Challenges of Overcoming Poverty

Oct 17, 2017

Dhaka (Bangladesh) - Sewing girls: Shilpi, 10, and her friend Kalpana, also 10, embroider a luxury saree (a traditional women’s garment) with beads outside their homes © UNICEF/NYHQ2013-0371/Noorani

17 October marks the 25th year we celebrate the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.  The inspiration of the observance of this day originates from Father Joseph Wresinski’s Call to Action in 1987 that highlighted the knowledge and courage of poor families around the world, the importance of reaching out to the poor and engaging with citizens from all backgrounds to end poverty. In 1992 United Nations adopted the day as a manifest symbol of the global importance of this goal.

The theme for this year’s commemoration is “Answering the Call of October 17 to end poverty: A path toward peaceful and inclusive societies”.  The world is facing several protracted conflicts and humanitarian crises, and is overwhelmed with competing demand from scarce resources. It is therefore challenging to ensure enough priority towards the overarching objective of eradicating extreme poverty whilst significantly cutting all forms of poverty as agreed in the United Nations’ Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development.  The absence of peace only drives misery further.  The proportion of global population living below the extreme poverty line ($ 1.90 per day) halved between 2002 and 2012 and is predicted to drop to 4 per cent by 2030. However, the surge of conflicts, most of them within the border of one country, drives new millions into poverty. As for the Middle East region, in Yemen alone, 80 per cent of the population – around 21 million people - depend on humanitarian aid, 17 million facing crisis levels of acute food insecurity.  UN Secretary-General António Guterres points out that ‘only global solutions can address global problems’. We are witnessing today how UN and its Member States, UN Agencies, local authorities, NGOs, private sector and civil society all work together to bring peace to crisis-affected people.  Without peace, poverty will sustain and any efforts to overcome it will be erased with new conflicts arising.  Without peace, there is no start to the fight against poverty.

However, poverty does not apply only to fragile and conflict-affected states (FCAS). If we look at the global distribution of the world’s poor, it is estimated that three-quarters of the world’s approximately 1.3 billion poor people now live in middle-income countries (MICs) and only about a quarter of the world’s poor – about 370 million people live in low-income countries (LICs).  In this context, it is argued that poverty is shifting from an international to a national distribution problem. Policies of national governments to reduce inequality, become more important than overseas development assistance (ODA).   The vital role of local governments in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda has been recognized by UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner: ‘Local governments are critical in turning Agenda 2030 from a global vision into a local reality. And local communities and stakeholders, who know individual and collective needs and capacities best, are critical partners in implementing and realizing our global accord.

To ensure that concerns and priorities of millions of people are taken into account, the 2030 sustainable development agenda was developed as a result of consultation process with millions of people, and likewise, the active participation of the poor will be critical to the success of the Sustainable Development Goals.  UAE is a model of inclusive society with diversity as its strength. Such societies strive to ensure that none of their members is left behind.  The country has a history of promoting charity thanks to its inspirational leaders.  UAE is known for its assistance to countries hit by natural disasters and trapped in conflicts. The UAE government also has plans to engage with the private sector to encourage businesses to take part in improving social services.

SDG16 envisages promoting just, peaceful and inclusive societies and ensuring participatory representative decision-making at all levels.  We should recognize that poverty is not only poor people’s problem. No one should be left behind. Dependence on aid should not be promoted. However, helping someone behind you to get to the same starting point as you, gives them the opportunity to make that path and cross the finish line one day.

Contact information

Frode Mauring

United Nations Resident Coordinator a.i. and UNDP Resident Representative a.i. to the United Arab Emirates (covering the states of Oman and Qatar)

Twitter: @Frode_Mauring

Phone: +971 - 26961999

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