1 February 2012
Deputy Secretary-General
DSG/SM/599
SOC/4788

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

Development Can Never Be Sustainable If It Leaves Millions of People Unemployed,

 

Poor, Hungry, Says Deputy Secretary-General to Social Development Commission

 


Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro’s remarks to the fiftieth session of the Commission for Social Development in New York, 1 February:


Let me start by congratulating this Commission on holding its fiftieth session.


From its early days at Lake Success, this Commission has had a proud history.  For decades, Commission members have focused on the world’s most vulnerable people — on who they are, where they live, what they are going through and how we can help.


This mission is all the more important today.  We live in uncertain times.  The world faces a severe jobs crisis.


The latest statistics from the International Labour Organization show that one in three workers in our world is either unemployed or living in poverty.  That translates into more than 1 billion people.  Youth are especially hard hit.  They are three times more likely to be unemployed than adults.  Last year, nearly 75 million youth were unemployed.


The global economic crisis is taking its toll.  The gap between rich and poor is growing into a chasm.  So is the resentment that this breeds.  Poverty places tremendous — sometimes unbearable — pressure on families.  When food and funds are scarce, patience and understanding are strained.  Suicide, drug abuse and even violence against women and children are all likely to increase.


Young people — who should be looking to the future with hope — instead view their prospects with despair.


We have three years to reach the Millennium Development Goals.  We must do everything possible to speed up progress and to keep our promise to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.  They are the ones who are hit first — and worst — by climate change.  Our global response must protect these people and our planet.


The poor want to lift themselves out of poverty.  That is why we have to invest in social protection.  That means food, education and basic services — especially for the poorest.


Individuals want to support themselves and their families.  That is why we need to create opportunities for decent work.  The Social Protection Floor is an important initiative.  UN agencies and our partners are using this to integrate our strategies so that we can help protect people from falling or being trapped into poverty.


The Global Jobs Pact is also critical.  It can promote recovery based on investments, employment and social protection.  When it comes to persons with disabilities, we have to remember their many great abilities.  They can make a tremendous contribution to society — if only they are given the chance.


And let us also remember that cooperatives promote the values of inclusivity, sustainability and solidarity.  This is the International Year of Cooperatives — an ideal time to promote cooperative enterprises as part of our response to the global economic crisis.


This is also the Year of Sustainable Energy for All.  The Secretary-General has launched an initiative to end energy poverty and spur a clean energy revolution to benefit all countries.  But developing countries are also best placed to benefit when we bring modern energy services to all people.  I hope all States will support this initiative, which can help reduce poverty, promote economic growth and improve the environment.


These are the pillars of sustainable development.  In five months, we will have a chance to chart a path to a more sustainable world at the Rio+20 Conference.


Development can never be sustainable if it leaves behind millions of people unemployed, poor, hungry and excluded.  Development can never be sustainable if ecosystems are damaged in the process.  This Commission knows that the future we want to chart in Rio is people-centred, inclusive, equitable and sustainable.  It is a future where a healthy, resilient environment can support present and future generations.  These goals must be one and the same.  And all of these issues must be part of our discussions of a post-2015 development agenda.


The issues on your agenda are at the forefront of the global debate.  I hope you will seize this opportunity to make an impact on that debate and advance the causes that drive your work.  I wish you great success, at this session and beyond.


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For information media • not an official record