Representatives of non‑governmental organizations advocated for more progressive, inclusive policies on a range of critical issues — from disaster resilience and early childhood education to support for families and farmers — as the Commission for Sustainable Development continued its fifty‑sixth annual session this morning.
Rounding out the body’s annual general debate, delegates from religious, business‑based and academic groups, including the only student‑run organization accredited with the United Nations Economic and Social Council, took the floor to urge the Member States to prioritize the needs of young people, rural dwellers, older persons and others in special situations. Of particular concern were the effects of poverty, conflict and natural disasters on those most vulnerable populations.
Among those advocating for the rights of older persons was the representative of the International Federation of Associations of the Elderly, whose organization addressed the specific needs of the elderly in crisis and emergency situations around the world. Noting that elderly persons were particularly vulnerable to the consequences of disasters, as well as to pandemics and the results of wars and conflict, he said the need to manage the post‑traumatic stress disorder of older populations — who often suffered from shock and depression after such crises — was rarely taken into account by State policies.
At the other end of the age spectrum, a representative of the International Relations Students’ Association of McGill University (Canada) — noting that hers was the only student‑run group enjoying consultative status with the Economic and Social Council — warned that the world had recently been jolted by transnational systemic and structural changes so unprecedented “that the future of my generation may be left hanging by a loose thread”. Meanwhile, global decisions on such issues as environmental change, food security, migration and energy were too often made without input from young voices. In that regard, she cautioned Member States to avoid the bias of “adultism” in their policymaking, adding: “The status quo on social development cannot be improved by those who cling to a present that is already dying.”
A representative of the World Organization for Early Childhood Education said millions of children under the age of 5 in poor and emerging countries continued to fail to reach their full potential. Emphasizing that early childhood interventions mitigated the impacts of negative experiences in early years, providing an entry point for peacebuilding, she said early childhood education was one of the best investments societies could make. Indeed, the toll of not implementing such policies was unacceptable. “Poverty is not destiny,” she stressed.
Delegates from several organizations also called for more efforts to empower small‑scale farmers and other rural communities. The representative of Bäuerliche Erzeugergemeinschaft Schwäbisch Hall, for one, warned that globalization and industrialization were accompanied by the degeneration of local and small‑scale economies, small‑scale farming and local trade, often leading to rural poverty and starvation. Small farmers and rural dwellers, representing more than 80 per cent of the world’s population, were being robbed of their common assets by such practices as land- and knowledge‑grabbing. He therefore called for the establishment of new value chains and value generation that favoured local economies of the global South, with the goal of achieving a fair share of international trade for poor and emerging societies.
A representative of the S M Sehgal Foundation said his organization’s initiatives in India aimed at empowering the rural poor through support for a range of projects. Innovations already introduced included irrigation models and the provision of more than 15,000 volunteers to help bridge the income gap. Communities were working to establish good governance to enhance knowledge of local laws and legislation, with an emphasis on women’s participation. When citizens worked to climb up the ladder of prosperity, development goals were automatically met, he said.
Also spotlighted was the importance of ensuring widespread insurance coverage, particularly against the backdrop of current crises such as climate change and related natural disasters. The representative of the BJD Reinsurance Consulting group, warning that risks were accumulating today at an unprecedented rate, recalled that several global associations had been created in recent years to help optimize and extend the use of insurance and risk management, with the aim of building greater resilience and protection for people, communities, businesses and public institutions. Those included the Insurance Development Forum, launched in 2015, and the InsuResilience Global Partnership for Climate and Disaster Risk Finance and Insurance Solutions, launched in 2017 by an array of nations, civil society groups, international organizations and private sector entities.
Also speaking were the representatives of Malawi and Guinea, as well as several United Nations agencies and affiliated bodies. Those included the International Labour Organization (ILO), International Telecommunication Union (ITU), United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) and the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).
Representatives from several other non‑governmental organizations also delivered statements. Those were: the International Federation for Family Development, All Together in Dignity, Society of Catholic Medical Missionaries, WOOMB International Ltd., Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, UDISHA, HOPE Foundation, Hellenic Association of Political Scientists, African Youth Movement, Irene Menakaya School and the International Committee for Peace and Reconciliation.