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United Nations: Holy See Laments Continuing Prevalence of Poverty

‘Eradication of poverty and other development issues.’

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On October 16, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, gave a statement before the Second Committee of the Seventy-fourth Session of the United Nations General Assembly on Agenda Item 22, dedicated to the «Eradication of poverty and other development issues.» The statement was delivered by Monsignor Fredrik Hansen.

In his statement, Archbishop Auza commented on the high rates of poverty that exist in the world today, particularly in developing countries. He stated that in spite of the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the world is not yet on track to eradicate extreme poverty by this date. He mentioned a number of factors, including economic downturns, conflicts, and natural disasters, that are inhibiting progress efforts toward eradication. Archbishop Auza emphasized that poverty is not only a result of a lack of economic development and requires more than economic measures to effect the changes needed. Quality education, employment, maternal healthcare, and social services must be at the heart of a people-centered approach to development and poverty eradication.

The Archbishop’s Full Statement

Mr. Chair,

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a vast multilateral program designed not only to help the more than 731 million people still in extreme poverty to overcome abject deprivation but also to rise above the poverty line by addressing many of the factors necessary for their integral development.

Despite the progress made since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, poverty rates continue to be alarming, especially in the least developed countries (LDCs) and particularly in Africa. According to the latest report of the Secretary-General on the Implementation of the Third United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (2018–2027), the world as a whole is not on track to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030.[1] Indeed, almost 500 million people could remain in extreme poverty by 2030.[2] Moreover, multiple factors, including the global economic slowdown, ongoing conflicts, adverse effects of climate change and natural disasters, are exacerbating the situation, with poverty reduction even starting to stagnate in developing countries.

Mr. Chair,

My Delegation wishes to emphasize that poverty is not mere exclusion from economic development. It is rather a multidimensional phenomenon, which results from interconnected factors, manifesting itself in all dimensions of human life, including the educational, social, political, cultural and spiritual dimensions. Therefore, poverty eradication requires more than economic measures aiming at increasing the amount of money a day a person lives on. Concrete experience and data tell us that per capita income growth remains insufficient to lead to substantial poverty alleviation.[3] Therefore, our efforts to eradicate poverty should take into consideration the integral development of the whole human person, and address the complex reality of poverty.

In this regard, one of the most effective pathways out of poverty is the implementation and expansion of policies that contribute to job creation and that support decent work for all. A people-centered approach that puts the rights and needs of workers, including domestic workers, at the heart of economic, social and environmental policies is vital in order to promote integrated measures for poverty eradication, as well as to keep economic activity at the service of the human person and social relations.

Education is a crucial antidote to poverty and key to social and economic mobility. Ensuring inclusive and equitable access to quality education is essential to provide children, young boys and girls, women and men not only with the skills that enable them to become qualified workers but also with the spiritual goods that help them grow and flourish as persons. Educating young people left outside the margins of economic progress is, indeed, a valid and perennial contribution to lifting them out of extreme poverty, and to making them active agents of change within their communities.

Healthcare is another key factor in poverty eradication. The world has yet to fulfill its promise to address the health needs of all. Half of the world’s population still lacks access to essential healthcare and close to one hundred million people are pushed into extreme poverty each year due to health expenses. Worse still, as the most recent monitoring report on the implementation of Universal Health Coverage worldwide clearly shows, when there is no universal access to healthcare, the poorer the person is, the less access he or she has to healthcare. It almost goes without saying that the international community must focus greater attention on the fundamental healthcare needs of the poorest and of those who run the greatest risk of being left behind.

Reliable social protection systems and infrastructures have also proven to be highly effective in reducing poverty and inequality worldwide. Therefore, the implementation of social protection policies, including maternity and family benefits, as well as programs designed to assist those in need, must continue to be at the heart of our common efforts to eradicate poverty and promote the effective inclusion of all segments of society.

Programs aimed at inclusion must focus on women, including rural women, since they continue to be disproportionally affected by poverty and exclusion in many countries. As the latest report of the Secretary-General on Women in Development details,[4] greater efforts are needed to increase access to job and entrepreneurial opportunities for women, to achieve parity and equity in the labor force, as well as to reduce the pay gap. Providing access to quality education for women and girls, promoting the reconciliation of work and family responsibilities, hastening the transition of women from informal to formal employment, and recognizing and valuing unpaid care and domestic work are vital to emancipating women from the vicious circle of poverty and exclusion.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.


1. A/73/298.

2. The World Bank, Global Economic Prospects. Heightened Tensions, Subdued Investments, 2019.

3. Pope Francis, Address to the General Assembly, 25 September 2015.

4. A/74/279.

Copyright © 2019 Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations, All rights reserved.

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