Statement of H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza
Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer
of the Holy See to the United Nations
Second Committee of the 70th Session
of the General Assembly
Agenda Item 24: Eradication of Poverty and other Development Issues
New York, 13 October 2015
My delegation welcomes the recent report of the Secretary General on Eradication of Poverty and other Development Issues, which reviews progress being made towards the eradication of poverty and examines the specific challenges still impeding further progress.
In this regard, my delegation has been encouraged by recent global poverty forecasts, which indicate that the number of people living in extreme poverty is expected to fall for the first time below 10% of the global population before the end of 2015. These figures are all the more encouraging, if we consider that tangible progress has been noted in almost all regions of the developing world.
Yet the number of people still living in extreme poverty continues to be unacceptably high. The more than 700 million extremely poor remind us of the magnitude of the challenge still ahead, if we are to eliminate extreme poverty by 2030.
This challenge is even more daunting if we consider other parameters, in particular the facts that progress has been slower at higher poverty lines; that those remaining in extreme poverty are the most difficult cases; and that, for many of those who have escaped extreme poverty, progress has been temporary and regression back to extreme poverty is even more painful and debilitating.
According to World Bank data updated a few days ago, in 2011, 2.2 billion people lived on less than US $2 a day, the average poverty line in developing countries and another common measurement of deep deprivation. That is only a slight decline from 2.59 billion in 1981. It indicates that poverty resistance is stronger, as we progress higher in the economic ladder.
The work to end extreme poverty is even more challenging and elusive when it comes to reaching out and helping those still in extreme poverty, who are usually in very remote areas and living in extreme want. Without roads and electricity, access to education, health-care, safe water and other critical services remains uncertain for these people.
Many of us know of persons or families who, after having defeated extreme poverty, regress back to misery, either because of forces beyond their control like economic shocks, natural catastrophes, the loss of a job or the death of a breadwinner, or because of their inability to keep up with the pace and a lack of skills necessary to maintain an economic level above extreme poverty.
It will be critical to find ways to respond to these and many other challenges in our fight to eradicate poverty, in particular extreme poverty, as we make progress in the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development puts poverty eradication as the overarching goal and absolute international priority, while placing the problem of poverty in the context of a global environmental crisis. Past unsustainable models of development must share the blame for environmental degradation. For too long, development has been understood in terms of ever greater economic growth and wealth accumulation, oftentimes at the expense of the environment and of human life itself. This concept of development has fueled an unrestrained quest for the biggest profit margin and has driven the exploitation of peoples and an assault on our common home. Such a model of development is not what we need to eradicate poverty.
The Holy See concurs with the 2030 Agenda call for a new paradigm for development. My delegation is convinced that a truly new paradigm must start with the core principle of the dignity of each human person and must recognize that extreme poverty is primarily a denial of that dignity. Pope Francis, in his Address to the UN General Assembly on September 25, insisted that this paradigm shift must always be “guided by a perennial concept of justice and constantly conscious of the fact that, above and beyond our plans and programs, we are dealing with real men and women who live, struggle and suffer, and are often forced to live in great poverty, deprived of all rights.”
The primacy of human dignity informs us of the need to allow the poor to shape their own development. Again, as Pope Francis noted in his recent address to the United Nations, “To enable these real men and women to escape from extreme poverty, we must allow them to be dignified agents of their own destiny.”
Exclusion is a denial of human dignity and the main cause of extreme poverty. One of the most damaging forms of exclusion has been the exclusion of women and girls in the area of education, a form of exclusion that is particularly harmful in a world where knowledge is the key to economic success and to a dignified life.
Along this line, my delegation would like to underline a recommendation in the Secretary General’s Report that relates directly to the concerns about exclusion expressed by Pope Francis. In his Report, the Secretary General calls on countries to “ensure that social inclusion policies promote the active participation of all segments of society in the labor market, particularly women, youth, persons with disabilities, older persons and indigenous groups. Active inclusion should encompass access to quality education and health care, water and energy, and adequate material, social and cultural resources.”
This is the development model we need in order to eradicate poverty.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
 WORLD BANK: Global Poverty Forecasts, October 4, 2015