Mr. Wu Hongbo Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs

Remarks at the Expert Group Meeting on Promoting Empowerment of People in Achieving Poverty Eradication, Social Integration and Full Employment and Decent Work for All

Distinguished Experts

I am delighted to join you at this expert group meeting.

Normally, Under-Secretaries-General do not speak at expert group meetings.  They are for experts to attend.  Many would argue that USGs are no longer considered experts.  Despite this, I took the decision to come and share with you a few personal thoughts, because I think empowerment is an extremely important matter.  It has significant policy implications. 

Empowerment is critical to poverty eradication and to development. Indeed, I would even say that any long-term solution to poverty must start with empowerment.

The poor and vulnerable may need short-term assistance in times of crisis.  But we should not underestimate the power of initiative and ownership.  More often than not, poor people do not need charity.  They need policies and tools that empower them to lead productive lives.

In this regard, I want to compliment the organizers for selecting empowerment as the focus of this meeting.

The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development held in Rio de Janeiro in June this year, also known as Rio+20, adopted an action-oriented outcome document on “The Future We Want”. Many of the actions set forth in this historic outcome will advance people’s empowerment and development …. through:

  • poverty reduction;
  • job creation;
  • improved access to water, sanitation and energy;
  • public services such as education and better health care; and
  • social integration overall.

This expert group meeting is a timely opportunity for a thorough examination of how people can contribute to these efforts. 

The UN System is now mobilized to work together toward a future we want – toward a global agenda beyond 2015, with sustainable development at its core. In order to attain that future, we need to ensure that people have the opportunities they need to live better lives.

As a start, it is important to focus on actions that can institutionalize measures for empowerment, through improved access to resources, public services, including education and training, and through income generating opportunities, especially for women and youth.

Indeed, people’s aspirations are embodied in many national laws and international agreements. Measures to ensure compliance with these laws and agreements should be an integral part of development strategies.

At the same time, we must also harness the power of new communications tools and technologies. Access to information is a key means in holding Governments and others accountable. It also helps level the playing field for the young generation. 

Other tools are vital in helping to engage people more directly. Micro-credit programmes are among these, which help to facilitate greater empowerment opportunities for youth and women.

Countries around the world continue to celebrate the 2012 International Year of Cooperatives, and, indeed, the benefits that cooperatives deliver to the communities they serve.  The Year has raised public awareness of the power of cooperatives to advance economic and social development. And it has been particularly successful in helping to promote cooperatives as empowering, member-driven and community-oriented enterprises.

Your deliberations on these and other issues can contribute to those of the Commission for Social Development, which next year will address the issue of promoting empowerment of people in achieving poverty eradication, social integration and full employment and decent work for all. 

I am sure that your conclusions will help the Commission advance our understanding of the role of empowerment even further.

Going forward, let us be very clear: Empowerment is a key means to achieving sustainable development and other vital goals. But it also has a value in and of itself.  We must not lose sight of the need to empower all individuals and groups on our shared planet.

In the coming months, the United Nations will elaborate on a United Nations development agenda beyond 2015. Sustainable development agenda will be at the core of this post-2015 agenda.  As you know, sustainable development has three inter-linked dimensions – economic, social and environmental.  The social dimension has been considered weak in relation to the other two.  Moreover, unlike economic growth, the social dimension is more difficult to quantify.  But it is no less important.  I hope this expert group meeting will take this into account when you discuss empowerment.

I wish you success in your deliberations and I look forward to the summary of this meeting.  I promise you that I will read it from cover to cover.

Thank you.