10 February 2006
Hearing over 40 Speakers, Commission for Social Development Begins Review of UN Decade for Poverty Eradication
Citing Mixed Results of Action Taken So Far, Representatives Say Economic Growth Necessary, but Not Sufficient for Poverty Reduction
NEW YORK, 9 February (UN Headquarters) -- Describing the progress achieved in poverty eradication in the past 10 years as slow and uneven, speakers in the Commission for Social Development today cautioned that without greater, more concerted efforts, internationally agreed poverty-reduction targets would not be met, leaving the world's poor to face even greater uncertainty, social exclusion and economic deprivation.
As the Commission began its review of the first United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (1997-2006), speakers agreed that 10 years after the launch of the Decade and 11 years after the adoption of the 1995 Copenhagen Declaration, the results of global and national action to combat the scourge of poverty had been at best unbalanced, with some countries showing remarkable gains, and others, notably in sub-Saharan Africa, suffering setbacks since the 1990s.
Guyana's representative, on behalf of the Rio Group, said his region continued to experience grave inequalities and uncertainty both within and between countries in its efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goal of halving extreme poverty by 2015. The multidimensional character of poverty required the adoption of holistic strategies to address issues such as unemployment, social exclusion and the lack of access to basic social services. While States had the primary responsibility to pursue sound policy-eradication policies, partnerships at the global level were needed to support those efforts. Bearing in mind that developing countries preferred trade to aid, he called on developed countries to honour their commitments, even while seeking to identify new sources of financing.
A critical aspect of the Millennium Development Goals, South Africa's representative said on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, was the recognition that Governments and the international development organizations take collective responsibility for the realization of the Goals. Development cooperation across the wide range of priority areas addressed by the Goals and their various targets required an integrated, coordinated and balanced approach in a spirit of partnership for development.
Describing the obstacles to social development, including the effects of natural disasters, HIV/AIDS, conflict and continuing inequities in the global economic system, she regretted that the need to strengthen social capital in poor communities, including through formal and informal networks, had not been adequately stressed. Since agriculture was a source of livelihood for many developing countries, the lack of access to markets and capacity to participate in the total value-adding chain was also a major obstacle. Social development commitments could not be achieved without adequate resources, and she expected all developed partners to be faithful to internationally agreed commitments.
While much had been achieved since the 1995 World Summit for Social Development, Finland's Minister for Social Affairs and Health said, poverty, social disintegration and insecurity, as well as lack of access to decent work, still prevailed in many parts of the world. The situation called for new and more effective ways to combat poverty, vulnerability and social exclusion. Poverty could only be eradicated by tackling its key sources, and as the causes of inequality and poverty were deeply rooted in social and economic systems, a broader concept of economic and social development was needed at the national and international levels.
Austria's representative, on behalf of the European Union, emphasized the need to take into account the centrality of employment when searching for strategies for poverty eradication. In that respect, she welcomed the conclusion of the 2005 World Summit that decent work for all needed to be a central objective of poverty-reduction strategies. More and better aid was needed, delivered through real partnerships, strengthened policy coherence for development, and a focus on the special needs of Africa to help empower the poor. Developing country Governments were called on to implement ambitious national poverty-reduction strategies that, among other things, took into account the human rights and gender dimension of poverty, promoted good governance and ensured accountability in public and private sector management. Economic modernization must go hand in hand with poverty eradication and improved social inclusion.
The representative of Bangladesh noted that, despite the mixed results of the past decade, the determination of the leaders to ensure full realization of the Millennium Development Goals was clear. Economic growth was necessary, but not sufficient, for poverty eradication. Women, economically empowered, had been the major catalyst for his country's phenomenal progress. Regrettably, many developing countries lacked the resources to escape the poverty trap. "Asymmetric globalization" had further marginalized the poorest of the poor. For the least developed countries, duty- and quota-free market access, official development assistance (ODA) and financing for development were categorical imperatives.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Israel, Turkey, Suriname (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), Argentina, United Republic of Tanzania, China, Spain, Republic of Moldova, Egypt, Pakistan, Indonesia, Myanmar, Libya, India, Paraguay, Iraq, Republic of Korea, Lithuania, Chile, Belarus, Venezuela, Morocco, Russian Federation, Monaco, Angola, Peru, Colombia and Zambia.
A representative of the Holy See also addressed the Commission, as did representatives of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
Also participating in today's discussion were representatives of the following non-governmental organizations: International Council on Social Welfare, the Triglav Circle, the International Chamber of Commerce and International Association of Employers, VIVAT International, and the International Movement of ATD Fourth World.
The Commission for Social Development will meet again tomorrow, 10 February, at 10 a.m. to hear a presentation of the technical cooperation project entitled "Tackling Poverty Together: The Role of Young People in Poverty Reduction" and to begin its general discussion on the situation of social groups.
The Commission on Social Development met today to begin its general discussion on the priority theme "Review of the first United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (1997-2006)". (For background on the Commission's forty-fourth session, see Press Release SOC/4692 issued on 2 February.)
VUSI MADONSELA, Director General, Department of Social Development of South Africa, speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, said a critical aspect of the Millennium Development Goals was the recognition that Governments and the international development organizations take collective responsibility for the realization of those Goals. Development cooperation across the wide range of priority areas addressed by the Goals and their various targets required an integrated, coordinated, comprehensive and balanced approach in a spirit of partnership for development.
She noted the obstacles and challenges highlighted in the Secretary-General's report on the priority theme, including the effects of natural disasters, HIV/AIDS, conflict and continuing inequities in the global economic system. He also noted with regret that the issue of strengthening the social capital that existed in poor communities had not been adequately captured. Social capital meant the existence of formal and informal networks, as well as the coping strategies upon which the poor based their livelihoods. Those included the indigenous knowledge and practices that most communities had used as survival strategies.
Since agriculture was a source of livelihood for many developing countries, the lack of an access to markets and the capacity to participate in the total value-adding chain was a major obstacle, she said. Varying policy approaches needed to be made with respect to different types of agriculture. The discussion at the World Trade Organization (WTO) could not be entirely delinked from poverty eradication.
Social development commitments could not be achieved without adequate resources, she continued. The Millennium Project Report of 2004 showed how resources from official development assistance (ODA) commitments could make a difference. He applauded those countries that had honoured their obligations and others that had set timetables towards reaching the target by 2015. International cooperation was critical for the achievement of poverty eradication. Therefore, he expected all developed partners to be faithful to those internationally agreed commitments. The obstacles to achieving the Copenhagen goals were rooted in the lack of an enabling environment for social development.
She supported the Commission's decision that future sessions should have alternating review and policy cycles, which would ensure that appropriate attention was provided to the work of the Commission and its substantive follow-up. She believed that the future themes of the Commission and the methods of work were interlinked and should be addressed as a package. In addition, she hoped that, in the methods of work, social groups would not only continue to be part of the annual agenda, but that the focus would be on time-bound action programmes that promoted social integration and cohesion. The issue of social protection of those groups must be prioritized in the work programme for 2007-2008 to ensure their full integration into society.
ERDINE HOENIGSPERGEN (Austria), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said the Union strongly reiterated its determination to ensure a full and effective implementation of the commitments made at the 1995 World Summit for Social Development in Copenhagen and the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly, as well as those agreed in the Millennium Declaration and the 2005 World Summit Outcome. The eradication of poverty was one of the three core themes of the Copenhagen Programme of Action, inextricably linked to the other two, namely the promotion of full employment and the promotion of social integration. The centrality of employment should be taken into account when searching for strategies for poverty eradication. In that respect, she welcomed the conclusion of the 2005 World Summit that decent work for all was a global goal and had to be a central objective in poverty-reduction strategies. The Union underlined the central role of the International Labour Organization (ILO) in that respect.
Poverty was an issue of concern both at the internal and social policy level in the European Union and at the global level, she said. Reflecting on the challenges of eradicating poverty within the Union, she noted that employment was a prerequisite in the fight against poverty and social exclusion. Despite having some of the most developed social protection systems in the world, 68 million people lived in low-income households in the Union. The groups most at risk of poverty were those without a job, single parents, elderly people living alone, families with a large number of children, persons with disabilities and refugees. Long-term employment played a significant role in social exclusion and poverty. The majority of those affected by poverty were women. The recent economic slowdown in several European Union countries could place people at greater risk of poverty and social exclusion. Moreover, those already affected were likely to suffer if there were an overall increase in long-term unemployment and if it became more difficult to find work.
As part of the Lisbon Agreement 2000, Union leaders had committed themselves to make a decisive impact on eradicating poverty by 2010, she said. As a result, Member States had adopted national action plans to strengthen the national, regional and local policies, to better coordinate the overall policy effort and to involve all relevant actors. The Union was committed to the comprehensive approach to eradicate poverty as laid out in the Copenhagen documents. Its policy fight was based on four main themes: facilitating participation in employment and access by all to resources, goods, rights and services; preventing the risk of exclusion; helping the most vulnerable; and mobilizing all relevant bodies. The process had led to the identification of a number of key policy priorities.
She said the Union focus on poverty reduction had led to an increased political awareness at the national level and thus to a stronger focus on poverty and exclusion in national social and economic policies. A key element in the process was the involvement of all relevant stakeholders. Transnational exchange projects had helped Member States to share good practices. Community funding had played an important role in promoting social inclusion. The Union's action on poverty had created a clear consensus about the key challenges, including: making labour markets truly inclusive; modernizing social protection systems; and delivering high quality social services.
She noted that the Millennium review summit had reiterated the international community's determination to ensure the timely and full realization of the development goals and objectives agreed to at the major United Nations conferences and summits. To address the challenge, more and better aid was needed, delivered through real partnerships, strengthened policy coherence for development, and a focus on the special needs of Africa to help empower the poor. Each country must take primary responsibility for its own development. Developing country Governments were called on to implement ambitious national poverty-education strategies that took into account the human rights and gender dimension of poverty, promoted decent work and good governance, and ensured accountability in public and private sector management.
She added that development assistance could play an important role. Private sector action needed to be mobilized, as it could have a multiplier effect on development assistance. The Union supported the development and reform strategies of partner countries that were focused on poverty reduction. Social development was essential in reducing poverty, and the Union believed that a holistic and coherent approach to human and social development was needed, including not only health and education, but also gender equality, youth, employment and social cohesion. Nearly half the money spent worldwide to support developing countries came from the Union, making it the world's biggest aid donor. In May 2005, the Union had followed up on its 2002 decision to raise the level of development assistance by 2006 and had agreed to a further significant increase by 2010, which amounts to an extra 20 billion euros per year, and 15 members had committed to reaching the 0.7 per cent ODA target by 2015.
While each country must take primary responsibility for its own development, European Union development cooperation sought to give control over their own development to disadvantaged people in developing countries, she said. There was little doubt that realizing tangible improvements in poverty eradication had a vital role to play in promoting social development, regionally and locally. Economic modernization must go hand in hand with eradicating poverty and improving social inclusion.
LIISA HYSSALA, Minister for Social Affairs and Health of Finland, said globalization had opened up new opportunities. The positive effects of economic growth could be seen in many poor regions. However, it must not be forgotten that economic growth could also create extensive social and ecological problems. Global governance must not merely focus on the economic issues, since the social and human dimensions of globalization also needed sustainable governance. People should be recognized as the main actors and decision-makers, who could benefit from globalization, as well. Equal distribution of growth did not seem to take place automatically. Effective policies and good governance were needed at the national and global level to make economic growth also benefit the poor. Those policies must take place in an ecologically sustainable manner. "If we want globalization to work for all and to lead to a sustainable future, we need global policies that balance economic perspectives with social and ecological ones."
While much had been achieved since Copenhagen, poverty, social disintegration and insecurity, as well as lack of access to decent work, still prevailed in many parts of the world. The situation called for new and more effective ways to combat poverty, vulnerability and social exclusion. Poverty could only be eradicated by tackling its key sources. The causes of inequality and poverty were deeply rooted in social and economic systems. Therefore, a broader concept of economic and social development was needed at the national and international level to reduce poverty. Governments were central actors. Collaboration with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil society at large was vitally important. Also, appropriate mechanisms should be created for the private sector to exercise its social responsibility, as it was one of the beneficiaries of a well functioning society.
JOCHANAN STESSMAN ( Israel) said his country had, since its inception, remained committed to the need to eradicate absolute poverty and reduce overall poverty through concerted efforts at the national and international levels. Domestically, social concerns such as poverty were at the heart of Israel's social debate and political agenda. Significant funds were targeted for developing supportive social programmes and improving quality of life for at-risk populations. Foremost among the challenges to Israel's social agenda was its constant influx of new immigrants. Israel's population had increased tenfold since 1948, by absorbing unprecedented, large waves of immigration from mostly developing countries, including Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. During the 1990s alone, Israel had absorbed over 1 million immigrants, mostly from Eastern Europe and Ethiopia, increasing its population by some 20 per cent.
Within this backdrop, he added, Israel had developed a comprehensive social security system based on a national commitment to social solidarity, with major objectives being income redistribution and the reduction of income gaps. Israel's social security system was one of the most advanced in the world and was equivalent to Western European models. The Social Security Administration provided child allowances, which constituted the primary basis for supporting large families and reducing poverty in Israel. Unemployment benefits were provided for six months and guaranteed quite high replacement rates for that period of time. For those who were unable to obtain employment, income support benefits were provided, including generous benefits for new immigrants and single parent families.
It was well known, he said, that Israel suffered from terrorism, which had increased significantly in the last decade. As a result, Israel's social security system had developed a unique and generous compensation and rehabilitation programme for victims of terrorism, with benefit levels based on the degree of physical disability, as well as reduction in work capacity. Israel was also one of the first nations to develop a system of long-term care insurance for both younger disabled individuals, as well as elderly who required help in activities of daily living. Areas of the social security system that required additional focus included benefits for elderly and persons with disabilities. Only one third of the elderly population was eligible for employment pensions, as most elderly immigrants had not worked sufficient periods to qualify for benefits. Disability benefits had also been distributed at a relatively low flat rate, but had been gradually raised during the past decade.
Challenges to poverty had been further influenced by a strong shift in economic and social policy during the past five years, he continued. The shift was primarily the result of increasing economic instability and a national financial crisis, reflected by growing unemployment rates and reductions in earnings. Following a period of economic decline, poverty rates had increased significantly, with some 20 per cent of families with income below the poverty line. Growing poverty and slowed economic growth had become significant issues in Israel and part of the national and political agenda. Israel had taken two major measures to strengthen its economic system, including providing incentives for strengthening industry and providing work incentives by reducing taxes, thus, strengthening the working population. Israel had also reduced some social security benefits, such as child allowances and unemployment benefit, which, it believed, impeded work incentives.
In the past few years, Israel had experienced remarkable growth in the national economy, leading to increased exports, a rise in wages, and a reduction of unemployment, he said. Yet, poverty rates and income gaps had continued to increase. Israel now possessed the economic resources and social programmes designed to: enhance human resources; increase individual work potential and encourage labour force growth; and raise social security benefits for those unable to enter the labour force. Poverty was now recognized as a challenge to national security and, along with other social concerns, was a key issue in the upcoming general elections. Israel was committed also to reducing poverty on the international level. Although challenged by high levels of immigration and its re-emergence from an economic downturn, Israel remained steadfast in its commitment to address the serious problem of poverty.
BAYNEY KARRAN (Guyana), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, said the member countries of the Group had adopted national poverty-reduction strategies and implemented several initiatives over the Decade to achieve poverty eradication. The region continued to experience grave inequalities within and across countries, as well as unacceptable levels of unemployment. He was particularly concerned by the slow and uneven progress towards poverty eradication globally. That situation had fostered a sense of uncertainty regarding the ability to halve extreme poverty by 2015.
The multidimensional character of poverty required the adoption of holistic strategies and integrated perspectives in addressing issues such as unemployment, social exclusion, vulnerability, illiteracy and the lack of access to basic social services. The Rio Group acknowledged the primary responsibility of States to pursue sound policies to eradicate poverty, but reiterated the importance of consolidating partnerships at the global level to support such efforts. He urged that every opportunity be utilized to take account of the linkages between trade and development, bearing in mind that, in reality, developing countries prefer trade to aid. Also, developed countries should honour their commitments, which included provision of market access for exports of interest to developing countries, technology transfer, financial aid and debt relief, even while seeking to identify new and additional sources of financing.
The Madrid Plan of Action on Ageing represented both a milestone in dealing with the issue of ageing and an integral framework for facilitating the inclusion of older persons into the mainstream of society, he said. However, four years after the adoption of that bold initiative, still more needed to be done, including implementation of priority actions recommended to reducing the incidence of poverty among older persons. He urged the establishment of national mechanisms, where necessary, to add impetus to the implementation of the Madrid Plan of Action, and increase international cooperation. He supported the proposed "bottom-up" approach aimed at more fully engaging the elderly and other stakeholders, and the theme "Adjusting to an Ageing World" for the first review and appraisal of the Madrid Action Plan to be held in 2007.
He added that addressing the challenges associated with the state of the world's youth would entail the commitment of Member States to the development of youth and the complementary support of the international community. It was only through genuine collaboration that it would be possible to improve the well-being of youth and provide opportunities for their meaningful participation in society. He was also appreciative of the incremental progress being made with regard to recognition of the rights and equalization of opportunities for persons with disabilities, which could clearly be attributed to strengthened advocacy. The early adoption of an international convention in that regard would strengthen the base for guaranteeing to those persons the full enjoyment of their rights and their inclusion in society, as well as equality of opportunities.
ERSIN ERÇIN ( Turkey) said his country had officially started combating poverty in the mid-1990s. Turkey's strategy to combat poverty was based on preventing the formation of a culture of poverty, enhancing employment opportunities, enhancing employability, and transforming individuals from being needy to financially self-sufficient. Turkey had already achieved the first Millennium Development Goal, namely to halve the proportion of people whose income was less than one dollar a day. Five-year development plans and programmes were the main policy formulation instruments, setting down the goals, priorities and strategies of policies aimed at alleviating poverty. The alleviation of poverty by, among other things, improving income distribution and restructuring the income transfer system to the benefit of the poor was the main policy priority prescribed in the Eighth Five-Year Development Plan. The Medium-Term Programme (2006-2008) emphasized the policies aimed at improving the conditions of disadvantaged groups excluded from society, including workers without social security, women and disabled persons.
In Turkey's efforts to combat poverty, one of the major challenges had been the lack of effective coordination among the institutions responsible for alleviating poverty, as well as the absence of norms and standards in the programmes they implemented, he said. Consequently, pro-poor policies envisaging new poverty programmes had been put into action. Poverty alleviation required a comprehensive and holistic approach. In that respect, in addition to government efforts, the contributions of civil society were particularly important. Pro-poor practices by NGOs were also instrumental. Efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals for poverty reduction should build upon the experience gained during the United Nations Decade for Poverty Eradication.
EWALD LIMON (Suriname), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and associating it with the Group of 77 and China, said that despite the decline over the years in the proportion of people living in abject poverty, it was still unacceptable that whole regions remained excluded from global progress. While poverty tended to be lower in the Latin American and Caribbean region in comparison to others, little progress had been made to reduce it further. Since the World Summit for Sustainable Development, Latin America and the Caribbean had experienced an overall lack of social progress. Clearly, much remained to be done.
The rate of economic growth in the Caribbean was insufficient to achieve significant progress in development and poverty eradication, he said. In the lessons learned analysis of the multidimensional aspects of poverty, CARICOM had come to realize that the country-driven process with its intended participatory approach had proved to be an important ingredient for successful implementation of programmes and policies geared towards the eradication of poverty. However, persistent obstacles remained formidable, including increasing disparities between and within countries and regions, and unbalanced globalization and the HIV/AIDS pandemic, among many others, posed enormous challenges to Governments in their poverty-eradication efforts at the country level.
He said special attention was being paid to improving the situation and living conditions of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged groups in society, such as the elderly, youth, indigenous people and persons with disabilities. The Fourth World Conference on Women had identified the eradication of poverty among women as being integral to any effective strategy for the alleviation of poverty. Poor women were especially vulnerable to various forms of exploitation and abuse. Within the CARICOM region, women continued to be among the disadvantaged groups. The region remained committed to addressing gender as a cross-cutting element in all social and macroeconomic planning, programme development and implementation processes.
The empowerment of women, the elimination of gender inequalities, and addressing the feminization of poverty were among the key priorities for CARICOM, he said. In that regard, the Community urged a redoubling of efforts for the full implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Beijing Platform for Action, and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. While CARICOM Governments were resolved to translate their international commitments into concrete actions, it was indispensable that those national efforts be complemented by international cooperation. Creating an international enabling environment, the provision of greater and more predictable resources, as well as lasting solutions to the debt burden of many developing countries, and a more balanced globalization process were just a few of the measures that could be taken within the global partnership to address adequately the social and economic development aspirations of developing countries.
MARIA FABIANA LOGUZZO (Argentina) said that her Government was committed to the eradication of poverty and its consequences, and, in the spirit of the Copenhagen outcome, had based the country's development goals and initiatives on the blueprint laid out in the Millennium Declaration. Argentina's major focus on promoting decent employment was part of an overall strategy aimed at rebuilding the country's social fabric following the crisis in the 1990s, during which priority had been given almost exclusively to market and macroeconomic concerns. To that end, a National Council for Social Policy Coordination had been established in 2002 to help improve the Government's work in the area, increase transparency and efficiency, and promote better policy coordination and integration to make the most of available development-targeted resources available.
Among Argentina's other social development focus areas through 2015 were: the eradication of extreme hunger and poverty; boosting education levels for all children and adolescents; bringing unemployment levels down to below 10 per cent; improving child and maternal health care; and turning back the spread of HIV/AIDS. She stressed that economic growth was not enough to reduce high levels of poverty. It was also necessary to reduce inequalities by designing special fiscal and income schemes. Further, social policies must be at the centre of development strategies, and Argentina believed all such actions, particularly poverty eradication initiatives, must be based on human rights. To that end, human rights legislation had been enacted to deal with the situation of immigrants, which, unfortunately, represented one of Argentina's most unprotected groups.
JOYCE KAFANABO (United Republic of Tanzania) said that people had to be at the centre of all development policies and programmes. She was concerned that many poor countries might not be able to reach the poverty-reduction targets. In Tanzania, progress had been recorded in the areas of macroeconomic stability, enhanced enrolment in primary schools, and improved health-service delivery. However, progress in poverty reduction had been slow. Manifestations of that slow progress included persistent and growing disparities between rural and urban areas.
As the majority of her people lived in rural areas and depended mainly on agricultural livelihood, rural growth was critical in reducing poverty, she stated. Poor infrastructures continued to be one of the limiting factors in attracting investments, particularly in the rural areas. Other obstacles included the absence of reliable markets for primary products, low technology used in production and services, and insufficient financial and human resources necessary for scaling up initiatives for poverty reduction. In that regard, she welcomed the commitment of world leaders to increase support for agriculture development and capacity-building in the agriculture sector in developing countries.
She added that HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis were threats to the social fabric of developing societies, especially since they destroyed the productive workforce, and called for continued collective efforts to confront those pandemics. In addition, the capabilities of developing countries needed to be enhanced if they too were to benefit from globalization. A fair globalization that created opportunities for all could only be built on the foundation of solidarity and international cooperation.
ZHANG YISHAN ( China) said that his country's proposals on the theme of poverty eradication related, first of all, to the need to build a peaceful and stable international environment. It was also necessary to enhance a global partnership that would lead to win-win results and shared prosperity. The leading and coordinating role of the United Nations was indispensable in that regard. Developing countries should improve their ability to compete through their own efforts and cooperation, but it was even more important for the developed countries to effectively address such priority issues as poverty eradication, financial assistance and debt relief, achieve the target of 0.7 per cent of gross national product (GNP) for ODA, and help accelerate poor countries' development. The key to success at the country level lay in the selection of ways and modalities of development suitable to national conditions. Also, it was necessary to increase exchanges of experience and reinforce the countries' capacity to develop themselves.
As the most populous country in the world, China was now enjoying economic stability, rapid growth and improved living standards, he continued. The main reason for its achievements was that it was following a path of development that suited national conditions, integrating poverty eradication into the overall development plans, and setting realistic national targets. China had also moved from poverty relief to development and enhanced self-development capacity of poverty-stricken areas. Those achievements notwithstanding, poverty eradication remained a serious challenge for his country. Those who had only recently solved the problem of access to food and clothing were still fragile and remained vulnerable to risks. Without continuous integrated assistance and new opportunities for development, they would easily relapse into dire poverty.
Among the country's efforts at the international level, he also mentioned the establishment of an international centre for poverty eradication in Beijing and the introduction of such measures as zero tariffs, debt relief, concessional loans and human resources training for other developing countries.
JUAN ANTONIO YÁÑEZ-BARNUEVO ( Spain) said there was a need to develop a new development agenda, based on a broad and inclusive understanding of the concept of poverty eradication, as well as the principle of shared responsibilities between Northern and Southern countries, in order to attain the social and economic development objectives set. The poverty challenge was multidimensional and required a two-pronged approach -- horizontal and sectoral. Spanish cooperation aimed to achieve economic growth based on equity and sustainability. It also sought to construct a strong social fabric by supporting private initiatives and small and medium enterprises, and to support the poorest segments in the economic cycle.
Spain, he said, worked to achieve poverty eradication in many parts of the world. It did so by promoting democratic governance, strengthening the rule of law and civil society, and encouraging women's participation in economic processes. Secondly, it promoted human capacity by implementing measures in areas such as food security, health and shelter. Thirdly, it sought to strengthen economic capacity by reinforcing business. Fourthly, it was developing freedom and cultural capacities, in particular by working with indigenous peoples. Fifthly, it was strengthening capacity to reinforce sustainable development and environmental protection. With regard to peace and security, Spain was contributing to conflict resolution and peacebuilding.
In the fight against poverty, he said more must be done to improve the quantity and quality of aid, in line with international commitments. When it came to financing for development, Spain's efforts focused on fulfilling its ODA commitments. In 2006, the amount of ODA provided by Spain would reach 0.35 per cent of gross national income, and 18.67 per cent of its assistance would go to least developed countries. Official development assistance was only one area of public policies adopted by developed countries which had implications for developing countries. Progressing in policy coherence also meant progress in areas such as debt relief and trade.
ALEXEI NISTREAN ( Republic of Moldova) said the current socio-economic situation revealed an increasing divide among nations. Current patterns of globalization had contributed to a sense of insecurity as some countries, including developing countries and those with economies in transition, had been marginalized. There was an urgent need for much higher levels of international cooperation based on the principles of non-discrimination, open competitiveness, transparent access to global markets, and fair and just rules of international trade for all. Closer integration between economic and social policies was also imperative. At the international level, closer collaboration was needed between international economic and financial organizations and organizations that had a social mandate.
He said the development of a socially oriented economy and enhancement of social policy based on the efficient use of existing resources were among the ideas incorporated in his country's 2004 National Strategy on Economic Growth and Poverty Reduction. The first national report on the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals, issued in June 2005, showed a slight progress towards poverty eradication. The principal aim of his country was to create a socially just system of social security, based on personal participation of citizens, social solidarity and State guarantees. However, Moldova still faced considerable hardships in its social development. The unsettled political conflicts in its eastern districts also had negative impacts on the country's social situation.
HESHAM AFIFI ( Egypt) said that, although not specifically included in the set of global indicators for the Millennium Goals, economic growth was a key factor in creating a supportive environment for the achievement of the Goals. Sustaining growth was critical for reducing levels of poverty, as well as providing jobs for the increasing working-age population. Also important for achieving the Goals were good governance, the rule of law and protection of human rights. Realizing development objectives and eradicating poverty required the existence of a political and economic environment that was conducive to the full exercise of people's rights and liberties.
Therefore, he said, political reform remained high on the agenda of the Egyptian Government, through greater citizen participation and advancement of the democratization process. As for economic reform, and in order to implement a vision that linked political, social and developmental stability, Egypt adopted economic policies that catered for the basic interests of the poor and middle classes, as well as the increased participation of the private sector and civil society in achieving the desired progress for the society.
The two interim reports on Egypt's progress towards the Millennium Goals in 2002 and 2004 revealed that the country was on track to achieve the expected results on the majority of Millennium Goal indicators. Both reports showed that, despite the enormous increase in population, Egypt had managed to enhance and sustain services to its citizens not just in terms of quantity, but also quality. Egypt's poverty-eradication strategy included developing and fostering small and medium enterprises and providing revolving microcredit to the poorest. Since gender inequality was a major barrier to progress in reducing income poverty, Egypt had accorded special attention to enhancing the status of women, and established the mechanisms needed for enabling them to actively participate in development.
IFTEKHAR AHMED CHOWDHURY ( Bangladesh) said it had been more than a decade since the universal desire for social progress had achieved its tangible manifestation in the Copenhagen commitments. The decade had seen both progress and setbacks. Despite mixed results, the determination of the leaders to ensure timely and full realization of the Millennium Development Goals was clear. Greater efforts were needed to deal with the impacts of slow and uneven progress towards the eradication of poverty, and Bangladesh remained deeply committed to making progress in all spheres of social development.
Poverty eradication had been placed on the top of the Government's development agenda, he said. A culture of pluralism, democracy, good governance, human rights, gender justice and women's empowerment were some of the pre-requisites for development. It was clear that economic growth was necessary -- but not sufficient -- for poverty eradication, as many countries had experienced that the percolation effect of growth did not take place automatically to benefit the poor on a large scale. In that regard, Bangladesh had adopted four broad-based policies to address poverty reduction. They included: aiming to increase economic growth; according priority to growth-oriented sectors; implementing targeted poverty reduction, as well as social safety-net programmes for the poor; and augmenting investment in such sectors as education, health and nutrition.
As a result of numerous positive measures by the Government, Bangladesh had experienced phenomenal progress in social development, he added. Economic growth last year was some 6 per cent, despite various natural disasters. Progress had also been made in disaster-management policies. Bangladesh's achievement of the third Millennium Development Goal target component of gender parity in primary and secondary schools was well known. Bangladesh's primary school enrolment rate was more than 97 per cent, and the incidence of poverty had fallen from more than 70 per cent poor in 1971 to around 40 per cent in 2005. Bangladesh had also substantially reduced child mortality and improved maternal health. Women had been the major catalyst for the country's development. Bangladesh had reaped enormous benefits through the microcredits and non-formal education. It was the country's some 15 million empowered women who were the driving force behind Bangladesh's success.
Regrettably, many developing countries did not have sufficient resources in their possession to escape the poverty trap and were unable to make the transition to significant social development, he said. "Asymmetric globalization" had further marginalized the poorest of the poor. Inequalities continued to persist, and the predicament continued. The least developed countries needed adequate financial and technical assistance in order to contribute to the effort creating a truly favourable international economic environment. For them, duty- and quota-free market access, ODA and financing for development were categorical imperatives. The commitment to halve poverty by 2015 should be addressed by reinforcing good practices, as well as by providing financial and technical support. A holistic approach for social development was needed to attain the goal of "peace and progress" for all. "Or else history will judge us harshly", he said.
CELESTINO MIGLIORE, Observer of the Holy See, said the harsh reality of poverty today required renewed efforts by the international community. A three-pronged agenda was needed for developing countries: to improve the terms of trade; to double aid assistance; and to provide further debt relief. Lessons from the experiences of some developing countries, particularly in Asia, made it clear that rapid poverty reduction could not take place without sustainable economic growth in which the poor shared equitably in the benefits. Consequently, leaders of developing countries need to be encouraged and assisted in the pursuit of policies that would enable their countries to attain much higher economic growth rates than so far achieved since 2000.
Responding to the links between poverty eradication and inequality, he believed more attention should be paid to inequalities within and between societies. Such differences could make men and women look elsewhere for better paid work and might lead to the flight of both skilled and unskilled labour, often to the detriment of developing countries' economies, in spite of spin-off gains such as remittances. Poverty eradication and a more even social development would necessarily include the means to attract and retain labour of every kind.
He continued to see a key role for the Economic and Social Council in monitoring progress towards achieving the Millennium Goals in the world's poorest countries. Such monitoring needed to be done now, on an annual basis, given the close proximity of 2015. In those countries where progress continued to falter, special action plans needed to be drawn up on a country-by-country basis, with the involvement of the Government in question and the donor community. Such plans should address resource constraints, implementation difficulties, and other problems that needed to be overcome in order to secure the timely achievement of poverty-reduction targets.
SAFIYE CAGAR, Director, Information and External Relations Division, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said that if the international community were to be effective in reducing poverty, it needed to invest much more to improve the opportunities of women and youth. "We will not make poverty history until we make gender discrimination history", she said, noting that women and young people were the strongest allies in the fight against poverty and inequality. Eradicating poverty meant eradicating the conditions and forces that fuelled poverty. It required tough policy and budget decisions and the provision of social services to meet people's basic needs and respect their human rights.
"Today, we live in a world that is terribly out of balance", she said, "a world in which the daily turnover on the world financial markets was $1.9 trillion and yet more than a billion people have to survive on less than a dollar a day". Action or inaction on one side of the globe affected what happened on the other side. The problem was not a shortage of international agreements and action plans, but rather that the collective international and national response was not commensurate with the task at hand. At the current rate of progress, the international community would not cut poverty in half by 2015. In too many places, the gap between rich and poor was growing ever wider. Redistribution, as well as economic growth, was needed to end world poverty. Gender equality and HIV/AIDS were other major factors affecting poverty.
She said the UNFPA was working with Governments to promote gender equality, address gender-based violence, and prevent HIV infection. Progress for women was progress for all. In particular, the UNFPA was working with Governments to achieve universal access to reproductive health by 2015. Today, the indicators for reproductive health displayed the largest gap of all health indicators between rich and poor. Closing the gap, by ensuring universal access to reproductive health, would not only improve individuals' lives, but also reduce poverty. She appealed to Governments to increase funding for sexual and reproductive health and to actively involve women and young people in the fight against poverty in development planning and implementation.
Mr. CORELL, of the International Council on Social Welfare, said his organization's analysis of the first Decade had led to several findings and recommendations. The findings showed that, despite a decade of poverty eradication, there remained a large gap between the commitments, goals and targets of the Decade and the outcomes of current trends on income and human poverty. Poverty could not be adequately measured, explained or addressed in terms of income or consumption. It was the deprivation of the essential assets to which every human being should be entitled. The poor should have the ability to sustain themselves by their labour and be adequately remunerated. People tended to be poor and remained so if they were not included in the decision-making that affected them. Poverty stemmed from situations where gross inequality persisted, due to entrenched power structures, resulting in a lack of political will and programmes to eradicate poverty in all its forms.
Developing countries, he said, must ensure good governance, social protection for the most vulnerable, priority for social spending, economic and political empowerment, and accountable and transparent institutions. Developed countries must ensure more open and equitable systems for finance and trade. They must also assist in the development of developing countries by honouring aid commitments and ensuring access to their markets. The United Nations, the World Bank and other institutions must heed criticisms of their poverty-eradication programmes and ensure that their international, regional and bilateral assistance was better coordinated and more committed to narrowing the gap between words and action for poverty eradication.
Mr. BAUDOT, of Triglav Circle, said the concept of poverty needed to be seen in all its dimensions. It also needed to be placed within a social, cultural and ideological context. A holistic approach was needed to address poverty, which was a universal scourge affecting all nations. Poverty should not be considered exclusively from its material aspect as that denied the opportunity to understand the many causes of poverty.
The fight against poverty must not be separated from the fight to promote human rights, he said. Over the years, a divorce had been established between work on development and work on human rights. That divorce needed to be overcome or the two projects would certainly be jeopardized. The relationship between wealth and poverty must be seen at many levels, and the fight against poverty needed to be seen within the fight for justice, solidarity and tolerance.
IMTIAZ HUSSAIN ( Pakistan), sharing some observations about the Decade, said that poverty was not restricted to just low income. It had ethical, social, political and economic dimensions. There was an intrinsic link between poverty, employment and social integration. Also imperative were: an inclusive approach addressing the root causes of poverty; eliminating vulnerability of marginalized segments of the population; ensuring their access to credit, education and training; and ensuring the political and economic empowerment of marginalized groups.
Over the last six years, he said, Pakistan had achieved a remarkable turnaround in the economy. The country's poverty reduction strategy included four pillars: accelerating economic growth and maintaining macroeconomic stability; improving governance and devolution; investing in human capital; and expanding social safety nets and targeted interventions. The unemployment rate had been brought down from 8.3 per cent to 7.7 per cent over the last four years through acceleration of economic growth, and by providing land for the landless and credit for self-employment projects.
The benefits of that had trickled down to help the female population, particularly in rural areas, he said. The devolution of power and the establishment of local governments had led to empowerment, to bringing decision-making closer to the beneficiaries of public services and to ensuring citizens' involvement in planning and implementation. Peasants, labourers, women and other marginalized groups had a much greater voice in public service delivery and governance at local levels. Despite progress, several challenges remained, including income distribution and inflation. The Government intended to address the situation by aiming to, among other things, consolidate macroeconomic stability and achieve sustained economic growth.
MAKMUR SUNUSI ( Indonesia) agreed that rapid poverty reduction could only take place if pro-growth, pro-employment and pro-poor policies were implemented. Ultimately, however, being pro-poor was not about raising incomes and consumption only. Poverty was also characterized by inequality, exclusion and marginalization. Equal priority needed to be given to investments that raised social development. Indonesia's economic vision was based on a triple-track strategy of pro-growth, pro-employment and pro-poor. Many of the investments mentioned in the Secretary-General's report, such as child and maternal health and combating HIV/AIDS, had been at the centre of Indonesia's development strategy. While Indonesia's development strategy had shown positive results, challenges remained. With political and economic reforms, his country had been able to steadily reduce the number of poor. Even with the national proportion of poor declining, the disparity among regions remained.
Indonesia's poverty-reduction strategy, he said, emphasized four areas, namely macroeconomic management, basic rights, gender equality and regional development. The year 2005 had tested his country's resolve. Rising oil prices combined with the aftermath of the tsunami and the looming avian flue pandemic had affected Indonesia's economic performance. The rapid rise in the price of crude oil had posed a tremendous load on the national budget, a quarter of which was being used for fuel subsidies. Indonesia was determined to eradicate poverty. While it was true that every country must shape its own destiny, in a globalized world, destinies were unavoidably entwined. In the course of development, growth could only flourish in a global partnership for development.
U MAUNG WAI (Myanmar) said he agreed with the Secretary-General's view that since development was seen as the primary responsibility of each country, national policies and poverty reduction strategies should reflect and take into consideration the specific context of a country's level of development and priorities. Eradicating poverty was no longer only a moral issue, but a practical imperative. His Government, recognizing the interconnected nature of economic and social development, had been implementing a development strategy, whose objective was to narrow the economic and social development gaps between city dwellers and rural folks. In accordance with that strategy, the establishment of 24 special development zones throughout the country was in progress. Also, infrastructure development was being given high priority.
He said HIV/AIDS was a real obstacle to human development. It posed a serious challenge to the entire international community. In Myanmar, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria were designated as diseases of national concern. The National AIDS Control Programme had been in place since 1989. The Government was also implementing the National Strategic Plan for Scaling Up HIV Prevention and Control. As a result, Myanmar had been able to reduce the HIV/AIDS prevalence rate to 1.2 per cent, as reflected in the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)'s Human Development Report 2005.
AHMED OWN ( Libya) said achieving development as a weapon against poverty, ignorance and disease was the biggest challenge facing the international community today. Without achieving development, peace and security would not be achieved. The outcome of the 1995 World Summit and the Assembly's special session five years latter was a reflection of the international community's interest in development. Unfortunately, despite the allocation of an entire decade for the eradication of poverty, the goal of eliminating poverty remained. In the 1970s, while people might have been poor according to some criteria, they did not die due to hunger. Today, famine took the lives of over 40 million persons a year. Given the fact that the world produced enough food for double its population, working to address hunger was a moral obligation. While free trade had generated unprecedented wealth, it was concentrated in a small number of the world's rich. Globalization had let the poor down and had expanded the socio-economic gap between the countries of the world. It was up to the international community to fix that error or risk global instability.
He said he was confident that the existing dark picture of Africa would gradually change, as the new African generation was more determined to bring the continent out of poverty and disease. With effective international cooperation, Africa would indeed have a bright future. The failure to improve Africa's socio-economic condition would be a political and ethical failure for the entire international community. Greater political will and financial resources were needed to meet the commitments for international development. Rich, advanced countries must uphold their commitments to offer ODA, and immediate measures were needed to confront the HIV/AIDS epidemic, water shortages and natural disasters. They must also work to stop the arms race and limit huge military budgets.
NIRUPAM SEN ( India) noted that 10 years after the launch of the United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty, the international community was still devising effective mechanisms to achieve the Decade's goals. Progress in meeting the Millennium Development Goal of halving extreme poverty and hunger by 2015 presented a stark and grim reminder that much remained to be done. Sub-Saharan Africa had suffered a setback since the 1990s. The only silver lining was that East Asia and the Pacific and South Asia were on track. That was the basis for South-South cooperation. Poverty and internal conflicts were often not simply the legacy of the colonial past or the result of current poor governance, but were epiphenomena of liberalization and the policies of international economic institutions.
The imperative of liberalization and attracting foreign capital was inevitably accompanied by risks, he continued. Low tax-GDP ratios reinforced by International Monetary Fund (IMF)-style structural adjustment reduced investment in the social infrastructure. The problems of sub-Saharan Africa demonstrated the systemic impact of such policies. The IMF and the World Bank had strayed from one of their original purposes, the Keynesian demand management to maintain high levels of employment. The Bretton Woods institutions had the power, but no longer had the mandate. The Economic and Social Council had the mandate, but not the power. There existed, therefore, a justifiable role for the United Nations to provide direction in the reform of the international financial and trade systems to enable them to support national poverty-eradication efforts. Fourteen out of 18 countries where poverty had increased in the last decade were in Africa, mainly sub-Saharan Africa. While private sector investment was important, in that region physical and social infrastructure was sometimes too weak to attract any.
The United Nations had played a critical leadership role in shaping the international economic agenda in the 1970s, and it had to do so again, he said. In India, the poverty ratio had declined from 45 per cent in 1983 to 26 per cent in 2000. The lessons of the Indian experience were, in general, replicable, though sequencing was necessary. Liberalization of the economy had to follow a certain level of development of economic and scientific capacity. Unleashing entrepreneurial energies was crucial and education was an absolute must. Finally, it was important to keep Government on track through continuous popular pressure and diverse popular movements. One of the most unfortunate results of globalization was the kinship of developing countries elites with those in developed countries rather than with the poor of their own country. Reversing that was critical.
FEDERICO BARRIOS ( Paraguay) said that one of the main obstacles in achieving social development related to social inequality, which was closely linked to poverty. An increase in income alone was not enough to alleviate poverty. It was necessary to stimulate development by levelling out inequalities. Important in that regard was increased access to education and health, particularly for poor people. It was crucial that poor people participated in the processes and decision-making that affected their lives. They must be properly empowered. Some of the actions taken by his Government included: implementation and consolidation of education reform; creation of a social action secretariat to promote public policies in the area of social development; creation of a social cabinet; creation of a social equity fund; and the implementation in 2005 of a social protection network to fight extreme poverty.
His Government's strategy also included dealing with aspects of poverty by using policies that complemented each other. One axis of the strategy dealt with social protection to deal with the issue of vulnerability, while another axis dealt with social promotion to fight social marginalization. A third axis dealt with economic inclusion of populations to improve employment opportunities, which would in time improve their income outlook. While efforts had borne fruit, a lot remained to be done. Paraguay was a predominantly agricultural country with little industry and no coastline. As a result, importance must be given to international cooperation. He hoped his country's partners would act accordingly to achieve the ethical imperative of eradicating poverty.
MOHAMMED AL-HUMAIMIDI ( Iraq) noted that despite his country's situation in the 1970s, oppressive policies of the past regime and excessive wars had led to a stagnation of growth and the deterioration of infrastructure and services. According to a 2004 survey, some 3.24 million Iraqis suffered from power cuts and 76 per cent of families in rural areas had problems accessing potable water. In urban areas, the percentage of access to potable water had dropped to 60 per cent. There had also been an increase in the rate of maternal and child mortality. Unemployment rates had reached 37 per cent. Recent statistics indicated that the percentage of Iraqis who relied on a food distribution system had reached some 25 per cent of Iraq's population and that about 2.6 million Iraqis were poor and lacked food security. Nearly 3.6 million ran the risk of losing food security if they did not receive food rations.
It was estimated that meeting the basic needs of Iraqi citizens would require $36 billion, he said. International aid found its way to Iraq through various channels, including direct support for services and through the two United Nations funds. Iraq's national development strategy was based on four pillars, including bolstering the basis of economic growth, activating the private sector, raising the living standard and strengthening good governance and security. Great steps had been adopted to respond to immediate needs by providing electricity, sanitation, improved health services and housing. In 2005, Iraq had implemented some 2,500 projects at a cost of $5.7 billion. Power had been returned to post-2003 levels, which was still below that of local demand. The Government continued to distribute monthly food rations.
He added that national and international efforts to bring stability to Iraq had run up against the problem of terrorism, prompting the Government's efforts to combat terrorist actions. Terrorism was the number one obstacle to development in Iraq. Iraqis would not spare any effort to improve their situation and would continue to offer daily sacrifices for the hope of a brighter future.
KIM MOON-HWAN, Director, Division of Human Rights and Social Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of the Republic of Korea, shared some core beliefs of his Government on poverty eradication. First, national policies and development strategies had a crucial and irreplaceable role to play in achieving the goal of poverty reduction. Secondly, the State should play the leading role in promoting macroeconomic and financial stability, and should provide greater access to education and health services. Thirdly, economic growth was a pre-condition for eradicating poverty. Fourthly, a people-centred approach to development should be applied to poverty-eradication efforts. Fifthly, international cooperation and assistance must be stepped up.
Describing his country's experience, he said that in 2000 the National Basic Livelihood Security System was put into effect to ensure a minimum standard of living for the poor, regardless of their working ability or their demographic status. The Government also had extended the National Pension and expanded health insurance coverage, among other things. The country was now facing a new challenge to economic growth -- polarization. The gap had seriously widened in economic accomplishment between industries and in other areas of the private sector. That had resulted in greater income disparity between classes and showed symptoms of restricting possibilities for upward social mobility. It was his country's firm belief that without social integration, long-term economic growth was not possible. He added that by establishing a safety-net expansion plan, "Hope Korea 21", the Government intended to embark on new efforts to eradicate current levels of poverty and eliminate the dark prospect of inherited poverty.
GEDIMINAS LEVICKAS ( Lithuania) said that the implementation of the Copenhagen commitments was a high priority for his Government. In conjunction with the UNDP, Lithuania had put together and implemented its national poverty-reduction strategy. The Government had adopted a memorandum establishing the main challenges in fighting poverty and social exclusion. Over the past few years, progress had been achieved in poverty eradication, and since 2000, income inequality had been decreasing. Despite progress, the country still had to improve the social situation.
Lithuania, he said, had recently adopted a national action plan on poverty and social exclusion, which involved programmes for employment and social protection, among other things. One of the main priorities was to improve the situation of the most vulnerable groups. In 2005, Lithuania updated the national action plan, listing concrete political measures to assist the most vulnerable persons, including increasing employment opportunities. Assessing the current situation, he said Lithuania expected to achieve significant progress in poverty alleviation by 2010 and aimed to eradicate extreme poverty by 2008. Lithuania remained fully committed to the Copenhagen commitments, and was confident that the current session would speed up progress for poverty eradiation in the world.
RODRIGO NEGRIN ( Chile) said his country would do everything necessary to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. Broad-based and sustained economic growth, fair social development, democracy and good governance were indispensable for sustainable development, as was active participation of the State in social development. Social challenges could not be solved by temporary fixes or market influences.
He noted that progress achieved in Chile had moved the bar on what the country had thought possible. However, changes in globalization and the technological revolution were affecting the life and safety of individuals and accentuating inequalities within and between countries. To deal with those challenges, the Government, since 2000, had concentrated on policies to bring about a series of reforms to modernize social services in the public sphere. Such reforms attempted to include rights as a condition in social policies. His Government was committed to strengthening a development approach focused on the individual and expressed through coordinated activities with the international community.
SERGEI RACHKOV ( Belarus) said his country, with a transitional economic system, had been taking measures to reduce the number of disadvantaged persons. It was pursuing a socially oriented policy to improve the well-being of its people. Measures to improve prosperity levels were being taken by the Government on a systematic basis, including in the areas of education, health care and employment. Belarus had achieved considerable success in the attainment of poverty reduction goals. In the last decade, the portion of disadvantaged persons had been reduced by more than half. Also, extreme poverty had been reduced by more than a third. Eradicating poverty involved ensuring stable and increasing incomes for the population. Incomes had more than doubled in Belarus.
Despite the complexities of the transition period, Belarus had not allowed the social stratification of its society, he said. Improvements in living standards were guaranteed by a system of State social standards. Annual expenditures in education were 6 per cent of the GDP. The Government had guaranteed free and universal secondary education, and particular attention had been given to education opportunities for both urban and rural youth. The policies of the State to ensure the broadest access to education were supported by measures in the area of employment. Belarus had the lowest level of unemployment in its region -- 1.5 per cent. Considerable attention was also given to health care, particularly to ensuring high standards in that area for all social groups without distinction. The Government devoted about 5 per cent of GDP to that sector.
He shared the Secretary-General's concern regarding the lack of progress in reducing poverty in specific regions. He supported the recommendation to ensure full, productive and decent employment as a primary goal in national and international macroeconomic policies and to include that goal in poverty-reduction policies.
ELEYDA GARCIA-MATOS ( Venezuela) said her country had expressed its disappointment at the outcome of the 2005 World Summit, which had resulted in the failure to deal with the everyday misery of people around the world. She hoped that this time around justice would be done for those fighting poverty. Poverty eradication was an urgent issue that should be on the international agenda. The Bolivarian revolution was continuing to grow and was integrating an approach which supported Venezuela's new social policy. Today, Venezuelans had the certainty that a better life was possible. Venezuela's social policy, which was based on inclusion, participation and justice, had been transformed into a series of programmes called "missions" with huge reach, particularly for those living in poor areas. The Government had made significant progress in the area of social development, particularly in overcoming illiteracy and increasing rates of schooling. The number of homes living in poverty had been reduced; the country was involved in a campaign to eliminate illiteracy; and unemployment had been reduced.
She added that while Venezuela was moving towards achieving a number of goals, what it had accomplished internally would be prevented without changing the ominous neo-liberal economic model -- a model that was incompatible with social development. The report before the Commission included an important revision of standards. While standards were needed, they were not sufficient, however. The fight against poverty had been a byword in many commissions. As poverty was more than a lack of income or consumption, a broad concept of social and economic rights was needed. The review was only a partial view of the world situation. Why not look at the situation of poverty in developed countries? she asked. Ten years on, some Member States were still trying to convince the international community of the need for a simple reduction in the scourge of poverty. People were not statistics, however. Promoting a reduction but not eradication was a serious step backwards.
Mr. AGASSIME ( Morocco) said that the international community, in Copenhagen, had undertaken to meet the challenges of social development by, among other things, eradicating poverty and unemployment, and fighting pandemics. It had also agreed that respects for human rights, good governance and gender equality were necessary conditions for achieving those goals.
In Morocco, it was clear that the national initiative for human development was the best strategy for eradicating poverty, he said. That initiative, launched in May 2005, aimed at enhancing the social situation in the country. The initiative comprised of four programmes: eradicating poverty in the rural areas; fighting social exclusion in urban areas; fighting against the situation of the most vulnerable; and enhancing good governance. The implementation of the programmes was designed to be directly linked to target groups. His country continued to encourage efforts by the United Nations to bring about sustainable and harmonious economic development that took into account the social aspects of the lives of the populations involved.
Mr. BEREZNY ( Russian Federation) said the Russian economy was developing at a fast pace and had achieved macroeconomic stability, and the real income of the people had increased. Since last September, a new mechanism had been launched to improve the quality of life based on modern health care, education, accessible housing and effective agriculture. There had also been unprecedented financial outlays for social needs of some 138 billion roubles. A federal law had been changed to dramatically improve the social safety net for the populace. An increase in income and reduction in poverty was the aim of Russia's mid-term programme for economic development. The challenge of attacking poverty called for strategic partnerships between business and the State. Improving the national economy enabled the country to increase its involvement in the efforts of the Group of Eight, including some $11.3 million in debt relief.
He mended the report on the review of the first United Nations Decade and shared all of its recommendations, specifically regarding full employment as a primary goal of national economic policy. The Russian Federation advocated the continued strengthening of international cooperation in the social sphere. The development of national and international strategies for development in an era of globalization should take into account the provisions of the 1995, 2000 and 2005 meetings.
ISABELLE F. PICCO ( Monaco) cited the need for developing countries, if they had not already done so, to adopt a national development strategy and begin to implement it. At the same time, developed countries should also meet their commitments, undertaken during the global conferences of the 1990s. While welcoming progress made during the first Decade, she noted that considerable disparities were prevalent within and across countries. The face of extreme poverty was that of a human being who was denied his/her most basic needs.
Monaco focused its involvement on projects in the field where it could monitor their implementation and impact on the people involved, she said. Monaco had also undertaken ongoing efforts related to microfinancing, in conjunction with the UNDP, and was supporting small businesses. There was a need to develop human capital, which could not exist without access to education or other basis social services.
MARIO DE AZEVEDO CONSTANTINO ( Angola) said that, while economic growth was a necessary condition for poverty reduction and sustainable development, it was not enough. Efforts should also be directed towards the fulfilment of all human rights, including the right to development, promoting employment and decent work for all, and combating social exclusion. Angola's own experience showed that peace and stability were vital for the fulfilment of social development commitments. The social and economic costs of 27 years of conflict had translated into extremely low social indicators. As a result of concerted efforts, Angola had, over the past three and a half years, overcome some of the obstacles that hampered development during the period of war.
Progress had already been achieved in the political, economic and social areas in a very short period of time, he said. At the political level, the country was getting ready to hold free, fair and transparent elections. From the economic point of view, significant improvements had been achieved in terms of monetary and financial stabilization. In the period 2002-2004, the GDP growth rate was 10 per cent, and it was expected to be close to 16 per cent in coming years. At the social level, apart from the significant progress in areas such as disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, refugees, internally displaced persons and their social reintegration, the Government was encouraged by the fact that since the end of the conflict, the share of the budget allocated to the social sector had increased sharply, from 12.7 per cent in 2003 to 30.4 per cent in 2006.
ROMY TINCOPA ( Peru) noted that 10 years after the launch of the first United Nations Decade and 11 years after the Copenhagen Declaration, Peru reaffirmed its commitment to promoting social development. Since 1997, Peru had increased social spending in the areas of education, health, nutrition and social protection programmes. As a result, it had been able to increase access to health care and education. Nutritional programmes had been improved, and social infrastructure programmes in rural areas had led to improved access to drinking water and sanitation. More than half of the country, however, still lived in poverty. Reducing extreme poverty by 2015 would require significant changes.
While the State was primarily responsible for proposing policies to eradicate poverty, internal efforts alone were insufficient, she said. A global system that was less speculative and more productive was needed. Mechanisms were needed which increased resources and diversified financial policy options for improving the lives of people. Social exclusion was a violation of human dignity, and urgent measures were needed to address it. In that regard, she supported the Secretary-General's recommendations contained in the report before the Commission. The efforts of countries such as Peru required the international community's ongoing support.
MARIA ANGELA HOLGUIN CUELLAR ( Colombia) said she agreed with Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Jose Antonio Ocampo that poverty went beyond material hardships and was increasingly expressed through social exclusion, the invisibility of the poorest members of society and denial of their human rights. The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) had recently affirmed that only through an inclusive strategy guaranteeing the coming together of economic growth and those most in need would it be possible to ensure a safe and decent future of world populations. The "World Economic Situation and Prospects" demonstrated that patterns of growth were not enough when they were not linked to job creation.
Turning to efforts at the national level, he said that Colombia's main economic strategy was to grow at a rate of 5.75 per cent. The number of Colombians living below the poverty line had decreased by 8.2 per cent, and the number of the homeless had dropped 6 points since 2002. Urban poverty in Colombia had fallen by 7.9 per cent and rural poverty by 6.9 per cent. The country's development strategy included a series of measures for combating unemployment, and from 2003 to 2005 1.7 million jobs had been created in Colombia. Those measures were complemented by the tools of social equity that were the basis of the country's national policy.
She said the steps undertaken by the Government included measures to prevent internal displacement, microcredit programmes, the project in support of rural microbusinesses and introduction of a rural education programme in 2005. While still facing serious challenges, Colombia believed that programmes aimed at full employment, education, training and forming a culture of entrepreneurship would bring it closer to those goals.
TENS C. KAPOMA ( Zambia) said his Government had embarked on drafting an all inclusive, people-driven constitution on which citizens and civil society had been widely consulted. To safeguard the country's national wealth, the Government had implemented a zero-tolerance policy for corruption and upheld the rule of law for social justice in national development. To address challenges, such as income inequality, gender inequality, urban and rural poverty, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and the heavy debt burden, the Government had developed a Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper and the Transitional National Development Plan in line with the Millennium Development Goals.
He said the Highly Indebted Poor Country Initiative (HIPC) Completion Point had been achieved in April 2005. Immediately after his Government had reached that point, most of the Paris Club creditors wrote off 100 per cent of Zambia's public debt. In addition, Zambia had qualified for a 100 per cent write-off of its debt to the African Development Bank, the IMF and the World Bank under the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative borne out of the 2005 Group of 8 Gleneagles proposal. That relief would enable the Government to enhance its investments in priority social sector programmes. In the current budget, 30 per cent of the total had been allocated to that sector. That would go a long way in addressing such issues as youth unemployment, food insecurity, control and mitigation of HIV/AIDS, rehabilitation of schools, recruitment of teachers, and providing health care.
CLAUDIA VALENCIA, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said the agency was focusing on three major, interrelated strategic objectives: to contribute to a broadening of the focus of international and national poverty-reduction strategies through the introduction and mainstreaming of education, culture, the science and communication; to support the establishment of effective linkages between national poverty-reduction strategies and sustainable development frameworks, focusing on UNESCO's areas of competence; and to contribute to an enabling national policy framework and environment for empowerment, participatory approaches and livelihood generation.
She said UNESCO was also focusing on the following priority areas: policy formulation and implementation, including assisting in the design of country-owned, integrated pro-poor national policies and frameworks; advocacy and information, emphasizing freedom from poverty as a human right, a global ethical imperative, and a top priority for governments and the international community; policy-oriented research contributing to the analysis of extreme poverty and monitoring progress towards its eradication; capacity-building, particularly in countries immersed in or emerging from conflict or national disasters and at local levels; and innovative field projects to demonstrate feasibility and potential results as a basis for translating them into policies and mainstreaming them nationally or in other countries.
LUCA DALL'OGLIO, International Organization for Migration (IOM), said that migration itself was not a development strategy, but it had a number of direct impacts on development and poverty reduction. Thus, it should be considered as one of many factors to be included in poverty-reduction strategy papers and other national development strategies aimed at achieving the Millennium Development Goals. So far, however, there had been little systematic assessment of the extent to which States were considering migration to achieve development and address poverty. Remittances were an important financial inflow to developing countries, as they alleviated poverty by improving the standard of living.
He said that today, for example, the Government of Benin, in cooperation with the IOM and the Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and the Small Island Developing States, with the support of the UNDP and others, had organized a two-day ministerial-level conference to enhance the development impact of remittances. The conference, which was bringing together experts from the private sector, diaspora associations and international organizations, and government officials, was a unique opportunity to explore ways in which remittances could be enhanced for poverty-reduction strategies. Adoption of a series of recommendations would optimize the development benefits of remittances and mobilize support for their implementation.
Much progress had been made since Copenhagen to translate the social integration agenda into action, in what had become an extremely dynamic "migration environment", he said. At the same time, the patterns of human mobility had continued to evolve and adjust to new circumstances, making the public perception of migrants a highly debated and frequently divisive topic, where misinformed assumptions and negative stereotypes often prevailed. While many of the objectives set forth a decade ago remained today's goals, the collective appreciation of their relevance and complexity had increased and sharpened, along with a prevailing recognition that migration was an essential, inevitable and potentially beneficial component of the economic and social life of every State and region. That realization had stimulated a call for constructive dialogue to channel migration into safe, humane, socially cohesive and productive avenues.
Mr. GREENE, speaking on behalf of the International Chamber of Commerce and the International Organization of Employers, said private sector had an essential role in economic development and employment creation. The private sector could reduce poverty by contributing to economic growth, job creation and improved living standards. A competitive private sector could also alleviate poverty by providing goods and services at lower prices. Economic growth was the most effective means to reduce poverty. An extensive World Bank study on that topic demonstrated that growth benefited the poor as much as it did other income groups.
National Governments had a critical role in establishing the necessary legal and regulatory environment for economic growth and job creation, he continued. Experience from the past two decades showed that the two key determinants of national growth and development were domestic policies and international integration. Also, national efforts for poverty reduction should focus on the policy reforms necessary to establish an attractive domestic investment environment, remove regulatory barriers to growth and job creation, and integrate national economies into the global economy. While there was still far to go, much progress had been achieved. Finally, he strongly believed that marginalized groups must be afforded equal opportunities as a central element of any poverty-reduction strategy.
REYNALDO JIMENEZ, on behalf of VIVAT International, said that in response to the challenges posed by poverty, his organization had initiated people-centred projects leading to poverty eradication and job creation. He cited examples of projects in the Philippines, Poland and Brazil. Placing the poor and disenfranchised front and centre in development strategies of international bodies, Governments, non-governmental organizations and civil society was crucial to eradicating poverty. He urged all Governments to address the problem of poverty by providing more educational facilities for children, especially girls; providing job opportunities for indigenous peoples, youth and women; and promoting social integration through productive and dignified work. He strongly believed that education and dignified work were the solutions to eradicate poverty.
JEN STALLING, on behalf of International Movement ATD Fourth World, said that the voices and thoughts of those living in poverty and the poorest must be included in development efforts. She appealed to Governments to give greater attention to creating partnerships with those living in poverty, and to make that a priority. Unless those living in poverty were involved in policy and decision-making, any poverty-reduction strategy was destined to fail. In reality, the effects of development projects had not reached the poorest, who were isolated from those who developed such projects. The authorities needed to listen to those living in poverty so that policies could be created that took into account the conditions in which they lived.
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