– As delivered –
Statement by H.E. Tijjani Muhammad Bande, President of the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly
30 June 2020
I welcome you all to today’s event, which takes place at a time when the world is wrestling with an unprecedented public health challenge. I thank President Muhammadu Buhari, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for his support for today’s event. This event is significant as it marks the first in a series of policy dialogues or colloquia on poverty eradication, as well as the launch of the Alliance for Poverty Eradication. Alongside quality education and inclusion, the eradication of poverty is among the key priorities of the 74th session of the General Assembly. It is my hope that the aforementioned will strengthen the coordination of multi-lateral and multi-pronged interventions to eradicate poverty.
Poverty is clearly the most formidable obstacle to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals and a blot on humanity’s conscience. Poverty appears in different forms, notably, as a lack of access to decent jobs, education, food, shelter, healthcare, potable water, sanitation, and deficiencies in many things that make life worth living. It has been identified as a major factor in expectant mothers’ stress and as the leading cause of pre- and post-natal complications. Conflict and civil strife will not last long if either’s underlying trigger, poverty, is eliminated. Poverty joins conflict as a leading cause of migration.
While poverty is bad, and has been established as such, the COVID-19 pandemic has made a bad situation worse. Before the onset of the pandemic, 2.1 billion people were classified as poor globally, with 767 million living in extreme poverty. It is estimated that by the year 2030, more than 100 million people would have relapsed into poverty, due to COVID19 and climate change. A study released by Kings College London and the Australian National University in the first week of April 2020 paints an even grimmer picture: that approximately 850 million are at risk of falling into poverty due to the sharp decline in economic activity.
The ILO has highlighted the devastating impact of COVID-19 on employment, especially affecting youth and women. In 2019, the youth unemployment rate stood at 13.6 percent, a figure higher than for any other demographic group. In absolute numbers, approximately 267 million young people worldwide were either unemployed or were not receiving the education and training they needed to be employable. Youths aged 15 to 24 years were likely to be in low-paying jobs or to live precariously in the informal sector or as migrant workers.
Connected to this problem is inequality. Inequality either trails, or runs parallel with, deepening poverty. Regrettably, inequality continues to widen, while reinforcing social exclusion, across the world. Counter to the aim of Agenda 2030, millions are being left behind as poverty deepens, and inequality widens.
The plethora of resolutions relating to poverty passed by the General Assembly and the numerous programmes of the United Nations targeting poverty is evidence of the determination to eradicate poverty. The foregoing is enough justification for the Alliance for Poverty Eradication. The Alliance can pull together all the factors and interests in poverty eradication and serve as a one-stop networking, information sharing and bridge-building centre. The Alliance should provide a mechanism for interrogating the poverty challenge from all possible, or at least, multi-disciplinary, angles. There is no amount of time and attention given to poverty eradication that is too much.
The Alliance can pull together all the factors and interests in poverty eradication and serve as a one-stop networking, information sharing and bridge-building centre. The Alliance should provide a mechanism for interrogating the poverty challenge from all possible, or at least, multi-disciplinary, angles. There is no amount of time and attention given to poverty eradication that is too much.
The Alliance for Poverty Eradication is like any other group of friends that champions various causes within the United Nations, be this in education, food security, affordable health care, or climate action. It is indeed odd that while other causes, that derive inspirations from the Sustainable Development Goals have groups promoting them, poverty eradication, the Number 1 Sustainable Development Goal, does not. I wish to state categorically that the Poverty Eradication Alliance’s selling point is that it provides a major opportunity to confront an enduring, complex and multi-sided challenge, in this case, poverty. No wonder as we were thinking of the Alliance and today’s High Level meeting, we had to bring in the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Bank Group, UNDP, UNCTAD, Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, among others.
The Alliance is expected to play an active role in the organization of colloquia on poverty eradication. It is no accident that the Alliance’s launch coincides with the first in the series of these policy dialogues.
I thank you all for your support for today’s High-Level Meeting on Poverty Eradication Strategies. I congratulate the founding members of the Alliance for Poverty Eradication and urge those who have not joined to do so. I am grateful to the Charge d’affaires ad interim of the Permanent Mission of Nigeria, Ambassador Samson Itegboje who has agreed to serve as Interim Coordinator of the Alliance, pending when its members make their own decision as to how to carry forward this important task for all of us. I am sure you will be hearing from him very soon.
Excellencies, it is my pleasure to formally inaugurate the Alliance and declare the first in the series of colloquia on poverty eradication open.