Social inequalities concern us all

Inside the General Assembly (UN Photo/ Rick Bajornas)

Addressing the Third Committee of the General Assembly, DESA’s Under-Secretary-General Sha Zukang called for more to be done to protect vulnerable members of society. The Committee, which opened on 3 October in New York, deals with social, humanitarian and cultural affairs and has the human cost of the uncertain global economy high on its agenda.

In remarks delivered by Thomas Seltzer, Assistant-Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, Mr. Sha pointed out that the world economic downturn was still unfolding, and that responses to it must consider the circumstances of the poor, young people, persons with disabilities and the elderly. Drawing attention to widespread fiscal austerity measures, the Under-Secretary-General made clear that all the consequences of such policies must be weighed up. 

“Successful policies are those that promote economic and social development together with human rights protection, more [and] better jobs, social cohesion and less inequality,” Mr. Sha said, adding that rising social inequalities were a “time bomb (which) left unaddressed…will tear apart the moral fabric of our society and undermine prospects for social development.”

The Under-Secretary-General urged that in the face of these difficulties, political leadership must “promote economic and social development together with human rights protection,” and he outlined the positive approaches which should balance cutbacks, arguing that governments must stand firm in their commitments to poverty reduction, while seeking to increase employment opportunities.

Mr. Sha also stressed that the agendas for economic stability, development, and poverty reduction coincide, and he quoted the UN Secretary General Ban Ki- Moon, who recently stated that “Saving our planet, lifting people out of poverty, advancing economic growth…these are one and the same fight.”

In this light, Mr. Sha urged world leaders to see the upcoming Rio+20 conference as an opportunity to renew political commitment “to integrate social concerns with the economic and environmental pillars of sustainable development.”

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