In 1995, the World Summit for Social Development was held in Copenhagen. The summit led to a global agenda for increased social progress, justice and the betterment of the human condition. Last week, 20 years after the agenda was set, the Summit was commemorated and the achievement of its objectives were evaluated during the opening of the 53rd session of the Commission for Social Development.
The nine-day long session, which will last until 13 February, aims to evaluate and learn from the last two decades’ work in order to take an informed and well considered step into the future challenges of global social development.
It also intends to assure that social development will be a key factor in the upcoming post-2015 sustainable development agenda, making sure that no one is left behind. To emphasize this, the theme for the session is “Rethinking and strengthening social development in the contemporary world”.
“I think that the MDGs were a major step forward. […] I am a great supporter of the SDGs. It is an integration of the sustainable concerns with climate change and other environmental issues with the development goals of the millennium, that’s a major step forward”
Sir Richard Jolly
One of the key speakers during the high level panel on this theme was Sir Richard Jolly, a leading development economist and professor at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex.
“One of the key points is that some countries have done better than hoped for, some countries on average and some countries have lagged,” said Sir Richard Jolly, as UN DESA’s team met with him before the high-level panel event.
When looking at the good examples to learn from and to bring into the upcoming post-2015 agenda, Sir Jolly notes that, since the World Summit for Social Development, there has been a general reduction in child mortality as well as significant progress in education.
From Sir Jolly’s point of view, an evaluation of the last 20 years reveals many good examples of effective and constructive work towards social development but also some examples of less successful outcomes that the international community can learn from.
Income inequalities are, according to Sir Jolly, a major problem, which he wishes had received more attention in Copenhagen. “I think it’s one of the upmost scandals the last 20 years” he said, referring to the substantial difference in income within and across many countries. One of the more notable changes and positive developments that Sir Jolly wants to highlight is the substantive reductions of income inequality within Latin America during the last 10 or 15 years. “That has been impressive and we didn’t have that experience at the time of the World Summit.”
Looking ahead and beyond 2015, and in order to tackle the problem of income inequality, Sir Jolly stresses the need to not only strive for increased growth, but to undertake fundamental changes in how we approach development.
“I think there needs to be new international approaches to governance, not just more aid and not just free trade”, he emphasized. Sir Richard was also careful to point out the importance of a positive mind-set when the world is about to take on the anticipated post-2015 development agenda.
“I think that the MDGs were a major step forward. In general I am a great supporter of the SDGs. It is an integration of the sustainable concerns with climate change and other environmental issues with the development goals of the millennium, that’s a major step forward.”