Workers clean the surface of persimmons in a greenhouse of Tianxi Green Agricultural Development Co in Fuping county, Shaanxi province, on Nov 10. The agricultural sector forms a major part of the area's development. YUAN JINGZHI/FOR CHINA DAILY UN General Assembly president highlights growing challenges amid pandemic, lauds China's exemplary achievements The world was already struggling to end poverty by 2030 before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, but the coronavirus is now also causing the first increase in global poverty in decades, according to latest development figures. "While poverty is bad, and has been established as such, the COVID-19 pandemic has made a bad situation worse," said Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, president of the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly. Before the onset of the pandemic, 2.1 billion people were classified as poor globally, with 767 million living in extreme poverty. The situation is getting more serious－it is estimated that by the year 2030, more than 100 million people would have relapsed into poverty, due to COVID-19 and climate change, Muhammad-Bande said. A study released by King's College London and the Australian National University in the first week of April 2020 paints an even grimmer picture－about 850 million are at risk of falling into poverty due to the sharp decline in economic activity, according to the UN. Facing the severe situation, Muhammad-Bande said the UN, which has made poverty eradication a top priority, is making greater efforts to achieve its development goals. On June 30, the president launched the Alliance for Poverty Eradication, which will serve as a forum for member states to raise awareness about the danger that poverty poses to world peace, human rights and sustainable development. The alliance will play an important role in pulling together all the factors in poverty eradication and serving as a one-stop networking, information-sharing and bridge-building center, said Muhammad-Bande, who was Nigeria's permanent representative to the UN from 2018 to 2019. The alliance should provide a mechanism for taking on the poverty challenge from all possible, or at least, multidisciplinary, angles, he said. "There is no amount of time and attention given to poverty eradication that is too much," Muhammad-Bande said. It no longer comes as a surprise that globally, one in 12 people live in extreme poverty and that one in nine people lack access to food, he said. The devastation and uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic have added to the challenges, Muhammad-Bande said. "This malady which added to the challenge of poverty eradication also opened our eyes to likely disruptions in the future, and hence the need to better prepare for them," he said at the inauguration of the alliance. Muhammad-Bande said the emerging consensus is that the pandemic will impact heavily on the capacities of least-developed countries to eradicate poverty without external assistance. "It is my hope that the spirit of international cooperation which informed the establishment of the United Nations will also influence the choices of member states in matters pertaining to poverty eradication, worldwide," he said. "In this respect, I count on the newly inaugurated Alliance for Poverty Eradication to serve as the leading voice on poverty eradication, and to continue raising awareness about the necessity for multilateral cooperation on the matter," he said.