6 February 2008
Deputy Secretary-General

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York



Following is the text of remarks made by Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro to the opening session of the Commission for Social Development today:

It is a pleasure to join all of you for the opening of the forty-sixth session of the Commission on Social Development.

The Secretary-General and I share a vision of a strong, effective United Nations that delivers every day on the development needs of Member States and people everywhere.  Our vision looks to, and is guided by the work of this Commission.  We depend on you to help ensure that social considerations guide the United Nations’ work in all areas of development.

In fact, if development is a pillar of the work of the United Nations, you are a foundation stone for this column.  Through the landmark World Summit for Social Development, this Commission helped usher in a more people-centred approach to development.  Today, your input helps keep the United Nations development agenda people-focused and seized of all new and emerging issues.

That is why I am encouraged that your current session will consider issues related to full employment and decent work for all.

Decent work is not just an end in itself.  It is crucial for poverty eradication and social integration, the two other planks of social development.

Specifically, labour is most often the only asset at the disposal of the poor.  For them, adequately remunerated employment is simply a prerequisite for any attempt to rise out of poverty.  Yet income alone is a necessary but insufficient guarantor for sustainable livelihoods.  To be truly effective, it needs to be reinforced by security in the workplace and social protection for workers and their families.

Productive employment also boosts social integration.  Equality of opportunity for all, men and women alike, and protection of rights in the workplace promotes cohesion and equality, especially when vulnerable or marginalized groups are included in the process.  Expanded opportunities for civic and society participation through professional and labour organizations achieve similar results.

I know that you are already at work on these complex issues.  Your earlier review session deliberations concluded that productive and appropriately remunerated employment is an effective method of combating poverty and fostering social cohesion.

Now, this policy session gives us an opportunity to produce concrete recommendations on specific policy options to advance decent work in national policies and development strategies.

We have to ensure that decent work is at the centre of national development strategies, and that it constitutes a crucial objective of policies, institutions, legislation and regulations at national and international levels.

Specifically, macroeconomic policies should be assessed and designed in such a way that they promote the principles of decent work.

Special priority should be given to the design of policies resolving the problem of long-term unemployment and underemployment of youth, women, persons with disabilities and other disadvantaged groups.

It must also be recognized that unemployment disproportionately affects youth.  Better employment opportunities for young people would result, not only in poverty reduction, but also enhanced social cohesion.  Similarly, improved employment options can also empower women, and help make them full and equal partners in our efforts to build a better world for everyone.

To advance the decent work agenda as part of the broad development agenda we need a coherent approach, one that requires the cooperation with all United Nations entities, and agencies including the International Labour Organization, civil society and the private sector.  We have to join forces to bring the decent work agenda to the lives of people around the world.

It is my hope that this policy session of the Commission will produce an outcome document recommending specific policies at the national and international levels to further the advancement of the decent work agenda and its contribution to poverty eradication and social integration.  It is also essential to develop a follow-up mechanism so that we can monitor progress in this area.

The issues before you are complex and urgent.  But your discussions can really help us move forward in this area.  For my part, I look forward to hearing of your deliberations of all these aspects and implications of full and decent employment.  I am confident it will be helpful in guiding my work, as well as that of the broader United Nations development community.

In that spirit, I wish you a most successful and productive session.

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For information media • not an official record