1.5 Billion People Living in Absolute Poverty Makes Its Eradication Humankind’s Most Significant Challenge, Second Committee Told
1.5 Billion People Living in Absolute Poverty Makes Its Eradication Humankind’s Most Significant Challenge, Second Committee Told
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-sixth General Assembly
13th & 14th Meetings (AM & PM)
1.5 Billion People Living in Absolute Poverty Makes Its Eradication Humankind’s
Most Significant Challenge, Second Committee Told
Members Also Consider Women, Human Resources, Other Aspects of Development
With nearly 1.5 billion people still living in absolute poverty, eradication efforts had not succeeded and it remained the most significant challenge facing humankind, delegates in the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) said today.
“At the rate of decline observed from 1990 to 2005, it would take another 88 years to eradicate extreme poverty,” said Nepal’s representative, speaking for the Group of Least Developed Countries, as the Committee considered the eradication of poverty, women in development, human-resource development and related issues. Citing “alarming” figures from the Secretary-General’s report on the issue, he urged the international community to make substantive and tangible progress towards eradicating poverty and hunger. “International support is not a choice but a compulsion,” he added.
India’s representative said her country’s Government had launched large-scale socio-economic programmes and interventions to reduce poverty, fight malnutrition and hunger, reduce infant mortality, and promote health and gender empowerment. Such initiatives had helped to lift about 180 million people out of poverty since 1990, though India would remain home to the largest number of the global poor, she said. Poverty-reduction strategies in developing countries must focus on agriculture and rural development as most of their people were dependent on agriculture.
Reinforcing that point, Myanmar’s representative noted that 70 per cent of her country’s population lived in rural areas and comprised the largest element of the workforce. That had led to a focus on boosting agricultural production as the engine of national economic development. The Government had also sought ways to ease the crises faced by farmers, including tax exemptions for agricultural exports, establishing a rice fund to help farmers and drafting legislation to contribute not only to poverty alleviation, but also to small- and medium-sized enterprises.
Sudan’s representative said his country had responded to the world food crisis by strengthening “green” efforts to stimulate agricultural development. Noting that drought, desertification and climate change were jeopardizing agricultural production, he said Sudan’s national policies were aimed at ensuring the recovery of its agricultural sector while also working in an environmentally sustainable manner. However, external debt weighed heavily on the country, and it was not possible to reduce poverty to the extent of meeting the relevant Millennium Development Goal. With a national debt of $38 billion, and despite reforms adopted since 1997, the country’s lack of access to debt-exemption mechanisms frustrated its efforts to reduce the burden, he said.
The representative of Bangladesh said restructuring or rescheduling the sovereign debt of developing countries was the only route to eradicating poverty. Such measures would allow national Governments to fund essential development projects and create productive jobs instead of servicing debt. It was regrettable that five years after the proclamation of the Second United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty, the situation had worsened. While delegates spoke “in the comfort of an air-conditioned room here in New York”, one billion people would go to bed hungry, he noted. Progress during the first anti-poverty decade had been “dismal to mention”, and endeavours to reach millions in vulnerable countries had failed. Growth in developing countries required a flow of resources, particularly to least developed countries, he said, emphasizing the responsibility of developed countries to help in that regard, particularly through official development assistance (ODA) and trade.
Indonesia’s representative, speaking for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said support must be aimed at developing agricultural sectors and enhancing productivity through greater and more responsible investment, improved research and development, the transfer of technology, and the development of human resources. It was important to address the underlying causes of food-price volatility, he said, calling for coherent policies and actions to manage risks linked to excessively volatile agricultural commodity prices. It was critically important for developing countries to know how to gain more commercially meaningful access to international markets, he continued, noting that granting least developed countries quota- and duty-free schemes to developed-world markets would help raise their export earnings.
Australia’s representative said UN‑Women’s mandate had the potential to bring real gains for women and girls. Collective action was required to help the new gender entity grow and prosper, and Australia was a core contributor, having increased its inputs six-fold to $9.5 million in 2011. That made it the fifth biggest contributor to UN‑Women, he said, adding that Australia would continue to strengthen its core contributions, and noting that his country had appointed the first global ambassador for women and girls, giving the country a stronger voice in promoting their rights around the world. Gender-responsive budgeting had been pioneered in Australia, but true progress required accurate and timely sex-disaggregated data to be used to guide decision-making, he added.
A number of other countries outlined their progress in closing the “gender gap” and working to empower women. Ukraine’s representative pointed out that women and girls formed a disproportionally large share of the poor in many countries, and that poverty differed between women and men, girls and boys. Removing formal and informal barriers to education, while introducing social-protection measures and gender-responsive labour laws and policies, would all contribute to more constructive participation by women in the labour market, and would have a positive effect on overall economic growth. “Gender equality is smart economics,” she said.
Brazil’s representative, responding to the introduction of the Secretary-General’s report on human resources development, urged Member States to maintain investments in education, training and retooling despite the crisis, emphasizing that human-development initiatives should expand to help the recovery. Vulnerable groups, including women, youth, minorities, persons with disabilities and indigenous peoples, needed special attention. He pointed out that “jobless growth” had affected many countries even before the crisis, and reiterated the role of the Global Jobs Pact as a framework through which to build national policies.
The observer for the International Labour Organization (ILO) noted the important link between migration and development, illustrated most clearly by remittances. The 214 million international migrants worldwide had accounted for $325 million of money flowing to developing countries in 2010. Migration’s potential for human resources development was high, helping the transfer of skills and knowledge, circular and temporary migration, and the potential for “brain gain”. She encouraged States to pay attention to developing the skills of migrants, particularly in destination countries. Still, the “brain drain” was a considerable concern for some States and losing skilled workers was particularly damaging when it disproportionately affected certain professions, including health workers and educators, she said.
Presenting the Secretary-General’s reports for the Committee’s consideration were Daniela Bas, Director of the Division for Social Policy and Development in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs; Lakshmi Puri, Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director for UN‑Women’s Intergovernmental Support and Strategic Partnerships; and Neil Pierre, Officer-in-Charge of the Department’s Office for Economic and Social Council Support and Coordination.
Other speakers today were representatives of Argentina (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Iceland (on behalf of the Nordic countries), Saudi Arabia, China, Mongolia, Israel, Nigeria, Suriname (speaking for the Caribbean Community), Thailand, Malaysia, Jordan, Singapore, Côte d’Ivoire, Niger, Spain, Kyrgyzstan, Ethiopia, Iran and Botswana.
Also delivering statements were observers for the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, the International Labour Organization, the International Organization for Migration and the Food and Agriculture Organization.
The Committee will meet again on Wednesday, 19 October, to take up its agenda item on globalization and interdependence.
The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met this morning to consider the eradication of poverty and other development issues under the subthemes implementation of the Second United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (2008-2017), women in development, and human resources development.
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) (document A/66/221) dated 1 August 2011, which highlights the growing policy coherence within the framework of the Second Decade and describes current efforts to enhance coordination in support of the Global Jobs Pact and the Social Protection Initiative.
Underscoring the need to promote stronger inter-agency collaboration so as to enhance implementation of the Plan of Action for the Second Decade, the report recommends encouraging continued international support for national poverty-eradication efforts and urges Member States to support efforts to achieve full and productive employment, including by implementing the Global Jobs Pact and pursuing consistently counter-cyclical macroeconomic policies. It also encourages Member States to consider establishing a social protection floor as an effective safeguard against poverty. This encourages Member States to play a stronger supportive role in developing agriculture and food production while suggesting that the General Assembly consider alternative arrangements and mechanisms to achieve the objectives of the World Solidarity Fund.
Also before the Committee was a report of the Secretary-General on Integrating a gender perspective into national development strategies (document A/66/219) dated 1 August 2011, which points to uneven progress in that regard, and recommends the integration of gender perspectives into all development-cooperation work between the United Nations and donors. It also recommends expanding efforts to mainstream a gender perspective into the United Nations Common Country Assessments and Development Assistance Frameworks should be expanded, noting that UN‑Women should help Member States achieve this. The impact of national gender-equality mechanisms needs strengthening, as does the role of gender theme groups. The latter can be achieved by supporting United Nations country teams in all stages of national development strategies.
The report recommends that donors allocate enough resources to ensure full implementation of gender-equality commitments and improve the quality of financing, while calling for the adoption of effective mechanisms to monitor and track resources allocated for that purpose. It also recommends the development of methods and tools for systematic gender-responsive budgeting in national development planning, and donor practices, including joint coordination mechanisms. It calls for improved and enhanced capacity to collect, analyse and disseminate sex-disaggregated data, as well as for the development of gender-sensitive indicators to support policymaking and national systems for monitoring and reporting on progress and impacts.
Committee members also had before them a report of the Secretary-General on Human resources development (document A/66/206) dated 28 July 2011, which provides an overview of the impact of the global financial crisis on human-resources development and of lessons learned from national attempts to prevent and overcome its negative effects. It concludes that human-resource development lies at the heart of economic, social and environmental development, and stresses the importance of a skilled, educated, healthy, capable, productive and flexible workforce to sustainable economic growth and social progress.
As such, the report recommends aligning human-resources development with national development strategies, pointing out that developing countries often lag behind in formulating and implementing effective human-resource development strategies. Such underutilized human resources must be integrated fully into labour markets, it says, stressing that effective use of information and communications technology is key to that objective, as are comprehensive social-protection programmes. The report urges Government interventions to enhance skills, as most new jobs are likely to be in such new and innovative sectors as the “green economy”. These sectors require Government investments, as do education and training systems, which should be aligned and regularly updated to meet labour-market needs.
Underlining the importance for labour institutions and regulations of being responsive to economic downturns by preserving jobs and protecting workers in vulnerable employment, the report urges all countries to devise measures aimed at preventing unemployment and under-employment, including by providing incentives for recruiting, retaining and retooling, while reducing barriers to employment, especially gender barriers. Advanced economies should maintain or enhance measures to boost job-rich recovery, it adds, recommending innovative measures to maximize the benefits of migration while minimizing its negative effects. Relevant United Nations entities and civil-society actors should shift their approach from training individuals to building institutional capacity to address long-term national human-resource development needs, the report states, also recommending efforts to reduce remittance costs so as to maximize the benefits of migration for human-resource development.
Introduction of Reports
DANIELA BAS, Director, Division for Social Policy and Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introduced the Secretary-General’s report “Implementation of the Second United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (2008-2017)”, saying that while the Second Decade had led to increased policy coherence and coordination within the United Nations system, additional efforts were threatened by, among other things, the lack of contributions to the World Solidarity Fund. That meant the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) had been unable to set up a structure for its management or implementation. The report suggested other arrangements to achieve the Fund’s objectives through complementary activities by the United Nations system, she said.
LAKSHMI PURI, Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director for Intergovernmental Support and Strategic Partnerships, UN‑Women, introduced the report “Integrating a gender perspective into national development strategies”, saying there was strong evidence that gender-sensitive approaches and female involvement in decision-making translated into more sustainable solutions to global challenges, including poverty eradication. Closing the gender gap in agriculture could generate significant gains in that sector while closing gaps in the rest of the economy. However, the gaps in many priority areas, including women’s access to opportunities, were not closing, she said, emphasizing that UN‑Women was working to change that. The report paid particular attention to assessing women’s access to full employment, decent work and social protection.
NEIL PIERRE, Officer-in-Charge, Office for Economic and Social Council Support and Coordination, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introduced the report “Human resources development”, saying that many countries now faced “job-poor” recovery, with underemployment and unemployment persistently high. Many of them had cut spending on human-resource development and the report dealt with questions about whether Member States should pursue counter-cyclical measures to maintain investments in human resources. It also discussed the integration of disadvantaged groups into national workforces.
The representative of the United Republic of Tanzania asked about the resource constraints faced by UN‑Women, saying he was surprised that after such great efforts had been made to bring the new gender entity into existence, States were now failing to provide it with adequate resources.
Ms. PURI replied that all but 1.5‑2 per cent of contributions to UN‑Women were voluntary. The target had been to secure $500 million for three years, amounting to $1.5 billion. That had already been scaled down and only $300 million was expected this year, but only $230 million of that had come through, so there was some way to go. She said 106 States had made contributions but there was a pressing need to scale them up. The political commitment needed to be translated into investment so as to start a positive cycle of resources, capacity and results, she said.
MARCELO SUÁREZ SALVIA ( Argentina), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said poverty was the most pervasive violation of human and development rights that the world faced today. Progress towards eradicating it during the first decade of the twenty-first century had been severely uneven and slow, and efforts had failed to reach millions in the most vulnerable countries, especially women and children in the least developed countries and those in sub-Saharan Africa. There were further significant pockets of poverty in middle-income countries and the global economic situation posed a severe risk of reversing their economic growth and increasing their levels of poverty, he noted.
Financial resources played a fundamental role in poverty-eradication efforts and ODA remained crucial in helping many developing countries achieve economic growth and fight poverty, he said. All developed countries that had not yet done so should fulfil their pledges to allocate 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) to ODA, he said, urging them also to remove trade barriers and agricultural subsidies, which constituted serious impediments to market access for developing countries.
He went on to emphasize the need to adopt policies aimed at facilitating the expansion of microcredit and microfinance institutions in order to serve the large unmet demand among poor people for financial services. In addition, the advancement of women worldwide, particularly in developing countries, had been impeded by widening economic inequalities, unemployment and high levels of poverty among women, all intensified by globalization and other transformations in the world economy. Lastly, he said, the World Solidarity Fund should be recognized as one of the tools that could contribute to the eradication of poverty.
SHANKER BAIRAGI (Nepal), speaking on behalf of the Group of Least Developed Countries and associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said poverty eradication required ensuring access for poor and marginalized people to productive resources, including land and capital, as well as essential basic services such as health, education and sanitation. The eradication of poverty was the most serious development challenge facing mankind today. Citing the Secretary-General’s report, he said, “at the rate of decline observed from 1990 to 2005…it would take another 88 years to eradicate extreme poverty”. Those figures were alarming and implied that the international community must urgently make substantive and tangible progress towards eradicating poverty and hunger, he said. “International support is not a choice but a compulsion” for least developed countries.
Gender equality and empowerment of women was crucial to achieving internationally agreed development goals, he said. Although some progress had been made, the momentum must be maintained in order to ensure equal access to education, health care, water and sanitation, economic opportunities, and an end to gender-based violence. Least developed countries also continued to face problems in the area of human-resource development. The global economic crises had resulted in low economic activity and higher unemployment levels, which in turn had had negative impacts, including the withdrawal of children from school, cut-backs on health-care expenses, worsening diets and food intake, nutritional deficiencies and chronic hunger. That had affected mental and physical abilities to work, which in turn had led to losses in productivity and income. An alarming rise in the rate of unemployment and underemployment in least developed countries was a major threat, pushing many more to the brink of extreme poverty, he warned.
YUSRA KHAN (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), noted that despite progress, three quarters of the world’s population, especially in least developed countries, still lived on less than $2 a day. Continued efforts by the public and private sectors as well as the United Nations system were vital to realization of the Millennium Development Goals. Regional integration had a catalytic impact on poverty-eradication efforts, he said, emphasizing the need to step up efforts to promote regional connectivity, especially infrastructure, and development with a view to facilitating intra-regional trade and investment while generating productive employment, among other things.
He called for support in developing agricultural sector productivity through greater and more responsible investment, improved research and development, and transfer of technology and human resources development. It was important to address the underlying causes of food-price volatility, he said, calling for coherent policies and actions to manage risks linked to excessively volatile agricultural commodity prices. Peace, political stability as well as economic stability supported by a vibrant development partnership were the keys to sustainable development.
It was critically important for developing countries to know how to gain more commercially meaningful access to international markets, he continued, noting that quota- and duty-free schemes for goods and products from least developed countries would contribute to rising export earnings. In addition, developed countries should fulfil their pledge to meet the internationally agreed target of 0.7 per cent of GDP to foreign aid for all developing countries, as well as fulfilling other commitments. More serious consideration should also be given to relieving poor countries of their debt burden, he said, emphasizing that regional partnerships and regional cooperation in fields such as trade, investment, technological support and infrastructure development were crucial to the eradication of poverty and hunger.
GRÉTA GUNNARSDÓTTIR (Iceland), speaking also on behalf of Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden, said the Nordic countries were committed to supporting developing countries, least developed ones in particular, in their effort to eradicate poverty and realize the Millennium Development Goals. Describing sustainable economic growth as a key factor in poverty alleviation, she said sustainable growth must be pro-poor and inclusive. Growth must be equitable and enhance social justice and sustainability. Sustainable growth and poverty reduction would also depend on how countries were affected by conflict and climate change. Eradicating poverty would require building long-term resilience and the ability to mitigate the effects of external shocks, as well as resilience to climate change and natural hazards, she said, adding that universal access to affordable, reliable and sustainable energy services was also critical to poverty reduction.
Highlighting the importance of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in poverty-eradication and development efforts, she said gender differences in labour-force participation, unemployment rates and wage gaps were a persistent feature of global labour markets. While progress had been made on educating girls, and women were becoming more engaged in the political field, that progress was insufficient to meet maternal-mortality reduction targets and achieving universal access to sexual reproductive health and rights in developing countries. She added that various forms of violence against women and girls remained widespread in virtually all societies, and were a serious threat to their health and their very lives.
Pointing out that women and girls formed a disproportionally large share of the poor in many countries, she said poverty differed between women and men, girls and boys. Removing formal and informal barriers to education, while introducing social-protection measures and gender-responsive labour laws and policies, would all contribute to more constructive participation by women in the labour market, she said, adding that it would also contribute significantly to overall economic growth, adding further: “Gender equality is smart economics”. Moreover, women must be able to participate fully in formal and informal decision-making at the local and Government levels, and accountability measures should be put in place to ensure that. It was also necessary to reduce women’s burdens in the informal labour market and to ensure that they could exercise their right to participate in decisions affecting them.
ALMUTAZ AHMED IBRAHIM (Sudan), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Least Developed Countries, said the worsening food crisis required stronger participatory mechanisms in the African agricultural framework, and urged expansion of the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) activities to help achieve that goal. A response to the world food crisis required strengthening “green” efforts to stimulate agricultural development, a strategy that Sudan had adopted. The country hoped to see its benefits, including integrated and shared development towards the eradication of poverty.
Noting that drought, desertification and climate change were jeopardizing agricultural production, he said his country’s national policies, including the establishment of a climate change unit, were aimed at ensuring the recovery of its agricultural sector while also working in an environmentally sustainable manner. However, external debt weighed heavily on Sudan, and it was not possible to reduce poverty to the extent of meeting the relevant Millennium Goal. Sudan still had a national debt of $38 billion and despite reforms adopted since 1997, the country’s lack of access to debt-exemption mechanisms frustrated its efforts to reduce the burden.
JOÃO LUCAS QUENTAL NOVAES DE ALMEIDA (Brazil), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said that despite the interconnectedness of development goals, sustained progress needed a special focus on the challenges of poverty and hunger. International support for national development efforts was vital in giving countries the necessary fiscal and policy space to implement effective policies. It would be possible to achieve the goal of halving extreme poverty and hunger by 2015, but it was crucial to promote stronger policy coordination and enhanced coherence, he stressed.
The United Nations, alongside the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the G-20, needed to send a message of social cohesion and political determination to address the crisis, he said. While economic growth was necessary to development, it must be complemented by inclusive employment and social policies. Social protection would help reduce exclusion and foster economic growth, ensuring income during economic downturns while automatically stabilizing and supporting consumption and promoting aggregate demand.
He urged countries to maintain investments in education, training and retooling despite the crisis, saying human development initiatives should expand to help the recovery. Vulnerable groups, including women, youth, minorities, persons with disabilities and indigenous peoples, needed special attention, he said. He pointed out that “jobless growth” had affected many countries even before the crisis, and reiterated the role of the Global Jobs Pact as a framework through which to build national policies. And without consolidating past achievements on gender equality, the fulfilment of international development goals would not be possible, he cautioned, adding that UN‑Women was uniquely placed to lead and coordinate those efforts.
FARIS AL OTAIBI (Saudi Arabia), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said that despite international efforts to eliminate poverty, the results had unfortunately not lived up to the pledge of realizing the Millennium Development Goals. In 1981, there had been 24 least developed countries and today there were 48. Only four countries had left the category, he said, adding that the trials of least developed countries had been exacerbated by debt, disease and unemployment. The crises had been exacerbated by the financial crisis, he said, noting that cutbacks had been made to development commitments because developed countries were not respecting their pledge to devote 0.7 per cent of GDP to official assistance.
Increased protectionism and different barriers imposed by developed economies had reduced access to their markets for developing countries, he continued, calling on rich nations to fulfil their development commitments. Saudi Arabia, for its part, had devoted its assistance efforts to food, he said, citing the rise in food prices, and urged calls for international efforts to combat the effects of the food crisis. Regarding debt, he said his country had forgiven $6 billion owed by developing countries. Saudi Arabia was also concerned for the world’s poorest people due to rising energy prices, he said, noting that the country had spent $500 million to ensure that least developed countries had funding for their development efforts. Saudi Arabia had also opened its markets to goods and products from least developed countries, with no conditions whatsoever.
TAUHEDUL ISLAM (Bangladesh), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Least Developed Countries, said it was regrettable that five years after the proclamation of the Second United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty, the situation had worsened. While delegates were “speaking in the comfort of an air-conditioned room here in New York”, one billion people would go to bed hungry, he said. Progress in the first anti-poverty decade had been “dismal to mention” and endeavours to reach millions in vulnerable countries had failed. Growth in developing countries required a flow of resources, particularly to least developed countries, he said, emphasizing the responsibility of developed countries to help in that regard, particularly through ODA and trade.
Only the level of debt had increased, he said, adding that restructuring and rescheduling sovereign debt was the only route to eradicating poverty, he said. It would help national Governments fund essential development projects and create productive jobs instead of servicing debt. Technology transfer could also play a critical role in development but technology in the developed countries belonged to the private sector, which remained “immune to responsibility”. He called for legal instruments immediately to address that issue, particularly amendments to Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), for the removal of institutional and regulatory obstacles to microfinance, and for greater incentives for those providing sound financial services to the poor. In addition, nations would not progress without women taking a prominent role, he said, pointing out that widening inequality had prevented many women from doing so. Despite limited resources, Bangladesh had implemented widespread empowerment policies. He urged Member States to break the “cocoon of vanity and understand the reality we all are heading to”.
WANG QUN (China), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said his country had reduced the number of its population living in extreme poverty by more than 200 million people, which accounted for 75 per cent of the total reduction in the developing world. Calling on the international community to take certain steps towards poverty eradication, he said it must first strengthen the coordination of macroeconomic policies to promote sustained, inclusive and equitable growth, create a favourable international environment and ensure equal opportunities for developing countries to pursue development. Developed countries should also demonstrate political will and step up support for developing countries by mobilizing sufficient resources and adopting practical actions.
Thirdly, he said, developing countries should incorporate poverty reduction into their national socio-economic plans in light of their particular situation and establish strategies for poverty reduction, with specific targets for each phase of the process. Lastly, all walks of life, from business to civil society, women and youth, should be mobilized to form a broadly based partnership and contribute their respective strength. He went on to describe the odds against women in the job market as “striking” and called for continued efforts by the international community to change deep-rooted stereotypical ideas on gender and improve women’s economic situation.
DAW MAW MAW (Myanmar), associating herself with the Group of 77, ASEAN andthe Group of Least Developed Countries,said the multiple global crises had reduced the availability of both national and external resources to sufficiently sustain the development programmes and poverty-reduction activities of developing countries, especially least developed ones. Despite some setbacks due to the crises and growing inequality, extreme poverty had declined at the global level. With 70 per cent of Myanmar’s population living in rural areas and comprising the major workforce, boosting agricultural production was the engine of national economic development, she said.
Five previous rural development programmes would be augmented by new Government policies, including the National Rural Development and Poverty Reduction Plan, she continued. The Government had laid down eight tasks for rural development and poverty alleviation, including the development of agricultural productivity, livestock and fisheries, rural cooperative societies, rural socio-economy and rural energy, in addition to focusing on environmental conservation and developing microfinance institutions. The Government had also sought ways to ease the crises faced by farmers, including a tax exemption for agricultural produce, establishing a rice fund to help farmers, and the drafting of a microfinance law to contribute not only to poverty alleviation but also to small- and medium-sized enterprises.
ENKHTSETSEG OCHIR ( Mongolia), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, warned that if “we continue doing business as usual, it will take another 88 years to eradicate extreme poverty”. Calling for priority to be placed on the most vulnerable and marginalized people, she said she was very concerned about the “sluggish” decline of extreme poverty, adding that the current global situation was pushing more people to the brink of extreme poverty and destitution. Defenceless, marginalized and vulnerable people should be protected and supported through critical measures. Social inclusion, productive employment, equitable access to basic social services as well as promotion of gender equality and legal empowerment of the poor could contribute to the building of social capital and the creation of resilient communities that could withstand shocks and crises.
She went on to outline a number of policy measures taken to address poverty in Mongolia. The country believed strongly in investing in education and health, as well as in the empowerment of women and girls, to make poverty reduction efforts sustainable. In addition, agricultural and agrarian reform had led to increased productivity and food production. Mongolia had enjoyed a record harvest this year, fully meeting domestic demand for wheat and improving national food security, she said, adding that the country had declared 2011 “Employment Promotion Year”. It had taken concrete policy and practical measures, in line with the Global Jobs Pact, which had resulted in thousands of new jobs. The Government had also re-introduced vocational education and training centres, she added.
HANNA PROROK ( Ukraine) emphasized the importance of effective implementation of the Action Plan for the Second United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty, saying that poverty alleviation required the timely provision of international development assistance, including in humanitarian crises. Ukraine had committed to provide humanitarian assistance to countries of the Horn of Africa through the United Nations system, she added. Poverty reduction was key to Ukraine’s economic policies, she said, noting that implementation of the Programme of Economic Reforms for 2010-14 had raised pensions and real wages, while the national poverty index had fallen to its lowest level since 2001.
Welcoming the involvement of United Nations bodies in boosting gender equality, she pointed out, however, that the progress made in empowering women over the last two decades had been fragile and insufficient. Women needed to be included in State development strategies and programmes, particularly in policymaking activities and the formulation and implementation of development policy. Regarding maternal deaths and HIV/AIDS, she stressed the importance of the adoption in June 2011 of the Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS, which recognized that women and girls remained the most affected by the epidemic, and that strengthened protection was required. She called on UN‑Women to pay particular attention to reducing women’s vulnerability to HIV, emphasizing her country’s significant success in preventing mother-to-child transmission of the AIDS-causing virus.
DAVID GOVRIN ( Israel) said the elimination of gender disparity must be an integral part of any strategy for development. Noting that 70 per cent of all those suffering poverty around the world were women, he said his country was proud to house the Golda Meir Mount Carmel International Training Center, one of the world’s first training centres dedicated specifically to the empowerment of women. It focused on local government and community development, microenterprise management and entrepreneurial training as well as early-childhood education.
He went on to underscore that it would be impossible to address issues such as food security without paying proper attention to health care, community building and education. Meaningful results could only be achieved through a sustainable development programme that addressed all such interlinked challenges. The international community must also address the effects of climate change, which could exacerbate poor farming conditions and have devastating effects on food security and national-development efforts. Promoting more effective and sustainable agricultural practices among poor farmers had become more urgent than ever before, he added.
RAFF BUKUN-OLU WOLE ONEMOLA (Nigeria), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, welcomed the Global Jobs Pact as well as the shift to a more pragmatic policy attitude and steps towards closer collaboration. Social protection was a right, he said, adding that countries with social-protection mechanisms had responded better to the crisis. Describing the Global Jobs Pact as a realistic framework for action, he called for scaled-up efforts to provide financial support. Nigeria had incorporated the National Action Plan on Employment Creation into its development plan, outlining policies, programmes and projects for creating employment in 11 key sectors of the economy, he said.
Considerable efforts were needed to realize the equality of the responsibility of men and women, he said, noting the fundamental contributions of women in households, food production and national economies. There was increased awareness that, by improving the situation of women, African society as a whole, as well as development prospects, were improving. Gender perspectives must be included when designing policy design, he said, noting, however, that economic and social decline, HIV, and war, had led to women remaining the majority among the poor and facing major risks.
He went on to state that agriculture was central to his country’s economy, and women played a major role in the sector. They had benefited from technological advances in food processing and Nigeria had invested heavily in manpower-development programmes to improve talents, skills and productivity. The Government had supported various agencies with the aim of developing manpower and training programmes, he said, pointing out that populations remained vulnerable to water-borne diseases due to poor sanitation and waste disposal. Greater coherence was needed between social and economic policies to protect vulnerable people and foster productive investment. Employment was required to sustain recovery and growth as well as promote social inclusion and reduce poverty.
VIPLOVE THAKUR ( India), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, said that despite the progress made, the work at hand was still “daunting”. Poverty eradication must remain the foremost priority on the international development agenda, despite the global economic and financial crisis. It was disconcerting that the economic crisis was being turned into an excuse to get away from even the minimal pledges made, she said, urging developed countries to fulfil their ODA commitments. Ensuring economic growth was fundamental not only to strengthening the economic recovery, but equally for eradicating poverty.
In spite of the global economic slowdown, India was projected to grow at 7.5 per cent this year, she said. Compared to 1990 levels, the country would have taken 188 million people out of the poverty net by 2015, but would still be home to the largest number of global poor. Recognizing the multi-dimensional nature of poverty, the Indian Government had launched large-scale socio-economic programmes and interventions to reduce it while fighting malnutrition and hunger, slashing infant mortality and promoting health and gender empowerment, she said, listing several of those initiatives. She also urged that poverty-reduction strategies in developing countries focus on agriculture and rural development as the majority of people in those countries were dependent on the sector.
HENRY MAC-DONALD (Suriname), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said the eradication of poverty and hunger remained among the greatest challenges of modern times and a seemingly unattainable goal. The greatest asset in the hands of the poor in their fight against poverty was their ability to work, but the number of working poor had increased, and surging food prices would create more poverty.
Describing agriculture as the main source of livelihood for poor people, he said agricultural productivity and rural development were vital for poverty eradication. Renewed emphasis was being placed on agriculture, not only to counter rising food prices, but also to ensure the region’s population ate what they produced, to secure safe nutrition and reverse the high incidence of chronic non-communicable diseases now prevalent in the Caribbean.
The current global economic crisis had limited the availability of resources for investments in health, education and skills training, which were critical to empowering those living in poverty, he said. The international community must pay attention to improving the lives of women, indigenous and tribal peoples, youth, people with disabilities, and individuals working in the informal economy. The legal empowerment of the poor should be a development strategy as well as a development objective, he stressed, urging donor countries, multilateral organizations and other development partners to intensify the provision of assistance to developing countries.
URAWADEE SRIPHIROMYA (Thailand), associating herself with the Group of 77 and ASEAN, concurred with the Secretary-General’s report on the need to sustain the rapid economic growth that was vital to poverty reduction, with its benefits evenly distributed throughout society. To promote economic growth and income generation, two areas would have a direct impact on poverty eradication and rural development — agriculture and small- and medium-sized enterprises. The Government of Thailand had adopted a set of policies that would facilitate access to credit, markets and other productive resources for farmers and small- and medium-sized enterprises, promote agricultural productivity and food security, and enhance competitiveness through research and technology as well as human-resource development. An education system that fostered creativity was an important strategy in the poverty-eradication strategies of developing countries, she noted. Thailand continued to support regional connectivity, which helped accelerate growth and narrow development gaps among countries in the region. She concluded by expressing gratitude for the support her country had received during its current floods, underscoring the dangerous impact that severe weather and natural hazards could have on national development gains.
FIRDAUS ABDULLAH (Malaysia), associating himself with the Group of 77 and ASEAN, noted that poverty had declined significantly in his country thanks to 20 years of rapid growth. Only 0.3 per cent of the population were now classified as being in “hardcore poverty”. Sustained, inclusive and equitable growth remained the goal, with the One Malaysia agenda, the Government Transformation Programme, the Economic Transformation Programme and the New Economic Model all helping to launch Malaysia towards developed-nation status by 2020. The Rural Transformation Programme had been introduced to complement the other national-transformation strategies, aiming to attract more private investment in the rural areas.
The Rural Transformation Programme would add to the work of the Federal Land Development Authority, which had successfully eradicated rural poverty since 1956 through resettlement programmes, he said. To help the country’s lower-income population gain access to services, the Government had also instituted the One Malaysia grocery stores and medical clinics, he continued. The country was also looking outward, with the Malaysia Technical Cooperation Programme sharing national development experiences and expertise with fellow developing countries. The programme formed part of a wider commitment to the promotion of technical cooperation among developing countries, and emphasized the development of human resources through training in various fields. In the past five years, Malaysia had spent more than $66 million on technical assistance and capacity-building under the Malaysia Technical Cooperation Programme alone, he said.
DIANA AL-HADID ( Jordan), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, said poverty eradication required the benefits of economic growth to accrue specifically to lower-income sections of the population. Policies aimed at that goal focused on employment and generating income through the Enhanced Productivity Programme. Jordan’s poverty-alleviation programme empowered women, raising their contribution in economic decision-making positions and in education and training. Human-resource development was also a cornerstone of Jordan’s efforts to reduce poverty, aiming at protecting vulnerable groups and supporting their active participation in gainful economic activities, she said. The Jordanian National Strategy for Microfinance had worked to consolidate income-generating activities, especially in rural areas, she said.
TEO ZI-MING (Singapore), associating himself with the Group of 77 and ASEAN, affirmed his country’s commitment to ending the scourge of poverty, saying his fellow citizens knew the goal was attainable because Singapore had begun its independent existence in 1959 amid low development, high unemployment, labour unrest and political tension, in addition to its tiny size and dearth of natural resources. With support from UNDP and in cooperation with a range of agencies and financial institutions, in addition to its good political leadership and hard-working people, Singapore was “firmly on the path of growth and development”, he said. Universal education based on meritocracy was a key element of social mobility, along with policies to ensure that the most vulnerable were not deprived of access to food, health care or housing.
He said the Government was committed to “helping every Singaporean have a share in the country’s progress”, at the same time as it espoused self-reliance among families and individuals, an element factored into the design of social safety nets. While each Member State should take primary responsibility and ownership of its own development, he said, national anti-poverty strategies could be complemented by assistance from regional and international partners. Cross-regional cooperation offered many benefits in that regard, including the exchange of best practices, mobilization of resources and technical expertise, new economic opportunities, and the expansion of the “economic pie” through deeper economic integration and liberalization. Much work had been done within ASEAN to address economic disparities, and it planned to form an economic community that would further increase regional trade, investment and development, by 2015. Singapore’s cooperation programme provided assistance to other developing countries, in addition to its cooperation programme, which had organized training courses for more than 75,000 public officials from 170 countries.
YOUSSOUFOU BAMBA ( Cote d’Ivoire), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said the persistent economic and financial crisis continued to prevent plans and commitments to eradicate poverty. The scarcity of ODA and the decrease in remittances had also strongly affected developing countries, he added. With Cote d’Ivoire emerging from a number of crises, including war, 48.9 per cent of the population, one of every two Ivoirians, lived in poverty, he said. The Government had prepared a National Development Plan for the future but was currently implementing a $90 million emergency plan focused on meeting the needs of the poorest people.
He went on to say that health care had been made free of charge for the poorest, many of them women and children. But none of those efforts would mean much without continued support from donor countries. Rapid economic growth was vital in reducing poverty, he said, adding that Cote d’Ivoire was focused on developing the private sector to help fight poverty and re-establish the economy. Using foreign direct investment (FDI), the private sector would invest in the industry sector, he said, pointing out that construction was already under way, including bridges and roads. Finally, he said, the Government was promoting the establishment of a credible and reliable judicial system based on justice and law.
AMINATOU AGADA (Niger), associating herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said two thirds of her country lay in the Sahara desert and 62 per cent of its 12 million people lived in poverty. The Government had recently completed a full review of its poverty-eradication strategy, and the updated version outlined improved ways to eliminate poverty and well-thought-out actions for building growth, while creating jobs and wealth through a diversified, competitive economy, fully integrated into a subregional environment.
She went on to note that 79 per cent of the population lived in rural areas, where wealth per capita was five times less than in urban areas, adding that the agricultural sector was vulnerable and used archaic production methods. Niger’s significant demographic growth, among the highest in the world, was also limiting its abilities to tackle poverty on a wide scale. Outlining Niger’s economic targets for the coming year, she said they included 7 per cent growth. Enrolment in schools was increasing, as was access to drinking water. Meanwhile, mortality rates had declined and women had greater access to microcredit loans, she said.
FERNANDO FERNÁNDEZ-ARIAS MINUESA ( Spain) said his country was focused on making progress in human rights for women and on fighting poverty. Gender equality was being applied nationally and Spain was dedicated to guaranteeing that the law promoted women’s legal and civil rights. The country supported multilateral organizations such as UN‑Women and their commitment to the empowerment of women. Within the country, the Government supported actions to strengthen feminist organizations and build democratic institutions that would work to empower women. In addition to having contributed an initial $60 million to UN‑Women, Spain supported the gender entity’s new efforts dedicated to furthering the economic empowerment of women.
CHRISTOPHER JOHN STOKES ( Australia) said the empowerment of women “makes sense” and was central to economic development, benefiting future generations as well as the current one. It was an overarching principle of the Australian aid programme, which focused on school attendance, economic participation and helping women and girls to assume leadership roles. Australia had appointed the first global ambassador for women and girls, he said, which gave the country a stronger voice in promoting their rights around the world.
Noting that gender-responsive budgeting had been pioneered in his country, he said true progress required accurate and timely sex-disaggregated data for use in guiding decision-making. The Gender Marker was a useful tool for ensuring balance, he said, adding that he was pleased to have seen good use made of it, but even more and broader use could be made of it. All stakeholders could ensure greater integration of gender into development efforts, he said, emphasizing that the forthcoming Busan and Rio Conferences would be key opportunities to make real and sustained commitments for the world’s women and girls.
Women remained among the poorest and most vulnerable people in least developed countries, he continued, stressing that the world knew what was required but action was necessary. Referring to the Secretary-General’s report, he said the mandate of UN‑Women had the potential to bring about real gains for women and girls, but collective action was required to help it grow and prosper. Australia was a core contributor, having increased its inputs six-fold to $9.5 million in 2011, which made it the fifth biggest contributor to UN Women. The country would continue to strengthen its core contributions and urge other countries to follow suit because the empowerment of women was fundamental to the eradicating of poverty.
ARSLANBEK UMETALIEV ( Kyrgyzstan) said his country had made progress with the poverty rate having fallen from 33 per cent to 3 per cent over the last decade. Major progress had been made in ensuring access to drinking water, education and women’s political participation. Future goals would include more equalizing socio-economic development, preserving the environment and quelling ethnic tensions. Kyrgyzstan supported people suffering under the structural reforms caused by globalization through social policy, increasing pensions and benefits, and providing payments to low-income citizens. While previously known for its high illiteracy rate, Kyrgyzstan was now dedicated to maintaining high literacy and further improving education, he said. The employment of women was a kind of “economic barometer” measuring a region’s economic development. Women made up 47 per cent of Kyrgyzstan’s agriculture market and their role in community development should be newly reflected in the Millennium Development Goals, he said.
AMAN HASSEN ( Ethiopia) said that while it was encouraging that East-Asian countries had reduced the proportion of people living on less than $1.25 a day, more than a third of sub-Saharan Africa’s population would be living in poverty by 2015. Governments, in particular those of developing countries, would be measured, among other things, by how much they succeeded in reducing poverty, creating jobs, investing in rural development and focusing on capacity-building for both women and youths, he said. Because of that, Ethiopia had put integrated and coherent policies and programmes in place to address the challenges of poverty.
In the last decade, Ethiopia’s economy had registered double-digit growth in consecutive years since 2004, making it one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, he continued. Working with communities, stakeholders and international partners, the Government had invested more than 60 per cent of its budget on pro-poor projects and programmes, targeting the most vulnerable segments of society, with an emphasis on women and youths.
Recalling that his country’s extreme poverty had stood at 49.5 per cent in 1995, he said it had dropped to 29.2 per cent by 2010, adding that the goal of Ethiopia’s new five-year national plan was to reduce that figure to 22 per cent by 2015. Recognizing that much remained to be done, he noted that changing age-old attitudes and traditional values that were contrary to his country’s development needs was “simply colossal”. The world should not lose sight of the fact that eradicating poverty was not just a moral obligation, but in the interest of the international community as well.
MOJTABA ALIBABAEE ( Iran), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said poverty eradication was today’s greatest global challenge, an indispensible requirement for sustainable development, in particular for developing countries. Concerted and concrete measures were required at all levels to enable them to achieve internationally agreed development targets, including the Millennium Development Goals, in particular that of eradicating poverty. A majority still faced numerous shared problems and great challenges, such as extreme poverty, the global food crisis, continuing food insecurity, unemployment, external debt, a lack of financial aid and the effects of climate change.
Citing a report of the Secretary-General, he said that given the rate of decline observed from 1990 to 2005, when the number of people living on less than $1.25 a day had declined from 1.8 billion to 1.4 billion, it would take another 88 years to eradicate extreme poverty. Additionally, many individuals lived just above the $1.25 a day line, and a small shock could push them into poverty. As a matter of fact, growth in countries with a high rate of inequality did not help poverty reduction, but worsened poverty and inequalities, he cautioned, emphasizing: “An inclusive development is not something to be left to market forces”. Citing another report of the Secretary-General, he said the impact of economic growth on poverty reduction depended on how its benefits were distributed.
TAPIWA MONGWA ( Botswana), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, said the world collectively had enough resources to respond to existing and emerging global challenges. It was, therefore, regrettable that so many people still contended with a lack of basic necessities like food, shelter and clean water. Africa faced major impediments to poverty eradication, including worsening terms of trade and trade barriers, loss of competitiveness in world markets, lack of resources for development, declining investment levels in infrastructure, and high unemployment.
Those challenges had been amplified by multiple global crises relating to food, energy and the economic and financial meltdown, she continued. Developing countries that were net food importers faced an uphill battle to ensure the provision of social infrastructure against that backdrop. Botswana had rolled out a number of social safety nets to protect the most vulnerable members of its population, including free education, subsidized health care, access to antiretroviral drugs, programmes for orphans and the destitute, as well as pension schemes. Continuing such programmes depended largely on prudent Government management of its meagre resources and on the continued support and goodwill of the international community, she said.
BERTRAND DE LOOZ KARAGEORGIADES, Observer for the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, said the organization served the disadvantaged and the poor, intervening in more than 120 countries, with its actions reinforced by its diplomatic relations with 104 States. The Order had implemented projects in many countries, including Cambodia, Kenya, Sudan and India, he said.
AMBER BARTH, International Labour Organization (ILO), said the agency was aware that “millions are working hard but barely surviving, often in the informal economy, denied of human dignity”. Attention to the quality of jobs was as important as the quantity, she said, adding that promoting growth and empowering people should go hand-in-hand. Efforts must centre on transforming the economic models that bred poverty in order to deliver economic growth with social justice. Growth with decent jobs required the integration of employment and social policies with macroeconomic policy strategies, she said, noting that the ILO looked forward to continuing its engagement with Member States, the United Nations system as well as the NGO Sub-Committee on Poverty Eradication in strengthening policy coherence, building synergies and promoting stronger collaboration in support of implementation of the Plan of Action.
MICHELE KLEIN SOLOMON, Permanent Observer for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), noted the important link between migration and development, illustrated most clearly through remittances. There were 214 million international migrants worldwide, who had accounted for $325 million flowing to developing countries in 2010. Migrants provided food, enabled children to attend school, ensured the provision of medicine and enabled investment in small businesses.
Referring specifically to the Secretary-General’s report on Human Resources Development, she highlighted migration’s potential, pointing to the transfer of skills and knowledge, circular and temporary migration, and the potential for “brain gain”. The IOM encouraged States to pay attention to developing the skills of migrants, particularly in destination countries. Still, the “brain drain” was a considerable concern for some States and losing skilled workers was particularly damaging when it disproportionately affected certain professions, including health workers and educators, she said.
LILA RATSIFANDRIHAMANANA, Director, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Liaison Office, said the role of women in economic and social development was indisputable. They accounted for 43 per cent of agricultural workforces in developing countries, and about 50 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa and East Asia. Despite their indispensible role, women still faced multiple impediments and many of their efforts remained largely invisible and unrecognized, she said. They were unable to achieve the same scale of production as men and had less incentive to invest in soil fertility or use technology.
Such inequality took a heavy toll not only on the economic welfare of rural women and girls, but also on their households and societies, she said. The gender gap was one of the main reasons for the agriculture sector’s underperformance in many developing countries. Promoting gender equality in rural areas must become a key component of the fight against poverty and hunger, she emphasized. Doing so could increase production by up to 30 per cent, or between 2.5 per cent and 4 per cent at a national level.
That could reduce the number of undernourished people in the world by up to 17 per cent, or 150 million people, she said. To close the gender gap, she called for policy decisions that considered gender differences. Gender equality must also be guaranteed, both on paper and in practice, with women able to buy, sell or inherit land. Inequalities in agricultural value chains must also be addressed, she said, calling for women and girls to be provided with the same education, information and extension services as men. Resources must be channelled directly to women within producers’ organizations, she added.
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