Social Development Efforts at ‘Important Juncture’, Under-Secretary-General Says as Third Committee Begins Discussion
Social Development Efforts at ‘Important Juncture’, Under-Secretary-General Says as Third Committee Begins Discussion
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-eighth General Assembly
2nd & 3rd Meetings* (AM & PM)
Social Development Efforts at ‘Important Juncture’, Under-Secretary-General
Says as Third Committee Begins Discussion
Speakers Focus on Disability, Ageing, Youth Unemployment, Vulnerable Groups
The work of the United Nations on social development had reached “an important juncture” as inequality continued to plague its efforts, a senior official of the Organization said today as the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) began its substantive work.
“Although we have made good progress in improving social development on a global scale, progress continues to be uneven,” said Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, in remarks read on his behalf by Thomas Gass, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs. While many individuals and social groups had benefited from poverty reduction and social integration, others remained far behind, he noted.
He began by stressing the critical importance of the Committee’s collective expertise in moving development forward in a just and sustainable manner. In many countries and regions, he said, inequality was compromising the health, nutrition and education of large segments of society. It also limited job prospects and participation in social, political and economic life. Historically, inequalities had led to the consistent exclusion of women, youth, persons with disabilities, the elderly, indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities, among others. Inequality undermined inclusive economic growth and environmental sustainability.
Calling for a comprehensive policy approach to meet those challenges, he identified several successful strategies, including the Social Protection Floor Initiative, which provided guidance on creating the type of inclusive social policies that worked. Agricultural growth and the diversification of rural economies had lifted millions of people out of poverty. The benefits of fiscal stimuli and the dangers of prolonged austerity measures had become clear, he said, adding that active labour-market policies and income support had shown their merits. The advantages of participatory decision-making were evident.
With fewer than 850 days remaining to the Millennium Development Goals deadline, “we must intensify our efforts for their achievement by 2015”, he said. At the same time, Member States were affirming a strong post-2015 development agenda, which would build on the foundations laid by the Millennium Goals, complete the unfinished business and address the new challenges.
Fiji’s representative, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, was among several of the more than 40 speakers who stressed the importance of international cooperation, including South-South and triangular cooperation, in achieving the social development goals of poverty eradication, social inclusion and full employment and decent work for all. He urged developed countries to fulfil their individual and collective commitments, especially on official development assistance (ODA) and on harmonizing the trade agenda to support measures aimed at equalizing opportunities for access and participation in global markets.
The representative of Trinidad and Tobago, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), highlighted the lingering impacts of the global economic crisis on social development in the region, saying that the developed world’s economic woes were spilling over into developing countries through weaker demand for their exports and volatile capital flows. “Social development cannot be considered in a vacuum,” he asserted, adding that it must be incorporated into the wider sustainable development agenda. CARICOM had long adopted a people-centred approach, empowering its citizens and addressing inequalities, he said.
Youth representation distinguished today’s meeting, with one from Switzerland defining the global youth population as a “brimming reservoir of innovation, creativity and productivity” that remained untapped and neglected. Environmental degradation could undo development gains, adversely affecting youth employment, he said, adding that peace and security were equally linked to youth unemployment, as conflict and post-conflict settings deprived young people of educational and economic opportunities.
“The youth are frustrated,” Kenya’s youth delegate emphasized. She noted that although 92 per cent of young people in her country had acquired formal education, many still faced the reality of unemployment and underemployment, even with a university degree. She wondered why qualifications for decent jobs were set so high, and why many years of experience were required.
Other topics featuring prominently included the needs of other vulnerable groups, such as the elderly, persons with disabilities, and the role of family in social development.
In other business, the Committee elected Mario Von Haff ( Angola), by acclamation, as Vice-Chair for the current session, and approved its work programme.
Presenting documentation for the Committee’s consideration were Daniela Bas, Director of the Division for Social Policy and Development in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, and Vibeke Jenson, Director of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Liaison Office in New York.
Speaking during today’s meeting were representatives of Malaysia (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Ethiopia (on behalf of the African Group), Lesotho (on behalf of the Southern African Development Community), Cuba (on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), the European Union Delegation, Nigeria, Egypt, Russian Federation, Mexico, United States, Netherlands, Australia, Israel, Dominican Republic, South Africa, Germany, Austria, Libya, Finland, Nicaragua, Romania, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, China, Sweden, Kazakhstan, Senegal, Japan, Venezuela, Malaysia, Indonesia, Republic of Korea, Colombia, Singapore, India, Iran and Bolivia.
The Third Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 8 October, to continue its debate on social development.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this morning to adopt its work programme for the current session and begin its discussion on social development. Before members was the first report of the General Committee on “Organization of the sixty-eighth regular session of the General Assembly, adoption of the agenda and allocation of items” (document A/68/250).
Also before the Committee were reports of the Secretary-General 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/68/174); “Cooperatives in social development and the observance of the International Year of Cooperatives” (document A/68/168); “Preparations for and observance of the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family in 2014” (document A/68/61–E/2013/3); “Promoting social integration through social inclusion” (document A/68/169); “The way forward: a disability-inclusive development agenda towards 2015 and beyond” (document A/68/95); “Follow-up to the International Year of Older Persons: Second World Assembly on Ageing” (document A/68/167); and “Implementation of the International Plan of Action for the United Nations Literacy Decade” (document A/68/201).
LUKE DAUNIVALU(Fiji), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said the continuing challenges to achieving the social development goals of poverty eradication, social inclusion and full employment and decent work for all had become more urgent than ever. In light of those challenges, the role of international cooperation, including South-South and triangular cooperation, was crucial to attaining the internationally agreed development targets and promoting social development goals. It was also crucial that developed countries fulfil the individual and collective commitments they had made, especially on official development assistance (ODA) and on harmonizing the trade agenda to support measures aimed at equalizing opportunities for access and participation in global markets.
Empowerment should focus on marginalized and disadvantaged social groups, including women, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, youth, older persons and migrants, he emphasized. Specifically on the needs of persons with disabilities, he welcomed the outcome of the high-level meeting of the General Assembly, saying it had provided an invaluable opportunity to review development policy and practices from a disability perspective. The Group of 77 also attached great importance to the issue of elderly people, who faced discrimination, poverty, violence and a lack of specific services and resources. As for young people, he called for implementation of the outcome document of the United Nations High-level Meeting on Youth, which outlined youth-specific measures, including advancing job creation, skills development and vocational training designed for specific labour-market needs.
HUSSEIN HANIFF (Malaysia), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said the bloc had developed the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community blueprint, aimed at alleviating poverty, tackling the negative impacts of integration and globalization, strengthening food security, widening access to health care and promoting healthy lifestyles, and improving the capability to control communicable diseases. The goals of the blueprint were to be achieved by implementing concrete and productive actions that were people-oriented and socially responsible.
He said ASEAN had adopted the Strategic Framework for Social Welfare and Development (2011-2015) aimed at safeguarding the welfare and rights of older people, persons with disabilities, as well as children and families. It also aimed to promote disability-inclusive development, and welcomed Singapore’s ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities last July. He reiterated ASEAN’s commitment to continue strengthening social protection and mainstreaming the perspectives and concerns of vulnerable groups. The bloc also highly valued its youth as critical agents of progress in the region, and had endorsed programmes and initiatives to promote greater economic self-reliance among young people through the development of entrepreneurship.
RODNEY CHARLES ( Trinidad and Tobago), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said poverty, unemployment and social exclusion persisted in that region amid the continuing impacts of the global economic crisis. The developed world’s economic woes were spilling into developing countries through weaker demand for their exports and volatile capital flows. “Social development cannot be considered in a vacuum,” he asserted, adding that it must be incorporated into the wider sustainable development agenda. For its part, CARICOM had long adopted a people-centred approach, empowering its citizens and addressing inequalities. Meaningful participation was among the most prominent features of empowerment, and as such, efforts were being made to ensure that all citizens were integrated fully into society and all stakeholders could participate in making decisions that influenced public policy.
He said the regional Council for Human and Social Development, which had met on 24 May, also addressed key issues of sustainable development, including education, health, youth and gender. Another means to empower people involved diversifying regional economies. More broadly, CARICOM recognized the importance of families to social development, he said, emphasizing that it would remain engaged in preparations for the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family in 2014. The Community also supported a disability-inclusive development agenda. It would continue to engage young people in decision-making and, in the area of health, work with all partners to facilitate multisectoral action to prevent non-communicable diseases. In sum, CARICOM would continue to work with all its partners at the national and regional levels to define the post-2015 agenda.
TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia), speaking on behalf of the African Group and aligning with the Group of 77 and China, highlighted the gains that the African Union and its member States had made on disabilities, youth, the elderly, families as well as the problem of inequality and social exclusion. Despite capacity challenges and resources constraints, the African Union had undertaken several activities and initiatives related to ensuring the human rights of persons with disabilities, including a continental plan of action for the African Decade of Person with Disabilities. On youth and empowerment, he emphasized that more than 600 million African youths faced unemployment, underemployment, lack of skills and relevant education, and access to capital. There was a regional and global need to invest in youth, he added.
Turning to the elderly, he said the regional organization had developed the African Union Policy Framework on Ageing in Africa, which bound member States to develop specific policies on ageing. On family, he underlined the many challenges involved in protecting and supporting the African family due to widespread poverty, the need to ensure a work-family balance as well as intergenerational solidarity, which for generations had been a key characteristic of families on the continent. Development had not made a significant impact on the lives of most people, especially marginalized and vulnerable groups, and many countries continued to face social development difficulties, as clearly portrayed in poor social development indicators. Despite such challenges, however, African countries had made notable efforts to promote socio-economic development, he said.
KELEBONE MAOPE (Lesotho), speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said that poverty eradication, exacerbated by the global financial, economic, food, energy and climate crises, was one of the greatest challenges facing the region. The responses of individual member States had been varied, which required the Community to better coordinate interventions as well as monitoring and programme alignment. The Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan, the vehicle through which SADC addressed poverty and development issues, enhanced civil society’s understanding of the regional and national poverty-eradication frameworks in a people-centred way. The outcome of a recent review of the Plan would inform the region’s future roadmap.
Unemployment was another big challenge in the region, he said, noting that youth made up more than half the number of jobless people. The region supported volunteerism and the creation of sustainable community service projects as a way to address the challenge. Southern Africa remained the epicentre of HIV and AIDS, suffering double-digit prevalence, and SADC had adopted the Protocol on Health to facilitate effective implementation of regional responses to the epidemic. However, greater access to antiretroviral treatment and awareness campaigns had led to a decline in new infections, he noted. SADC also prioritized the mainstreaming of disabled people into regional strategies and development initiatives to ensure their full participation without discrimination.
RODOLFO REYES RODRIGUEZ (Cuba), speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), reiterated the bloc’s strong commitment to social inclusion and integration – together with eradicating hunger and poverty, and ensuring the right to full, productive, dignified and decent work for all – as part of the basic and independent pillars of social development. Two years before the Millennium Development Goals deadline, however, worrying concerns persisted. Hunger and poverty were among the worst violations of human rights and the task of eradicating them was an ethical, political, social and economic challenge for all. Broad additional measures were needed to promote inclusive development strategies aimed at more equitable distribution of the benefits of economic growth and improved access to basic universal services such as nutrition, health, water, sanitation, housing, education, full employment and decent work.
That would require renewed commitment by Governments in an atmosphere of tolerance and respect for diversity, he continued. The commitment by developed countries to devote 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) to official development assistance, South-South cooperation, technical cooperation by those able to share successful experiences and outcomes, and reform of the global financial and economic systems were essential to the task. CELAC had constantly promoted the rights and dignity of women, indigenous populations, people of African descent, youth, the elderly, migrants and persons with disabilities as part of a comprehensive social development. He emphasized the importance of concerted international action in providing adequate opportunities to youth, fostering inclusion of the elderly through expanded social strategies, and the full integration of persons with disabilities. The post-2015 agenda should be built on the foundations of the Millennium Development Goals, focusing on the economic, political and social dimensions of development.
IOANNIS VRAILAS, Deputy Head of the European Union delegation, said the idea of a united Europe went far beyond the economy and was based on the firm belief in common political, social and economic standards. The European Union had responded to the rise in unemployment and inequality by putting forward its 10-year Europe 2020 strategy, which struck the right balance between macroeconomic and fiscal policies, and employment and social policies. In June 2013, it had agreed on the integrated and innovative approach of the Social Investment Package to reinforce the effects of social investment through well-designed and effective social policies at the national level. The international community must redouble efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, he emphasized, adding that the European Union was committed to an ambitious and bold preparation of the post-2015 framework.
It should be defined around a single set of global goals in order to drive action in all countries, he continued. It should ensure a rights-based approach encompassing all human rights and addressing justice, equality and equity, as well as good governance, democracy and the rule of law. A strong focus on the empowerment and rights of women and girls, on gender equality and on preventing and combating violence against women was a precondition for equitable and inclusive sustainable development. Noting that the lack of employment opportunities for young people was a global problem, he said the European Union would continue to work to involve its youth, in line with the European Union Youth Strategy of 2009. Ageing also remained high on the European Union’sagenda, and there was a need for Governments to address age discrimination, elder abuse, long-term care, social protection, decent work and health support.
HABIBA M. LAWAL, (Nigeria), outlining national efforts, said her Government was working to pass the disability bill into a law that would provide education and health care to disabled persons, and protect their social, economic, political and civil rights. Data gathered in 2010 had helped the Government devise measures to allow persons with disabilities to participate in Nigeria’s socio-economic and political development, she said, adding that in other areas, the Government was carrying out a survey of correctional institutions with a view to improving juvenile criminal justice administration and reintegrating former offenders into their communities. Nigeria had taken advantage of the International Day of Families, 15 May, to mainstream family issues into development efforts. Family-empowerment programmes such as skills training and financial grants had been developed, while the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development was implementing programmes to reintegrate vulnerable and migrant children into their families.
OSAMA ABDEL KHALEK ( Egypt) said social issues had not been sufficiently addressed in the context of the Millennium Development Goals, as inequalities among countries remained large and the developing world continued to face challenges like poverty, unemployment and illiteracy, among others. Addressing inequalities should be at the core of the post-2015 development agenda, he said, adding that education, literacy and social inclusion, as well as the development of family-focused policies also deserved due priority. Egypt looked forward to the establishment of a robust United Nations body to address the needs and challenges faced by young people around the world. Disability-inclusive development should be covered under the post-2015 development framework. Furthermore, a comprehensive international legal instrument should be established to promote and protect the rights of older persons, although the fourth session of the Open-ended Working Group on Ageing, held in August, had not reached consensus on it. The Government of Egypt had placed social development at the top of its priorities, and had established measures to stabilize the prices of basic commodities, increase the minimum wage and exempt all public school students from paying tuition fees for the current year.
The representative of the Russian Federation said that since 2000, his Government had reduced the number of people living in poverty three-fold, from 30 per cent to 11.2 per cent. Social development was also promoted by the creation of jobs through assistance to small and medium-sized businesses. The Madrid Plan of Action for older persons was an adequate instrument and efforts should be focused on implementing it, he said. The Government had increased annual pension benefits and dispensed the equivalent of $5 billion to support persons with disabilities by increasing job opportunities for them and removing physical barriers. The Russian Federation supported youth through housing subsidies and assistance with education, he noted, underlining also the importance of inter-generational solidarity of families as a precondition for social stability.
PHILINE FREI, youth representative of Switzerland, recalled the celebration of International Youth Day on 12 August, and defined the global youth population as a “brimming reservoir of innovation, creativity and productivity” that remained untapped and neglected. Interlinked with youth unemployment was the issue of environmentally sustainable development, since environmental degradation could undo development gains. Peace and security were equally linked to youth unemployment, as young people living in conflict and post-conflict settings faced educational and economic challenges. “Quality education is key to overcome economic despair that often contributes to conflicts,” she said, adding that giving perspective and opportunities to the youth could allow them to fulfil their potential as agents of change, she concluded.
YANERIT MORGAN ( Mexico) said her country had established social development policies and affirmative action to help women and youth, indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities and the elderly. To address the situation of 7 million Mexicans living in extreme poverty, the Government had created the NationalCrusade against Hunger, which paid particular attention to ensuring accountability through the inclusion of several stakeholders, the private sector, academia and civil society among them. She called on Member States to increase the presence and voice of the youth, emphasizing that social inclusion and protection of the environment must be central to any development agenda.
LAURIE SHESTACK PHIPPS ( United States) pointed out that the Open-ended Working Group on Ageing and the Human Rights Council’s Independent Expert had similar mandates, and their efforts should complement rather than duplicate each other. Regarding Argentina’s announcement of the formation of a “Group of Friends”, she requested more information on how the informal coalition would operate, including the topics it would consider in the short term. On the Madrid Plan of Action on Ageing, she said the focus should be on helping Member States implement existing laws and policies rather than elaborating a new normative framework. Language on older persons could be included in the strategic plans of United Nations bodies, she added. As for disability, Secretary of State Kerry’s primary message at the recent high-level meeting on that topic was that the post-2015 development agenda should leave no one behind, and should consider persons with disabilities as both implementers and beneficiaries of development. On youth, the United States had appointed Tiffany Taylor as its second Youth Observer to the General Assembly, she said.
ZEHRA SARIASLAN, Youth Representative of the Netherlands, emphasized that young people must continue developing themselves as an investment by continuing their studies, but it was equally important to give them a place at the decision-making table on issues like protecting women from violence, ending gender inequality and youth participation. She said that in her role as youth representative, she asked Governments to take young people seriously, especially in light of their influence on the course of society, for instance the use of social media. Ensuring the involvement of young people in policymaking — by electing one youth representative per Member State at the United Nations, for example — could increase the support given to young people and lead to full and equal participation by women and young people all over the world, she said.
ADAM PULFORD, Youth Representative of Australia , said the existence of discrimination was one of the biggest concerns voiced by young people travelling across his country. What young people wanted to see was a world in which equality reigned, he added. Differences could be visible or subtle, in the colour of the skin or in beliefs; yet, discrimination based on any kind of difference among human beings was wrong. There were still unnecessary prejudices, suffering and death in the world, and because of the immensity of more pressing challenges such as poverty, climate change and international security, ending discrimination had often been put aside. “It does not have to be one or the other,” he stressed. In fact, progress on global challenges could ensure further progress on combating discrimination. In order to achieve a world free of discrimination, the international community must build equitable policies and reach all segments of populations within all nations, including women, youth, indigenous peoples, rural communities and persons with disabilities, so that their voices could be heard and their contributions valued. “Let us allow all of our citizens to reach their full potential, free from discrimination, for the benefit of us all,” he said.
ROMY COURIEL ( Israel) said more than 650 million people, or about 10 per cent of the world’s population, now lived with some form of disability. Israel had been active in the negotiations leading up to the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and proud to have served as Vice Chair of the Conference of States parties to the instrument for period 2013-2014. Noting that major international frameworks like the Millennium Development Goals had largely overlooked the rights of persons with disabilities, he said that Israel’s Commission for Equal Rights of Persons with Disabilities had been established in 2000 with the aim of implementing a comprehensive equal rights law enacted two years earlier. On youth, he said that, whether combating disease, promoting education or expanding financing for entrepreneurs, the support and engagement of young people was critical for long-term, sustainable development. When given the right opportunities and resources, they could be the strongest supporters of strong societies and prosperous economies.
RICHARD OLIVER BIDÓ MEDINA, Youth Delegate of the Dominican Republic aligned with CELAC, stressing that the growing interdependence among peoples required in turn the strengthening of relations among States. As the 1 billion people in the world “waiting outside for decisions”, all youth wanted was to be heard, because young people constituted a key element of all aspects of social development. For young Dominicans, education was crucial because it was the only way to change the social consciousness of citizens. Touching upon ageing, he said his country advocated their full inclusion because that translated to ensuring the future of youth as well. However, a multilateral instrument to protect the rights of the elderly was needed. As for persons with disabilities, he hoped the Secretary-General would appoint a special envoy for them, mirroring his initiative to name a Special Envoy on Youth.
DOCTOR MASHABANE ( South Africa) underlined his country’s commitment to social development, exemplified in the national Social Protection Framework which combined income support through a social grants system with a social wage package incorporating, among other things, clinic-based free primary health care, compulsory education, subsidised housing, water and sanitation. Regarding disability and the elderly, he said South Africa had established strong legislative frameworks for promoting and protecting their rights. Cognizant of vulnerable households, social protection was also provided to those families headed by women and children through cash transfers. To tap fully into its young human capital, South Africa had made significant strides in expanding access to institutions of higher education, he said. Despite progress, however, challenges remained, he said, calling for the mainstreaming of poverty eradication strategies, education, health, social protection, employment and decent work for all, which must retain a central place in the post-2015 development agenda.
ELISE ZERRATH and FLORIAN NOWACK, Youth Delegates of Germany, outlined three major priorities, the first being equal opportunities for everyone in a society free of discrimination, stereotyping and intolerance towards members of socially marginalized and vulnerable groups. Second, both quality education and non-formal learning opportunities should allow young people to become full, active, autonomous and critical citizens. And third, there was a need for full and effective youth participation at all levels of policymaking. “To put our wishes in a nutshell, social inclusion and quality education are the driving forces for full and effective youth participation,” they emphasized.
ALEKS SEMERCIYAN, Youth Delegate of Austria, recognized the many recent international efforts made in recent years to improve the situation of children and young people around the world, but noted that a stronger and more ambitious post-2015 development agenda was needed. With more than half the world population under the age of 30, social and political participation by young people was important at all levels. Welcoming the appointment of the Special Envoy on Youth, he said it was especially important for achieving true social inclusion, with special attention being paid to young people not in education, employment or training, those of multi-ethnic background and those with special needs. Moreover, young people must be recognized as important stakeholders and therefore assets in every peacebuilding and reconciliation process, in order to create peaceful, respectful, violence-free societies and establish a prosperous future for all.
GLADWELL WAMBUI KAHARA ( Kenya) said youth comprised the strength, wealth, and drivers of innovation in her country, where more than 78 per cent of the population was under the age of 34 years. “The youth are frustrated!” she exclaimed, noting that 92 per cent of young Kenyans had acquired formal education, but many university graduates faced the reality of unemployment and underemployment. She asked why greater recognition was accorded to white collar jobs at the expense of those born of creativity, such as being a DJ or a graffiti artist, and why qualifications for decent jobs were set so high with so many years of experience required. However, the Government had fulfilled its pledge to commit 2.5 per cent of the national revenues collected annually to a Youth Enterprise Fund, she noted, adding that it had also enhanced youth affirmative action and directed that 30 per cent of all Government procurement contracts be allocated to young people.
Ms. SAMIRA( Libya) said the global economic crisis had hindered the Government’s efforts to ensure social and economic development, negatively affecting employment, gender equality and the protection of human rights, among other things. He welcomed the adoption of the outcome Declaration at the recent high-level meeting on disabilities and development, saying its goals required concrete action to address the challenges facing 15 per cent of the world’s population. Libya had pioneered the way in designating 1981 the International Year of Persons with Disabilities, he recalled, adding that his country had been among the first States to sign the Disability Convention and had recently ratified the treaty and its Protocol. Turning to the rights of older persons, he said national legislation provided the elderly with various benefits, including health care and social security, in line with the agreed African Union framework.
TYTTI MATSINEN, Youth Representative of Finland, quoted the first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in emphasizing that marginalization and disabilities were circumstances created by society. Agreeing with Finland’s Minister for International Development, she said that reducing inequalities was one of the central challenges for the post-2015 development agenda. Ensuring sustainable development required input from all the people living on the planet, hence everyone should participate. As a disabled woman from a rural area, she asked that all human beings be seen as full of potential despite age, physical qualities or socioeconomic background. “Unless we measure our success in the development of the most vulnerable, we cannot talk about success,” she stressed
JUANA SANDOVAL ( Nicaragua) said additional measures were needed to ensure a more equitable distribution of benefits deriving from economic growth. That was the reason why the Government of Nicaragua had put policies in place to support impoverished small- and medium-sized producers, to reduce food insecurity and achieve food sovereignty, and to overturn the privatization of education and health services, among other things. Nicaragua had achieved significant results in different fields, she said, adding that, according to data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Nicaragua had in fact attained Millennium Development Goal 1 — halving the number of people suffering from hunger. On the subject of ageing, the Government had broadened insurance coverage for older persons to include those who had not paid their full contribution to the social security system, she said. Further, it had implemented the successful “Roof Plan” policy, which was intended to provide assistance, in the following five years, to 4,500 million rural and urban families, among many other initiatives. She expressed appreciation for the support received from the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America and the Petrocaribe project, which had made it possible for Nicaragua to implement all the social development programmes mentioned.
ELIZA CHIRILA AND COSMIN CHIRITA, Youth Delegates of Romania, said they had conducted a survey on the priorities of young people in their country, and one respondent had said “young people are a vital resource for development, being the key agents to social change, economic growth and technological innovation”. Another had said “youth involvement in high-level decision-making process should represent a priority”. It was nothing new to say that education was vital, and represented the source of all social accomplishments and failures, they noted. What would be new was to admit that mistreating education was a real attack on the security of a society, regardless of the country, they said, adding that each country found its development and history through education.
SALEUMXAY KOMMASITH (Lao People’s Democratic Republic) aligned with ASEAN and the Group of 77 and China, saying that despite progress, the social-related Millennium Development Goals were still unmet due to the increasing complexity and magnitude of global economic and social development challenges. The Lao People’s Democratic Republic had set education as a national priority, with an emphasis on human resource development. Gender parity had improved at all levels of national education, as had women’s representation in the public arena. Efforts had also been made in public health care through the introduction of free vaccination and medical care for elderly people and marginalized groups. Youth development and participation in social activities had been widely promoted. However, inequalities and human resource development were still great challenges, he said, pledging that his country remained available to work with the international community for the prosperity and well-being of all people.
WANG MIN ( China) urged the United Nations and Member States to push ahead with poverty eradication, social inclusion and full employment in a balanced manner, exploring paths of social development suitable to national conditions. Practical measures should be taken to further protection for vulnerable groups, including older persons and those with disabilities. Transitional efforts on the social aspect of the post-2015 development agenda should be carried out effectively, and support for developing countries in the field of social development should be expanded. China had realized the Millennium Goal of halving the number of people living in poverty and providing free compulsory education in both urban and rural areas, among other achievements. However, China still faced tremendous challenges in social development, with more than 100 million still living under the poverty line, he said. It had set forth two centennial goals — building a moderately prosperous society by 2020, and turning it into a modern socialist nation by mid-century.
SONA RASHID, Youth Delegate of Sweden, said she had been in 1992, when the world had adopted a vision for its future at the Rio Earth Summit, but “for my entire life, matters have only gotten worse, not better”. Today, 5 million deaths occurred each year from air pollution, hunger and disease as a result of climate change fuelled by carbon-intensive economies. “The empty promises have failed to bring us closer to ‘The World We Want’,” she noted. What was necessary was a generational sociopolitical transformation — a change to the social and political landscape for the next generation of leaders by ensuring their rights and mobilizing them for sustainable development. Today’s youth were the next world leaders, the hope for a brighter future and an indispensable part of implementing the solutions to current global problems.
TALGAT ILIYAS (Kazakhstan), said that as the Millennium Development Goals deadline approached, profound social challenges such as poverty, unemployment and social exclusion remained, aggravated by the recent economic crisis. Comprehensive people-centred development required transparent institutions and mechanisms to foster participation and civic engagement. “The goal is to address the root causes of poverty, inequality and social exclusion rather than the social consequences of economic and political process,” he said. At the national level, Kazakhstan had adopted national strategies aimed at expanded, high-quality standards and guarantees in the fields of education, health care, nutrition and healthy lifestyles, especially for the unemployed and people with disabilities. Recognizing the importance of social support and protection, financial allocation for health care had been increasing annually, he added.
PIERRE FAYE ( Senegal) stressed the importance of social development in the eradication of poverty, as well as the obvious link between persons with disabilities and poverty. It was essential to include both topics in the post-2015 development agenda, he said, emphasizing that solutions to such challenges must be backed by international partnerships. In the framework of the African Decade of Disabled Persons, equal opportunities must be guaranteed to the most vulnerable, and that should be an integral part of any development policy, he said. Africa was a young continent facing many challenges, such as lack of adequate training, conflicts and pandemics. In reviewing the definition of sustainable development goals, therefore, the issue of youth must remain central. Turning to the elderly, he said that in developing countries they were often condemned to keep working beyond the usual retirement age to compensate for the continent’s lack of social security systems. According to recent data, the number of older people would rise from 600 million in 2002 to 2 billion in 2050, he said.
YAEKO SUMI ( Japan) said her country had been developing a close relationship with Africa over the years to address poverty, inequality and youth unemployment. Earlier this year, Japan had co-hosted the Fifth Tokyo International Conference on African Development, which had adopted a declaration and a five-year action plan. Turning to domestic policies on vulnerable groups, she noted that since having signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2007, the Government of Japan had amended the relevant domestic Basic Law for Persons to promote their employment. On youth empowerment, she said the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers, launched half a century ago, had sent 38,000 volunteers to 88 countries.
VERÓNICA CALCINARI ( Venezuela) said world agriculture had the capacity to feed 12 billion people, or double the world population, but 800 million people were still suffering from hunger. The real challenge was not hunger, but rather a dysfunctional system that failed to meet human needs. Venezuela had put a model of “humanist-socialist” society in place that included all social sectors and aimed to reduce and overturn social inequalities. The Gini coefficient showed clearly that Venezuela was among the countries in Latin America and the Caribbean in which the inequality gap between the few with a lot and the many with very little was not so deep, she said. It was, in fact, the least unequal country in the region. Venezuela had achieved universal access to primary education for boys and girls between 6 and 11 years of age, empowered and improved education and employment opportunities for women, reduced child mortality, and provided access to sexual and reproductive health services, among other things. As for persons with disabilities, Venezuela was promoting sustainable inclusion and gathering data and statistics. On 24 September, it had deposited its instrument of accession to the Disability Convention and its Optional Protocol with the Secretary-General, she said.
Mr. HANIFF ( Malaysia) recalled that in 1985, his country was among the earliest countries to have formulated a national youth policy, which had become the National Youth Development Policy in 1997, encompassing empowerment, human resource development, leadership training and enterprise development to tap the potential of 12.5 million youths in Malaysia. By the year 2035, the country was expected to have attained “ageing nation” status, with at least 15 per cent of its population being 60 years or above. In 2011, the Government had approved the new national policy for older persons, he said. As of August, 458,835 people had been registered as persons with disabilities. The 2008 Act for Persons with Disabilities covered their registration, protection and rehabilitation, development and well-being, he said, adding that the Tenth Malaysian Plan 2011-2015 sought to better integrate them into society.
YUSRA KHAN ( Indonesia) said one of the most distressing aspects of the global social development landscape was unemployment, particularly among youth, he said. More holistic, cooperative approaches were needed to save current jobs, create new ones and enhance work skills, among other things. The upcoming twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family, in 2014, would be a momentous opportunity to address the issue of youth unemployment. On ageing, Indonesia supported the establishment of an international legal instrument that would comprehensively regulate and protect the rights of older persons, he said. Indonesia continued to take concrete steps to reduce and eliminate major sources of human distress and instability, having enacted several national laws and aligned them with international instruments. After its ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, for example, it had outlined the National Action Plan on Disabilities for the period 2013-2022, he said.
KIM JUNG-HA, (Republic of Korea) said his Government attached great significance to the role of education in empowering people, as it could help individuals unleash their potential, increase awareness of their rights and promote gender equality. To promote inclusive growth, the international community should pay more attention to marginalized and vulnerable social groups, including persons with disabilities, the elderly, youth, indigenous people and women. It should place the greatest priority on guaranteeing dignity for all. Partnership with all relevant stakeholders, including civil society and the private sector, should be promoted to enhance social development, he said. “We strongly believe that vibrant dialogue enables positive social integration and improves the responsiveness of the public sector to public needs.”
MIGUEL CAMILO RUIZ ( Colombia) said current levels of poverty, social exclusion, inequality, access to basic social services and unemployment that most of the world’s population had to face clearly showed the need to strengthen actions and political commitment. With the results of the Millennium Development Goals mixed and uneven, and disparities showing among social sectors, countries and regions, it was clear that social development policies should benefit all, irrespective of nationality, gender, age or sexual orientation. Poverty had declined by 15 percentage points in his country in the last decade, he said, adding that more attention must be paid to older people, as the existing international instrument covering them had proved to be lacking. Strategies to facilitate young people’s access to the labour market should focus on solving the shortcomings of the political and social systems that prevented the creation of enabling conditions for their full inclusion.
JOANN TAN ( Singapore) said that, as one of Asia’s fastest-ageing societies, her country was deeply convinced of the value that the elderly brought to society, and the importance of promoting and protecting their rights. The Government had put numerous policies in place with a view to contributing to the development of older persons, advancing their health and well-being into old age, and ensuring an enabling and supportive environment. Schemes had been implemented to promote active ageing that would allow senior citizens to keep their minds engaged and their bodies healthy. Decent work and employment were also important to the social integration of older persons, as was financial planning for old age. Accessible and quality health care were provided, she said, adding that the capacity of hospitals and the number of nursing home beds had been increased.
M. KRISHNASSWAMY, Member of Parliament from India, said the key focus of his country’s Government was not only economic growth, but also inclusive and equitable growth to benefit all social sectors. The Government had, therefore, adopted a multi-pronged approach involving the introduction of specific targeted policies, as well as institutional changes to improve the delivery of services. Investments in skills-based training, vocational education and the promotion of business opportunities were key ingredients of employment creation, he said. For the youth, the Government provided meaningful opportunities in education, health and skills development so as to equip them for the job market. To advance the inclusion of persons with disabilities, their access to education, health care and employment had been enhanced. In addition, the Government had put policy and legal frameworks in place to address the requirements of financial security, health care and nutrition, shelter and appropriate financial incentives, and discounts for senior citizens. Inclusive social development was critically dependent on national policy action, and the mobilization of domestic resources must, therefore, be scaled up at the national level, but also complemented with ODA from development partners.
GHOLAMHOSSEIN DEHGHANI (Iran), aligning with the Group of 77 and China, said the global economic and financial crisis had had serious consequences for social development, in particular on reducing poverty, hunger, malnutrition, unemployment, inequality and social exclusion. At the national level, the Government of Iran had adopted several national plans on youth marriage, youth leisure time, youth partnerships and youth consultations. The inclusion of persons with disabilities in democratic decision-making processes was of high importance, as exemplified in the election of Leila Barzamini, the first Iranian woman with a disability elected as Chair of the City Council of Daland. The role played by sports in empowering persons with disabilities should also be underlined, he said, pointing out that many Iranians had won at the 2008 Paralympic Games.
CLAUDIO GUILLERMO ROSSELL ARCE ( Bolivia ) highlighted his country’s progress towards attaining the Millennium Development Goals, noting that in the eight years of the Evo Morales presidency, it had seen economic growth increase by 4.8 per cent. Bolivia had successfully reduced extreme poverty and, as a result, 1 million Bolivians, amounting to 10 per cent of the population, had entered the middle class. Bolivia had also reduced the undernourishment of children under the age of 5, and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) had declared the country illiteracy-free. There had also been a decrease in mother-and-child mortality. Increased water coverage provided access to drinking water for all municipalities, including the most remote ones, he said, adding that under President Morales, 57 million hectares had been cleared and agrarian reform guaranteed land ownership to eligible beneficiaries. Funds previously allocated to the financing of political parties were now spent on improving the living conditions of people with disabilities, he said.
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* The 1st Meeting was covered in Press Release GA/11432 dated 1 October 2013.