|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fourth General Assembly
18th & 19th Meetings (AM & PM)
Despite Observance of Anti-Poverty Day, Huge Populations Still Afflicted
by Hunger and Extreme Deprivation, Economic Committee Is Reminded
Delegates Note Persistence of ‘Gross Inequality’ in Distribution of Global Wealth
Five days after celebrating the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, the international community still had a long way to go to erase the vast socio-economic inequities that existed from Argentina to Zimbabwe, several speakers told the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) today, as it began its consideration of the eradication of poverty and other development issues.
“Are we celebrating the fact that 1.4 billion live in poverty, of which 550 million live in extreme poverty?” asked Nicaragua’s representative. “Or are we celebrating the $18 billion in stimulus packages to save private banks – 150 times more than what was given to fight poverty in all of 2008 and 20 times more than what was given to given to fight poverty in the last 50 years?”
The fact that the total wealth of the world’s seven richest people exceeded the gross domestic product (GDP) of the world’s 40 poorest countries was proof that the current global system represented select interests, she said.
Saudi Arabia’s representative said it was a moral imperative to change that. “The persistence of poverty as an economic phenomenon is irrational and unacceptable”, he said. The international community should seek to achieve the goal that the current century became a century of development for everybody. It should raise the standards of aid and improve effectiveness and coordination, and developed countries, in particular, must honour their responsibilities to help the developing world achieve sustainable development.
Sudan’s representative, speaking for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said aid had failed to reach millions of people in developing countries, who today bore the brunt of a global economic crisis that they were not responsible for. The crisis had also created serious setbacks to the modest gains achieved in the last decade, pushing 50 million more people into extreme poverty, a number that was expected to rise to 90 million. Most countries would not achieve the primary Millennium Development Goal -- eradication of extreme poverty and hunger by 2015 -- if current trends held, even though the world had the resources and the “know-how” to make poverty history. Furthermore, there would be no meaningful development if women were left behind.
Sweden’s representative, speaking for the European Union, agreed. While women played a critical role in the rural economies of developing countries, and in food production and security, they, along with children, still comprised 80 per cent of the world’s poor. She pointed to the World Survey on the Role of Women in Development, which suggested that giving women equal access to, and control over, resources not only contributed to their well-being and empowerment, it also had a “multiplier” effect for such key development goals as poverty reduction, social integration and economic growth.
In the countdown to 2015, the European Union would bolster steps to guarantee universal access to reproductive health, promote sexual and reproductive health rights, and women’s empowerment, she said. She strongly supported a new gender entity in the United Nations as a “milestone in strengthening the United Nations operational activities”, and pledged to work with Member States to swiftly finalize its creation.
On the issue of legal empowerment of the poor -- a new item on the Committee’s agenda this year -- she said people who could not access State services or defend their rights through the justice system had a tough time moving out of poverty. Furthermore, 70 per cent of children in least developed countries had no legal identity, and, without birth certificates, the doors to health and education remained closed to them. The United Nations could play an important role in promoting a rights-based approach to address obstacles and promote the sharing of national best practices to rectify those injustices.
Several representatives shed light on their respective Government initiatives to give women economic and legal muscle. For example, Colombia’s representative said her country’s “Families in Action” cash transfer programme provided conditional subsidies to women heads of household, while Government-sponsored microcredit programmes, business fairs for small-business women, and technical and vocational training events supported women’s entrepreneurship. The representative of the Philippines said the “Philippine Carta of Women”, passed in August, aimed to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women, especially marginalized women, and to protect them from gender-based violence.
Presenting reports before the Committee on its agenda item on poverty eradication was Jean-Pierre Gonnot, Acting Director of the Division for Social Policy and Development of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), who introduced the Secretary-General’s report on legal empowerment of the poor and eradication of poverty. Christine Brautigam, Officer-in-Charge of DESA’s Division for the Advancement of Women, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on integrating a gender perspective into national development strategies and his report on the World Survey on the Role of Women in Development.
The representatives of Bangladesh, United Republic of Tanzania, Nicaragua and Venezuela participated in a question-and-answer session that followed the introduction of those reports.
On its agenda item on agriculture development and food security, Muhammad Aslam Chaudry, Chief of the Global Policy Branch of DESA’s Division for Sustainable Development, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on that subject.
Speaking in the general discussion were the representatives of Indonesia (for the Association of South-East Asian Nations), Nepal (for the least developed countries), Mexico (for the Rio Group), Algeria (for the African Group), United States, China, Cambodia, India, Switzerland, Jordan, Venezuela, Kazakhstan, Republic of Korea, Myanmar, Morocco, Slovakia, Malta, Azerbaijan, Libya, Tunisia, Brazil, Nigeria, Sri Lanka and Malaysia.
Also making statements were the Permanent Observers for the Holy See and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.
Representatives of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) also spoke.
The Second Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Friday, 23 October, to conclude its debate on agriculture development and food security.
The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met today to take up its agenda item on eradication of poverty and other development issues, including implementation of the Second United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (2008-2017) and women in development.
The Committee had before it the Secretary-General’s report on women’s control over economic resources and access to financial resources, including microfinance (document A/64/93), which looks at emerging development issues that impact the role of women in the economy. The survey is presented to the Second Committee every five years, and the 2009 survey is the sixth in the series.
The report concludes that income inequality has been rising in most places in the world, with more people working in the informal economy. The advent of the global financial and economic crisis has exacerbated this trend, and will likely jeopardize attainment of the Millennium Development Goals, with profound implications for gender equality. There has been a failure to address gender-specific constraints in the economy and a coordinated approach was needed to achieve more gender-responsive, employment-centred growth.
Among the recommendations, the report suggests a series of macroeconomic analysis and that stakeholders work towards full and productive employment for women, ensuring women’s rights in terms of land, housing and other productive resources, as well as financial services and increasing their social protection.
Also before the Committee was the Secretary-General’s report on integrating women into national development strategies (documents A/64/162 and Corr.1), which focuses on progress in integrating gender perspectives into such strategies by increasing resource allocation for gender equality and women’s empowerment, giving women access to full employment and decent work, promoting women’s entrepreneurship, expanding women’s access to social protection, international development cooperation, and integrating gender perspectives into responses to the financial and economic crisis.
The report concludes that gains in integrating women into development in certain areas have been slow and uneven, and that despite efforts to integrate gender perspectives into national policies and strategies, significant gaps exist in implementation. Greater efforts to fully implement gender mainstreaming and increase resource allocation are needed in employment, entrepreneurship development and social protection policies. Women still face significant barriers to full employment and decent work despite reported efforts to reduce occupational segregation, wage gaps and other discrimination.
The report recommends that the General Assembly call on Governments, the United Nations, the Bretton Woods institutions and other international, regional and non-governmental organizations, as well as civil society, to integrate a gender perspective into national policies aimed at spurring economic growth, social protection, poverty reduction and mitigating the financial crisis. It recommends that they bolster development assistance that specifically targets gender equality and women’s empowerment, develop methodologies and tools for systematic gender-responsive budgeting across all sectors, and create and fund active gender-sensitive labour market policies, among other steps.
Also before the Committee was the Secretary-General’s report on legal empowerment of the poor and eradication of poverty (document A/64/133), which summarizes the role of human rights mechanisms and other tools to legally empower the poor, with special emphasis on women and children. It also discusses poor peoples’ access to justice, property and labour rights, and entrepreneurship; relevant national and regional experiences and the role of United Nations specialized agencies, programmes and other bodies in empowerment; and current challenges and lessons learned.
The Secretary-General’s report on agriculture development and food security (document A/64/221) states that the complex and far-reaching impact of the 2008 food crisis has increased the number of hungry, undernourished people in the world and jeopardized progress in achieving the internationally agreed development goals. Climate change, energy needs, diminishing natural resources and ailing or outdated market systems have impeded the world’s ability to respond strategically and systematically to food security challenges. An integrated sustainable development approach is needed, with short-term food aid and long-term measures to build resilience against future shocks and ensure food security.
The report states that stimulating economic growth in rural areas will positively influence poverty reduction and food security. It can be achieved by bolstering agricultural productivity, a sustainable green revolution, more resources and investment in rural infrastructure, research and development, and improving the technical and social capacities of Government agencies and local communities.
There have been financial pledges and high-level political commitments for the strategic framework of the Commission on Sustainable Development to address the global hunger and food security crisis, the report states. The task is to put that strategic vision into practice. Medium-term and long-term action should promote food security through sustainable agricultural development, and be concertedly supported by stable, predictable financing from the international community, knowledge sharing, a fair and open trading system that gives developing-country farmers access to world markets and supply chains, technology transfer and policy coherence.
Introduction of Draft Resolutions
AMAR DAOUD (Sudan), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, introduced a draft resolution on operational activities for development of the United Nations system (document A/C.2/64/L.2) and a draft on South-South cooperation (document A/C.2/64/L.3).
Report on Legal Empowerment, Poverty Eradication
JEAN-PIERRE GONNOT, Acting Director, Division for Social Policy and Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on legal empowerment of the poor and eradication of poverty (document A/64/133), which summarizes the emerging approach to legal empowerment of the poor and takes note of lessons learned and challenges ahead. Identity, information, voice and organization were crucial for legal empowerment, a development approach drawn from a human rights framework.
The report notes that a sufficient number of adequate and equitable justice mechanisms were available, but that, with respect to property rights, there was a need to focus on the promotion of an inclusive system that ensured equitable and sustainable access to land and other natural resources. The report also suggests the establishment of a minimum set of enforceable labour rights for workers in the informal economy, and supports legal literacy campaigns aimed at women.
Mr. Gonnot also briefed the Committee on other progress with regard to poverty eradication and said that the High-Level Committee on Programmes had agreed to establish a group of Committee members to draft a system-wide plan of action to cover various aspects of employment and decent work strategies to eradicate poverty. The “cluster group” would liaise with the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB) member organizations, in particular, the Global Jobs Pact and the Social Protection Floor initiatives.
Report on Gender Perspective in Development Policies
CHRISTINE BRAUTIGAM, Officer-in-Charge, Division for the Advancement of Women, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on integrating a gender perspective into national development strategies (documents A/64/162 and Corr.1) and his report on the World Survey on the Role of Women in Development (document A/64/93).
She said the first report focused on the need to increase women’s access to full employment and decent work, and to social protection, and to integrate gender perspectives into responses to the financial and economic crisis. It also highlighted the importance of international development cooperation for financing gender equality and women’s empowerment. It concluded that the priorities and needs of women were not systematically incorporated into national development policies and strategies. Efforts had been made at the policy level, but there were significant gaps in implementation.
The report made several recommendations, she said. It stressed the need to integrate gender perspectives into all stages of national development; ensure that stimulus packages and other responses to the financial and economic crisis were gender-responsive; increase the share of development assistance specifically targeting gender equality and women’s empowerment; and actively involve national mechanisms for gender equality and women’s groups and networks in creating development policies and plans, among others.
The second report illustrated the importance of examining women’s access to economic and financial resources in a broad sense, she said. It noted that significant development gains were needed to ensure women’s equal access to, and control over, economic and financial resources, particularly for poverty eradication and community well-being, and the need for appropriate gender-sensitive responses to the current multiple crises sweeping the globe to minimize their negative impact on women. She said the World Survey gave an overview of the gender-equality implications on the macroeconomic environment; women’s position in the labour market and factors constraining their advancement; gender distribution of land, property, housing and other resources; and women’s access to financial services.
During an ensuing question-and-answer period, Mr. GONNOT said the poverty report was a pragmatic operational framework at the concrete local level that did not negate the fact that poverty was a multidimensional phenomenon. On a question about evaluation of the first Decade, he said the Decade had primarily raised awareness about poverty and that there had been no theme or specific angle. He also reminded delegates that, until recently, despite the work and efforts of the International Labour Organization (ILO), employment was rarely mentioned when considering poverty eradication.
Commenting on which United Nations entities participated in the “cluster group”’ to prepare an action plan of joint activities, he said that the Department of Economic and Social Affairs had been pleasantly surprised by the willingness to work on that issue among the United Nations entities, and that eventually Member States would be furnished with some kind of list. One delegate said the report had not sufficiently considered the universal dimension of poverty and its root causes, such as colonialism, to which Mr. Gonnot responded that the Department of Economic and Social Affairs heard Member States “loud and clear”, but that the report was really a practical, specific tool not intended to cover all aspects of development.
NADIA OSMAN (Sudan), speaking for the Group of 77 and China, said progress during the first Decade was “severely uneven and slow” and that assistance efforts failed to reach millions of people in developing countries, who today bore the brunt of a crisis that they were not responsible for. Furthermore, the crisis had created serious setbacks to the modest gains achieved in the last decade, she said, and added that 50 million more people had already been driven into extreme poverty, a number that was expected to rise to 90 million.
She said most countries would not achieve the primary Millennium Development Goal -- eradication of extreme poverty and hunger by 2015 -- if current trends held, even though the world had the resources and the “know-how” to make poverty history. Although the crisis had worsened poverty in the least developed countries, landlocked developing countries, small island developing States and Africa, significant pockets of poverty existed in middle-income developing countries. For donor countries, the crisis could not serve as an excuse to avoid aid commitments, especially because developing countries required added aid to mitigate the crisis.
With regard to women in development, she said there would be no meaningful development if women were left behind, and the promotion of gender equality was essential to poverty eradication, the fight against diseases and the stimulation of sustainable development. The economic and social costs associated with the global economic crisis were felt most intensely by women and children, and since most women were in the agricultural sector, there was a need to review agricultural policies. Long-standing inequalities in the distribution of resources should be removed, so that women could participate more fully in the process of development.
FREDRIKA ORNBRANT (Sweden), speaking for the European Union, noted important progress in eradicating poverty since world leaders had decided to set targets to do so. Infant mortality had declined steadily and primary school enrolment had increased. But the global economic recession, volatile food and energy prices, and climate change had weakened socio-economic development prospects. The situation in Africa was of particular concern. It was necessary to respond adequately to the crisis and its impact on low-income countries. The European Union was strongly committed to eradicating poverty through coherent sustainable development policies and actions, from democratic governance and equitable access to public services to productive employment, sustainable natural resource management, food security, health and education.
According to current projections, she said, some 1 billion people would still live in extreme poverty in 2015. To ensure a fair and sustainable recovery for them, the European Union was committed to help developing countries meet the millennium targets. Its commitment to give 0.56 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) for official development assistance (ODA) by 2010 and 0.7 per cent by 2015 was firm. Half of the increases would be destined for Africa. Every country must take primary responsibility for its own development and the strategies for poverty eradication. Women and children comprised 80 per cent of the world’s poor. They played a critical role in the rural economies of developing countries, and in food production and security.
The World Survey on the Role of Women in Development was very timely and it pointed to evidence that suggested that gender equality in women’s access to and control over resources not only contributed to women’s well-being and empowerment. It also had a “multiplier effect” for a range of key development goals, including poverty reduction, social integration and economic growth. In the countdown to 2015, the European Union would expedite action to guarantee universal access to reproductive health, promote sexual and reproductive health rights, and women’s empowerment. She strongly supported creation of a new gender entity in the United Nations. “This is a milestone in strengthening the United Nations operational activities”, she said. “The European Union is ready to work with other Member States to finalize, through a swift process, the remaining details for the new entity.”
She added that 70 per cent of children in least developed countries lacked legal identity. Without birth certificates, the doors to health and education remained closed to them. People who could not access State services or defend their rights through the justice system had a tough time moving out of poverty. States must adhere to the rule of law. In many developing countries, informal justice systems handled an estimated 80 per cent of all cases. It was important to recognize the role of non-State providers to justice. The United Nations could play an important role in promoting a rights-based approach to address obstacles and promote the sharing of national best practices.
MOHAMAD OEMAR (Indonesia), for the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), said that since the Millennium Summit eight years ago, progress towards Goal One, to eradicate poverty, had been uneven. Although South-East Asia, the Near East, North Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean had significantly reduced hunger since 1990, the global hunger index remained “distressingly high” in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. The global economic crisis had also further derailed the fight against poverty, with the number of people living in extreme poverty in 2009 expected to be 55 million to 90 million more than anticipated before the crisis.
He said ASEAN was committed to enhancing the well-being and livelihood of the peoples of the region, through concrete actions to be taken towards poverty alleviation. Those actions would include implementing an ASEAN road map towards realizing the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, while working towards the establishment of an ASEAN data bank on the incidence of poverty, and programmes to reduce it, which would be shared among ASEAN member States. He said the group was also committed to the ASEAN-Plus-Three Cooperation Workplan for the period of 2007 to 2017, wherein markets would be opened to the products of poorer citizens, and assistance provided for education, skills training and public health, among others.
He said ASEAN had also clearly benefited from “coherent” poverty alleviation strategies and mutual cooperation among its members; the proportion of people in South-East Asia living with less than $1.25 per day had been reduced from 39 per cent in 1995 to 19 per cent in 2005. That same spirit of cooperation should be applied in the global community, he said. The passing of resolution RES/63/230 (2008) reaffirmed the international community’s resolve to eliminate the “global problem of poverty”, and ASEAN was determined to work with the United Nations and its Member States to successfully conclude the implementation of that resolution. The eradication of poverty was a global responsibility, he added, and was key to ensuring stable and peaceful development for all nations.
MANI RATNA SHARMA (Nepal), speaking on behalf of the Group of Least Developed Countries, said that poverty eradication was the greatest global challenge and common enemy the world faced today; the food, fuel and financial crises, coupled with climate change, exacerbated the conditions of the world’s poor. The crises had pushed 100 million more people into poverty, and 40 million more faced malnutrition. The global economic downturn reversed some of the development gains made through the Millennium Development Goals. In the wake of the crisis, there was a need for better understanding of the nature and range of the obstacles faced by the least developed nations in their efforts to reduce poverty. Those countries made significant strides during the first Decade for the Eradication of Poverty, and implemented their national plans, but their achievement was not met by external resources and support.
He said global efforts of poverty reduction were “at a precipice”, in the face of declining ODA and the challenges imposed by the global financial and economic crisis. The stalled negotiations on trade posed yet another challenge. He said he believed the way forward was a pragmatic and constructive analysis of achievements, constraints, lessons learned and feedback. The second Decade should focus on implementing or monitoring initiatives to generate momentum for global action towards poverty eradication. That entailed strengthening national ownership, partnership between Governments, civil society and the private sector, and coordination and alignment of United Nations country programmes.
NOEL GONZALEZ ( Mexico), for the Rio Group of countries, said that, despite the recent observance of World Eradication of Poverty Day, the fact was that people living in extreme poverty would increase between 55 million and 90 million in 2009. Furthermore, compounded by the impact of the recent global crisis on their specific region, achieving the Millennium Development Goals had become a difficult objective.
In the first Decade of the worldwide initiative to eradicate poverty, guiding intergovernmental agreements were established, including the Millennium Development Goals aimed at reducing poverty by half by 2015, and the recognition by the International Conference on Financing for Development of the critical link between development and financing. Just recently, Professor Jeffrey Sachs had pointed out that a commitment of 0.7 per cent of official aid development from developed nations would result in $150 billion. Yet, proper implementation of those crucial initiatives had not occurred because of lack of funds.
In order to fully engage the second Millennium Development Goal, and mobilize the necessary financial resources to help countries in achieving their objectives, Heads of State at the upcoming High-Level Conference of 2010 would need to engage the political backup necessary for a successful outcome. He also noted the impact of poverty on women, a more vulnerable population that was experiencing higher unemployment than men during the current global crisis. The Rio Group was committed to ensuring proper representation of women, particularly in the area of economic decision-making.
NOR EDDINE BENFREHA (Algeria), speaking for the African Group, said that in spite of national efforts, poverty remained the primary challenge for the majority of African countries, and the economic crisis had worsened the problem. To prepare for the 2010 Millennium Development Goals Summit, Member States needed to evaluate how far they had come in terms of the main target -- that is, to cut in half the number of people living in extreme poverty throughout the world. He added that sub-Saharan Africa was one of the regions furthest behind in terms of reaching the millennium targets.
While the concept of legal empowerment had some merit and needed to be discussed further, he emphasized that the right to food should be at the core of the international community’s anti-poverty strategy. In addition to the economic crisis, climate change was another major problem for poor countries; it was estimated that 600 million more people in Africa could face malnutrition as agricultural systems broke down and an additional 1.8 billion people could face water shortages.
Moreover, successive epidemics such as HIV/AIDS presented challenges that demanded the application of significant resources and, thus, impacted poverty levels. According to a World Health Organization (WHO) 2008 report on the Global AIDS Epidemic I, sub-Saharan Africa remained the region most severely affected by HIV. The region accounted for 67 per cent of all people living with HIV and 75 per cent of all AIDS deaths in 2007. Concerning ODA, he urged the international community to honour existing commitments, and he called for developed countries to make concerted efforts to reach the promised ODA target of 0.7 per cent of gross national product (GNP).
CLAUDIA BLUM ( Colombia) said poverty reduction was fundamental for creating more equitable, democratic societies. Through socially responsible investment and greater social cohesion, Colombia had made systematic gains in reducing poverty and extreme poverty. It was vital to implement policies to favour sustained economic growth, job creation, investor confidence and opportunities for entrepreneurship in every economic sector. Actions to strengthen social protection systems, increase education and health provisions, improve the quality of urban life, and enhance access to credit, property and housing were instrumental. Colombia’s “JUNTOS” Network for preventing and eradicating extreme poverty, which brought social services to the poorest, had been successful. By July 2009, it had expanded such services to 704,000 families in 769 municipalities.
She said the Government had incorporated a gender perspective into several of its most important strategies in a bid to promote equality and empower women. For example, the Families in Action cash transfer programme provided conditional subsidies to women heads of household. Other initiatives supported women’s entrepreneurship, such as microcredit programmes, business fairs for small business women, and technical and vocational training events. It was necessary to have a global outlook to counter the impact of the global financial crisis.
She also called for recommendations from the United Nations on how to best use poverty-eradication strategies during the second Decade for the Eradication of Poverty. She stressed the need for the Committee to maintain a development perspective when analysing legal empowerment of the poor. Their empowerment should be economic and social, and they must be given a greater say in decision-making.
DAVID CARBAJAL ( United States) said trade and investment with his country continued to be powerful forces for poverty eradication for many developing countries, despite the global recession. The ODA of the United States totalled $26 billion in 2008, an increase over previous years of $4.2 billion, or 19 per cent. However, the 2002 Monterrey Consensus and the 2008 Doha Declaration had recognized that more needed to be done to achieve the Millennium Goals than simply transferring resources through ODA. Trade, investment and remittances, as well as domestic sources of revenue, were all more significant and crucial to a country’s path to development. Broad-based opportunities for fostering inclusive sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction were increased when transparent, accountable Governments were committed to creating enabling environments, implementing sound policies and engaging with local people.
He said it was expected that economic growth would pick up in developing countries and poverty levels would drop as the world economy recovered. The United States was focusing its resources in two main areas of concern: food security and health. The new President had underscored at the London G-20 Summit that the United States was doubling its pledge for agricultural development. In May, he had announced a six-year, $63 billion comprehensive global health strategy.
LI KEXIN ( China) said the elimination of poverty bore on the dignity and happiness of human beings and constituted an important condition for social progress. While the international community had made progress in formulating strategies for poverty reduction, the Millennium Development Goal of halving the population living on less than one dollar a day remained elusive for many countries. Global economic recession, the food and energy crises and climate change all hampered poverty-reduction efforts by developing countries. The inequitable old international political and economic order and the unbalanced development of globalization further contributed to poverty. Developed countries had the obligation and responsibility to honour their commitments to developing countries in the fields of financial assistance, technology transfer, debt relief and trade.
He said developing countries should continue their own efforts for economic development, and the United Nations should play a coordinating role and designate mechanisms to promote, finance and monitor the implementation of the second Decade for the Eradication of Poverty. Business communities and civil society should also contribute to poverty-reduction efforts. China had pursued such coordinated efforts, based on its specific situation, with the result that it had achieved the Millennium Goal of poverty reduction ahead of schedule. In addition, the advancement of women should be made part of the strategic framework for global peace and development. Countries should implement relevant agreements on women, with particular attention to the advancement of women in developing countries.
SEYLA EAT ( Cambodia) said the recent implementation of poverty-eradication policies in his country had resulted in “remarkable progress”. The World Bank’s study had placed Cambodia among the top 10 developing countries with the highest economic growth between 1998 and 2007. Even with a slowdown resulting from the recent financial global crisis to 7 per cent growth in 2008, Cambodia had been able to reduce its poverty levels from 45 per cent in 1994 to 30 per cent in 2008.
However, he noted that, although countries in his region had also made significant progress in reducing poverty, that had not been across the board and, in fact, some countries were experiencing increases of people living in poverty. Recalling the Secretary-General’s statement that the impact of the global financial crisis could last for years, and drive millions more out of work and into poverty, he urged Member States to “do everything possible to get the Doha Round negotiations back on track”, so that the barriers to trade and development, especially in the area of agriculture, could be eliminated. To that end, he offered appreciation to the G-20’s commitment in Pittsburgh this year to bring the Doha Round to a successful conclusion in 2010.
TARIQ KHADDAM AL-FAYEZ ( Saudi Arabia) urged developed countries to honour their responsibilities towards developing countries, because the strengthening of development opportunities and poverty eradication were moral responsibilities. The international community should seek to achieve the goal that this century became a century of development for everybody. Saudi Arabia had administered several grants to aid development projects in various countries and had contributed to the initiatives administered by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as it related to debt reduction for poor countries. He noted that his country contributed more money than any other to fund humanitarian relief operations in 2008.
“The persistence of poverty as an economic phenomenon is irrational and unacceptable”, he said, adding that the international community should put the issue of hunger and poverty at the core of the programme to combat poverty. Furthermore, the international community should raise the standards of assistance, improve effectiveness and coordination and ensure the continuity of development programmes. The shortage of funds required special innovation on the part of Governments, international organizations and the private sector to develop sustainable development projects.
GIRIJA VYAS ( India) said the world’s shared objective of eradicating poverty had become even more relevant and urgent in the context of the ongoing financial and economic crisis, which, coupled with the impact of last year’s food and energy crises, had pushed millions back into poverty and threatened to reverse years of development gains. Poverty eradication must continue to receive top priority in the United Nations, and there was a need to enhance momentum to implement the second United Nations Decade on the essential theme of employment.
Enhanced financial and technical assistance by the international community was crucial as was market access, debt relief and transfer of technology, and -- especially with regard to the latter -- the United Nations needed to play a central facilitator role. There was no “one-size fits-all” answer to the complex problems of poverty, and it was vital for each country to have the policy space to devise its own strategies based on specific challenges and conditions. He said India had actively promoted women’s empowerment, and more than 1 million Indian women had been brought into political decision-making during the last 13 years, following the reservation of one third of all urban and local self-government posts. A similar reservation of seats for women in the Indian Parliament was under consideration.
MATTHIAS BACHMANN ( Switzerland) said eliminating poverty remained one of the greatest global challenges. The international community had to revive its efforts to tackle poverty in line with the global partnership for development. With just over five years to go until the Millennium Development Goals should be met, Switzerland called for a more intensive and innovative approach to the legal empowerment of the poor. Legal insecurity prevented sustainable, economic development; excluding the poor from the legal system hindered their livelihood, entitlements and rights. In poverty eradication strategies, the link between economic opportunity and legal protection deserved more attention.
That was why Switzerland supported the Commission’s work on the legal empowerment of the poor, a four-tiered complementary reform agenda that included access to justice, property rights, business rights and labour rights. The legal empowerment of the poor was made up of crucial elements such as the rule of law, human rights and participation. He said it was important to enhance poor people’s social and political capacity, so that that they could take part in decision-making processes. Women and indigenous people deserved particular attention, it added. Context specific solutions would be more appropriate than a “one-size fits-all” approach. He said his delegation encouraged Member States to co-sponsor Guatemala’s resolution entitled “Legal Empowerment of the Poor and Eradication of Poverty”.
CLAUDIA LOZA ( Nicaragua) said the global economic and financial crisis had drastically affected Nicaragua’s resources to promote development, but the Government had expressed its determination to move forward, with words and deeds to implement its policies and programmes. In just a couple of years, Nicaragua had become a nation free of illiteracy, and one that offered free health and education for all. Its school nutrition programme was considered one of the four best in the world, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The Government had opened the door to microcredit, with particular emphasis on women’s empowerment, notably in agriculture.
Nicaragua, she said, was now a pioneering exporter in Central America of grains, such as beans, rice and corn. Nicaragua had housing, cultural, sports and youth programmes. The historic Sandinista revolution had given women a prominent role in all matters, such as in the “zero hunger” and the “usury zero” programmes. The Government earmarked 50 per cent of State posts for women, including at decision-making levels.
Noting that a few days ago the international community had marked the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, she asked, “What exactly are we celebrating? Are we celebrating the fact that 1.4 billion live in poverty, of whom 550 million live in extreme poverty? Or are we celebrating the $18 billion in stimulus packages to save private banks -- 150 times more than what was given to fight poverty in all of 2008 and 20 times more than what was given to fight poverty in the last 50 years?” She said the GDP of the 40 poorest countries in the world was less than the total wealth of the world’s seven richest people; that was proof that the current system represented select interests. The most basic violations of human rights went unnoticed by the media. She expressed hope that a new spirit of solidarity and equality would guide the Committee’s work.
MOHAMED TARAWNEH ( Jordan) said poverty was a major challenge for many countries, one that undermined human rights, since poor people were excluded and deprived of their human dignity. Speaking on globalization, he said its negative effects were distributed in an unfair way and constituted major obstacles to developing and transitional countries. Poverty, he said, could only be rooted out by international efforts.
With respect to efforts in his own country, he said the Government had sought the legal empowerment of the poor, and that Jordan did not discriminate on the basis of gender, race or religion. Its citizens enjoyed equal rights, enshrined in the Constitution which also ensured the primacy of law and justice. Furthermore, workers’ rights were guaranteed and an ombudsman’s office had been set up to deal with citizens’ complaints. Jordan had also recently drafted a law to combat human trafficking and was a State party to the international human rights law to combat violence against women.
EDUARDO R. MEÑEZ ( Philippines) stressed the importance of legal empowerment of the poor. The Philippine Constitution attempted to provide legal empowerment of the poor to help underprivileged people access the justice system. The courts had set up programmes to help the poor exercise their social, political and civil rights in a bid to help them overcome poverty. The country’s Anti-poverty Commission was set up in 1998. It oversaw implementation of the Government’s social reform agenda, which had been incorporated into national, regional and local development plans. The agency was mandated to develop and promote microfinance through creation of the People’s Development Trust Fund. That fund encouraged private, Government and financial institutions to open special windows for microfinance lending. Among other things, it had invested 2.5 billion pesos in environmental programmes, which provided green housing and jobs for some 100,000 very poor people.
He supported the World Survey on the Role of Women in Development, which gave a global assessment of issues and good examples of programmes that worked in developed and developing countries. The Philippines had been cited many times in the report. The Philippine Constitution gave women equal rights under the law. In August 2009, the country passed the “Philippine Carta of Women”, which aimed to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women, especially those in marginalized sectors. It also protected women from all forms of violence and had led to the inception of mandatory training to end gender-based violence.
When the Committee met again this afternoon, JORGE VALERO ( Venezuela) said that it was vital to develop laws and holistic policies to eradicate poverty, but that required a wholesale transformation of the economic system, away from the current capitalist system which only “perpetuated itself in perpetuity”. Setting out what he called the historic and structural causes of poverty, he said that, while the welfare State was developed in Europe, developing countries in the south experienced a growing sense of desperation with the deterioration of health care, housing and social security.
Today, he went on, climate change combined with the economic crisis had worsened the living conditions of the poor, who had seen child mortality and malnutrition grow. Legal empowerment in the developing world was not sufficient. Rather, poor people had to be empowered in all areas of life. He said Venezuela had put forward a socially equitable plan that guaranteed the eradication of poverty. Within Venezuela itself, Government programmes had made it possible to attain the Millennium Development Goals, and his country was now the recognized vanguard of poverty reduction on the global stage.
DANIYAR AIMAMRETOV ( Kazakhstan) said his delegation welcomed the 2008-2017 Second United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty, and he felt sure concerted efforts by Member States would bring effective poverty reduction at the national, regional and global levels. Despite the Millennium Development Goals, which were the basis for United Nations efforts to eradicate poverty, a range of global challenges had jeopardized progress. To mitigate the consequences of the economic slowdown towards attaining the Millennium Goals, Member States must step up their collective efforts.
He said Kazakhstan had, nevertheless, reached the Goals on poverty reduction and eradicating extreme hunger, as well as on providing universal primary education, and ensuring gender equality and women’s empowerment -– this with the cooperation of various United Nations specialized agencies, funds and programmes. The Government had also integrated a social and economic approach to helping its citizens find jobs, access quality education and health-care services by boosting direct aid to marginalized groups. These included the elderly, disabled and low-income families.
He said national poverty reduction and sustained economic growth could be reinforced effectively through the legal empowerment of the poor, at work and within the community. Increasing citizens’ access to justice, property, labour and entrepreneurship rights was linked with national poverty reduction.
SHIN BOO-NAM (Republic of Korea) expressed concern that the global economic crisis had magnified the vulnerabilities of the developing world, disproportionately affecting women and other at-risk populations. While there were 1.4 billion people living on less than $1.25 a day in 2005, the numbers of those in extreme poverty would increase by between 55 million and 90 million due to the multiple crises sweeping the globe. Financial pressure from the economic downturn was threatening efforts in the context of the second Decade. To provide a truly adequate response, the international community must fight the urge to curb aid because of limited resources. The Republic of Korea was doing its best to honour its commitment to make a threefold increase in ODA, which would reach approximately $3 billion in 2015. It planned to scale up its regional focus for Africa and Asia. By 2015, it intended to double aid to Asia to $400 million under the “New Asia Initiative”. Its “Initiative for Africa’s Development” would enter its second stage in November.
The Republic of Korea had long focused on rural development in its development cooperation programmes to combat poverty, he said. It supported the Millennium Villages Project, which was based on the same principles and now operated in 80 villages in 10 African countries. There would not be progress in reducing global poverty without significant progress worldwide on gender equality and women’s empowerment. The Republic of Korea’s Political Party Act set a quota system to ensure an increase percentage of women in national and local politics. Legal empowerment could, indeed, pave the way towards poverty eradication and sustainable development. He supported the draft resolution introduced earlier in the day by Guatemala’s representative, and he added that it touched upon the core issues of legal empowerment while maintaining the focus on development
U HLA MYINT ( Myanmar) said poverty remained a central challenge to developing countries. A person thrown into poverty was not only deprived on money, but also access to health care, education, employment and other opportunities to live a productive life. Attempts by developing countries to reduce poverty were likely to be hampered by the present financial crisis. Uneven progress during the first decade in the fight against poverty underlined the need for a second decade, to enhance poverty-eradication efforts. International efforts could not succeed unless the United Nations mobilized the support of all related entities at regional and global levels; the 2015 goals could not be reached unless assistance was substantially increased.
He said that, even though poverty eradication had become a universally accepted moral obligation, Myanmar had not received any assistance since 1988 from international organizations, such as the World Bank, the IMF and the Asian Development Bank. His country’s efforts were, therefore, strained, and additionally aggravated by unilateral sanctions imposed by certain countries. Thousands of people across Myanmar had lost their jobs and were suffering.
It was an extremely sad paradox that poverty eradication was being undermined by sanctions that were unjust and immoral, he said. Myanmar’s efforts had included agricultural sector programmes that encouraged private entrepreneurs to reclaim vacant and fallow land, which had doubled rice production. Myanmar had also established 18 industrial zones nationwide, and had participated in regional organizations, including ASEAN.
MOHAMMED LOULICHKI ( Morocco) said achieving the Millennium Development Goals needed unfailing, collective efforts, and he urged the developed nations to live up to their ODA commitments at a moment of particular need. Challenged by the fallout from the economic crisis, developing countries had also suffered a 37 per cent decline in ODA since 1998. “Climate change undermines the lives of millions of people, pushing millions into poverty”, he said, adding that the question was one of survival and political stability.
He praised the report before the Committee on legal empowerment and said that, in terms of combating hunger, Morocco had reached its targets. Furthermore, the country had made health insurance mandatory with an eye to covering at least 90 per cent of the population. With respect to women, he said they were the initial victims of poverty and destitution, and that the United Nations needed to work harder and better to meet their needs. Morocco, for its part, had undertaken various programmes for the advancement of women, among them a reform of the family code, the criminal code and laws governing civil status. He said that the challenge of poverty could be met only if the international community made it a priority.
MILOŠ KOTEREC ( Slovakia) noted the severe impact of the global economic and financial crisis on the economy and the well-being of citizens everywhere, and said the quality of macroeconomic policies would play the decisive role in creating conditions for renewed growth. While each country was mainly responsible for its own development, the advanced nations needed to play a bigger role in tackling global challenges.
Noting that the Millennium Development Goals deadline was 2015, he said Slovakia remained committed to fulfilling its own Millennium Development Goal obligations and, in recent years, had implemented its own concept of ODA. “To secure sustainable growth in developing countries”, he said, “the international community needs to focus also on the most vulnerable groups, especially women and children.” Unless women were liberated, empowered, educated and enabled to fully use their economic potential, they would continue, together with children, to suffer. Appreciating the unprecedented role that women played in development, Slovakia recognized its need to improve gender equality and empowerment.
ADAM KUYMIZAKIS ( Malta) reaffirmed his country’s position that any recommendation regarding women’s empowerment and gender equality should not, in any way, “create an obligation on any party” to consider abortion a legitimate health right, and that, according to Malta’s laws, abortion was illegal.
With respect to the report on women’s role in development before the Committee, he said that Malta had launched a development policy in which gender equality was a central issue, and the Government had integrated the gender factor into its national development strategies in various ways.
With respect to the global economic crisis, he said that it had disproportionately affected the most poor and vulnerable. Malta sought to reduce the risk of poverty especially among those vulnerable groups, which included women, children and the elderly, particularly through the inclusion of older workers and women within the labour market. The Government had also furthered the availability of affordable housing and focused on the provision of child-care services to promote the participation of both women and men in the workforce.
FARID JAFAROV ( Azerbaijan) said that internationally agreed-upon development goals had been imperilled by the global economic and financial crisis, but his own country had managed to diminish its negative impacts and had sustained economic stability with a growth rate in GDP of almost 4 per cent. Because of its commitments to the Millennium targets, the Government had taken a number of steps to eradicate poverty, strengthening the social and economic welfare, supporting the private sector, increasing economic opportunities and improving the quality of jobs. Consequently, the poverty rate declined to 13.2 per cent this year, and the Government wanted to reduce the figure even further.
With respect to legal empowerment, he said, the practical legal framework must be accompanied by effective rule of law mechanisms, to ensure every individual’s access to justice. He added that it was also a source of serious concern that 600 million people worked for less than $1.25 per day, according to figures of the ILO. While each country had to take responsibility for its own development, the United Nations and its specialized agencies should be the major universal framework to address global development issues.
IMAD IBRAHIM TAGURI ( Libya) said the poor always suffered most during times of economic crisis; poverty eradication was a challenge for the entire world. It was a prerequisite for achieving the Millennium Development Goals and sustainable development. It should be addressed through education, health care and human rights. International efforts to reduce poverty had yet to achieve the desired goals. The negative impact of the economic, food, fuel and climate change crises had exacerbated the problem; donors must provide funds without conditionalities and aid to build national capacity so that comprehensive development strategies to combat poverty could be implemented.
The second Decade must be marked by genuine collective political will to achieve sustainable development, with special emphasis on investment and production. It was necessary to bridge the gap between rural and urban areas, and to help women, children and the elderly, who were the most vulnerable.
He said he regretted the significant drop in ODA since 2006, and the adverse impact of the “brain drain” from developing countries. National frameworks should be set up to provide training and education, and to forge partnership between the public and private sector. HIV/AIDS was a major threat to productivity, especially in Africa. United Nations agencies should make more efforts to launch initiatives to support job creation in developing countries. The international community should respond early to the devastating consequences of natural disasters that affected least developed countries and developing countries.
He said Libya had launched food initiatives to curb hunger in Africa, to promote food self-sufficiency and technology for harvesting, and also the green campaign in the Sahel Desert and sub-Saharan Africa. It had launched a project to combat poverty among African youth and women. Further, it was cooperating with Nigeria and Cuba on a South-South health-care project in Africa.
ELYES LAKHAL ( Tunisia) said this moment presented an opportunity to take stock and evaluate the achievements and the constraints in terms of global poverty reduction. In that regard, progress had been achieved in some realms, but much remained to be done, especially since various economic, financial and climate-related crises had hindered progress on the Millennium Development Goals, notably on the African continent. Poverty was not a “given”, he said, but a product of a particular global context, and he emphasized the principle of solidarity to reach a more equitable world.
In Tunisia, he went on, the Government had undertaken profound reforms to accelerate economic growth and reduce poverty, reforms that had allowed the emergence of a large middle class. Among the measures was the introduction of various types of social protections, such as minimum wage, but the work had not yet been completed. There were plans in place to guarantee a source of revenue for most Tunisian families within the next five years. He concluded by saying that that was an unjust world of inequality and exploitation, characterized by the unbridled race for domination. “The fight against hunger and poverty will not be won so easily”, he said.
GUILHERME DE AGUIAR PATRIOTA ( Brazil) said poverty eradication was “a moral imperative and an essential element of the right to development”. The international community had taken crucial steps to elaborate a holistic framework to understand and address that, and it was now time to pay attention to implementing it. Although it was critical to the eradication of poverty, economic growth alone could not overcome deeply embedded structural problems that had affected most developing countries. Public policies had to help the poor overcome day-to-day hurdles to prosperity.
With the recent financial and economic crisis posing a threat to recent gains, he said, the Secretary-General’s annual report on progress in the Millennium Goals had shown that the fight against poverty from 1990 until 2005 had stalled. To mitigate the adverse effects of the crisis and to allow developing countries to deploy counter-cyclical policies, the world had to step up resources to help the most vulnerable countries.
On a positive note, he said that the civil and property rights of poor people could be assured through accessing and enjoying the legal system; disenfranchised groups working in the informal sector could be provided with more social and economic stability.
He said that, in the last six years, Brazil had created food banks, communal eating areas, free school dinners and support for small-scale farmers. To counter the negative impacts of the financial and economic crisis, his country recognized that it was necessary to deploy a gender-balanced social protection programme.
JIDE OSUNTOKUN ( Nigeria) said that the benchmark of a country’s success in attaining international development goals was whether or not it could provide its populace with the basic necessities, such as food, shelter, good health services and gainful employment. “Without these, any other measures are merely a mirage”, he stated.
He said Nigeria’s huge potential for high agricultural productivity had been impeded by inadequate support infrastructure, insufficient capital and lack of focused investment in agriculture, among others. However, he said that his Government had floated a 200 billion naira bond in the capital market to lend to farmers to boost large-scale commercial agriculture, as part of its comprehensive strategy for food security. Nigeria was also welcoming bilateral partnerships for its upscale investment in agriculture, road networks, rail system upgrade and renewable energy sources.
He said his country’s involvement with the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme and grass-roots-focused initiatives such as the Village Trust Fund and Care of People, as well as the National Poverty Eradication Programme, were all part of the essential collective actions in this second Decade of Poverty Eradication.
LUCA DALL’OGLIO, Permanent Observer, International Organization for Migration (IOM), said the economic and social contribution of migrants was a long-standing factor in both global recovery and the achievement of long-term development goals for developing and more developed countries. “If pooled together, their annual remittance would constitute a combined GDP larger than many developed countries”, he stated. Thus, the integration of migration into national development plans needed more consideration. Further, while international migration was of serious concern, internal migration was almost four times greater in terms of numbers of people.
He urged the international community to make migration a more regular component of development policies and planning. To that end, the Handbook on Mainstreaming Migration into Poverty Reduction and Development Planning Tools, being prepared in close collaboration with several United Nations agencies, would be presented at the Athens Global Forum on Migration and Development next month. The Handbook would be supported by a training programme, as well. He said the relationship between migration and poverty remained critically important, and he called for reinforced efforts of the international community to ensure the protection of migrants from increased discrimination and xenophobia.
CELESTINO MIGLIORE, Permanent Observer for the Holy See, said that, even the most optimistic outlook on the current economic situation admitted that recovery would be slow and that shocks and setbacks lie ahead. As a result of the crisis, there had been deterioration in public health, social welfare and education, and in the least developed countries the remarkable growth of the last decade had been jeopardized. “The real crisis, therefore, is not the disruption of the international economic structures based largely on weak or even fictitious bases”, he said, but the sharp worsening of poverty in a world already haunted by intolerable misery.”
With regard to ODA, he observed that the developed world had offered fewer funds “apparently justified by a desire to use all available funds to prevent a further financial collapse”. Such arguments, however, were tenuous, he said, and added that those delays in assistance pointed to the lack of solidarity and responsibility, which were “the moral roots of the crisis”. He called for the developed world to honour its commitments, without delay and without excuses. It was crucial to promote true empowerment and provide greater access to education, even during times of crisis.
RICHARD KENNEDY, United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), said that, in addition to mainstreaming gender in its operations, UNIDO had been directly involved in providing support for women’s entrepreneurship in its technical assistance programmes for many years. The agency recognized the value that women’s efforts in the productive sectors brought to individuals, to families and children, and to society at large. In addition, in response to a request from the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues, UNIDO would be playing a very active role in the United Nations system in promoting economic empowerment of women. In that regard, it would be organizing the Vienna launch of the 2009 World Survey on the Role of Women in Development, and also hosting the Joint Biennial Workshop of the OECD/DAC Gendernet and the United Nations Inter-Agency Network on Women and Gender Equality in 2010. (There would be a ceremony in Vienna next week -- on 30 October -- to explain that Survey.)
He said the global financial and economic crisis was likely to have serious social and economic costs for women. Activities to highlight the constraints faced by women in the productive sectors and measures to overcome them were, therefore, sorely needed; the international community must redouble its efforts to support women’s economic empowerment, in line with the recommendations contained in the Secretary-General’s reports.
AMBER BARTH, International Labour Organization (ILO), said the goal of full employment and decent work for all was a complex development challenge even in good times. The current period of economic crisis, unemployment, underemployment and poverty exacerbated the challenges in the second United Nations Decade. She noted the need to focus on poverty eradication for the most vulnerable members of society, who were often women. She said that if that were to happen, there would be a need for a strong gender perspective in development strategies. The foresight by Member States to focus on poverty eradication efforts could not come at a more critical time; research showed that employment recovery lagged behind economic recovery by four to five years, so that, if the world economy turned around in 2010, employment figures would only reach pre-crisis levels around 2015.
She said the second United Nations Decade on the poverty situation would be a decade of crisis and recovery, and, thus, the ILO was concentrating its efforts on reducing the known “lag” in employment by participating in the nine United Nations Joint Crisis Initiatives, which included the global jobs pact and global “social protection floor”. The ILO advocated that poverty could not be tackled without addressing the fact that many people were forced further into poverty through denial of their most fundamental rights. Poverty was often made worse by social protection “gaps”, whereby old age, sickness and other eventualities could far too easily push vulnerable persons back into poverty.
BERTRAND DE LOOZ KARAGEORGIADES, Office of the Permanent Observer for the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, said the Order worked in more than 120 countries to help poor and destitute people. It had diplomatic holdings in more than 100 nations, with 12,000 personnel and numerous permanent volunteers and medical staff. Since the end of the Second World War, it had constantly increased its contribution to development. In developing countries, it had instituted effective pilot projects. For example, in 2009, it began an entrepreneurial training programme for 99 poor women in Viet Nam and a project to fight moderate and severe malnutrition in children in Uganda.
This year, he said, it would launch a project in Romania to provide support for the poor, such as special pharmacies, clothes, supplies, “meals on wheels”, nursing homes, surgery services, and clubs for the disabled and elderly. Those services gave recipients a sense of humanity and affection. Fifteen years ago, the General Assembly granted permanent observer Status to the Sovereign Order, he said. It was paying close attention to the Assembly’s various initiatives in an effort to improve its own activities that worked towards progress and development, for the benefit of mankind.
DHAMMIKA SEMASINGHE ( Sri Lanka) said that, against a grim backdrop of a financial crisis which had plunged an expected 90 million people into poverty, the ability of countries to achieve the Millennium Goal to eradicate poverty was an elusive challenge, brightened by a renewed commitment to development assistance. Sri Lanka had effectively mobilized resources, including micro- and macro-credit finance, and had pushed down poverty ratios to 14 per cent last year from 22.7 per cent in 2002, and achieved a record-low national unemployment rate. Sri Lanka had already attained, or was near to reaching education and health Millennium Goals, with infant mortality dropping to 13 from 32 per 1,000 between 1990 and 2006. The Government’s current 2006 to 2016 development policy framework aimed at delivering financial services to small and micro-enterprises.
Regarding women in development, she said Sri Lanka accorded special significance to increasing their full participation in the country’s development processes and improving their quality of life. It included the gender perspective in its policy framework. Women made up 52 per cent of Sri Lanka’s population and formed the majority of the country’s workforce. Recognizing those contributions to enriching the social and economic fabric of the country, the Government had launched programmes to empower rural women.
Despite facing a long struggle against terrorism and the devastation of the 2004 tsunami, Sri Lanka’s economy had registered positive growth, but perhaps not in the long run. International partnerships had a critical role in supporting national efforts, and Sri Lanka called on bilateral and multilateral donors to factor in internationally agreed development goals when allocating resources.
The Committee then took up its agenda item on agriculture development and food security.
Introduction of Report
MUHAMMAD ASLAM CHAUDRY, Chief, Global Policy Branch, Division for Sustainable Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on agriculture development and food security (document A/64/221). The fragile state of the global economy would impact food security for all. In response to the food crisis, the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB) had set up in 2008 the Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis, which set forth a comprehensive framework for action. In the past 12 months, Task Force members had supported national authorities.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) had contributed to capacity-building of small farmers, he said. Among other initiatives, he said the World Food Programme (WFP) was able to raise comprehensive assistance to farmers, and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs had created a Central Emergency Response Fund. The secretariat of the Global Task Force was coordinating activities in 35 countries. Last year, many countries had implemented policies to mitigate the impact of high food prices. Food security and sustained development were high on the international political agenda. Countries were increasing investment in agriculture and rural development. A good example of that was the Group of Eight agreement to commit more than $20 billion to agricultural development in the next three years as part of food initiative.
Ms. OSMAN (Sudan), speaking for the Group of 77 and China, said agriculture was inextricably linked to poverty and hunger, achievable sustainable development and the internationally agreed development goals, yet about 1 billion people did not have access to sufficient food to meet basic nutritional needs, and that number was on the rise. She said she welcomed current international efforts, but said the success of longer-term strategies was not assured. Any successful effort to defeat hunger should involve stronger institutions with better accountability, stability of global markets, and the elimination of trade-distorting subsidies.
She said the failure of international economic and trade policy over the last quarter century had negative effects on developing countries, including discouraging agriculture and food production, reorienting food consumption patterns, and providing an advantage to the import of subsidized foods from developed countries. Sustained and predictable funding and increased targeted investment were indispensable in enhancing world food production, and she called for new and additional financial resources from all sources to achieve sustainable agricultural development and food security in developing countries.
She said trade was the key element to enhance global food production by providing more equitable dividends for developing countries, and she hoped for a successful outcome to the Doha Development Round next year.
HASAN KLEIB (Indonesia), speaking for ASEAN, said that, while the food crisis appeared to be over, it was vital for the international community to remain vigilant, and he pointed to what he called a “disheartening paradox” in today’s global food and agriculture economy. While the world produced more food than ever, food insecurity increased. As in the 1950s, 1 billion people went hungry every day. It was a sad irony that many of those living in hunger were people in the rural areas of developing countries who worked in farming.
The international community should help empower poor and small-holder farmers with access to financing, seeds, water, fertilizers and markets while promoting sustainable development. It was also vital that the WFP and the FAO had adequate buffer stocks on hand for emergencies. Furthermore, the trading of food in commodity exchanges and bourses needed better regulation, and it was crucial to expedite fundamental reform of the world’s agriculture trade.
To conclude, he said that ASEAN leaders had committed themselves to the embrace of food security as a policy of high priority and had pledged to strengthen ASEAN cooperation on that issue. Working in partnership with dialogue partners and the United Nations, ASEAN was also boosting cooperation on agricultural research and development, and the transfer of agricultural and food production technology.
AMRIT BAHADUR RAI ( Nepal), speaking for the least developed countries, said agriculture was the lifeline to the people and the economies of those nations. It was the largest sector of employment. However, agriculture in those countries lacked irrigation, scientific tools and technology, seeds and fertilizer, as well as crucial investment. Consequently, production had been meagre, causing hunger and poverty. To break that vicious cycle of low yields and poverty, an intervention using modern tools and technology was needed, without undermining the time-tested indigenous knowledge and practices.
Such knowledge-enhancement of farmers, and other measures such as the involvement of women and creation of agricultural institutions, could be achieved with technical and financial support from the developed world. He said he was deeply concerned by the agricultural subsidies of the developed world which had created an uneven playing field for products coming from least developed countries. That the share of agriculture in ODA had sharply decreased was another source of concern, and he called for the reversal of that trend.
ZALWANI ZALKAPLY ( Malaysia) said that ensuring food security required that Member States address the short-term and long-term aspects of the food crisis and employ a single comprehensive strategy; it was essential to look at how policymakers could balance competing interests. A case in point was food subsidies which were almost always economically efficient in the long run, but which many Governments found difficult to remove given the risk of social unrest and electoral defeat.
Another issue not sufficiently addressed in the report was the issue of speculation and commodity trading and its impact on food prices. Furthermore, Malaysia encouraged Member States not to lose sight of the larger socio-economic impact of hunger, which affected coming generations. For its part, Malaysia had allocated $1 billion to be distributed through 14 stimulus packages to help transform traditional farmers to more modern farmers, and $560 million had already been distributed.
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