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United Nations Marks Thirtieth Anniversary of Call to End Poverty
United Nations Marks Thirtieth Anniversary of Call to End Poverty

A large group of concerned and socially-conscious people gathered at the United Nations Headquarters building to remind the world of the fundamental and critical call to end poverty. Titled Answering the Call of October 17 to End Poverty: A Path Toward Peaceful and Inclusive Societies, the Permanent Missions of Burkina Faso and France organized a two-part event that commemorated the thirtieth anniversary of the Call to Action by Father Joseph Wresinski to end poverty. The Call was launched in 1987 at the Trocadero Human Rights Plaza in Paris, when 100,000 supporters of human rights gathered to pledge their solidarity with people fighting the horrors of extreme poverty. The commemoration included remarks from a number of UN officials and human rights activists, followed by a ceremony honoring the Stone on the North Lawn of the UN Gardens.

Video message by H.E. Mr. António Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General, on the occasion of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty (17 October 2017)

Reminding states of their duty to eradicate extreme poverty, Master of Ceremonies Mr. Omar Lebron pointed out that the commemoration also marks the 25th anniversary of UN Resolution 47/196. Passed by the UN General Assembly in 1992, the Resolution recognized the eradication of poverty as one of the priorities for development. Through a video message, UN Secretary-General Mr. Antonio Guterres sent the audience a sincere message of hope and togetherness. Following his motivation, UN Development Programme Administrator Mr. Achim Steiner reminded those gathered that 800 million people live under extreme poverty, with an additional large number of people living under other kinds of poverty including unemployment and economic insecurity.

The meeting also included speeches by a number of prominent diplomats. Mr. Yemdaogo Eric Tiare, Ambassador of the Permanent Mission of Burkina Faso to the UN, and Mr. Francois Delattre, Ambassador of the Permanent Mission of France to the UN, emphasized that poverty is knocking on all countries of the world, and thus, the international community has to send out bridges to those enduring its miserable conditions. Mr. Tiare mentioned that poverty is widespread in his country, with four out of ten individuals facing its detriments, while Mr. Delattre stated that peace is the opposite of all forms of violence, and poverty in no way stands out of violence, and so it becomes imperative to combat.

The meeting also included several human rights activists who touched on the importance of poverty eradication in rights-based work. The passionate defenders came from all over the world, including the United Kingdom, United States, France, Haiti, and Mali. They all stressed the importance of economic development in nation-states, which is stressed in the Sustainable Development Goals, including Goal 1 to end poverty, and Goal 8 for decent work and economic growth. An extremely important reminder left the audience nodding their heads: the duty to promote full and active participation of those who are living under extreme poverty.

A group of children stands behind a memorial stone with baskets of smaller stones next to it.

Participants were invited to take stones from the baskets in the corners.

Following the session inside the UN, all parties of the event walked to the UN Gardens, where the Stone of the North Lawn is located. The stone is a replica of the Commemorative Stone at the Trocadero Human Rights Plaza in Paris - unveiled 30 years ago. This commemoration included readings of the call to action in the six UN languages by children who captivated the attendees with their appeal for peace. The readings were followed by a moment of silence and symbolic gesture towards the stone - a recognition of the hope it holds for a world with equal opportunity for all.

    The end of the commemoration was marked with music performances by the Lavender Light Choir and classical guitar performer Tye Austin. Together, these performances sent a message of peace, harmony, and compassion for all. The attendees were asked to sing with the performers, as a collective action of friendly yearning for sustainability for all. Every member of the audience left while holding a stone with “End poverty” written on it - a reminder of the world’s need toward inclusive societies.

A crowd of people standing around a stone plaque on the ground that honors the commitment to end poverty

Participants dedicated to taking action to achieve a sustainable end to poverty.

About the Author

  • Rani Allan is a Refugee Program Intern at the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office. He is also a senior at CUNY Hunter College majoring in Political Science with a certificate in Human Rights. Coming from a family with history of fleeing persecution in the Arab region,...

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