The United Nations on Thursday commemorated the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, highlighting the importance of finding ways to end discrimination.
"If we are to realize the future we want for all, we must hear and heed the calls of the marginalized," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message for the Day, which fell on Thursday, with a theme featuring "Working together towards a world without discrimination: Building on the experience and knowledge of people in extreme poverty."
Ban noted that the Day comes as the international community is pursuing twin objectives of intensifying efforts to reach the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and of formulating the next set of goals to guide the future efforts after the deadline of the year 2015, when the MDGS are supposed to have been accomplished.
The target of the MDGs to reduce the extreme poverty rate by half was met five years ahead of the 2015 deadline. UN statistics show 700 million fewer people lived in conditions of extreme poverty -- 1.25 U.S. dollars a day -- in 2010 than in 1990.
Despite the progress made, the UN chief stressed that the international community had much work to do. "Our impressive achievement in cutting poverty by half should not blind us to the fact that more than 1.2 billion people still live in extreme poverty worldwide."
While stressing that too many people, especially women and girls, continue to be denied access to adequate health care and sanitation, quality education and decent housing, Ban said that rising inequality in many countries -- both rich and poor -- is fueling exclusion from economic, social and political spheres, and the impacts of climate change and loss of biodiversity hit the poorest the hardest.
John Ashe, president of the United Nations General Assembly, called for greater support for people struggling to escape poverty and build better lives.
He said in a statement that at this time it is crucial to hear the voices of people struggling to survive, saying that they have demonstrated they themselves can be powerful actors in global efforts to end poverty.
"The fight to eradicate poverty should remain a global priority and I hope on this occasion that we can recognize those people living in poverty as key partners in tackling the most difficult of our global development challenges," said Ashe.
The UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty Magdalena Sepulveda also urged states to tackle the deep-rooted causes of gender inequality and women's greater vulnerability to poverty.
Through resolution 47/196 adopted on Dec. 22 1992, the UN General Assembly declared Oct. 17 as the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty and invited all states to devote the Day to presenting and promoting, as appropriate in the national context, concrete activities with regard to the eradication of poverty and destitution.