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Permanent Mission of the Republic of the Philippines to the United Nations

Philippine Statement

Permanent Representative of the Philippines to the United Nations

at the General Debate on Agenda Item 53
“Eradication of poverty and other development issues”

63rd Session, General Assembly

22 October 2008

Madam Chair,

Thank you for recognizing and giving the floor to the Philippines.

The Philippines commends your leadership for organizing this debate on a very crucial issue that has always been confronting the world and challenging humanity and even more today: poverty.

The Philippines would like to thank the Secretary General for the comprehensive reports prepared for this important Agenda Item 53 on “Eradication of poverty and other development issues”. The three Reports provide a sound basis for our discussions and future action that Member States, singly and collectively, may take to eradicate poverty. The panel discussion we had on Monday, the first formal meeting held in the UN on the Second United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty, would contribute much or provide substantive inputs to the consideration and discussion by the Second Committee on the agenda item under consideration.

My delegation joins others who associated themselves with the statements delivered by the representatives of Antigua and Barbuda and of Indonesia on behalf of, respectively, the G-77 and China and the Member States of the ASEAN.

The message of the Secretary General delivered last Friday, October 17, focuses and expounds on this year’s theme: “Human Rights and Dignity of People Living in Poverty.” One particular statement in that Message sums up a key idea under this concept – “Poverty will not be eradicated without due respect for human rights.”

This is a theme that fits perfectly well for the commemoration two days from now, or on 24 October, of the 63 rd anniversary of the entry into force of the UN Charter; and the celebration one month and twenty days from now or on 10 December 2008, of the 60 th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In the Charter the peoples of the United Nations solemnly announce their solemn determination “to reaffirm faith in the fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small.” And the opening paragraph of the Preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights equally solemnly pronounces that “the recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.”

Simple logic dictates that the best test or measure of fidelity and adherence to these solemn determination and pronouncement is the existing condition of the poor, the marginalized, and the underprivileged in society; or how they are treated or looked upon. Do they get enough attention or are they forgotten or taken for granted because they are without influence or power?

As a former Chief Justice of the Philippines, I view this linkage between human rights and dignity of people living in poverty as much more than just an abstract concept.

In the Philippines, we have this solemn declaration that: those who have less in life, should have more in law. Constitutional provisions and laws passed by Congress guarantee this balance. The Constitution directs the State to promote a just and dynamic social order that will ensure the prosperity and independence of the nation and free the people from poverty through policies that provide adequate social services, promote full employment, a rising standard of living, and an improved quality of life for all (Article II, Sec. 9); and provides a separate article on Social Justice and Human Rights (Art. XIII). The Bill of Rights provides that free access to the courts and quasi-judicial bodies and adequate legal assistance shall not be denied to any person by reason of poverty. (Art. III, Sec. 11).

During my tenure as Chief Justice of the Philippines, the Judiciary blazed new trails in terms of protecting, promoting and enhancing the human rights of the poor. It adopted an Action Program for Judicial Reform addressing six main areas, one of which is the Access to Justice by the Poor component. This component ensures that the marginalized and vulnerable sectors will always have affordable but efficient means of attaining justice.

Insofar as the United Nations is concerned, the Second Decade for the Eradication of Poverty should likewise be based on a human rights perspective. Respect for the human rights of the poor must be the cornerstone of all policies, programs and efforts to eradicate poverty.

The prescription of the International Labor Organization (ILO) last Monday in support of its Decent Work agenda is one aspect of preserving the dignity of the poor, because enabling the poor to help themselves rise above the penury and a mendicant mentality, will be one of the marks of a successful poverty eradication program.

Of course, before one can be gainfully employed, there are many other elements that governments should be able to help assure – quality education, food security, health and shelter, among other things. Relevant participation and inclusion of the impoverished sector’s needs in the planning and implementation of poverty alleviation programs are desirable. Furthermore, the contributions of women and the youth in lifting themselves out of poverty should also play an important role in these discussions.

Along these lines, the Philippines tries to coordinate its poverty alleviation programs through the Medium Term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP) in consultation with the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) that has been in existence for the past ten years. This Commission is the coordinating and advisory body that helps implement the ‘Social Reform and Poverty Alleviation Act of 1998,’ through which the Social Reform Agenda finds expression in national, regional, sub-regional and local development plans.

Madam Chair,

Before the onset of this current set of global crises in the food, fuel, financial and physical environment sectors, the Philippines was making some headway in the fight against poverty. Around one million jobs per year were being created and the economy was registering above average annual growth. All these gains towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), however, are now in danger of being diminished, if not, lost, in the face of this conspiracy of crises that confronts all Member States of the United Nations.

At home, in early July, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of the Philippines, endorsed a 3-year plan to provide P28 billion in annual subsidies to 4.7 million households living below the poverty threshold.

The Philippines supports the various calls for coordinated discussion on these issues, such as the convening by the President of the General Assembly’s of a special meeting on the global financial crisis on 30 October, and the setting up of a high-level task force to review the global financial system – in much the same way the food crisis was globally addressed recently in Rome. Further calls for international discussion, coordination and action are likewise endorsed with the goal in mind of taking quick, effective and non-overlapping measures to address these grave threats.

The economic challenges that embroil the world today underscores the transboundary effects of national economic woes, the interdependence of economies, and the negative dimensions of globalization if not collectively addressed and harnessed.

Madam Chair,

Many have said that these difficult times provide us with an opportunity for change – an opportunity to correct practices and policies that belong to a bygone financial and economic order. The inter-connectedness of nations brought about by unceasing globalization brings new meaning to the term ‘United Nations’ – we must rise to the occasion and seize this opportunity to protect the future of our children and our children’s children; and to effect relevant and profound changes in the fight against poverty. We must never forget that the protection and promotion of human rights requires the eradication of poverty. Poverty fuels violence. Poverty breeds hatred and contempt. Poverty divides people. Terrorists take advantage of poverty. Poverty seriously affects the quest for justice and peace.

I thus conclude with this message inspired by St. Paul in 2 Corinthians 8:14: Those who have much should not have more. Those who have little should not have less. But those who have nothing should receive even a little.

I thank you.


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