Austerity Measures Adopted by Developed Countries Hurt Global Growth, Push More into Poverty, Just When Greater Social Protection Needed, Third Committee Told
Austerity Measures Adopted by Developed Countries Hurt Global Growth, Push More into Poverty, Just When Greater Social Protection Needed, Third Committee Told
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-sixth General Assembly
4th & 5th Meetings (AM & PM)
Austerity Measures Adopted by Developed Countries Hurt Global Growth, Push More
into Poverty, Just When Greater Social Protection Needed, Third Committee Told
Hears Some 45 Speakers as Two-Day Social Development Debate Concludes
Austerity measures adopted by developed countries to address the current economic upheaval hurt global growth and pushed millions more into poverty just when greater social protection was needed, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) was told today.
As the Committee concluded its general discussion on social development, 35 delegates and representatives of international organizations took the floor, joined by 10 youth delegates, who underscored the value of young people’s participation in decision-making processes at national and international levels.
Pointing to spiralling food and oil prices and economic turmoil that had contributed to rising inflation and unemployment in developing countries, delegates appealed to the international community to maintain development commitments, despite lingering problems from the 2008 financial crisis. The financial crisis had hit hardest at the most vulnerable, including children, youth, older persons and persons with disabilities, they said.
The representative of Indonesia said it would take four to five years to return to pre-crisis global employment levels at the current pace of recovery. To get back on the path to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, sustained economic growth and job creation was required. At the same time, he said, effective social protection systems must become an integral part of the policy mix.
Speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, Chile’s representative called for reform of the international financial architecture to prevent further financial crises, along with improved access to export markets and increased technology transfer. States needed to continue crisis measures, such as job creation and benefits that reached the most vulnerable, since they were essential for more equitable economic growth. “Policies should continue to protect basic social spending on health and education, as long as the fallout from the crisis continues,” he said.
The representative of Azerbaijan said his country had mitigated the shocks of the financial crisis and kept consistent economic growth through preserving oil and gas revenues from boom times, and called for others to adopt more permanent social protection measures.
Many delegates stressed during the day-long debate that greater cooperation was needed to fulfil the social development agenda. The representative of Kenya, for example, said his country currently used a sizeable portion of its resources to confront impacts of drought, famine and rising food prices; his country had been shouldering the burden of refugees from Somalia for two decades and bore the brunt of the current humanitarian and security crisis there.
“This should not be a Kenyan problem alone,” he said. “The international community must come in and provide more humanitarian assistance, if we are to realistically to achieve the [Millennium Development Goals].”
Youth delegates highlighted the importance of education, particularly for women, youth and other marginalized groups to reduce poverty and inequality, lifting the development of whole societies. But, even addressing education often required close international cooperation, some said.
The youth delegate of Slovakia said that while universal primary education was a “hot topic”, little attention was paid to the education of minorities, which deepened cultural gaps and made minority youth more likely to resort to violence. Highlighting the situation of the Roma, she said only 42 per cent of Roma children in Europe had completed primary education, while their attendance in secondary schools was only 10 per cent. Those statistics indicated that an alarming number of Roma children were not even close to reaching Millennium Development Goal 2.
The Director of the Department of International Organizations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Mongolia and the Minister of Social Action and National Solidarity of Burkina Faso also made comments.
Also speaking today were representatives of Venezuela, Morocco, Republic of Korea, Colombia, Japan, China, India, Viet Nam, Eritrea, Qatar, Bolivia, Ukraine, Zimbabwe, Iraq, Sudan, Pakistan, United Republic of Tanzania, Niger, Tunisia, Portugal, Sri Lanka, Côte d’Ivoire, Bangladesh, United Arab Emirates, Oman and Ecuador.
Youth delegates from Bulgaria, Republic of Korea, Romania, Rwanda, Dominican Republic and the United Arab Emirates also addressed the Committee, as did representatives of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO).
The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. Wednesday, 5 October, to begin its discussion on crime prevention and criminal justice and international drug control.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to continue its debate on social development. For more information, please see Press Release GA/SHC/4004.
EDUARDO GÁLVEZ ( Chile), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, said social integration was part of a social contract based on solidarity and humanism. Amid the global economic and financial crisis, development commitments had to be maintained. The Rio Group agreed donors and international financial institutions should allow debt reduction and not impose conditions restricting the policy-making authority of national Governments, particularly in social spending. States needed to continue crisis measures, such as job creation and benefits that reached the most vulnerable, since they were essential for more equitable economic growth. “Policies should continue to protect basic social spending on health and education, as long as the fall-out from the crisis continues,” he said.
Hunger and poverty were one of the worst forms of human rights violation, he said. Therefore, eradicating them was an ethical, political and economic challenge for all. “Food security, and particularly the crisis, provoked by the unprecedented increase in food prices, is a matter of great concern to the member countries of the Rio Group, mainly because of its impact on social questions and the way it affects workers’ purchasing power,” he said. New forms of international cooperation must be explored, guaranteeing access to quality food, and moving towards better integrated societies. Developed countries had to improve access to the developing world’s export market, enhance foreign direct investment’s influence on development by increasing technology transfer, and reform international financial architecture to prevent financial crises.
“The Rio Group has constantly promoted the rights and dignity of women, indigenous populations, young people, the elderly, migrants and persons with disabilities, since they are often excluded from national development and still subjected to discrimination,” he said. Measures to promote employment and combat poverty had to focus on equality, social integration and mainstreaming a gender perspective — full employment for women was a prerequisite to satisfactory economic and social development. The multidimensional nature of poverty required new strategies that “go beyond words” to attain internationally agreed development goals.
STEFANI SIMENOVA, youth delegate of Bulgaria, stressed that the quality of education needed to be improved around the world. Too often upon graduation, young people found that their education did not meet the demands of the labour market and found themselves unemployed. Increasing the quality of education would develop the potential of young people, making them well-rounded, tolerant individuals who cared about the world around them. That, in turn, would contribute to global development. Bulgaria’s national education policy aimed to stimulate students, increase their participation in school and improve the country’s situation, as a whole. While young people should be included in decision-making processes, the majority of Governments still did not involve youth in developing and implementing youth-oriented policies. That left many young people feeling undermined and often created tensions that could ultimately result in violence and crime.
Bulgaria’s second youth delegate, KATERINA LOVTCHINOVA, underscored the growing length of time between graduation and employment in her country. Currently, undergraduate and graduate programmes did not provide enough practical training aimed at developing skill-sets in different sectors, while the networks between schools’ career centres and future employers were weak. Yet, those problems could be solved with better communication in the educational and employment sectors. The Bulgarian Government was also working to reduce unemployment, including through a renewed employment strategy from 2008-2015 that aligned with the European Union’s Lisbon Strategy. Significant improvements had been made since 2008, but youth unemployment rates were still unsatisfactory.
JORGE VALERO (Venezuela), aligning with the Group of 77 and China and the Rio Group, said the commitments made at the World Summit for Social Development in 1985 had not been fulfilled by certain powers. Moreover, the perverse effects of capitalism’s financial and economic crisis had reinforced the mercantilization of the human rights to health, food, work and education, further truncating the achievement of international social development goals. While Venezuela had not escaped the adverse effects of that crisis, it had kept social inversion as a priority in its national budget. Moreover, the country had opted for a society where social justice prevailed. As a result, it had experienced sustained growth in the Human Development Index of over 0.08 and reduced the number of households in extreme poverty by 60 per cent. Currently, 96 per cent of Venezuelans had access to clean drinking water and in July 2011, the unemployment rate stood at 8 per cent, a dramatic reduction from 2003.
Underlining the “undeniable achievements” of Venezuela’s revolution in eradicating poverty and inequality, he stressed that the country had attained nearly all the Millennium Development Goals. Polices aimed at empowering and integrating youth had been created, deepened and promoted over the past 12 years. The family occupied a central place in the Government’s social development policies and families had benefited from programmes, such as the Food Mission and the Mothers of the Shanty-Towns Mission. Venezuela had also been elected to chair the Social Development Committee in its forty-ninth and fiftieth sessions, which took “poverty eradication” as a priority theme. He, thus, called for laying the foundation during that Committee’s next session for the adoption of effective measures to tackle the real problems impeding countries from achieving social development, full respect of human rights and democratic freedoms.
ABDELMOUNAÏM EL FAROUQ ( Morocco) said the international crisis had brought constant volatility to the world, affecting the prices of basic products. Action was needed for a social system that protected the marginalized, who lacked the means for subsistence. From the beginning of the crisis, Morocco set up a strategic monitoring facility to cope with the slowdown. Over the next five years, his country planned to further refine national initiatives so it could more effectively combat poverty.
Older persons deserved special attention as population, ageing was a worldwide development, he said. The current century would certainly be known as “the century of ageing”, as announced by demographer Alfred Saucy. Instruments on the rights of older persons deserved further study, to find best possible way to protect their fundamental rights. There was discrimination against older persons in their day-to-day life; ageing was a complex processes, and there had to be an adjustment, so that rather than a burden, the experiences of the aged were seen as a source of wealth. Ageing immigrant populations also needed specific programmes to protect their rights and meet their expectations, he said.
MONIKA MAREKOVÁ, youth delegate of Slovakia, said a quality education determined not only the course of an individual’s life, but the development of a whole society. Education was a “hot topic” and the achievement of universal primary education was recognized in the Millennium Development Goals, as well as the Dakar Framework for Action, “Education for all”, which stipulated that everyone was supposed to have completed free, compulsory primary education of high quality. However, there was very little global attention afforded to the education of minorities, which was particularly important for the preservation of their cultural heritage, language and traditions. It was equally unacceptable to segregate minority children, since such practices only deepened cultural gaps and hindered the peaceful coexistence of majority and minority populations. Indeed, when minority youth lacked proper education, they were marginalized and more likely to resort to violence, she said.
Highlighting the situation of the Roma, she said their education was not limited to countries where they lived, but had cross-border implications. Currently only 42 per cent of Roma children in Europe had completed primary education. Their attendance in secondary education stood at only 10 per cent. Those statistics indicated that an alarming number of Roma children were not even close to reaching Millennium Development Goal 2. Aware of the urgency in tackling those and other issues, Slovakia had developed a strategy for a solution to Roma-related problems. Among other things, it aimed to ensure that all Roma children had equal access to quality education. It also sought to close the gap between Roma and majority children at all education levels. Slovakia was also committed to ending the segregation of Roma children. Nonetheless, it was impossible to solve that complex problem without close international cooperation, and an international platform for States to exchange information and experience was needed.
SHIN SONG-IK (Republic of Korea) said efforts to eradicate extreme poverty needed to be redoubled, and his country would expand employment growth by targeting 190,000 of its most poor by 2012 with employment opportunities and training programmes. Social protection schemes had also maintained sustainable and inclusive economic growth amid the recent crisis, and his country had increased its welfare services by 6.3 per cent this year. Socially vulnerable groups hit hardest by the recent downturn, such as persons with disabilities and older persons, needed particular attention. Faced with rapid demographic changes, his Government took the issue of an ageing population very seriously, and had implemented policies, such as a basic pension for the elderly, care services, and expanded infrastructure for volunteer and leisure activities.
AHN LEE-SEUL, youth delegate for the Republic of Korea, said providing sufficient access to education for youth could give opportunities for employment and also lift them from previous generations of poverty. The Government of the Republic of Korea had given many low-income students free test preparation lectures through its public broadcast system, she said. It was also important to allow those with different cultural backgrounds the same opportunities, as socially vulnerable groups could be helped through sufficient support in education.
BOGDAN BACIN, youth delegate of Romania, underscored the need for the active participation, employment and education of youth in all societies, including his. With their capacity for innovation and their enthusiasm in embracing change, youth could be easily directed towards addressing some of the most complex problems facing the world today. As recognized in the European Youth Strategy, youth involvement was not only desirable, but instrumental in shaping a better social, political and economic environment for the benefit for all. In Romania, the level of youth participation was on the rise. At the same time, however, only a small percentage of young people were involved in volunteerism activities. He, thus, appealed to all young people to step up and engage in those national, regional or international programmes aimed at improving their standing.
Romania’s second youth delegate, ALEXANDRA NASTASE, said the issue of access to an adequate education and training must be adjusted to the demands of today’s complicated labour market. Actual working experience attained from internships and active participation in youth non-governmental organizations was critical and should complement existing educational systems. In Romania, a new law encouraging and facilitating the establishment of small- and medium-sized companies by youth had been passed. Also, various private companies were partnering with universities or non-governmental organizations to offer internships to young people. Yet, career-oriented guidance in schools must still be strengthened. The benefits of non-formal education and volunteerism must also be considered as part of the solution. She appealed to all Member Sates to continue scaling up efforts to create better conditions for young people, so that they could continue to develop their competencies and fulfil their potential.
MIGUEL CAMILO RUIZ ( Colombia), aligning with the Rio Group, stressed that his Government was working to reduce poverty and social inequality. Colombia’s new political Constitution of 1991 set forth a full list of citizens’ rights, making it mandatory for the State to ensure the well-being of all. Currently, access to primary education was universal. The State had substantially reduced infant mortality and provided better services for young children. Economic growth was proceeding, despite the economic and financial crisis. Indeed, Colombia was expected to see a 6.1 per cent rise in its gross domestic product (GDP). Its national development plan emphasized social protection and job creation.
Continuing, he said the Government approached gender mainstreaming and aid to youth as cross-cutting issues that touched all sectors of the economy. It was focusing, in particular, on economically vulnerable people, but faced challenges in reaching those individuals. His delegation believed that, as the world community prepared for next year’s United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, known as Rio+20, it was time to review social development models in order to truly link the social, economic and environmental pillars. Moreover, policies that promoted further links between economic and social development would help ensure that the social fabric held together.
ATSUKO HESHIKI ( Japan) said her Government had undertaken specific efforts to protect vulnerable groups. With the goal of achieving a cohesive society, Japan was setting up a commission on policy for persons with disabilities, reflecting the new legal concept of “reasonable accommodations” introduced by the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2007. Japan, a rapidly ageing society in which 23 per cent of the population was over 65, was also implementing comprehensive measures through two acts, and continued to facilitate employment opportunities, a reliable public pension system and medical insurance reform for the elderly.
Promoting the participation of vulnerable groups was necessary for social integration, and his Government promoted volunteer opportunities for youth and older persons. “We would like to report that a lot of people, including youth and older persons, have volunteered to help in the reconstruction of the devastated communities in the aftermath of the great eastern Japan earthquake,” she said. Japan had submitted, with Brazil, a draft resolution to the Committee on the tenth anniversary of the international year of volunteers, putting emphasis on the need to promote all forms of volunteerism to benefit all segments of society, including vulnerable groups. “We hope that more States will extend their support to this resolution,” she said.
WANG MIN ( China) noting that the recovery of the world economy remained fragile, said the intertwined problems of climate change, food and energy security, natural disasters and regional unrest were posing unprecedented challenges to every country’s social development. Rising unemployment, growing poverty, erosion of public welfare and reductions in expenditures for education and health care were jeopardizing the survival of the most vulnerable groups, such as the elderly and persons with disabilities. Going forward, the implementation of the outcome document of the Conference on Social Development and Madrid Plan of Action must continue. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities should be vigorously promoted and priority should be given to the latest outcome documents on youth, health and education.
He said that, in a post-crisis era, Governments should pay more attention to social development issues, including by focusing on employment promotion and improvements in livelihoods in long-term strategies. Social development was the driving force, and efforts to tackle the economic crisis should not be made at its expense. Support to developing countries should be scaled up, although a cautious approach should be taken in attaching aid conditions. Developed countries should honour their official development assistance (ODA) commitments in good faith. Meanwhile, developing countries should broaden and deepen South-South cooperation. For its part, China adhered to a people-centred, comprehensive, coordinated and sustainable approach to development. A basic medical insurance system for urban residents was in place and universal, free, compulsory education had been realized. At the same time, China continued to provide assistance to other developing countries, as its ability permitted. That aid included infrastructure, primary education and health care.
MACHARIA KAMAU ( Kenya), aligning with the Group of 77 and China, said all indications pointed to a very difficult year ahead. Spiralling oil prices and economic turmoil had contributed to rising inflation in developing countries, with the price of food and other essentials similarly rising. The international community must cushion these fragile economies through “ring-fencing” funds to stabilize the financial and economic sectors. Kenya was currently using a sizeable portion of its resources to confront the adverse impacts of drought, famine and rising food prices. It had been shouldering the burden of refugees from Somalia for 20 years and bore the brunt of the impact from the humanitarian and security crisis unfolding there. “This should not be a Kenyan problem alone,” he stressed. “The international community must come in and provide more humanitarian assistance, if we are to realistically to achieve the [Millennium Development Goals].”
He said that, as nations attempted to create cohesive societies that addressed common needs, those efforts must go “hand in glove” with the creation of inclusive and accountable governance institutions that integrated economic and social policies. The Kenyan Government was working to realize the right to education, access to health services and a decent living for every citizen through the implementation of its constitution and increased investment in its Vision 2030 flagship projects. It had set up and committed substantial resources to the Disability Fund for persons with disabilities. It had put in place a social programme to provide cash transfers for vulnerable households and headed by older persons. Other initiatives included the Youth Enterprise and Women Enterprise Development Funds. Its overarching goal was promoting equal opportunity and ensuring access to all social protection programmes.
RATNA DE ( India) said her Government was focused on achieving inclusive growth, working on areas, such as education, health, job creation and affordable housing, to tackle poverty in a coordinated manner. A rural employment scheme guaranteed 53 million poor rural households 100 days of employment per year through public works, helping break social inequalities and revive economic growth, while building infrastructure in rural areas. Education was another key to social development; India now had special schemes to reduce female illiteracy and provide access to education for disabled children. The Government had also erected a framework to assist persons with disabilities and eliminate all barriers they faced, she said.
“With nearly 80 million older persons, India has the second largest population of older people in the world. This number will only grow in the future, as life expectance has grown as a consequence of sustained high economic growth over the past decade and a half, and medical advances,” she said. National policies and the Madrid Plan of Action provided a framework to ensure older persons had a life of dignity. But, the goal to eradicate poverty, achieve full employment and foster just, stable societies set in 1995 remained far from realized, she said, calling for redoubled collective effort.
YUSRA KHAN (Indonesia), aligning with the Group of 77 and China and the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), said the shift in policy orientation towards austerity in developed countries was hurting global economic growth and pushing more people into poverty. The global unemployment rate in 2010 had reached 6.2 per cent. Moreover, at the current pace of recovery, it would take four to five years to return to pre-crisis global employment levels. To arrest that deterioration — and to put the global economy back on the path to achieving the Millennium Development Goals — sustained economic growth and job creation was required. At the same time, effective social protection systems must become an integral part of the policy mix.
Turning to the domestic situation, he said Indonesia’s policy of “development for all” combined financial, monetary and fiscal policies. Earlier this year, the Government had launched the Master Plan for the Acceleration and Expansion of Indonesia Economic Growth. That strategy aimed to address those disparities and imbalances in economic growth that remained a key impediment for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and the Copenhagen Declaration. At the same time, Indonesia was implementing its four-pronged national economic strategy, which was pro-growth, pro-jobs, pro-poor and pro-environment. The Government was also working to improve food security through increased budget allocations for agriculture. Family policies also aimed at raising the quality of life for children, teenagers and the elderly through access to information, education and counselling. Other initiatives aimed at creating more job opportunities for youth, and free health insurance for the poor.
ONON SODOV, Director of the Department of International Organizations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Mongolia, said her country had achieved, or was likely to achieve, 66 per cent of its Millennium Development Goals, but targeted initiatives and more effort was needed to halve poverty, provide housing, ensure sustainability and achieve gender equality. “ Mongolia is a country of youth,” she said. “However, inadequate qualifications and skills, as well as a high unemployment rate among the young people remain a challenge,” she said. The Government, this year specifically, targeted youth for employment promotion.
Mongolia’s Government had established a national committee to plan activities in preparation for the International Year of Cooperatives in 2012, since the contribution of cooperatives to employment creation, food security and strengthening societies was apparent. “In conclusion, I wish to bring to the attention of the Committee that Mongolia will table today a draft resolution on Cooperatives in Social Development. It is our sincere hope that this draft resolution will enjoy Member States’ support,” she said.
LE HOAI TRUNG (Viet Nam), aligning with ASEAN and the Group of 77 and China, said the world economy was close to a new danger zone, with many countries struggling with public debts, fiscal deficit, high inflation rates, unemployment risks and an unsustainable recovery. Those problems, in turn, created major impediments to the attainment of international social development goals. Developed and developing countries alike were forced to reduce social spending, resulting in setbacks in many areas. For its part, Viet Nam had undertaken steps to maintain a balance between economic growth and social development. In the last few years it had worked to overcome the negative impacts of the financial crisis and maintain economic growth, while also improving the quality of life, health care and education of its people.
As result, Viet Nam’s total domestic product per capita in 2010 was roughly three times higher than in 2000, he said. The national poverty rate had been reduced from 22 per cent in 2005 to 9.5 per cent in 2010. Access to better quality basic health care had improved, while deaths from infectious diseases had been reduced. Among other advances, health insurance coverage had grown by a factor of five between 2000 and 2010. Moreover, the country had accomplished most of the Millennium Development Goals ahead of the 2015 deadline. To maintain that momentum, however, Viet Nam had to address its inadequate infrastructure and low economic competitiveness. A global failure to mitigate and adapt to climate change would also threaten those gains. The Vietnamese Government considered it critically important for the international community to develop new, practical and appropriate initiatives to assist developing countries in overcoming challenges in furthering social developments, particularly in light of the looming 2015 deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
AMANUEL GIORGIO ( Eritrea) said navigating multiple world crises while also overcoming specific national obstacles had become increasingly difficult. Greater cooperation and solidarity was needed to reach the goals of social development, but national Governments had to remain committed to sustained social progress. “In this regard, national Governments must have the needed policy space in order to be able to develop home-grown initiatives and strategies that reflect country specific conditions and priorities,” he said.
Eritrea was also fully convinced of the pivotal role of youth, he said. Human capital was at the centre of its development agenda, and it had made a significant investment in free education for all. Eritrea’s social policy had put it on track to achieve some of the Millennium Development Goals, and its life expectancy had increased from an average of 52 in 1995 to nearly 60 in 2008. But, the road to achieving all the Goals was long and tortuous, and Eritrea had renewed its commitment through a five-year indicative development plan.
NORA KHALIFA AL-THANI (Qatar), recalling that her country began a new phase in social development 15 years ago, said it aimed to expand social services at the country level and speed up international cooperation with countries from all over the world. Further, Qatar’s comprehensive national agenda for social development, which aimed to raise the standard of living for every citizen, was people-centred and focused on fundamental human rights. Indeed, the Qatari State believed human beings were at the heart of development and it attached great importance to the promotion of social justice and the maintenance of values and social practices that ensured social cohesion.
Turning to the issue of youth, she urged comprehensive reviews and assessments of the achievements made and obstacles remaining in implementing the World Programme of Action for Youth. Acting on its belief that young people were the essential component in building a promising future, Qatar had prioritized the themes of the International Year of Youth — namely, dialogue and understanding — among its policies. It was striving to ensure that its elderly population enjoyed their full rights and lived in decent conditions. The Government supported efforts to promote a bottom-up, participatory approach to the programme on ageing. Meanwhile, the seemingly intractable political divisions regarding the family should not prevent Member States from finding common denominators. Finally, she highlighted the launch of Qatar’s National Vision 2030, which aimed to transform the country into a developed nation able to ensure a decent living for its people generation after generation.
RAFAEL ARCHONDO ( Bolivia), aligning with the statement of the Group of 77 and China, said his country believed in living well, based on the philosophy of its indigenous peoples. That meant living in harmony with nature, and had been the basis of Bolivia’s national plan of development. “We believe that living well is different from living better,” he said. Bolivia worked towards equal opportunities for all, not living at the expense of others. The country’s new Constitution, among other things, reaffirms the right to decent water and telecommunications. Drinking water in Bolivia was recognized as a human right that could not be contracted to a private service. Though access to drinking water had been recognized as a human right in the Organization, he said, more needed to be done around the world.
Bolivia also placed a priority on education, and in 2010, became the third country in Latin America to be free of illiteracy. Its law on agrarian reform had given land titles to women and allowed other vulnerable groups land ownership for agriculture and raising livestock. Bolivia’s national policy on ageing was enshrined in its Constitution, ensuring the elderly a life of dignity in human warmth. All Bolivians over the age of 60 got a lifetime rental unit, paid for with the proceeds from national petroleum. Public policies also provided recreation for older persons comparable to their capacities, he said.
HANNA PROROK ( Ukraine) said her Government had taken the necessary steps to launch national economic reform programmes that included social dimensions. It was evident that urgent financial measures must be taken, in line with long-term social and economic development strategies, to ensure sustained economy growth, create new jobs and improve the living standards of citizens. Globally, the economic recession was the main obstacle to the fulfilment of the social development agenda. It negatively impacted the most vulnerable in society, including children, youth, older persons and persons with disabilities.
Ukraine had duly included the social dimension of sustainable development in its State programme to eradicate and prevent poverty, she said. Other State priorities included stabilizing labour markets and diminishing unemployment rates. The Government was working to develop a constructive partnership with the International Labour Organization (ILO) based on its Decent Work Country Programme for 2008-2011 and the provisions of ILO’s Global Job Pact. In that regard, Ukraine was focused on the wider involvement of young people in the development and implementation of economic and social policies. It was also maintaining its dialogue and constructive cooperation with trade unions and recognized the invaluable contribution of cooperatives to economic recovery, social integration and sustainable development.
CHITSAKA CHIPAZIWA (Zimbabwe), aligning with the statement of the Group of 77 and China, as well as the statement of the Southern African Development Community, said the full impact of the global financial and economic crisis had to be assessed in context with other challenges faced by poor countries. “In Zimbabwe’s case, the declining economic growth and poverty as a result of the economic strangulation that my country is enduring as a result of the financial and economic sanctions imposed by the [European Union], the [ United States] and their allies must be taken into account,” he said. Communicable and non-communicable diseases, as well as climate change, also increased pressure on the social state of his country’s people.
The burden of the economic crisis was worse for most vulnerable groups, however, and the situation of persons with disabilities, the elderly and youth required increased attention, he said. Zimbabwe would soon be a State Party to the Convention on Persons with Disabilities, as soon as its domestic legal harmonization process was completed. Further, the youth agenda had always been a priority for Zimbabwe’s Government, but unemployment and negative global economic conditions had resulted in increased numbers of idle youth. He urged a properly structured global framework for youth development, but condemned the abuse and exploitation of young people “to cause social upheavals for misguided and sinister foreign owned political ends”.
MUHAMMED HASSAN ALMOSSAWY ( Iraq) said his Government was working to close the gap between the rich and poor, as well as to create jobs for its people. It was also striving to secure a social and political environment that ensured stability. Nonetheless, Iraq continued to face a number of difficulties in transitioning to a market economy, in addition to the lingering problems from its conflict-filled past and its ongoing fight against terrorism. Among other things, the Government had adopted a five-year plan for economic and agricultural development that aimed to encourage investment and provide opportunities to young people. Among other policies, it hoped to launch a major housing project, “10 million houses for $10 billion”, which would create jobs and stimulate the local economy.
He said that, in other areas, Iraq was regulating immigration in accordance with the conventions and protocols to which it was a party. Other programmes focused on bringing services to the rural population, improving individual income levels and raising employment rates, particularly among youth. It was adopting a housing policy that was linked to national income levels. The Iraqi Government was also continuing consultations with the members of the Paris Club to address the country’s debts.
KHALID ABDEl GADIR SHUKRI (Sudan), aligning with the Group of 77 and China, said the great challenges facing the world — such as the global financial crisis, fluctuating food prices, increasing energy prices and climate change — had cast a dark shadow on social development. Those crises required further cooperation and integration in the international community on the basis of accountability. He noted that Sudan had fully committed to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and had accepted the results of the referendum in the South. It had also expressed its intention to maintaining good neighbourliness with its southern neighbour, while also committing to the Doha document on Darfur.
Sudan’s national plan on poverty aimed to support 17 different sections, including programmes for recent graduates, he said. Other plans aimed at eliminating poverty, granting full access to middle and higher education and programmes to combat illiteracy. The Government also sought to provide health care, potable water and human settlements to marginalized groups. Moreover, it had elaborated a 25-year strategy for social and economic development that, among other things, sought to transfer financial resources to the most marginalized. It served as a major mechanism for social welfare, cooperation and interdependence between all parts of Sudanese society. In other areas, Sudan had deployed extensive efforts to finance projects for its youth, while also providing support for the elderly and the disabled. Concluding, he called on the international community to provide development assistance to developing countries.
FARID JAFAROV ( Azerbaijan) said the financial and economic crises continued to demand intervention — increased unemployment, poverty and hunger would continue to affect billions for years to come and undermine progress towards the Millennium Development Goals. Each country had the primary responsibility for its own development, with national efforts balanced by supportive global programmes. Azerbaijan’s pragmatic policies had mitigated the shocks of the financial crisis and kept consistent economic growth. “In order to support counter-cyclical measures in times of need, the Government preserved fiscal resources, especially revenues generated from oil and gas production during boom times,” he said.
Universal social protection systems and labour market programmes should become permanent measures, rather than temporary responses to national crises, he said. “Isolation of social policy from economic strategy can lead to the decrease in such spheres as education and health, and thus can adversely affect national social progress,” he said. Azerbaijan also attached great importance to strengthening socio-economic welfare of persons with disabilities, promoting and protecting their rights. But, it still faced challenges; its largest was the continued occupation of almost one fifth of its territory, which he said had made every ninth person in the country internally displaced, or a refugee.
MARGHOOB SALEEM BUTT ( Pakistan) underscored how the multiple crises of finance, food and fuel had had serious repercussions throughout the world, including the deterioration of macroeconomic indicators and increasing challenges for the least advantaged segments of society. For its part, Pakistan was committed to aggressive reforms through a multi-pronged strategy aimed at achieving broad-based economic growth, bringing the poor into the mainstream and empowering woman and youth. On that basis, the Government had implemented social protection programmes that, among other things, aimed to reduce poverty. Outlining specific examples, he highlighted a cash transfer programme for women and families, as well as a fund to support the destitute, widows and orphans. In addition, a Government-supported internship programme paid recent graduates for work in the public sector, thereby increasing their employability.
OMBENI SEFUE (United Republic of Tanzania), aligning with the Group of 77 and China and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), stressed that rural development and agricultural productivity were fundamental to social development, poverty eradication and meeting the Millennium Development Goals in countries like his. His Government had developed an “agriculture first” programme to modernize and improve production. It sought to address the entire agriculture value-chain, including marketing. Land legislation had also been reformed to further ensure the rights of women and to contribute to a broader agenda of women’s empowerment.
In pursuit of its people-centred development policies, the Government had undertaken a decentralization programme to devolve powers to local governments and ensure people’s participation in decisions affecting their own development, he said. Policies had also been put in place to support vulnerable groups, such as women, youth, the elderly, the family and persons with disabilities. Those included the National Ageing Policy of 2003, the 2003 Social Security Policy, the National Social Policy Framework and the 2010 National Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty. To address the strong links between poverty and disability, Tanzania had undertaken efforts to assist the disabled.
HAMLIMATOU D. SADDY ( Niger), aligning with the statement of the Group of 77 and China, said her constitution reaffirmed the right of older persons to social protections. Descendents had the right and duty to help older persons, with support of the collective. Niger had created a division for protection of the family and older persons at its Ministry for Population, Promotion of Women and Protection of Children. The country ensured its citizens full equality before the law. Those laws protected older persons from abuse, while their participation in the community was their own decision, under no constraints. Enshrining the right of older persons in its Constitution, Niger was also studying a bill to further protect their rights in law.
AMIRA DALI ( Tunisia), aligning with the Group of 77 and China, recalled her country’s social and democratic revolution earlier this year, which marked the end of a despotic regime. It was, she stressed, the response to 23 years of an anti-democratic and antisocial system that confiscated liberties, exacerbated social inequalities and impoverished large segments of society. To remedy that situation, the transitional Government had devised a far-reaching economic and social programme targeting investment and social protection. To address youth employment, it had developed a job creation policy that focused on short-term employment to the benefit of 240,000. Aware of the urgency of finding solutions to unemployment, Tunisia called for the implementation of the recommendations of the outcome of July’s high-level Meeting on Youth.
The transitional Government was also working toward regional development, including by investing in infrastructure programmes and employment schemes, she said. Among other initiatives, it allocated funds to the neediest 185,000 families. Further outreach included micro-loans to disadvantaged families. The Government was equally attentive to the concerns of youth, including guaranteeing their participation in decision-making, she noted.
BONKOUNGOU KANDOLO, Minister of Social Action and National Solidarity of Burkina Faso, said the world had not yet met expectations, even though the number of poor people had dropped. Effective protection measures and basic services could help families. In the wake of the Organization’s activities for youth this year, her country trusted those initiatives could be continued, so the world could demonstrate its commitment to young people.
Burkina Faso also attached great emphasis on the rights of the disabled, she said. Ratifying in July 2009 the Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities, it had also taken significant steps in areas of education and health for the disabled. Disabled persons suffered from particularly difficult circumstances — they were marginalized and often were not even recognized as human beings. Burkina Faso was continuing efforts, along with international organizations, to help the handicapped, drawing up a national strategy with the help of United Nations agencies to further promote their rights and protect them. In conclusion, she said Burkina Faso had done everything necessary to ensure basic services for its citizens, including all women, youth, disabled and elderly.
EDUARDO PINTO DA SILVA ( Portugal) said it was his country’s goal to strengthen youth-oriented policies and programmes, and to ensure their cross-sectoral participation as active agents in the national, regional and international decision-making processes involving them. To that end, it was essential for Governments to engage in providing education, training and access to information and communications technologies for all young women and men. International cooperation in support of national efforts to implement the World Programme of Action for Youth and achieve the Millennium Development Goals must also be strengthened.
For its part, Portugal had worked at the national level to implement the goals of the International Year of Youth, including through the creation of a National Commission on that year, which adopted a comprehensive calendar of activities touching on such topics as entrepreneurship and innovation, rights and equality, and culture and diversity. In particular, the second National Forum of Young Descendants of Immigrants and the African Diaspora furthered a number of youth issues. Portugal would again introduce, with Moldova and Senegal, its traditional resolution on programmes and policies involving youth, with a focus on the social impact of the economic and financial crisis on young people. That text would stress the importance of improving opportunities for youth in terms of education, access to information and new technologies, health and employment.
RUSARO UTAMULIZAKARINE, youth delegate of Rwanda, pointed out that very few youth delegates from Africa participated in global fora, such as this one and underlined the need of greater youth participation in decision-making throughout the continent. She said that, for its part, the Rwandan Government was working to bolster its youth participation, including through a national plan explicitly developed to that end. It was also working to enhance the social and economic situation of its youth through its national “Vision 2020” strategy, as well as its strategy for economic development, poverty reduction and achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
NTEZIMANA ALOYS, Rwanda’s second youth delegate, said the medium-term objectives of those policies were to create a conducive policy environment for young women and men that allowed them greater participation and broader opportunities to realize their full potential. The policies sought to eliminate poverty and foster wealth, as well as to encourage Rwanda’s transition from an agrarian economy to a knowledge-based one. It also sought to increase access to information and services. Among the challenges that continued to hinder the strategy were high levels of youth unemployment, which not only contributed to social unrest and urban migration, but hindered economic growth. The youth of Rwanda were convinced that further efforts were required by the international community to address youth unemployment. They specifically called for a programme for youth from least developed countries that aimed to boost capacity and enhance youth services. That programme should also provide loans, support for the establishment of national science and technology centres, and assistance in achieving international and national development goals.
LUIS DAVID SENA FAÑAS, youth delegate for the Dominican Republic, said in his country, like the majority of Latin American countries, young people had inadequate training and found it difficult to find work, leading to a poverty spiral and lack of social cohesion. Young people today had a higher level of education, but at least a fifth of the youth population had not yet been to primary school.
There had to be proper planning, so that young people could get jobs, he said. Technical skills needed to be promoted, so that young people could have access to vocational training, as well as university education. They needed real opportunities worldwide for dignified and productive work. Youth needed training and learning for a truly long-term effect. The impact of young people on the economy as a whole must be examined. Providing them with jobs would contribute to economic development, eradicate poverty and allow for equal opportunities.
PALITHA T.B. KOHONA ( Sri Lanka) said committed investments in the health and education sectors and a targeted social protection scheme had been the cornerstones of his country’s social policies since independence. Through these investments, the Government had been able to make development more inclusive and socially sustainable. He stressed that Sri Lanka had displayed resilience in maintaining momentum toward achieving the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals. Among other notable improvements, the country had made a dramatic move up the World Economic Forum’s Global Competiveness Report in just two years. Meanwhile, the hopes of the country’s youth for a secure, better and more progressive society had been renewed in the current post-conflict era. A 10-year development plan sought to engage youth as active partners in development and stakeholders in community.
Acknowledging that youth unemployment nevertheless remained a particular challenge, he said the country was upgrading the quality of secondary and tertiary education, including vocational training, to address that issue. It was also working to bridge the real digital divide in the country, including through the development of local content and translations of generic software. To mobilize micro-credit and empower the rural poor, 245 resources centres had been established to foster the development of small- and medium-sized enterprises. Other rural development efforts aimed at expanding infrastructure and boosting employment opportunities, including by disseminating information on modern farming techniques. Progress had also been made in rehabilitating, reintegrating and empowering 667 former child combatants. More than 1,300 young people, including former young adult combatants, were also being giving vocational training in the north and the east.
YOUSSOUFOU BAMBA (C ôte d’Ivoire), aligning with the statement on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said the hope for progress continued to recede for millions around the world, particularly those in impoverished countries. Without economic growth, jobs could not be stable or sufficiently remunerative. But, the situation was even more serious in countries that suffered from profound internal conflicts. Populations in conflict found themselves ignored by their governments, and Côte d’Ivoire was gradually emerging from a decade-long crisis. His Government had undertaken a number of different encouraging initiatives for its population, including free health care for the poorest sections of the population.
Côte d’Ivoire had also implemented the convention on rights of the disabled, taking them into account in development efforts, including through State subsidies and positive discrimination in the civil service. The new Government had also given youth better access to education and training. Further, it had helped small- and mid-sized business with grants, in return for providing well-paid jobs to recent graduates. The Government was also working on social cohesion and national reconciliation in all parts of the country following its crisis. He thanked donor countries and international organizations for their help, but asked them to do a bit more. The poorest of the world needed a transfer of new technology and a removal of their debt burdens.
IQBAL AHMED ( Bangladesh) said that 15 per cent of the world’s population was living with some form of disability, while some 110 to 190 million were living with significant disabilities. During crises, the most vulnerable segments of society were the most affected and persons with disability lost jobs first during times of job cuts, only deepening their precarious situation in society. Bangladesh had formulated an allowance programme for the disabled, allocating roughly $14 million to that end. Currently it had 286,000 beneficiaries, but the Government planned to expand the programme’s coverage in coming years.
Underlining the need to secure the physical, psychological and emotional safety of persons with disabilities, he stressed that that vulnerable group must not remain invisible in the development discourse. In that regard, he highlighted how early intervention in the lives of children suffering from autism spectrum disorders proved productive at later stages and reducing their marginalization in society. In its efforts to encourage all-inclusive development programmes, Bangladesh was working to eradicate poverty, create one job per family, end discrimination and deprivation and include all different vulnerable groups in productive capacity-building, among other things. In all those efforts, the participation of non-governmental organization, civil society and cooperatives was critical.
SAEED AL-SIRI ( United Arab Emirates), aligning with the Group of 77 and China, said social development and poverty eradication were pillars for ensuring peace throughout the world. Consequently, his Government pursued a policy of providing aid to developing and least-developed countries, as well as to those plagued by natural disasters, pledging $1.54 billion to that end. The Emirates had made concerted efforts toward social and economic development in the belief that human development was the key to future national growth. To that end, it was working to combat non-communicable diseases, to expand educational opportunities and to protect women, children, the elderly and the disabled. It would continue to support efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals throughout the world.
AHMAD AL-SHAMSI, youth delegate of the United Arab Emirates, said that, in light of his country’s large population of young people, the Government had implemented programmes to support and develop youth capacity. Today, youth in the United Arab Emirates enjoyed numerous privileges and advantages. The State had invested in providing free education at all levels. It had also undertaken sensitization programmes related to drug abuse and HIV/AIDS that had resulted in lower levels of drug use and incidences of that disease. Recognizing that the youth were a main pillar in developing the national culture, the leadership had sought to involve young persons in decision-making processes. Consequently, recent elections to the Federal National Emirates Council had resulted in a strong presence of women and youth. To combat recent increases in the youth unemployment rate, the Government was pursuing economic policies focused on expanding employment opportunities across all sectors of the labour market.
TALAL HAMED SAID AL-YAQOOBI ( Oman) said great efforts had been made by the Sultan of Oman to provide development for his country’s people. Through guaranteeing jobs, removing obstacles to the enjoyment of rights and international cooperation, it was in line with the Millennium Development Goals. But, the transfer of knowledge was important, and it had become necessary to find cooperation in the spheres of research, technical training and vocational education.
Cooperation was also needed for services to persons with disabilities, he said. If the country was to guarantee services for the disabled, it could perhaps draw on the experiences of developed countries. Oman had declared 2010 the year for building a bridge for disabled persons in Omani society. It had ratified the Convention on persons with disabilities last year, so they could live on a level footing, and the international community must sustain efforts to provide services in that noble humanitarian area.
MICHELE KLEIN SOLOMON, International Organization for Migration (IOM), encouraged States to consider the particular challenges that migrants faced as they fashioned policies to strengthen inclusive social development. In particular, policies should account for the varying impacts of the global crisis on older migrants, young migrants and migrants with disabilities. To that end, regular medical care should be made accessible to all older populations, including older migrants, to ensure their well-being, as well as of their families. Young migrants often served as critical bridges between families and societies in both their countries of origin and host countries, and played a key role in the integration of their families. To mutually benefit both societies, consideration should be given to policies favouring access to the type of education and skills most advantageous to mobile populations. All migrant-oriented strategies should promote access to disability systems. Similarly, policies addressing persons with disabilities needed to incorporate specific migrant concerns, such as culture and language.
SHARON BRENNEN-HAYLOCK, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said that to achieve equitable social development, countries needed to first comprehend their social and economic situations. FAO was ready to assist Members in formulating appropriate action to achieve internationally endorsed development goals. The consequences of recent crises had been unacceptable from a human and economic view, but offered an opportunity to build a new world driven by social and gender equity, decent rural employment and social and economic inclusion.
“We have learnt what works and what does not,” she said. Equipped with this knowledge, we have to take action towards the creation of more equitable development, with special attention to the concerns of rural youth, women and girls. New ways need to be found to promote sustainable development and social progress for those trapped in poverty and suffering from hunger.”
KEVIN CASSIDY, International Labour Organization (ILO), highlighted the adoption by the Organization’s member States in June of the Convention on Domestic Workers (Convention 189) and its accompanying recommendation to improve the working conditions of an estimated 53 million domestic workers worldwide. The Convention represented a true breakthrough by providing workers in the informal economy with the same basic work rights as those of other categories of workers. The new standard made clear that domestic workers — of which an estimated 83 per cent were women or girls — were neither servants nor “members of the family” and could no longer be considered second-class workers. ILO member States also adopted a resolution on social protection that reconfirmed the role of social security as a human right and a social and economic necessity for countries at all development levels.
Highlighting the work of the Social Protection Floor Initiative, which was co-led by ILO with the World Health Organization (WHO), he said it promoted access to essential social security transfers and social services in the areas of health, education, food and housing, among others. Its advisory group had prepared a flagship Global Social Protection Floor report to be presented to the United Nations later this month. He further noted that youth employment would be the main discussion topic at the 2012 International Labour Conference. Through its International Programme on the Eradication of Child Labour, ILO was working to combat child labour in cocoa-growing communities in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. It had also signed a wide-ranging memorandum of Understanding with UN-Women in June. That agreement highlighted key areas of cooperation, including promoting gender equality, eliminating sex discrimination, protecting domestic workers, promoting social protection floors and combating gender-based violence at work.
ANDRES FIALLO ( Ecuador) said that to arrive at better conditions for social welfare, countries must not just bring groups closer together, but strive to eliminate the barriers between them. The Ecuadoran Government considered that the most important thing was to live well and the pursuit of that objective could lead to the discovery of peace in each nation. However, that doctrine did not have the centrality it should in the Millennium Development Goals and the broader social development agenda. For its part, Ecuador had put human beings above capital and reduced the effects of poverty drastically. Some basic needs were not yet met, but the State was working to improve access to health, education and other basic services. Other development strategies aimed to help broaden the employability of vulnerable populations, including through entrepreneurial training.
He further noted that, since March 2010, a campaign for domestic work had been under way and had contributed to reducing the poverty of thousands of families. The Government equally aimed to improve the lot of persons with disabilities. “We want an Ecuador without barriers for the disabled,” he stressed, underlining the need for social inclusion of that population segment.
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