The Commission for Social Development heard the views of nearly 20 non-governmental organizations on youth, the elderly, women and girls, persons with disabilities and family rights today as it concluded its general discussion on strategies for eradicating poverty to achieve sustainable development for all.
Several speakers emphasized the need for a multidimensional and holistic approach to eradicating poverty, while others said efforts to lift up the poor would be pointless without effectively addressing the pressing issue of climate change.
The speaker for the World Youth Alliance said authentic development took place at all levels of society, creating a social, political and economic environment that allowed people to reach their full physical, spiritual, mental and emotional potential. Policies founded on the concept of human dignity considered the person holistically, recognizing their ability to contribute to society regardless of race, sex, wealth or ability, she stated.
Another speaker for the International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics spoke to the concerns of elderly persons, recommending that they be able to remain in the labour force for as long as possible. Improving the health and economic well-being of older persons, he said, would contribute to sustainable development for all.
The representative of Mayama, Asociación Civil, called for a strong focus on children and their development needs, while her counterpart from the FEMM Foundation said women and girls — who comprised half the world’s population — remained vulnerable to health issues due to both biological and social reasons.
The speaker from the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute said protecting the family was an obligation under international human rights conventions, yet despite the challenges faced by families worldwide, they were often overlooked by the international community.
More broadly, the speaker representing the Partnership for Global Justice said 50 people would die of hunger around the world in the three minutes each non-governmental organization was given to address the Commission,. Hunger reflected a dysfunctional system that threatened mankind and the survival of the planet, she said.
Offering Government perspectives, Cuba’s representative said his country’s national development strategy sought to sustain social justice and inclusion, and improve living standards. His counterpart from Bangladesh, meanwhile, underscored the country’s leading role in promoting the rights of persons living with autism.
Representatives of Colombia and Azerbaijan also spoke.
Also delivering remarks were representatives of the following non-governmental organizations: Eco-Dream Modern Technologies Center, Hellenic Association of Political Scientists, Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary, Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University, HelpMeSee, Triglav Circle, Tabernacle Worship and Prayer Ministry, World Education Foundation, Darüşşafaka Society, Association Miraisme International, International Relations Students’ Association of McGill University and SustainUS.
The Committee will reconvene on Friday, 10 February, at 10 a.m. to take action on draft proposals, conclude its fifty-fifth session and elect Bureau members for its fifty-sixth session.
The representative of the Partnership for Global Justice said 50 people would die of hunger during the time of her intervention. Since the start of the decade, 150 million people had died from hunger, mainly farmers and children. Such hunger stemmed from a dysfunctional system that threatened mankind and the survival of the planet. She called for the creation of a genuine “democracia” in which power would be distributed among the people, which would require both cultural change and political will.
The representative of the Eco-Green Modern Technologies Center in the Republic of Moldova noted that his country had more unemployed young people than anywhere in Europe. Such hardship resulted from imported energy, outdated agriculture and a lack of access to quality education. He discussed a project to create a five-hectare sustainable community that would be a showcase for similar developments. To achieve that project, the Center sought help, advice and partnership, he said.
SYMEON SIDIROPOULOS, Hellenic Association of Political Scientists, expressed hope that the participation of civil society in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development would foster implementation of its 17 Goals. Drawing attention to the refugee crisis, he said it had increased xenophobia in the European Union. Further, terrorism and human trafficking had been on the rise in the Mediterranean while Greece and other European countries suffered from economic recession. The international community must cooperate to address such problems and meet the needs of vulnerable people. “Even during these hard times, Europe remains the land of hope for people,” he emphasized.
VERONICA BRAND, Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary, said children with disabilities faced negative community attitudes, noting that they had been hidden in their homes and remained invisible. Providing training, conducting household surveys and securing sustainable funding was critical to making progress, she said, also emphasizing the need to design and implement education programmes that to empowered such children and provided support to their parents.
STEFANO GENNARINI, Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, said that while the family faced new challenges, it was frequently overlooked by the international community. Protecting the family was an obligation under international human rights conventions. Without the empowerment of the family, poverty eradication and sustainable development would never be achieved, he said, emphasizing also the right of children to be cared for and to grow in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding.
KINNARI MURTHY, Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University, said there was scientific evidence that thinking patterns were a cause and consequence of poverty. As the outer state of the world reflected the inner state of its people, efforts to tackle poverty without taking into account the non-material aspects of existence would not achieve their objectives. Sharing material resources was vital for progress, she said, describing Raja Yoga as a tool of holistic development.
NEREA LOPETEGUI, FEMM Foundation, said women and girls comprised half the world’s population yet remained more vulnerable to health problems due to both biological and social reasons. Therefore, strategies to achieve sustainable development and poverty eradication must address women’s health needs to truly be achieved for all. The foundation had discovered a critical link between a women’s hormonal health and her overall health. By synthesizing existing research and conducting new research, they had identified what constituted sufficient levels for nine essential hormones. That had led to the creation of improved diagnostic criteria and treatments. Among other things, the foundation provided education to women as it helped patients to be “informed participants” in their care.
JACOB MOHAN THAZHATU, HelpMeSee, said the organization had started a global campaign to end cataracts, the leading cause of blindness worldwide. Through partnerships with hundreds of surgeons in nearly 12 countries, along with cutting-edge technology and training, it had built a sustainable solution to that health crisis. For its part, the international community must step up efforts to eliminate human suffering and establish market-based, high-quality affordable eye care.
ALEJANDRA PEÑA POUS, Mayama, Asociación Civil, said more efforts were needed to address poverty eradication, which was the greatest challenge to sustainability. The international community should take multidimensional action with a strong focus on children and their development needs. Member States should make it easier for non-State actors to participate in decision-making, she said, adding that the success of the Sustainable Development Goals depended on collective partnership.
CHARLES COURTNEY, Triglav Circle, stressed the need for a multidimensional approach, adding that poverty eradication efforts should not only address extreme poverty, but also be integrated with strategies to reduce inequalities that would address non-material forms of poverty. Strategies should also be based on respect for nature, he said, adding that a holistic view of humankind and nature was central to the change of course advocated by Pope Francis.
KINZ FRANCIS, World Youth Alliance, said authentic development took place at all levels of society, creating a social, political and economic environment that allowed people to reach their full physical, spiritual, mental and emotional potential. Policies founded on the concept of human dignity considered the person holistically, recognizing their ability to contribute to society regardless of race, sex, wealth or ability. She urged the Commission to keep human dignity at the centre of all efforts to ensure that poverty eradication and the journey towards sustainable development truly were for all.
ADA OKIKA, Tabernacle Worship and Prayer Ministry Inc., said the 2030 Agenda provided a number of solutions to address poverty and hunger, and improve the quality of life of all. Drawing attention to cultural disadvantage, she said that national and regional strategies and policies must be designed to realize inclusive development. She asked the Commission to pay closer attention to cultural values, as they promoted sustainable development.
KAJA WOLD, World Education Foundation, said the organization’s work prioritized reaching the world’s most vulnerable people, including refugees, as sustainable development could only happen through a bottom-up holistic approach. Noting a large global youth bulge, and lack of education and job opportunities, she called on the international community to create new forms of multilateral cooperation, with stakeholders taking full advantage of available technological tools.
The Commission then resumed its consideration of its agenda item on “Review of relevant United Nations plans and programmes of action pertaining to the situation of social groups”.
Ms. GARCIA (Colombia) emphasized the need for sustained efforts to eliminate discrimination faced by older women. A legally binding instrument that covered the rights of aged people should be discussed, she said, adding that persons with disabilities should be considered as agents of change. The participation of young people in programme development was essential, she stressed, also urging the Commission to give greater consideration to the institution of the family.
Mr. CASTILLO (Cuba) said the national development strategy sought to sustain social justice and inclusion, and improve living standards. Between 2009 and 2014, more than 81,000 persons with disabilities had received social assistance. Further, the Government continued to prioritize youth involvement in community development, promoting their participation in decision-making. Cuba also attached great importance to the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing, and had developed a number of policies to promote the rights of the elderly. By 2025, almost 26 per cent of the population would be older than age 60 and the Government intended to guarantee a quality life for that segment of society.
MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh), stressing that the Constitution guaranteed equal rights for all, said social protection programmes targeted different groups to improve their well-being. Bangladesh, a leader in promoting the rights of persons living with autism, would host the International Conference on Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders later this year. On ageing, he said the Government was extremely sensitive to the current demographic shift. The national policy embraced the spirit of the Madrid Plan of Action by incorporating poverty reduction, health care and security provisions. Further, social safety net programmes — such as food and cash for work and vulnerable group feeding — were available for older people.
HABIB MIKAYILLI (Azerbaijan) noted several positive references to his country in the Secretary-General’s report on policies and programmes involving youth. This year, Azerbaijan would hold the forty-first World Scout Conference, while in 2018 it would bring together youth ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). The Government’s youth policy would allocate $300,000 to continue country-wide programmes to educate youth on the Sustainable Development Goals.
HANS STOHRER, International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics, recommended enabling people to remain in the labour market for as long as possible, efforts that would require giving older persons training and education to keep up with new technology, but could also reduce the burden on social programmes. He proposed the institutionalization of a universal basic pension to keep the elderly out of poverty, as well as increased education and training for geriatric health-care providers. Improving the health and economic well-being of older persons would contribute to sustainable development for all.
ALI RIFAT ÇAĞLAYAN, Darüşşafaka Society, said universal literacy could make the world healthier, more peaceful and prosperous. The Society provided equal education opportunity to poor and talented children who had lost their parents. He believed that if the right conditions were provided to ambitious yet economically disadvantaged children, they could reach their full potential and realize their dreams. Given the number of young people in developing countries, it was crucial that the Commission secure their involvement in policymaking.
CARLOS ALBERTO BAENA LOPEZ, Association Miraisme International, said that 61 per cent of persons with disabilities in Colombia had not received any form of income to survive. It was, therefore, crucial to design and implement policies that would improve their access to information and enable skill development and social acceptance.
The representative of the International Relations Students’ Association of McGill University said that along with war and genocide, climate change was one of the only unnatural forces vindictive enough to answer prayers to God with indifference. At the current pace, when climate change settled in, it would do so swiftly and it would discriminate. When seas rose, empires would fall and poverty eradication efforts would be rendered meaningless, he said, expressing hope, however, when the trumpets of destiny demanded an encore to the elimination of nuclear weapons, someone would rise to answer the call.
Two representatives of SustainUS, a youth-led NGO in the United States, said that as environmental conditions worsened from negligence, the associated costs would make poverty an even larger threat. They urged Governments not to postpone actions that would mitigate environmental degradation, and to incorporate the opinions and ideas of young people. Noting that billionaires and homeless sometimes lived on the same block, they said such inequalities were unjust. People should strive to be compassionate and if they could help those facing adversity, they should.
PHILIPP CHARWATH (Austria), Commission Chair, said it was fitting that quite a few speakers had reminded the Commission that human dignity was at the centre of its work and of the 2030 Agenda. Compassion and an ethical compass were needed, he said, adding that the work of the Commission and the United Nations as a whole was to ensure that there was no discrimination against anyone.