This week in history: International Day for the Eradication of Poverty
A family in Sierra Leone / UN photo by Martine Perret

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the declaration by the United Nations General Assembly, in its resolution 47/196 of December 22, 1992, of October 17 as the annual International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

Remarkable advances have been made in healthcare, food production, job creation and housing in many countries. Good examples in recent times are China, Cuba and Brazil, where millions of people, owing to progressive political reform, have been lifted out of extreme poverty. At the same time we know that regressive political systems which produce severe inequalities in wealth and the radical effects of climate change can also send societies backward into poverty. Crushing poverty still exists in the world.

  • 836 million people still live in extreme poverty.
  • About one in five persons in developing regions lives on less than $1.25 per day.
  • The overwhelming majority of people living on less than $1.25 a day belong to two regions: Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
  • High poverty rates are often found in small, fragile and conflict-affected countries.
  • One in four children under age five in the world has inadequate height for their age.
  • Every day in 2014, 42,000 people had to abandon their homes to seek protection due to conflict.

The observance of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty can be traced back to October 17, 1987. On that day, over 100,000 people gathered at the Trocadéro in Paris, where the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed in 1948, to acknowledge the victims of extreme poverty, violence and hunger. They proclaimed that poverty is a violation of human rights and affirmed the need to come together to ensure that these rights are respected. These convictions are inscribed in a commemorative stone unveiled on this day.

Since then, people of all backgrounds, beliefs and social origins have gathered every year on October 17th to renew their commitment and show their solidarity with the poor. Replicas of the commemorative stone have been unveiled around the world and serve as a gathering place to celebrate the day. One replica is located in the garden of United Nations Headquarters and is the site of the annual commemoration organized by the UN Secretariat in New York.

The 1992 resolution invited all states to devote the day to promoting concrete activities with regard to the eradication of poverty and destitution. The resolution further invites intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations to assist states, at their request, in organizing national activities for the day.

October 17th presents an opportunity to acknowledge the effort and struggle of people living in poverty, a chance for them to make their concerns heard, and a moment to recognize that poor people are the first ones to fight against poverty. Participation of the poor themselves has been at the center of the day’s celebration since its very beginning. The commemoration also reflects the willingness of people living in poverty to use their expertise to contribute to the eradication of poverty.

Building a sustainable future requires us to intensify our efforts toward eradicating extreme poverty and discrimination, and ensuring that everyone can fully exercise their human rights. The full participation of people living in poverty, particularly in the decisions that affect their lives and communities, must be at the center of policies and strategies to build a sustainable future. In this way, we can guarantee that our planet and our societies can fulfill the needs and aspirations of everyone—not only those of a privileged few—for this and future generations.

This year’s theme is “Answering the Call of October 17 to end poverty: A path toward peaceful and inclusive societies.” The commitment is to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

More on the background and significance of this date can be found here.



Special to People’s World
Special to People’s World

People’s World is a voice for progressive change and socialism in the United States. It provides news and analysis of, by, and for the labor and democratic movements to our readers across the country and around the world. People’s World traces its lineage to the Daily Worker newspaper, founded by communists, socialists, union members, and other activists in Chicago in 1924.