I wish to express my delegation's full support for the statement
made earlier by Indonesia on behalf of the Group of 77 and China.
Since the Copenhagen Summit, the appalling spectre of extreme
global poverty has been laid bare before us. Today, there are very few who would disagree
with the statement of the World Health Organisation, that "Poverty is the world's
deadliest disease" With this realisation, the issue of poverty has been promoted to a
central position in the policies of most governments and actors in the international
community, including in the UN system.
Mr. Chairman, preceding speakers have highlighted the grim
statistics of global poverty and have spoken eloquently of the plight of those groups of
countries and people who are most affected by poverty, including LDCs, children, women,
the elderly, disabled, the rural poor and urban slum-dwellers. In this 50th year of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights and five years after the adoption of the Vienna
Declaration, millions of people still do not enjoy some of the most basic economic and
social human rights.
Poverty eradication has been accorded top priority on Jamaica's
social agenda. The Jamaican Government has always been cognisant of the fact, emphasised
in the Secretary-General's Report, that poverty is a complex problem which requires a
combination of interventions in several areas. Our policy framework therefore encompasses
three major components:
i) an integrated, multi-faceted approach in specific deprived communities;
ii) the targeting of certain vulnerable population groups such as women, children, the unemployed, disabled, youth and low-income families;
iii) provision of a social safety net to meet the needs of the chronically poor and the new poor, while at the same time, reducing their dependency.
Human resource development is the cornerstone of Jamaica's poverty reduction efforts. Our Human Resource Development Programme - consisting mainly of investment and policy reforms in education and health - represents the strongest expression of the Government's intention to alleviate poverty through investment in human capital.
Mr. Chairman, in keeping with the commitments made at Copenhagen, the Jamaican Government applies an integrated approach in implementing the above-mentioned policy objectives, including at the community level, where interventions comprise a mix of projects, such as employment creation, income-generation, human resources development and health services, to achieve maximum impact in these communities.
All major stake-holders are called upon to play a role, with the key partners being communities and community-based organisations, including NGOs, private and voluntary organisations, and the private sector. There are also several multilateral and bilateral donors which have been contributing to the process by participating in a range of projects.
The Government's National Poverty Eradication Programme, adopted
in 1996, was developed in consultation with these groupings, as well as with academia, the
political opposition, the Church, and other community groups.
Mr. Chairman, Jamaica recognises that the development of the
informal sector, together with the strengthening of the formal sector, is critical for the
successful outcome of poverty eradication strategies.
Small businesses, which incorporate small-scale enterprises, micro-enterprises and co-operatives, have the potential to create jobs, utilise local raw material and scientific and technological expertise, and involve large numbers of people in national decision-making and in social and economic development. The small business sector in Jamaica, while doing comparatively well, has still not realised its full potential.
In this regard, a recent study conducted within the Caribbean
region indicated the need for a coherent set of legislation with programmes to strengthen
and deepen participation in the small business sector through objectives such as:
i) developing appropriate legal, management and financial
structures, to enable the sector to develop in a sustained and organised way;
ii) increasing the number of women and youth in small business
ventures, and improving the competitiveness of small farmers;
iii) initiating and strengthening financing mechanisms which enhance small business sector access to financial services and reducing the cost of providing and acquiring these services.
Mr. Chairman, it is in this connection that my delegation takes note of the Secretary-General's analysis of the role of micro-credit; its advantages and disadvantages, in the eradication of poverty. We fully agree with several of his conclusions and suggestions, including the need for micro-credit schemes to incorporate a culture of saving and to link savings and loans.
As in other developing countries, an informal banking sector does
exist in Jamaica, consisting mainly of savings and loan arrangements among groups of
people (mainly women) who have traditionally pooled their meagre resources on a systematic
basis. Although not very formalised, the "Pardner" system, as it is called,
enables participants to afford and budget for major purchases or loans as well as
unforeseen crises. There is also an extensive, regulated network of credit unions and
building societies, which also incorporate savings and loans facilities, and which exist
alongside the formal commercial banking sector.
Mr. Chairman, my delegation fully understands the limitations of micro-credit, for it is true that even micro-enterprises and micro-credit facilities cannot, by themselves, bring about the eradication of poverty. According to UNESCO, even well-designed, efficient micro-finance programmes will have only limited impact on the quality of life of the poor, if illiteracy, malnutrition and disease remain at present levels. Moreover, better education, health and other services will enhance efficiency, productivity and economic opportunities for beneficiaries of micro-finance programmes.
If countries therefore take a holistic approach to poverty eradication, with micro-credit and micro-enterprise as important components, they will then enhance the sustainability of these schemes and reduce the risk of them becoming mere welfare schemes.
Mr. Chairman, massive poverty eradication programmes implemented
at the national level, cannot and will not succeed without comparable action at the
international level. Indeed, the international community has recognised the genuine and
urgent need for the mobilisation of increased resources to assist national poverty
alleviation programmes. Harmonisation and co-ordination are just as critical to the
successful implementation of poverty eradication and reduction efforts at the
international level, as they are at the national level. We therefore welcome the recent
work of the Administrative Committee on Co-ordination (ACC) in the area of co-ordination
and synergy within the UN system, as well as the collaboration already taking place among
the funds and programmes, the specialised agencies and the Bretton Woods Institutions.
We also welcome the efforts of these institutions to be more sensitive to and to tailor programmes to take account of their positive and negative impact on economic and social development in programme countries.
Mr. Chairman, it remains a fact that successful implementation of
national poverty eradication and reduction strategies is often stymied by developments in
the external environment.
Globalisation and trade liberalisation have been touted as the twin vehicles of economic growth. Yet, so many developing countries have been unable to reap the benefits of the globalisation process, due in part to the problem of external debt and debt servicing. Various debt initiatives, while welcome, have not yet cleared the huge debt overhang, which continues to be a hindrance to investment, including social investment and growth.
In addition, globalisation and liberalisation, while producing some benefits to some countries, have also caused widening rifts in the social strata, particularly between rich and poor, the 'haves' and the 'have-nots'.
Mr. Chairman, in this the second year of the first UN decade for poverty eradication, we must admit that the light has not yet appeared at the end of the tunnel. For, while we strengthen our actions to reduce and eradicate poverty, we continue to pursue other actions which undermine any progress in that area. For example, we continue to degrade the environment - and then to blame the consequences on the cruel whim of some mysterious god. As a result of the structural adjustment programmes which we have had to adopt, our governments' capacities to provide basic social services have been greatly reduced, resulting in the deterioration of educational and health services. Like Sisyphus, many of us continue to push away at the rock of poverty, and of course, it continues to roll back upon us.
There are those who express the view, Mr. Chairman, that recent
and impending global crises will serve to force all players in the international community
to act purposefully to address the inequalities among the nations and peoples of the
world. This is unfortunate, but perhaps it will take a major global crisis to force us to
realise that we are all responsible for one another. After all, it was we who pulled down
the borders among us which have created this global village. And in a village, one cannot
hide from trouble forever. So it is that the recent Asian financial crisis has proven that
one region's troubles are global troubles; the solution(s) must therefore come from the
Jamaica therefore commends those UN and other international agencies which continue to forge partnerships with governments such as my own in combating poverty and promoting social development. We also commend those government donors - new and traditional - which have not only maintained, but which have managed to increase their Official Development Assistance (ODA) as a percentage of their GDP.
As for the rest of us, Mr. Chairman, we believe that we must
continue toward our goal of eradicating extreme poverty in co-operation with the
international community, despite setbacks. There are lessons even in crises such as the
Asian financial turmoil, where, despite the overnight creation of "newly poor"
even among the middle classes, there is still comfort in the knowledge that years of
investment in education have garnered for the countries of that region, a population which
is technically capable of seeing their countries through this terrible period.
The financial turmoil and recent adverse developments in the international trading system with respect to the economies of small island developing States, has also underscored the need, reflected during the high-level segment of the 1998 ECOSOC substantive session, for trade liberalisation and market access to be seen in the context of poverty eradication, the ultimate goal of development efforts.
The truth, Mr. Chairman, is that there are no glamourous solutions to this challenging problem - it requires organised but painstaking, plodding, often frustrating WORK. Let us continue.
I thank you.