Speakers in Second Committee Underline Need for Urgent Steps to Reverse Deepening Poverty Worldwide as Millennium Goals Deadline Looms
Speakers in Second Committee Underline Need for Urgent Steps to Reverse Deepening Poverty Worldwide as Millennium Goals Deadline Looms
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fifth General Assembly
16th & 17th Meetings (AM & PM)
Speakers in Second Committee Underline Need for Urgent Steps to Reverse Deepening
Poverty Worldwide as Millennium Goals Deadline Looms
Delegates Also Consider Report on Industrial Development Cooperation
With five years left until the 2015 deadline for meeting the Millennium Development Goals, and millions of people being pushed deeper into poverty worldwide, the international community must take immediate and comprehensive remedial action at the regional, national and international levels, delegates emphasized today as the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) considered the eradication of poverty and other development issues.
The representative of Bangladesh noted that the Committee was meeting to discuss poverty at a time when nearly 925 million people suffered from hunger. “While we are throwing hyperboles for achieving the Millennium Goals by 2015, these people are helplessly looking towards us for their mere existence,” he said, emphasizing that the Second Decade for the Eradication of Poverty was a big opportunity for the international community to develop a pragmatic plan of action to support it. Humanity could no longer tolerate “paperwork”, he added.
Recalling that the “microcredit revolution” had started in his country with rural women in the 1970s, he said exponentially high interest rates had marred its initial success, and demanded a lowering of the rates to make it more affordable. He applauded the huge poverty-eradication potential of microcredit, urging all relevant financial institutions to procure enough funds to meet the needs of nearly 500 million poor and low-income people worldwide who still lacked access.
Yemen’s representative, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, added that the continuing decline in global gross domestic product (GDP) had left an estimated 50 million more people in poverty in 2009, and up to 15 million more in 2010. The international community should support the national efforts of developing countries through adequate and sustainable financial resources on a bilateral or multilateral basis, he said. He also called upon the United Nations system and other stakeholders to maximize the role of microfinance instruments, including microcredit services at low interest rates.
Malawi’s representative, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that by proclaiming the Second Decade, the General Assembly had recognized poverty eradication as a core requirement for sustainable development, particularly in Africa. The continent still had the highest unemployment rate among developing countries, as high as 77 per cent in some areas, and growth had declined from 4 per cent in 2008 to 1.6 per cent in 2009 as a result of the global financial and economic crisis. The African Group called for a shift from the current macroeconomic policy framework to one that aimed to create full employment and decent work for all.
Expanding on that point, on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Suriname’s representative said attainment of the Millennium Development Goals required a drastic change from “business as usual”, taking into account that the challenge of realizing the targets by 2015 had been made more difficult by the global food, energy and financial crises. Developedcountries, in particular, must take effective steps to allocate more resources to help developing countries respond to food-security challenges, he said, reaffirming the importance of South-South cooperation to that end.
Saint Lucia’s representative expressed concern that the discussion had focused primarily on the “last end of the development ladder” — the poorest and least developed countries whereas middle-income States required just as much attention. The international community had thus far viewed microfinance as a mechanism for ensuring mere survival rather than the creation of wealth. That must change, he asserted, calling for a shift in mindset “from microfinance to finance”.
China’s representative called for the creation of acomprehensive partnership to mobilize all social sectors in making joint use of the initiatives and comparative advantages of the business sector, civil society, women and youth in promoting poverty reduction.
Presenting the Secretary-General’s reports on implementation of the Second United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (2008-2017) and on the role of microcredit and microfinance in the eradication of poverty was the Chief of the Social Perspective on Development Branch in the Division for Social Policy and Development of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
With the Committee also considering industrial development cooperation, the Director of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) New York Office presented the report of that agency’s Director-General, noting that since the last report to the Committee in 2008, the global economic landscape had changed drastically. UNIDO statistics confirmed that world manufacturing output had begun to drop in the second half of that year and there had been a 6.8 per cent decline in global manufacturing value-added by the end of 2009.
Industrialized countries accounted for much of that decline and structural changes in many developing countries had seen a continual shift towards technology-intensive sectors in total manufacturing output and exports, he said. However, the process had been slower in the world’s poorest countries, and the extent to which they could hope to participate in sustainable economic growth depended on their responses to a number of development challenges, including climate change and energy. The fundamental challenge for industry was decoupling the consumption of natural resources and the release of greenhouse gases from economic growth, he said.
In other business, Yemen’s representative submitted, on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, a draft resolution on external debt sustainability and development.
Other speakers today were representatives of Belgium (on behalf of the European Union), Indonesia (on behalf of Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN), Nepal (on behalf of the Group of Least Developed Countries), Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Ethiopia, Peru, Thailand, Sudan, Israel, Nicaragua, Lesotho, Nigeria, Jordan, Azerbaijan, Mongolia, Venezuela, Libya and Colombia.
Also delivering statements were the Permanent Observers of the Holy See and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow, Friday, 22 October, for a panel discussion on “Follow-up to the outcome of the High-level Plenary Meeting relating to Millennium Development Goal 1, and an introduction to the Multidimensional Poverty Index”.
The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met this morning to consider the eradication of poverty and other development issues. The meeting’s sub-themes were implementation of the Second United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (2008-2017) and industrial development cooperation.
Before the Committee was a letter dated 24 August 2010 (document A/65/336) from the Permanent Representative of Brazil to the President of the General Assembly, which transmits a summary report of conclusions reached by a forum entitled “Feed minds, change lives: school feeding, the Millennium Development Goals and girls’ empowerment”. It was held on the margins of the 2010 session of the Economic and Social Council in New York on 29 June.
Also before the Committee was a report of the Secretary-General on implementation of the Second United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (2008-2017), which reviews current progress and highlights the system-wide plan of action for the Second Decade. It presents initiatives and activities by relevant United Nations bodies in response to the plan of action.
The report (document A/65/230) says the unfolding global financial and economic crisis, and its impact on employment and decent work opportunities, will be a major threat to international efforts to eradicate poverty during the Second Decade. Enhanced policy coherence and cooperation in the United Nations is needed to respond to those threats, as are increased efforts and collaboration by Member States, civil society, non-governmental organizations and all relevant partners.
According to the report, the Secretary-General recommends that the General Assembly call upon Member States to continue to support the theme “Full employment and decent work for all” for the duration of the Second Decade and the related plan of action. He also urges the relevant United Nations organizations to continue their joint activity to implement the Global Jobs Pact and the Social Protection Floor, in close cooperation with Member States, so as to further promote policy coherence and coordination.
The Secretary-General also recommends that the Assembly urge the United Nations to help Member States strengthen their macroeconomic policy capacity and national development strategies for achieving full employment and decent work, as well as implementation of the Chief Executives Board’s Toolkit for Mainstreaming Employment and Decent Work, with a view to improving coherence and efficiency in “delivering as one” on employment, decent work and poverty reduction.
Also before the Committee was the report of the Secretary-General on the role of microcredit and microfinance in the eradication of poverty (document A/65/267), which assesses the benefits and limitations of microcredit and microfinance as a poverty-eradication strategy. It reviews the impact of the financial and economic crisis on microfinance and addresses various Government measures to improve the delivery of microfinance services and build inclusive financial systems.
The Secretary-General concludes that there is need to complement microfinance services with other development strategies focused on building human capital and creating an enabling environment to maximize the poverty-eradication potential of microfinance. Further research and analysis of financial practices, particularly among poor households, is required to enhance the quality, structure and availability of financial products.
With the world’s attention focused on financial policy reform in the wake of the financial and economic crisis, Governments should seize the opportunity to extend access to financial services, he states. Financial inclusion policies should be developed in coordination with other social, economic and environmental policies to ensure adequate attention to and investment in areas such as health care, energy, education and livelihood skills, technology and transport, which complement and support the positive effects and potential of microfinance.
Furthermore, the Secretary-General recommends that Governments adapt regulatory frameworks to expand the range of savings and other non-lending service institutions, and to expand those frameworks to enable agent banking. He calls for an expansion of partnerships and coordinated investment in employment, as well as the development of entrepreneurial skills and infrastructure as key means of enhancing microfinance outcomes among excluded households and enterprises.
The Secretary-General proposes that Governments develop mechanisms to strengthen financial policy coordination in order to improve responses to complex and interlinked development challenges, including poverty, climate change and social exclusion. He also recommends that Governments strengthen support to local and community banks, and encourage empirical research into the impact of microcredit and microfinance on accelerating poverty reduction and expanding social protection.
Also before the Committee was a note by the Secretary-General on industrial development cooperation (document A/65/220) transmitting to the General Assembly the relevant report of the Director-General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). It highlights recent trends in industrial development, particularly in the context of the global financial and economic crisis.
The report examines the extent to which manufacturing in developing countries has withstood the effects of the crisis; determines how the food and fuel price crises, climate change and globalization continue to impact productive sectors and international trade in manufactured goods; and examines the role of industrial development in helping address those challenges and achieve the Millennium Development Goals. It also describes UNIDO’s response to those challenges.
According to the report, world manufacturing has been strongly affected by the economic and financial crisis, but developing countries as a group have continued along the path of growth. Success in achieving growth, reducing poverty and achieving the Millennium Goals will depend on how developing countries and the international community react to an array of interrelated global megatrends, including global crises, demographic change, globalization, the illicit economy, climate change and the emergence of “green” industry.
The Director-General recommends that the multilateral development system – including the international financial institutions and the United Nations system – work to ensure that developing countries meet internationally agreed development goals by effectively deploying their convening power to promote international cooperation. UNIDO should continue to work in partnership with other relevant actors to promote sustainable industrial development within the context of its three thematic priorities: poverty reduction through productive activities; trade capacity-building; and environment and energy.
Introduction of Reports
DONALD LEE, Chief, Social Perspective on Development Branch, Division for Social Policy and Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introduced the Secretary-General’s reports on implementation of the Second United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (2008-2017), and on the role of microcredit and microfinance in the eradication of poverty.
He said the first report detailed the United Nations response to the theme “full employment and decent work for all”, and underscored the importance of the Second Decade as an important framework for enhancing the Organization’s activities in support of poverty eradication. It pointed to progress by relevant United Nations entities over the last two years in carrying out the system-wide plan of action for the Second Decade, which focused on the creation of employment, including youth employment; social protection, especially of poor and vulnerable groups; and the impact of the global financial and economic crisis on employment.
The second report provided an overview of the contribution of microcredit and microfinance as important strategies for eradicating poverty, and addressed various Government measures to enhance the delivery of microfinance services and build inclusive financial systems. It noted that microfinance schemes, many of which included social service programmes, could provide secure funds for employment or to cover essential needs, facilitate the exchange of knowledge, build credit history and develop skills.
GEORGE B. ASSAF, Director, United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) New York Office, presented the report on industrial development cooperation, noting that since the agency’s last report to the Committee in 2008, the global economic landscape had changed drastically. UNIDO statistics confirmed that world manufacturing output had begun to drop in the second half of that year and there had been a 6.8 per cent decline in global manufacturing value-added by the end of 2009.
Industrialized countries accounted for much of that decline and structural changes in many developing countries had seen a continual shift towards technology-intensive sectors in total manufacturing output and exports, he said, noting, however, that the process had been slower in the least developed countries. The extent to which the world’s poorest countries could hope to participate in sustainable economic growth depended on their responses to a number of development challenges, including climate change and energy, he asserted. The fundamental challenge for industry was decoupling the consumption of natural resources and the release of greenhouse gases from economic growth.
He went on to state that antiquated energy systems had a detrimental effect on the environment, emphasizing that poor countries must expand access to reliable and affordable modern energy sources in order to reduce poverty and meet the Millennium Goals. Access to energy was essential for women’s empowerment, he said, noting that some even described it as “the missing Millennium Goal”. Noting that the global financial and economic crisis had shown that the world was not divided simply into industrialized and developing countries, he said much remained to be done in much of Africa and elsewhere, as nearly 64 million more people had been thrown into poverty as a result of the crisis. There must not be a “two-tier world” with a few racing ahead and the rest left behind, he stressed. “We must ensure that the poor are not excluded from the next industrial revolution.”
In the ensuing discussion, the representative of Saint Lucia took issue with the focus of the two reports on the “last end of the development ladder”, mainly the poorest and least developed countries, saying that middle-income States required just at much attention. The international community had thus far viewed microfinance as a mechanism for ensuring mere survival rather than the creation of wealth. That must change, he stressed, calling for a shift in mindset from microfinance to finance. With regard to industrial development, he noted that manufacturing required a certain critical mass and urged a change of platform so as to gather the necessary momentum to move forward.
The representative of Venezuela said his country had undertaken a major microcredit programme in support of development, with a particular focus on the empowerment of women. Through the Women’s Bank, Venezuela had granted more than $100,000 in loans to women, who were representative of their household, he said, noting that the role of women in families was vital in South America. The possibility for mothers to participate in economic activities was of the utmost importance, he said, stressing that microcredit could be seen as a way to extend the banking system so it could reach more individuals, as well as a social network for eliminating poverty.
Mr. ASSAF responded by saying that UNIDO had in fact considered middle-income countries and agreed that they were an important focus group, referring the delegate to the agency’s 2009 report, which largely addressed the concerns he had expressed.
Mr. LEE added that efforts by the United Nations system under the Second Decade spanned the entire range of countries — developed, middle-income and least developed. The question of inclusiveness was an area of growing interest and many efforts now focused on removing social and financial exclusivity, which presented barriers to social and economic development for the world’s poorest.
KHALED HUSSEIN ALYEMANY (Yemen), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said the economic and financial crisis had deepened the challenge of reducing poverty. Declining global gross domestic product (GDP) had left an estimated 50 million more people in poverty during 2009, and up to 15 million more in 2010. According to the World Bank, 64 million more people were expected to be living in poverty because of the crisis, mostly in developing countries, placing the number of chronically hungry people in the world at 925 million. In addition, the International Labour Organization (ILO) estimated that 31 million people in developing countries had lost their jobs or could not find full time employment, he said.
He went on to say that according to the Secretary-General’s 2008 report, some 633 million, or 21.2 per cent of the world’s workers, lived with their families on less than $1.25 per day. In 2009, that number had increased by an estimated 215 million, including 100 million in South Asia and 28 million in sub-Saharan Africa, which meant that about 7 per cent more workers were at risk of falling into poverty between 2008 and 2009, he said. The international community should support national efforts by developing countries through adequate and sustainable financial resources on a bilateral or multilateral basis.
He reiterated the need to meet the internationally agreed official development assistance (ODA) target of 0.7 per cent of GNP for developed countries and 0.15-0.2 per cent of GNP for least developed countries by 2015, in addition to ensuring effective monitoring mechanisms. The Group of 77 and China also called for resources to boost the World Solidarity Fund, and urged the United Nations system and other stakeholders to maximize the role of microfinance instruments, including microcredit services, at low interest rates. In closing, he underscored the essential role of sustainable industrial development and called on the international community for its continued support.
CHRISTOPHE DE BASSOMPIERRE ( Belgium), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said social protection and a focus on creating jobs had proven most efficient in mitigating the effects of the financial crisis and must remain at the centre of poverty-eradication efforts. In that regard, the private sector played a crucial role as a leading vector of wealth and employment creation. The European Union’s welfare systems had reduced the impact of the crisis on disposable income by 50 per cent within its member States, demonstrating the critical role of social protection systems that the ILO was attempting to help build in developing countries. The Global Jobs Pact demonstrated the international community’s determination to implement the Decent Work Agenda and to work on its four components: employment, social protection, social dialogue and rights at work.
Gender equality fundamentally reduced poverty and would mitigate the effects of the financial crisis while contributing to the empowerment of women and girls, he said, noting that the European Union had adopted an Action Plan for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Development. There were many successes in the fight against poverty, including tremendous progress in Asia and Latin America. Looking to the future, he said a green economy would offer the potential for considerable growth while tackling the key challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss and natural-resource depletion. Special regard should be given to the sustainable development of agriculture and rural areas, since most of the poor live there, he added. The development of sustainable tourism could also contribute to the realization of the Millennium Goals, he said.
MOHAMAD HERY SARIPUDIN ( Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and associating with the Group of 77, said income inequality between rich and poor nations was growing rapidly. The burden of debt reimbursement presented another major hurdle for least developed countries in their pursuit of the Millennium Goals, because it curtailed their ability to fund development projects. He called for better coordination among all stakeholders, and for enhanced efforts to promote regional connectivity via infrastructure and information and communications technology for development.
ASEAN also called for support for efforts to develop agricultural productivity through greater and more responsible investment, development of human resources and focus on small-scale farmers, among other things. Poverty reduction was among the most challenging tasks for global leadership, he said, adding that political and economic stability, supported by vibrant development partnerships, were essential for sustainable development. It was therefore critically important for developing countries to learn how to secure more commercially-meaningful access to international markets, he said, calling for quota- and duty-free schemes for goods and products from least developed countries.
In addition, he urged developed countries to fulfil their ODA commitments, saying that meeting the Millennium Goals target of halving poverty by 2015 required steady economic growth and a more pro-poor policy. To that end, ASEAN called for continued regional and international efforts to provide adequate employment opportunities for all workers. Further, he underscored the importance of participation by all developed countries and financial institutions, without which efforts to achieve the Goals would be “futile”.
MANI RATNA SHARMA (Nepal), speaking on behalf of the Group of Least Developed Countries, said attempts by the bloc’s members to eradicate poverty had been slowed by domestic constraints and an unfavourable external environment, characterized by unmet ODA commitments, lack of substantial debt relief, continuing marginalization in the international trading system, a negligible share of foreign direct investment (FDI) and a lack of technology transfer. While the overall percentage of those living in extreme poverty had been declining globally, almost half the populations of least developed countries remained in extreme poverty and hunger.
Despite their best efforts, least developed countries were lagging behind in their pursuit of the Millennium Goals, he said, adding that they had themselves launched special initiatives during the First Decade for the Eradication of Poverty and had been implementing national plans. However, their efforts had not been matched by an adequate flow of external resources and support, he said, calling upon development partners to meet fulfil their ODA obligations. Microfinance and microcredit could play a significant role in the socio-economic development of least developed countries, particularly in rural areas.
Noting that microfinance could help raise incomes, improve housing and promote better education, health and nutritional practices, as well as lower child mortality rates, he said that, in line with the Brussels Programme of Action, productive capacity-building, economic diversification and balanced trade were top priorities in wealth-generation and economic development in least developed countries. It was of total importance to implement the Plan of Action adopted by the December 2009 Conference of Ministers in Vienna. He called on development partners to support their industrialization and modernization by redoubling efforts in that area, .and also underlined the importance of concluding the Doha Round of World Trade Organization Negotiations.
MIKE MWANYULA (Malawi), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said the General Assembly, in proclaiming the Second Decade, had recognized that eradicating poverty constituted a core requirement for sustainable development in developing countries, particularly in Africa. Employment creation on the continent had received much high-level attention recently, and thus important initiatives had been taken to promote effective implementation of programmes agreed upon in the framework of New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).
Highlighting some of those efforts, he pointed out that African development policies had clear limitations, and in that regard, innovation and commitment were required to overcome the continent’s unemployment challenges. Africans must come up with development strategies to promote more investment in labour-intensive sectors, including agriculture, infrastructure, industry and information and communications technology, among others.
He noted that while the increase in economic growth rates did not create many jobs globally over the last decade, Africa still had the highest employment rate among developing countries, as high as 77 per cent in some areas. Africa’s growth rate had declined from 4 per cent in 2008 to 1.6 per cent in 2009 as a result of the financial and economic crisis, hampering efforts to improve capacity and implement sound sustainable-development policies. The African Group called for a shift from the macroeconomic policy framework to one that aimed to create full employment and decent work. Enhanced policies and fiscal space were also crucial in enabling countries to address the human and social impacts of the crisis, he said.
HENRY MACDONALD ( Suriname), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), noted with concern that despite the slight increase in ODA during 2009, the overall figure was below the commitment by developed countries. He urged developed countries that had not yet done so to make concrete efforts to fulfil their obligations in that regard. Realizing the Millennium Goals required a drastic change from “business as usual”, taking into account that the challenge of doing so by 2015 had been made more difficult by the multiple global crises, he said.
The agricultural sector and rural areas, where most poor people in the developing world lived and worked, needed increased attention in terms of promoting rural employment and social inclusion, he said. The growth rate of agricultural productivity should be increased by disseminating appropriate, affordable and sustainable agricultural technology, and by supporting agricultural research and innovation, extension services and agricultural education, he said. Improvement of capacity-building in sustainable fisheries management must also be supported as a way to create jobs, generate income and fight malnutrition and hunger.
He urged stakeholders to bolster aid to developing countries for the implementation of the Global Jobs Pact and the Social Protection Floor, launched in 2009 by the Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB), and called for increased attention to socially integrating disadvantaged groups. CARICOM also called for urgent measures to eliminate hunger, he said, noting that developed countries in particular must take effective steps to allocate more resources to help developing countries respond to food security challenges.
JISHENG XING (China) said the international community should mobilize resources and, by promoting global economic recovery, take into full account the national conditions and actual needs of developing countries, while seeking to improve their conditions for development and create a favourable international environment for poverty eradication. All countries, and developed ones in particular, in addition to the United Nations and other relevant international bodies, should fulfil their duty to support global poverty reduction, he stressed.
He called on developing countries actively to integrate poverty reduction into their overall national economic and social development plans, create poverty-reduction strategies and take steps to boost economic development. A comprehensive partnership should be created to mobilize all social sectors, making joint use of the initiatives and comparative advantages of the business sector, civil society, women and youth to promote poverty reduction. The United Nations should do more to enhance its coordinating role, promote cooperation, and eliminate, to the extent possible, the impact of the global financial crisis on employment.
He said his country had given top priority to reducing poverty and promoting development. The number of China’s rural poor had fallen from 250 million in 1978 to 36 million in 2009. That accounted for 75 per cent of the total population lifted out of poverty in developing countries, he noted. While working hard to address poverty at home, China was also actively participating in the global poverty-reduction drive, giving development aid to many other developing countries. By United Nations standards, China still had approximately 150 million poor people, he pointed out, adding that it was currently formulating its twelfth Five-Year Plan on Development of the National Economy as well as its 10-Year Outline for Poverty Alleviation and Development. China aimed to eliminate absolute poverty by 2020.
FABIO FARIAS ( Brazil) said poverty eradication should underpin international efforts to realize the Millennium Development Goals, which would not be possible without significantly adding financial resources in a stable, predictable manner. He called on developed countries that had not yet done so to fulfil their development commitments, particularly those relating to ODA, and encouraged all interested countries to adopt the Global Jobs Pact. United Nations funds, programmes and specialized agencies should also integrate the Pact full into their policies and initiatives, including those spearheaded by their programme-country resident coordinators, he said, calling for urgent efforts to further mainstream the Pact into the United Nations system and the Bretton Woods institutions. Brazil looked forward to suggestions by the Chief Executives Board on its coherent and systemic integration.
While it may be true that many developing countries were moving towards sustained recovery, the consequences of the global crisis remained, particularly among the poorest and most vulnerable, he said, stressing that weak demand in several developed countries was of significant concern for the world economy. Brazil did not concur with those who defended cuts in public expenditures or tax increases, at least not until recovery was fully consolidated. Such monetary policies were limited in their ability to stimulate demand at home and entailed unwanted spillovers abroad, he warned. The international community must support the efforts of developing countries to overcome barriers to industrial development by given them access to financial resources to implement national industrial development policies. A stronger, better-funded and more ambitious UNIDO could play a positive role in promoting global industrial development cooperation, he said.
FAHD BIN FAISAL AL-SAUD (Saudi Arabia), associating with the Group of 77, said his country’s progress towards eradicating poverty and extreme poverty had yielded outstanding results because the Government had incorporated the Millennium Goals into its national strategies. From 1990 to 2009, Saudi Arabia’s per capita income had risen by 3.5 per cent. As a result of development strategies, the number of Saudi families living below the poverty line since 2004 had been reduced by 0.4 per cent, a total reduction of 50 per cent overall.
He said his country intended to do more towards achieving the Goals, particularly in terms of daily income, stressing that balanced progress was essential for eradicating poverty. To ensure that balance was achieved, the international community must generate jobs and retrain work forces, especially among women and young adults. Further, it should work to raise literacy levels and improve social, health-care and public services as that would lead to the permanent alleviation of poverty. Underscoring the importance of resource availability, he welcomed international efforts to eliminate poverty and hunger, including the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Debt Initiative.
WASSEN AL-AZZAM (Iraq), associating with the Group of 77 and China, said that between 2010 and 2014, her country had implemented a broad-based approach and had made considerable progress in terms of security, with the help of civil society. Iraq was working to reduce from 7 million to 5 million the number of citizens living in poverty, and to decrease illiteracy rates by half by raising school enrolment levels to over 80 per cent. There was also an increase in the number of people using food stamps since the Government had made them available to those living under the poverty line.
She said her country was focused on involving women in economic activities and improving educational and health-care standards. Iraq’s economic situation had improved greatly on the basis of new legislation, and the Government had taken measures to raise individual earnings. She highlighted the creation of new budgets and the launch of a five-year, $168 million national development plan. In its efforts to increase the voice of women in the political sphere, Iraq had launched a social campaign to enhance gender equality, she said, noting that 25 per cent of parliamentarians were women. Iraq was engaged in international partnerships with the United Nations and other States to address the debt it had inherited from the previous regime.
YOSEPH KASSAYE YOSEPH ( Ethiopia) said African and other least developed countries continued to suffer from the effects of the multiple global crises, and without concrete steps to address their socio-economic troubles, it would be challenging for them to achieve the Millennium Goals. Intensive labour in many such countries accounted for more than 50 per cent of growth. He called for a strengthened global partnership to address challenges impeding growth and development in the poorest countries, with an emphasis on supporting investment in agro-related industries and businesses, in order to enhance food security and poverty alleviation. He welcomed the outcome of the March 2010 high-level conference on the development of agribusiness and agro-industry, held in Nigeria.
The expansion of small and medium-scale industries was essential in addressing rising unemployment and growing inequalities in the urban areas of many African and least developed countries, he continued. Development partners and the United Nations must continue to exert greater efforts for successful implementation of the Second Decade, he said, adding that its effectiveness would depend on the fulfilment of all ODA commitments. Unwavering in its commitment to achieving the Millennium Goals, Ethiopia had successfully implemented its 2005-2010 poverty-reduction strategy programme, registering an annual growth rate of 11.6 per cent over the past seven years, and planned to implement a new development plan in the coming five years.
VICTOR MUNOZ ( Peru), associating with the Group of 77, said the international community must work to ensure employment and decent jobs for all in order to eradicate poverty. Peru had implemented major changes in its efforts to fight poverty, including a new legal framework for stability. As a result, job creation had increased directly and indirectly in many regions, and thousands of small business owners had entered the market. He noted that within the last four years, the country had raised its level of investment by 6 per cent and had initiated projects to promote the inclusion of its poorest people in the economic and social sectors.
For countries like Peru, cooperation for industrialized development was vitally important as an efficient means to combat poverty, he said, adding in that regard that the international community must strengthen cooperation for research, technology and training of human resources. The negative effects of the financial and economic crisis had had a global impact on job creation, particularly on the poorest countries, and Peru was working to promote better representation of developing and emerging countries in the world financial system, encouraging more direct representation. Such a shift required a proactive attitude on the part of financial institutions, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF), he said, adding that in order to develop new international financial architecture, the international community must take into account the views of the smallest countries, which comprised half the United Nations membership.
DONATUS KEITH ST. AIMEE ( Saint Lucia), associating with the Group of 77 and CARICOM, stressed the need to re-analyse whether efforts to alleviate poverty in the 1980s had indeed been successful. One of the most challenging issues for developing countries, especially small ones, was how to use the natural resources at hand for development without causing detriment to the environment. Thus far, interaction between UNIDO and the Caribbean States had been minimal as the agency has no office to service the region.
“The interaction needs to be there,” he emphasized. “You need to be present for us to be able to benefit from your work.” Saint Lucia called for the agency to reconsider its position on establishing an office to service the Caribbean. Turning to microfinance, he said it was the first avenue for mobilizing national resources, which must be used to develop the appropriate technologies. UNIDO could play a role in that by adapting various technologies developed globally to suit situations on the ground, he said.
JAKKRIT SRIVALI (Thailand), associating with the Group of 77 and ASEAN, said his country had made great strides in eradicating extreme poverty, improving nutrition and meeting people’s basic needs. The incidence of poverty had dropped from 21 per cent in 2000 to 8.5 per cent in 2007, with the proportion of hungry people falling by three fourths over the same period. However, there was no room for complacency because the poor could again fall under the poverty line. The Government had worked to empower people with the means to avoid traps such as excessive debt, he said.
In that connection, the importance of education was paramount, he emphasized, describing the development of human resources as crucial to his country’s future economic growth, with a well-educated middle class able to sustain a thriving democracy. In 2009, Thailand had launched a plan providing 15 years of free education, from kindergarten through secondary school. Another prerequisite for tapping into people’s potential was health, he said.
Since the passage of the 2002 National Health Security Act, Thailand had maintained universal health-care coverage, extending the same services to the poorest that were available to everybody else, he continued. Without such a scheme, a single illness could plunge an entire family into poverty, he noted, adding that the extent to which education and health care would be able to empower the poor would be determined by individual circumstance. To prevent the vulnerable from “going under”, the Government had pursued policies based on the King’s “sufficiency economy” philosophy, focusing on moderation and reason while building immunity to external shocks. To narrow the income gap, the Government was also pressing ahead with a national reconciliation plan that would include reforms addressing economic and social disparity, he said.
AMAR DAOUD ( Sudan) said spending on agricultural development was very important to eliminate poverty, noting that it gave millions of people jobs. Agricultural development required support from international partnerships and assistance from the international community, and while resources had been dedicated to that area, they had not been sufficient to cover the main development needs of developing countries. Poverty eradication and sustainable development were important for Africa, he stressed, noting that the food crisis had heightened the need to scale up development assistance for the continent, including by reinforcing agricultural technology and efficiencies. It was necessary to ensure that the green revolution took place.
He called for measures to fight desertification and for the reinforcement of the agricultural sector in order to solidify the economic base rather than relying on resources from petroleum production for economic growth. Sudan had vast natural resources, but only 40 million hectares of its agricultural land were in use, he said. The country’s vast natural resources could be tapped for the benefit of the entire African continent, but other growth programmes were important for a green revolution. Another major burden was external debt, he said, which constrained the nation’s ability to reduce poverty by 2015, since so much money was spent on debt servicing. He called on the international community to consolidate efforts to help Sudan take advantage of debt-relief initiatives.
MANI SHANKAR AIYAR ( India) said his country’s annual GDP growth rate had risen steadily, reaching 9.4 per cent in 2007. India had weathered the global economic crisis well, with economic growth rate not falling much below 6 per cent. The country was now well on its way to returning to the 9 per cent growth trajectory and was confident it would achieve double-digit growth early in the coming decade, and perhaps become the world’s fastest growing economy before it ended.
However, growth must be accompanied by improved distribution of income and wealth as well as an intensified attack on poverty, he said, adding that inclusive growth was the goal of India’s 2007-2012 Five-Year Plan. Noting that most of the 60 million people who had fallen back into poverty around the world in 2009 lived in least developed countries, small island developing States and most of Africa, he welcomed the decision to pay special attention to their development needs in the coming years. India would be an active and concerned participant in devising strategies to help those countries assume their rightful place in the global economy, he said.
The recent Millennium Development Goals Summit gave the United Nations an opportunity to address fully the measures needed to face up to the multiple global crises and return the world to universal, accelerated and inclusive growth. But the Committee must work out the details in that direction. India was willing to cooperate with others and take the lead in working to provide adequate food, education, shelter and health services to empower the poor and marginalized. India’s development partnership with other countries of the South went beyond technical cooperation, he stressed, adding that its annual outlay on concessionary lending and grants exceeded $1 billion. It had extended lines of credit worth more than $5 billion since 2003 to spur growth in developing countries.
GERSON KEDAR ( Israel) said that since its inception, MASHAV, his country’s Agency for International Development Cooperation, had worked closely with global partners on several efforts to alleviate poverty. It had worked to promote agricultural, rural and human development, focusing on women’s empowerment. Israel had also taken action to implement the Second Decade, focusing on full employment and decent work for all.
By improving local agricultural systems in developing countries, vast gains in poverty eradication could be achieved, he said, adding that his country would continue to share its efficient, low-cost agricultural technologies and methods with partner nations. For example, Israel was working with smallholder farmers, in partnership with the Governments of Ghana and Germany, to implement sustainable farming methods in citrus production. To ensure the sustainability of those programmes, they included elements of microfinance and microcredit, in addition to a focus on capacity-building.
Empowerment of women and youth was crucial to tackling poverty, he said. Too often the vicious cycle of poverty was perpetuated through inadequate education and insufficient life and job skills. Entrepreneurial training designed specifically for women and youth was a central part of MASHAV’s capacity-building programme. Eliminating gender disparity must be integral to any strategy for development, he stressed. Israel’s Golda Meir Mount Carmel International Training Centre, one of the world’s first development training centres specifically for women’s empowerment, focused on local-government and community development; microenterprise management and entrepreneurial training; and early-childhood education. In cooperation with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), it would host the 2011 Biennial Women Leader’s Conference, he said.
DANILO ROSALES DIAZ (Nicaragua), associating with the Group of 77, said the fact that the GDP of the world’s 40 poorest countries was lower than the wealth of seven individuals was a clear sign that the international economic system was based on exclusionary interests. Since 1980, a rise in neoliberalism had led to privatization and a minimizing of the State. As a result, there was greater inequality between and within countries, particularly in Latin America and the Caribbean. Extreme poverty in Nicaragua had risen between 2001 and 2005, but the Government had begun to reduce it in 2007 despite the “worst financial and economic crisis of the capital tradition”, he said.
The country had made significant progress towards realizing the Millennium Goals, particularly Goal 1, he continued. The Government had undertaken several initiatives, including providing access to fair credit for small and medium-size enterprises and restoring the right to free education and public health-care services, which had been lost under previous Governments. Moreover, State workers at lower income levels were now provided with income supplements, he said. Such modest but significant signs of progress had shown that the country’s new values were helping it grow. Nicaragua called for the creation of a new international economic order that would ensure inclusiveness and the democratization of economic and political discussions at the international level.
MAFIROANE MOTANYANE ( Lesotho) said the world was “way off-track to achieve the Millennium Goals of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger”, particularly in least developed countries. Poverty eradication was an overarching global policy challenge that continued to undermine efforts by those countries to re-orient their economies towards significant growth. That had left most poverty-stricken populations with no option but to employ economic survival methods to sustain their livelihoods. Traditional socio-economic practices – such as information microfinancing mechanisms - continued to perform a vital function as a safety net in times of crisis, he noted.
Nevertheless, Lesotho was confident in the possibility of reversal, he said. Enterprise development was a tool for economic empowerment in both rural and urban informal economies, but capital for business start-ups was significantly lacking. Noting that microfinance and microcredit were tools for lifting people out of the poverty trap, he welcomed the Secretary-General’s analysis of microfinance and called for simplifying the procedures for applying for credit and for reducing the fixed assets and financial security required. He also called for removing legal and social barriers to women’s empowerment. While sound macroeconomic policies, particularly prudent fiscal policies, were essential for directing development strategies towards sustainable growth, developing countries were also in urgent need of increased and more effective development aid, he said.
Introduction of Draft Resolution
The representative of Yemen, on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, then introduced a draft resolution on external debt sustainability and development (document A/C.2/65/L.6), expressing hope that the Committee would approve it by consensus.
MAGNUS KPAKOL, Special Adviser on Poverty Eradication to the President of Nigeria, said agriculture, the backbone of rural economies, was seriously threatened by climate change. Crop failure as well as falling agricultural productivity and income hurt the poor, threatened food security and erased gains in poverty eradication. That brought to the fore the need to develop collaborative policies and programmes to enhance productivity, ensure good business environments and sustain access to enterprise finance. Given Africa’s heavy dependence on agriculture, efforts to mitigate the harsh effects of climate change must be amplified, as should investment in agriculture, he emphasized.
Describing poverty eradication as a central focus of his country’s national development agenda, he said the National Poverty Eradication Programme, the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agenda of Nigeria, and the National Directorate for Employment were foremost in the country’s strategy for lifting hundreds of thousands of people out of poverty. The COPE, or “in care of people” initiative, targeted those stuck in the extreme poverty trap, he said, adding that it gave poor households a monthly guaranteed basic income and a lump sum of cash upon graduation from the programme if they kept their children in school and took them for free medical check-ups.
The global economic downturn had exposed the need for a more diversified economy, he said, stressing that investment in neglected sectors would ensure better livelihoods and foster social integration. He called for continued partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to identify opportunities for sustainable private-sector investment and labour-market restructuring, saying Nigeria’s poverty-eradication programmes had adopted a bottom-up approach to involve the intended beneficiaries in its implementation as key agents of change.
DIANA AL-HADID ( Jordan) said poverty’s complex and multidimensional root causes included rapid population growth, low income generation, high unemployment rates and social insecurity, among others. Much of United Nations policy focused on integrating the Millennium Goals into development plans and poverty-eradication initiatives. That involved coordinated efforts to draw up comprehensive strategies, analyse poverty data, prepare scientific mechanisms to monitor and eradicate poverty, create and regularly update databases and analyse and follow up on relevant United Nations system programmes.
Eradicating poverty was necessary for the benefits of economic growth to reach those at the lowest income level, she said. To achieve that, the Government of Jordan had adopted a poverty-alleviation strategy aimed at social development, enhanced quality of life, local development, economic enhancement, social protection, human-capital development and the creation of an environment conducive to business and investment. Poverty eradication was a key national priority in the vision of a successful model of reform and development focused on supporting steady economic growth, she said. The Jordanian National Strategy for Microfinance supported poverty alleviation by making microfinance more accessible to the nation’s poor, she said. It had been recognized for its ability to help alleviate poverty and empower women by unlocking their productive capacities and giving them the means to turn a good idea into a job while contributing to economic growth.
FARID JAFAROV ( Azerbaijan) said his country had managed to keep a steadily growing economy for the past five years despite the onset of multidimensional global crises. The Government had demonstrated political will in its efforts to realize the Millennium Goals by 2015, and had implemented a number of consecutive steps towards eradicating poverty. That determination was directly displayed by the eagerness to use revenues generated from oil and gas production for the good of present and future generations, he said, going on to note that the Government was working to improve the quality of jobs and provide equal access to social protection and social services.
He said his country had successfully launched a State programme, the Implementation of Employment Strategy, and managed to reduce the unemployment rate to 6 per cent in 2009. Poverty was a multidimensional and complex issue which could be addressed through the promotion of full and productive employment. Institutional measures at the national level must focus on lifting barriers to business opportunities, as well as promoting access to markets, financial institutions, credits and loans, he said. However, while each country must take responsibility for its own development, national efforts should be harmonized with supportive global programmes, measures and policies, he stressed.
MD TAUHEDUL ISLAM (Bangladesh), associating with the Group of 77 and the Group of Least Developed Countries, emphasized that while the Committee was discussing poverty in the comfort of physical well-being and social comfort, 925 million people suffered from hunger. The future looked bleak in light of the ILO’s estimate that 31 million people would be jobless by the end of 2010. “While we are throwing hyperboles for achieving the Millennium Goals by 2015, these peoples are helplessly looking towards us for their mere existence,” he said, urging immediate and comprehensive action to address the challenge of poverty.
The Second Decade for the Eradication of Poverty was a big opportunity, and the international community must develop a pragmatic plan of action to support it, he said, stressing that humanity could no longer tolerate “paperwork”. Microcredit had huge potential with regard to poverty eradication, as it had helped persuade the world that “the poor are innately capable of working their way out of its morass with dignity”. He pointed out that nearly 500 million poor and low-income people worldwide still lacked access to microcredit, and urged the relevant institutions to procure enough funds to meet the growing demand. The “microcredit revolution” had started in Bangladesh with rural women in the 1970s, but exponentially high interest rates had marred its initial success, he pointed out, demanding a lowering of the rates to make them more affordable.
SODOV ONON ( Mongolia) said her country’s Millennium Goals-based Comprehensive National Development Strategy guided national efforts to reduce poverty, improve people’s lives and lay the foundation for inclusive, sustainable development until 2021. Achieving the first Millennium Goal was a challenging task for Mongolia, she said, adding that its efforts to reduce poverty were compounded by its inherent ecological and economic vulnerabilities, including landlocked geography, high susceptibility to natural disasters, infrastructure constraints and limited economic and export diversification, among other factors.
Mongolia had been hit hard by the multiple crises but, in collaboration with bilateral and multilateral partners, the country had avoided severe consequences, she said. To achieve that, it had improved and strengthened the public-finance framework by passing a fiscal stability law, improved social transfers to alleviate the adjustment burden on the poor and vulnerable, and set up the Human Development Fund to pool mining revenues and invest in education, health and housing. The country had also loosened regulations on microfinance to make microcredit more affordable and available, with fewer conditions, in order to help herders and self-employed people during difficult economic times.
The Government had also re-introduced and promoted vocational education and training centres to enlarge the pool of skilled workers needed in mega-development projects, she continued, noting that providing decent work for every citizen was a top development priority of the Government. Its focus was on promoting life-long learning and developing skilled manpower to meet the labour-market requirements of a globalized economy while encouraging the private sector to create more value-added jobs and provide on-the-job training. The Government was also keen to enhance the economy’s industrial base, modernize agriculture, build productive capacity and develop new urban centres that would create thousands of jobs.
JORGE VALERO ( Venezuela) said the multifaceted effects of the economic and financial crisis had impacted developing countries and the world’s most vulnerable, exacerbating injustice, poverty, hunger and unemployment. The irrational model of capitalism, with its wars and violence, was destroying ecosystems, traditional ways of life and ancestral cultures. Poverty also had devastating effects on the development of human resources, he said, adding that, according to a study conducted by the Venezuelan Foundation Centre for Studies on Growth and Development of the Venezuelan Population, poor children were at a disadvantage in access to education and culture. Those were some of the roots of underdevelopment and a social structure based on inequality, exclusion and domination, he noted.
The State had sovereignty over strategic natural resources, which allowed for sufficient financial resources to eradicate poverty, he said, pointing out that 60 per cent of total tax revenues since 1999 had been earmarked for social investment. That had enabled Venezuela to achieve integral development and, therefore, the Millennium Goals, he said. Microcredit had become an important tool for poverty eradication, and poverty rates had declined from 49 per cent in 1998 to 24 per cent in 2009. Extreme poverty rates had fallen from 30 per cent in 2003 to 7 per cent in 2009. As recognized by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Venezuela had reduced levels of inequality by the widest margin compared to other countries in the region, he said.
ALI A. ALI KURER ( Libya), associating with the Group of 77 and the African Group, called poverty a direct threat to mankind, saying the social and economic marginalization of the poor was a major, multifaceted challenge that everyone must work to confront. Five years before the deadline for meeting the Millennium Goals, it was clear that poverty eradication was still difficult for many countries, especially against the backdrop of multiple global crises. Despite efforts by Governments to prioritize the issue, global efforts had not aligned with expectations, he said, calling on the international community to play an active role in mobilizing the resources to ensure that needs were met in an equitable manner.
The Second Decade required collective efforts to ensure tangible results, he continued. The international community must play a decisive role in encouraging donors and institutional stakeholders to implement anti-poverty programmes and ensure that the multiple crises did not limit access to financial resources. To that end, international cooperation was vital, he said, especially with regard to industrial development. He also stressed the need to provide jobs to the poorest people in addition to stepping up their access to financial services. Countries had made a commitment to fight poverty and overcome the crises which threatened to exacerbate poverty in African countries, he recalled, noting that his country was working with financial institutions to finance the most productive industries in the Sahel and sub-Saharan regions. Libya appealed to the international community to assist in financing those projects.
CLAUDIA BLUM ( Colombia) said a major objective of her country in recent decades had been to reduce significantly the number of people living in poverty and extreme poverty through poverty-reduction and equity-promotion strategies incorporating the Millennium Goals as an essential component of social and development policies. The results had been positive, she said, pointing out that in the past eight years, about 1.7 million Colombians had been lifted out of poverty. But there was still much to be done, and that was why the Government aimed to expedite progress and implement all necessary measures to lift 7 million more Colombians out of poverty and 4 million out of extreme poverty in the next four years.
The JUNTOS Network to Overcoming Extreme Poverty was a comprehensive strategy aimed at providing social services to 1.5 million families, she said. The Families in Action programme had proven effective by providing conditioned subsidies to more than 2.6 million low-income families. Colombia had already met the Millennium Goals on universal coverage in basic education, triple viral vaccination for newborns, and eliminating ozone-depleting substances, she said. It had also scaled up prenatal visits for pregnant women, reduced the rate of mortality due to malaria and dengue fever, and provided basic sanitation services in rural areas, she said.
Cooperation with the United Nations system was essential in keeping the Millennium Goals on the public agenda, she emphasized, adding that it should be focused on supporting social interventions with systemic approaches to the provision of safe drinking water, housing, education, health care, citizenship registration, energy and communications. The creation of decent work, together with social security programmes, was a pillar of Colombia’s policies for addressing poverty and achieving democratic prosperity, she said.
FRANCIS CHULLIKATT, Permanent Observer, Holy See, contrasted the extreme poverty of the developing world, characterized by severe deprivation of basic needs, with the developed world’s “relative poverty” which presented itself as a lack of financial and material resources. In fact, the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion illustrated that poverty was a reality even in so-called affluent societies, he said. Recalling the words of Pope Benedict XVI’s, he said there was another type of poverty — that of isolation “from not being loved or from difficulties in being able to love”. Since poverty affected the dignity of the human person, that person “must therefore be helped to recover”, he stressed.
He said the moral implications of poverty were evident because those affected — the elderly, disabled, as well as women and children — were the least likely to have the ability to provide a decent livelihood for themselves or their families. Yet, even in light of the multiple global crises, he said, “we have the means to bring to an end to poverty”. The real question, he pointed out, was whether the international community had the will to do so. While some donor countries had reduced the already small percentage of GDP allocated to aid in order to stabilize their own financial systems, others were showing signs of economic recovery.
Emphasizing that development assistance must be driven by the principle of global solidarity between rich and poor countries — “triggered by a common recognition of belonging to one human family” — he said it was in times of difficulty that the necessity to show greater unity arose. “The principle of solidarity should always go hand-in-hand with the principle of subsidiarity,” he said. The poor should be helped to take their own initiatives in improving their living conditions and development. To that end, he urged greater access for low-income countries to global markets, without exclusion or marginalization, emphasizing that the eradication of poverty should not be considered charity, but rather an obligation of the international community. More than 60 years after the proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it was unacceptable that “hundreds of millions of people still live in inhuman conditions”, he said, adding that the international community had the means to end the suffering.
MICHELE KLEIN SOLOMON, Permanent Observer, International Organization for Migration (IOM), said poverty and human mobility were more interrelated than ever before in today’s globalized world. The links between migration and poverty eradication were complex and could be both positive and negative, she said. Remittances to developing countries amounting to some $316 billion in 2009 meant that migrants continued to provide a lifeline to the people of many poor countries as they helped to reduce poverty by providing families in their countries of origin with critical income. In that context, the IOM called for the mainstreaming of migration into national and international development plans. “It is time to assess the implications of migration on any action planned in a development and poverty-reduction strategy,” she stressed, urging the international community to make migration considerations a more regular component of development policies and planning.
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