Statement for International Day for the Eradication of Poverty (17 October)

“Building Forward Together: Ending Persistent Poverty, Respecting all People and our Planet”

October 17, 2021

As we mark International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, humanity is at a crossroads. Human choices, shaped by values and institutions, have given rise to the interconnected planetary and social imbalances we face. Extreme poverty is rising for the first time in a generation. In 2020 alone, up to 100 million people were pushed into poverty because of the pandemic. Beyond income, people experience poverty in multiple and simultaneous ways in their daily lives -- 1 in 3 children globally missed out on remote learning when COVID-19 shuttered schools, for instance. Strikingly, the 2021 Global Multidimensional Poverty Index shows that approximately two-thirds of people who are multidimensionally poor live in households where no woman or girl has completed at least six years of schooling.  

The United Nations (UN) and its partners have been at the forefront of efforts to assist some of the world’s poorest people during the pandemic. That includes the 1.6 billion informal workers across the globe -- including street vendors, domestic workers and subsistence farmers. They work in vulnerable forms of employment with low wages or unsafe conditions, usually with limited or no social protection. From Honduras to Nigeria, UNDP helped countries to implement electronic cash transfer programmes, which provided a vital lifeline to millions of people who were confined to their homes during lockdowns. Inequalities have also spiked dramatically in the wake of the virus, most notably when it comes to vaccine equity.

Instability and conflict threaten to rapidly tip millions of people into poverty. By mid-2022, Afghanistan could face near-universal poverty -- with 97 per cent of the population living below the poverty line. Therefore, the UN has made an unambiguous commitment to stay and deliver in countries like Afghanistan. It is estimated that by 2030, up to two-thirds of the global extreme poor will be living in fragile and conflict-affected situations. Moreover, people living in poverty are bearing the brunt of our changing climate, often lacking the resources required to adapt. Efforts like the UNDP Climate Promise are vital, helping 120 countries to take decisive action to reduce emissions while boosting the resilience of vulnerable communities to climate change.

UNDP’s Strategic Plan 2022-2025 details our bold pledge to lift 100 million people out of multidimensional poverty. And expanding access to renewable energy will be a vital lever to tackle poverty -- creating decent green jobs and livelihoods while driving down carbon emissions. Therefore, UNDP has made an ambitious commitment to work with our partners to provide 500 million additional people with access to clean, affordable energy by 2025. These contributions represent just a fraction of the UN’s efforts across the globe to help communities to build forward better from this devastating pandemic -- helping to end poverty and shaping a future that will balance the needs of both people and planet.

Achim Steiner, Administrator, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)