Mr. Wu Hongbo Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Secretary-General for the International Conference on Small Island Developing States

Side event during the 52nd Session of the Commission for Social Development
“The Post-2015 World – Implications for Social Development”

Co-organized by the Shared Societies Project,
Club de Madrid and Division for Social Policy and Development, DESA

Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to open this side event, jointly organized by the Club de Madrid and Department for Economic and Social Affairs.  I extend a warm welcome to our distinguished panellists and to all of you.

The topic of this panel discussion, “the Post-2015 World – Implications for Social Development” – is very timely.

Indeed, Member States of the United Nations as well as citizens of the world, are actively engaged in the participatory process to elaborate the post-2015 global development agenda.

Defining a pathway towards sustainable development that will integrate social, economic and environmental dimensions in a balanced manner is at the core of our concern. No doubt, this will have great implications for social development, one of the three aspects of sustainable development.

As we witnessed in the recent past, the predominant focus on economic growth has led to development that is not always inclusive or sustainable.

While many countries have successfully lifted millions of people out of extreme poverty, close to a billion people still live in extreme poverty. Many more live just above the poverty line.

Income inequalities have risen within many countries. Disparities in education, health and other dimensions of human development remain large.  As do inequalities between rural and urban areas and among social groups. Economic shocks, social unrests, and environmental degradation compound the challenges we face.

Inequality undermines poverty reduction, economic growth and social and political stability. Thus, without addressing inequality, development cannot be sustainable. We know that efforts to equalize opportunities and foster the participation of all members of society do make a difference, as highlighted in the newly released DESA flagship publication Inequality Matters, the 2013 edition of the Report on the World Social Situation.

Ladies and gentlemen,

One thing we have learned from experience is that economic, social and environmental dimensions are all inter-linked, and addressing each dimension in isolation does not bring sustainable overall progress. It has become increasingly clear that unbalanced focus on one dimension will lead to unintended negative consequences in the long run.

Ultimately, it comes to the question of “development for whom?”  If economic growth is pursued at the expense of the environment, we are risking our current and future generations from leading a healthy life. Similarly, if economic growth benefits only certain segments of the population, social tensions may increase to create ground for social and political instability.

Thus, sustainable development must be inclusive. We must leave no one behind. To achieve inclusive development that is sustainable, people living in poverty need to be empowered to move out of poverty.

Access to decent work is a proven pathway to empowerment. So is adequate social protection to mitigate risks. Inclusive development also requires that the specific needs and concerns of marginalized groups and individuals be addressed, through their participation in the policy-making processes.  This inclusive, participatory and people-centred approach is essential in shifting towards sustainable development.

As the values and behaviours of people have contributed to unsustainable patterns of consumption and environmental degradation, changing the way people think and behave is necessary to enable sustainable development – not only socially, but also economically and environmentally.  Social drivers of sustainable development, therefore, should be looked at more carefully.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The post-2015 development agenda is expected to be a transformative agenda that will guide global efforts to achieve poverty eradication and sustainable development, with a single framework that is universally applicable to all countries, and with a set of goals and targets that are measurable.  Just before the opening of the Commission for Social Development, Co-Chairs of the Open Working Group held consultations to reach consensus on the way forward, based on the compendium of priority areas of sustainable development so far discussed. The Open Working Group will continue to build consensus and propose sustainable development goals at the beginning of the 69th session of the General Assembly this year. 

At this side event we will focus on “how” to equip ourselves to effectively address the challenges in the post-2015 world.  A common vision is being formulated, and many goals and targets are being proposed. The new agenda will require a multi-dimensional and cross-disciplinary approach to accommodate a new holistic development paradigm. What does this mean in practice?  What are the implications for social development?

These are critical questions. I am very happy to have distinguished panellists here with us, who will share their insights and stimulate our thinking.

I look forward to a lively dialogue.

Thank you.