As World Struggles with Economic Crisis, ‘Time Bomb’ of Rising Social Inequality Could Tear Apart Moral Fabric of Societies, Third Committee Told
As World Struggles with Economic Crisis, ‘Time Bomb’ of Rising Social Inequality Could Tear Apart Moral Fabric of Societies, Third Committee Told
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-sixth General Assembly
2nd & 3rd Meetings (AM & PM)
As World Struggles with Economic Crisis, ‘Time Bomb’ of Rising Social Inequality
Could Tear Apart Moral Fabric of Societies, Third Committee Told
Under-Secretary General: New Social Development Challenges Must Be Addressed;
Committee Hears from Some 40 Speakers during Day-Long Social Development Debate
Rising social inequalities stemming from the still-unfolding global economic downturn were a “time bomb” that, if left unaddressed, would tear apart the moral fabric of society and undermine prospects for social development, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Sha Zukang, told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today, as it opened its annual session with a debate on social development.
“You have a serious responsibility to address persistent and new challenges to social development, in particular the issue of growing social inequities,” Mr. Sha said, in remarks delivered by Thomas Seltzer, Assistant-Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, Department for Economic and Social Affairs.
Many countries were still grappling with rising unemployment and poverty rates, particularly among youth, even as they contended with fiscal consolidation, austerity measures and a lack of social protection, he said. In that context, the Committee had an opportunity to examine the crisis’ underlying causes and to mobilize the necessary political will to deal with it. To be successful, Governments must not overlook the social implications of their economic policies, but promote economic and social development together with human rights protections, more and better jobs, social cohesion and less inequality.
Mr. Sha, who is also Secretary-General of the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable development ( Rio+20), further stressed that no development path that left billions of people in poverty, hunger and social exclusion would be sustainable. To that end, global commitments to poverty eradication and social justice must be maintained. Job creation was also paramount, while social protection floors must be established or expanded not only to protect people from extreme deprivation, but to support aggregate demand during economic downturns and to provide a safety net to people who lost their jobs in the shift to green economies.
Highlighting a number of international initiatives that could be harnessed to expand social protections while furthering the development agenda, he said next year’s Rio+20 Conference would provide a landmark opportunity to integrate social concerns with the economic and environmental pillars of sustainable development. Member States could also use the launch of the 2012 International Year of Cooperatives on 31 October to strengthen those institutions in their societies, thereby generating employment and income. In addition, he suggested they pursue integrated policies that put an end to the invisibility of older person on the global development agenda.
Throughout the day-long debate, delegations further underlined the two ends of the population spectrum — youth and the elderly — as among the most vulnerable groups requiring urgent policy support. Speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Saint Lucia’s representative said a recent report from the CARICOM Commission on Youth Development proved what was already known: the continued development of the region was inextricably linked to youth development. Overall, Government policies must be revamped to make them more relevant to youth, he said.
Many delegates also highlightedyouth as critical agents of change, encouraging greater roles for young people in policy development and political decision-making. The perils of high unemployment rates among that critical age group were also cited as reasons to focus on broader, more inclusive educational policies.
Echoing others, representatives from Brazil and the Russian Federation pointed to national initiatives to improve medical care for the elderly and to further extend the social safety for older persons through pension programmes. Similarly, Chile’s representative said his Government had reduced or eliminated the contribution senior citizens made for their health care.
Several speakers underscored the need to fully include the rights and concerns of people living with disabilities — currently numbering over 1 billion and expected to increase at an unprecedented rate — into development processes. Among others, Argentina’s representative, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the high-level meeting on disability and development in 2012 would provide the chance to consider a strategy for mainstreaming that largely invisible issue.
Putting a human face on that issue, Sweden’s youth delegate — who addressed the Committee in Swedish sign language — said she was continually questioned about her abilities because she was deaf, young and a woman. Yet, disability did not mean inability. Being a young did not mean being dependent. Being a woman did not mean being an object. Pointing to education as a key factor in creating equal opportunities, she nevertheless stressed that schools must be physically accessible. She also called for the transformation of those social norms and stereotypes forming the basis for the discrimination of disabled persons.
The Minister of Women’s Affairs and Social Development for Nigeria also offered comments.
Also speaking were the representatives of Lesotho (on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC)), Malaysia (on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN)), Kyrgyzstan, Israel, Senegal, Nicaragua, Egypt, Mexico, Kazakhstan, Norway, Philippines, Libya, Ghana, Cuba, Syria, Peru, Yemen, Algeria, Malaysia and United States.
Youth delegates from Thailand, Mexico, Norway, Switzerland, Netherlands, Australia, Germany, Belgium, Austria and Finland also spoke.
The representatives of the Bahamas (on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)), Poland, Venezuela, Nicaragua and United States also spoke on a point order.
The reports of the Secretary-General were introduced by Daniela Bas, Director of the Division of Social Policy and Development of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, and Ivan Šimonović, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights.
The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 4 October, to continue its debate on social development.
At its first meeting of the sixty-sixth session, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to adopt its programme of work and to begin its general discussion on social development.
The Committee had before it several documents relating to the organization of its work, including the first report of the General Committee of the General Assembly on organization of the sixty-sixth regular session of the General Assembly, adoption of the agenda and allocation of items (document A/66/250),and aletter dated 16 September from the President of the General Assembly to the Chair of the Third Committee (document A/C.3/66/1),which outlines the allocation of agenda items to the Committee. Also before it were two notes by the Secretariat on the organization of work of the Third Committee (documents A/C.3/66/L.1and Add.1/Rev.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 report by the Secretary-General regarding Implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and of the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly (document A/66/124), studying the impact of world crises on social development, particularly for achievement of poverty eradication. The report reviews the contribution of the Commission for Social Development at its forty-ninth session and also examines national actions, as well as those by the United Nations system. Among its recommendations, the report suggests creating decent jobs to help reduce poverty and inequality, conserving finances during boom periods to support expansionary measures in times of need and encouraging the Commission for Social Development to establish a programme of priority themes to raise visibility of social development in the agenda.
Also before the Committee was the Secretary-General’s report on the world social situation 2011: the global social crisis (document A/66/226), which reviews the ongoing adverse social consequences of the crisis, after providing an overview of its causes and transmission. It also says that, while a deeper, more prolonged global recession has been averted through coordinated stimulus measures, the recovery is fragile and uneven, with ongoing social consequences. The economic slowdown has reduced social spending in most developing countries, while the turn towards fiscal austerity has both undermined social spending in developed countries and threatened the nascent recovery.
The report points to the rapid rise in unemployment and vulnerability, especially in developing countries without comprehensive social protection in the wake of the global economic crisis. Tens of millions fell into, or were trapped in, extreme poverty because of the global crisis, while the number of people living in hunger in the world rose to over 1 billion in 2009, the highest on record. The report strongly underscores important lessons learned from national responses to the global crisis, the importance of inclusive social policies and the need for universal social protection.
One of the report’s conclusions is that countries need to be able to pursue countercyclical policies in a consistent manner. A second key lesson is that countries with a social protection system were able to avoid the worst social impact and recover much faster. This highlights the need to make universal social protection systems and active labour market programmes permanent, not merely temporary, components of national crisis response. The report argues that social policy considerations, especially productive employment, should be given greater importance within macroeconomic policy, rather than being viewed as residual assistance to poor people and disadvantaged groups.
The Secretary-General’s report on the follow-up to the tenth anniversary of the International Year of the Family and beyond (document A/66/62-E/2011/4), which was submitted in response to General Assembly resolution 64/133 of 18 December 2009, is divided into four sections. Section I, which serves as introduction, notes that, while the international community shares a global concern over the future of the family and its role in development, a long-term plan of action for families, like those for youth or older persons, has not been developed partly because of the lack of consensus on the definition of the family and other family-sensitive considerations in the development and implementation of family-oriented policies. Nevertheless, many Governments recognize families as agents of development and actively pursue family-oriented social policies at the national level.
Section II highlights four policy areas in which the upcoming twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family can provide an opportunity to add a family focus to development efforts, including confronting family poverty; promoting intergenerational solidarity; reconciling work and family life; and collecting national and regional data on family well-being. Section III focuses on preparations for the twentieth anniversary and briefly reviews human rights instruments and outcomes of major United Nations conferences and summits as they relate to the family, examining their relevance and importance and identifying issues that need renewed attention and action. Section III offers further suggestions on the preparations for the twentieth anniversary at the international, regional and national levels. Among the conclusions and recommendations comprising Section IV, is that the overall objectives of the twentieth anniversary should focus on how best to support families in their functions, share good practices on family policies, review challenges faced by families and recommend solutions.
Also before the Committee was the Secretary-General’s report on the status of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Optional Protocol thereto (document A/66/121), which was submitted pursuant to General Assembly resolution 64/154 and provides an overview of the status of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which came into force in May 2008. It contains information concerning the status of signatures and ratifications of the Convention and its Optional Protocol, the second through the fifth sessions of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the monitoring of the implementation of the Convention through the Conference of States Parties and ongoing efforts by Governments towards ratification and implementation of the Convention. The report also presents an overview of the progress made by the United Nations system towards implementation of the Convention and describes relevant activities by civil society organizations and multi-stakeholder partnerships.
Also before the Committee was the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of the World Programme of Action on Youth: United Nations system coordination and collaboration related to youth (document A/66/61-E/2011/3) which was submitted in accordance with resolution 47/1 of the Commission for Social Development. It describes the mechanisms for coordination and collaboration of relevant United Nations entities in their work related to youth, particularly through the Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development. It also highlights examples of effective United Nations system collaboration on youth at the global, regional and country levels and discusses steps to further strengthen coordination among relevant entities of the Organization.
The Secretary-General’s report on realizing the Millennium Development Goals and other international development goals for persons with disabilities (document A/66/128) was submitted pursuant to General Assembly resolution 65/186, in which the General Assembly requested information with a view to convening, at its sixty-seventh session in 2012, a high-level meeting on strengthening efforts to ensure that persons with disabilities are included in and have access to all aspects of development. The report examines progress made towards the integration of the disability perspective in development processes, but notes that the rights and concerns of persons with disabilities are not yet integrated into mainstream development processes. It also highlights opportunities to ensure the inclusion of disability in the global development agenda towards and beyond 2015 and outlines preparatory steps for a possible international conference on disability and development in 2015.
The Secretary-General’s report on the International Year of Youth: Dialogue and Mutual Understanding (document A/66/129), which was prepared in response to General Assembly resolution 64/134 on the proclamation of 2010 as the International Year of Youth: Dialogue and Mutual Understanding. It highlights key activities and initiatives undertaken at the national, regional and international levels by Member States, civil society organizations and United Nations entities in support of the year. According to the report, supporters aimed to use the year as a catalyst for fuller implementation of the World Programme of Action for Youth to 2000 and Beyond.
The report also describes the activities and initiatives of Member States against the backdrop of the year, efforts to put a youth agenda on the calendar and national development activities that were undertaken within the context of the year. Recommendations for Member States and the United Nations system to sustain and capitalize on the momentum generated during the International Year of Youth are provided in the report’s concluding section.
Also before the Committee was the Secretary-General’s report on cooperatives in social development and implementation of the International Year of Cooperatives (document A/66/136), presents activities planned for the observance of the 2012 International Year of Cooperatives, which will be launched in the General Assembly Hall on 31 October 2011. It also notes the support received from Governments through the establishment of national steering committees across all regions.
The report also highlights the contributions of cooperatives to socio-economic development, saying they improve individual and household incomes by pooling resources and efforts, thereby strengthening the participation of small and medium-sized enterprises in the market. Among other things, it outlines the contribution of cooperatives to food security, inclusive finance and social protection, and the strengthening of societies through peacebuilding — or economic peacemaking — and disaster recovery. It further examines how the cooperative movement can be harnessed for development in the context of coordination and collaboration with Governments and other stakeholders. It also focuses attention on the importance of effective, member-driven internal governance structures and capacity-building, balanced with a supportive and respectful regulatory framework.
The Secretary-General’s report on follow-up to the Second World Assembly on Ageing: comprehensive overview (document A/66/173) focuses on the situation of the human rights of older persons in all regions of the world. It analyses the protections afforded older persons in the human rights architecture. It also offers an overview of some challenges faced by older women and men in the enjoyment of their rights and outlines examples of Government responses to those challenges. It further provides an illustrative collection of legislation, policies and programmes and describes key human rights issues, including discrimination, violence and abuse, social protection, long-term care, age-specific services, participation, access to justice and life-long pensions.
Adoption of Programme of Work
Opening the session, DATO’ HUSSEIN HANIFF ( Malaysia), Chair of the Third Committee, stressed that its dynamic programme of work was both heavy and tight. Among other things, a level of efficiency would be required to address the multifaceted and highly complex agenda. He further urged delegates to focus on what united them in meeting their common responsibilities.
Turning to the organization of work, he reminded delegations 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 to the schedule of meetings and noted that a revised document on the status of documentation had been issued.
The Committee then approved without a vote the programme of work, as revised.
Noting that the Committee was not expected to take action on its programme planning this morning, he informed delegates that Committee Vice-Chair Donnette Critchlow ( Guyana) would facilitate the Chair’s text of the draft resolution on the Follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women.
DANIELA BAS, Director of the Division of Social Policy and Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introduced several reports of the Secretary-General under consideration concerning agenda items 27 (a) and (b). Implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and of the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly (document A/66/124) assessed the global crisis and examined implementation at the national level, as well as actions by the Organization. Also before the Committee was the Secretary-General’s report on the world social situation 2011: the global social crisis (document A/66/226), which reviewed ongoing adverse social consequences of crises after an overview of causes and transmission.
Turning attention to agenda item (b) on social development, she said the report on the International Year of Youth: Dialogue and Mutual Understanding (document A/66/129) provided a comprehensive summary of initiatives marking the year. Member States, civil society groups and Organization entities organized 354 events, bringing the youth agenda to prominence, but further efforts were needed to maintain momentum from those actions to develop a youth-centred global development agenda. Introducing the report on the implementation of the World Programme of Action on Youth: United Nations system coordination and collaboration related to youth (document A/66/61-E/2011/3), she said it described mechanisms to coordinate youth development, with examples of effective collaboration and policy recommendations to fully reap the benefits of inter-agency coordination.
The report on realizing the Millennium Development Goals and other international development goals for persons with disabilities (document A/66/128) noted their concerns had yet to be integrated into mainstream development processes, she said. The report, requested by General Assembly resolution 65/186, highlighted key priority areas such as equalization of opportunities for persons with disabilities, as well as collection, analysis and use of disability data. The report on the status of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Optional Protocol (document A/66/121) provided information, such as signatures and ratifications of the Convention and its Optional Protocol. “While taking note of good practices and lessons learned in the implementation of the Convention for disability-inclusive development, both reports conclude that urgent efforts are needed to integrate the rights and concerns of persons with disabilities in all aspects of development,” she said.
The report on follow-up to the Second World Assembly on Ageing: comprehensive overview (document A/66/173), would be introduced by Mr. Ivan Simonovic, Assistant Secretary-General, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, she said.
Continuing with her introductions, she said the follow-up to the tenth anniversary of the International Year of the Family and beyond (document A/66/62-E/2011/4), noted, despite consensus that stability of societies rested on the strength of the family, their contributions to achievement of development goals remained largely overlooked. Lastly, she said, the report on cooperatives in social development and implementation of the International Year of Cooperatives (document A/66/136) highlighted the need to strengthen cooperatives through sound governance and capable leadership, as they contributed to food security, poverty reduction and employment creation.
THOMAS SELTZER, Assistant-Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, Department for Economic and Social Affairs, delivering remarks on behalf of the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Sha Zukang, said the world was still struggling to recover from the economic crisis. Many countries were battling the prospect of a double-dip recession, as uncertainty about the global economy’s future remained high. Food emergencies were once again affecting millions of people in Africa. “The crisis hit the most vulnerable groups hard, putting at risk the social pillar of sustainable development,” he stressed.
Consequently, many countries were grappling with increases in unemployment and poverty, particularly among youth, while also contending with fiscal consolidation, austerity measures and a lack of social protection, he said, underlining the need to strengthen social development even in hard times. The Committee had the opportunity to examine the underlying causes of the still unfolding crisis and mobilize the necessary political will to deal with it.
He stressed that social inequalities were on the rise, threatening social stability and economic and social development. Those inequalities were a “time bomb” that, if left unaddressed, would tear apart the moral fabric of society and undermine prospects for social development. To be successful, policies must not overlook the social implications of economic policies, but promote economic and social development together with human rights protections, more and better jobs, social cohesion and less inequality. Indeed, no development path leaving billions of people in poverty, hunger and social exclusion would be sustainable.
Highlighting growing agreement on the need to strengthen the social pillar in the run-up to the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), he said the United Nations in general, and the Third Committee in particular, could help foster the social changes required for a people-centred recovery to take hold and for sustainable development to grow over the long term. In that context, global commitments to poverty eradication and social justice must be maintained. Job creation was also paramount, while social protection floors must be established or expanded not only to protect people from extreme deprivation, but to support aggregate demand during economic downturns and to facilitate a shift to green economies by providing a safety net to people who lost their jobs in that process.
He said next year’s Rio+20 Conference was a landmark opportunity to integrate social concerns with the economic and environmental pillars of sustainable development, especially in the context of job creation in the green economy. Moreover, the International Year of Youth had helped raise awareness of the impact of investing in youth and fostering youth participation. Member States could also use the launch of the 2012 International Year of Cooperatives on 31 October to strengthen those institutions in their societies, thereby generating employment and income. Other opportunities to promote closer integration of social and economic policies by addressing issues related to social groups would be provided by the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples; the possible high-level meeting on disability and development; and the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family in 2014. Integrated policies should also put an end to the invisibility of older person on the global development agenda, he said.
“You have a serious responsibility to address persistent and new challenges to social development, in particular the issue of growing social inequities,” he said in conclusion, stressing that “new realities require us to find new paths”.
Introduction of Secretary-General’s Report on Follow-Up to Second World Assembly on Ageing
IVAN SIMONOVIC, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights said the report (document A/66/173) focused, for the first time, on the situation of elderly persons in all regions of the world. It offered an overview of the situation faced by older persons and outlined various policies to further their social protection. Among other trends, the report noted that the world’s population was rapidly ageing and the majority of older people would be women. Indeed, there were already twice as many women over 80 as men. Further, elderly people not only faced discrimination on the basis of age, but were impacted by forms of discrimination, poverty and violence, as well as a lack of specific services and resources. The report concluded that the global response had been inconsistent, scattered and, in some places, non-existent. It also called for social protection regimes to be strengthened vis-à-vis the elderly.
Speaking on a point of order, the representative of the Bahamas, who also spoke on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said General Assembly resolution 65/276, which detailed the participation of the European Union in the work of the United Nations, was a landmark text giving a non-State actor certain privileges in the Organization. The Community supported the resolution’s adoption on the understanding that it observed strict distinctions between Member States and other observer groups. It understood that, in the Assembly’s regular plenary meetings, the European Union would be allowed to make comments among regional groups. However, in a speaker’s list including multiple regional groups, the European Union would not be allowed to speak before regional groups represented by a Member State. The Community believed that the Secretariat’s interpretation not only misread the resolution, but would appear to confer even more enhanced privileges to the European Union’s observer.
Poland’s representative stressed the essence of Assembly resolution 65/276 was to allow the members of the European Union to speak on behalf of its member States, thereby allowing the Union to contribute to the work of the United Nations. The resolution’s text was “crystal clear” and its implementation should be carried out precisely and with respect of the Organization’s practice. It was neither for the Union, nor anyone else, to provide unilateral interpretations.
Venezuela’s representative, endorsing the statement by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the resolution clearly stated that the European Union could speak among regional groups, but should not be given any particular preference.
Nicaragua’s representative said his delegation did not share the Secretary-General’s interpretation of the resolution.
The representative of the United States said the 27 member States of the European Union should be able to decide who would speak on their behalf. It was important to hear from a wide variety of voices in the Committee and her delegation had no problem at all with having the European Union speak after the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, as was the Committee’s custom.
MARCELO C. CESA ( Argentina), on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, reaffirmed commitment to the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action, as well as the further initiatives for social development adopted at the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly. International cooperation — including fulfilment of commitments on agreed official development assistance, debt relief, market access, capacity-building, technology transfer and technical support — was critical for scaled-up global development.
Rights and concerns of people living with disabilities — currently numbering over 1 billion and expected to increase at an unprecedented rate — remained to be integrated into development processes, he said. The high-level meeting in 2012 would provide the opportunity to consider a strategy towards 2015 and beyond for mainstreaming that largely invisible issue. Challenges faced by older persons also required immediate attention; the open-ended working group on ageing and the upcoming review and appraisal on the Tenth Anniversary of the adoption of the Madrid International Plan of Action in 2012-2013 offered opportunities for concrete progress.
The Group of 77 and China would submit the three draft resolutions to further promote the objectives of the International Year of the Family: “Implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and of the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly”; “Follow-up to the Second World Assembly on Ageing”; and “Preparations for and observance of the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family”.
MOTLATSI RAMAFOLE ( Lesotho), on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said the global financial and economic crises had particularly affected his region. Recovery was slower in the developing world, and poverty levels in Southern Africa had “reached their highest proportions” as unemployment rates increased drastically and many were left struggling to make ends meet. Prior to the crises, countries in the region were making steady progress alleviating poverty; although they adopted policies aimed at social protection systems, poverty eradication, social integration and full employment remained major challenges.
The Southern African Development Community Declaration on Poverty Eradication and Sustainable Development was adopted in 2008 to tackle the challenges from the crises. “The Declaration expresses the need to achieve food security and address the adverse impact of climate change in the fight against poverty,” he said. Establishment of the Regional Poverty Observatory would help implement the Declaration, while Heads of State and Government for the region had made it their goal to increase food production for better nutrition.
The Millennium Development Goals were at the core of achieving development, yet overwhelming challenges remained, as the target year fast approached. He called on the international community to work together to overcome stumbling blocks that were “militating against” achievement of the Goals.
DONATUS ST. AIMEE (Saint Lucia), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the session opened against the backdrop of towering social development challenges — namely natural disasters on top of food crises, on top of the constant escalation in fuel prices, on top of the global financial and economic crisis. The consequences of those converging crises posed a major impediment to implementing social development goals. Like other Member States, the Community’s members had recorded real links between poverty and employment to crime and gender-based violence and substance abuse. Families were implementing coping strategies that could lead to lasting deficiencies for their children, thus perpetuating the poverty cycle. Consequently, CARICOM Governments were working to soften the effects that their economic policies had on social development by, among other things, pursuing family–oriented social policies at the national level. Indeed, the Community was particularly committed to supporting the objectives of the International Year of the Family and its follow-up, he said.
The March 2007 establishment of the CARICOM Commission on Youth Development was a prime example of the Community’s commitment to the region’s youth, he said. In January 2010, the Commission presented a report that proved what was already known: the continued development of the region was inextricably linked to youth development. It also showed that, despite successes, the younger population must be further integrated in decision-making processes and offered greater opportunities for gaining entrepreneurial skills. Overall, policies must be revamped to make them more relevant to youth. Similarly, as the Caribbean population aged, Community members were working to respond to the challenges faced by older persons. Though guided by the 1999 Caribbean Charter on Health and Ageing, Governments were nevertheless struggling to execute the necessary programmes in the current dire international financial environment.
Turning to the situation of persons with disabilities, he underlined the cross-cutting nature of that issue for economic and social development. Twelve of the Community’s fourteen members had signed or ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol. Yet, those efforts, too, were constrained by the dark cloud of the economic crisis. During the current precarious time, the numerous crises weighed on small island developing States. Its heavy weight had touched every individual in the Caribbean Community and smothered attempts at social development. Nonetheless, action was the antidote to despair, and it was time to generate momentum towards the paradigm shifts that would make social development sustainable, he stressed.
SAIFUL AZAM ABDULLAH (Malaysia), speaking on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), said his region aspired to lift the quality of its peoples’ lives through cooperative, sustainable activities. Though socio-economic disparities persisted across its Member States, it still aspired to eradicate extreme poverty. To do so, he said, the region was focusing on five key areas: advocacy and linkage; knowledge; resources; expertise and regional cooperation; and regional public goods.
South-East Asian countries believed youth was the agent of change, and would encourage greater prominence for their role, he said. The ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Youth met biennially, implementing programmes and activities for youth matters. The region was also committed to promoting social justice and rights into its policies and all spheres of life. “Together with other delegations, it is our hope that we can move forward on this issue and create the consensus and policy prescriptions that will allow us to progress and prosper as a region,” he said.
HAJIA ZAINAB MAINA, Minister of Women’s Affairs and Social Development for Nigeria, said her Government had ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Nigerian Disability Bill would provide for the education, health care and protection of the rights of persons with disabilities. Nigeria had also undertaken programmes of income support and skill acquisition for older persons to help make them more self-sustaining, she said. Her Government had also undertaken concerted efforts to address family welfare, including a draft Plan of Action on the Family in Nigeria, which would help alleviate poverty among families when promulgated.
To further check the effects of social change, Nigeria had launched a National Programme of Care and Integration of Destitute/Disadvantaged Persons and families. It was aimed at vulnerable households most likely to fall into destitution, aiming to improve their income generating capacities, she said. Under the belief youth were the greatest investment for meaningful development, Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Youth Development was established in 2007, machinery to establish the National Youth Development Fund put in place. The National Youth Council of Nigeria had also been established as an interface between the Government and various youth organizations, she said.
ALMAZ TOIMATOV ( Kyrgyzstan) said his country was a young republic, with half the population under 35 years of age. State policies were committed to developing youth in democratic processes and it had taken an active part in the International Year of Youth. Notwithstanding the persistent economic difficulties, it sought to open up new opportunities for youth, including in reaching the Millennium Development Goals. In 2008, a law on the rights and laws of people with disabilities was adopted to guarantee their full participation in society. A draft ruling on further increasing the monthly allowances for children with disabilities had been developed. Currently, 15 homes for the elderly and people with disabilities were being operated. At the same time, more than 30 international operations, missions and funds were providing technical and programme support.
He said a public council had been set up to prepare recommendations for normative acts and wider participation in developing programme proposals, among other initiatives. In addition, the Kyrgyz delegation had signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on 22 September. That act marked the State’s aspirations to further the rights of all of its citizens.
MARINA ROSENBERG ( Israel) said that in July a new grass-roots movement had emerged in her country to bring attention to issues such as housing, education, health care and employment. Hundreds of thousands took to the streets to call for a greater focus on social justice. The public had been captivated and the Government was listening. A committee of leading economists was set up to offer recommendations for improving social justice, indicating that the dialogue would continue in the weeks and months ahead. Among other things, Israel believed that the momentum of the International Year of Youth must be harnessed for the empowerment of young people and the full implementation of the World Programme of Action for Youth. For its part, Israel had launched a National Programme for Children and Youth at Risk in 2008 to reabsorb at-risk youth into the community, including through vocational learning and entrepreneurial training.
She went on to note that, as it developed policies for older persons, Israel was guided by several principles, including independence, autonomy and equality and intergenerational partnership and mutual responsibility. Israel had participated in the Open-ended Working Group on Ageing and also welcomed the attention on older women in General Recommendation Number 27 from the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. The Israeli Government was equally committed to upholding the rights of persons with disabilities through legislation, legal protection, education and active partnerships with civil society. Among other initiatives, the Supportive Communities for people with Disabilities project provided a social safety net and basket of services for the disabled. Israel was also working through its Center for International Cooperation to alleviate global suffering and poverty. That organization had trained more than 250,000 people from 140 countries, based on the principle that education was the cornerstone for international progress, social equity and poverty eradication.
DIAO ANNE SARR ( Senegal) said her country endeavoured to implement instruments for social protection and had achieved very interesting results. It had drafted and bolstered development policies and programmes, including a poverty reduction strategy paper, and ratified regional and international instruments relating to economic and social development. To bolster national results, Senegal had adopted an accelerated growth strategy based on human capital, she said.
Those development initiatives included a voluntarist policy to improve working conditions and create jobs, such as a three-year recruitment programme in social services for 15,000 workers. She also thanked increased education funding from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Senegal was also well aware that increased partnerships for women were needed for development, and had encouraged their involvement in decision-making efforts and peace processes. Senegal’s National Assembly in June 2010 adopted a law to increase equality on electoral lists, which would offer women the opportunity for real leadership, she said.
WORRACHON DULYAVITYA, the first youth delegate of Thailand, said his Government was fully aware of the need to do more in all areas of social development and duly noted the recommendations contained in the reports of the Secretary-General. It particularly looked forward to the upcoming high-level meeting on disabilities in 2012. Currently, many young Thais were suffering from the impact of severe flooding throughout the country. While such national disasters could not be prevented, more could be done to limit their impact on people. Help need not come solely from Governments, but from each member of society. The “Sufficiency Economy” philosophy advanced by Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej sought to teach citizens to be content with having enough. That did not mean that people should not seek to improve their own lives. He meant that, while they sought their own happiness, they should share their excess wealth with those in need. Through its commitment to attaining the Millennium Development Goals, Thailand had alleviated poverty, facilitated equal and free access to education and improved access to its health-care system. Yet, it hoped to see more unity and compassion among the world’s nations, to ensure that no nation was ever left behind in times of need.
KITPRASERT NOPPARAT, Thailand’s second youth delegate, stressed that modernization and industrialization had changed the way people around the world lived. As Thailand’s youth adapted to the country’s socio-economic developments, the pace of their lives quickened, their consumption patterns changed, their stress levels increased and their health suffered. Among other things, those trends had significantly shifted the public health landscape. Pandemic diseases were increasingly in the spotlight, while non-communicable diseases were now the biggest cause of death among the Thai population, with prevalence rising even among its youth. That directly impacted the nation’s future, he said, underscoring the Government’s efforts to engage youth in promoting and supporting its health policies. Today, many youth-led groups and organizations were taking action at both the local and national levels against those non-traditional security threats.
MARÍA CLARISA SOLÓRZANO-ARRIGADA ( Nicaragua) said her country was aware of the huge task ahead. Nicaragua had made substantial gains over the past five years, but knew it needed to work towards increases in dignity and welfare for its families, so they could work in peace and love. Since coming to power in 2007, the Government had been taking steps to re-establish free health care, and offering other initiatives, such as access to microcredit and promotion of the role of women. Direct investment, agriculture and production had increased over recent years, and Nicaragua was empowering its people, so they could achieve their development.
According to the World Bank, Nicaragua had reduced extreme poverty from 17.5 per cent of the population in 2005 to 9 per cent in 2011. Food and Agriculture Organization data showed Nicaragua was the only country in Latin America to have reduced malnutrition by 30 per cent. Huge development gains had also been made in the areas of infant and maternal mortality, she said, while the right to free education had been restored for young people, reducing illiteracy from 22 per cent in 2006 to 2.2 per cent in 2011. School lunch programmes gave balanced food to almost 1 million children, while 200,000 Nicaraguans benefited from programmes that gave food to families affected by drought. Social research on people with disabilities, conducted with support from Cuba, allowed preparation for policies to respond to those in vulnerable situations, she said.
MAGED ABDELAZIZ (Egypt), stressing that urgent action was needed to review social policies and to ensure social protection against hunger, diseases and poverty, said the current session coincided with the Arab Spring, which pursued democracy, human rights, freedoms, social justice and dignity in a strong revolution against poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, social disparities, social exclusion and corruption. Poverty eradication was the cornerstone for achieving social development in every society and was indispensable for social integration. Egypt supported the Secretary-General’s launch of the “7 Billion Actions” initiative to confront poverty and inequality. It stressed the need for the full implementation of the outcome document of July’s High-level Meeting on Youth and urged the intergovernmental financial institutions, donors and the private sector to do their part in that regard.
He said Egypt had been working hard on mainstreaming its developmental plans, including through improving literacy, health care, education and training, as well as gender equality. However, social development turned out to be much more than an urgent priority in the aftermath of the 25 January revolution. It was, instead, a “giant goal for a new future”, and the Government was vigorously addressing the main social development challenges, while preparing for a comprehensive and broad citizen-oriented development strategy on a parallel track. That strategy included combating corruption, and transforming the legislative framework related to taxes, pensions and wages to ensure stronger protections for the most vulnerable groups, such as women, children, the elderly and the disabled. The Government was also working to strengthen the spirit of active participation by all Egyptians in political, economic and social activities. Public expenditures and financial resources were increasingly being allocated to development programmes. Efforts were also being made to ensure access to education for all. At the same time, regional and international partnerships were being strengthened.
YANERIT MORGAN ( Mexico) said, despite the world financial crisis, her country had made a number of advances in health care through the People’s Insurance Programme, which covered more than 16 million families in a strategy to avoid impoverishment from health-care costs. Despite the crisis, Mexico had also decreased abject poverty from 10.6 per cent of the population in 2008 to 10.4 per cent of population in 2010, she said. Mexico was convinced that the only path to progress in development was participation of all elements of society, regardless of nationality or age.
KARELY ALVARADO OCHOA, youth delegate for Mexico, said her country would like to express satisfaction for the Organization’s inclusion of youth, which was demonstrated by its hosting of the World Youth Conference of 2010. Programmes promoting social participation around the country focused on the 15 areas in the Action Plan for Young People. She wished to highlight the youth delegate programme that she had the honour of belonging to, as well as the initiative to seek social cohesion among youth. Youth were working to combat poverty and implement social development programmes around the nation, she said.
BYRGANYM AITIMOVA ( Kazakhstan) said her country did not support any reduction in social spending, in light of budget constraints. “The lack of access to education, primary health care and gainful employment will cause budgetary deficits through decline in revenues associated with output and income expenditures. Moreover, the rising trend of austerity and fiscal balancing in some countries will debilitate the potential for recovery from the prevailing social crises,” she said. Kazakhstan had overcome the financial crisis by stepping straight onto the path of social development, embracing new employment approaches, and modernizing housing and public utilities.
Kazakhstan had significantly increased health-care financing to 3.2 per cent of gross domestic product in 2010, she said. As a result of proactive measures, the life expectancy of the people of Kazakhstan would increase to 70 years by 2015 and 72 years or more by 2020. Kazakhstan was committed to enhancing its social obligations, despite the current economic recovery period, and aimed to raise per capita income by ensuring predictable and safe employment, developing human resource capacity and improving the system of targeted assistance.
REGINA DUNLOP (Brazil), aligning with the Group of 77 and China and the Rio Group, said her country had actively undertaken initiatives to strengthen social development in all its three dimensions related to extreme poverty reduction, rising employment opportunities and attaining a higher level of social integration. It had implemented a comprehensive national cash-transfer programme linked to education and maternal assistance. Other policies focused on the social needs of the underprivileged, the elderly and the disabled. In June, Brazil launched an ambitious strategy for complete poverty eradication. It aimed to improve the living conditions of the 16.2 million persons living in extreme poverty. With one of the largest populations of young persons in the world, Brazil had been working closely with other Latin American countries to advance a development agenda that took into account the inclusion of young people in decision-making processes. The Rio+20 would be part of that effort, she emphasized.
She went on to say that older persons currently accounted for 11 per cent of Brazil’s total population and that percentage was expected to rise to 2 per cent by 2040. To address the situation of older persons, the Government was implementing new legislation to ensure the right to pension for millions of rural workers, to set up a universal health-care system and to establish a minimum wage for every person over 65 who could not provide for their own subsistence. Moreover, the 2003 Statute of Older Persons had been a benchmark for human rights in Brazil and the Government was continuing to work with its partners in Latin America and the Caribbean to implement the Madrid Plan of Action. At the regional level, the Brasilia Declaration urged considering the designation of a Special Rapporteur to monitor and promote the rights of older persons and to elaborate a binding international instrument. Among other things, she reaffirmed her Government’s commitment to implementing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and highlighted the special attention it gave to children and teenagers with special needs. Finally, Brazil and Japan would submit a draft resolution on the tenth anniversary of the International Year of Volunteers.
NIKOLAY RAKOVSKIY ( Russian Federation) said more coordination than ever before was needed to achieve social development, and he expressed support for the concept of a global partnership. The Commission for Social Development needed to be strengthened, as it was the most effective coordinator on issues concerning the role of the family, the elderly and the disabled. During the financial crisis, his country had taken important measures to support employment and enhance labour productivity and quality. It had also focused on employment of those with disabilities, successfully reducing unemployment from 9.4 per cent to 7.2 per cent over the past few years.
In the interest of vulnerable groups, his country had taken up such initiatives as improving medical care for the elderly and undertaking a large-scale pension increase, despite the financial crisis, he said. He highly commended the Organization’s attention on youth and welcomed the July meeting in the General Assembly to assess what had been achieved and to determine goals for the future. Employment and stable work for youth was a priority, to enhance their well-being. Media campaigns promoting morality and a healthy lifestyle were also needed. He hoped such work would break negative trends in social development, and his Government would work with a broad array of partners for the quickest achievement of that goal.
ANN-MARIT SAEBONES ( Norway) said the Millennium Development Goals could not be reached if the plans and programmes aimed at fulfilling them were not designed to ensure the explicit inclusion of the disabled. Indeed, 200 million children living with disabilities were reported to have inadequate access to health and education services. Among other things, that meant that many of them missed out on vaccines and simple treatments for curable diseases, while 23 million of them did not attend primary school. Without action, disabled people would remain illiterate, excluded from the labour market and mired in poverty.
Asking why those facts and figures were accepted, she stressed that children with disabilities had the same rights and inherent dignity as every other child. Moreover, many countries around the world — including developing countries — had successfully implemented inclusive education policies. Accessibility was of vital importance and a prerequisite for an inclusive society. Further, it was clear that societies emphasizing education and work for everyone would prosper. Equity-focused approaches to poverty reduction offered an especially cost-effective route to development in low-income high mortality countries. At the same time, a holistic, evidence-based and systematic approach was needed within the United Nations system and at the country level. The international community must also ensure that the Global Partnership for Education countered discrimination against children with disabilities.
Norway’s youth delegate, JULIE MIDTGARDEN, said equality within society was a key ingredient for successful youth participation. Yet, participation was often offered only on a superficial level — which was unacceptable. The right of children and youth to participate was neither an abstract ideal, nor a threat. Youth had experienced real participation in, for example, the work of the Zambian Youth Vision and National Women’s Lobby, which provided girls with leadership education. In addition, last year’s review of article 6 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) for education and participation had resulted in its strengthening with respect to formal and non-formal education on climate issues. That change was due, in large part, to the youth lobby and showed the potential of youth action. But, to realize that potential, support was needed from both national Governments and the international community, particularly through the investment in young people’s education and empowerment.
OLIVER FELIX, youth delegate of Switzerland, said the World Programme of Action for Youth was the basic policy framework for improving the situation of young people around the world. Its 15 priority areas covered issues affecting the lives of young people through concrete measures and proposals for action. Among its priority areas was the full and effective participation of youth in society and in decision-making. Youth delegates had the unique opportunity to speak on behalf of the younger generation. The full engagement of youth as equal partners required a recognition of their right to participate. It also meant that young people were no longer seen as passive recipients of resources, nor as the cause of a society’s problems. Instead, they must be regarded as vital participants in society who were able to contribute to their countries’ development. Consequently, their involvement must be appropriately nurtured and cultivated.
He further stressed that youth participation was incomplete without adequate empowerment through access to education. In that regard, it was important to recognize the roles of formal and non-formal learning, he said, noting that youth-led organizations were a space for, and main vehicle of, the non-formal learning process. Moreover, both forms of education allowed children and young people to make the transition from adolescence to adulthood, to integrate into social and professional life and to exercise their citizenship. Indeed, by providing the opportunity for social inclusion and active citizenship, participation in youth organizations was at the heart of democracy. Similarly volunteerism and other participatory opportunities offered a chance for young people to act in ways that were beneficial to society, thus creating a virtuous circle and contributing to the world’s advancement.
LIBRAN N. CABACTULAN ( Philippines) said social development had been integral to his country’s national development agenda, and the Government had put in place a more coherent national social protection system and a more effective labour market programme. Among the many reforms for education, training and seniors, a wage-setting system ensured greater access to social security and unemployment insurance. Although his Government strongly supported measures to empower disadvantaged and vulnerable groups, effective national efforts had to be complemented by regional and international efforts. Inclusive development cooperation within bilateral, regional and multilateral initiatives was important, he said, and the Philippines reaffirmed its commitment to the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action and other initiatives for social development adopted at the General Assembly’s twenty-fourth special session.
As in previous sessions, the Philippine delegation would submit, with the United Republic of Tanzania, a draft resolution on realizing the Millennium Development Goals and other international development goals for persons with disabilities. “We look forward to the valuable contributions and support of all Member States for the advancement of the rights of persons with disabilities, particularly within the context of development and realization of the Millennium Development Goals”, he said.
SAMIRA ABUBAKAR ( Libya) said important international efforts must be doubled to mitigate the negative consequences of financial and economic crises on developing countries, where they were characterized by increased poverty, exacerbation of food crises and downturns in living conditions. The 17 February revolution in Libya to establish a democratic system had improved the conditions of its citizens, empowering and meeting the needs of youth and the disabled, as well as the elderly. Libya was committed to implementing its commitments to development undertaken at international forums. Support of youth was at the heart of all interests, but especially at the forefront of programmes of the new Libya, she said.
Libyan women had also participated in the revolution to actively participate in political decision-making, and equality would be a major foundation for Libya, which had enacted a number of laws to ensure non-discrimination in society. Libya also intended to ratify the Convention on persons with disabilities as soon as parliament was established and its new Administration had enacted a series of legislation to promote economic, social and legal institutions. The population of Libya continued to pay a heavy price for its liberation — tens of thousands had been killed, wounded and mutilated, while infrastructure was devastated. The challenges were daunting, but Libya was determined to build a new State that promoted social, economic and political equality in a healthy environment.
KEN KANDA ( Ghana) said, even with the constraints from the global financial and economic crisis, his country continued to demonstrate its commitment to the social development agenda. Ghana had undertaken a number of policies, including constituting the National Council on Persons with Disabilities, developing policies on elderly persons and youth, and implementing microfinance for poor women and microcredit for persons with disability. “Yet, in spite of our tireless efforts to improve the living conditions of our citizens, the fact still remains that the majority of our social protection and integration programmes are still donor-driven, thus making them difficult to sustain in the medium- to long-term period,” he said.
Many developing countries were more likely to cut spending to maintain macroeconomic stability amid declining external resources, but they needed policy space to pursue counter-cyclical policies to cushion the budgetary impact of the crisis, he said. Ghana considered the current economic crisis an opportunity to devise new ways to protect the poor and institutionalize social protections that address the needs of the most vulnerable and ensure mitigation against immediate poverty impacts. “Global financial institutions must support and allow developing countries to establish policies that endorse social protection strategies,” he said. “In conclusion, let me state that, in order to ensure social cohesion and economic growth, national Governments and the international community need to address the main obstacles to poverty eradication. We should be bold and devise new workable solutions.”
PEDRO NÚÑEZ MOSQUERA ( Cuba) said that, in addition to a world economic order that continued to exclude the legitimate interests of the countries of the South, the negative impacts of the financial and economic crisis, as well as the food crisis, must be added. Those most affected were the workers, the unemployed, the immigrants and the poor in those countries least responsible for the crisis. Meanwhile, the world invested over $1.5 trillion on the military, while another half a billion dollars was frittered away on illegal drugs. The difference in life expectancy between the richest and the poorest countries was 40 years. The fulfilment of the developed world’s pledges of 0.7 per cent of gross national product (GNP) to official development assistance (ODA) would make it possible to add another $100 billion to the sums currently available.
Stressing that the Millennium Development Goals remained a chimera for most countries, he said those Goals had almost been completely achieved in Cuba. In some cases, Government efforts had even surpassed those objectives. That success had been attained, despite the blockade by the United States, natural disasters and the economic crisis. In Cuba, no one was illiterate. More than 95 per cent of the population had electricity. Life expectancy at birth stood at 78 years. More than two thirds of the State budget was ear-marked for education, health care, and scientific and technical research, among other sectors. In addition, Cuba shared its wealth with developing countries through the provision of aid without conditions. Its literacy programme “Yes, I can” was available in 28 countries. Among other things, that showed that millions could be done with relatively little resources, if the developed world was committed to doing so, he said.
DIRK JANSSEN, youth representative of the Netherlands, said young people were becoming a globally interconnected generation. In the Netherlands, a poll of 11,000 youth found over 54 per cent had friendships outside Europe; interconnectedness forced young people to become conscious of each other’s presence, acknowledge each other’s humanity and accept our responsibility towards each other and the planet, thinking about the consequences of our actions to others. Youth organizations lead by example, inspiring many to meet the standard of “Do no Harm. Do Good,” he said.
Youth organizations were closely watching developments regarding the High-Level Meeting on Youth, he said. “They have seen the engagement of many missions and UN agencies. But, they also see the lack of political priority and financial support and the little meaningful youth participation during the International Year of Youth and during youth resolutions,” he said. It was time to let youth participate at the Organization as representatives from all countries, and make providing the young perspective a priority, respecting youth rights and investing in their working opportunities.
Addressing the Committee in Swedish sign language, MALIN JOHANSSON, youth delegate of Sweden, said she was continually questioned about her abilities because she was deaf, young and a woman. But, disability did not mean inability. Being young did not mean being dependent. Being a woman did not mean being an object. Educated in Swedish sign language and afforded the possibility of using sign language interpreters, she had been very privileged. Not all young people with disabilities were that fortunate. Indeed, the most marginalized were always the most severely affected during economic crises. Today, many young people were becoming more marginalized in the labour market and cut off from political participation. Progress towards the Millennium Development Goals had slowed. Yet, it was more important than ever for those Goals to be met and the World Programme of Action for Youth to be implemented.
She noted that young people around the globe had taken to the streets to show their disappointment and frustration in the face of rising youth unemployment and from a fear that no one was listening to them. In that context, political participation must be extended to all young people, including the 180 to 220 million youth with disabilities who had the same human rights as everyone else. Education was a key factor in creating equal opportunities, but schools must be physically accessible. Materials also had to be available to those with visual impairments to ensure that everyone could benefit from a quality education. Calling for young people to be part of the political process regardless of disability, ethnicity, religion or belief, sexual orientation, sex, gender identification or gender expression, she stressed that discrimination should never be accepted on any grounds, at any time. To that end, the norms that constituted the basis for discrimination must be transformed to create a more socially inclusive society for everyone’s benefit.
BASHAR JA’AFARI ( Syria) said Member States had collectively worked to implement social development objectives, but despite some achievements, they had not been realized more than 16 years after the World Summit for Social Development in Copenhagen. World crises, aggressive wars, serious violations of international law and continuing foreign occupation that threatened peace and security presented obstacles to social development, setting back local efforts. Syria had this year witnessed radical changes in public development policies, representing the Government’s vision for serious reform on all levels, he said.
His Government had issued many legislative decrees concerning national funds towards national development and social aid, he said. Under the auspices of Syria’s First Lady, many balanced economic and social policies had been implemented to reduce poverty and achieve equity of distribution. Syria had read the reports of the Secretary-General with interest and noted they dealt with very important issues, but ignored disasters and the negative consequences of the Israeli occupation of Palestine, he said.
ALFREDO CHUQUIHUARA (Peru) aligning with the Group of 77 and China, said poverty and extreme poverty, as well as a lack of access to basic services, labour markets, education and health care, placed the individual at a major disadvantage and resulted in social divisions. To transform economic growth into benefits for all citizens, it was critical for States to take action in support of excluded and vulnerable populations. That required full integration. The stability of the democratic order was also needed. That, in turn, required social justice, as well as equal access. The Peruvian Government that took office on 28 July was committed to a growth model that included social protection predicated on equality, non-discrimination and respect for national legal frameworks and international standards.
Continuing, he said Peru’s Ministry for Social Development and Inclusion was responsible for devising plans for cultural and social inclusion by reducing inequalities and implementing the Millennium Development Goals. That ministry was working on specific policies aimed at social inclusion, as well as national programmes for people of Andean, Amazonian and African descent. It sought to give pride of place to caring for children, women and the elderly and was implementing Peru’s “beyond the cradle” programme to provide support to children between birth and 3 years of age while their mothers were working. The State had also recently enacted a law on prior consultation, which, among other things, reaffirmed that there were no second-class citizens. The Peruvian Government would continue its work to further the situation of indigenous peoples. But, for its national social development efforts to be more effective, a supportive international climate was needed. In that context, he appealed to the international community to step up support for social inclusion policies, especially in developing countries.
TAHA AL-AWADHI ( Yemen) said his country believed that youth were the main foundation for development and was providing myriad activities for youth in athletics, culture and other fields. It had also passed legislation and begun a President’s award in a number of fields to help them develop skills. The country also placed a priority on the elderly, establishing elderly care centres and a fund for social care. Yet, he noted the Arab people under Israeli occupation continued to suffer, especially in the social and economic fields, preventing them from living in peace.
BENSON SAULO, youth delegate from Australia, said his ascent from attending a Government school on the “wrong” side of town to becoming the first aboriginal Australian to be appointed his country’s youth ambassador was a testament to the opportunities available in Australia, which invested in human potential and supported individual growth and community development. In May, he began a national engagement tour to gain a deeper understanding of the issues affecting youth locally, nationally and internationally. In the past six months, he had particularly focused on health, education, human rights and indigenous affairs. Australia’s youth and Government shared a common vision that reflected the commitments set forth in the National Strategy for Young Australians; that strategy aimed to have all young people grow up safe, healthy happy and resilient, with the opportunities and skills to learn, work and engage in community life, as well as influence decisions affecting them.
The recent “Listen to Children” report produced by the Australian Child Rights Taskforce said aboriginal children, child refugees and those from newly arrived backgrounds, as well as children with disabilities, did not always have the same educational opportunities as other students, he said. Australia had taken positive steps to support diverse learning styles nationally, and it had supported education programmes throughout Asia, the Pacific and elsewhere. For example, in Indonesia it was helping to build more than 4,000 schools, giving 650,000 children from poor families access to a decent education; in Samoa it was helping children with hearing impairments and intellectual disabilities make the transition from primary to secondary schools. He supported the Australian Child Rights Taskforce’s recommendation to set up an independent National Children’s Commissioner charged with setting strategic direction for youth based on policy development, and with monitoring the extent to which Australian children’s rights were being realized under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
ANDREAS DEUTINGER, youth delegate from Germany, said that he and his co-delegate, Heidrun Fritze, had travelled around Germany to learn about the visions and challenges of young people and how they saw themselves contributing to society. They discovered three priorities on which they would like the United Nations to focus: the strengthening of youth participation; international migration; and sustainable development. On youth participation, he said that youth must be involved in the entire decision-making process, from defining relevant issues to the implementation and evaluation of real policies. Young people were looking for a legal framework that would define that co-decision process. Municipal regulations, national laws and policies and the rules of procedures of international organizations did not yet fully provide this.
On migration, he said that issue had the potential to induce major political conflicts that would especially affect younger generations. He noted that industrialized countries regulated migration only in terms of economic interests, allowing access to skilled and specialized workers, but limiting those less qualified, an important source of human capital. Migration need to be understood as an opportunity rather than a threat to society. Regarding sustainable development, he noted the greater role civil society had played since the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, and called upon the private sector to play its part. Those efforts could only succeed, however, if politicians set the right course. “Young people demand a more comprehensive view of policies, not limited to the next round of elections,” he said. Formal and informal education on sustainable development was key, he said. Political decisions taken or not taken today on all those issues would determine the shape of the world in which today’s youth would live as adults.
MOURAD BENMEHIDI ( Algeria) aligning with the Group of 77 and China, said 1.4 billion people continued to live in abject poverty. Algeria was concerned with the ongoing effects of the global financial and food crises, which weighed heavily on efforts to promote social development. He encouraged Member States to adhere to the conclusion of the Fourth Conference of State Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. He also underscored the need to attach the highest priority to the situation of the elderly, who continued to face social exclusion in societies around the world. He applauded the final declaration of the Assembly’s High-level Meeting on Youth, underlining its conclusion that a global strategy for youth employment was needed. He expressed particular concern about the impact of high food prices, steep unemployment levels and the proliferation of pandemics on Africa, highlighting the urgent need for support from the international community.
Recalling Algeria’s structural reforms, he highlighted its public investment programmes, which supported economic growth and sought to secure economic recovery. Those investments — of which 40 per cent were earmarked for human development — had resulted in significant increases in Algeria’s gross domestic product. Reductions had also been seen in poverty and unemployment rates, while the education sector had seen its budget double over the past five years. In addition, the number of children attending school had increased. Changes in public health care had lead to positive changes in infant and maternal mortality rates. Measures to provide for job creation had also been undertaken, leading to improvements in the employment rate. Further, $15 billion had been spent in social transfers that focused on the poorest, including the elderly and disabled.
JOREN SELLESLAGHS, the first youth delegate from Belgium, noted that young people had trouble finding a decent job. Even before entering the job market, many children did not have access to basic education. The costs of higher education were “astronomical” and the availability of scholarships was steadily declining. Social and youth programmes were the first to be affected by austerity measures, when governments tried to reduce budget deficits. “By not investing in the future, however, they’re only creating a talent deficit,” he noted.
It was also difficult for young people to get credit, he said. Financial institutions should not deny the young opportunities due to cautious lending practices. The young were willing to shoulder their responsibilities in finding a way out of the crisis, to work or study hard, he continued. Nor did the young blame previous generations. All must work together. But, the young should be guaranteed the right to an education, a sustainable job, housing, health care and credit, as well as the right to enjoy their youth and adolescence.
JEANNE MAILLART, the second youth delegate from Belgium, was also concerned that governments were investing less in sustainable development, which she believed was the only way out of the crisis. For the sake of future generations, she called upon delegates to find long-term sustainable solutions. She also asked that youth participation in the pursuit of more prosperous times be increased.
RODAINA EL-BATNIGI, youth delegate of Austria, said the financial and economic crises had brought a rise in unemployment, but individual young people were continuously judged by “employability”, rather than other factors that would qualify them to be recognized as equal members of society. Special focus was also needed on girls and young women, she said, asking for gender-responsive budgeting and promotion of gender-sensitive methods in formal and non-formal education, as well as other measures. Tools to monitor development were needed to find sustainable solutions. “We are demanding proper debate about decisions and decision-making processes and more opportunities for participation, for young people in general and girls and young women in particular,” she said.
Young people with disabilities were also less likely to enrol or stay in school, and were more likely to be affected by unemployment, she said, while the second Millennium Development Goal of full primary schooling for children was still “more than an arm’s length out of reach”. She urged promotion of citizenship education, effective opportunities for full participation of young people in relevant decision-making processes, increased effort to mainstream youth issues into other policy areas and recognizing the need for specific initiatives for youth.
SAIFUL AZAM ABDULLAH ( Malaysia) said that the free-for-all of financial liberalization had not been accompanied by the requisite safeguards of corporate social responsibility and discipline. Thus, as the Committee re-examined the policy prescriptions it recommended to the General Assembly, it must reinforce the commitment to the larger political goals of the World Summit on Social Development. It was clear that the structure of the global financial and economic environment had to be addressed. In addition, the goals of helping the most vulnerable groups had to be addressed with honesty and clarity.
Underlining his Government’s belief that persons with disabilities were entitled to the same rights as other citizens, he cited its ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on 19 July 2010 as proof of its intentions to ensure that the disabled enjoyed their rights to protection, prevention, rehabilitation, development and integration in society. He further stressed that the role of the family was integral in Malaysia’s national development agenda, as well as at the international level. The Government had finalized a national family policy that aimed to realize a caring, strong and resilient family system. It had also transformed its National Youth Policy of 1985 into a National Youth Development Policy in 1997. It encompassed areas such as youth empowerment, human resource development, youth leadership and youth enterprise development. The Government continued to engage with the younger generation through national events, such as the National Youth Day. It was also working to harness the pool of resources provided by older persons in line with the United Nations Principles for Older Persons and the Shanghai Implementation Strategy for the Madrid and Macao Plans of Action on Ageing.
ALINA BÖLING, youth delegate of Finland, said recent developments around the world showed questions of youth, peace and security were directly linked with issues concerning the education, employability and social inclusion of youth. “Through tackling issues such as education successfully, we can also avoid having large masses of young people around the globe living without a hope of a brighter future,” she said. But, reaching universal primary education was far from enough; secondary education and adequate skills were an important investment in sustainable growth.
“Secondary education is today a prerequisite for participation in the global economy, and as it socially empowers young people it also gives them access to decent work,” she said. Non-formal education also remained integral, especially when it came to civic engagement of young people, and should be recognized as an important way to improve social development and young people today. Since half of the world’s population were under 30 years of age, granting young people the prospect of possibilities was granting our societies sustainable and peaceful development. “Education is a right that our societies cannot afford to deny,” she said.
LAURIE SHESTACK PHIPPS ( United States) said the committee had the opportunity to highlight the importance of job creation for youth, so they could fulfil their potential and contribute to solutions. Young people and their desire for political freedom and economic opportunity played a significant role in the social and political transformations across North Africa and the Middle East, she noted. Education was fundamental to employment and social development; in February the United States released its new education strategy that, among other things, committed to increasing access to education for 15 million learners affected by crisis and conflict by 2015. All children should have access to quality education, and that schooling should be relevant to a rapidly changing global job market, she said.
The United States was also working to elevate youth engagement at the United Nations. For example, in December 2010, Ambassador Susan Rice chaired a Security Council session in which the agenda was set by international youth. The United States also continued to elevate the importance of disability issues, she said. In July, President Barack Obama reiterated his commitment to upholding the rights of persons with disabilities, ending all forms of discrimination against them and having the United States ratify the Disabilities Convention. Her country would continue to work with other key partners, including the Organization, to together achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
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