Inclusive Development and Poverty Reduction
--Speech at the 2012 International Poverty Reduction and Development Forum
Mr. Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs
The Presidential Hotel, Beijing, China, 17 October 2012
Vice Premier Hui Liangyu,
Minister Fan Xiaojian,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am honoured to speak before you, on this 20th commemoration of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, as United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and Convener of the Second United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (2008-2017).
Twenty years ago, the United Nations General Assembly declared 17 October as the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.
The Day presents a unique opportunity. It is an occasion to acknowledge the struggles of people living in poverty, to make their voices heard, and to recognize that poor people are at the frontlines in our global fight against poverty.
We are gathered here today, also to remind ourselves of our historic mission to reduce poverty, and to re-energize and re-invigorate our collective commitment to end poverty.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In observing the International Day, we have much to celebrate.
We have made significant progress in reducing poverty.
In 2000, at the United Nations Millennium Summit, world leaders agreed to halve the proportion of people living on less than one dollar a day, by 2015.
Since then, the proportion of people living in extreme poverty has seen dramatic falls.
While the food, fuel, and financial crises over the past four years have worsened the situation of vulnerable populations, global poverty rates have continued to decline.
Estimates by the United Nations show that the international community has reached the
global target of halving world poverty - ahead of the 2015 deadline.
We have met several other global targets –
-halving the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water;
-reducing the prevalence of diseases;
-improving access to healthcare, reducing child mortality, and
-ensuring that girls have the same opportunity as boys to attend school.
In celebrating these remarkable achievements, the United Nations recognizes the unique contributions by China.
The decline in global poverty would not have happened without China’s exemplary growth and poverty reduction in recent decades.
In 1990, China alone accounted for more than one-third of the world’s extreme poverty
headcount. Today, that figure has fallen by more than two thirds.
According to UN Statistics, China alone lifted more than 600 million people out of poverty in less than three decades.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Even as we mark our success in reaching a milestone in poverty reduction, we are keenly aware that the journey to end poverty continues.
As we meet today, more than 1.2 billion people remain below the extreme poverty line, living on an income of 1.25 dollar or less a day.
Another 2.6 billion live on less than 2 dollars a day.
The global financial crisis and a worsening job crisis, compounded by risks of food and energy shortages, as well as ecosystems in peril, threaten to halt the progress made in recent years.
In this setting, we have witnessed three noteworthy shifts.
First, shift of where poor people live.
In 1990, approximately 93 per cent of the world’s poor lived in low-income countries.
Recent years have seen a large majority - 75 per cent of the world’s poor – live in
This shifting pattern poses a critical policy question: why has poverty remained high, when national average income increased in many countries?
Second, a shift is underway in income distribution.
In an increasing number of countries, we see a widening gap between different social groups, and between those with and without opportunities, between rural and urban areas.
According to recent analysis, 62 out of 116 countries with available data have shown increased income inequality, slowing progress in poverty reduction, and jeopardizing prospects for sustained growth.
Third, there has been a shift in the labour market.
The global jobs crisis has hit youth the hardest. Young women and men represent 40 per cent of the 200 million jobless people worldwide. They are nearly three times more likely than adults to be jobless.
A large proportion of women continue to face social and economic discrimination and disempowerment, with limited access to education and other basic services.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The United Nations has recently examined these trends through our “rethinking poverty” analysis.
I would like to take this opportunity to present a few lessons and insights.
First and foremost, the key factor propelling poverty reduction is political commitment, anchored on a multi-pronged strategy.
When poverty prevails, public policies fail.
So the first imperative for tackling poverty is political will. Evidence shows that a firm commitment by Governments to fighting poverty is often associated with reductions in poverty.
Second, we need a multi-pronged strategy that ensures investment in economic growth, job creation, and increased income for all, especially for the vulnerable groups, such as women and youth, and for families in rural areas.
Indeed, growth in East Asia, parts of Africa and Latin America has been accompanied by low unemployment rates, high employment-to-population ratios, and increasing worker productivity.
Third, we need to improve access to public services, especially education and health care.
Access by the poor and vulnerable groups to schooling and basic care is not only a human right; it also helps generate savings, prepare the children of the poor for productive jobs and increase consumption.
Fourth, at times of crisis, Governments must reinforce social protection in support of the livelihoods of the poor and vulnerable and to empower them to attain their dreams.
We must recognize the value of social protection in stabilizing economies and providing a buffer to the effects of economic downturn, especially for families.
Fifth, we must tackle rising inequalities and address the impact on the vulnerable groups.
Experience in Latin America and the Caribbean shows that, with policy interventions targeting both economic and non-economic inequalities, inequalities will recede, even when there is only moderate growth.
Sixth, we must work together in partnerships – partnerships between developed and
developing countries, and partnerships between Governments and civil society.
These are among the strategic elements the United Nations has been highlighting. And this integrated, balanced and multi-pronged strategic approach is a main focus of the ongoing Second United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As you proceed in your deliberations today, I am confident that the emerging policy recommendations will provide the international community with more lessons and policy guidance.
You have chosen to focus on the integration of social protection, social service provision and effective employment and labour market policies into macro-level economic planning.
This coincides with the current dialogue within the United Nations for moving development forward in an inclusive, equitable and sustainable way.
At Rio +20 last June, Member States emphasized the importance of strengthening social development. They also agreed on the need to implement coherent development policies that address interrelated economic, social and environmental concerns.
Rio+20 once again underscored the need for sustainable development in reducing poverty.
Much of the progress toward poverty eradication to date has been guided by the drive to achieve the targets of the Millennium Development Goals.
The deadline for achieving the MDGs is fast approaching.
Even while we continue to accelerate progress in the MDGs, the United Nations is working to shape a post-2015 development agenda, with sustainable development at its core.
Let us work together to overcome the multiple crises and challenges.
Let us have the courage to say – No More Poverty.
Let us mobilize political will, rally international support, join hands and work together to end poverty.
In my capacity as Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, and Convener of the Second United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty, let me assure you that the United Nations system will work with all Member States and all stakeholders to make that dream – a dream of no more poverty – a reality across the world.