Hon. Burchell Whiteman
Minister of Education and Culture, Jamaica
Geneva, 29 June 2000
The World Summit for Social Development was an historic moment that attracted one of the largest gatherings of world leaders. Today, as we meet to assess the progress made since Copenhagen, the momentum has not been lost, but many gaps remain to be closed, for both developed and developing countries.
In Jamaica we have put in place several initiatives aimed at fulfilling the commitments made at the Social Summit. The country's social agenda embraces the core themes of the Summit.
Expansion of Productive Employment
In this regard, it incorporates key elements such as:
Promotion of macro-economic stability
Human Resource Development
Targeting of vulnerable groups such as children, youth, the elderly poor, disadvantaged women and persons with disabilities
Government has consistently reaffirmed its commitment to creating an economic,
political, social, cultural, and legal environment that will enable the nation
to attain the desired level of social development.
To this end:
· An integrated
system of social policy planning has been established through the Human Resources
Development Council, which is a sub-committee of Cabinet.
· A series of reforms
of the Constitution and the political system including Local Government reform
have been initiated to foster greater democratization of the society.
· A National Poverty
Eradication Policy and programme was approved by Parliament, predicated on the
commitment to promote social and economic development, to reduce the number
of persons below the poverty line in targeted communities by 50 per cent over
three years and to eradicate absolute poverty in the long term.
· The Community
has been made the central focus 0l efforts towards poverty eradication. The
Jamaica Social Investment Fund was created as a vehicle for infrastructure improvement
in communities in response to the community's identified priority needs, and
community's involvement in the project from concept stage to completion. The
National Social Development Commission works with communities to establish local
institutions and groups and build local capacity so that communities carry out
· Strategic policies
and programmes aimed at expanding employment and reducing unemployment for both
men and women have been instituted. This includes institutional support for
the small and micro enterprises sector in light of growth in these sectors.
· A programme of reform and social investment mainly in education, training and health services has been implemented.
As a result of these efforts notable progress has been made in the country's social development agenda as seen, for example in the reduction of poverty from nearly 30 per cent to under 20 per cent of the population over the last five years.
In spite of the achievements
recorded, the attainment of stable economic growth with equity presents a challenge.
It is of immense importance therefore, that economic and social policies be
integrated and be mutually reinforcing.
Even where resources are
scarce and economic reforms take on added urgency, social goals cannot be subordinated
to the dominant agenda for growth and market development. The state still has
a central role to play particularly in meeting the needs of the poor and other
excluded and marginalized groups in the society. Ensuring universal and equitable
access to quality education and other basic social services remains one of its
fundamental responsibilities and is of paramount importance to the attainment
of social development.
As affirmed in the Dakar
Framework for Action: "Learning is the treasure within. The capacity to learn
is the foundation of human development, enlightened existence and the maintaining
The ECLAC meeting last month reaffirmed our view that "quality education designed to meet productive and social needs is crucial to the achievement of higher productivity, greater social efficiency, increased well being and greater cultural and political participation."
Against this background educational reforms to address inequalities in access and differentials in achievements by various social groups take on added urgency. As shown in Jamaica's country report the reform of the education system at the primary and secondary levels is far advanced, with universal access and quality improvements up to the end of the lower secondary level. And at the tertiary level which produces the cutting edge skills for driving economic growth, we have ensured that a State-funded student loan programme facilitates participation by the poorest quintile of the population. But their level of participation must increase.
Data for the Caribbean
shows significant educational gaps between the poorest and richest quintiles.
In some countries tertiary level education reduces the chances of being in poverty
by as much as 50 times.
The Agenda item (8) with
which we are now dealing asks us for "proposals for further initiatives for
My delegation supports six proposals which we believe, reflect the thinking within our region of Latin America and the Caribbean and which are also born out of our national experience:
I. As we seek not to renegotiate
Copenhagen but to advance it, can we also seek to harmonize both the language
and the strategies which have emerged out of the various Summits and Special
Conferences of the UN - on Women & Gender, Education for All and Social
Development? Can we consolidate in a meaningful way the principles and the major
strategies which inform Beijing, Dakar, Copenhagen and Geneva? And can we produce
a version which will find some resonance with all people in their communities,
sectors, age groups and their ethnic and geographic space?
2. We also urge that developing countries support each other in more overt and direct ways by sharing best practices, particularly in the area of integrated social development. There are success stories which demonstrate the efficacy of empowering communities and community leadership to pursue the social development agenda. There is also a clear need to recognize and strengthen the interface between good governance and effective community participation, and between social development and economic planning at the level of the community. We should not keep on reinventing the wheel when the work has been done, all that might be necessary is the customizing of the product. We in the Caribbean are beginning to do that.
3. We support the initiative for Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) as a positive step forward. We applaud those Developed Countries which have, during this Conference, called for the honouring of the 0.7% contribution to Official Development Assistance.
4. At the same time, there
needs to be improved modalities in the conduct of business
between the multilateral lending agencies and the bilateral donors on the one
hand and the borrowing or beneficiary countries on the other. We believe that
there is room for
more sensitivity and respect shown to developing countries in the
conditions and processes affecting the provision of funding. Clearly there needs
to be integrity of projects and reasonable guarantees of sustainability demonstrated
to the satisfaction of both sides. But equally, it should be understood
that a borrower or a beneficiary is fully cognizant of what is best for the
country, in particular its cultural context, and experiences.
5. All our countries need to review the assumptions which we make about economic growth, especially when economic growth is often so manifestly not accompanied by social development. We need to give special attention to harmonizing growth strategies with the basic need for work, for wholesome employment, which is an important component of human and social development. Efficiency, increased productivity, competition in the market, more choices for the consumer, better prices. Mr. Chairman these are all desirable. However when it comes at the cost of jobs in the developing world, with almost full employment in the industrial societies, then all our brave words mean nothing, if we do not look for new strategies to reverse the trend.
6. If it is true that the knowledge, information and technology revolution represent the future, and that we are moving towards a world where new products and processes will demand and create more employment, then we must repeat what my Prime Minister emphasized at the G15 Summit in Cairo. There must be a deliberate strategy to put the new technologies at the service of the vulnerable and those who now do not have access, whether they be in the developing world or in pockets of deprivation within the developed and more affluent countries. Perhaps if we begin there, we stand a chance of seeing the world as Mr Bertrand Picard and Mr. Brian Jones did from their balloon circling the planet ...one human race in all its splendid variety but with shared hopes, similar expectations and common potential.
Mr. Chairman, this Special Session has identified the global changes `since Copenhagen. We have been looking together at ways of demonstrating greater resolve and developing new strategies for action. And our peoples are demanding action.
I believe we can and must respond. We have the will. Collectively, we have the means. We must accelerate the plan and act before it is too late.
My Government remains committed
to the task.