Secretary of State, Children and Youth
For Presentation At The
Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly:
"World Summit for Social Development and Beyond"
June 29, 2000
Five years ago, I had the privilege of attending the World Summit for Social
Development in Copenhagen where our nations pledged to work together to improve
the social well-being of the world's citizens. We committed ourselves to an
ambitious program of action to eradicate poverty, increase productive employment,
and ensure greater social integration and inclusion.
Today, I again feel privileged to attend this UN Special Session to assess together
how we have measured up against the commitment and challenges of Copenhagen
and what more we can do to realize our common objective, social development
for all in a globalizing world.
I would like to reflect on what has happened in those five years -both nationally
and internationally - as we come to understand better the challenges and opportunities
The context for social development has changed since 1995. There has been unprecedented
advancement in technologies, information and communications. The roles of the
public and private sectors have evolved in managing national economies. The
public sector has been shrinking, its resources diminished. World trade has
dramatically increased as trade borders and barriers have disappeared through
regional trade agreements and electronic commerce. Civil society is playing
a more active role in shaping government responses and policies.
But increased economic growth has not automatically translated into equitable
distribution of benefits - within countries and between countries. In some cases,
globalization has exacerbated the marginalization of disadvantaged groups. And
there is a growing sense of insecurity, as the already
disadvantaged see uncertainty in their future potential to take full, productive
part in the new economy and to profit from its advantages.
No country is spared the discipline, and none denied the benefits. In Canada,
in the past decade, we have had to make difficult adjustments. We are a trading
nation. But our commodity-based economy no longer generates the wealth we need
to provide the high standard of social well-being that Canadians expect their
governments to foster. Canada has had to free resources to invest in the new
knowledge and information economy and introduce strict fiscal measures during
the transition in order to restore the economy to good health. We have had to
retool government involvement in social development, adjusting its role as direct
provider of services. We also had to provide for those whose lifetime employment
in traditional jobs had suddenly disappeared.
How did we respond? First of all, we carefully analysed the issues - investment
to adjust our economy to globalization; the dangers of polarization between
communities and groups; the risks of further marginalization of vulnerable and
disadvantaged members of our society; environmental protection; and social fragmentation
Next, we looked at our strengths. Canadians have a profound attachment to the social values that unite and define our nation. We share a common vision of a society in which every citizen - regardless of race, gender, age, ability or wealth - enjoys the opportunity to fully participate in the economic, social and civic life of the nation. Our quest is for a society in which prosperity is not limited to a few, but is shared by - and the responsibility of - many, a society where citizens can enjoy the highest quality of life.
In the words of Canada's Prime Minister Chrétien: "The success we have achieved as a nation has come not only from strong growth but from an abiding commitment to strong values - caring, compassion, an insistence that there be an equitable sharing of benefits of economic growth." Unquote.
We recognized the unprecedented opportunities before us - the potential of new
technologies, enhanced trade and investments, new partnerships, and the global
flow of information and knowledge that enable countries to meet the new challenges.
We worked together. With our provincial and territorial partners we defined
a new approach to social policy based on shared values and objectives and active
participation of other actors. We renewed our active commitment to engage civil
society in the development and delivery of programs and services. We benefited
by recognizing the contribution the private sector can play in the efficient
delivery of some services.
We are proud of our achievements. Our economy has strengthened. Our unemployment rate has significantly decreased. And in the last few years, Canada has ranked first on the UNDP's development index for measuring the quality of life. Our national experience has set the stage for continued sustainable economic growth that encompasses Canadian ideals of social justice, good governance, equity, protection of vulnerable groups, and protection of the environment. The approach is based on the following principles:
· commitment to peace, order and good government, with respect for human rights for all citizens;
· a multicultural nation state;
- investment in children and youth, our leaders for the 215` century; stronger basic social services, in particular health care;
skills and knowledge, and lifelong learning, as keys to economic security in a global economy;
environmental protection; stronger communities through partnerships with all members of civil society; and
Canada is part of the international community. And that community is now struggling
with similar issues as together at this Special Session we define the way forward
to achieve social development for all in a globalizing world. We know the issues
-rapid technological change and increased world trade that create opportunities
but also pose risks such as increasing disparities and marginalization between
rich and poorer countries; environmental pressures; growing unemployment; and
new health challenges.
Here I would mention in particular the scourge of HIV/AIDS that has wiped out the gains of two decades of development in a number of developing countries, particularly in Africa.
We know the questions - and I believe we also know some of the answers. First, we need a common framework for international action based on shared goals and values, including equity, respect for, basic rights, inclusion, protection of vulnerable groups, and environmental sustainability. The Program of Action that we will adopt at this Special Session provides us with this framework.
Next, we need to adapt our international institutions and systems to implement
this program of action. Our experience in the past five years has shown that
we will achieve neither economic nor social development which is sustainable
without integrating the two. A multilateral system where economic, social and
financial institutions work independently is no longer viable. We need to develop
a culture of partnership among the UN, Specialized Agencies, Bretton Woods institutions
and the WTO, Without which the agencies themselves will fail to realize their
own mandates, and the multilateral system will fail its member states.
It is fitting that this Special Session take place in Geneva, home to the agencies
of technical expertise and practical action in social and economic development
- employment and respect for workers' rights at the ILO, health at the WHO,
communications technologies at the ITU, and trade at the WTO. We salute in particular
the vision and commitment to coherence and partnership so prominent in the leadership
of the new Director-Generals at the ILO and WHO. This is the way forward for
the specific institutions and for the international system as a whole.
The truth is spreading that we must all work together. History and necessity
have opened Canada to the world. Recognizing that no nation can prosper and
advance in disregard of others, we are
committed to multilateralism. We believe in the power of partnerships and in
our collective capacity to shape the future. We will sustain our active participation
in international, regional, and cultural fora to promote Canadian values of
social justice and inclusion. Canadian aid will go on working to improve basic
social development in health and nutrition, primary education, strategies to
control the spread of HIV and AIDS, and elimination of child labour. We have
supported debt relief for poorest nations, and better co-ordination among institutions,
as for `example in the UNAIDS programme.
President, I close with a pledge that we Canadians will sustain our commitment to multilateral action to respect our human dignity and give concrete expression to the value we invest in social justice, and action to bring closer the day we do achieve social development for all in a globalizing world.