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Poverty is an international problem, but it requires specific programmes to tackle poverty in different countries. More than 1 billion people, or about one sixth of the worlds population, live under conditions of extreme poverty, and the eradication of poverty has long been on the international agenda. The task however, is not made easier by the fact that population growth is fastest among the poorest and in the poorest countries. Some strategies include giving local and community groups more authority and control over their resources and providing the poor with access to fresh water, sanitation and primary education. Allowing the world's poor to create their own wealth is more sustainable than simply providing aid at times of crisis. Wealth needs to be distributed equally around the world. At the moment a small number of people in the developed world control a vast amount of the worlds wealth and resources.

The Rio Earth Summit highlighted that human beings should be at the centre of concerns for sustainable development and that they are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature. Countries were urged to co-operate in the essential task of eradicating poverty as an indispensable requirement for sustainable development, in order to decrease the disparities in standards of living and better meet the needs of the majority of the people of the world. It is worth recognising that poverty is among the most significant contributing factors to environmental degradation.

Agenda 21 provides the framework to tackle the worldwide problem of poverty. It recognises poverty as a complex multidimensional problem, the resolution of which requires a specific anti-poverty strategy, itself a basic condition for ensuring sustainable development. Agenda 21 seeks to empower communities and local groups, and provide basic education and primary health care.