Mr. Wu Hongbo Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Secretary-General for the International Conference on Small Island Developing States

Opening Session of the 51st Session of the Commission for Social Development

Madame Chairperson,
President of the Economic and Social Council,
Excellencies,
Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to address the Commission for Social Development at the start of its 51st session.

The priority theme this year is “Promoting empowerment of people in achieving poverty eradication, social integration and full employment and decent work for all”.

This is a timely discussion.

The recent ILO report finds that 200 million people worldwide are without jobs, and the report forecasts higher unemployment this year.

The youth employment crisis is worsening: young people represent 40 per cent of the jobless worldwide, and they are three times more likely to be unemployed than adults. This translates in numbers to almost 74 million unemployed young people, whose ranks continue to grow.

These are not just mere statistics. Behind the numbers are lives affected, livelihoods lost and opportunities missed.

I urge the Commission to have a candid discussion and to come up with concrete measures and actions for combating the scourge of unemployment.

Distinguished Delegates,

The Commission will also review the implementation of relevant UN action for persons with disabilities, older persons and youth.

And it will address social issues relating to families.

This broad agenda is a unique strength of the Commission, allowing for an integrated approach to social issues.

I invite the Commission to examine the inter-linkages between the social issues, and address the nexus of the social agenda.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

During this session, the Commission will also address the social dimensions in the global development agenda under the item of “emerging issues”.

You have an opportunity to advance your vision for the future, and to devise new strategies for its realization.

Your work at this session, through your advisory role to the Economic and Social Council, is critically important. It is an opportunity to truly shape the future we want.

Since the World Summit for Social Development in 1995, enormous progress has been made in improving people’s lives. But progress has been uneven. We need to continue our work with particular attention to stark inequalities around the world. The new development agenda, while building on the progress we have made, will need to confront persistent inequalities and new challenges facing the planet.

As we all know, sustainable development is central to the post-2015 global development agenda.

In order to be sustainable, development must encompass three dimensions: social development, economic growth and environmental protection.

These three dimensions must be balanced to mutually reinforce one another. You are the custodians of the social dimension of sustainable development. This speaks volumes of the importance of this Commission, and your work.

We cannot simply set an agenda. Successful implementation is key. In this regard, we must draw on the tremendous energy of people throughout our global community, in an open, inclusive and consultative manner.

We must continue to incorporate inputs from all stakeholders – Member States, civil society and individuals. It is in this context that the priority theme of this session, promoting the empowerment of people assumes particular importance.

By promoting empowerment, we highlight the importance of creating real opportunities for all people to enhance their own capacities, and set their own priorities.

Empowerment involves investments in people – in jobs, health, nutrition, education, and social protection, especially for the vulnerable groups.

These investments can help insulate people from adversities during their lifetime, ranging from health emergencies to economic shocks.

When people are empowered they are better prepared to take advantage of opportunities. They can create, build, invest and innovate. When people are empowered, they become agents of change.

When people are empowered, they can more readily embrace their civic responsibilities. They feel a sense of ownership and responsibility for their environment and their own future.

When people have a say in how their resources, local ecology and natural environment are managed, they will work for preservation of their environments, of our environments.

Promoting empowerment is essential not only for social development, but for all three dimensions of sustainable development.

We must fulfil our responsibilities to ensure that people—all people— have every opportunity available to them to realize their potential. The post-2015 development agenda must harness the great potential of the world’s peoples if it is to be successful.

I invite the Commission to make concrete contributions to the post-2015 development agenda.

Madame Chairperson,
Distinguished Delegates,

I wish you all success, and assure you of DESA’s continued full support of the Commission’s work and mission.

Thank you and I look forward to the outcomes of this important session.

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