To Achieve Development Goals ‘Inclusive Policies’ Needed to Reduce Unemployment, Fight Poverty, Lessen Social Injustice, Says Under-Secretary General
To Achieve Development Goals ‘Inclusive Policies’ Needed to Reduce Unemployment, Fight Poverty, Lessen Social Injustice, Says Under-Secretary General
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fifth General Assembly
1st & 2nd Meetings (AM & PM)
To Achieve Development Goals ‘Inclusive Policies’ Needed to Reduce Unemployment,
Fight Poverty, Lessen Social Injustice, Says Under-Secretary General
Third Committee Hears Some 35 Speakers in Social Development Debate
Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, appealed to the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) to put social integration and cohesion at the heart of its work, as it opened its session today with a debate on social development.
Although the world is recovering slowly from the global financial, economic, food and fuel crises, Mr. Sha said the social impacts of those events persist, with employment in advanced economies only due to return to pre-crisis levels by 2015 and millions of people in developing countries pushed to vulnerable employment. Poverty reduction has meanwhile slowed, and education and nutrition initiatives have been set back.
Effective and sustainable implementation of the Action Agenda agreed at the General Assembly’s recent high-level meeting on the Millennium Development Goals would require “inclusive policies that put people at the centre of development,” he said. “Policies that reduce unemployment, fight poverty and lessen social injustice. Policies that pursue a society for all.”
Mr. Sha drew attention to a number of challenges, including the rapid ageing of the world’s population (with 2 billion people forecast to be over the age of 60 by 2050), the situation of persons with disabilities (four fifths of whom live in developing countries, mostly in rural areas, and often in poverty), the status of indigenous peoples (“They are among the most disadvantaged people in the world,” he said) and the impact of the financial and economic crisis on young people (who represent 44 per cent of the world’s unemployed).
Yemen’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said progress in social development had been “uneven and disappointing”, with more than 1 billion people suffering from hunger and 1.4 billion living in extreme poverty for the first time history. In such a context, he said, implementing the commitments of the World Summit for Social Development, held 15 years ago in Copenhagen, was more urgent than ever.
His counterpart from Belgium, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said Europeans had had to undertake tough, painful measures to put their public finances in order and bring their economies back on track. He anticipated that the steps being taken now to promote economic recovery would determine the future of economic and social systems around the world, as well as the speed of the recovery itself. International coordination would be important; so too would be bettering employment prospects for young people.
Several young people spoke on behalf of their countries to stress the importance of including the views of youth when developing and implementing policies. The youth representative of the Republic of Korea noted how social networking sites on the Internet provided new ways for youth to express their views, while her counterpart from Saudi Arabia invited the international community to put aside rhetoric and look instead at what could be accomplished together in a world that was “becoming smaller”.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Saint Lucia (on behalf of the Caribbean Community, CARICOM), Chile (on behalf of the Rio Group), Botswana (on behalf of the Southern African Development Community, SADC), Egypt, China, Sudan, Cuba, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Iran, Norway, Viet Nam, Venezuela, Qatar, United States, Japan, Libya, Nicaragua, San Marino, Algeria and the Russian Federation.
Youth delegates of Switzerland, Germany, Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Australia, Austria, Norway, Saudi Arabia and Thailand 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, who fielded questions from the representatives of Pakistan and Malaysia. Adama Ouane, Director of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Institute for Lifelong Learning, presented a report on the International Plan of Action for the United Nations Literacy Decade and fielded a question from the representative of Norway.
The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m., Tuesday, 5 October, to continue its general debate on social development.
At its first session of the sixty-fifth 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 entitled Organization of the sixty-fifth regular session of the General Assembly, adoption of the agenda and allocation of items (document A/65/250) and a letter dated 21 September 2010 from the President of the General Assembly to the Chairman of the Third Committee (document A/C.3/65/1), which outlines the allocation of agenda items to the Committee. It also had two notes by the Secretariat on the organization of work of the Third Committee (documents A/C.3/65/L.1 and Add.1) setting out a calendar of meetings and list of documents to be considered by the Committee in 2010.
On social development, the Committee had before it a letter dated 8 July 2010 from the charge d’affaires a.i. of the Permanent Mission of Namibia to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General (document A/65/89), transmitting four resolutions adopted by the Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly held in Bangkok on 1 April 2010, as well as a letter dated 13 August 2010 from the Permanent Representative of Uzbekistan to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General (document A/65/307) conveying information on the restoration of the historical and cultural heritage of Uzbekistan.
The Committee also had before it a letter dated 24 August 2010 from the Permanent Representative of Brazil to the United Nations addressed to the President of the General Assembly (document A/65/336), summarizing the conclusions of a forum held on the margins of the Economic and Social Council’s 2010 session, titled “Feed minds, change lives: school feeding, the Millennium Development Goals and girls’ empowerment,” held at United Nations Headquarters in New York.
Also before the Committee was a report from the Secretary-General regarding the 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/65/168), setting out an overview of discussions held by the Commission for Social Development on the theme of social integration in the context of the global financial and economic crises and of a rising number of poor, working poor and unemployed. Among its recommendations, the report suggests that Governments give high priority to addressing the social impacts of the crises. Policy responses, including fiscal stimulus packages, need to maintain a focus on, or shift emphasis to, employment creation and ensure that the benefits reach the most affected groups, such as youth and the elderly.
Policies should also ensure the protection of core social spending on health and education, the report states. Governments which have not yet done so should carve out the fiscal space necessary to develop or extend systems of social protection and commit to establishing a “social protection floor” consisting of a set of core components, including education, health care, basic services and social transfers. The United Nations system should support national efforts to achieve inclusive social development, while donors and international financial institutions should provide — without imposing onerous conditions — debt relief, concessionary aid and grants to support national efforts to enhance fiscal space, in particular that of the poorer and the least developed countries.
Also before the Committee was a comprehensive study on the impact of the converging world crises on social development (document A/65/174). The study analyses the impact of the converging food and energy crises and the global financial and economic crisis on social development, and recommends policy measures that focus on people, social protection and sustainable growth. It explains how the global economic crisis of 2007-2009 produced compounding effects in developing countries and undermined gains made in the past decade towards poverty reduction and food security.
The financial crisis is linked to the food crisis, the study says. The collapse of the sub-prime housing market led banks to seek safe places to put investments, such as commodity futures, resulting in excessive speculation and the increase of future prices of major staple food crops, which affected many poor countries dependent on food imports. The developing countries implemented various crisis mitigation strategies; however, experience from previous crises shows that, even if their economic growth rebounds relatively quickly, the ground lost in the fight against poverty and hunger could take several years to be re-established.
The Department of Economic and Social Affairs estimated that between 47 million and 84 million more people remained poor or fell into poverty in 2009 in developing countries than would have been the case had pre-crisis growth trajectories continued, the study says. The number of hungry people reached a record 1.02 billion in 2009, as international prices of agricultural commodities increased. The ranks of the working poor have increased by 100 million since 2008. In addition, evidence from past financial crises suggests negative consequences and cuts involving the delivery of health services, education, and public services for marginalized groups.
The study argues that, because periodic crises will occur again, countries need to think boldly about the most effective ways to prevent and manage their outbreak, which will require greater international cooperation and tackling the root causes of poverty. Equally significant will be the provision of universal social protection for vulnerable members of society, including improving the skills of young people and women. To help promote sustainability, strategies such as boosting rural productivity and increasing public and private investments in agriculture, as well as reforming the way financial firms operate are suggested.
The report of the Secretary-General entitled Keeping the promise: realizing the Millennium Development Goals for persons with disabilities towards 2015 and beyond (document A/65/173), deals with the implementation of the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons. It highlights an urgent need for integrating the disability perspective into the Millennium Development Goals, and recommends action to be taken for the next five years and beyond. Specific recommendations include better data and statistics on disability, ensuring accessibility to all aspects of the Goals, and ensuring equal participation and empowerment of persons with disabilities in all aspects of Millennium Development Goal processes.
The Committee also had before it the follow-up to the Second World Assembly on Ageing: comprehensive overview (document A/65/157). The report provides a comprehensive overview of the current status of the social situation, well-being, participation in development and rights of older persons worldwide. It attempts to capture the changing reality and perceptions of old age, concerning the topics of demographics, economic status and participation, health, and societal perceptions and social integration. It also touches upon human rights, offering an overview of existing international human rights norms as they pertain to older persons.
The report shows that the number of persons aged 60 and over is increasing at an unprecedented pace, and is anticipated to reach possibly 2 billion by mid-century. A sizeable majority of older persons are female, especially those aged 80 and above, and an increasing number reside in urban areas. On average, older persons tend to be poorer than younger cohorts, retiring at around age 60 or 65 in countries where social security and pensions cover the majority of the labour force, but continuing to work out of necessity in less developed countries. The past decades have also witnessed significant increases in life expectancy; although, in many countries, older persons do not have sufficient access to health services and training in geriatric medicine is lagging behind the demand.
As the number of older persons increases, they are gradually being recognized for their involvement in community life and growing as a political force. International human rights treaties apply to older persons in the same way as to other persons, and human rights mechanisms have applied a number of existing standards and provisions from various human rights treaties to the situation of older persons, while acknowledging the need for age-sensitive legislation. Advocates argue that a specialized committee could provide a focal point for advocacy, or that a special rapporteur could play a critical role in shedding light on the human rights issues faced by older persons.
The report entitled follow-up to the Second World Assembly on Ageing (document A/65/158) includes information about national efforts to establish ageing-specific policies and programmes and to integrate ageing concerns into national development plans, and about activities of the United Nations system in support of ageing policies and recommendations for consideration by the Assembly. It states that countries have made significant achievements in implementing the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing over the past two years, including advances in national capacity-building and efforts to raise awareness of issues related to ageing and the empowerment of older persons and the promotion of their rights. Nevertheless, the implementation, enforcement and monitoring of those initiatives have not been universal.
The institutional infrastructure remains inadequate in many developing countries, which are hampered by limited financial and human resource capacity and political will, insufficient research and data on older persons and limited applicability of development programmes to the older population. In developed countries, where the impact of the global financial and economic crises has been particularly severe, Governments may resort to cutting back on social services, including those that benefit older persons.
To meet priorities in implementing the Madrid Plan of Action towards the end of its first decade in 2012, the report states that the General Assembly may wish to recommend that Member States identify key priority areas for the remainder of the first decade; give ageing issues prominence in national development plans to ensure that the Madrid Plan of Action forms an integral part of the development agenda; forge stronger partnerships with civil society groups to help build capacity on ageing-related issues; and invest greater efforts in improving research on the situation of older persons.
The Committee also had before it a report on the Implementation of the International Plan of Action for the United Nations Literacy Decade (document A/65/172), which takes stock of progress in mobilizing stronger commitment to literacy, reinforcing effective literacy programme delivery, and harnessing new resources for literacy. It also presents the situations of Member States and documents national initiatives with regard to the implementation of the objectives of the Decade. It states that, in the years ahead, the following elements are essential: sustained political commitment to literacy as part of the right to education and to the links between literacy and socio-economic and cultural development; literacy for development; scaling up quality literacy efforts with much larger investments; international partnerships in support of literacy efforts; funding and increased resources from Governments, communities, and development partners; and emphasis on the principles in pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals, namely fulfilment of education goals.
Adoption of Programme of Work
MICHEL TOMMO MONTHE ( Cameroon), Chair of the Third Committee, opened the session with an expression of condolences to the delegation of India and the family of the late Arjun Sen Gupta, who had been the chair of the working group on the right to development.
The Chair recalled how the work of the Committee was very complex and fastidious, given the large number of subjects and the scope of issues it covered. Human rights, social development, humanitarian assistance and cultural issues went to the heart of mankind, he said. Ready-made solutions or one-size-fits-all solutions could not be accepted; that would be like an imprudent shoemaker who would like to offer everyone the same size of shoe. That being said, in the quest for bettering the lives of individuals and mankind, real values were universal, especially in an era of globalization driven by scientific and technological progress. The work of the Committee should resemble a rainbow, with many colours, but reflecting unity.
Turning to the organization of work, he reminded the Committee that the General Committee had recommended that efforts be made to reduce the number of resolutions adopted by the General Assembly, and that such resolutions focus more on action-oriented operative paragraphs, so as to have a greater political impact.
OTTO GUSTAFIK, Secretary of the Committee, briefed the Committee on special procedure mandate-holders of the Human Rights Council (Special Rapporteurs) scheduled to appear before it. He also presented an update on the status of documentation and the renumbering of agenda items.
The Committee then approved without a vote the programme of work, as revised.
Statement by the Under-Secretary-General
SHA ZUKANG, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said that the Third Committee bore an important responsibility in working towards effective implementation of the Millennium Development Goals, which required “inclusive policies that put people at the centre of development.” Such policies must pursue a society for all by reducing unemployment, fighting poverty and lessening injustice.
Noting that challenges like the global financial, economic, food and fuel crises loomed large, that employment rates in advanced economies were expected to return to pre-crisis levels only by 2015, and that poverty reduction initiatives had slowed in developing countries, he urged the Committee to consider social integration and cohesion as central to its deliberations. “Those among the world’s poorest are often not adequately included in the planning and budgetary process of [Millennium Development Goals] programmes,” he said, stating that sustained social development could not be realized if the challenges of social groups were not addressed, including poverty eradication, participation in the labour force, access to health-care, availability of affordable housing, political participation, social integration, and promotion of human rights.
Outlining challenges facing older persons, he said that, in the last 30 years, the world’s population aged 60 and older had more than doubled, to 759 million in 2010, and would rise to 2 billion by 2050, but that, on a global level, fewer than 20 per cent of older persons were covered by public pensions. “A key step Governments can take to address this situation is to grant universal access to social services,” he said. “Increases in contributory and social pensions are needed to enable decent standards of living in old age and to allow older persons to be more active participants in society.” He also welcomed the new United Nations organization for gender equality, UN Women, expressing his belief that it would assist Member States in achieving the goals of gender equality and empowerment of women, including for older women.
Noting that persons with disabilities numbered 650 million worldwide and that four fifths of this group lived in developing countries and were disproportionately poor, with less access to health-care, education, and employment, he said that the first step countries could take to rectify those injustices was to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. “But we can do more. We should mainstream disability issues in our development priorities,” he said, applauding countries that had adopted disability inclusive monitoring and evaluation of development policies.
He also stated that, throughout history, indigenous people had often been dispossessed of their lands and cultures, and that 370 million indigenous people worldwide continued to live in poverty and poor health. He expressed hope that the Committee’s deliberations would generate continuing support among States for the full implementation of the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Additionally, he said that the global financial and economic crisis had hit the world’s youth hard, explaining that youth were more than three times as likely to be unemployed and young people made up 44 per cent of the world’s total unemployed, although they only represented 25 per cent of the total working-age population. “My department is spearheading the coordination of the International Year of Youth, with strong inter-agency collaboration and support. The active participation and support of Member States in the International Year will be crucial for the success of the Year,” he said, concluding that people of all ages, abilities and ethnicities needed to be engaged in the long-term objectives of social development in order for sustainable development to take place.
JEAN-PIERRE GONNOT, Acting Director of the Division of Social Policy and Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, drew the attention of the Committee to the report entitled 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/65/168). It underlined the critical importance of social integration in confronting unemployment and poverty, reducing inequality and vulnerability, and creating a society for all. Poverty, unemployment and under-employment, lack of access to elementary services, discrimination, instability and conflict were all significant obstacles to social development, particularly in developing countries. A fundamental point made in the report was that policies and strategies for social integration must be adapted to the problems faced in each country. That said, policies had to be guided by general principles, such as the fight against discrimination and reducing inequalities, participation of all citizens in political debates, basic social protection, and the development of human capital, including education and health.
Introducing the report entitled Comprehensive study on the impact of the converging world crises on social development (document A/65/174), Mr. Gonnot said it underlined how the food, energy and financial crises between 2007 and 2009 had had a considerable impact on social and economic development worldwide. Despite monetary and budgetary steps undertaken in many industrialized countries, unemployment has remained very high. It was very likely that the negative impact of these three crises, in terms of social development, would persist for many years to come; therefore, Governments must resolve to undertake measures to avert new crises and to put into place anti-cyclical macroeconomic policies, guaranteed employment mechanisms, monetary transfers and social protection for all.
Turning to the report on follow-up to the Second World Assembly on Ageing: comprehensive overview (document A/65/157), he said the growing number of people over the age of 60 gave a new dimension to such issues as economic participation, the fight against poverty, health and human rights. The report corrected a number of preconceptions about the elderly. Worldwide, even in the poorest countries, chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease and cancer were by far the principle cause of death for those over the age of 60, yet health-care systems in developing countries were angled towards fighting contagious disease, and they were therefore ill-suited for treating chronic illness.
The reports entitled follow-up to the Second World Assembly on Ageing (document A/65/158) and Keeping the promise: realizing the Millennium Development Goals for persons with disabilities towards 2015 and beyond (document A/65/173) were also introduced by Mr. Gonnot, who noted how the former drew attention to a growing awareness of mistreatment and violence directed at the elderly, particularly elderly women. The latter report described how the integration of people with disabilities in social development had been more the exception than the rule, a state of affairs liable to persist so long as the disabled were invisible within the framework of the Millennium Development Goals.
ADAMA OUANE, Director of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Institute for Lifelong Learning, presented his report on the implementation of the International Plan of Action for the United Nations Literacy Decade between 2008 and 2010, which promoted literacy for all as a right and means to empowerment and economic opportunities. Reporting on progress in three priority areas — mobilizing stronger commitment for literacy, reinforcing effective literacy programme delivery, and harnessing new resources for literacy — he said that there was a cause for grave concern, as new global figures showed an increase in the absolute number of non-literate adults, from 759 million to 796 million, with the biggest challenge in sub-Saharan Africa, South and West Asia, and the Arab States.
Despite those worrying figures, he also noted a number of key achievements in the past two years, including: the strengthening of UNESCO’s Literacy Initiative for Empowerment, resulting in stronger political commitment, new policies, larger budgetary allocations, and decreasing gender disparity; increased awareness of the importance of literacy through advocacy and numerous international conferences; further implementation of literacy assessment instruments that sharpened knowledge of challenges; and stronger literacy policies and plans targeting multilingual programmes, information technologies, and production of learning materials.
“We must celebrate this progress,” he said. “However, many challenges remain.” Funding for literacy remained woefully inadequate, as the financial crisis had led to decreased resources and donor countries continued to neglect youth and adult literacy. He also noted the need for developing stronger international partnerships, reaffirming the value of mutual cooperation among E-9 countries and with other countries within the South-South and South-South-North framework. “If we maintain a ‘business as usual’ approach, there may well be still over 700 million non-literate adults in the world in 2015 — a scandal in the age of the knowledge economy,” he said, calling, as the closing of the Decade in 2012 neared, for the redoubling of efforts to bring literacy to all.
The representative of Pakistan asked how, within the context of the financial crisis and the phenomenon of migration, improvements for the elderly could be made regarding access to financing and the role of the family in caregiving. The representative of Malaysia, discussing the balance between social protection and economic growth, asked how eradication of poverty and economic development could be achieved without creating any additional economic burdens on countries, as well as how the Third and Second Committees could work together. The representative of Norway also asked, considering that people with disabilities were among those who were illiterate, what strategy was being considered to mainstream people with disabilities in every sphere?
Mr. GONNET, responding to the representative of Pakistan’s question, said that it was obvious, both in advanced and poor countries, that the changing dynamics concerning the structure of family and society was on a collision course with the crisis in financial resources needed to address the elderly, and that a solution needed to be found, pointing to initiatives in the report concerning countries that have tried to alleviate the burden and support the family caregiver at home. Regarding the impact of migration, he said that was a growing issue that was being researched, given that increasingly older parents, upon the passing of their spouse, were joining their children living in other countries and children in other countries were also caring for their parents back home. Responding to the representative of Malaysia’s question, he said that the report pertained as much to the mandate of the Second Committee as the Third and that the Secretariat would welcome initiatives and innovative views concerning the social impact of the financial crisis, because it was a challenge for everyone. Additionally, answering the representative of Norway’s question, he said that mainstreaming disability was dear to his department, which had been trying to do it for 20 years, and that an inter-agency group had developed guidelines that would be adopted within a few months to include the disability perspective in all aspects of work.
Mr. OUANE also added, concerning mainstreaming disability, that UNESCO had organized a conference on education that was dedicated to inclusion and focused on disability. He discussed the need for childhood education, innovations advocating for the disabled in education, integrated literacy programmes, and curricula that integrated disabled people.
WAHEED AL-SHAMI (Yemen), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said that while social development gains had been made in the last 15 years — especially with the 1995 World Programme of Action for Youth and the 2002 International Plan of Action on Ageing — progress had been “uneven and disappointing”. For the first time ever, there were over 1 billion people suffering from hunger and some 1.4 billion people living in extreme poverty. Moreover, the number of unemployed had peaked at 212 million at the start of 2010. Obstacles to achieving social development had been compounded by the inter-related crises of finance, food, energy and climate, to name a few.
As such, the implementation of commitments made at the World Summit for Social Development was more urgent than ever, he said, reaffirming the Group’s commitment to implement the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action, as well as other initiatives adopted at the General Assembly’s twenty-fourth special session. Those obligations must be fulfilled in line with international law, by removing all obstacles to the full realization of the rights of peoples living under foreign occupation. Calling on all countries and relevant stakeholders to participate in activities for the International Year of Youth, he reminded delegates that the twentieth anniversary of that Year was in 2014.
With the number of persons aged 60 and over increasing at an unprecedented pace, and expected to reach 250 million in the next decade, he said that scenario presented “the tip of this iceberg” and indicated that much more needed to be done. His delegation would submit two draft resolutions under the agenda item, entitled respectively, “Implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and of the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly” and “follow-up to the Second World Assembly on Ageing”. Emphasizing the need for scaled-up global partnership for development, he urged promoting cooperation, including in the fulfilment of commitments of internationally agreed development assistance, debt relief, market access and capacity-building, among others.
THOMAS LAMBERT ( Belgium), speaking on behalf of the European Union, recalled how Europe, a few months ago, directly experienced the negative consequences of public deficits on economic growth. Tough and painful measures were taken to redress public finances and bring European economies back on track. Though still fragile, economic recovery in the European Union had strengthened by mid-2010 and labour markets were showing consistent signs of stabilization. However, people in low-income countries, particularly women, were the most exposed to the social consequences of the present economic difficulties. The nature of measures undertaken to promote economic recovery would determine the future of economic and social systems around the world, as well as how quickly the world economy turns the corner. Poverty reduction and the promotion of employment and decent work for all must be at the heart of recovery strategies worldwide. In a word, current challenges had to be addressed, while at the same time people were put at the centre of development.
International coordination was equally important, Mr. Lambert said. Within the context of the first-ever meeting of Group of 20 employment and labour ministers, the European Union has put into place a strategy that includes “smart growth” characterized by the development of a capacity for innovation, knowledge, education and promotion of a digital society. Growth had to be sustainable and inclusive, and fight poverty, as well. The Union intended to develop policies to foster education, lifelong learning and skills development, because it was essential to prepare the generations of today for the labour markets of tomorrow. The Union also intended to promote employment among young people; they had been left behind by the labour market, a situation liable to bring about long-term negative consequences.
The Union reiterated its commitment to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; without waiting for its formal ratification, the European Commission was taking the Convention as a reference point as it draws up a European Disability Strategy for the coming 10 years. Gender equality remained a European priority, and societies needed to be prepared for the challenges of ageing through adequate lifelong training.
SARAH FLOOD-BEAUBRUN (Saint Lucia), on behalf of Caribbean Community (CARICOM), emphasizing the group’s support for the involvement of citizens in the development of sustainable social development solutions, said that CARICOM’s initiatives concerning social benefits and health had promoted freedom of movement within the community. Discussing the global financial crisis that had spread to less developed nations like those in CARICOM, which faced high debt from times when credit was more plentiful, she said that the shift in economic fortunes had affected social development and that, according to the World Bank, 130 to 155 million people were in poverty in 2008. She also mentioned CARICOM’s “sister country” Haiti, noting that 1 million people were still in tents without basic sanitary conditions and that, eight months after the United Nation’s outpouring of humanitarian assistance, refocused efforts with a more ambitious agenda needed to be promoted. “If Haiti fails, we all fail,” she said, stating CARICOM’s support for the creation of a fund for Haiti’s reconstruction.
She also discussed the negative effect of climate change, saying that it undermined social development. Expressing the belief that social development required people at its centre and could not be enforced through rules, she noted the importance of family as the bedrock of a successful society and the need for the State to protect and strengthen the family. Additionally, regarding the high level of youth employment in the Caribbean and elsewhere that was caused by the recession, she emphasized the need for youth training to decrease their vulnerability and poverty, as well as for their constructive engagement in decision-making processes.
Regarding non-communicative diseases, she spoke about proposals that had been initiated and the high-level meeting that would take place on the topic in 2011. She also expressed support for the Secretary-General’s recommendations on ageing, noting the need for the elderly to have access to a better understanding of their rights. She concluded by reiterating CARICOM’s support for all steps aimed at achieving social development goals, recognizing the urgency of achieving those goals, despite external shocks, and the value of the input by other nations in addressing them.
OCTAVIO ERRÁZURIZ (Chile), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, reaffirmed its commitment to addressing social integration as one of the three intertwined core pillars of social development, together with poverty eradication and productive employment for all. Social integration required a full commitment from Government and societies, with the main goal of achieving a fair, democratic, multiethnic, and multicultural social order based on attaining human rights for all. Social integration was not only a question of moral duty or economic efficiency; it was the expression of a social contract based on solidarity and humanism, with a final goal of implementing effective strategies that transcended words and achieved levels of development that met the needs of the population. Therefore, ensuring the equitable distribution of funds and better access to universal services would require further global comprehensive efforts and integrated approaches to inclusive development.
The Rio Group countries had continued to implement various policies to promote social development, boost economic growth and support the creation of jobs, as well as reinforce existing programmes and strategies to fight poverty in their countries, he said. Regarding the issue of the world’s rapidly ageing population, the Group was actively engaged in the inclusion of the elderly through social programmes, and called on the international community to strengthen the implementation of the Madrid Plan of Action. Given the importance of the role of youth in Latin America and the Caribbean, he applauded the Assembly’s adoption of the International Year of Youth 2010, and said the Group countries had actively participated in the World Youth Conferences, held in Mexico and Brazil.
The Rio Group also supported initiatives towards implementing the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and actively engaged in promoting integration of persons with disabilities, he said. Recognizing the need to protect the human rights of migrant workers, the Group welcomed the upcoming Global Forum on Migration and Development, in Mexico. In closing, he said the Group shared the vision that the multidimensional character of poverty required new and effective strategies that “go beyond words”. The current situation required a more active role by the United Nations and the international community, in order to help developing countries realize their Goals.
CHARLES T. NTWAAGAE (Botswana), on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said that the global economic crisis had undermined prospects for reducing poverty and achieving social integration, and the adverse impact of climate change had hindered the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. He expressed the urgent need to expand social protection systems to protect the most vulnerable of populations. He underlined that SADC was continuing to implement initiatives guided by the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan and other relevant protocols, and was committed to policy frameworks, such as the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the Second Decade of Education in Africa, the Ouagadougou Declaration on Employment and Poverty Alleviation in Africa and the Decent Work Agenda in Africa 2007-2015.
Regarding education and skills development, significant progress had been made in harmonizing education and training systems in the region, including adoption of a sector-wide approach in the formulation of policies and development of the Regional Monitoring and Evaluation Framework for the Education and Training Implementation Plan, to track progress concerning commitments, he said. The SADC Secretariat had also undertaken an assessment of the status of education in general, which revealed that the region had achieved progress in universal primary education and adult and youth literacy, and that measures for educational quality assurance systems had been put in place. Concerning employment and labour, the region had adopted a regional programme on decent work aimed at sharing best practices and policies, and had made arrangements to establish the SADC Regional Productivity Organization. Additionally, on children and youth, SADC had developed a regional strategy to enhance social protection systems dealing with the challenges of orphans and vulnerable children, which had been exacerbated by the impact of HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.
Stating that social challenges remained and needed to be addressed at the national, regional and international levels, he said, “We believe that collective efforts have to be made to create a comprehensive and integrated approach for social development, based on existing international instruments and placing people at the centre of development.” He expressed the need for the international community to support developing countries in implementing their social integration and development agenda, including with the flow of sustainable financial resources through increased official development assistance, debt relief and cancellation, and the provision of support to national efforts.
LAURA CRIVELLI, youth representative of Switzerland, said an educated, knowledgeable and independent young person was both an economic asset and a facilitator for social cohesion. However, according to a report from the International Labour Organization (ILO), young people were vulnerable to underemployment, moonlighting and poverty due to their lack of experience and lack of savings. They had to put up with difficult and uncertain working conditions that could have serious effects on their mental and physical health. According to the Swiss National Youth Council, a training system combined with an infrastructure that helped trainees to manage their professional futures would produce young people who were more able to adapt, take the initiative and be creative. Their intellect and social skills would be real asset in making a national economy stronger and more dynamic.
The traditional family-based social structure has been giving way to a less stable kind of society distinguished by high individual mobility, rapid social and economic change, and extreme inequality, she said. A balanced society needed the participation of all social subgroups, including immigrants, the poor and young people, to solve common problems. It was the responsibility of the State to put into place measures needed to create harmonious interdependence; Switzerland saw the participation of young people in its political life as the focal point for the reform of its youth policy. Young people needed to be recognized as indispensable to the search for solutions to today’s social and economic problems.
MAGED ABDELFATTAH ABDELAZIZ ( Egypt) noted the challenges faced particularly by the least developed countries in achieving the Millennium Development Goals. The United Nations had been playing a growing role in responding to those challenges, which included the economic crisis and organized crime. While the Secretary-General’s report on follow-up to the Copenhagen summit had emphasized the role to be played by Governments, the private sector was a vital partner that could play a major role in building upon initiatives and helping to put an end to such problems as trafficking in children.
A new law on pensions has been adopted in Egypt, where the social security system had been reformed in order to take into account a growing number of elderly citizens, he said. The rate of maternal mortality in Egypt had fallen 75 per cent since 1990. Importance had been given to ensuring access to schools for children and to limiting the number of school drop-outs. Literacy among poor families had increased and four seats in Parliament had been allocated to women as part of State efforts to ensure the participation of women in political action and to promote their role in society. Egypt had not neglected the status of those with disabilities, for whom special schools had been established to provide a free education with dignity.
WANG MIN ( China) associated himself with the statement by the representative of Yemen on behalf of the Group of 77 and China. The deeper impact of the international financial crisis remained, and the recovery of employment noticeably lagged behind the slow, precarious recovery of the global economy, he said. At the same time, development in many countries was hampered by such problems as climate change, the food and energy crises, communicable diseases and natural disasters. To achieve the Millennium Development Goals on schedule, the international community must focus on: creating a favourable international environment for development and a move towards economic globalization that was balanced and universally beneficial; greater support for developing countries; enhanced exchange of experience among developing countries; and scaled-up South-South cooperation.
China adhered to a people-centred, integrated and sustainable approach to accelerate its own economic transformation, he said. In 2009, his Government’s expenditure on education, health care, social security, employment, affordable housing and culture increased by 31.7 per cent. More than 1.2 billion people were included in China’s primary medical insurance system by the end of last year and Government-led literacy campaigns had nearly wiped out illiteracy. China would continue to provide concrete support for developing countries around the world, and had already worked to build hospitals and schools in Africa and other regions, dispatched medical missions to 69 developing countries, offered scholarships to over 70,000 students and cancelled ¥25.6 billion in debts owed by 50 countries.
CLARA LEIVA BURGER, youth delegate from Germany, while strongly supporting the United Nations as a platform for world leaders to gather and solve today’s problems, also urged reform for the Organization to make it more transparent and democratic. Indeed, the Fifteenth Conference of Parties to the Climate Change Convention was an “excessive disappointment” and States must leave their national agendas behind in order to act in a united, rather than divided, manner. On one hand, the International Year of Youth showed that the United Nations was partially aware of young peoples’ importance, and on the other, that it was unable to fulfil expectations. Only if young people were involved as equal partners on local, national and international levels would challenges be overcome. “Youth participation is not just dialogue,” she stressed.
Continuing, JENS CHRISTOPH PARKER said to fill the idea of democracy, young people must have the chance to start, by voting class representatives in school and leading youth organizations. Moreover, youth delegates must be chosen in a transparent manner to accompany their State delegations to all international conferences. It was unacceptable that, half a century after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was written, people still suffered discrimination. He demanded equality for all people, as well as equal access to formal and non-formal education, with more financial and structural support for youth-led organizations, the main actors in non-formal education. It was unacceptable that the economy dictated young peoples’ lives and he demanded State action to ensure that all young people could choose their profession according to their interests and potential.
HANNA GREKULA, youth representative of Finland, aligning her country with the statement by Belgium on behalf of the European Union, said that many young people faced poverty and unemployment. The situation was at its worst in northern Africa and the Middle East, but many European countries, including Finland, had also seen a substantial increase in youth unemployment. At the end of last year there were 81 million unemployed people aged 15 to 24; within the next 10 years there would be 1.3 billion young people seeking to enter the labour market, yet only 300 million could be provided with a job. It would be difficult for some young people to escape the cycle of poverty; massive unemployment would also trigger frustration and xenophobia, and make it easier for young people to be recruited into criminal activities or become victims of human trafficking.
Achieving the Millennium Development Goals was key to solving the problems faced by young people, she said, and it was possible to fulfil the Goals if Governments fully committed themselves to the task. The Youth Employment Network created by the Secretary-General, in cooperation with the World Bank and ILO, aimed to create a unique and powerful partnership to address youth employment. Young people wanted to be accepted as partners for development; they must be involved in addressing global crises, including climate change. National experiences had shown how useful new perspectives could emerge when young people got involved in governance and management. The involvement of youth representatives at the General Assembly could be a role model for youth participation in national, regional and local decision-making around the world.
KIM BONG-HYUN, ( Republic of Korea), said that, despite great progress made in the area of social development in the last 15 years, several problems remained unsolved, most notably in the areas of income disparity, unemployment, population ageing and inadequate social protection. Moreover, the convergence of the financial crisis, climate change, and fluctuating food and energy prices had worsened the overall socio-economic crisis. In that regard, he called on the United Nations and the international community to reaffirm their commitment to the goals articulated in the 1995 World Summit for Social Development, and acknowledged that his Government must enact national strategies for social integration to become a reality in Korea.
On a global level, empowering the poor through increased education and employment opportunities was essential for increasing social integration of the most vulnerable groups, he said, noting that particular attention should be given to the needs of people living with disabilities. In that effort, his Government had been active in developing its official development assistance (ODA) policy; in 2009, it provided rehabilitation services to the disabled poor in Viet Nam, and runs the Empowerment of the Differently-abled Based on Human Rights and Self-Reliance Programme, in Cambodia. Regarding ageing, in an effort to tackle its own rapidly ageing population, his Government had enacted the Basic Act on Low Fertility and Aged Society, introduced the old-age pension scheme, and established free employment placement centres, among other programmes. In conclusion, he said his country believed that every human being should be at the forefront of global development efforts and should benefit from a “society for all”. He called on the international community to redouble its efforts and reiterated his country’s commitment to live up to its shared responsibilities. Finally, he introduced his country’s youth delegate, Kang Yoon Jeong
KANG YOON JEONG, the youth delegate from the Republic of Korea, said that giving youth as many opportunities as possible to participate in society was the responsibility of each nation, and her country had advanced youth participation in decision-making processes. She noted that there was a Korean governmental ministry in charge of incorporating youth and promoting their participation in Government policies, in order to ensure that youth voices were heard. The development of communication technology, such as Facebook and Twitter, also allowed youth participation through a medium in which they were well-versed, creating modern-day “agoras” where citizens talked about their views, and offering youth the chance to express their opinions and voices. There should be more coordination between the youth and the Government through such channels, since encouraging youth participation was important for social integration. She concluded by saying that more ways of promoting youth participation should be suggested, and that the United Nations could help provide youth with such opportunities.
FELIX KÖNIG, the youth delegate from Sweden, representing 76 Swedish youth organizations with a total of half a million members, spoke about the discrimination of youth and noted that, if decision-makers were serious about tackling the problem of exclusion in society, root causes had to be addressed. He said that, as president of an organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights in Sweden, he organized youth from around the entire country to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation and to create spaces for everyone to be themselves. “We want to ride in the box,” he said, expressing their desire to be part of a State where all were equals and where nobody had to obtain permission to exist in a society of which they were already a part. He explained that members of his organization had experienced bullying and discrimination in the health-care system, and that exclusion from society could lead to depression, anxiety, homelessness and suicide attempts.
Explaining how his organization’s work had changed people’s lives, he said that it was remarkable to see youth at a summer camp, with which the organization was involved, where they could open up about their fears, dreams and past, and learn tools to tackle discrimination. Young people who met challenges because of sexual orientation and other differences could turn challenges to advantages; new technology sped up interaction among people all over the world and, following a human rights interaction, youth could take action quickly, he stated. Because those who were denied their rights, including to an education, were often forced into poverty, unemployment, and crime, Governments needed to acknowledge human rights for everyone; prevent hate crimes, which were sometimes supported by the State; challenge gender and sexual stereotypes; provide education about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, as well as contraception; and develop safe schools. Governments needed to realize that youth must be involved in creating sustainable change, or else it would be irrelevant and inefficient, and that giving the youth true influence and acknowledgement in civil society was the key to social inclusion.
NAJLA ABDELRAHMAN ( Sudan) said that social development would come about through a number of factors, and not only through economic development. The Government of Sudan had been making tremendous efforts towards social integration, peace and security, and ensuring that the individual was at the centre of social development. Referring to Darfur, she said that everyone must be involved in the quest for peace. The month of April had been a milestone in the Sudan in terms of democracy and social integration, while the south of country would be important in terms of self-determination.
Summarizing the efforts made by her country vis-à-vis social development, she said the Sudan had put policies into place to promote education, establish food security, alleviate poverty and extend capital to small enterprises. A national strategy was in place for the education of girls, and social security reform was under way. More seats in Parliament have been allocated to women. Sudan wished to appeal for the removal of economic sanctions against developing countries, including the Sudan, and for the cancellation of debts, particular those of least-developed countries. Also, considerable effort was needed from the international community to address the problem of countries under occupation.
RODOLFO BENÍTEZ ( Cuba) stated that the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals remained a “chimera” for most countries, due to the continued imbalanced economic and political international order, as well as the recent economic and financial crisis and impact of climate change. He pointed out that, while $1.45 trillion were invested in military expenditures by the international community, 2 billion people suffered from malnutrition and the difference in life expectancy between rich and poor countries was 40 years. The commitment of 0.7 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) to ODA had not been met by the international community. Yet, he asked, with all the money given in bailouts of banks and speculator companies, why couldn’t a small portion have been invested in the development of the countries of the South?
His country had met almost all its Millennium Development Goals and, in some cases, had exceeded them, despite the continued blockade by the United States, the impact of hurricanes and the current world crises. He noted the infant mortality rate in Cuba was 4.8 per 1,000 live births, one of the lowest in the world. More than 95 per cent of the country had access to the national power grid, there was virtually no illiteracy rate, and life expectancy of 77 years was higher than some developed countries. Cuba also established international cooperation programmes in 157 Third World nations without exclusion or conditions. In the last academic year, 30,478 scholars from 125 countries had been trained in Cuba, nearly 80 per cent of them in the field of medicine. As was the case with his country’s commitments, he urged that the international community’s efforts be motivated by the principles of “solidarity and social justice” in order to create “that better world we all hope for.”
YANERIT CRISTINA MORGAN SOTOMAYOR ( Mexico) said it was necessary to put the person at the centre of economic and development policies and to promote the full enjoyment of human rights. That was the focus of social policy in Mexico, which developed the capabilities of its own population through food, health, education, housing and social infrastructure actions. Major challenges facing youth around the world must also be addressed to achieve internationally agreed development goals; the objectives of the World Programme of Action for Youth, adopted in 2000 and supplemented in 2005, remained valid, but efforts needed to be redoubled to boost its full implementation and identify new challenges faced by young people.
Mexico collaborated with the United Nations to host the World Youth Conference on 23-27 August, he said. The Conference promoted dialogue among representatives from more than one hundred countries on how to develop public policies that incorporated youth, and the Government of Mexico was seeking to work with Member States on proposed International Youth Year initiatives. Much also remained to be done around the world, protecting millions of people with disabilities, enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Once new paradigms based on a conception of rights, community inclusion and accessibility for the people with disabilities were enshrined in the Convention, the United Nations system and the international community should focus to promote the universalization of the Convention and especially its implementation at the national level.
ALAN SELLOS (Brazil), reiterating his country’s commitment to the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action, said that Brazil had made significant strides in the path towards a more equitable model of development, combining sustained economic growth with poverty reduction and social inclusion. He described its implementation of “Bolsa Familia” — a cash transfer programme that provided monthly subsidies to more than 12 million poor families, subject to fulfilment of conditions including school attendance and ante natal care — which had lifted over 20 million people out of extreme poverty and allowed nearly 30 million people to join the middle class since its inception in 2003. Focusing on the social needs of older persons and persons with disabilities, another major policy granted a monthly income for families who received less than a quarter of the minimum wage and had already benefited 3 million people.
Noting that Brazil had one of the largest populations of young people, with over 50 million between 15 and 29 years old, he also described the programme PROJOVEM, which granted youngsters a monthly subsidy to ensure that they concluded their primary education, learned a profession, and worked for their communities, and which aimed to enrol over 3 million young people by the end of 2010. Also, the elderly comprised 11 per cent of the population, or 21 million people, and was projected to rise to 25 per cent in 2025. The elaboration of an international instrument on the human rights of older persons was necessary to support domestic efforts concerning the changing demographic. Concluding that international cooperation was critical and that developed countries should live up to their commitments to countries, he said, “The failure of a single country in achieving the goals of development is a failure to us all.”
BELÉN SAPAG MUÑOZ DE LA PEÑA ( Chile) said that young people and the children of migrants were often the victims of discrimination in many countries of the world. Chile welcomed the comprehensive reports of the Secretary-General on the Second World Assembly on Ageing, and while there was no international instrument addressing the rights of older persons, some treaty bodies had tried to apply existing norms to that end. The Secretary-General had also noted the impact of chronic disease on the elderly; initiatives to address that problem would contribute to improving social development.
The ageing of the population of Chile has accelerated in the past 30 years, she said. Measures to introduce comprehensive services for older persons, including long-term care and assisted living, have been introduced, and in March 2010 a law was put into place which introduced the concept of abuse of the elderly. Protection for older persons affected by crime has been increased. Another initiative has been psychological help for older persons in districts affected by the earthquake of 27 February.
ELSA VAN DE LOO, Youth Delegate of the Netherlands, said water and sanitation was an urgent issue to youth today. She recalled statistics and recent resolutions addressing the widespread scarcity of water and sanitation throughout the world, but said much more needed to be done for “water justice” to be achieved on behalf of the millions of marginalized people without access to clean water or sanitation. The youth of the world wanted action rather than more resolutions, because it was estimated that 40 years from now as many as two billion people would not have sufficient access to clean water. Thus, water shortages affected the youth in the direct future, and presented a major obstacle to the health of youth worldwide.
Further, she continued, women were responsible for water management at the domestic and community levels in most developing countries. That situation impacted on women’s daily life from a rights perspective. Carrying water not only caused physical disorders, but also made it difficult for them to get involved in activities such as education, participation in decision-making processes and improving their quality of life. Providing equal access to clean water was a “human right” whose realization could not be postponed. All States must invest the necessary resources to make water a human right for everyone, not only those who could afford to pay for it.
ESHAGH AL HABIB ( Iran) said that, despite the efforts that had been made, progress in world social development had been minimal. Inequalities had increased in many parts of the world and the gap between rich and poor had grown wider. Young people faced unemployment, poverty, illiteracy, addiction and disappointment. The ongoing global economic and financial crisis had had serious consequences for social development, and prospects for reducing poverty, hunger, malnutrition, unemployment, inequality and social exclusion had been undermined. Joblessness was likely to continue well into the next decade.
Older persons, youth and persons with disabilities had been receiving attention and support from the Government of Iran, he said. Respect for the well-being of older persons was deeply rooted in Iranian culture and guaranteed in various laws and regulations. There had been extensive efforts made to ease the material and psychological problems of persons with disabilities, including the creation of a medical fund and special employment, housing and sports facilities. The Government has also put special emphasis on improving health, education, social integration and participation, as well as on eradicating poverty and providing job opportunities for all.
SAMAH HADID, youth delegate from Australia, in advocating for the “most marginalized young Australians and the world’s most vulnerable young people”, spoke of her five-month listening tour which reached out to 10,000 young Australians across 35,000 kilometres of his country. She urged that fulfilment of the Millennium Development Goals be “not just with words but with action” and include the prioritizing of indigenous peoples’ empowerment. That was a critical concern, since indigenous Australian children were two to three times more likely to die within the first twelve months of life than non-indigenous children, and 29 times more likely to be placed in juvenile detention than non-indigenous youth. Thus, the realization of the Goals would provide “meaningful change for indigenous children in developing and developed countries alike,” she pointed out.
She then noted the many initiatives and efforts in her country aimed at improving the lives of indigenous people and their youth, including the HALO Development Leadership Agency in Western Australia, which assisted youth indigenous Australians to design their own futures and make a difference in their communities, and the Australian Government’s endorsement of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In keeping with the theme of the United Nations Year of Youth, on behalf of all young Australians, she called for “an end of bigotry and intolerance” throughout the world, and urged Member States to embrace the youth delegate programme, so that meaningful participation of young people on an international level could be realized. In thinking of the generations that would follow her, she hoped that they would see a global community that met the challenges of today and reclaimed the promise that created the United Nations. “That history is ours to create,” she said.
RODAINA EL BATNIGI, youth delegate of Austria, focused on the Millennium Development Goals as Youth Development Goals and drew attention to two issues that she said were crucial for social development and young people: education and participation. Noting that education was one of the most powerful ways to break the poverty cycle both in industrial and developing countries, she said it was embarrassing that 100 million children of primary-school-age were out of school in 2008, and that number needed to be reduced by improving access to quality education. “Education means empowerment, especially for girls and young women,” she said, explaining that education offered a better chance to get a stable job and to affect other areas like health, nutrition, environmental issues and community participation.
Young people also strove for participation in political, economic, cultural, and social issues, she continued, defining genuine youth participation as not only listening to young people, but involving them as equal partners and putting them on par with decision-makers in political processes. She called upon all Member States, particularly State leaders and political decision-makers, to realize youth rights worldwide and to establish more Youth Delegates from all over the world who were experts in their field. Youth was not only the future of the world, but also the present and, therefore, political steps needed to be taken right away, she said.
ANN-MARIT SÆBØNES, Special Adviser at the Ministry of Children, Equality and Inclusion of Norway, described how persons with disabilities had been gradually integrated into Norwegian society over the last 50 years. Compulsory primary education and replacing institutional care with inclusion and homecare had been important milestones. Discrimination on grounds of disability was prohibited by law, and it was Norway’s vision to be “universally designed” by 2025. None of the Millennium Development Goals could be achieved without including disabled people; it was frightening that one third of children who did not attend school were children with disabilities. Meanwhile, information on sexual and reproductive health was often inaccessible to those who were blind, deaf or intellectually impaired. One way to ensure the inclusion of persons with disabilities when planning and implementing programmes would be through active consultation with organizations that represent them.
She introduced MAGNUS OFSTED MALNES, her country’s youth delegate, who encouraged all countries to take advantage of the potential of young people to “find smart solutions” to social problems. “Let us be agents of change and take ownership of the goals,” he said. In far too many countries, youth organizations had faced obstacles in their fight to realize human rights, and it was deplorable that students had been targets of threats and violence for having expressed critical views or joined in public debate. It was also a matter of deep concern that homosexuality was illegal in more than 80 countries, and subject to the death penalty in seven of those countries. Those who fought for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people were at particular risk. Legal protection of the right of freedom of association should be enhanced where needed, and steps taken to simplify that right, including reducing the complexity of regulations and bureaucracy faced by non-governmental organizations.
BUI TE GIANG ( Viet Nam) said he was somewhat encouraged by signs of economic recovery, but noted that the recovery was slower than expected, fragile and uneven. There was no guarantee that a relapse would not occur. It was alarming to realize that some 75 million people had become undernourished and that some 64 million people would be pushed into poverty by the economic meltdown by the end of 2010. The six general principles for the promotion of social integration and the six-point human rights framework should be adapted to national strategies, programmes and plans that could take into account specific historical, cultural and ethnic conditions, as well as the level of development.
While supporting the Secretary-General’s five key recommendations at the national and five at the international level to promote social integration, he underlined the need for debt relief, concessionary aid and grants to support national efforts to enhance fiscal space. It was imperative that developed countries honour their commitments of ODA as an important means for developing countries to boost their social integration and development processes. Turning to the national situation, he said his country had put in place a series of policies to foster economic recovery. The Government’s offer of loans to the poorest at preferential rates to encourage trade and production in rural areas was one of them. The GDP growth rate was expected to be 6.7 per cent for 2010. While there were grounds for cautious optimism, greater and more effective cooperation from the international community was need to ensure implementation of all three pillars of social development.
JORGE VALERO (Venezuela), associating himself with the statements made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China and the Rio Group, said that the global economic crisis, accompanied by an increase in poverty and injustice, had exposed the “complete failure” of the world capitalist system. To eradicate poverty and other ills, it was imperative to move towards new, more humanistic forms of social organization in which the benefits of economic growth were shared equitably, social protection systems were strengthened and there was universal access to quality education, health, food, work and other necessities.
Strategies for poverty reduction and inclusion, he said, must be adapted to the specific realities and objectives of each country through inclusive policy formulation. In addition, there must be more investment in training, progress must be made in gender equality and the empowerment of women, as well as the most excluded sectors of the population. Venezuela, chairing the Social Development Commission over the next two years, would promote in-depth discussions to identify innovative approaches in fighting poverty and offer its own experiences in achieving almost all the Millennium Development Goals, halving its poverty rate from 1998 to 2009. He emphasized the role of community-level democracy in making that happen, saying the country exercised “street parliamentarism”. Community Councils had empowered even the most marginalized sectors and in the recent parliamentary elections, which confirmed the victory of Venezuela’s revolution, participation had reached its highest level.
NASSIR ABDULAZIZ AL-NASSER ( Qatar) noted his country’s belief in the importance of social development and human welfare, and said that Qatar had conducted a review resulting in the Qatar National Vision 2030, outlining four pillars to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. The second pillar focused on the social advancement of the individual in Qatar, including the creation of a stable environment for the family and the promotion of women in society and decision-making processes. He added that Qatar was preparing a development strategy and had researched the role of the family and the protection of vulnerable groups. Qatar had also hosted many regional and international conferences that dealt with social development, including one in 2010 discussing the empowerment of families in the modern world, measures to protect the family, and challenges such as the weakening of family bonds and mutual responsibility concerning poverty, the spread of AIDS, armed conflicts, the financial crisis, mass media, and domestic violence.
Qatar’s National Vision 2030 underlined that civil society and the private sector should play a role, through partnerships, in the implementation and evaluation of development programmes, he said. Qatar promoted an initiative to establish community development centres, providing a framework for standardizing the efforts of Government institutions and expanding the participation of communities in development efforts in their regions. Qatar also backed the creation of a fund for social development in cooperation with civil society, which would aim to serve society through supportive projects. Additionally, Qatar’s Ministry of Trade and Commerce had participated with the private sector in a conference on the question of the social responsibility of corporations.
JOHN SAMMIS ( United States) outlined the steps that his country has been taking vis-à-vis poverty eradication, full employment and social integration. In regards to empowering people with disabilities, over 450 Department of Education funded, community-based Independent Living Centers had been established, providing support, training, counselling and system advocacy. In addition, 106 Parent Centers for parents of children with disabilities had been established to provide training, information and one-on-one support. He also noted that the United States, as part of its commitment to ensure all children had access to quality basic schooling, was one of the world’s largest bilateral donors in the educational sector. With 1.5 billion young people in the world, and with 1.3 million in the developing world, he stated that “youth are our partners, serving as valuable assets, leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators in finding solutions to global challenges”.
Continuing, he affirmed his country’s belief that youth needed to be included in its approach to terrorism, climate change and global health, to name a few. To that end, the Department of State had launched a new Youth Taskforce to ensure its policies included and empowered youth participation. However, he said, the elderly needed support as well. A senior Department of Health and Human Service official was now dedicated to those specific issues and the Department’s Administration on Ageing was now guided by a Strategic Action Plan aimed at empowering the elderly and their families in accessing services and help options. Concluding, he spoke of the historic passing of the Affordable Care Act, which would eliminate some practices that had had the most detrimental effects on employees and employers including reducing health insurance premiums and bringing down the cost for small businesses to cover their workers.
AZUSA SHINOHARA ( Japan) said that, since the Copenhagen summit, there had been significant progress in some areas, such as primary school enrolment and gender equality, but Member States should strengthen their efforts to build a “society for all”, in which people respected diversity and all individuals were able to participate. In the context of multiple crises, it was urgent to meet people’s fundamental needs, promote sustainable economic growth and build a foundation for social integration. Japan had recently become a true “society of the aged”, with 23 per cent of the population over the age of 65. Due to the aging of society, laws had been enacted to facilitate a greater choice of lifestyle for older persons through self-reliance, cooperation between generations and promotion of participation in local society.
It was a primary goal of his country to achieve a cohesive society in which people respected each other’s individuality regardless of any disability, he said, noting the launch of a Committee for Disability Reform to review national policies. The country had also worked with other countries in that area, through the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) in particular. To enable young people to become proactive members of society, Japan had also enacted a law mandating comprehensive assistance to them. The country would continue to cooperate with the international community to create a society for all through a people-centred, human security approach.
ABDULAZIZ TARABZONI, youth delegate from Saudi Arabia, invited the international community to put aside the rhetoric and instead look at what was possible to do together in a world that was “becoming smaller” and could allow the leverage of the Internet and new media to their local opportunities into large-scale successes. He observed that business enterprises and development foundations, such as the Gates Foundation and their international health initiatives, or Mohammad Jameel of Saudi Arabia, who developed training and self-employment programmes for 40,000 men and women in 2009 alone, to name a few, had started in a simple room on a university campus or at a friends’ gathering.
In his country, he pointed out that over 60 per cent of the population were youth. The National Dialogue Center had been established for the young people of Saudi Arabia to propose ideas and projects, and to participate in the decision-making process. In his own capacity, he had been involved in discussions on diversifying the economy, and his concerns on youth development had been incorporated into a state-level strategy. Other youth based programmes had also been implemented, among them university-level recycling initiatives, efforts in raising awareness of breast cancer, as well as providing medical services and contributing to rebuilding efforts in Pakistan, to name a few. Concluding, he suggested that a criteria on youth involvement that would offer direction and that would encourage countries to promote and support youth initiatives addressing social and economic issues be developed.
MOHAMED ELSHAKSHUKI ( Libya) said it was unfortunate that poverty had not been eradicated as had been wished; that had had an impact on the poor, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. Developed countries were urged to translate their commitments into concrete action. Libya had undertaken major efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, especially the goal of eradicating poverty. There were no families living in extreme poverty in Libya, but like many other countries, it had many problems. To help address them, it was trying to build capacity and implement projects to ensure at least a limited income for all families.
Everyone in Libya had a right to education, up to the level of higher education, he said. Scientific laboratories had been set up in Libyan schools. There was 100 per cent insurance for health services for all Libyans, and free health care for the most disadvantaged. Such a policy had helped to wipe out small pox, malaria and cholera, while many other illnesses had been averted through vaccination programmes. Measures had been put into place for the welfare of the disabled, and legislation implemented to guarantee the rights of older persons, allowing them to be cared for within their families or at care homes.
MARÍA RUBIALES DE CHAMORRO ( Nicaragua) spoke about her country’s national programmes, particularly for the family, saying that it strove to eradicate poverty by focusing on agricultural production, small and medium enterprises and micro-credit. She added that Nicaragua had promoted the rights of women both in rural and urban areas, fostered health programmes, combated urban poverty through the provision of water and electricity, and pursued policies that reduced inequalities and distributed funding to the poor. Nicaragua had also achieved Millennium Development Goal 1, with the help of the World Bank, and had reduced malnutrition, illiteracy, infant mortality, and fatalities due to malaria.
Sustaining these advances would require economic development, she said, stating that Nicaragua’s exports had grown 30 per cent compared to the previous year. Nicaragua had improved the situation for its poorest segments through the country’s law on nutritional and food security, which was used to create an inclusive and fair market and respect for cultural diversity with regard to food, as well as its food and nutritional security policy, which was geared to improve production and guarantee the sustainable use of resources. Other programmes that benefited women and their children included the provision of low-interest-rate loans to women who were heads of households, and improving educational opportunities and health care for children under 6. Additionally, for the past year, Nicaragua had implemented a programme to promote health care, studying the causes of disabilities and travelling from house to house to identify and provide assistance to people who suffered from physical, motor, and intellectual disabilities, representing 3 per cent of the population.
PACHARAPORN PANOMWON NA AYUTTHAYA, youth delegate of Thailand, said a brighter future for youth, and the world, could not be achieved only by drafting resolutions and creating well-researched policies. It depended on how each individual motivated positively into action and there was nothing more worrisome to a young person than insecurities about their current and future status. In a world where industrial productivity had created medicines to extend lifespans, famine and poverty were not uncommon. However, amid such connectedness, poverty could be eradicated by combining positive actions to create a “sufficient economy” in which each could live comfortably without excess or overindulgence. In Thailand, His Majesty proposed that low financial wealth not prevent fish and rice from reaching everyone’s plate, an approach could be applied to education, health care and natural resource use. The key was to focus on what was needed, rather than wanted.
PLOYPAILIN RUPAVIJETRA, youth delegate of Thailand, said the world was two thirds of the way to reaching the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals and, in that pursuit, young people deserved a place in decision-making processes. Viewing young people as agents and beneficiaries was a sign that their significant contributions were being recognized. On the issue of poverty, for example, youth could be portrayed as relevant actors capable of bringing that cycle to an end, once strategic investments in education had been made. Youth development had been a top priority in Thailand over the last decade and the Government was currently pursuing a policy of free 15-year education for all. Opportunities for vocational and higher education had been broadened through financial aid, while the commitment to education for persons with disabilities had been strengthened. “ Thailand understands that youth participation is crucial for development,” she said. For youth everywhere, it was important that young people maintain social consciousness to enhance their perspectives on issues of common concern.
DAMIANO BELEFFI ( San Marino) said the economic and financial crises had had a profound impact on social development, to the extent that the prospects for reducing poverty, hunger, malnutrition, unemployment, inequality and social exclusion had all been undermined. Even if economic growth was re-established relatively quickly after the crisis, it could be several years before lost ground in the fight against poverty was recovered.
He said his country attached great importance to the promotion and protection of human rights, particularly those concerning the most vulnerable groups like children, the disabled, the elderly and women. To that end, San Marino had co-sponsored the resolution on “Follow-up to the Second World Assembly on Ageing”; recognizing the great importance of the elderly in society, and that their right to health must be assured through adequate health care and services. Also, his country paid special attention to the family, believing it to be the basis of society. San Marino legislation thus provided for several social incentives and types of financial help aimed at family support. San Marino had also actively endorsed the United Nations commitment to the rights of people with disabilities and had ratified the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol in December 2008. He pledged his country’s continued support to all initiatives that promoted social development, and recognized the United Nations’ essential role in that regard.
MOURAD BENMEHIDI ( Algeria) said that there remained an urgent need to fulfil the three pillars of social development: eliminating poverty; full employment; and social integration. Countries in Africa were concerned by rising food prices, growing unemployment, the proliferation of pandemics and the impact of climate change. International support was needed to deal with those concerns, in order to avert setbacks to the very encouraging progress made in recent years in terms of economic growth, public health, education and poverty reduction. It was to address that challenge that the July 2010 Summit of the African Union had adopted a number of documents addressing the issues of poverty and employment.
Progress has been made by Algeria in terms of social development, thanks notably to macroeconomic stability and direct State intervention with regard to social needs, he said. Nearly 12 per cent of GDP was being spent on the disadvantaged, while the health budget had grown almost four-fold between 2000 and 2009. The unemployment rate, meanwhile, declined to 10.2 per cent in 2009 from nearly 30 per cent in 2000. Forty per cent of public investment from 2010 through
2014 would go towards human development, and it is anticipated that 1.2 million housing units would be built.
NIKOLAY RAKORSKIY ( Russian Federation) said that overcoming the global financial crisis had become the focus for questions of social development. The crisis had adversely impacted on the Millennium Development Goals and the United Nations’ attempt to eradicate hunger and poverty, improve maternal and child health-care and continue the fight against HIV/AIDS. Referring to high-level summits in Copenhagen and Johannesburg as decisive with regard to the implementation of social plans, he stated that the United Nations’ Commission on Social Development would be an effective coordinator when it came to the problems of ageing, support for youth, the role of the family, and the disabled, and that it was important to strengthen the work of the Commission in fostering dialogue among all groups.
Despite the financial crisis, the Russian Federation had maintained social support for its population and pursued projects in the social sphere regarding health, education, affordable housing, and decent employment, he said. Care for socially vulnerable groups — namely youth, elderly and the disabled — was the priority of the Government, which had already approved support for such groups through 2012. Regarding programmes related to youth, he added that 2009 had been the “year of the youth” in his country, serving as the basis for a programme to be implemented from 2011 to 2015. The problems of ageing also concerned the country, where the elderly had comprehensive health-care, pensions had risen, and efforts continued to prolong people’s lives. Additionally, he commended the convention regarding the rights of the disabled, stating that the Russian Federation was trying to ensure equal access to employment and various services to people with disabilities.
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