Heed call of marginalized, end discrimination, UN urges on Poverty Eradication Day
Urging greater support for people struggling to escape poverty and build better lives, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the United Nations marked the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty by calling on the world to “do more to listen to the voices that often go unheard.”
“If we are to realize the future we want for all, we must hear and heed the calls of the marginalized,” Mr. Ban said in his message for the Day, which has been observed at UN Headquarters since 1993 and around the world since 1987. This year’s theme is “Working together towards a world without discrimination: Building on the experience and knowledge of people in extreme poverty.”
Mr. Ban noted that the Day comes as the international community is pursuing twin objectives: intensifying efforts to reach the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and formulating the next set of goals to guide our efforts after the MDG 2015 deadline.
“This post-2015 agenda must have poverty eradication as its highest priority and sustainable development at its core. After all, the only way to make poverty eradication irreversible is by putting the world on a sustainable development path.”
In that regard, the UN chief stressed that the international community had much work to do: while poverty levels have declined significantly, progress has been uneven. “Our impressive achievement in cutting poverty by half should not blind us to the fact that more than 1.2 billion people still live in extreme poverty worldwide,” he said.
Stressing that too many, especially women and girls, continue to be denied access to adequate health care and sanitation, quality education and decent housing, he also said that rising inequality in many countries – both rich and poor – is fuelling exclusion from economic, social and political spheres, and the impacts of climate change and loss of biodiversity hit the poorest the hardest.
“We need to do more to listen and act for those whose voices often go unheard – people living in poverty, and in particular among them indigenous people, the older persons and those living with disabilities, the unemployed, migrants and minorities,” he said, adding: “We need to support them in their struggle to escape poverty and build better lives for themselves and their families.”
Over the past year, the UN has been spearheading an unprecedented global conversation on the world people want, with more than a million people from over 190 countries taking part in global consultations on their priorities for the new development agenda.
“By listening and responding to these voices, UN Member States can chart new territory – generating the kind of public ownership which could turn the world’s aspirations, including to eradicate extreme poverty, into action through an agenda which is monitored and championed by the people to whom it matters most,” said Helen Clark, Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), in her message for the Day.
She noted that UNDP is supporting countries confront discrimination by helping them realize their human rights commitments, formulate policies which approach poverty as both a cause and a consequence of discrimination, and by empowering and engaging poor people through its programmes.
To tackle poverty and inequality, countries must ensure their citizens have access to adequate employment and social protection, stressed the Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO), Guy Ryder.
“Jobs are the fundamental link between people, their communities, their society and the economy, and the quality of work is instrumental in the trajectory of that relationship. In this framework, the expansion of opportunities to work in conditions of freedom, security, equity and dignity is a critical goal and all the more urgent for people living in extreme poverty,” he said.
Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Achim Steiner, highlighted the link between poverty reduction and environment protection, as it is the poorest around the world that most depend on natural resources for their livelihoods.
He pointed to the UNDP-UNEP Poverty-Environment Initiative (PEI) as an example of how development programmes can deliver outcomes that both help the poor and the environment. Set up in 2005, the programme has been implemented in various countries with positive results, including Malawi, Philippines, Uruguay and Rwanda.
“The experience and results of PEI represent policy, capacity and institutional building blocks for an inclusive green economy, and provide both lessons and inspiration for those countries and stakeholders who strive for a prosperous, socially just, and sustainable future,” Mr. Steiner said.
For her part, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty, Magdalena Sepúlveda, called on States to tackle the deep-rooted causes of gender inequality and women’s greater vulnerability to poverty.
Urging Governments to recognize and value unpaid care work, and ensure it is better supported and more equitably shared between women and men, she warned in her message for the Day that the unequal distribution of unpaid care work, fuelled by damaging gender stereotypes, is a major human rights issue.
“It is unacceptable that, in the 21st century, unpaid care work such as cooking, childcare, looking after frail older relatives and fetching water and fuel, which heavily contributes to economic growth and social development, is not better valued, supported or shared,” said Ms. Sepúlveda.
She stressed that State policies must place care as a social and collective responsibility and ensure that the necessary public services and infrastructure – including childcare, healthcare, water and energy provision – are in place, especially in disadvantaged areas.
“To commemorate the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, I wish to remind States and others that efforts to end poverty must include valuing, supporting and redistributing unpaid care as an essential part of the strategy,” she said.