Strengthening Well-Being of Youth Not Just a Question of Rights; Should Be Key Strategy in Bolstering Vitality of Global Village, Third Committee Told

6 October 2009
GA/SHC/3946

Strengthening Well-Being of Youth Not Just a Question of Rights; Should Be Key Strategy in Bolstering Vitality of Global Village, Third Committee Told

6 October 2009
General Assembly
GA/SHC/3946
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-fourth General Assembly

Third Committee

3rd & 4th Meetings (AM & PM)

Strengthening Well-Being of Youth Not Just a Question of Rights; Should Be Key

Strategy in Bolstering Vitality of Global Village, Third Committee Told

Hears Some 40 Speakers, Including 13 Youth Delegates, in Social Development Debate;

‘Jobs Pact’, Protections for Elderly, Disabled Persons among Other Issues Addressed

Reinforcing the well-being of the world’s youth was not just a question of basic rights, but should be a key strategy in bolstering the vitality of the global village, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) was told today, as it concluded its discussion on social development.

Today’s meeting featured, among nearly 40 speakers, 13 youth delegates, who used their opportunity to address the United Nations to voice the most pressing concerns, as well as the most ambitious dreams of young people around the world.

While acknowledging that one word ‑‑ “crisis” ‑‑ had dominated public discourse over the last year, one of two youth delegates from Germany, stressed that the current sense of uncertainty and instability actually offered a chance to reshape the world.  She and other German youth believed those efforts should focus on climate change, education, global youth rights, and genuine participation.

Underlining the value of young people’s full and effective participation in shaping public policy, her fellow German youth delegate said the age limit for voting should to be lowered to 15, in line with the United Nations definition of “youth”.  Like other young speakers throughout the day-long meeting, he also called for a global convention on the rights of youth that would allow young people to reach their full potential.

Several youth delegates highlighted national mechanisms, such as youth councils, sports associations and mentoring programmes, which, they argued, harnessed the creativity and entrepreneurial spirit of teens and young adults.  Others suggested that to enhance the creativity of this critical population segment, direct funding was needed.  Portugal’s youth delegate called for an investment strategy on youth policies and programmes.  Such a strategy would help young people form tighter bonds with local communities, schools, sports clubs, and partners at various levels of government.

Echoing that call, Bulgaria’s youth delegate said that funding youth activities would stimulate their active engagement in society.  In particular, it would kindle the interests of young people in developing countries, who sought a way to express themselves and to be heard around the world.

All of these young speakers were eager to seize the opportunity to determine their own future.  But, several warned, the window of opportunity to do so was narrow and action was required now.  This was particularly true in the fight against climate change, Australia’s youth delegate said.

Indeed, he said inaction on climate change and global poverty angered young Australians, who believed climate change was already having a detrimental effect on their lives.  Speaking for them, he said action on climate change could be slow, or could surge forward and give youth the future they deserved.

Representatives from several country delegations also highlighted the problem of youth unemployment among their major concerns in implementing their social development agenda.  Underscoring her country’s efforts to boost job opportunities for its youngest workers, the United Republic of Tanzania’s delegate called attention to the work of the Africa Commission, which had been initiated by the Danish Government and which provided a number of initiatives for addressing youth employment.  The United Nations and the international community could consider incorporating them into national and international efforts.

Agreeing that young people faced particular vulnerabilities in the labour market, a representative of the International Labour Organization called for measures to support at-risk youth.  Those should include incorporating the youth employment dimension in national development frameworks, designing action plans, expanding training programmes and job placement schemes, and promoting youth entrepreneurship.

To support national Governments in that work, she said the ILO was collecting data on the nature of youth employment, unemployment and underemployment, and analysing the effectiveness of country policies.  It was also working to strengthen national capacities to address irregular youth migration, which was worsening because of the economic and financial crisis.

Other speakers during the day stressed the parallel need to address the situation of the elderly in social development.  Several underlined intergenerational solidarity as the bridge between the young and the old, as well as the family as the primary social institution supporting both segments of the populations.  Many speakers also outlined their national efforts to ensure the rights of the disabled and to provide them with access to work opportunities, health services, education, and transportation infrastructure.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Iraq, Mongolia, Yemen, Iran, Nepal, Mexico, Senegal, Jordan, Bangladesh, India, Cameroon, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Nicaragua, Syria, Ukraine, Ghana, Saudi Arabia, Chile, Libya, Bolivia, Togo, Kenya, Indonesia, Colombia, United Arab Emirates and Argentina.

Youth delegates of Sweden, Romania, Switzerland, Peru, Dominican Republic, Botswana and Thailand also spoke.

The Committee will convene at 3 p.m. Wednesday, 7 October to begin its consideration of crime prevention and international drug control.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to continue its general debate on social development (for further details please see Press Release GA/SHC/3945).

Statements

RUI DUARTE, a youth delegate from Portugal, said the current group of youth were “the most well-prepared and informed young generation ever” and were part of the “digital generation.”  They were “innovation consultants” of society, with the opportunity to empower the economic, social and cultural well-being of people.  The Portuguese Government was committed to promoting education, labour and leisure opportunities for young people.  It had recently established an inter-ministerial commission on youth, and was attempting to integrate the national youth programme into the framework of the European common strategy for sustainable development –- the Lisbon strategy.  A think-tank on youth issues, the Portuguese Youth Institute, and the Permanent Observatory on Youth, conducts research on youth and acts as the national evaluation body for youth policies.

Yet, he says, Portuguese youth faced considerable difficulties in finding decent work and affordable housing.  More attention was needed in youth access to higher education.  Regional Youth Councils still needed to be created to complete the structured dialogue process between youth organizations and decision-makers at the local, regional, national and international levels.  He called for an investment strategy on youth policies and programmes, which should involve young people themselves alongside local communities, schools, sports clubs, various levels of government and other stakeholders.  The reinforcement of young people’s well-being was not only a matter of basic rights, but should be seen as an attempt to ensure the vitality of the global village.

EMILY MAY BÜNING, youth delegate of Germany, said one word -- “crisis” -- had been dominating public discussions over the last year, in reference not only to the financial world, but the environment, food security and ever-growing economic inequality.  It offered a chance to reshape the world.  She said discussions with other German youth delegates revealed four common issues essential to their lives:  climate change; education; genuine participation; and global youth rights.  Young people and youth-led organizations all over the world had united to fight the “virus of climate change” that was spreading around the world.  To grasp the chance available in the upcoming Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen, youth had to be a recognized as a key stakeholder in the battle against climate change.  Further, education should not be reduced to an economic value devoid of a holistic approach that included non-formal learning.  Independent youth and youth-led organizations should also be valued and supported by Governments, schools and other stakeholders.

Continuing, Germany’s second youth delegate, FALKO MOHRS, stressed that full and effective participation was needed and youth must be empowered to take responsibility starting at the local level.  Young people should also be allowed to take part in elections, and the age limit for doing so should be lowered to 15, in line with the United Nations definition of “youth”.  Youth Charters had only been ratified in some pars of the world.  Thus, he asked for a global convention on the rights of youth that allowed young people to reach their full potential.  It must include protection from discrimination and ensure youth autonomy, the highest health standard, the right to decent work, education and domicile all over the globe.

LINDA WALLBERG, a youth delegate from Sweden, quoted Eleanor Roosevelt, an advocate for human rights, civil society and youth, who said, “Where, after all, do universal human rights begin?  In small places, close to home.”  That notion was demonstrated by a real life example in Congo-Brazzaville, where Ms. Wallberg lived five years ago.  There, the youth had a dream of changing the nightmare of war into dreams of hope and football.  Today, they had a football school where 300 young people gathered each week and could feel “included”.  Indeed, an important aspect of human rights was the right to participate in society.

She said sustainable development was built on three pillars:  economic; social; and environmental.  Those pillars were the basis for a future of good health, well-being and political participation.  Each individual’s right to their own body and sexuality was fundamental to the enjoyment of health and well-being, which in turn was built on gender equality.  In addition to a focus on potential health risks, there also needed to be some focus on the positive aspects of sexuality.  The possibility of influencing one’s own life also had a positive effect on health and well-being, and, for that reason, it was important to establish youth-led organizations to support and increase young people’s participation and well-being in society.

She said young people were the very embodiment of solutions, impressive entrepreneurship and innovation.  Progress should, therefore, be made in cooperation with young people, for it is with their participation at all levels of decision-making that sustainable development becomes possible.  She called for Governments to let youth contribute to achieving human rights and to recognize them as equal partners in decision-making.

CHRISTOPHER VARNEY, youth delegate of Australia, quoted the account of a 17‑year-old girl who, after describing the impact of the Victorian bushfires earlier this year, concluded:  “We need to increase action against climate change so that our summers are not as hot, fierce and murderous.”  Inaction on climate change and global poverty angered young Australians.  The message from youth across Australia was that climate change was having a detrimental effect on their lives.  With the 50-year warming trend, the enhanced greenhouse effect and prolonged drought, they feared more regular and extreme fire days.  At schools across the country, young people were passionate for a global education that would provide the kind of understanding they needed to tackle the unsafe climate future they would inherit.  In the week before the Climate Summit, young people had united in an Australian youth vote called “Youth Decide” and, for their part, had called for the Copenhagen agreement to adopt a 40 per cent emissions reduction by 2020.

Stressing the need for a bold enough agreement to respond to tragedies like the Victorian fires, he said Australia’s youth dreamed of a safe climate future for all.  If it could not be dreamed, it could not be done.  The moment had come for Member States to decide how to pass the baton to the rising generation and future caretakers of the planet.  Action on climate change could be slow, or it could surge forward and give youth the strong future they deserved.

ABDULKARIM SHWAIKH ( Iraq) said engaging in social development implied making attempts to achieve social justice for all, attenuating inequality and combating poverty.  It had repercussions in both economic and non-economic spheres, and was directly linked to improved productivity in society.  The Iraqi Government was working to guarantee social justice by ensuring even distribution of the benefits of development.  It was trying to bring about equal opportunities for its citizens and to cover everyone’s needs, in an effort to promote true social development.  Indeed, its citizens had suffered much because of successive wars and economic sanctions. 

He said Iraq had the resources to achieve those aims, but did not have the necessary infrastructure, which had been largely destroyed.  The Government was attempting to improve living standards by boosting the economy and improving employment.  It aimed to provide better-paid employment for civil servants, orphans, older persons and people with special needs.  It had created a support fund for the poor and a social fund for rural development.

In addition, he said the Government sought to improve living standards of families by providing security, justice and defence services to guarantee stability.  It was also working to develop the health sector, through a huge health-service programme where basic health care and vaccinations were being provided to combat pandemics.  It was bringing the private sector on board to provide medicines and improve research.  It was encouraging Iraqi physicians outside the country to return to Iraq.  In terms of education, it was trying to guarantee equal access for all, and was organizing courses for students and lecturers to familiarize them with state of the art technology.  The budget for scholarships to other countries had been increased.  Iraq needed to undergo reconstruction in order to make progress in social development, as well as strive towards the realization of peace and security in the region.

ONON SODOV, Director of International Organizations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Mongolia, associating herself with remarks made on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the relevance of the commitments on social development regarding poverty eradication, full employment and social integration made at the World Summit remained of utmost importance.  The global financial, food and fuel crises posed tremendous challenges to income security, employment and social protection.  Climate change also affected the livelihoods of many, especially in developing countries.  Mongolia’s President had stressed during the General Assembly’s general debate that “in all our policies and actions we need to focus on people, on the human costs of overcoming the direct consequences of multiple crises”.

She emphasized that, as the United Nations Secretary-General’s report had pointed out, cooperatives promoted and supported entrepreneurial development, creating productive employment, raising incomes and helping reduce poverty, while enhancing social inclusion protection and community building.  Their advantages went far beyond poverty eradication and income growth.  In Mongolia, they had been transformed into autonomous, voluntarily-united associations, jointly owned and democratically-controlled by their members following the country’s transition to a market-economy system in the 1990s.  Recently, the Government had approved a “National Programme on Cooperatives’ Development for 2009-2017” that further supported cooperatives and led to a rise in their numbers to 1,700, with over 200,000 members.  Mongolia supported the call for an International Year of Cooperatives and, having initiated a resolution on cooperatives, appealed to Member States for support.

WAHEED AL-SHAMI ( Yemen), aligning himself with the statement delivered by the Group of 77 and China yesterday, said the financial, economic, food and fuel crises and climate change posed a danger to development.  Such crises had led to unemployment, hunger and more people falling into poverty.  Developing and least developed countries had suffered a great deal.  Believing that youth were the foundation of a better future, the Yemeni Government had established a ministry for youth, introduced legislation targeted at the advancement of youth and established youth prizes in various areas.  The Government ran programmes and projects to improve the capacity of youth, lasting until 2015 and in line with international programmes of action for youth. 

In terms of people with disabilities, he said Yemen had taken part in drafting the Convention on the rights of disabled persons and was among the first to ratify it and adopt its protocols.  The Government had adopted laws to guarantee the rights to persons with disabilities, guaranteeing access to training and participation in development.  Through Law No. 61, adopted in 1999, it created a fund for that group.  In addition to establishing a national strategy to assist such persons, Yemen also hosted a large number of meetings on that issue.  On older persons, he said the Government had established homes for older persons and introduced legislation and a national strategy directed at that social group.  But, Yemen faced simultaneous challenges -- poverty and unemployment among them -- which were closely linked to levels of oil production and oil prices.  Because Yemen lacked resources, he asked that assistance to Yemen be increased.  His country was among those that received the least amount of assistance.

ESHAGH AL HABIB ( Iran), aligning himself with the Group of 77, said the world’s social situation had not witnessed any progress.  The global crises were reversing whatever progress had been achieved in terms of internationally-agreed goals.  The World Bank estimated that 130 to 155 million people were pushed into poverty in 2008, and that as many as 100 million people would remain poor or fall into poverty in 2009 as a result of the economic slowdown.  The global unemployment rate was expected to rise above 7 per cent, bringing the total number of unemployed persons to 230 million.  Consequently, an estimated 200 million workers could be pushed into extreme poverty, particularly in developing countries.  As a result, two pillars of social development -- poverty eradication and full employment -- remained unfulfilled.  Poverty and unemployment would lead to social exclusion.

He said a “family foundation” was the key to achieving social integration, and the Government of Iran had designed policies and programmes to support the family foundation.  The Centre for Women and Family Affairs, affiliated with the Office of the President, existed to monitor implementation at the highest level.  Iran shared the view of the United Nations Secretary-General, as expressed in his report on follow up to the tenth anniversary of the International Year of the Family, that preparations for the upcoming twentieth anniversary of the Year in 2014 needed to begin.  The country was also devoting attention to older persons, where the Social Security Organization and Social Welfare Ministry worked with other governmental and non-governmental organizations to ensure their rights, economic security and health care.  Iran was committed to accomplishing the goals set by the World Summit for Social Development, and hoped that initiatives and policies sparked by it would lead to tangible results for the present and next generation.

SUDHIR BHATTARAI ( Nepal), recalling the commitments made at the World Summit and their support for the notion of an inclusive society, stressed the need for full implementation of those promises.  The priority theme of the Commission for Social Development, “social integration”, had been timely and pertinent in the fight against inequality and social injustice.  His country believed that Government policies should focus on eliminating poverty, social inequality and injustice, as well as on ensuring the availability of the fruits of development to the poor, the neglected and the marginalized.

With its Federal Democratic Republic, Nepal had entered a new era, paving the way for political and social transformation, he said.  Elected representatives of the people were engaged in writing a new constitution.  The interim constitution, meanwhile, incorporated a rights-based approach to development, as a State obligation.  Several programmes related to social development, including social security allowances for senior citizens, widows and endangered ethnic and indigenous groups and disabled peoples.  A health shelter for elderly citizens was being established in each of Nepal’s five development regions.  There was also a need to collaborate at the regional and international level in implementing the Madrid Plan of Action on Ageing.  The Government was also formulating a National Youth Policy, with a view to allow them to participate in the State’s restructuring.  It was committed to youth mobilization and to ending illiteracy.

He said a national policy and action plan for people with disabilities had been formulated and they were formally being given opportunities to work in the Nepalese civil service.  Nepal was also working to support the integration of a family perspective into policy making and national-capacity development.

CHRISTIAN T. GONZALEZ (Mexico) welcomed the United Nations Secretary‑General’s report on the world action programme, because it described the main aspects missing in the development of youth and discussed obstacles that that group faced in achieving a fulfilled life.  Mexico had participated actively at the meeting of the group of experts on youth topics, organized by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNESCO) last May.  At that meeting, Governments, non-governmental organizations and United Nations Agencies evaluated the objectives of the world action programme on youth.  The experience showed that greater political compromise on the issue was needed.  Mexico’s “compromise” dealt with the area of the programme dealing with youth participation in society.

He noted that more than 200 million young people lived on less than a dollar a day, 88 million were unemployed, 160 million faced malnutrition, 130 million had not completed the basic level of education and 10 million lived with HIV/AIDS.  It was important to implement internationally-agreed development goals from a youth perspective.  In that context, Mexico had decided to extend an invitation to all Member States, civil society and the youth of the world to participate in an international conference on youth in Mexico City, slated for August 2010.  The conference aimed to:  create a consensus declaration on priority actions for policies on youth and development; promote mechanisms to follow up on the United Nations youth agenda; encourage dialogue between civil society and government on youth issues; and share experiences.  A concept note on the conference was attached to the speaker’s statement, which was circulated in the room.  In light of the world’s social and economic transformations, it was important to invest in development opportunities for youth, he said.

LEYSA SOW ( Senegal) emphasized that the Millennium Development Goals were a response to development challenges and aimed to reduce poverty, increase education, and combat infant mortality, HIV/AIDS and other diseases.  Nevertheless, with the price of oil and other commodities rising, poverty eradication was made much harder.  Still, the issue of development was first of all a question of policy.  It was also the responsibility of leaders.   Senegal believed that development policies should address the vulnerabilities of women, youth, children and disabled peoples.  Moreover, job creation was vital for a country’s social stability.  Regular, stable employment and decent work also contributed to social equality.

She said Senegal had undertaken a number of initiatives to further social development.  An in-depth poverty profile had allowed this policy to focus on wealth creation, promoting basic services, improving living conditions for vulnerable groups and designing a follow-up mechanism that was participatory in measuring its success.  Recently, the prevalence of HIV/AIDS had been stable, but women were suffering more than men.  The Government was targeting this imbalance through its health-care policies.  It was also working to promote women and youth, and would, for this reason, submit a draft resolution concerning youth along with Moldova and Portugal.  It was hoped this draft would receive widespread support.  Developing countries also should commit to supporting their populations, while rich countries should commit to supporting these efforts through, among other things, fair trade policies.

The first youth delegate from Romania said it was the first time his Government had sent a youth delegate to a United Nations meeting, for which he gave thanks.  He encouraged all States to send more youth delegates to United Nations meetings.  While it was clear that Governments were taking steps to emphasize the positive impacts of youth action, he understood that producing real impacts required planning and resources.  In Romania, youth were privileged to have a good educational system.  But, education was becoming increasingly less affordable.  He praised Governments around the world for establishing a Millennium Development Goal on education and efforts to achieve it, but, in light of the increasing lack of access, he pled for those efforts to continue.  Investment in education was the answer to poverty, gender inequality, as well as health and environmental issues and unemployment.

A second youth delegate noted the effects of the economic and financial crisis on youth, who were among the most vulnerable in terms of its impact.  According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), 59 million had become unemployed since the start of the crisis in 2007, of which 40 per cent were considered young.  Despite having reached the midway point in the Millennium Development Goals process, 55 to 90 million people (of which 45 per cent were young people) were expected to be forced into extreme poverty by the end of 2009, according to data from before the crisis.  In Romania, the trend was less steep.  But, even so, the percentage of poor young people was expected to rise from 7.8 per cent in 2008 to 10.7 per cent in 2009.  National authorities were implementing laws, projects and strategies to provide young people with productive work.  And, while Governments everywhere were striving to help young people make the transition from childhood to adulthood through employment programmes, there was little convergence between commitments and real action.

Finally, on participation, she called on Governments and civil society to view the current economic crisis as an opportunity to:  boost youth participation in decision-making processes, particularly in addressing youth employment issues; revise the worldwide education curricula to be more relevant to the international job market; and make education standards consistent across countries.  It was also an opportunity to invite youth participation in crafting labour legislation.  To encourage youth entrepreneurship, basic resources should be made available in a systemic manner.  On those issues, she asked that Governments moved beyond words and into action.

SAMAR AL-ZIBDEH (Jordan) said her country had adopted a number of programmes aimed at protecting all levels of society.  Convinced that the family was society’s natural unit, Jordan would again celebrate the annual day of the family this year and continued to support United Nations efforts on promoting the family.  The Jordanian family enjoyed social cohesion.  It had established a National Council for the Family, which, among other things, ran media campaigns to support the concept of family and to target domestic violence.  The Council also implemented a number of policies to satisfy the basic needs of the family.  It drew on a scientific methodology, based on partnerships between the private and public sectors.

She went to say that Jordan agreed that the issue of persons with disabilities was not fully integrated in the Millennium Development Goals.  It supported the inter-agency group for people with disabilities and, in addition to being a State party to the relevant convention, had enacted national legislation to support the rights of the disabled.  Further, Jordan would hold its first national council related to disabled persons in November.

Stressing the critical role of youth in society, she lamented the many challenges facing Jordan’s young people, and, in particular, its young girls.  A strategy had been developed for youth for the period from 2005 to 2009 aimed at advancing the country’s youth sector and ensuring their political and civil rights.   Jordan also believed that old people should fully participate in civil life and, to promote social inclusion, intergenerational solidarity was paramount.

TOBIAS NAEF, a youth delegate from Switzerland, stressed the importance of recognizing young people as a distinct social group with its own particular needs.  The youth made up 17 per cent of the global population.  In his country, the principles that governed the social inclusion of young people were enshrined in the Federal Constitution, although the Swiss National Youth Council still believed in the need for a framework law on child and youth policy to facilitate their social inclusion.  To prevent young people from becoming socially excluded because of the economic and financial crisis, the Swiss Government was focused on providing access to education and job creation.  A package of measures unveiled by the Government was aimed at providing incentives for companies to offer apprenticeships, and to encourage those companies to employ their apprentices even after their vocational training had ended.

He noted the attention given by the United Nations Secretary-General to the importance of social security systems.  The international community had given little thought to a potential social security system for developing and least developed countries.  The world needed to join forces to establish global social security standards that could be adapted to the unique needs of each country.  In that regard, the Swiss Government congratulated the ILO and the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB) for their “outstanding commitment” to that issue.  Further, in light of the particular risk faced by young migrants in becoming socially excluded, he also proposed that the focus of the 2011 World Youth Report be on migration.  During its forty-eighth session in February 2010, the Commission for Social Development was expected to draft proposals on policies for social integration.  Switzerland considered that work to be of vital importance, and hoped to contribute some practical recommendations.

ZULFIQUR RAHMAN ( Bangladesh), Director-General (United Nations), Ministry of Foreign Affairs, aligning himself with the Group of 77, devoted his statement to issues facing the ageing population.  A silent change had taken place over the past several decades; better primary health care and success in family planning had reduced both death and birth rates.  This brought a change to the historical trend of high birth rates and high death rates, to one of low rates of both.  It was estimated that one out of nine people in the world were 60-years-old, or older.  By 2050, that number will increase to one out of five people.  Society needed to ensure that the rights of older persons were protected, and that their physical, psychological and emotional safety was secured, especially in terms of their vulnerability to abuse.  To counteract the potential marginalization of older persons, they should be encouraged to play a more active role in society to imbue them with a sense of purpose, and to help them “form a less degrading idea about their status” in society.

He said there were 737 million older persons around the world, and in Bangladesh, the number grew from 4.1 million in 1981 to 6 million in 1991.  A majority lived below the poverty line.  By 2025, that number was expected to rise to 18 million, bringing with it potential social problems.  While the primary responsibility for achieving the objectives of the Madrid Plan of Action on Ageing rested with Member States, international cooperation was essential.  Already, the Government of Bangladesh had established a range of social safety net programmes for the elderly, including an old-age pension, a distressed women’s pension, an old people’s home, cash and food transfers, micro-credit, and others.  The Government had built a successful partnership with non-governmental organizations on those issues, and was also working to enact a law guaranteeing the rights of older persons.

He noted the gap between norm setting and implementation on the issue of ageing, welcoming the General Recommendations proposed by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women to reduce that gap.  It was critical for developed countries to fulfil their official development assistance requirements towards least developed countries.

KRISTINA POPOVA, youth delegate of Bulgaria, said her country’s youth had recognized the power of youth participation.  Youth delegates represented a culture in which young people could help establish a civil society and influence policy-making on various levels.  Through this, youth would ultimately determine their own future.  To this end, the Bulgarian delegation was strongly encouraging a shift in the focus of the work of the youth of the United Nations from “What the United Nations can do for us?” to “What can we do for ourselves?”

She said the Bulgarian delegation had, thus, devised a mechanism to promote youth participation around the world.  Indeed, it was of prime importance that youth input in policy-making at all levels be enhanced.  They should be included in all United Nations committees and bodies concerned with social and development issues.  Youth-related non-governmental organizations should also be part of the circle of organizations consulted by the Organization.  The most crucial step in the process of stimulating active engagement and cooperation was funding youth activities.  This should be accomplished not through a bureaucratic project‑funding system, but an efficient tool to enable participation of any group of active young people.  This fund should be provided to national offices of the different agencies, along the lines of the European “WPAY” (World Program of Action for Youth) system.  Such a fund would particularly kindle the interests of young people in developing countries, who sought a way to express themselves and to be heard around the world.

MANJEEV SINGH PURI (India), aligning himself with the Group of 77, recalled that the 1995 World Summit for Social Development had been among the largest gatherings of world leaders.  At that meeting, they had pledged to conquer poverty, achieve full employment and foster just societies, but after 15 years the world still had a long way to go.  The last year had been particularly difficult for developing countries, because of stalled economic growth.  India had been more resilient compared to others and was poised to resume growth, but it was imperative that assistance to developing countries continue. 

He welcomed the United Nations Secretary-General report referring to India as a success story on social development, among developing countries.  Indeed, inclusive growth was the dominant theme of India’s Eleventh Five Year Plan (2007‑2012).  Some of the country’s major efforts included national schemes to ensure availability of food grains at concessional rates to all, and guaranteed employment, in the form of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act of 2006.  That Act guaranteed 100 days of employment every year for adults at a statutory minimum wage and provided employment to 45 million people last year.  The Act worked in conjunction with a rural infrastructure programme called Bharat Nirman.  Another scheme, the Rajiv Awas Yojana scheme, was aimed at providing better housing for slum dwellers.

Finally, because education was an essential component of social development, the Government introduced the Right to Education Act, providing each child with the right to education up to the age of 14 years.  To reinforce the education of girls, it would launch a female-literacy mission to reduce female illiteracy by half in the next three years.

EDINE MANGESHO (United Republic of Tanzania), voicing support for the statements made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China and the Southern African Development Community, underlined the need for the full implementation of the Copenhagen Plan of Action, which was vital for social development for all, at national and international levels, as well as the attainment of all internationally-agreed development goals.  It was, however, imperative that the impact of the financial, food and fuel crises on the relevant policy options be examined, so policies could be amended or alternatives developed, as needed.  The issues of unemployment, particularly among youth, continued to be a main obstacle to implementing the Copenhagen Plan of Action.  In Tanzania, several measures had been undertaken to increase employment opportunities for them.  The Youth Development Fund had been strengthened and training programmes implemented.  Tanzania also had a youth delegate attending the current session.

She further commended the Africa Commission, which had been initiated by the Danish Government and which provided a number of initiatives for addressing youth employment.  She invited the United Nations to consider the recommendations made in the report and further underlined her President’s call during the General Assembly’s general debate for more attention to be paid to youth employment on the African continent.

With agriculture the main economic activity of rural Tanzanians, the Government had also put an “agriculture first” programme in place, she said.  It appealed to the international community for support through public-private partnerships.  Further, in addressing the situation of older people and the disabled, the Government welcomed the recommendations and work of the United Nations.  It would again present a resolution on including persons with disabilities in the Millennium Development Goals.  In recognition of the importance of cooperatives as vehicles for economic empowerment, the Tanzanian Government also supported the proposal for an International Year of Cooperatives.

CÉCILE MBALLA EYENGA ( Cameroon), aligning herself with the Group of 77, remarked that since the fifteenth anniversary of the Copenhagen Summit, the world had fallen behind in its plan to eliminate poverty.  The state of poverty was dreadful in some continents.  In sub-Saharan Africa, it had doubled since 1981.  People suffered from lack of access to health care, drinking water, and suffered from HIV/AIDS and unemployment.  The social situation, which had been serious to begin with, was made worse by the food, fuel and financial crises and climate change.

Nevertheless, she said developing countries had worked to make social development a reality.  Most had strategies to promote the most vulnerable peoples in their societies, with some launching strategies for employment creation.  The United Nations Secretary-General had talked of fostering the social advancement of the most vulnerable people, through their integration into society, providing social protection, eliminating poverty and creating jobs.  In Cameroon, the Government looked to other country’s plans as a road map for its own social development work.  It had drawn up a youth policy, providing for job training in partnership with the private sector in the field of telecommunications, civil engineering and even the army.

In terms of people with disabilities, she said the country had laws guaranteeing special rights for that social group, to help create equal opportunities in the areas of health and employment.  Cameroon was also trying to combat discrimination against people with disabilities through affirmative action programmes in education.  In addition, the Government had signed the Convention on disabilities and was raising awareness about that document.  On the health and welfare of older persons, she said the Government had established disease prevention campaigns.  She appealed for funds to fuel projects that would help Cameroon capitalize on the energy and skills of older persons.  She also appealed for developed countries to meet their official development assistance (ODA) requirements, to engage in debt relief and to provide developing countries with access to developed country markets.

AMANUEL GIORGIO ( Eritrea), associating himself with the statement on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said strong, unified and urgent action by all stakeholders was needed to address the economic and social impacts of the multiple crises converging on developing countries.  Indeed, the same underlying conditions that continued to impede developing countries from achieving the needed level of development should be tackled systematically.  Domestically, Eritrea’s policies and actions were guided by social inclusion, equity and equality in its delivery of social services to all regions, particularly rural areas, where essential services were either limited or had been non-existent for many decades.

He said Eritrea believed that national Governments needed policy space to tailor home-grown initiatives and strategies that reflected country-specific conditions and priorities.  In this vein, and as a country emerging from conflict, Eritrea had implemented programmes that stressed the rehabilitation, reconstruction and development of the country’s economic, social and physical infrastructure.  It was mobilizing its limited human, material and financial resources in that regard.  Educational opportunities were being expanded through the renovation and construction of schools and colleges.  Micro-dams and water reservoirs were being built, and electricity was being introduced to small towns and rural areas.  Health facilities were also being improved and the provision of basic services increased.  The youth were being mobilized in a national development programme that sought to establish basic infrastructure, to serve as a solid foundation for social and economic development.  The Government also sought to ensure the rights of persons with disabilities by mainstreaming the issue in its national development agenda.

ATSEDE KIDANU (Ethiopia), aligning herself with the Group of 77, said the Declaration and Programme of Action from the Copenhagen World Summit for Social Development was one of the most comprehensive and useful documents developed under the auspices of the United Nations.  Recognizing that the agenda spelled out at the Summit required genuine commitment and a holistic approach, the Ethiopian Government had sought to expand social security programmes.  Public servants and private sector workers were enjoying social security provided by the Federal Civil Servants Proclamation and Labour Proclamation.  But, limited resources meant that employment and family benefits were not covered.

She said the Ethiopian Government was striving to provide social protection for unemployed youth, children, poor women, older persons and disabled persons.  People-centred policies were in place to provide the poor with better social services and to attain higher economic performance at the macro level.  Because Ethiopia was a largely agrarian society, the Government had embarked on policy measures to accelerate development in that sector.  Employment opportunities in that area had grown, and agriculture had contributed to the country’s overall growth of 10 to 12 per cent per year in the last five years.

In areas outside of agriculture, she said the Government had adopted policies to promote small and micro-enterprises in urban areas by facilitating access to credit, organizing short-term training and business counselling.  The Integrated Housing Development Programmes, besides solving the problem of housing, had created more than 160,000 new jobs.  Finally, a 10-year national action plan for older persons has been operational for a year, and the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs was raising awareness of that plan.

JAIME HERMIDA CASTILLO ( Nicaragua) stressed that the current dire impacts of widespread price instability and climate change resulted from a capitalist system that only favoured the few.  Nicaragua’s priority was the eradication of poverty through an economic and social development agenda that accounted for the needs of the most vulnerable.  The interests of the poorest were being considered in all of Nicaragua’s public policies.  Indeed, the poor were no longer relegated to the bottom of society, but were the primary focus of the Government, which was fighting malnutrition and seeking to expand basic services, among other things.  Health care and education had been declared completely free and its special food programme had recently been declared an excellent model by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).  According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Nicaragua had surpassed the Millennium Development Goal on the prevalence of tuberculosis and certain mortality rates.

In Nicaragua, the right of all citizens to enough food had been guaranteed, he said.  Over and above that law, specific agricultural programmes were being implemented to increase food security.  Research and technology transfer for rural areas was also being organized.  A “zero hunger” programme was launched in 2007 that gave rural women food coupons.  Over 32,000 coupons had been delivered to date.  Also, seed programmes were supplying low-cost products.  A “production incentive bank” was also providing small-scale loans to small and medium-sized producers, with the number of loans having tripled in 2008.  Concluding, he said the chaos caused by the capitalist system required solidarity among nations to confront the current challenges.

BASHAR JA’AFARI (Syria), aligning himself with the Group of 77, expressed his country’s strong commitment to the Copenhagen Declaration, especially its goals of fostering stable and secure societies based on the enhancement of human rights.  But, Syria faced challenges that might corrode domestic efforts in social development and social integration, brought about by the world crisis, foreign occupation, encroachment on Syria’s natural resources by others, aggressive wars waged against it, and serious violations of international law committed by others against it.  To truly achieve “justice for all”, international efforts should be spent on overcoming obstacles from foreign occupation, so that people could enjoy their right to self-determination.

He said Syria carried out just, economic and social policies aimed at producing a balanced economy that contributed to the reduction of poverty and a just distribution of economic benefits.  Its Government had established programmes to encourage wide participation by the poor.  In addition, it had ratified the Convention on the rights of peoples with disabilities and the accompanying protocol.  It was working to “enable the family” as the moving force behind social cohesion and integration.  It was attempting to “enable youth” as effective “development instruments”, particularly by providing them with appropriate working opportunities.

Efforts at the international and national level needed to be linked together, he said.  While he appreciated the United Nations Secretary-General’s reports on social development, his Government had hoped that the Israeli occupation of parts of Syria and other places would not be overlooked.  It had hoped that the United Nations Secretary-General would pay attention to physical handicaps in the region, resulting from Israel’s use of weapons with long-term effects, such as cluster bombs and landmines.

OLHA KAVUN ( Ukraine) reiterated her country’s commitment to the full and effective implementation of the goals set out in the global social development agenda.  Commitments made at United Nations conferences and other fora gave a strong impetus to the importance of social development around the world.  The social development agenda remained a challenge, as well as a top priority for the leaders of Ukraine.  National authorities were working consistently to translate international strategies into national programmes.  One of the Government’s main goals this year had been to prevent any reduction in living standards, while also developing and implementing measures to minimize the negative impact of the economic crisis.  As a result of its measures, the State budget had been constantly rising from January to June, and charges for social development had increased by 2.1 per cent over the same period in 2008.  The minimum wage was increased in April and an initiative related to total family income was approved, allowing for State support to low-income families and the payment of housing services in the first months of unemployment.

She said the Government was also using the labour market to create jobs.  Steps had been taken to address unemployment in order to reduce tensions in the labour market.  Improvements had been made in social insurance and the pension systems, while legislation had been passed on compulsory State social insurance.  Support was aimed particularly at pregnant women through the provision of maternity payments.  Benefits were also being improved to target the most vulnerable, including orphans, children and the disabled.

HENRY TACHIE-MANSON ( Ghana), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, expressed regret that the number of poor people had increased in several countries.  Climate change and the global financial crisis had added stress to the socio-economic conditions arising from the food and fuel crises, which many developing countries were already grappling with.  Ghana had developed policies, programmes and institutions with strong emphasis on social protection to support the family and youth, older persons and disabled persons, in general. 

He said the national social protection strategy, designed in 2007 under the Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy II, had as its main component the Livelihood Empowerment against Poverty, aimed at aiding the extremely poor.  Under it, beneficiaries received cash transfers, including to poor individuals over the age of 65 years.  Other social protection and poverty reduction interventions included education grants for public schools and school feeding programmes, support to small-holder farmers and microfinance for poor women, among others.  Ghana also had a Persons with Disabilities Act, and was currently working to finalize its revised ageing policy.  A new national-youth policy was geared at providing skills training, health services, and exposure to youth to science and technology opportunities.  A national apprenticeship programme provided vocational skills training.

DENISSE BECERRA ( Peru) focused her statement on youth issues.  In order for young people to achieve their goals, they needed to be aware of the threats posed to them by security concerns, climate change, hunger and so on.  Various United Nations youth programmes allowed youth to take part in events on the international scene, which she praised.  On the national level, she said youth in Latin America faced major challenges in preparing for the future.  In Latin America, 8 per cent of young people were illiterate and access to education had not reached universal levels.  In Peru, the Government was working to ensure that the illiteracy rate dropped each year.  But, lack of access to quality education, especially for disadvantaged groups, contributed to the cycle of poverty.  If the next generation was to be transformed, Peru must eradicate its education problems now.  The quality of education was an important piece of transformation for which Governments needed better teachers and improved infrastructure and equipment.

She said programmes designed to develop work skills were also useful.  In Peru, the “pro young” programme provided just that, but those efforts would be pointless if external factors such as malnutrition and hunger were not given proper consideration.  Children needed micronutrients to develop their minds and bodies.  The World Food Programme (WFP) estimated that 200 million young people in Latin America lived below the poverty line and for whom food security was a challenge, including in middle-income countries like Peru.  Those countries tended not to receive much international assistance, and she urged that agencies such as WFP and FAO continue to provide technical and humanitarian aid to middle-income countries.

Another threat to young people was climate change, she said.  Greenhouse gases in Peru amounted to just 1 per cent of global emissions, but it was one of the countries most vulnerable to global warming.  Glaciers in the Andes were melting, leading to water supply shortages along the mountain range.  The priorities of middle-income countries were complex, and solving the problem of poverty, food insecurity and education needed long-term plans and true commitment.  Middle-income countries could benefit from technological and financial cooperation to adapt to the effects of climate change, as well as to tackle the persistent problems of malnutrition and hunger.

IBRAHIM BIN SAAD BIN BAISHAN (Saudi Arabia), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, said that discrimination against older people was often hidden and that an international convention on the rights of older persons would help consolidate existing international standards concerning those rights and encourage a more adequate allocation of resources.  Saudi Arabia had an established tradition of caring for older persons, which fell under the purview of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.  The national action plan for older persons was based on a culture of “parental dutifulness,” in line with the Islamic Sharia.  The tenth article in the national constitution spelled out the State’s desire to strengthen family ties and preserve its Arab and Islamic values, providing care for all its members and providing appropriate conditions for the development of their talents and abilities.

He said the Government:  provided income to older persons in retirement, or social security grants; encouraged the private sector to establish service centres; conducted research; and set up residential nursing centres for the elderly.  Five organizations worked in different regions to provide older persons with shelters fully equipped with health, psychological and social services.  The country also had private centres and institutions involved in elder care that were supervised or affiliated with the Ministry.  Saudi Arabia also had a national committee on elder care, chaired by the Minister of Social Affairs, whose task was to develop plans, preventive projects and promotional programmes, and to collect data on the issue.  In sum, the care of older persons took place through three processes:  the retirement system; the insurance system; and social security.

BELÉN SAPAG (Chile), aligning her remarks with the statements made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, as well as the Rio Group, noted that her country had convened the third follow-up meeting to the Brazilian Declaration on Ageing, which was being held with the support of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.  Chile hoped that regional and international work to secure the rights of the elderly would help the world community move towards the establishment of mechanisms guaranteeing the rights of older persons.  To this end, Chile welcomed the United Nations Secretary-General’s recommendations on ageing.  Its conclusion on the ongoing abuse, violence and abandonment of older people highlighted the need to strengthen mechanisms guaranteeing their rights.

Turning to domestic issues, she said Chile’s President had directed the Government to create a social protection network that promoted the social inclusion of the aged.  Current policies sought to ensure access to home ownership, pensions, vacations and housing for older adults.  Social security reform was also underway and, as part of that effort, consideration was being given to a specific set of provisions to benefit adult women over 60 years.  There was also a bonus for every newborn.  Chile had also undertaken a reform to bring the legal system in line with the Madrid Plan of Action on Ageing.

NAZEK SHAWISH (Libya), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and China, said that, despite the international community’s commitments to achieving its internationally-agreed development goals -- including job creation and tackling poverty, unemployment, disease and insecurity -- those problems have mounted due to rising prices, instability and climate change.  She urged developed countries to uphold the financial commitments made at Copenhagen in 1995 and at the Millennium Summit.  At the national level, countries needed well-designed policies to help achieve economic growth and social cohesion.  She welcomed United Nations efforts in those areas and urged it to continue work in that area. 

She said Libya was particularly interested in development issues and in providing care for all segments of society, including youth.  It hosted a youth forum in 2007, where participants adopted a declaration containing numerous recommendations on improving youth participation in decision-making and job creation through small and medium-sized enterprises.  Believing that all segments of society should enjoy their human rights, Libya acceded to the international convention for the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities.  The Libyan Government also supported United Nations efforts to apply the international plan of action for older persons.  Libya took care to prioritize its financial resources to implement that action plan.

INGRID SABJA DAZA ( Bolivia) said social integration was central in social development, which required the establishment of a consensus based on solidarity.  For its part, Bolivia promoted the concept of “living well”, which emphasized the complementarities of humanity and nature.  The Bolivian Government believed its obligations centred on upholding the rights of its people and recognized, among other things, that water was a right.  The right to education was also recognized and the Government launched an effort to eradicate illiteracy, which had resulted in Bolivia becoming the third Latin American country to be certified by UNESCO as free of illiteracy.  To sustain its peoples living in rural areas, the Government was working to promote cooperatives.  Persons with disabilities, like indigenous peoples, were also granted fundamental rights.

As the United Nations Secretary-General said, a society for all was a society for all ages.  In that respect, she said Bolivia’s constitution provided for the protection of all people, including youth.  Policies geared towards older people were also being developed within the social-security framework.  In particular, these policies sought to protect the leisure and social activities of older people.  The abuse against older persons was banned.  Finally, given the challenges imposed by the various crises around the globe meant that humanity’s survival was at stake.  International assistance must be strengthened.  United Nations action would be particularly important in that respect.

KOKOU KPAYEDO ( Togo), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, recalled the commitment made by world leaders at the World Summit to spare no effort to free the world from poverty.  Years of austerity policies recommended by developed countries had resulted in economic stagnation.  In addition, the world now faced a financial and economic crisis.  The material and human damage done by natural disasters, particularly in Africa, had made the impact of those crises even worse.  People in Africa needed urgent, rapid action to improve their living conditions, but that goal would not be achieved internationally without robust national action. 

He said Togo’s growing population had an impact on the Government’s ability to meet the people’s basic needs -- access to drinking water and sanitation, employment, education and health.  The Government had established a programme of action on population and development, establishing a national committee to study the social needs of women, older persons and youth.  Working with the development bank, the Government was updating its national population policy and establishing a committee on migration, as well as creating a body responsible for older persons.  It had also produced a special document on poverty reduction in the 2009-2011 period, which contained an in-depth analysis on, and gradual measures to better mobilize resources towards poverty reduction. 

He said Togo was focused on education and training, health care, nutrition, improving access to drinking water and sanitation, gender equality, employment, and social security.  Togo’s population was young, with 15- to 24-year-olds making up 15 per cent of the population.  They were essential to the country’s development.  Recognizing that the youth could not achieve their ideals without formal structures for doing so, Togo created a national youth council designed to create momentum for youth policies.  Progress had also been made to meet the needs of persons with disabilities, including to implement the Convention on the rights of disabled persons.  In general, Togo stood ready to learn from others on how to tackle social development issues.

ZACHARY D. MUBURI-MUITA (Kenya), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, said he had known for some time that Africa would miss achieving the Millennium Development Goal targets by a considerable margin.  Few resources had been invested in structural transformation for employment and income creation.  Enormous time, resources and effort had been spent in addressing short-term crises, instead of investing in long-term solutions.  The Kenyan Government believed that a country’s resources must be invested in education, health and job creation, even if the benefits were not immediate.  Kenya’s Vision 2030 was the country’s vehicle for doing so.

He said Kenya found it challenging to deal with youth.  The economic downturn has resulted in fewer resources for devoting to that cause.  Unemployment, HIV/AIDS and delinquency were among the problems that were not adequately dealt with because of a lack of resources.  But, there were some gains under HIV/AIDS, and if Kenya could continue the current momentum, it would certainly achieve Millennium Development Goal 6.  On job creation for young people, Kenya had recently rolled out a national programme to bring young people into mainstream society, in which the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) had played an invaluable role.

He noted that the greatest advancement had been made in meeting the needs of older persons.  A pilot scheme had enabled the Government to give older persons the financial support to care for themselves.  The Government had set aside $2.6 million and was expected to cover 300,000 individuals.  Eventually, the scheme will cover older persons throughout the country.  Kenya would benefit greatly from hearing best practices from other countries.  Sharing responsibilities was the only way the world could collectively achieve social development in all societies.

HASAN KLEIB (Indonesia), associating himself with the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said the rapid progress in science, technology, education and health had increased social tensions and inequalities worldwide.  Nevertheless, the new confidence in multilateralism at the United Nations had revived hopes and provided new opportunities.  This rare chance to create momentum towards more positive development dividends for all should be captured.  To this end, strategies that advanced the collective responsibility to put people at the centre of social development should continue.  To that end, poverty eradication could not come through income generation alone.  In the transformation of the global economy, persistent inequalities had to be addressed.  Development must also include all social groups and individuals in society’s political, social, cultural and economic structures. 

Doing just that was precisely the aspiration of the new Indonesia, he said.  Indonesia’s brand of democracy was founded on the indigenous principle of mutual assistance that had long governed its society.  That principle was based on the premise that every society member had a responsibility for the other’s welfare and progress.  The family unit was considered the starting point for nurturing this principle, and to improve family welfare, the Government had implemented several programmes to empower poor families through income-generating activities.  In this regard, cooperatives played an important role, particularly in promoting entrepreneurship.  Women and girls continued to receive the highest attention in national development.  The rights of people with disabilities were also being mainstreamed into that agenda and a National Action Plan on Ageing had been adopted.

Concluding, he emphasized that the macroeconomy must be able to stabilize the real economy in the current economic downturn.  Social protection was also central to the inclusive growth needed for poverty reduction.  Education should be a central focus of any comprehensive development agenda.  Greater international support for democracy was also needed.

SABRINA RIVAS PÉREZ, youth delegate from the Dominican Republic, aligning herself with the Rio Group and the Group of 77 and China, said that having an education guaranteed significant benefits in the labour market.  The Government was aware of the need to invest in young people, but youth needed to participate more actively in civil society and in drafting solutions to meet the challenges of globalization.  The implementation of programmes, such as the United Nations Youth Delegation, was one positive example of the inclusion of youth at international forums with the capacity to produce results.  But, the challenge lay in ensuring that youth had a way to influence those who held power.

She said the youth labour force represented an important driver in national economies.  She urged nations to grant youths the opportunity to decent, productive employment, noting that highly-educated youth were often employed below their potential, squeezing those with less education out of the job market.  That occurrence threatened to deepen the social-inequality gap, if left unaddressed.

She noted that youth, and those of other age groups, were vulnerable to environmental degradation.  The issue of climate change highlighted the abuse inflicted on nature, and the youth she spoke for reaffirmed their commitment to tackle excessive consumerism, population growth, and extreme poverty.  Poverty at times contributed to deforestation, which accelerated the process of desertification and had an impact on the climate.  The Dominican Republic was itself affected by variations in sea-level and natural disasters.

Finally, she pointed to the engagement of youth in WPAY.  Her country had reaffirmed and reviewed its youth public policies in 2008.  Ignoring the potential of youth could hinder the economic development of nations.

Delivering a statement on behalf of her fellow youth delegate Yolisa Medise, BOGOLO KENEWENDO of Botswana, said the challenges of youth in her country echoed those of youth all over the world.  Youth unemployment was a big challenge, as was poverty, especially in rural areas.  The prevalence of HIV/AIDS had declined, but the disease remained a problem for Botswana’s youth.  Having moved from being the world’s third poorest country in 1966 to a middle-income country today, Botswana was interested in economic empowerment partnerships for youth, as well as mentoring and private micro-enterprise programmes.  Youth community projects and the use of business clinics were also encouraged.  Indeed, the Government recognized that the success of its overall national development programme depended on the success of such empowerment and development initiatives for its young people.

She said that the Government had allocated 30 per cent of its annual national budget to education programmes.  Resources were also being invested in providing credit to young people engaged in agriculture and small business enterprises.  A national internship programme had been established for university graduates to provide work experience and to serve as a bridging programme to the job market.  Youth officers had been appointed in all ministries to address youth‑specific issues.  Investments in sports infrastructure were also being made.  Overall, Botswana extended an open invitation to the global community to engage in mutually-beneficial partnerships towards youth development.

The first youth delegate from Thailand said the voice of young people should not be taken for granted, and that promoting equal opportunity was key in promoting their voices.  He said he grew up in a hilly village in northern Thailand and was one of the few who were fortunate enough to go to school.  There were many more children left behind, and the United Nations could play a role in ensuring that countries promote education based on the spirit of equal opportunity.  Children from marginalized groups needed the same opportunities as children from the most privileged families.  “Equal opportunity” for many people might simply be a catchphrase, but for children such as himself, “it means everything”.  In addition, he stressed the importance of health care, and encouraged all States to take the necessary measures to ensure that underprivileged children could live in health and dignity.

A second youth delegate said it was important not only to understand inequality, but also to address it.  For example, violence against women and trafficking in persons was the result of inequality; it was important to focus on translating the understanding of inequality into points of action.  In terms of climate change, the issue lay not only in stopping global warming, but also adapting to the severity of its impacts.  She urged the international community to respond to the problem of climate change in such a way that developing countries had equal opportunities to gain technical support.  Doing so would protect the world’s food supply, something from which all people could jointly benefit.

Continuing, she said poverty was nothing more than a problem of inequality, and the question lay in figuring out how to raise incomes across the world and to push for equality in the international community.  The Thai Government was working to promote a welfare-based and rights-based society that guaranteed universal education, health care and equal opportunity for all.  It was a good way to tackle poverty, though there were still many problems to overcome.  Young children in all countries should be seen as a major human resource for development and key agents for social change.

CLAUDIA BLUM ( Colombia) said the process of social integration required a consensus based on solidarity, in which exclusion was reduced to a minimum and disadvantaged people both received the support of society as a whole and contributed to their own development.  The goal of building a more equitable and inclusive society had been one of the foundations of Colombia’s national development policies.  The main objective of its social development agenda was to ensure all Colombians had access to:  quality education; an equitable and inclusive social security system; the labour and entrepreneurial markets; and effective social promotion mechanisms.  Occupational training for productive work was an essential tool, in that context, and Colombia’s National Learning Service was training youth and adults in the technical sector.  Its goal was 6.2 million admission places by the end of 2009.  Further, 90 per cent of the population was receiving health care in March 2009, and the goal was to achieve universal coverage by 2010.  Colombia was also working toward the achievement of Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5 through its Expanded Programme on Immunization and Integrated Care Management of Childhood Illness.

She underlined Colombia’s recognition that some social groups were particularly vulnerable and could be affected by various forms of discrimination that limited their potential to integrate and contribute to society.  Young people were especially affected by socio-economic vulnerabilities and bore the highest incidence of unemployment.  Thus, initiatives had been developed to generate more stable income among them.  The rising numbers of elderly also presented a challenge to social policy and Colombia had responded with a National Policy on Ageing to benefit persons over 62 years and ensure their rights.  A Disability Public Policy also promoted the conditions that would allow the disabled to achieve maximum independence and participation in everyday spaces and civic life.

MARYAM ALKENDI ( United Arab Emirates ), aligning herself with the Group of 77, said the global financial crisis made the socio-economic situations in developing countries much worse.  She paid tribute to the United Nations and its programmes and agencies for successfully mobilizing Member States to promote security around the world, and for acting in the social and economic arenas with respect to the Millennium Goals.  The United Arab Emirates had taken various measures to deal with the financial crisis, so as to enable it to continue with its socio-economic development plans.  The education budget reached 23 per cent of the State budget in 2009, and progress was seen at all levels, with the introduction of more modern programmes.  As for health care, reaching health goals in the spirit of solidarity, cohesion and participation was aimed at guaranteeing the right to health of all segments of society. 

Across the world, she noted that world leaders recognized that women made up half of society, and should be ensured the right to education and participation in decision-making.  There was also a movement in the labour market to protect the rights of employees.  Further, the United Arab Emirates spent more than $2.6 billion in 2009 helping to prevent the spread of diseases that did not recognize borders, such as H1N1.  Some African countries had difficulties obtaining vaccines.  He exhorted all States to do their utmost to coordinate their actions to fight such pandemics.  For its part, her country had made every effort to help deal with problems in developing countries suffering from conflict, natural disasters and the like, through a charity and humanitarian foundation, which had the facility to disburse grants of up to $70 billion.  As a coordination bureau, it was a unique development for the Middle East, and demonstrated the determination of the United Arab Emirates authorities to follow through with their intentions.

JORGE ARGÜELLO (Argentina), aligning his country with the statements on behalf of the Group of 77 and China and the Rio Group, said his country promoted the adoption of government measures geared towards social assistance  and integration and human development.  It was strongly committed to a democratic and all-inclusive society that fully respected human rights for all.  It recognized that the fundamental role of the State was to alleviate and overcome all situations of exclusion.

He went on to say that all countries had seen changes in the age distribution of their population.  Nevertheless, regional responses varied in Latin America and the Caribbean.  The population was ageing gradually.  The percentage of people over 60 would quadruple between 2000 and 2050.  Given these increases, the Madrid Plan of Action on Ageing became increasingly important, although the realization of its goals remained far from adequate.  Argentina would continue to work in close cooperation to strengthen the national, regional and international mechanisms guaranteeing the rights of elderly people, including through the possible adoption of a legally binding instrument.

He said Argentina was also working to ensure that disabled persons had access to their full rights, including access to justice, work, health and education.  It was also working to ensure family protection measures to allow families to improve their lives through real social inclusion and full participation.  In terms of support for young people, public policies were being developed to help youth train for their first job, as well as to incorporate them into public life.

Argentina also supported the role of cooperatives in Argentinean life. Finally, he stressed that policies in support of human rights and social development could not be addressed as if they were air-tight compartments.  Indeed, they were interlocking and had to be approached with that in mind.

JANE STEWART, International Labour Organization, described the Global Jobs Summit organized by the ILO in June 2009, in the face of a prolonged increase in unemployment, poverty and inequality.  At the Summit, Heads of State and Government, vice-presidents and ministers of labour, worker and employer representatives and other leaders had strongly supported the adoption of a Global Jobs Pact.  The Pact proposed a range of crisis-response measures based on successful examples, designed to inform action at the multilateral level, but was not meant to be a one-size-fits-all solution.  Fundamental to its design was the recognition of the important role played by social dialogue in determining the most effective measures for labour market recovery and the essential contribution of international labour standards.

She said the Global Jobs Pact pointed at the labour vulnerabilities of young people and calls for measures to support youth at risk.  Those measures included the youth employment dimension in national development frameworks, designing action plans, expanding training programmes, job placement schemes and promoting youth entrepreneurship.  In support of Governments, the ILO was currently collecting data on the nature of youth employment, unemployment and underemployment, and analyzing the effectiveness of country policies.  It was working with a number of United Nations agencies and national actors in 13 countries to strengthen national capacities to address irregular youth migration, which was worsening because of the economic and financial crisis.

She said demographic change also had implications for economies and markets everywhere.  As people retired and lived longer, fewer young people entered the labour market and tended to do so at a later age than was the case in the past.  This reduced the total length of their participation in the labour market, calling into question the sustainability of the social security system.  The answer to the challenge lay in addressing acquired rights, expectations and attitudes.  To help its constituents, the ILO was currently developing a report highlighting that new demographic trend.  She also touched on changing dynamics in families and gender roles, recalling that the ILO had called on States in 1981 to enable workers with family responsibilities to engage in employment without discrimination.  The ILO would soon release a publication on workplace solutions for childcare and a maternity protection resource kit.

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