62nd Session of the General Assembly
Agenda Items 58 A, B, C
ERADICATION OF POVERTY AND OTHER DEVELOPMENT ISSUES
Virgínia Brás Gomes
Permanent Mission of Portugal to the United Nations
on behalf of the European Union
New York, 6 November 2007
I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.
The Candidate Countries Turkey, Croatia* and The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, as well as Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, and Georgia align themselves with this declaration.
I am pleased to address the 2nd Committee Plenary on this important agenda item, which allows for the consideration of poverty eradication - one of the greatest global challenges facing the world today and a precondition for the achievement of sustainable development.
In the fight against poverty, the broad development framework of the MDGs should continue to be the rallying point for the UN system and the international community.
The EU thanks the Secretary General for his Report on the Implementation of the First UN Decade for the Eradication of Poverty, which signals that the Decade provided the opportunity for many countries to bring the issue of poverty eradication to the forefront of their national policy discourse.
Important initiatives, including the International Year of Microcredit and the International Human Solidarity Day, have also contributed to raise awareness on poverty eradication as well as to reinforce its importance in the context of development.
The contribution of several stakeholders to the poverty eradication process needs to be recognized. UNDP’s Poverty Strategies Initiative and the World Bank’s and IMF’s Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers have been instrumental in making poverty reduction an important element of national policies. Efforts of civil society organizations in this field have also increased the visibility of the poverty eradication debate in different countries, irrespective of their stage of development, by giving voice to the poor and implementing programs and activities to reduce poverty at grass roots level.
Poverty eradication has been a central theme in most UN Conferences and Summits that took place in the late 90’s, particularly since it was expressed as one of the three core concerns for social and economic development in the World Summit for Social Development, in 1995.
In 2000, at the start of the new Millennium, world leaders agreed on the MDG to halve extreme poverty and hunger by 2015. However, a few years later, during the 2005 World Summit, they recognized that progress towards poverty eradication was in general slow and uneven.
More recently, in the 2007 MDGs Report, at the midpoint between the adoption of the MDGs and the 2015 target date, the Secretary General recognized that our collective record is mixed and that much remains to be done. In fact, though the poorest are today a little less poor in most regions, poverty reduction has been accompanied by rising inequality.
The First Annual Ministerial Review (AMR) of the ECOSOC dedicated to strengthening efforts to eradicate poverty and hunger including through the global partnership for development was an important forum for the exchange of lessons learned, successful practices and approaches aiming at the fulfilment of the MDGs. National voluntary presentations that focused on the progress achieved in formulating and implementing national development strategies, provided examples of best practices that can be further developed and scaled-up.
There is now broad recognition that good environmental management and sustainable use of environmental and natural resources are crucial to economic growth and poverty reduction in developing countries. Not only do poor people and poor countries depend on environmental resources to a much greater extent than richer countries – for growth, livelihoods and health – but poor people usually bear the highest costs of environmental hazards and degradation such as floods and pollution. Action on poverty development must therefore go hand in hand with work to prevent climate change, and the related areas of environmental degradation, pollution and the loss of eco-system services.
The EU reiterates the relevance of human rights protection, including the right to food, in the context of poverty eradication and fully shares the broad definition of poverty encompassing various dimensions, besides income, such as access to health and social services, education, gender equality, social exclusion, powerlessness and lack of voice or representation. We are aware that even in developed countries pockets of poverty and social exclusion persist, calling for renewed efforts targeted at disadvantaged groups. The National Action Plans for Inclusion, in place in EU Member States, represent a coordinated policy framework to address child poverty, poverty among women and vulnerable groups. The EU also attaches particular importance to the promotion of public-private partnerships as an important tool to achieve the MDGs, including poverty eradication.
Integrated and mutually reinforcing social, economic and environmental strategies to ensure sustainable development with a particular focus on a pro-poor growth perspective, creation of opportunities for productive employment and adoption of effective social inclusion policies remain critically important in achieving the poverty eradication MDG target.
The EU remains committed to poverty eradication as one of the main development objectives and reaffirms its full support for the implementation of comprehensive national strategies. In fact, poverty eradication and sustainable development remain of the utmost importance in an increasingly globalized and interdependent world, as recognized in the 2005 European Consensus for Development.
This Consensus, that underpins EU development cooperation activities in developing countries, underlines the importance of policy coherence for development, ensuring that EU non development policies such as trade, security and integration contribute to developing countries’ efforts to meet the MDGs.
On agenda item 58 b), mindful of the mutually reinforcing links between gender equality and poverty eradication, we welcome the Secretary General’s Report on Women in Development.
Women worldwide face discrimination which hinders their full enjoyment of human rights, prevents them from unleashing their full potential and excludes them from equally benefiting from development-related services such as education, health, HIV/AIDS prevention, sanitation, housing and access to credit. The EU underlines the importance of strengthening the UN gender architecture, with a view to both normative and operative concerns in line with the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. Deficiencies arising from the current fragmentation of the gender architecture system, which is also incoherent and under-resourced, need to be addressed.
Given the particular vulnerability of women and girls to poverty, we fully share the view that comprehensive gender-sensitive poverty eradication strategies, allowing for the full and equal participation of women in policy-setting and decision-making, are needed to address the feminization of poverty, to ensure their human rights and enhance their contribution to economic and social development.
The adoption of the Roadmap for Equality between Women and Men for the period 2006-2010; of the Pact for Gender Equality and the regulation for the European Institute for Gender Equality, testify to the Union’s continued commitment to achieving genuine equality between women and men.
Furthermore, the European Commission’s Communication on Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment in Development Cooperation, adopted in March 2007, and the European Council’s Conclusions on Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment in Development Cooperation, adopted in May 2007, provide a clear EU response to the gender commitments contained in the European Consensus for Development.
Though women are driving EU job growth, they still face barriers to equality. The increase in female employment is mainly in sectors and jobs already dominated by women, which are generally less well paid. Women also face greater difficulties in obtaining posts in decision-making bodies.
In spite of some welcome changes, mainly as a result of the gender mainstreaming approach adopted in all EU policies and activities, horizontal and vertical labor segregation still impacts negatively on women’s participation in the labor force, particularly at decision-making level.
One of the well documented reasons for this unequal representation is the dual role which women still play, as a result of working and taking care of families. It often means that they take on part-time, low-paid work and fall behind men on the career ladder. As recognized in the Report, developing measures to reconcile family and professional responsibilities is fundamental. Flexible working arrangements and availability of services for childcare, as well as for care of adult dependents, can go a long way in improving job and career prospects for women that better correspond to the progress made by them in key areas of education and research. On the other hand, the role of men in the reconciliation of work and family life also needs to be encouraged and further promoted.
The EU recognizes that a balanced participation by women and men in politics is essential in any democratic society and that the active involvement of women in the economic decision-making process contributes to a more productive and innovative working environment, a high performing economy and increased competitiveness. Nevertheless, much remains to be done in promoting a more equal distribution of power and responsibility between men and women in economic and political decision-making.
The EU affirms its strong support for and commitment to the full implementation of the Cairo Programme of Action adopted at the International Conference on Population and Development, 1994, as well as the key actions for the further implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action agreed at ICPD+5 and the Copenhagen Declaration and Action Programme; and also emphasizes that gender equality cannot be achieved without guaranteeing women's sexual and reproductive health and rights, and reaffirms that expanding access to sexual and reproductive health information and health services is essential for achieving the Beijing Platform for Action, the Cairo Programme of Action and the Millennium Development Goals.
The EU would also like to thank the Secretary General for his Report on Human Resources Development and highlight two aspects contained therein – the promotion of technology learning and the role of technological innovation to overcome barriers to progress.
Technology learning is a very important tool to empower people and expand their economic and social opportunities, and it should, therefore, be placed at the centre of national development strategies. More than a tool, it is a challenge that calls for special attention to be given to the need to put ICTs at the service of disadvantaged groups.
In this regard, in EU Member States, specific measures and programs have been put into place to fight info-exclusion and provide opportunities for men and women of all ages to acquire basic knowledge and skills to boost their participation in social and economic life, by facilitating their access to social services and educational and training activities, as well as increasing their employability and helping them bridge the technological divide.
In a wider perspective, since 2000, the EU has been pursuing the goal, to be achieved by 2010, of becoming one of the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economies in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion.
The revised Lisbon Strategy and the subsequent Integrated Guidelines for Growth and Jobs (2005–2008) adopted by the EU Council have placed an even stronger emphasis on the need to invest more in research and development, underpinned by technological innovation, and in human capital, a key determinant of economic growth in a knowledge based economy.
Indeed, the notion of human capital is becoming an increasingly strategic dimension of human resources development, encompassing life-long learning, training and job opportunities and adequate working conditions, social benefits and measures to reconcile professional, family and personal lives. As referred to in the European Commission’s Communication on Working together for growth and jobs: A new start for the Lisbon Strategy, economies endowed with a highly-skilled and adaptable workforce are better able to create and to make effective use of new technologies.
Taking into account the importance of rural development and adequate health systems for poverty eradication, the EU endorses the focus on the role of biotechnology in providing a way forward in agriculture and medicine. The recent European Commission’s mid term-review of the Life Sciences and Biotechnology Strategy (2007), provides an important framework towards a competitive and sustainable bio-economy.
Technological innovation has been greatly accelerated by globalization. As suggested in the Report, partnerships among key actors in Government, academia and the local productive sector are essential to develop technology-oriented research and bring about long-term technological transformation that will benefit all sectors of society.
To conclude our statement on this cluster, it is only fair that we renew today our commitment to fulfil our shared objectives, as we did very recently, on the 17th of October - the 20th International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, at the “Stand Up” event, in which we joined the Secretary General and millions of people around the world in Standing Up for the MDG’s.
* Croatia and The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.