Seventy-Fifth Session Of The UN General Assembly, Second Committee Agenda Item 24, “Eradication Of Poverty And Other Development Issues”, United Nations, New York, October 13, 2020.
In 2015, the international community committed itself to “eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions” by 2030 and pledged that “no one would be left behind.” Five years later, however, the scourge of poverty continues to dominate the international scene and remains one of the greatest global challenges of our time. Despite considerable progress, the number of people living in poverty across the globe continues to be unacceptably high and reminds us of the magnitude of the challenge still ahead.
The socio-economic impacts of the current pandemic make the situation even more urgent. In June 2020, the World Bank estimated that the COVID-19 pandemic could push as many as 100 million people into extreme poverty within this year, leading, for the first time in decades, to an increase in the poverty rates globally.
More than 200 million people have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic. Those who were already in vulnerable situations — including the unemployed, those in ‘informal’ or precarious employment, seasonal and migrant workers — are at risk of falling into poverty. Job loss, lack of opportunities, and inadequate — if not inexistent — social protection are essential factors that contribute to poverty, greater inequality, and exclusion.
Education is one of the essential catalysts to lift families and communities out of the cycle of poverty. Progress in educational participation, however, has been drastically hampered over the past months and the number of children and young people out of school has dramatically increased as a result of school closures. Lack of access to quality education is particularly harmful in a world where the acquisition, use, and sharing of knowledge are key to poverty reduction and social development.
The pandemic has also shone a spotlight on what Pope Francis has called “pharmaceutical poverty.” In many regions of the world, both in developed and in developing countries, the poor are often denied access to essential healthcare and medicines. This tangible sign of the complete lack of protection that many of our brothers and sisters experience every day exacerbates the spiral of exclusion and inequality that goes hand-in-hand with poverty and makes the poor even more invisible.
Poverty is about so much more than the amount of financial resources on which people rely for their survival. It “appears in a variety of guises” and thus eliminating it requires an integral approach that unites monetary measures with comprehensive policies addressing the non-monetary deprivations that millions of people face at the educational, social, political, cultural, and spiritual levels.
If we are to succeed in our shared commitment to eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions by 2030, development policies must give priority to those most in need and foster an economy and a model of development where the human person, especially the poor, is at the center. The eradication of poverty requires “more than economic growth. […] It requires decisions, programs, mechanisms and processes specifically geared to a better distribution of income, the creation of sources of employment and an integral promotion of the poor which goes beyond a simple welfare mentality.” Eradicating poverty means, first and foremost, enabling all men, women and children “to be dignified agents of their own destiny” and providing access to the conditions and resources that will allow them to develop their full potential. Only through concrete measures that ensure “the inclusion of the excluded, the promotion of the least, and the common good,” will the hundreds of millions who are still deprived of the bare necessities of life, including food, medical care, and education, be lifted out of poverty and achieve integral human development.
Thank you, Mr. President.
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