"Combating poverty" is the topic of Chapter 3 of Agenda 21. It is also in commitment 2 of the Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development.
Agenda 21 emphasized that poverty is a complex multidimensional problem with origins in both the national and international domains. No uniform solution can be found for global application. Rather, country-specific programmes to tackle poverty and international efforts supporting national efforts, as well as the parallel process of creating a supportive international environment, are crucial for a solution to this problem.
The years following the 1992 Rio Conference have witnessed an increase in the number of people living in absolute poverty, particularly in developing countries. The enormity and complexity of the poverty issue could endanger the social fabric, undermine economic development and the environment, and threaten political stability in many countries.
The General Assembly, in its 1997 Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21 (paragraph 27) decided that poverty eradication should be an overriding theme of sustainable development for the coming years. It is one of the fundamental goals of the international community and of the entire United Nations system.
Poverty eradication is addressed in Chapter II of the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (2002), which stressed that eradicating poverty is the greatest global challenge facing the world today and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development, particularly for developing countries.
Priority actions on poverty eradication include:
- improving access to sustainable livelihoods, entrepreneurial opportunities and productive resources;
- providing universal access to basic social services;
- progressively developing social protection systems to support those who cannot support themselves;
- empowering people living in poverty and their organizations;
- addressing the disproportionate impact of poverty on women;
- working with interested donors and recipients to allocate increased shares of ODA to poverty eradication; and
- intensifying international cooperation for poverty eradication.
In the context of the multi-year programme of work adopted by the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) after the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), poverty eradication appears as an "overriding issue" on the agenda of the CSD each year.
In "The Future We Want", the outcome document of Rio+20, Member States emphasized the need to accord the highest priority to poverty eradication within the United Nations development agenda, addressing the root causes and challenges of poverty through integrated, coordinated and coherent strategies at all levels.