UN officials urge action on behalf of 700 million people in worlds

With the world’s 50 poorest countries – home to 700 million people – struggling to tackle poverty, senior United Nations officials today urged attention to their plight as the annual meeting of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) began in New York.Juan Somavia, Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO), said many people, especially those living in the least developed countries (LDCs), said it was vital to support and strengthen local markets and communities so that people could live and work where they are, instead of being forced to migrate in search of greater opportunity.The ILO chief said studies indicate that the benefits of globalization are not reaching the most vulnerable – jeopardizing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a series of antipoverty targets set at a UN summit in 2000.A recent UN report, for example, estimated that if current trends continue, the number of people living in poverty in the weakest economies will rise to 471 million in 2015 from 334 million in 2000.Rubens Ricupero, Secretary-General of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), called on industrialized countries to phase out their agricultural subsidies and for debt repayments to be linked to commodity prices, so that poor nations are not so vulnerable to price shocks.Mr. Ricupero also voiced concern that economic assistance to the poorest States has become increasingly devoted to human and social needs instead of building the countries’ infrastructure and means of economic development.Mathieu Kérékou, the President of Benin, which holds the presidency of the coordinating bureau of the least developed countries (LDCs), said they were tired of donor nations and organizations not matching promises of increased support with deeds.Calling for “real political will,” Mr. Kérékou said wealthy nations continued to harm poor States by subsidising their exports and by failing to increase development aid as pledged.José Antonio Ocampo, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, urged policy-makers to strike now while the global economy is enjoying a relatively healthy period. “If we are to withstand short-term downturns, it is imperative that we take advantage of the opportunities offered by current conditions to tackle some of our problems and to build defences against future shocks,” he said.The UN High Representative for the LDCs, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States said the meeting was a positive beginning. “We hope that the outcome will generate new momentum to the fulfilment of the international community’s commitment to these impoverished nations,” Anwarul K. Chowdhury said.

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