DIRECTOR OF UN DIVISION FOR SOCIAL POLICY AND DEVELOPMENT URGES THIRD COMMITTEE TO PROMOTE GREATER SOCIAL JUSTICE, EQUITY

3 October 2002
GA/SHC/3692

DIRECTOR OF UN DIVISION FOR SOCIAL POLICY AND DEVELOPMENT URGES THIRD COMMITTEE TO PROMOTE GREATER SOCIAL JUSTICE, EQUITY

03/10/2002
Press ReleaseGA/SHC/3692

Fifty-seventh General Assembly

Third Committee

7th Meeting (PM)

DIRECTOR OF UN DIVISION FOR SOCIAL POLICY AND DEVELOPMENT URGES

THIRD COMMITTEE TO PROMOTE GREATER SOCIAL JUSTICE, EQUITY

Committee Begins Debate on Social Development Issues;

Will Hear Three Human Rights Special Rapporteurs on 6 November

“Keep your eyes on the prize” urged the Director of the Division for Social Policy and Development this afternoon as he opened the Third Committee’s annual examination of issues concerning social development -- including questions related to the world social situation and to youth, disabled persons and the family.

Johan Schölvinck said the Millennium Development Goals were, by and large, most profoundly of a social nature, not least of which were eradicating poverty and hunger.  The Third Committee -- the General Assembly’s social, humanitarian and cultural body -- had spawned many path-breaking conferences and initiatives.  However, achieving social development for all required qualitative achievements, including increased participation, greater social justice and improved equity in societies.  Those elements must be promoted.

Also speaking this afternoon, Aicha Bah-Diallo, Deputy Assistant Director-General for Education of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said it was most troubling that nearly one billion men, women and children were headed into the twenty-first century -- foreseen as the age of knowledge and information -- either illiterate or without access to basic education.

Presenting the draft Plan of Action of the United Nations Literacy Decade, she said that sadly, the literacy divide appeared to coincide with the economic divide, and that meant that the effort to provide equitable literacy opportunities was also a means to address the problem of poverty.  Literacy was also important for reaching other development goals, namely the enhancement of the right of education, gender equality, creation of democratic societies, environmental protection and the prevention of HIV/AIDS.

The representative of Botswana, speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said the eradication of poverty remained a major challenge for the SADC since there were over 14 million people in the region living in absolute poverty.  Despite efforts on the part of the governments of the region, and new initiatives such as the New Partnership for Africa’s Development,

many countries in the region had realized no meaningful progress in social development due to HIV/AIDS, conflicts and climatic change.

The fight against poverty was not an option but an imperative, reiterated the representative of Costa Rica on behalf of the Rio Group.  The economic crisis that currently affected Latin America had showed the need to create a new international financial architecture that would protect public goods, such as the enjoyment of human rights, the environment and the eradication of poverty and inequalities, through instruments and rules that protected the weakest economies.

The message was clear, said the representative of Denmark, speaking on behalf of the European Union.  There could be no sustainable development without social development.  At the Millennium Summit, the heads of State and government had acknowledged their individual and collective responsibility to uphold the principles of human dignity, equality and equity.  There was now wide agreement on the importance of the social component of development -- the third leg upon which the concept of sustainable development rested.

The Committee also decided that it would meet on the morning of 6 November to hear presentations and hold dialogues with three Special Rapporteurs of the Commission on Human Rights, who could only be available on that day.

Also speaking this afternoon were representatives of Denmark (on behalf of the European Union), Norway, China, Egypt, Brazil (on behalf of MERCOSUR), Cuba, Japan, Mexico, Senegal and the Sudan.

The representatives of Israel, Egypt and the Observer for Palestine exercised the right of reply.

A representative of the United Nations Volunteers also addressed the Committee this afternoon.

The Committee will reconvene tomorrow at 10 a.m. to continue its consideration of social development and the follow-up to international conferences.

Background

Having opened its 2002 substantive session earlier this week with a debate on crime prevention and international drug control, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this afternoon to take up a variety of issues concerning social development -- including questions related to the world social situation and to youth, disabled persons and the family.  The Committee is also expected to hear an introductory statement from and hold a dialogue with Johan Schölvinck, Director of the Division for Social Policy and Development of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA).

Other relevant matters the Committee will consider include, follow-up to the International Year of Older Persons:  Second World Assembly on Ageing, and implementation of the outcome of the Copenhagen World Summit for Social Development.  To guide overall discussions on these diverse issues, delegations will have before them a number of documents, including reports of the Secretary-General on, respectively, preparations for the tenth anniversary of the International Year of the Family and on the International Year of Volunteers.

The Committee will examine the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and of the outcome of the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly (document A/57/115), which provides information on the deliberations and major activities of intergovernmental bodies responsible for reviewing follow-up to the Copenhagen Summit and the special session on social development.  It focuses on the outcomes of intergovernmental conferences and summits organized since the special session and their link with activities to promote the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action.

The report concludes that promotion of social development and implementation of the outcomes of the World Summit and the special session were encouraged through various activities during the past year.  The core issues of the Summit -– poverty eradication, the promotion of productive employment and the enhancement of social integration –- were largely integrated into the work programmes of the United Nations system.  Achieving social development for all, however, requires more than fulfilling development goals, important as these are.  Social progress and development also imply qualitative achievements, including increased participation, greater social justice and improved equity in societies, which must be promoted.

Also before the Committee is the Secretary-General’s report on preparations for the tenth anniversary of the International Year of the Family in 2004 (document A/57/139 and Corr.1), which describes the state of those preparations at the global, regional and national levels.  It also provides information on salient activities and experiences of the United Nations system, Member States and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and includes recommendations for successful observance of the anniversary.  It further highlights that the fortieth session of the Commission for Social Development (11-21 February 2002) recommended a draft resolution for adoption by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), which invited the Secretary-General to launch the anniversary in early December 2003.

The report also says that the work done at last April’s Second World Assembly on Ageing and at the General Assembly’s special session on children in May, also touched on preparations for the anniversary.  The report recommends that notwithstanding progress achieved during the past year, more concerted efforts need to be made by many countries and in many areas.  At the national level, it is crucial that preparatory measures be undertaken where that had not been done.  All countries should set the end of 2003 as a target date for finalizing a programme for observance of the anniversary.  Within the framework of government preparations, it was also necessary to replenish the resources of the United Nations Trust Fund on Family Activities.

The Committee is also set to consider a related ECOSOC report on the

follow-up to the International Year of the Family in 2004 (document E/CN.5/2002/2), which covers the period from February 2001 to December 2001 and is divided into two parts.  The first section describes recent initiatives undertaken at the international level related to preparations for the observance of the anniversary in 2004.  The second section describes the basic approach to observing the tenth anniversary at all levels and contains suggestions for follow-up actions.  The report also contains an annex describing guidelines for the establishment of a national coordinating committee.

According to the report, preparatory measures of an organizational, programmatic, substantive and promotional nature are under way for the observance of the anniversary at the national and regional levels.  Highlighting the work already done by ECOSOC, the Commission for Social Development and the General Assembly, the report notes that all efforts have reaffirmed the pivotal role of families in society and have underlined the need to develop concrete and long-term policies and programmes for families.  Agencies and governments had also stressed the need for fully integrating family concerns into broad socio-economic development strategies.

The report goes on to say that a number of intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations were already actively involved in the preparatory process.  Research institutions are also being invited to participate in the observance.  It is anticipated that NGOs will develop family-related activities and participate actively in all preparations.  Some ideas that have been advanced for governments’ consideration include:  promoting a public information campaign to broadcast the proclamation of the anniversary; designating a national day, week or month on the anniversary and supporting and extending dialogue with grass roots groups and encouraging them to participate in designing projects or activities. 

Delegations will also consider the Secretary-General’s report on the United Nations Literacy Decade:  education for all; International Plan of Action; implementation of General Assembly resolution 56/116 (document A/57/218 and Corr.1), which presents the Plan of Action for the Decade (2003-2012)towards the education for all.  It also includes a sample checklist of items for implementation at the national level and an example of a 10-year time frame for the Decade.  According to the report, resolution 56/116, which called for the Decade, also endorsed the Dakar Framework for Action, the outcome of the 2000 World Education Forum.

The report says that resolution 56/116 expresses the Assembly’s conviction that literacy is crucial to the acquisition of essential life skills for all youth and adults and supports the concept of literacy for all.  The report also highlights the expected outcomes of the Decade, including that national governments, local authorities, international agencies and other stakeholders should work to ensure, among other things, a recognizable increase in the absolute numbers of those who are literate, dynamic literate environments and improved quality of life, citizenship awareness and gender sensitivity.  It also identifies key areas of action in policy, capacity-building and research sectors.

The Secretary-General’s report on follow-up to the Second World Assembly on Ageing (document A/57/93), outlines the initial steps to follow-up the session and requirements of the United Nations programme on ageing in DESA as the Organization’s focal point on the issue.  It also states that the Madrid Plan of Action, adopted by the Second World Assembly last May forms the basis for policy action to face the remarkable demographic transition currently under way.  That Plan calls for increased and expanded efforts on the part of Member States, the United Nations and civil society if it is to be successfully implemented.

The report also reviews the pre- and post-Assembly range of tasks of the programme on ageing and points to the need to improve the institutional capacity of the United Nations system to respond to the tasks set by the Madrid Plan.  Several recommendations are made on immediate tasks before the Commission on Social Development to exercise the responsibility for follow-up and appraisal of implementation of the Plan, on initial steps to facilitate international collaboration and coordination of the implementation process and on resource requirements of the programme for ageing. 

The Committee will also consider the Secretary-General’s note on the

follow-up to the International Year of the Family in 2004 (document A/57/67-E/2002/45), prepared pursuant to Assembly resolution 56/113 and ECOSOC resolution 2001/6, both entitled “Preparations for and observance of the tenth anniversary of the International Year of the Family”.

The Secretary-General’s report on the International Year of Volunteers (document A/57/352) has not been issued.

Introductory Remarks by Director of Division for Social Policy and Development

Commenting on the reports before the Committee, JOHAN SCHÖLVINCK, Director, Division for Social Policy and Development, said the Millennium Development Goals were, by and large, most profoundly of a social nature, not least of which was eradicating poverty and hunger.  This Committee was known as the Third Committee

-- the Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee of the General Assembly.  The outcomes of important conferences in Vienna, Copenhagen, Beijing and Madrid, must be of major interest to this Committee.  While economic issues mostly dealt with means, the social issues concerned the ends which were often long-term development goals.  Of course without means, the ends would not be reached.  But an increasing focus on the means ran the risk of losing sight of the ends.  He firmly believed that it was this Committee that had the duty to keep, so to speak, “the eye on the prize”.  This Committee had spawned many path-breaking conferences and initiatives.  The task ahead was to achieve this same ability in the Committee itself. 

There had not been much talk in the General Assembly or elsewhere about the significant world conference in Madrid on Ageing.  The adopted Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing was a groundbreaking document because, for the first time, population ageing and older persons had been put firmly on the development agenda.  Concerning the outcome of the Social Summit, he drew the Committee's attention to the reports' conclusion, which stated that the core issues of the Social Summit -- poverty eradication, the promotion of productive employment and the enhancement of social integration -- had become central to the agendas of most United Nations meetings, government policies and the work programmes of the United Nations system.  Achieving social development for all required more than fulfilling development goals, important as they were.  Social progress and development also implied qualitative achievements, including increased participation, greater social justice and improved equity in societies, which must be promoted. 

Concerning the issue of the World Social Situation and youth, ageing, disabled persons and the family, he stressed the role of the family.  The importance of the Tenth Anniversary of the International Year of the Family in 2004 was threefold:  first, it reaffirmed the importance of continuing to sustain long-term actions and measures to support families in their social and developmental functions.  Second, it was geared to promote an integrated perspective on social issues, families and their members, communities and the society at large.  And third, the Tenth Anniversary reinforced the partnership culture initiated since 1994, which promoted the cooperative interplay and substantial contributions of local, national and international organizations, the United Nations system, the private sector, research institutions, the global media and national level actors.  While not denying the importance of the Tenth Anniversary, he brought up the notions of building on and adding value.  It was important to give this process further impetus and meaning. 

Presentation of Plan of Action for United Nations Literacy Decade

AICHA BAH-DIALLO, Deputy Assistant Director-General for Education of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), presented the draft Plan of Action of the United Nations Literacy Decade, which is to begin in 2003, contained in the Secretary-General’s report on the United Nations Literacy Decade: education for all; International Plan of Action; implementation of General Assembly resolution 56/116 (document A/57/218 and Corr.1).  She said it was most troubling that nearly one billion men, women and children were headed into the twenty-first century -- foreseen as the age of knowledge and information -- either illiterate or without access to basic education.

She said that worldwide, some 550 million females and 330 million males were illiterate.  And furthermore, more than 100 million children -- 60 per cent of which were girls -- did not have access to primary education.  Literacy, broadly seen as the basic knowledge and skills needed by all in a rapidly changing world, was a fundamental human right.  Sadly, the literacy divide appeared to coincide with the economic divide, and that meant that the effort to provide equitable literacy opportunities was also a means to address the problem of poverty.  Literacy was also important for reaching other development goals, namely the enhancement of the right of education, gender equality, creation of democratic societies, environmental protection and the prevention of HIV/AIDS.

Therefore, she continued, literacy programmes and plans must go beyond past limited notions -- that literacy was simply the ability to read, write and count.  Literacy was indeed for all and the tool for empowering individuals and their communities.  It was at the core of all levels of education, specifically basic education.  The magnitude of ensuring literacy for all meant more efforts should be channelled to developing literacy and non-formal education so as to reach those young men, women and children currently outside formal education structures.  Thus, a special decade had been called for to address the magnitude of the challenges ahead in mobilizing the time, resources and creativity to ensure a literate society.  The primary purpose of the Literacy Decade was to mobilize governments and civil society to recognize the importance of creating literate environments and providing quality formal and non-formal learning opportunities.

She said the main driving force behind the decade must be national governments in collaboration with civil society and the private sector, with the support of international partners.  The Decade should therefore be used to recommit financial resources to the purposes of education for all.  A detailed action plan was being proposed whereby policy preconditions and operational requirements would be highlighted with regard to creating supportive policy and legislative structures.  For the implementation of the Decade, policy dialogues, research, capacity-building and research programmes needed to be carried out with the cooperation of all partners.  Unless and until the Decade became a global movement of people, communities and governments and civil society, the world would never know the meaning of "education for all".  Indeed, literacy was a means to create a society committed to peace, democracy, social justice and general well-being.

Statements

HANNE FUGL ESKJAER (Denmark), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that at the Millennium Summit the heads of State and government had acknowledged their individual and collective responsibility to uphold the principles of human dignity, equality and equity.  The protection of the most vulnerable had been given high priority and a key challenge was to ensure that globalization became a positive force that benefited all.  There was now wide agreement on the importance of the social component of development -- the third leg upon which the concept of sustainable development rested.

The message was clear -- there could be no sustainable development without social development.  Earlier this year, crucial commitments had been made in Monterrey at the International Conference on Financing for Development.  There, the importance of good governance and human rights for sustainable development had been specifically emphasized.  The need to invest in basic economic and social infrastructure and the importance of pension schemes as a social protection mechanism and a source of savings had also been highlighted.  She added that the blueprint for a worldwide social contract had been formulated in the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action.  Those documents constituted a milestone in the international community’s acceptance of the overarching importance of social and human progress.

The European Union also drew attention to matters concerning persons with disabilities, young people, the family and the elderly.  It considered the active participation of all sections of society as vital and welcomed the fact that the strengthening of the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities had been given high priority within the United Nations.  Accordingly, the European Union had chosen to proclaim 2003 as the European Year for Disabled Persons to raise awareness of the rights of persons with disabilities and to promote their protection from discrimination and the full and equal enjoyment of their rights. 

The European Union wanted to put disability rights high on its agenda, she continued.  An international legally binding instrument relating to the rights of disabled persons could be a useful tool in the promotion and protection of the rights of persons with disabilities.  The European Union, therefore, looked forward to continue the work on strengthening and supplementing the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities.  The Union firmly believed that it was of the utmost importance to further mainstream disability as a human rights issue into the existing core United Nations human rights conventions and into their monitoring systems. 

CHRISTOFFER GRONSTAD, youth representative of Norway, said one of the major concerns for many young people today was the application of the death penalty.  He was pleased to see that over the last decade, many countries had abolished that form of punishment, but there were still many nations that retained it.  What was even more deplorable was that some countries even used the death penalty against child offenders, or people under the age of 18 when they committed criminal acts.  That was unacceptable.  When a society accepted the use of the death penalty against child offenders, it was clearly sending the wrong signal to young people about respect for life.

Overall, he said, the death penalty presupposed that criminals could not improve their behaviour.  "We cannot make the world a better place if we don't believe people can change -- if we don't believe even children can improve".  It was his hope that by working together the international community could achieve worldwide respect for life enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

He said it was vital that the voices of youth be heard.  "How many in this room think that it will be possible to solve the massive threat of HIV/AIDS or confront the world drug problem without involving young people?"  Young people knew what was important for other young people at risk, and, more critically, how to reach them.  He called on all Member States to include youth representatives in their delegations.  That would be a good way to follow up the International Year of Volunteers.  He added that empowering youth must start at the local level. 

ZHANG LEI (China) said that the growing attention given to vulnerable groups was an important achievement in the social field of the United Nations.  In April of this year, the Second World Assembly on Ageing had been held in Madrid, during which the issue of world ageing had been highlighted in in-depth discussions and the Political Declaration and Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing.  China hoped the international community would, through joint efforts, ensure the serious implementation of the follow-up actions to the Conference, so as to achieve the lofty goals of fostering a society for all ages. 

In July of this year, the Ad Hoc Committee on a Comprehensive and Integral Convention on Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities, had held its first session.  The Chinese Government believed that the drafting and formulation of the convention would certainly provide more effective legal protection of the rights and interests of persons with disabilities. 

The issue of social development was, in essence, a common development of mankind.  The accomplishments of the Millennium Summit goals for poverty eradication and economic and social development required a shared responsibility on the part of all countries and extensive worldwide cooperation.  China hoped for and supported an expanded role of the United Nations in this field and would join all parties in making greater efforts for multilateral cooperation in the social field. 

HAZEM FAHMY (Egypt) said that since the 1986 Declaration of the Right to Development, the importance of social development as a principle human right had been reaffirmed at many international conferences and summits and had been one of the major focuses of the 1995 Copenhagen Summit on Social Development.  Still, there was a need to recognize the cultural dimensions of development that had been clearly outlined in the Copenhagen Declaration in order to ensure respect for cultural and economic diversity among nations in the formulation and implementation of social development strategies.

He said social development for all could not be achieved without sincere and efficient international cooperation based on a genuine belief in shared human destiny.  There must be an international environment suitable for all -- in which developing countries could develop themselves.  Therefore the foreign debt burdens on such countries must be eased, and the restrictions unjustly imposed on the transfer of technology and market access must be removed.  The Declaration of the Right to Development also clearly stated the right to live free of all forms of foreign domination and occupation.  It also emphasized the full realization of the right of peoples to self-determination, including the inalienable right to full sovereignty over all those peoples' natural wealth and resources.

There was no more noble cause to which those principles could be applied than to redress the wrongs being committed against the people of Palestine whose level of development had been severely impacted under years of Israeli occupation. Due to Israeli blockade policies, it had been recently estimated that some

70 per cent of Palestinians lived below the poverty line.  Unemployment in the occupied territories had risen dramatically because of Israeli curfew policies. And the Palestinian economy, under constant pressure from Israeli forces, lost some $8 million a day.  With all that in mind, Egypt would leave it to the Committee to determine whether, under such harsh and cruel conditions, social development could ever be foreseen for the Palestinian people.  He added that Israel must be ready to bear the social consequences of its policies in the occupied territories.

BRUNO STAGNO (Costa Rica), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, said the eradication of poverty was one essential aim in social development.  In this regard, it was necessary to reach one of the international community’s main targets -- the reduction of extreme poverty by a half by the end of 2015.  As had often been said, the fight against poverty was not an option but an imperative.  This was the twentieth century’s unfinished task and must be the first priority of the twenty-first century.  Last year, the United Nations held several important meetings where social development issues -- in their multiple aspects -- had been given special attention. 

Various initiatives had emerged in the general debate of the Commission for Social Development.  Among them, the consensus that the commitment to poverty reduction, eradication of extreme poverty and the strengthening of equity and social integration, required concrete measures to balance economic growth, generation of work and a coherent macroeconomic framework.

The Rio Group felt obliged to mention the economic crisis that currently affected Latin America and which had caused deep social unrest.  The Rio Group believed that there were some factors that must be given special consideration to overcome this crisis.  The fight against social and economical exclusion constituted a crucial aspect in the consolidation of democracy and the construction of a more just and secure world.  In this regard, the strengthening of the role of the United Nations in social development, both within its agencies and between them and the Bretton Woods institutions, required further work.  There was a need for a new international financial architecture that would protect public goods, such as the enjoyment of human rights, the environment and the eradication of poverty and inequalities, through instruments and rules that protected the weakest economies. 

GELSON FONSECA (Brazil), speaking on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) (Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay) and Bolivia and Chile, said his delegation's member countries were more convinced than ever that the priorities defined in the outcome of the Copenhagen Summit in 1995 retained their validity today.  Indeed the ethical, political and economic vision outlined at Copenhagen -- particularly the primacy given the eradication of poverty, creation of employment and social integration -- constituted the only viable way to reach the goals sought by all members of the international community:  people-centred development, the full respect for human rights, and social equity.

The MERCOSUR reaffirmed its conviction that it was the primary policy of States to formulate policies aimed at combating poverty and other social scourges, he said.  The Market's regional governments would continue to strive to improve quality of life, particularly by focusing on vulnerable segments of their populations.  That meant, among other things, the implementation of support programmes for older persons, promoting activities for the benefit of children and adolescents in the streets, as well as efforts to improve the situation of persons with disabilities.  He added, however, that social development could not be fully achieved without the collective commitment and efforts of the international community.

He said it was clear that governments needed to face the most dramatic challenges of the day, particularly the AIDS epidemic, racism and environmental degradation.  It was also clear that the outcome that emerged from Copenhagen should be used to promote international efforts aimed at eradicating poverty.  The MERCOSUR family was fully committed to reducing extreme poverty by half by 2015.  Members trusted that the recent establishment of the International Centre on Poverty Reduction in Brazil would follow through with studies and research on that issue in order to help with the elaboration of relevant programmes and policies that would promote social inclusion and justice for the dispossessed.

LUIS ALBERTO AMOROS NUNEZ (Cuba) said there was fresh understanding on the part of the international community of the need to eradicate poverty.  The Copenhagen Summit had been a significant milestone in this process.  However, he noted that much remained to be done since absolute poverty now affected over one billion people.  Today’s world seemed to be plagued by injustice, and economic marginalization was spreading.  This was indeed the contribution of neo-liberal globalization, a force that had imposed injustices on three quarters of the world.

Those who had the most -- rich countries -- continued to exploit and plunder poorer countries, he said.  In addition, the excessive obligations of developing countries due to foreign debt made the situation even worse.  Powerful countries continued to subsidize their own markets, while forbidding developing countries to do the same.  Developing countries were obliged to apply nonsensical policies of structural adjustment, leading to little more than ruin.

The Copenhagen follow-up was the only option to eradicate poverty.  It was time to evaluate policies to eradicate poverty on a social development basis.  In Cuba, 100 per cent of the population had access to health care, he said.  This illustrated the fair and equal policies undertaken by the Cuban Government.  In Cuba, the elderly were respected and assisted by the Government and received adequate and fair social security.  In Cuba, life expectancy had increased as a result of the Government’s policies.  The Cuban Government also viewed the rights of persons with disabilities as a key priority.

The Cuban experience showed that social development could be attained before financial prosperity, he said.  However, the 40-year long economic blockade imposed on Cuba prevented further financial advancement.  Solidarity was needed both within and between countries.

KAY FUSANO (Japan) said the Government of Japan had been steadily implementing the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and of the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly.  The longevity of Japanese people, both male and female, had been the highest in the world for many years.  At present, three quarters of the elderly in Japan had no significant health problems, and the average income and savings of the aged were not lower than those of members of younger generations. 

One out of five older persons was in the workforce, and half of all elderly persons were involved in group activities of some kind, she said.  As a whole, the elderly in Japan today were relatively healthy, financially secure, and active.  This was largely due to Japan’s social security systems, which had functioned satisfactorily so far, and in which every single citizen received basic insurance and a pension. 

However, the number of elderly people was rapidly increasing, and the ratio to the overall population would reach 26 per cent, more than a quarter of the whole in 2015.  Therefore, the Government would create a system to promote

re-employment and participation by older persons who were healthy and active in the activities of local communities, while improving required care and welfare services.  She elaborated on a unique programme in Japan “Dispatching Senior Volunteers Overseas” and hoped that Japan’s positive experience could be of use to the international community. 

Ms. DIAZ CEBALLOS (Mexico) said just two years ago the international community had undertaken the five-year review of the Copenhagen World Summit. Global actors should work to promote social development programmes and complement national strategies to create just societies for all and promote equality between men, women, children and persons with disabilities.  It would be essential to continue and deepen the review of the working methods of the Commission on Social Development.  All must strive to ensure that the policies adopted by the Commission were comprehensive and integral and had a positive effect on the work of the Economic and Social Council.

She said Mexico particularly supported the work being done to elaborate an integral convention on the rights of persons with disabilities.  Also, a central objective of Mexican policy was to create a system of social government that focused on providing essential services and programmes for the continued development of elderly populations.  A part of Mexico's integral development of the family, a number of programnes to facilitate access to services, employment income and savings had been created.  Also, several programmes that supported women heads of households, particularly those living in urban areas, had shown positive results.  As part of the upcoming celebration of the International Year of the Family, Mexico would hold a National Assembly to provide input for new public policy action and exchanging work models for the benefit of families. 

MANKEUR NDIAYE (Senegal) said the elimination of poverty, full employment and social inclusion had been on the discussion tables at several international conferences.  However, even though several declarations had been signed, official development assistance continued to decrease, and foreign debts remained, as well as a disadvantageous economic market for developing countries.  Those were only some of the obstacles that developing countries faced in their path to development.  Even so, the Government of Senegal firmly believed that action was needed.  One example of initiatives undertaken was the fight to combat illiteracy, which had been addressed on local and regional levels, with a gender-perspective at its core. 

Now Senegal was preparing for the Tenth Anniversary for the International Year of the Family.  In Senegal, the family was a sacred unit, and the Government had undertaken campaigns to raise gender-equality in society and in the family.  His Government was attempting to approach social development through addressing the root causes of injustices, he told the Committee. 

The Government had given priority to young people and had paid an active part in the preparation of the Lisbon Summit.  In this regard, it was necessary to follow up the conclusions of the Summit and to reflect on the ways and means of financing future meetings.  Senegal supported the Youth Employment Network that had been set up by the Secretary-General.  The Network had elaborated interesting and necessary recommendations, and it deserved the support of all Member States.  Senegal had prepared a draft resolution on the Youth Employment Network and appealed to Member States to support this important group. 

Mr. LEIGH, speaking on behalf of Sharon Capeling-Alakija, Executive Coordinator, United Nations Volunteers, said the report of the Secretary-General on the International Year of Volunteers (IYV) and the future perspectives for volunteerism, described the success of the Year, first of all, in terms of its global coverage.  Some 123 national and scores of local, regional and State IYV committees had been formed.  The official Web site had received around nine million hits.  There had been a heightened recognition of the role of volunteerism resulting from a very wide range of activities in every region.  Important steps forward had been taken in the measurement of volunteer contributions; in the putting into place legislative frameworks for volunteering; and in forging networks among all the stakeholders from governments, the United Nations system, civil society, the private sector, the media and others.

This Year also highlighted the relevance of volunteerism to achieving the goals set out in the Millennium Declaration and other major conferences and summits.  He urged delegations to speak about their national experiences of the Year on 26 November, when the Secretary-General’s report would be discussed at the General Assembly.

ILHAM IBRAHIM MOHAMED AHMED (Sudan) said social development could not be separated from economic development or the goals of peace and security.  The task that lay ahead to achieve the goals expressed at Copenhagen -- namely social development for all -- was a great one.  While she believed that social development was a national responsibility, she added that it also required greater political commitment at international as well as national levels.  Further, the eradication of poverty was one of the key challenges discussed at Copenhagen, and that goal, which was at the heart of national and public policy, remained imperative today.

She said social development could only be achieved through the common efforts of the entire international community.  It was particularly crucial for all actors to focus special attention on the least developed nations.  In that regard, the Sudan welcomed the appointment of the High Representative for Least Developed Countries and hoped that mechanism would receive the requisite support from the United Nations system and the wider international community.  Global actors must also examine the crippling debt situation of poor countries, including re-examining the structure of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Debt Initiative.

The Sudan was in favour of reforming the international financial structure towards the implementation of more complementary strategies and greater transparency, she said.  In that regard, it was essential for the Bretton Woods institutions to strive for greater transparency.  Developing countries must be allowed to enhance their competitive capacities in international markets through the transfer of technical capacity and the promotion of human capacities so those countries could successfully confront globalization.

She said an end must be put to economic sanctions and all unilateral measures.  The international community must also guarantee the right to food and equal treatment for all in accordance with the noble principles of the United Nations and the objectives of relevant General Assembly resolutions.  The international community must also work to put an end to Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.  An end must be put to the destruction of Palestinian infrastructure and homes -- a serious and continuing violation of international human rights instruments and the right to development.

A.M. DUBE (Botswana), speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said the eradication of poverty remained a major challenge for the SADC since there were over 14 million people in the region living in absolute poverty, a majority of whom lived in the rural areas.  The governments of the region had enacted policies geared towards investment in rural change, which encouraged the rural poor to take control of their own destinies.  Domestic and foreign resources were being intensively mobilized to finance poverty reduction strategies.  Governments of the region were also increasingly forging partnerships with the private sector and non-governmental organizations to provide social services for the poor.  Despite all this, and new initiatives such as the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), many of the countries in the region had not been able to realize any meaningful progress in social development due to a number of reasons, relating to HIV/AIDS, conflict and climate change.

The current severe drought was threatening to eliminate the lives of over

8 million people in the region.  The HIV/AIDS pandemic continued to decimate the lives of many, he said.  The scourge remained undoubtedly the most serious threat to socio-economic progress in the SADC.  Since Copenhagen in 1995, the economies of the SADC countries combined had seen modest transformations.  This was largely due to the sound macroeconomic policies and cumulative benefits of integration of sectoral economic activity.  Regrettably, the region had witnessed a minimal increase in foreign direct investment and an overall decline in official development assistance. 

To promote full and productive employment in the SADC region, governments had committed themselves to providing education for all in as short a time as possible.  Governments had also endeavoured to promote universal access to high quality education, including opportunities for the acquisition of skills required in the knowledge-based economy, health and other basic social services and equal opportunities for active participation and sharing of benefits of social development.

Right of Reply

The representative of Israel, exercising his right of reply, said it had been unfortunate that the representative of Egypt had chosen to devote the bulk of his statement to the current situation in the territories.  Indeed, it was highly regrettable that one of Israel's greatest neighbours would divert attention from the important work of the Committee in such a way.  Egypt had forgotten to mention, however, that the Palestinian side had walked away from peace negotiations three years ago.  He had forgotten to mention the suicide bombings and indiscriminate killings.

He said that Israel was not against Palestinians fulfilling their right to self-determination, but it must stand against suicide killings.  Dialogue and cooperation in the spirit of the United Nations was the only way to solve outstanding problems.  Israel only wished that valued neighbours would not turn the Committee's work into a battle ground for recriminations and counter-recriminations.

In exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Egypt said he fully understood how Israel felt and would be even more understanding if Egypt stood alone in the room recognized as the world's only occupying force.  At any rate, Egypt did not have to ask permission before it brought issues which demanded attention before the Committee.  Indeed, social development was an all-encompassing concept which certainly included the promotion of basic freedoms and human rights.  Concerning the representative of Israel's statement, he wondered just what dialogue the Palestinians had abandoned three years ago

For its part, the international community had only seen the continued destruction, poverty and dispossession wrought by the Israeli occupying forces. And if those issues could not be discussed in this committee -- charged with debating human rights and social issues -- where could they be discussed?  No one wanted to fight with their neighbours, but Egypt must assert that it was finally time for Israel to realize that Israeli blood was not more precious than Palestinian blood.  Egypt believed that both sides deserved the right to life.

The Observer of Palestine said the Israeli reply was insulting, not just for her, but the whole Committee.  All members were intelligent people who followed the news in the region.  She was surprised to hear the accusation that Palestinians negated dialogue and were responsible for indiscriminate killings and violence.  The tragic situation in the Middle East was a result of oppressive Israeli policies.  Prime Minister Sharon himself was a terrorist, so how dare the Israeli delegate accuse the Palestinian people of supporting and being terrorists?  The Palestinian Authority had condemned all forms of terrorism.

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For information media. Not an official record.