By The Daily Star
BEIRUT: ESCWA launched a global report entitled “Combating Poverty and Inequality: Structural Change, Social Policy and Politics,” by the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD), at the UN House in Beirut Thursday.
Presentations were delivered by UNRISD executive director Sarah Cook and acting director of ESCWA Economic Development and Globalization Division Tarek Alami during the launch.
Cook said improving human well-being is a central objective of international development policy. “The MDGs [UN millenium development goals] seek to reduce global poverty by half by 2015. Even though this target may be attainable, about 1 billion people – mainly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia – will still be trapped in poverty,” she said.
Cook said the report is structured around three interconnected issues: economic (growth and structural change), social (universal social protection and social services), and political (civic rights, activism and political arrangements). “Combating poverty and inequality is not just about having the right economic policies: it is also about pursuing comprehensive social policies and types of politics that elevate the interests of the poor in public policy,” the UNRISD chief concluded.
Alami said unemployment was a major development challenge in most Arab countries, and pointed out that unemployment rates in the 2000s are only marginally lower than in the 1990s. He clarified that Arab Least Developed Countries (LDCs) have witnessed a dramatic increase in unemployment rates, from around 14 percent in the 1990s to around 19 percent.
The employment rate in the Arab region is 54 percent, 8 percent below the average of other developing regions. Alami added that the number of people in poverty, based on national poverty lines, has increased in the last 10 years in the Arab region from 34.9 million to 35.2 million. He said Arab LDCs have experienced an increase in the number of poor people based on national poverty lines from 7.7 million to 9.3 million.
Alami described some short-term macroeconomic policies that can help in achieving the goal of reducing poverty, such as a pro-poor fiscal policy, an improved tax system, limited tax evasion and progressive taxation.
The report explores the causes, dynamics and persistence of poverty as well as what works and what does not in international policy thinking and practice. – The Daily Star