International Day for the Eradication of Poverty - 17 October

Message from the Director-General of UNESCO

The eradication of poverty must be the absolute priority of any development policy. Extreme poverty is an impediment to the full exercise of human rights, an obstacle to development and a threat to peace.

Millions of people are still victims of famine – 842 million people continued to suffer from chronic hunger between 2011 and 2013. How can we imagine that lasting peace and sustainable development may be built in these conditions? This is an insult to society and the notion of human dignity and it requires our full attention.

A leap forward is possible, solutions do exist – starting with education, which opens the door to social inclusion, skills and employment. Education is the most important foundation to build equal societies, especially for women. Education empowers and it improves crop yields, health and children’s lives.

Beyond economic indicators, material resources and “dollars per day” thresholds, poverty is a question of social inclusion and the ability of individuals to control and give meaning to their lives. Achieving progress in eliminating poverty will depend on finding innovative solutions to tackle its economic, social and ethical aspects. In recent years, the role played by culture and cultural activities has attracted the attention of those engaged in these efforts. The results of the Culture and Development projects led by UNESCO demonstrate the potential of the creative industries as well as the craft and cultural sectors to create jobs and facilitate social dialogue, inclusion and self-esteem. Cultural heritage and creativity belong to the peoples of the world and can be used to build balanced development. Full recognition must be given to the potential of culture in the post-2015 development agenda.

The goal is not to reduce but to eradicate poverty – to get to zero. This is within our reach. Poverty is declining at an unprecedented rate. In 1990, 43% of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty on less than $1.25 a day. Today, this applies to only 21% – still far too high a figure. Humanity cannot look to the future when millions of people are chained to the task of day-to-day survival. Lasting peace and sustainable development are impossible while these levels of inequality persist. We can achieve success if we act urgently and with conviction – in this spirit. I call upon governments, civil society along with the private and public sector today to create more wealth and to share better available wealth, for the greater good of humanity.

Back to top