The United Nations observed on Wednesday the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty by hosting a special "Stand Up" event at the UN Headquarters, calling for an end to the "scourge of poverty once and for all."
The event was part of a global 24-hour observance in which millions of people at events around the world will "stand up" to show their support for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The MDGs are eight goals that UN member states have agreed to try to achieve by the year 2015, including eradicating extreme poverty by halving the number of people living on less than one U.S. dollar a day.
Last year, 23.5 million people in more than 100 countries took part in the first "Standing Up Against Poverty" event, setting a Guinness World Record that the organizers hope to break this year.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon led delegates and staff members in the event. "We have just passed the midpoint in the race to reach the Goals by the target date of 2015. Our global scorecard is mixed. Some regions -- particularly sub-Saharan Africa -- are not on track," Ban told an audience of some hundreds at the special event.
"That is why we must redouble our efforts and form a true partnership for development -- a partnership of rich and poor countries alike," he said.
"On this 20th International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, let us all stand up. Let us demonstrate the political will required to end the scourge of poverty once and for all," Ban said.
At the ceremony, the UN chief also led the audience in reciting an anti-poverty pledge, to "show solidarity with people living in poverty everywhere and to renew our commitment to the fight against extreme poverty and inequality."
The event also featured testimonies from people facing extreme poverty, a musical piece, and the presentation of awards to five of six children who won the UN's international children's art competition on ending poverty.
Grace Tsang and Elizabeth Chun Ning Au, who are from China's Hong Kong, were among those who received their award certificates from Rachel Mayanja on behalf of Sha Zukang, undersecretary-general for economic and social affairs.
Over 12,000 children took part in the competition and the six winning designs will be issued as UN stamps in 2008.
The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty was officially recognized in December 1992 by the UN General Assembly, but the first commemoration of the event took place in Paris, France, in 1987.
The theme for this year's observance is People Living in Poverty as Agents of Change: 20th Anniversary of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.