|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-seventh General Assembly
3rd & 4th Meetings (AM & PM)
Creation of Decent Work – Especially for Millions of Unemployed Youth – Vital
for Reducing Inequality, Eradicating Poverty, Third Committee Told
Hears from More Than 50 Speakers on Second Day of Social Development Debate
The creation of decent work opportunities — especially for the world’s 74.8 million unemployed young people — was vital to reducing inequality, eradicating poverty and promoting sustained, equitable economic growth, speakers said today, as the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) wrapped up its two-day discussion of social development.
Throughout the day, delegates and youth representatives from more than 50 countries took the floor to criticize the “glacial” pace of poverty alleviation efforts and the numerous unrealized pledges made at the landmark 1995 World Summit for Social Development, which at the time, had marked the largest ever gathering of world leaders. The 2008 financial crisis had hit the world’s most vulnerable the hardest - children, youth, older persons and persons with disabilities among them – and many speakers objected to the subsequent pull-back in international assistance. The future, many said, depended on educating the next generations.
“We would like to see a world that involves young people in policy-making and governance,” said Rebecca Mwavishi Ndombi, a youth representative from Kenya. Any nation that did not take care of its youth did not have a future. Education was the gateway to prosperity and Governments must invest heavily in education that was relevant for meeting twenty-first century demands. Many young people graduated from university, but were unable to secure jobs due to a lack of skills tailored to today’s labour market. Conflict only exacerbated those challenges and she pressed the international community to create the right environment for improving young peoples’ lives.
Her counterpart from Slovakia, youth delegate Milena Dudasova, agreed, saying that although the obvious answer to such problems was education, education systems tended to forget that “knowledge should not only be informative, but also performative.” Young people were full of energy and ideas and their education must focus on the ability to “analyse, adapt, and apply.” Speaking of her experience working with youth from more than 40 nations, she said that youth learned the most from people who expected the most: adults who treated them as equal partners. “We are ready now,” she stressed.
On that note, a pair of youth delegates from Belgium stressed that one in seven people lacked access to clean drinking water around the world. “We need to accept that water is not a business; it is a fundamental right”, they said. Young people did not wish to inherit a world where the tap could be turned off due to an insufficient income.
Governments, for their part, outlined how they were tackling the “daunting” challenge of creating decent work for all amid global economic uncertainty. Indeed, working conditions in the informal sector had worsened in many developing countries since the economic crisis began, and poverty had risen as a result. Such trends only compounded existing employment deficits, some said, and Governments were instigating reforms to ensure better jobs for the disadvantaged. Many reaffirmed their commitments to pledges agreed upon at international summits.
Libya’s delegate said future investments would focus on building young peoples’ skills, providing training and reintegrating former combatants who had overthrown the previous dictatorial regime into the police and army. The Government faced “enormous” responsibilities in addressing unemployment and corruption. “We hope Libya will become an economic and social development success story,” she said.
Striking a similar chord, Tunisia’s delegate said the revolution in his country had exposed the painful realities of poverty and corruption, but also Tunisians’ heightened political awareness. Today, the Government had an ambitious social programme aimed at creating solidarity among ethnic groups and a global vision of human rights for peace. Recruitment competitions for graduates, better salaries and improved access to microcredit were just some of the areas in which the Government was working to improve wellbeing.
Other speakers outlined their efforts to improve the participation of disabled persons in all aspects of community life, welcoming the General Assembly’s initiative to hold a High-level Meeting on Disabilities and Development in 2013, and voicing hope that a comprehensive plan of action would emerge. Still other speakers drew attention to the challenges faced by the elderly. Kyrgyzstan’s delegate urged accelerating implementation of the Madrid Plan of Action on Ageing, while San Marino’s delegate supported the Secretary-General’s recommendations in his report on the follow-up to the Second World Assembly on Ageing.
Turkey’s representative said his country had the second-fastest ageing population in the world. Answers to questions about mitigating the economic consequences of an elderly population, ensuring good social protection and providing older people with better opportunities must be sought at both the national and global level.
Also addressing the Committee today was a representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iraq, as well as a representative of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Social Development of Nigeria.
The representatives of Chile, Libya, Belarus, Pakistan, United Republic of Tanzania, Japan, Israel, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Bolivia, Malawi, Kuwait, Peru, Ukraine, Maldives, Syria, Indonesia, Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Bangladesh, Eritrea, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, Viet Nam, India, Cameroon, Azerbaijan, Algeria, Malta, Yemen, Jamaica, Djibouti, El Salvador, Ecuador, Ethiopia and Sri Lanka also spoke.
Youth representatives of Mexico, Georgia, Dominican Republic, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria and Jamaica also spoke, as did a representative of the International Labour Organization (ILO).
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) will reconvene at 10 a.m. Wednesday, 10 October, to take up the issues of crime prevention and international drug control.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to continue its debate on social development. For further background, see Press Release GA/SHC/4036 of 8 October.
OCTAVIO ERRÁZURIZ ( Chile) recalled that the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development had found that inequality had not improved. It recommended that Governments set a minimum social protection level that was in line with national circumstances. With that in mind, Chile had extended the scope of its social protection programmes and had adopted social policies that advanced women’s empowerment, gender equality and family support. For example, Chile was improving women’s employability and entrepreneurship through the “Women Worker and Head of Household Programme”.
He went on to say that the National Service for the Elderly, under the Ministry of Social Development, promoted active ageing and worked to strengthen older peoples’ participation in society. More than 15 per cent of the population – 2.6 million people – were over 60 years old. By 2025, older people were expected to reach 20 per cent of the population, exceeding the percentage of people younger than 15 years old. Internationally, Chile supported the appointment of a Special Rapporteur to focus on elderly affairs, with the possibility of having a legally binding international convention for States. As for young people between 15 and 24 years, Chile was combating smoking, alcohol consumption and obesity through its Health Management Programme. Finally, he said Chile had been elected to the Commission for Social Development in 2013 and hoped to improve the social situation of the world’s most vulnerable people.
Youth delegates of Mexico, speaking as a group, welcomed United Nations efforts to strengthen mechanisms for youth that would lead to more inclusive dialogue. Mexico was a young country, with 36 per cent of its population between the ages of 12 and 20, but it needed to deal with lack of employment. The delegates called on the United Nations to help deal with the lack of jobs, adding that young people wanted to contribute to their societies and would continue to be heard in that work. Also, there must be greater dialogue between civil society and Governments to help the most vulnerable.
Mexico had very seriously taken on the challenges of youth, people with disabilities, and others, and the outcome of the current meeting would have to be linked to the post-2015 development agenda. In Mexico, a general law of social development had strengthened institutions for poverty and hunger. One of the major challenges all States had to deal with, to a lesser or greater extent, was poverty, the delegates said, calling on Member States to work hard to eradicate poverty and continue to fight against that scourge in the post-2015 development agenda.
SAMIRA A. ABUBAKAR (Libya), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and China, the African Group and the Arab Group, said the 1995 World Social Summit was a platform for Governments to achieve economic and social development. Against that backdrop, she reaffirmed Libya’s commitments to all pledges agreed upon at international summits, including the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly. Libya’s Government had prioritized combating poverty and empowering women in the economic arena, and addressing youth by providing decent work and housing. Future investments in youth would focus on building their skills and providing training. The Government was also working to reintegrate former combatants that had overthrown the previous dictatorial regime, especially into the police and army.
On poverty, she said Libya was drawing up policies to improve living standards and provide social protections for vulnerable populations, including the elderly and disabled. Libya welcomed the High-level Meeting on Disabilities and Development, to be held in 2013, and hoped that a comprehensive plan of action for disabled persons would emerge. To achieve Millennium Development Goal 1 (combat poverty), Libya had adopted legislation focused on equal income distribution, among others, to assure retirement and social security benefits for disabled persons, the elderly and widows. Indeed, the armed conflict against a dictatorial system in 2011 had created a host of economic and social problems. Health care and education infrastructure had been used by the former regime to store arms and ammunition, which had had severely adverse implications “across the board”. The Government faced “enormous” responsibilities in addressing unemployment and corruption, as well as in providing water and electricity to the country. “We hope Libya will become an economic and social development success story,” she said.
IRINA VELICHKO ( Belarus) said that one of her country’s social policy priorities was the support of disadvantaged and marginalized citizens. It had implemented many State programmes, including the presidential decree on targeted State assistance, which made payments for health-care assistance, food for children under 2 years old, and other initiatives. Social protection for pensioners in Belarus included establishing additional payments. Belarus also continued to implement measures for persons with disabilities, and together with the United Nations Development Programme, had conducted a nationwide survey, which was now being used in discussions concerning a draft law on persons with disabilities. In March 2012 Belarus had adopted a law on welfare, and it was working systematically to introduce new technology, social services and assistance in welfare centres to promote an active and healthy lifestyle for the elderly.
Currently, Belarus was considering employment insurance, which was particularly important in the investment in young people. Many questions, however, were not currently being addressed by the United Nations, including assistance to gifted children and the handling of antisocial conduct among young people. Her Government hoped recent consultations would push those issues forward on the United Nations agenda. She looked forward to more initiatives on gifted young people, and would support those initiatives.
GLADWELL WAMBUI KAHARA, a youth representative of Kenya, said she represented 70 per cent of Kenya’s youth population. Youth unemployment was a major concern. Young people faced limited opportunities in education and technical training, high poverty, a lack of access to credit, and limited opportunities for participation in decisions that affected their lives — problems that slowed the national economy. To alleviate such concerns, the Ministry of Youth provided young people on-the-job training to join the labour market, while the Women Enterprise Development Fund provided “easy credit” for establishing businesses. There was a need to scale up such efforts to meet current job market demands, with special emphasis on training for women, people with disabilities and those needing basic education. Finally, she said that 70 per cent of new HIV/AIDS infections were among youth, the majority of whom were young women. Kenya “can still do better” by scaling up antiretroviral treatment and improving the implementation of AIDS education in schools.
REBECCA MWAVISHI NDOMBI, another youth representative of Kenya, said Governments must invest heavily in education that was relevant for twenty-first century demands. Kenya had allocated about one-third of its annual budget to the education sector, but lacked the resources to fully implement its initiatives and, as a result, facilities were stretched, classes were crowded and teachers overworked. Conflicts and civil strife also disproportionately impacted young people. “Without peace, security and respect for human rights, there cannot be meaningful development,” she stressed. The international community must create the environment to improve young peoples’ lives. The information and communications technology sector was the fastest-growing segment in Kenya, with youth forming the majority of those employed. If more resources were invested in technological research, among other areas, youth would lead the way in expanding development opportunities. “We would like to see a world that involves young people in policymaking and governance,” she concluded. Any nation that did not take care of its youth did not have a future.
MILENA DUDASOVA, youth delegate from Slovakia, pointing out the problem of low expectations towards young people, stated that Thomas Edison had started developing his laboratory at the age of 10, while George Washington became a great land surveyor by the age of 16. Today, they would be considered only “teenagers”, a word first used in 1941. Before that, the dividing line between adults and kids was determined by the amount of responsibility and independence. In contrast, today’s teenagers had very limited responsibility or independence. That was a huge waste of potential.
Though the obvious answer to the problem was education, she added, education systems tended to forget that “knowledge should not only be informative, but also performative.” Young people were full of energy and ideas and their education must focus on the ability to “analyse, adapt, and apply.” Speaking of her experience working with youth from more than 40 nations, she said that youth learned the most from people who expected the most: those adults who treated them as equal partners. “We are ready now,” she concluded.
RAZA BASHIR TARAR ( Pakistan) said there was much work to be done to realize the people-centric vision of the World Summit for Social Development. The Secretary-General’s prognosis that nine decades would be needed to eradicate extreme poverty was a “grim” prediction. Hence, a business-as-usual attitude was not an option. For its part, Pakistan had focused on pro-poor economic growth and recognized the crucial link between productive employment and social cohesion. Social protection had been an important part of Pakistan’s tool box for social development. For example, the Benazir Income Support Programme was a “pioneering” cash-transfer programme through which female family members were provided with monthly income supplements in cash, as well as vocational training.
He went on to say that 68 per cent of Pakistan’s population was under the age of 30 and the Government faced the “formidable” task of creating jobs. To tackle that challenge, he cited the Youth Development and Community Engagement programme as a pillar of Pakistan’s economic growth. On other matters, he said that in 2011 Pakistan had ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. While the Government was playing its role in social development, the family remained the bedrock for social inclusion, care and protection, he said. Pakistan looked forward to the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family next year as an opportunity to reiterate respect for that time-tested institution. Indeed, the challenges in achieving the World Social Summit objectives were huge and the national and international response must be commensurate.
TUVAKO N. MANONGI (United Republic of Tanzania) said in countries such as his, rural development and agricultural productivity were essential to social development, poverty reduction and meeting the Millennium Development Goals. “Given that the majority of the people in Tanzania live in rural areas, the development of the agricultural sector is critical to our effort in providing full employment and curbing poverty,” he said. In that regard, the Government had developed a programme known as “Kilimo Kwanza” – translated as “Agriculture First” – which aimed to modernize and improve production, involving government at all levels, civil society, farmer’s organisations and the private sector. To ensure women enjoyed equal benefits and that their rights were protected, his country had reformed land legislation to provide land to women and include a quota for women in land tribunals.
“We have always believed that, ultimately, development is about people and their welfare in all material, social and psychological aspects. It is about their dignity, respect, involvement and democratic participation,” he said. His Government’s decentralization programme ensured participation of people in decisions that affected their own development. Additionally, Tanzania had put in place policies devoted to vulnerable groups – women, youth, the elderly, the family and persons with disabilities. The Tanzanian delegation was also honoured to co-sponsor relevant resolutions on disabilities, and believed next year’s High-level meeting would provide an invaluable opportunity to consider a global strategy to ensure inclusion of persons with disabilities in all aspects of development.
YAEKO SUMI ( Japan) stated that the power of youth to participate in their society was clearly recognized in 2011 in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as in other countries around the world. However, youth unemployment was a serious problem, not only depriving youth of the opportunity to participate positively, but also disrupting social stability and hindering economic growth. In 2012, Japan had developed the “Employment Strategy for Youth”, which would introduce and enhance career education activities in high schools, universities and other educational institutions.
Turning to the issue of persons with disabilities, she said, the momentum for promoting their rights was increasing, with the adoption and ratification of the Convention. The Government of Japan had signed it in 2007 and had amended its Basic Law for Persons with Disabilities in July 2011. Turning to the subject of human security, she added that the adoption by all member States of a common understanding on human security, in the plenary meeting of the General Assembly in September, had been a great success. The three pillars of the United Nations, namely, peace and security, development, and human rights, were interlinked and mutually reinforcing. Japan would continue to contribute to the important work of assisting vulnerable groups and promoting their social integration and empowerment.
NOA FURMAN ( Israel) said her country was dedicated to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and had partnered with others to advance its important principles for people all over the world. For example, Israel had used its technical expertise in agriculture, health and other areas to alleviate global poverty. MASHAV, Israel’s Centre for International Cooperation, had led those efforts. It placed a great focus on education, having trained more than 250,000 people from 140 countries. Indeed, education was a primary tool for development, and in 2012, the Government had overseen a “landmark” expansion of its education system, giving every child the right to a free education from the age of 3.
She went on to say that Israel’s ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in September 2012 marked a turning point in its long-standing efforts to fully integrate its 1.5 million citizens with disabilities. In 1998, the Israeli Parliament enacted the Equal Rights for Persons with Disabilities law, preventing discrimination and mandating that all public buildings be accessible for disabled persons. The international community had an important opportunity to ensure that disability was included in the emerging global development agenda, and the High-level Meeting in September 2013 would offer a unique forum for an action-oriented discussion on including disability in it. She concluded by saying that Israel would continue to partner with others to advance development for persons with disabilities.
KHAM-INH KITCHADETH (Lao People’s Democratic Republic) said continuing trade barriers, as well as measures introduced by some States during the financial crisis, had a direct impact on the most vulnerable economies. Against that backdrop, he welcomed the Secretary-General’s recommendations to promote sustainable social development by encouraging more investment in public sectors in all countries, particularly in least developed countries and Africa. His Government attached great importance to social development, which had always been the core of its national development strategy, he said, outlining his country’s strategies to reform education, reduce gender inequality and provide good health services.
The country also attached importance to protecting disabled people, making every effort to integrate them into the mainstream of society. “The Lao PDR is the most heavily bombed nation in the world, especially during the Vietnam War. As a result, thousands of people were heavily affected and today some 120,000 persons live their lives as disabled people, as they were victimized by cluster munitions and other unexploded ordnances,” he said. “Persons with disabilities increasingly receive assistance from the State and society in respect of their living conditions, rehabilitation, social integration and participation in society.”
SACHA LLORENTTY SOLIZ ( Bolivia), aligning with the Group of 77 and China, and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said Governments at the 1995 World Summit had attached importance to economic and social development. Yet, the impact of the recent economic and financial crisis had led to a “marketization” of services, which had hampered the World Summit’s goals. Despite that situation, Bolivia had reduced its level of extreme poverty. To make that point, he said that by 2015, Bolivia’s target was to have reduced extreme poverty by 24.5 per cent. By 2011, it had reduced it by 20 per cent. Data from international agencies confirmed that 10 per cent of Bolivia’s poor population – 1 million people - had become part of the middle class, thanks to its policies. Indeed, the Government had created a vision that transcended economic growth and monetary wealth, to include education and health care – elements that were recognized in the 2009 Constitution.
He went on to note the importance of the State’s role in providing high-quality services. Bolivia’s constitution reaffirmed the rights to life, housing, telecommunications and other services as human rights. With that in mind, Bolivia, in 2010, had initiated the General Assembly resolution on the right to water and sanitation. As Bolivia’s President had said, the country had promoted that resolution and advanced beyond the Millennium Development Goal targets. Today, 78.5 per cent of Bolivians had access to drinking water. Health care was universal, free of charge and non-discriminatory. In 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) had declared that Bolivia had eradicated illiteracy. The constitution also protected persons with disabilities.
GEORGE AFAMEFUNA OSSI, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Social Development of Nigeria, said it was a constitutional duty for his Government to provide social justice, social security, and promote and protect the economic interests of all Nigerian citizens, including vulnerable groups. He outlined a number of steps it had taken to implement international instruments to ensure social protection, including production of a draft national policy on ageing and a draft national framework and plan of action on the family.
Nigeria has also provided grants and vocational tools to discharged offenders to enable them to integrate into society, he said. Among its other initiatives, Nigeria had provided grants to 20 non-governmental organizations that focused on building the capacity of persons with disabilities, and was conducting surveys on persons with disabilities around the country to assist formulation of development policies. “Let me conclude by underscoring the fact that adjustments must be made to design infrastructures, policies, plans and resources to accommodate all citizens,” he said. “This requires investing in all phases of life, fostering enabling societies through which the future building of a society that caters for all groups can take hold in the present.”
ESTHER MCHEKA CHILENJE NKHOMA (Malawi), aligning with the Group of 77 and China, as well as with the African Group and the South African Development Community (SADC), stated that due to the global economic crisis, between 47 million and 84 million more people were trapped in extreme poverty. Malawi had embarked on a poverty eradication programme that focused on wealth and job creation, empowerment of youth and women, as well as social cash transfers to the rural poor. The government was set to transform Malawi into one of the fastest growing African economies in the next decade. An Economic Recovery Programme had been launched that would focus on the sectors of agriculture, energy, infrastructure, tourism and mining.
On the subject of persons with disabilities, she added that a stand-alone ministry had been established to thoroughly look into matters that affected those people. Malawi had also intensified early detection, intervention, parent education, possible integration and community rehabilitation of persons living with disabilities. Her Government was committed to creating a self-reliant Malawi nation that promoted and protected the welfare of women, men, girls and boys, so that they could become self-reliant and active participants in the national development agenda.
YASSIN DAHAM (Iraq), aligning with the Group of 77 and China, and the Arab Group, said social development removed income disparities, improved productive capacities and promoted social justice. In that context, Iraq had created a social, economic and political environment that prioritized peace, security and development, having drawn up a “covenant” with the international community that was based on prosperity and the diversification of production. Through emergency measures, Iraq had improved its education sector by reducing the gap between girls and boys at school and adopting non-discriminatory principles for economic, social and cultural rights. The Constitution reaffirmed the right to health, and, as such, the Government provided free and low-cost health services. The creation of public hospitals also had led to a drop in child mortality, as compared with 2003.
On education, he said the war had negatively impacted the sector, but since then, Iraq had sought to boost spending on education. It provided monthly subsidies to the poor, disabled persons, seniors, and the unemployed. Further, it was working to develop job opportunities, increase salaries and develop remote areas. The number of citizens without access to food had decreased. As for housing, Iraq had increased housing subsidies, established a commission for housing and launched a land distribution programme. To combat poverty, Iraq had launched the first national poverty reduction strategy for the 2010-2014 period. It focused on six areas, including income, health services, ensuring social security and eliminating the gaps between urban and rural areas, within each province. In sum, he said Iraq was committed to social development for all Iraqis and he called on the international community to invest in Iraq’s prosperity.
ALIA ALMUZAINI ( Kuwait) said combating poverty and improving standards of living were among the top priorities for development. The Kuwaiti Government had provided grants, loans and assistance for social and economic development projects in more than 100 States across the world. At home, the Kuwaiti Government had organized several projects, including this year’s “Kuwait Listens”, to identify the voices of youth and promote their top projects, which included education, housing, arts, health, and the environment.
Kuwait has heeded recommendations by the United Nations, and has set up a special committee to review the health problems of its elderly, recognizing that improving living conditions was one of the most important parts of development. In order to achieve a higher integration of people with disabilities, a 2010 law had been enacted to advance their skills. The impediments to social and economic development were many, and Kuwait believed the only way to promote development across the world would be through commitment by all States to meet all their international agreements.
ENRIQUE ROMÁN-MOREY ( Peru) reaffirmed his country’s pledge to implement social improvement programmes, with a view to creating a more inclusive society. Indeed, States must promote economic growth that included social development. Overcoming poverty required stable political and economic environments, and in Peru, social and economic policies addressed various gaps. A growth model with social inclusion at its heart must be carried out to ensure access to health care, education, food, housing and social security. The basis of such work must be the principles of equality, fairness, non-discrimination and respect for international human rights norms.
In that context, he said that through the Ministry of Development and Inclusion, among other ministries, Peru sought to promote the social, political and economic inclusion of vulnerable groups, with a view to achieving the Millennium Development Goals. To ensure the social inclusion of indigenous peoples, Peru had enacted a law on prior consultation with indigenous peoples and was implementing it in line with International Labour Organization Convention 169. Those rules granted indigenous peoples the right to prior consultation on legal measures that affected them, as well as to be heard as part of an intercultural dialogue. Indeed, States were obliged to propose social inclusion policies, efforts that required a better international environment. He called on all States and financial institutions to strengthen their cooperation with developing countries.
YAROSLAV GOLITSYN ( Ukraine), aligning with the statement of the European Union, said policies to boost productive capacities and decent jobs were critical both in the short-term, to curb the dramatic effects of the prolonged job crisis, and in the longer term, to make economic growth more sustainable, inclusive and equitable. “Poverty reduction continues to be goal number one in the national matrix of development goals, and was the first priority of the Government of Ukraine,” he said. In 2011, Ukraine adopted a poverty reduction programme for the period until 2015, which promotes higher living standards, job creation and smart systems of wages and pensions.
Earlier this year, the President of Ukraine devised “new social initiatives” aimed at improving income distribution, bridging social inequalities and developing the middle class, which aimed at four priority areas: renewing confidence in social policies and reviving the principle of social justice; establishing effective income distribution mechanisms; modernizing social protection systems; and creating jobs to promote strong, balanced and sustained economic growth. He was pleased to report that in 2011 there was about a 2 per cent decrease in the share of people living below the poverty line in Ukraine and during the period of 2010-2011, the country’s social budget spending increased by 34.5 per cent. “In 2011, household earnings rose by 13.6 per cent and real wages by 8.7 per cent, which was evidence that poverty targets could be met in Ukraine by 2015.”
AMIN JAVED FAIZAL ( Maldives) said high unemployment, food insecurity and income inequality were among the many challenges facing youth and other vulnerable groups today. It was important to support young people with a sense of urgency and concerted action was required, particularly in the area of education. States must facilitate universal access to education for vulnerable groups and he commended the Secretary-General’s “Education First” initiative, which he hoped would enable access to quality education, including technological, secondary and higher education opportunities. For its part, his Government’s policies on vocational and skills training provided incentives for young people to participate in social development, he said, noting that the Maldives also supported the upcoming World Conference on Youth, to be held in 2014.
In other areas, he said the Constitution of the Maldives guaranteed the human rights of persons with disabilities, adding that the creation of a Disability Council was a defining moment in advancing their rights. As a party to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, his Government was committed to including disability considerations in all national plans, policies and tools. The Maldives looked forward to commemorating the International Year of the Family in 2014, believing that family-centred policies would help reduce poverty and improve access to education and healthcare.
MONIA ALSALEH ( Syria) said a comprehensive framework for social development had been devised and her country had undertaken a number of reforms in its development policies, based on a vision to achieve modernization on all levels, so that Syria would achieve a new phase of development. Unfortunately, such efforts had been affected by unlawful sanctions, which deliberately undermined social development, Syrians and their livelihoods. The impact of those universal, unlawful sanctions had been extremely negative affecting the development of the Syrian people and directing resources away from social and economic development.
The sanctions had led to a decrease in the exchange rate, an increase in inflation, and greater difficulty in paying for imports, which increased poverty and unemployment, she said. The decrease in medicine and rise in prices for medical supplies and spare parts had also increased the suffering of the Syrian people. The report of the Secretary-General overlooked the catastrophic Israeli occupation of Palestine, not mentioning the disabilities caused by the use of some types of weapons. She asked that future relevant Secretary-General reports accord attention to the issue, as well as unilateral sanctions against other countries, which undermined social development and the enjoyment of human rights.
YUSRA KHAN ( Indonesia), aligning himself with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Group of 77 developing countries and China, agreed that people must be at the centre of development. However, more than 1 billion people still lived on less than $1.25 a day and global economic expansion had been coupled with growing inequality. It was clear that the benefits of economic growth were not being equally shared. Strengthening social protection systems to combat the intergenerational poverty trap was vital. For its part, Indonesia continued to make social investments to build its human capital, he said, noting that a key part of its social development strategy was family empowerment.
Indeed, families had benefited from social assistance and protection programmes designed to meet the health needs of mothers, children, the elderly and the disabled, he said. With almost 50 per cent of Indonesians below the age of 29 years, youth unemployment also was treated as a national priority. 20 per cent of the national budget was being used to improve young peoples’ access to education linked to labour market needs. With regards to disabled persons, Indonesia had strengthened its national legal framework by harmonizing laws to positively impact their lives. Regionally, Indonesia had implemented guidelines in the Biwako Millennium Framework for Action. Ageing national populations was a critical challenge around the world and Indonesia would work to sustain the health and vitality of its older citizens, particularly through a number of laws and regulations enacted to address their needs.
AMIRA DALI ( Tunisia) said today’s world was a paradox. Never before had humanity seen so many goods, but never before had such a large part of humanity – 70 per cent – been marginalized from the privileges and opportunities of the rich world. The growth of inequality had caused the number of people living in poverty around the world to increase to more than 1 billion. That tragic reality risked prolonging the realization of the Millennium Development Goals beyond 2015. The Arab Spring had highlighted it was not sufficient to just invest in economies. It had made clear the multidimensional nature of poverty, which was closely related to social exclusion, discrimination and fundamental political and civil rights.
The Tunisian revolution exposed very painful realities, such as poverty and corruption, but also showed the very high level of political awareness of the Tunisian people, he continued. The Government of Tunisia had developed an ambitious social programme aimed at establishing solidarity between different groups and a global vision of human rights for peace. Enhancement of ongoing assistance, improvement of salaries, provision of access to microcredit, and recruitment competitions for young graduates were also being carried out. But, a democratic transition was a difficult process. Despite the best efforts, the employment crisis continued. There was a need to work closely together to find an urgent solution to that problem, to ensure a future for the young.
DAMIANO BELEFFI ( San Marino) said the economic and financial crisis had profoundly impacted social development. Efforts to reduce poverty, hunger, malnutrition and unemployment had been undermined. Nonetheless, San Marino reaffirmed its commitment to eradicate poverty, promote productive employment and foster social integration. San Marino had always been active in promoting social integration and human rights for the most vulnerable, including children, disabled persons, the elderly and women. Every year, it was among the co-sponsors of almost any relevant resolution that concerned such groups.
San Marino endorsed United Nations commitments to the rights of persons with disabilities, having been among the first countries to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Recognizing women’s fundamental role, he said that, in many parts of the world women continued to be subjected to discrimination and violence and were among the most affected by HIV/AIDS. It was essential to guarantee their access to education, and to promote their participation in political, social and economic life. As for the elderly, San Marino had always encouraged them to play an active part in the wider social environment and supported the Secretary-General’s recommendations in his report on the follow-up to the Second World Assembly on Ageing.
DER KOGDA ( Burkina Faso) said discussions had highlighted the need for States to design policies and programmes for better work. On the ground, people did not enjoy a number social protections. In Burkina Faso, efforts were being made to improve the situation of the most vulnerable. Persons with disabilities had their rights protected and promoted through recent legal and statutory measures. The country had adopted a law on persons with disabilities in April 2012, which had removed the impediments to integration of persons with disabilities and increased their training.
With regard to empowerment of young people, he said that Burkina Faso every year organized a youth forum for a democratic exchange between young people and authorities in the country. The creation of a number of mediation structures in the job sector, training and financial support had also contributed to increased employment. In conclusion, however, he highlighted the fact that his country’s goals for broader social development could not be achieved unless it had the support of development partners and mobilized more resources.
PASCALINE GERENGBO YAKIVU (Democratic Republic of the Congo), aligning with the Group of 77 developing countries and China, the African Group and the SADC, called on Governments to do more to promote social development. Describing national efforts, she said her country’s legal framework was in line with international principles on social development. The 2006 constitution recognized a number of social rights – including those to education, employment, culture, health, decent housing and protection. The Government had carried out reforms in those sectors to update its institutional framework. For example, the Democratic Republic of the Congo had created “coordination structures” to ensure inter-ministerial cooperation, and published a poverty reduction strategy paper covering those sectors.
She went on to say that the Government was committed to reducing “shortfalls” in realizing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The Government hoped to achieve the Goals by 2015 and considerably improve living conditions through long-term stability and growth that stemmed from improved governance; a diversified economy; improved youth employment; better access to basic services; environmental protection; and an enhanced investment climate. To be sure, armed conflict and instability in the east perpetrated by the “M23” militia persisted. Women, girls, seniors, disabled persons and “indigenous” peoples were vulnerable. She urged international support to help the Democratic Republic of the Congo emerge from repeated conflicts and achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
ERTUĞRUL APAKAN ( Turkey) said his country was known for its young population; however, it also had the second-fastest ageing population in the world. On the global scale, declining fertility rates and increasing life expectancies meant that by 2050 more than 22 per cent of the population would be more than 60 years old. That would lower labour rates and accelerate economic growth. The elderly of the world faced challenges, such as discrimination, poverty, violence and lack of services. Addressing challenges related to ageing population was a necessity. How could States mitigate the economic consequences of an elderly population, ensure good social protection, and provide older people with better opportunities to express their views and better participate in daily life? The answers to those questions must be sought at both the national and global level. Older people deserved greater attention. A society of all ages must be created where older people were able to fully participate.
Turkey’s youth delegate, ORHAN ESAD AKGUN, said unemployment could be best tackled through education. As a university student, he was happy to see higher education fees abolished in Turkey, making education accessible to wider segments of society and bringing higher hopes for the future. Turkish political reform has also positively affected Turkish youth; before the last election, parliament decided to reduce the age of candidacy from 30 to 25, and Prime Minister Erdogen has opened debate to further lower the age to 18, showing that the Government stood ready to rely on younger people on crucial matters.
ABDUL MOMEN (Bangladesh), aligning with the Group of 77 developing countries and China, stated that his country’s efforts for social development had been staggered by concerns such as poverty, unemployment, food insecurity, income inequalities and malnutrition. Further, non-implementation of Overseas Development Administration commitment by developed partners and climate change had further complicated the scenario for developing countries. Sustainable development through poverty eradication was a high priority for his Government. There were many social safety-net programmes, including food-for-work and allowances to widows. Support was also given to small and medium entrepreneurs, particularly women entrepreneurs, by creating a dedicated fund and providing collateral-free loans.
Further, he added, about 2.4 million elderly people were covered under the old-age allowance programme. Comprehensive national legislation was in place for ensuring the rights of disabled persons and Bangladesh was currently in the process of harmonizing the law with the provisions of the Convention. Bangladesh had also established the Stipend Programme for Students with Disabilities and special and inclusive schools for visually and hearing impaired students. Another priority for the Government was mainstreaming youth in the overall development process and to that end, a national service programme, as well as improved micro-credit access, were in place. Concluding, he urged development partners to fulfil their promise of financial and technological transfers and avoid taking protectionist measures against developing countries.
ARAYA DESTA (Eritrea), aligning with the African Group, as well as the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said navigating a global economic downturn marked by high youth unemployment and pervasive poverty had been difficult for developing and developed nations alike. While better cooperation was needed to achieve social development goals, Governments must remain committed to sustained progress, with the creation of home-grown initiatives that reflected their specific conditions. Eritrea’s social policy aimed to promote and protect equal rights, participation and resource sharing.
The Government was mobilizing its limited human, financial and natural resources to meet development challenges, he said, noting that Eritrean youth were the “main agents of change” in a society that had suffered years of war. Their full participation had been instrumental in national efforts to address the root causes of poverty and underdevelopment, notably programmes related to food security, infrastructure and peace and security. Basic social services had significantly expanded in rural areas. Free education was provided to everyone from the primary to tertiary level, while both child and maternal mortality rates had fallen dramatically. Still, there was much to do. The key to advancing the socioeconomic agenda was to remain fully committed to enhancing cooperation at all levels.
GIORGI TSHEKHANI, Georgia’s youth delegate, said that in order to have more sustainable policies, promote active and responsible citizens among youth and have a young generation that would successfully take a leadership role in years to come, it was imperative that young people be included in all relevant decision-making processes today. Also, the issue of violence against girls and young women called for the international community’s attention. Although that issue had been placed high on the global agenda and tremendous efforts had been undertaken to tackle the problem, violence against girls and women remained the most widespread and systematic human rights violations in the world. Due to the influence of various stereotypes and prejudices, in some countries the rights of men were still thought to prevail over those of women, including among others, the rights to education, employment, health and participation.
He noted that the situation of gender equality had significantly improved in Georgia. All girls had access to primary and secondary education; during the last several years more girls had enrolled in universities than boys and, compared to previous years, more women were employed in public, as well as private institutions. However, some problems remained, and he appreciated the fact that the government had committed to resolving those remaining obstacles. As a youth delegate from a country that had up to 500,000 internally displaced persons and refugees, many of them children and youth, he felt compelled to highlight the importance of peace and security. It had been proved that war, violence and instability were the major impediment to development. While war had an enormous and “horrible” effect upon society as a whole, it was children and young people that were the most vulnerable to its effects because they lost their opportunities to live in a peaceful environment, in addition to being traumatized for life.
ISAAC VASQUEZ, youth delegate of the Dominican Republic, said developing countries had achieved significant advances; however there were still obstacles, such as infectious diseases, clean water and sanitation, hunger and malnutrition, education and economic development. In short, health, home, the environment, empowerment and peace - the peace that provided the knowledge that today you could close your eyes “without the uncertainty that in the morning you will wake up discovering your important treasures in life no longer exist: your home, your family.” Further, exclusion and vulnerability could not co-exist with the idea of a better quality of life for all. Equity and sustainability were essential requirements for ensuring sustained economic growth.
The Dominican Republic was determined to pursue development for all by strengthening the rule of law, providing equal rights and opportunities and creating a sustainable economy. “Today we have agreed that development problems have solutions and that the Millennium Development Goals are technically and economically attainable,” he said. Only political will from States was needed to strengthen governance and the defence of human rights. In closing, he reiterated his strong commitment to peace, tolerance, democracy and freedom as basic components of development.
SEGHAIROON ELSHEIKH (Sudan) aligning himself with the Group of 77 developing countries and China, the Arab Group and the African Group, said the global financial crisis, and surging food and energy costs, had cast “dark shadows” on the possibility of fulfilling obligations made at the World Summit for Social Development. Peace was critical for social coherence and his Government had promoted peace throughout the Sudan. Nine cooperation accords had been signed with South Sudan. The integration of the transitional authority in Darfur stemmed from the “Doha Convention”, while negotiations in Addis Ababa were focused on Blue Nile and South Kordofan. The Government had also agreed to the tripartite initiative to deliver humanitarian assistance. In Abyei, the agreement on troop status was signed last month. Prior to that, 98 per cent of the troops had been deployed, with their freedom of movement ensured.
On the social side, he said a national plan to combat poverty included programmes for graduate employment and increasing per capita income. It called for an expansion of education, eradication of illiteracy, provision of adequate medical care, safe drinking water and safe human settlements, expansion of sewage systems and achievement of food security. Also, a Muslim charity played a critical role in achieving social justice by channelling resources from wealthy to impoverished communities. It sought to foster interdependence and compassion among all Sudanese. As regards youth, the Government aimed to employ graduate youth under the Cabinet of Ministers and facilitate loans to youth. As for people with disabilities, Sudan was “on its way to implementing” the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Some $2 million had been set aside to help them.
FAHAD M. ALRUWAILY ( Saudi Arabia) said the Government had paid ample attention to family, ageing, youth and persons with special needs, sparing no effort in providing them with the best care and services. At the national level, in 2009 the King Abdul Aziz Centre for National Dialogue developed training programmes for family dialogue and, in the area of caring for the elderly and ageing populations, the Ministry of Social Affairs established modern nursing homes designed to resemble normal family life. Saudi Arabia also developed projects, policies and legislation to address issues relating to persons with disabilities, including expanding comprehensive rehabilitation and care centres and developing a National Medical Registry for Children with Disabilities and national projects on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and on autism and overall developmental disorders.
To work on youth advancement, the Government helped to expand their knowledge, equate them with their peers at the global level, address their concerns and grant them involvement in their country’s decision-making process. Activities included launching discussion fora, such as the Saudi Youth International Discussion Forum, which would visit several countries, and establishing scholarship programmes in dozens of public and private universities, including in 2009, when it opened the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, a graduate level institution dedicated to inspiring a new age of scientific achievement. The Government also presented numerous international awards, including the King Faisal International Prize awarded to scientists whose research had led to substantial progress in scientific areas serving humanity. The Government also continued to strive to advance its youth to the highest possible degree of success by using the most modern and advanced learning techniques, focusing on the development of their skills and expanding understanding of other societies’ cultures, while promoting mutual respect
BYRGANYM AITIMOVA ( Kazakhstan) endorsed the Secretary-General’s recommendations aimed at a sustainable recovery from the world crises, and accelerating progress towards implementation of the World Summit for Social Development outcome. Calling for a global partnership for development through an open, non-discriminatory trading system, she said that more focused trade facilitation measures were indispensable for attaining the Millennium Development Goals. Mutually acceptable approaches to expand exports and global market access were needed. She rejected the reduction of social commitments in the fight against poverty, unemployment and hunger.
For its part, Kazakhstan had “stepped straight onto the path” of social development, she said, with an inclusive social policy launched in 2001 that embraced new approaches to employment and modernized housing, as well as improved access to drinking water. Her country had opened job opportunities in various sectors, reducing unemployment and improving infrastructure through a “Road Map”. Working with non-governmental stakeholders and the business community, the Government was providing free training for people willing to work in industrial settings. At the end of 2011, less than half of the world’s young people were participating in the labour force and, as such, Kazakhstan’s “Road Map” focused on skills training and social job creation. In the area of health, Kazakhstan had increased healthcare financing to 3.4 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2012. A national unified healthcare system would be adopted by 2013.
PHAM VINH QUANG ( Viet Nam) said that, like many countries, Viet Nam was facing economic difficulties. But, due to decisive Government measures in economic stabilization and inflation control, there were many positive signs, including 5.9 per cent economic growth in 2011 and 4.4 per cent growth in the first six months of 2012. The country had also made significant achievements in ensuring poverty reduction and job creation ahead of schedule on many of the Millennium Development Goals. The guiding principle of his Government had been harmonization between economic and cultural development, and realization of progress and social justice in every step, he said.
To protect those most vulnerable, Viet Nam’s Government had made strong commitments to support people with disabilities by passing laws to provide health services, provide vocational training and create jobs, and ensure services were available to them. Meanwhile, the elderly were respected and contributed positively to the construction of the nation; the country’s 2012-2020 national action programme for the elderly ensured favourable conditions for them to participate in all aspects of social life. And Viet Nam’s 2011-2020 Youth Development Strategy was adopted to build a generation of well-developed youth. He concluded by calling for the international community to reaffirm its strong political commitments to alleviating poverty and promoting inclusive, sustainable and green development.
NURBEK KASYMOV ( Kyrgyzstan) said eliminating poverty, supporting full employment and ensuring social integration continued to challenge the international community. Youth unemployment was among the most urgent problems and the uncertainty of when it would end had increased poverty to unheard of levels. As such, international financial institutions should re-examine the conditionalities placed on countries receiving social assistance. Among other challenges, it was difficult for mountainous States to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and he called on partners and the United Nations to provide maximum support to developing mountainous States.
He went on to stress that youth unemployment was worsening in the face of the global economic crisis, particularly among 15- to 24-year olds, many of whom worked only in the informal sector. Tackling youth employment was a priority for Kyrgyzstan. International cooperation also was needed and he agreed on the need to build on International Labour Organization (ILO) achievements, and develop a strategic youth employment strategy. As for persons with disabilities, he said Kyrgyzstan had signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2011 and was completing internal procedures to ratify it. He also urged accelerating implementation of the Madrid Plan of Action on Ageing. Many States had cut social spending for elderly people and he called for increasing their social protection coverage. On labour migration, he urged that migrant host and home countries have favourable laws for remittances.
SHRI L.K. ADVANI ( India) said it was of the utmost importance that the world community collectively undertake growth stimulating policies to boost demand and create jobs. “With over a billion people in extreme poverty and hunger, we cannot afford but to make inclusive growth our priority,” he said, calling for developing countries to mobilise domestic resources through such areas as prudent management of natural resources, governance reforms, more effective taxation policies and strengthened financial inclusion. Moreover, corruption needed to be tackled “on a war footing”, as it was severely felt in developing countries and had a major debilitating impact, limiting growth and investment in productive sectors. He called for the UN Convention Against Corruption to be ratified by all countries, and for meaningful cooperation at the international level to recover and return stolen assets.
In India, a major focus was inclusive growth underpinned by empowerment of people – especially women – as well as good governance, and investments in education and health, skills training and affordable housing. Since 65 per cent of India’s population lived in rural areas, it placed special emphasis on rural development initiatives. Among its initiatives, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme was the world’s largest cash for work programme, responding to the needs of 53 million poor rural households and reserving at least 50 per cent of the work for women. “This programme has helped break down social inequalities, empower rural people, build up rural infrastructure and revive economic growth,” he said.
CÉCILE MBALLA EYENGA ( Cameroon) said her Government’s efforts sought to reduce inequalities and enhance living conditions in the health, economic and social spheres. As regards health, she said everyone should benefit from specific care. At the heart of Cameroon’s national health strategy were sectoral strategies tailored to each segment of the population. They included those to prevent sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS, among young people by ensuring they had access to information that would reduce their vulnerability. Free antiretrovirals were available for those dealing with HIV/AIDS, as was training for peers and educators. Sectoral strategies also aimed to reduce the mortality of children under five years old.
She went on to say that the economic and social integration of young people was another concern. “Multifunctional” centres sought to help students at school and advocated for training through internships. The Government also aimed to promote job creation for persons with disabilities. Professional credit arrangements were in place for them, while others aimed to support income generation for older persons. In the area of education, primary education was free and vocational training scholarships were available for persons with disabilities. In sum, she said social development called for mobilizing resources. She hailed the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) which had supported Cameroon’s social development. She also requested bilateral and multilateral assistance.
HABIB MIKAYILLI ( Azerbaijan) said it was impossible to achieve social development without a strong economy, and his country was proud to have one of the fastest growth rates in the world. Over the last eight years, Azerbaijan’s economy has tripled, allowing the Government to successfully address all issues on its social agenda. Social spending represented 30 per cent of the 2012 State budget, while minimum wages, social allowances and pensions were regularly increasing in the country. Azerbaijan had also made considerable progress in eliminating unemployment, with more than a million new jobs created over the past eight years and an unemployment rate now standing at 5.4 per cent.
ELCHIN ABDULLAYEV, Azerbaijan’s youth delegate, said he believed the Millennium Development Goals were a universal responsibility, and the role of youth and education were critical elements. “Unfortunately, 133 million youth in the world are illiterate today. Today’s youth also comprise 41 per cent of the world’s unemployed people,” he said, calling for youth to understand the importance and power of education. “Education can break poverty and lead to prosperity. Education can also eliminate ethnic, racial and religious discrimination,” he said.
MOURAD BENMEHIDI ( Algeria) said 17 years after the Copenhagen Summit, the three pillars of social development continued to be challenges for the international community. Job creation had been insufficient, and had been compounded by the food, finance and energy crises. Social integration and poverty alleviation had also been greatly impacted, as a result. Persons with disabilities accounted for 15 per cent of the global population and he commended the General Assembly’s initiative to hold a High-level meeting on persons with disabilities and development in 2013. Older persons also deserved priority and, in that context, he commended the Working Group created in 2011 to bolster their rights.
He went on to say that the family was the main agent of social protection and should be placed at the heart of social programmes. The International Year of the Family provided an opportunity to improve policies to support them. He commended the adoption of General Assembly resolution 65/132 (2010), which specified 17 spheres to help young people, including through job creation, “demarginalization” and improved participation in decision-making. As Africa faced increased unemployment and pandemics, he stressed the importance of international support to protect gains made in many economies. Algeria had adopted structural reforms to enhance social cohesion and increase national income. As for public health, infant mortality and maternal mortality had been reduced and life expectancy had been raised to 76 years.
GERGANA TOMOVA, one of Bulgaria’s two youth delegates, said within their one-year mandates, youth delegates could barely solve even one, let alone more of the major problems ahead of the Committee, and they had no such illusion. But, it was their hope to become part of the solution and secure a smooth transition for their ideas and activities. For Bulgaria, she said, promoting entrepreneurship among youth was needed; a recent study in Bulgaria showed that 93 per cent of young people between 15 and 29 years old have a desire to start their own business, and 65 per cent think that having a company is a symbol of independence and courage to follow their dreams. She recommended lighter bureaucracy procedures for young people willing to register their own company, as well as more financial instruments, allowing them to receive funding with preferential, or no interest rates.
ASEN DIMITROV, the second Bulgaria youth delegate, said addressing youth policies, especially in developed countries, now required addressing the feelings of insecurity and apathy among many young people. Unemployed and uninvolved youngsters were more vulnerable to such psychological consequences, so providing more meaningful opportunities to young people for personal development would serve to ultimately contribute to a reduction of youth unemployment levels. It was up to Governments to allocate resources to promote youth employment and increase their participation rates. But, as youth must be willing to make creative decisions, and use their one-year mandates as youth delegates to inspire other youngsters. The opportunity, used wisely, could become youth delegates’ largest contribution towards the United Nations goals, he said.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMA ( Malta) said the economic and financial challenges posed increasing obstacles for the quality of life of individuals and needed to be tackled with a focus on measures that promoted the reintegration of those persons furthest from the labour market, including youth. The Government had undertaken a number of efforts through the Public Employment Service, including the Employment and Training Corporation, which offered a range of services, and the 2010 National Youth Policy, whose three-year plan emphasized employment. To better understand the challenges, improve the complementarity of actions and increase the effectiveness of the services provided, the Public Employment Service conducted consultations with different entities, particularly in the design of youth programmes.
A broad challenge faced by countries worldwide was the acute shortage of trained personnel at all levels, particularly in the field of ageing, he said. To meet the needs of the rapidly growing older population, capacity-building and personnel training had become a major issue that needed urgent attention. Concurring with the Vienna International Plan of Action on Ageing and United Nations resolutions, he said Malta had started planning a wide range of policies and programmes to respond to the unique needs and requirements of older persons and had appointed a Parliamentary Secretary who was directly responsible for the country’s older persons.
SAFAA ALI HADY ( Yemen) said her country had experienced both internal and external challenges to its population that had exacerbated poverty levels since the 1980s. To address some of the challenges, she said the Government had adopted a series of policies and programmes, including establishing a social security network, a micro-loan system and financial assistance projects. Part of the Government’s efforts included promoting partnerships with non-governmental organizations and the private sector to develop projects that would also focus on those and other related areas. In addition, Yemen had adopted a poverty reduction strategy that began in 2011 through 2015 and had put in place initiatives that would further lower poverty levels, she said.
In view of that, she said young people were a key to change and the Government focused a number of efforts on youth. For example, the Government had established a Ministry of Youth and Sport and had undertaken a number of projects and initiatives in those areas. It had also adopted laws on youth protection, among other things. In 2011, rising unemployment had posed additional challenges to her country. To continue to address all those challenges, she said Yemen had relied on continued support in advancing its programmes aimed at helping its people.
The youth delegates of Belgium, delivering a joint statement, said it was clear the world was in a state of crisis. Young people were continually confronted by crisis events and speeches about them and hoped to break the chain of fatalism and together make a durable, just and equitable future. The world community should not be blinded by crises and put personal interests ahead of general interests. It was up to youth to be more ambitious in the development goals; as today one in seven did not have access to clean drinking water. Those people were not living, they were just surviving. A child might have to walk for miles each day just to get to a well; but if he did, he would not attend school.
It was already established that proper drinking water contributed to hygiene and affected most of the Millennium Development Goals. In other words, dealing with access to clean drinking water was a precondition for meeting the Goals. “We need to accept that water is not a business; it is a fundamental right.” They said it was not just a possibility; it is an obligation. Youth delegates did not wish to inherit a world where the tap could be turned off, if there was not sufficient income. Water must be a fundamental right.
ANDREA WILSON ( Jamaica) said her country remained committed to its international, regional and domestic obligations under various social protection mechanisms, including the ILO Convention on core labour standards. The decent work agenda was critical to the development of Jamaica’s poverty eradication programme. Also high on the social agenda were, among other things, social inclusion and integration, access to education, food security, health and the post-2015 development framework, she said. Then she introduced one of Jamaica’s youth delegates to focus on the youth agenda.
FRANCINA FRANCIS said, as a youth delegate, she wanted to share her perspective with the Committee, first explaining that Jamaica had a long history of youth inclusion in the decision-making process at national and international levels through a cadre of traditional and non-traditional organizations. While the National Youth Council and the National Youth Parliament had indeed provided engagement and empowerment opportunities, they did not reach the majority of young people and the failure of traditional forms of education to provide meaningful discussions of pertinent issues left many at-risk youth unaware of their options. Further, many rural youth continued to have limited access to non-traditional forms of education, including the “information highway”. “How can we therefore expect our youth to be agents of change when we are not presented with the resources that will channel our awareness and influence our capacity to evoke change?” she asked. Too often Governments failed to realize that the majority of youth were disconnected from the mandates, deliberations and High-level discussions of organizations such as the United Nations simply because there is not enough effort on the ground for grass-roots engagement.
“If we continually fail to equip youth with the necessary tools to fight the many social, political and economic trials that constantly beset our society, then the next generation will be unprepared to face these challenges,” she said, encouraging other delegations to support youth participation in General Assembly word by including youth delegates as members of delegations. “If we wish to keep the ‘United’ in United Nations we must collectively seek to educate youth on this most important forum available to them.”
KADRA AHMED HASSAN ( Djibouti) said both developing and developed nations were facing uncertain horizons, with challenges such as slowing economies and growth, unemployment and debt. The current General Assembly session was an opportunity to recommit to sustainable development, and it was important that political commitments were translated into action and reality. Poverty eradication must be a priority towards the goal of sustainable development, she said, noting that Africa had suffered deeply from the adverse effects of climate change and vulnerable populations could not produce enough food for themselves. Djibouti had launched programmes aimed at eliminating poverty, with a view to move onto a sustainable approach to development, which required an integrated global approach. Guaranteeing food security was a priority, she said, as was diverting flood water and improving access to drinking water.
However, sustainable development must be based on the social requirements of all groups, she said. “The human capital is precious in my country,” she said, noting that the Government had focused on enhancing programmes, including sexual equality and empowering women, aimed at a number of groups. She also commended the African Union’s initiative to step up efforts to eradicate female genital mutilation. Turning to youth, she said young people constituted 65 per cent of Djibouti’s population and were a key to the country’s future. With that in mind, the Government had tailored policies and programmes targeting the special needs of youth regarding jobs and other areas. She encouraged partners to step up efforts and stand by Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitments, and noted that international instruments adopted concerning vulnerable groups were important in helping ensure those groups were no longer marginalized.
RUBÉN ARMANDO ESCALANTE HASBÚN ( El Salvador) said given the rising ageing population, his country had committed to a number of international documents, including the Global Objectives on Ageing, adopted in 1992, and recognized the value of the Working Group on Ageing. El Salvador was also committed to carrying out consultations on the rights of older persons within the United Nations. “We all have the same rights but they are not always guaranteed for all,” he said, supporting efforts to ensure the protection of the rights of older persons.
He was concerned about age discrimination, which hampered social inclusion. That and the feminization of old age should also be taken into account in implementing current strategies and shaping future initiatives, he said, commending UN Women’s work in the field. For its part, El Salvador had decided to submit a draft resolution on the Convention on the Rights and Dignity of Older Persons. He hoped discussions in the coming weeks would lead to the adoption of the draft text. It had no negative effect on the Madrid Action Plan.
ANDRÉS FIALLO ( Ecuador) said his country believed that those combating poverty should undertake practices that led to equality, and aimed to give full voice to all peoples. To achieve that goal of well-being, Ecuador had guaranteed access to all social and cultural rights through investments in health and education. But, traditional recipes and orthodoxies that saw social investment as an expenditure continued to be followed, he said.
In Ecuador, governments at all levels were making efforts to meet basic needs in health, education and housing, and it had reduced poverty over recent years. Ecuador also saw the work of women as empowering, and it had also made efforts to protect persons with disabilities. The country believed there could be no social development if a society ignored the rights of persons with disabilities, and Ecuador would step up efforts to include the rights of persons with disabilities in the agenda of the United Nations in the current session.
NEGASH KEBRET ( Ethiopia) said his country considered poverty a threat of national security and had attached great priority to poverty alleviation in its successive national development plans. Ethiopia was in a better position today to attain the Millennium Development Goal of halving extreme poverty by 2015, and had also recorded average annual economic growth of 11 per cent over the past eight years. To address challenges facing persons with disabilities, Ethiopia had undertaken policy and legal measures, including tax exemptions for employers who recruited 60 per cent or more of their workforce as persons with disabilities.
To address the challenges faced by other vulnerable members of Ethiopia’s population, the Government enacted a National Youth Policy that ensured their active participation in alleviating their economic, social and political problems. Gross primary enrolment had been increased to 95.4 per cent by the end of last school year, he said. Youth volunteers had also been participating in efforts to combat desertification in regions experiencing serious drought, as Ethiopia had incorporated volunteers in its youth policies and also mainstreamed volunteerism in its poverty reduction strategies.
ARUTHRA RAJASINGHAM, a youth delegate from Sri Lanka, said young people had concerns, fears for the future and aspirations. In talking to young people, she said concerns included finding a job after graduation, being stuck in a country in conflict, feeling alienated in post-war situations and being labelled a drug addict at a rehabilitation centre. “We require platforms to seek solutions to our problems,” she said. “We need avenues to realize our dreams.”
Also taking the floor, youth delegate JAYATHMA WICKRAMANAYAKE said the Youth Parliament of Sri Lanka was conceived and implemented to mark the International year of Youth and provided an opportunity for reconciliation and progress. With its 335 elected members aged 15 to 26, representing all ethnic communities in the country, the Youth Parliament regularly interacted with the Minister of Youth Affairs and Skills Development and other ministries and at the district levels. She called on her country’s national law-makers to continue to work and mobilize youth’s creativity and energy through the Youth Parliament and civil society.
KEVIN CASSIDY, of the ILO, said the crisis that erupted in 2008 had shown that social equity did not have to be sacrificed for economic growth. If properly designed, equity enhancing policies could also promote prosperity and reduce the risk of future crises. The crisis had also created a window of opportunity for developing new policy approaches. However, creating new jobs was not enough and economic growth without quality job creation was not sustainable.
While there was no one-size-fits-all strategy, respect for core labour standards and rights at work was key, he said. For its part, the ILO’s Decent Work Agenda was widely recognized for its contribution to building sustainable economies and societies. Some important steps the ILO had taken included: adopting a new international labour standard in June, entitled recommendation concerning national floors of social protection; organizing 46 national and regional consultations with young people; and convening a major Youth Employment Forum in Geneva in May. As the crisis continued he said, “we must see these realities as an opportunity for the international community to usher in the necessary rebalancing of the global economy for strong and sustained growth, and to further advance the cause of global social justice.”
* *** *For information media • not an official record