|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-eighth General Assembly
4th & 5th Meetings (AM & PM)
Elderly Called ‘Invaluable’ Force as Third Committee Concludes
General Discussion on Social Development
Older persons were an invaluable social force that could contribute to social development, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) heard today as more than 40 speakers took part in the conclusion of its general discussion on that topic, with one describing longer lives as “a triumph of human development”.
Malta’s representative was among the many speakers who highlighted national efforts to promote the rights of the elderly. He said his Government considered the ageing population as both a challenge and an opportunity, noting that the challenge was to change opinions about ageing while rousing innovative ideas and technologies to improve the quality of older lives. The opportunity was for older people to play a full and active role in society, retaining control over their lives despite health problems, he said.
“Irrespective from which side of the coin one prefers to look at ageing, there is no doubt that longer lives are something to celebrate, a triumph of human development,” he continued. The Government of Malta had started drafting the comprehensive Active Ageing Strategy covering the seven-year period from 2013 to 2020 based on the principles of intergenerational solidarity, employability, social participation and health. Plans to transform day centres into “active ageing centres” functioning as life-long learning hubs were at an advanced stage, he added.
Viet Nam’s delegate said his country had always been proud of its elders and considered them an invaluable social force with a crucial role in upholding the traditional values of society and family while developing and protecting the nation. The Government had adopted many laws and programmes to provide care for the elderly, he said. After two years of implementing the Law on the Elderly and one year of the National Action Plan on Older Persons for the period 2012-2020, 3 million seniors now had free health insurance, he said, adding that Viet Nam intended to provide monthly social assistance and/or nursing homes for 1.5 million by 2015.
Malawi’s representative described how the nation’s traditional leaders could be useful in achieving development goals. The Government had mobilized traditional leaders to help reverse the trend of maternal deaths, and the rate had dropped from 675 per 100,000 live births to 460 as a result.
With the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family approaching next year, many speakers underlined the importance of family in social development. Brunei Darussalam’s representative stressed that family institution should be the first line of support. In a close-knit community like Brunei Darussalam, family values were integral to the society’s moral fabric. The Government had established several programmes to support families, including pre-marital courses, post-marital courses and parental skills, he said. “Marriage is not just a wedding ceremony, but a long journey that requires closer understanding, love and tolerance.”
Ethiopia’s representative said one of the priority social development areas was family planning, as the country faced the challenge of managing and controlling population in order to achieve its long-term stabilization. The deployment of 34,000 health-care workers nationwide provided reproductive health care at the community level, resulting in significantly reduced maternal and infant mortality.
Other topics featuring high in today’s discussion included youth unemployment and the need to include persons with disabilities in the post-2015 development agenda.
Also participating today were speakers representing Brazil, Bangladesh, Qatar, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Mongolia, Philippines, Algeria, Syria, Belgium, Tunisia, Bulgaria, Belarus, Maldives, Pakistan, Morocco, Georgia, Slovenia, Norway, Iraq, Slovakia, Kuwait, San Marino, Botswana, Malawi, Turkey, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, Eritrea, United Republic of Tanzania, Cote d’Ivoire, Peru, Sudan, Ecuador, Zambia and Chile. An official representing the International Labour Organization also participated.
The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 9 October, to take up the issues of crime prevention and international drug control.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this morning to continue its general discussion on social development. For background information, see Press Release (GA/SHC/4065).
José Raphael Lopes Mendes de Azeredo (Brazil), aligning with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, underlined the importance of specific references to social development in international programmes, especially the need for active participation by young people and for global strategies on youth employment. He also called upon Member States to guarantee access to information for persons with disabilities. Noting that 50 million of his country’s population was under the age of 24, as was 30 per cent of the world population, he said young people must develop their own knowledge of human rights and citizenship in order to develop their communities in the future. Turning to the elderly, he acknowledged the challenges presented by the rapid growth in their numbers and applauded regional efforts to address the issue. Reiterating the need for universal access to education and health services, he said decent employment was the best way to eliminate poverty.
Abulkalam ABDUL MOMEN (Bangladesh), aligning himself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, recalled that since the 1995 World Summit, many ambitious goals for ensuring social development had been taken up, yet alarming disparities remained: 1 per cent of the global population owned nearly half of the global wealth, while the poorest half owned less than 1 per cent. Bangladesh had been able to make sustainable progress in the social development field, despite its resource constraints. It had placed specific women-friendly policies at the forefront of development, while recognizing that education was one of its basic components. Other Government priorities were mainstreaming youth issues and improving the lives of people with disabilities all over the country, particularly in remote areas. “Our achievements never make us complacent,” he said, saying that was why results must be sustained.
REEM AL-DERHAM ( Qatar) emphasized the need to give priority to vulnerable groups such as the elderly, youth, women, children and persons with disabilities in addressing the challenges of social development beyond 2015. Qatar’s leadership put people at the centre of its policies to face those challenges, she said, adding that the Government had conducted a review of the constitution to ensure that social development goals were met. The nation’s 2011-2016 global strategy also placed social, economic and human development at its centre. Turning to education, she said her country had modernized its school curriculum and launched an initiative to enhance the rights to education for all, noting that 61 million children around the world were still deprived of access to education. Qatar ranked first among the Arab nations and thirty-sixth globally in the Human Development Index published by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), she said.
Two youth representatives of Thailand said they were speaking both as young people, women and girls. Noting that women and girls remained marginalized despite many positive steps, they strongly urged their inclusion in and empowerment under the post-2015 development agenda as well as the elimination of gender inequality. Stereotyping and gender discrimination could condemn women to continued poverty and vulnerability, they added, and even worse, their dignity and rights could be violated. Thailand had undertaken major efforts to eliminate gender disparities, including the establishment of the National Women’s Development Fund, which provided low-interest loans to help women secure jobs and earn more income. Another way to empower women was through education, they said, recalling the Secretary-General’s report on the topic, which stated that the educational marginalization of girls remained predominant in developing countries. One way to promote the right to education was to invest in highly qualified teachers, they said. Mirroring an initiative in the United States, Thailand had launched the “Teach for Thailand” project, whereby undergraduates were assigned to affiliated secondary schools in Bangkok for two years, thus realizing their potential and their role in national development. “We, the youths, are the reason,” they said. “We are the means and we are the tools of development.”
MOHAMMAD A. AL-MATRAFI (Saudi Arabia), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, said that his country’s constitution stipulated the State’s duty to guarantee its citizens social rights, such as coverage in emergencies, and to provide adequate health care, among other things. On literacy, he said Saudi Arabia had reached 98.3 per cent among young people. In the area of health, about $14.4 of the State budget had been allocated for health care in 2013, marking an increase of 16 per cent in comparison with 2012. Already, the mortality rate among children under the age of 5 years had fallen by two thirds in 2011, he said, adding that Saudi Arabia had also undertaken several initiatives on disability, including the establishment of centres for the prevention and early detection of disabilities. Further, the Saudi Human Rights Commission was among the entities monitoring human rights violations endured by disabled persons, receiving and following up on their complaints. Saudi concerns over social development transcended national borders, he said, stressing that tackling social issues, particularly in least developed countries, was a priority for his country, which had apportioned $103 billion in assistance over the past 30 years.
VANGANSUREN ULZIIBAYAR ( Mongolia), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and China, said the highest priority should be accorded to eradicating poverty, promoting sustainable consumption and production patterns, and protecting the environment. Mongolia recognized disability as a cross-cutting development issue, and had more than 60 legal and national policy documents addressing the specific needs of persons with disabilities. Since quality basic education was crucial to nation-building, promoting literacy should be at the heart of the post-2015 development agenda, and Mongolia planned to submit a draft resolution on the matter. Also of utmost importance to the Government was the issue of cooperatives, since the country had 2,400 of them operating in such fields as processing raw material, savings and credit, sales, supply and procurement. She went on to announce her delegation’s submission of a draft resolution on cooperatives in social development.
LIBRAN N. CABACTULAN ( Philippines), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said importance should be accorded to an inclusive and people-centred approach as the international community shaped a collective vision for the post-2015 development agenda. Vulnerable groups, in particular, could greatly enhance and contribute to economic growth, but in order for that to happen, the root causes of discrimination and exclusion must be effectively addressed. Basic and other social services must, consequently, respond to the needs of all groups, he emphasized. “National efforts, however, to be truly effective, must be complemented by regional and international efforts,” he stressed. The policies of developed countries should support environmentally sustainable strategies in the developing world, and official development assistance (ODA) should be better leveraged for social development. Measures should be taken to foster equal opportunities to participate in global markets and to support an inclusive and non-discriminatory development agenda. The Philippines had adopted the Outcome documents of the high-level meetings on disability and international migration in the hope that no vulnerable group would be left behind in the post-2015 development framework.
MOURAD BENMEHIDI ( Algeria), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, reiterated that eliminating poverty while ensuring employment and social integration was a challenge for all countries. Social development remained an important challenge, especially in light of the recent food, financial and fuel crises as well as environmental disasters. On persons with disabilities, he pointed out that they accounted for 15 per cent of the world’s population. Emphasizing that his country placed high importance on protecting the elderly from social exclusion, he said the Government had economic and social policies in place to ensure equal distribution of resources to the most vulnerable. About 40 per cent of national resources were devoted to improving human development, which had resulted in rising gross domestic product (GDP), he added. Among other results, the number of people living in poverty had been halved, unemployment rates had declined, and school attendance had risen.
MONIA ALSALEH (Syria) said his country was committed to the goals set forth in the outcome document of the World Conference on Social Development, adding that the results of the twenty-fourth session in Copenhagen had brought reform and fundamental changes to national policy. The Government had reviewed the capacity of institutions and individuals to combat poverty and other challenges, and despite the difficulties currently besetting Syria, it had created a fund to support families. He stated projects offering jobs and income were under way, and that the Government was cooperating with international organizations in addressing social development issues, citing the Government’s close cooperation with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to help children in refugee camps. However, reform measures faced financial difficulties, he said. In 2010, Syria had had no external debt, he recalled, but today it was experiencing unemployment and high prices due to unilateral embargoes. War, aggression and foreign occupation continued to impede social development, he said, emphasizing that the Secretary-General’s reports on the matter ignored the catastrophic effects of foreign occupation and unilateral measures on social development.
ELIEN RAPORT and DENIS NAETS, youth representatives of Belgium, emphasized that young people expected action from the United Nations, which many of them still considered “a beacon of hope”. They were counting on the Organization to lay the foundations of a sustainable future. It would be up to the young generation to support its decisions, and it was therefore normal that youth were present when those decisions were taken. Future generations deserved to have the same opportunities as the present one, they said, stressing that children’s living conditions should not be sacrificed due to short-sightedness or a lack of political will. The right kind of development was “the development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”, they said.
AMIRA DALI (Tunisia), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said the aim of social development was to ensure equal access for all people, regardless of background, to the benefits of progress. Since Tunisia’s 2011 revolution, the country had been in democratic transition. New socio-political reforms had been approved to ensure collective rights for all, especially the participation of civil society in political life. Taking into account the revolution’s aspirations, specifically employment and social justice, are measures to foster transparency and good governance which had been put in place. But despite the Government’s commitment, enormous challenges remained, she said, cautioning that it was not enough to invest only in economic growth; social growth was a multidimensional phenomenon that demanded the rehabilitation of development’s human dimension, she said. That was the lesson to be learned from the Tunisian experience.
Irina Velichko ( Belarus) highlighted the measures her country had undertaken to address poverty, including minimum-wage guarantees, targeted State assistance for low-income households, subsidies and steps to increase the competitiveness of the workforce in the labour market. Traditional families were of key importance to development, to a healthy society and to national security. The Government had supported households with multiple children as the population aged rapidly. In January 2013, new measures had been put in place to provide social services, including assisted living for the elderly. For families with disabled children, a programme had been created to enable family members to take a break from child care and regain their strength.
AHMED SAREER ( Maldives) said that economic uncertainty, social inequalities, food insecurity, lack of education and high unemployment were among the many daunting challenges facing youth and other vulnerable groups. Since young people were the “building blocks” of a healthy future for any country, they needed equitable access to and investment in quality education, he emphasized. Turning to families, he described them as the most important agents for social integration and inclusion. Measures to promote family values through family-centred policies could address a number of cross-cutting challenges, such as, on poverty reduction, access to education and adequate health care. On disability, he highlighted policies aimed at developing a manual for categorizing and codifying disability, ensuring they enjoyed access, creating community-based rehabilitation programmes and advocating for disability. For older persons, the Government had adopted an old-age pension and a retirement pension scheme. He said the Government was conscious of specific development challenges confronting small islands — including geographically dispersed populations, lack of domestic financial and human resources, and climate-related challenges — and called on the international community to mobilize resources in support of vulnerable groups in island States.
DIYAR KHAN ( Pakistan) said his Government had placed socio-economic development at the heart of its agenda, with foreign and all other policies geared towards the realization of that objective. It was looking towards greater trade and economic interaction with all neighbours, including India, Afghanistan and the ASEAN region. Describing social protection as an important part of his country’s toolbox for social development, he said the Employees’ Old Age Benefits Institution provided pensions to more than 4 million retired workers. The programme had been extended to include those working in the informal economy, and the self-employed also had the option of registering with the scheme. The Government had enacted legislation, formulated policies and devised programmes to support and protect people with disabilities, he said. He also said that Pakistan had established special schools and vocational training institutes for them, in addition to having allocated them a special quota in public sector jobs. Pakistan had ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2013, but its efforts were unfortunately constrained by the massive challenges of natural disasters, including the 2005 earthquake and the floods of 2010 and 2011.
MILENA ANDREEVA and PETAR MLADENOV, Youth Delegates of Bulgaria, recognized education as a key component of the sustainable and peaceful development of each nation. Non-formal education was a key approach in establishing better access to comprehensive, content-oriented, gender-sensitive and non-discriminatory sexuality education. Although there was no clear evidence that promoting sexual and reproductive health rights reduced HIV/AIDS infection rates, educating youth and thereby empowering them to make more informed decisions about their sexual lives was crucial. Noting that the world had experienced only 26 peaceful days since 1945, they said young people did not want to live in terror of war and instability. They could be agents of peacebuilding and positive social change.
HASSAN EL MKHANTAR ( Morocco), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, emphasized the challenges of eliminating poverty and social exclusion were exacerbated by social inequalities, underemployment and fluctuation in commodity prices. Morocco’s social reconstruction, based on the protection of human rights, aimed to establish effective strategies and social initiatives focused on developing productive capacities and generating sustainable growth. Shortcomings in combating poverty were attributable to economic growth that was neither inclusive nor equitable, he said, emphasizing that social-protection systems had therefore become key elements of government, especially in encouraging social dialogue and social policies for employment. The new constitution of 2011 established a specific economic, social and environmental council, he said, adding that $2 million had been channelled to anti-poverty initiatives in rural areas and combating social exclusion in urban areas. Other initiatives included medical assistance for the underprivileged, which provided more than 8.5 million people with medical coverage and services, and the family solidarity fund for widows and divorced women, through which 70 per cent of Government posts were set aside for persons with disabilities.
TORNIKE ZURABASHVILI, Youth Delegate of Georgia, noted that young people faced major injustices every day in the form of the military occupation of two regions of their country. Recalling his youthful experience of the evils of war, he said his school had been bombed and his neighbourhood had come under military attack in 2008. “As I address this forum today, many of my peers back home are still subject to repressions on a daily basis,” he said. More than 350,000 ethnic Georgians had been forcibly expelled from their homes in the two occupied regions, and deprived of their right to a safe, dignified and voluntary return. The few thousand ethnic Georgians remaining under the Russian occupation in the Gali, Tkvarcheli, Ochamchire, Akhalgori and Sachkhere districts were deprived of fundamental human rights, including their right to education in their native language.
ANDREJ LOGAR (Slovenia), aligning himself with the European Union, said that sustainable development could make an effective and efficient contribution to reversing the negative impacts of climate change and environmental degradation in general, while at the same time achieving greater social inclusion and general economic transformation. As a country still facing the consequences of economic turmoil, Slovenia paid even greater attention to protecting the most vulnerable, he emphasized, calling for an end to the stereotyping that portrayed the elderly solely as objects of assistance and care while neglecting their vast potential and abilities. Domestically, a number of instruments and partnerships had been developed to protect and promote the human rights of older persons, he said.
ISELIN HEBBERT LARSEN ( Norway) said that sustainable development could not be pursued without the meaningful involvement and active participation of persons with disabilities. “Data on disability is essential to monitor progress,” she emphasized, urging improved quality of disability data and statistics, including internationally comparable approaches. Children with disabilities were disproportionally denied the right to education, while women and girls with disabilities were often at higher risk of gender-based violence and other forms of abuse. Norway maintained a human-rights-based approach to international development cooperation and called for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in development cooperation policies, she said.
RODE MARGARETE SULLERUD, Norway’s Youth Delegate, said sustainable development, the fulfilment of basic human rights, and the freedom to live a dignified life were within reach. The progress of communities was based on their capacity to incorporate the contributions and responsibilities of youth in building and designing the future, he said, adding that enabling the economic, social and political participation of young people was of utmost importance. Their meaningful involvement in society could only take place when Member States committed to allocating resources for empowering and creating space for young people to take part in and influence decision-making processes.
Ms. SKLJARSZKA (Slovakia) spoke on behalf of her country’ s youth, focusing on how education could be changed to meet the real needs of young people living in a fast-paced, complex and ever-changing world. “We the youth, we are intolerant” and “not open-minded” because of unemployment”, she said. As students, they were taught to accept, not question, information and facts. They had grown used to listening to “pre-created ideologies”. She pointed out that schools often avoided discussion of topics considered too controversial, such as the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people or abortion. Young people were eager to get the “chance to speak and, more importantly, to think”.
MOHAMMED SAHIB MARZOOQ ( Iraq), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, said his Government was keen to create favourable conditions for human rights and human development, including food security and poverty eradication, and to enhance the life of all its citizens without discrimination. Through many measures and initiatives, the Government had granted free education to all citizens, with special priority for those living in rural areas. Special attention was paid to higher and scientific education, which could develop Iraq’s education reality exponentially. One of the key pillars would be achieving horizontal and vertical extension in the education system by expanding its geographic coverage and increasing the number of universities, currently standing at 15 in all regions. The provision of free health services, as well as the training of hospital personnel, had resulted in a considerable drop in maternal and child mortality rates, he said. Adding that other initiatives were in place to address unemployment, poverty reduction and housing for vulnerable groups.
Alia Abdullah A Y AlMuzaini (Kuwait) emphasized that social protection systems could reduce inequalities and disparities, urging United Nations specialized agencies to pay due attention to all sectors, families, children, youth, people with disabilities and older persons. On youth, she said her country’s policy had been aligned to enable the active participation of young people in decision-making. Kuwait had strengthened services to the elderly so they could live in dignity. She reaffirmed her Government’s support for the concept of social inclusion, as contained in the Outcome document adopted at the General Assembly’s High-Level Meeting on Disability and Development, on 23 September.
DAMIANO BELEFFI ( San Marino) reiterated his country’s commitment to the promotion of social integration and the protection of human rights. Despite the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, societies were unfortunately characterized by a clear and direct relationship among disabilities, poverty and social exclusion, he said. Women were victims of discrimination and violence, vulnerable to HIV infection and human trafficking. For that reason, the advancement of women and the elimination of all barriers to their full participation in political, economic and social life must be top priorities, as must the promotion of their economic opportunities. Turning to persons with disabilities, he emphasized their right to education and employment, saying the conditions for their exercise of those rights were fully guaranteed. San Marino had also always encouraged full participation in society by the elderly, recognizing their importance in terms of experience, knowledge and culture, he said. He concluded by urging universal ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, as children were the most vulnerable victims of violence, abuse and exploitation.
CHARLES T. NTWAAGAE (Botswana), aligning himself with the Group of 77, the African Group and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said his country attached great importance to sustained socio-economic development and was deeply committed to addressing persistent and profound social challenges such as poverty, unemployment, inequality and social exclusion. Despite Botswana’s progress in social development, efforts continued to be hindered by the impact of the global economic and financial crises, high and volatile food and fuel prices as well as climate change. Poverty remained one of the world’s most pressing concerns, with many lacking access to drinking water, sanitation, food and education, among other things. Botswana had accorded the highest priority to implementing poverty eradication programmes, with a particular emphasis on vulnerable groups. However, unemployment and exclusion remained pervasive, which was why the country had intensified efforts to reduce inequalities and mainstream disabilities into national legislation. Similarly, the question of the elderly was being developed into a domestic targeted policy, he added.
CHARLES MSOSA (Malawi), aligning himself with the Group of 77, the African Group and SADC, said that his country faced challenges including gender inequality, teenage pregnancy, high school drop-out rates, especially among girls, HIV/AIDS, inadequate infrastructure, compounded by rising poverty and increased food insecurity. Legal instruments and social policies could not change society on their own, he said emphasizing that the key rested with what Malawi’s State President had dubbed “the 3 Rs” — registration, readmission and retention. “By keeping a girl in school, you avert child marriages and early pregnancies,” he pointed out. Malawi had also initiated a model that enlisted traditional leaders in the implementation of development programmes mobilized to help reverse the trend of maternal deaths, he said, adding that the rate had dropped from 675 per 100,000 live births to 460.
Yaşar Halit Çevik ( Turkey) described the “fine-tuning” of his country’s legal framework, the launching of ambitious social programmes through a people-based approach intended to ensure that every segment of society lived in dignity and managed to fulfil their potential. Ageing was one of the challenges confronting each country, irrespective of its level of development, he noted. Urgent awareness-raising on the rights of the elderly and work on the social development agenda must take the new demographic realities and the needs of the ageing population into account, he stressed. In Turkey, the Government and civil society were working jointly to adjust the changing demographic environment through constitutional and legal amendments and the implementation of social policies. The inclusion of civil society, the media and the private sector in the decision-making and implementation processes of social development policies was useful in terms of their expertise and resources, and it also contributed to the raising of awareness in society.
NURIA MOHAMMED FEREJ ( Ethiopia), associating herself with the African Group and the Group of 77 and China, underlined her country’s commitment to the all-inclusive promotion of social development. Cognizant that economic growth and inclusive development were essential to social advancement, the Government of Ethiopia had been implementing pro-poor policies and strategies centred in the rural areas, where the majority of people lived. One priority social development area was family planning, which addressed challenges associated with population control and long-term stabilization, but which also provided valuable health-care related services for mothers. The Government’s deployment of 34,000 health-care workers throughout the country provided reproductive health care at the community level, resulting in significant reductions in maternal and infant mortality, he said.
Dato Abdul Ghafar Ismail (Brunei Darussalam), aligning himself with ASEAN, said the family should be the first line of support in the community. It was the pillar of national development, and in a close-knit community like Brunei Darussalam, family values were integral to the moral fabric of society. The average family size was 5.8, which often comprised an extended family structure in which parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts lived together. The Government had established the Special Committee on Family Institution and Women in 2008 to better coordinate national efforts in that regard, he said, adding that 1 May had been designated National Family Day. The Government had also established several programmes to empower families, including pre-marital and post-marital courses, and parenting skills. Pre-marital courses aimed to equip young couples with the knowledge and necessary skills to cope with family-life challenges, and to create awareness that “marriage is not just a wedding ceremony, but it is a long journey that requires closer understanding, love and tolerance”.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMA (Malta), aligning himself with the European Union, noted that his Government had started drafting the comprehensive Active Ageing Strategy, intended to cover the seven-year period from 2013 to 2020, to accompany ongoing legislative changes, based on the principles of intergenerational solidarity, employability, social participation and health. To that end, the Government had established the National Commission for Active Ageing to draft a national strategic policy. Plans to transform day centres into active ageing centres that would function as lifelong learning hubs were at an advanced stage. The Government considered the ageing population as both a challenge and an opportunity, he said. The challenge was to change opinions and presumptions about the meaning of ageing, while rousing innovative ideas and technologies to improve the quality of older lives. There was opportunity for older people to play a full and active role in society, keeping control over their lives, even if constrained by health problems. “Irrespective from which side of the coin one prefers to look at ageing, there is no doubt that longer lives are something to celebrate, a triumph of human development,” he said.
CHITSAKA CHIPAZIWA ( Zimbabwe), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and SADC, acknowledged that there could be no successful development without full inclusion of all in mainstreaming economic activities. Indeed, any development model that did not address social and income inequality rested on a shaky foundation. Reducing inequalities was strongly linked with access to the means of production, such as land. Zimbabwe focused, therefore, on ensuring access to the means of production for indigenous peoples and addressing the food-security concerns of countless households. The Government had emphasized family-support systems in its social protection policies, exemplified in the Harmonised Social Cash Transfer, which strengthened food availability for poor and labour-constrained households through unconditional monthly cash injections.
CHAPA PERERA and ADHIL MARKEER BARKAR, Youth Delegates of Sri Lanka, described their travels across the country to meet with other young people, identifying quality education, more opportunities for self-advancement, job security, gainful employment, social inclusion, and peace and security as central issues. To increase the employability and productivity of its youth, the Government provided training and built the capacity to complement the needs and demands of local, regional and global labour markets. To increase youth participation, Sri Lanka’s Youth Parliament had been established to provide a structured process for active youth participation in the national decision-making processes.
ARAYA DESTA (Eritrea), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said that navigating through the prevailing global economic and political crisis, characterized by rising youth unemployment, pervasive poverty and changing climatic condition, had become increasingly difficult for many developing and developed nations in terms of fulfilling social development goals. While better cooperation and solidarity were essential at all levels, national Governments must remain engaged and committed to sustained social progress. Eritrea’s social policy, informed by social justice and social cohesion, aimed to promote and protect equal rights and equal participation as well as equitable sharing of resources among the population. The Government, in cooperation with the Eritrean Diaspora, had taken responsibility for supporting families hit hard by war, especially the families and their children who had paid for freedom with their lives. It provided free education and training, which allowed a significant expansion of basic social services, especially to rural areas, where essential services were limited or non-existent.
LE HOAI TRUNG ( Viet Nam) said his country had always been proud of its elders, considering them an invaluable and important social force with a crucial role in upholding traditional family and societal values and in developing and protecting the nation. Caring for the elderly was important in all stages of national development, and the Government had adopted many laws and programmes in that regard. After two years of implementing the Law on the Elderly and one year of the National Action Plan on Older Persons for the period 2012-2020, 3 million seniors now enjoyed free health insurance, he said, adding that more than 1 million received monthly social assistance. Viet Nam intended to provide monthly social assistance and/or nursing homes for 1.5 million seniors by 2015.
RAMADHAN M.MWINYI (United Republic of Tanzania), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and SADC, said rural development and agricultural productivity were fundamental to social development, poverty reduction and meeting the Millennium Development Goals. They lay behind a national focus to modernize and improve production and the agricultural sector’s productivity. The Government had put social protection policies in place with the aim of reducing poverty among disadvantaged groups, including the elderly and persons with disabilities. In order to achieve inclusive development, social development policies should address the root causes of poverty, inequality and social exclusion, rather than the social consequences of economic or political processes, he said. Inequality, social inclusion, empowerment and participation, as well as full social protection deserved priority in the global development agenda beyond 2015, he stressed.
YOUSSOUFOU BAMBA (C ôte d’Ivoire), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, reiterated that eliminating poverty while ensuring employment and social integration was a challenge for all countries. Like other States, Côte d’Ivoire attached great importance to improving formal education and developing alternative forms of training in order to tackle youth illiteracy. On health, he said relevance had been given to strengthening strategies to reduce child and maternal mortality, adding that cooperation programmes had also been developed in the reproductive health field. National priorities included establishing policies on social protection and social inclusion, particularly in Cote d’Ivoire’s post-conflict phase, he said, adding that nobody was to be left behind. That was why the Government emphasized the needs of women, persons with disabilities, the elderly, rural communities and migrants. Shaping of strong institutions, in which there would be no room for exclusion and discrimination, was the way for social development to guarantee human security and to make it a reality, he said.
ANA PEÑA DOIG ( Peru), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and CELAC, said social inclusion was at the heart of her country’s public policies. In 2011, the Ministry of Development and Social Inclusion had been established with the task of implementing strategies aimed at reducing poverty, inequality and social threats. The Minister had developed a national strategy called “Include to Grow”, which focused on areas such as early child development, economic inclusion and protection of older adults, among others. Echoing her President’s words to the General Assembly, she said it was necessary to realize that growth was not a goal in itself but rather a tool. Peru welcomed the decision by the Human Rights Council to appoint an independent expert on the rights of older adults, she said, reiterating her country’s commitment to cooperating constructively with the Group of Friends of Older Persons, chaired by Argentina.
Mohamed Ibrahim Mohamed Elbahi(Sudan), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said that since peace was essential to building communities, the Government had strengthened national peace and security through its agreements with South Sudan. Internally, the regions of Darfur and Blue Nile State had seen improvements and a reduction in violence. On social development, he said national plans had been formulated to combat poverty and increase social support. The Government had also begun transferring financial resources from wealthy Sudanese to more indigent ones. Conscious that social development achievements were below expectations, Sudan called on the international community to deepen cooperation through productive partnerships and fulfilling financial pledges.
ANDRÉS FIALLO ( Ecuador), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and CELAC, said his country had focused on ensuring economic and cultural rights for its citizens. It had also taken historic steps in the education and health fields, but was not ignoring the challenges. Neoliberal doctrines considered social investment a cost, but the Government, on the other hand, believed that human beings were more important than capital. Persons with disabilities were contributors to social policies and not mere recipients, he stressed, adding that the question of disability should be one of the priorities of the post-2015 development agenda.
Mwaba Patricia Kasese-Bota(Zambia), aligning herself with the Group of 77, the African Group and SADC, said that her Government, cognizant that humanity was central to sustainable development, had repositioned and refocused its national development plans on all-inclusive, people-centred desired growth outcomes with social integration elements. The poverty of the majority of Zambians, high unemployment, especially among the youth and women, and the widening gap in equality and social inclusiveness posed great challenges to the Government. Its commitment to significant improvement in literacy levels for all should be a priority because education remained the key to inclusive social development and empowerment of vulnerable social groups. Similarly, national labour policies had been reformed with the aim of aligning them with international labour instruments and harmonizing them with other national policies and legislation, she said.
Gloria Cid Carreño (Chile), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, said that the Servicio Nacional para el Adulto Mayor, an entity of the Ministry of Social Development, was in charge of her country’s policies in the field of elderly people. It promoted active ageing as well as the development of social services for older people, among other tasks. Chile had developed an integrated policy for positive ageing, which promoted the rights of older people in a holistic manner while encouraging autonomy and ways to prevent dependency. Chile welcomed the appointment of a special rapporteur on older persons, and supported the development of a multilateral instrument on the topic.
KEVIN CASSIDY, International Labour Organization (ILO), said that “development happens through jobs”. Work was the most effective and sustainable way out of poverty for poor households, and expanding productive and decent employment the way in which economies would grow and diversify. For all countries, irrespective of development level, an adequate supply of jobs was the foundation of sustained and growing prosperity, as well as inclusion and social cohesion. The global economic crisis, subsequent adjustment measures and slowdowns in growth continued to impact labour markets and social security systems, creating new challenges and adding some longer-term structural problems, he said. Challenges included the youth unemployment crisis, growing inequality, an increasingly uncertain environment for enterprise, increasing demand for social protection and the weakening of social dialogue. ILO planned to include two important standard-setting processes on economic and social development in the future, he said. First would be to advance prevention, protection and compensation measures with a view to eliminating forced labour. Second would be a transition from the informal to the formal economy, which would address high unemployment, underemployment, poverty, gender inequality and the precarious work characterizing the informal economy.
Right of Reply
The representative of the Russian Federation, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, responded to the statement by the Youth Delegate from Georgia, saying that Abkhazia and South Ossetia were independent States over which the Russian Federation had no control. Georgia had raised the question for exclusively political reasons, he said, while in fact it was not seeking a peaceful solution to the conflict through an agreement. Rather, it was trying to convince the international community that a third party was responsible for the whole situation. That demagoguery was aimed at hiding Georgia’s unwillingness to resolve the issue, while, in reality, it was not dealing with its own responsibilities following the events of 2008, he said.
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