Statement Opening of the Third Committee of the General Assembly

Your Excellency, Ambassador Bogyay, Chair of the Third Committee,
Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me start by congratulating you, Madame Chair and other members of the Bureau on your election. It is DESA’s honor to support the work of the Third Committee during this 75th session of the General Assembly.

Distinguished Delegates,

We are meeting at a time when our world has been fundamentally changed by the COVID-19 pandemic, with huge implications for achieving the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.

It is projected that the number of people living in extreme poverty will increase this year for the first time since 1998. Even before this pandemic crisis, the world was not on track to achieve the 2030 Agenda’s central goal of eradicating poverty. This crisis could now push over 70 million people into extreme poverty in 2020, upending further the lives of the most vulnerable.

The world is also experiencing high and worsening inequality.

Income inequality has increased in most developed countries and in some middle-income countries since 1990. Countries where inequality has grown are home to more than two thirds of the world’s population. Indeed, income and wealth are increasingly concentrated at the top of the rich group.

And inequalities based on gender, age, race, ethnicity, migrant status, disability and socioeconomic status are widespread – in both developed and developing countries. This poses a significant challenge to global stability and prosperity, social cohesion, and trust in public institutions.

COVID-19 is further deepening the consequences of inequalities, including in health outcomes, social protection and access to digital technology. The most vulnerable are hit the hardest. Due to informal employment, they have limited access to social protection. They face additional challenges in accessing health and other basic services during the pandemic, with movement restrictions.

The long-term outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic will depend on how we respond. DESA’s analysis shows that making social protection systems more responsive to shocks is key to making sure that we leave no one behind in times of crises. For example, many COVID emergency response packages have included the extension of social protection benefits to populations not previously covered. This has helped to partially cushion the negative impact of the pandemic. In the longer term, universal access to quality public services, including education and health, is critical to reducing poverty and inequality of opportunities.

Distinguished Delegates,

The work of your Committee places people at the centre of development. Indeed, this approach to development is more relevant than ever. The following groups of people require your special attention.

Indigenous peoples are facing unprecedented health and economic challenges. This is due to deep-rooted structural inequalities and discrimination. In the absence of targeted interventions for indigenous peoples, many are left out of COVID-19 responses and support services.

Older persons face multiple forms of discrimination, aggravating their vulnerabilities during this pandemic. Their specific challenges, including loneliness and isolation from social support networks, need to be integrated in policy responses.

Families with young children are facing the demands of working from home with caring for their out-of-school children. And many have suffered loss of income, health care and even housing. Families need support as the primary social safety net.

Youth are three times more likely to be unemployed when compared to adults. Young people’s education is also deeply affected with school closures, in particular, having an adverse effect on poorer students, students without stable internet access at home, and children relying on help from their schools in meeting their other needs.

Persons with disabilities are more likely to live in poverty and suffer disadvantages in many sectors, including education and employment, health care, nutrition, and access to information and justice. The pandemic has made all these vulnerabilities even worse.

Dear Colleagues,

The COVID-19 crisis provides an opportunity to build a more inclusive, resilient, equitable and sustainable world. UN DESA has published numerous policy-briefs on the social and economic impacts of COVID-19, outlining the policy interventions that can help countries recover better. These include policies targeting a:

  •  job-rich recovery;
  •  providing universal social protection;
  •  investing in health care systems, quality education, digital technology and infrastructure; and
  • supporting disadvantaged or marginalized social groups.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, and the 25th anniversary of the World Summit for Social Development. The Social Summit initiated a critical paradigm shift towards more people-centred, inclusive and equitable social and economic development.

Member States committed to:

  • the eradication of poverty;
  • the promotion of full and productive employment and decent work;
  • the fostering of social integration and inclusion;
  • the attainment of universal and equitable access to quality education and primary health care; and
  • the reduction of inequalities.

These commitments made at the World Summit for Social Development can provide further policy guidance during this Decade of Action to deliver the SDGs by 2030.

Madam Chair,
Distinguished Delegates,

Our shared commitment to implementing the 2030 Agenda remains as strong as ever.

Let us engage with all stakeholders in order to make the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals a reality for all people and everywhere. UN DESA is at your disposal as we all grapple with the momentous changes taking place in our world today.

I thank you for your attention, and I look forward to the outcome of your deliberations.

File date: 
Thursday, October 8, 2020

Mr. Liu