The Second Annual Forum on the Eradication of Poverty: A Follow-up to the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) Building a Partnership Between the UN and Civil Society" was held in Conference Room 4 at UN HQ, New York on December 2, 2002 from 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm. A reception followed at the Delegates Dining Hall from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm. The forum was sponsored by the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Mozambique to the United Nations. Women's Federation for World Peace International (WFWPI) and WFWP USA cosponsored and organized the event.
There were 300 participants, including 60 participants from UN Missions and UN Systems. The forum was opened by Moderator of the Opening Session, Ms. Motoko Sugiyama, Co-chair of the Forum Organizing Committee and Director of the UN Office of WFWPI. She explained that the second forum scheduled for 2001 was cancelled due to the September 11th terrorist attack. The sponsors and organizers were very happy that this 2nd forum could finally take place.
Welcoming remarks were given by the co-sponsors, H.E. Mr. Carlos Dos Santos, Permanent Representative of Mozambique to the United Nations and Prof. Lan Young Moon Park, President of WFWPI. H.E. Mr. Carlos Dos Santos emphasized that one of the greatest challenges facing humanity is absolute poverty, which affects the majority of the people around the world. This challenge can only be overcome by concerted and coherent action by all actors and stakeholders. UN and civil society hold primary interest and responsibility. We have a unique opportunity to reverse the trend of increasing poverty. In this regard, he expressed pleasure in sharing the hosting of this forum as well as sharing the goals and spirit of WFWP. He commended the vital work done by WFWP throughout the world.
Prof. Lan Young Moon Park also gave a heartfelt welcome to the participants. She expressed that poverty has two meanings; material poverty, or lack of the basic physical needs and spiritual poverty, the lack of True Love (affection, care, decency, etc). She shared her experience as a refugee from North Korea 50 years ago. Two thirds of the 150 refugees who were trapped on a small island died of starvation. Meeting basic physical needs is a matter of life and death. She also stressed the importance of education of the spirit, learning to give to others no matter what. Student exchange programs between children of developed and developing countries will help students learn the realities and problems in different situations. She concluded by saying that she has hope and confidence we can eliminate poverty and sustain development. Her hope stems from working on and observing WFWP activities throughout the world in the past 10 years, as well as from her knowledge that God is our common parent who gives us the original love to share with each other.
After the opening session, there was a video presentation on WFWP service projects worldwide.
Ambassador Dos Santos moderated the forum. The four topics were as follows:
Diversity in Civil Society's Response
Panelist Ms. Alexa Fish Ward, President of WFWP USA and co-chair of the forum organizing committee spoke on WFWP world-wide activities. Her focus was on WFWP inter-national service projects started in 1994. The overall goal for the projects is the eradication of poverty and improving lives of women and children. Most project volunteers were originally from Japan. The projects were developed as volunteers went to their mission countries and worked with leaders of women's NGOs s and other national and local leaders to identify needs. Those projects are:
- Self help Assistance for Women (Vocational center and schools)
- Schools for children
- Programs for AIDS Prevention
- Medical Assistance
- Nutrition and Hygiene education
Ms. Ward observed that volunteers' sacrificial devotion made project development possible. Now other WFWP chapters in developed countries are supporting these efforts through fundraising in their respective chapters.
Panelist Ms. Francesca B. Close, Founder and Chairwoman of ABWI (Alliance of Business Women International) explained her work for sustainable economic development. She helps strengthen small business sectors and creates a strong workforce throughout global communities. ABWI and Orbis Group (Ms. Close represents Orbis Group) help create businesses that empower many women who were previously excluded from economic opportunity. She conclude by sharing that she had a life awakening experience as she participated in the Bridge of Peace Sisterhood Ceremony sponsored by WFWP in 1995 in Washington, D.C. between Japanese and American women. Since then she holds great trust in WFWP for this organization's contribution to the realization of world peace.
Perspectives of UN Organizations
Panelists for this topic were Dr. Desmond Johns, Director of UNAIDS, New York Liaison Office and Ms. Vanessa Tobin, Chief of UNICEF, Water, Environment and Sani-tation Section.
Dr. Desmond Johns focused on the theme "HIV/AIDS, Sustainable Development and Civil Society". (Dr. Johns' whole text will be posted on the WFWPI website) He gave an excellent summary explanation of UNAIDS and the HIV/AIDS crisis. He concluded by stating that the battle against AIDS will be won or lost at the community level and must address the causes and the consequences of the epidemic strongly and fully.
Ms. Vanessa Tobin gave a very informative presentation of the work of UNICEF. She stressed that the most vulnerable beings are children and UNICEF has been stri-ving to help them in every area. To succeed, UNICEF needs continuing support and collaboration from NGOs in the field. She also gave a short summary of the Special Session on Children "A World Fit for Children" which was held at the UN HQ, New York from May 8-10, 2002. (The text of SSGA can be found at the UN website: www.un.org).
H.E. Dr. Isaac C. Lamba, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Malawi to the United Nations was the first panelist to speak on this topic. His presentation covered the following three major categories:
- Outcomes of the Summit, the Johannes-burg Declaration on Sustain-able Development and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation.
- Malawi's approaches to poverty eradication since 1994 and the lessons learned.
- The new strategy for poverty eradication as outlined in the Malawi Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (MPRSP).
Ambassador Lamba stated that WSSD was a first major global meeting bringing together a wide spectrum of stakeholders with diverse interests that converged on a collective goal of sustainable development. Rather than concentrating on ecological issues as had been the case at the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992, the Johannesburg Summit provided an opportunity for stakeholders in sustainable development to discuss long-term sustainability, global equity and justice as well as the central theme of poverty eradication. While reaffirming the Rio principles and the need for enhanced implementation of Agenda 21, the Summit underscored the urgency of finding practical ways and means of translating the Millennium Declaration into action.
Second, Ambassador Lamba explained the Malawi Poverty Alleviation Programme (PAP) started in1994. This PAP was identified by the UN Secretary General as the best approach to poverty reduction and eradication implemented in the first UN Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (1997-2006).
Third, He explained about MRRSP which was launched in April 2002 and endorsed by the World Bank in August 2002. The implementation of PRSP takes into consideration certain important issues such as overall coordination with government, emphasis on strengthening existing systems and local ownership and participation. He concluded by saying that MPRSP is a poverty eradication strategy that brings into focus the poverty situation in Malawi, the detailed priorities and costs. It is an action plan that can be translated into an appropriate government's budget and can be monitored by all stakeholders. All socio-economic improvement strategies for poor masses must be utilized to achieve meaningful development in line with the UN Millennium Development Goals.
In contrast to Ambassador Lamba, who represented a national government, the second panelist on this topic, Mayor James Garner of the Incorporated Village of Hempstead New York, represented local government. Mr.Garner, Vice President of US conference of Mayors addressed the role that local government can play in the process of poverty eradication. He shared about some of the work he has done in his own community, including providing job opportunities, clean water, affordable housing and transportation alternatives. Mayor Garner stressed that despite what may go on at the national and international level; leaders at the local level try every day to provide their citizens with safe vibrant communities that have economic opportunities for all.
Follow-up to World Summit on Sustainable Development
(Note: Sustainable development is defined as community development that meets the needs of its citizens while striving to improve the surrounding environment.)
Mr. Anwarul K. Chowdhury, United Nations Under-Secretary General, High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Countries & Small Island Developing States who gave an overview of WSSD, was the last speaker.
First, Under-Secretary General Chowdhury commented that action to eradicate poverty like WFWP takes is very important. He also emphasized that WFWP's ethical focus on family values and the culture of peace is equally important. In summarizing WSSD, he stated that poverty eradication is the most important point of the Johannesburg Declaration. His office was newly formed by the Secretary General specifically to deal with the 49 poorest countries. Out of those, 34 are in Africa, the poorest segment of the world.
Mr. Chowdhury explained that aid from developed countries is important but helping those 49 countries to stand on their own is very important. Therefore, the roles of civil society and the private sector (such as WFWP) are to bring advocacy on the international level and implementation on the local level. Mr. Chowdhury concluded by saying that he and his office will be working very closely with NGOs, civil societies and private sectors to fight to achieve the common goal of eradicating poverty.
Two question and answer sessions followed. The first question and answer session was just after the topic II. Most questions concentrated on WFWP, such as how service projects were structured, how countries were selected for service work, and how governments are involved in the projects. Ms. Motoko Sugiyama, co-chair of the organizing committee, vice president of WFWP International responded. She explained that the international volunteer activities and their respective service projects are a structure and labor of love. The work arose out of a sincere desire of members of the human family to come to the aid of other family members in need.
The second question and answer session followed the final topic. At this time, most questions were focused on Mayor Garner and his successful administration. He emphasized the importance of a master plan as a corrective road map in leading us to the right destination of poverty eradication. He also stressed that local governments need to be a loud united voice to higher government leaders.
Distinguished, excellent speakers and an attentive, sincere audience created a very informative and inspirational forum. Everybody who participated in the forum had an uplifting and deep time of learning.
After the forum, a reception was held at the Delegates Dining Hall from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm. Congratulatory remarks were given by Ambassador Dos Santos of Mozambique and Madam Ambassador Tobing-Klein of Suriname, who attended the forum also. There was entertainment of beautiful songs and music by the Westchester Rockland Family Church choir conducted by Dr. Rumiko Isaksen. Participants enjoyed friendly exchange of fellowship.