Fifty-sixth General Assembly
12th Meeting (PM)
SECOND COMMITTEE CONCLUDES DEBATE ON FIRST DECADE FOR ERADICATION OF POVERTY
Employment can be an important instrument in poverty-reduction strategies, a representative of the International Labour Organization (ILO) told the Second Committee this afternoon as it concluded its discussion of the implementation of the First United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (1997-2006).
The ILO's efforts were aimed at strengthening the ability of Member States to fully utilize employment as a poverty-reduction tool, she said. Work provided income that met the needs of families, helped educate their children and offered them security after retirement. It was necessary to make the connection between an unemployed person, an unhappy family and a depressed community.
Other speakers stressed the link between globalization and poverty. The representative of the United Republic of Tanzania said a majority of developing countries continued to be marginalized in that global process, so the incidence of poverty in those countries continued to grow. For such countries, poverty was also perpetuated by growing external debt, inadequate resources, weak commodity prices and, in some cases, continued armed conflict. Basically, poverty was a deprivation of choices and opportunities.
Nepal's representative said the external economic climate had yet to be conducive for poor countries. Poor States had no voice in the international trade and financial architecture, and financial crises often triggered from outside left them unable to respond to their challenges. The present global economic slump would further affect their economic well-being and performance. In addition, many countries had been unable to benefit from the information revolution, creating a huge digital divide and accentuating the gap between rich and poor.
Also this afternoon, the representative of Iran, on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, introduced a draft resolution on science and technology for development.
Statements were also made by the representatives of Tunisia, Peru, Mexico, Republic of Korea and Egypt. A representative of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) also spoke.
The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Monday 22 October to hear an introduction by the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change on the work of the Conference of the Parties.
The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met this afternoon to continue its consideration of the implementation of the First United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (1997-2006). For background, see Press Release GA/EF/2960 issued this morning.
The Committee is also expected to hear the introduction of a draft resolution, sponsored by Iran (on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China), on science and technology for development (document A/C.2/56/L.2). It would have the General Assembly decide that the Commission on Science and Technology for Development should meet annually. It would also call on the United Nations to integrate the Commission, in its role as the coordinator of scientific and technological activities, into upcoming events and their preparatory processes, as well as the follow-up to major United Nations conferences and summit meetings.
In addition, the Assembly would call on the Secretary-General to strengthen the Commission and its secretariat within the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) secretariat by providing it with the necessary resources to enable it to better carry out its mandate of assisting the developing countries with their national development efforts in the field of science and technology.
Further, the Assembly would call on the United Nations system and the donor community to strengthen activities in South-South cooperation, so that the developing countries, which face similar challenges, can share their experiences.
Introduction of Draft Resolution
MEHDI MIRAFZAL (Iran), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, introduced the text on science and technology for development. He said it was surprising that the Commission only met every two years, considering the rapid pace of developments in the field of science and technology. That was why one of the principal actions the text was calling for was for the Commission to meet annually.
NOUREDDINE MEJDOUB (Tunisia) said it was dismaying that poverty remained widespread and that millions of human beings died from hunger each year. Many also lacked access to housing and clean drinking water. Studies showed that only a few countries would reach the objective of reducing poverty by one half by 2015. Developing countries should base their policies on good governance and on cooperation with the private sector. His country had a policy that attempted to balance economic development and social needs. In his country poverty had been reduced, school enrolment had been increased and unemployment was lower.
There were many ways for the international community to help developing nations to reduce poverty, he said. They included the elimination of subsidies to exports, the opening of markets to trade, the establishment of a stable international financial system, and progress towards the official development assistance (ODA) targets. He supported the establishment of a world solidarity fund, which would have widespread influence and would be made up of voluntary contributions from all stakeholders. The donations to such a fund could be placed in a special account, to be managed by the United Nations Development Programme. The fund would operate for the improvement of living conditions and the financing of micro projects, especially those run by women. The fund should not be a substitute for existing United Nations funds and programmes, but should instead complement them.
ARJUN KANT MAINALI (Nepal) said that despite their best efforts, many developing States like his own could not muster enough domestic resources to attain respectable growth, create jobs and provide education, health facilities and other basic services. They had to rely substantially on external resources. However, ODA targets remained unmet and ODA flows were further declining. Debt continued to eat up most export earnings and the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Debt Initiative continued to stumble for lack of resources and cumbersome procedures.
The external economic climate had yet to prove itself conducive to poor countries, he said. Such States had no voice in shaping the international trade and financial architecture, and financial crises often triggered from outside left them unable to respond to their challenges. The present global economic slump would further affect their economic well-being and performance. Also, many countries had been unable to benefit from the information revolution. That had created a huge digital divide and accentuated the gap between rich and poor.
RAUL SALAZAR (Peru) said that poverty reduction was one of the major challenges facing the international community. Poverty constituted a violation of some of the most basic human rights, including the right to food and health care. Discussions thus far had not yielded the desired results. Perhaps it would not be possible to eradicate poverty entirely. Nevertheless, a greater presence and active participation by civil society and other international bodies were needed to better understand why, in a world so united, there was so much poverty and lack of opportunity. There had not been a genuine and effective response from the international community, which was only beginning to understand that poverty was unacceptable. Poverty, ignorance and violence affected everyone and undermined the way in which people lived.
Almost 50 per cent of Peru’s population were poor and 20 per cent were very poor, he said. All efforts in his country were directed at remedying that situation. In order to promote such efforts, financial resources were needed. He supported the establishment of a world solidarity fund for poverty eradication. Economic growth and poverty reduction could only be achieved if industrial and agricultural producers were able to compete on an equal and fair footing in the international market. The opportunity presented by the World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial meeting in Doha in November must not be missed.
CARLOS VALERA (Mexico) said that poverty eradication was the most important challenge of the time. The increasing marginalization of the poor was a concern for the entire international community. Mexico, like other countries, had undertaken in the Millennium Declaration to step up efforts to achieve development goals. The policies of the Mexican Government stressed human development as one of the primary ways to improve living standards. It had adopted three specific policies to reduce poverty, through which more than 6.4 million families had received incentives and direct support to tackle poverty. The Government also had an education, health and nutrition programme to help those in extreme poverty, covering 53,000 localities and 2.5 million families.
Poverty, he continued, was a multidimensional phenomenon and every country had its unshirkable responsibilities. All countries needed the encouragement and cooperation of the United Nations to tackle such a global challenge. The financing for development conference and the World Summit on Sustainable Development would help to build a fairer and juster world which would offer better opportunities for all.
DISMAS NGUMA (United Republic of Tanzania) said there was a direct link between globalization and poverty. As the majority of developing countries continued being marginalized in the global process, so the incidence of poverty in those countries continued to grow. To those countries, poverty was also perpetuated by growing external debt, inadequate resources, weak commodity prices and, in some cases, continued armed conflict. Basically, poverty was a deprivation of choices and opportunities. It also meant inadequate facilities for effective participation in society. It was the duty of the international community to provide a conducive environment allowing access to those facilities for everybody, and especially those in developing countries.
Among other things, he said, developing countries needed aid that would assist in the development of an attractive environment for private-sector investment, such as putting in place better infrastructure and services to the people. In that regard, he supported the creation of a world solidarity fund for poverty eradication. The burden of external debt also needed to be addressed fully, as that had been a major setback in the implementation of poverty-eradication programmes. Radical measures on debt reduction would liberate resources for social services and development.
KYUNG-CHUL LEE (Republic of Korea) said that the achievements in global poverty reduction had not been entirely satisfactory. As the Secretary-General's report clearly described, the international community had witnessed wide-ranging regional disparities, lags and even declines in income growth. He particularly noted the economic situation in much of sub-Saharan Africa, where the number of people living in poverty had actually increased in both absolute and relative terms. On the other hand, there had also been some encouraging trends towards higher living standards in many developing countries.
Given the principle of ownership of development strategies and the notion that the primary responsibility for development lay with individual countries, he believed that regional, strategically designed approaches to development, such as the recently launched New African Initiative, deserved special attention and due support. Regarding concrete measures to tackle poverty, he felt that the financing for development process provided a unique opportunity to map out globally committed strategies for development at a high political level and in a comprehensive way.
RHITU SIDDHARTH, Liaison Officer, International Labour Organization, said that work met the needs of families in safety and health, helped educate their children and offered them income security after retirement. As never before, the challenge was to develop the capacity to understand problems through the eyes of people. It was important to learn to protect the impact of any policy on the lives of individuals, their families and the communities in which they lived. It was necessary to make the connection between an unemployed person, an unhappy family and a depressed community. Conversely, when things went well, the policies that made that possible needed to be understood.
Translating the concept of “decent work” into a policy framework for poverty reduction, she said, required attention to four broad and interconnected components: employment; labour standards, especially the fundamental principles and rights at work; social protection; and social dialogue. Employment was a major route out of poverty and the ILO’s work in that field aimed at strengthening the efforts of Member States to utilize that instrument of poverty reduction. In its work on employment strategies and policies, a country-level approach enabled the ILO to identify the strengths and weaknesses of employment and labour market policies adopted by various countries, and to draw useful lessons from experiences.
ALFATIH HAMAD, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said that UNESCO’s strategy for poverty alleviation was inextricably linked to the empowerment of the poor through education for all. Without a massive investment in education, both by donor and recipient countries, the international community would have missed the targets set at the Dakar World Education Forum. At that Forum the United Nations was invited to promote the inclusion of education in anti-poverty strategies. The General Assembly therefore should encourage the donor community to consider education as a major target for investment in the fight against extreme poverty.
He added that, at it 161st session in May, the Executive Board of UNESCO had adopted a strategy for the cross-cutting theme of eradication of poverty, especially extreme poverty. That strategy was essentially aimed at broadening the focus of international and national poverty-reduction strategies through the mainstreaming of education, culture, the sciences and communication.
AHMED EL-SAID RAGAB (Egypt) said the successive financial crises in recent years had led to an analysis of the global financial framework in a drive to address such crises. As a result, there was a need to bring together all questions of economic development and address them at a single forum with the goal of eradicating poverty. Humankind was engaged in a tremendous technological revolution. Despite that, many developing nations had not benefited from new technologies. Many countries would not be able to meet the objective of reducing poverty by one half by 2015.
The ODA levels had reached their lowest point for many years, he said. Financial flows towards many developing countries were ebbing. Nations could not hope to eliminate poverty if developed countries were not committed to the same goal. There was a close relationship between poverty and the international economic order. The scope of the crises showed that there was an inherent imbalance in the international economic order. There was a lack of sensitivity toward the needs of developing countries in that order, and that problem should be addressed.
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