World leaders meeting a few weeks ago at the UN Special Event on the Millennium Development Goals underscored their commitment "to free humanity from poverty and hunger as a matter of urgency."
In their efforts to accelerate progress to meet the MDGs by their 2015 target date and agree to an ambitious new post-2015 global development agenda, they expressed their resolve to ensure the world's poorest and most vulnerable people remain at the fore.
The theme of this year's International Day for the Eradication of Poverty "Working together towards a World without discrimination: Building on the experience and knowledge of people in extreme poverty," reminds us that this objective will require that all of us, as individual citizens, community activists, development actors, and decision-makers confront discrimination in all its manifestations.
Discrimination denies people the opportunity to improve their lives, change the prospects of their families, and contribute to their communities and countries. Persistent discrimination and exclusion are an underlying cause of the inequalities which continue to dampen economies, stir unrest, and destabilize societies the world over. Many of the 1 billion people currently living in extreme poverty, on less than $1.25 per day, face reinforcing cycles of exclusion, discrimination, and poverty which leave them facing multiple indignities with low self-worth and little chance to escape.
Despite significant achievements in meeting global MDG targets, marginalized groups continue to lag behind in meeting almost all MDG goals and targets. Persons with disabilities, for example, experience significantly higher rates of poverty, lower educational achievement, poorer health, and less political and otherparticipation.
Gender-based discrimination also continues to drive poverty in all corners of the world. Women and girls continue to be denied equal opportunities to earn a living, own the land on which they work, pursue an education, or seek and obtain the services they need to be healthy and build better futures. As a result, women continue to die in childbirth at alarming rates and be over-represented among those in extreme poverty, hunger, and illiteracy.
UNDP has consistently supported countries to confront such discrimination. We help governments realize the human rights commitments they have made, and to formulate policies which approach poverty as both a cause and a consequence of discrimination. We also seek to empower and engage poor people - not as passive recipients of aid, but as active agents of development. People do know what they want and they do understand the challenges they face.
In facilitating agreement on the next post-2015 global development agenda, the UN is seeking to build on the understanding, knowledge, and engagement of people who live every day with poverty and exclusion. The UN has asked people from all walks of lifeto share their priorities for the new agenda, and had actively sought the views of those who would not normally be able to contribute to global policy debates - including: children, young people, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, indigenous peoples, labour union members; micro entrepreneurs displaced people, homeless people, farmers, and prison inmates.. Seeking full representation of the views of women has been a top priority at all times.
More than a million people from more than 190 countries have taken part. By listening and responding to these voices, UN Member States can chart new territory - generating the kind of public ownership which could turn the world's aspirations, including to eradicate extreme poverty, into action through an agenda which is monitored and championed by the people to whom it matters most.