Despite progress made before the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of people worldwide have slid back into extreme poverty, and some 130 million more will do so over the next decade unless the international community takes urgent action, speakers stressed today as the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) took up the issue.
Daniela Bas, Director of the Division for Inclusive Social Development of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, presented the report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of the third United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty. The combined effects of the pandemic and the conflict in Ukraine are expected to lead to a net increase of 75 to 95 million people in extreme poverty by the end of 2022, compared to pre-pandemic projections. Climate change, if uncurbed, will drive up to 130 million people into poverty over the next 10 years, she added.
She highlighted that long-term Government policies and emergency measures to mitigate the impacts of shocks matter in keeping people out of poverty. Further, the report contains some policy recommendations, including implementing inclusive policies as well as investing in sustainable green economies and ocean economies, building stronger health systems, increasing investment in human capital and decent job creation, combating climate change, and increasing investment in building gender- and disability-sensitive infrastructure.
Gerd Müller, Executive Director of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), introducing the Secretary-General’s report on “Industrial development cooperation” (document A/77/138), called for transformational change to rescue the Sustainable Development Goals and stop the climate crisis. The good news is solutions that are affordable, practical and realistic already exist. Further innovation, digitalization and modern technologies are the solutions to many of the greatest challenges. “This is why my motto is ‘progress by innovation,’” he said.
He noted that some 800 million people are currently hungry and need urgent support. Young people need decent jobs and increased incomes locally. Meanwhile, almost 800 million people have no energy access — three-quarters of them in sub-Saharan Africa. Without energy, he stressed, there is no development. The international community must support the transfer of clean energy technologies, facilitate partnerships for investments and invest in transformative solutions. It is further crucial to change modes of production and consumption. “We have only one planet,” he stressed: “Its resources are finite. Waste is growing.”
In the ensuing debate, many of the 60 speakers called for urgent action to save developing countries from disastrous poverty and food insecurity.
The representative of Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, noted that around 1 billion people — 15 per cent of the global population — live in poverty, which imposes massive suffering, the most pervasive violation of human rights, and the root cause of social instability and political insecurity. It is only right that poverty eradication is the first of the Sustainable Development Goals. The world’s 26 richest people own as much wealth as half the world’s population — but like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural: it is human-made and can be overcome by human action.
Malawi’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Group of Least Developed Countries, expressed regret that the war in Ukraine has further aggravated hunger and malnutrition in net food-importing States, due to grain and fertilizer shortages and rising energy costs. Poverty is multidimensional, so it is necessary to strengthen productive capacity and access to markets to eradicate it and achieve sustainable and inclusive economic growth. Those States need development finance to support their poverty eradication efforts, but the level of official development assistance (ODA) is below the United Nations target of 0.15 to 0.2 per cent.
The representative of Viet Nam, speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), stressed that agriculture is a key sector in his region, providing employment for 30 per cent of the population. This sector, he added, significantly contributes to the regional efforts towards poverty alleviation, sustainable development and reducing hunger. He stressed the region’s vulnerability towards the impact of climate change, which is closely linked with poverty alleviation and food security.
Nigeria’s representative, speaking on behalf of the African Group, noted that limiting food insecurity and hunger on his continent requires developing small-scale agriculture. He called for addressing Africa’s need for more seeds and fertilizers. In the short term, there is a need to mitigate disruptions in supply chains caused by crises and conflicts; in the long term, it is critical to improve data collection and the sharing of new technologies, with investment in improved seeds resistant to climate change, as well as improving agricultural practices on the continent.
Turning to women, the representative of Botswana, speaking on behalf of the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, noted that despite progress made on promoting gender equality, a substantial gender gap persists in many States such as hers, particularly regarding employment, food security and Internet usage. While the pandemic demonstrated the importance of digital technologies and accelerated their adoption, she expressed that in 2021, the Internet usage rate in her group of countries was only 34.7 per cent, far below the world average of 63 per cent.
Reports were also presented by the Executive Director of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO); Policy Adviser in the Policy, Programme and Intergovernmental Division, United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women); Director of the Office of Intergovernmental Support and Coordination for Sustainable Development; and Chief Economist of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
Also speaking were the representatives of Austria (also for Ethiopia), Venezuela (on behalf of the Group of Friends in Defence of the Charter), Sierra Leone, Belarus, Qatar, Thailand, Guatemala, Mexico, Bangladesh, Cuba, Mongolia, Jordan, Eritrea, Namibia, El Salvador, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Peru, China, Ecuador, Kenya, Tajikistan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Ukraine, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Russian Federation, Morocco, Jamaica, Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Ghana, Brazil, Mauritania, Mozambique, Honduras, Senegal, Zambia, Timor-Leste, Guyana, Italy, Angola, Iran, United Republic of Tanzania, Mali, Bahrain, Myanmar, Burundi and Nigeria.
The permanent observer for the Holy See also spoke, as did representatives of the International Renewable Energy Agency and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).