Mr. Wu Hongbo Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Secretary-General for the International Conference on Small Island Developing States
Opening Session of the 52nd Session of the Commission for Social Development
11 February 2014, New York
President of the Economic and Social Council,
Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a distinct pleasure for me to address the Commission for Social Development at the opening of its 52nd session.
The Commission for Social Development can take pride in the progress made towards implementing the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development. This Commission has been instrumental in bringing people’s needs and aspirations to the forefront of development.
Poverty rates have fallen dramatically, working poverty is declining, and the voices of historically excluded social groups are contributing to national and international agendas.
Yet challenges remain:
We continue to confront the social impacts of the global economic crisis, amidst a weak recovery and harsh fiscal austerity.
Unemployment and underemployment continue to affect millions of people, with young people remain particularly vulnerable.
Our world is also witnessing the unprecedented global phenomenon of population aging. Yet, critical issues related to the social and economic integration of older persons have not received the policy attention they deserve.
These common concerns need to be addressed in their totality.
We need to eradicate poverty while fighting against the growing inequality. We need to create more productive and decent jobs amidst daunting labour markets. We need to take actions to address concerns of an aging population.
The Commission for Social Development has the weighty responsibility of advancing the social pillar in achieving sustainable development.
I invite you to continue to assess these critical social issues and to put forth coherent and universal policies aimed at reducing vulnerability and developing greater resilience.
In doing so, our attention should be given first and foremost to the issue of inequality, which in many case, is a major cause for social turbulence worldwide.
Too often, prosperity within countries is limited to the privileged few. Today, 7 out of 10 people live in countries where income inequality has increased.
Inequalities undermine poverty reduction, economic growth and social mobility. They harm not just those who are excluded, but all members of society.
With high and growing inequalities, development cannot be sustained. But as shown in the newly released 2013 Report on the World Social Situation, a right mix of social policies can curb inequality. Efforts to equalize opportunities and foster participation do make a difference.
People’s empowerment is at the core of the work of this Commission. The empowerment of people and the overarching goals of social development are mutually reinforcing. After all, it is empowered individuals and social groups who will achieve development that is sustainable, inclusive and equitable.
Governments can create the conditions that allow people to empower themselves to access decent work, achieve social integration, and escape poverty.
Investing in social protection, ensuring equal access to quality education, skills development, accessible health care and creation of decent jobs are important means of promoting empowerment.
2014 marks the 20th anniversary of the International Year of the Family. Experience shows that focusing on families can help solve many persistent development challenges such as the intergenerational transfer of poverty and inequality. The continued exchange of national good practices in this area should be facilitated at the international and regional levels.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The deadline for achieving Millennium Development Goals is approaching fast. We are embarking on a new development agenda whose goals, targets and timeframe are yet to be fully elaborated.
The Commission has before it the opportunity to accelerate efforts to meet the MDGs. And, to contribute to the formulation of a bold development agenda beyond 2015.
The post-2015 development agenda calls for a single development framework with poverty reduction and sustainable development at its core. Development, however, will only be fully sustainable when its economic, environmental and social dimensions are integrated in a balanced way. It is therefore vital that we discuss how social policy can support the economic and environmental changes that lead to sustainable development.
I invite the Commission to explore means to strengthen the social pillar in its discussions and to advise on how social policies can contribute to the sustainable future we want.
I look forward to the Commission’s deliberations and outcomes.