The impact of globalisation on poverty eradication has increasingly become the focus of attention of governments and international organisations. The economic arguments in favour of globalisation stress the positive relationships between increasing international trade and investment flows and faster economic growth, higher living standards, accelerated innovation, diffusion of technological and management skills, and new economic opportunities.
Reality has proven not to be so rosy. First, the benefits of globalisation are not equally distributed and tend to be concentrated among a relatively small number of countries, particularly the more advanced ones. The poorest countries such as the least developed countries in Africa have not been able to sufficiently harvest the benefits of globalisation. Second, most efforts have been placed in facilitating free trade flows, particularly in products which are of importance to the developed countries, as part of the globalisation process.
Other dimensions of globalisation like labour market standards, the environment, sustainable development, and poverty alleviation has received much less attention. Third, globalisation has also led to an increased vulnerability among many countries to international economic conditions, as clearly demonstrated by the Asian financial crisis of 1997-1998.
The ongoing focus of countries and national and international organisations on poverty alleviation has created a much clearer picture of the magnitude, nature, determinants, and possible routes out of poverty. Recent estimates by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) indicate that 75 percent of the poor work and live in rural areas. Rural poor have restricted access to and control over assets – land, water, credit, information, technology, health, education, and skills – and to markets. As such their lives have limited links to the macro-economic environment in which globalisation takes place.
Developing countries have been given the main responsibility to harness the potential benefits of globalisation for the rural poor and to counter possible negative effects. They are urged to adopt appropriate structural and social measures that promote macro-economic stability essential for economic growth and poverty alleviation. High-income countries are urged to support these initiatives through increased aid, debt relief, experience exchanges e.g., on policy making and good governance, liberalised market access for products of importance to low-income countries, and increased resources for the fight against communicable diseases.
However, many low-income countries already face tremendous and often contradicting challenges in achieving poverty-alleviation goals e.g., implementation of education for all programmed with reduced government expenditure or ensuring sufficient income-generating and employment prospects for the rural poor without intervention in agricultural output prices or in investment allocation policies.
Developing countries need concrete guidelines on the appropriate social, market and political instruments and delivery mechanisms (meso-economic measures) that can bridge the micro world of the poor and the macro world of national economies and on appropriate sequencing of instruments and mechanism to ensure fast and optimal benefits for the rural poor. The EGM will focus on these instruments, mechanisms, and processes.
Globalisation and poverty alleviation are important themes outlined in many recent resolutions and declarations adopted the General Assembly including: sections II and III of the Millennium Report of the Secretary-General of the United Nations; section III of the United Nations Millennium Declaration adopted by the General Assembly under Resolution 55/2; and resolution S-24/2 on “Further initiatives for social development” adopted by the General Assembly at its twenty-fourth special session in July 2000.
Objectives of the EGM
- To review poverty reduction strategies and to examine the experience with rural poverty alleviation.
- To examine and exchange views on the impact of globalisation on the reduction of poverty among the rural poor, and how the benefits of globalisation are transmitted to the rural poor.
- To examine and recommend policy options to national governments in both low-income and high-income countries to enhance the benefits of globalisation for the rural poor, and.
- To examine the role which the United Nations can play in these processes.