International Day for the Eradication of Poverty

The real cost of extreme poverty

Statement of the ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder on International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

Statement | 17 October 2016
© Tim Shields
Extreme poverty continues to afflict the lives of 1 billion people around the world. Work should be the best route out of poverty but 327 million working men and women live in extreme poverty and 967 million in moderate and near poverty.

These figures, unacceptable as they are, do not relay the deep human cost of poverty, which restricts access to the most fundamental of needs. It robs individuals of their dignity and increases vulnerability to hunger, physical and mental illness, human rights abuses and exclusion.

It is important therefore that the theme of this year’s International Day for the Eradication of Poverty focuses on Moving from humiliation and exclusion to participation: Ending poverty in all its forms.

Humiliation and exclusion are drivers of poverty, as well as consequences of it. Discrimination, whether based on gender, ethnicity, sexuality or other grounds can lead to exclusion and restricts pathways out of poverty.

Extreme natural events and conflict can lead abruptly to the upheaval of lives and increased vulnerability to exclusion and poverty.

We, all of us, have the right to participate in society and enjoy the dignity it brings. Access to decent work opportunities for all is the most effective way to increase participation, lift people out of poverty, reduce inequality and drive economic growth.

And only through deliberately improving the quality of employment for those who have jobs will we provide a durable exit from working poverty.

Adequate systems of support need also to be in place to ensure that no one is left behind. That’s why the ILO and World Bank have launched a Global Partnership for Universal Social Protection. It aims to help countries reach all poor and vulnerable groups with measures to ensure income security and support to all people when needed, throughout their lives.

People are increasingly questioning the capacity of the institutions and actors of public life to provide such responses, or even the sincerity and legitimacy of their attempts to do so. New approaches and simple answers are in demand and some of those on offer do violence to the values of democracy, human rights, tolerance and solidarity.

There are no easy answers but with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, I sincerely believe we have the opportunity to turn the tide back in the direction of global social justice. What is at stake makes its successful implementation everybody’s business, to ensure no one is excluded and everyone has an equal right to participation.

Through its seven Centenary Initiatives, including on an end to poverty, the ILO is focusing its efforts on ensuring that governments and employer and worker organizations have the tools to help shape a sustainable and inclusive future.

If we are serious about the 2030 Agenda and want to finally put an end to the scourge of poverty – its causes and effects – perpetuating across generations, that future must provide access to decent work with social protection for all.