15 November 2005
Speakers Stress Need to Help Developing Countries Build Human Resources, Jobs, Business Skills for Women as Second Committee Takes up Poverty Eradication
In Afternoon Session, Delegates Take Part in Panel Discussion on Benefits, Obstacles of Migrant Remittances
NEW YORK, 14 November (UN Headquarters) -- As the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) took up poverty eradication and other development issues today, speakers highlighted dismal poverty-reduction rates worldwide, urging the international community to assist developing countries to build human-resource skills and generate productive employment and entrepreneurship, especially for women.
Jamaica's delegate, speaking for the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, noted that 49.7 per cent of the world's workers and their families lived below the $2-a-day poverty threshold. That meagre amount was lower than the estimated $2.20 and $2.90 in subsidy income earned by a cow, with shelter included, in Europe and the United States, respectively. Between 1990 and 2001 the percentage of the world's population living on less than $2 a day had fallen by only 8 per cent, from 61 per cent to 53 per cent.
Emphasizing the need to pay greater attention to poor people's ability to create their own employment, and to what they received for what was actually produced, he said policies that led to decreasing prices for their output, reduced wages and savings, and decreased public-service expenditure robbed them of income and sparked poverty. The international community must enhance access to productive resources and encourage entrepreneurship and enterprise development; increase international cooperation and coherence between international trade, fiscal and monetary policies; and enhance human resources capacity for higher, more creative and more productive employment.
Regarding poverty in the least developed countries, Anwarul Chowdhury, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, said the number of extremely poor people had increased from 200 million to 300 million in 34 sub-Saharan African least developed countries. Those countries lacked the financial, human or institutional capacity to reverse that trend and were unlikely to attain the Millennium Development Goal of halving extreme poverty by 2015 unless they received significant external support.
He added that least developed countries required increased external resources to generate employment, especially for women, who continued to perform precarious informal-sector work that offered low wages and little job security. Since 45 per cent of gross national income in least developed countries came from the informal sector, both short-term and long-term approaches must be developed to increase productivity in that sector, as well as gradually to formalize it.
Introducing the Secretary-General's report on the first United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (1997-2006), Jomo Kwame Sundaram, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, emphasized the need to increase employment among those who needed it most by ensuring that poor people possessed the necessary skills. For economic growth to be truly pro-poor, resources should be directed into sectors where they worked, and macroeconomic policies drawn up to promote productive employment.
Carolyn Hannan, Director, Division for the Advancement of Women, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, addressed the plight of poverty-stricken women, noting that they were more likely than men to work in the informal sector, earning lower wages and receiving insecure contracts, benefits and social protection. Indeed, 60 per cent of the world's 550 million working poor were women, who were forced to undertake a disproportionate share of unpaid, part-time care work.
Introducing the Secretary-General's report on women's employment (document A/60/162), she said women often worked in community, social and personal services, while men dominated the higher-paid financial and business sectors. Female workers were also preferred in labour-intensive service industries as cheap and flexible labour, now that global competition had lowered their wages and limited their bargaining power. For migrant women, both low wages and "de-skilling" had become serious problems, as many highly educated women from developing countries took on unskilled or semi-skilled work.
Norway's representative echoed that concern, calling upon the international community urgently to address gender segmentation in the labour market, as well as the working conditions, wages and security of female migrant workers. A gender-sensitive approach to migration was needed in tackling the problems of trafficking in women and children, as well as the feminization of HIV/AIDS. About 80 per cent of trafficked victims were female, who often suffered physical and psychosocial trauma due to rape, unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS.
Other speakers stressed the importance of human resources development, especially education and training, in creating greater employment opportunities for both women and men in reducing poverty. Countries should invest in sectors ranging from nutrition, health and education, through housing and infrastructure, to the delivery of public services; ensure the advancement of women; and pay increased heed to migration or "brain drain", which hindered efforts to build up human resources.
Delegates also underscored the contribution of small businesses and microenterprises towards the generation of new income and improving the status of women, who were then able to enhance their knowledge and managerial skills, and to become entrepreneurs. Several speakers also commented on the importance of migrant remittances in contributing to poverty reduction in countries of origin and in assisting families to raise their living standards and start small businesses.
Later today, the Committee held a panel discussion on "remittances", which focused on their benefits in generating additional income and reducing poverty, as well as the obstacles that migrants faced in transferring them to their original countries.
Sofiane Khatib, Economic Advisor in the Secretariat of State for International Cooperation, Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, lamented the high cost of remittance transfer, which benefited intermediaries more than end-users; and the lack of financial institutions for senders and receivers, especially in underprivileged areas. Spain had promoted increased competition in the international financial market to bring down transfer costs, and had recently partnered with the Inter-American Development Bank to set up like-minded schemes.
Citing historical examples of cheap remittance services, Damian Popolo, International Affairs Manager of the Arts and Humanities Research Council, called attention to Italy's post office, which had begun operating as a remittance agent in small towns and ended up as a nationwide agent for remitting money during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. A similar system -- the Postal Remittances and Savings Bank -- had been set up in Shanghai, China, in the 1930s and had eventually become one of the most popular savings institutions in both rural and urban areas of that country. Thus, existing institutions could provide remittance services.
Regarding the scope of remittances, Alan Winters, Director of the World Bank's Development Research Group, noted that transfers to developing countries were expected to reach $167 billion in 2005, after doubling in the last five years. However, official statistics underestimated their full total as many flowed through informal channels to developing countries that lacked mature financial markets. Formal channels accounted for more than 90 per cent of total remittances for many recipient countries in Central America and the Caribbean, compared to less than 25 per cent for countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
As for poverty reduction, he said a recent study had focused on widely differing exchange rate shocks during the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s in countries where Filipino migrants lived. Unanticipated increases in remittances due to favourable rate increases had led to enhanced human capital accumulation and entrepreneurship in origin households, with less child labour, greater child schooling, more self-employment, and a higher rate of entry into capital-intensive enterprises.
Patricia Santo Tomas, Secretary to the Philippine Department of Labour, said that net remittance from overseas Filipinos in 2004 had come to $8.55 billion, or 10.8 per cent of the country's gross domestic product. Remittances were a major source of poverty alleviation in that country, facilitating the education of children and their siblings in reputable schools, as well as the payment of medical bills, the building of decent houses, and the purchase of appliances and other amenities. In the northern part of the country, an impoverished town was being transformed by a housing boom fuelled by remittances, and 26 major Philippine banks had opened branches in the area.
During the ensuing discussion, delegates asked what measures Governments should take to increase the impact of remittances on the macroeconomy.
Mr. Winters cautioned against designing "great interventions" to increase the impact of remittances, pointing out the need to limit experimentation with policies to a small scale. At the same time, data on remittances must be subject to more careful analysis so as to provide a clearer picture of the situation before embarking on experiments on a grander scale.
Policymakers should understand that economic choices made through remittances were different from those generated from true economic growth, he added. In answer to a question on how remittances were being used, he said no research had been conducted on the use of remittances specifically, adding that all income, not just remittances, should be used for productive projects.
Manuel Orozco, Senior Fellow at the Inter-American Dialogue, and Chair of Central America and the Caribbean at the United States Department of State's Foreign Service Institute, said that understanding the movement of people in the economy was a first, critical step towards understanding remittances better. There was a need to validate the experience of migrants by respecting their rights as citizens and treating them as a visible force. Ghana, for instance, received $1.5 billion in remittances. Encouraging those remittance receivers to save their income in formal banking institutions could make a big difference to the economy.
Other speakers today included the representatives of Viet Nam, Iceland, China, Israel, Morocco, Libya, Cambodia, Nigeria, United States and Fiji.
The observer for the Organization of the Islamic Conference also spoke, as did representatives of the International Labour Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization.
An additional presentation was made during the panel discussion by Marco Sanchez, Social Affairs Officer for the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in Mexico.
The Second Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 15 November, to continue its general discussion of poverty eradication and other development issues.
The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met today to take up the eradication of poverty and other development issues. Before it was the Secretary-General's report on the centrality of employment to poverty eradication (document A/60/314), which argues that employment is essential for economic growth and reducing poverty, and outlines strategies to promote it. Generating employment and work -- through infrastructure and construction projects, for example -- should be prioritized during initial developmental stages, and investment in employment-intensive sectors encouraged. As an economy develops, the shift from agriculture to manufacturing and services should be prudently managed, and policies introduced to increase labour demand, enhance labour supply quality, and improve the matching of demand and supply.
According to the report violent conflict results in damaged physical and social infrastructures, scarce employment opportunities, reduced foreign investment, capital flight, and the diversion of resources from public to military spending. When conflicts end, authorities must quickly restore basic conditions needed for a properly functioning labour market.
Employment policies should be fully integrated into national poverty-reduction strategies, and socially excluded groups, including women and girls, should be integrated into the labour market, the report recommends. A unified, multilateral approach to job-formation and employment is needed to increase labour demand, raise the productivity and income of people living in poverty, and provide access to health care, education, skills development and training.
Also before the Committee was the Secretary-General's report on women in development (document A/60/162), which reviews the impact of globalization on women's employment and empowerment, focusing on the service sector.
According to the report, globalization-induced growth in the service sector has increased job opportunities for women, including in such non-traditional fields as information and communication technology, tourism, and trade in services. However, women's jobs are mainly in traditional female sectors, such as health and education, and they often lack social protection in the informal economy.
Gender segmentation of the labour market prevents women from entering male-dominated sectors and accessing key managerial and other decision-making positions, the report states. Owing to rigid gender roles and stereotypes, women may be less able to benefit from available opportunities and are more affected by the short-term negative consequences of trade and investment liberalization.
The report recommends the development of policies to allow both women and men to benefit from opportunities related to the service sector, and reduce negative effects on women. Further efforts are needed to address gender wage gaps and labour market segmentation, improve women's employment conditions and security, and enhance their participation in managerial positions.
The Committee also had before it the Secretary-General's report on human resources development (document A/60/318), which discusses national and local policies to promote such development.
In closing the skills-gap with developed countries, the report suggests that developing countries adopt supply-side policies to educate and train workers, or invest in science and technology to improve industry and enterprise. Other policies should boost demand in the economy to better distribute income, create a good investment climate, and provide social security. Donor support should focus on insurance programmes, microcredit programmes, crop insurance programmes, employment guarantees schemes and price stabilization policies, in helping stricken countries tackle transient poverty and preserve development gains.
According to the report, the high mobility and worldwide competition for skilled workers requires a shift from "migration control" to "migration management". Home countries should foster indigenous entrepreneurship and innovation, and build migrant networks to ease the flow of knowledge, technology, investment and trade from receiving countries. Migration policies encouraging migrant home visits, remittances, technology transfer, and reduced tariffs on imported equipment from migrants may improve migrant contact with home countries, and encourage them to establish microenterprises there.
Introduction of Reports
JOMO KWAME SUNDARAM, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introduced the report on implementation of the first United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (1997-2006), as contained in document A/60/314, which said the global community, especially the developing world, was currently experiencing unacceptably high rates of unemployment among working-age people between the ages of 15 and 64.
He noted that economic growth led to poverty reduction, but did not always lead to increased employment among those who needed it most. The unemployed could only benefit if they possessed the necessary attributes or skills allowing them to integrate into the expanding economy. For growth to be truly pro-poor, countries should direct resources into sectors where the poor worked to increase their assets and living conditions. The creation of productive employment must be central in macroeconomic policies to secure conditions of equity, security and human dignity.
Introducing also the report on human resources development (document A/60/318), he noted that public policy approaches to human resource development should address nutrition, health, education, housing, infrastructure, and the delivery of public services in efforts to satisfy human needs. Some of the key challenges to human resource development included the need to ensure investment in a wide range of sectors, with help from the international community; the advancement of women, which was crucial to ensuring economic development; and the migration of skilled labour or "brain drain, which negatively affected developing country efforts to build human resources and stimulate growth.
CAROLYN HANNAN, Director, Division for the Advancement of Women, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introduced the Secretary-General's report on the impact of globalization on women's employment and empowerment (document A/60/162), noting that the presence of women in the labour force had risen from 1 billion in 1993 to 1.2 billion in 2003. However, they were more likely than men to work in the informal sector, which was characterized by lower wages, as well as insecure contracts, benefits and social protection. Indeed, 60 per cent of the world's 550 million working poor were women, and because they bore a disproportionate share of unpaid care work, many of them worked part time.
She said women were relegated to certain types of work that prevented them from reaching managerial positions. In terms of the service sector, women worked mostly in community, social and personal services, for example in the health and tourism sectors, which required lower levels of skills, while men dominated areas such as financial and business services. Female workers were also preferred in labour-intensive service industries because they were considered cheap and flexible labour, but global competition had resulted in a lowering of wages and placed limitations on their bargaining power. Also, the flexibility of "teleworking" had opened up new opportunities for women, enabling them to work from home, but since women teleworked in addition to their existing domestic tasks, that created a double work burden for many of them. Very often, those women had to purchase their own computers and pay for electricity and Internet connectivity, too.
Many migrant women worked in the health sector, particularly as nurses and physical therapists, and such jobs tended to follow well-recognized gender stereotypical patterns, she said. They also tended to have lower earnings relative to typical male employment, and with many highly educated women from developing countries undertaking unskilled or semi-skilled work, the "de-skilling" of women migrant workers had become a serious problem.
Policies must be developed to enable both women and men to benefit from opportunities associated with the service sector, and to mitigate its negative effects on women, she said. Increased attention should be given to gender-specific barriers to migration, recruitment practices, access to information, human rights protection and remittance procedures. Other policy areas requiring a gender-sensitive approach were international migration and development, including its effects on international migration on economic and social development, remittances and trafficking in persons; and information and communication technology, especially its impact on rural women.
Responding to a question on poverty reduction and HIV/AIDS, Mr. JOMO noted that victims of the pandemic often could not participate in the economy, becoming dependent on their families. When individuals died from the disease, grandparents often looked after any children, which decreased their incomes and affected family living conditions. Even when the victims lived, they often became dependent on the family unit, thwarting efforts to rise out of poverty. Efforts had been made to estimate the effect of HIV/AIDS on poverty reduction in some countries, but the full implications were not yet fully understood.
Ms. HANNAN added that women were often the ones who cared for HIV/AIDS victims, both in hospitals and at the community and household levels. Compounding the situation, women had lower access to resources and other facilities, including credit, technology and education. Attempts must be made to ensure an adequate flow of resources to women caring for HIV/AIDS victims, and that girls in such situations remained in school, not only for their own benefit but for future economic development.
To a query about migration and poverty eradication, Mr. JOMO said there were some restrictions on the movement of skilled labour, including general restrictions on migration and specific skills. A proposal was currently being circulated to increase short-term migration, which would lead to "brain circulation", rather than "brain drain". Once their employment in receiving countries was completed, migrants would be required to return to their countries of origin.
Ms. HANNAN noted that many women were migrating for work, making significant contributions to the receiving countries, as well as origin countries, through remittances. Migration had a huge potential to empower women, who benefited from new ideas, as well as increased incomes through employment in receiving countries. However, origin countries suffered from the lack of their skills, and the women themselves may endure rough working conditions. There were also indications that some women were remitting their wages at great cost to themselves.
Statement by Under-Secretary-General
ANWARUL K. CHOWDHURY, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, said that the poverty-eradication item covered three interrelated dimensions of poverty: employment, women and human resources development. In general, developing countries had made progress in reducing poverty over the last decade, but in 34 least developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the level of extreme poverty had increased from 200 to 300 million, particularly affecting women and children. Sub-Saharan Africa had the highest level of working poor, with 55.8 per cent earning less than $1 per day. Member States must recognize that least developed countries did not have the financial, human or institutional capacity to reverse that negative trend, and that without significant and well-coordinated external support, they were unlikely to reach the Millennium Development Goals of halving extreme poverty by 2015, and that the world as a whole would not achieve that goal if those vulnerable countries were left behind.
He said least developed countries needed to be freed from the crushing debt burden, and given more external resources to generate employment. Though employment of women had increased steadily over the past 10 years, the disturbing reality was that poverty was increasingly feminized. Even when employed, women continued to be concentrated in more precarious groups of employment that offered low wages and little job security. Since 45 per cent of least developed country gross national income came from the informal sector, it was crucial to develop both short-term and long-term approaches on how to increase productivity in the informal sector, as well as to gradually formalize the work in that sector.
No poverty reduction strategy in least developed countries could be successful without the creation of productive employment, with special attention paid to women and youth (youth unemployment was twice as high in least developed countries as in other countries), he said. Because 2005 was the International Year of Microcredit, the use of microcredit was an effective and empowering tool of poverty eradication. It could contribute to the creation of employment, the empowerment of women and the development of human resources.
BYRON BLAKE (Jamaica), speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, noted that 49.7 per cent of the world's workers and their families (over 58.7 per cent of workers in developing countries) lived below the $2-a-day poverty threshold. In assessing the $2-per-day level, the international community should recall that that amount was lower than the estimated $2.20 and $2.90 subsidy income earned by a cow, whose shelter was already provided, in Europe and the United States, respectively. The percentage of the world's population living on less than $2 per day had fallen by only 8 per cent between 1990 and 2001. Fifty-three per cent, or more than 2.74 billion people, had been living on less than $2 a day in 2001, compared with 2.65 billion or 61 per cent in 1990. People who had moved from the absolute poverty category -- less than $1 per day -- had simply joined the less than $2-per-day group.
In addition to the role of employment in reducing poverty, he said, attention should be paid to the ability of poor people to use their entrepreneurial talents to create their own employment and build wealth, as well as to the return they obtained for what they actually produced. Policies that led to decreasing prices for their output, reduced wages and savings, and decreased public-service expenditure, robbed them of income, and perpetuated poverty. According to the World Bank, a pro-development Doha Round of trade negotiations could increase real income in developing countries by $350 billion by 2015, lifting 140 million people out of poverty by that year, which would represent an 8 per cent decline in poverty.
He said that in tackling poverty effectively, the international community must address the issues of quality employment, access to resources for enterprise development, and international trade, monetary and fiscal policies. Appropriate policies and strategies in those areas would produce growth that would, in turn, lead to employment creation and poverty reduction. Efforts should be made to enhance access to productive resources and encourage entrepreneurship and enterprise development; increase international cooperation and coherence between international policies, particularly trade, fiscal and monetary policies to make them pro-development; and enhance human resources capacity for higher, more creative and productive employment.
DUONG HOAI NAM (Viet Nam), aligning himself with the Group of 77, said that international trade was a powerful engine for sustained economic growth and a critical source of financing for development. While the majority of exports from developing countries, particularly the least developed countries, were agricultural products, distortions in world agricultural markets continued to undermine the ability of many developing-country agricultural sectors to contribute meaningfully to sustained economic development and the fight against hunger and poverty. It had been estimated by some sources that the amount spent on agricultural subsidies was six times the amount needed each year to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Therefore, the phasing out of agricultural subsidies was key to the success of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Doha Round of negotiations. European and United States initiatives to reduce the total amount of export subsidies were welcomed.
He said hunger and poverty eradication required a multi-dimensional approach, and called for actions at the national, regional and international levels. An estimated $150 billion per year was needed to meet worldwide development goals, and Viet Nam wished to join the international community in finding innovative sources of financing that would complement traditional official development assistance (ODA) flows. For its part, Viet Nam had reduced the poverty rate by three fifths, compared to that of 1993, thus halving poverty 10 years ahead of schedule. Until 2004, approximately 88 per cent of the poor had been provided with cards for free medical care and 400,000 new houses had been built. That country's experience had shown that, in fighting poverty, it was essential to mobilize resources in all areas, such as in capital construction, public utilities, investment and human resources development.
SIGRID ANNA ODDSEN (Norway) said that gender segmentation in the labour market and the dismal working conditions, wages and security of female workers must be addressed in order to achieve sustained economic growth and sustainable development. In that regard, the work of the International Labour Organization (ILO) in promoting opportunities for women and men to obtain decent and productive work in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity was welcomed, as was its call for the universal ratification of the four ILO conventions that addressed women's rights and gender equality in the labour market.
She said there must be a shift to a gender-sensitive human rights approach to migration, so that the problems of trafficking in women and children, as well as the feminization of HIV/AIDS, could be more adequately addressed. Approximately 80 per cent of trafficked victims were female, which resulted in undesirable health consequences, such as physical and psychosocial trauma as a result of rape, unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS. Other issues to be addressed included sex segregation in the information economy; the increased representation of women in government decision-making bodies; and the equal access of men and women to power and positions of leadership at all levels. Norway viewed a strong and coordinated United Nations as important with regard to gender issues, and had decided to increase its contributions to the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM). It would also consider favourably other United Nations bodies that emphasized gender equality.
HJALMAR HANNESSON (Iceland) said the cross-border movement of persons had become the main vehicle for greater participation by women in the export of services in developing countries -- a positive side of increased international trade in services. The down side was often lower wages and the possible loss of formal contracts, social security and other benefits. One of the reasons for those negative aspects was that women were more likely to find employment in the informal economy than men. Moreover, there had recently been a shift to temporary migration and an increase in undocumented migrants, which often led to illegal trafficking in human beings.
The fight against trafficking in human beings should be a priority for all, as most States were affected as countries of origin, transit or destination, he said. Iceland had attempted to raise public awareness of trafficking by hosting three conferences on its various aspects over the past 10 years. It had also participated in the international fight against it by participating in a Nordic-Baltic Task Force against Trafficking in Human Beings.
WANG QI (China), aligning himself with the Group of 77, said that developing countries must formulate poverty reduction strategies in light of their specific circumstances, and fight poverty and backwardness through self-reliance. Developed countries, meanwhile, had a duty to render greater assistance to developing countries by fulfilling their commitment to provide financial aid, technology transfer, debt relief and market access. International organizations should play a greater role by advancing follow-ups to international conferences, and exploring new ways in which international multilateral bodies could help.
He said that when creating a favourable external environment for the economic growth of developing countries, the international community should respect the rights of countries to choose their own part of economic development; further improve international financial system to foster an orderly trade environment and a stable financial environment; and promote a sound multilateral trade system that was open, fair and non-discriminatory so that poverty would lose its breeding ground. Governments, enterprises and civil society organizations should work together to conduct broad-based dialogues, mobilize resources and create innovative poverty alleviation mechanisms. In China, the number of people living in poverty had fallen to 26.1 million and the poverty rate had dropped to 2.8 per cent. The country had held a world conference on poverty reduction in May 2004, sponsored by the World Bank, where China had announced a donation of $20 million to the Asian Development Bank to inaugurate the "China Poverty Reduction and Regional Cooperation Fund".
ELI BEN-TURA (Israel) stressed the importance of micro and small enterprises in generating new sources of income and ultimately improving the status of women. Microfinance contributed directly towards alleviating poverty and enhancing gender equality. However, simply putting money in the hands of poor women was insufficient to empower and improve their welfare. Credit should join a larger mechanism for enhancing women's status, such as helping them engage in microenterprises. Small business ventures allowed women autonomy in enhancing knowledge, magerial skills, and taking risks in entrepreneurships.
Israel had pursued several domestic and international initiatives to enhance women's role in small business development, he said. They included international training seminars, creating government institutions, and engaging in international cooperation. For example, the country had set up the Small Business Authority in 1994, an autonomous, non-profit organization financed by the Government. The authority supported more than 60 centres throughout Israel in offering information and guidance, professional counselling, and referrals to sources of funding and training.
OMAR BOUCHIAR (Morocco), aligning himself with the Group of 77, said his country was engaged in a fight against rural poverty, based on the tenets of equity and inclusivity. Of major consideration was increasing the enrolment of village girls in schools, as well as reducing the isolation felt by remote villages. In line with such objectives, King Mohammed VI had launched an initiative on human development in May 2005, which would deal simultaneously with the economic, social and political problems facing underprivileged people.
In doing so, social action and services would be leveraged to provide durable revenue sources and aid for persons in dire situations.
At the same time, it was necessary to remove the burden of foreign debt, stem the budget deficit and deal effectively with problems relating to the informal labour sector and youth unemployment. In that regard, Morocco invited the United Nations and international financial institutions to become more involved with the country's efforts. If the world was to achieve real progress in human development and in pushing back poverty, the international community must enforce the agreements derived from the 2005 World Summit, so that the countries of the South could get the necessary support they needed to achieve their goals. That meant facilitating access to the markets of developed countries and responding to the special needs of least developed countries.
JAMAL ABUJELA (Libya) said that increasing economic crises and natural disasters, as well as increasing external debt, had exaggerated poverty and hunger in the world. In reversing that trend, and in achieving the Millennium Goal to cut poverty in half by 2015, States must work to generate employment, as well as stimulate economic growth. Creating productive employment should be a basic goal in international and national policies. The movement of qualified labour through international migration had resulted in a loss of economic potential, and developing countries now suffered a shortage of skilled professionals in health care and other sectors.
The 2005 World Summit Outcome Document had reaffirmed the international community's commitment to eliminate poverty and boost economic growth and prosperity for all, he said. States must now carry out joint measures on all fronts to enable developing countries to eliminate poverty and stimulate economic growth.
CHEM WIDHYA (Cambodia) said employment generation had remained a critical challenge impeding his country's long-term development. Being heavily dependent on agriculture, the Government had attempted to diversify the national economy in the light-industry sector, which currently depended overwhelmingly on textiles, into agro-business and services, particularly in the booming tourism sector. In alleviating rural poverty, the Government was focusing on a public investment programme to rehabilitate and strengthen infrastructures and expand social services. A second measure was aimed at strengthening microfinance services in rural areas.
While significant efforts had been made in least developed countries to mobilize internal resources, the international community must remain firm in its commitment to help them emerge from the vicious cycle of poverty, he said.
In particular, they must allocate 0.15 to 0.20 per cent of gross national product as ODA to least developed nations by 2010, and increase market access for developing-country products.
B.P.Z. LOLO (Nigeria), aligning himself with the Group of 77, said the reason why poverty persisted was not a lack of knowledge, but because of the international community's collective failure to commit its knowledge and resources to the fight against poverty. To eradicate poverty and empower women, economic opportunities, political freedoms and an enabling national and international environment must be provided, so that individual initiatives and enterprises could flourish. The aim of national policies should not only be to achieve fiscal balances and generate employment, but also to put more power in the hands of the poor, as well as give them an opportunity to earn decent incomes.
He said that policies must also deal with the uneven rise in prices and wages, through the creation of price stabilization policies, create insurance programmes and guarantee employment. Women, who were often marginalized, underpaid and excluded in all societies, needed particular support. Strategies must take full advantage of scientific knowledge, information and communications technology and multistakeholder participation. Because the poorest countries were likely to be unable to establish the kind of infrastructure, and muster the type of human resources needed to escape poverty, the United Nations system must lead the way in mobilizing support for such countries.
SICHAN SIV (United States) said that competitive markets, which delivered goods and services, spawned innovation and spread risk, were indispensable in the eradication of poverty. In most places of pervasive poverty, markets had failed because Governments had not allowed them to succeed. Poor countries must increase productivity through the accumulation of capital and skills over time. There was also much to be gained from removing barriers that kept people from realizing their full potential. Measures should be taken to move such individuals out of the informal economy, provide them with access to microfinance and make every effort to help them grow. It was also necessary to give women equal opportunities, which led to better health for them and their children, as well as more productive economies.
DJANKOU NDJONKOU, International Labour Organization (ILO), said the agency's work on poverty eradication was grounded in social justice and the twin concepts of entitlement and equity. The starting point was that for poor people, work was the main, and often the only, way to get and stay out of poverty. Poverty reduction was therefore about increasing the endowments of the poor and their entitlements. The ILO's approach emphasized economic growth as an essential but not sufficient condition for poverty reduction. Growth required a substantial reorientation in favour of the poor. There must be an employment-centred development strategy, a comprehensive perspective of social safety nets and social transfers, as well as changes in institutions, laws, regulations and practices that were part of the process that created and perpetuated poverty.
He said that human resources development, in the form of education and training, was critical to the ILO goal of creating greater opportunities for women and men, to obtain decent and productive work in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity. Meanwhile, actors at the multilateral level must improve on complementarities between all the means of action and among the various levels of intervention, such as policies, institutions and forms of direct support. The ILO looked forward to addressing that issue further during the high level segment of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) meeting next year.
FLORENCE CHENOWETH, Director, Food and Agriculture Liaison Office, noted that food security for more than half of the world population depended on the adequate supply and distribution of rice. In 2002, more than 3 billion people had consumed 92.2 per cent of the total production of paddy rice. In the same year, wheat had been the staple food for less than 1 billion people, and maize for only about 185 million people. In South and South-east Asia, where more than 600 million people lived on less than $1 per day, the poor in urban centres and landless people in rural areas normally devoted about half of their incomes to buying rice, which had also become the most rapidly growing food source in sub-Saharan Africa in the last decade.
Rice cultivation was the principle employment and source of food and income for millions of households in Asia, Africa and Latin America, she said. However, gains in global rice production during the period 1970-1999, had been diminishing over the past few years. World rice production had been less than rice consumption since 2000, with about 75 per cent of global production now coming from irrigated rice ecosystems. As the population continued to grow, land and water resources for irrigated rice production had continued to diminish. That deficit had been addressed by drawing on rice from buffer stocks, which was unsustainable. Economically, the declining prices of rice in international markets since 1995 had caused a sharp reduction in returns from rice production. A sustainable increase in rice production and a diversification of rice-based production system -- essential for poverty reduction -- would require the development of technologies, economic models and investments that kept pace with changing patterns of human development.
FILIMONE KAU (Fiji), aligning himself with the Group of 77, took the opportunity to remind Member States of the need to improve market access for developing countries, since equitable trade was critical to eliminating poverty. Agricultural exports from Fiji, such as sugar, could not compete in the international market unless the terms of trade were more equitable. Furthermore, the Asian Development Bank had predicted a rise in urban and rural poverty, resulting from the displacement of Fijian workers from the sugar and garment industries, which highlighted the need to strengthen the agricultural sector and provide the labour force with training and retraining. Indeed, policies should not concentrate solely on job creation, but also on the creation of stable jobs that paid a living wage.
He said Fiji also supported the call for building migrant networks with their home countries to facilitate the flow of knowledge, technology, investment and trade. The transfer of skills and experience by expatriate businesses and workers could strengthen the capacity of the domestic labour force. Fijians working overseas were estimated to have sent home more than $262 million, so Governments around the world should be encouraged to provide infrastructure and incentives to help channel remittances into savings, businesses and investments in home countries. Fiji also recognized the need to promote the advancement of women so as to address gender gaps and women's empowerment, as well as develop their leadership capacities. Towards that end, Fiji's Ministry of Women, Culture and Heritage, and Social Welfare had initiated a microfinancing programme aimed at enhancing the social, economic and political status of women.
SHAHID HUSAIN, observer for the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), noted that economists and social scientists had highlighted the pros and cons of urban drift and their adverse impact on women and children. With globalization, migration had entered another dimension, going beyond migrating to urban areas to cross-border movement, with increased hazards for women and children. There were risks and negative ramifications in women travelling for employment, including higher levels of undocumented immigration, and trafficking. Concrete steps should be taken to ensure good immigration standards, recruitment practices, remittance procedures and human-rights protective measures.
He also stressed the importance of women's access to credit, information, and communication technology. Addressing those and other concerns, the First Forum for Businesswomen in Islamic Countries, held in March 2005 in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, had considered the role of women in socio-economic development, the challenges and opportunities for businesswomen in different regions, and other avenues for empowering businesswomen's networks. It had called for technical assistance and skills development through training and workshops to be aimed at improving women's expertise in various branches of industrial and commercial activity.
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