A Haitian woman prepares "clay cakes" — sun-baked disks of clay, butter & salt — that have become a symbol of Haiti's struggles with extreme poverty and hunger.
A Haitian woman prepares "clay cakes" — sun-baked disks of clay, butter & salt — that have become a symbol of Haiti's struggles with extreme poverty and hunger.
Photo:© UN/Logan Abassi

In a world characterized by an unprecedented level of economic development, technological means and financial resources, that millions of persons are living in extreme poverty is a moral outrage. Poverty is not solely an economic issue, but rather a multidimensional phenomenon that encompasses a lack of both income and the basic capabilities to live in dignity.

Persons living in poverty experience many interrelated and mutually reinforcing deprivations that prevent them from realizing their rights and perpetuate their poverty, including:

  • dangerous work conditions
  • unsafe housing
  • lack of nutritious food
  • unequal access to justice
  • lack of political power
  • limited access to health care

This year marks the 27th anniversary of the declaration by the General Assembly, in its resolution 47/196 of 22 December 1992, of 17 October as the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. This year also marks the 32nd anniversary of the Call to Action by Father Joseph Wresinski — which inspired the observance of October 17 as the World Day for Overcoming Extreme Poverty — and the recognition by the United Nations of the day as the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

2020 Theme: Acting together to achieve social and environmental justice for all

The theme for the Day this year addresses the challenge of achieving social and environmental justice for all. The growing recognition of the multi-dimensionality of poverty means that these two issues are inseparably intertwined, and that social justice cannot be fully realized without aggressively rectifying environmental injustices at the same time. Whereas progress has been made in addressing income poverty, there has been less success in addressing the other important dimensions of poverty, including the rapidly growing impact of the environment, within a more holistic approach.

People living in extreme poverty, often through sheer necessity, are the first to act decisively within their communities in response to poverty, climate change and environmental challenges. However, their efforts and experience often go unnoticed and unappreciated; their ability to contribute positively to solutions has been overlooked; they are not recognized as drivers of change, and their voices are not heard, especially in international bodies.

This must change. The participation, knowledge, contributions and experience of people living in poverty and those left behind must be valued, respected and reflected in our efforts to build an equitable and sustainable world in which there is social and environmental justice for all.

Sea turtle

Join the #EndPoverty global campaign

Everyone can join the campaign on social media by using hashtag #EndPoverty and promoting the call to action to connect with people from around the world who have joined the fight to overcome poverty.
In addition to the commemorative event to be held in New York on 17 October, commemorations of the international day are being organized worldwide. The online community is asked to use #EndPoverty to share messages about the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty via social media.

 

Poverty Facts and Figures

  • 736 million people lived below the international poverty line of US $ 1.90 a day in 2015.
  • In 2018, almost 8 per cent of the world’s workers and their families lived on less than US$1.90 per person per day.
  • Most people living below the poverty line belong to two regions: Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
  • High poverty rates are often found in small, fragile and conflict-affected countries.
  • As of 2018, 55 per cent of the world’s population have no access to at least one social protection cash benefit.

Related organizations and information

UN documents

As the international community embarks on the Third Decade for the Eradication of Poverty, an estimated 783 million people lived on less than $1.90 a day in 2013, compared with 1.867 billion people in 1990. Economic growth across developing countries has been remarkable since 2000, with faster growth in gross domestic product (GDP) per capita than advanced countries. This economic growth has fuelled poverty reduction and improvements in living standards. Achievements have also been recorded in such areas as job creation, gender equality, education and health care, social protection measures, agriculture and rural development, and climate change adaptation and mitigation. [Resolution A/73/298]

A father and his son wear protective masks on a street in Queens, New York, during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The estimates of the potential short-term economic impact of COVID-19 on global monetary poverty through contractions in per capita household income or consumption show that COVID-19 poses a real challenge to the UN Sustainable Development Goal of ending poverty by 2030 because global poverty could increase for the first time since 1990 and, depending on the poverty line, such increase could represent a reversal of approximately a decade in the world’s progress in reducing poverty. In some regions the adverse impacts could result in poverty levels similar to those recorded 30 years ago. Under the most extreme scenario of a 20 per cent income or consumption contraction, the number of people living in poverty could increase by 420–580 million, relative to the latest official recorded figures for 2018. [WIDER Working Paper 2020/43]

Geometric illustration with the Secretariat building at UNHQ, New York.

International days are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity. The existence of international days predates the establishment of the United Nations, but the UN has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool. We also mark other UN observances.