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World Summit for Social Development
Programme of Action - Chapter 2

Economic and Social Development at the United Nations

United Nations : Department of Economic and Social Affairs : Gateway to Social Policy and Development : Social Summit : Agreements



Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development:
Part A
Part B
Part C

Programme of Action of the World Summit for Social Development
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5



Chapter 2: Eradication of Poverty

Basis for action and objectives

18. Over 1 billion people in the world today live under unacceptable conditions of poverty, mostly in developing countries, and particularly in rural areas of low-income Asia and the Pacific, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the least developed countries.

19. Poverty has various manifestations, including lack of income and productive resources sufficient to ensure sustainable livelihoods; hunger and malnutrition; ill health; limited or lack of access to education and other basic services; increased morbidity and mortality from illness; homelessness and inadequate housing; unsafe environments; and social discrimination and exclusion. It is also characterized by a lack of participation in decision-making and in civil, social and cultural life. It occurs in all countries: as mass poverty in many developing countries, pockets of poverty amid wealth in developed countries, loss of livelihoods as a result of economic recession, sudden poverty as a result of disaster or conflict, the poverty of low-wage workers, and the utter destitution of people who fall outside family support systems, social institutions and safety nets. Women bear a disproportionate burden of poverty, and children growing up in poverty are often permanently disadvantaged. Older people, people with disabilities, indigenous people, refugees and internally displaced persons are also particularly vulnerable to poverty. Furthermore, poverty in its various forms represents a barrier to communication and access to services, as well as a major health risk, and people living in poverty are particularly vulnerable to the consequences of disasters and conflicts. Absolute poverty is a condition characterized by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information. It depends not only on income but also on access to social services.

20. There is general agreement that persistent widespread poverty, as well as serious social and gender inequities, have significant influences on and are in turn influenced by demographic parameters, such as population growth, structure and distribution. There is also general agreement that unsustainable consumption and production patterns are contributing to the unsustainable use of natural resources and environmental degradation, as well as to the reinforcement of social inequities and poverty, with the above-mentioned consequences for demographic parameters.

21. Urban poverty is rapidly increasing in pace with overall urbanization. It is a growing phenomenon in all countries and regions, and often poses special problems, such as overcrowding, contaminated water and bad sanitation, unsafe shelter, crime and additional social problems. An increasing number of low-income urban households are female-maintained.

22. Among people living in poverty, gender disparities are marked, especially in the increase in female-maintained households. With increasing population, the numbers of youth living in poverty will increase significantly. Therefore, specific measures are needed to address the juvenilization and feminization of poverty.

23. Poverty has various causes, including structural ones. Poverty is a complex multidimensional problem with origins in both the national and international domains. No uniform solution can be found for global application. Rather, country-specific programmes to tackle poverty and international efforts supporting national efforts, as well as the parallel process of creating a supportive international environment, are crucial for a solution to this problem. Poverty is inseparably linked to lack of control over resources, including land, skills, knowledge, capital and social connections. Without those resources, people are easily neglected by policy makers and have limited access to institutions, markets, employment and public services. The eradication of poverty cannot be accomplished through anti-poverty programmes alone but will require democratic participation and changes in economic structures in order to ensure access for all to resources, opportunities and public services, to undertake policies geared to more equitable distribution of wealth and income, to provide social protection for those who cannot support themselves, and to assist people confronted by unforeseen catastrophe, whether individual or collective, natural, social or technological.

24. The eradication of poverty requires universal access to economic opportunities that will promote sustainable livelihood and basic social services, as well as special efforts to facilitate access to opportunities and services for the disadvantaged. People living in poverty and vulnerable groups must be empowered through organization and participation in all aspects of political, economic and social life, in particular in the planning and implementation of policies that affect them, thus enabling them to become genuine partners in development.

25. There is therefore an urgent need for:

  • National strategies to reduce overall poverty substantially, including measures to remove the structural barriers that prevent people from escaping poverty, with specific time-bound commitments to eradicate absolute poverty by a target date to be specified by each country in its national context;

  • Stronger international cooperation and the support of international institutions to assist countries in their efforts to eradicate poverty and to provide basic social protection and services;

  • Development of methods to measure all forms of poverty, especially absolute poverty, and to assess and monitor the circumstances of those at risk, within the national context;

  • Regular national reviews of economic policies and national budgets to orient them towards eradicating poverty and reducing inequalities;

  • Expanded opportunities to enable people living in poverty to enhance their overall capacities and improve their economic and social conditions, while managing resources sustainably;

  • Human resource development and improved infrastructural facilities;

  • Comprehensive provision for the basic needs of all;

  • Policies ensuring that all people have adequate economic and social protection during unemployment, ill health, maternity, disability and old age;

  • Policies that strengthen the family and contribute to its stability in accordance with the principles, goals and commitments contained in the Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development and in the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development; 11/

  • Mobilization of both the public and the private sectors, more developed areas, educational and academic institutions and non-governmental organizations to assist poverty-stricken areas.


A. Formulation of integrated strategies

26. Governments should give greater focus to public efforts to eradicate absolute poverty and to reduce overall poverty substantially by:

(a) Promoting sustained economic growth, in the context of sustainable development, and social progress, requiring that growth be broadly based, offering equal opportunities to all people. All countries should recognize their common but differentiated responsibilities. The developed countries acknowledge the responsibility they bear in the international pursuit of sustainable development, and should continue to improve their efforts to promote sustained economic growth and to narrow imbalances in a manner that can benefit all countries, particularly the developing countries;

(b) Formulating or strengthening, preferably by 1996, and implementing national poverty eradication plans to address the structural causes of poverty, encompassing action on the local, national, subregional, regional and international levels. These plans should establish, within each national context, strategies and affordable time-bound goals and targets for the substantial reduction of overall poverty and the eradication of absolute poverty. In the context of national plans, particular attention should be given to employment creation as a means of eradicating poverty, giving appropriate consideration to health and education, assigning a higher priority to basic social services, generating household income, and promoting access to productive assets and economic opportunities;

(c) Identifying the livelihood systems, survival strategies and self-help organizations of people living in poverty and working with such organizations to develop programmes for combating poverty that build on their efforts, ensuring the full participation of the people concerned and responding to their actual needs;

(d) Elaborating, at the national level, the measurements, criteria and indicators for determining the extent and distribution of absolute poverty. Each country should develop a precise definition and assessment of absolute poverty, preferably by 1996, the International Year for the Eradication of Poverty; 12/

(e) Establishing policies, objectives and measurable targets to enhance and broaden women's economic opportunities and their access to productive resources, particularly women who have no source of income;

(f) Promoting effective enjoyment by all people of civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights, and access to existing social protection and public services, in particular through encouraging the ratification and ensuring the full implementation of relevant human rights instruments, such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 13/ and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; 13/

(g) Eliminating the injustice and obstacles that women are faced with, and encouraging and strengthening the participation of women in taking decisions and in implementing them, as well as their access to productive resources and land ownership and their right to inherit goods;

(h) Encouraging and supporting local community development projects that foster the skill, self-reliance and self-confidence of people living in poverty and that facilitate their active participation in efforts to eradicate poverty.

27. Governments are urged to integrate goals and targets for combating poverty into overall economic and social policies and planning at the local, national and, where appropriate, regional levels by:

(a) Analysing policies and programmes, including those relating to macroeconomic stability, structural adjustment programmes, taxation, investments, employment, markets and all relevant sectors of the economy, with respect to their impact on poverty and inequality, assessing their impact on family well-being and conditions, as well as their gender implications, and adjusting them, as appropriate, to promote a more equitable distribution of productive assets, wealth, opportunities, income and services;

(b) Redesigning public investment policies that relate to infrastructure development, the management of natural resources and human resource development to benefit people living in poverty and to promote their compatibility with the long-term improvement of livelihoods;

(c) Ensuring that development policies benefit low-income communities and rural and agricultural development;

(d) Selecting, wherever possible, development schemes that do not displace local populations, and designing an appropriate policy and legal framework to compensate the displaced for their losses, to help them to re-establish their livelihoods and to promote their recovery from social and cultural disruption;

(e) Designing and implementing environmental protection and resource management measures that take into account the needs of people living in poverty and vulnerable groups in accordance with Agenda 21 and the various consensus agreements, conventions and programmes of action adopted in the framework of the follow-up to the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development;

(f) Establishing and strengthening, as appropriate, mechanisms for the coordination of efforts to combat poverty, in collaboration with civil society, including the private sector, and developing integrated intersectoral and intra-governmental responses for such purposes.

28. People living in poverty and their organizations should be empowered by:

(a) Involving them fully in the setting of targets and in the design, implementation, monitoring and assessment of national strategies and programmes for poverty eradication and community-based development, and ensuring that such programmes reflect their priorities;

(b) Integrating gender concerns in the planning and implementation of policies and programmes for the empowerment of women;

(c) Ensuring that policies and programmes affecting people living in poverty respect their dignity and culture and make full use of their knowledge, skills and resourcefulness;

(d) Strengthening education at all levels and ensuring the access to education of people living in poverty, in particular their access to primary education and other basic education opportunities;

(e) Encouraging and assisting people living in poverty to organize so that their representatives can participate in economic and social policy-making and work more effectively with governmental, non-governmental and other relevant institutions to obtain the services and opportunities they need;

(f) Placing special emphasis on capacity-building and community-based management;

(g) Educating people about their rights, the political system and the availability of programmes.

29. There is a need to periodically monitor, assess and share information on the performance of poverty eradication plans, evaluate policies to combat poverty, and promote an understanding and awareness of poverty and its causes and consequences. This could be done, by Governments, inter alia, through:

(a) Developing, updating and disseminating specific and agreed gender- disaggregated indicators of poverty and vulnerability, including income, wealth, nutrition, physical and mental health, education, literacy, family conditions, unemployment, social exclusion and isolation, homelessness, landlessness and other factors, as well as indicators of the national and international causes underlying poverty; for this purpose, gathering comprehensive and comparable data, disaggregated by ethnicity, gender, disability, family status, language groupings, regions and economic and social sectors;

(b) Monitoring and assessing the achievement of goals and targets agreed to in international forums in the area of social development; evaluating, quantitatively and qualitatively, changes in poverty levels, the persistence of poverty, and vulnerability to poverty, particularly concerning household income levels and access to resources and services; and assessing the effectiveness of poverty eradication strategies, based on the priorities and perceptions of households living in poverty and low-income communities;

(c) Strengthening international data collection and statistical systems to support countries in monitoring social development goals, and encouraging the expansion of international databases to incorporate socially beneficial activities that are not included in available data, such as women's unremunerated work and contributions to society, the informal economy and sustainable livelihoods;

(d) Mobilizing public awareness, in particular through educational institutions, non-governmental organizations and the media, to enable society to prioritize the struggle against poverty, while focusing attention on progress or failure in the pursuit of defined goals and targets;

(e) Mobilizing the resources of universities and research institutions to improve the understanding of the causes of poverty and their solutions, as well as the impact of structural adjustment measures on people living in poverty and the effectiveness of anti-poverty strategies and programmes, strengthening the capacity for social science research in developing countries and integrating, as appropriate, the results of research into decision-making processes;

(f) Facilitating and promoting the exchange of knowledge and experience, especially among developing countries, through, inter alia, subregional and regional organizations.

30. Members of the international community should, bilaterally or through multilateral organizations, foster an enabling environment for poverty eradication by:

(a) Coordinating policies and programmes to support the measures being taken in the developing countries, particularly in Africa and the least developed countries, to eradicate poverty, provide remunerative work and strengthen social integration in order to meet basic social development goals and targets;

(b) Promoting international cooperation to assist developing countries, at their request, in their efforts, in particular at the community level, towards achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women;

(c) Strengthening the capacities of developing countries to monitor the progress of national poverty eradication plans and to assess the impact of national and international policies and programmes on people living in poverty and address their negative impacts;

(d) Strengthening the capacity of countries with economies in transition to develop their social protection systems and social policies for, inter alia, the reduction of poverty;

(e) Addressing the special needs of small island developing States with respect to eradicating poverty and meeting poverty eradication goals and targets, within the context of social development programmes that reflect their national priorities;

(f) Addressing the problems faced by the land-locked developing countries in eradicating poverty and supporting their efforts aimed at social development;

(g) Supporting societies disrupted by conflict in their efforts to rebuild their social protection systems and eradicate poverty.

B. Improved access to productive resources and infrastructure

31. The opportunities for income generation, diversification of activities and increase of productivity in low-income and poor communities should be enhanced by:

(a) Improving the availability and accessibility of transportation, communication, power and energy services at the local or community level, in particular for isolated, remote and marginalized communities;

(b) Ensuring that investments in infrastructure support sustainable development at the local or community levels;

(c) Emphasizing the need for developing countries that are heavily dependent on primary commodities to continue to promote a domestic policy and an institutional environment that encourage diversification and enhance competitiveness;

(d) Supporting the importance of commodity diversification as a means to increase the export revenues of developing countries and to improve their competitiveness in the face of the persistent instability in the price of some primary commodities and the general deterioration in the terms of trade;

(e) Promoting, including by micro-enterprises, rural non-farm production and service activities, such as agro-processing, sales and services of agricultural equipment and inputs, irrigation, credit services and other income-generating activities through, inter alia, supportive laws and administrative measures, credit policies, and technical and administrative training;

(f) Strengthening and improving financial and technical assistance for community-based development and self-help programmes, and strengthening cooperation among Governments, community organizations, cooperatives, formal and informal banking institutions, private enterprises and international agencies, with the aim of mobilizing local savings, promoting the creation of local financial networks, and increasing the availability of credit and market information to small entrepreneurs, small farmers and other low-income self-employed workers, with particular efforts to ensure the availability of such services to women;

(g) Strengthening organizations of small farmers, landless tenants and labourers, other small producers, fisherfolk, community-based and workers' cooperatives, especially those run by women, in order to, inter alia, improve market access and increase productivity, provide inputs and technical advice, promote cooperation in production and marketing operations, and strengthen participation in the planning and implementation of rural development;

(h) Promoting national and international assistance in providing economically viable alternatives for social groups, especially farmers involved in the cultivation and processing of crops used for the illegal drug trade;

(i) Improving the competitiveness of natural products with environmental advantages and strengthening the impact that this could have on promoting sustainable consumption and production patterns, and strengthening and improving financial and technical assistance to the developing countries for research and development of such products;

(j) Promoting comprehensive rural development, including by land reform, land improvement and economic diversification;

(k) Improving economic opportunities for rural women through the elimination of legal, social, cultural and practical obstacles to women's participation in economic activities and ensuring that women have equal access to productive resources.

32. Rural poverty should be addressed by:

(a) Expanding and improving land ownership through such measures as land reform and improving the security of land tenure, and ensuring the equal rights of women and men in this respect, developing new agricultural land, promoting fair land rents, making land transfers more efficient and fair, and adjudicating land disputes;

(b) Promoting fair wages and improving the conditions of agricultural labour, and increasing the access of small farmers to water, credit, extension services and appropriate technology, including for women, persons with disabilities and vulnerable groups on the basis of equality;

(c) Strengthening measures and actions designed to improve the social, economic and living conditions in rural areas and thereby discouraging rural exodus;

(d) Promoting opportunities for small farmers and other agricultural, forestry and fishery workers on terms that respect sustainable development;

(e) Improving access to markets and market information in order to enable small producers to obtain better prices for their products and pay better prices for the materials they need;

(f) Protecting, within the national context, the traditional rights to land and other resources of pastoralists, fishery workers and nomadic and indigenous people, and strengthening land management in the areas of pastoral or nomadic activity, building on traditional communal practices, controlling encroachment by others, and developing improved systems of range management and access to water, markets, credit, animal production, veterinary services, health including health services, education and information;

(g) Promoting education, research and development on farming systems and smallholder cultivation and animal husbandry techniques, particularly in environmentally fragile areas, building on local and traditional practices of sustainable agriculture and taking particular advantage of women's knowledge;

(h) Strengthening agricultural training and extension services to promote a more effective use of existing technologies and indigenous knowledge systems and to disseminate new technologies in order to reach both men and women farmers and other agricultural workers, including through the hiring of more women as extension workers;

(i) Promoting infrastructural and institutional investment in small-scale farming in resource-poor regions so that small-scale farmers can fully explore market opportunities, within the context of liberalization.

33. Access to credit by small rural or urban producers, landless farmers and other people with low or no income should be substantially improved, with special attention to the needs of women and disadvantaged and vulnerable groups, by:

(a) Reviewing national legal, regulatory and institutional frameworks that restrict the access of people living in poverty, especially women, to credit on reasonable terms;

(b) Promoting realistic targets for access to affordable credit, where appropriate;

(c) Providing incentives for improving access to and strengthening the capacities of the organized credit system to deliver credit and related services to people living in poverty and vulnerable groups;

(d) Expanding financial networks, building on existing community networks, promoting attractive opportunities for savings and ensuring equitable access to credit at the local level.

34. Urban poverty should further be addressed by:

(a) Promoting and strengthening micro-enterprises, new small businesses, cooperative enterprises, and expanded market and other employment opportunities and, where appropriate, facilitating the transition from the informal to the formal sector;

(b) Promoting sustainable livelihoods for people living in urban poverty through the provision or expansion of access to training, education and other employment assistance services, in particular for women, youth, the unemployed and the underemployed;

(c) Promoting public and private investments to improve for the deprived the overall human environment and infrastructure, in particular housing, water and sanitation, and public transportation;

(d) Ensuring that strategies for shelter give special attention to women and children, bearing in mind the perspectives of women in the development of such strategies;

(e) Promoting social and other essential services, including, where necessary, assistance for people to move to areas that offer better employment opportunities, housing, education, health and other social services;

(f) Ensuring safety through effective criminal justice administration and protective measures that are responsive to the needs and concerns of the community;

(g) Strengthening the role and expanding the means of municipal authorities, non-governmental organizations, universities and other educational institutions, businesses and community organizations, enabling them to be more actively involved in urban planning, policy development and implementation;

(h) Ensuring that special measures are taken to protect the displaced, the homeless, street children, unaccompanied minors and children in special and difficult circumstances, orphans, adolescents and single mothers, people with disabilities, and older persons, and to ensure that they are integrated into their communities.

C. Meeting the basic human needs of all

35. Governments, in partnership with all other development actors, in particular with people living in poverty and their organizations, should cooperate to meet the basic human needs of all, including people living in poverty and vulnerable groups, by:

(a) Ensuring universal access to basic social services, with particular efforts to facilitate access by people living in poverty and vulnerable groups;

(b) Creating public awareness that the satisfaction of basic human needs is an essential element of poverty reduction; these needs are closely interrelated and comprise nutrition, health, water and sanitation, education, employment, housing and participation in cultural and social life;

(c) Ensuring full and equal access to social services, especially education, legal services and health-care services for women of all ages and children, recognizing the rights, duties and responsibilities of parents and other persons legally responsible for children, consistent with the Convention on the Rights of the Child;

(d) Ensuring that due priority is given and adequate resources made available, at the national, regional and international levels, to combat the threat to individual and public health posed by the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS globally and by the re-emergence of major diseases, such as tuberculosis, malaria, onchocerciasis (river blindness) and diarrhoeal diseases, in particular cholera;

(e) Taking particular actions to enhance the productive capacities of indigenous people, ensuring their full and equal access to social services and their participation in the elaboration and implementation of policies that affect their development, with full respect for their cultures, languages, traditions and forms of social organizations, as well as their own initiatives;

(f) Providing appropriate social services to enable vulnerable people and people living in poverty to improve their lives, to exercise their rights and to participate fully in all social, economic and political activities and to contribute to social and economic development;

(g) Recognizing that improving people's health is inseparably linked to a sound environment;

(h) Ensuring physical access to all basic social services for persons who are older, disabled or home-bound;

(i) Ensuring that people living in poverty have full and equal access to justice, including knowledge of their rights and, as appropriate, through the provision of free legal assistance. The legal system should be made more sensitive and responsive to the needs and special circumstances of vulnerable and disadvantaged groups in order to ensure a strong and independent administration of justice;

(j) Promoting full restorative services, in particular for those who require institutional care or are home-bound, and a comprehensive array of community-based, long-term care services for those facing loss of independence.

36. Governments should implement the commitments that have been made to meet the basic needs of all, with assistance from the international community consistent with chapter V of the present Programme of Action, including, inter alia, the following:

(a) By the year 2000, universal access to basic education and completion of primary education by at least 80 per cent of primary school-age children; closing the gender gap in primary and secondary school education by the year 2005; universal primary education in all countries before the year 2015;

(b) By the year 2000, life expectancy of not less than 60 years in any country;

(c) By the year 2000, reduction of mortality rates of infants and children under five years of age by one third of the 1990 level, or 50 to 70 per 1,000 live births, whichever is less; by the year 2015, achievement of an infant mortality rate below 35 per 1,000 live births and an under-five mortality rate below 45 per 1,000;

(d) By the year 2000, a reduction in maternal mortality by one half of the 1990 level; by the year 2015, a further reduction by one half;

(e) Achieving food security by ensuring a safe and nutritionally adequate food supply, at both the national and international levels, a reasonable degree of stability in the supply of food, as well as physical, social and economic access to enough food for all, while reaffirming that food should not be used as a tool for political pressure;

(f) By the year 2000, a reduction of severe and moderate malnutrition among children under five years of age by half of the 1990 level;

(g) By the year 2000, attainment by all peoples of the world of a level of health that will permit them to lead a socially and economically productive life, and to this end, ensuring primary health care for all;

(h) Making accessible through the primary health-care system reproductive health to all individuals of appropriate ages as soon as possible and no later than the year 2015, in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development, and taking into account the reservations and declarations made at that Conference, especially those concerning the need for parental guidance and parental responsibility;

(i) Strengthening efforts and increasing commitments with the aim, by the year 2000, of reducing malaria mortality and morbidity by at least 20 per cent compared to 1995 levels in at least 75 per cent of affected countries, as well as reducing social and economic losses due to malaria in the developing countries, especially in Africa, where the overwhelming majority of both cases and deaths occur;

(j) By the year 2000, eradicating, eliminating or controlling major diseases constituting global health problems, in accordance with paragraph 6.12 of Agenda 21; 2/

(k) Reducing the adult illiteracy rate - the appropriate age group to be determined in each country - to at least half its 1990 level, with an emphasis on female literacy; achieving universal access to quality education, with particular priority being given to primary and technical education and job training, combating illiteracy, and eliminating gender disparities in access to, retention in and support for education;

(l) Providing, on a sustainable basis, access to safe drinking water in sufficient quantities, and proper sanitation for all;

(m) Improving the availability of affordable and adequate shelter for all, in accordance with the Global Strategy for Shelter to the Year 2000; 14/

(n) Monitoring the implementation of those commitments at the highest appropriate level and considering the possibility of expediting their implementation through the dissemination of sufficient and accurate statistical data and appropriate indicators.

37. Access to social services for people living in poverty and vulnerable groups should be improved through:

(a) Facilitating access and improving the quality of education for people living in poverty by establishing schools in unserved areas, providing social services, such as meals and health care, as incentives for families in poverty to keep children in school, and improving the quality of schools in low-income communities;

(b) Expanding and improving opportunities for continuing education and training by means of public and private initiatives and non-formal education in order to improve opportunities for people living in poverty, including people with disabilities, and in order to develop the skills and knowledge that they need to better their conditions and livelihoods;

(c) Expanding and improving preschool education, both formal and non-formal, including through new learning technologies, radio and television, to overcome some of the disadvantages faced by young children growing up in poverty;

(d) Ensuring that people living in poverty and low-income communities have access to quality health care that provides primary health-care services, consistent with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development, free of charge or at affordable rates;

(e) Promoting cooperation among government agencies, health-care workers, non-governmental organizations, women's organizations and other institutions of civil society in order to develop a comprehensive national strategy for improving reproductive health care and child health-care services and ensuring that people living in poverty have full access to those services, including, inter alia, education and services on family planning, safe motherhood and prenatal and postnatal care, and the benefits of breast-feeding, consistent with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development;

(f) Encouraging health-care workers to work in low-income communities and rural areas, and providing outreach services to make health care available to otherwise unserved areas, recognizing that investing in a primary health-care system that ensures prevention, treatment and rehabilitation for all individuals is an effective means of promoting social and economic development as well as broad participation in society.

D. Enhanced social protection and reduced vulnerability

38. Social protection systems should be based on legislation and, as appropriate, strengthened and expanded, as necessary, in order to protect from poverty people who cannot find work; people who cannot work due to sickness, disability, old age or maternity, or to their caring for children and sick or older relatives; families that have lost a breadwinner through death or marital breakup; and people who have lost their livelihoods due to natural disasters or civil violence, wars or forced displacement. Due attention should be given to people affected by the human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) pandemic. Actions to this end should include:

(a) Strengthening and expanding programmes targeted to those in need, programmes providing universal basic protection, and social security insurance programmes, with the choice of programmes depending on national financial and administrative capacities;

(b) Developing, where necessary, a strategy for a gradual expansion of social protection programmes that provide social security for all, according to a schedule and terms and conditions related to national contexts;

(c) Ensuring that social safety nets associated with economic restructuring are considered as complementary strategies to overall poverty reduction and an increase in productive employment. Short term by nature, safety nets must protect people living in poverty and enable them to find productive employment;

(d) Designing social protection and support programmes to help people become self-sufficient as fully and quickly as possible, to assist and protect families, to reintegrate people excluded from economic activity and to prevent the social isolation or stigmatization of those who need protection;

(e) Exploring a variety of means for raising revenues to strengthen social protection programmes, and promoting efforts by the private sector and voluntary associations to provide social protection and support;

(f) Promoting the innovative efforts of self-help organizations, professional associations and other organizations of civil society in this sphere;

(g) Expanding and strengthening social protection programmes to protect working people, including the self-employed and their families, from the risk of falling into poverty, by extending coverage to as many as possible, providing benefits quickly and ensuring that entitlements continue when workers change jobs;

(h) Ensuring, through appropriate regulation, that contributory social protection plans are efficient and transparent so that the contributions of workers, employers and the State and the accumulation of resources can be monitored by the participants;

(i) Ensuring an adequate social safety net under structural adjustment programmes;

(j) Ensuring that social protection and social support programmes meet the needs of women, and especially that they take into account women's multiple roles and concerns, in particular the reintegration of women into formal work after periods of absence, support for older women, and the promotion of acceptance of women's multiple roles and responsibilities.

39. Particular efforts should be made to protect children and youth by:

(a) Promoting family stability and supporting families in providing mutual support, including in their role as nurturers and educators of children;

(b) Promoting social support, including good quality child care and working conditions that allow both parents to reconcile parenthood with working life;

(c) Supporting and involving family organizations and networks in community activities;

(d) Taking the necessary legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect and promote the rights of the child, with particular attention to the girl child;

(e) Improving the situation and protecting the rights of children in especially difficult circumstances, including children in areas of armed conflict, children who lack adequate family support, urban street children, abandoned children, children with disabilities, children addicted to narcotic drugs, children affected by war or natural and man-made disasters, unaccompanied minor refugee children, working children, and children who are economically and sexually exploited or abused, including the victims of the sale and trafficking of children; ensuring that they have access to food, shelter, education and health care and are protected from abuse and violence, as well as provided with the necessary social and psychological assistance for their healthy reintegration into society and for family reunification consistent with the Convention on the Rights of the Child; and substituting education for child work;

(f) Developing and strengthening programmes targeted at youth living in poverty in order to enhance their economic, educational, social and cultural opportunities, to promote constructive social relations among them and to provide them with connections outside their communities to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty;

(g) Addressing the special needs of indigenous children and their families, particularly those living in poor areas, enabling them to benefit adequately from economic and social development programmes, with full respect for their cultures, languages and traditions;

(h) Improving the condition of the single parent in society and ensuring that single-parent families and female-headed or female-maintained households receive the social support they need, including support for adequate housing and child care.

40. Particular efforts should be made to protect older persons, including those with disabilities, by:

(a) Strengthening family support systems;

(b) Improving the situation of older persons, in particular in cases where they lack adequate family support, including rural older persons, working older persons, those affected by armed conflicts and natural or man-made disasters, and those who are exploited, physically or psychologically neglected, or abused;

(c) Ensuring that older persons are able to meet their basic human needs through access to social services and social security, that those in need are assisted, and that older persons are protected from abuse and violence and are treated as a resource and not a burden;

(d) Providing assistance to grandparents who have been required to assume responsibility for children, particularly of parents who are affected by serious diseases, including AIDS or leprosy, or others who are unable to care for their dependants;

(e) Creating a financial environment that encourages people to save for their old age;

(f) Strengthening measures and mechanisms to ensure that retired workers do not fall into poverty, taking into account their contribution to the development of their countries;

(g) Encouraging and supporting cross-generational participation in policy and programme development and in decision-making bodies at all levels.

41. People and communities should be protected from impoverishment and long-term displacement and exclusion resulting from disasters through the following actions at the national and international levels, as appropriate:

(a) Designing effective mechanisms to reduce the impact and to mitigate the effects of natural disasters, such as droughts, earthquakes, cyclones and floods;

(b) Developing long-term strategies and contingency plans for the effective mitigation of natural disasters and for famine, including early warning, assessment, information dissemination and management, as well as rapid response strategies, that ensure the quick evolution of relief activities into rehabilitation and development;

(c) Developing complementary mechanisms that integrate governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental efforts, including the establishment of national volunteer corps to support United Nations activities in the areas of humanitarian emergency assistance, as well as mechanisms to promote a smooth transition from relief to rehabilitation, reconstruction and development, in accordance with General Assembly resolutions 46/182 and 49/139 B;

(d) Developing and strengthening emergency food reserves as a means to prevent acute food shortages and stabilize prices, with facilities for food storage, transportation and distribution during emergencies, making full use of traditional and market mechanisms;

(e) In disaster-prone areas and in cooperation with community-based organizations, developing drought and flood mitigation agronomic practices and resource conservation and infrastructure-building programmes, using food-for-work, where appropriate, and incorporating traditional disaster-response practices that can be rapidly expanded into emergency employment and rebuilding programmes in disaster situations;

(f) Establishing the necessary planning and logistical mechanisms to enable quick and effective response in disaster situations to provide food, psychological and social care, medicines, medical supplies and other relief to victims, especially women and children, and ensuring that the relief is effectively targeted to those who need it; and channelling and organizing disaster assistance so as to regenerate the local economy and support resource protection and development efforts;

(g) Mobilizing and coordinating regional and international assistance, including assistance from the United Nations system, and from non-governmental organizations, to support the actions of Governments and communities confronting disaster situations;

(h) Reducing vulnerability to natural disasters through the development of early warning systems.


2/ Report of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, Rio de Janeiro, 3-14 June 1992, vol. I, Resolutions Adopted by the Conference (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.93.I.8), resolution 1, annex II.

11/ Report of the International Conference on Population and Development, Cairo, 5-13 September 1994 (A/CONF.171/13 and Add.1), chap. I, resolution 1, annex.

12/ See General Assembly resolution 48/183.

13/ General Assembly resolution 2200 A (XXI), annex.

14/ General Assembly resolution 43/181.