Mr. Wu Hongbo Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs
Remarks at the Opening of the Third Committee of the General Assembly
8 October 2012, New York
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me start by extending my warm congratulations to you, Mr. Chairman, and other members of the Bureau on your election.
I look forward to working with you all. You can rest assured of DESA’s fullest cooperation and assistance in your work.
This committee is reviewing a full range of social development issues, from the ongoing challenges in tackling poverty and unemployment, to fostering social inclusion and advancing human rights.
Your work to find practical solutions to these challenges is imperative.
Let me share with you my thoughts on some of the critical issues impacting progress on social development.
The target date for meeting the Millennium Development Goals is fast approaching. Overall, much progress has been made.
Across the globe, the proportion of persons living in extreme poverty continues to fall.
According to recent estimates, the world has met the target of cutting the global rate of extreme poverty to half its 1990 level.
This achievement has been bolstered by significant improvements in other areas.
We have met several global targets – halving the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water, reducing the prevalence of diseases, improving access to healthcare, reducing child mortality, and ensuring that girls have the same opportunity as boys to attend school.
The significance of these achievements should not be underestimated.
A child who is able to read is a future leader; a mother in good health is an Entrepreneur-in-Waiting.
Even as we acknowledge these accomplishments, we must recognize the multi-faceted challenges ahead.
None is more daunting than rising inequality, and its impact on vulnerable groups.
Since 1990, 62 out of 116 countries with available data have shown increased income inequality, slowing progress in poverty reduction, and jeopardizing prospects for sustained growth.
The global jobs crisis has hit youth the hardest. Young women and men represent 40 per cent of the 200 million jobless people worldwide. They are nearly three times more likely than adults to be jobless.
A large proportion of women continue to face social and economic discrimination and disempowerment, with limited access to education and other basic services.
Poverty and disadvantage continue to be a disproportionate challenge to indigenous peoples around the world, often exacerbated by lack of access to services.
Children, older persons and persons with disabilities are facing reduced social protection as a result of cuts in social spending.
Many families have been struggling to shield their members from the ongoing repercussions of the socio-economic crises.
What is the way forward?
At Rio+20, member States recognized that moving development forward – in an equitable and inclusive way – requires opportunities.
First, decisive steps must be taken to create opportunities for jobs – to realize full employment and decent work for all – on a sustainable basis.
Particular attention must be paid to youth employment and effective school-to-work transitions.
Let us think outside the box. Options are available, including initiatives by the cooperative enterprise model.
Second, we must do more to empower women. We need to ensure that social and economic policies are designed with women’s rights and interests in mind. No society will flourish if women are not empowered.
Third, we must tackle rising inequalities and address the impact on the vulnerable groups.
Specifically, we must ensure
- that persons with disabilities are provided with access to education, employment, healthcare and social and legal support.
- the work started by the General Assembly on the rights of older persons continues. Ten years after the adoption of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing, the economic and social potential of older persons must be truly acted upon.
- that we continue to pursue the full and effective implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
And fourth, we must continue to ensure effective systems of social protection, recognizing their value in stabilizing economies and providing a buffer to the effects of economic downturn, especially for families.
As the time for achieving the Millennium Development Goals draws near, the international community is working to accelerate their progress. This is our priority, first and foremost.
Indeed, the preparations for a post-2015 development agenda will build on the successes – and lessons learned – of the MDGs.
It will also draw on input from the full range of partners, and will hold at its core sustainable development, including its social dimensions. We look forward to the Committee’s guidance on the post-2015 development agenda.
I am confident that this session will succeed in meeting its complex responsibilities.
My Department and I will be privileged to do our best to facilitate the important work of your Committee.