On the 49th Commission on Social Development – February 15, 2011
The long fight against poverty has had limited real and sustainable results. However, the current focus on social inclusion as essential to the eradication of poverty has brought renewed energy and vision to the battle. It is universally agreed upon that special attention must be given to youth as one of the most vulnerable groups of society, and particularly susceptible to social exclusion and the intergenerational poverty.(1)
Young people are the most disproportionately affected by poverty. Not only is the number of youth living in poverty dramatically larger than that of other groups, but the experience of poverty itself can shape the way young people interact with the world. Young people who experience the fruits of poverty such as hunger, malnutrition, lack of education and access to basic healthcare need strong support structures to receive the help and vision they need to identify a path and means out of poverty. The strongest support structure is the family. While all families are not necessarily strong, the presence of a strong family can make the difference between continuing in intergenerational cycles of poverty, or breaking out of them.(2)
The support provided by the family ameliorates the effects of poverty by providing young people with a supportive, inclusionary environment from the very beginning of their lives. The family is a person’s first and most formative experience of society and inclusion. It provides a consistent, evolving experience of social inclusion and inter-generational co-operation through all stages of a person’s life from birth to natural death. The family is the primary place where young people are formed and encouraged to flourish. Even in the case where access to social networks is limited, the family can serve as a concrete experience of inclusion and support for vulnerable individuals.
The family can also be the engine through which group solidarity takes place to overcome poverty and exclusion. For example, the sacrifices that older siblings or parents make for younger children to go to school, in order to break the intergenerational cycles of poverty, are well known. These sacrifices not only enable the children to receive an education, but in and of themselves provide natural lessons in cooperation, hard work and the importance of education and future goals. As younger children see the sacrifices made for them by those whom they look up to in their family, they are encouraged to follow their example, and so the family becomes the primary school of personhood and societal engagement. This is just one of the many ways that the family serves as the agent of change in breaking poverty cycles.
The World Youth Alliance recognizes the centrality of family in the fight against poverty and in the realization of sustainable development. Our wide membership of young people from over 160 countries, and our grassroots projects which promote holistic, person-centered development give us real experience to speak of and a strong voice to speak with. We are privileged to represent our members at the international commissions of the UN, as we acknowledge the importance of protecting and promoting the family in order to achieve the eradication of poverty and authentic, sustainable development.
(1) Young People Today and in 2015: World Youth Report, 2005, Chapter. 3, P.61. (2) Young People in a Globalizing World: World Youth Report, 2003. Ch. 15, P. 400