Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York


The poor around the world should be given a voice and a choice in poverty-reduction programmes, as they were an important part in solutions to the problem, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, Jomo Kwame Sundaram, said at a Headquarters press conference this morning.

The briefing was to draw attention to the International Day -- today -- for the Eradication of Poverty, observed by the United Nations since 1993.  This year’s theme for the observance is “Achieving the Millennium Development Goals: Empowering the poorest of the poor”.  He said the occasion provided an opportunity for the recognition of the struggles of poor people around the world.

The day also marked the observance of the International Year of Microcredit which this year emphasized the importance of microfinance as an effective tool to alleviate poverty (by, among other factors, increasing household income; generating employment; improving nutrition, health, education and housing; and empowering the poor, especially women).

Also addressing correspondents were Jean-Marc de La Sabličre, the Permanent Representative of France; Eugen Brand, Director-General of the International Movement ATD Fourth World; and Constantine Saasita Munema, also of the ATD Fourth World, from Tanzania. 

Mr. Sundaram said a key element in poverty-reduction strategies was decent and productive employment, especially for women and young people.  He noted that youth made up 47 per cent of unemployed persons globally, but formed only 25 per cent of the working age population.

He said that the Millennium Development Goals, which were reaffirmed at the September 2005 World Summit, recognized the need for tackling the multiple dimensions of poverty simultaneously:  the 1.1 billion who lived on less than $1 a day; the lack of access to education, basic health service, clean water and sanitation; vulnerability to economic shocks and natural disasters; and political influence.

At the World Summit, developing countries agreed to adopt and implement by 2006, comprehensive national plans for achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  Developed countries committed themselves to supporting those efforts through an increase in official development assistance, the promotion of trade, the transfer of technology, increased investment flows and debt relief.

He also said the United Nations recognized the importance of both economic and social development in the eradication of poverty, and emphasized the crucial role of families and social integration in that process.

The Permanent Representative of France, Mr. de La Sabličre, said his country and Burkina Faso had jointly sponsored a resolution for the observance of the International Day by the United Nations.  The Day was an opportunity for the United Nations and the international community at large to renew its commitment in the struggle against extreme poverty and to implement the various programmes adopted for that purpose.

Mr. Brand of the ATD Fourth World recalled the mission of the founder of the movement, Father Joseph Wresinski, who originally initiated the idea of the observance in 1987. He also outlined what the representatives of the poor would tell the Secretary-General at their scheduled meeting today, including the need for joint efforts of all governments to fight poverty. He underlined the need for placing poverty eradication at the centre of policies ranging from economic and social issues to peace and security and human rights. He also pleaded for assistance for the poor around the world.

Mr. Saasita Munema, also of the ATD Fourth World, drew attention to the pain and difficulties of those who lived in extreme poverty and whose human rights should be respected.  The international community should reflect on their suffering and help reduce poverty.

Responding to questions, the Permanent Representative of France noted that progress had been made in the implementation of action programmes to reduce poverty.  He also noted the importance of the Millennium Development Goals, and drew attention to the strong commitment of the European Union member States to increase official development assistance to achieve the United Nations target of 0.7 per cent of gross national product.

Assistant Secretary-General Sundaram said the international community was working on a number of fronts to deal with poverty reduction.  Recent summits and conferences had made very clear the need for development strategies and goals, and the creation of peaceful and secure environment for development.  He also stressed the importance of the involvement of the poor in food aid programmes, such as food cultivation.  Mr. Brand also urged cooperation between developed and developing countries in the struggle to eradicate poverty.

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For information media • not an official record