Our common challenge
Poverty is not just a problem of the poor. It is a challenge for all defenders of social justice and all seekers of sustainable growth. The goal of a
stable and prosperous world economy is only possible if the productivity and
consumer power of all its citizens are realized. A successful drive to raise the
consuming power of the majority of the world’s population, particularly
those on the lowest incomes, is fundamental to the broadening and deepening of markets – the lifeline of enterprise and growth. Only when the poor
become real consumers will the economy become truly global.
The world community is focused on containing risks of a breakdown of
stability and security. Yet political and social stability is hard to envision if a
large proportion of the world’s people are excluded from the increasingly
visible concentration of wealth and see little or no opportunity of ever
participating in the benefits of global economic integration. Increased expenditure on preserving law and order nationally and internationally, without investing in tackling the roots of the tensions caused by inequality and
lack of opportunity, is not a sufficient answer to growing security concerns.
It will not work and – in many ways – it is already failing.
Overcoming these dangers requires a vision of increased international
commitment to shared objectives. Decent work is a basic aspiration of individuals, families, communities and nations with widely varying histories and
cultures. It is a cause that unifies and pulls people together in collaborative
endeavour. It is a dream that can be made a reality by step-by-step progress
that builds confidence and trust in our capacity to organize political, economic and social systems to enable people to make full use of their capabilities. It is a pursuit that builds on a new understanding of human security and
the need for a social contract to achieve and sustain it.
The ILO is committed to helping people work out of poverty. We know
this challenge will take new thinking, ideas, approaches and – above all – action. First and foremost, it means removing the barriers of discrimination
and accumulated deprivation that trap people in low-productivity and lowpaid jobs.