COMMISSION ON SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT FOCUSES ON VULNERABLE GROUPS AS IT CONSIDERS SHIFTING DEMOGRAPHICS, INTER-GENERATIONAL TRENDS

12 February 2007
SOC/4726

COMMISSION ON SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT FOCUSES ON VULNERABLE GROUPS AS IT CONSIDERS SHIFTING DEMOGRAPHICS, INTER-GENERATIONAL TRENDS

12 February 2007
Economic and Social Council
SOC/4726
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Commission for Social Development

Forty-fifth Session

8th & 9th Meetings (AM & PM)


COMMISSION ON SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT FOCUSES ON VULNERABLE GROUPS AS IT


CONSIDERS SHIFTING DEMOGRAPHICS, INTER-GENERATIONAL TRENDS

 


Delegates Discuss Ageing, Young, Older People; ‘World Youth Report’ Presented


The Commission for Social Development addressed the situation of vulnerable groups, rapidly shifting demographic tendencies and inter-generational trends today, holding a panel on ageing, a general debate on the implementation of international programmes concerning persons with disabilities, youth and older people, and hearing the presentation of the World Youth Report, 2007.


International experts, scientists, country representatives and specialists on ageing participated in today’s discussion on the main achievements and obstacles in the implementation of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing, with the aim of contributing to its five-year review and appraisal by the Commission this year.  Adopted at the Second World Assembly on Ageing, held in Madrid in 2002, the Plan of Action recognized the potential of older people to contribute to the development of their societies and committed Member States to include ageing in all social and economic development policies.


Addressing the challenges and opportunities presented by rising life expectancy and declining fertility, which had resulted in an increasing number of older people and a reduction in the proportion of children and youth, participants in the debate discussed how policies and social services could respond to those demographic transitions.  The first panellist, Mauritius’ Minister for Social Security, National Solidarity and Senior Citizens Welfare and Reform Institutions, noted that, given the expected doubling in the number of pensioners over the age of 60 years between 2000 and 2050, ageing would have an impact on Government and civil society, health and institutional care, employment and labour markets, social protection systems and economic growth.


The Director of Malta’s International Institute on Ageing said the Madrid Assembly had highlighted the need to ensure an integrated approach to strategies for ageing in the framework of overall sustainable development, noting that two thirds of all older persons –- some 375 million people worldwide -– lived in developing countries.  Indeed, ageing and urbanization were the two major demographic trends in developing and transitional countries today.  Foremost among the challenges facing the international community was supporting older persons as they sought to integrate into society.


At the same time, it was important to avoid inter-generational stress and “ageism” sparked by fears of dwindling health-care funds and services, he said.  Everyone must also work to ensure that older persons were not seen as passive and helpless, but rather as valuable resources that could benefit society as a whole.  In order to reach that goal, it was critically important to implement all relevant international agreements and development initiatives on behalf of the world’s elderly.


Another expert said older people all over the world needed enough money to live on, as well as health and freedom to continue doing what they valued in an environment free of discrimination.  A concerted effort was needed to ensure health maintenance and chronic disease management, to prevent disabilities and introduce community-based long-term care.  The main challenges for geriatric health services included health-care coverage, lack of trained providers and the shortage of information about ageing and health access for the elderly.


The President and CEO of the Singapore-based Tsao Foundation -- a regionally-oriented non-profit organization dedicated to caring for the aged and other ageing-related issues -- spoke about the creation of enabling and supportive environments, suggesting a number of innovative options, including the provision of social pensions, engaging seniors’ groups with Government organizations, and expanded home care and caregiver support for disabled older people.


Participants in the panel discussion and speakers in the general debate reaffirmed their commitment to the Madrid International Plan of Action, the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons and the World Programme of Action for Youth as they shared their national and regional experiences in implementing those instruments.


Following the presentation of this year’s World Youth Report, 2007, which -– based on the 2005 review of the World Programme of Action for Youth -- outlines the main challenges and opportunities in connection with youth development in selected world regions, speakers also outlined their national efforts to implement the Youth Programme, particularly through the creation of youth employment networks, vocational training and efforts to increase participation by young people in national public life.


Opening the discussion on the World Youth Report, Johan Scholvinck, Director of the Division for Social Policy and Development in the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said it depicted youth as a positive force in development and showed that youth participation was essential to harnessing development gains.  One of the report’s key themes related to the fact that promoting youth participation in a manner that supported overall development required paying attention to a number of core areas in youth development.  In a sense, the World Youth Report, 2007, conveyed important lessons that the Youth Programme had garnered from working with young people and their organizations around the world for over a decade.  The document also introduced, for the first time, an annex of youth development indicators, compiled in collaboration with various United Nations bodies and other stakeholders as a first step towards monitoring progress in achieving national and international youth goals.


Presenting the document were Jane Lowicki-Zukka, its Lead Editor; David Gordon, Head of the Centre for Study of Poverty and Social Justice, University of Bristol; Julio Carrion, professor at the University of Delaware; and Dabesaki Mac-Ikemenjima, Executive Director for Development Partnership International.


The Commission heard statements on the implementation of United Nations plans and programmes of action pertaining to the situation of social groups, including youth, older people and persons with disabilities by Ministers and high-level officials from Spain, Mexico, South Africa, Indonesia, Malawi and Mali.


Others speaking today were representatives of Germany (on behalf of the European Union), Japan, Lithuania, Canada, China, United Republic of Tanzania, Chile and the Republic of Korea.


A youth delegate from Romania also spoke.


Also today, the Commission concluded its general debate on full employment and decent work for all, with representatives of Iraq, Costa Rica and the Republic of Moldova making statements on that agenda item.


Other speakers included representatives of the International Parliamentary Union, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the Sovereign Order of Malta, the International Chamber of Commerce and International Organization of Employers and the TRIGLAV Circle.


The Commission on Social Development will continue its general discussion at 10 a.m. tomorrow, Tuesday, 13 February, to be followed by a presentation on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.


Background


The Commission for Social Development met today to continue its forty-fifth session, with delegations expected to conclude their general debate on the agenda item “promoting full employment and decent work for all”.  It was also expected to hold an expert panel discussion entitled “Ageing”, and, in the afternoon, hear the presentation of the World Youth Report 2007.


Statements


N. AHMED AL-YASSIN ( Iraq) said it was critical that the plans and programmes promoted by the United Nations and its functional commissions be fully implemented, particularly in the area of employment.  The Organization should encourage and assist national Governments to that end, particularly in ensuring employment for women and youth.


While the Government of Iraq had worked hard to ensure full employment, the dire security situation and foreign intervention were severely hampering those efforts, he said.  Men and women were fleeing the country in large numbers, leaving the labour force, as well as the local knowledge base, severely depleted.  As for the wider objectives of the Decent Work Agenda, Iraq called on all Governments to implement its economic and social pillars, which were key elements of the effort to generate more and better jobs while promoting sustainable development.


SAUL WEISLEDER (Costa Rica), associating himself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the ever-increasing global economy with new production patterns presented new challenges to the international community.  Although there was growing agreement that employment and decent work were a priority, it was still necessary to translate that understanding into practice.  Even though there had been progress, it was unequal and traditional recipes were not working.  “We cannot have a frenetic race to attract investment and neither should we ignore the realities of the markets and liberalization.”


Noting that his country’s priorities included combating poverty, he said it had doubled pensions for non-contributing persons so as to give a full and dignified life to older people.  Among Costa Rica’s other initiatives were free, almost universal health coverage and improvements in education.  It was important for the creation of quality jobs to diversify markets and fight barriers to free trade, efforts which required certain exceptions, especially in the markets of developed countries.  To achieve full employment and decent work, developing countries must improve their integration into the world economy.  “Intelligent integration” must be built on respective strengths and adequate allocation of resources.


The next step was an in-depth reform of the public education system to create opportunities for all Costa Ricans, he said.  It was important to find concrete solutions for the achievement of full employment and decent work for all, in particular defining the role of national and foreign investment.  Poor countries could not be excluded from cooperation for development.  The Costa Rican Government sought to focus on education, health and housing rather than on soldiers.


In conclusion, he addressed the Secretary-General’s report before the Commission, the Spanish text of which referred to “the disabled” rather than “persons with disabilities”, as well as “physical, intellectual and mental handicaps”.  That was an inexcusable mistake, which must be corrected as those terms were alien to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.


ANA RADU ( Republic of Moldova) recalled that the 1995 World Summit on Social Development at Copenhagen had presented the international community with an opportunity to promote human-centred development in the wider effort to ensure coordinated social and economic advancements for sustainable development.  It was important to ensure greater and better collaboration between international organizations and those with “social mandates” in order to meet Copenhagen’s aims for social protection and full and decent employment for all.  The Government of the Republic of Moldova had worked hard to translate plans and programmes in the social sphere into concrete social policies in areas such as child welfare, social security and labour reforms.


However, the country still faced serious challenges in effecting the full implementation of the Copenhagen Programme of Action, she said.  Even as the Republic of Moldova’s economy became more stable, many people migrated to other areas to find work.  Indeed, its dependence on remittances was the second highest in the world and some 80 per cent of Moldovan citizens living outside the country sent funds home.  The country continued to seek the help of the international community to address the issue of labour migration, particularly in the area of best practices.  In the meantime, the Government would continue to work towards the implementation of the Copenhagen goals.


ANDA FILIP, Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), said that organization’s interest in the current debate stemmed from the fact that, in April, it would hold a discussion on job creation and employment security in the era of globalization.  Because of their experience with distressed constituents who were either unemployed or feared losing their jobs, parliamentarians saw employment creation as a key political issue that brought the tension between the haves and the have-nots to the fore.  It forced tough parliamentary debates and was often used as an electoral litmus test.


She said that, all too often, employment and decent work did not occupy centre stage in national economic and social policymaking, and most countries lacked a mechanism to assess the impact of policy decision on employment and decent work.  With a view to the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s upcoming debate, two members -– Elizabeth Salquero Carrillo ( Bolivia) and Osamah Abu Ghararah ( Saudi Arabia) -– had prepared a report that found, in essence, that today’s complex societies lacked a single solution to the problem and that an intricate web of social and economic policies must work in unison.  Education and training, reconstitution of safety nets and more effective labour market policies, in addition to legislation, were therefore essential ingredients of any national employment creation plan.


Though still a preliminary text, the draft IPU Assembly resolution contained a number of concrete points, she said.  For example, it recommended that priority in public and foreign investment in developing countries be given to the more labour-intensive infrastructure projects in poor areas.  The draft also stressed the need to ensure adequate financing of self-employment, as well as medium, small and micro enterprises in informal sectors.  Beyond that, the draft resolution drew attention to the role that social dialogue must play.


TOSHIHIKO MURATA, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said that, in implementing the goal of promoting full employment and decent work for all, it was important to shift the emphasis towards rural areas, where the majority of the world’s poor lived, and rural employment.  Priority should be given to the rural landless and near-landless, such marginalized groups as women, youth, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and herders.  The importance of rural employment could not be under-emphasized, given that agricultural workers amounted to 450 million people, or 40 per cent of the world’s labour force.  Successful poverty reduction required paying considerably more attention to both small farmers and workers as distinct groups.


He said agriculture was one of the sectors in which the highest number of workers faced health and safety risks, in which the highest number of child labourers and women were employed, and in which employment was based on informal arrangements and labour laws were not enforced.  A primary policy objective should be to build the capacity of rural workers to produce good, safe, quality food in a sustainable way; support education and training, knowledge and skills; and promote technologies that provided fairer conditions of employment.  Policies should support the identification, assessment, up-scaling and replication of good practices that promoted decent work, including in rural, farm and off-farm employment.


Partnerships should be established among United Nations specialized agencies, workers’ unions and civil society organizations, he said, adding that strengthening workers’ organizations was a key to enabling their participation in policy dialogue so as to represent their interests and identify ways to respond to new challenges and opportunities.  It must be recognized that waged agricultural workers and their trade unions already played an important role, and could play an even greater one in the future.  Given the peculiar way in which production was organized in rural areas and its impact on labour, it was also essential to identify alternative means to strengthen workers’ organizations in order to broaden their membership base to include casual, contract and informal workers while reinforcing their action as development institutions at the community level.  Only through the empowerment of the poorest, enabling them to participate in the policy dialogue, could the goal of full employment and decent work for all truly contribute to equity.


BERTRAND DE LOOZ KARAGEORGIADES, Sovereign Military Order of Malta, said his delegation had closely studied the report of the Secretary-General, which noted that economic growth did not effectively lead to a reduction in poverty or increased employment.  Worse, unemployed people often became marginalized or were labelled pariahs in their communities.  But the Sovereign Military Order of Malta had always been at the service of the poor and needy, and was working hard in many social areas, including the medical field.


While the Sovereign Military Order could not claim to be experts in international labour, it believed in and understood the real importance of decent work and full employment to social integration and human dignity, he said.  Its mission was a humanitarian one that was neutral, impartial and a-political.  Because of that, it could immediately gear up and provide speedy assistance and other services that could serve as a bridge between emergency and humanitarian efforts.  Above all, the Sovereign Military Order of Malta stressed assistance to each individual, each sick or poor person, in order to help them find their dignity.


Mr. GREENE, International Chamber of Commerce and International Organization of Employers, said employment growth required regulatory frameworks that supported innovation and promoted competition.  The main components of the broad policy framework required to create wealth and productive employment and tackle persistent poverty included entrepreneurship, sound macroeconomic policies, open trade and investment policies, investment in education, continuous skill development, policies to create an inclusive labour market, sustainable social security systems, quality infrastructure and good public governance.  Governments had already committed themselves to such a framework in the 2005 World Summit Outcome and the recent Economic and Social Council Ministerial Declaration.


The business community welcomed the importance attached to public-private partnerships noted in those documents, he said.  Partnerships with the private sector could take a number of forms, including linkages between multinational enterprises and local companies, which could help the development of local economies and lead to new business opportunities and job creation.  Representative business organizations also had a crucial role to play and it was important to create an enabling environment for enterprises to create and develop productive employment across all groups of society.  As global representative organizations of large and small businesses around the world, the International Chamber of Commerce and the International Organization of Employers were working with intergovernmental organizations to mobilize business collectively around those policy challenges.


BARBARA BAUDOT, Coordinator, TRIGLAV Circle, said her organization sought to promote an approach to international relations and public policy that was grounded in the moral and spiritual values expressed in ethical norms and behaviour.  A founding objective of the Circle was to realize the core messages of Copenhagen, largely towards ensuring people-centred development as well as an integrated political, economic, ethical and spiritual vision for social development.  The Decent Work Agenda responded to humankind’s inherent need to be occupied and to achieve something.  “Decent work” also fulfilled a social yearning in most people to be a productive part of society.


She went on to say that, while it was clearly against the prevailing current thinking, progress in labour and work-related areas required revisiting the role of technology in the evolution of societies.  The international community must strive for more frugal lifestyles that employed the innate gifts of every human being as opposed to the increasing concentration of financial and economic power that benefited only a few while dehumanizing the planet by promoting a division of labour that favoured machines and exhausted natural resources.


Panel Discussion on Ageing


JOHAN SCHOLVINCK, Director, Division for Social Policy and Development, Moderator of the panel discussion, emphasized the timeliness of the discussion five years after the Madrid Conference on Ageing.  The panel would be devoted to outlining and debating major achievements and obstacles in implementing the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing, with the aim of contributing to the debate on issues related to the review and appraisal of the Plan.


In that connection, he recalled that the Commission, in its resolution 44/1 on modalities for the first review and appraisal of the Madrid Plan, had decided to start the first global cycle of review and appraisal in 2007 during the current session and to conclude it in 2008 for its forty-sixth session.  Member States had been requested to identify specific areas for in-depth participatory inquiries, using a bottom-up approach, so that each country could establish for itself the activities it intended to review.  The Secretary-General’s report on major developments in the area of ageing since the Second World Assembly would be made available to delegates at the Commission’s forthcoming session.


SHEILABAI BAPPOO, Minister for Social Security, National Solidarity and Senior Citizens Welfare and Reform Institutions of Mauritius, focused on the issue of older persons and development, saying that the number of pensioners aged 60 and above would double between 2000 and 2050.  Ageing would have an impact on Government and civil society, health and institutional care, employment and labour markets, social protection systems and economic growth.


Turning to her country’s national experience, the policy of the Government of Mauritius towards the elderly bore the headline “Dignity, Respect and Ageing with a Smile” and focused on productive, participatory and meaningful ageing, as well as ageing with dignity and self-fulfilment.  The country had a network of 54 social welfare centres, 125 community centres and nine day-care centres for the elderly.  Consultations for policy decision were conducted with the Senior Citizen Council and some 610 senior citizens’ organizations.


There were a wide variety of training, education and recreational programmes for the elderly and persons with disabilities, she said.  The Government also focused on issues relating to the ageing labour force, in particular, through the development of small and medium enterprises, the creation of an Empowerment Fund and the raising of the retirement age from 60 to 65 years of age.  Social protection was available to all older people and a non-contributory universal pension plan covered all those aged 60 and above.  Additional pensions were paid to people aged 90 and above.


Intergenerational solidarity was also a matter of attention and efforts were being made to transmit values, culture and traditions from one generation to the next, she continued.  Home visits to those who were bedridden as well as residents of charitable institutions had been organized and preventive care for the elderly had been incorporated into the country’s health system.  All senior citizens were entitled to free transportation, and wheelchairs, hearing aids, dentures and spectacles were provided free of charge.


FREDERICK FENECH, geriatrics specialist, and Director, International Institute on Ageing, Malta, said Madrid had highlighted the need to ensure an integrated approach to strategies for ageing in the framework of overall sustainable development.  Today, two thirds of all older persons –- some 375 million people worldwide -– lived in developing countries.  Indeed, ageing and urbanization were the two major demographic trends in developing and transitional countries.


He also noted that developing countries were undergoing a rapid epidemiological transition from infectious diseases to chronic ones, while African countries also bore the double burden of large numbers of people suffering from infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS as well as chronic ones.  All those demographic changes were occurring against the backdrop of a global information and communication technology explosion. 


Recalling that Economic and Social Council resolution 1987/41 recommended the establishment of the International Institute on Ageing, he said that, on 9 October 1987, the United Nations had signed an official agreement with the Government of Malta to establish the International Institute on Ageing as an autonomous body under the Organization’s auspices.  Inaugurated on 15 April 1988 by then Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar, the Institute’s main objective, under its United Nations mandate, was to facilitate the education and training of personnel from developing countries in the various fields of ageing.  It focused on training and capacity-building, networking, publication and convening international meetings.


He went on to highlight the serious problems facing older people in developing countries, stressing the specific need for poverty reduction strategies to outline ways to deal with ageing.  Public health education and the promotion of healthy lifestyles were also important in rapidly ageing developing countries, but such efforts were often hampered because those very countries suffered from the greatest shortages of health-care workers, nurses and from overall “brain drain” in other health- and medical-related fields as African nationals sought employment and livelihoods in the West.  Some of the Institute’s activities, undertaken with such partners as the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), helped the mainstreaming of ageing into gender issues and humanitarian responses.


The foremost challenges for the international community lay in supporting older persons as they sought to integrate themselves into society, he said.  All stakeholders must promote that social integration process in a manner that avoided inert-generational stress and “ageism” sparked by fears of dwindling health-care funds and services.  Everyone must also work to ensure that older persons were not seen as passive and helpless, but rather as valuable resources that could benefit society as a whole.  In order to reach that noble goal, it was critically important to implement all relevant international agreements and development initiatives on behalf of the world’s elderly.


MARTHA B. PELAEZ, international expert in ageing and health, said older people all over the world needed enough money to live on as well as health and freedom to continue doing what they valued in an environment free of discrimination.  Active ageing was the process of optimizing opportunities for health, participation and security in order to enhance the quality of life as people aged.  However, health and social systems were having trouble keeping up with changing demographics.  A concerted effort was needed to ensure health maintenance and chronic disease management, prevent disabilities and introduce community-based long-term care programmes.  The changing demographic situation required health-care systems to switch from acute care to care of multiple chronic conditions with possible consequences in functional capacity.


Long-term care options were needed for persons with physical, mental and cognitive disabilities from all socio-economic levels, she said, adding that it would be a mistake to believe that ageing populations related mostly to developed countries.  While some 52 per cent of older people lived in the North today, that situation would change by 2050, when some 180 million older people would be living in developing countries.  The main challenges for geriatric health services included health-care coverage, lack of trained providers and lack of information about ageing and health access for the elderly.  Other problems included medication mismanagement, overlooked health problems, lack of prevention services and functional decline.


It was therefore necessary to implement educational programmes in geriatrics and gerontology for physicians, nurses and other health and social care providers, she said.  It was also important to develop national and regional initiatives to implement practice-improvement programmes.  It was also necessary to recognize the role and value of family caregivers, build regular assessments of their needs into primary health-care practice, develop experience, review legislation regarding family caregivers and build the capacity for homecare services.  Programmes should be designed to meet the needs of the “older family”.  Health security for older adults related to effective prevention, early detection and chronic care management with protocols adjusted to their needs.  National targets should be established to improve health security for older people.  It was also necessary to elaborate indicators for monitoring success.


MARY ANN TSAO, President and CEO of the Singapore-based Tsao Foundation, spoke about creating and ensuring enabling and supportive environments, saying the Foundation was a regionally-oriented non-profit organization dedicated to caring for the aged and other ageing-related issues.  As older persons were now living longer but with more disabilities, they required more support and assistance, even as the capacity of nuclear families to care for them decreased.  With that in mind, Governments and community-level actors were becoming increasingly aware that families could no longer be the sole supporters of their elderly relatives in terms of health care, financial and psycho-social support.


To help address that trend, she said, stakeholders were looking at a number of innovative options, including the provision of social pensions, engaging seniors’ groups with Government organizations on alternatives, and expanded home care and caregiver support for disabled older people.  On social pensions, an elderly man had recounted during a recent trip to China how there was nothing more empowering than “having money in my pocket”.  To that end, the Foundation saw such schemes as “win-win” initiatives that helped reduce older people’s poverty and raised their status, material security and access to services.


Research had shown that older persons regularly contributed portions of their pensions to their families, which helped improve household living conditions, she said.  In developing countries, where such schemes were in place, pensions also eased the financial burden of older persons caring for relatives living with HIV/AIDS.  It had become clear that even small pensions made a huge difference in the lives of older persons.  Regarding efforts to engage seniors’ groups with Governments, such groups of older people were usually social or faith-based.  But recent initiatives by non-governmental organizations supported the formation of associations structured around specific issues and linked with local governments.  Such associations had been highly effective in raising awareness among older people about entitlements and pension services, and encouraging them to participate in policy dialogue and other decision-making areas.  On care-giving, particularly for frail or disabled elderly people, such services as help with grocery shopping, housekeeping or yard work were critical for the dignity and overall survival of older persons.


After the Moderator opened an interactive dialogue on ageing, speakers reaffirmed their commitment to the Madrid Plan of Action and shared their national and regional experiences in its implementation.  They also pointed out that ageing created both challenges and opportunities, which must be recognized, studied and addressed.  A link between ageing and national development policies was emphasized, with one speaker pointing out that one aspect of ageing manifested itself in the erosion of traditional family care systems, while new political frameworks at the State level had not yet been fully developed.


Speakers also highlighted the situation of older people working in the informal sector who required coverage by pension and social security systems, with some noting that Governments encountered financial difficulties in that regard and others raising questions about the role of international cooperation in tackling the difficulties relating to older people’s needs.  One speaker also pointed out that there should be a more explicit link between the Madrid Plan of Action and the International Labour Organization (ILO) Decent Work Agenda.


Ms. BAPPOO, responding to questions, said retired and elderly people in Mauritius could participate in income-generating initiatives within the larger development framework through, among others, an Empowerment Fund that targeted retired persons wishing to start up small- or medium-sized enterprises.


Mr. FENECH said that, rather than asking what could be done for older persons, it was more important to stress empowering them to participate in development.  They had unique gifts to share, from volunteering and counselling –- in elder care centres or working with youth groups -– to more regularized employment.  Governments could make it easier for older persons to go on working as one way to ensure they were invested in the development of their local communities and national societies.


Ms. PELAEZ said there was a direct link between “the amount of money in your pocket and your health”.  There were very good examples of social pension schemes in Brazil and throughout South America that were improving the dignity of older people -- often by increasing their savings -- the empowerment of women and wider development.


Ms. TSAO said social pension schemes were really an investment in social development because they helped lift families out of poverty.  The small dollar amounts that older persons received reaped huge benefits, by, among other things, opening up possibilities to increase savings and encouraging older persons to contribute to the efforts of younger members of their immediate families to find work.


World Youth Report, 2007


Mr. SCHOLVINCK opened the discussion on the World Youth Report, 2007, saying it was the third in a series that had begun in 2003.  The first report had been the result of an Expert Group Meeting on Global Priorities for Youth, held in Helsinki, Finland, in 2002.  Based on the World Programme of Action for Youth to the Year 2000 and Beyond, that report focused on assessing the global situation of young people around the world.  The 2005 report had been prepared after the addition of five new areas for priority attention to the World Programme of Action, examining a total of 15 priorities under 3 broad clusters:  youth in a global economy, youth in civil society and youth and their well-being.


This year’s forthcoming report assessed opportunities and constraints in connection with youth development in selected world regions, he said.  Its key themes were that youth was a positive force in development; that youth participation was essential to harnessing development gains; and that promoting and sustaining youth participation in a manner supporting overall development required attention to a number of core areas of youth development.  In a sense, the World Youth Report, 2007 conveyed important lessons that the Youth Programme had garnered from working with young people and their organizations around the world for more than a decade.  The document would be released this spring.


JANE LOWICKI-ZUCCA, Lead Editor, World Youth Report, 2007, presented an overview of the document, saying that, unlike the previous two reports, it took a regional approach, presenting several overviews as well as in-depth articles on key regional youth issues.  Focusing on the World Programme of Action for Youth, it covered its main priorities, which included education, health, hunger and poverty.  In that connection, the General Assembly had, in 2005, re-endorsed the 10 priorities of the World Programme of Action for Youth and endorsed 5 new ones, including information and communication technology, HIV/AIDS, intergenerational relations, youth and conflict, and disability.


Looking at information by country, region as well as globally, the report introduced a first set of youth development indicators, placing emphasis on youth contributions to development and promising practices, she said.  It demonstrated significant diversity in youth experiences worldwide, showing variations at the regional, country and community levels and according to gender norms, socio-economic status, rural/urban divides and more.  The document testified to an expanded global interest in youth and showed that coordinated action to improve youth development was more relevant now than ever.  It emphasized increased youth participation and stressed the importance of participatory policy formation and programming.  Despite progress achieved, however, there were still limited opportunities for youth participation in decision-making.


Regarding education, she said the world now had the best-educated youth ever.  Since 1995, more children had completed primary school than ever before, and four out of five eligible youth were in secondary education.  Some 100 million young people were now involved in tertiary education.  However, significant education gaps remained, with 130 million young people currently not in school and some 133 million illiterate.  There were also significant gender differences as well as regional and subregional diversity.


Turning to statistics, she said the global youth population amounted to some 6.6 billion.  Globalization forced young people to become increasingly competitive internationally and there was significant youth migration for education and employment.  Nearly one in five young people lived on less than $1 a day and 511 million on less than $2.  More than 50 per cent of young people in 30 countries of Africa, 6 countries in Asia and 1 in the Caribbean lived in poverty.  Almost 12 million young men and women lived with HIV/AIDS.


DABESAKI MAC-IKEMENJIMA, Executive Director, Development Partnership International (youth participant), focused on youth development through participation, challenges and opportunities in Africa, saying that more and more African leaders were putting in place the strategies that would help the region achieve sustainable development.  African Governments would have to focus squarely on the unique situation of the continent’s youth -- and take advantage of young people’s decision-making capabilities -- if critical development goals were to be reached.  The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) had a youth strategy with accompanying initiatives that supported youth development efforts, including an innovative e-schools initiative.


At the same time, he noted, African youth faced a number of serious challenges, including education, health and HIV/AIDS, unemployment, poor recreational activities, lack of space for participation in national and international forums, and lack of access to information and communication technology tools, which were critical in helping youth improve their lives in the twenty-first century.  Those challenges should be contextualized within the region’s ongoing struggle to eradicate poverty and achieve sustainable growth.  Migration and urbanization, which had come to characterize the African way of life, were also important issues.


“Young people in Africa are increasingly calling for space to participate in decision-making processes,” he said, stressing that young Africans wanted to live in a world with Internet access, better education, jobs, a clean environment, clean water and facilities where they could spend their leisure time.  They also wished to live in a world without HIV/AIDS.  The African Union had recently developed a Youth Charter which had been endorsed by Heads of State in July 2006 and launched by the African Union Commission in last November.  The Charter was a legal and political framework for youth empowerment and development activities continent-wide.  Among other things, it called on States parties to develop cross-sectoral policies on youth with a view to integrating and mainstreaming youth perspectives into decision-making.  It also recognized that every young person had the right to quality education.  The African Union had targeted some 15 nations initially to ratify and implement the Charter, but that would occur only when partners like the United Nations emphasized the document’s importance.


JULIO F. CARRION, professor at the University of Delaware, focused on youth employment, migration and political participation in Latin America, saying that young people, especially females, were worse off today than 15 years ago.  Unemployment was higher and incomes were lower, while a significant proportion of young people were neither studying nor working.  When they did find jobs, they tended to be in low-productivity activities and poverty was prevalent as a result.  Migration had become a route to escape poverty and exclusion.  Today, rural-to-urban internal migration coexisted with increasing international migration:  Migration opened avenues for social mobility, but also increased the chances of exploitation.


Latin American youth shared the political scepticism of older citizens, he said.  On average, young people had given only moderate support to the idea of democracy and only a minority of them was satisfied with how it was working.  Low political trust and lack of interest in politics were associated with little political activism among the youth.  The only area in which they seemed to be more active than adults was illegal protests.


Turning to the report’s recommendations, he said primary education should be universal and half of those between 20 and 24 years of age should have a high school education in the next decade.  Young people required attention and specific youth groups needed targeted programmes.  The poor needed a more extensive safety net as well as job training programmes.  Those in rural areas required better educational opportunities.  Young females needed protection against exploitative practices and enforcement of labour laws.  Those who chose to migrate should be protected from abusive practices.  Guest worker programmes should have clear paths to permanent residency.  It was also important to address societal problems in general and youth issues in particular.  Successful national experiences should be identified.


DAVID GORDON, Head of the Centre for the Study of Poverty and Social Justice, University of Bristol, presented statistical indicators, challenges and prospects in the priority areas highlighted in the World Programme of Action for Youth.  For the first time, thereport had included a set of youth development indicators, which were really a form of social indicators to point the way forward for youth.


He stressed that coming up with such figures had been difficult because many of the international community’s tools for such work were not age-appropriate.  But one good thing had been that, since the last report, the General Assembly had ended the debate on the definition of youth by declaring that, for the purposes of measurement of data and statistics, “youth” were aged between 15 and 24 years old.  There had also been a “social survey revolution” during the past six years when more and more national census-related data had become available on the Web.


Focusing only on poverty eradication and hunger indicators -- key Millennium Development Goals -– he said the report had taken the definition of absolute poverty, agreed by the Copenhagen Summit, and had tried to harmonize those indicators with youth-related statistics.  In order to measure absolute poverty among children, it was necessary to define the threshold measures of severe deprivation of basic human need for, among other things, food, safe drinking water and sanitation facilities.  For hunger, the figures were based on FAO’s Body Mass Index formula.


MARTINA VON BASSEWITZ (Germany), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the three pillars of the 1995 Copenhagen Plan of Action -– poverty eradication, promotion of full employment and social integration -– were challenges that Governments faced all over the world.  Despite progress achieved, the situation in developing countries required continued attention and action.  The General Assembly’s acceptance last December of the draft Convention for the protection of human rights for people with disabilities had been a great success in the effort to protect the human rights of women, men, girls and boys with disabilities, reaffirming as it did that they should be on an equal footing with others regarding the enjoyment of human rights.


She said Europe was considered the world’s “oldest” continent and current trends indicated that ageing throughout the region would continue.  However, the potential of older members of society presented great and manifold opportunities to benefit society.  The prerequisite was a positive image of older people.  Intra-generational solidarity was also of utmost importance.  The European Union continued to promote the World Plan of Action on Youth and, since young women and men represented 20 per cent of Europe’s citizens, called upon them to play a more active and constructive role in the region’s future.  With a budget of 885 million euro, the “Youth in Action” programme would provide funding support to projects by youth initiatives that fostered social cohesion and intercultural dialogue, both inside and outside Europe.


The member States of the European Union were confronted with great social, economic and demographic changes, she said.  Rising life expectancy and low birth rates had implications for public policies, the society, individuals as well as families.  The needs of current generations should be seen in conjunction with the quality of life of future generations.  Family-friendly societies and gender equality were vital to economic growth, prosperity and competitiveness.  There was, therefore, a need to implement policies that promoted jobs for women, particularly for women with children, and ensured a balance between work, family and private life for both men and women.  As growing diversity was a challenge to social cohesion, equal opportunities for all groups was of particular importance.  The European Union sought a coherent and consistent approach to family policies that would help to strengthen families in all regions of Europe and secure prosperity in the future.


IGNACIO ROBLES GARCIA, Secretary-General, Institute for the Elderly and Social Services of Spain, said the ageing rate of persons over 65 in respect to the general population had resulted in cultural change, economic concerns and demands for assistance.  Domestically, Spain had recently approved the new “Law of Promotion of Personal Autonomy and Care for the Dependent” to assist vulnerable persons to attain a higher personal autonomy.  The System of Care for Dependent persons would have positive effects, not only for the targeted population, but also on economic activity and job creation in rural areas, where access to social and sanitary services was most needed.


He said Spain was deeply committed to the full implementation of the Madrid Plan of Action on Ageing and its regional strategy for Europe.  Since the Second Assembly on Ageing in Madrid, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs had been organizing annual international seminars to examine recommendations reached at the Second Assembly.  Following the proposal to revise the Madrid Plan of Action and the Berlin Regional Strategy, the Institute had been organizing the European Regional Conference of the Economic Commission for Europe, to be held in early November in Leon.  The coming months would be crucial for the revision process.  Spain had always supported the regional revision process and was happy to have been able to consolidate, in collaboration with the United Nations, a forum for the debate on ageing matters.  The regional conference would contribute to clarifying progress already achieved and involve all the States in implementing the follow-up to the Madrid Plan of Action.


YASUSHI TAKASE ( Japan) welcomed the fact that a human-centred approach was being adopted in a number of development policymaking areas.  Japan had made it one of the most important goals of its international cooperation and its Government had conducted its review and appraisal exercises in connection with the Madrid Plan of Action and compiled a report on the matter.  As one of the fastest ageing countries in the world, where the percentage of the population over 65 years old had exceeded 20 per cent last year, Japan believed that sharing its experiences would be useful to other Member States.


In 2001, Japan had formulated general principles concerning measures for the ageing society, based on such sectors as work and income, health and welfare, learning and social participation, and living environment, he said.  In order to secure equal employment opportunities for all, regardless of age, the Government had been trying to ease age restrictions on employment.  A subsidy had been given to employers permitting employees to continue working after retirement, or to extend the retirement age.  Subsidies had also been provided for employers whose workforce exceeded a fixed proportion of elderly workers.  Amendments had been introduced to the national pension law, including an indexing mechanism, which would allow employers to take into account the changes in the old-age dependency ratio. A long-term care insurance system had been introduced in 2000 and, in 2005, the system had been further revised to put more emphasis on preventive action.


Turning to the situation of people with disabilities, he noted that negotiations on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities had coincided with Japan’s national debate on that matter.  While the principle of equality was enshrined in the country’s Constitution, Japan’s other measures in that regard included recent amendments to the basic law on persons with disabilities, which specifically prohibited discrimination on the basis of disability.  Other laws were amended to promote greater independence and more active participation for persons with disabilities.


Regarding youth, he said that, while young people could make an important contribution to sustainable economic growth and social development, it was also true that their human dignity was enhanced through employment.   Japan was committed to supporting youth in developing countries, especially socially vulnerable women, by increasing employment opportunities and providing technical education and vocational training.  In the past 10 years, Japan had provided more than $10 billion in official development assistance in the area of education.  In the Asia-Pacific region, the country had been providing assistance for the development of human resources for more than 30 years, in cooperation with ILO.  In 2004, it had organized in cooperation with ILO and the United Nations University, a symposium on globalization and the future of youth in Asia.


DAINA URBONAITIENĖ ( Lithuania) said older persons constituted more than one fifth of her country’s population and that proportion was growing.  Since 1994, a negative natural growth had been recoded due to reductions in births.  Lithuania had achieved a lot in creating a society of equal opportunities for all ages and had sought consistently to implement the United Nations Principles on Older Persons.  The Government had approved the National Ageing Strategy in June 2004, two of the priority targets of which were income guarantees for older persons and employment of older persons.  With the lack of a working force, it was necessary to encourage older persons to stay in the labour market for the longest possible period and to provide them with access to lifelong learning.


She said older persons were the most numerous consumers of social and health-care services.  The quality and accessibility of health care and social services were consequently among the top national priorities, the key aim of which was to ensure that older persons lived at home, with their families and within their communities for as long as possible.  The National Strategy also envisaged participation by older persons in solving their own issues.  Non-governmental organizations of older persons were active in various fields, providing social services, advocating healthy lifestyles and informing, teaching and consulting older persons and thus expanding their social inclusion.  By joining forces, States might be able to create a world that guaranteed a safe and dignified old age.


HENRI-PAUL NORMANDIN ( Canada) said the world’s population was ageing and that of his own country was no exception.  Too often, such changes created the fear that managing seniors’ issues would create a difficult burden on society; instead, the message from Canada was that seniors and the contributions they had made to society should be embraced, their influence celebrated and their achievements praised.


He said it was the global community’s collective responsibility to address that unprecedented demographic shift.  Canada had taken specific actions over the last five years to improve the quality of life of seniors, who were now better educated, healthier, more productive and living longer than ever before.  They were much more active and vibrant, and the rest of society had much to learn from their collective experience.  A common commitment to addressing the challenges and opportunities of an ageing global population would yield tremendous results.


ZHANG DAN ( China) said that, with the world’s population ageing more rapidly, ageing-related challenges were looming larger than ever.  Currently, people over 60 accounted for more than 11 per cent of China’s total population, a number expected to increase to 12 per cent in the next three years.  Based on China’s experience, there was a need to integrate the issue of ageing into overall national economic and development plans, and to mobilize all sectors of society towards that end, including intermediary agencies, families and elderly persons themselves.


He went on to say that the Government of China was earnestly implementing the Madrid Plan of Action and, among other things, had elaborated a development strategy on its undertakings for the elderly (2006-2010) to augment existing pension and other ageing-related strategies already in place.  China would continue to ensure that its relevant plans and programmes were people-centred and that its social security systems were consistently improved to safeguard the fundamental interests of older persons.


On youth, he said his country had consistently funded education, business schemes, microcredit projects and youth entrepreneurial initiatives.   China had also supported youth-targeted cultural and sporting activities.  The Government had taken comprehensive steps to improve employment opportunities and the Youth Employment Network would continue to help promote exchange and cooperation between China and other countries in the field of youth employment.  Finally, China had been making vigorous efforts to protect the legitimate rights and interests of persons with disabilities.  After a massive survey last year, it had introduced an outline for the development of Undertakings for Persons with Disabilities (2006-2010), moving closer to its goal of “Rehabilitation services for all” of that population.


ADRIANA GONZALEZ-FURLONG, Director of the National Institute for Older People of Mexico, said the issue of ageing had proved challenging as the Mexican Government had begun to outline its public policies for the remainder of the decade.  Mexico favoured a rights-based approach and would continue to work hard to ensure that elderly persons lived in dignity and “had a decent old age”.  The Government also ensured that public policy on ageing was consistent throughout the country and took into account relevant regional norms as well as the Madrid Plan of Action.


She said civil society groups also played an important role in the country’s efforts to strengthen public polices on ageing.  The State had created a civic forum on ageing, which featured the participation of civil society actors from both urban and rural areas, to encourage older persons to become more active in society and to give relevant Government agencies a chance to interact with ageing-related organizations.  Mexico’s efforts always aimed to ensure older persons’ participation in the development process, protecting and promoting the dignity of older persons, and ensuring that their great experience was drawn upon to boost development in the entire country.


S. JEHOMA, Deputy Director-General, Department of Social Development of South Africa, said the apartheid system had denied the majority of South Africans their basic human rights, leaving the majority of black people to the scourge of poverty, destitution and social exclusion.  Since its emancipation, the country had been redressing the plight of vulnerable people and favoured them above able-bodied and self-reliant people through vigorous redistribution initiatives.  Whereas the Bill of Rights provided for the right of access to social security, housing and sanitation, that access depended on the availability of State resources.


For children, however, those rights were not contingent on resources and the State’s obligation did not allow for derogation of their best interests, he said.  Since 1997, the Government had increased coverage of income support to children from a mere 90,000 to over 8 million beneficiaries.  Out of school-age child beneficiaries, 97 per cent attended school.  The country had passed a comprehensive Children’s Act that provided for protection of children.


The situation of women was particularly difficult and South Africa had set explicit targets for their advancement, he said.  Women now occupied 47 per cent of Cabinet positions, more than over 37 per cent of the seats in Parliament and they would soon make up the majority of senior managers in public service.  Under continuous pressure from the Government, private businesses were now “scurrying” to ensure equity in the workplace.  The Government also remained resolute in its objective to eradicate violence against women.  The Public Works Programme would grow from the current 300,000 jobs to over 1 million in the next four years, explicitly targeting women.


According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), South Africa was one of the few countries that spent less on military budgets than on water and sanitation, he said.  The Government was also making it a priority to improve the situation of young people, who constituted about 40 per cent of the population.  The national youth development policy framework for 2002-2007 outlined key interventions targeting youth.


He said the national disability strategy was the overarching framework to break the cycle of discrimination against persons with disabilities.  More than 1.3 million people received disability grants and moves were under way to introduce social assistance to people suffering from chronic diseases.  The South African Plan of Action on Ageing was now in place and had been translated into legislation, focusing on community-based care, protection of older persons and ensuring they remained in their communities and their rights were respected.  Of the 3.28 million people older than 60 years, the 2.2 million deemed poor received social pensions.  An Older Persons Act had been adopted recently.


Despite certain achievements, he noted with concern the need to promote growth and jobs to achieve further social cohesion and sustainable development.  Not satisfied with providing income support to over 22 per cent of the population through social transfers, the new direction was to consolidate services and expedite the linking of social-grant beneficiaries to education, skills development, decent employment, health care, housing, sanitation and potable water through an integrated approach.  South Africa continued to strengthen bilateral relations with the African diaspora, working towards peace and stability and supporting the promotion of decent work throughout the continent.  In November 2006, the country had hosted a meeting of Southern African Development Community (SADC) ministers to initiate the formulation of a social policy framework for Africa.


MWAZO PAUL KADUCHA (United Republic of Tanzania) said his Government had undertaken several measures to implement the standard rules on the equalization of opportunities for persons with disabilities, including the establishment of a national disability policy.  The Government was currently reviewing the relevant legislation to meet the needs of that policy and protect the rights and integrity of persons with disabilities.  It was also engaged in a massive awareness-raising campaign and working with local government agencies to ensure that district plans also reflected the needs of persons with disabilities.  At the same time, it faced several challenges in implementing the standard rules, including inadequate data, widespread prejudice and resource constraints.


On ageing, he said the Government had put in place a national policy to guide implementation of the Madrid Plan of Action and taken steps to scale up pensions.  The provision of subsidized medical care for older persons, however, remained a challenge.  Besides the major traditional challenges of implementing the Madrid Plan of Action, HIV/AIDS was also taking its toll on older people as they were often left to care for their orphaned grandchildren.


Turning to the question of youth, he encouraged their further participation in policy development and politics.  The Government had been including young people in its delegations to international forums, including the United Nations, and was currently engaged in “youth mapping”, by which it was taking stock of the number and location of youth organizations, in order to support their further formation and empowerment.


IGNACIO LLANOS ( Chile) said his country had elaborated a series of institutional and legal objectives aimed at the full implementation of the Madrid Plan of Action.  Through sector coordination and programmatic articulation, Chile promoted the human rights of aged persons and their active civic, labour and cultural participation.  The main mechanism was the Joint National Place for the Older Adult.  It was led by the National Service for the Older Adult, created in September 2002 as a decentralized public service reporting to the President.  The institution had an independent budget and had been updated with the aim of broadening public policies to promote participation by the elderly.


He said his country was also seeking to realize the United Nations Principles for Older Persons, giving special emphasis to empowerment and social protection, two pillars around which the design and implementation of its programmes and actions had been structured.  In 2003, the National Fund of the Older Adult had been created to finance civil society initiatives involving older persons.  In order to protect the older population, the Government was giving stipends to qualified poor or indigent families of caregivers.


Another priority of the national policy was combating violence against older adults, for which a mechanism had been established in 2005 that enabled them to submit proposals to curtail that problem, he said.  In response, a draft law had been elaborated, which sought to amend the intra-family violence law, include older adults as specific vulnerable subjects and designate their abuse as a form of domestic violence.  Likewise, telephone numbers had been set up to report mistreatment of older persons.


The Government was also creating mechanisms of social protection in order to guarantee the rights of older adults, he said.  Given the importance of economic security for ageing persons, reform of the social security system was being promoted through a draft law that would increase minimum pensions and grant automatic access to pensions.  Also, a presidential advisory council on reform of the social security system had been created with the aim of collecting information on older persons and elaborating proposals to reform the system in their favour.


MARMUR SINUSI, Director-General for Social Rehabilitation and Services and Disability, Ministry of Social Affairs of Indonesia, associated himself with the Group of 77 and China, and said older people’s issues did not always find a prominent place on national agendas.  They were not automatically integrated into broader social policy.  The report before the Commission highlighted important recommendations that would require Governments to redouble their efforts to integrate older persons into the mainstream of development policies.  Marginalization and age-based discrimination should be abolished.  Social security and easily accessed health care must be provided to older persons.


He said his country had formulated specific policies and programmes for older persons, whose numbers had increased from 14 million in 2000 to 16 million in 2005.  Indonesia had also put in place regulations to promote the welfare of older persons.  Among the main projects were pilot projects in five provinces for bedridden older persons.  In the current atmosphere of reform and decentralization, the Government was committed to ensuring protection of older persons’ basic human rights and treating them as valuable members of society.  National action to satisfy their needs would continue to be based on an integrated approach that would seek to place them at the centre of the policymaking process.


With regard to youth, he said the Indonesian Government was committed to implementing the World Programme of Action.  The country’s population of young people stood at more than 40 million, although the challenges of youth unemployment and creating opportunities for them remained.  To address those issues, Indonesia had established a Youth Employment Network in order to pool efforts and resources in alleviating youth unemployment.  The Government had also developed vocational training centres in all provincial and most district capitals.


BYONG-JO KANG ( Republic of Korea) pointed out that Governments in developing countries had to deal with many complexities, as their older populations increased more rapidly, their youth populations faced widespread unemployment, and the information technology revolution sparked by rampant globalization compounded the implications of those demographic changes.  The interplay of those variables had already touched nearly every aspect of modern human development, including migration, health, employment and education.  Like other countries, the Republic of Korea welcomed the benefits of those rapid social changes, but was uncertain about how the trends would play out in the end.


Overall, the Republic of Korea had found it necessary to address comprehensively matters pertaining to social groups, he said, adding that, while each issue was unique, many had overlapping characteristics.  Social policymakers hamstrung by limited resources had to be wary of making trade-offs between social groups.  With that in mind, the Republic of Korea would encourage the next report of the Secretary-General to look more closely at the interconnectivity among social groups.  It would urge the United Nations to strengthen coordination among its agencies that represented diverse social groups.


Considering the close links between the welfare of social groups and national development, he expressed the hope that the Secretary-General’s next report on social groups would contain more recommendations on ways to increase the active participation of such individuals, especially women, in the various national and international development processes, including towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.  The Republic of Korea was actively ensuring that it implemented rights-based social policies.


CLEMENT K. KHEMBO, Minister for Persons with Disabilities and the Elderly of Malawi, said his country had adopted policies and programmes in response to its national and international obligations as contained in international instruments, including the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons, the World Programme of Action for Youth and the 2002 Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing.  In Malawi, many persons with disabilities were impoverished, uneducated, malnourished, discriminated against and neglected.  To address those challenges, the Government had undertaken a number of policy and legislative measures and formulated programmes aimed at removing barriers to the participation of that social group.


For example, he said the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy and the draft national policy on equalization of opportunities for persons with disabilities recognized the need for access to education, training, employment, health services and other essentials of life.  Persons with disabilities now had access to loans from the Rural Development Fund.  Although Malawi’s Constitution prohibited discrimination in any form, the Government would in due course, propose legislation to define and eliminate discriminatory practices against persons with disabilities and equalize their opportunities in society.


Regarding ageing, he said that, for the first time, the Government was leading a drive towards a new attitude for the elderly and was considering policy options to meet the challenges faced by older persons.  It had formulated a national policy for elderly persons, whose objective was to increase their capacity for productivity, independence and active involvement in the community and national life.  The policy recognized the need to utilize the skills and experience of older people.


Malawi recognized that the family was the fundamental unit that formed a natural and safe environment for nurturing and bringing up children, he said.  For that reason, the Government was reviewing family-related laws to ensure that every family member enjoyed full and equal respect and protection under the law against all forms of neglect, cruelty or exploitation, as well as against gender-based violence.  The review would address, among other things, marriage, divorce, child maintenance, custody and adoption.  It would be supported by existing policies on the care of orphans and vulnerable children, HIV/AIDS, early childhood development, land holding and property ownership, food security and gender.


CORINA MURAFA, youth delegate for Romania, said the grave statistics on youth employment cried out for rapid and comprehensive international actions.  Among other things, it had been estimated that youth made up nearly half of the world’s unemployed people.  With that in mind, Government delegations should link educational policies with unemployment reduction polices.  Apart from achieving education for all, stakeholders must ensure quality education.  Governments must also develop new approaches to education that would take into account the rapidly changing demands of the global labour market.  Indeed, education systems must be reformed by facilitating both the acquisition of information and communication technology skills, entrepreneurial skills, e-learning and “life competencies”.


She went on to urge Governments to address the migration-related aspects of youth employment.  The General Assembly’s recent High-Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development had agreed that migration could be positive for both origin and destination countries.  But there was a need to generate jobs with decent work conditions at the local and national levels.  Furthermore, carefully crafted migration and unemployment polices should take into account issues such as the contribution of young migrants to reducing labour shortages, the positive impact of migrant entrepreneurship, as well as private flows of capital and remittances deriving from young migrants.


AMADOU ROUAMBA, Secretary-General, Ministry for Social Development, Solidarity and Older Persons of Mali, said his Government sought to create decent jobs for vulnerable sectors of society, including young people, women, people with disabilities and older people.  Promoting full employment and decent work for all required the participation of all relevant players in society.  Mali had adopted a health insurance plan and undertaken to reform its social security institutions.  It had also introduced a medical assistance plan for the poor.  The country’s development strategies sought to provide opportunities for every member of society as well as to ensure support for the elderly, young and people with disabilities.


On ageing, he said the Government had adopted a national plan in 2005 and was now working with specialized agencies and non-governmental organizations to implement it.  The Government was also trying to involve all sectors of society in promoting the situation of young people.  The national programme to promote youth sought to ensure that young people played their role in national development, taking into account the needs and aspirations of that particular social group.


The implementation of development programmes in developing countries faced many challenges, especially in Africa, he continued.  In that connection, Mali appealed to the international community, particularly the developed countries, to meet their official development assistance obligations.  South-South cooperation and solidarity, particularly in providing support for vulnerable groups, was also important.


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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.