Is It Possible to Eradicate Poverty Amid 'Pronounced Increases' in Global Inequality?


 Human Wrongs Watch

Amid pronounced increases in global inequality, the United Nations marked the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on 17 October 2014 with calls to accelerate efforts in eliminating poverty in all its forms.

A scavenger picks through garbage in a low-income neighbourhood of Jakarta, Indonesia. World Bank/Farhana Asnap

“Entrenched poverty and prejudice, and vast gulfs between wealth and destitution, can undermine the fabric of societies and lead to instability,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message for the Day, which is commemorated annually on 17 October.*

“Leave No One Behind: Women Poverty and Participation”

The Day will be marked at UN Headquarters in New York at three separate events, including an official commemoration in the form of a panel discussion entitled ‘Leave No One Behind: Women Poverty and Participation,’ and an art exhibition giving voice to people living in poverty through their collected artworks.

Where poverty holds sway, people are held back. Lives disfigured by poverty are cruel, mean and, often, short

In his remarks, the Secretary-General said: “Where poverty holds sway, people are held back. Lives disfigured by poverty are cruel, mean and, often, short.”

Ban admitted that “enormous” successes had been achieved with the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of halving the proportion of people living in poverty already reached. In addition, he pointed out that at least 700 million people had been lifted out of extreme poverty between 1990 and 2010.

2.4 Billion People Continue to Survive on Less than $2 a Day

But, observed the Secretary-General, the damaging impact of entrenched poverty remained a constant due to the aftereffects of the 2008 financial crisis as an estimated 2.4 billion people continue to survive on less than $2 a day. Moreover, he noted that women and girls were still largely excluded from opportunities of self-development and fulfilment, often isolating them, and their families, in pockets of poverty.

“Since the beginning of the financial crisis, inequality has grown even more pronounced than it was already,” Ban declared. “Discrimination against women and girls remains a blatant injustice, robbing the entire development enterprise of one of the keys to progress.”

With the fight against poverty at the core of the UN development agenda, the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty has been observed every year since 1993, when the UN General Assembly designated this day to promote awareness of the need to eradicate poverty and destitution in all countries ahead of the MDG deadline set for 2015.

This year’s theme for the Day, ‘Leave no one behind: think, decide and act together against extreme poverty,’ draws much-needed attention to the challenge of identifying and securing the participation of those experiencing extreme poverty and social exclusion in the “Post-2015 Development Agenda” that will replace the MDGs.

Turning to the UN-wide preparations for a post-2015 sustainable development agenda, the Secretary-General reminded UN Member States and all parties not to lose sight of their “most fundamental obligation” to eliminate poverty and build “a sustainable, peaceful, prosperous and equitable future for all.” (*Source: UN Release).

A woman and her children collect firewood and paper for baking bread in Ezbet Abd Rabbo, Gaza. Photo: Shareef Sarhan

A woman and her children collect firewood and paper for baking bread in Ezbet Abd Rabbo, Gaza. Photo: Shareef Sarhan

Two years ago, on the same day, 17 October 2012 – the UN warned that inequalities are growing dramatically both within and between countries over the last 10 years. The United Nations marked the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty that day with calls to tackle not only the material aspects of the scourge but also its social and educational dimensions and the unequal access to justice.**

“Poverty is easy to denounce but difficult to combat,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message for the Day. “Those suffering from hunger, want and indignity need more than sympathetic words; they need concrete support.”

Ban stressed that during times of economic austerity it is even more crucial to put policies in place that will protect the most vulnerable.

“As governments struggle to balance budgets, funding for anti-poverty measures is under threat. But this is precisely the time to provide the poor with access to social services, income security, decent work and social protection,” he said. “Only then can we build stronger and more prosperous society – not by balancing budgets at the expense of the poor.”

Ending the Violence of Extreme Poverty…

With the fight against poverty at the core of the UN development agenda, the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty has been observed every year since 1993, when the UN General Assembly designated this day to promote awareness of the need to eradicate poverty and destitution in all countries.

The 2012’s theme for the Day, ‘Ending the Violence of Extreme Poverty: Promoting Empowerment and Building Peace,’ highlights the link between poverty and social unrest, as well as the need to provide people with the necessary skills to contribute to society.

“Poverty is not merely a matter of minimum income thresholds or insufficient resources, nor must it be remedied only through charity or wealth redistribution schemes,” the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Irina Bokova, said in her message for the Day.

“There is educational, cultural, scientific and social poverty, which is the corollary of material poverty and must be combated with the same determination,” she added. “Poverty results in deprivation of individual capacities for development and in the lack of autonomy. Poverty eradication entails building each person’s capacity to create wealth and to tap each human being’s inner potential.”

Over One Billion People Living with Less than $1 a Day

Bokova noted that despite overall economic development worldwide, more than one billion people live in extreme poverty, which the World Bank defines as living on less than $1 a day.

“This situation is a violation of basic human rights and an obstacle to development,” she said. “Progress is within our reach. Since 2000, extreme poverty has been halved. This proves that with political will and the joint commitment of States, outcomes can be achieved. To succeed, we must redouble our efforts to combat new forms of poverty and social exclusion. We must also understand all aspects of poverty in order to tailor our response appropriately.”

She stressed that quality education, scientific development and cultural diversity are essential strategic tools for developing human intelligence and enabling people to take control of their future.

“Without access to justice, people living in poverty are unable to claim and realize a whole range of human rights”

In a separate message, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty, Magdalena Sepúlveda, called on States to take immediate measures to ensure access to justice by the poorest segments of society, stressing that such access is a human right in itself and essential for tackling the root causes of poverty.

“Without access to justice, people living in poverty are unable to claim and realize a whole range of human rights, or challenge crimes, abuses or violations committed against them,” she said.

She also highlighted the financial, social and physical barriers that prevent the poor from accessing justice and perpetuate and exacerbate their disadvantage, noting that they are often unable to seek justice due to the cost and time of travel to a distant courthouse, fees charged for filing claims or lack of free, quality legal assistance.

“Lack of information about their rights, illiteracy or linguistic barriers, coupled with entrenched stigma attached to poverty, also makes it harder for the poor to engage with the justice system,” she noted. “In such circumstances, a person living in poverty cannot uphold their rights or challenge injustice.” (**Source: UN Release).

Read also:

Role of Rural Women, Key for Required Economic, Environmental and Social Changes

It’s the Food, Stupid!

Change Your Food, Change the World: 5 Ways to Bite Away at Your Food Footprint

Nine Out of Ten of the World’s 570 Million Farms Are Managed by Families

Family Farming, Vital in a World Where 800 Million People Lack Access to Healthy Food

“Eradicating Poverty Goes ‘Hand in Hand’ with Biodiversity Protection”

Seven Key Facts about Family Farms that You Should Know But that You Probably Do Not

2014 Human Wrongs Watch

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