On World Poverty Day: UNESCO stresses Education key to end poverty…UNDP, UNICEF to step up their efforts

On World Poverty Day: UNESCO stresses Education key to end poverty…UNDP, UNICEF to step up their efforts
بقلم Marwa Nassar - -

UNESCO stressed on the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on October 17 that the sustainable fight against poverty requires the strengthening of individuals’ capacities through education, science and support for a creative economy, which are sources of employment as well as of pride and dignity. UNESCO puts all its expertise at the service of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and in particular Goal 1 “End poverty in all its forms everywhere.”

Ending poverty is not just helping the poor – it is giving every woman and man the chance to live with dignity. By eradicating poverty, all humanity will be transformed, according to UNESCO.

On this occasion, UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay cited a quote of Mhatma Ghani “Poverty is the worst form of violence”. Today, governments all over the world are taking action, and poverty continues to decline, with the fastest reductions seen in India, Cambodia and Bangladesh. However, the efforts exerted are not ambitious enough.

At the current rate of poverty reduction, the world will not achieve its target of no more than 3 percent of the world population living in extreme poverty by 2030. Instead, it is expected that the level will be closer to 6 percent – around 420 million people.

Furthermore, deprivation disproportionately affects sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, where 84.5 percent of people live in deprivation. To understand and take action on poverty, it is not enough to merely conduct research on wealth inequality, as this does not capture the all-encompassing reality. The 2019 global Multidimensional Poverty Index reported that 1.3 billion people are “multidimensionally poor”, meaning that they suffer multiple disadvantages in the areas of education, health, quality of work, cultural experiences, violence and general wellbeing. Half are children under the age of 18, and one third are children under the age of 10. Therefore, the world must go further and closely examine the cultural, environmental, social, spatial and political factors that are both a root cause and a means of propagation of poverty. This is central to UNESCO’s action, which focuses on girls and women in particular.

UNESCO uses education as a lever, because for each year that a girl spends in the classroom, her future income will increase by 10 to 20 percent. In turn, educated mothers will make school a priority for their daughters. In light of this, UNESCO’s new Futures of Education initiative aims to transform education to combat social fragmentation and inequality.

Azoulay concluded his message on the world poverty day saying “Today, let us draw inspiration from Nelson Mandela, who said: ‘As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality exist in our world, none of us can truly rest’. UNESCO, for one, will not.”

Meanwhile, United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Administrator Achim Steiner said “it is a time to reflect on the great inroads that have been made to end the scourge of poverty. There has been a massive drop in global extreme poverty rates ⁠– from 36 per cent in 1990 to 8.6 per cent in 2018⁠ — vastly increasing the economic and social opportunities for so many across the world.”

Despite the rapid decline of extreme poverty by more than 1 billion people in the past three decades, approximately 700 million people still live on less than $1.90 per day.

However, the international poverty line does not fully describe how people experience poverty in multiple and simultaneous ways. The Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) tries to capture how people experience poverty in their daily lives. For instance, MPI indicators examine whether a household has access to drinking water, sanitation facilities or electricity or whether a household member has completed five years of schooling. The MPI data shows that 1.3 billion people around the world are in fact multidimensionally poor. The MPI also starkly highlights that there are poor people living outside of poor countries, outside of poor regions and outside of poor households, Steiner said.

The MPI results show that children suffer poverty more intensely than adults and are more likely to be deprived in all 10 of the MPI indicators, lacking essentials such as clean water, sanitation, adequate nutrition or primary education. Even more staggering, worldwide, one in three children is multidimensionally poor, compared to one in six adults. That means that nearly half of the people living in multidimensional poverty — 663 million — are children, with the youngest children bearing the greatest burden.

Therefore, the theme for this year’s International Day for the Eradication of Poverty is pertinent as it focuses on “Acting Together to Empower Children, their Families and Communities to End Poverty”. Effective policies and strategies to prevent and eradicate child poverty must consider families and communities as the nucleus of action to break cycles of intergenerational poverty. Protecting the human rights of children is also fundamental — including the right to be protected against all forms of abuse and violence. In this respect, 2019 also marks the 30th Anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child — a landmark human rights treaty which protects the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of every child regardless of their race, gender, religion or abilities.

“Today, I would like to particularly recognize and commend the UNICEF’s vital work to save children’s lives; to defend their rights; and to help them fulfill their potential, from early childhood through adolescence. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) will continue to be a close partner of UNICEF – particularly as we work together to eradicate poverty in all its forms, everywhere by the year 2030,” he concluded.

The commemoration of October 17 each year demonstrates how the world can step up efforts to enable people from all walks of life to come together to respect the human rights and dignity of people living in poverty. The participation of children and young people has always been encouraged and supported as an integral part of October 17 observances at the United Nations and around the world. This recognizes the important roles children can play by sharing and applying the valuable knowledge they have acquired from their personal daily struggle to overcome poverty.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) on 20 November 1989. This landmark human rights treaty sets out the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of every child, regardless of their race, religion or abilities.

In particular, the Convention recognizes the right of every child to a standard of living adequate for the child’s physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development. Poverty hurts children’s development and, in turn, leads to lower income and health in adulthood. When child poverty is recognized as a denial of children’s human rights then people in positions of responsibility and power are legally bound to promote, protect and fulfill children’s rights. Above all, it is imperative to recognize and address the specific discriminations experienced by the girl child.

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