Your Excellency Mohamed Siad Doualeh, Chair of the Third Committee,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me start by congratulating you, Ambassador Siad Doualeh, and the members of your Bureau, on your election. I look forward to working closely with you, during these trying times.
This Committee is meeting amidst extraordinary challenges facing our world, which continue to have huge implications for the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals. The COVID-19 pandemic is having a devastating impact on social development in all countries. It has led to an additional 119 to 124 million people pushed into extreme poverty in 2020. Low-income families and women have been hit the hardest.
Hunger and food insecurity has risen globally. Nearly one in three people in the world, a total of 2.4 billion people, were affected by moderate or severe food insecurity in 2020. This is an increase of almost 320 million from 2019.
Even before the crisis, the world was not on track to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly the key goal of eradicating extreme poverty.
At the same time, as people face economic insecurity and vulnerabilities imposed by the pandemic, they tend to lose trust in public institutions, and many withdraw from their civic obligations. Progress in social development – to eradicate poverty, reduce inequality and promote inclusion – is critical to rebuild trust and strengthen social cohesion and solidarity.
As you recall, the General Assembly convened a high-level meeting jointly with the Economic and Social Council in December last year, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the World Summit for Social Development.
Member States reaffirmed that the objectives of the World Summit remain valid, and even more critical today. Twenty-five years ago, the World Summit, for the first time, led to an international consensus on putting people at the center of development.
The Summit outcome brought a compassionate vision to the dispossessed and disempowered, and set up a framework for societies to move forward. And, it called attention to the interrelatedness of the world’s threats and challenges, and the need to address their root causes with resolve and determination.
With poverty eradication also at the core of the 2030 Agenda, we must continue the momentum and work together – with Governments, the scientific community, the private sector, and civil society – on the hard work of implementation.
As noted in the reports of the Secretary General presented for your consideration, we need to do more for:
- our youth,
- for persons with disabilities,
- indigenous peoples,
- our ageing populations, and to support families.
As many countries begin focusing on social and economic recovery, we have an opportunity to make the transformative changes needed to recover better. We need to renew the social contract so people feel genuine improvements in their lives. We need to rebuild trust in our global and national institutions by delivering prosperity to the many.
To this end, and to enable a more inclusive, resilient, and sustainable future, comprehensive and coherent policy responses are needed, with social protection systems and high-quality public services at their core.
Indeed, social protection is an investment in people’s welfare and future prosperity. It is critical in reducing poverty and inequalities, by ensuring economic security and mitigating the impacts of shocks. It is also an enabler for a just transition to greener and more inclusive growth.
Yet, currently, more than half of the world’s population do not have access to social protection. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries introduced or expanded a range of social protection measures to support people in coping with hardships. Social protection proved its effectiveness in protecting people’s wellbeing to avert the worst during the pandemic.
Making progress towards universal social protection that is sensitive to the needs of women, youth, persons with disabilities, older persons and indigenous peoples, is an imperative for:
- the eradication of poverty and hunger, and
- for reducing inequality.
Countries should build on the temporary COVID response measures to develop such critical long-term policies and strategies, to enable an inclusive and sustainable recovery.
The Secretary-General states clearly in his landmark report, Our Common Agenda, that humanity is at an inflection point. The policy choices we make at this time could either lead to a breakthrough towards sustainable development, or a breakdown of societies and the entire ecosystem.
The importance of your deliberations cannot be overstated. The policy choices you make will determine our ability to build societal consensus around a common vision, and build public trust, which are fundamental to achieving the 2030 Agenda.
The Department of Economic and Social Affairs, UN DESA, is here to support your Committee’s efforts as you grapple with the momentous challenges facing us today.
I thank you for your attention, and I look forward to the outcome of your deliberations.