|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Commission for Social Development
4th & 5th Meetings (AM & PM)
Global Economic Woes Threaten Efforts to Eradicate Poverty through Decent,
Productive Work, Commission for Social Development Told
Delegates United in Sounding Calls for Measures to Protect Most Vulnerable
Decent and productive employment — coupled with safety nets for protecting the most vulnerable — should be at the core of efforts to eradicate poverty, speakers said today as the Commission for Social Development continued its general debate, while warning that global economic woes now threatened the very existence of such initiatives.
“The fight against poverty cannot lessen in the face of economic crisis,” said Mexico’s representative, urging countries not to allow social development programmes to suffer budget cuts, even in times of hardship. Focusing, like other speakers, on the session’s theme of poverty eradication, she said employment was critical to lifting people out of poverty. The challenge was multidimensional in nature, she noted, describing her country’s efforts to realistically assess the impact of various social development policies. Social protection schemes — providing baseline security to those living in poverty or in vulnerable situations — played a decisive role in overall poverty reduction, helping to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty. Such “social protection floors” must not suffer due to the global economic and financial crisis, she stressed.
The representative of Luxembourg agreed, emphasizing that, when combined with job creation, social protection measures were essential to safeguarding families against economic shocks. There was a correlation between high expenditures on social protection and low poverty rates, she noted. About 75 per cent of the global population did not currently benefit from adequate social coverage, but studies showed that, in most countries, the implementation of social protection schemes was, in fact, affordable, she said. Moreover, it was “simply unacceptable” that the richest 1 per cent of the world’s population received 14 per cent of global income and the poorest 20 per cent just over 1 per cent. Poverty eradication required coordinated actions that would lead to sustainable economic growth, she said.
Kazakhstan’s representative said that her country had been able to realize the first Millennium Development Goal, on halving the proportion of people suffering extreme poverty and hunger, but noted that the multiple global crises — volatile food prices in particular — were causing the number of hungry people around the world to increase. Echoing the sentiments of many delegates, she warned that cutting social financing would have deeply negative impacts, expressing particular concern that emphasizing macroeconomic benefits while slashing spending on employment, education and health care would lead to a “prolonged large-scale crisis”.
Delegates recounted their national experiences of both the global economic crisis and their respective poverty reduction programmes, with Mali’s representative saying that the session’s theme was particularly relevant to his country, which faced the challenge of chronic poverty. Addressing the plight of poor people was more than an economic or political agenda, he emphasized. “It’s a matter of restoring the dignity of our mothers and fathers, of our families.” Mali had recently established its first social protection scheme, which provided compulsory health insurance for public sector workers, he said, adding that the national social security system had been reformed to ensure that health insurance was provided to people in rural areas and those employed in the informal sector. The Government had also implemented social safety nets for the most vulnerable, he said.
Calls for the provision of decent jobs as a key poverty reduction measure resounded as delegates cited high unemployment rates, particularly among young people, as a major national challenge. In that vein, Egypt’s representative pointed to the prevailing feelings of anger, injustice and frustration in his country, linking them to unemployment and economic disparities. Those factors had contributed to the recent uprisings in the wider Arab region and were yet to be resolved, he said. While Egypt’s long-standing focus on economic growth had achieved some progress, it had not translated into social development and its uneven distribution among the population had resulted in pronounced poverty, unemployment, marginalization and social exclusion. There was, therefore, an urgent need to refocus developmental efforts on social development and to attach the highest priority to poverty eradication within the United Nations framework, he said.
Brazil’s representative, agreeing that decent, productive employment was the most effective way to reduce poverty, said her country’s experience suggested that tax policies that encouraged small-business enterprise were a powerful job-creation tool. Noting that more than 40 million Brazilians had risen out of poverty over the past decade, she described the national cash-transfer programme that provided monthly cash stipends to poor families who committed to keeping their children in school and attending regular medical check-ups. That programme and others like it had reduced poverty levels while improving the outlook for future generations, she said.
The Commission also heard from the Minister for Social Affairs of Cameroon and the Minister for Women Affairs and Social Development of Nigeria, as well as the Director-General in the Department of Social Development of South Africa; the Chief Director in the Ministry of Employment and Social Welfare of Ghana; the Director of Social Development Strategies in the Ministry of Women, Children and the Family of Senegal; the Under-Secretary-General for Analysis and Evaluation in the Ministry of Social Development of Ecuador; the Agricultural Director in the Department of Social Services in the Ministry of Local Government of Botswana; and the Director of the Social Protection Programme in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security of Jamaica.
Also speaking today were representatives of Angola (on behalf of the Southern African Development Community), Venezuela, Japan, China, Iran, Syria, Tunisia (also on behalf of the African Group), Indonesia, Colombia, Cuba, Israel, Barbados, Republic of Korea, Italy, Morocco, Gabon, Sri Lanka, United States, France, El Salvador, Haiti, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Ukraine, Burkina Faso, Australia and Armenia.
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were representatives of Syria and Israel.
Others delivering statements were officials of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and the International Labour Organization, as well as representatives of the civil society organizations Cercle Triglav, International Eco-Safety Cooperative Organization, Baha’i International Community and the Qatar Charitable Society.
The Commission will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 3 February, to continue the general debate and to hear a presentation by the Special Rapporteur on Disability.
The Commission on Social Development convened this morning to continue its consideration of poverty eradication.
MARIO ROGERIO BAPTISTA VON HAFF (Angola), speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and associating himself with the statement delivered yesterday on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said that, in an effort to combat the challenges arising from the multiple global crises, the SADC States had adopted the 2008 SADC Declaration on Poverty Eradication and Sustainable Development, which, among other things, expressed the need to achieve food security and address the adverse impacts of climate change in the fight against poverty. At the September 2010 High-level Meeting of the General Assembly on the Millennium Development Goals, SADC had put forward a road map showing what would be necessary to meet the targets by the 2015 deadline year. Its member States had committed themselves to forward-looking policies and to reorienting growth towards job creation, but they were now deeply concerned that insufficient progress had been made to achieve the Goals, he said.
HAROUNDA CISSE ( Mali) said that the poverty reduction theme was particularly relevant to his country, which faced the challenge of chronic poverty. “It’s a matter of restoring the dignity of our mothers and fathers, of our families,” he said. Mali intended to use economic growth to fight poverty by prioritizing agriculture and employment, among other key elements. It was working to implement an appropriate institutional framework and a programme of action to create jobs, as well as youth employment programmes, he said, noting that decent work was the main instrument through which most of the population would be able to throw off the burden of poverty. Mali had also established its first social protection scheme, which provided compulsory health insurance for public sector workers, as well as reformed social security, ensuring that health insurance would be provided to rural people and those working in the informal employment sector. The Government had also implemented social safety nets for the most vulnerable in society with the aim of transforming Mali into an emerging economy, he said.
ARLINE DIAZ MENDOZA ( Venezuela) said that, since 2003, the Government had launched several successful social missions that had brought social protection and access to free health care, education and other services to the population. Social spending had accounted for 36.2 per cent of federal budgetary spending between 1986 and 1998, and from 1999 to 2011, funds earmarked for social spending had accounted for 61 per cent of all income. Thanks to those policies, poverty rates had fallen from 43.9 per cent in 1998 to 26.7 per cent in the first half of 2011, while extreme poverty had fallen from 17.1 per cent in the second half of 1998 to the present 7 per cent, she said. That had positively impacted Venezuela’s standing on the Human Development Index of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which had risen from 0.78 per cent to 0.82 per cent. In addition, according to data from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Venezuela had the region’s lowest rate of inequality.
TETSUYA KIMURA ( Japan) recalled that his country, in a bid to sustain momentum towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals, had hosted a Millennium Development Goals Follow-up Meeting in Tokyo last June, and a ministerial side event on the subject in New York last September. Poverty reduction was a priority aspect of Japan’s official development assistance (ODA), which supported human and social development in developing countries, in the areas of education, health, welfare, water, sanitation and agriculture. For example, in Niger, Senegal, Mali and Burkina Faso, Japan had sponsored the “School for All” Project, which entailed parents and community leaders helping to improve the local education system, he said. Japan had given $10 million to the United Nations Trust Fund for Human Security in fiscal 2011, he added.
VUSI MADONSELA, Director-General, Department of Social Development of South Africa, said that efforts to finance social development goals were under extreme pressure due to fiscal belt-tightening and a shaky global economic outlook. Yet, stakeholders across all income levels must recognize that now was the time to boost investment in social development, and that the cost of failing to do so would be much greater “and most certainly catastrophic”. Accordingly, the international community must face the challenge together, tackling the critical issues that linked poverty, unemployment — especially among the world’s youth — and widening inequality, he said. While some African countries had logged impressive levels of growth over the past few years, others, especially those in sub-Saharan Africa, remained mired in poverty that was both “endemic and extreme”. South Africa had been waging a tireless war against poverty for the past 20 years, and had managed to mainstream anti-poverty initiatives into numerous social policies and programmes. Stressing that the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) remained the continent’s chief tool for tackling poverty, he said the draft resolution on NEPAD’s social dimensions, to be adopted during the current session, would provide a platform for bolstering support among African countries and development partners alike.
MAGED ABDELAZIZ (Egypt) said the attention paid to social development so far had not met expectations and had resulted in many adverse effects that had hampered efforts to realize internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals. Economic growth had not translated into better social development, but had led instead to poverty, unemployment, marginalization, social exclusion and a lack of basic social services, including primary health care, food security, sanitation and shelter, among others. Hence, there was an urgent need to refocus developmental efforts on social development and to attach the highest priority to poverty eradication within the United Nations developmental agenda while stressing the importance of addressing the causes and challenges of poverty, he emphasized. The anger, injustice and frustration among citizens, particularly youth, due to poverty, unemployment and lack of equal opportunities, in addition to corruption and social exclusion, were among the factors that had led to the uprising in the Arab world, he noted.
WANG MIN ( China), encouraging the inclusion of poverty-reduction initiatives in all national social and economic development plans, said the broad effort to reduce poverty should not be seen as a burden on social and economic development efforts, but as “a driving force behind social stability and sustainable development”. The United Nations, the World Bank and other international organizations should bolster the global fight against poverty by helping to strengthen development cooperation, expand employment-generating programmes, improve social protection and protect vulnerable social groups. China had contributed to the cause of poverty reduction and was the first developing country to realize the Millennium Development Goal in that area, he said. Yet, its development was not balanced and some 128 million people still lived below the poverty line. As part of its response, the Government had recently issued its Outline for Development-oriented Poverty Reduction for Rural Areas 2011-2020, which aimed to address comprehensively the food, clothing, educational and health-care needs of low-income populations by its wrap-up date.
ESHAGH AL-HABIB ( Iran) said that, while economic growth was the basic requirement and prerequisite for addressing poverty, economic growth alone had not reduced the level or risk of poverty in many parts of the world. The role of a “development State” that promoted economic growth and inclusive development policies was, therefore, particularly critical, he said, emphasizing that growth should be focused on the stability of real output, incomes and employment rather than on exclusive monitoring of inflation and fiscal deficits. As one of the world’s major oil producers, Iran had undertaken a “huge” national project to rationalize the prices of energy carriers, mainly by eliminating subsidies to that sector, he said. Optimal use of natural resources, reducing economic distortion and waste, and protecting the environment had been the driving forces behind that policy, and as a result, a significant shift in the trajectory of fossil fuel consumption had already been registered, he said. Meanwhile, a more important result had been the record increases in the incomes of the country’s poorest provinces and families, he added.
MONIA ALSALEH (Syria), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, said her country faced major threats in view of the global crises, the escalation of “wars of aggression” and grave violations of international law. Syria had taken numerous measures to combat poverty, including the institution of equitable social and economic policies and the establishment of a balanced economy that aimed to ensure the just distribution of wealth while addressing the root causes of poverty. The Government provided periodic and emergency aid to the poorest families, and worked through local ministries to help women achieve economic and social empowerment. She said it was strange that, while the Secretary-General’s reports reviewed significant topics and arrived at important recommendations, they ignored the devastating effects of the Israeli occupation on all segments of Palestinian society. Indeed, many in the region suffered poverty, disability and other challenges as a result of the occupation.
OTHMAN JERANDI ( Tunisia) said his country’s revolution beginning on 14 January 2011 highlighted the need to address poverty while ensuring socio-economic and human rights. Tunisia had created ambitious social projects that called for the active participation of all stakeholders in designing, implementing and overseeing social and economic development. They focused on job creation, investment, regional development and providing aid to the most vulnerable sectors of society. The Government aimed to expand job opportunities for youth through training programmes and innovative solutions that promoted creativity and private initiative. But Tunisia could not accomplish such goals alone, he stressed, adding that it needed the support of all partners to tackle challenges in the current difficult socio-economic environment. The former President and his cronies had stolen resources totalling billions of dollars and put them in international banks, he said, calling on partners to exert pressure on banking lobbies in their respective countries to respond to Tunisia’s request for restitution of those assets.
YUSRA KHAN ( Indonesia) said her country had posted about 6 per cent economic growth annually before and during the global economic crisis, facilitating the realization of its social development goals. The Government’s pro-poor, pro-jobs and pro-environment policies stressed the need to combat poverty, and it had also strengthened its “development for all” policy to blunt the impact of the global crises. In 2011, the Government had launched the Master Plan for the Acceleration and Expansion of Indonesia Economic Growth, aimed at stimulating growth in major economic centres as a way to reduce social inequality. The Government was also taking steps to enhance food security and provide the poor with greater economic security by empowering the family unit and giving financial aid to poor households. Youth employment was a national priority, he said, noting that 20 per cent of the national education budget went towards improving young people’s access to education. Indonesia had ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in October 2011, he added.
BLANCA LILIA GARCIA LÓPEZ, Director-General for Coordination and International Relations, Ministry of Social Development of Mexico, said the upcoming “Rio+20” summit was not an environmental summit, but in fact a developmental summit that must examine poverty eradication, access to decent work, and the inclusion of people with disabilities, among other issues. Eradicating poverty was major challenge not just for developing countries, but also for developed and middle-income countries like Mexico. “The fight against poverty cannot lessen in the face of economic crisis,” she said, urging countries not to allow social development programmes to suffer budget cuts. Mexico had enhanced its institutions and programmes for combating poverty and hunger, even in the face of the global financial crisis. Its National Council of Assessment of Social Development Policies measured poverty in a multidimensional way. Social protection schemes played a decisive role, promoting an accumulation of capital and investments, and helped to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty.
MIGUEL CAMILO RUIZ ( Colombia) said his country had a vision of a society with equal opportunities and social mobility. The State would ensure that each Colombian was equipped with the tools necessary to forge his or her own destiny. Policies were in place for the protection of women, the integration of health care, work, justice and other dimensions of support. Colombia had two main strategies for reducing poverty — a direct channel for dealing with its most extreme forms, and an indirect one that dealt with economic growth and social development. The direct channel was based on a network of State entities and aimed to protect the rights of the most vulnerable through direct financial support, he said. The indirect channel promoted areas of economic growth such as technology and innovation, agriculture, housing and infrastructure, as well as enterprise and decent work. Colombia had set a target of lifting some 2.8 million individuals out of poverty by 2014, he said.
OSCAR LEÓN GONZÁLEZ ( Cuba) said his country had realized and in some cases surpassed many of the Millennium Development Goals, despite the unjust and criminal economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed on it for more than 50 years. Cuba had also defied the impact of powerful hurricanes, drought and the global economic crisis, he added. Its infant mortality rate was among the lowest in the world at 4.9 per 1,000 live births, and life expectancy stood at 78 years. Illiteracy did not exist in Cuba, which also provided citizens with free universal health care. More than one third of the federal budget went to raising levels of education, health, social assistance, culture and sports, he said, adding that the country also shared its modest resources with other needy nations, having established cooperation programmes with 157 of them. Cuba’s “Yes I Can” literacy programme had been recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and had brought literacy to more than 5 million people in 28 countries. A free vision programme had helped hundreds of thousands of patients with vision problems in many countries, he added.
NOA FURMAN ( Israel), expressing “utter dismay” over the cynical statement by the representative of Syria, said she would refrain from responding to such baseless accusations. Instead of talking about Israel, Syria should focus on the murders and torture occurring at home. Turning to the Commission’s session, she said her country’s Agency for International Development Cooperation, or MASHAV, greatly emphasized the need to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, including halving extreme poverty and hunger by 2015. Tackling global health-care challenges was a priority for Israel, which also provided expertise, technology, medicine and training to developing countries, through MASHAV and in partnership with the Ministry of Health, civil society and the private sector.
SYLVIE LUCAS ( Luxembourg), associating herself with the statement issued yesterday on behalf of the European Union, stressed the essential need for policies promoting decent jobs while providing greater social protection, saying they should focus, in particular, on youth, who were disproportionately affected by underemployment and exclusion from labour markets. Combined with job creation, social protection measures were essential in safeguarding families from economic shocks, she said, adding that there was a correlation between high expenditure on social protection and a low poverty rate. Luxembourg’s strong social cohesion and healthy economic situation had not kept the issue of poverty risk out of the national conversation, she said, noting that among reforms undertaken were the transformation of the Government’s employment administration into an employment-development agency. At the global level, Luxembourg’s ODA interventions were mainly in the social sectors, health and education in particular, she added.
SIDY GUEYE, Director of Social Development Strategies, Ministry of Women, Children and the Family of Senegal, associated himself with the Group of 77 and China, and said that his country, like many others, had subscribed to 10 common commitments during the Copenhagen World Summit. The country had implemented political measures to promote social integration and combat poverty, and to ensure job security and social cohesion. It had developed a social framework by ratifying relevant international and subregional instruments, while seeking also to protect against poverty, provide education for all and eliminate all forms of social discrimination. The Government was working to provide adequate access to jobs and protect vulnerable groups, he said, noting that basic social protection depended on the capacity of each country. Senegal’s job-creation plans were set to modernize working conditions, and sector-specific policies for the protection of the most vulnerable had been implemented, he said, adding that the Government had established the National Foundation for Youth Employment, in addition to launching a women’s loan project, among other initiatives.
MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI ( Brazil) said the Brazilian experience suggested that tax policies that encouraged small business enterprises were a powerful job-creation tool. Over the past decade, more than 40 million Brazilians had risen out of poverty thanks to public policies aimed at ensuring sustained economic growth and social inclusion. For example, the Bolsa Familia cash transfer programme provided monthly cash stipends to poor families who committed to keeping their children in school and ensuring they had regular medical check-ups. That programme had reduced poverty and broken the cycle of passing it down to future generations, she said. The Benefits for the Elderly and Disabled in Poverty programme provided monthly stipends to elderly and disabled people from poor families. Raising the minimum wage had led to the expansion of social development, she said, adding that an overall reduction in income inequality was occurring. The Government had also adopted policies to empower women and reduce gender inequality. The “ Brazil without Extreme Poverty” plan aimed to lift 16.2 million people out of extreme poverty, while the Bolsa Verde programme consisted of small cash transfers to poor families that preserved national forests, extractive reserves and sustainable development in the area where they lived.
GAIL RILEY ( Barbados) said human development remained at the head of her Government’s list of priorities, while education had long been considered the main engine for moving people out of poverty and unskilled labour into higher-paying professions and social stability. Free-education policies had been in place since 1962 and programmes to subsidize primary and secondary school textbooks had been implemented. Overall, education accounted for some 21 per cent of Government expenditure, she said. Measures were in place to break the cycle of poverty by providing universal access to social protection networks and targeting the specific needs of rural communities. All such policies were based on the premise that, although immediate action was necessary to address acute deprivation, the spread of poverty could only be halted through long-term interventions to tackle its root causes and empower affected people and communities. Keenly aware of the impact of social policies and the need to protect vulnerable groups, Barbados had employed a multi-stakeholder approach that involved the private sector and the labour movement, she said, adding that the strategy had led to the implementation of a salary increase for public sector workers in 2008, as well as the extension of unemployment benefits for persons who had lost their jobs. Crises called for sustained and increased social spending, she said, emphasizing that Barbados would continue to make the development of its people the highest priority.
SHIN DONG-IK (Republic of Korea) said his Government shared the Secretary-General’s view that sustainable and equitable economic growth was a necessary condition for poverty eradication, and that employment was a crucial driver of inclusive and equitable economic growth, as well as an essential means of social integration. The creation of decent jobs was indispensable for poverty eradication, and to that end, the Republic of Korea had been pursuing various employment policies with a particular focus on supporting vulnerable groups that had difficulty finding work, he said, adding that particular attention should be paid to youth because they were disproportionately affected by the difficult labour market. As the world’s first recipient-turned-donor country, the Republic of Korea stood ready to play a bridging role between traditional donors and other development partners in global efforts to eliminate poverty throughout the world, he said, adding that as part of those efforts, the Government had hosted the Fourth High-level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan last November.
RAFFAELE TANGORRA ( Italy) said his country’s Government had taken a three-pronged approach of austerity, growth and fairness to address the current severe economic crisis and the sovereign debt crisis. In recent weeks, it had taken major liberalization and simplification measures in the hope that structural reforms would impact economic growth, and not only in the short term, he said, adding that the labour-market reform under consideration was even more important to reducing poverty. Its guiding principle was the European Union strategy known as “flexicurity”, which was aimed at increasing the number of new and better jobs through market flexibility, while improving the safety net for unemployed workers. The proposed reform also aimed to reduce labour-market fragmentation, which affected youth in particular. While Italy was one of the few developed countries that lacked a generalized minimum income support, it did have a social pension or allowance for the elderly, he said. In 2008, he recalled, the Government had introduced a so-called “social card” — a prepaid debit card for buying food and paying utility bills so as to lessen the impact of higher energy and food prices on low-income households. He added that the Government intended to expand that initiative, and last Friday, it had passed a decree to strengthen the programme in cities with more than 250,000 inhabitants.
The representative of the civil society organization Le Cercle Triglav described the elimination of poverty as an ethical imperative, and emphasized that the actual use of wealth must be examined at both the national and international levels. Money and its related power should not be society’s number-one objective. While wealth was a source of pride and satisfaction, it was necessary to bring the moral dimension back to the word “wealth”, he said, calling in that regard for a “reduction in egoism”. Importantly, legal economic and financial arrangements that were legal or ignored by law, but immoral, should be eliminated, he said, citing the example of tax havens. Approaches to financial activities were currently framed by the common viewpoint emphasizing competition over cooperation, he said, stressing that such a strategy was “not unavoidable”. The report provided by the Secretariat was a very encouraging sign that the struggle against poverty could remain a true “ethical, social, political and economic imperative of humankind”, he said.
The representative of the International Eco-Safety Cooperative Organization said that frequent natural disasters and economic crises posed a great threat to mankind. They not only changed the world’s political balance, they also created a large number of economic refugees and large-scale unrest. He said that his organization, which carried out projects aimed at reducing poverty and providing employment for youth, as well as training professionals in poverty reduction, had taken part in rescue and construction work after the recent earthquake in China, and had worked in poor areas of that country, as well as others, such as the United Republic of Tanzania. Africa, in particular, beset by hunger and disease, was home to most of the world’s least developed countries and its poor population was increasing, he noted.
A representative of the Baha’i International Community said extreme poverty and wealth were linked to the nature of relationships that bound individuals, communities and nations. The progress and vitality of humanity required a coherent relationship between the material and non-material dimensions of human life. Economic arrangements should support the development of just, peaceful human relations and empower every individual to help improve society. The various approaches to obtaining wealth must enter into the discourse on poverty eradication so that schemes involving the exploitation of others, the manipulation of markets and the production of harmful goods could be explored and scrutinized in full.
Mr. JERANDI ( Tunisia), taking the floor again on behalf of the African Group and associating himself with the Group of 77, said the critical importance of concrete action to accelerate progress towards poverty eradication by addressing its interrelationship with social integration and full employment could never be overemphasized. The African Union Heads of State and Government had adopted the Social Policy Framework for Africa in 2009, and were placing special emphasis on the NEPAD initiative to push forward the elements of social and economic development on the continent. In addition, African States had undertaken efforts to promote the effective implementation of actions and programmes agreed upon in the context of the United Nations poverty reduction framework. As a complex problem involving both social and economic issues, poverty could not be solved by growth alone, but instead required a human-centred approach, he said, expressing the African Group’s deep concern about constraints on their fight against poverty, which had arisen from the ongoing global financial crisis.
CATHERINE BAKANG MBOCK, Minister for Social Affairs of Cameroon, endorsing the statements of the Group of 77 and the African Group, said poverty had rightly been described as an “abject and dehumanizing phenomenon”, and emphasized the need to redouble solidarity in fighting it. During the Commission’s last session, delegates had agreed that eliminating poverty through decent work must become a priority international goal, she recalled. For its own part, Cameroon sought to transform itself into an emerging economy by 2035, he said, adding that his country was making strides in the areas of employment, transport, health, education and housing among others. For example, the civil service had recruited thousands of young graduates in 2011, and in the agricultural sector — which employed 60 per cent of the population — it was taking measures such as the creation of fertilizer plants and seed farms, and financing those activities through a new agricultural bank. The impact of such measures had already brought about improvements in social and economic indicators, she said.
LENIN CADENA, Under-Secretary-General for Analysis and Evaluation, Ministry of Social Development of Ecuador, said his country’s Government had created real channels for prosperity. Some 1 million people had been lifted out of poverty in the last five years, and investments in social development had grown from $1.2 billion in 2006 to $4.6 billion in 2011. Poverty nationwide had fallen from 37.6 per cent in December 2006 to 28 per cent in December 2011. Over the same period, poverty in basic needs had declined significantly, net education aid had increased from 89.3 per cent to 95.4 per cent in 2011, and child labour in rural areas had dropped from 30 per cent to 10 per cent. In 2008, the Government had adopted an equality law that aimed to use tax reform to redistribute wealth more evenly, he recalled, adding that the Government understood the importance of job creation and decent salaries in fighting poverty. In 2010 the Government had launched the “Dignified Domestic Work” campaign to empower domestic workers, who were largely women. It had also created a standard base salary, a maximum work week and social security to assist domestic workers, he said, adding that it had also expanded social protection coverage for the elderly and the disabled.
RUTH RADIBE, Agricultural Director, Department of Social Services, Ministry of Local Government of Botswana, said her country’s Government had enacted social development policies for poverty eradication, rural development, national youth development, disaster management and social protection, particularly for the poor, to ensure that everyone lived a dignified life. Botswana had a universal old-age pension scheme for all people aged 65 and above, as well as cash allowances for Second World War veterans and destitute persons, he said, adding that it contributed $41 million annually to such programmes. Its Ipelegeng work programme provided temporary employment for up to 40,000 poor people every month, including 15,264 youth. The Government also provided subsidized social services such as education, health and housing. Its livestock management and infrastructure development scheme had benefitted 5,274 farmers, mostly women, at a cost of $5 million, and an integrated support programme for arable agriculture development, another subsidized programme, empowered Botswana to participate in arable farming. He said an affirmative action programme for remote-area communities had just been implemented with the aim of facilitating access to education, land, employment and other social services in rural areas. The President’s poverty eradication road map, which facilitated economic empowerment through job creation and food security, had benefitted more than 2,500 people, he said.
MOHAMMED LOULICHKI ( Morocco), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said full employment and poverty eradication remained major problems around the world, particularly in Africa. Reiterating his country’s resolve to face up to poverty and social exclusion, he said Morocco was organizing a national initiative on human development which sought to build solidarity and reduce the social deficits created by poverty and exclusion. Those aims would be achieved through micro-projects and revenue-generating initiatives would provide enhanced access to social services for marginalized populations. Morocco had also been working on regional social development and was cooperating with other African countries. He called upon the international community to redefine economic and social strategies and rethink conventional methods and approaches. He also called for stronger international cooperation with a view to translating the stated goals of social development into concrete action that would allow the “poorest of the poor” to exercise their rights, as set out in international law.
MARIANNE BIBALOU (Gabon), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, said there was a direct interaction between the eradication of poverty and other areas, including the protection of the young, the aged and those with disabilities, as well as other vulnerable groups. At the national level, Gabon had long emphasized education and training, which were the cornerstones of social development and a key element of poverty eradication. It provided free education was free in Gabon, and made scholarships available for study both in Gabon and elsewhere. The country sought social integration at all levels, she said, noting that full employment was at the heart of that concern. “Industrial Gabon”, “green Gabon” and “values-added Gabon” were the three pillars of the country’s employment schemes, she said, adding that the environment, social security and pension payments were other top priorities. Gabon also sought to coordinate national development policies and ensure the effectiveness of ODA.
PALITHA T.B. KOHONA ( Sri Lanka) said that, despite a range of challenges, including terrorism, his country’s poverty level had fallen from 15.2 per cent in 2006/2007 to 8.9 per cent in 2009/2010, the highest drop in its history. That had led to increased literacy and improved health indicators. Still, rising food and fuel prices, the unpredictable financial and economic situation of development partners and the negative impact of environmental degradation had aggravated poverty, he said. Sri Lanka’s key policy document, “Mahinda Chintana — Vision for the Future”, set out specific targets for combating poverty within the Millennium Development Goals framework. Accordingly, national programmes had been aligned to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger by 2016. The Ministry of Economic Development had created several key programmes for uplifting livelihoods, establishing safety nets, and creating economically stable villages. They also aimed to promote self-employment through financial and technical assistance to youth and women in rural areas. With funding from the United Nations and non-governmental organizations, the Government had also begun a plan to rebuild the Northern Province, he said.
JOHN SAMMIS (United States) said his country’s development priorities included the “Feed the Future” initiative, which would help countries sustainably develop agricultural infrastructure, improve nutrition, diversify their economies, support smallholder and women farmers, create jobs along the agricultural value chain, and ultimately lift 18 million people out of hunger and poverty. Also included were the Global Health Initiative and the Global Climate Change Initiative. The United States had given more than $10 billion in 2011 in development aid for Africa, he noted, adding that it was committed to making the continent a priority and ensuring that children had access to basic vaccines, while increasing agricultural production and expanding opportunities for United States investment in African business. Financial resources, coupled with improved governance, an enabling environment for business, and open, transparent decision-making were needed to drive economic growth, he said, adding that his country had recently launched the Open Government Partnership, a multilateral initiative.
BYRGANYM AITIMOVA ( Kazakhstan) said that, while her country had realized Millennium Development Goal 1, on halving the proportion of people suffering from hunger, the number of people around the world suffering from undernourishment was, in fact, rising as a result of the global food crisis. In light of that, the importance of “climate smart” agriculture continued to grow, she said. Kazakhstan had proposed the development of a global energy-ecological strategy to contribute to sustainable development, as well as a “green bridge” programme intended to ensure the transfer of green technologies. In the current economic climate, emphasizing macroeconomic benefits while cutting social financing — particularly employment, education and health care — would lead to a prolonged large-scale crisis, she warned. For its part, Kazakhstan was developing the National Employment Programme with particular emphasis on training and employment assistance, as well as entrepreneurship in rural areas and increasing the mobility of human resources. It would provide microcredit to those working in the countryside. In order to advance opportunities for the self-employed, the Government had been successfully implementing “Business Roadmap 2020”, she said.
DUNSTAN BRYAN, Director, Social Protection Programme, Ministry of Labour and Social Security of Jamaica, said that, as his country worked to implement its poverty eradication plans, it must, like other developing nations, make critical decisions about the development of its people. Unemployment, poverty, lack of education and other ills remained among the major contributors to social exclusion and disharmony, and as such, could put serious pressure on national development plans. In its efforts to attain the Millennium Development Goals, Jamaica had made significant achievements on poverty reduction, enrolment in primary school, and eliminating gender disparities, despite limited economic growth. Citing an example, he said that in 2008, the Government had approved a pilot “Welfare-to-Work” programme for working-age members of households benefiting from the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH). Following an evaluation that had found those persons far more resilient after having received such support, the programme had subsequently been mainstreamed into PATH households, he said. “We see this approach as the appropriate next step in the strengthening of our social protection systems as we continue our journey towards the ultimate goal of poverty eradication.”
Ms. COËNT (France), endorsing the European Union statement, said jobs were a prerequisite for social inclusion, but the current crisis had made it more difficult for some — young people and other excluded groups in particular — from finding work. They sometimes turned to the informal employment sector, where wages tended to be lower. The President of France had recently announced a series of initiatives to foster youth employment, including the introduction of an option for part-time employment as an alternative to lay-offs, and increased on-the-job training. Social protection was a powerful factor in the security of all people, and achieving universally accessible social protection, on the basis of creating “social protection floors” would be a major achievement, she said, adding that States also had their own roles to play in the implementation of social protection floors.
RUBÉN ARMANDO ESCALANTE HASBÚN (El Salvador), citing statistics from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), said poverty in his country had fallen by 2.3 per cent over the last decade. More than half of that decline had occurred during 2009 and 2010, he said, attributing it to Government efforts to provide social protection and universal access to education, health care, nutrition, food security, housing, infrastructure, community services and other basic needs. Government investment in social programmes had increased steadily, from $481.9 million in 2010 to $597.7 million in 2011, and it was projected to reach $839.4 million in 2012. Investment in social infrastructure, including schools, health care, potable water, sanitation and rural electrification services, would rise from $315 million in 2011 to an estimated $471 million in 2012, he said. The Government had also launched an agricultural development plan that aimed to assist rural families and foster agro-industrial production and food security. A $12.6 million Government-run school nutrition programme would benefit more than 1.3 million students in 5,196 rural and urban schools, he said, adding that the Government’s basic pension programmes issued monthly stipends of $50 to low-income people aged 70 and above.
HAJIYA ZAINAB MAINA, Minister for Women Affairs and Social Development of Nigeria, said her country’s Government was vigorously pursuing the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, in accordance with the Millennium Development Goals. Nigeria had instituted a number of policies, programmes and strategies specifically designed for that purpose, one of which was the National Poverty Eradication Programme. The Government had also allocated funds to reinvigorate various sectors of the economy in order to enhance employment-generating potential. Further, strategies for accelerating poverty reduction were being applied in key economic sectors, such as agriculture, manufacturing and infrastructure. The overall objective of Nigeria’s poverty-alleviation strategies was to promote social integration, create employment and empower the population economically, she said. Recognizing the family as the basic unit of society, Nigeria was also deploying considerable efforts in developing legislation specific to family issues, she said, adding that areas to be covered included poverty alleviation, the right to social service, promoting environmental sustainability, and the rights, duties and responsibilities of families and children.
MARIE BETTY CONILLE ( Haiti) said that, with unemployment exceeding 65 per cent, her country was among those most severely affected by poverty. The 2010 earthquake had seriously damaged its economic fabric, and adverse weather had repeatedly destroyed crops. For more than two years, the Government had been trying to rebuild, she said, noting that reconstruction was a central part of Haiti’s poverty eradication efforts. The new Administration was making efforts to improve the living conditions of marginalized sectors of society. Pointing out the cause-and-effect relationship between illiteracy and poverty, she said that was why any poverty eradication policy must address illiteracy. Thanks to a new free education programme targeting the most marginalized children, some 903,000 children were now attending school. The Government had made it a national priority to end social exclusion, she said, adding that to create jobs, it was implementing new measures with a view to attracting new foreign investment. Last week, during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, President Michel Martelly had invited investors to Haiti and told them that the country was now “open for business”, she said.
AMAN HASSEN BAME ( Ethiopia) said that his country, aware that poverty eradication and improving its people’s living standards called for genuine commitment and concrete development efforts, had designed various people-centred policy tools geared towards addressing the needs of the poor by providing better social services and seeking a higher level of economic growth and development. Over the last decade, Ethiopia had made significant strides through its successful implementation of the Plan for Accelerated and Sustained Development to End Poverty, through which the Government had embarked on an aggressive programme to accelerate growth with a major focus on education to create human capacity, expand infrastructure and enhance the economy’s competitiveness. Pursuing broad-based growth with a focus on agriculture and rural development had been at the centre of Ethiopia’s poverty eradication agenda, he said. Taking into account that sector’s critical role in generating employment opportunities and changing the overall living conditions of the rural poor, the Government had embarked on appropriate policy measures, strategies and programmes aimed at accelerating the development sector, he said, adding that it had also made major efforts to promote the expansion and development of small and micro-enterprises in order to tackle poverty and enhance employment opportunities for the youth.
SAMIA ANJUM (Bangladesh), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, said that her country’s “Vision 2021” plan aimed at reaching, by 2021, a trajectory of high-performing growth, health and education for all, as well as social justice, reduced social disparity, and increased capacity to tackle the adverse effects of climate change. To date, Bangladesh had undertaken extensive social protection programmes, including support for the destitute, widows and the extremely poor. Expenditures on social safety nets were increasing over time, she said, accounting for some 2.5 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2011/2012. Support was given to small entrepreneurs through a dedicated fund which provided loans. As a result, the country had made substantial progress in reducing poverty, real financial growth was increasing and fertility rates were dropping, she said. However, it was frustrating that least developed countries around the world still lacked support from developed countries, as further interventions were needed, she said.
Mr. KULYK ( Ukraine) said social tensions were strongly felt in his country, and some 8 million people had joined trade unions. The gap between the richest and poorest was “tremendous” and the poverty rates of large families hovered around 70 per cent. A campaign against poverty had been launched, with the goal of redistributing revenue and increasing the minimum wage, among other goals. In that regard, attention should be paid at the international level to stabilizing the economic situation, he stressed, adding that quality of education and health care must be improved. On 20 February, Ukraine would celebrate the International Day of Social Justice, he said, noting that trade unions would take the opportunity to draw attention to the need for an equitable society and improved standards of living. The participation of civil society, and indeed of all stakeholders, was needed, he said.
NANCY DZAH, Chief Director, Ministry of Employment and Social Welfare of Ghana, said that, as a result of her Government’s increased focus on poverty reduction, there had been an increase in pro-poor growth activities and spending. Subsequently, poverty was trending significantly downward and the rates of extreme poverty had also dropped. However, poverty levels had risen in Ghana’s northern savannah regions, she said, noting that the Government had responded by establishing the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority, which had set out to double incomes in the region, reduce poverty and create a “green savannah” by 2030. Speaking more broadly, she said effective interventions aimed at reducing poverty and promoting social integration must address access to income and basic services, including education, health care, housing, water and sanitation. At the national level, Ghana was striving to promote equitable development by ensuring equal access to goods and services across all regions of the country.
DER KOGDA ( Burkina Faso) said that, as a least developed country, Burkina Faso was working to combat poverty by protecting vulnerable social groups such as women, youth, the disabled and the elderly. The Government’s priority was to expand education, health and employment for them. Thanks to Government programmes, the percentage of people with regular access to clean water had increased from 43.1 per cent in 1994 to 80 per cent in 2010. The Government had also enacted an ambitious primary education development programme to erase illiteracy. And thanks to health-care projects, Burkina Faso had witnessed a significant drop in maternal and infant mortality and in HIV/AIDS. It had adopted a national employment policy in 2008, which was implemented by several funds for employing youth and women. He went on to cite social protection networks and plans for providing better neonatal care, school nutrition and emergency food stamps, saying they were part of the Government’s five-year national strategy to fight poverty which had been expanded in 2010 to foster expedited growth.
PHILIPPA KING ( Australia) called on all countries to maintain the focus on supporting attainment of the Millennium Development Goals, the deadline for which was now just over three years away. That meant increasing aid flows, as Australia was doing by doubling its aid to more than $9 billion by 2015, increasing funding to help meet the needs of least developed countries, and paying greater attention to the private flows of funds. Australia’s approach to poverty eradication also understood that food security was critical, hence its support in helping developing countries to increase agricultural productivity and the ability of the poor to access food. Australia also acknowledged the importance for poverty reduction of expanding access to financial services, she said, noting that more than 2.7 billion people in developing countries were excluded from the financial services market. Australia called for more efforts to help the poor increase their incomes, build assets, participate in the market economy and reduce their vulnerability in times of economic stress.
NOUNEH ZASTOUKHOVA (Armenia), associating herself with the European Union, said that unequal economic opportunities, differences in regional development and the increasing effects of the global economic crisis meant that poverty would continue to be a problem in her country. It was clear that the forecast for Armenia’s gross domestic product must be revised due to the unforeseen effects of the global economic crisis. Reductions in foreign financing, the effects of global warming, and volatile food prices were just a few of the challenges it now faced. Despite the recession and the challenging fiscal situation, however, the Government continued to fulfil its social commitments to the extent possible, with social protection programmes focused on mitigating income inequity. Further, Armenia was cooperating with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in fostering local self-government reforms, modernizing vocational education and supporting small enterprises, she said. It had also initiated projects aimed at helping local self-governing bodies to improve accountability and the delivery of public services through performance-based budgeting methodologies, she said.
YINKA ADEYEMI, Senior Regional Adviser, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), said that, within national and regional development frameworks, and in the context of NEPAD’s social dimensions, African countries had stressed the importance of social protection schemes in enhancing development and had taken step to put them in place. The Social Policy Framework for Africa extended the role of social protection schemes beyond the narrow confines of protective measures to enhancing productivity and promoting the equitable distribution of wealth and services. That conclusion was supported by two regional studies conducted by ECA, which had examined the various social protection schemes within the development plans and strategies in each country, and analysed their outcomes on poverty and gender inequality. The countries studied had portrayed both the rights-based approach and the financing of transfers to individuals with specific needs, while some had introduced legislation on vulnerable groups. The studies also showed that social protection schemes that took the gender dimension into account went a long way towards mitigating poverty and empowering women. Moreover, the studies showed conclusively that social protection schemes contributed to reducing poverty by improving food security and access to education and health services, he said, stressing that they should, therefore, be included in the “shared and coherent vision” of development in African countries.
TELMA VIALE, Special Representative to the United Nations and Director, New York, of the International Labour Organization (ILO), said that, with some 900 million workers living with their families below the $2-a-day poverty line, the jobs crisis continued unabated despite strenuous Government efforts. One in three workers worldwide, an estimated 1.1 billion people, was either unemployed or living in poverty. The recovery begun in 2009 had been short-lived, with 27 million more unemployed workers than at the start of the crisis. Lessons learned from the global economic and jobs crisis reaffirmed the need for a forward-looking transformative poverty-eradication agenda that would directly target job creation and productivity growth in the real economy, she said, emphasizing that special attention must be paid to the quality and quantity of jobs. The ILO Global Jobs Pact provided a comprehensive policy portfolio to promote a productive recovery in the labour market and achieve long-term sustainability. During the International Labour Conference in June, the ILO would issue a recommendation on establishing a new international instrument on national social protection floors, she said.
Right of Reply
The representative of Syria, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, refuted “naïve” allegations and “heresy” on the part of the representative of Israel, who had claimed that Syria’s statements about her country’s most heinous violations were not based on reality. The Israeli delegate was trying to conceal her Government’s violations of the rights of Arab citizens in occupied Arab territories, especially the human right to social development and a decent life. She cited Israel’s crimes of genocide and its massacres of Arab peoples, including in Gaza, adding that the Israeli representative’s position disqualified her from judging human rights anywhere. Several United Nations reports pointed to Israel’s violations of the rights of Arabs, she said, citing a recent report of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), which clearly indicated that the Israeli occupation represented the main obstacle to development for Arab peoples under occupation.
The representative of Israel also spoke in exercise of the right of reply, saying that it was disturbing that the representative of Syria continued to waste the Commission’s time with her “cynical sideshow”. The regime had “zero credibility” and cared nothing about the development needs of its own people or anyone else, she said, adding that it was focused instead on diverting attention from the crimes it committed on a daily basis.
The representative of Syria said the fabrications cited by the representative of the “Israeli occupation authorities” had no merit, and expressed surprise that a humanitarian view had “suddenly appeared” in that delegate’s statement. The Security Council periodically took up the question of the situation in the Middle East, which was aimed at ending the occupation of Palestine, she noted, but some delegations unfortunately sought to divert the intentional community’s attention from the occupation. It would be better for Israel’s representative to employ that humanitarian touch when killing thousands of Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese, she said, adding that no action would conceal the fact that Israel was the country of Zionism and terrorism.
Statements by Non-Governmental Organizations
A representative of the Qatar Charitable Society described that organization’s main work as providing assistance with food health and shelter, as well the economic enablement of the poor. Its first objective was eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, she said, adding that the Society worked across several continents to achieve that goal. It also aimed to achieve universal primary education, to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment, to reduce infant mortality, to combat HIV/AIDS, to protect the environment and to improve maternal health, among other goals. The Society sought to establish universal development partnerships through donor conferences at the international and regional levels, she said in conclusion.
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