Former Malawi President Says Most of World’s 760 Million Poor People Live in Africa, Likely to Be Young, Female
Describing poverty as a multi-dimensional phenomenon that could not be measured by income alone, several speakers said today that the structural factors keeping people poor were often missing from policymaking.
As the Economic and Social Council opened its three-day 2017 integration segment, they commended its theme — “Making eradication of poverty an integral objective of all policies: what will it take?” and welcomed the progress made over the past several decades, including the lifting of more than 1 billion people out of poverty. Maternal health had improved, child-mortality rates were down and the spread of HIV had slowed in many parts of the world, and the biggest challenge now was the effective and coordinated implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which would have a positive impact on the lives of the 800 million people still living on less than $2 a day.
Delivering a keynote address, Joyce Banda, a former President of Malawi, pointed out that most of the 760 million people living below the poverty line around the globe were in sub-Saharan Africa. Most of the continent’s poor people were young and likely to be female, she added, noting that women were more likely to produce, harvest, store, process and cook food, “but they eat last and least”. If current trends continued, most African youth would grow up uneducated, unhealthy, unemployed and frustrated, she warned.
Perhaps surprisingly, having a job did not necessarily mean a ticket out of poverty because Africa continued to have the world’s highest rate of “working poverty”, she said, referring to employed people still living below the poverty line. With the planet’s highest levels of child malnutrition, maternal mortality and other preventable health challenges, what Africa needed was integrated policy that would address the multitude of challenges confronting it, she emphasized, urging greater investment in the continent’s young and female populations. Describing them as “untapped but potentially explosive wellsprings of human capital”, she stressed the need to pay more attention to girls up to the age of 10 years since the current focus on adolescent girls over the age of 14 years was coming “too late”.
Also delivering a keynote address was Muhammad Amjad Saqib, former general manager of Pakistan’s Punjab Rural Support Programme, calling for an integrated approach that would make eradicating poverty a major part of all policymaking. Pakistan’s poverty-eradication agenda aimed for inclusive and sustainable economic growth focused on education, health and better living standards, he said. Education remained the most powerful tool for lifting people out of poverty, he said.
If microcredit could be provided without interest, education could be provided without cost, he emphasized. The Government was taking a holistic approach, with newly constituted bodies focusing on income support, a fund to oversee poverty reduction as well as education and health insurance schemes. “We are aware of the need to move from universal subsidies to well-designed and targeted solutions.” Innovative models, based on a participatory approach to development, were critical, he said, stressing the role of microcredit loans dispersed among 1.8 million families across Pakistan. “This is all about empowerment and self-reliance,” he said.
Chernor Bah, Youth Representative from Sierra Leone and Chair of the High-Level Steering Committee of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Global Education First Initiative, also delivered a keynote speech, saying education had brought hope and helped transform his life out of poverty. Tackling poverty in a sustainable and integrated way would require re-examining and deconstructing the current design of the global economic system, which advantaged business over labour, he emphasized.
However, ending poverty would not result from policy change in Sierra Leone, he said, calling for a global education revolution that would finally end illiteracy, among other things. Such a revolution must also activate a global civil society committed to the defining values of the United Nations. Underlining the need to focus on empowering girls, he said a girl born in Sierra Leone today would have only a one in ten chance to make it through secondary school, adding that one in five girls would marry by age 15. “Her school has no female teachers, she has no mentors,” he said, also pointing out that, because there was no contraception, the young girl would be likely to have children at a very young age. Those children would in turn probably have poor nutrition and no opportunity to attend school, thereby continuing a cycle of poverty.
Delivering opening remarks Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed said that eradicating extreme poverty remained a deeply entrenched and intergenerational challenge. Recalling her first-hand experience, as Nigeria’s Environment Minister, of the many challenges to implementation of the 2030 Agenda, she emphasized the crucial need to bring various sectors and stakeholders together and to build synergies while prioritizing the marginalized. “The most vulnerable of our people count on our efforts,” she added.
Also delivering opening remarks were Nabeel Munir (Pakistan), Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, and Masud bin Momen (Bangladesh), Vice-President of the General Assembly.
The Economic and Social Council held two panel discussions titled, respectively, “An integrated agenda towards achieving SDG 1” and “Policy integration across borders”.
Speaking during the general discussion this afternoon were representatives of Viet Nam, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador (for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), Ecuador (for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Turkey (also for Mexico, Indonesia, Republic of Korea, Turkey and Australia), Grenada (on behalf of the Community of Caribbean Community), Philippines, Tajikistan, South Africa, Brazil, Ethiopia and Mexico, as well as the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO).
The Economic and Social Council will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 9 May, to continue its Integration Segment.
NABEEL MUNIR (Pakistan), Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), welcomed the theme for the 2017 session, “Making eradication of poverty an integral objective of all policies: what will it take?” Highlighting the magnitude of change around the world over the last several decades, he noted that 1 billion people had been lifted out of extreme poverty and the numbers of working middle class people in developing countries had almost tripled. There had also been a dramatic decline in the number of preventable child deaths, maternal health had improved nearly everywhere, and HIV infections had fallen in many parts of the world. However, such results concealed significant differences at the regional and national levels, he cautioned, pointing out that more than 800 million people around the globe still lived on less than $2 a day, and that important gaps in progress remained.
He went on to describe the interconnected nature of the three dimensions of sustainable development as a central feature of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adding that such interlinkages unveiled potential synergies and trade-offs. The current three-day segment aimed to provide policy guidance in promoting the balanced integration of all aspects of sustainable development. Poverty was a complex and multidimensional phenomenon that must be addressed in all its dimensions, he said, emphasizing the need for special attention to particular opportunities and challenges in Africa, which was home to the majority of least developed countries. The segment intended to address the roles and responsibilities of various stakeholders, and to review how innovative partnerships could contribute to innovative policymaking, he added.
MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh), Vice-President of the General Assembly, delivered a statement on behalf of the President, stressing that success in development had not been shared universally. Sub-Saharan Africa remained home to hundreds of millions of people still living in extreme poverty, he pointed out, adding that efforts to ensure sustainability were critical to safeguarding hard-won gains. All stakeholders must engage in new ways of thinking, partnering and financing in order to meet challenges on the ground, he said, underlining the need to sharpen the focus on sustainable poverty eradication so as to scale up system-wide implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.
It was also important to consider ways in which to enhance coordination between development and peace, at Headquarters and in the field, he continued. The United Nations, civil society, the private sector and community groups must come together to engage women, young people and minority groups. It was also important to ensure that the United Nations development system was fit for the purpose of addressing the challenges of implementing the 2030 Agenda. The international community had a critical role to play in that regard, including by delivering official development assistance (ODA) commitments in full. There could be no sustainable development without sustainable peace, and vice versa, he emphasized. “We must achieve a future that is safe and prosperous for all.”
AMINA J. MOHAMMED, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, said that the integration segment’s theme brought to the fore a defining question for the years ahead and would help the Council provide crucial insights for the 2030 Agenda’s implementation. Eradicating poverty in all its forms and manifestations, particularly extreme poverty, remained the single greatest global challenge, she emphasized, noting that many of those who had escaped it still lived just above the poverty line. The challenge remained deeply entrenched and intergenerational, and it would remain critical to address the multidimensional nature of poverty, especially its links to climate change, food insecurity and the sluggish and unpredictable global economy.
Recalling her first-hand experience, as Nigeria’s Environment Minister, of the many challenges to implementation of the 2030 Agenda, she emphasized the crucial need for an integrated and comprehensive approach, bringing various sectors and stakeholders together and building synergies while prioritizing the marginalized and vulnerable. The Council’s discussions would offer an opportunity to expand the knowledge and experience base available for implementation of the 2030 Agenda. “Our ambition must be to match the ambition of the Agenda that Member States have set,” she stressed. Welcoming the United Nations development system’s recent efforts in that regard, she said the Economic and Social Council’s discussions “can further these efforts”, including by providing guidance to the High-Level Political Forum and by helping countries to develop integrated, holistic policy approaches. “The most vulnerable of our people count on our efforts,” she emphasized, urging the international community to shoulder its collective responsibility in that regard.
JOYCE BANDA, member, Club de Madrid, and former President of Malawi, emphasized the importance of maintaining inclusion and poverty eradication “as our guiding compasses” throughout the 2030 Agenda’s implementation. Pointing out that the majority of the 760 million people living below the poverty line globally resided in sub-Saharan Africa, and that 80 per cent of those lived in rural areas or worked in agriculture, she said most of the continent’s poor people were young and likely to be female. Unlocking gender equality and empowering youth would therefore be critical to eradicating poverty, she said, calling for strategic as well as all-inclusive sustainable development policies.
Indeed, she continued, women across the world were more likely to produce, harvest, store, process and cook food, “but they eat last and least”. Outlining the work of the National Association of Business Women she had founded in 1989, she emphasized that “we cannot impose solutions” and leaders must instead support efforts by communities to empower themselves. By 1999, 73 per cent of the Association’s beneficiaries had moved out of poverty and 40 per cent had graduated from the informal economy to become owners of small and medium-sized enterprises, she said, adding that more of their children had been enrolled in school and more women had taken on leadership roles. However, if today’s trends continued, most African youth would grow up uneducated, unhealthy, unemployed and frustrated, she warned. More efforts were needed to help youth and women succeed, she said, citing projects carried out by the Joyce Banda Foundation to help women form cooperatives, gain access to land and grow more cash crops. “What is most critical is political will,” she said, stressing that it was not just about leaders, but “about everybody”.
Pointing to a number of core challenges still facing Africa, she said the continent was home to the world’s fastest-growing and youngest population, which currently accounted for more than two thirds of the continent’s unemployed. It also had the world’s highest rate of “working poverty”, employed people still living below the poverty line, as well as some of the planet’s highest levels of child malnutrition, maternal mortality and other preventable health challenges. Against that backdrop, it would be crucial to invest more in Africa’s young and female populations, she said, describing them as “untapped but potentially explosive wellsprings of human capital”. In particular, more attention should be paid to the girls up to the age of 10 years, she added, underlining that the current focus on adolescent girls over the age of 14 years was coming too late. She concluded by citing Botswana and Sierra Leone as countries in which corruption had once reigned, noting that today, their leaders had effectively shifted the benefits of their plentiful natural resources to the people.
MUHAMMAD AMJAD SAQIB, Founder, Akhuwat, and former General Manager, Punjab Rural Support Programme, Pakistan, said poverty had been in existence since the beginning of time and yet alleviating it remained humankind’s biggest challenge. In most developing countries, food and energy intake as well as the cost of basic needs had been used to identify the poor, but the well-being of a population depended on a variety of variables, not all of which could be improved by a high income, he emphasized. Calling for an integrated approach that would make the eradication of poverty a major part of all policy, he said Pakistan’s poverty-eradication agenda aimed for inclusive and sustainable economic growth focused on three dimensions: education, health and better living standards.
The Government was taking a holistic approach, with newly constituted bodies focusing on income support, a fund to oversee poverty reduction as well as education and health insurance schemes, he continued. “We are aware of the need to move from universal subsidies to well-designed and targeted solutions.” Innovative models, based on a participatory development approach, were critical, he said, emphasizing the role of microcredit loans dispersed among 1.8 million families across Pakistan. With an average loan size of $200, the repayment rate stood at 99.9 per cent. “This is all about empowerment and self-reliance,” he continued, emphasizing that high-interest rates in other parts of the world had exacerbated the plight of the poor. “If there is a vicious cycle there is a need for a virtuous cycle too,” he said, underlining that growth must not be driven by maximizing one’s own portfolio. The structural factors keeping people in poverty were often missing from policy. Emphasizing that education remained the most powerful tool for uplifting people out of poverty, he said that if microcredit could be provided without interest, education could be provided without cost.
CHERNOR BAH, Youth Representative, High-Level Steering Committee of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Global Education First Initiative, and Chair of its Youth Advocacy Group, said he had been born in a Freetown slum in Sierra Leone, and had then been displaced to a camp. He said education had brought hope and helped transform his life out of poverty. To tackle poverty in a sustainable and integrated way, structural inequalities and the current design of the global economic system, which advantaged business over labour, must be re-examined and deconstructed, he emphasized.
However, ending poverty would not result from policy change in Sierra Leone, he said, calling for a global education revolution that would finally end illiteracy, among other things. Such a revolution must also activate a global civil society committed to the defining values of the United Nations. Underlining the need to focus on empowering girls, he noted that a girl born in Sierra Leone today would have only a one in 10 chance to make it through secondary school, and one in five girls would marry by age 15. “Her school has no female teachers, she has no mentors,” he added. And because there was no contraception, the young girl was likely to have children very young. Those children were in turn likely to have poor nutrition and no opportunity to attend school, thereby continuing a cycle of poverty, he said, underlining that such girls must be “front and centre” in each policy.
Panel Discussion I
The Council then held a panel discussion on “An integrated agenda towards achieving SDG 1”. Moderated by Courtenay Rattray (Jamaica), it featured the following panellists: Alejandro Cruz Sanchez, Secretary of Planning, Evaluation, Regional Development, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mexico; Shamshad Akhtar, Executive Secretary, Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP); Azita Berar-Awad, Director, Employment Policy Department, International Labour Organization (ILO); Scott Vaughan, President and Chief Executive Officer, International Institute for Sustainable Development; and Andrew Shepherd, Director, Chronic Poverty Advisory Network.
Mr. CRUZ said Mexico had adopted the 2030 Agenda as the road towards a fairer, more prosperous society. The Government had established a national council to coordinate the work of various agencies in order to better implement the 2030 Agenda. Noting that more than a billion people had emerged from extreme poverty, including in the poorest countries, between 2000 and 2015, he said it was critical to establish strategies and coordinate action with the goal of building on that progress with local capacities at the forefront. The 2030 Agenda sought to continue improving quality of life, he continued, calling for a paradigm shift in poverty-eradication efforts. Social policy must be seen as an investment in citizens, he said. Joint efforts between State and local governments, civil society, business, academia and citizens were aimed at building well-rounded and transparent policy. Highlighting the need to better focus efforts and resources as well as better planning and assessment measurements, he said transparency and accountability were critical to boosting the benefits of social programmes, adding that low productivity, inequality and lack of capital must be addressed through holistic and inclusive policies.
Ms. AKHTAR said from the standpoint of the regional commissions, smooth and effective implementation called for managing risk, including by promoting multilateralism as an anchor of global governance. The regional commissions had been closely involved in assessing how to support the efforts of Member States to implement the 2030 Agenda by focusing on integration and policy coherence. The Asia-Pacific region was still home to some 400 million poor people, she said, urging substantive investment in the integration of the economic, social and environmental dimensions. Broadening the scope of integration would allow regional commissions to promote the harmonization of policy across different sectors, which would ensure that resources were used efficiently. Multiple actors could focus their efforts on similar goals, including economists and social scientists working together to address socioeconomic challenges, she said.
Ms. BERAR-AWAD emphasized that no development could take place without jobs, noting that decent employment boosted living standards, increased productivity and provided pathways out of poverty and inequality. Many countries were currently designing and adopting integrated employment policies, she said, pointing to several recent positive global examples such as the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth and the Jobs for Peace Initiative working to bring together aspects of employment, peacebuilding and sustainable development. Critical elements of successful employment policy entailed the integration of policy content and ownership of policies by those executing them on the ground, she said, adding that the three dimensions of sustainable development were increasingly brought together by a focus on employment. More emphasis should also be placed on broad-based dialogue and multi-stakeholder consultation, she said, calling for increased attention to livelihood resilience and for the development of policies with a focus beyond the economic aspects of job availability in order to address the important questions of job quality and social protection.
Mr. VAUGHAN noted that hunger was a central aspect of poverty and recalled the World Food Programme (WFP)’s recent announcement that 20 million people in four countries were currently facing famine. “An immediate priority is to increase urgent spending to end famine and save lives,” he emphasized, pointing also to the devastating effects of chronic food insecurity. It was estimated that an extra $11 billion in public spending would be needed annually from now until 2030 to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 2 on ending hunger, he said, noting that $4 billion of that should come from donors and the rest from Member States. Underlining the need to strengthen social safety nets, practical on-farm support, rural development planning, nutrition support and relevant legal reforms, he also cited the urgent need to improve the management and conservation of freshwater and to prioritize agricultural sectors in national climate-change adaptation plans. Against that backdrop, the International Institute for Sustainable Development was helping Governments shape more robust trade and investment policies in support of implementation of the Goals.
Mr. SHEPHERD said that eradicating extreme poverty would require three things: tackling chronic poverty, sustaining “poverty escapes”, and ending impoverishment — meaning falling, or relapse, into poverty. “Impoverishment is surprisingly strong,” he emphasized, outlining a simple mathematical formula —“poverty reduction equals escape minus impoverishment”. Countries that had successfully reduced poverty had engaged in some combination of crucial activities — including political change, constitutional reform, increased political participation, universal and targeted affirmative action, and social mobilization — he noted that countries had generally found it easier to improve human development outcomes than to reduce their income poverty. He also described education policies as critical, spotlighting the important link between schools and the labour market. National investment in technical and vocational education had remained particularly problematic, he noted. He also urged countries to link social-protection programmes to financial inclusion through direct Government-to-people transfers, among other policies.
With the floor open for comments and questions, a discussion emerged about the development of a new, multidimensional index designed to measure poverty in ways exceeding the traditional focus on income.
The representative of Honduras emphasized the need to examine poverty through the lens of middle-income countries, in which most of the world’s poor lived. That diverse group of countries faced diverse challenges, he said, urging that each be considered on its own merit. Honduras was taking a multidimensional approach to reducing poverty, in accordance with the interlinked nature of the Sustainable Development Goals, he said, expressing support for a multidimensional poverty index and emphasizing the importance of addressing poverty in a less narrow way.
The representative of Viet Nam agreed that such an index would be critical in helping middle-income countries further reduce poverty levels. She sought the panellists’ opinion on the potential scope of such an index, including its ability to measure the effects of such emerging challenges as climate change.
Mr. SHEPHERD recalled that the Chronic Poverty Advisory Network had produced a policy guide examining the experience of middle-income countries in reducing poverty. It identified a number of regional differences, he said, noting that the pattern of many East Asian countries had been to invest heavily and early in education and economic growth, with later investment in social protection and health coverage. In Latin America, on the other hand, investment had typically been much more balanced, with lower rates of economic growth as a result. Pointing to an ongoing debate over the merits of examining monetary poverty as opposed to a more multidimensional approach, he said the latter helped the international community better understand the relationship between specific challenges and indicators.
Ms. AKHTAR also expressed support for a multidimensional poverty index, but pointed out that the targets and indicators associated with the Sustainable Development Goals could already prove “mind-boggling” and complex for countries to measure, disaggregate and synthesize. It was important not to overwhelm countries with such measurement processes, she said, pointing out the existence of vulnerability, inclusivity and governance indexes. Indeed, practical implications should always be considered, she said, emphasizing the need for a more focused approach in the context of the 2030 Agenda.
Ms. BERAR-AWAD, noting that all the Sustainable Development Goals were interrelated, called for a similarly integrated perspective on reducing poverty. However, the focus should be on policy integration in particular contexts, she emphasized, pointing out that a major difference between the Sustainable Development Goals and the preceding Millennium Development Goals was that the indicators related to the former were action-oriented in nature.
Panel Discussion II
This afternoon, the Council held a second panel discussion, focusing on “Policy integration across borders”. Moderated by Andrew Revkin, Senior Reporter for climate and related issues at ProPublic and former reporter at The New York Times, it featured the following panellists: Juan Somavia, Director, Diplomatic Academy of Chile, and former Director-General, International Labour Organization (ILO); Mario Marroquin, specialist in cross-border management, Tri-National Commission, Trifinio Plan (Trifinio-Fraternidad Biosphere); and Karin Fernando, Senior Research Professional, Centre for Poverty Analysis.
Mr. REVKIN recalled that he had been writing about energy policy, disaster risk and climate change for more than 30 years and there was no single issue related to sustainability “where poverty doesn’t matter”. In that regard, he told the story of a New York City employee tasked with running sustainability programmes in the city’s public schools. Having realized that little expertise existed in that area, she had thought “outside the box” and conceived the Bronx High School of Energy and Technology, he said, urging participants to take an equally innovative approach. Indeed, achieving sustainable development would be about getting bureaucracies to “think creatively”, he said.
Mr. SOMAVIA said the biggest challenge now facing the United Nations system was “how to make [the 2030 Agenda] happen”. Noting that the Sustainable Development Goals had deeply enshrined a highly integrated approach, he warned that the policy integration capacity of both countries and the United Nations system was still not fully developed. “Without policy integration, sustainable development will not happen,” he stressed, underlining the importance of linking such issues as sustainable urbanization, gender equality and poverty eradication. The United Nations had begun its work with a focus on “coordination”, then moved into “coherence”, “cooperation” and most recently “policy convergence”, but it had still had not developed an “integration” approach. Moving towards sustainable development meant recognizing that the economic, social and environmental pillars all enjoyed an equal status, he said, adding that “cracking the nut of how you do policy integration” would bring significant credibility to the 2030 Agenda. He also outlined several challenges facing the development of policy integration — including conceptual, technical and institutional ones — and called on the Council to develop a “How To” document on the matter during its next integration segment.
Ms. FERNANDO, noting that many organizations had attempted integration many times, said the difference now was a much higher level of urgency. “We seem to react only when we’re in crisis”, she said in that regard, pointing in particular to the threat posed by climate change. There was a danger, however, that countries faced with this urgency as well as limited resources would only take on the “easy” actions without deep consideration. With regard to the “How To” document proposed by Mr. Somavia, she said such a guide could help countries learn how to utilize a more integrative approach at their policy planning stages. On content coherence, she said it was first crucial to consider whether integrated policies led to positive or negative interactions, adding that the constraints posed by limited natural resources, the challenge of inequality and the importance of ecosystem stability must also be addressed. She went on to describe Sri Lanka’s strategies in that regard, citing the Government’s efforts to integrate its various ministries as well as her own organization’s work in mapping the country’s energy policies and their relationship with other issues and sectors.
Mr. MARROQUIN said the trans-border management of water was a critical issue in Central America. Poverty placed a great deal of pressure on natural resources such as water, food and forests. Cross-border issues must be included on the development agenda to promote a dialogue of collaboration. At the local level, linking the three pillars of sustainable development had been a challenge, he added, underscoring the role of civil society. International mandates had empowered national institutions to address the local needs of the people. Planning in advance and ongoing dialogue with local, national and international actors were crucial. Reducing cross-border conflict over resources was a major goal in the region. He shared an example of producers and consumers from different countries cooperating on developing policies on coffee. Political will was critical in having gotten an agreement between Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras in the 1990s. New tools were needed to deal with water issues and drought, he said, adding that technical and financial tools were crucial in helping communities deal with resource challenges.
In the ensuing discussion, Guatemala’s delegate said development and sustainable economic growth was a priority for his country, particularly in the area of economic and cultural complementarity. The mutual goal must be the achievement of sustainable development and eradication of poverty.
The representative of El Salvador said sustainable development and its three pillars could only be achieved through working together. Maintaining the integrity of the implementation process from policy to action was crucial. The delegate from Honduras also welcomed regional cooperation for the implementation of sustainable development.
A representative from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said working together, particularly through technology and good governance, remained critical to help countries with water use efficiency.
HORACIO SEVILLA BORJA (Ecuador), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said it was deeply regrettable that 13 per cent of the world’s population still lived in extreme poverty. The global financial and economic crisis was undermining sustainable development and reversing modest gains, particularly in the least developed countries. For economic growth to help reduce poverty, macroeconomic and social policies must focus on creating jobs and social inclusion, he emphasized, calling for adequate and predictable means for developing countries to implement policies and programmes that would end poverty.
Developed countries must fully implement their ODA commitments while scaling up poverty eradication efforts, he continued, while underlining that although South-South cooperation was welcome, it merely complemented North-South cooperation and was no substitute. Governments in developing countries must be able to formulate their own development strategies and policy tools, in accordance with their own national priorities and circumstances, with the United Nations system and other international partners providing support for much-needed structural changes, he said.
Pablo José Soriano Mena (El Salvador), speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), emphasized the critical role of South-South and triangular cooperation in complementing, rather than substituting, North-South cooperation. Despite the progress made by all countries in the region, ODA was still required to reduce inequality and structural gaps. Reiterating calls for developed countries to fulfil their commitments to allocate 0.7 per cent of their respective gross national income to ODA, he called on different stakeholders to address the specific needs of various countries, while reaffirming CELAC’s commitment to the Monterrey Consensus, the Doha Declaration and the Addis Ababa Action Plan.
He went on to emphasize that sustainable development must be addressed from an integrated and holistic perspective, cautioning that a piecemeal approach to diagnosing and reducing poverty distorted the real situation of the Central America and Caribbean region. Despite the progress it had made, poverty and the prevalence of food insecurity and hunger remained a challenge, he said, reiterating the commitment to continue working for the goal of “zero hunger” in the region. Emphasizing the need to maintain gender equality in the debate on development, he said structural gender inequalities perpetuated the poverty cycle. The 2030 Agenda must be people-centred and based on human rights, with a cross-cutting gender perspective, he said.
GÜVEN BEGEÇ (Turkey), speaking for the MIKTA Group (Mexico, Indonesia, Republic of Korea, Turkey and Australia), said poverty had been reduced at different rates in different regions. However, overall progress had not happened at the desired pace, while economic shocks, food insecurity and climate change were threatening hard-won development gains and could force people back into poverty. In that context, the best way to address poverty and inequality was to integrate the Sustainable Development Goals into national development agendas and planning in order to transform economies for inclusive growth and decent jobs. Underscoring the importance of national ownership in that process, as well as the delivery of meeting ODA commitments, he said the mobilization of new and additional concessional and non-concessional financing — public and private, domestic and international, South-South and triangular — was also crucial. Economic growth and access to jobs were not enough to address poverty, which was a multidimensional phenomenon and required measured approaches that went beyond per capita income.
In that regard, he continued, the Sustainable Development Goals would stimulate action to deliver key standards in such areas as education, nutrition and food security, social protection, health and well-being, water and sanitation, access to sustainable energy, decent work and adequate living conditions. Calling for special attention to vulnerable groups — as well as efforts to assist least developed countries, landlocked developing countries, small island developing States and countries emerging from conflict — he said it was also important to recognize the structural gaps constraining the development of middle-income countries. Calling on the United Nations to deliver integrated strategic analysis and policy advice while facilitating resource mobilization, he said the Economic and Social Council integration segment in particular provided a unifying platform for a comprehensive dialogue on those issues.
KEISHA A. MCGUIRE (Grenada) spoke on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) while associating herself with the Group of 77 and China and the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS). She said an integrated approach to reducing poverty was of particular importance to the Caribbean, where climate change exacerbated socioeconomic challenges. Drought, hurricanes and tropical storms were not uncommon in the region, which was also currently monitoring a volcano. CARICOM would continue to promote the raising of awareness as well as education and sustainable use of ecosystems and natural resources, she emphasized.
The region continued to intensify its efforts to draw upon the understanding that income was an insufficient measure of poverty, she continued, stressing that poverty must be addressed in all its dimensions. CARICOM welcomed South-South cooperation and efforts to enhance social protection systems through increased economic participation and social inclusion of the most vulnerable groups, she said. Noting that the Caribbean, by its very location, had become a transhipment point for drugs, she outlined the various ways in which the drug trade was affecting life, particularly for young men.
TEODORO LOCSIN (Philippines) said the situation in his country mirrored a trend in post-modern economies that reflected an uneven distribution of wealth among the richest. To counter that type of anomalous development, the newest national development plan aimed at promoting inclusive growth, with a target of lowering the poverty level from a present level of 21.6 per cent to 14 per cent by 2022 through encouraging innovation and enterprise and pulling people together behind freely-elected Governments. Reducing criminality and illegal drugs were priorities, he said, adding that poverty eradication efforts included investments in human capital through better education, infrastructure development for sound urban development and inclusive financing.
MAHMADAMIN MAHMADAMINOV (Tajikistan), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said 20 million people around the world were on the brink of famine, pointing out that that grim number existed on a planet with more than enough resources to feed all its people. “The clock is ticking,” he said, warning that challenges would only grow more complicated. Eradicating poverty was therefore a priority task for the Government of Tajikistan, he said. Describing State reforms intended to create an effective economic development system, diversify the economy and ensure economic stability, he said Tajikistan had successfully reduced poverty levels from 72 per cent in 2003 to 31 per cent in 2015. However, realizing the Sustainable Development Goals remained a challenge, he said, adding that Tajikistan was unable to meet its electricity demands and to trade its valuable summertime energy on the world market.
JERRY MATTHEWS MATJILA (South Africa), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said his country’s road map for addressing the underlying causes of poverty included redirecting the policymaking focus from the short to the long term. A national five-year plan intended to extend until 2019 would focus on education, health, security, employment, rural development, human settlements and social protections, among other sectors. Citing World Bank figures, he said South Africa’s fiscal policy had lifted 3.6 million people out of poverty and halved the rate of extreme poverty. However, poverty, inequality and underdevelopment continued to hinder the global development agenda, he said, calling upon the international community to remain resolute in its commitment to improving the lives of the poor and marginalized. Eradicating poverty must remain the primary focus of the United Nations development system, he said.
CARLOS SERGIO SOBRAL DUARTE (Brazil), associating himself with the Group of 77 and CELAC, said poverty’s multidimensional nature was reflected in the 2030 Agenda, and the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 1 on hunger eradication depended directly on the achievement of the other targets. While progress had been made on those issues, he stressed that “this is not enough” and called for effective action coupled with structural change. Noting that Brazil would be presenting its national voluntary review during the Council’s 2017 high-level segment, he went on to urge both the Council and the General Assembly to formally adopt a new, multidimensional poverty indicator framework prior to the high-level political forum in July. That would allow Member States and United Nations system entities to begin gathering the relevant data while sending another powerful signal of the international community’s commitment to achieving sustainable development, he said, concluding by calling on all stakeholders to mobilize significant resources to assist developing countries in implementing their sustainable development policies.
GEBEYEHU GANGA GAYITO (Ethiopia) said that his Government had since 1991 anchored all its public policies in reducing poverty and achieving rapid and sustained economic growth. Poverty had been reduced by half, per capita income had grown substantially, foreign direct investment (FDI) was growing and the economy was under structural transformation. Economic growth had averaged 10.9 per cent annually, making Ethiopia among the fastest growing economies in the world. One of the key drivers of economic growth was the country’s agricultural sector, which promoted productivity and industrialization. The Government had also heavily invested in infrastructure, diversified the economy and enhanced competitiveness. It had also implemented social safety net programmes to protect the most vulnerable. However, despite the progress, Ethiopia remained one of the least developed countries facing multiple challenges including climate change impact, weak institutions and funding gaps.
SYLVIA PAOLA MENDOZA ELGUEA (Mexico), associating herself with CELAC and MIKTA, said that eradicating poverty was an indispensable requisite for sustainable development. The fight against poverty and inequality continued to be a priority for her Government. Mexico had established a national council focused on giving permanence to its commitment to fulfil the Sustainable Development Goals. Having aligned its socioeconomic policy with the Millennium Development Goals, Mexico was now designing its policies in line with the 2030 Agenda. In implementing public policy to eradicate poverty, it was important to pay particular attention to youth, women, children and the elderly. It was also important to take into account myriad structural gaps that hampered addressing those challenges.
VINICIUS CARVALHO PINHEIRO, Special Representative to the United Nations and Director, International Labour Organization (ILO), recalled that in 2016 three out of ten working men and women in emerging and developing countries had been unable to earn enough to lift themselves above the median poverty line of $3.10 per day. While working poverty rates were expected to decline in 2017-2018, that rate would likely be slower than in previous years. “Finding a decent job is the most sustainable route out of poverty,” he said, adding that harnessing the potential of the rural economy through decent work — including improving agricultural productivity and boosting earnings — was also critical. Pointing out that another key Sustainable Development Goal target was the establishment of social protection systems, including “floors”, he said the latter were fundamental to preventing poverty and helped reduce fragility in countries transitioning from conflict to peace. Recalling that the Council’s 2015 integration segment had focused on employment creation and decent work for all, he stressed that in many countries dignity and prosperity remained a challenge due largely to poverty and discrimination.