UN: EU statement on eradication of poverty and other development issues

UN 61st Session; II Committee, Agenda Item 57: Eradication of poverty and other development issues

New York, 10 November 2006

Statement by Ms. Tarja Fernández, Counsellor, Permanent Mission of Finland to the United Nations, on behalf of the European Union

Madame Chair,

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.

The Acceding Countries Bulgaria and Romania, the Candidate Countries Turkey, Croatia* and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Serbia, and the EFTA county Liechtenstein, member of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova align themselves with this declaration."

Madame Chair

The EU would like to thank the Secretary-General for his reports under this agenda item.

Poverty eradication remains the primary and overarching objective of the European Union’s development cooperation. The EU Member States and the European Commission support the implementation of Poverty Reduction Strategies at country level. Priority is given to the least developed countries.

The Millennium Development Goals have helped us to galvanize efforts towards poverty eradication – not least due to the focused indicators included in the MDGs. At the UN World Summit last autumn we reaffirmed our commitment to the global partnership for development set out in the Millennium Declaration, the Monterrey Consensus and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation.

Almost 12 years ago at the Copenhagen Social Summit we agreed that poverty eradication, full productive employment and social integration were the three most important challenges in the world that must be met successfully in order to achieve sustainable development. The Copenhagen Declaration called for a people-centred and equity-oriented approach to solving problems in all these areas.

Since then we have systematically focused on poverty. A central objective in poverty reduction strategies is "decent work for all", which was also underlined by the World Summit. "Full employment and decent work for all" was therefore chosen as the theme for our ECOSOC-deliberations in July. It will also be the main theme of the next Commission for Social Development. Decent work brings together the economic and social objectives of sustainable development for the eradication of poverty.

During the UN Decade for the Eradication of Poverty, 1997-2006, the number of people living in extreme poverty declined by over 100 million. But the total number of people living in abject poverty is still more than one billion. We must not forget that we are confronting a huge task. The EU emphasizes that each country must take the primary responsibility for its own development. Each country needs national poverty reduction strategies and good governance to achieve sustainable development. We underline also the importance of education and health for poverty reduction efforts and call for their inclusion in the poverty reduction strategies. All these endeavours need to be supported by the international community.

Labour is often the only marketable asset of poor people. So, efforts to reduce poverty must include social rights, job creation, social protection, social inclusion and dialogue, as well as promotion of gender equality, entrepreneurship and employability, with particular emphasis on youth.

The Nobel Peace Prize this year was awarded to a champion in the fight against poverty, the Grameen Bank, and we would like to extend our own congratulations to Muhammad Yunus and his team at the Bank for their work on microfinance.   With more than 3 billion people seeking access to basic financial services, microfinance is a demonstrably effective means of helping people out of extreme poverty. By helping the poor to access secure credit, to save, to insure, and to safely transfer remittances – financial services that entrepreneurs in developed countries take for granted - microfinance puts resources and power into the hands of millions of individuals, enabling them to chart their own paths out of poverty.

We must support the provision of more inclusive financial services. By scaling up and replicating models such as the Grameen bank, and by lowering service costs through technological innovation, microfinance can benefit even the poorest and hard-to-reach communities.

Thank You, Madame Chair.

* Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.