Speakers Urge Rapid Action to Stimulate Job Creation, Give Excluded Groups Voice, as Commission for Social Development Continues Session

12 February 2013
SOC/4804

Speakers Urge Rapid Action to Stimulate Job Creation, Give Excluded Groups Voice, as Commission for Social Development Continues Session

12 February 2013
Economic and Social Council
SOC/4804
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Commission for Social Development

Fifty-first Session

10th & 11th Meetings (AM & PM)

Speakers Urge Rapid Action to Stimulate Job Creation, Give Excluded Groups

 

Voice, as Commission for Social Development Continues Session

 

With an estimated 75 million young people out of work around the world — nearly one in four in some parts — rapid action was needed to stimulate job creation, give young people and other excluded groups a voice in decision-making and institute schemes for social protection floors, the Commission for Social Development heard today as it continued its fifty-first session.

“[Unemployment] is becoming a threat to social cohesion,” a youth delegate from Belgium said as she addressed the Commission, adding:  “It is not only an enormous waste of economic resources, it is also harmful to society and the individual himself.”  Due to their inability to find decent work, young men and women all over the world were losing their faith in the future, she said, adding that they felt discouraged and excluded.

Like several other speakers today, she outlined priority actions that could help resolve the crisis.  They included fighting discrimination against youth in the labour market, tackling the “mismatch” between education and the labour market, and fostering the participation of young people.  “Youth are demanding a seat at the table where their future is being decided,” she emphasized.

Agreeing, Tunisia’s representative said that despite scientific and technical progress, unemployment remained one of the world’s largest challenges, especially among young people.  There was a need to focus on international strategies for the employment of youth, and to find decent forms of work in the post-2015 development period.

She said that, following its revolution, Tunisia had undertaken democratic change on the basis of an understanding of the need for participation by young people.  All social strata must be involved, without discrimination, in social development efforts.  Achieving that would require reforms, she said, calling for transparency, accountability and dialogue as central to economic and social relations.

Along similar lines, other speakers stressed that full employment and decent work for all were at the centre of efforts to eradicate poverty and ensure social integration.  They called for public and private investment in social and economic infrastructure, to be made on the basis of international cooperation.

“No single country can do it alone,” said Lesotho’s representative, referring to people’s empowerment and stressing that it was a complex process entailing a number of economic and social development issues.  Indeed, there was a need for combined efforts in developing people-centred policies.  It was incumbent upon the international community to work collectively to create an environment in which countries could empower their people, he said.  In that regard, trade barriers and the fulfilment of official development assistance (ODA) commitments, among other things, required urgent attention.

Still other speakers pointed to inequality as a source of the world’s current woes, calling for strategies and programmes that would even the playing field in such areas as employment, education, food security and access to basic social services.  Nepal’s representative, for one, noted the massive potential impact of globalization on social development, but nonetheless pointed out its uneven and skewed benefits around the world.  Indeed, widening inequality was an example of how globalization had failed to meet the needs of all members of the global community, and that a more sustainable and inclusive process was needed.

Venezuela’s representative noted with alarm that poverty and inequality were becoming globalized.  The world economic and financial crisis had had a devastating effect on the living conditions of countless human beings.  Unemployment was shooting up, education and health programmes were being cut and there was an exploitation of labour in favour of the irresponsible owners of banks and other institutions, he said.

Also highlighted today were the challenges faced by vulnerable groups besides young people in finding decent work.  For example, a representative of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) — noting that, despite a notable decrease, there had been 2.5 million new HIV infections in 2011 — emphasized that combating stigma and discrimination against HIV-positive people was vital to promoting employment opportunities for those living with or affected by the virus.  Meanwhile, other speakers spotlighted particular labour-market challenges faced by older persons and those with disabilities, among other groups.

Also speaking today was the Director General for Family and Youth in Austria’s Ministry of Economy, Family and Youth, and the Cabinet Director of Senegal’s Ministry of Women, Children and Female Entrepreneurship.

Other participants included representatives of Iran, Norway, Bangladesh, Algeria, Jamaica, Morocco, Mongolia, Peru, Zimbabwe, Indonesia, Belarus, Syria, Pakistan, Nicaragua, Argentina, Jordan, Ethiopia, United Republic of Tanzania, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Haiti, Kyrgyzstan, Republic of Korea and Australia.

Also taking part were representatives of the International Federation on Ageing, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese Council, American Association of Retired Persons, World Youth Alliance and SustainUs.

Representatives of the International Organization for Migration, Sovereign Military Order of Malta, International Labour Organization, International Council for Social Welfare, International Presentation Association, Fraternité de Notre Dame, International Committee for Arab-Israeli Reconciliation, Baltic Sea Forum, International Movement ATD Fourth World, UNANIMA International, and the Society of Catholic Medical Missionaries also participated.

The Commission will reconvene at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 13 February, to continue its work.

Background

The Commission for Social Development met this morning to conduct a review of the following relevant United Nations plans and programmes of action pertaining to the situation of social groups (document E/CN.5/2013/7):  the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons; Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities; World Programme of Action for Youth; Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing, 2002; as well as family issues, policies and programmes.  It was also expected to continue and conclude its general discussion on the priority theme for the current fifty-first session, “promoting empowerment of people in achieving poverty eradication, social integration and full employment and decent work for all”.  For more information, see Press Releases SOC/4799/Rev.1 of 4 February and SOC/4800 of 6 February.

Statements

INGRID NEMEC, Director General for Family and Youth, Ministry of Economy, Family and Youth of Austria, associated herself with the European Union.  Focusing on four youth-related issues, she said the Austrian Federal Youth Council was the official representation of young people in her country.  Comprising diverse children’s and youth organizations, it was recognized as a social partner and entitled to participate in important policy decisions.  Second, under the country’s new “Youth Check” system, every new draft law must be examined for its effects on children and young people.  Third, in 2007, the Government had taken the important step of lowering the active voting age to 16, which had helped to secure the political participation and involvement of young people.  Finally, Austria had implemented a youth strategy with full involvement by young people in a broad and open stakeholder dialogue.  From the beginning, the Federal Youth Council had been part of that process, she said, adding that the opinions of young people were considered by means of working groups, opinion polls and focus groups, an approach that enabled the country to reach youth in all its diversity.

Ms. MAYER, International Federation on Ageing, said the goal of empowering ageing populations was far from being reached, and disempowerment was in fact increasing, fuelled by increased emigration of family members and fewer work opportunities for older people, among other factors.  While there was debate on the specific meaning of “empowerment”, it was broadly agreed that it meant having the ability to provide for oneself and to make one’s own choices.  However, there was an “almost impenetrable barrier” to achieving full empowerment, she declared.  Several studies pointed to elderly people around the world living in worsening poverty compared to younger people.  Without specific measures to address such matters, ageing populations not only remained disempowered, they missed out on their human rights.  It was therefore vital to address poverty, she said, stressing that Governments must help provide an adequate standard of living for the elderly.

Ms. PROUNIS, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese Council, noted that countries which had developed comprehensive social programmes covering the family had reduced poverty and improved social conditions.  Social protection and support programmes helped family members become self-sufficient, including those who were unemployed.  They in turn should have access to education, training and health care, essential elements for any social strategy.  HIV/AIDS-related education and treatment explained much of the progress made in containing the disease, she said, noting that organizations operating under the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese Council’s umbrella had been undertaking such efforts, including in relation to prevention, in Ethiopia, among other countries.  She strongly urged the Commission to include key family issues in its final outcome document, and Governments to empower those living in poverty.

Ms. KLINE, American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), said the Madrid International Plan of Action provided overwhelming evidence of a changing global age structure, and called attention to the worldwide trend of urbanization, the repercussions of which were felt in both developed and developing countries.  AARP was committed to a society for all ages, she said, emphasizing the need for community leadership and political support to ensure sustainable age-friendly programmes.  AARP recognized the need to address challenges to physical infrastructure, but took a holistic approach to age-friendly environments in terms of technology, migration, environment, disaster relief, family care-giving, the human rights of older persons, media perceptions of ageing, and other areas.  She called on countries to address those challenges and to seize opportunities offered by various national strategies, noting that civil society had led the way in that regard in such countries as Australia and South Africa.

Ms. MANZANA, World Youth Alliance, noted that youth made up 40 per cent of the world’s unemployed people.  That was due in part to the fact that such a large percentage of the global world’s population was young and needed Governments to focus on them.  Poverty and a lack of access to health care increased poverty and disease while preventing employment, which led to lost creative potential and the creation of burdens on society, she said.  It was vital to meet people’s most basic human needs.  Without doing so, people could not exercise their ingenuity.  “Bottom-up strategies” must improve vocational and skills training and include investment in people.  She stressed the importance of family to social and economic development, and called for a greater focus on it by State and society.  Family was the first place where people experienced solidarity and built the foundations for taking those lessons into society.  The importance of the family’s social functions meant that it was essential to support the institution at the political and social levels.  Reducing poverty would not be achieved by reducing population but by meeting people’s needs, she said, adding that the post-2015 development agenda must foster the full creative force of humanity and focus on a “person-centric” approach to development.

Ms. BARNES, SustainUs, noting that the dialogue on poverty had not focused on education, youth employment and migration, called for better access to education and the Internet for the young people around the world.  Youth-sensitive indicators must be integrated into future development goals, she said, underlining the importance of active participation by young people in policymaking and governance.  They must define, not be defined by, their own circumstances.  Educational curricula must be innovative to help expedite economic progress and teacher training methods needed investment to help provide young people with the tools to spur economic progress.  Focusing on supporting and developing the “whole person” would best help provide young people with the skills needed to take part in the twenty-first century workforce, she said.  However, upon exiting the educational world, they found a dearth of employment opportunities, particularly for women.  The informal economy was “labour imprisonment”, she said, stressing the importance of full and decent employment for the full participation of youth in the social, economic and political sectors.  Development required a rights-based and human-centred approach, she added.

The Commission then resumed its general discussion on the fifty-first session’s priority theme.

ALIOUNE NDIAYE, Cabinet Director, Ministry of Women, Children and Female Entrepreneurship of Senegal, associated himself with the common African position on social development, saying that the priority theme illustrated fully the development vision of many countries aiming to eradicate poverty.  Like other countries, Senegal had endorsed all the commitments made at the social development conferences held in the 1990s.  However, social development depended on democracy and people’s empowerment, which should be the pillars of public policies.  Senegal had taken important steps to deepen democracy, broaden the participation of social groups and combat poverty, he said.  The country’s social policy was based on transparency, participation and partnerships involving Government, civil society and other actors.

The national social policy had taken the shape of a decentralized system, he continued, noting that Senegal was working to improve the social condition of vulnerable groups and to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment, in particular through a methodological system of gender mainstreaming.  Despite the weak performance seen in Senegal’s domestic income, it had developed sectoral policies to improve the inclusion of vulnerable groups, having created the Agency for National Employment for Youth, among others.  Such initiatives were bearing fruit, he said, noting that a national social protection strategy was being developed.  “Ultimately, real efforts are being made to combat poverty and promote the inclusion of socially vulnerable groups”, but resources often remained below the needs expressed.  More international efforts were needed in the area of social development, he said.

GHOLAMHOSSEIN DEHGHANI ( Iran), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, warned that focusing only on extreme poverty could end up pushing those in non-extreme poverty into extreme poverty.  Iran’s programme for 2012 to 2016 focused on four main areas, with poverty reduction the number-one priority.  Improving the country’s human development index score over the last 30 had been a positive step and the Fifth National Development Plan prioritized further improvements, he said.  The National Strategy Document on Ageing was facilitating efforts to implement the three priority directions contained in the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing.  Concerning persons with disabilities, he pointed out that his country had played an active role in the preparation and adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Mr. ANTONSEN (Norway) said persons with disabilities were often “the poorest of the poor”, living in difficult conditions, lacking rights and marginalized.  Empowerment strategies were vital to securing their equal participation in development, he stressed, pointing out that, from a democratic point of view, it was vital to empower marginalized groups.  Women with disabilities often faced “double discrimination” and gender-based violence, he noted, emphasizing that national plans must target disabled women and girls with the aim of ensuring their integration into society.  The Government of Norway had strategies in place to improve the transition from school to employment for youngsters with disabilities, and would ratify the Convention later this year.

ABULKALAM ABDUL MOMEN (Bangladesh), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, recalled that a year ago, his country had proposed a model of social empowerment aimed at giving poor people a voice and ensuring social safety.  Among other things, the proposal covered the provision of training, the elimination of hunger and poverty, the eradication of discrimination, and guaranteed participation in Government.  A special budget allocation had been set aside to provide employment opportunities for the extreme poor.  The Government of Bangladesh provided compulsory, free education, with nearly 7.8 million students — particularly girls in rural areas — receiving education stipends, he said.  The results had been good:  Poverty had been halved and parity had been achieved for girls in primary education.  Programmes in the areas of nutrition and health had vastly reduced maternal and child deaths, he said, adding that Bangladesh was well on its way to achieving the related Millennium Development Goals.

KAMEL CHIR (Algeria), associating himself the Group of 77 and China, welcomed the General Assembly’s initiative to hold the High-level Meeting on Disability and Development in September this year, saying it would strengthen the will to include the issue in the post-2015 development agenda.  He also stressed the need to protect the rights of the elderly, and said that promoting the role of the family, the main agent of social integration and protection, should be at the core of social programmes.  With regard to the situation of youth, he said his country was pleased at the recent adoption of a General Assembly resolution addressing many of the basic rights and needs of young people.  Algeria’s plan to support an economic re-launch, as well as a complementary plan to support economic growth, had led to a considerable increase in gross domestic product (GDP) as well as a drop in poverty, from 15 per cent in 1999 to 6 per cent in 2011, he said.  As for employment, the Government had adopted incentives for youth employment and created a national fund for unemployment insurance, he said, adding that such social safety nets made it possible for a large number of people to re-enter society and improve their living conditions.

GHANA SHYAM LAMSAL ( Nepal), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, noted the large potential impact of globalization on social development, but pointed to its uneven and skewed benefits among countries around the world.  The widening inequality and digital divide exemplified its failure to meet the needs of all members of the global community, he said, calling for a more sustainable and inclusive form of globalization.  Climate change was another serious concern of the entire world, he said, adding that it was vital to build a climate-resilient society by adopting suitable adaptation and mitigation measures, with a particular focus on those in vulnerable situations.  Nepal’s own efforts had seen significant poverty reduction between 1996 and 2009, though significant disparities remained.  Nepal was a State party to the seven core international human rights instruments and major International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions, with several strong national institutions working to achieve inclusion.  Despite the country’s ongoing transition from conflict, Nepal had made significant progress towards attaining the Millennium Development Goals, though it needed special consideration in sustaining its efforts.

SHORNA-KAY MARIE RICHARDS (Jamaica), associating herself with the Group of 77 and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said her country’s extensive efforts to reform its social protection systems since 2000 had resulted in a considerably improved performance in the human development index.  The National Development Plan “Vision 2030” targeted achievement of the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 and Jamaica’s advance to developed-country status by 2030.  Jamaica had been the first country to ratify the Convention and to create a disabilities registry.  Nonetheless, more efforts were needed to improve accessibility and decent work for persons with disabilities.  Noting that the proportion of older persons in the population was steadily increasing, and expected to double in absolute numbers by 2050, she concurred with the call by the Latin American and Caribbean Demographic Centre for the adoption of social protection to safeguard older persons by ensuring income security, basic health care and social services so as to foster their autonomy.  She also stressed the importance of family in building cohesive societies, and of breaking intergenerational cycles of poverty by investing in the education of poor households.

MALEFETSANE MOSEME (Lesotho), associating himself the Group of 77, the African Group and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), declared:  “The best way by which we may successfully tackle modern-day challenges is by promoting and enhancing the capabilities of all sectors of society — youth, older persons, persons with disabilities, people living in poverty, etc. — to fully participate in decision-making processes, and thereby be able to take control of their future.”  However, promoting such empowerment was a complex task entailing a set of economic and social development issues.  “No single country can do it alone,” he said, underlining the need for international cooperation and a combination of efforts in developing people-centred policies.  As HIV/AIDS remained one of the biggest medium- to long-term global challenges to the eradication of poverty and to ensuring decent work for all, Lesotho had adopted an HIV/AIDS policy that would facilitate the effective implementation of the national expanded response with a view to empowering women, youth and all vulnerable groups to protect themselves against the epidemic’s spread.

MOHAMMED LOULICHKI (Morocco), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said anti-poverty strategies could only work through sustained programmes aimed at developing people’s capacities and benefiting the poor.  Establishing a strong social protection system was also critical for reducing vulnerability.  Morocco had implemented innovative income-generating micro-projects and better-quality social services for the poor, he said, adding that social dialogue had led to the adoption of incentives to create jobs for socially vulnerable groups.  Additionally, steps had been taken to encourage young people to engage in their own entrepreneurship.  Other initiatives included the establishment of a medical assistance regime for the poor and a family solidarity fund to provide direct assistance to widows and divorced women.

AMIRA DALI (Tunisia), associating herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said unemployment was one of the world’s main problems today, despite scientific and technical progress.  It was especially bad for young people, and there was a need to focus on international strategies for their employment and to find decent forms of work in the post-2015 period.  Following its revolution, Tunisia had undertaken democratic change on the basis of the understanding of the need for participation by young people.  All social partners were involved in national efforts to overcome challenges and imbalances, while pursuing tangible results in employment, social justice and revolutionary goals, she said.  The economy was democratizing, despite many impediments, and Tunisia was determined to adopt the international model, with accountability for all stakeholders.

TULGA NARKHUU ( Mongolia) said empowerment was interconnected with the core goals agreed at the 1995 Copenhagen World Summit for Social Development.  Poverty, although substantially reduced in many countries, remained a problem in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia.  Slow global growth meant the likelihood that only half of the 80 million jobs that must be added in order to reach pre-crisis employment levels would be achieved.  Nonetheless, job creation was of great importance to Mongolia, which had enjoyed a 37.4 per cent drop in unemployment in 2012, he said.  The country was also committed to improving social welfare support and assistance to vulnerable groups.  The needs of women, young people, persons with disabilities, the elderly and other marginalized groups were to be addressed as a matter of urgency, with efforts to increase employment and decent work, boost equality and promote agriculture, infrastructure development and financial inclusion at the forefront.

Elien Raport and Denis Naets, youth representative from Belgium, then addressed the Commission.

Ms. RAPORT noted that, in Europe, nearly one person out of four had no job, asserting:  “This is not only an enormous waste of economic resources, it is also harmful to society and the individual himself.”  Employment was an important step in the transition to adulthood, and played an important role in the social integration of young people, providing them with stability.  Due to their inability to find decent work, young men and women all over the world were losing their faith in the future, she said, adding that they felt discouraged and excluded.  “This is becoming a threat to social cohesion,” she warned, declaring:  “We refuse to become the lost generation that experts are talking about.”  She outlined two points of action to solve the crisis, saying the first was fighting discrimination against young people in the labour market.  Secondly, “we must find and implement solutions that tackle the mismatch between education and labour market”.

Mr. NAETS said a third point of action was supporting the establishment of global coordination tools such as the United Nations Interagency Network on Youth Development and the Youth Employment Network.  On the fourth point, he said young people were at least as concerned as their elders about the current challenges.  “Youth are demanding a seat at the table where their future is being decided,” he said.

AUGUSTO THORNBERRY (Peru), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said that while his country’s GDP had risen by more than 20 per cent between 2002 and 2012, and despite having one of the world’s lowest inflationary growth rates, social development was not an automatic result of economic growth, he cautioned.  Indeed, it would not on its own reduce the gaps associated with poverty.  Peru had therefore created the Ministry of Development and Social Inclusion to lead public-private partnerships for social development, he said.  It had established social programmes covering the life cycle of vulnerable rural people, he said, citing school feeding programmes, conditional transfers for households with young children or pregnant mothers, and pensions for elderly people with no other income.  While the main responsibility for social development lay with the State, international cooperation, including assistance from the United Nations system, had been essential in helping Peru meet its goals, he said.  “We need effective State participation […] as well as the private sector and international cooperation.”

S.G. MHISHI, Director for Social Services, Ministry of Social Services, Labour and Social Welfare of Zimbabwe, said his country’s land-reform and distribution programme had resulted in the majority of households owning or gaining access to land.  The policy was beginning to bear fruit, he said, citing increased self-sufficiency in food and an impressive output of cash crops that would soon surpass pre-reform levels.  Ownership of the means of production and participation in national productive processes was a much more sustainable form of empowerment than waiting for the benefits to trickle down.  The Empowerment and Indigenisation Act sought to help the majority of Zimbabweans participate in productive process by controlling share ownership in key national resource-based production concerns, he said, adding that community ownership trusts helped to enable enterprising youths to purchase shares and tackle youth unemployment in an innovative way.  Citing efforts to cushion such strategies, he said well-conceived social protection measures to address the immediate requirements of the very poor and marginalized included cash transfers to extremely poor households, productive safety net programmes, support for small and medium-sized enterprises and increased investment in human capital.

ANDY RACHMIANTO (Indonesia), associating himself with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Group of 77 and China, said the national Master Plan for Expediting Poverty Eradication had driven reductions in poverty and unemployment, and was cause for optimism about further reductions, especially in light of continuing Government efforts to invest in human capital.  Indonesia had adopted policies and programmes to meet the needs of at-risk and high-risk families, strengthening its commitment to intervention and prevention programmes focused on high-risk families, and strengthening bilateral cooperation with other countries, all with a view to improving the quality of life for all family members, especially through better education and health care focused on the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable.  The Master Plan also targeted persons with disabilities, he said, noting that it had generated private-sector employment for more than 18,000 persons with disabilities.  He went on to call for increased action to improve the health of the elderly and protect their rights.  Young people would also receive higher budgetary allocations to help address their concerns, including higher unemployment rates and therefore increased poverty, he said.

Mr. AMBRAZEVICH (Belarus) said his country was providing targeted social assistance, including a monthly allowance for the purchase of medicines, social rehabilitation and assistance to feed children in their first two years of life.  Pensions were re-costed every quarter, and additional pensions were dispersed to retired men and women who had reached a certain age.  The country had also adopted a number of laws to promote and protect the rights of persons with disabilities, he said.  In addition, it was working towards accession to the Convention, and was currently undertaking procedures for domestic approval of a draft law to that effect.  State support was guaranteed for youth, and the Government was considering introducing an unemployment protection system, he said, stressing that the United Nations and other international organizations should provide due assistance to help States develop and implement such programmes and strategies.  “Development can only be sustainable if it is based on a solid social foundation,” he said.

JORGE VALERO BRICEÑO (Venezuela) said the world economic and financial crisis had had a devastating effect on the living conditions of countless human beings.  Unemployment was shooting up, education and health programmes were being cut and labour was exploited in favour of the irresponsible owners of banks and other institutions.  The former policies of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, known collectively as the “ Washington consensus”, had led to a “lost decade” and created greater inequality, he said.  However, despite the global crisis of capitalism and its harmful impacts on development, Venezuela was working towards true empowerment of the people, he said.  Social investment now received more than 60 per cent of the national budget, and as a result, there had been a significant drop in poverty, including extreme poverty.  The unemployment rate had fallen to an all-time low and the Government had set a goal of zero poverty by 2021.  More than 300,000 older adults had benefited from the “Mission of Love for Seniors” and enjoyed decent pensions.  Following the Bolivarian revolution, Venezuela had moved to empower the entire people, he said.  It was a true democracy, rather than a democracy for elites and the privileged.

MONIA ALSALEH (Syria), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, said her Government was implementing a plan to empower women economically through income- and job-creating projects, while also focusing on families and persons with disabilities.  However, its reform efforts were jeopardized by coercive unilateral economic measures which threatened Syria’s economic sector, trade and efforts to promote social development.  The measures also obstructed efforts to improve human rights, and had a negative impact on human development and empowerment.  They exacerbated the living conditions of Syrians and limited their access to social protection, she said.  Expressing concern that the Secretary-General’s report ignored the effects of foreign occupation on social development, she expressed surprise that it also failed to refer to the impact of disabilities caused by the use of weapons on civilians.  She called for a greater focus on the impact of weapons on people and on the application of coercive measures that threatened social development and the full enjoyment of human rights.

MR. KHAN (Pakistan), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said empowerment required the creation of legal frameworks for social protection, as well as enabling environments and formal institutional structures.  Once those measures were taken, it was important to measure and monitor progress.  Investing in livelihoods, education, health and housing was the best ways to boost poverty eradication, he said, adding that legislation seeking to support and improve the representation of marginalized groups in decision-making processes was vital.  Pakistan’s development programme built on the important link connecting empowerment and poverty eradication, social integration, full employment and decent work for all.  It included a cash-transfer programme that focused on empowering women and families, providing vocational training and interest-free loans based on a “poverty scorecard”; the provision of financial assistance to widows, orphans and the disabled; benefits and pensions for the elderly; and efforts to integrate the expanding and increasingly youthful labour force by providing jobs and decent work, as well as vocational and technical training.

MARÍA RUBIALES DE CHAMORRO (Nicaragua), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, said her country had been taking effective steps to reduce poverty, including extreme poverty, as well as hunger, with a focus on such areas as farm production, renewable energy, strengthening small and medium-sized companies, land titles, improving and building houses, and improving water and sewage services.  All Nicaraguan families had an obligation to ensure that their children were attending school and up-to-date on vaccinations, and that pregnant women attended all their prenatal check-ups.  Besides incentives to meet those goals, the Government had implemented established mechanisms to contribute to the country’s economic and social development, with education and health being the greatest expenses.  Outlining some of Nicaragua’s recent successes in that regard, she said the nation was free of illiteracy, and child and maternal mortality had been reduced and food insecurity slashed through such programmes as “food for work”.  However, there was still a long way to go, she said, expressing Nicaragua’s commitment to eliminating poverty “once and for all”.

NELIDA CONTRERAS ( Argentina) recalled that her country, suffering a financial crisis in 2001, had chosen to abandon neoliberal policies because they had worn down Argentina’s social and political fabric.  Ever since, it had been working to provide and generate rights, while acknowledging responsibilities and duties.  She said an integrated social policy on human rights aimed to ensure the inclusion of men and women on all levels.  Government policies were beginning to bear fruit, including increased school enrolment, she said, adding that social consciousness and solidarity were on the increase.  While Governments were responsible for providing the tools to help everyone acknowledge their ability to become empowered, full rights would not be realized without that empowerment.  Without proactive Government, Argentina’s achievements over the last decade would not exist, she said, stressing the vital importance of popular participation.

DIANA ALI NAHAR AL-HADID (Jordan), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, said the empowerment of individuals and communities in line with a human rights-based approach was one of the salient determinants of development.  It should be complemented by inclusive employment strategies and access to basic social services, among other things, which could contribute to the building of resilient communities.  Moreover, “the central focus must be on human beings”, she said, emphasizing that vulnerable, marginalized and defenceless people must be protected.  Noting that Jordan was implementing a new social development programme, as well as an employment creation plan and a social protection scheme, she said poverty eradication required the decisive commitment of all stakeholders, as well as the coordination of various actions.  With discussions on the post-2015 development agenda under way, the ultimate goal was to adopt a new orientation integrating the three pillars of sustainable development, including dynamic social development strategies, she stressed.

AMAN HASSEN BAME (Ethiopia), associating herself with the African Group and the Group of 77, called for comprehensive integration of the Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development, the Millennium Development Goals and the outcomes of other major United Nations conferences in the economic and social spheres.  Expressing support for the empowerment of marginalized groups, she outlined her country’s efforts to achieve pro-poor, sustained economic growth and development.  Ethiopia’s rapid economic growth and progress in social development had contributed positively to job creation and improved living standards, she said, adding that that was down in part to the national poverty-eradication agenda, which focused on agriculture and rural development.  Government policies were also cognizant of the present and future challenges to youth employment, she said.  They contained measures to deepen market-oriented economic reforms, improve agricultural productivity, promote the private sector, implement programmes for small and medium-sized enterprises, and integrate housing development programmes, and expand technical vocational education training.  Legislative measures had also been taken to improve employment relations, including the right to employment of persons with disabilities, she said.

TUVAKO N. MANONGI (United Republic of Tanzania), associating himself with the Group of 77, the African Group and SADC, said that, despite the challenges posed by the global economic and financial crisis, and further aggravated by the effects of climate change, including drought, flooding and unpredictable weather, his country’s Government had implemented national strategies and programmes for poverty reduction, popularly known as MKUKUTA on the mainland and MKUZA in Zanzibar.  It had established formal structures and institutions that permitted and encouraged meaningful participation, as well as a decentralized programme to devolve powers to local governments in order to ensure the participation of people in decisions affecting their own development.  The Government had also put in place policies devoted to vulnerable groups — youth, the elderly, families and persons with disabilities.  A programme known as “Agriculture First” aimed to modernize and improve the agricultural sector’s productivity by addressing all major constraints to increased production, he said, describing it as a multi-stakeholder initiative involving all levels of government, civil society, farmer organizations and the private sector.

DER KOGDA ( Burkina Faso), associating himself with the African Group and the Group of 77, said it was undeniable that progress on the Millennium Development Goals was incomplete, particularly for African countries.  Aware of that fact, efforts were already under way to look to the post-2015 period, he said, noting that the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development had been a catalyst for examining the prospects for deepening the Millennium Development Goals and looking to the future of sustainable development.  Empowerment and improved employment were cornerstones of Burkina Faso’s social development policies, he said.  Implementation of the Millennium Development Goals was under way through initiatives like the “Strategy of Fast Growth”, he said, adding that specific efforts had helped particular social groups achieve empowerment.  The country had an ambitious programme to extend social protection to all workers and raise literacy rates, he said, adding that the Government’s political commitment to empowerment was steadily gaining strength, particularly among young people.

MWAKIO OBADIAH RIGHA (Kenya), associating himself with the African Group and the Group of 77, said that 3.5 per cent of his country’s population suffered a disability and 5 per cent were over 60 years of age, while the youth population stood at 65 per cent of the total, and 50 per cent of the active labour force.  Kenya’s “Vision 2030” programme aimed to tackle poverty while sustaining rapid economic growth and social development until 2030, he said.  The National Social Protection Policy sought to improve the lives of older persons, as did the National Policy on Older Persons and Ageing, which promoted healthy and active ageing.  The most successful such policy was a direct cash transfer policy launched in 2007, which had now reached 33,000 households.  The National Youth Policy and Youth Enterprise Fund aimed to help young people realize their full potential and overcome the profound employment challenges they faced.  The family was also a focus of policy, he said, pointing to three bills under consideration by Parliament.  Once enacted, they would reaffirm the role of the family and as the most important unit in fulfilling the emotional and physical needs of individuals, and in the pursuit of economic and social development.

FRITZNER GASPARD ( Haiti), associating himself with the Group of 77 and CARICOM, said that his country had made empowerment of the people one of its key objectives, and was instituting programmes to tackle unemployment.  Having overseen the creation of hundreds of small and medium-sized enterprises, the Government had also launched pilot projects to counter hunger and extreme poverty, he said, noting, in particular, a programme known as “No to Hunger”, which was supported by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and other agencies of the Organization.  Indeed, more than three years after the massive 2010 earthquake, UNICEF had published a report noting Haiti’s significant progress in education, health, education and sanitary measures.  Given those encouraging results, “the course must be maintained”, in particular by creating growth, building a more democratic society, ensuring the inclusion of young people and improving the quality of life in Haiti, he said.

TALAIBEK KYDYROV (Kyrgyzstan) said that in spite of its strides towards attainment of the Millennium Development Goals, however, challenges remained.  Almost half of all children continued to live in poverty, and one in eight lived in abject poverty, he said.  Most did not enjoy social protection, and there was, therefore, a need to support families and ensure economic opportunities for women.  Moreover, there was a need to create a comprehensive system of social and economic opportunities for those with limited capabilities due to health, as well as women, children and mothers.  There was an important potential role for measures to reform the social spheres, as well as pensions and health.  With youth making up 32 per cent of its population, Kyrgyzstan’s national strategy for development was guided by a youth policy aimed for the development of young people.  More than 350,000 jobs should be created over the next five years, and the minimum wage would more than double, he said.

SHIN DONG IK (Republic of Korea) said that social protection floors helped to improve people’s resilience to economic shocks and allowed marginalized groups to take better control of their lives.  The Republic of Korea was pursuing such policies despite the economic constraints it faced, he said, adding that it was expanding pensions for older persons and those with disabilities.  Noting that the Korean people had been empowered by investment in education, he pointed to the impact that had had on promoting rapid economic development.  In the development cooperation projects that the Republic of Korea supported in developing countries, education and vocational training were priorities because of their importance to sustainable social development.  He said he supported the Secretary-General’s Education First initiative because of the role it would play in encouraging Governments to ensure the right to education for all children.  The specific needs of persons with disabilities and older people also needed more attention because of the continued marginalization of those groups.  Their specific needs remained unaddressed in many societies, and their access to jobs and opportunities were often limited.

TANISHA HEWANPOLA (Australia) said “Development for All” was her country’s first fully inclusive development policy.  Its emphasis on improving access for persons with disabilities informed Australia’s aid policy and was one of its 10 tenets.  To be effective, the programme must reach people with disabilities, overcoming the obstacles to access that they faced.  Such improved accessibility benefited society as a whole, she said, adding that resource mobilization was essential to the programme’s sustainability.  The international community must establish goals and targets that included persons with disabilities, she said, adding a call for the formulation of the “the very best approach” to achieving equality for persons with disabilities and improving their access to education, health care and legal services.

MICHELLE KLEIN SOLOMON, International Organization for Migration (IOM), said migration must be seen as an essential strategy to improve and empower people’s lives.  It enabled migrants to enrich not only their own lives, but also those of family in their countries of origin.  In that regard, it was important to note that remittances — which had tripled to $530 billion in 2012 — were the most tangible link between migration and development, she said.  Considering the growing numbers of women migrants and their evolving roles, especially as heads of households, women should be considered as essential agents in the sustainable development process.  And considering that jobs could enable people to participate fully in society, migration, and especially economic migration, was a means to achieve decent work in the host country, she said.  In that regard, development policies should specifically address the issue of youth unemployment as an essential component of poverty eradication, while also ensuring that young people were provided with adequate education and training.

BERTRAND DE LOOZ KARAGEORGIADES, Sovereign Military Order of Malta, said marginalized social groups must participate actively in the social, economic and political life of their countries, while being provided with the resources to facilitate that involvement.  Combating poverty and marginalization was at the core of the Sovereign Military Order’s activities, he said, adding that its mission remained that of providing for those in need, without discrimination on the basis of race or religion.  Today, just as 900 years ago, the Order remained at the service of the poor and marginalized, active in more than 120 countries, he said, calling attention to a recent Associated Press article containing an interview with the Order’s High Master.  It provided a good idea of what the Order was doing across the world, he said.  Some of its programmes taught reading, arithmetic and practical skills, while others established microcredit programmes that allowed women to launch their own businesses.

Mr. CASSIDY, International Labour Organization (ILO), said the workplace was the best place in which to empower people, but that had not happened.  Of the 3.3 billion-strong global workforce, 900 million members lived below the poverty line, with a further 197 million unemployed, he said, estimating that yet another 39 million had completely dropped out of the labour market, having lost hope of ever getting a job.  Young people faced a particularly precarious situation, he said, pointing out that the youth unemployment rate was three to five times higher than the average adult rate.  Young people were also more susceptible to violence, drug addiction and gang activity, he said.  The 2012 International Labour Conference had adopted the Call to Action on the Youth Employment Crisis, with tried and tested policy options to promote youth employment, he said, encouraging Commission members to study its conclusions.  There were opportunities to promote empowerment and build economic and social progress while addressing labour-market inadequacies, he said.  For example, 60 million jobs could be created in the transition to a more sustainable development model over the next two decades, according to the Rio+20 outcome document.

Mr. VARUGHESE, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, (UNAIDS) linked empowerment to the ability to protect oneself from infection and to live a healthy, dignified and productive life if one were HIV-positive.  The Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS set bold targets for the international community to achieve by 2015, which would work towards zero new HIV infections, zero AIDS-related deaths and zero stigma and discrimination, he said.  New infection rates had dropped considerably in many countries, with increased access to antiretroviral therapies.  Nonetheless, there had been 2.5 million more HIV infections in 2011, while half of those eligible for antiretroviral therapy lacked access.  In addition, millions still faced stigma and social exclusion due to their status, he said, emphasizing that it was essential to combat stigma and discrimination.  It was also vital to promote employment opportunities for people living with or affected by HIV.  Noting the risk of HIV infection faced by persons with disabilities, he said they were often overlooked, adding that 4.6 million young people around the world were living with HIV.  The CrowdOutAIDS policy project used social media and crowd-sourcing technology to collaborate with young people in responding to AIDS, he said, noting that the disease had orphaned 16 million children worldwide.

Mr. ZELENEV, International Council for Social Welfare, said there was strong country-level evidence that universal access to basic social protection was beneficial not only for vulnerable groups, but for society as a whole.  “Only people who are well-nourished, well-educated and as healthy as possible, and who have been brought up in socially secure families, will in the long run be productive contributors to national and global economies and constructive, participating and responsible members of society,” he said.  With many countries still coping with the impacts of the global financial and economic crisis, the basic social guarantees envisioned by the Social Protection Floor Initiative could make social protection schemes available to the individuals and families suffering most.  In addition, the role of national legal systems in establishing basic income security guarantees was paramount in terms of adopting new laws and regulations specifically aligned with the ideas of the Social Protection Floor Initiative.  The Council recommended the creation of a special global fund for social protection, explicitly supporting the joint proposal by the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food and the Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights in that regard.

Ms. POTTER, International Presentation Association, said she spoke on behalf of grass roots voices — in particular those living in poverty — from 59 countries and 168 organizations.  Those voices asserted that education was the key to both increasing participation by those living in poverty in decision-making as well as empowering them to approach local/regional authorities or national Governments to represent their own issues.  In that regard, she made a number of recommendations, including:  ensuring participatory structures to enable people to become active agents in decision-making, planning, implementing, monitoring and evaluating the development agenda; promoting the legal empowerment of all people, especially those living in poverty; providing formal and non-formal education, including on human rights and global citizenship; and implementing ILO recommendation 202 to establish national social protection floors as an effective means of empowering people and reducing poverty and inequality.

Ms. MYRIAM, Fraternit é Notre Dame, said people could not evolve socially amid persistent wars and conflicts between cultures and religions.  Violence reduced social development in every country, and that perpetrated by intimate individuals cost $7.6 billion in health care every year in the United States alone.  Emphasizing the importance of finding modes of growth that did not harm the environment, she outlined the work that Fraternité had carried out in Haiti and Niger, working with a variety of marginalized groups, including widowed women.  She added that education was essential to social development, as was improving agriculture.

Mr. KARMAKAR, International Committee for Arab-Israeli Reconciliation, said the artificial barriers preventing people from growing must be removed.  Many people lacked access to sufficient food to live healthy lives, while the absence of wealth redistribution meant that more people would live in a state of helplessness.  It was important not to leave any segment of the population behind, he said, adding that the full elimination of poverty required a holistic approach that tried to tackle all contributing factors.  If one such factor was ignored, poverty would remain.  He urged “social quarantine” of people who lived in poverty deliberately in expectation of receiving handouts.

Mr. BODEWIG, Baltic Sea Forum, highlighted the innovative idea “Green Growth for Blue Sea”, the goal of which was to protect oceans while creating jobs.  He said that while many efforts to protect the environment were automatically labelled an economic strain, water was the planet’s most important element and the oceans played a vital role in human survival.  Solutions were needed to bring greater empowerment to people through research to reduce waste of the oceans, he said, noting that the maritime transport sector could play an active role in that regard.  The Forum supported all efforts to come up with new alternatives, including through civil society.  Indeed, new technology meant less fuel as well as reduced energy and shipping costs, he said, pointing out that the European Union’s Clean Baltic Sea Shipping Project, for one, was providing a chance to create new work and provide related education, he said.

Mr. PALICIO, International Movement ATD Fourth World, said that despite international efforts, vulnerable people were not empowered.  Furthermore, many development policies and projects had not had the desired impact, while some continued to displace vulnerable populations.  It was not merely about material deprivation, but how individuals, families and communities were condemned to mere survival, he said.  Poor people faced contempt and humiliation every day, which could be viewed as a form of violence.  He proposed creating an enabling environment for empowerment and participation; taking into account the results of a participatory research project that would help those living in poverty to evaluate the Millennium Development Goals in the run-up to the post-2015 development agenda; and implementation of ILO’s recommendation on social protection floors.

SUSAN MARTIN, UNANIMA International, said many people knew how to access what was necessary for their empowerment but were excluded by various barriers.  Through community-based approaches such as those favoured by UNANIMA, people had learned how to access the necessary resources for personal development and empowerment.  She said the post-2015 development goals could be built most effectively through partnerships, and that mentoring people on how they could work to meet their own communities’ needs would be an effective approach.  She encouraged greater consultation with vulnerable people in policy and infrastructure development, and called for adequately funded social- and community-inclusion initiatives to further enhance social mobility and help eradicate poverty.  Governments must enact non-punitive social protection floors and work to build community connectedness and belonging, she said.  That would help people to participate and give something back to their communities.

Ms. PARAMUNDA, Society of Catholic Medical Missionaries, emphasizing the need to address the root causes of poverty, said that transnational companies manipulated taxation, including through false accounting methods that robbed Governments of tax revenues at the expense of local businesses.  Developed nations had managed to confront such companies but many resource-rich African countries had been unable to do so, and had thus lost billions in “illegal” capital flight.  Trade with multinationals cost developing countries much more in lost taxes than the 0.7 per cent of GDP targeted as official development assistance (ODA), she said, calling for tax reforms to ensure the ability of Governments to implement social development policies, including social protection floors.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.