October 17
Second Committee Agenda Item 23: Eradication of Poverty

Statement by H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza
Apostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer of the Holy See
Seventy-first Session of the United Nations General Assembly
Second Committee Agenda Item 23: Eradication of Poverty
New York, 17 October 2016

Mr. Chair,

My delegation welcomes the Secretary-General’s report reviewing progress made in the efforts to eradicate poverty. While there has been significant progress in the reduction of poverty, particularly in certain regions, the report also shows that too many people suffer still economic, social and political exclusion. The most recent World Bank study confirms a similar finding, namely, that while there has been a decline since 2008 in the number of people living in extreme poverty — that is, on less than 1.90 USD per day — over one in ten of the world’s population today live below the poverty line. It is therefore a good time to look back and learn lessons from past efforts to eradicate poverty.

A first lesson is that much of the success in reducing global poverty has come from reframing poverty as an issue of integral human development rather than one linked primarily to economic growth. With his 1967 Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio, Pope Paul VI was one of the earliest proponents of the need for an integral human development approach, which was later adopted by many international agencies. With the human person as the center of the discussion, development policies became multidimensional, reflecting the fact that humans are social, political, and spiritual beings, and not just economic producers and consumers. Spending on healthcare, education, peace consolidation and the building of communities was eventually seen to be a necessary investment in human and social capital.

A second lesson is the importance of addressing the issue of inequality and its relation to poverty. Some economic growth theories claim that the quest for economic equality could slow development and lead to the perpetuation of poverty. Experience, however, has taught us that policies that promote greater equality, like equal education and universal access to healthcare, are the same policies that foster the greatest economic development.

A third lesson is the importance of the input and participation of the poor themselves. Participation is the antidote to exclusion, whether economic, social, political or cultural. Structures and practices that exclude and leave behind members of the human family will always be barriers to full human development. As Pope Francis urged in his Address to the UN General Assembly in September 2015, we must “enable these real men and women to escape from extreme poverty” by allowing them “to be dignified agents of their own destiny.” There can be no progress towards the integral development of the human person without the simultaneous development of all humanity in the spirit of solidarity.[1] Social participation enriches individuals and society just as exclusion impoverishes us all.

The exclusion of women from equal and active participation in the development of their communities is definitely a barrier to eradicating poverty. When women and girls do not have access to education or are subjected to violence and discrimination, not only are their inherent dignity and fundamental human rights violated, but their families, communities and societies are deprived of these important drivers of development.

Work is a most noble form of social participation. Policies that support decent work for all are essential to achieving the goals of economic and human development. Work, whether paid or non-paid, is one of the ways human beings become “co-creators” with God, building up our lives and our communities. Pope Saint John Paul II often noted that the objective dimension of work, namely, what we make, is important because we need goods and services that contribute to human dignity; the subjective dimension of work, on the other hand, how work changes us as persons, is even more important.

A final lesson on what promotes human development is the recognition that social protection contributes to human development and economic progress. Social protection is a benefit that should extend beyond only rich countries. Both the actual experience of the development path of rich countries, and the recent evidence from the social protection measures introduced in developing countries, suggest that social protection promotes economic prosperity. This is another example of how promoting greater equality has led to greater economic efficiency. In many countries, providing income support for poor families has led to significant increases in productive families and new business formation, creating entrepreneurs as an unintended but welcome consequence.

As next year we shall mark the end of the Second United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty, continued reflection on past efforts to eradicate poverty, in order to improve our approach to poverty eradication today is most appropriate and important.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

1 Pope Paul VI, Populorum Progressio n. 43.