Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohamed’s remarks at the virtual high-level meeting “Trends, Options and Strategies in Poverty Eradication across the World”, in New York today:
I want to begin by extending my thanks to the President of the General Assembly, Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, for convening this high-level meeting, which marks the inauguration of the Alliance for Poverty Eradication. This colloquium series on poverty eradication is an important contribution to advancing the Decade of Action to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the pace of global poverty reduction was decelerating, and the world was not on track to deliver Goal 1 by 2030. By 2019, more than 70 per cent of the world population lived in countries where income inequality increased in the last three decades; 55 per cent did not benefit from any form of social protection; young workers continued living in extreme poverty and poverty was persistently worsened by extreme natural disasters.
The COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated poverty and structural inequalities. The most vulnerable, those in the informal sector, providing care, or working in food production and supply chains, the service sector and delivery, are all labouring in precarious conditions and feeling the economic hit.
In some countries, people living in the poorest neighbourhoods are dying at more than double the rate of more affluent neighbourhoods. Recent World Bank estimates show that COVID-19 could push between 71 and 100 million people into extreme poverty in 2020. This can represent the first increase in global extreme poverty since 1998, effectively wiping out progress made since 2017.
A large share of the new extreme poor will be concentrated in countries that are already struggling with high poverty rates and numbers of poor. Almost half of the projected new poor will be in South Asia, and more than a third in Africa, and hard-won development gains in least developed countries are at risk of being derailed.
Inequalities between social groups, including those based on age, gender, race, ethnicity, migrant status and disability, are pervasive in developed and developing countries alike. The increase in the extreme poverty rate and number of extreme poor is projected to be significant if inequality were to increase as a consequence of the crisis.
The international community has announced support measures ranging from debt relief to strengthening social sectors and providing social safety nets for the most vulnerable.
Maintaining this momentum, while redoubling coordination efforts, remains vital as the world moves towards recovery. We need to reset socioeconomic policies to build back better: investing in universal health care, education, social protection, equitable access to digital technology and connectivity, and support for micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises.
The United Nations is advancing emergency discussions on financing for sustainable development to ensure recovery efforts are aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals. To recover better, we are advocating for enhancing external finance and remittances for inclusive growth, gender equality and decent work.
To provide fiscal space to countries to save lives and livelihoods, it is also crucial to expand liquidity in the global economy, maintain financial stability, address debt vulnerabilities, create a space for private sector creditors to proactively engage, and prevent illicit financial flows. We are also strengthening research and data by monitoring and analysing global social and economic trends and emerging issues that have a bearing on poverty eradication, inequality, jobs and social inclusion.
The policy response needs to build a bridge to recovery, ensuring social and environmental sustainability within the framework of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals.
Policymakers should not lose sight of the urgency of climate action, which provides an unprecedented opportunity to unlock massive economic and social benefits and accelerate structural transformations for sustainable development. A coherent multidimensional approach is critical. Since the crisis has multiple interconnected dimensions, a systemic approach — rather than a sector‑by‑sector sequential approach — is essential.
The United Nations has already presented a road map along these lines in its initial framework for immediate socioeconomic responses. The United Nations framework for the immediate socioeconomic response to COVID-19 is guiding our support on the ground. The United Nations development footprint spans 162 countries and territories, supported by a global and regional network of expertise. This means knowledge of context and established relationships. In many of these countries, the United Nations support is not restricted to the capital. It reaches local communities, in cities and villages.
And we are supporting Member States with policy advice, technical support and capacity‑development, and essential data and statistics to make informed decisions on development issues.
We count on Member States to play their vital part in securing a conducive environment to accelerate the achievement of all Sustainable Development Goals. All of you are crucial in fighting poverty, our common enemy, and we need you more than ever. I wish you well and thank you for your commitment.