It is an honour for me to speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States and to take part in a discussion on the priority theme of the 49th Session of the Commission for Social Development: poverty eradication.
The Candidate Countries Turkey, Croatia*, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, and Montenegro*, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Serbia, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, and Georgia align themselves with this declaration.
Poverty reduction is a worldwide challenge. The European Union and its Member States remain fully committed to combating poverty worldwide in line with the Millennium Development Goals. At the same time poverty is also an issue within the EU, even though it is an overall relatively wealthy region that has developed strong welfare systems.
In 2008 more than 80m people in the EU lived below the European poverty line which is set at 60% of the median income in each country. Women account for well over half of them and 20 million are children. Furthermore, 8 per cent of Europeans live in conditions of severe material deprivation, which means that they lack a number of items which are considered to be essential to maintain a decent life in Europe. Also, over 9 per cent of European populations in working age live in households where nobody works. The so-called “working poor” represented 8 per cent of the working population.
The problem has been made worse by the economic crisis, notwithstanding the many measures undertaken by governments to eliminate or at least limit its employment and social consequences.
The most vulnerable groups have been hit hardest.
This is clearly unacceptable. Bringing vulnerable persons and groups into the heart of our societies and labour markets is central to sustainable and inclusive growth.
2010 was the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion which helped shed light on the reality of poverty and paved the way for an agreement on the poverty reduction target within the Europe 2020 Strategy, adopted last year. In this new framework, the EU, for the first time ever, agreed on a European target to reduce the number of people living at risk of poverty and social exclusion by at least 20 million by the year 2020. This EU poverty target is also backed, as part of the Europe 2020 Strategy, by targets raising the employment rate and the education level.
The European Commission’s initiative “The European Platform against Poverty and Social Exclusion”, adopted last December, sets out actions to bolster work at all levels to reach the EU poverty reduction target by mobilising policies such as social protection, employment and education, as well as EU funding, including the European Social Fund.
Key actions in the EU Poverty Platform include making social protection and services more effective and responsive to new social needs.
Efforts to combat poverty are a key part of the external dimension of EU policies, as enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty.
The promotion of decent work, social protection and gender equality policies play an essential role in reducing poverty and enhancing social inclusion. The EU and its Member States will further develop policy dialogue with the EU’s strategic partners and in international fora, notably the UN, the ILO and G20.
Since the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals, and together with international organizations and other relevant actors, the EU and its Member States have been increasingly supporting developing countries in their efforts to alleviate poverty. There has been encouraging progress on many dimensions of poverty during the last decade. However, still 1.4 billion people live today with less than 1.25$ a day.
The achievement of the MDGs remains the EU’s and its Member States first priority. We believe that the MDGs can be achieved if all partners demonstrate strong political commitment, implement the necessary policies and take concrete actions, building on the successful outcome of the MDG Summit held in New York last September. The EU, being the largest donor, has a specific responsibility. We reconfirmed last June our commitment to meet the 0.7% ODA/GNI target by 2015. At the same time, the EU reconfirmed its strong determination to make ODA more effective and to contribute to the acceleration of the implementation of the aid effectiveness principles, as well as to increase the coherence of its other policies for development.
We also stress the importance of indentifying innovative sources of financing at global level as well as the need to mobilise developing countries’ own domestic resources. In that regard, development policy needs to become a catalyst for the building up of developing countries’ own capacities to mobilise their economic, natural and human resources in support of poverty reduction strategies.
Creation of decent employment, labour market reforms and universal social protection proved to be efficient policies to mitigate the negative social effects of the crisis. Therefore these policies have to receive more attention in development cooperation. Efforts in these policy areas are crucial to break the vicious circle of intergenerational poverty and to reduce the gender gap in vulnerable employment and poverty.
In this context the EU and its Member States strongly support efforts to extend social protection systems, including those living in low income countries and welcome initiatives such as the UN social protection floor promoted by the ILO and WHO and we look forward to the ILO International Labour Conference in 2011 and its focus on social protection. We underline our readiness to work together on this topic with a view to achieving ambitious results, including a discussion on solutions which address concerns of member states of varying socio-economic diversities. The panel discussion on emerging issue of social protection, next Monday, will allow coming back on these themes.
The EU has highlighted its important contribution to social protection in developing countries in the second edition of the European Report on Development. The report will be presented in this forum on the 11th February on the occasion of a side event co-organised by the European Commission and Finland.
The EU was also active in other social policy areas throughout 2010: new EU policies were adopted on humanitarian food assistance and on the development cooperation dimension of food security; on ‘Global Health’; on the ‘Rights of the Child’; as well as on gender equality, in addition to a Commission proposal on ‘More and better education in developing countries’.
Thank you for your attention.
* Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Montenegro continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process