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

Opening Remarks
Civil Society Forum to the 52nd session of the Commission for Social Development

Theme: The Role of Civil Society:
Empowerment for Inclusive and Transformative Development

Distinguished colleagues,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for the invitation to speak at the opening of this year’s Civil Society Forum.

I applaud this tradition of convening a gathering of civil society stakeholders prior to the opening of the Commission for Social Development. It brings the voices of civil society to this intergovernmental body. The Forum sets the tone for a productive, enriching and collaborative dialogue between civil society actors, Governments and UN system organizations.

I also commend your initiative and contribution to the international dialogue by way of your Civil Society Declaration. It echoes the calls of the international community to put in place a transformative post-2015 development agenda. And, to assure that such an agenda is seen as a moral imperative, based on core principles of justice and equity for people and our planet.

As we prepare for the coming policy deliberations of the Commission for Social Development, I would like to reiterate that empowerment of people will be essential to the success of the post-2015 global development agenda.

Empowerment focuses on people-centred development. It embraces the call for placing people at the centre of policies and programmes aimed at improving their situations and conditions.

Although we have made good progress in improving social development on a global scale, progress continues to be uneven. While many individuals and social groups have benefited from poverty reduction and social integration, others remain far behind. Inequality continues to plague our efforts.

The recently released DESA Flagship publication: “The Report on the World Social Situation” entitled: “Inequality Matters”, places special focus on policy related to disadvantaged social groups. It outlines the negative consequences of high inequality. It makes clear that reducing inequalities is a moral imperative that can reap benefits for all.

In many countries and regions, inequality is compromising the future prospects of large segments of society. It also limits their job prospects and participation in social, political and economic life.

Historically, inequalities have led to the consistent exclusion of women, youth, persons with disabilities, older persons, indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities, among others. Inequality undermines inclusive economic growth and environmental sustainability.

In recent years, the international community has increased its collective efforts to put people at the centre of development.

In 2012, the International Year of Cooperatives advocated for making people and their well-being the bottom line, including in the operation of successful businesses.

At the 2013 high-level meeting on disability and development, as well as at the high-level meeting on achieving the MDGs, Member States reiterated the need to ensure that the voices of all persons are heard, and that their perspectives and concerns are taken into account.

The 20th anniversary of the International Year of the Family, which takes place this year, highlights the need to empower families. Not only as beneficiaries, but also as agents of development.

This September, the first-ever World Conference on Indigenous Peoples will provide another unique opportunity to engage in open dialogue with indigenous peoples about matters that affect them, and to discuss their priorities for the future.

Thus, the involvement of all peoples, and the recognition and priorities of traditionally marginalized groups, is essential to securing a sustainable future for all. Participatory processes are key to ensure that the post-2015 development agenda responds to the needs and aspirations of all people.

The post-2015 agenda should create the conditions, both at the national and international levels, for people to empower themselves. Doing so, calls for building on MDG achievements, namely with regard to poverty, health and education. But it will also require addressing the root causes of poverty, including discrimination and social exclusion.

Empowered individuals and communities are agents of change. They enhance the prospects of achieving poverty eradication, social integration and full employment and decent work for all. They can help us realize the future we want for all.

I wish you all a productive -and empowering- Forum.

Thank you.