ECOSOC: without addressing rural poverty, MDGs will be unattainable

1 July 2003

Without addressing the problems of rural poverty there will be no hope of achieving the ambitious goals set by the Millennium Summit of 2000 to slash poverty, hunger, illiteracy, environmental degradation and discrimination against women by the year 2015, the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) was told today.

Introducing Secretary-General Kofi Annan's report on "Promoting an integrated approach to rural development in developing countries for poverty eradication and sustainable development," Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Nitin Desai said not enough attention had been focused on rural and agricultural development issues.

ECOSOC was attempting to highlight the need to address rural development in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), he told high-level segment of the Council on the second day of its annual meeting in Geneva. This year's theme is "Promoting an integrated approach to rural development in developing countries for poverty eradication and sustainable development."

The current meeting could be seen to cut across issues, connecting many of the MDGs in areas such as poverty and hunger, sustainable development, agriculture, natural resources, education and health, among others, Mr. Desai said. Moreover, one of ECOSOC's primary roles was to get the various agencies of the United Nations system working together effectively.

The Vice-Chairman of the Committee for Development Policy, Eugenio Figueroa, told the session attainment of the MDGs would not be possible without development making a substantial impact on rural poverty, since three quarters of the extreme poor in the world lived in rural areas.

It was even more imperative to focus on the eradication of rural poverty now that economic growth worldwide was faltering, pushing millions more into poverty and causing tens of thousands of children to die from malnutrition and deprivation, Mr. Figueroa said. The rural poor could be seen as caught in a vicious circle or "poverty trap."

In this context, the Committee wished to stress the need for enhancing rural employment and income generating so as to create the conditions for decent living in rural areas, he added. The gender dimension must be taken into special consideration, as women and girls often constituted a majority of the rural population and, therefore, stood to be the most important contributors to, as well as beneficiaries of, accelerated rural development.