Second Committee (Economic and Financial)

Note:  Following is a partial summary of statements made to today’s meeting of the Second Committee (Economic and Financial).  A complete summary will be available later today as Press Release GA/EF/3521.

Introduction of Reports

DANIELA BAS, Director of the Division of Inclusive Social Development in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introduced the Secretary‑General’s reports on “Implementation of the Third United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (2018‑2027)” (document A/74/210) and “Eradicating rural poverty to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” (document A/74/257).  She noted the global population living on less than $1.90 per day has dropped by 10 per cent to 25 per cent.  Despite that remarkable progress, however, the world is not on track to eradicate extreme poverty, with a slowdown in developing and middle‑income countries, due in part to the effects of climate change.  She stressed that those left behind, especially in rural areas, are becoming harder to reach.

She cited recommendations including sustained investment in agriculture, expansion of education access and skills upgrading, and expansion of social protection coverage.  “We must reach those left furthest behind first,” she said.  The second report on eradicating rural poverty underlines that despite progress made, those in rural areas have been shut out, with 45 per cent of them children under age 15.  She highlighted that the lack of suitable institutions and resources means economic growth still leaves those people in its wake.  Poverty, she stated, is rooted in structural biases requiring dedicated and integrated action.  She further recommended coordinated social and rural action and investment to transform those economies.  Investment in agriculture is essential, as well as financing to address the digital divide.  She also called for expanded social protection and bridging the poverty gap specifically affecting rural women.

ASA REGNER, Deputy Executive Director, United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN‑Women), introducing the “World Survey on the Role of Women in Development” (document A/74/111), said the analysis of poverty rates by sex and age in the Survey shows that gender gaps in poverty are at their widest among women between the ages of 25 and 34 years.  This coincides with the phase in life of family formation and child‑rearing, during which women and their households face increased expenses associated with having children, while also experiencing constraints on the time they have for engaging in paid work.  Poor women in particular face significant barriers in accessing income‑generating work, which are heightened by inadequate public services and basic infrastructure.  An integrated policy approach is needed to reverse the depletion experienced by women who face the double bind of income and time poverty.

She then introduced the Secretary‑General’s report titled “Women in development” (document A/74/279), observing that notable gender gaps remain in labour markets in both developing and developed countries.  Digital innovations, cellular technology and Internet access are changing the employment landscape worldwide and opening new markets for women entrepreneurs, but are also creating new gender gaps.  At the same time, gender pay gaps are enduring and appear to be widening in some parts of the world.  Disproportionate numbers of women are in informal employment in many countries.  Even though mobile platforms have helped to generate and organize work, these platforms may contribute to the informalization of employment.  Structural barriers like institutionalized discrimination and occupational segregation continue to perpetuate gender gaps, as do discriminatory laws and gender norms.

MARION BARTHELEMY, Director of the Office of Intergovernmental Support and Coordination for Sustainable Development in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introduced the Secretary‑General’s report on “Human resources development” (document A/74/284), noting it places a special focus on education and its link to the future of work.  The digital revolution is influencing the productivity of work and is a key driver of economic development.  She noted it is important to ensure equal opportunities for all and to prioritize lifelong learning, as well as the emergence of new business models.  Manifold changes are therefore needed in the private sector and Government alike.  She emphasized the emerging new technologies create winners and losers and also have a pronounced effect on gender equality.

She stated that education policies should invest in strong foundational skills because learning is cumulative, and therefore a poor foundation hampers all future education.  Policies must support prospective workers in identifying the right skills, and Governments should work with the private sector and labour unions to ensure, among other elements, that the new skills are portable, locally, regionally and internationally.  She also recommended closing the digital divide by creating ecosystems for innovation, with policies to narrow skill gaps and target those left behind.  It is important to establish a system of entitlement drawing on public and private funding, so workers can take paid time off for training.


ABDULLAH ABU SHAWESH, observer for the State of Palestine, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, noted with concern that despite some progress, the world as a whole is not on track to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030, as called for under Sustainable Development Goal 1.  With heightened political uncertainty on trade and weaker global growth, per capita gross domestic product (GDP) growth in many regions is significantly below the rates needed to eradicate poverty.  In this regard, the Group calls on the international community and the United Nations development system to give the highest priority to poverty eradication within the Organization’s development agenda and to urgently take measures to address the root causes and challenges of poverty in all its forms and dimensions.  It also calls on the developed countries to commit to fully implement their official development assistance (ODA) commitments and support the effective national efforts of developing countries through predictable financial resources and technical assistance.  Regarding women in development, the Group recognizes the necessity of making women’s economic improvement and inclusion an important pillar to eradicate poverty.  It is committed to fostering stronger international cooperation to ensure every woman and girl is empowered to achieve their full potential.  Human resources development is vital to efforts to implement the Sustainable Development Goals and expand opportunities for people.  It is equally important to harness the opportunities of ongoing technological changes in human resources development and address the associated risks, including the loss of jobs displaced by advancing technologies.

TAMANDA CHIBWENA (Malawi), speaking on behalf of the Group of Least Developed Countries and associating herself with the Group of 77, said that baseline projections suggest that 6 per cent of the world’s population will still be living in extreme poverty in 2030, if current trends continue.  Extreme poverty is now concentrated in a small number of countries, particularly low‑income developing countries.  Around 35 per cent of their population is living in extreme poverty.  Tackling these pockets of extreme poverty will be challenging due to their persistence and complexity.  Recent studies suggest that even employment does not guarantee a decent living as in low‑income developing countries, about 32 per cent of workers are living in extreme poverty.  It is important to ensure full employment and decent work with adequate minimum wages to ensure access to basic services, she said.  Social protection systems are also essential to prevent and reduce poverty and provide a safety net for the vulnerable.  Uprooting poverty in its entirety will require reorienting the focus to countries where the challenges are complex and pervasive, the low-income developing countries.  The need for enhanced support cannot be overemphasized.

SHARON LINDO (Belize), speaking on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States and associating herself with the Group of 77, said her organization is not a homogeneous group of countries and securing a meaningful future for all its citizens is well within its interest and aspirations.  For the Alliance, the challenge of poverty eradication lies much more in securing a future than addressing the present.  Regarding climate change, she said the current pace of climate change and the indicated magnitude of its impact requires that the international community triple its level of ambition.  There are small island developing States that have already lost islands to the rising seas, others struggle under the weight of prolonged droughts, while the economies of others are threatened by bleached corals and disappearing fisheries.  Climate action cannot be separated form development action in these countries as they must divert resources from social spending to address the impact of climate change.  These diverted resources place even greater stress on society.  “Mr. Chair, are these interrelated and overlapping challenges facing SIDS [small island developing States] an indication of a new wave of poverty?” she asked.  “It is a difficult exercise to right your own wrongs, but it is a tremendous exercise to cope with issues that are not of your own making.”  The small island developing States continue to work to lift its people out of poverty and safeguard their livelihoods and lives.  But these countries cannot move ahead alone.  The small island developing States Partnership Framework provides the basis on which the counties can expand partnerships and develop solutions.

SOVANN KE (Cambodia), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said that the bloc has implemented a series of action plans to develop rural areas and end poverty, noting that the current Framework Action Plan for 2016‑2020 has three main objectives, including improving access to resources and services.  It is being implemented in the spirit of “ASEAN help ASEAN”, with community empowerment central to it.  Among initiatives on rural development and poverty eradication are the promotion of technical and vocational education and training, provision of social protections, gender empowerment projects and promotion of agricultural techniques and entrepreneurship skills.  Inclusive education and creation of knowledge‑based societies will help ASEAN’s competitiveness.  ASEAN Community Vision 2025 aims to promote regional integration with a view to achieving a single market.  ASEAN has collectively become the world’s fifth economy, ranking third in Asia.  Poverty levels have declined from 47 per cent in 1990 to 14 per cent in 2015, going beyond the 23.5 per cent target under the Millennium Development Goals.  The bloc is eager to achieve a similar success under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

TAPIWA ROY RUPENDE (Zimbabwe), speaking on behalf of the African Group, stressed that the Second Committee should play a critical role in promoting measures to help States eliminate poverty.  For African countries, this means instruments to increase financial flows and mobilize domestic as well as foreign resources.  He noted that the slow and uneven recovery of the global economy has had a negative impact on labour markets, especially in developing countries with restricted access to international financing.  Another major element that has derailed efforts at eradicating poverty in Africa has been the inadequacy of resources and the appropriate means to do so.  Adding that education has been proven to help reduce poverty, he said it has a documented effect on health, nutrition, economic development and environmental protection.  He called for enhanced partnership with Africa’s Governments to expand access to inclusive and equitable education, universal health coverage, training, skills upgrading and high‑quality public services.

DIEDRE MILLS (Jamaica), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that the report on the Implementation of the Third United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty does not provide adequate information on poverty eradication in small island developing States.  Any future reporting on implementation of the plan of action should focus on how the United Nations is targeting small island developing States with their poverty eradication efforts.  She added that future reports should reflect the findings of recent reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and other global scientific bodies.  As a result of persistent climate impacts, social problems have intensified throughout the Caribbean.  These problems range from poverty to crime.  In the face of these challenges, CARICOM is sparing no effort to assist populations through targeted approaches, including a youth mainstreaming strategy to multisectoral planning.

IVAN KONSTANTINOPOLSKIY (Russian Federation) cited the fourfold decrease in poverty since 1990 but expressed regret at slowing recent progress, a negative trend that threatens achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.  He agreed with the Secretary‑General’s reports’ focus on rural poverty, necessitating sustainable agricultural systems and support for small‑scale farmers.  Extreme poverty has been eliminated in his country, but his Government still seeks to halve 2017 poverty levels by 2024 and improve rural economies and Internet access by 2025.  He noted today’s innovations are a decisive factor in expanding the global economy.  Comprehensive measures including employment protection, minimum wage and support for child care, have been launched to benefit women and lift them out of poverty.

ANTONY MULA (Indonesia), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and ASEAN, noted that the current rate of 8 per cent extreme poverty is the lowest in human history.  Despite that gain, young people are three times more likely to be unemployed.  He noted his Government prioritizes infrastructure investment to reach those left behind and has reached 98.3 per cent electrification.  While economic growth is essential in reducing poverty, it is not a cure‑all.  His Government has expanded access to national health insurance to 223 million of its citizens and is extending Internet access to the entire country.

OUMIA PABA SALE (Cameroon), associating herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said her country has established social protection measures that consider gender equality and land conservation.  The Government has focused on food security and resources to improve resilience and incomes, which has increased production and revenues in farms and rural areas.  However, the country suffers from severe security and environmental challenges due to the presence of Boko Haram terrorists in the Chad Basin.  Under these tension and conflict‑filled conditions, much of the available resources are focused on security.  She called on international partners to aid the country in combating Boko Haram terrorists.

ANA SILVIA RODRÍGUEZ ABASCAL (Cuba), associating herself with Group of 77 and the small island developing States, lamented the amount of money worldwide focused on military spending when it could be used for development.  In addition, the current unjust international economic order is marginalizing a growing number of mostly developing countries, which bear the least responsibility for the current economic crisis.  She noted that hunger is once again on the rise and malnourishment is affecting millions of children worldwide.  Adding that Cuba is suffering from an illegal and immoral economic blockade, she said the country is nonetheless showing progress on the social front.  It has universal health care and education, has eradicated severe child undernourishment and reduced its hunger and nutrition index.

NADIN HAMZA ALOUFI (Saudi Arabia), aligning herself with the Group of 77, said eradication of poverty is a moral and human imperative.  Her Government is a leading country in prompt response to countries hit by natural hazards and is among the world’s major donors.  She noted that Saudi Arabia has provided over $100 billion to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP).  She cited assistance to women as key in alleviating poverty and said her country is enacting programmes to bridge the gender divide including in education and land ownership.

GLADYS TAN (Singapore) said that her country remains steadfast in its commitment to eradicating poverty.  Each child in Singapore has access to quality and affordable education, reflecting the national belief that education is a social enabler.  Similarly, public housing is kept affordable through extensive subsidies and concessionary loan interest rates.  As a result, 87 per cent of Singaporeans in the poorest fifth of the population own their homes.  In addition, Singapore provides support for low‑income households in temporarily meeting their basic living expenses, she said.  Social spending comprised half of the Government’s total expenditures in 2017.  Only by harnessing the resources of all stakeholders, and adopting a whole‑of‑society approach, can States generate the multiplier effects to ensure that the low‑income and the vulnerable do not slide into poverty.

MOHAMMAD NAEEMI (Afghanistan), aligning himself with the Group of 77, Group of Least Developed Countries and the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, stated that 1.3 billion people remain in poverty, half of them children, and most are in rural areas in countries in special situations or facing conflict.  He noted that his country endured a four‑decade‑imposed war and now faces a high rate of 51.7 per cent poverty and significant food insecurity.  Many of Afghanistan’s people still lack access to any social services.  He noted progress on poverty is directly linked to the overall well‑being of the Afghanistan economy as well as its political instability.

CATHERINE UDIDA (Nigeria), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said her country has concluded a mapping of its metrics and phenomena of poverty, identifying the poorest and most vulnerable members of society.  It has also developed a national social investment programme, through which monthly cash transfers are provided to the most vulnerable.  Aware of the importance of education in poverty eradication, the Government has begun a schools feeding programme, which ensures free meals for students of school age.  Going beyond these measures to focus on a longer‑term strategy, the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme has provided easier access to financial services for traders, market women and women cooperatives in the country, which has in turn improved Nigeria’s economic productivity.

FADUA ORTEZ (Honduras), aligning herself with the Group of 77, noted the reports reveal the world must step up its efforts towards the 2030 Agenda and sustainable development.  She cited the importance of having a multidimensional approach rather than a “household income” approach to poverty.  She stated the current income classification model does not enhance financing against poverty.  Her Government aims to drive job creation and fight corruption and has addressed inequality suffered by households comprising 4 million people.  She stressed the importance of more job growth, access to financing and inclusive policies for women.

LILIANA OROPEZA (Bolivia), aligning herself with the Group of 77, expressed regret over the asymmetry of 1 per cent of the world’s population holding an inequitable amount of its wealth.  In less than 10 years, her country has tripled GDP and is leading the region and aims to eliminate poverty by 2025.  Her Government reduced extreme poverty by 38.5 per cent over the past decade.  “Globally, poverty has a rural face and a woman’s face,” she said, requiring a global effort to address the inequality.


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