04/10/2002
Press Release
GA/SHC/3693



Fifty-seventh General Assembly

Third Committee

8th Meeting (AM)


‘YOUTH BOOM’, ‘AGE QUAKE’, EMERGING AS MAJOR CHALLENGES FOR BOTH


DEVELOPING, DEVELOPED COUNTRIES, THIRD COMMITTEE TOLD


As the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) continued its debate of social development issues and questions related to the world social situation, delegations this morning stressed the need to effectively address the dual demographic phenomena of the "youth boom" and the "age quake" -- emerging as major challenges for both developing and developed countries as they strived to create a society for all in the twenty-first century.


Speaking on behalf of Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the representative of Saint Lucia said the dangers of a growing population of disaffected youth were becoming clearer and noted that "what society does to its young people, young people do to society".  Indeed, some 60 per cent of the world's population was below the age of 25 -- with some 85 per cent of the overall youth population living in developing countries.  She added that the economic situation of developing countries contributed to the precarious situation of many young people.


But in both developed and developing countries, the needs of millions of youth remained unmet, she continued.  The precarious situation of the world's youth was particularly troubling because they were potentially the most productive workers in developing economies.  They needed to be integrated into the economy in a meaningful and sustainable way, she said.


The representative of Venezuela, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China said the Second World Assembly on Ageing, held in Madrid last April marked a watershed for developing countries in terms of their policies on ageing -- the demographic “agequake”.  Statistics showed that 80 per cent of the world’s population lived in developing countries.


By the year 2050, he said, it was estimated that the total number of those aged 60 years and older would double worldwide, and triple in developing countries.  This increase in older persons would happen concomitant with a sharp decline in birth rates, posing a tremendous challenge to developing countries -- already facing other development challenges.  There was a need to strengthen the United Nations programme on ageing, so it could undertake, in an efficient and timely manner, the tasks arising from the implementation of the Madrid Plan of Action.


The representative of the International Labour Organization (ILO) said the ageing of world populations also had important socio-economic implications: countries were expressing serious concerns about the viability of their pension


systems, their public sector budgets and health care schemes.  The ILO believed greater emphasis should be placed on economic growth and sustainable development policies that focused on the creation of jobs and decent work.  "We should not be thinking of distributing the jobs currently available", she said, "but creating more and better jobs for younger and older people".


Also addressing the Committee this morning were the representatives of Mongolia, Algeria, Russian Federation, Ecuador, and Republic of Korea.


The observer of the Holy See, as well as the representative of the International Labour Organization, spoke this morning.


The Committee will reconvene on Monday at 3 p.m. to continue its consideration of issues related to social development.


Background


The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this morning to continue consideration of a variety of issues concerning social development -- including questions related to the world social situation and to youth, disabled persons and the family. 


Before the Committee there was the just-released report of the Secretary-General on the International Year of Volunteers:  outcomes and future perspectives (document A/57/352) in which the background to the Year is described, and an overview of the action taken during the year is presented.  The report states that the Year was successful by any account.  One hundred and twenty-three national committees and scores of local, regional and state committees were formed.  The official Web site received close to 9 million hits. 


A heightened recognition of the role of volunteerism in development resulted from the plethora of activities, including efforts to measure the contributions of volunteers, in every part of the world.  There were marked improvements in legislative frameworks and national and local infrastructure for voluntary action, and networks were established among stakeholders from governments, the United Nations system, civil society, the private sector and elsewhere.  These should help sustain many of the advances resulting from the Year.  The year highlighted the relevance of volunteerism to achieving the goals set out at the Millennium Summit and at other major conferences and summits. 


According to the report, the year underlined the central role of United Nations Volunteers within the United Nations system in enhancing the recognition, facilitation, networking and promotion of volunteerism, in collaboration with other stakeholders.  Governments and the United Nations system, together with civil society and other actors, are urged to work together to ensure that more citizens from all societal groups are willing and able to volunteer time in ways that bring benefits to society and self-fulfilment to the individual volunteer.


For additional background, see Press Release GA/SHC/3692 of 3 October.


Statements


ADRIANA PULIDO SANTANA (Venezuela), on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China (G77), said social development could not be considered in a vacuum.  There were several interrelated and underlying factors involved in the achievement of social development goals.  The G77 and China agreed with the Secretary-General’s assertion in his report that each of the conferences and summits that had taken place over the last two years had encouraged continued action for social development.  However, the G77 and China also believed that agreements reached in these international events must complement and further elaborate the social development goals agreed at the World Summit for Social Development.


She said the International Conference on Financing for Development had provided an excellent platform for a system of international cooperation for development.  Developing countries had called for this international cooperation year after year.  One of the most important achievements of the Monterrey Consensus was the reform of the international financial architecture.  Such reform would have an uncontested, favourable impact in the implementation of three key aspects of the Copenhagen Programme of Action:  the improvement of the structural adjustment programmes; the promotion of an enabling environment for social development; and the strengthening of the frameworks for sub-regional, regional and international cooperation.


The outcome of the Johannesburg World Summit for Sustainable Development contained specific targets and actions in the area of poverty eradication, she said.  Poverty eradication was an issue where the Copenhagen and Johannesburg processes converged.  Poverty eradication was one of the three pillars on which the social development goals rested and had been identified as an indispensable requirement for sustainable development. 


The Second World Assembly on Ageing marked a watershed for developing countries’ policies on ageing, encouraging them to effectively deal with what was increasingly being referred to as a demographic “agequake”.  Ageing in the developing world was a reality.  Statistics had already established that 80 per cent of the world’s population lived in developing countries.  By 2050 it was estimated that the total of those aged 60 years and older would double worldwide, and triple in developing countries, concomitant with a sharp decline in birth rates.  That would pose a tremendous challenge to developing countries, in addition to all the developmental challenges already faced by them.  There was a need to strengthen the United Nations programme on Ageing, so it could undertake, in an efficient and timely manner, the tasks arising from the implementation of the Plan of Action.  The G77 would present a draft resolution on the follow-up to the Second World Assembly on Ageing and hoped that it would be adopted by consensus.


MICHELLE JOSEPH (Saint Lucia), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), cited last year's 2001 World Social Situation report, which emphasised that the world income divide had widened during the 1990s despite unprecedented economic growth.  The state of the global social condition had continued to decline, and the recently concluded negotiations at the Johannesburg Summit had highlighted poverty as perhaps the single greatest impediment to sustainable human development.  In the recently adopted Margarita Declaration, leaders from the CARICOM region had recognized that among the fundamental causes of poverty was the unequal distribution of wealth and knowledge that prevailed today.


Those leaders, she continued, had supported all coordinated and determined efforts to create an environment leading to sustainable economic and social development aimed at combating poverty and inequality.  It was clear that the envisaged benefits of globalization had not materialized for developing countries.  With that in mind, CARICOM would pledge its support for all activities in furtherance of meaningful and sustained social development in a globalized world, including the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) initiative and the proposal to provide a world solidarity fund to fight poverty.  It would also support the Secretary-General's plan to initiate a "Millennium Campaign" to make the commitments set by the Millennium Declaration better known throughout the world and ensure that those goals were the focus of global action.


Turning to the world youth situation, she said the international community continued to focus particular attention on youth employment, hunger, poverty, gender issues and the participation of young people in decision-making.  It was important to note that some 60 per cent of the world's population was below the age of 25 -- with some 85 per cent of the overall youth population living in developing countries.  Recalling last year’s Report on the Implementation of the World Programme of Action for Youth, she said the economic situation of developing countries contributed to the precarious situation of many young people.  In both developed and developing countries, the needs of millions of youth remained unmet.  She said the dangers of a growing population of disaffected youth were becoming clearer and noted that "what society does to its young people, young people do to society".


The precarious situation of the world's youth was particularly troubling because they were potentially the most productive workers in developing economies.  They needed to be integrated into the economy in a meaningful and sustainable way.  Children suffered the brunt of a number of social ills, including the effects of trauma and violence, sexual abuse, gang violence and neglect.  Indeed youth homicide rates had nearly doubled since 1985.  And with all that was the almost unfathomable plight of the child soldier.


For its part, the CARICOM had created many youth-related programmes, she said.  It had approved its Regional Strategy for Youth Development as a broad framework intended to facilitate the development and reprogramming of youth initiatives at the national level.  Targeted activities through 2006 include the creation of a national level of youth information and statistics databases, and the creation of youth umbrella organizations.  Additionally, the CARICOM Youth Strategy aimed to establish representative structures and mechanisms which would give youth a voice and promote their participation in public policy formation, electoral politics and civil society processes.


O. ENKHTSETSEG, Director of the Department of Multilateral Cooperation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mongolia, said it had become more evident that along with greater opportunities, globalization had created situations of heightened vulnerability and insecurity, especially for the weak and poor nations.  After several decades of development effort the number of the world’s poor remained at an embarrassingly unacceptable level.  As reflected in the Secretary-General’s report on implementing the Millennium Declaration, insufficient progress had been made so far in meeting the broader objectives set forth in the Declaration.  It was vitally important for all stakeholders to redouble their concerted efforts with a view to fulfilling international development commitments. 


The Government of Mongolia stood committed to the implementation of social development goals, she said.  As agreed in the conclusions of the Commission on Social Development, her Government attached particular importance to the integration of social and economic policies.  Furthermore, Mongolia’s Government would promote a more participatory and people-centred process of policy-making, and establish and enhance social security systems and access to social services.  Action priorities included the creation of an equitable social environment for human development; the improvement of the quality of education and health assistance; the reduction of poverty and unemployment; and the improvement of the livelihood of the people. 


The Government had developed and launched a Good Governance for Human Security Programme -- an integrated and holistic policy initiative encompassing economic, social, ecological, political and legal spheres.  In recent years, Mongolia had also been making every effort to actively cooperate with other States in promoting social development at the regional and international levels.  A United Nations expert group meeting on “Creating a Supportive Environment for Cooperatives” had been held in Mongolia in May.  The meeting had confirmed that emphasis was needed on the potential and contribution of cooperatives for the attainment of the social development goals of both Copenhagen and Johannesburg. 


FARIDA BAKALEM (Algeria) said despite considerable efforts made by the international community, poverty had deepened worldwide during the past decade, particularly in Africa.  That was particularly troubling because poverty exacerbated, or was exacerbated by, so many other social ills, namely HIV/AIDS and hunger.  That was why the eradication of poverty loomed before the global actors as a major challenge.  Her Government had initiated many programmes and activities towards the eradication of poverty, including operations to support school enrollment for children of underprivileged families, and assistance to families in distress. Algeria also stressed the notion of employment for all as a major way to offset poverty.  Its policies particularly focused on youth employment and aimed to provide micro-credit and assist with the opening of training facilities.


She went on to say that families were the hub of all communities and promoted social cohesion and national solidarity.  With that in mind, Algeria welcomed the holding of the observance of the 10-year anniversary of the International Year of the Family in the 2004.  The Government was developing several relevant activities and programmes highlighting the family and the role of women. 


Turning to the issue of ageing, she said the situation of older persons must remain a priority for world governments in order to ensure their further development and participation in society.  It was crucial for all to ensure the implementation of the Madrid Declaration of the Second World Assembly on Ageing.  Algeria's National Action Plan on Ageing was a social policy -- implemented in conjunction with civil society -- which aimed to take the unique concerns of elderly persons into account at all levels.  She also said that Algeria welcomed efforts underway to elaborate an international instrument on the defence of the rights and dignity of disabled persons.  Algeria was participating in the drafting of the proposed convention.


RENATO R. MARTINO (Holy See) said if a person, unfamiliar with the essential elements of development, read the outcome documents of several United Nations Conferences, the reaction would be that they are heavy with economic issues, with few or no references to social development.  However, once one became familiar with the true basis for everything that the United Nations attempted to accomplish within the realm of sustainable development, the elements of social development began to shine through.  Placing human beings at the centre of concerns for sustainable development was key.  True development could only be achieved with the recognition of the essential place that each and every person held as an agent for his or her development.


The Holy See had and would always call attention to the protection of the family and its members.  His delegation did not agree with and would continue to resist any attempt to define the family in any way that changed the well known and firmly established fact that “men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality of religion, have the right to marry and to found a family”.  The Holy See looked forward to the anniversary of the International Year of the Family as an occasion to continue a discussion that would help strengthen the role of the family in today’s would. 


It had been 27 years since the United Nations first published the Declaration on the Rights of Disabled Persons.  Much had changed, and there had been many advances in science, access, acceptance, health care, understanding and hope.  In this discussion and in the discussion of various elements of social development, the Holy See would continue to work to further that same hope for a better future for all, through recognition of the human dignity that all shared.


Mr. ZHEGLOV (Russian Federation) said Russia had always supported and continued to support the priority the United Nations and the wider international community had given the world social situation.  Such intensive focus was necessary now more than ever, as worldwide economic shifts and upheavals continued to marginalize millions of people every year.  Russia would continue its work to address poverty and underdevelopment, particularly within the framework of the initiatives underway within the International Labour Organization (ILO).


On Ageing, he said the outcome of the Regional Strategy of Action adopted in Berlin would certainly be taken into account at the national level.  Russia was also supporting efforts to prepare an international convention toward the promotion and protection of the rights of aging persons.  At the same time, Russia also supported the idea of improving the Standard Rules on the Rights of Disabled Persons, which had for many years been the guidelines for relevant policies and programmes.  He went on to say that the Russian Government was continuing to increase its funding to address social issues.  It would work to implement programmes already in existence and to create new ones.


He said Russia would also would begin reform initiatives on the salary payment schemes in order to increase per capita income.  Reform of the pension system would also be a priority.  The social thrust of Russia's policy was to further the implementation of the Copenhagen Declaration, as well as the Millennium Development Goals, towards the eradication of poverty and the promotion of social integration.


LUIS GALLEGOS CHIRIBOGA (Ecuador) said social development was an inalienable right of all human beings.  The Government of Ecuador had therefore organized a Social Front, which included all Ministries of a social nature.  The Government had also increased its budget on social spending in the last couple of years.  Some of the progress achieved had been offset by the economic crisis faced by Ecuador and the region today.  To deal with the latest economic crisis, the Government had put in place a medium-term economic policy.  The Government’s battle for social development was fought on several fronts, including both social and economic policies on short-term and long-term bases.


The Government was applying a proactive policy of social development and inclusion, including programmes on small businesses, health, rural communities, education, social services, and indigenous people.  However, much remained to be done.  Ecuador was waging an uphill battle in dealing with its own and the international economic system.  Ecuador's historic economic disadvantage was aggravated by the protectionist policies of developed countries as well as foreign debt.  It was obvious that it was impossible to carry out social reforms without addressing the economic position in which developing countries found themselves.  Ecuador called on members to reflect on the dead-end economic situation that affected developing countries and would affect the future of humankind.  The future must be based on equality, equity and justice.  This would only be a reality through international cooperation and serious re-thinking.


He concluded by saying that Ecuador had recently been awarded the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Prize for its initiatives taken to protect and promote the dignity of people with disabilities.  The Government of Ecuador would continue its work in order to ensure the dignity of all human beings.


KYUNG-WHA KANG (Republic of Korea) said there had been high expectations for the decade following the International Year of the Family.  In the Republic of Korea, measures had been taken to support and strengthen families amidst the

difficult challenges of the globalizing era.  At the United Nations, the Republic of Korea had actively taken part in the discussions on families and family-related issues.  Every country had its own history, tradition and culture that shaped the common characteristics of its families.  However, underneath the diverse backgrounds, the family was the basic unit of society.  Families were the primary agents of socialization for individuals and the essential building blocks of society.  Thus, in implementing steps to achieve the goals of social development toward greater human dignity and well-being, the problem-generating dynamics and problem-solving resources of families must be taken in to consideration. 


Families were confronted with difficult challenges, such as changes in the family structure, increasing migration, demographic ageing, the HIV/AIDS pandemic and the impact of globalization, she said.  Even though the traditional concept of the family, consisting basically of two parents, children and perhaps grandparents, was still applicable in many societies, a broader concept was required.  Otherwise, policies addressing the needs of families in today’s rapidly changing world, in all of their diverse forms and ties, would achieve little. 


In the Republic of Korea, the population census for 2000 illustrated significant changes in the family structure, she continued.  The percentage of families encompassing three generations had dropped from about 24 per cent in

1980 to 13 per cent.  At the same time, the percentage of one-parent families had increased significantly.  Accordingly, the Government had endeavoured to identify different needs of different types of families and had refined its policies accordingly.      


CAROLINE LEWIS, Programme Assistant of the International Labour Organization (ILO), said that at the Madrid Second World Assembly on Ageing the international community had celebrated one of the most prized achievements of mankind:  the considerable increase in life expectancy of both men and women.  The Madrid Plan of Action called for changes in attitudes, policies and practices at all levels in all sectors to fulfil the enormous potential of ageing persons in the twenty-first century.


She said that the elderly population -- people 60 or older -- was growing faster than that of any other age group.  But that population differed significantly between countries and regions.  Developing countries still had relatively young populations, while the population of industrialized countries was relatively old.  However, the total numbers would perhaps provide a better picture of the overall situation:  by 2050, 80 per cent of the world's elderly population would be in developing countries.


Older people were consistently among the poorest in all societies and suffered rates of social exclusion significantly higher than average, she said.  Those two social ills were more severe for women, particularly those living in rural areas, and of course in countries with fewer resources.  The ageing of world populations also had important socio-economic implications:  countries were expressing serious concerns about the viability of their pension systems, their public sector budgets and health care schemes.  The ILO believed full employment in decent conditions was a viable and productive way of meeting the ageing challenge.  Greater emphasis should be placed on economic growth and sustainable development policies that focused on the creation of jobs and decent work.  "We should not be thinking of distributing the jobs currently available," she said, "but creating more and better jobs for younger and older people".