Moving development agenda forward through people’s empowerment

“There is consensus on the need to adopt an approach to development that integrates economic, social and environmental dimensions of development in a balanced manner. People’s empowerment is increasingly recognized as fundamental to achieving sustainable development, and new technologies, as well as policy approaches have emerged to make this a reality,” said Sewa-Lamsal Adhikari, Chair of 52nd Session of the Commission for Social Development.

After ten days of work, the Commission completed its 52nd session on 21 February and approved six draft resolutions, which will now be sent to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) for adoption. As this session ended, so did the two-year cycle of the review and policy meetings held under the priority theme of “Promoting empowerment of people in achieving poverty eradication, social integration and full employment and decent work for all.” During the course of its session, the Commission convened a high-level panel discussion, as well as a general debate on the subject of empowerment.

Empowerment in focus

Among the six draft resolutions, the Commission turned its attention to the subject of inclusive, equitable and balanced approaches to overcoming poverty. The draft resolution on promoting empowerment calls for improving access to employment, quality education, water and sanitation, health care and social protection. Transparency and accountability, good governance and civic engagement were underscored as core elements of an empowering approach to policy-making and policy implementation. “We live in a world of growing inequality, not only in wealth, but also inequality in power.

The Commission has the responsibility, as well as an opportunity, to re-affirm the role of empowerment as an insurance against growing disempowerment and inequality. It is only if we support people’s right to have a voice throughout the policy making process, that the social protection policies and human rights frameworks can be made real,“ said John Gaventa, Director of the Coady International Institute, following the high-level panel discussion.

“The Commission has the responsibility, as well as an opportunity, to re-affirm the role of empowerment as an insurance against growing disempowerment and inequality”

John Gaventa Director of the Coady International Institute

Several Member States shared their good practices and successful policy measures at the national and regional levels. They highlighted the importance of empowerment in accelerating the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, as well as in ensuring that the post-2015 development agenda is truly people-centered.

Social drivers of sustainable development

The panel discussion took a closer look at emerging issues, emphasizing the importance of approaching sustainable development from a social angle, which is an essential process towards formulating an inclusive post-2015 development framework. This kind of approach allows policy-makers to move beyond addressing immediate social issues and to understand the role of social factors in the sustainable development processes. Several civil society representatives also took the floor during the Civil Society Forum, arranged the day before the opening of the Commission.

Jose Nuñez from ADT 4th World, underscored the importance of the human component in assistance programmes for those living in poverty. “Good programmes need to treat people like human beings. They need to treat people with empathy. (…) We have to find ways to build meaning for people if they are going to have success in life,” Mr. Nuñez said. When it comes to improving the work of the Commission, participants had several suggestions for future sessions. Fabio Palacio from ADT 4th World, talked about the need for including the people living in poverty in future discussion on social issues. “If we are speaking about empowerment, without hearing those who live in poverty, we are actively disempowering them,“ Mr. Palacio said.

Social groups and post-2015 development

The Commission held general discussions on issues related to various social groups, such as youth, older persons, families, and persons with disabilities. It also reviewed the report of the Special Rapporteur on Disability and urged Member States, UN agencies and others to view accessibility as a means, as well as a goal of inclusive sustainable development. Member States also shared their experiences addressing youth employment challenges and participants also highlighted the renewed emphasis on youth in the work of the United Nations. Age-based discrimination, active aging and moving away from a medical/welfare approach to a rights-based one, were among the issues debated in the general discussion. The delegations highlighted the need to advance discussions on an international legally-binding instrument to protect the rights of older persons.

“The post-2015 development agenda calls for a single development framework with poverty reduction and sustainable development at its core”

Wu Hongbo
UN DESA’s Under-Secretary-General

Civil Society participants highlighted the Declaration on the Occasion of the 20th Anniversary of the International Year of the Family, urging Member States to strengthen family-oriented policy-making at all levels. Family poverty, children’s well-being, reconciling of work and family life and gender equality remain a concern for many countries. Proposals were also voiced to include a family focus in the post-2015 development agenda. The post-2015 development agenda was a recurring theme throughout the discussions.

The importance of integrating all dimensions of development when moving forward, was also underscored by UN DESA’s Under-Secretary-General Wu Hongbo, as he addressed the Commission. “The post-2015 development agenda calls for a single development framework with poverty reduction and sustainable development at its core. Development, however, will only be fully sustainable when its economic, environmental and social dimensions are integrated in a balanced way. It is therefore vital that we discuss how social policy can support the economic and environmental changes that lead to sustainable development,” said Mr. Wu. The Commission decided that the priority theme for its next two-year period will be “Rethinking and strengthening social development in the contemporary world”.

All relevant information on the work of the Commission, background notes, official documents and statementsare available on the website of UN DESA’s Division for Social Policy and Development

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