By: Jill Danne
In 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—a document adopted by the General Assembly containing 30 standards affirming individual’s rights—officially recognized poverty as a violation of human rights. On October 17, 1987, people gathered in Paris to honor the victims of poverty and ensure the Declaration’s acknowledgement. The gathering prompted the start of an informal precedent, and the crowds grew every year. Since 1992, October 17th has been the formally established date for the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Since then, the UN has worked with governments and organizations all around the world to create standards and execute projects to fight poverty.
Global agendas to fight poverty were challenging prior to the 21st century. It was not until after the 1980’s that the World Bank saw poverty rates improving in East Asian countries, such as South Korea, and recommended that other countries also focus on private sector growth in addition to human capital—especially in agriculture—to fight poverty. As research and support expanded, the World Bank also recognized the need for social assistance to supplement growth.
In 2000, the UN committed to achieving eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the year 2015. The UN has claimed that the MDGs, “produced the most successful anti-poverty movement in history.” The first MDG was to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. Based on statistics from the pre-MDG rates of development, the accelerated progress saved at least 21 million people from death, and 471 million from extreme poverty. Though these numbers are significant, the UN did not accomplish their goal to completely eradicate extreme poverty.
In 2016, the MDGs were succeeded by 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be accomplished by 2030. Goal one is to end global poverty. Though the UN has made tremendous achievements combating poverty through the MDGs, they must also overcome the challenges they faced to completely eradicate poverty by 2030. Reports analyzing progress and strategies concluded that there needs to be cross-institutional collaboration between the UN and the World Bank, better cross-sectoral work, and increased advocacy in order to successfully transition into the SDGs. To accomplish this, proposed interventions include maintaining collaborative relationships, expanding the private sector through roundtable discussions, government assistance and collectively tackling the SDGs.
From nonprofit organizations to the private sector, motives to fight poverty have grown tremendously. Consumers have been expecting more from businesses, and firms have been incentivized to increase their contribution to humanitarian goals through donations and paid volunteer work. Schools and universities demand minimum volunteering hours from students and employees, and are encouraging students who want to pursue careers in the nonprofit sector.
The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty reminds us that millions of people still live in poverty today, and encourages everyone to come together to help build a sustainable future. Without shared support from governments, organizations and citizens, the agenda to eradicate poverty will not succeed by 2030. Today shouldn’t only be a reminder of the billions of people living without human rights; the 2017 International Day for the Eradication of Poverty is a “Call for Action.” Let this day not be an observance of the people living in poverty but instead, a remembrance of their suffering and a reminder of the work yet to be done.
Jill Danne is an intern in the Asia-Pacific department for the EastWest Institute. She is a senior at New York University, majoring in Education Studies, and focusing on the relationship between international education and politics.