Full Participation of Youth in Decision-making Key to Shaping Brighter Future for All, Social Development Commission Hears as General Debate Continues

SOC/4860
1 February 2018
Fifty-sixth session, AM & PM Meetings

Full Participation of Youth in Decision-making Key to Shaping Brighter Future for All, Social Development Commission Hears as General Debate Continues

Younger generations must have readily available tools enabling their full participation in decision‑making arenas to better shape a brighter future for all, the Commission for Social Development heard today as it continued its general debate.

“We live in a non‑linear and non‑static world,” said a young delegate, briefing the Commission on discussions at the Economic and Social Council Youth Forum held 30‑31 January.  (See Press Release ECOSOC/6881.)  “We are left with two options:  Submit or reinvent.”

While many young people had chosen the latter option and were now formulating new solutions across a range of sectors, she underlined the urgent need for more investment to involve youth in advancing the goals set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  In the Youth Forum’s current deliberations, participants had called for improving the use of science, technology and innovation, greater involvement of young people at the grassroots level, more transparent Governments, reducing the voting age and stronger efforts to prevent radicalization, among other things.

Boosting youth participation in efforts to shape a better world for all based on 2030 Agenda principles was a recurrent theme during the Commission’s day‑long general debate.  Many representatives and their youth delegates highlighted pressing concerns, from clean water access to quality education.  Some warned of new challenges to food and water security, given that by 2030 about 60 per cent of the world’s population would live in cities, and over half of those urban dwellers would be under age 18.

Imagine a world in which every person supported the vision of the 2030 Agenda because they had the knowledge and skills to do so, one of Germany’s youth delegates told the Commission.  To make that happen, he asked Member State representatives to take action in three areas — guarantee human rights for all, establish a youth delegate programme and support youth organizations to provide young people with the skills they needed today to reach the Sustainable Development Goals, including preparing them for jobs that did not yet exist.

His peer reminded delegates that young people’s inspirational visions could in fact guide policy in significant ways, as they largely believed in intercultural dialogue and equal gender rights.

“We all want to live in richer societies, have better access to education and better jobs; this aspiration of ours makes us firm believers in the [Sustainable Development] Goals and staunch promoters of their [2030] Agenda,” Serbia’s youth delegate said, emphasizing the role young people could play in implementing 2030 Agenda targets related to education and poverty eradication.

Some young representatives described how they were already involved in development efforts, with some calling for further action to make them true agents of change.  Youth engagement in Bulgaria’s national and global processes had become a tradition, with young people having an important role to play in mobilizing their local communities to initiate action that would contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, said youth delegates from that country.

Including youth at all levels of decision‑making was crucial for fostering positive social change and creating sustainable societies, they went on to say, calling on Member States to ensure their inclusion.  They underlined that young people must be enabled to act as agents of positive social change, contributing to promoting awareness of the 2030 Agenda and using sports and intercultural dialogue as tools to enhance tolerance and respect for human rights.

Throughout the day, many delegates voiced their recognition of the power and potential of younger generations.  Afghanistan’s representative said because his country recognized the critical role youth would play in its sustainable development, a national youth policy was now working to address high youth unemployment rates and bolster investments in young Afghans.  Similarly, Senegal’s delegate said a national fund had invested $411 million to enhancing youth employment opportunities, and Qatar’s representative said a recently signed memorandum of understanding between his Government and the United Nations aimed at combating terrorism and protecting young people, in particular from recruitment by violent extremists.

Also participating were representatives and youth delegates of Morocco, Poland, France, the Netherlands, Romania, Finland, Cuba, Mali, Cabo Verde, Botswana, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Italy, Monaco, Maldives, Cameroon, Benin, Brazil, Turkey, China, Zambia, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Viet Nam, Myanmar, Honduras, Iraq, Iran, Austria, Nepal, Ecuador, Republic of Moldova, Colombia, Sweden, Japan, India, Sri Lanka, Libya, Nigeria, United States, Azerbaijan and Jamaica, as well as the Holy See.

Representatives of Soroptimist International and the International Federation on Ageing also spoke.

The Commission will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 2 February, to continue its work.

Briefing by Youth Delegate

RUXANDA RENITA, a youth representative speaking on behalf of the United Nations Major Group for Children and Youth, briefed the Commission on the ongoing United Nations Youth Forum, stressing:  “We live in a non‑linear and non‑static world.”  More than 50 million young people around the world were migrants or refugees in search of a new home, she said, adding that for many of them basic services, such as the right to safe water, seemed a distant dream.  “We are left with two options:  Submit or reinvent,” she said, noting that many young people had chosen the second option and were now formulating new solutions, especially in the social and environmental arenas.  As an immigrant herself, she had jumped from continent to continent in search of a home where all her human rights would be realized.

In the Youth Forum’s current deliberations, young people had reaffirmed the basic right to safe water and sanitation, identifying the excessive burden women faced in those areas due to social taboos around menstrual hygiene, she said.  Participants had identified a need to improve energy access to all populations and enhance the flexibility and effectiveness of energy systems in remote areas around the world.  Cities also needed to become more youth- and gender‑responsive, enhanced efforts to combat social exclusion and ensure the safety of women and young people.  A breakout session on Sustainable Development Goal 12 had spotlighted the role of social entrepreneurs, and youth present for that discussion had underlined the need to use both formal and non‑formal education, as well as better knowledge‑sharing, to improve the world’s consumption and production patterns.

Among other things, participants had called for improving the use of science, technology and innovation, greater involvement of young people at the grassroots level, more transparent Governments, reducing the voting age and stronger efforts to prevent radicalization.  Within the United Nations system, youth participation had increased in recent years, as had the awareness of the important role young people would play in the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals.  However, she said, more investment in such initiatives was still urgently needed.

Statements

SIDY GUEYE, Permanent Secretary of Ministry for Family, Women and Gender of Senegal, associating himself with the statements previously delivered on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China as well as the African Group, outlined programmes aimed at reorienting Senegal’s strategies to achieve a minimum 75 per cent health care coverage and the reduction of outward migration.  A national fund devoted $411 million to enhancing employment opportunities for youth, and would be increased in upcoming years.  National funds also offered support to entrepreneurs, and the country had declared 2018 a year of social development.  The “National Agency of the Green Wall” had established a programme against decertification, working to reduce poverty and create jobs.  Other Government ministries and agencies worked to ensure that rural populations remained independent and successful in their production activities.

MIRWAIS BAHEEJ, Director General of Planning and Consolidation of the Ministry for Economy of Afghanistan, said the threats of violent extremism and terrorism in his country continued to hamper efforts to combat poverty.  However, the Government and people remained committed to move Afghanistan forward towards sustainable development, peace and prosperity.  Among other priorities, the Government was working to boost women’s control over economic assets, create 1 million new jobs across various sectors, and increase production in order to substitute Afghanistan’s imports with domestic products.  Noting that returning refugees and displaced persons were migrating in large numbers to the country’s’ cities, putting more pressure on local governments, he said the national Government had responded through accelerated efforts to increase job opportunities for returnees, and thereby improve their self‑reliance.  It was also working to provide every Afghan village with access to basic services and the mechanisms for their delivery, as well as critical infrastructure, which would also create many new jobs.  Afghanistan recognized the critical role youth would play in its sustainable development, and had therefore put in place a National Youth Policy that was now working to address the country’s high youth unemployment rates and bolster investments in young Afghans.

ABDESSAMAD LAURANI, Director of Social Development, Ministry for Family, Solidarity, Equality and Social Development of Morocco, said national progress over the last 15 years had been seen in areas such as human rights due to better investments in infrastructure and targeted programmes.  Poverty had been reduced, basic services now reached all citizens and youth had been integrated into social development policies.  Industrial, tourism and artisanal sectors had been developed alongside gains seen in agricultural and fisheries, with job creation that encouraged youth to undertake a spirit of entrepreneurship.  Water resources had been addressed through waste management and renewable energy efforts.  Vulnerable groups had benefited from policies addressing gender equality, child protection and protections for persons with disabilities.  A new social registry aimed at combating poverty, institutional reform was improving coordination to ameliorate social assistance programmes and national plans considered youth, literacy and immigration.

A youth delegate from Germany said young people’s inspirational visions could guide policy in significant ways, as they believed in intercultural dialogue and equal gender rights.  Asking delegates how they viewed the world when they had been young themselves, for instance, dreaming of a bright future or falling in love with someone whom they should not have due to various forms of discrimination, she wondered whether they would have liked the international community to help them realize their visions.

A youth delegate from Germany asked Member State representatives to imagine a world in which every person supported the vision of the 2030 Agenda because they had the knowledge to do so.  He then asked them to take action in three areas — guarantee human rights for all, establish a youth delegate programme and support youth organizations to provide young people with the skills they needed today to reach the Sustainable Development Goals, including preparing them for future jobs that did not exist today.

PATRYCJA PUZ, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Poland, aligning herself with the European Union, said family development and security form pillars of the Government’s policies.  A flagship scheme of family allowance had allowed extended investments in children’s education while a housing subsidy programme was reaching those in need.  Social policy on older persons was being developed to set standards for assistance from welfare institutions.  Medium- and long‑term actions aimed at advancing progress on responsible development were expected to decrease the number of people living in poverty.  Actions also aimed to improve health care services.

PASCAL FOUDRIERE, Deputy Head of the European and International Affairs Unit of the Ministry for Solidarities and Health of France, associating himself with the European Union, said many countries had seen accelerated ageing in their populations and some remained unable to adapt their policies accordingly.  Europe in particular must adapt its Government programmes to the needs of the twenty‑first century, he said, describing poverty eradication as a central goal and underlining the need for commitment at the highest level.  National level social policies must be mutually strengthening and fully aligned with other measures, including economic ones, and such fully integrated approaches must also involve researchers, civil society, entrepreneurs, farmers, and others on the ground.  New approaches must be identified to overcome the failures of past policies, he said, also calling for more equal opportunities for persons with disabilities.  Ahead of the upcoming Olympic Games to be hosted in France in 2020, the country had invested some 870 million euros in improved transport and accessibility, and was increasing job creation and hiring.

NAJAT DAHAM AL ABDALLAH, Director of Family Affairs of Qatar, expressing her country’s commitment to inclusive social development and poverty eradication, said it promoted the creation of environments conducive to youth skills development and their participation in public life.  Among other things, Qatar had recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the United Nations aimed at combating terrorism and protecting young people in particular from recruitment by violent extremists.  Underlining efforts currently under way to ensure that the 2020 Football World Cup — to be held in Qatar — would be inclusive for all people, including those with disabilities, she went on to note that the country’s Vision 2030 plan was fully aligned with the global 2030 Agenda.  Nevertheless, Qatar faced serious challenges following the June 2017 application of unjust, unilateral economic sanctions against it.  Describing those measures as major violations of the economic, social and human rights of the Qatari people, she said they had disproportionately affected women and children, prevented students from continuing their university studies, and restricted the critical travel of Qatari citizens to other countries.

RALITSA DIKANSKA and ASSYA PANDZHAROVA, youth delegates of Bulgaria, said they were proud their country included youth empowerment and participation as one of its four main priorities in its political agenda.  Youth engagement in national and global processes had become a tradition for Bulgaria, with young people having an important role in mobilizing their local communities to initiate action that would contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.  Their involvement was essential to eliminate poverty and all forms of inequalities and discrimination.  Young people must be enabled to act as agents of positive social change, helping to promote awareness of the 2030 Agenda and using sports and intercultural dialogue as tools to enhance tolerance and respect for human rights.  Including youth at all levels of decision‑making was crucial for fostering positive social change and creating sustainable societies, they said, calling on Member States to ensure their inclusion.

JAHKINI BISSELINK, youth delegate from the Netherlands, said by 2030 about 60 per cent of the world’s population would live in cities, 60 per cent of which would comprise people under age 18 who would face new challenges such as food and water accessibility.  Empowering youth as agents of change would help to address those challenges, she said, suggesting ways to do so, including stimulating cross‑cutting youth participation, promoting inclusive dialogue and enabling local talent development.  Elaborating on those recommendations, she urged all State and non‑State actors to start organizing and stimulating youth participation from local to global levels.  As a young person who had been a news reporter at age 11 and a museum employee at age 16, she said such opportunities in rural and urban areas, especially for girls, stimulated talent development.  Urban and rural areas needed vibrant local youth participation to realize their full potential to create resilient communities.

SAMEDIN ROVCANIN, youth delegate from Serbia, said youth inclusion was critically important in efforts related to the 2030 Agenda, pointing at the dreamers who had first conceived of the Millennium Development Goals.  “We all want to live in richer societies, have better access to education and better jobs; this aspiration of ours makes us firm believers in the [Sustainable Development] Goals and staunch promoters of their [2030] Agenda,” he said, emphasizing the role young people could play in implementing the Goals related to education and poverty eradication.  Commending the United Nations and its Member States for including his peers in related discussions, he said Serbia had taken important steps to address national challenges, including creating a road map for strategic cooperation in improving good governance, reducing poverty and protecting the environment.

IOANA COVEI, youth delegate from Romania, said that to address the Commission’s theme of inclusive, resilient and sustainable development, her country looked to an expanded definition of what it meant to be poor, one that looked not only at income or basic needs, but also at empowerment.  As the definition of a dignified life had evolved, poverty had come to include not only access to material resources but also to culture, political participation and the life of the community in general.  Youth was a time when people made important decisions in their lives.  For example, they could decide whether education was worth pursuing.  Increased financial support for young people with lower incomes was important, so that poverty was not an obstacle to accessing a universal right.

VLAD MACELARU, youth delegate from Romania, said that for young people with disabilities, unequal access to education could lead to a significantly higher rate of unemployment, and it was important to stress that much more should be done in terms of accessibility.  More training for teachers so that they could work with children with disabilities was essential to foster development.  Ethnic identity was another layer that could lead to income poverty and poverty in terms of access.  Obstacles to social development were connected and interdependent, and focusing on them separately diminished the potential for change.

KAI SAUER (Finland), associating himself with the European Union, said recent global crises had shown that economic approaches had negatively affected not only social rights but also long‑term fiscal and economic policies.  In contrast, new momentum towards more integrated policies should lead to improved social conditions and poverty eradication.  Calling for determined and integrated action to implement the 2030 Agenda — and for more attention to the follow‑up processes and the full use of indicators — he said Finland was currently carrying out several major reforms and pilot programmes related to economic and social rights.  A basic income experiment, started at the beginning of 2016, had selected 2,000 random persons as a sample to receive basic income as a substitute for some basic benefits including unemployment allowance.  That basic income — fixed at 560 euros per month — was tax-free, and meant to encourage people to accept temporary and part‑time work, allowing for a more empowering and streamlined employment incentive system.  Based on its results, Finland would consider introducing basic income as a tool in its renewed social security system.

ANAYANSI RODRÍGUEZ CAMEJO (Cuba), associating herself with the Group of 77, said that in many countries, extreme poverty was still growing, and prospects for complying with Goal 1 were discouraging.  Political will was not enough, she said, emphasizing the need for material and financial resources, technology transfer and human resource training.  Developed countries must honour their commitments vis‑à‑vis official development assistance (ODA) and the international community must develop a genuine culture of solidarity.  A just international order must be promoted, protectionist and discriminatory trade policies against countries in the South must cease and developed countries must assume their historic responsibility for a serious environmental crisis.  She went on to note the progress Cuba had made in social development despite an economic, commercial and financial blockade that had gone on for nearly six decades.

ISSA KONFOUROU (Mali), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said the social needs of Mali’s people were a priority for its Government, which focused in particular on water, education, energy, health care and rural roads.  It was also focused on the social integration of older persons, persons with disabilities, women and children, as well as those who were victims of natural disasters or otherwise in need of humanitarian assistance, and broader efforts were also under way to reduce social risks.  Noting that 15 per cent of Mali’s national budget had been allocated to support the agricultural sector, surpassing the percentage mandated by the African Union, he said part of those funds were allotted as subsidies to farmers.  In 2016, the Government had adopted a strategic framework aimed at economic recovery and sustainable development in a Mali that was unified and at peace.  Included in that plan was a wide expansion of health insurance coverage and the establishment of a month of solidarity, to be celebrated annually in October, as well as additional efforts to support the most vulnerable.

JOSÉ LUIS FIALHO ROCHA (Cabo Verde) said the world had recently seen progress in eliminating poverty, but “a long journey is ahead of us” in reducing the many inequalities that had emerged.  His country was committed to reducing poverty rates and had already made substantial progress during the Millennium Development Goal period.  The country’s strategic plan for the period 2017‑2022 was aligned with the 2030 Agenda, and prioritized inclusive economic and social development.  The needs of specific groups, including women, persons with disabilities and youth, were taken into account in that strategy as well as in national legislation.  Government measures also aimed to ensure the universal access to health care and social protection for elderly persons.  While domestic resources were central to funding all those measures, external partnerships also remained critical to helping Cabo Verde address its social issues and eradicate poverty.  In that context, he expressed concern that the country’s graduation from the least developed country category had excluded it from receiving much‑needed aid, and called on partners to continue to support the development efforts of graduated small island developing States.

CHARLES T. NTWAAGAE (Botswana), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said that 1.1 billion people had been lifted out of extreme poverty between 1990 and 2013.  Of the estimated 768.5 million people in the world living in extreme poverty, 390.2 million were in Africa.  In Botswana, it was estimated that 5.8 per cent of the population lived in abject poverty.  His Government had adopted several strategies, policies and programmes aimed at promoting sustainable development and eradicating extreme poverty.  A comprehensive social protection system that targeted the vulnerable and needy persons was also in place.  The Government had also created a Technical Devices Fund Levy, which promoted investment in the creative industries as an engine for job creation, poverty alleviation and economic diversification.  Funds had been allocated to promote arts, crafts and performances by local artists.

MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh), citing his country’s progress in various social and economic development areas, said that as the world considered the future of social development, poverty eradication and the situation of least developed countries would be of particular concern.  Ensuring quality jobs, food security and nutrition and empowering people would be critical, he said, pointing out that Bangladesh had been enjoying a gradual but significant reduction in poverty, having seen a 6 per cent economic growth rate for more than a decade.  Bangladesh aimed to become a middle‑income country by 2021 and a developed nation after that.  Noting that its latest five‑year development plan was fully aligned with the 2030 Agenda, he said top priorities included the reduction of inequality through enhanced education programmes and social safety nets.  The country’s inclusive and “whole‑of‑society” approach targeted vulnerable groups and families in order to ensure that no one was left behind.  However, the major recent humanitarian crisis emerging from Myanmar — with over 1 million Rohingyas having arrived in Bangladesh, most since August 2017 — was posing considerable challenges that threatened to negatively impact Bangladesh’s development efforts.

MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan), associating herself with the Group of 77, warned that increasing vulnerability and exclusion, the persistence of unaccountable institutions and continuing conflicts and violence all threatened global development efforts.  That was even more true at a time when “the monster of social discrimination and exclusion based on religion, race, gender and ethnicity is raising its ugly head once again,” she stressed, adding that only realistic and determined social and economic policymaking and implementation could effectively combat poverty.  The Government of Pakistan had put in place people‑centred policies aimed at lifting people out of poverty, promoting fiscal inclusion, boosting agricultural growth, accelerating rural development and providing education opportunities.  The Pakistan Vision 2025 plan aimed to create new and better opportunities for the country’s people, and such initiatives as the Benazir Income Support Programme — a nationwide social safety net plan — provided support to vulnerable people.  Citing gender empowerment as another crucial element, she also drew attention to robust regional partnerships and examples of South‑South cooperation, such as the China‑Pakistan Economic Corridor project.

MARÍA RUBIALES DE CHAMORRO (Nicaragua), aligning herself with the Group of 77, said national efforts were advancing progress on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, including through poverty eradication programmes and multisector projects guided by policies boosting job opportunities, increasing skills and ensuring women’s empowerment.  Government strategies and policies would continue to focus on health, education, housing and employment, she said, emphasizing that human rights‑centred approaches were shaping future efforts.

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍS (Bolivia), endorsing the statement made by the Group of 77, said a global context of social crisis, exclusion, migration, climate change consequences and youth unemployment had demonstrated rapidly increasing income gaps nationally and globally.  Public policies in Bolivia had significantly reduced extreme poverty levels over the past decade, with a gross domestic product (GDP) that had more than doubled since 2005 alongside steady declines in school dropout levels and child mortality rates.  Laws, policies and efforts were addressing the needs of persons with disabilities, and gains had been made in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals.  Emphasizing Bolivia’s generous social spending programme, he said that before 2005, 82 per cent of the country’s oil wealth rested with transnational corporations and 18 per cent in national hands.  Today, those figures were reversed, which could serve as an example to others.

SEBASTIANO CARDI (Italy) commended the work and priority themes of the Commission in regard to helping States implement the 2030 Agenda.  Eradicating poverty would help to address the other Sustainable Development Goals and targets, he said, adding that Italy fully supported efforts to address the needs of groups such as women, migrants and children.  The vicious cycle of poverty must be overcome by building resilience and ending a culture of dependency.  Italy invested in young people as key drivers of change, including education programmes focused on human rights and the importance of intercultural dialogue.  Citing other efforts, he said persons with disabilities enjoyed protection under laws and innovative projects.

ISABELLE F. PICCO (Monaco), noting that the 2030 Agenda goals had been based on the 1995 Copenhagen Programme of Action, raised three areas of concern — poverty eradication, health care and the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing.  While progress had been achieved on the former, a new type of poverty in the form of nutritional or sanitary deprivation was emerging.  Access to education and decent work would help to reduce inequalities, particularly between rural and urban populations, by investing in the most disadvantaged.  Monaco also placed great importance on building effective health care systems that reached the most vulnerable.  Turning to the needs of older persons, she said Monaco supported inclusive societies to foster sustainable development.

GEORGINA GALANIS, Soroptimist International, speaking on behalf of the Coalition for Global Citizenship 2030, said members promoted the values of the United Nations.  The 2030 Agenda aimed at freeing the world of poverty and the correction of current inequalities in a sustainable manner.  Global citizens aimed at empowering themselves in their communities, she said, emphasizing the need to take action on eliminating poverty and meaningfully addressing related pressing concerns.  The root causes must be addressed, including the impoverishment of values that had led to, among other things, militarism and greed.  To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, actions must centre on respect for one another, she said.

ALI NASEER MOHAMED (Maldives) said poverty was a common enemy of civil society and eliminating it should be a shared goal.  Turning to the 2030 Agenda targets, he said national investments in education, housing and health were part of efforts to ensure that no one was left behind.  Providing some examples, he said a national elderly policy provided financial and emotional support to older persons and the 2016 Gender Equality Act was addressing related objectives.  Eradicating poverty required investing in the greatest resource:  people, he said, adding that the most vulnerable must be reached with effective partnerships to craft shared solutions for a shared goal.

PAULINE IRENE NGUENE, Minister for Social Affairs of Cameroon, said a “light of hope” was now emerging against the backdrop of numerous critical challenges around the world.  Those were due, in part, to important recent international agreements such as the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015‑2030 and the 2030 Agenda, among others.  The latter recognized that continued poverty was a “ticking time bomb”, she said, adding that Cameroon was taking a cross‑cutting approach within the context of people‑centred sustainable development.  Its projects aimed to create behaviour change, empower citizens, reduce poverty, improve solidarity, and boost the provision of social security to the most vulnerable.  Efforts were also targeting key sectors such as transport, infrastructure, housing and the extractive industries in order to create new jobs.  Social inclusion programmes were also in place, she said, noting that a wave of refugees fleeing attacks by the Boko Haram terrorist group — along with a food crisis resulting from climate change — were creating obstacles to Cameroon’s social development and its eradication of poverty.  “We must respect the commitments promised to poor countries,” she added, calling for international support and solidarity, and for all nations to overcome barriers to the eradication of poverty worldwide.

ZELMA YOLLANDE NOBRE FASSINOU (Benin), agreeing with other speakers that poverty eradication was one of the 2030 Agenda’s central goals, associated herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group.  The Secretary‑General’s report noted that the absolute number of persons affected by hunger around the world had increased in the last year, following about a decade of reductions.  Progress was even more hindered in least developed countries, and the eradication of extreme poverty required transformed economies, food security, safety and stability.  The “Benin Revealed” programme tackled the structural factors that impacted the most vulnerable.  Noting that some 41 per cent of her country’s population still lived below the poverty line, she pledged to permanently reverse that trend, including through bolstered job creation and better basic services.

RICARDO DE SOUZA MONTEIRO (Brazil) said that, in his country, a central register with disaggregated data covering millions of families had helped to identify poverty and design universal programmes, policies and measures to combat it.  In particular, the Unified Social Assistance System had been created to support at‑risk families, and the Bolsa Família programme worked to empower women and enhance their participation in social and economic life.  Meanwhile, a minimum salary was guaranteed to all older persons and persons with disabilities whose own incomes did not cover their basic needs, and a new Happy Child Programme aimed to break the cycle of poverty.  Among other concrete proposals, he recommended the creation of a binding international instrument on the rights of older persons and a specific Sustainable Development Goal target on the promotion and protection of their rights.  Also voicing support for the family unit as a critical element of sustainable social development, he said the Government continued to fund additional programmes such as one seeking to end the violence that primarily affected young men of African descent.

FERIDUN HADI SINIRLIOĞLU (Turkey), stressing that decent work and social protection policies were fundamental tools for the eradication of poverty, said ensuring access of persons with disabilities to basic social services and legal support were of paramount importance.  In addition, there was a need to raise awareness about the rights of older persons and to consider the new demographic realities of the ageing population.  Social development must also further women’s empowerment and ensure gender equality, while paying particular attention to Africa and the least developed countries.  Turkey was committed to building a more dignified and prosperous future for those countries, he said, noting that science, technology and innovation as well as the transfer of technology would play a crucial role in that regard.  Spotlighting the role of the dedicated Technology Bank, to be inaugurated this spring in Turkey, he went on to outline several national policies including its open door and non‑refoulement policies towards refugees such as those from Syria.

WU HAITAO (China) said that countries should incorporate the idea of inclusiveness and benefit‑sharing in their development strategies, as well as continuously improve institutional mechanisms that balanced efficiency and fairness.  His country advocated for and promoted the global endeavour to eradicate poverty.  Since 1978, it had lifted 700 million people out of poverty.  China supported the Commission in holding a symposium on persons with disabilities to monitor the implementation of the 2030 Agenda targets related to that matter.  Population ageing should be dealt with to enable every elderly person to enjoy life, and efforts were needed to mobilize society to cultivate the custom of respecting and caring for the elderly.  Guidance should be given to youth so that they could contribute to and benefit from social development, while the role of the family as the basic unit of society should be given full play in social development.  Family played a positive role in poverty eradication, employment promotion and social integration.

CHRISTINE KALAMWINA (Zambia), associating herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said over 700 million people lived in poverty globally, the majority of whom were in sub‑Saharan Africa and South Asia.  Her country remained committed to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, which was anchored on the eradication of all forms of poverty.  In order to address the limited access to education experienced by girls, the Government of Zambia continued to undertake measures to promote gender equality and the empowerment of young women, by ensuring equitable access to quality education.  In partnership with stakeholders, it also continued to prioritize the well‑being of persons with disabilities by enhancing accessibility and participation, as well as the mainstreaming of disability issues in national policies.

KIRA CHRISTIANNE DANGANAN AZUCENA (Philippines) said her country’s people envisioned a future where no one was poor and everyone lived long, healthy lives in safe, vibrant and diverse communities.  Policies aimed at improving the overall quality of life and translating gains of good governance into direct benefits that empowered the poor and marginalized segments of society.  Providing examples of projects, she said efforts included cash transfers, engaging and empowering youth and addressing the needs of older persons and those living with disabilities.  Part of a campaign against illegal drugs included intervention services for illicit drug users and their families and communities, transforming those users into community volunteers, advocates and productive members of society.

CHULL-JOO PARK (Republic of Korea) said development gains had been uneven across countries and regions, with those remaining under the poverty line now even harder to reach.  In an effort to end poverty, the Government had addressed national challenges with efforts aimed at making improvements in various sectors by implementing measures such as an established minimum wage, protections for labourers and tailored social protection services such as childcare subsidies, expanding affordable university accommodation and pension benefits.  Among other projects, efforts targeted youth employment, which was an essential poverty eradication strategy, and policies served the needs of persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups.  Globally, the Republic of Korea, through United Nations agencies, had funded health‑related projects in developing countries around the world.

PHAM ANH THI KIM (Viet Nam), associating herself with the Group of 77 and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said that to resolve the root cause of poverty, her country had instituted a national programme on sustainable poverty reduction, as well as a programme on new rural development.  Those efforts looked to raise income and ensure better access to health care, education, housing, clean water and sanitation for all of Viet Nam’s people.  New laws had also been enacted or amended to better promote social welfare for vulnerable groups, she said.  Like many developing countries, Viet Nam still faced numerous challenges in poverty eradication, including lack of resources.  As it was among the top five countries most affected by climate change, its people living in the most vulnerable areas faced the risk of returning to poverty.

HMWAY HMWAY KHYNE (Myanmar) said poverty eradication was inextricably linked to the achievement of sustainable development.  For its part, Myanmar had experienced decades of conflict and was still grappling with challenges.  Yet, the Government was focused on a development agenda that created an environment conducive to business and investments.  In social sectors, investments were being directed to provide health care, education and other programmes.  A new youth policy was enacted, a national electrification plan was being laid out and efforts were ongoing to build a prosperous, democratic nation.  Turning to the issue of Rakhine State, she said the Government had formed a committee on development and was carrying out recommendations to address concerns about the situation on the ground.

IRMA ALEJANDRINA ROSA SUAZO (Honduras) said ongoing efforts to achieve goals set out in the 2030 Agenda were tackling challenges related to eradicating extreme poverty.  A multidimensional approach must consider a range of issues, not just income.  In cases of middle‑income countries, many sectors in those populations faced similar challenges.  A national plan was addressing issues from renewable energy to infrastructure development.  Projects were improving the quality of education, reaching rural populations and addressing the needs of persons living with disabilities.  A national youth policy guided programmes aimed at improving the lives of the nation’s younger generations.

MOHAMMED SAHIB MEJID MARZOOQ (Iraq), aligning himself with the Group of 77, said poverty eradication was a development priority.  While Iraq’s national development programme aimed at reaching those goals, conflict and instability had affected results and stymied efforts.  Acts of war and terrorist attacks were forcing the displacement of persons and destroying natural resources.  Moving forward, Iraq had based its poverty reduction strategy on human rights, the provision of job training and the creation of a social safety net that included the private sector and civil society.  Iraq’s development strategy had adopted programmes aimed at boosting food production, improving health care coverage and quality and ensuring that services reached refugees and those returning home to Iraq.

ESHAGH AL HABIB (Iran), associating himself with the Group of 77, said the Copenhagen Declaration and the 2030 Agenda had contributed to progress in social development.  Ending poverty was crucial to achieving all other development goals, he said, expressing concern that poverty remained and had even risen in recent years.  Political instability and war had led to a new emergence of poverty, especially among women and children, as was the case in the Middle East.  “Social development must not fall prey to political pressure,” he stressed, adding that the application of sanctions hindered all progress towards development.  Iran’s national development strategies focused on poverty eradication and the empowerment of women and female‑headed households.  Among other things, the Government was obliged to support provinces where per capita income was below the poverty line.  Iran’s experience demonstrated that adopting regional development plans that were tailored to meet local needs could effectively substitute older policies based on social assistance, he said, citing the Barakat Foundation — which sought to strengthen the self‑sufficiency of local populations — as one example.

PHILIPP CHARWATH (Austria) said that social cohesion was the main tool to tackle poverty and social exclusion.  It required secure living conditions and the prospect of participation for all population groups, which in turn could be guaranteed through an active welfare State.  The Austrian welfare State aimed to ensure that those conditions were met, by supporting eligible beneficiaries with targeted benefits.  The Austrian social model also relied on a long‑standing tradition of involving all relevant stakeholders in policymaking processes.  Austria had implemented the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and in 2012, a comprehensive national action plan on disability was enacted.  Concerning ageing, Austria had several priorities, including the active participation of older persons, which was essential to social inclusion.  On families, Austria provided an established system of parental leave regulations.  On youth policy, his country followed the Organization’s World Programme of Action for Youth.

NIRMAL RAJ KAFLE (Nepal), associating himself with the Group of 77, said the current session’s theme was appropriate given the past unsatisfactory progress in reducing poverty, especially in least developed countries.  “All the countries of the world must redouble their efforts,” he said, calling for a strong political commitment to eradicate poverty.  The number of people living in poverty in Nepal had dropped from 38 per cent in 2000 to about 21 per cent in 2016, he said, adding that the Government sought to further reduce it to 17 per cent in the next few years.  Work was under way to promote inclusiveness and provide special support to women, children and other vulnerable groups.  Nepal valued the importance of social protection floors, and its own scheme supported older persons and persons with disabilities in particular.  It was also committed to promoting universal education, especially among girls.  Nepal’s least developed and landlocked status — coupled with its emergence from conflict and natural disasters, its difficult topography and vulnerability to climate change — put it in a special position, he said, noting that support from the international community would be needed to address those challenges.

HELENA DEL CARMEN YÁNEZ LOZA (Ecuador), associating herself with the Group of 77, said strategies to eradicate poverty were imperative, and emphasized that no one should be left behind.  The 2030 Agenda had reiterated those goals, which still required political will and capacity.  More work was needed to achieve social objectives, she said, calling for a better distribution of income and wealth and policies that put human beings above profits.  Implementing an integrated, ambitious and sustainable global development programme must be based on lessons learned as well as commitments undertaken — and some still pending — under the Copenhagen Declaration.  Ecuador’s development programme considered the need to bring all people together along the same path.  Its pillars were to fight poverty in all its dimensions; put the economy at the service of society; and work towards a participatory system with good governance that provided quality services.  Significant progress had already been made towards eliminating extreme poverty, she said, noting that Ecuador hoped to meet that goal by 2021, well ahead of the global 2030 deadline.

CAROLINA POPOVICI (Republic of Moldova), outlining a number of concrete social development policies in her country, said child protection and family support policies were at the top of its list of priorities.  National laws protected children from violence, abuse and other risks, while Moldova’s child birth allowance was regularly reviewed to ensure that it effectively supported childbirth, education and related costs.  Noting that the proportion of the elderly was expected to increase dramatically by 2050, she said immediate measures would be needed to address those changes.  However, “an ageing society is not necessarily an inactive one,” she said, noting that older adults could contribute to public life in Moldova in many ways.  In the context of the global wave of migration, Moldova worked through bilateral agreements with other countries and concentrated on creating conditions conducive to the return of migrants to the country and helping them effectively reintegrate into society.

Mr. CORREAL (Colombia), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Friends of Older Persons, said the 2030 Agenda recognized the need to respect all people regardless of their economic condition, age, sexual orientation or other factors.  Innovative approaches were needed in the eradication of poverty, he said, noting that “no one size fits all” and urging countries to mobilize resources to those ends.  However, international resources were also needed to help coordinate such efforts at the global level.  While the Commission should bear in mind recent achievements made under the 2030 Agenda’s implementation, it must not disregard the commitments undertaken under the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action.  Calling for greater efforts towards social data collection, he said Colombia had based its family polices around such priorities as social protection and good governance; a national action plan for families was currently being developed with concrete targets, and would be put in place by 2022.

Ms. NORDLANDER (Sweden) said people’s empowerment was central to social development and her country had taken several steps toward that end.  To combat poverty, social protection mechanisms were essential and had a role to play in addressing the needs of vulnerable groups.  As people were living longer than a century ago, new challenges must be addressed.  For its part, Sweden had invested in social protection systems since the mid‑twentieth century.  But, globally, all stakeholders needed to step up efforts in building such systems.  Swedish society had undergone many changes in the past two decades, including single parent families that were facing economic challenges.  Among areas that needed attention, she said protecting children was critical, in fostering healthy societies and for achieving most development goals.  With regard to international development programmes, Sweden had adopted a new strategy, recognizing, among other things, that reproductive rights were not an option, but part of a package of services.

YOSHIAKI KATAYAMA (Japan) said that the key principle of the Sustainable Development Goals, “no one left behind”, reflected the concept of human security, of which his country had been a leading advocate.  Regarding persons with disabilities, it was imperative to ensure their full and active participation in society.  Leading up to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, Japan had made nationwide efforts to reform its infrastructural systems, making it accessible for everyone.  Concerning ageing, he noted that Japan faced a declining birth rate and an aging population, and believed it was crucial that each country shared its experiences on how to tackle that problem.  It was also important to promote quality infrastructure investment, which included such concepts as gender equality and barrier‑free access.

TANMAYA LAL (India) said strengthening development efforts to eradicate poverty was now more significant than ever before.  Emphasizing the need for a people‑centred strategy that moved beyond a one‑size‑fits‑all approach, he said national Governments were responsible for those efforts.  For its part, India’s objectives were in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.  Citing several examples, he said Government initiatives were developing the agricultural sector, building millions of toilets while improving sanitation services and educating girls.  In addition, authorities were implementing information and communications technology projects to expand the reach of a range of public services.

MADHUKA SANJAYA WICKRAMARACHCHI WICKRAMARACHCHIGE (Sri Lanka), noting that some of the most dramatic reductions in poverty over the last decades had been seen in East and South‑East Asia, said the World Bank had described Sri Lanka in particular as a “success story”.  Since its internal conflict ended in 2009, the economy had grown at an average rate of 6.2 per cent per year, reflecting a peace dividend and a commitment to reconstruction and growth.  The economy was transitioning from a predominantly rural‑based one to an urbanized one, oriented around the manufacturing and service sectors.  Its Vision 2025 programme aimed to further strengthen democracy and reconciliation, as well as inclusive and equitable growth, and to ensure good governance.  Social indicators in Sri Lanka were already among the highest in the region, and unlike other countries it had increasingly begun to support its ageing population.

INASS A. T. ELMARMURI (Libya), associating herself with the Group of 77, said combating multidimensional poverty would have a positive impact on the achievement of all other Sustainable Development Goals.  Noting that half of the 800 million extremely poor people in the world lived in Africa and that thousands were perishing while trying to migrate, she urged countries to work in line with the 2030 Agenda and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) to ensure the continent’s security, stability and prosperity and lift millions out of poverty.  Education, decent work and access to technology must be core priorities, she added, calling on development actors to take lessons learned into account.  Despite her country’s conflicts, the Government was working to unify its institutions and better utilize resources, including those funds that had been sent abroad.  It had amended national laws, such as those ensuring the equality of persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups.  Concluding, she underscored the importance of the principle of common but differentiated responsibility, and expressed hope that United Nations agencies would return to Tripoli to once again take up their work in her country.

ALEXANDER TEMITOPE ADEYEMI AJAYI (Nigeria), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said his Government had launched an ambitious three‑year development plan based largely on investing in infrastructure and people.  In January, the National Senior Citizens Act was signed into law, which would establish senior citizen centres to provide care and strengthen intergenerational solidarity.  The National Social Investment Office had also been created to expand broader social benefits to all segments of society.  Monthly cash transfer stipends were provided to the poor and a national register was set up to capture biometric and demographic data of the stipends’ recipients.  School feeding programmes sought to provide at least one meal to all students in 20 states throughout the country, utilizing local produce, thereby supporting the agriculture sector and creating many new jobs.  Support was also being provided to small- and medium‑sized business entrepreneurs, he said, adding that pensions were being provided in a more streamlined manner to those retiring from public service and that free treatment was provided to elderly patients in many hospitals across Nigeria.

HECTOR BROWN (United States), focusing his statement on the work of the Commission itself, said it as crucial for the voices of older persons, youth, persons with disabilities and other groups in special situations to be heard at the United Nations.  Noting that several other bodies and agendas had been created across the system in recent years, he said the Commission’s relevance should be reconsidered in that context and against the backdrop of the Secretary‑General’s reform efforts.  In that regard, he voiced support for various elements of the draft resolution presented by Mexico, including the proposal to hold shortened sessions; negotiate a single document each year on the session’s main theme, instead of various texts; and focus on a single annual theme, thereby allowing for a more relevant policy debate.  Those reforms would be consistent with the United States position in support of efforts to reduce duplication and overlap in the work of the United Nations bodies, he said, asking delegates to be bold in considering whether the Commission was still needed in the current context.

HABIB MIKAYILLI (Azerbaijan) said that despite poverty reduction achievements, more than 10 per cent of the global population remained under the extreme poverty threshold.  Eliminating extreme poverty was the greatest challenge facing humanity and efforts must aim at areas from supporting agricultural sectors and creating jobs to boosting the quality of education.  Keeping children in school would also contribute to eradicating poverty, as would conflict prevention and resolution.  For its part, Azerbaijan had invested in reducing poverty and unemployment and in building more schools, hospitals and housing.  The Government had also focused efforts on developing entrepreneurship and improving transportation routes.  By 2020, Azerbaijan aimed at reaching many goals, including to further reduce poverty, promote gender equality and improve food security and the quality of health care.

TYESHA O’LISA TURNER (Jamaica) said that while some efforts to achieve the 2030 Agenda objectives had borne fruit, much remained to be harvested through a collective commitment and drive for a better standard of living for current and future generations.  Great investments in human capital would lead to exponential returns for national development, and with that in mind Jamaica had established a social investment fund to mobilize and direct resources, with assistance from international partners, to finance community‑based socioeconomic infrastructure and social services projects to foster an empowered, healthy and productive society.  A national multi‑stakeholder approach aimed at implementing poverty reduction activities.  Yet, more was needed at all levels to eliminate inequalities and reach those most in need.  Citing a range of national efforts, she said strategies were addressing social protection issues, education and health, with targeted projects reaching persons with disabilities and older persons.  To ensure hard‑won gains were not reversed by limited fiscal space and high debt burdens, she called for special attention to be given to the plight of highly indebted middle‑income countries.

FRANCES ZAINOEDDIN, International Federation on Ageing, said the third review and appraisal of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing must be considered within the framework of the 2030 Agenda.  Poverty in old age was often acute, with discrimination in access to economic and other development opportunities growing over time.  In addition, about 80 per cent of older persons had no pension, relying instead on labour and family for income.  The human rights of older persons must be reaffirmed, she said, adding that social development efforts must combat ageism, address inequality of opportunity for older persons and employ life course approaches towards eradicating poverty.  The diversity of older persons must also be recognized, she said, calling on the Commission to focus on social justice for all ages, including older persons.

BERNARDITO CLEOPAS AUZA, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, said the poor were not a barrier to sustainable development, but rather one of its greatest resources.  Decent work, productive employment, education, health and social protection were essential pathways to inclusion, which was among the best ways to eradicate poverty.  He underscored the connection between impoverishment and other major challenges, including the migrant and refugee crisis.  Human traffickers were exploiting the logic of exclusion, leading to a rise in modern slavery.  Everyone must become dedicated abolitionists of forced labour and of the economies of exclusion, he said.

For information media. Not an official record.