|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fourth General Assembly
1st & 2nd Meetings (AM & PM)
World Economic Crisis Could Have ‘Unparalleled Negative Consequences’ on Human
Development, Third Committee Told, as Debate Begins for Current Session
Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, this morning warned of “unparalleled negative consequences” to human development, with up to 100 million more people expected to fall below the poverty line, due to the poor health of the world economy.
Addressing the opening session of the Third Committee (Humanitarian, Social and Cultural), he said nations must devote special attention to those least able to handle periods of extended unemployment and rising prices. To support those vulnerable groups, nations needed strong protection systems that could preserve the well-being of families, and to prevent generations of families from becoming mired in poverty.
He told the Committee, which today launched a general debate on social development, that it could play a pivotal role in encouraging Member States to consider establishing a “social protection floor for all”. [The social protection floor is a concept promoted by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and accepted by the United Nations Chief Executive Board (CEB) as one of the policies to combat the global crises. It consists of access to basic health care, income security for the elderly and the disabled, child benefits and income security combined with employment guarantees for the poor in active age.]
Pointing to the poorest and most vulnerable people on the planet, Mr. Sha noted that combating social exclusion was prominent on the agenda of the Third Committee, also adding, “Failure to address their needs will lead to an increase in social exclusion and a rise in social tensions.”
He said men and women needed opportunities to obtain productive work while preserving their freedom, equity, security and human dignity -- the main tenets of inclusive social development. He drew attention to promising initiatives to strengthen social safety nets, such as the Vulnerability Financing Facility endorsed recently by the Group of 20, and the Global Jobs Pact, an initiative of the ILO endorsed by the Economic and Social Council in July, with an aim to protect and promote decent work.
Sweden’s Minister for Social Security, who spoke on behalf of the European Union, was one of several speakers stressing the importance of a job-intensive recovery from the world economic crisis, while also calling for a social safety net for those most in need. Explaining that world unemployment had increased to 190 million people, with another 40 million jobs expected to disappear by the end of 2009, now was the “time for further concrete steps” to prevent even greater marginalization and exclusion of the very poorest.
She said one of the European Union’s main challenges was to prevent the unemployed from drifting into “long-term exclusion” resulting from a lack of adequate social protection and a passive benefit system. “We must provide people with real opportunities, even in times when work is hard to find,” she said.
To highlight the issue’s multi-faceted nature, the representative of Mexico, speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, described social integration as a question of moral duty, economic efficiency, as well as an “expression of solidarity and humanism.”
She said the Rio Group would continue to promote -- while calling for a more active role for the United Nations -- the rights of women, indigenous peoples, youth, older persons, migrants and people with disabilities. The Group had also decided to support the proposal to proclaim an International Year of Cooperatives, believing that indigenous peoples and rural communities would benefit from access to funding and productive land, adoption of sustainable production techniques, investment in infrastructure, and women’s participation in economic activities, all of which were promoted by cooperatives.
Today’s speakers included a handful of youth delegates, among them those from Norway and Turkey who expressed strong concerns over the environment. Norway’s speaker said climate change affected those who were struggling the most, but was caused disproportionately by those who “had the most”. It had seemed that those who had the most were taking certain rights for granted: the rights to life, liberty and security; the realization of economic, social and cultural rights; and the right to an adequate standard of living. But not everybody enjoyed those rights. Turkey’s youth delegate issued a global call for action on climate change, expressing hope for a successful outcome in Copenhagen.
Also speaking were the representatives of Sudan (on behalf of the Group of 77 and China), Botswana (on behalf of the Southern African Development Community), St. Lucia (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), Japan, Pakistan, Cuba, China, United States, Brazil, Tunisia, Malta, Myanmar, Burkina Faso, Qatar, Algeria, Egypt, Russian Federation, Malaysia, Philippines, and Belgium. Youth delegates from Republic of Korea, Finland, Netherlands and Slovakia also spoke.
The reports of the Secretary-General were introduced by Jean-Pierre Gonnot, Acting Director of the Division of Social Policy and Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Mr. Gonnot fielded questions from the representatives of Malaysia and Syria in a short question-and-answer session.
In other business, the Committee this morning elected its Vice-Chairs and Rapporteur for the sixty-fourth session: Fiola Hoosen ( South Africa), Zahid Rastam ( Malaysia), Edgard Perez ( Peru) and Nicola Hill ( New Zealand).
The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m., Tuesday 6 October, to continue its general debate on social development.
At its first session of the sixty-fourth session, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met to adopt its programme of work and to begin its general discussion on social development.
It had before it documents relating to its organization of work including the first report of the General Committee of the General Assembly, on the organization of the sixty-fourth regular session of the General Assembly, adoption of the agenda and allocation of items (document A/64/250) and a letter dated 18 September 2009 from the President of the General Assembly to the Chairman of the Third Committee (document A/64/250), which outlines the allocation of agenda items to the Committee. It also had two notes by the Secretariat on the organization of the work of the Third Committee (documents A/C.4/64/L.1 and Add.1), which contains a calendar of meetings and list of documents to be considered by the Committee in 2009.
On social development, the Committee had before it the Secretary-General’s report on realizing the Millennium Development Goals for persons with disabilities through the implementation of the World Programme of Action Concerning Disabled Persons and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (document A/64/180). According to the report, those Goals and their targets and indicators do not include the word “disability”, nor the term “persons with disabilities”. Yet the World Bank estimates that, while such persons comprise 10 per cent of the world’s population, disability could be associated with 20 per cent of the global population living in poverty.
The report suggests the Goals and their implementation strategies should be strengthened by the Convention’s normative standards and framework. The issue of accessibility should also permeate all policies and activities in realizing the Goals for persons with disabilities. In doing so, international cooperation must ensure access to and participation of such persons as both agents and beneficiaries of development. It further suggests that the General Assembly might encourage Governments to develop and accelerate information exchange regarding, among other things, policy approaches to particular disability issues, particularly as they relate to accessibility; emphasize the importance of the participation of persons with disabilities at all levels of policymaking and development; and encourage Governments to use the 2010 census to fill some gaps in the information and data regarding persons with disabilities, as well as supplementary surveys specifically related to the Millennium Development Goals.
Also before the Committee was a letter dated 6 March 2009 from the Permanent Representative of the Sudan to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General(document A/64/65), which transmits a copy of the Muscat Declaration on Water adopted by the first Ministerial Forum on Water of the Group of 77, held in Muscat, Sultanate of Oman, from 23 to 25 February 2009. That Declaration recognizes water’s vital importance in sustaining habitat and species’ survival as well as human existence. It underlines the need for countries of the south to explore new ways and means among themselves to tackle basic needs in terms of water resources. Among other things, it stresses taking the necessary actions by using science-based programmes to provide clean water and improved sanitation to communities and households.
The Committee also had before it the Secretary-General’s report on follow-up to the implementation of the World Summit for Social Development and of the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly (document A/64/157). The report gives an overview of discussions at the forty-seventh session of the Commission for Social Development, which convened in February and addressed “social integration” as its priority theme. The report also examines the impact of the current global crises on social development and social integration and addresses the social dimensions of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development.
Based on its deliberations, the Commission outlined several recommendations for the General Assembly’s consideration. It suggests Governments consider establishing an institutional focal point tasked with promoting and monitoring social integration. States should also actively pursue policies that explicitly prohibit discrimination against marginalized groups and individuals based on race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property and birth or other status and remove all discriminatory provisions from their national legal frameworks. Meanwhile, the international community and donor Governments should pay particular attention to the needs of fragile societies and subregions at risk and promote peacebuilding, social cohesion and constructive community relationships. Commitments to and support for social services and assistance, particularly those arising from the global economic and financial crises, should be maintained.
Also before the Committee was the Overview of the World Social Situation 2009 (document A/64/158 and Corr.1), which warns that while considerable progress has been made in reducing levels of absolute poverty, overall, the world is not on track to halve levels of extreme poverty by 2015. Indeed, the current global crises are reversing progress made towards the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals. Those developments will likely slow down, if not reverse, the decline in levels of poverty between 1981 and 2005, while gains made in the other Millennium Development Goals might, in some cases, also be reversed.
The overview, which outlines global and regional poverty trends from 1981 to 2005, describes macroeconomic policies and examines some labour market and social policies and their effects on growth and poverty reduction. Citing how numerous and difficult the current challenges are for poverty reduction, particularly given the gravity of the global economic crisis, it calls for a serious rethinking of policy approaches that have dominated the discourse on growth and poverty up to now. Macroeconomic policies should aim to stabilize the real economy, reduce fluctuations of output, investment, employment and income, and strive for short-run stability and long-term development. Employment creation schemes should be included in macroeconomic policy, which should incorporate social policy, rather than treat it as an appendix.
The Committee also had before it the Secretary-General’s report on implementation of the World Programme of Action for Youth: progress and constraints with respect to the well-being of youth and their role in civil society (document A/64/61-E/2009/3). The report addresses progress and challenges facing young people relating to their role in and contribution to civil society and in efforts to ensure their well-being. The civil society cluster covers environment, leisure-time activities, participation in society and decision-making, intergenerational issues and information and communications technology. The cluster on ensuring their well-being covers health, HIV/AIDS, substance abuse, juvenile justice, girls and young women, and armed conflict. The report concludes with goals and targets for monitoring progress across both clusters.
Also before the Committee was the Secretary-General’s report on cooperatives in social development (document A/64/132 and Corr.1), which surveys the socio-economic impact of cooperatives and the desirability of proclaiming an International Year of Cooperatives. The report also assesses progress made in promoting cooperatives. It underscores the importance of cooperatives to socio-economic development, particularly in the contribution of agricultural and financial cooperatives to long-term solutions for food security and a more resilient and inclusive financial system.
According to the report, cooperatives offer a model of enterprise that is particularly relevant in difficult economic times and instances of market failures. As self-help groups, they are widely accessible, especially for the impoverished and marginalized. Where private enterprise or government is weak, they enable local people to organize and improve their conditions. While cooperatives directly benefit their members, they also offer positive externalities for the rest of society. Like private businesses, they respond to Government policies and thrive in supportive environments. Leveraging cooperatives for socio-economic development requires promoting their formation and growth in a sustainable manner. Thus, the report recommends that the General Assembly consider encouraging Governments to foster such an environment by, among other things, providing access to financing, education and training.
The Secretary-General’s report on follow-up to the tenth anniversary of the International Year of the Family (document A/64/134), which addresses the issues of family policy, integrating a family perspective into social protection and investing in intergenerational solidarity within families and communities. The report also provides updated information on follow-up to the tenth anniversary of the International Year of the Family based on submissions by Member States and highlights the activities of the United Nations Programme on the Family.
Among its recommendations for future consideration by the General Assembly, the report suggests that those Governments that have not yet done so establish a sufficiently resourced mechanism, like a Ministry of Family or focal point within an existing Ministry, to promote family policies. Governments should also be encouraged to undertake information campaigns to educate people about family issues, such as preventing domestic violence; reducing harmful stigmas; and the sharing of responsibilities between men and women. Countries should also be encouraged to adopt holistic policies and programmes that confront child and family poverty, social exclusion and other social risks, and that assess the vulnerability of younger and older generations, with an aim to reduce or prevent risk through social protection strategies, like long-term health-care support.
The Secretary-General’s report on follow-up to the Second World Assembly on Ageing (document A/64/127), which focuses on the promotion and protection of human rights as they pertain to older persons in the context of the implementation of international legal and policy instruments, as well as national action. It draws from information submitted to the United Nations by Member States in national reviews and appraisal reports conducted as part of the first review of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing 2002; information from the United Nations regional commissions; and the findings of an expert group meeting on the “rights of older persons”, convened by the Department of Economic and Social Affairs in Bonn, Germany, from 5 to 7 May 2009, where the discussion focused on the current state of older persons’ rights and suggested possible options to enhance those rights.
According to the report, it has become evident that older persons’ rights were not sufficiently addressed in the so-called International Bill of Human Rights. Owing to their non-binding nature, the results from the two international plans of action on ageing, as well as the United Nations Principles for Older Persons, which attempted to fill that gap, have been mixed. Member States have initiated various measures to address that shortcoming at the national level, but the expert group meeting suggested they may also wish to: ensure that older persons have better access to information about their rights; develop their capacity for monitoring and enforcing the rights of older persons; and strengthen the gender perspective in all policy actions on ageing and eliminate discrimination on the basis of age and gender, among other things. In considering how to improve international norms and standards pertaining to older persons, they may consider the expert meeting’s conclusions that an international convention on the rights of older persons might be needed.
Committee elections and adoption of Programme of Work
At the outset, FIOLA HOOSEN ( South Africa), ZAHID RASTAM ( Malaysia) and EDGARD PEREZ ( Peru) were elected Vice Chairpersons for the sixty-fourth session, by acclamation. NICOLA HILL ( New Zealand) was elected Rapporteur.
After those elections, NORMAN PENKE ( Latvia), Chair of the Third Committee, began the session, vowing to run the Committee in a transparent manner. He stressed the importance of reducing the number of resolutions, and that they should request reports of the Secretary-General only in cases where they would be indispensable. In order to ensure that resolutions had greater political impact, they should be short and they should allow sufficient time for the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions and the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) to prepare estimates of related expenditure.
MONCEF KHAN, Secretary of the Committee, made revisions to the programme of work (document A/C.3/64/L.1), including re-numbering agenda items, announcing changes in meeting dates and changes in document numbering. He also read the names of special procedure mandate holders of the Human Rights Council (Special Rapporteurs), with whom the Committee would engage periodically in question-and-answer sessions. Senior United Nations officials were also expected to appear before the Committee at regular intervals.
The Committee then adopted several recommendations made by Chairman Penke to improve their working methods, including on better managing its list of speakers and on more timely drafting of resolutions. It also adopted its programme of work, following which, the Committee launched directly into its consideration of the item on social development.
Statement by Under-Secretary-General
In his opening address to the Third Committee, SHA ZUKANG, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, noted the growing sense of increased uncertainty in the world due to the global financial crisis, as well as the food and fuel crises. At the same time, climate change was affecting the livelihood of people around the world, especially in developing countries.
“Up to 100 million more people will fall below the poverty line than expected prior to the crisis,” he said, citing that development as one of the “unparalleled negative consequences” of those crises on social development. “These challenges call for an integrated approach so that policies that can better address the most binding constraints on social development and human rights, and on opportunities for men and women to obtain productive work.”
He said men and women needed to work in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity, which were essential for eradicating poverty and advancing inclusive social development. Pointing to the poorest and most vulnerable people on the planet, he said, “Failure to address their needs will lead to an increase in social exclusion and a rise in social tensions.”
He said an important contribution of the Third Committee was its focus on the challenges faced by social groups, such as indigenous peoples, people with disabilities, youth and older persons. He called on all nations to fully implement the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, whose implementation was “lagging” at the national level. As for persons with disabilities, he said the Committee could help contribute to a better understanding of their situation by encouraging Member States to increase their reporting. Similarly, implementation of the World Programme of Action on Youth could be enhanced with better monitoring by Member States against the relevant indicators, which the Department of Economic and Social Affairs was working to develop with its partners. He encouraged the Committee to identify barriers that stood in the way of full participation of older persons.
But, advancing social integration required national strategies for promoting growth and equity, he said, which in turn required strong social protection systems. “It is particularly important to ensure that social protection measures focused on the well-being of the family, especially women and children, so as to prevent the inter-generational transmission of poverty,” he said, adding that processes to strengthen social safety nets, such as the Vulnerability Financing Facility endorsed recently by the Group of 20 (G-20), held promise. There was broad international support, as well, for a global jobs pact.
“This Committee can play a pivotal role in encouraging Member States to consider introducing a social protection floor for all,” he added, saying social protection systems should encompass more than just schemes provided by the State. Noting that the Committee had before it this year a proposal for an International Year of Cooperatives, he said cooperatives had added resilience to the most vulnerable to the economic crisis, and he encouraged Member States to support the proposal.
He also highlighted the enormous costs wrought on society by violence against women and girls, which placed constraints on development. The Third Committee played a critical role in combating such violence by providing overall global policy guidance and reviewing the action of Member States and the United Nations system on the issue. Such focus was apt, in light of the upcoming thirtieth anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the 15-year review of the Beijing Platform for Action, and the Economic and Social Council Annual Ministerial Review next year, with a focus on the empowerment of women.
Introduction of Reports
JEAN-PIERRE GONNOT, Acting Director of Division of Social Policy and Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said the Secretary-General’s report on follow-up to the implementation of the World Summit for Social Development and of the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly (document A/64/157) provided an overview of the discussions on social integration during the forty-seventh session of the Commission for Social Development, as well as the impact of the current global crises on social development and social integration.
He said the report notes that progress in fostering social integration remained limited. It notes that income inequalities were constantly growing and underscores the links between poverty and social exclusion, saying social integration of the poor should start with allowing them to meet their most basic needs. It concludes that Government commitments should be reflected by more significant effort. That was all the more critical, given the threats to social stability and poverty reduction goals posed by the current global crisis. Governments should work to support those in both the formal and informal economies.
The report also addressed the social dimensions of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, he said. It outlined the African Common Position on Social Integration from February 2009, along with the Social Policy Framework for Africa and the Windhoek Declaration on Social Development, which the African Union endorsed. The Social Policy Framework sought to support sustainable economic growth in African countries and the report says the implementation of that action plan should be a priority. The report concludes by underlining the urgency of ensuring that social integration became a real priority for Governments, as well as the international community.
Turning to the Overview of the World Social Situation 2009 (document A/64/158), he noted that report’s analysis that, despite considerable progress made in reducing absolute poverty, it was not on track to halve extreme poverty rates by 2015. It also examines the effectiveness of employment policies in reducing poverty. It notes that, in many countries, economic growth was not reflected in lower poverty rates. About half of the progress made in halving poverty in the last ten years could be reduced due to the current crises. The report further stresses the importance of maintaining social policy expenditures, as well as the critical role played by employment support. It questions the effectiveness of the traditional approach to eradicating poverty and stresses that the intervention of Governments was key to promoting job growth, thereby furthering social justice and reducing poverty.
He said that, according to the Secretary-General’s report on cooperatives in social development (document A/64/132) cooperatives could play a role in meeting the current challenges of the food security and economic crises. The report suggested instituting an International Year of Cooperatives and noted the participation of small farmers in the fair-trade movement, raising their potential for economic prosperity. It also outlined the service provided by financial cooperatives, which service people living below the two-dollars a day poverty line. In countries affected by the financial crisis, these cooperatives continued to give loans, thereby protecting the most vulnerable from the credit crisis. The report suggested several priorities for this year, including promoting cooperatives, encouraging people to organize themselves into cooperatives, and encouraging Governments to support cooperatives.
He said the follow-up to the tenth anniversary of the International Year of the Family (document A/64/134) concentrated on family policies and their interaction with social protection and intergenerational solidarity. As the report noted, promoting the latter remained key, and, to that end, further cooperation between youth groups and organizations with those of older citizens should be encouraged. The report invited Governments to set up institutional policies for promoting families and recommends a range of measures to foster a family-friendly employment environment. Laws that banned traditional discriminatory practices against women, children or older people were needed. Consistency was needed across all policies and initiatives dealing with each of those sectors.
The follow-up to the Second World Assembly on Ageing (document A/64/127) was based, he said, on information from Member States, different arms of the United Nations system and the findings of an expert group meeting on the topic, “rights of older persons”, convened in Bonn, Germany in May. It presented an overview of the legal situation of older people and the main violations of their rights, including discrimination and violence due to age and gender. It also outlined national good practices. It further invited Governments to ensure that older people had better access to information on their rights and suggested several measures that could be taken to ensure greater equality of older people.
He said the Secretary-General’s report on realizing the Millennium Development Goals for persons with disabilities through the implementation of the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (document A/64/180) gave a brief overview of the interplay between disabled people and the Millennium Development Goals and highlighted initiatives and actions taken to implement the Millennium Development Goals in regard to the disabled.
The Secretary-General’s report on implementation of the World Programme of Action for Youth: progress and constraints with respect to the well-being of youth and their role in civil society (document A/64/61-E/2009/3) highlighted a number of areas where young people faced challenges, including, among others health, HIV/AIDS, drug abuse, girls and young women, armed conflict, the environment, information and communications technology, and their full participation in decision making. The report suggested that everything affecting young people had an effect on the whole population. Investments in young people, thus, had an impact on society as a whole.
Question and Answer
The representative of Malaysia asked for more clarity on what steps the United Nations was taking to support national efforts in the face of the food, fuel and financial crises, especially as crisis response was evolving into longer-term measures. Also, what was the United Nations doing to facilitate coherence amongst the various entities working on social development issues, such as the Third and Second Committees, and the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council?
Mr. Gonnot, responding, cited a number of initiatives underway, under the aegis of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB), in reaction to the crises. Among them were the Global Job Pact initiative, the Global Social Floor initiative, and implementation of the plan of action under the Second Decade for the Eradication of Poverty, specifically under the priority themes “employment” and “decent work”. The United Nations system was taking the question seriously, with “remarkable” levels of interaction between its different parts. Very soon, Member States would receive concrete information on those initiatives; he himself was scheduled to report on a system-wide plan of action to the Second Committee on 22 October. The Second Committee would seem to be the natural vehicle for consideration of that issue.
The representative of Syria asked about the social and economic effects of the crisis on people living under colonization and occupation. Reports published by the United Nations had provided little solution on how to tackle that situation. Their living conditions were different from the norm, because they lived in situations of armed conflict. How could the United Nations best remove the obstacles faced by people under occupation in achieving social integration?
Mr. Gonnot responded by saying that the United Nations was attempting to conduct factual assessments on the situation of people under occupation by working with civil society partners and the cooperative movement, and might be able to report to the Commission on Social Development through a non-paper.
The Syrian delegate said she was not convinced by the answer given by Mr. Gonnot, saying the United Nations seemed to have overlooked the challenges faced by people under occupation.
HASSAN ALI HASSAN (Sudan), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, reaffirmed the Declaration and Programme of Action adopted at the 1995 World Summit, although it was deeply concerned that the promises made at that historic meeting had not been met. Also concerning was the multiple inter-related and mutually exacerbating current global crises, which could further undermine achievement of the internationally agreed development goals. The current financial and economic crisis, along with the failures and gaps in addressing international financial governance, have underscored the urgent need for the United Nations to assume a central and proactive role in international economic issues.
To that end, he reiterated the Group’s call for a universal, rule-based, open, non-discriminatory and equitable multilateral system that avoided protectionist measures. He further stressed that the international community must allocate new and additional resources to assist developing countries in addressing the imminent and long-term goal of food security. It was also essential that an integrated approach be taken in analysing that issue. A continued focus on women, youth, older persons, persons with disabilities, migrants, and indigenous peoples was critical in reducing poverty and achieving social development. The Group planned to once again present resolutions on a number of social development issues. In particular, it believed that further efforts were necessary to ensure that the older members of society continued to live full and productive lives, in implementation of the Madrid Plan of Action.
He said that, with the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family in 2014 on the horizon, the Commission on Social Development should consider preparations. The international community should also take further measures to remove the obstacles to realizing the right of people to self-determination, particularly people living under colonial and foreign occupation. Particular attention should also be paid to the needs of developing countries, especially those emerging from conflict and subregions at risk. Donor Governments should strive to maintain their commitments to meeting demands for social services and assistance.
Underlining economic and social development as the “centrepiece of the objectives and operational activities of the United Nations”, he stressed that achieving social development was a matter of will and resources. The Group of 77 and China were deeply concerned that the negative impacts from the global economic and financial crises were undermining development efforts in developing countries. The Group welcomed the Secretary-General’s recommendation on enhancing international cooperation in that matter, particularly the fulfilment of commitments for internationally agreed development assistance. There could be no doubt that the pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals was an opportunity for the kind of global partnership that was required to eradicate poverty and eliminate hunger, as well as to forge the kind of development partnership needed for all other goals.
CRISTINA HUSMARK PEHRSSON, Minister for Social Security of Sweden, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said it was essential to build awareness of the ways in which the economic downturn might affect social development. The democratic participation of all vulnerable groups was the best way to ensure that the voices of all people were heard. In that regard, the Commission for Social Development, for whom “social integration” was the main theme of the current biennium, had published a report stressing strong political leadership, transparent decision-making and timely action to create “a society for all”.
She said the European Union agreed with other Member States and United Nations organizations on the need to promote a job-intensive recovery, as highlighted at the June Conference on the world financial and economic crisis and its impact on development. Even as world unemployment increased to 190 million people, recent figures from the International Labour Organization (ILO) estimated a further 40 million jobs lost by the end of 2009. In times such as these, social protection was essential to prevent even greater marginalization and exclusion of the very poorest. The ILO and CEB had supported proposals to assist countries in their efforts to build a basic social protection floor for all; now was the “time for further concrete steps.”
She explained that the ILO had passed a resolution on “The Global Jobs Pact” in June, which was endorsed by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in July. The Pact provided a framework of policies for responding to the economic crisis in line with the “Decent Work Agenda” of the ILO. The European Union viewed the Pact as a powerful tool to speed up and facilitate an exit from the crisis. One of the Union’s main challenges was to prevent the unemployed from drifting into “long-term exclusion”, because of a lack of adequate social protection and a passive benefit system. “We must provide people with real opportunities, even in times when work is hard to find,” she said.
She also touched on youth, persons with disabilities and the ageing population. Improving the living conditions of vulnerable peoples in those categories was not only a matter of social integration, but also a human rights matter and one of economic and environmental sustainability. In particular, it was vital to ensure the elderly were treated with dignity, even when resources were scarce. Also, growing inequalities in health for all peoples -- due largely to differences in living conditions and distribution of resources and access to health care -- was an important concern, since a strong economy depended on healthy people. She underlined the importance of partnerships with civil society and other social partners to empower those in need, and of avoiding short-sighted measures that might trap people in long-term inactivity and deepen inequalities.
CHARLES T. NTWAAGAE (Botswana), speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and aligning himself with the Group of 77, drew attention to the recent high-level Summit on Climate Change, thanking the Secretary-General for taking the initiative on that “critical issue”. The adverse impact of climate change further compounded the challenges related to poverty, under-development and disease. Developed countries should provide support to developing countries to assist them with their mitigation and adaptation programmes. He also noted that the Commission for Social Development, at its forty-seventh session, had reiterated the importance of social integration. He recalled that the 1995 Copenhagen Programme of Action on Social Development had called for “a society for all”, which had subsequently led to various plans of action on ageing, disabled persons, and youth. The members of SADC appreciated those achievements, but realized that there were still a number of pervasive social challenges that needed addressing.
He said development challenges could not be met unless countries worked in effective partnership with the international community, and unless the international community and development partners collaborated and supported developing countries in implementing their social agenda. That included increasing official development assistance, providing debt relief or cancelling debt, enabling access to markets and technical support. To ensure full and effective social integration, there must be more emphasis on the link between poverty eradication, full employment and social integration, which he said were the three pillars towards sustainable, human-centred development.
DONATUS ST. AIMEE ( Saint Lucia) speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the heart of social development and integration was the need to value the intrinsic worth and dignity of the human person. The Caribbean Community reiterated its commitment to achieving meaningful social integration, so all its peoples could participate in social and economic development. Yet, pressures on the successful realization of the Millennium Development Goals had been exacerbated by increases in food and energy prices and the most difficult financial and economic crisis since the Great Depression. Climate change also posed a clear and present danger to the security and very existence of small island developing States. In that connection, the upcoming Copenhagen Summit had clear implications for social development in the Caribbean, and around the world.
He said socially inclusive and cross-sectoral social policies at the national level were needed. The CARICOM Heads of Government had, at their thirtieth meeting last August, reached the Liliendaal Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security, which recognized the urgent need to maximize regional agricultural production to meet food security and nutrition needs, as well as address poverty alleviation and income and employment generation. The community looked forward to November’s World Food Summit. It was also coordinating, through its Council for Social and Human Development, ongoing national efforts to address social challenges in the areas of climate change, education, health and health systems development.
Noting the Secretary-General’s report on youth, he commended the global efforts of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS and called for its enhanced support as it intensified it work, particularly in the most affected regions. Also welcome was the establishment of the United Nations Youth Employment Network to address and monitor youth employment. Regionally, the community would convene a special summit on youth in Suriname later this year. It had also operationalized a Regional Framework for Action for Children.
Action by the CARICOM also continued in order to provide a supportive environment, primary health care and economic opportunities for older persons. It considered support for the family to be a primary concern of Governments in establishing social polices that protect and secure the interests of young and old alike. Indeed, the family remained the critical means of social support and security for those living in extreme poverty.
SOCORRA ROVIROSA ( Mexico), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, said it was important to monitor progress on social integration in such a way that it would lead to a substantive and operative outcome. The review of the Millennium Development Goals set for 2010 and the fifteenth anniversary of the Copenhagen Summit presented an opportunity to evaluate progress towards that end. Social integration was not just a question of moral duty or economic efficiency, but an expression of solidarity and humanism that transcends words. The countries of the Rio Group had implemented various policies to promote social development, boost economic growth and support job creation, as well as to reinforce existing programmes and strategies to fight poverty, especially against the backdrop of the global economic and financial crisis.
She said the Rio Group supported the proposal to proclaim an international year of cooperatives to raise awareness about their contribution to economic development. Indigenous peoples and rural communities would benefit from access to funding and productive land, adoption of sustainable production techniques, investment in infrastructure, and women’s participation in economic activities, all of which were promoted by cooperatives. It was also important to support small and medium-sized enterprises, which were major job providers, without forgetting the role of States in guaranteeing the social development of its people.
She raised the issue of food insecurity, saying it was imperative for developed countries to improve access by developing countries to their markets and to complete the Doha development round of World Trade Organizations talks. They should also continue to alleviate other countries’ debt burdens, so that repayment did not become an obstacle to development. The world financial architecture should be improved to avoid future financial crises. Fulfilment of official development assistance (ODA) objectives, South-South cooperation, technical cooperation and exchange of good practices were likewise important. For its part, the Rio Group would continue to promote the rights of women, indigenous peoples, youth, older persons, migrants and people with disabilities. The multidimensional character of poverty required new strategies that went beyond words. The situation demanded a more active role for the United Nations and the international community, in general.
AZUSA SHINOHARA ( Japan) said the world remained mired in the greatest recession since the Second World War, and the most vulnerable members of society were suffering most deeply. To build “a society for all”, social differences must be respected as the world extricated itself from its current plight and promoted social development in a comprehensive manner. Due to the financial crisis and world recession, the United Nations warned that between 73 and 103 million more people were likely to remain impoverished or fall into poverty in 2009. Roughly half the progress made in poverty reduction in developing countries over the last decade was expected to be wiped out in 2008 and 2009. In developed countries, employment had been adversely affected, decreasing social stability. Employment was not expected to return to pre-crisis levels until four or five years after the recovery began. Urgent steps must be taken to meet people’s fundamental needs, implement strategies for promoting sustainable economic growth and build the foundation for social integration.
He noted that the world was still working towards full participation of older persons in social activities. In Japan, where the ageing of society was quickly advancing, the country was doing the same. As of last October, the percentage of Japanese population over 65 had increased to 22.1 per cent. It was forecast to rise to one-third by 2035. That would be a scale never before seen in the world and the Government had adopted the “Basic Law on Measures for the Ageing Society” to create a society in which all people could look forward to living long, full lives. Further, it was promoting policies on persons with disabilities based on the ten-year framework, “Basic Programme for Persons with Disabilities”, and would conduct a study on a possible revision of that plan related to the conclusion of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which it had signed in September 2007. Finally, Japan was committed to resolving today’s global crisis by creating a “society for all”, in which every person had access to health care, education, food and housing and that in turn, would lead to increased productivity and enhanced economic activity. Those were, in fact, the aims of “human security”, a concept Japan strongly advocated.
AMJAD HUSSAIN B. SIAL (Pakistan), aligning himself with the Group of 77, noted that, despite the best efforts, the world was not on track to meet the Millennium Development Goals of halving poverty by 2015. That was particularly true given the financial and economic crisis and the likely decrease in ODA. A study released by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) in mid-2009 indicated that as many as 100 million more people would remain or become poor due to the crisis. Most of the setback would be felt in East and South Asia, and the persistence of social exclusion significantly impeded poverty reduction efforts and economic growth. And yet, there was no measure or definition of what it meant to be “vulnerable”. There was a need to define a criterion for vulnerability, based on science. For that reason, the Government of Pakistan supported the idea of establishing a new, comprehensive, scientific approach to vulnerability covering physical, economic and climate-related aspects. Such an approach would allow for more equitable allocation of resources.
He said the financial crisis had affected Pakistan’s economy in more than one way. In response, it was trying to curtail non-development expenditures and prioritize development activities. To improve the food supply, the Government had increased the support price for wheat to encourage farmers to step up production. It also liberalized imports of essential commodities to facilitate the flow of food products in the country’s markets. The Government was providing basic food items at a lower than market price at Government-run utility stores. With the help of civil society and media, food producers were being held accountable to ensure they did not hoard products or raise prices. To improve job opportunities, women and the physically challenged were allocated special quotas for public sector jobs. To help integrate minorities, interfaith harmony committees were set up to engage prominent religious leaders of minorities and majority communities at the grass roots level. But, the ultimate challenge was for donors to deliver on their financial pledges. Active participation of developing countries in economic decision-making was also key, along with debt relief and technology transfer.
RODOLFO BENITEZ VERSON (Cuba), joining the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said the commitments of the 1995 World Summit had become an illusion for the countries of the South. The alarming social problems that had prevailed for years had become worse, due to the financial and economic, food, energy and climate change crises. Rich countries continued to champion the preservation of an international order, by which they transferred to the South the greatest impact of the financial crisis. Never before had the world been so unequal, nor the inequities so deep. The unsustainable world order had left 2.5 billion in poverty and the difference between life expectancy in rich and poor countries was now 40 years. Achieving the Millennium Development Goals would be impossible for many. Why was the money being used to bail out banks not being used to bail out countries in the South? Why was the debt that had been paid more than once being cancelled? Why were food and agricultural subsidies not cancelled and allocated to food security?
“Let us be perfectly clear. To change this system, the current international order -- deeply unjust and unsustainable –- must be changed,” he said, stressing that the international financial institutions must be refounded on a new basis. For its part, Cuba had, since 1954, built a society based on social justice and solidarity. Before the Cuban Revolution, 30 per cent of the population was illiterate. Today, no one was illiterate and 8 per cent of the population had a college degree. Access to health care was free. Infant mortality was 4.7 per thousand live births and life expectancy stood at over 77 years. Over two-thirds of the State budget was allocated to raising the levels of education, health, social security and welfare, culture, sports and research. Cuba also shared its modest resources with countries of the South. Among other things, a scholarship programme had benefited tens of thousands youth from the third world. Further, hundreds of thousands of blind foreign patients had had been operated on and had their sight restored in Cuba, completely free of charge. It was hoped that, with the international community’s support, the unjust and illegal blockade imposed on the Cuban people would be lifted sooner rather than later, so those accomplishments could be built on.
ZHANG DAN (China), aligning her remarks with those made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said all Governments faced a common challenge in contending with the blow of the financial crisis and preserving social equity and social justice. In doing so, it was necessary to increase inputs in social development and to stabilize and expand employment. Governments should fully incorporate social development in formulating macro-economic policies and economic stimulus packages, seeking to blunt the crises’ impact on education, health care, social security and social relief. Employment expansion should be at the core of efforts to promote growth, increase support for small and medium-sized enterprises and maintain input in public utilities, all of which would aid economic recovery and establish social stability. Moreover, protection of vulnerable groups, such as women, the elderly and persons with disabilities, should be strengthened. Developed countries should also honour their commitments for official development assistance, fulfil their promise of financial and technological transfers related to climate change, avoid trade protectionist measures and give developing countries a bigger say in international economic governance.
Since its founding 60 years ago, China had achieved tremendous social development. It had reached many Millennium Development Goals ahead of schedule and was on track to meet the others. With the outbreak of the financial crisis, it had raised the level of social security, deepened health care system reform and implemented more active employment polices. These steps had already produced initial results and had been a powerful impetus for social and economic development. Meanwhile, it was working to implement the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing, gradually building a social security system, including a new system of social insurance for the aged in rural areas. It had formally ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in June 2008 and aligned its domestic law with that international instrument. The Government was also supporting the development of youth organizations and had taken special measures to aid young people searching for employment through, among other things, the establishment of “practice bases” and offers of micro-credit for rural youth entrepreneurship.
JOHN F. SAMMIS ( United States), said the commitments made at the 1995 World Summit were goals his country was actively pursing domestically and on the international stage. In the past, poverty, hunger and unemployment in countries on the other side of the world were regarded as someone else’s problem. But, as the world became increasingly more interconnected, it was clear that the situation of people in other countries affected one’s own country. Indeed, as then First Lady Hillary Clinton said at the World Summit, “No one person can be freed from the bondage of poverty or fully integrated into society without the means to earn a living”.
He said that many of the United States Government’s domestic priorities were reflected in the Madrid Plan of Action on Ageing. Among other things, the Government was working to ensure that older people could stay in their homes longer. Regarding families, he noted leadership within the Government by Vice‑President Joseph Biden to drive efforts aimed at aiding middle class and working families. Further, there was a new focus on making higher education affordable. The United States hoped to work with the Committee towards higher levels of social integration.
KIM BONG-HYUN ( Republic of Korea) said that, with the financial and economic crisis, many countries faced the dual challenges of sustaining economic growth and reaching out to socially excluded groups. His country believed that a failure to promote social protection during this economic crisis would undoubtedly result in a failure to overcome the crisis itself. While progress had been made in reducing absolute poverty levels, much remained to be done in meeting the Millennium Development Goals. Clearly, poverty was not merely a matter of material deprivation, but originated in inadequate access to education and employment. Thus, the linkages between poverty and social exclusion were clear and the vicious circle must be ended, particularly through greater access to education.
He further underlined that the creation of employment and decent work opportunities were central to social integration. Lack of employment opportunities made it difficult for marginalized people to be fully integrated into a given society. That was particularly true for young people, who were more likely to find themselves in unstable jobs. Korean society was now experiencing a labour market shift towards more casual and contractual employment. By increasing insecure work status and discrimination, that shift negatively impacted vulnerable groups. A “Casual Workers Protection Law” had been introduced in 2007 and other steps were being taken to expand the social safety net. Particular attention was being paid to persons with disabilities. Indeed, the Government had enacted a disability Anti-Discrimination Act in 2008 to implement the disabilities convention. To prepare for the ageing of its society, the Government had also introduced the “Basic Act on Low Fertility and Aged Society and Population Policy”, and would continue to implement the Madrid Plan of Action.
Taking the floor as a youth delegate from the Republic of Korea, CHOI SU-HI stressed that young people were the mirror of each nation’s future and their status reflected the future of the world. To promote youth activity, their participation in decision-making processes should be increased. In her country, young people took part in decision making through youth organizations, such as the Youth Special Congress. Moreover, the development of online technologies allowed young people to express their opinions via cyber networking, expanding the empowerment of youth communities more than ever. Towards that end, youth policy-making processes should be restructured to meet the level of these technologies.
Youth participation in social activities should also be encouraged, she said. That would allow them to gain access to integration opportunities and would also serve as a citizenship curriculum. Further, youth participation in the labour market should be promoted, including through employment support policies. For its part, her Government supported youth employment policies by offering off-campus career competence programmes for undergraduate job seekers. The Ministry of Labour had also organized a “1318 campaign”, which provided preventive and restorative protection of labour rights through counselling and education to foster better working conditions for young workers. Cooperation between United Nations Member States in encouraging youth participation would further help generate a youth-friendly environment.
ISABEL HEYVAERT ( Brazil), associating her country with the statements made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China and the Rio Group, reaffirmed support for the commitments made at the Copenhagen Summit and the twenty-fourth Special Session of the General Assembly. Their guidelines remained highly relevant in the face of the ongoing economic and financial crisis, which was affecting families all over the world. For its part, the Brazilian Government had not reduced its social spending, but increased its budget and broadened the goals for its social development programmes. The cash-transfer programme “Bolsa Familia” had also been strengthened and was helping roughly 11 million families, on the condition that their children received sufficient health care and attended school. Brazil’s larger, main social assistance programme, “Programme for Integral Attention to the Family” also provided social work to families through a network of social assistance centres in over 1,600 municipalities.
She said Brazil had one of the largest youth populations in the world, with over 50 million people between 15 and 29 years old. Those young people had relatively less access to the labour market and, despite having higher educational levels than the average Brazilian, they had higher unemployment levels. Youth also died more frequently from violent causes such as homicides and traffic accidents. To address that, the “PROJOVEM” programme was enrolling over 2 million young people in primary school, labour-capacity building programmes and community activities. Cash transfers for basic skills and education were also being given to youth in large cities. The programme aimed to enrol over 3 million young people through the end of 2010.
She went on to note that, according to the Secretary-General’s report, the human rights of older persons were not sufficiently addressed in existing human rights instruments. Clearly, those rights were not fully addressed. The problems of young and old were not mutually exclusive. The international community must not choose between addressing the needs of one or the other. Indeed, the specific needs of each group must be considered when public policies were formulated.
GHAZI JOMAA ( Tunisia), aligning himself with the Group of 77, said problems facing the world’s marginalized communities had worsened with the onset of the food, fuel and financial crisis. The world had discovered it necessary to define a new form of international solidarity to cope with these unprecedented challenges. Tunisia had a human-centred approach to wealth creation; a people-centred approach was considered a cornerstone of its work in producing a balanced society that offered equal opportunity for all and which was focused on eradicating marginalization. Tunisia had achieved significant economic progress in different areas as a result of that philosophy.
In addition, he said the Tunisian Government viewed young people as the “pillars of the present and foundations of the future.” The President had recently launched an appeal to establish 2010 as the Year of Young People and Universal Common Values. The initiative would give young people a chance to express their concerns, and to raise awareness amongst the future generation of their responsibilities in consolidating today’s gains in peace, security and stability and to continue ensuring development for all peoples. He said the Year would promote certain basic principles that all civilizations could adhere to: tolerance, rejecting violence and extremism, promoting mutual understanding, a spirit of volunteerism and protecting the environment. It would help focus the world on a future where all human beings could benefit from a peaceful future. He called for other nations to support a draft resolution that his country was currently drafting on that very matter.
SAVIOUR F. BORG (Malta), associating his remarks with those made on behalf of the European Union, said he would focus on ageing, which, like time, could not be stopped and was inevitable. Due to medical progress, there were more older people in the world than ever before. One out of every nine persons was 60 years old or older. Malta had brought forward the question of ageing to the United Nations in 1968 and continued to recognize the important role older people played in society. In 2002, the Madrid Plan of Action on Ageing was adopted unanimously, in recognition of the demographic changes facing the world. It sought to call for a new approach to ageing policies and programmes. However, Malta believed that the implementation of that plan could be strengthened, if the rights of older persons were recognized as one of the themes.
An important part of that, he said, was adequate training of personnel in meeting the needs of the elderly. In that effort, the International Institute on Ageing, which was established in resolution 1987/41 by the Economic and Social Council, had trained nearly 4,000 students from 137 countries. It provided multi-disciplinary education and training in specific areas related to ageing and also acted as a catalyst for information exchange. Malta believed the Institute required further support by Member States.
He said that, at the national level, measures to safeguard the health, social and economic well-being of citizens of all ages were continuously being put in place. The total Government expenditures on pensions had increased by 12 per cent, accounting for nearly half of the total government expenditure. Malta was also looking to strengthen health care and social care services, to reduce the likelihood that older persons were institutionalized.
U THAUNG TUN ( Myanmar), aligning himself with the Group of 77, said the gap between the world’s haves and have-nots had become more pronounced. The most vulnerable in society must bear the brunt of the global economic and financial crisis, suffering also from social exclusion. Social integration was a prerequisite to a stable, safe, harmonious, peaceful and just society, and the decision by the Commission on Sustainable Development to take “social integration” as its priority theme was to be welcomed. But, at the same time, in finding solutions to social integration, the international community should take into account the different priorities of each nation. In Myanmar, efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals were going as planned, despite the economic downturn. There was significant progress in primary education, health care and the environment, thereby contributing to social development.
He said Myanmar’s fourth Five-Year Plan was focused on expanding agro-based industries, to further develop the energy sector, and build its industrial sector. The country was now self-sufficient in food and was in a position to contribute to food security in the region. It had a national plan focused on HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, allowing it to stem their spread. There had also been gains in maternity and child health care. However, the imposition of unilateral sanctions and coercive measures against Myanmar had forced investors to withdraw their investments, thus depriving thousands of workers of the opportunity to lead productive lives. In general, much remained to be done to fulfil the hopes and expectations of the Copenhagen Summit. Developed and developing countries must work together to realize its aims.
LUCILE BONKOUNGOU ( Burkina Faso), voicing support for the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said the results in implementing the World Summit’s goals were far from sufficient. In many developing countries, economic growth had not led to poverty reductions. In Africa, too few people still had little access to clean drinking water, basic health care and education. Because it was still possible to halve poverty by 2015, she exhorted the United Nations and the international community to continue to pursue that goal.
She said that more efficient cooperation was needed, especially among countries in the South. The family was at the heart of any society and it was hoped that it would continue to figure as a priority in decisions at the multilateral level. In Burkina Faso, a general directorate had been set up to promote family issues. Those issues had also been mainstreamed into all strategic and development frameworks. The Government was also working to improve the lot of women and young girls, as well as people with disabilities. It ratified the Convention on the latter last year and work was ongoing in the Ministry of Social Action and the Ministry of Human Rights to fulfil the Convention. Encouraging progress has been made in health education, the fight against drug addiction, the social reintegration of young people following armed conflict and the integration of young women’s needs in international policies.
To face the remaining challenges, the Government had set up programmes to aid young people, she said. These and other projects aimed to further youth employment and promote work generation. One main goal sought to consolidate channels for dialogue with young people. It was hoped that, between now and 2015, the perspective and goals of young people would be incorporated in any world agreements or documents.
SEYITHAN AHMET ATES, a youth delegate from Turkey, said youth wanted to be recognized as equal partners in policy-making. He focused his statement on climate change and global warming, saying that the harm caused by it had reached unparalleled levels. Climate change was influenced by human-related factors, with the world’s average temperature having risen at a fast rate. Global warming was a risk to humankind and a clear example of where youth and future generations were being compromised by the actions of current and previous generations. Citing several examples from changes to Turkey’s environment, including melting snow caps, falling water levels and a flood in Istanbul that had killed more than 30 people, he issued a global call for action, expressing hope for a successful outcome in Copenhagen.
He said the global financial and economic crisis was another cause of concern. All segments of society were affected by the crisis, and all countries should take measures to address its effects on youth, the elderly and disabled people. He reiterated the support of Turkish youth for the Millennium Development Goals, which provided a framework for sustainable development for all.
He added that youth could only express their potential in a democratic society that protected human rights, and indeed, Turkish youth had played an important role in introducing societal reforms to help Turkey with its European Union accession negotiations in 2005. He also spoke of the Alliance of Civilizations initiative sponsored by Turkey and Spain, which received the support of 80 countries and a number of civil society organizations. The level of globalization and interdependence reached today had increased the mobility of capital, goods, services and people, necessitating a better understanding between cultures. After the 2001 attack on the United States, that need for understanding was further increased. Turkish youth believed everyone was “sailing in the same boat” and that the United Nations was the right platform to discuss such issues with each other.
NASSIR ABDULAZIZ AL-NASSER (Qatar), aligning himself with the Group of 77, said the Secretary-General’s report on follow-up to the tenth anniversary of the International Year of the Family was commendable, as it addressed the need to integrate a family perspective into the issue of social protection. The Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the Doha International Institute for Family Studies and Development had convened a meeting of experts in Doha in April, on the theme “family-related policy in a changing world and achieving social protection and intergenerational solidarity”. The Secretary-General’s report addressed the outcome of that meeting. The Qatar Government laid importance on linking family support to the provision of social protection, and considered that link as emanating from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
He said the International Year of the Family drew the world’s attention to the family as a “fundamental policy-related issue”. Governments and other actors had been striving since 1994 to support family well-being through policies, programmes and strategies. Qatar played an active role in celebrating the tenth anniversary of the International Year, holding the first Doha International Conference on the Family in November 2004; and sponsoring a declaration and several resolutions in the General Assembly on the family. Qatar was also host to the International Institute for Family Studies and Development. The twentieth anniversary of the International Year would take place in 2014, and the international community should start preparing the programme for that event. For its part, Qatar would prepare a draft resolution on that soon.
MOURAD BENMEHIDI ( Algeria) said the impact of the ongoing economic crisis had been felt around the world and had further introduced a sense of uncertainty into the prospects for sustainable development. Low-income households were being deprived of the means to survive and prosper, and the gap between rich and poor was widening. To deal with this crisis, it was crucial to protect and generate jobs. The commitments taken regarding official development assistance for developing countries should be honoured to curb the pernicious repercussions of the crisis. Unfortunately, a climate of uncertainty was already taking root in too many countries, where cuts in public spending in health and education were a reality.
He said that moving forward, more attention must be paid to the agricultural sector, where unemployment was prevalent and access to social support services were often non-existent. International cooperation was also needed more than ever in stopping the spread of illnesses that affected people around the world, particularly the marginalized. Efforts to support youth should aim to enable their social integration, protecting them from the reach of crime and diseases.
Noting the wealth of problems facing Africa in the area of social development, he highlighted the adoption by the African Union of an approach for sustainable social development that was adapted to the unique circumstances of African societies. Implementing these objectives had garnered continental support, but international assistance remained crucial. Nevertheless, significant resources had been mobilized for economic renewal, resulting in progress in the socio-economic situation. Indeed, that economic dynamism had seen increased growth and reductions in unemployment. Due to agreements between the public and private sectors, there had been a significant improvement in purchasing power. That had lead to construction of more schools and other service buildings. Transport assistance had also been extended and hospitals built. Health services had also improved with the training of more doctors and health care workers.
JENS KIHL, youth delegate from Norway, said the condition of the planet and its environment was the biggest threat to humanity. Changes to the world’s climate affected those who were already struggling the most, but were caused disproportionately by those who “had the most”. Those who had the most took certain rights for granted: the right to life, liberty and security, the realization of economic, social and cultural rights, and the right to an adequate standard of living. But, not everybody enjoyed those rights. The poorest often had limited possibilities and reduced ability to shape their own lives and pursue their well-being, due to harsh living conditions brought about by climate change caused mainly by industrialized countries. Clean water had become less accessible because of climate change and there were poorer crops. The subsequent shortage of resources, in turn, heightened the possibility of armed conflict.
He said that countries with economic resources must take responsibility and should act. Climate change had a disproportionate effect on future generations, even if it was caused by those generations that had previously held power. By 2030, about 60 per cent of the world’s population would be children and youth. To influence the future, the youth needed to influence the present. Their voices needed to be heard. The future could be changed: the world had the knowledge, resources, technology and human capacity to eradicate hunger and poverty. Combating climate change would be crucial in making the world a more just and peaceful place. He urged all Member States to fulfil their international development commitments, to include young people in decision-making, and to place a higher priority on the poor and those who were vulnerable to climate change.
MATTI NIEMI, a youth delegate from Finland, said that, in comparison with other generations, today’s youth were more globally oriented. Yet, given the widespread problems emanating from the world of finance, as well as the increasing vulnerability of the environment to climate change, they shared the sense that the future was slipping away. The genuine participation of youth was a prerequisite to meeting the challenges facing the world and acting against the climate of insecurity.
Underlining the concern among Finnish youth for climate change, which was significantly higher than their fears about other international issues like terrorism, he stressed that efforts to fight global warming should be redoubled. Further, the perspective and work of youth should be incorporated at the highest levels. Why should generations yet unborn have to sacrifice their economic well-being, he asked. The change must start today, if there was to be change at all.
He went to say that the number of young people hurt by violence was alarming. Given the impact of conflicts around the world, their role should be acknowledged in crisis prevention. He offered, as an example a school in the Balkans, that integrated people of all backgrounds, that was flourishing. Noting that freedom was a dialogue and an interaction between equal human beings, he emphasized that, without the possibility to change their own future, young people lost their reason to live. That could lead to possible conflict, which only further set back plans for the future. While change was a process and today’s generation might not be around to witness its fruition, young people should be given the means to accomplish it.
MAGED ABDELAZIZ ( Egypt), aligning himself with the Group of 77, said the issue of human development and social integration should be examined in the spirit of “one society for all”. To achieve development and social integration required the elimination of poverty through full employment and “global social development”. Action should be taken to fulfil the Millennium Development Goals with equal consideration of all segments of society, including its most vulnerable populations regardless of gender or creed. Each individual must enjoy equal opportunity with others to receive skills training and employment, to be free from disease, and have access to education and health care, albeit in less than ideal conditions given the multiple crises and climate change. Since social exclusion and unemployment had a negative effect on individual development, nations must introduce legislation to improve their fight against poverty.
He noted that migrant workers suffered from high risk of exclusion in their host societies and needed particular attention. They were often under attack because of their religion and were frequently accused of not integrating into their new host countries. Hosts should do well to remember that migration, whether permanent or temporary, served the interest of both parties; as such, hosts should not discriminate against migrants. The cultural, religious and ethnic specificities of migrants must be respected and, in turn, migrants must respect the socio-cultural environment of the host country.
He said Egypt viewed the issue with special attention and was working to extend its social security network through a programme to combat price increases and job losses. All family members had the right to equality, including women and young people. Egypt participated in a conference in Namibia last year on social development in Africa, where participants consolidated African’s common stance on development issues in the context of countries emerging from conflict. Also in 2008, the council of Arab social development ministers met in Cairo to develop a programme to encourage private enterprise in society, corporate social responsibility and the role of civil society in the region. The Egyptian Government hoped that the international community could work together to draw up multilateral plan on socio-economic development.
NIKOLAY RAKOVSKIY ( Russian Federation) said a substantive discussion of social problems was as pertinent as ever. Negative economic trends should not hinder the United Nations programmes for social development. The current financial and economic crisis proved that the Organization’s commitment to social issues must be strengthened. To that end, it should promote international cooperation in supporting the ageing and youth, and strengthening the institution of the family. Recognizing that efforts to increase the sustainability of any national economy would only be possible through the development of the human capital, the Russian Federation had not allowed itself to be distracted by the financial and economic crisis, but had continued to provide deep social protection for its citizens.
He said the fate faced by young adults in the current crisis-filled climate was of particular concern today. To that end, 2009 had been the year for youth in the Russian Federation. Also important was the protection of the elderly, particularly pensioners. The State was working to help the elderly remain active in society, and pension reform for all categories of elderly people was underway. Already the basic pension had been increased by 30 per cent.
He said the Russian Government was also working to help those living with disabilities, by, among other things, making the social and transportation infrastructure more accessible. It welcomed the increasing number of States to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and was actively working to ratify it. As part of efforts to promote family values, continued assistance was being extended to families in the form of grants for children. Finally, he hoped that, although the current crisis had yet not been overcome, the international community would continue to work towards a post-crisis world.
JORDY SWEEP, a youth delegate from the Netherlands, addressed the issue of education, and the difficulties faced by youth living in slums or in “totally different situations from what you are used to”. Trapped in misery, it would seem those youth could never have the chance to lead a happy, health and trouble-free life. One such youth was a 10 year-old called Themba, whose mother suffered from HIV/AIDS and whose older brother was a drug addict. When asked, Themba revealed that he did not go to school to improve his future, but so he could go to football practice afterwards. The importance of sports in young people’s lives was greatly underestimated. When young people played a sport, it was to enjoy working together as a team and to build self-confidence. Sports and education greatly enhanced each other when combined into one programme, allowing young people to gain knowledge and social and physical skills. Sport also “totally fits our way of living,” leading him to call on Member States to invest in education and sports in an attempt to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
HAMIDON ALI ( Malaysia) underlined the recognition by the international community at the World Summit that national economic development and human development were integrated and noted that the follow-up to that meeting had provided specific social development goals. Yet, as the effects of the global fuel, food and financial crises spread, national efforts towards achieving these social development goals were being jeopardized.
He said the Committee should, as it considered policy prescription to recommend to the General Assembly, reinforce a steadfast commitment to the World Summit’s larger political goals, especially on enhanced international cooperation and technology and information transfer. For countries to achieve social development goals, the structure of the international financial architecture had to be addressed, to ensure that it was fair and equitable. The provision of social services also needed evaluation, especially since the effects of the financial food and fuel crisis had yet to be fully investigated. As the second year of the crisis approached, he called on the relevant entities of the United Nations systems to provide Member States with an assessment of its long-term impacts.
Turning to youth, he said Malaysia’s domestic framework served to guide all youth programmes, such as youth leadership and enterprise development. On the issue of ageing, discourse was increasingly dominated by debate on whether to adopt a rights-based approach or a social development approach -- although those approaches were not mutually exclusive. Malaysia’s population was ageing fairly rapidly, if not as quickly as other Asian countries, and the Government was working through different national action plans to promote programmes for the aged and improve their access to different services. The well-being of societies and the people constituting those societies remained the prime motivator for the Malaysian Government, he stressed. It was hoped this focus would allow forward movement in achieving the implementation of the World Summit.
MARIE YVETTE BANZON ABALOS ( Philippines) expressed concern that the international community had not done enough to address inequality in global incomes. The Philippines Government welcomed innovative efforts undertaken by countries to combat poverty while addressing inequality, such as through the effective use of microcredit and microfinance, conditional cash transfers and asset reform and management. But, it also called on countries to share their experiences more aggressively, so as to improve poverty reduction and development programmes around the world. Widening inequality made a bad recipe for social integration, and as income gaps increased, the demarcations among various groups were likely to be more pronounced. Basic risks should be covered, such as the most common health concerns and unemployment.
Since it looked as though it would take a while for the world to recover from the economic and financial crises, she said it might be worthwhile for Governments to examine ways to strengthen social protection, not only in terms of an emergency response, but also in terms of longer-term social security policy. In particular, she called for more attention to the plight of disabled persons, who were largely excluded from the picture. Next year’s 2010 review of the Millennium Development Goals presented an opportunity to integrate persons with disabilities who represented 10 per cent of the world’s population into the process. Countries should not only co-sponsor the resolution to mainstream disability into the Goals, they needed to become active advocates on behalf of disabled persons alongside the Philippines.
GITA HULMANOVA, a youth delegate from Slovakia, quoted Aristotle, who once said that youth was easily deceived because it was quick to hope. Today, however, youth in some regions were struggling to survive. They had little hope in the future. Sitting here at the United Nations, surrounded by people with university degrees and future prospects, she wondered if the youth delegates from different countries would be able to persuade their Governments to help. Moreover, were Governments really giving young people the ability to speak up and be heard? It must be remembered that young people did not want to be observers in world decisions.
Turning to questions of employment, she said that, while young people made up 25 per cent of the global work force, they faced unemployment levels higher than 40 per cent. In the absence of opportunities in the formal labour market, hazardous informal work was the norm. But the benefits of suitable work could not be ignored. It fostered creativity and maximized the potential of young people. Since the factors causing youth unemployment were diverse, she advocated a study that took a wide view of the situation. If relevant strategies and policies were not developed, a new generation would grow up feeling it had no stake in society. Further financial commitments were needed to that end. The investment would be worth it. Young people were an important resource and had proven themselves able partners in sustainable development. By harnessing their potential, the world could benefit from their intellectual creativity.
STEFANIE VERAGHTERT, a youth delegate from Belgium, whose Government aligned itself with the European Union, recalled that increased youth participation was one of the priorities of the world programme for youth. The youth had a desire to participate at all political levels, from the local to the international, but without proper structure for participation, they could only depend on the good will of nations to invite youth delegates to those forums. She called on Governments to ensure that those structures were implemented democratically in all countries, like the one implemented by the European Union. Youth were included in the development of policies concerning them through a framework of structured dialogue. She also called for the use of new technologies to ensure increased youth participation, and enough education to prepare youth for meaningful participation. She also noted that many processes involved voluntary participation on the part of youth, and remarked that the energy of youth had not eroded because of the economic crisis.
* *** *