said that achieving poverty reduction and other Millennium development targets would be difficult.  They would only be achieved if countries focused on accelerating economic growth, improving the distribution of income and wealth, and promoting social development, taking into account the multidimensional nature of poverty.  Undoubtedly, new and innovative resources were going to be required if sufficient resources were to be available to countries with high levels of poverty. 


In that regard, he and several other delegations stressed the importance of the International Conference on Financing for Development, to be held in Mexico in 2002, to the achievement of poverty-reduction targets. 


While a number of speakers supported the establishment of a world solidarity fund for poverty eradication, the representative of Belgium (speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States) said that consultations on the topic had not resulted in any concrete proposals on the institutional and organizational frameworks of the fund, or its capacity to mobilize resources.  He added that any such fund should not duplicate operations already under way, or compete for resources with other United Nations development efforts.


Also this morning, the representative of Tunisia introduced a draft resolution on the World Summit on the Information Society, and the representative of Iran (on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China) introduced a text on international migration and development.


Statements were also made by the representatives of Iran (on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China), India, Japan, China, Venezuela, Morocco, Brazil, Uganda and Mongolia.  The observer for the Holy See also spoke.


The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. to continue its consideration of the implementation of the First United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty.


Background


The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met this morning to consider the First United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (1997-2006), for which it had before it the Secretary-General's report (document A/56/229, Add.1 and Corr.1).  The report finds that, despite progress in reducing overall poverty, progress is mixed when examined at the regional and national levels.  The goal is to halve, by 2015, the proportion of the world's people whose income is less than $1 a day.  While this target is likely to be achieved for the world as a whole, if current growth rates in China and India are maintained, many countries, particularly those in sub-Saharan Africa, are not likely to achieve it at the national level. 


Countries that are currently not on track to achieve the poverty-reduction goal and the other Millennium development goals will need to accelerate economic growth and promote social development, states the report.  However, despite the best efforts of developing countries to mobilize domestic financial resources for poverty eradication, official development assistance (ODA) will remain a critically important additional source of development financing for many developing countries, particularly the least developed countries, if they are to have a good chance of achieving the poverty reduction goal by 2015.


The report puts forth seven recommendations for consideration by the General Assembly in view of the urgency of the tasks required to reach the poverty-reduction target.  Among the actions the Assembly may wish to take is to urge governments that have not already done so to incorporate goals and targets for combating poverty into their national strategies for socio-economic development, and to consider establishing a world solidarity fund for poverty eradication.


The Committee is also expected to hear the introduction of two draft resolutions.  The draft resolution on the World Summit on the Information Society (A/C.2/56/L.3), sponsored by Tunisia, would have the Assembly endorse the resolution adopted by the Council of the International Telecommunication Union at its 2001 session, in which it supported the approach proposed by the Secretary-General of the ITU of holding the Summit at the highest possible level in two phases, the first at Geneva in 2003 and the second at Tunis in 2005.  The Assembly would invite governments to participate actively in the preparations for the Summit and would invite the international community to make voluntary contributions to the special trust fund established by the ITU to support the preparations for and the holding of the Summit, particularly the participation of representatives of developing countries, especially the least developed countries.


The second text is a draft resolution on international migration and development sponsored by Iran, on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China (A/C.2/56/L.4).  It would have the Assembly urge Member States and the United Nations system to strengthen international cooperation in the area of international migration and development to address the root causes of migration, especially those related to poverty, and to maximize the benefits of international migration to those concerned. 


Also, the Assembly would call on the international community to seek to make the option of remaining in one’s country viable for all people, to which end efforts to achieve sustainable economic and social development, ensuring a better economic balance between developed and developing countries, should be strengthened.


Further, the Assembly would encourage the international donor community, relevant United Nations bodies and the private sector to provide support, including financial and technical support, for data collection and greater empirical research by Member States, particularly developing countries, and the relevant bodies of the United Nations system on the causes and patterns of migration as well as its social, economic and demographic impacts, and for documenting and disseminating information on successful migration management programmes.


Introduction of Draft Resolutions


MOHAMED FADHEL AYARI (Tunisia), introducing the draft resolution on the World Summit on the Information Society, said it was becoming ever clearer that the success of the new economic order was dependent on developed infrastructure for information and communication technology.  The holding of the two phases of the Summit would reduce the technological gap between the North and South.  He assured the United Nations of the determination of the Tunisian authorities to work with all concerned for a successful Summit.


ALIREZA TOOTOONCHIAN (Iran), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, introduced the text on international migration and development.  He said that issue was a complex global phenomenon, which had benefits and costs for all nations.  Poverty and underdevelopment in many developing countries, which had further widened the gap between the rich and the poor, were an important contributor to the phenomenon.  The draft emphasized the need for intensified international cooperation in addressing the issue.  Only through effective policies could the benefits of international migration be maximized for all countries.  Encouragement for the international community to provide increased financial and technical resources to address the phenomenon had been incorporated into the text.


Statements


JOHN LANGMORE, Director, Division for Social Policy and Development, introducing the report on the First United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty, said that achieving poverty reduction and other Millennium development targets would be difficult.  They would only be achieved if countries focused on accelerating economic growth, improving the distribution of income and wealth and promoting social development, taking into account the multidimensional nature of poverty.  Increased external assistance was a necessary condition for poverty reduction in many countries. 


Undoubtedly, he continued, new and innovative resources were going to be required if sufficient resources were to be available to countries with high levels of poverty.  That meant that the Conference on Financing for Development was of crucial importance to achievement of the poverty-reduction goal. 


The report also provided a brief summary of views on the proposal regarding the establishment of a world solidarity fund for poverty eradication.  There was broad support for the establishment of such a fund, provided it was financed through voluntary contributions and avoided the duplication of activities of United Nations funds and programmes.


BAGHER ASADI (Iran) said it was a problem of major concern that much of the world’s population lived on less than $1 per day.  Eighty per cent of the world’s gross domestic product went to those living in the developed countries.  While the root cause of poverty lay in a variety of internal and external factors, inadequate financial resource flows, inadequate infrastructure and social services as well as rampant unemployment plagued many countries and contributed to poverty. Such problems had been compounded by the forces of globalization, which had increased the vulnerability of many developing countries.  It had also in turn widened the tremendous gap in technological and scientific resources.


Reaching the agreed target of eliminating poverty by one-half by 2015 would be a challenge whose prospects seemed extremely bleak, he said.  Implementation issues continued to be the main stumbling block.  Poverty was the most pervasive violation of human rights, and poverty eradication should be placed at the highest priority of national and international policies.  National policies needed to be supported by a helpful international environment.  If poverty was not addressed, especially in Africa, the gap between developing and developed countries would widen.  Poverty eradication depended on economic growth, but that growth must be distributed.


The international financial system needed to be reformed in order to ensure transparency and allow more equitable financial flows, he said.  Debt relief was also a very important tool in support of a country’s ability to eradicate poverty. External debt was a serious obstacle for economic growth and development, and therefore debt relief needed to be wider and deeper.  He welcomed the proposed creation of the world solidarity fund and he hoped that a decision regarding that proposed fund would be made during the current General Assembly session.  However, creation of the fund would require voluntary contributions from the donor community.


JEAN DE RUYT (Belgium) spoke on behalf of the European Union and Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus, Malta, Turkey and Iceland.  He said that initiatives to combat poverty would not produce structural change unless governments fully assumed their responsibilities in formulating national priorities and strategies.  The European Union encouraged the developing countries to take more ownership of their own poverty-eradication policies, and stressed the importance of effective participation by the people concerned, by their national and local representatives and by civil society organizations in defining and implementing national policies to combat poverty.  The credibility and effectiveness of those policies were at stake.


He said his delegation reaffirmed its determination to help strengthen planning capacity in the programme countries by means of technical assistance projects.  The Poverty Reduction Strategic Papers, initially planned in the narrower context of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Debt Initiative, were increasingly becoming the cornerstone of planning and cooperation in almost all the poorest countries.  Those Papers were works of reference for the European Union’s integrated development policy inasmuch as they precisely reflected concerted national strategies, with realistic objectives, for development programmes on poverty.  He welcomed the interest of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in stepping up cooperation to encourage growth and combat poverty.  It was now for the donor countries to see to better coordination of the action they took in the battle to eradicate poverty.


On the possible creation of a world solidarity fund, he said that unfortunately consultations on the topic had not resulted in any concrete proposals regarding the institutional and organizational frameworks of the fund, or its capacity to mobilize resources.  He therefore stood by the European Union’s basic position, to the effect that any such fund should not duplicate operations already under way, or compete for resources with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).  He expected a clear answer to all those questions before any formal decision on the fund could be considered.  The Monterrey Conference on Financing for Development would be an opportunity to discuss other ways of promoting development financing.


A. GOPINATHAN (India) said poverty had many dimensions and expressed itself in the form of hunger, malnutrition, illiteracy, lack of drinking water, lack of minimum health facilities, lack of shelter and lack of employment opportunities. The causes of poverty were often quite complex and include a varied mix of social, economic, historical, natural and geographical factors.  If the world wished to conquer that malaise, it needed a strategy of development which combined efforts at general economic growth on a broad front with specific programmes designed to address specific categories of population, including women.  The role of the international community in creating an enabling environment supportive of national development and poverty eradication policies was crucial to the global fight against poverty.


It was a matter of concern that, although global living standards had risen dramatically over the past decade, the decline in extreme poverty had been slow -– falling from 28 per cent in 1987 to 23 per cent in 1998, he said.  Even though 100 million people were liberated from the yoke of poverty in the last decade, millions more had been added to those living in abject poverty as the world population increased.


He said the role of the international community in providing support for building human and institutional capacities, making available financial resources and transferring technologies to developing countries, was crucial.  The participation of developing countries in international economic decision-making and norm-setting processes would ensure that their concerns were duly reflected.  That, in turn, would contribute towards creating an international environment supportive of development.  He added that he favoured the setting up of the world solidarity fund, which would complement international efforts on poverty eradication.


YOSHIYASU KAWAGUCHI (Japan) said that political stability, social development and economic growth were of critical importance.  Political stability was a prerequisite for poverty reduction, as instability could cause poverty through the destruction of the economy, society and community.  Therefore, it was important to peacefully resolve or prevent armed conflict, maintain harmony in society and promote tolerance among different regional, ethnic, religious and linguistic groups.  At the same time, poverty reduction required development in social fields such as health and education.


He said that since the private sector was the engine of economic growth, the public sector could aim at reducing poverty through such growth by establishing an environment suitable for the economic activities of the private sector.  First, governments could pursue stable and sound macroeconomic and industrial policies and establish regulatory legal frameworks that promoted business.  Secondly, the public sector could develop the infrastructure needed for the promotion of industry, including power supply, water supply, roads and telecommunications networks.  In 1999, Japan had provided $5.5 billion in grants and concessional loans in the area of economic infrastructure and production.


MOCHAMAD S. HIDAYAT (Indonesia) said that to address poverty-reduction challenges, concrete action must be taken at all levels to integrate the developing countries into the global economy.  To achieve that, it was essential that broad-based economic growth be accelerated and that the benefits be equitably shared.  In short, the poor must be empowered to help themselves.  That required both the incorporation and acceleration of pro-poor development policies and programmes at the national level.  It would also include further strengthening efforts to improve the provision of public services and infrastructure for the poor, the promotion of their capabilities, the reduction of their vulnerability and their increased participation in decision-making.


He strongly believed that the international community should give top priority to the Secretary-General’s recommendations on the provision of additional financing resources for development, particularly in the form of ODA, as well as the provision of faster, deeper and broader debt relief for the HIPC Debt Initiative countries.  Debt relief should also be extended to the heavily debt-burdened low and middle-income developing countries.  He hoped that the International Conference on Financing for Development would vigorously address those questions.  In that regard, he supported the establishment of a world solidarity fund for poverty eradication. 


ZHANG XIAO’AN (China) said that in confronting the present grave situation, the international community should redouble its efforts and undertake joint actions to eradicate poverty.  Poverty eradication depended on development.  The international community should formulate corresponding strategies in reducing the widening gap between the North and South and the rich and poor, ever intensified by globalization.  Countries should pool their efforts and coordinate their actions.  Efforts were required on the part of governments of all countries, which should -- based on their own specific circumstances -- incorporate as a matter of priority poverty eradication in national development policies.  Meanwhile the international community needed to provide maximum support to the developing countries, including increased ODA.


She said the United Nations played an extremely important role in poverty eradication.  She hoped that relevant bodies within the United Nations system would further bring into play their respective advantages, strengthen coordination on the issue and mobilize all resources.  The United Nations should do that in close cooperation with the poverty-eradication agencies in recipient countries, to ensure their full participation in the formulation and implementation of aid projects.  The United Nations system should do that while soliciting local ideas and plans to truly reflect recipient countries’ genuine ownership of their development programmes.  Such measures would enhance the efficiency of fund utilization for countries to achieve the goal of poverty eradication at an early date.

MARITZA CAMPOS (Venezuela) said that one of the most important items of the Millennium Summit was poverty eradication, given the dire situation in which more than one billion people worldwide lived.  It had been agreed that the United Nations should spare no effort in freeing those people from the dehumanizing situation of poverty.  The battle demanded guaranteeing every person the opportunity to enhance a sustainable means of livelihood.  The imbalances between the rich and the poor must be borne in mind when applying formulas for poverty eradication. 


As the scourge had spread to all countries, the international community must, in solidarity, find the most effective solutions to tackle the problem urgently, she said.  One such solution was to overcome obstacles to securing the necessary finances for development.  Also, poverty reduction could not be achieved as long as problems of disproportionate indebtedness continued to exist.  The lack of openness in trade and lack of opportunities for the developing countries were likewise issues to be addressed.  Venezuela had adopted policies to cope with poverty and had given the highest priority to social development.  


OLE PETER KOLBY (Norway) said there was a great need to find innovative ways of promoting investments in developing countries, especially the poorest ones.  However, foreign investors appeared to view the degree of capital flight from a country as an important signal when deciding where to invest.  In some developing countries, financial assets invested abroad by their residents were significantly larger than those invested at home, and there was an obvious need for improvements in the environment for investments.  Of course, there were other issues related to development financing that were outside the control of developing countries, such as trade and policy coherence in developed countries.


All donors, he emphasized, should strive to increase ODA to the 0.7 per cent level.  Norway would reach 0.9 per cent in 2002 and was aiming at one per cent.  He agreed that new and additional resources were required for the HIPC framework to give adequate debt relief to eligible countries.  Also, the Conference on Financing for Development would be an important opportunity for the international community to agree on effective ways to mobilize resources for poverty eradication.


He added that a world solidarity fund for poverty eradication should not duplicate the work of existing aid institutions.  Norway, a major contributor to and a strong supporter of United Nations funds and programmes, felt it was important to avoid diverting scarce resources from those institutions.


RENATO MARTINO (Holy See) said that, while some percentages provided one picture of an overall decrease in the proportion of people living in poverty, in fact, the real number of people living in absolute poverty had not declined.  That meant that the United Nations was in danger of seeing yet another goal being unmet.  Thankfully, rather than give up, governments continued the dialogue, hoping that a real, lasting and sustainable solution might be found.  It was that same hope that allowed the people living in poverty to put their trust in finding the means toward a better life for themselves and future generations.


He said that consideration must be given to amending our understanding of sustainable development.  Speaking of economic development, social development and environmental protection no longer seemed to be sufficient.  In light of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and other diseases that continued to take their devastating toll, armed conflicts, the great numbers of refugees and displaced persons and the inability to close gaps in the provision of basic social services, more action was needed.  Finding answers and solutions would be difficult, but as long as governments and people were willing to continue the discussion and the search for a true and sustainable means for poverty eradication, the Holy See would support the work, share in the debate and support the outcomes.


ABDELLAH BENMELLOUK (Morocco) said that despite spectacular progress in science and technology, more than one billion people continued to live in poverty.  The international community remained incapable of using those technological advances to achieve poverty reduction.  The report of the Secretary-General had recognized that in sub-Saharan Africa, the number of poor people had risen in the 1990s, primarily due to circumstances that Africa could not control.  As a result of the technology lag, the debt burden and weak foreign direct investment and ODA, Africa had not found the means of delivering most of its people from the social and economic crisis in which they lived.  The New African Initiative, however, had shown the continent’s determination to place poverty reduction at the heart of its development.


In April, he said, Morocco had declared that it would cancel the debt of the poorest countries and guarantee free access of goods from those countries.  While the primary responsibility lay with governments, the support of the international community and the creation of a favourable international environment could play a crucial role in fighting poverty.  In that context, he supported the recommendations of the Secretary-General regarding increasing assistance to developing countries.  Likewise, he supported the establishment of a world solidarity fund.  The strengthening of international economic cooperation could contribute to the efforts of developing countries to eradicate poverty.


MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI (Brazil) said the virtues of sound macroeconomic policies, of investment in human resources, of protection of the vulnerable segments of the population, and of a health environment were almost undisputed.  It was also clear that ensuring economic growth, a key factor in poverty eradication, required coherence between domestic policies and the international environment.  Developing countries could only achieve their full growth potential if they were able to count on industrialized markets for their exports, and if they could complement their own resources with investment from abroad.


She added that her country supported the Secretary-General’s recommendation for a world solidarity fund with voluntary contributions coming from all stakeholders, including Member States, international organizations, the private sector, institutions and foundations, and individuals.  Through the creation of the fund, the United Nations would send a clear positive message and demonstrate its genuine commitment to poverty eradication, as well as take a concrete step towards the achievement of that common goal.  The principles that would guide the management and use of resources and other aspects related to the operation of the fund should be discussed in depth no later than the next session of the General Assembly.


BOB JALANG’O (Kenya) said the debt burden of many developing countries had constrained their ability to reduce poverty and attain other development goals. Debt servicing had adversely affected budgetary allocations to essential services such as health-care and education.  The same had also eaten into funds available for domestic savings by forcing governments to borrow heavily from the domestic market.  While the efforts thus far to alleviate the debt crisis were appreciated, a lot remained to be done to free developing countries from the debt burden.


Many developing countries depended on agriculture and exports of agricultural products, he said.  Agriculture accounted for 80 per cent of total rural incomes and employment, making it an important starting point in poverty eradication.  While necessary reforms were undertaken at the national level, genuine efforts were required from trading partners in order to eliminate trade distortions and all forms of barriers with a view to improving market access for agricultural commodities.  In that regard, the World Trade Organisation should mainstream into its agenda such issues as poverty alleviation, financing for development, and technology transfer.


EMMANUEL OLOBO BWOMONO (Uganda) recognized the role that various players –- government, private sector and civil society, among others -- should play in the fight against poverty.  Economic and social policies needed to be overhauled and restructured so as to address the real needs of the people.  His Government had undertaken a number of initiatives to achieve poverty eradication.  Among them, a universal education initiative was already under way, and poverty alleviation schemes enhancing access to credit had been implemented.  The Government had also increased access to basic health care and reduced HIV/AIDS infection within the population.  In spite of its poor economic situation, Uganda had elaborated a comprehensive strategy to fight poverty.  Nevertheless, it was regrettable that the goal of halving poverty by 2015 remained in doubt. 


DUMISANI KUMALO (South Africa) said that increasing world trade was of particular importance now that the world faced an economic slowdown.  Nations should guard against protectionism that would further marginalize developing economies.  Developing countries, and especially African countries, were currently not reaping the benefits of world trade due to trade barriers, protectionism and lack of capacity, among other factors.  There needed to be a review of practices of the multilateral trade system in order to eliminate all impediments to development in Africa and all obstacles standing in the way of increasing the continent's exports.  That was why he called for a round of trade talks that was development-oriented and focused on trade as a tool for poverty eradication and development.


He said that South Africa had, in the past seven years, embarked on programmes aimed at socio-economic development in line with the objectives of the United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty.  His country continued to play an increasing role in Africa and among countries of the South as partners in advancing the goals of democracy, human rights, peace and prosperity.  Its commitment to address poverty, promote social integration, create an enabling environment for social development and promote full employment continued to hold special significance for his country.


O. ENKHTSETSEG (Mongolia) said the increasing trade liberalization around the world offered opportunities and brought inevitable risks.  Those new opportunities should be applied to ease the poverty burden on those most at risk. The needs of those who were most vulnerable and marginalized should be addressed by the global community through cooperative efforts.  Landlocked developing countries were among the most vulnerable, and depended heavily on export-based sectors for funding their Governments’ efforts to reduce poverty.  Thus it was important that the interests and special needs of the Landlocked Developing

Countries were taken into account and given due consideration within multilateral trade regimes.


She added that it was also important that cooperation between landlocked and transit developing countries focused on facilitation of transit transport.  The momentum that had been gained over recent years to provide technical and financial assistance to those efforts should be maintained.  Those efforts would make a practical and short-term contribution to the overall development efforts of landlocked countries, including their anti-poverty strategies.


* *** *


For information media. Not an official record.