GENEVA (17 October 2009) – "Today, more than ever, we have to promote awareness on the need to eradicate poverty and destitution. The year 2009 is one of record job losses. Malnutrition will expected to reach a historic peak of over one billion people. Tightening budget constraints are also threatenening investment in education and health care, further limiting the capacity of those already affected by the dramatic impacts of the financial crisis and the rise in food prices in 2008" notes the Independent Expert on human rights and extreme poverty, Ms Magdalena Sepúlveda, on the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.
This year, we are also commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. We must not forget that children are being hit hardest by a crisis that they did not create. "The projected long-term impact of the crisis on children is particularly concerning. The damage to children’s health and education is often irreversible" warns Ms Sepúlveda.
"When crises hit, families are forced to cope. They often take their children out of schools, especially girls. They forgo health care and eat less and poorer quality food. Unfortunately, these coping mechanisms have devastating effects on the physical and mental development of children."
"The crisis is not over. In fact, its full impact, particularly on the most vulnerable, is still unfolding. From a human rights perspective, we are far from a recovery; on the contrary, poverty and hunger are still increasing. According to Ms Sepúlveda, lessons from past crises show that States have the ability to address the negative impact on children and the poor through the establishment and expansion of social protection systems. National social protection strategies can target poverty and contribute to realizing the rights of all, especially children. "This must be done now: children cannot wait any longer."
Ms Sepúlveda notes that, "unfortunately most States have not implemented social protection responses to the crisis." She stresses that "investing in social protection is a legal as well as a moral obligation. It is also a sound economic decision." "Building or expanding social protection systems has multiplier effects on the economy. Social protection acts as an economic stabiliser and stimulates growth." "Social protection systems must be included in national recovery packages."
"Social protection systems are not unaffordable. When there is political will, States opt for them. "Increased aid would also help". Ms. Sepúlveda notes that since the early days of the crisis world leaders have promised resources to promote social protection programs in developing countries but there is a big gap between their promises and what has been delivered.
"Donors could clearly do much more to protect poor people from the devastating effects of the crisis. Not only must the committed levels of ODA be complied with immediately but they should be increased." Earlier this year in London, G20 leaders reaffirmed the Gleaneagles commitments. "Now, with 2010 just around the corner, they are very far from meeting these targets."