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Stronger Social Security Needed Against Poverty

Stronger Social Security Needed Against Poverty, Expert Tells UN Meeting

New York, Nov 15 2006 6:00PM

To reduce poverty, developing countries need to strengthen their social security systems following on the success of industrial countries, an anti-poverty expert said today at a United Nations forum on poverty held at the world body’s Headquarters in New York.

Addressing the International Forum on Poverty Eradication, Professor Peter Townsend of the London School of Economics said poor States should follow the precedent set by members of the 30-nation Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) which largely eliminated poverty by strengthening their social protection and social security systems.

He pointed out that OECD countries had carried out universal schemes rather than just targeting the poor, and some of them were spending 18 per cent of their gross national product on social security.

Policy-makers should “direct more attention to social security than in the past,” he said, while poor nations should aim at establishing the same universal social security coverage.

UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs José Antonio Ocampo said advances had been made in reducing overall poverty. A global partnership for development had emerged and official development assistance had been steadily increasing, together with “quick-impact” initiatives to support education, health care and anti-malaria efforts.

Innovative sources of financing had been launched, he said, noting that 19 countries were implementing a “solidarity levy” on airline tickets to finance an international drug purchase initiative, and just last week an international finance facility had floated five-year bonds worth $1 billion to fund immunization programmes.

But Mr. Ocampo said more must be done to create adequate levels of decent employment and address the growing trend towards income inequality. According to a recent survey, 48 countries had seen a deterioration of income distribution over the past 30 years.

Kenyan anti-poverty activist Wahu Kaara said the picture was not just one of poverty and gloom, but of poor people fashioning new alternatives, planning from below, carrying a variety of economic activities that kept their communities together. In a world where 2.7 billion people lived on less than $2 a day, there was a need for less intervention by multinational corporations, development technocrats and “a multi-billion industry built on parachuting development,” she said, calling for new partnerships, stronger involvement of civil society and full guarantee of the rights to food, health and education.

The International Forum on Poverty Eradication, held today and tomorrow at the UN, brings together some 300 economists, civil society leaders and field practitioners from around the world to discuss novel ways to reduce poverty.


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