Second Committee Debate
of the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly
On the Eradication of Poverty and Other Development Issues
(Agenda Item 24)
and Agricultural Development, Food Security and Nutrition
(Agenda Item 26)
New York, October 7, 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic has seriously hindered progress in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and represents a serious challenge to the Agenda’s overarching objective of “eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including extreme poverty” by 2030. Despite some considerable advancement, the additional 119 to 124 million individuals who were pushed into poverty as a result of the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic remind us of the magnitude of the challenge still ahead.
The extent of this challenge is even greater when poverty is measured through comprehensive criteria that look beyond income and include non-monetary indicators of the many deprivations that millions of people face in their daily lives, such as lack of access to education, safe, nutritious and sufficient food, safe drinking water and sanitation, energy and electricity.
Poverty appears in a “variety of guises,” including in “new forms,” which often arise from “varied and excessive forms of moral and social disorder.”
In many regions of the world, both in developed and in developing countries, the pandemic has also exacerbated what Pope Francis has called “pharmaceutical poverty,” as millions of people still lack access to essential basic healthcare, medicines, and vaccines.
The pandemic has also shone a spotlight on how, in our hyperconnected world, lack of access to information and communications technologies is a major driver of social exclusion and inequality that, in many cases, increase the risk of falling into poverty. The inability of many children and young women and men, especially in rural areas, to receive education or continue their learning due to the lack of computers and connectivity is an example of how the pandemic has deepened the digital divide between rich and poor.
Although rural areas continue to host the great majority of those living under the poverty line, in many Countries around the world job loss and increased unemployment have resulted in an income decline that has led to a change in the profile of the poor and where they live. The “new poor,” defined as “those who were expected to be non-poor in 2020 prior to the COVID-19 outbreak,” are increasingly urban and, overall, have a higher educational attainment.
In light of these emerging challenges, it is essential to adopt a multidimensional approach to poverty eradication that takes into consideration “present-day realities” and understands poverty “in the context of the actual opportunities available in each concrete historical period.” If we are to succeed in our shared commitment to eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including extreme poverty, by 2030, our policies and programmes must foster a model of development that has the entire human person at its center. They must also adequately address the complexity of the deprivations that millions of our brothers and sisters continue to experience every day on the educational, social, political, cultural and spiritual levels. In addition, the international community must put in place policies that are not only “for the poor” but, first and foremost, “with the poor” and “of the poor.”
Poverty remains the principal cause of hunger and malnutrition worldwide. In turn, hunger and malnutrition spawn even greater poverty, as the health impacts associated with inadequate quantity and quality of food affect people’s well-being, as well as their ability to learn and work. Therefore, poverty and hunger must be tackled together, through a holistic approach that combines support for sustainable and resilient livelihoods, economic inclusion, and social protection.
Achieving SDG 1 and SDG 2, as well as responding to the food crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, require comprehensive measures that strengthen the resilience of food systems, promote investments in sustainable agriculture, including by supporting local and family food production, create emergency labor measures for those who work in agriculture and in the informal economy, and establish tailored social protection programs and food and nutrition assistance.
While providing the hungry with “daily bread” stands out as the highest priority and most immediate goal, it is not enough to ensure that all women and men are able to support themselves and their families in the long term. Food insecurity, hunger and malnutrition will end only when food distribution and social structures respond to the needs of justice and respect the inherent dignity of every person.
The Holy See reaffirms its commitment to finding concrete responses to the needs of the poor and the hungry and supporting them to achieve their integral human development.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
A/76/234, Report of the United Nations Secretary-General, Implementation of the Third United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (2018-2027).
Pope Francis, Message on the Fourth World Day of the Poor, 15 November 2020.
Pope Francis, Encyclical Letter Fratelli Tutti, 21.
Pope Francis, Message on the Fifth World Day of the Poor, 14 November 2021.
Pope Francis, Address to the Members of the “Banco Farmaceutico” Foundation, 19 September 2020.
World Bank, “Profiles of the new poor due to the COVID-19 pandemic” 2020.
Cf. A/76/234, Report of the United Nations Secretary-General, Implementation of the Third United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (2018-2027); FAO, The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, 2021.
Pope Francis, Encyclical Letter Fratelli Tutti,21.
Cf., Pope Francis, pre-recorded Message during the General Debate of the Seventy-Fifth Session of the United Nations General Assembly, 25 September 2020.
Pope Francis, Encyclical Letter Fratelli Tutti,169.