GOOD GOVERNANCE, PRO-POOR CHOICES KEY COMPLEMENTS TO ECONOMIC GROWTH IN ERADICATING POVERTY, DELEGATE TELLS SECOND COMMITTEE

30 October 2002
GA/EF/3010

GOOD GOVERNANCE, PRO-POOR CHOICES KEY COMPLEMENTS TO ECONOMIC GROWTH IN ERADICATING POVERTY, DELEGATE TELLS SECOND COMMITTEE

30/10/2002
Press ReleaseGA/EF/3010

Fifty-seventh General Assembly

Second Committee

20th Meeting (PM)

GOOD GOVERNANCE, PRO-POOR CHOICES KEY COMPLEMENTS TO ECONOMIC GROWTH

IN ERADICATING POVERTY, DELEGATE TELLS SECOND COMMITTEE

Committee Begins Considering Decade for Eradication of Poverty

Economic growth was a driving force in reducing poverty, but experience had shown that good governance and pro-poor choices were vitally important in eradicating it, Denmark’s representative told the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) this afternoon as it began considering implementation of the first United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty.

Speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, she noted that countries in East Asia and the Pacific had successfully reduced the number of people living in absolute poverty.  However, the picture remained grim for sub-Saharan Africa, where the figure were still rising.  Likewise, indicators for Eastern Europe and Central Asia had shown that poverty was increasing and health conditions deteriorating.

Myanmar’s representative said that successful poverty eradication strategies must be country-owned and country-initiated, leading to faster economic growth and higher employment opportunities.  However, some developing countries lacked resources to support those strategies due to inadequate government revenues, declining commodity prices, lack of market access, natural disasters and drought.  They also lacked a supportive international economic environment.

India’s representative echoed that statement, noting that efforts by developing countries to eradicate poverty on their own had been unsuccessful and that they would need support from the international community.  The High-level Panel on Financing for Development at the Monterrey Conference had estimated that an additional $50 billion in official development assistance (ODA) was needed to halve poverty by 2015, but regrettably, assistance had dropped to $51.4 billion in 2001 from $53.7 billion in 2000.

The representative of Bangladesh said that poverty could only be eradicated through augmented ODA, increased trade access, deeper and faster debt relief and more productive investment.  At Monterrey, developing countries had heard commitments from development partners and developed countries, and the fulfilment of those nations was now awaited.

In other business this afternoon, the representative of Venezuela introduced seven draft resolutions relating to the question of environment and sustainable development.

The Committee also heard the introduction of reports concerning the implementation of the first United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty, and a proposed world solidarity fund for poverty eradication.

Other speakers this afternoon included the representatives of Norway, China, Pakistan, Congo, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Burkina Faso and Egypt.

The Observer for the Holy See also made a statement.

Also addressing the meeting was the Director, Division for Social Policy and Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, and a representative of the International Labour Organization (ILO).

The Committee will meet again at 10:00 a.m. tomorrow to conclude its consideration of poverty eradication.

Background

The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met this afternoon to begin considering its agenda item on implementation of the first United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (1997-2006).

World Solidarity Fund for Poverty Eradication

The Committee had before it a report on the proposal to establish a world solidarity fund for poverty eradication (document A/57/137), which states that the proposed fund, aimed at helping to halve extreme poverty by 2015 and to achieve other Millennium Development Goals, would draw extensively on successful national and international poverty eradication measures and would not duplicate existing programmes. It would strive, among other things, to cut child mortality by two thirds and maternal mortality by three quarters; halve the number of people without access to clean water; create universal access to basic education; and improve the lives of slum-dwellers.

The report says that the fund, operating as a trust managed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) through the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), would pay for worldwide improvements in education, health services, housing conditions and rural road infrastructure.  Its coffers would also be used to support such income-generating activities, as micro-enterprises in agricultural by-products and crafts and trades, with special attention to promoting parity for women.

A small technical secretariat, charged with reviewing funding requests from community-based organizations and small businesses, would be set up within the UNCDF and financed by no more than 5 per cent of the fund’s resources, the report says.  The fund would receive voluntary contributions cash and kind from individuals, foundations, organizations and businesses, separate from funds earmarked for official development assistance (ODA).  Performance would be evaluated every five years, with the final evaluation no later than 2015.  After reviewing the evaluations, the General Assembly would make recommendations on the fund’s future operations.

United Nations Decade for Eradication of Poverty (1997-2006)

The Committee also had before it a report by the Secretary-General on implementation of the first United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (1997-2006).  The report (document A/57/211) states that progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals has been uneven, and that if it continues at the current rate, many countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, are unlikely to halve extreme poverty by 2015.  In order to achieve that goal, the average per capita gross domestic product (GDP) of developing countries would need to increase by 3.6 per cent annually, an unattainable rate for many regions.

According to the report, the World Bank estimates that between 1990 and 1999 the number of people living in extreme poverty declined by about 125 million, while those living on less than a dollar a day fell from 29 per cent to 22.7 per cent of the global population.  Much of the reduction reflects significant progress in East Asia.  However, the number of poor people in South Asia is largely unchanged due to population growth, and sub-Saharan Africa’s numbers continue to increase.  In Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the number of people living on less than $2 a day has more than doubled over the same period, the report notes.

It says that despite this bleak assessment, several "best practices" -- that is, successful, innovative solutions to public-sector problems -- have been identified in poverty reduction, such as greater access to education, particularly for women and girls; microcredit development; capacity-building; and integrated environmental management.  The report points to lessons learned in effective poverty reduction in developing countries, notably the need for financial institutions and services for poor people; educated labour pools; technical assistance; robust economic growth; information sharing; and more cooperation between governments and civil society at all stages of policy-making and implementation.

Still, evidence of many best practices and lessons learned is anecdotal, the report says.  The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) have set up database to document best practices.  The World Bank and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) also disseminate information on best practices in their reports and at regional forums.  The report stresses the urgent need to expand and link database networks by all means possible.

The report notes that while governments are primarily responsible for meeting development goals by 2015, large debt burdens, poor market access for exports and a shortfall in ODA continue to make implementation difficult.  The High-level Panel on Financing for Development and, more recently, the World Bank and the Commission on Macroeconomics and Health, estimate that an extra

$40 billion to $60 billion annually in ODA is needed to assist countries to achieve the Millennium Goals.

Draft Resolutions

Also before the Committee were three draft resolutions relating, respectively, to the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (documents A/C.2/57/L.16, A/C.2/57/L.21 and A/C.2/57/L.22); implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, particularly in Africa (document A/C.2/57/L.17); the Convention on Biological Diversity (document A/C.2/57/L.18); and the further implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States (documents A/C.2/57/L.19 and A/C.2/57/L.20).

Introduction of Draft Resolutions

NINO GOMEZ (Venezuela) introduced several draft resolutions in the area of environment and sustainable development.  A draft on international cooperation to reduce the impact of the El Niño phenomenon (document A/C.2/57/L.16) encouraged the General Assembly, the Government of Ecuador, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the Interagency Secretariat for Disaster Reduction to continue efforts to open an international centre to study El Niño.

A draft on the international strategy for disaster reduction (document A/C.2/57/L.21) encouraged governments to cooperate in addressing natural disasters in the context of the international strategy for disaster reduction.  It urged the international community to allocate needed financial resources and to provide physical, technical and human resources to adequately support the inter-agency secretariat and task force.

A draft on natural disasters and vulnerability (document A/C.2/L.22) encouraged the Conference of the Parties on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol to continue focusing on the adverse effects of climate change, particularly in developing countries.

A draft on implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, particularly in Africa (document A/C.2/57/L.17) applauded the outcomes of the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg and the Second Assembly of the Global Environment Facility in Beijing in the middle of October.  It welcomed the Cuban Government’s offer to host the sixth session of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention, to be held in Havana in 2003.  The draft called on the Conference to decide that one of the financial mechanisms of the Convention should be the Global Environment Facility (GEF), and to adopt an operational programme for controlling and monitoring desertification through the management of land.

A draft on the Convention on Biodiversity (document A/C.2/57/L.18) underlined the decision taken at the Johannesburg Summit to pursue coherent implementation of the aims of the Convention and achieve a significant reduction in the rate of biodiversity loss by 2003, which would mean providing new financial and technical resources to developing countries.  It also underlined the Johannesburg decision to promote an international regime for sharing any benefits arising out of the use of genetic resources.

A draft on promoting an integrated management approach to the Caribbean Sea area in the context of sustainable development (document A/C.2/57/L.20) emphasized the importance of adopting an integrated approach in pursuing sustainable development.  It encouraged countries in the Caribbean to continue efforts in that respect and called on the Association of Caribbean States to submit a report to the Secretary-General for the fifty-ninth session of the General Assembly in 2004.

Finally, a draft on further implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States (document A/C.2/57/L.20) suggested the convening of an international meeting in 2003 to examine the Barbados Programmme of Action, which emerged from a conference in that country in 1994.  Because of the importance of the proposed meeting to the small island developing States, the draft suggested the Conference include the summit segment.

Introduction of Reports

JOHAN SCHOLVINCK, Director of the Division for Social Policy and Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of the first United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty.  He said there had been uneven progress in reducing poverty, with some countries on track to meet the Millennium goal of halving the number of people living on less than a dollar a day by 2015, while most lagged behind in the face of serious economic, social and political obstacles.

Introducing the report on the proposed world solidarity fund for poverty eradication, he said it would be intended specifically to provide assistance to ensure extreme poverty worldwide was halved by 2015; finance measures to raise living standards in impoverished communities; operate as a trust fund managed by UNDP that would not duplicate existing operational programmes; and to receive voluntary contributions from individuals, foundations, organizations and the private sector.

Statements 

CARPIO GOVEA (Venezuela), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China,  stressed the need to embark on plans of action to turn the poverty eradication goals outlined in the Secretary-General’s report into reality.  He also emphasized the importance of the Solidarity Fund to finance those goals and the need for urgent steps to implement strategies outlined at the Monterrey Conference.  The Group of 77 and China would continue working together to ensure poverty eradication, particularly in Africa, he said.  

Appealing to industrialized countries to meet requirements set forth by the United Nations to increase their ODA contributions to developing nations, he also called on them to increase foreign direct investment (FDI) and technology transfer to developing nations, while giving their exports greater access to world markets.  

ELLEN MARGRETHE LOJ (Denmark), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, noted that more than 800 million people suffered from hunger or were undernourished and that about a quarter of the world’s population survived on less that a dollar a day, according to recent data.  While countries in East Asia and the Pacific had been successful in reducing the number of people living in absolute poverty, the picture was grim for sub-Saharan Africa, where the number of people living in extreme poverty was still rising.  Indicators for Eastern Europe and Central Asia showed that poverty was increasing and health conditions deterioriating.

He applauded African leaders who had taken an impressive lead in establishing the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), and stressed that developed countries must also deliver on their commitments.  In particular, that meant increasing ODA, improving its effectiveness and supporting a stronger voice for developing countries in the international economic and financial decision-making processes.

While there was no doubt that economic growth was a driving factor in poverty reduction, income growth on its own was not sufficient to ensure poverty reduction, she said.  Experience had shown that good governance and pro-poor choices were a prerequisite for poverty eradication.  A sound strategy to ensure environmental sustainability was also an important part of a poverty-focused development strategy.

OLE PETER KOLBY (Norway), referring to the Secretary-General’s report on poverty eradication, said that progress had been slow and uneven.  Poverty rates had dropped in some countries, but remained high in others, particularly in Africa.  Progress was notable in gender equality and education, but the HIV/AIDS pandemic had thwarted efforts in those fields and set the world back decades in the fight against poverty.  A major effort by both developing and industrialized countries was required, he emphasized.

While many States had significantly increased their ODA contributions, that assistance had to be at least doubled to more than $100 billion annually in order to achieve the Millennium goals.  Real headway in poverty eradication would only be made when all donors agreed to contribute the target of 0.7 per cent of GNP towards ODA and adopted clear timeframes to reach that target.

ZHANG YISHAN (China) called on developed nations to fulfil their commitments to increase ODA to 0.7 per cent of GNP, continue to invest in developing countries, give exports from those countries greater access to their markets and provide debt relief and technology transfer.

He also stressed the need to strengthen ownership by developing countries of poverty eradication programmes.  Many developing nations were still forced to accept terms and conditions that were not in line with their national goals and needs, impeding their ability to achieve sustainable development.  Donor-driven practices must be replaced with recipient-driven practices.  The country-specific economic development and poverty eradication efforts of China, the world’s most populous nation, would undoubtedly have great importance to global development, he added.

JAIPAL REDDY (India) said that poverty in one part of the world was a threat to prosperity elsewhere and that its eradication could not, therefore, be treated as the exclusive responsibility of individual nations.  It was a shared responsibility requiring a global response.  At the Millennium Summit, leaders had recognized that, and resolved to free men, women and children from the abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty, to make the right to development a reality for everyone and to free the entire human race from want.

Noting that efforts by developing countries to eradicate poverty by themselves were insufficient, he said those nations would need support from the international community.  The High-level Panel on Financing for Development in Monterrey had estimated that an additional $50 billion in ODA alone was needed to meet the Millennium goal of halving poverty by 2015.  Regrettably, ODA had declined to $51.4 billion in 2001 from $53.7 billion in 2000, reaching its lowest level of 0.22 per cent of gross national product (GNP).  He urged that funds already pledged be made available and called for further funding commitments in order to reach the agreed ODA target of 0.7 per cent of GNP.  In addition, he said, a fair, equitable and non-discriminatory trading system would address the concerns of developing countries and ensure enhanced and predictable market access for their exports.

MUHAMMAD HASSAN (Pakistan) said that the existence of widespread poverty in the midst of global prosperity was undeniably the most serious challenge confronting the world.   More than 854 million adults were illiterate and 325 million children did not attend school in developing countries.  Nearly one billion did not have access to clean water and 2.4 billion were without basic sanitation facilities.  A total of 1.2 billion people continued to live on less than a dollar a day and 2.8 billion on less than $2 dollars a day.  

Thus far, poverty had regrettably been viewed in the context of income alone, without considering low income and consumption, hunger and malnutrition, and lack of access to education and healthcare, he said.  Poverty eradication must be viewed in a holistic manner, he stressed, and required a broad-based view.  Debt relief should also be an integral part of a comprehensive concept of poverty eradication that would go a long way in helping developing countries attempting to help themselves.

IFTEKHAR AHMED CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said poverty could only be eradicated through augmented ODA, increased trade access, deeper and faster debt relief and the channeling of more productive investments.  In Monterrey, developing countries had heard promising pronouncements from development partners and developed countries, and had welcomed them as positive steps forward.  A year before that, the least developed countries (LDCs) had welcomed the Brussels Programme of Action with similar thrust.  They now awaited the realization of those commitments.

He said his country was considering the establishment of a world solidarity fund, aimed at sustaining and supporting indigenous endeavours to eradicate poverty, particularly at the grassroots level.  Bangladesh had seen the emergence of effective indigenous efforts to address extreme poverty, most of which were small in scale, but unique as they approached poverty eradication in their local context.  They went a long way in contributing to social and human development across the developing world, he added

RENATO MARTINO, Observer for the Holy See, quoting Pope John Paul II, said poverty was a paralyzing form of human rights violation.  Too many people continued to live without life's basic needs and too many lived without hope.

While welcoming the report under consideration, he could not agree with the statement found in paragraph 22, which cites population growth among social obstacles to poverty eradication.  Not only was that untrue, but it was also harmful to those struggling to overcome poverty.  The elimination of poverty required more than the simple changing of numbers.  It required, rather, great effort and political will.  It was hoped that the current dialogue would continue and that words would be put into action towards meeting the Millennium Goals and freeing people from poverty.

MAURICE MALANDA (Congo) said he had no doubt the international community would find solutions to poverty.  The aim of the Millenium Declaration, after all, was to halve the number of poor people by 2015.  Other recent meetings had addressed that theme, including the World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting in Doha, the Monterrey Conference on Financing for Development and the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development.  Expressing appreciation for United Nations efforts in the long-term struggle to eradicate poverty, he said the international community must also make concrete efforts in meeting its commitments, including the elimination of the heavy debt burden, allowing developing countries access to world markets and increasing ODA.

He said his country was approaching the third millenium in a state of dire poverty, aggravated by wars that had destroyed its economic fabric.  Congo's external debt was up to $5 billion, according to the latest figures of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).  The fight against poverty had become a focal point of Congolese policy and the Government had set up the National Committee to Combat Poverty.  Since October 2002, it had been holding talks with the World Bank to define a strategic framework to combat poverty.

SALEUMXAY KOMMASITH (Lao People’s Democratic Republic) said that although global prospects for meeting the Millennium goals was evidently bleak, the Lao Government was determined to forge ahead with its goal of graduating from its current status as a least developed country.  That required halving the number of its citizens living in extreme poverty from 39 per cent to 20 per cent, ensuring adequate food supplies for all citizens, and eradicating opium cultivation.  By 2010, most of the Lao population should have greater access to health and education services.

As both a landlocked country and an LDC, the Lao Republic was seriously concerned about the decline in ODA, he said, particularly at a time when more resources were needed to meet the Millennium goals.  He also applauded development partners who had honoured their commitments to earmark 0.7 per cent of GNP for ODA and urged others to follow suit.

DER KOGDA (Burkina Faso) said the Johannesburg Summit had revitalized global efforts to eradicate poverty.  There was no doubt that if donor countries had respected their commitments to devote 0.7 per cent of GNP to ODA, the world would not be faced today with such abject poverty, which could only be successfully addressed through increased assistance and the elimination of debt for the poorest countries.

At the present session of the Second Committee, he said, the international community once again had the opportunity to draw attention to the unacceptable level of poverty faced by millions of people worldwide.

AHMED EL-SAID RAGAB (Egypt), stressed the need to increase ODA for poverty elimination and urged the international community to develop programmes to finance small and medium-sized enterprises, provide loans and other services to low-income project owners, and fund rural development projects.  All actors of the United Nations system should be part of the process, he stressed.

Poverty eradication required a broad-based approach, he said, underscoring developing countries’ need for financial aid for educational programmes, capacity-building, infrastructure development, health care and water purification.  The international community should capitalize on successful national poverty eradication programmes, adapting them for application in the remaining impoverished nations, he added.

U NYUNT TIN (Myanmar) said he was heartened that progress had been made over the past 20 years in reducing by 200 million the number of people living below the poverty line.  However, little progress had been made in some parts of the world, especially sub-Saharan Africa.  Should the current trend continue, it would be difficult for many countries to achieve the Millennium goal of halving poverty by

2015.  The global community should remain committed and make sustained efforts to implement the United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty.  In addition, the successful implementation of NEPAD would contribute greatly to reducing poverty in Africa.

Myanmar fully agreed that successful poverty eradication strategies must be country-owned and country-initiated, he said.  Eradication of poverty at the country level meant faster economic growth and higher employment opportunities. But attention should also be paid to food security, proper sanitation, safe drinking water, adequate housing, access to education and health care, the participation of women in the economy, improved infrastructure, access to markets and microcredit.  However, there was a lack of adequate resources for poverty eradication in some developing countries due to inadequate government revenue, declining commodity prices, lack of market access, natural disasters and drought.  A supportive international economic environment was needed to overcome those obstacles, he said.

JONES KYAZZE, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said poverty was not simply a matter of material deprivation, but also one of justice, ensuring fundamental freedoms and of promoting basic human rights.  UNESCO had designed a long-term strategy, “Eradication of Poverty, Especially Extreme Poverty” and in its medium-term strategy (2002-2007), the agency emphasized poverty eradication and identified it as a priority.

He went on to say that education, so fundamental to enhancing the quality of life and ensuring social and economic progress, had special relevance for people living in poverty.  Since nearly one billion of the world’s 1.3 billion most impoverished people were also illiterate, it had been generally acknowledged that poverty eradication and education were inextricably linked.  Therefore, investment in education was one of the most important determinants of human welfare, opportunity, and socio-economic growth.  Access to education for all and equality of educational opportunities were vital for reducing the inequalities between and within societies.

CAROLINE LEWIS, International Labour Organization (ILO), said the agency was making major efforts through its In-Focus Programme on Boosting Employment Through Small Enterprise Development, which used cooperatives as self-help vehicles via the creation of credit and social protection schemes.  With clear evidence that the poor were the least protected in old age and in sickness, the ILO, alongside community organizations, trade unions and civil society, provided microinsurance.  Also the Secretary-General’s youth employment network, jointly run by ILO, the United Nations system and the World Bank, was investing in education, vocational training, equal opportunities for women, small enterprise start-ups and making employment a priority of macroeconomic policy.

He said the agency was also collaborating with UNDP in employment programmes for the poor, and with the World Bank on the inclusion of a work component in poverty-reduction strategies.  While employment was essential in lifting people out of poverty, it should not be exploitative, she said, adding that the ILO was concerned with monitoring the ratification and implementation of conventions to protect the rights of people in the workplace.

For information media. Not an official record.