Oct 27, 2008, 6:12 AM
Despite overall economic development worldwide, inequalities have grown dramatically in the last ten years, both within and between countries. More than one billion people live in extreme poverty today.
This situation is a violation of basic human rights and an obstacle to development. The struggle to eradicate poverty must be at the forefront of all efforts to uphold human dignity and promote sustainable development.
Progress is within our reach. Since 2000, extreme poverty has been halved. This proves that with political will and the joint commitment of states, outcomes can be achieved. To succeed, we must redouble our efforts to combat new forms of poverty and social exclusion.
We must also understand all aspects of poverty in order to tailor our response appropriately. Poverty is not merely a matter of minimum income thresholds or insufficient resources, nor must it be remedied only through charity or wealth redistribution schemes. There is educational, cultural, scientific and social poverty, which is the corollary of material poverty and must be combated with the same determination.
Poverty results in deprivation of individual capacities for development and in the lack of autonomy. Poverty eradication entails building each person’s capacity to create wealth and to tap each human being’s inner potential. Sustainable human development entails harnessing that potential and broadening the choices open to individuals.
Quality education, scientific development and cultural diversity are therefore essential strategic tools that can be used to develop human intelligence and to enable people to take control of their future. This dynamic approach must be central to the formulation of public policies. This, then, is the thrust of UNESCO’s action.
On this day, I call on all Member States and partner international and non-governmental organizations to join their efforts to strengthen action in these fields in order to speed up action to combat poverty for 2015 and beyond. This programme is our road map for the defence of human dignity, the promotion of sustainable development and the construction of peace.