Statement by H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza
Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See
Seventy-second Session of the United Nations General Assembly, Second Committee
Agenda Item 23: Eradication of Poverty
New York, 12 October 2017
The Secretary-General’s report on the Implementation of the Second United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty highlights the many improvements in poverty reduction, as well as the many outstanding challenges.
My Delegation would like to underline in particular the report’s emphasis that poverty is one of the tragic outcomes of social, economic and political exclusion. These are artificial barriers that block the participation necessary for integral human development and concentrate the opportunities and benefits in the hands of a privileged few. Pope Francis has emphasized that “a way has to be found to enable everyone to benefit from the fruits of the earth, and not simply to close the gap between the affluent and those who must be satisfied with the crumbs falling from the table.”
The report takes note that excessive inequality and fiscal austerity policies are two conditions that foster exclusion. Excessive inequality concentrates the benefits from economic growth into the hands of the few, often severing the link between economic progress and poverty reduction. It makes the entire community poorer, because the exclusion it creates blocks the valuable contributions that those excluded would have made if they had been given sufficient opportunity. Fiscal austerity policies, as the report notes, unintentionally alienate the poor and disproportionately affect women, who are often forced to pick up the burden left when needed social programs are reduced or eliminated.
The obvious antidote to exclusion is a concerted, strategic developmental focus on inclusion, replacing barriers with pathways to participation; foremost among them is investing in early child development and in health and education. Past policies of compelling developing countries to cut health and education spending to achieve “fiscal balance” had the unintended consequence of harming development because they reduced investments in people. As the 2030 Agenda makes manifest, it is only through integral human development that the goal of poverty eradication can be achieved. The results of policies of educational inclusion, especially in countries where parity in education between girls and boys has been achieved, are particular signs of hope for real poverty reduction. Similarly, investment in health and nutrition has yielded great benefits both to educational attainment and to worker productivity.
Another inclusive pathway out of poverty is the implementation and expansion of social protection policies, like pensions for seniors, child benefits and cash transfers to indigent families. Such programs promote “pro-poor growth,” like allowing the poor to accumulate productive assets, foster access to labor markets and to financial capital, and investments in human capital, innovation and risk-taking. The argument that only developed countries can offer such programs has been shown to be erroneous.
Programs of inclusion must have a preferential focus on women and girls, since they are disproportionately among the poorest. As the Secretary-General’s report on Women in Development details, there is much work to be done to increase access to jobs, credit, and entrepreneurial opportunities for women. To achieve parity and equity in the labor force, there must be recognition of women’s informal work and the expansion of social protections for them. Pope Francis has said, “Doubly poor are those women who endure situations of exclusion, mistreatment and violence, since they are frequently less able to defend their rights [as they exhibit] daily heroism in defending and protecting their vulnerable families.” Economic inclusion is crucial also to combat human rights abuses like trafficking in persons for labor or sexual exploitation, and widespread exploitation of female domestic and migrant workers.
The Holy See would like to encourage the United Nations to mainstream the eradication of poverty, and the social, political and economic inclusion necessary for it to occur, into all aspects of its mission. Without ending poverty, all the other development goals become unattainable.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
2. Pope Francis, Address to Participants in the 38th Conference of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 20 June 2013.
3. A/72/283, 33.
5. Pope Francis, Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, 212.