Media Project, ‘Why Poverty’, Can Help Keep Poverty High in Global Public’s Awareness, at Top of International Agenda, Says Deputy Secretary-General

1 October 2012

Media Project, ‘Why Poverty’, Can Help Keep Poverty High in Global Public’s Awareness, at Top of International Agenda, Says Deputy Secretary-General

1 October 2012
Deputy Secretary-General
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Media Project, ‘Why Poverty’, Can Help Keep Poverty High in Global Public’s

Awareness, at Top of International Agenda, Says Deputy Secretary-General

(Delayed in transmission)

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the launch of the Cross-Media Project, “Why Poverty”, in New York, 27 September:

It is a pleasure to join you for this event.  We at the United Nations have great hopes for what this project can achieve.  I thank all those who have helped to make it possible.  You are helping us to respond to the great challenge of our time — eradicating poverty and ushering in an era of sustainable development for all.

“Why Poverty?”, the project asks.  It is a good and very basic question.

Why, indeed, in the world of plenty, should there be such deep and chronic poverty?  As we meet here tonight, more than 1 billion people are still living in poverty and around 1 billion are suffering from hunger.  Many lack access to basic health and education, as well as water and sanitation, which are vital to breaking the cycle of poverty.  Inequalities between and within countries continue to rise.

Why, when there always seems to be funding available for weapons and wars, do investments in people remain such easy targets for the budget-cutters’ axe?  As the Secretary-General told the General Assembly two days ago and has said often, we should not balance budgets at the cost of the poor.  The economic crisis should not be an excuse to default on commitments to the basics that all people need.

There is some good news.  Some countries and regions have made extraordinary progress in reducing poverty.  The world as a whole has succeeded in reaching the target of cutting by half the proportion of people living in extreme income poverty.  There is progress in the area of primary education.

Still, unless we intensify our efforts, it will take decades to eradicate extreme poverty.  In addition, many people who have escaped extreme poverty remain vulnerable.  Their incomes have not risen sufficiently to protect them from shocks.  A medical emergency in the family, or a sudden rise in food prices, could send these vulnerable families right back into extreme poverty.  Maternal health and water and sanitation are still lagging seriously as MDGs [Millennium Development Goals].

Earlier this year at the Rio+20 Conference, world leaders agreed to redouble their efforts to eradicate poverty and hunger, while respecting the Earth’s ecosystems.  They recognized that eradicating poverty and reducing inequality are crucial to building a sustainable future.  They also stressed the immense value of broad public participation in decision-making.  Experience tells us that the active engagement of all members of society in devising solutions is one of the keys to successful poverty eradication strategies.

That is why the project we are launching tonight is so important.  The films will kick-start a global debate about poverty in the twenty-first century.  They will get people talking.  They will make us aware, in arresting ways, of the high stakes involved.  Our strength is about human security and human dignity for all.

The launch is also timely.  The deadline for achieving the MDGs — 2015 — is little more than three years away, three months, three days.

As agreed in Rio, we are embarking on the important work of formulating the direction for a set of Sustainable Development Goals that builds and expands on the MDGs and must be just as clear and just as ambitious as the MDGs — and able to spark a similarly global mobilization.  We have also begun discussions to shape a post-2015 development agenda.  There is agreement on the need for an open, inclusive consultation process.   These processes will need to converge towards one development framework with sustainable development at its centre.

This project is an excellent tool to reach out to civil society, stimulate participation and further engage decision-makers.  It can help keep poverty high in the global public’s awareness — and at the top of the international agenda.

Despite the precarious state of the world economy, we have made major advances and can continue to do so.  We have the resources and the know-how.  There are inspiring examples of progress across the world showing how to address the multiple dimensions of poverty.

But we must do a better job of translating commitment into action, and of scaling up what works.  I thank the organizers of this event for inspiring people to think and participate.  Thank you.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.