By Xiaojun Grace Wang, Deputy Director, UNOSSC. International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, 17 October 2021
I have a four-year-old daughter. This Sunday, she woke up to a nice and warm breakfast and visited her doctor for her flu shot. As we mark this Day for Poverty Eradication, I know how lucky I am to be able to take care of her knowing that many families around the world are working hard to find ways to provide basic necessities to their children.
Today, too many families are struggling to help their babies survive the tender beginning of life, to feed their children a nutritious meal, or have to make hard decisions on whether sending their daughters to school or keeping them home to collect woods, carry water, or even, marry at a premature age. It is the hard reality we have to face that over 10 per cent of people in the world, and 1 in 5 children live in extreme poverty, with the COVID-19 pandemic pushing over 100 million more people into such dire situations.
Poverty has so many faces and diminishes the capabilities of people from every angle of life. There are around 1.3 billion people in developing countries living in multidimensional poverty, measured by their lack of nutrition, schooling, cooking fuel, sanitation, safe drinking water, electricity, housing, and assets, according to the 2021 Global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) published by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative. Their experiences of poverty are directly related to their ethnicity and race, caste, and gender.
Yet, this hard reality can be changed, not by anyone alone, but by people, institutions, and countries working together. South-South and triangular cooperation has been an important means to address multi-dimensional poverty across the global South.
South-South cooperation can deliver impact at scale for poverty reduction through regional and economic integration efforts. It is estimated that the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) presents the potential to bring 30 million people out of extreme poverty and to raise the incomes of 68 million others who live on less than $5.50 per day. In the past two decades, The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has made concerted efforts in reducing poverty and has seen a steady decline of over 30 per cent. Further reforms and trade facilitation measures, as well as coordinated policies on addressing multi-dimensional poverty issues on a regional scale, will enable a larger impact of these regional and sub-regional mechanisms on poverty eradication.
Knowledge sharing and solution exchanges are bread and butter for South-South cooperation. The 20th High-level Committee on South-South Cooperation of the UN General Assembly “invites the United Nations development system to encourage the transfer of technologies on mutually agreed terms for the benefit of developing countries to address poverty eradication and sustainable development”. In Africa, facilitated by the World Food Programme (WFP) Regional Centre of Excellence against Hunger and Malnutrition (CERFAM), experts and technicians from Côte d’Ivoire and Benin are working with national and local entities of the Republic of the Congo, to increase the performance of the agricultural sector, improve the value chain of cassava, and increase the productivity of farmers whose sources of income could be diversified in a very near future. In the Caribbean, with the support of PAHO/WHO, the Dominican Republic and Haiti developed an initiative to reduce maternal and child mortality for the northern Dominican-Haitian border, through coordination of health resources and a cross-border referring mechanism to share medical expertise.
South-South cooperation enables partnership from near or far, harnessing global solidarity to provide concrete support for poverty eradication. The FAO-China South-South Cooperation Programme has benefited more than 70,000 people directly to fight hunger, in the past decade, over a dozen developing countries in Africa and Asia. With the support of the India, Brazil, and South Africa Facility for Poverty and Hunger Alleviation (IBSA Fund), managed by the UN Office for South-South Cooperation, over 2,000 child-marriage survivors in Zambia and Malawi were re-enrolled back in schools with scholarships for a second chance for education.
Ending poverty is a mission possible, and a mission that must be achieved within our generation, despite the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sixty-five countries studied by the UNDP MPI report have significantly reduced multi-dimensional poverty. Sierra Leone did so even during the Ebola epidemic. Nicaragua and North Macedonia halved the incidence of multidimensional poverty over 5 to 10 years. China has eradicated absolute poverty since last year, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. All these are not only knowledge and solutions that can be shared and scaled-up for the world, they are also sources of confidence for the global South. With the spirit of solidarity, developing countries, in partnership with other developing or developed countries, can learn from and support each other, while advancing their journeys towards a shared poverty-free future. That day, no women or men, no girls or boys, will be deprived of their basic rights, opportunities, and capabilities to live a healthy, educated, and decent life that they value.