|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-seventh General Assembly
1st & 2nd Meetings (AM & PM)
Significant Progress Made Towards Development Goals, but Multifaceted Challenges
Remain, ‘None More Daunting’ Than Rising Inequality, Third Committee Told
Under-Secretary-General Says Income Inequality Slows Effort against Poverty;
Some 30 Speakers Take Floor as Committee Begins Two-day Social Development Debate
As the target date for the Millennium Development Goals approaches, no challenge was more daunting than the continuing rise in inequality and its impact on vulnerable groups, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Wu Hongbo told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today as it opened its annual session with a debate on social development.
“We must tackle rising inequalities and address the impact on vulnerable groups,” Mr. Wu said.
Ahead of the Goals’ 2015 target, he said there had been significant achievements: the proportion of persons living in extreme poverty continues to fall; the population without access to safe drinking water had been halved; the prevalence of diseases had been reduced and access to health care improved; child mortality had been reduced; and more girls had been ensured the same opportunity as boys to attend school.
The significance of those achievements should not be underestimated, he said, adding “A child who is able to read is a future leader; a mother in good health is an entrepreneur-in-waiting.”
But, even while acknowledging the accomplishments, the multi-faceted challenges ahead must be recognized, and ‘none is more daunting’ than rising inequality, he said. Since 1990, 62 out of 116 countries with available data have shown increased income inequality, slowing progress in poverty reduction and jeopardizing prospects for sustained growth.
“The global jobs crisis has hit youth the hardest. Young women and men represent nearly 40 per cent of the 200 million jobless people worldwide. They are nearly three times more likely than adults to be jobless,” he said.
Mr. Wu also lamented that a large proportion of women continued to face discrimination and disempowerment, while indigenous peoples faced poverty, children, older persons and persons with disabilities faced reduced services and many families have been struggling in the ongoing repercussions of the socioeconomic crises.
Effective systems of social protection must be ensured, as they stabilize economies and provide a valuable buffer to the effects of economic downturn, especially for families, he said.
Throughout the day-long debate, delegations connected policies supporting vulnerable groups with recovery from ongoing global economic and financial crises, with many calling for guarantees that benefits would reach the groups most concerned, such as young people and the elderly.
“Economic recovery and social development go hand in hand”, said the representative of the European Union. “Our aim should be to better link employment and social policies, so as to ensure a job-rich recovery that provides decent jobs, protects against the risk of long-term unemployment and reduces inequality.”
Speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, Algeria’s representative called for stronger international cooperation, including fulfilment of assistance commitments by developed countries, debt relief, market access, technology transfer and technical support.
The representative of Chile, speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), called for international measures to resolve the food crisis and mitigate its effects on the most vulnerable, stating: “Hunger and poverty are one of the worst forms of violation of human rights. The task of eradicating them is, therefore, an ethical, political, social and economic challenge for us all.”
Underscoring calls by a number of delegates for more inclusive development strategies, the youth representative of the Netherlands said that young people around her country uniformly told her the United Nations was a unique institution, but needed to urgently demonstrate its relevance in a rapidly changing world. Young people failed to see implementation of commitments on the part of Member States that would tackle the problems of daily life, and “it is time to implement all those promises that were made to us in the past.”
Also speaking were the representatives of Cameroon (on behalf of the African Group), Malaysia (on behalf of ASEAN), Saint Lucia (on behalf of Caribbean Community (CARICOM)), Botswana (on behalf of Southern African Development Community (SADC)), Egypt (on behalf of the Arab Group), Venezuela, China, the Philippines, Egypt, Brazil, Malaysia, Nicaragua, Russian Federation, Cuba, Morocco, Republic of Korea, Iran, Senegal and Colombia.
Youth delegates from Switzerland, Australia, Germany, Sweden, Thailand, Austria, Finland, Republic of Korea, and Norway also spoke.
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 Jordi Llopart, who spoke on behalf of the Executive Director of the United Nations Volunteers programme.
The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 9 October, to continue its debate on social development.
At its first meeting of the sixty-seventh session, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to adopt its programme of work and 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 entitled Organization of the sixty-seventh regular session of the General Assembly, adoption of the agenda and allocation of items (document A/67/250) and a letter dated 21 September 2012 from the President of the General Assembly to the Chair of the Third Committee (document A/C.3/67/1), which outlines the allocation of agenda items to the Committee. It also had notes by the Secretariat on the organization of work of the Third Committee (documents A/C.3/67/L.1 and Add.1/Rev.1), setting out a list of documents to be considered by the Committee in 2012.
For its social development debate, the Committee had before it the Secretary-General’s report on Implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and of the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly (document A/67/179), providing an overview of the discussion held by the Commission for Social Development during its fiftieth session on the priority theme of poverty eradication, taking into account its relationship with social integration, full employment and decent work for all. The report recommends encouraging countries to spend more on job creation for those disproportionately affected by a lack of productive employment. Countries also could implement a social protection floor and extend the scope of related programmes; scale up investments in education, health and agriculture; and prioritize domestic resource mobilization. Governments also should be encouraged to address society wide patterns of inequality, discrimination and exclusion.
It also had before it the Secretary-General’s report on the Follow-up to the implementation of the International Year of Volunteers (document A/67/153), submitted pursuant to resolutions 63/153 (2009) and 66/67 (2012), which request him to report on the implementation of recommendations in those texts on, respectively, the marking of the tenth anniversary of the 2001 International Year, and on the recommendations to integrate volunteerism in peace and development during the next decade and beyond.
The report notes that the period since 2001 has seen more volunteerism-related national and regional policies and the inclusion of volunteerism in high-level cooperative documents. But, there were wide variations among countries and regions in terms of involvement by Governments, the United Nations, civil society, the private sector and other stakeholders. Efforts must be stepped up to engage the academic community with Government and civil society, and encourage volunteer network-led codes of conduct for volunteer management.
The Secretary-General’s report on Follow-up to the Second World Assembly on Ageing (document A/67/188) was submitted in response to resolution 66/127 (2012) on the implementation of the follow-up to the Second World Assembly on Ageing. The report discusses how older persons are integrated in social development and concludes that, while States generally recognized the importance of promoting their health and participation, there was a lack of coordinated policy in support of their integration into society. It recommends that States advance a positive public image of older persons and their contributions to societies, ensure that the principle of “age equality” is upheld in all health policies, adopt and enforce guidelines that establish standards for the provision of long-term support to older persons, and support efforts to enhance older persons’ participation in the labour market.
Also before the Committee was the Secretary-General’s report on the Realization of the Millennium Development Goals and internationally agreed development goals for persons with disabilities: a disability-inclusive development agenda towards 2015 and beyond (document A/67/211), which outlines progress made on the implementation of policies and programmes related to persons with disabilities within the Millennium Development Goals framework. During the reporting period, the Assembly decided to hold a high-level meeting on disability and development in 2013, to take action towards a disability-inclusive, post-2015 development framework.
The report makes recommendations on priority areas for inclusion in the outcome of the high-level meeting, as well as on efforts to mainstream disability in the development agenda towards 2015. Among them, it suggests harmonizing national legislative, policy and institutional structures with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It also urges advancing accessibility and removing barriers to physical environment, transport, and information and communications technologies as a prerequisite for creating equal opportunities for persons with disabilities. Building the capacity of all stakeholders to implement international commitments for disability-inclusive development was also recommended.
Finally, it also had before it the Secretary-General’s report on preparation for and observance of the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family in 2014 (document A/67/61-E/2012/3), which recommends a focus on confronting family poverty, ensuring work-family balance and advancing social integration.
Adoption of Programme of Work
Opening the session, HENRY L. MAC-DONALD ( Suriname), Chair of the Third Committee, stressed the importance of punctuality, adherence to time limits, respect of deadlines and inscription on the lists of speakers. In order to complete the heavy agenda of the programme of work, diligence and discipline would be required, he said.
Turning to the organization of work, he said, as per past practice, the Committee would maintain a “rolling” list of speakers in the general discussion, so delegations inscribed to a subsequent meeting should be ready to deliver statements earlier, if necessary. He also proposed that whenever a delegation inscribed on the list of speakers was absent, that delegation would be placed at the end of the list for that meeting, unless they change places with another delegation in a timely manner.
The Secretary, OTTO GUSTAFIK, then read corrections to document L.1 and L.1/Add.1/Rev.1.
The Committee then approved without a vote the programme of work.
WU HONGBO, Under Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said the target date for the Millennium Development Goals was fast approaching, and much progress had been made. Across the globe, the proportion of persons living in extreme poverty continued to fall, while the population without access to safe drinking water had been halved, prevalence of diseases reduced, access to health care improved, child mortality reduced, and more girls had been ensured the same opportunity as boys to attend school. The significance of those achievements should not be underestimated. “A child who is able to read is a future leader; a mother in good health is an entrepreneur-in-waiting.”
But, even while acknowledging the accomplishments, the multi-faceted challenges ahead must be recognized, and none is more daunting than rising inequality and its impact on vulnerable groups, he said. Since 1990, 62 out of 116 countries with available data had shown increased income inequality, slowing progress in poverty reduction and jeopardizing prospects for sustained growth. “The global jobs crisis has hit youth the hardest. Young women and men represent nearly 40 per cent of the 200 million jobless people worldwide. They are nearly three times more likely than adults to be jobless,” he said. A large proportion of women faced discrimination and disempowerment; indigenous peoples faced poverty; children, older persons and persons with disabilities faced reduced services; and many families had been struggling in the ongoing repercussions of the socioeconomic crises.
“What is the way forward?” he asked. At the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development ( Rio+20), Member States recognized that moving development forward in an equitable and inclusive way required opportunities. Decisive steps must be taken to create opportunities for jobs to realize full employment and decent work for all on a sustainable basis. Particular attention must be paid to youth employment and effective school-to-work transitions; options are available, including initiatives by the cooperative enterprise model. “We must also do more to empower women,” he said. “We need to ensure that social and economic policies are designed with women’s rights and interests in mind. No society will flourish if women are not empowered,” he said.
“We must tackle rising inequalities and address the impact on vulnerable groups,” he said. Persons with disabilities must be provided access to education, employment, health care, and social and legal support; the economic and social potential of older persons must be truly acted upon; full and effective implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples must be continued; and effective systems of social protection must be ensured, recognizing their value in stabilizing economies and providing a buffer to the effects of economic downturn, especially for families.
As the time for achieving the Millennium Development Goals draws near, the international community was working first and foremost to accelerate their progress. Indeed, preparations for a post-2015 development agenda would build on the successes and lessons learned from the Goals, drawing on input from the full range of partners, and holding sustainable development at its core. “We look forward to the Committee’s guidance on the post-2015 development agenda. I am confident that this session will succeed in meeting its complex responsibilities,” he said.
Introduction of Reports
DANIELA BAS, Director, Division for Social Policy and Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introduced several reports of the Secretary-General under consideration concerning agenda items 27 (a), (b) and (c). Beginning with agenda item (a) on the implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and of the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly, she introduced the Report of the Secretary-General on the same issue (document A/67/179), which provided an overview of discussions held by the Commission for Social Development on the priority theme of poverty eradication.
Turning attention to agenda item (b) on social development, she said the report on the progress in the implementation of policies and programmes related to persons with disabilities within the framework of the Millennium Development Goals (document A/67/211) built on the Secretary-General’s report on the same issue (document A/66/128) and highlighted the importance of the 2013 High-Level Meeting on Disability and Development and its vision to promote mainstreaming of disability in the development agenda and a disability-inclusive 2015 development framework.
Continuing with her introductions, she said the report of the Secretary-General on the Preparations for an observance of the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family in 2014 (document A/67/61-E/2012/3) recommends further development and implementation of family-oriented policies for poverty eradication, work-family balance and intergenerational solidarity, and sharing of good practices in those areas. Those topics had also been chosen to guide preparations for the twentieth anniversary observance.
Continuing to agenda item (c) on the follow-up to the International Year of Older persons, she introduced the report of the Secretary-General on Follow-up to the Second World Assembly on Ageing (document A/67/88), which was requested by resolution 66/127. The report emphasized various elements critical to achieving a society for all ages.
JORDI LLOPART, speaking on behalf of the Executive Director of the United Nations Volunteers programme, introduced the report of the Secretary-General on Follow up to the implementation of the International Year of Volunteers (document A/67/153). The report considered the overall progress made in implementing General Assembly resolutions 63/153 and 66/67 and focused on four key areas: recognition and promotion; facilitation; networking; and the integration of volunteerism. It also included a number of recommendations, including several on security-related issues concerning protection and that volunteer action should be an integral part of policies and programmes aimed at preventing and responding to conflict.
MOURAD BENMEHIDI (Algeria), on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said despite significant progress over the past 17 years, much more needed to be done to achieve mutual goals in the field of social development. The analysis indicated that achieving the three pillars of the Summit — eradicating poverty, promotion of full employment and decent work, and social integration - remained a global challenge. He fully shared the Secretary-General’s recommendations for “urgent and more effective action” at all levels. In light of continuing challenges to achieving the social development goals, the Group reaffirmed its commitment to implementing the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action, as well as further initiatives for social development adopted by the General Assembly at its twenty-fourth special session.
The international community and development partners had an important role collaborating with and supporting developing countries. “The fulfilment of developed countries of their commitments is as crucial as it is also imperative,” he said, calling for stronger international cooperation, including fulfilment of commitments on internationally agreed official development assistance, debt relief, market access, capacity-building, technology transfer and technical support. The Group also urged further effective measures to remove obstacles to the realization of the right to self-determination of peoples living under colonial and foreign occupation, which adversely affected their economic and social development.
Action was also needed to promote the rights of persons with disabilities and address their needs, while population ageing required concerted, forward looking policies at all levels. “We note with great concern that the global and financial crisis has led a number of Member States to cut social spending, which has affected the level of social protection provided to older persons,” he said, expressing hope that this session would contribute to implementation of the Madrid Plan of Action on Ageing. The preparation for and observance of the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family in 2014 also provided a useful opportunity to strengthen national family-centred policies and programmes, particularly in the areas of family poverty reduction, work-family balance and intergenerational solidarity.
TOMMO MONTHE ( Cameroon), on behalf of the African Group, aligned with the statement by the delegation of Algeria on behalf of the Group of 77 and China. For the estimated 68 million persons with disabilities in African countries, only 1 to 2 per cent had access to care, rehabilitation and education services. “Disability is still a survival issue in Africa. Many persons with severe disabilities, particularly in rural areas, do not survive because of lack of supportive services and resources,” he said. To further address this issue, the African Decade of Persons with Disabilities was extended to 2019, and the African Union will conduct a review of its Plan of Action in 2014.
The decade also presented an opportunity in Africa for more ambitious investment in youth development programmes and increased support to the development and implementation of national youth policies and programmes. Africa set the pace through initiatives during the Year of African Youth in 2008, implementing training programmes in post conflict countries, strengthening youth organizations and developing a plan of action to promote youth development through implementing the African Youth Charter. “Nonetheless, one of the main challenges faced by African economies is their failure to create jobs for a growing population; young people continue to be marginalized in African labour markets,” he said.
“Despite the progress made since the World Summit for Social Development, a lot remains to be done to achieve our objectives in the field of social development,” he said. Africa was committed to these efforts, and was putting special emphasis on the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) for national plans and policies. “The African Group requests, therefore, that partners upscale their efforts for the full implementation of this important initiative,” he said.
HUSSEIN HANIFF (Malaysia), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said his region was approaching its target of establishing a people-centred and socially responsibly ASEAN Community that aspired to elevate the quality of life based on sustainable development principles. The community was also committed to promoting social justice and mainstreaming people’s rights into policies and all spheres of life, with three priority areas: disadvantaged groups; promoting the rights of migrant workers; and encouragement for corporate social responsibility.
Commitments to those and other related issues were demonstrated in, among other things, the adoption of the ASEAN Strategic Framework on Social Welfare and Development (2011–2015). The Association also highly valued its youth as “critical agents” of progress in the region, and had undertaken a number of initiatives, including the ASEAN Youth Volunteer Programme and an ASEAN Youth Forum, held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia last April, which sought to indentify ways to strengthen the roles of youth in creating a prosperous ASEAN Community.
The successful realization of an ASEAN Community by 2015 depended on the contribution of the region’s youth and the protection of the rights of its disadvantaged people. While there remained much more to be done in connecting youth across the region and empowering and engaging vulnerable groups, ASEAN would continue to work closely with one another and to foster greater partnership among government agencies, the private sector and civil society towards accelerating the region’s social development drive for an inclusive, prosperous and enduring community by 2015, he concluded.
MENISSA RAMBALLY (Saint Lucia), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said while the global economy had started to improve, recovery was uneven and fragile with increased economic and social vulnerability, especially in developing countries. For small island developing States, such as those in her region, climate change was a principal challenge to achieving sustainable development goals. Last month, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) Summit had adopted a communiqué emphasizing that this phenomena was “the most serious threat to our territorial integrity, viability and survival”.
CARICOM concurred with discussions at the Commission on Sustainable Development’s fiftieth session, which had highlighted poverty eradication, poverty reduction strategies, and a focus on youth poverty and unemployment as the key policy challenges to meeting social development targets. She was also committed to maintaining social protection programmes, the need for investments in education, health, agriculture and infrastructure, and the effective mobilization of domestic resources complemented by official development assistance, and said CARICOM governments continued to develop modalities to address the social development needs.
Turning to other important issues, she said regional efforts to address challenges facing youth included the CARICOM Plan, which aimed at secure, valued, and empowered adolescents and youth realizing their potential and contributing to a sustainable regional community. Given the findings in the recently released United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) report, Ageing in the Twenty-first Century, that 80 per cent of the world’s older people would be living in developing countries by 2050, CARICOM also supported the Secretary-General’s reports on ageing and on the implementation of policies and programmes related to persons with disabilities within the Millennium Development Goals framework, and had adopted measures at regional and national levels to ensure the further integration of older persons into the economic and social life of the community.
CHARLES NTWAAGAE ( Botswana), on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said that since the 1995 Copenhagen World Summit for Social Development, his region had increasingly recognized the importance of advancing in that area and had renewed its commitment to do so, as evidenced by impressive achievements. However, challenges remained, with hurdles including the adverse effects of the global economic crisis, food insecurity and climate change. Poverty remained one of the major development challenges facing the region and was particularly acute among vulnerable groups, such as the disabled, female-headed households and households headed by older persons, he said.
Driven by the urgent need to eradicate poverty, and in line with Member States’ commitments to the Millennium Goals and NEPAD, SADC had committed itself to eradicating poverty through declarations and frameworks, embarking on the implementation of measures and initiatives that promoted macroeconomic stability and sustained growth combined with improved social services delivery, he said. Highlighting the region’s fragile food security situation, SADC recognized that agricultural productivity and rural development were essential to promote economic growth. Unemployment remained a global challenge and there was an urgent need for more aggressive policies and programmes to address this area and to improve the lives of young people, he said, welcoming the international community’s continued focus on those challenges.
Turning to a range of issues, he focused on health, where there was a need for radical scaling up of innovative responses to address the incidence of HIV and AIDS, despite efforts to address the pandemic. He went on to say that efforts to embrace persons with disabilities had been gaining momentum in the region, with many countries ratifying the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. With the Millennium Development Goals target date fast approaching, overwhelming challenges required concerted action by Member States, he said, appealing for the international community’s continued support and efforts to address the challenges of poverty eradication, with a special emphasis on vulnerable groups.
THOMAS MAYR-HARTING, Head of the European Union Delegation, said that many countries were still engaged in addressing the negative consequences of the world financial and economic crisis. “The consequences continue to threaten the efforts made to promote the various dimensions of social development. Global cooperation is indispensable and is the best way forward to real recovery. Global challenges have to be tackled together, as our countries have become more and more interdependent,” he said.
The European Union was sparing no effort to overcome the current difficulties; the “Compact for Growth and Jobs” adopted last June by the European Council addressed the social consequences of the crisis and boosted employment. “Economic recovery and social development go hand in hand. Our aim should be to better link employment and social policies, so as to ensure a job-rich recovery that provides decent jobs, protects against the risk of long-term unemployment and reduces inequality,” he said. The Europe 2020 Strategy formed the basis for the economic and social model Europe was striving to build, and as part of that, the “European Platform against Poverty and Social Exclusion” had been launched to lift at least 20 million people out of poverty and social exclusion by the year 2020.
The Union was also committed to ensuring effective and coherent preparation for the Millennium Development Goals Review Summit and the overall post-2015 development framework; promotion of gender equality must be at the centre of any effective agenda for social and economic development, he said. The International Labour Organization (ILO) was the key universal standard-setting body for promoting decent work worldwide, which was crucial for contributing to multilateral efforts to enhance fairness in globalization. The Union also reiterated its strong support for the World Programme of Action for Youth, and called for its continued implementation.
OCTAVIO ERRÁZURIZ (Chile), on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said broad additional measures were needed to promote inclusive development strategies that would achieve more equitable distribution of economic growth and improve access to basic universal services. In the current global economic and financial crisis, States should take appropriate measures, such as continued focus on creation of decent jobs and guarantees that benefits reached the groups most concerned, such as young people and the elderly. “Policies should continue to protect basic social investment on health and education as long as the fallout from the crisis continues,” he said.
CELAC countries recognized that social welfare policies considerably reduced persistent poverty, vulnerability and inequalities, and promoted social inclusion and integration, and a more equitable distribution of the benefits of economic growth. The international community must continue to adopt measures to resolve the food crisis and mitigate its effects on the most vulnerable. “We reiterate that hunger and poverty are one of the worst forms of violation of human rights. The task of eradicating them is therefore an ethical, political, social and economic challenge for us all,” he said. New forms of international cooperation and solidarity must be explored to move towards societies that are better integrated in a more participatory globalized world, with a human face and social inclusion. It was also essential for developed countries to do everything necessary to improve access to the developing world’s export market, he said.
Women, indigenous populations, people of African descent, young people, the elderly, migrants and persons with disabilities were often excluded from national development and still subjected to discrimination. “National and international measures to promote decent employment and combat poverty must therefore focus on equality, social integration and inclusion of vulnerable and marginalized persons and groups and the mainstreaming of a gender perspective,” he said. The multidimensional nature of poverty required new and effective strategies to help attain internationally agreed development goals. “The current situation requires the United Nations, and the international community in general, to play a more active role in the achievement of internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals,” he said.
AMIRA FAHMY (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, stressed the importance of international cooperation, particularly for least developed countries, so they can meet their commitments in accordance with the Copenhagen Declaration. She also expressed the concern of the Arab Group regarding the decline in official development assistance and increased mortality and malnutrition. "Young people are one third of our people," she said. Faced with the highest unemployment recorded for that category of the population, she stressed the need to implement comprehensive policies by providing training and making investments offering job opportunities.
She concluded her remarks by expressing concern about the deterioration of the living conditions of Palestinians, due to restrictions of movement imposed by the Israeli occupation and violence perpetrated by settlers against the Palestinian population by Israeli settlers, which clearly inhibited the development of the Palestinian Authority. The Arab Group regretted the fact that there was no reference to the Israeli occupation of Palestine in the session, and looked forward to having that situation corrected in coming sessions.
JOSÉ LAUTARO DE LAS OVALLES COLMENARES( Venezuela), supporting the statements made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China and on behalf of CELAC, said that the system of capitalism had exacerbated inequality in the world, as well as human rights problems. Austerity policies in reaction to the world financial crisis had made things worse. His country had chosen social investment to expand social inclusion and reduce poverty by large percentages. A literacy campaign had virtually wiped out illiteracy, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Subsidized food prices and expanded health services also benefited vulnerable populations. Effective programmes protected the rights of the elderly and had empowered women.
Pointing to the military incursions of industrialized countries, he said his country had chosen a peaceful path to resist the voracious world capitalist system, and had thus increased equality and social justice in his country and the region. He noted that yesterday his president was re-elected with the participation of more than 80 per cent of the electorate.
WANG MIN (China), associating himself with the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said that given the world financial crisis, the United Nations should pay greater attention to social development and countries should try their best to minimize the adverse impacts of the crisis, prioritizing stable and expanded employment through strengthened vocational training and other improvements in the productive capacity of workers, with particular attention to job-related guidance and services for young people. Better protection of vulnerable groups was also needed; he supported the convening of a General Assembly high-level meeting next year on persons with disabilities.
Greater support for developing countries was needed in those areas, he said, maintaining that developed countries should implement in earnest their commitments in official development assistance (ODA), capital transfer and technology to respond to climate challenge. They should also substantially reduce the debt of the least-developed countries, avoid protectionist measures and otherwise cooperate more with developing countries. He described ways in which his Government promoted scientific, people-centred, balanced development. As the largest developing country in the world, he said China also tried its best to provide assistance to other developing countries, supporting thousands of projects related to livelihood and local production, cancelling many debts and training tens of thousands. He pledged continued work within the framework of South/South cooperation.
LIBRAN N. CABACTULAN (Philippines), associating his statement with the Group of 77 developing countries and China, as well as with ASEAN, said that the 1995 Summit on Social Development in Copenhagen had been one of “hope, commitment and action”. However, the promises made at the summit had yet to be realized, and poverty eradication remained as elusive today as ever. Economic growth must translate into better social development outcomes and decent jobs, he stressed. The Philippines, therefore, agreed with the recommendation of the Secretary-General that there must be alignment of economic and social policies towards a common set of goals. That would mean policies aimed at the elimination of discrimination, particularly with regard to employment opportunities and access to decent work, improving the coverage and quality of education and health programmes, strengthening universal empowerment and participation, and expanding social protection.
Social development was an integral part of the national development agenda of the Philippines, he said, briefly describing the country’s Development Plan 2011-2016. The strategy consisted of three broad strategies, namely, high and sustained economic growth; the provision of equal access to development opportunities across geographic areas and across different income and social spectra; and the implementation of effective and responsive social safety nets. Turning to the issue of disability and development, he recalled that the Philippines, along with the United Republic of Tanzania, had put forward a resolution on the “High level meeting on the realization of the Millennium Development Goals and other internationally agreed development goals for persons with disabilities”. That meeting “would provide a historic opportunity to create change,” he said, stressing that it would bring the visibility needed to strengthen efforts in ensuring accessibility for, and inclusion of, persons with disabilities in all aspects of development.
MOOTAZ KHALIL ( Egypt) said poverty eradication was the greatest challenge facing the world today, and needed to be addressed through international cooperation, particularly in developing countries. Egypt positively noted the adoption of resolution 2012/9 by the Commission on Social Development, which, among other things, stressed that the international community would enhance its efforts to create an enabling environment for social development and poverty eradication through increasing market access for developing countries, technology transfer, financial aide and a comprehensive solution to the external debt problem. The newly elected Egyptian Government has also put social development at the top of its priorities, increasing the minimum wage, social allowances and pensions.
Egypt also welcomed the inclusion of youth among priorities of the Secretary-General, and has proposed a new initiative to establish a UN body for youth issues, called UN Youth, which would give particular attention to education, training, employment and improving their participation in political life. The aim was to build the capacity of future generations to realize their aspirations, and address challenges that hinder the achievement of their development. He encouraged the Secretary-General to consider the proposal, as it could lead to the development of a global strategy on youth employment.
Mr. ZANAZZI, youth delegate of Switzerland, said that young people must embrace their responsibilities to engage in world policy debates with a critical point of view. He called for concrete ways to implement programmes to allow the voice of youth to be heard at the international level. Noting that young people were in general critical of the Rio+20 Conference, he said that, nevertheless, there were important elements in the outcome document, which stressed that education was essential for youth, in order for them to engage in development issues.
In that regard, he said that the majority of young people that belonged to minorities did not know their rights and, therefore, their communities remained under-represented in national and international processes. That impeded the attainment of lasting peace. A world action programme for youth should underline the importance of education and promote the ideas of respect and tolerance among peoples. Creativity and the ideas of the three billion young people must be harnessed to make progress in the great challenges facing the world today. Young people must take up their responsibilities, in that regard.
ALAN COELHO DE SÉLLOS(Brazil), associating himself with the statements delivered on behalf of the Group of 77 and China and on behalf of CELAC, highlighted the references to social development in the outcome document of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development recently held in Rio, including those on the right to education, the active participation of young people, unemployment and disability issues. He hoped that the accessibility provided to disabled persons during the Conference encouraged global design programmes for that purpose. He also announced expansion of social service programmes that had promoted social inclusion in Brazil, targeting those still under the line of extreme poverty, and thus enabling the realization of their essential social and economic rights.
With one of the largest populations of young people in the world, he said, his country had been actively engaged in promoting their inclusion and employment, including with tax incentives for employers. At the same time, the population of elderly persons was also growing and his country had actively participated at the regional and international levels to promote their rights. By ratifying and integrating into national law the Convention on the Rights of Disabled Persons and its Optional Protocol, Brazil had strengthened the citizenship of those persons through a new national plan. In all areas of social development, he concluded, international cooperation was key — “the failure of a single country in attaining its basic goals is in many ways a failure of us all”.
DAN RYAN ( Australia) said that what struck him most as he travelled around his country and engaged with over 6,000 young people, was how everyone was interconnected, sharing common concerns and aspirations through social media. Social media enabled young people to transcend nationalities, as well as national borders, shaping, impacting and influencing the lives of his generation. It had been used to catalyse democratic movements, warn of impending natural disasters, pushed private sector companies toward more ethical work practices and enabled civil society actors in dangerous environments to get messages out to the rest of the world.
Social media could also be used to negative ends, he continued. Regrettably, violence and intolerance were just as common in the virtual world as in the real world and that could be seen in the use of cyber bullying. Further, he said that technological literacy must not become a point of difference or disadvantage, as it crossed national, economic, and generational divides. Social media must be used correctly to ensure that today’s youth had opportunities to convert education to employment and economic gain, to lay the foundation for future growth and development. In addition, social media could be used by community and government leaders to engage them on issues, such as substance abuse, mental health and breakdowns in family structure. The international community should promote a process for youth voices to be heard at the decision-making table.
HUSSEIN HANIFF (Malaysia) said his country concurred with the recommendations in the Secretary-General’s report that countries should be encouraged to accelerate efforts to create employment opportunities, with a particular focus on youth, and towards inclusive, equitable and sustained economic growth. In line with that, Malaysia has enacted a plan that emphasized raising technical, as well as soft skills, to increase employment. Malaysia was one of the earliest countries to formulate a National Youth Policy, back in 1985, and continued to engage with the younger generation through national scale events, he said.
By 2035, Malaysia was expected to attain “Ageing Nation Status,” with 15 per cent or more of its population aged 60 years or more. As such, the Government realized harnessing resources from older persons was valuable and necessary. They receive “almost free” health and medical care and discounts on major modes of transportation in the country. Malaysia had also begun a plan to better integrate persons with disabilities, upgrading community-based rehabilitation centres, and welcomed the convening of a High-Level Meeting on Disability and Development in 2013. “The Malaysian Government remains committed to ensure that continuous efforts and initiatives are taken to promote equal opportunities and full participation of all segments of the society,” he said.
MARIA RUBIALES DE CHAMORRO ( Nicaragua), supporting the statements made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China and CELAC, said that the well-being of the entire population was the priority of her Government, through free health, education and anti-poverty programmes. Social expenditures, in fact, made up most of the national budget. On employment, she said growth had been significant recently and there had been progress in many health indicators, including maternal and neo-natal mortality. New mothers’ residences were an important part of that progress, as were inoculation efforts and other children’s services, including a house-to-house monitoring of the health of children under six years of age. Illiteracy had been greatly reduced and pre-school, primary and secondary education had greatly expanded.
In the area of food security, programmes had provided improved seeds and other inputs for significant results; a housing programme had helped over 4 million people. Help for disabled persons had become comprehensive. Youth were at the vanguard of social development projects and ensured that such projects reached all areas of the country. Social and economic programmes also prioritized quality jobs for young people. Active ageing had been promoted through social programmes. She thanked organizations that had assisted with all such programmes, which had greatly improved life in Nicaragua.
NIKOLAY RAKOVSKIY ( Russian Federation) said that the world financial crisis still dominated discussions of social development, but it was crucial for constructive discussion to continue in such forums as the Commission on Social Development, even though some important stakeholders had been attempting to denigrate its importance and continue the impasse that had occurred there. In his country, not a single social programme had been cut due to the financial crisis. Unemployment had fallen, with prioritization on the creation of new jobs and jobs for vulnerable groups. He underlined the importance of an upcoming conference on jobs in his country.
Support for meeting the needs of young people, elderly people and disabled persons was provided in his country through a variety of programmes, he said, under the framework of international action plans. The strength and stability of family structures was particularly valued through such programmes, he said. Inclusivity was promoted by programmes that extended projects for quality employment to vulnerable populations.
The youth delegate of Germany focused on three main areas: first, ecological problems such as environmental degradation, climate change, current patterns of resource consumption, and others; second, social challenges such as discrimination, racism and inequality; and third, the prevalent lack of youth participation. The delegation strongly demanded global youth rights that guaranteed the genuine participation of young people in political decision-making, and universal access to primary and higher education, which included a lifelong learning concept and facilitated non-formal education. Moreover, it called for honest and strong commitments from all Member States to fight the battle against climate change.
In that vein, the idea of “sustainable development” became a meaningless term if there were no indicators for its implementation; the delegation, therefore, called on all Member States to use the “beyond 2015 process” to strive for achieving the goals they had agreed upon. Countries did not have the power to deal with the existing problems of globalization by themselves. They needed partners, organized in a reliable and strong framework which was open, equal and fair. The delegation also deplored that only a small number of the 193 Members of the United Nations had implemented the “World Programme of Action on Youth”, and called on States to fully and effectively implement the Programme, to include youth delegates in their national delegations and to extend the Programme to other United Nations conferences, as well.
MILISCHIA REZAI, youth representative from Sweden, said that, in a changing world, it was time to rethink old-fashioned security policies that protected national and financial interests, and to create a modern security policy that would place human security first by tackling issues such as environmental threats and humanitarian challenges, that aimed to reduce tensions by strengthening democracy and social and economic equality rather than investing resources in military aggression, arms and weapons. Climate change, lack of resources and growing inequalities could force hundreds of millions of refugees seek shelter in countries that suffered less from natural disasters, and in which the current global economic system had concentrated resources. Those countries now had to face up to their responsibilities.
She then spoke of the difficulties facing migrants, noting that, often “[f]orced to work long workweeks for sub-minimum wages in a country where their presence is resented and where they can expect no institutional support, migrants are often lacking most fundamental rights such as joining and forming trade unions.” Many undocumented migrants were threatened with deportation and had no rights to social protection. It was a modern form of apartheid that must stop, she said. Racist and other movements fed high unemployment, low levels of social security and big income differences. The best way to fight it was to invest in free quality education, job creation and redistribution of wealth and welfare. United Nations Member States must comply with international law protecting the rights of refugees and migrants and the greater challenge for the United Nations was to uphold compliance, as underlined in a resolution adopted last year.
Youth delegates of Thailand, speaking as a group, said that in their conversations with young people all over the country they found a variety of concerns — from education to financial difficulties to parental negligence — but the need for greater participation of youth in the decision-making processes of their community was uniformly stressed. Strong leadership and institutions must channel the energy of youth into positive action to catalyze development, as the deadline for achievement of the Millennium Development Goals approached. In that light, they welcomed steps taken by their country to ensure that every Thai citizen, including youth, had equal access to opportunities expected from the 2015 beginning of the ASEAN Economic Community.
They said that their country was facing the challenge of youth employment, in addition, through investments in education and vocational training targeting various populations with innovative computer-based learning and special programmes for persons with disabilities. Numerous efforts were also being undertaken to protect the rights of older persons. They concluded by providing information on a November awareness campaign to combat human trafficking in Thailand organized by two young women, Thai and American, respectively. “What this campaign shows is that with a few willing hearts, a simple Facebook page and a website, change can happen”, they said. It also showed the results of the empowerment of people, particularly youth, they added.
KIRTY MATABADAL, youth representative of the Netherlands, said that in her conversations with young people all around her country, they uniformly told her that the United Nations was a unique institution, but it needed to urgently demonstrate its relevance in a rapidly changing world. They failed to see implementation of commitments on the part of Member States that would tackle the problems of daily life, including unemployment, hunger, lack of access to education or drinking water, HIV/AIDS, conflict, forced marriage and unwanted pregnancies. Young people, most of the time, were fighting such problems on their own, she maintained. “It is time to implement all those promises that were made to us in the past”, she said.
In that light, she said that at the national and community level, programmes must be put in place to ensure that children could get basic education, as well as the higher education and training needed to be successful on the job market. Child marriage must be ended and nothing must prevent adolescent girls from achieving their full potential. Young people must be able to participate in governance and hold Government accountable. All that must happen in partnership with young people, she stressed, through independent, transparent and democratically-elected national youth councils. Time was running out to face the development needs of the largest generation of young people in history, especially young women, who would determine the future of their communities, their countries and the world.
MELISSA OFOEDU, a youth delegate from Austria, said in preparing for the General Assembly session, she had spoken to youth from many different backgrounds and had concluded that unemployment, equal access to education and reproductive rights, health and services for girls were cross-sectoral topics that needed to be addressed on regional, national and international levels. Policies geared towards solving those problems needed to be specialized in their course of action, with special consideration of girls and women.
Referring to ILO reports that 75 million youths around the world were unemployed, trapped in non-standard or unstable jobs and had been affected by employment protection legislation reforms, she identified two marginalized groups: the rising numbers of youth in developed countries that were neither in education nor in employment; and young asylum-seekers forced to wait for residency permits before entering the labour market. She called for urgent action among policy makers, including providing full access to the labour market for young asylum-seekers and halting economic policy measures that had led to the decline in economic demand, output and jobs. She also urged Member States to acknowledge the rights to reproductive health and services as key components to the economic and social prosperity of each nation and to, among other things, provide affordable access to contraceptives and improving data collection on child and material mortality.
ASTIASARAN ARIAS (Cuba), aligning with the statement on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said the current international economic and political order continued to be profoundly unfair, with the countries of the South excluded from their legitimate interests. To that was added the burden of the economic and food crises, and the negative impact of climate change. The survival of the planet was in danger. Millions who were in poverty mainly came from developing countries, on the margins of the developed ones. Hunger, extreme poverty, illiteracy, and premature death were a constant in a number of countries.
Chronic hunger affected more than 900 million people and was not dropping. That and other discouraging figures showed that the Millennium Development Goals were far from being reached in a number of countries. In Cuba, the Goals had been met, despite 50 years of unfair sanctions by the United States and a series of hurricanes. In Cuba, infant mortality was the lowest in the world, the life expectancy was 78, there was no illiteracy and there was free universal healthcare. The modest resources in Cuba were shared with other needy nations. The world community could do a lot with limited resources, if countries had political will, delivered on Overseas Development Assistance and did away with the debt held over others.
MOHAMMED LOULICHKI ( Morocco), supporting the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said that the fight for social development was a permanent struggle that must be constantly pursued. Efforts to reduce poverty around the world in a sustainable manner must, therefore, be redoubled, with particular attention to marginalized groups. Much had been accomplished in international efforts in that regard over the past decades, but disparities had been exacerbated by the weak world economy. Integrated strategies for economic recovery must place the individual at the centre and target the development of human potential.
Morocco’s human development initiatives, he said, aimed at such integrated development and were centred on people’s well-being. They had been doubled in geographic coverage with the implementation of their second phase in 2011. Stable income generation for vulnerable communities and education for girls were priorities in such programmes. Citizens must be given equal access to health care, housing and other necessities, he said, describing new programmes in that context in his county, along with new legislation to strengthen the family.
CECILIA PELLOSNIEMI, youth delegate of Finland, said it was no wonder that youth were seen as a “threatening force” around the world, with up to 48 per cent of the world’s population under 24 years old and facing massive unemployment. The key was to find tools to remedy the inevitable frustrations and to redirect the energy of the younger generation, which was particularly valuable in facing the challenges of conflict and post-conflict societies. Her country promoted the nexus of peace, social justice, sustainable development and human rights as key elements in avoiding youth radicalization, and called for a voice for young people in the United Nations family.
Surveying progress already made in that area, she said, it was important for demobilization and integration programmes and humanitarian missions to consider the specific needs of young people by appointing specific youth protection officers. United Nations mediation support should include experts on youth in its roster. Young people must also be included in mediation and peace processes, as stipulated in Finnish action plans. She called for youth to be recognized as a special group in the United Nations system.
SHIN DONG-IK (Republic of Korea), said that since the 1995 World Summit for Social Development there had been remarkable achievements in poverty eradication, but progress had been uneven between different areas of the world, and the weak global economy was making progress more difficult. For greater progress, disability-inclusive development needed to be pursued consistently, with targeted measures taken by all stakeholders and a closing of the gap between policy and practice. Discussions on the post-2015 development framework had provided a valuable opportunity to mainstream disability in the development agenda.
On poverty, he said, there was an urgent need for more effective programmes to improve the quality, as well as the quantity of youth employment, paying particular attention to the informal sector. A holistic approach to the issue of ageing was also needed, as poverty tended to be higher among older people than the rest of the population, and there had been a rapid increase in the number of elderly people in countries such as his. As part of the sustained efforts of the Korean Government to implement commitments to social development nationally and internationally, it would host an international conference on disability in Incheon, starting on 24 October, he announced.
He finally introduced YOO JI-YOON, the country’s youth representative, who stressed the need for access to information on the part of disabled persons. Given the high connectivity in her country, the Government was striving on several levels to increase accessibility in that context, but structural changes were needed.
MESBAH ANSARI DOGAHEH (Iran), aligning himself with the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said he shared many of the Secretary-General’s views on increasing progress in social development. International commitments should be met and Government should consider extending the scope of social assistance programmes. Best practices around the world, in that regard, should be exchanged between all countries, particularly given the significant negative effects of the global economic crisis.
He hoped, he said, that upcoming meetings would help accelerate initiatives for persons with disabilities. Describing programmes for such persons in his country, he said many laws had been adopted in implementation on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, although there was a lot more to do in carrying out the current five-year plan in the country. On ageing, he said his country was preparing a national strategic plan. He encouraged all United Nations entities to increase their technical cooperation with developing countries to improve the situation of persons with disabilities and elderly persons.
ASHILDE MARIE VIGE, of the Norwegian Children and Youth Council, said that the continued discrimination, violence and exclusion, with regard to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, threatened not only the integrity and dignity of those concerned, but also the universality of the human rights that all had sworn to protect. As a reminder of the General Assembly’s commitment, she cited the outcome document of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development from June of this year that reaffirmed the commitment to “protect the rights of women, men and youth to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality, including access to sexual and reproductive health, free from coercion, discrimination and violence.”
She believed that youth access to information and education could improve the situation for sexual and gender minorities and urged Member States to reaffirm the universality of human rights and to protect all people from violations of those rights; to co-sign the statement on human rights and sexual orientation and gender identity; to start to report regularly on human rights and sexual orientation and gender identity in their countries; and to provide sexual education to their populations.
ABDOU SALAM DIALLO ( Senegal) said it was clear that the Millennium Goals could not be achieved without the elimination of inequalities among all members of society. A United Nations study had shown linkages between the question of human rights, economic growth and development. Today, there were more than one billion people with disabilities, or 15 per cent of the world’s population. Still, there were barriers to their participation in many activities in their communities. A recent study in The Lancet journal showed that children with disabilities were three times more likely to be victims of sexual violence than children without disabilities.
For all those reasons and more, it was necessary to bolster efforts to work with stakeholders to encourage their active participation in the process of establishing development policies and programmes. For its part, Senegal had signed and ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and passed a law in Parliament in 2010 that recognized equal rights for all people. He said Senegal also shared the commitment to fight against any stigma, socio-cultural barrier or other discrimination against people with disabilities.
The representative of Colombia said that her country’s efforts in reducing poverty and social inequality were continuing despite the global economic crisis, because national growth had continued. Unemployment had dropped, as well. She supported the Secretary-General’s emphasis on work, investment in infrastructure and social programmes, affirming that social development must be pursued in a cross-cutting fashion. Her country had targeted programmes to improve the quality and quantity of youth employment, with major initiatives implemented with the aim of empowering youth.
Describing programmes for disabled persons in her country, she expressed hope that significant targets for disabled persons would be included in post-2015 goals. Rural social programmes had also been strengthened in her country, as programmes were targeted to vulnerable families. Affirming the importance of the private sector in its efforts to improve inclusive social development, she said her country would continue to increase such efforts as its economy grew.
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