Fifty-seventh General Assembly
9th Meeting (PM)
PROBLEMS SUCH AS ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION, HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS, DISCRIMINATION
COMPROMISE OPPORTUNITIES FOR YOUTH, THIRD COMMITTEE TOLD
As the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) continued its consideration of social development this afternoon, the Youth Representative of the Netherlands said that due to the lack of resolve by Member States, problems such as environmental degradation, human rights violations and discrimination continued to compromise the opportunities available for young people to develop.
Young people were losing faith in the United Nations system as a means of solving the world’s problems, she continued. The United Nations was seen as an organization of “good intentions” rather than “good results”. Youth participation was not being harnessed effectively since Member States had failed to support, communicate with and understand young people. She therefore called upon Member States to work together with youth towards making the United Nations an organization of “good results” and “good intentions”.
One theme that must underpin all effective approaches to addressing the problems youth faced was the importance of participating in the decision-making processes which affected their lives, said the Youth Representative of Australia. The rationale behind youth participation was both principled and practical. Young people were agents of social change and affected by social change. Young people would live with the consequences of decisions taken today longer than any other sector of the community. Young people were not only the leaders of tomorrow, but must be viewed as active and legitimate participants in society today.
Clearly, youth were not encouraged to believe that they were a part of society or that they had much to offer, said the Youth Representative of Sweden. The exclusion of youth was destructive for society and threatened social and economic development. Human development and the creation of democratic cultures were simply not possible when more than half the world's population was ignored. Meaningful youth participation meant that youths’ strengths, interests and abilities -- often underestimated -- had to be recognized and nurtured.
The Representative of India said that as the international community approached the tenth anniversary of the World Summit on Social Development, there was an urgent need to take stock of the situation. Had States done what was agreed upon to remove boundaries of social inequity? Or had they only traveled from conference to conference, agreeing again and again on the need for poverty eradication and social integration? It was time that agreements showed results, he said.
Also this afternoon, the Committee heard the introduction of three draft resolutions related to crime prevention, criminal justice and international drug control. The Representatives of Egypt, Italy and Mexico introduced texts on the United Nations African Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders (UNAFRI), international cooperation against the world drug problem, and on strengthening the United Nations Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Programme.
Also this afternoon, the Representative of the Netherlands announced, with regret, the death, yesterday, of Prince Klaus at 76 years of age, following a long battle against Parkinson’s Disease.
Also, participating in the general discussion were the Representatives of: Australia, Sweden, Bangladesh, Philippines, Namibia, United Republic of Tanzania, Mali, Swaziland, and Iraq.
The Observer for the Holy See also spoke, as did Representatives of the World Bank and the International Labour Organization (ILO).
The Committee will meet again on Tuesday 8 October at 10 a.m., to continue consideration of social development issues.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) met this afternoon to continue its general debate of social development issues -- including questions related to the world social situation and to youth, disabled persons and the family. For additional background, see Press Releases GA/SHC/3692 of 3 October and GA/SHC/3693 of 4 October.
The Committee was also expected to hear the introduction of three draft resolutions related to crime prevention, criminal justice and international drug control. Those texts are on the United Nations African Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders (UNAFRI) (document A/C.3/57/L.8), international cooperation against the world drug problem (document A/C.3/57/L.9), and strengthening the United Nations Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Programme, in particular its technical cooperation capacity (document A/C.3/57/L.10).
Introduction of Drafts
Before the Committee continued its discussion of issues related to social development, it first heard the introduction of three draft resolutions.
The representative of Egypt, on behalf of the African Group, introduced the draft text on the United Nations African Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders (UNAFRI) (document A/C.3/57/L.8), by which the Assembly would urge States members of the Institute to make every possible effort to meet their obligations, and would call upon all Member States and non-governmental organizations to adopt concrete practical measures to help the Institute develop its capacity and implement its programmes and activities.
The representative of Italy introduced the text on strengthening the United Nations Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Programme, in particular its technical cooperation capacity (document A/C.3/57/L.10). By that text, the Assembly would urge States and relevant international organizations to develop regional and international strategies and complement the work of the Programme in effectively addressing the significant problems posed by the smuggling of migrants and trafficking in persons. It would reaffirm the importance of completing the work of the Ad Hoc Committee on Negotiation of a Convention against Corruption, and would urge it to endeavour to finish its work by 2003.
Following the introduction of the draft, the representative of Argentina said references in the text which referred to strengthening the Terrorism Branch of the Programme were understood not to suggest modifications of that subdivision nor lead to any duplication of tasks or duties in that field.
The representative of Mexico introduced the final text before the Committee today on international cooperation against the world drug problem (document A/C.3/57/L.9). By that text, the Assembly would express its grave concern that the drug problem is still a challenge of global dimensions, despite increasing efforts by States and international organizations. The Assembly, deeply alarmed by the violence and economic power of criminal organizations and terrorist groups engaged in drug trafficking and other criminal activities, would urge competent authorities, at all levels, to implement the outcome of its twentieth special session within agreed time frames.
REBECCA JENKIN, Youth Representative of Australia, said although youth were an exceptionally diverse group, there was one theme that underpinned effective approaches to addressing the problems youth faced -- the importance of young people participating in the decision-making processes that affected their lives. The rationale behind youth participation was both principled and practical. Young people were agents of social change and affected by social change. Young people would live with the consequences of decisions taken today longer than any other sector of the community. Young people were not only the leaders of tomorrow, but must rightly be viewed as active and legitimate participants in society today.
Significant developments had been made in increasing youth participation at the international level in recent years, she said. A number of high-profile meetings had been preceded by youth gatherings. The international community must also ensure that the voices of indigenous youth, young people with disabilities, youth from cultural minorities and young people affected by poverty were heard. It was essential that the commitment to youth participation created meaningful opportunities to participate. Tokenistic youth participation conveyed the message that young people’s perspectives were not ultimately valued. In contrast, generating genuine, well-supported, long-term opportunities for youth participation enabled Governments and non-governmental organizations to draw upon young people’s expertise.
The Australian Government was committed to engaging with young people and promoting youth participation, she continued. Each year, a high-profile National Youth Week was held. An estimated four million young Australians had had some interaction with Youth Week. The Australian Government also encouraged positive stories about youth through the National Youth Media Awards. Furthermore, the National Youth Roundtables involved 50 different young people each year, from a variety of backgrounds, and provided them with the opportunity, twice a year, to convey their opinions and experiences to decision makers. Australia also fully supported the important role played by the World Youth Forum.
AYDA AKSAKAL, Youth Representative of Sweden, said the achievement of human development and the creation of democratic cultures were not possible if more than half the world's population was ignored. Therefore, young girls and boys must be given real opportunities to participate in decision-making at all levels of society. Meaningful youth participation meant that their strengths, interests and abilities -- often underestimated -- had to be recognized and nurtured. Politicians should visit schools and youth organizations to hear their opinions. Governments should invite youth representatives to actively participate in political work, nationally as well as internationally. They should also simplify access to information.
She said youth inclusion at all levels was a responsibility often forgotten. That tendency had been most obvious regarding the young Muslims that had been victimized following the events of 11 September 2001. Little did the perpetrators of the 11 September attacks know or care that, while the attacks had killed many innocent civilians, they would result in immediate increased violence and hostility against Muslims, especially in the Western world. Of the many incidents of hostility that were reported worldwide, in Switzerland three young men on their way to vacation in Spain were asked to exit a plane when the pilots claimed they were acting strangely and "looked like terrorists".
She went on to say that in January, a young Kurdish girl had been shot dead by her father because she was a "disgrace to her family" for choosing her own way of life. She had wanted an education and had been forbidden. She went to school anyway and her father killed her, claiming he wanted to defend the family's honour. When a woman was killed deliberately it must be considered murder and never referred to as an honour crime. Furthermore, such activities must be recognized as a social problem. Those were only two examples of youth being victimized by prejudice, ignorance and intolerance. Exclusion of youth was destructive for society and threatened social and economic development. Clearly, youth were not encouraged to believe that they were a part of society or that they had much to offer.
IFTEKHAR AHMED CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said the basic framework for social development in Bangladesh was enshrined in its Constitution. Efforts were most visible in the most recent Fifth Five Year Plan (1997 to 2002). A wide range of programmes had been undertaken for promoting good governance, reforming the legal framework to ensure speedy justice, strengthening administrative institutions and building capacity for enhancing people’s participation. Bangladesh attached great importance to matters concerning persons with disabilities, youth, the family and the elderly. Bangladesh had adopted a national policy for persons with disabilities and a national work plan for the policy's implementation. The Government was working in close cooperation with civil society organizations to provide education, training, economic opportunity and rehabilitation programmes.
He stressed that the Second World Assembly on Ageing had marked a historical milestone in the process to social development. Statistics demonstrated that the number of persons aged 60 years and older was expected to double between 2000 and 2050, with a majority of older people living in developing countries. Indeed, this situation would pose a tremendous challenge to developing countries. In Bangladesh, the Government had targeted programmes for the aged population that included social security and welfare. Some examples were “old age” pensions; allowances for widows, distressed and deserted women; and homes for abandoned and dispossessed people and people with disabilities.
In Bangladesh, certain fervent values were protected. These included the belief that economic and social development could only take place against a backdrop of pluralism, democracy, human rights and women’s empowerment. Development was basically a national responsibility. However, it could not be fully achieved without international support and empathy. Bangladesh believed in an unfettered market. Yet, Governments must ensure that there was a wide enough safety net to catch those on the flipside of the coin of success.
NIDA P. GARCIA (Philippines) said, with people living longer and healthier lives, the world population had reached nearly six billion at the opening of the new century. Population growth, accompanied by rapid urbanization, advancement in information technologies and the demand for more and better employment for men as well as women, bore heavily on the decisions Governments had to make on many social issues. Governments had to weigh the far-reaching implications of their policies and resource allocations for health care, education, shelter, transportation, food security and the environment.
Furthermore, those social advances most often associated with globalization had not balanced economic inequities and poverty, she said. Families, older persons and vulnerable groups continued to face enormous socio-economic challenges. It was important to urgently enhance the well-being, security and productivity of the world's ageing populations, and the Philippines had based its groundwork for action on the outcome of the Madrid Second World Assembly on Ageing. This past week, the Philippines had celebrated "Elderly Filipino Week", through several activities including the celebration of the tenth anniversary of the Senior Citizen's Law.
She said persons with disabilities continued to be marginalized and excluded from development opportunities. Two thirds of the world's 600 million disabled persons lived in the Asia Pacific region, and the major cause of their disabilities was generally related to poverty. The Philippines hoped to make inroads in dealing with the unique needs of such persons through the implementation of its Plan of Action for the Asia Pacific region (1993 to 2002), which currently aimed to mainstream persons with disabilities and increase their access to social, medical, educational and employment opportunities.
S.S. AHLUWALLA (India) said the untiring efforts of the Government of India had resulted in the increase in literacy rates from 18 per cent in 1951 to 65 per cent in 2001. The Government had committed itself to guaranteeing the right to compulsory free primary education as a fundamental right through an appropriate Constitutional amendment. The Indian Government aimed to further raise the literacy rate to 75 per cent by the year 2007. A separate department of primary education and literacy had been created with a special mandate of enrolling all children in school by 2003.
Concerning the Second World Assembly on Ageing, he said the Madrid Plan of Action focused on the needs of the future. While 10 per cent of the global population was aged in 2000 as against eight per cent in 1950, this would increase to 21 per cent by the year of 2050. In India, the number of older persons was 25.5 million or only 5.8 per cent of the population in 1961. However, by 2011, the number was expected to increase to 96 million or 8.1 per cent of the population. For the sake of future generations, the Madrid Plan of Action therefore needed to be implemented in a timely and effective manner.
India firmly believed developmental programmes needed to be effective at the grass-roots level. Only through the widespread participation of people, beginning at the village level, could such programmes be successful. In India -- with a diversity of language, cultural sensitivity and a strong sense of religious tolerance and secularism -- unity in purpose had brought about enhanced social development in various sectors, including in health, education and employment. As the international community approached the tenth anniversary of the World Summit on Social Development, there was an urgent need to take stock of the situation. Had States done what was agreed to remove boundaries of social inequity, or had States traveled from conference to conference, agreeing again and again on the need for poverty eradication and social integration? It was time that agreements showed results, he said.
RENATO MARTINO, Observer of the Holy See, said that last May, at the Second World Assembly on Ageing, one speaker had noted that too many of the world's older persons probably didn't even know that that important meeting was taking place. Sadly, that was perhaps true. Too many people, especially older people, were unaware of the work being done or indeed that there was even a plan to help them better realize their role in the societies in which they lived.
He said that in discussions on development, everyone always talked about the importance of involving people in plans for implementation and action. The same must be true in discussing matters related to older persons -- they too must be included as responsible agents in those decisions that would have an impact on their lives and future. Taking the Madrid Plan of Action from words to reality required communicating and informing. Older persons must be made aware of the Plan, and the Plan itself must be translated into innovative programmes which could span the complexities of ageing and put an end to the sort of marginalization older persons experienced. One way to achieve this was to strive toward the development of programmes to expand understanding among and between generations.
One such intergenerational programme was Milwaukee's St. Ann Sisters Center for Intergenerational Care, which gathered persons of all ages and abilities in a healthy, homelike setting and offered a wide range of educational and therapeutic services. Older persons shared the facilities with youth and children so that they might interact with them and provide an opportunity to learn from and be comfortable with them. That programme and several others were administered by the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi, and while the Catholic Church was aware that only so many people could be reached through similar initiatives, it would continue to support broad actions to help all older persons take their place in society and help society appreciate the treasure that older persons continued to be.
LEONTIEN PEETERS, Youth Representative of the Netherlands, said young people were losing faith in the United Nations system as a means of solving the world’s problems. Because of the lack of resolve by Member States, problems such as environmental degradation, human rights violations and discrimination continued to compromise the opportunities available for young people to develop. The United Nations had gone from being a symbol of promise of a peaceful and more equal future to a symbol of failure and hypocrisy. The United Nations was seen as an organization of “good intentions” rather than “good results”. She added that young people wanted to leave their mark on the world and take control of their own lives. Without access to equal opportunities and meaningful participation, it was likely that young people would become hooligans, criminals or violent activists rather than responsible citizens.
Young people all over the world had been setting up their own non-governmental organizations and political movements for years. The vast array of new initiatives since the adoption of the World Program of Action for Youth showed that the United Nations and its Member States recognized youth as an important force for economic and social development. However, this force was still not being harnessed effectively. Member States had failed to access the capacity of youth because of a lack of support, communication and understanding. In this connection, she suggested that the World Programme of Action for Youth be changed into the World Programme of Action for, by and with Youth.
She called upon all Member States to do everything possible to reach the Millennium Development Goals; to continue to increase investment in youth and youth participation; to take note, support and communicate with youth organizations and political movements within their own countries; adopt the practice of including a youth representative in their official delegations to the General Assembly; and to work together with youth towards making the United Nations an organization of “good results” as well as “good intentions”.
MORINA MUUONDJO (Namibia) said youth employment had been one of the daunting challenges facing Namibia. The Government had, therefore, initiated a national youth employment scheme aimed at creating employment for young people, especially those leaving school. The Government had established programmes such as the National Youth Service -- designed to provide civic education and production skills. The Government had established Community Skills Centres aiming at providing skills development and entrepreneurship. Technical and Vocational Education programmes aimed to enhance the youth technical competence.
Concerning the Second World Conference on Ageing, she said that the Namibian Government had undertaken vigorous efforts in addressing the social needs of older persons to maintaining their dignity and independence. Namibia was one of the few countries in Sub-Saharan Africa that granted a monthly old-age pension to older persons. Furthermore, older persons in Namibia also received State-funded funeral benefits. The Namibian Government had also adopted the National Policy on Disability in 1997, aimed at improving the quality of life for people with disabilities. It was based on the principles of participation, integration and equalization of opportunities.
Although the Government of Namibia had made significant strides, there were numerous social development concerns that continued to reverse hard-earned development goals. These included the severe drought situation currently facing Namibia, widespread poverty and the devastating effects of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. These challenges called for swift action and increased support from all relevant United Nations agencies and the donor community. The magnitude and scale of those problems could not be addressed by the Government alone, due to limited resources.
CHRISTINE KAPALATA (United Republic of Tanzania) said for her Government, economic development and the eradication of poverty were issues of overriding concern. Within its limited resource it had been able to put in place mechanisms to augment the people's efforts in the war against poverty, endeavouring to improve economic growth by enhancing domestic resource mobilization and management, and improving accountability. It had refocused expenditures towards poverty reduction activities and had, among other things, regulated land ownership so that every Tanzanian might have access to land.
Despite her Government’s best efforts, however, many challenges remained before Tanzania could comprehensively meet the goals set forth in the 1995 Copenhagen Declaration, she said. Most critically, the scourge of HIV/AIDS was not only debilitating the country's economy, but was threatening the people's very freedom and existence. Furthermore, Tanzania faced the challenge of making globalization work for the benefit of its people. Thus far, globalization had only resulted in the absorption of Tanzania's economies rather than promoting integration and participation. The challenge was to have a say in the globalization process, to have a chance to participate and to exercise some influence.
She went on to say that the future of her country depended on the involvement and participation of all people, young and old. The promotion and protection of the rights of older women was imperative. The youth needed particular attention as well, as it was that population that had been hit the hardest by AIDS. Unemployment left them desperate and so hopeless that crime and delinquency seemed attractive alternatives. With all that in mind, the very survival of humankind seemed under threat. It was therefore in the interest of all Governments to re-examine youth issues. For its part, Tanzania was prepared to take advantage of the important resources youth provided. It was clear that the international community had the plans and strategies to achieve the aims of Copenhagen, but they must all be transformed from words into reality.
ISSA KONFOUROU (Mali) said improving the quality of life for all peoples was one of the principal goals of the Millennium Declaration. The Government of Mali had therefore drawn up a document for poverty eradication based on participation. This strategy included provisions on civil society, education, microcredit and employment opportunities as well as gender equality. Solidarity and sharing were age-old African values. In the spirit of solidarity and sharing, the month of October was the Month of Solidarity in Mali.
Another age-old value of African culture was the importance of the role of older persons, he said. In Africa, an old person who was dying was a library in flames. The Government had therefore undertaken several initiatives for the protection and promotion of the well-being and dignity of older people. The family was another centre of Mali society, and the Government had spared no effort to prepare for the second anniversary of the International Year of the Family.
Malnutrition, deterioration of the environment and conflicts increased the number of people with disabilities, he continued. This was a growing challenge for Africa, and the African Union had therefore decided to name the years 1999 to 2009 the African Decade for People with Disabilities. One of the Decade’s objectives was to improve and consolidate the equality and independence of the participation of people with disabilities within society.
He reminded the Committee that the developing world had spent about 20 years applying structural adjustment programmes, which had worsened the situation, particularly in Africa, and increased social inequalities. A just and durable solution needed to be identified in order to address the issue of foreign debt, unfair terms of trade and access to international markets for developing countries, as well as the negative effects of globalization.
CLIFFORD MAMBA (Swaziland) said poverty alleviation must remain the number one priority for the development process in Swaziland. At present, 66 per cent of the country's people lived below the poverty level. Many of the national plans and strategies identified in Swaziland's National Development Strategy conformed to the guidelines set in the Copenhagen Declaration. Still, it was regrettable that all the efforts had been challenged by a number of other issues currently affecting the country, particularly the ravages of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. One of the virus' most abiding tragedies was the number of children that had been orphaned. The disease, which had spared no sector of development, had placed an enormous strain on national financial and human resources.
He said a National Emergency Response Committee had been established to provide coordination for efforts made to deal with the scourge. The priorities for action were prevention, care, counseling and treatment. Swaziland was committed to embracing the approved strategies of medical care, including those to reduce mother-to-child transmission and the provision of anti-retroviral drugs for those who needed them. In that regard he added that it was important for Member States to adopt the commitments made at the Assembly’s special session on HIV/AIDS in June 2001, in order to support developing countries in their efforts to care for those in need.
Swaziland's battle against poverty and AIDS was compounded by the effects of natural disaster, he said. The country had been hit hard by recurring droughts, and food shortages were routine. Still, Swaziland remained committed to investing in its people -- its greatest resources -- through administrative, legal and political reforms.
SAID SHIHAB AHMAD (Iraq) said while voices were raised for fundamental freedoms, many countries were facing real social and economic problems which had led to disease and poverty. The solution to the social problems of developing countries lay in the establishment of a fair international world order, including international assistance and the cancellation of foreign debt. The transfer of technology also played an important role. Current efforts had not met the aspirations of developing countries. Negotiations in New York and Geneva had been unable to reach critical recommendations achieved to help the countries of the developing world to face their main problems -- poverty, reduction of debt and the provision of official development assistance.
Developing countries had not been able to gain medications for people suffering from HIV/AIDS at reasonable prices. The policy of sanctions on developing countries had led to social and political setbacks in targeted countries, making the eradication of poverty nearly impossible. The sanctions against Iraq during the last 10 years had made the eradication of poverty a most difficult task for the Government.
Considering demographics, he said there was a need to take measures to include older persons in decision-making. The wisdom of older people must not be squandered. Older persons had been given much attention by the Iraqi Government, in accordance with Arab culture, Islam and human decency.
JUDITH EDSTROM, Sector Manager for Social Development of the World Bank, said that in the years since Copenhagen, the Bank had come to realize that the new paradigm set forth in that important and ambitious set of commitments could not be met without fully embedding the social dimensions of development to create a society that enabled people, especially poor people, to take actions to help themselves. The Bank had come to realize that economic dimensions of development went hand in hand with social dimensions. Indeed, those dimensions were two sides of the poverty reduction coin, and together they created a virtuous circle based on a positive climate for investment and growth, and for participation and inclusion through empowerment and security.
That called for a clear move away from the “growth-at-all-costs” and social welfare approaches, she said. The move should be towards a development context based on opportunity, empowerment and security. Such an approach to poverty reduction -- based on the multi-dimensionality of poverty -- had created a sea of change within the World Bank during the past few years. Last week, at the Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) Fall round, the agenda of the development Committee had made it overwhelmingly clear that the deliberations of finance ministers had to be substantially transformed by the consensus of issues that had emerged from United Nations conferences and the wider international development agenda.
Together with the global community, the Bank and other international financial institutions had the opportunity to achieve new development by, among other ways, reinforcing the casual links between the Summits at Copenhagen, Johannesburg, Rio de Janeiro and Monterrey, as well as the Millennium Summit. Global partners must also continue the evolution of the collective action leading from Copenhagen to Monterrey and through Johannesburg, by changing working methods at the inter-governmental and institutional levels. They must also work towards concrete implementation.
JOHN LANGMORE, Director, New York Office of the International Labour Organization and Representative to the United Nations, said a narrow economic approach to macroeconomic, structural and microeconomic policies had resulted in inferior economic and social outcomes in several instances. Macroeconomic policies had often been treated as a purely technocratic economic exercise that was insulated from popular scrutiny and control. As a result, key integrated economic and social objectives such as full employment and an equitable distribution of income had been neglected. Furthermore, rapid financial and trade liberalization had often been undertaken without adequate attention to the consequences of market failure and of their social impact.
Another problem was the development of “big bang” programmes of privatization and enterprise restructuring without giving adequate attention to their impact on unemployment and to compensatory policies such as employment promotion, unemployment insurance and active labour market policies. He added that the privatization of social security systems and the provision of basic social services without due attention to their distribution effects increased administrative costs and reduced coverage and economic benefits. These examples illustrated that the prevailing approach –- which gave primacy to narrowly focused neo-liberal economic policies on the assumption that employment, distributional and other socio-economic goals could be dealt with subsequently -- had proved to be illusory.
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