|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference on Outcome of Forty-Eighth Commission for Social Development
Amid a climate of economic and financial insecurity, environmental peril and persistent social exclusion, the United Nations Commission for Social Development would endeavour during its current session to adopt resolutions that would help chart the future of social development policies within the framework of greater participation and accountability, that body’s Chairman said today.
Speaking at a Headquarters press conference, Leslie Kojo Christian (Ghana), Chairman of the Commission’s forty-eighth session, beginning today (see press release SOC/4758), said delegations from 46 nations and a host of civil society actors had gathered in New York and would spend the next two weeks trying to make a difference in the lives of people, especially the most disadvantaged and the most vulnerable groups and persons. “The stakes are high, but the needs are even greater,” he declared.
Accompanied by Francisco Moza, Secretary-General for Social Policy in the Ministry of Health and Social Policy of Spain, and Mawutor Ablo, Adviser on Social Development in the Ministry of Employment and Social Welfare of Ghana, he said social integration and its links to poverty eradication and productive employment would therefore be the Commission’s priority focus. Delegations also planned to tackle issues of disability, youth, older persons and the family, while also examining policy responses on employment and the social consequences of the financial and economic crisis, including its gender dimensions.
Noting that the Commission’s broad and challenging agenda was even tougher to promote because the concept of social integration was not widely understood or appreciated, Mr. Christian recalled that, at the 1995 Copenhagen Summit on Social Development, world leaders had envisioned a “society for all”, based on such principles as non-discrimination, respect for diversity, equality of opportunity and participation of all people. Social integration, poverty eradication and full and productive employment for all had been further endorsed as core pillars of social development and social policymaking, he added.
He said that although there had been some advances, such as the adoption of measures addressing the needs of women, youth, older persons, indigenous peoples and persons with disabilities, “we remain far from realizing the Copenhagen vision”. Millions of people around the world remained unable to meet their basic needs, powerless as well as voiceless. That was partly because social integration policies had been developed and adopted in a piecemeal fashion, with limited participation by representatives of the groups whose well-being such initiatives would affect.
With all that in mind, the Commission was expected to produce action-oriented policy measures for promoting social integration, he said, adding that, among other activities, it planned two high-level panel discussions. The first, taking place later today, would be devoted to commemorating the fifteenth anniversary of the Copenhagen Summit, with a focus on framing the way forward on the social development agenda, especially given the mixed response thus far in achieving the Summit’s goals. The second panel -– from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. tomorrow, 4 February -– would address the challenges and lessons learned from promoting social integration, and its relationship with poverty eradication and full employment and decent work for all.
The current session would provide a unique opportunity to spotlight the importance of social integration and socially inclusive policy to the achievement of various internationally agreed development goals, he said. “Even more significantly, the Commission’s policy outcomes will help to guide Governments as they develop national strategies to combat discrimination, intolerance, and injustice, in their efforts to build more socially inclusive societies.” While each national circumstance was different, the Commission would strive to focus on commonalities that united the world’s nations in the pursuit of a more stable, safe and just world, he stressed.
Mr Moza underscored the need to ensure social policy gaols that could ensure social integration for all peoples and groups. Keeping that objective in sight was more vital than ever with the fallout from the economic and financial crisis threatening to derail other development projects and initiatives. Spain had always believed that economic growth must be accompanied by specific measures for social inclusion, especially for vulnerable groups.
Noting that his country currently held the rotating Presidency of the European Union, he said many of the issues to be discussed by the Commission, especially the impact of the economic downturn on job creation and social integration and cohesion, were under serious consideration throughout Europe. For example, it was well known that the region’s population was ageing rapidly, and while it was a sign of progress that people were living longer and enjoying a better quality of life after the age of 65, Governments must work harder to ensure that elderly citizens were fully included in society. That meant, among other things, providing basic social services for elderly people, and perhaps even re-examining the sustainability of pension schemes.
Spain and the wider Europe were well aware of the importance of grass-roots participation, he said, emphasizing that the voice of civil society was critical to every phase of designing and implementing social policies. He also noted that 2010 was the European Year of Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion, and that the European Union member States were working towards a new economic model that would take advantage of new technologies, protect the environment and create jobs.
Spotlighting the path his country had taken, Mr. Ablo said the Government of Ghana had always pushed for common understanding and broad cooperation in designing and implementing social policy schemes. While Ghana’s economic growth had been born of economic reforms and structural adjustment programmes, the Government had realized that the benefits of such programmes were not being shared by everyone, especially vulnerable individuals and groups. Key ministries had therefore joined forces with civil society groups to identify ways to bolster social protections and promote social inclusion for all.
One successful example of such collaboration, he said, was the Livelihood Empowerment against Poverty initiative, which targeted extremely poor families, elderly persons over 65 and severely disabled persons without productive capacity. The experience of all relevant agencies and programmes, both inside the Government and out, had been marshalled to chart the way forward, and so far, more than 30,000 poor households were taking part in the initiative.
Through an exhaustively compiled registry, the scheme was also linking other individuals and families with relevant agencies providing assistance such as free insurance and school uniforms, Mr. Ablo said, adding that gender aspects had been mainstreamed into all those initiatives. Hopefully the Commission would adopt a similar approach, ensuring that a common understanding of key issues and challenges would help generate a commitment to developing policies and programmes that would promote social integration and the broader social development agenda.
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