Commission for Social Development focuses on empowerment


When the Commission for Social Development meets for its 52nd session from 11 to 21 February at UN Headquarters in New York, it will focus on the priority theme of “Promoting empowerment of people in achieving poverty eradication, social integration and full employment and decent work for all”.

The United Nations has long held empowerment at the core of its development efforts, but the 52nd Commission will make history in explicitly and specifically targeting the issue. During the session, the Commission is expected to adopt for the first time in the United Nations history a resolution on empowerment of people in the context of social development.

“Promoting empowerment is essential not only for social development, but for all three dimensions of sustainable development. When people are empowered they are better prepared to take advantage of opportunities. They can create, build, invest and innovate. When people are empowered, they become agents of change,” UN DESA’s Under-Secretary-General Mr. Wu Hongbo said at the Commission’s 51st Session on 6 February 2013.

High-level panel discussions

On Tuesday, 11 February from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm, a high-level panel discussion will be held on the priority theme allowing Member States, civil society organizations and other key stakeholders to engage in a substantive dialogue on policies and strategies that effectively promote empowerment and its role in facilitating other social development goals. This dialogue aims to inform national and international policy debates, including the ongoing debates on the post-2015 international development agenda and the future sustainable development goals.

“Promoting empowerment is essential not only for social development, but for all three dimensions of sustainable development”

Wu Hongbo
UN DESA’s Under-Secretary-General

A second high-level panel discussion will take place on Thursday, 13 February from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm, focusing on the Family in Observance of the Twentieth Anniversary of the International Year of the Family, 2014. The panel will present regional achievements in family policy development and their contribution to overall development efforts. It will also reflect on how to anchor family policy development in the post-2015 development agenda.

A third panel discussion on emerging issues will be held on Friday, 14 February from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm, taking aim at the social drivers of sustainable development. The panel will engage in an interactive dialogue with Member States to explore ideas and exchange views on which social policies should be enhanced to strengthen the linkages among the social, environmental and economic pillars of sustainable development.

Special Rapporteur on Disability to address Commission

The Special Rapporteur on Disability, Mr. Shuaib Chalklen will address the Commission on Thursday, 13 February. As Special Rapporteur, Mr. Chalken establishes a direct dialogue with Member States and with local non-governmental organizations and experts, seeking their views and comments on issues affecting persons with disabilities in the context of social development.

Also on the Commission’s agenda is the consideration of matters relating to social groups and review of various reports of the Secretary-General, including on promoting empowerment of people in achieving poverty eradication, social integration and full employment and decent work for all, review and appraisal of the Madrid International Plan of Action on ageing, policies and programmes involving youth, mainstreaming disability in the development agenda towards 2015 and beyond and the preparation and observance of the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family.

Bringing together civil society actors

A Civil Society Forum will be convened on Monday, 10 February under the theme “The Role of Civil Society: Empowerment for Inclusive and Transformative Development,” as it relates to the priority theme of the Commission, as well as to the discussions related to preparation of the post-2015 development framework. Held a day prior to the opening of the Commission, the Forum has set a tradition of bringing together prominent civil society actors, representatives of Member States and officials of the United Nations to reflect on a key issue relevant to the work of the current session. It will present its conclusions to the Commission at its opening session. In addition, more than 30 side-events, covering a range of relevant topics in regard to social development, will be organized during the Commission.

Established in 1946, the Commission is a functional body of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Its 46 members are elected for terms of office of four years on the following basis: 12 from the African States; 10 from the Asia-Pacific States; 5 from the Eastern European States; 9 from the Latin American and Caribbean States; and 10 from the Western European and other States. As a result of the World Summit for Social Development (Copenhagen, 1995), the mandate of the Commission was reviewed and its membership expanded from 31 to 46 members in 1996.

The Commission has been the key United Nations body in charge of the follow-up and implementation of the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action. Each year since 1995, the Commission has taken up key social development themes as part of its follow-up. 

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