The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) opened its session on 4 October with a debate on social development, as part of the 65th session of the General Assembly.
Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, appealed to the Committee to put social integration and cohesion at the heart of its work. Effective and sustainable social development would require “inclusive policies that put people at the centre of development,” he said.
As the world slowly recovers from the global financial and economic crisis as well as food and fuel crises, the social impacts of the crises persist, warned the Under Secretary-General, pointing out that employment rates in advanced economies were not expected to return to pre-crisis levels before 2015.
He also drew attention to the millions of workers in developed countries who have been pushed to vulnerable employment, while all over the world poverty reduction has slowed and education and nutrition initiatives have been set back. “Achievement of sustained social development cannot be realized if the needs and challenges of social groups are not addressed,” he said.
Mr. Sha highlighted a number of challenges, including the rapid ageing of the world’s population, the situation of persons with disabilities, the status of indigenous peoples and the impact of the financial and economic crisis on young people.
Yemen’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said progress in social development had been “uneven and disappointing,” with 1.4 billion people currently living in extreme poverty.
His counterpart from Belgium, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said Europeans had had to undertake tough, painful measures to put their public finances in order and bring their economies back on track. He anticipated that international coordination would be important to economic recovery.
Several youth representatives spoke on behalf of their countries to stress the importance of including the views of youth when developing and implementing policies.
The reports of the Secretary-General were introduced by Jean-Pierre Gonnot, Acting Director of the Division of Social Policy and Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA).
Adama Ouane, Director of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Institute for Lifelong Learning, presented a report on the International Plan of Action for the United Nations Literacy Decade.