Ending the Violence of Extreme Poverty

Message from ILO Director-General on International Day for the Eradication of Poverty

Statement | Geneva | 17 October 2012
Reflecting the struggle against deep injustice and poverty which gave birth to the Organization some nine decades ago, the ILO’s mission in the world of work is rooted in the premise that“universal and lasting peace must be based on social justice.”We welcome today’s focus on “Ending the Violence of Extreme Poverty: Promoting Empowerment and Building Peace.”

This reminds us all of the responsibility to fight the war against want with “unrelenting vigour” and to defend the basic rights on which social justice must be built. We must join our efforts in a common front against the destructive force of poverty.

The primary asset of women and men living in poverty is their labour. The stark reality is that where extreme poverty exists, hard work is rarely empowering, rewarding or liberating and generations remain trapped in poverty. Work that is freely chosen, productive, fairly-remunerated and backed by appropriate social protection – decent work – can lift whole communities out of poverty and underpin human security and social peace.

The Rio + 20 Conference,defined the collective vision of the future that we want and affirmed that eradicating poverty was the greatest global challenge facing the world today and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development. It also acknowledged the central role of decent work in this process. The ILO’s tripartite constituents – employers, workers and governments have long made this call and the organization is committed to working in partnership with others nationally, regionally and globally to make it a reality.

There has been progress towards the goal of cutting by half by the year 2015 the number of people living with income of less than $1.25 per day. At the same time some 870 million remain undernourished.And an estimated 1 billion people are unemployed or living in poverty. The world’s workforce is growing at around 40 million per year.What can they expect?

The outlook is not reassuring and there is a real risk that global recovery will weaken and slide into prolonged and deep recession with even steeper social costs especially for the most vulnerable. Fuel, food and financial crises have taken their toll and without change such crises are likely to be endemic.Disturbing patterns of inequality, even where growth was maintained, underscore the importance of rethinking the way forward.

The post-2015 sustainable development agenda is an opportunity to adopt a new orientation and approach with mutually reinforcing strands of economic, social and environmental development and dynamic poverty eradication strategies, fostering inclusion and empowerment - but change in this direction must begin now:
  • Making sustainable job creation and full employment a central policy objective combining long-term vision and strategy with short-term action – essential if growth is to have sustainable and positive poverty outcomes;
  • Premised on participation and the transformative role of rights that are the basis of effective organization and representation, enabling people living in poverty to be heard, to defend their interests and to engage in a real dialogue as partners in development: this goes to the core of empowerment;
  • Using social dialogue to build consensus on policies and action for inclusive growth, fostering solidarity and stability and building the institutions and capacities for dialogue;
  • Integrating social protection as a pillar of human security and an economic stabilizer – the new ILO Recommendation on Social Protection Floors provides guidance on extending such protection;and
  • Ensuring scope for all actors – governments, workers, employers, civil society, the multilateral system and international partners, among others, to contribute effectively and an international cooperation agenda that accommodates the integrated approach required for sustainable development.
When “injustice, hardship and privation”are widespread, “the peace and harmony of the world are imperilled”. The ILO’s Constitution rings true today. We remain committed to working for the social infrastructure of peace transforming the struggle for survival of people living in poverty into decent work opportunities for progress.