Volume 16, No.09 - September 2012

Feature articles

Keeping the momentum beyond 2015

Photo credit: iStock photo used for UN Task Team Report Cover

With less than three years to the deadline, significant progress has been made towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Meanwhile, the UN is now working closely with different international stakeholders to ensure a sustainable development path beyond 2015.

The international community is ramping up activities as the 2015 target date approaches for achieving the development goals, set out in the Millennium Declaration, on poverty alleviation, education, gender equality, child and maternal health, environmental sustainability, HIV/AIDS reduction and a ‘Global Partnership for Development’. These include discussions among governments, civil society, academia and research institutions, and the private sector on how to advance the UN development agenda beyond 2015.

“Nothing but a truly transformative agenda will match the challenges ahead and the aspirations of all people for development that is inclusive, equitable and sustainable” said Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Mr. Wu Hongbo, reflecting on the work and the opportunities ahead.

The Department of Economic and Social Affairs, headed by Mr. Wu, is fully engaged in promoting and supporting the emergence of a solid and ambitious post-2015 development agenda. DESA has established a department-wide task force to this end, as well as to support the role of DESA in leading, jointly with UNDP, the UN System Task Team on the Post-2015 UN Development Agenda.

The UN System Task Team

Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon established the UN System Task Team in September 2011 to coordinate system-wide preparations for a post-2015 UN development agenda. The team is mobilizing analytical work and outreach within the UN system and beyond.

The Task Team is made up of more than 60 UN agencies, Secretariat departments and other international organizations, including the IMF, World Bank and WTO. Co-chaired by DESA and UNDP, its mission is to assess ongoing efforts within the UN system, consult external stakeholders and define a system-wide vision and road-map to support the deliberations on the post-2015 UN development agenda.

In June, the Task Team delivered its first report to the Secretary-General, “Realizing the Future We Want for All”. Striving for a more holistic outlook, the team advises to keep the Millennium Declaration as the point of departure, and retain a clear focus on human development, while building on the lessons learned from the MDGs and addressing new challenges. In line with the outcome document of the Rio+20 Conference, it also underscores the central role of sustainable development.

The Task Team outlines a vision for the development agenda starting with the core values of sustainability, equality and human rights. The vision then unfolds into four key dimensions that could serve as the basis for defining specific global goals and targets: inclusive social development; inclusive economic development; environmental sustainability; and peace and security.

Getting on a sustainable development path

The Report of the Task Team will serve as a reference for the further broad and inclusive consultations that will take place in the coming years on the post-2015 UN development agenda. Much activity is already scheduled during the forthcoming session of the General Assembly, moving towards a post-2015 UN development agenda, with sustainable development at its centre.

By the start of its 67th session, and as agreed at the Rio+20 Conference in June 2012, the General Assembly will launch an intergovernmental open working group to develop a proposal on sustainable development goals, or SDGs, as an integral part of the post-2015 UN development agenda.

The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) is continuing to play a leading role in the discussions, gathering government representatives from all over the world on 24 September for the ECOSOC Ministerial Meeting, featuring an expert panel discussion, followed by an interactive dialogue on strengthening the multilateral system for sustainable development.

The Secretary-General’s High-level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, established in July to provide further support to the multi-stakeholder consultations, will hold its first meeting on the margins of the Assembly’s high-level debate in September.

And later this fall, the General Assembly will consider the second annual report of the Secretary-General on accelerating progress towards the MDGs, including his recommendations on ways to advance the UN development agenda beyond 2015.

The MDGs have played an important role in advancing the development agenda and in improving the lives of people around the globe. With the target date on the horizon, the UN is intensifying its collaboration with global partners to build on the momentum and to build consensus around an ambitious post-2015 development agenda, with sustainable development at its core.

Photo credit: iStock photo used for UN Task Team Report Cover

For more information:

UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – beyond 2015

The UN System Task Team

“The Future We Want for All” – Report of the UN System Task Team

The Millennium Development Goals Report 2012

Rio+20 Conference Outcome Document

UN helps create a positive future for persons with disabilities

UN helps create a positive future for persons with disabilities

What do Jiří Ježek and Chantal Benoit have in common? They both live with disabilities. In the upcoming Paralympics Jiří will cycle with a prosthetic leg and Chantal will shoot hoops from a wheelchair. This is just one example of how people living with disabilities can flourish when they are empowered and when barriers for their inclusion in society are removed.

On 12-14 September, just two weeks after the Paralympics, the UN will host the Fifth Session of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) to review good practices and challenges in the implementation of the Convention, which will help build a more inclusive, accessible and supportive international framework to promote the development and human rights of all persons with disabilities.

Adopted on 13 December 2006 and entering into force on 3 May 2008, the Convention is the fastest ever negotiated human rights treaty. It is intended as an international tool with an explicit social development dimension. Parties to the Convention are required to promote, protect, and ensure the full enjoyment of human rights by persons with disabilities, and ensure that they enjoy full equality under the law.

The two and a half-day session will gather hundreds of delegates from Governments, UN system organizations, academics and civil society, including representatives of organizations of persons with disabilities, to discuss ways to improve the lives and well-being of persons with disabilities. The theme of this year’s session is “Making the CRPD count for Women and Children”. The following are the sub-themes of the Conference: “Technology and Accessibility”, “Children with Disabilities” and “Women with Disabilities”.

1 billion people worldwide live with a disability, lacking access and support

It is estimated that there are currently over 1 billion people worldwide living with a disability. They face barriers to full participation in society such as difficulties with physical accessibility, transportation and lack of access to information and communications technolgies. It is widely understood that inaccessible environments can impede or enable, perpetuate exclusion or foster participation. Unfortunately for many people living with disabilities, their environments create barriers for their participation in society and development.

States Parties and individual experts will be given the opportunity to share their experiences of how improved accessibility can benefit all in society. The meeting will also discuss how accessibility and universal design can be incorporated in national development policies and programmes and how innovative solutions, such as public-private partnerships, can play an important role.

Children and women with disabilities are more marginalized

Children with disabilities are among the most marginalized and excluded members of society. They are less likely to attend school, to have access to appropriate medical and social services or to participate fully in their communities. Children with disabilities can experience double discrimination based on their identity, their gender or their minority status and face a significantly increased risk of physical abuse. They are also less able to advocate for themselves when it comes to fighting this discrimination and accessing services.

There are social costs related to the exclusion of children with disabilities from educational and employment opportunities. Adults with disabilities are often poorer than adults without disabilities but education has been found to decrease the divide. It is unknown exactly how many children have a disability worldwide due to systematic under-reporting and a lack of reliable data. It is estimated that as many as four in five children with disabilities live in developing countries.

Women with disabilities are also a highly vulnerable group. They often lack access to essential services, necessary to enjoy of their basic human rights. In many cases, they also have limited access to education and employment. Women with disabilities experience higher rates of gender-based violence, sexual abuse, neglect, maltreatment and exploitation than women without disabilities. It is widely recognised that the promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women with disabilities is vital for their human rights, but also for the achievement of internationally agreed development goals, such as the Millennium Development Goals.

A future we want for all

The international community is increasingly recognizing the necessity and importance of including disability to obtain inclusive, equitable and sustainable development. Some important steps are being taken to build a positive future for people living with disabilities. The Rio+20 outcome document, “The future we want”, has five specific references to disability, promoting sustainable development policies supporting equal rights and accessibility.

Discussions around new emerging international development frameworks have already started within and beyond the United Nations. On 23 September 2013 the General Assembly will also convene a High-Level Meeting on Disability where world leaders will have a unique and historic opportunity to discuss the way forward and initiate a disability inclusive development agenda towards 2015 and beyond.

Stories of Paralympians and persons with disabilities have made headlines before, but to name a few other examples, Albert Einstein had a learning disability and didn’t speak until age 3. Ludwig van Beethoven was deaf. Thomas Edison also had a learning disability and couldn’t read until he was twelve. Franklin D. Roosevelt had Polio and author Helen Keller was both deaf and blind. British physicist Stephen Hawking managed to author “A Brief History of Time”.

These stories tell the same simple truth: disability is by no means an inability. These individuals all achieved greatness when they were fully included in society and they demonstrate that by breaking down barriers, and with the right opportunities, exceptional things are possible.

For more information:
Fifth Session of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)

Empowering people to advance development

“Empowerment has many meanings. I think ultimately it is about people and the human potential that is within us all,” says Daniela Bas, Director of DESA’s Division for Social Policy and Development (DSPD), as her team prepares for an expert group meeting on this topic. Ahead of the September meeting, they seek people’s input and questions on empowerment.

On 10-12 September 2012, DSPD is gathering experts in New York to focus on the theme “Promoting people’s empowerment in achieving poverty eradication, social integration and full employment and decent work for all”. The meeting is part of the preparations for the 51st session of the Commission for Social Development, scheduled to take place in February 2013.

“We have a unique chance to contribute, and to help shape future policies that can have a major impact on people’s empowerment across the globe,” says Ms. Bas, highlighting that there are two ways in which the online community can contribute with ideas and questions.

There is an online survey on empowerment, which runs through 5 September. Just launched and available until 7 September, is also an online forum on Facebook, where people are invited to share questions on empowerment. They can also send in queries via Twitter using @UNDESA and #EmpowerPeople. Questions should focus on the theme of the expert group meeting and must also be linked to social groups including people living in poverty, youth, older persons, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and families.

At the meeting in September, experts will respond to selected questions from the online community. This part of the event will also be available on 12 September on DESA’s Youtube channel.

“Your input matters. Empower yourself and inspire the world,” encourages Daniela Bas.

For more information:

Online survey on empowerment (open until 5 September)

Facebook forum event (open until 7 September)

DESA on Twitter

DESA on Youtube