Fifty-sixth General Assembly
3rd Meeting (PM)
HIGH INEQUALITY A MAJOR IMPEDIMENT TO ECONOMIC GROWTH,
POVERTY ALLEVIATION, THIRD COMMITTEE TOLD
Social, Humanitarian, Cultural Committee Open Substantive Session
As the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) opened its substantive session for the fifty-sixth General Assembly this afternoon, the Director for the Division of Social Policy and Development, John Langmore, told members that high inequality was a major impediment to economic growth and to the alleviation of poverty in many countries of Europe, Asia, Latin Amer
ica and Africa.
Opening the general discussion, Mr. Langmore introduced the 2000 Report on the World Social Situation, maintaining that equity was a cross-cutting theme relevant to a variety of social development issues. It was a deeply disturbing fact that disparities in wealth and income had been growing within many countries and between countries. Much more effective multilateral action was essential to tackle the poverty and powerlessness that bred frustration and despair. The report highlighted some contemporary social pathologies -- the growth of inequity; the appalling number of people coping with poverty, unemployment and other causes of insecurity; the number of armed conflicts; and the extent of discrimination, violence and crime.
Such issues were discussed last February at the thirty-ninth session of the Commission for Social Development, according to the representative of Belgium, speaking on behalf of the European Union. Member States examined ways to improve social protection and reduce vulnerability in the context of globalization at that meeting. Social protection should be viewed as an investment in human capital and social cohesion.
The representative of Iran, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said the achievement of broad social development, in the final analysis, was a matter of will and resources. While the participation of world governments and cooperation of civil society seemed to be often taken as a “given”, what had not materialized, at any level, was an effective system of international cooperation for sustainable development processes and initiatives.
Also participating in the general discussion were the representatives of Botswana (on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC)), Chile (on behalf of the Rio Group), Uruguay (on behalf of Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR)), Cuba, Egypt, Republic of Korea, Malaysia and the Dominican Republic.
The representatives of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the World Bank also spoke.
Also this afternoon, Chairman Fuad Mubarak Al-Hinai (Oman), informed members that the Assembly’s general debate had been scheduled for 10 through 16 November, a particularly busy time in the Committee’s current schedule. He proposed that the Committee continue its work during that period in order to avoid the dire consequences that would occur if consideration of any items were to be postponed. The Committee agreed with that proposal.
Mr. Al-Hinai also informed the Committee that, owing to a last minute and unavoidable schedule change, Mr. Pino Arlacchi, Director General of the United Nations Office at Vienna, could not be present for discussions on issues related to crime prevention and criminal justice (item 110), and international drug control (item 111). In his stead, Mr. Arlacchi would send his Deputy, Francis Maertens, to address item 111 and Eduardo Vetere, Director of the Center for Crime Prevention, to discuss item 110.
Today, the Committee also agreed that beginning next week, every Thursday afternoon would be set aside for action on proposals and drafts.
The Committee will meet again tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. to continue is discussion of issues related to social development.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) began its substantive session this afternoon, taking up a variety of issues concerning social development, including questions related to the world social situation and to youth, disabled persons and the family. It would also consider the preparations for the upcoming Second World Assembly on Ageing, as well as implementation of the outcome of the Copenhagen World Summit for Social Development.
To guide its overall discussions on these diverse issues, the Committee had before it an extract from the Economic and Social Council report on the World Social Situation (E/2001/104), which contains executive summaries of the chapters in the full report. The main theme of the 2001 edition is equity, and the report states that the notion of creating a society for all can be seen as a process guided by one criterion: to bring to the many what is enjoyed by few.
Throughout the report, attention is directed to the policy implications of promoting a society for all and to the conceptual difficulties and practical obstacles to be overcome. The report begins with an overview of the demographic landscape at the end of the last century and notes that since 1950, the world had witnessed the highest rate of population growth that has ever occurred or that is ever likely to occur again. The trajectory of the population has been influenced by several remarkable changes, including the unique declines of both mortality and fertility.
The report also points out that ageing has become a global phenomenon and that the divergence between countries of less developed regions as a whole and of the least developed regions characterizes their patterns of mortality. It includes a section on new patterns of economic engagement and social interaction, which notes that dynamic economies capable of generating goods and services necessary for meeting the basic needs of all people are the material base in which social progress is rooted. It stresses that new economic and social interaction patterns have been largely affected by widespread use of information technologies, which have transformed lifestyles, and communications substantially over the last 20 years.
Further to the report, the Secretary-General notes that the new information revolution has the potential to create opportunities for both developing countries and disadvantaged and weaker sections of society to gain access to enable them to participate in the global economy. At the same time, globalization has not reduced general social or economic inequities. Other sections of the report spotlight the evolving roles of the market and the State and the many areas of contribution of civil society organizations. It has been an era of mixed achievement for education; and unequal access, duration or quality of education was a constant problem for many social groups.
In every society, the report continues, people are exposed to a wide variety of risks. In that regard, the objectives of social protection policy should be to achieve security for all through a pluralist and pragmatic approach. Policies should be sensitive to the political, cultural, social and economic concerns of respective countries and should be developed by governments in consistent dialogue with civil society, the private sector and people in poor communities.
The report also details the effect of social disruptions, such as armed conflict, discrimination, corruption, crime and violence on everyday lives. The concluding part of the report focuses on the implications of major recent developments in such areas as the changing boundaries of privacy, corporate social responsibility and bio-medical developments. It is the Council’s hope that the issues discussed in this section may help shape the future contours of policy agenda for local, national and international action.
The report concludes, among other things, that gap between the haves and have-nots continues to widen, both within and among countries. While there are complex explanations, depending on country specific variables, overall, the unfavourable situation has been compounded by the deterioration or lack of basic services, often caused by growing demand that cannot be met.
The Committee also has before it a number of other reports, including a note by the Secretary-General on the Follow-up to the International Year of the Family (document A/56/57), which describes the fourth biennial report on follow-up activities to the International Year of the Family, and details the General Assembly’s request of the Secretary-General to report at the fifty-sixth session the appropriate ways and means to observe the tenth anniversary of the International Year of the Family in 2004.
Also under consideration was a report on Cooperatives in Social Development (documents A/56/73–E/2001/68 and Add.1) which details progress made on the implementation of resolution 54/123 on such cooperatives and on the views of Governments on draft guidelines aimed at creating a supportive environment for the development of cooperatives. It also suggests ways to render relevant support to Member States. The report concludes with recommendations, noting that the draft guidelines have been revised, taking into account suggestions and comments received from governments. It recommends that governments should be invited to develop programmes that promote professional cooperative value-based management and to create or improve statistical databases on cooperative development.
According to the report, governments generally reported their continuing support for the development of cooperatives and their recognition, in particular, of the potential and contribution of the cooperative movement for the attainment of social development goals. The report highlights relevant achievements of the Governments of Bolivia, Burundi, El Salvador and Slovakia, among others. It also notes initiatives undertaken by agencies and funds, including the efforts of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) to promote the establishment of, among others, small farmer’s cooperatives, mainly through field programmes and technical assistance.
The Committee had before it a note by the Secretary-General on a Draft Proposal and Plan for a United Nations Literacy Decade (documents A/56/114 and Add.1), which recounts the commitments of the World Education Forum in Dakar, including the pledge to ensure that all children have good access to, and complete, free and compulsory primary education of good quality by 2015.
The report proposes that the decade start in 2002 and that monitoring and evaluation mechanisms be put in place to assess progress. The decade should ensure several outcomes, among them a viable, policy-making framework, a clear prioritization at the national level of the particular population groups where special literacy efforts are required, and the realization that literacy practices and materials will connect with life skills to help break the cycle of poverty.
The Committee also considered the Secretary-General's report of the Implementation of the World Programme of Action Concerning Disabled Persons (document A/56/169) which focuses on progress in implementing the priorities for action to further equalization of opportunities of persons with disabilities. It is divided into four parts. The first section describes recent relevant policy and programme initiatives based on information submitted by governments, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the United Nations system. The second and third parts of the report examine progress in ensuring equal opportunities by, for and with disabled persons in selected fields of activity and within regional frameworks.
The fourth section of the report considers substantive aspects of the Action Programme, which will be submitted to the Assembly at its fifty-seventh session. The report further details the perspective framework for the fourth review and appraisal, including emerging issues, of the Action Programme. According to the report, that review will evaluate the extent to which structures are in place to implement the Programme. Several aspects of such structures will be reviewed, including the extent to which countries have specific policies and programmes in place to facilitate both community-based rehabilitation programmes and equal opportunities for disabled persons.
The report of the Secretary-General on the Implementation of World Programme of Action for Youth in the Year 2000 and Beyond (document A/56/180) which details the progress made in implementation of the Programme since 1985, the International Year of Youth. The report also states that a large majority of youth live in developing countries -- in 2000, that number was estimated at 85 per cent. It further notes the importance of youth participation at all levels, including economic, political, social and cultural. It identifies participation as a development strategy, which could be seen as a process through which shareholders influence and share control over development initiatives and resources.
On implementation of the Programme, the report highlights various initiatives at the national, regional and global levels. It relates various country experiences, including the establishment of national youth policies and relevant government ministries and agencies. The report also states that youth-oriented civil society organizations are asking for greater participation in the work of the United Nations.
The Secretary-General’s report on the Implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and for the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly (document A/56/140), which provides information on the follow-up activities undertaken since 1995,including progress achieved and obstacles encountered in carrying out the commitments agreed in Copenhagen. It also includes an overview of follow-up activities of intergovernmental bodies, including the Economic and Social Council and the Assembly, which, among other things, invited the Council to consolidate ongoing initiatives and recommendations established in the outcome of the Summit and special session.
The report notes that the Commission for Social Development adopted its multi-year programme of work for 2002-2006, built around a number of core themes of the outcome of the Summit and the special session, including national and international cooperation for social development (2003), and improving public sector effectiveness (2004). After highlighting follow-up activities undertaken by the United Nations system, the report concludes that achieving the goals of the World Summit and special session requires determined action by governments and the international community as well as civil society and the private sector. Further, upcoming United Nations conferences should continue the special session’s work identifying ways to mobilize resources for social development at national and international levels.
The Committee also had before it a report of the Secretary-General on Support for Volunteering (document A/56/288), which states that volunteerism is an important component of any strategy aimed at poverty reduction, sustainable development and social integration, in particular overcoming social exclusion and discrimination.
The report details the contributions of volunteering, with surveys suggesting that volunteering equals 9 million full-time jobs with a value of
$225 billion a year in the United States. It says that any notion of halving extreme poverty by 2015 or making serious inroads so as to assist the 700 million people without access to primary health care clearly calls for massive self-help, voluntary effort on the part of concerned people themselves with appropriate support from governments.
It also describes the support volunteerism gets, and can get, within the United Nations system. It suggests awareness-raising mechanisms, and the use of United Nations networks to disseminate information about the link between volunteerism and major global concerns through technical and flagship publications, workshops and Internet sites.
The Committee had before it the report on Preparations for the Second World Assembly on Ageing (document A/56/152) which details the preparatory process, format and proposed Action Plan for the upcoming World Assembly, set to take place in Madrid, Spain, from 8 to 12 April 2002. According to the report, the Assembly will focus on an overall review of the outcome of the First World Assembly as well as the adoption of a revised Action Plan on Ageing aligned with the socio-cultural, economic and demographic realities of the new century, with particular attention to the perspectives of developing countries.
Further to the report, the Assembly has invited all Member States, relevant United Nations agencies and funds, NGOs in the field of ageing, research institutions and representatives of the private sector to participate in the preparatory process. Recent preparatory developments, include, among others, the Preparatory Committee’s request that the Secretary-General submit a report on elder abuse and the recommendation of a draft decision on the United Nations Trust Fund for Ageing for adoption by the Economic and Social Council. That decision would urge Member States and other actors to contribute generously to the Fund and to support the activities of the World Assembly, particularly to facilitate broad participation of least developed countries.
In addition to the reports, the Committee also had before it two resolutions. The first, Preparations for and observance of the tenth anniversary of the International Year of the Family (document A/C.3/56/L.2), was recommended by the Economic and Social Council for adoption by the Assembly. By that text, the Assembly would urge Governments to view 2004 as a target year by which concrete achievements should be made to identify and elaborate issues of direct concern to families. By that time, they should also set up and strengthen, where appropriate, mechanisms to plan and coordinate activities of governmental bodies and NGOs.
The second resolution before the Committee was on the United Nations Trust Fund for Ageing (document A/C.3/56/L.3). By that text, also recommended by the Council, the Assembly would urge all Member States and other actors to contribute generously to the Fund, to support preparatory activities for the Second World Assembly, including public information activities to promote the Assembly and its outcome. Member States would be urged in particular to facilitate the fullest participation of least developed countries in the work of the Assembly.
JOHN LANGMORE, Director of the Division for Social Policy and Development of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said it was clearly important that all countries concerned about terrorism deal not just with the symptoms, but also with the roots of terrorism. Much more effective multilateral action was essential to tackle the poverty and powerlessness that bred frustration and despair. Thus, the publication of the 2001 Report on the World Social Situation was timely. A wide range of issues was covered in the report -- from demographic trends and structural shifts in economies to analysis of living conditions, social protection and changes in family structure and patterns of work. The report highlighted some contemporary social pathologies -- the growth of inequity; the appalling number of people coping with poverty, unemployment and other causes of insecurity; the number of armed conflicts; and the extent of discrimination, violence and crime.
Equity was the cross-cutting theme of the report, he said. It was a deeply disturbing fact that disparities in wealth and income had been growing within many countries and between countries. High inequality was a major impediment to economic growth and to the alleviation of poverty in many countries of Europe, Asia, Latin America and Africa. There was also an unfortunate synchronization in these negative trends at global and national levels -- growing polarization of countries had been accompanied by a surge in inequality within countries.
The report of the Secretary-General provided an overview of the measures undertaken since July 2000 to implement the outcome of the Social Summit and the special session. The report put particular emphasis on action by the United Nations system. It showed that the outcome of the special session had been taken seriously by most parts of the United Nations system, and that implementation was underway. This was indeed encouraging. The report concluded, however, that making tangible progress towards achieving the goals of the Social Summit and the special session -- as well as those of the Millennium Summit -- required a continued, sustained and well-coordinated effort by all parties.
BAGHER ASADI (Iran), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 Developing Countries and China, said the Copenhagen World Summit on Social Development had firmly placed the question of social development at the centre of the international policy debate. It was clear that social development, in all its contemporary dimensions, underpinned human development and was the basis for creating enabling environments for overall welfare at both national and international levels.
He went on to say that in these turbulent times, social justice and equity were among the fundamental principles for maintaining just societies. Those concepts should be seen as central and should not fall victim to partisan, ideological and political acrimony or controversy. It was most important to recognize that poverty eradication must be placed at the centre of national socio-economic strategies as well as international cooperative development efforts.
What was needed, he said, was for both national governments and the wider international community to ensure that progress would continue towards the realization of established international goals, namely cutting in half the level of extreme poverty by 2015. While recognizing that, in addition to allocation of domestic resources, official development assistance (ODA), debt relief and better access played a significant role in enabling governments in the developing world to overcome poverty, the Group supported other important initiatives in that domain. Foremost among those were the on-going consultations on the establishment of a World Solidarity Fund for Poverty Eradication.
He said that for the Group, concepts of social protection, provision of safety nets and reducing vulnerability were indivisible parts of social development. While the debilitating impact of globalization and the devastating repercussions of marginalization on the developing world were well documented, it was also important to recognize the negative impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic on social development. He added that achievement of social development, in the final analysis, became a matter of will and resources.
While the participation of world governments, perhaps for altruistic reasons, and cooperation of civil society seemed to be often taken as a “given”, what had not materialized, at any level, was an effective system of international cooperation for broad and sustainable development processes and initiatives. The entire global community, in cooperation with the United Nations and other international organizations, should work seriously to find new and innovative sources for funding social development and enhancing capacity-building in the developing world.
MICHEL GOFFIN (Belgium, on behalf of the European Union), said the year had been devoted to operational follow-up of the commitments undertaken at the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly. The Member States thus found themselves last February at the thirty-ninth session of the Commission for Social Development examining ways to improve social protection and reduce vulnerability in the context of globalization. At that session, the European Union defended an activist approach to social protection, presented as an integral part of human rights. It came up with several ideas, such as including the campaign to halve poverty by the year 2015 in a social protection framework, and viewing social protection as productive expenditure and as an investment in human capital and social cohesion.
The Commission for Social Development had not been able to obtain a consensus among its members and to submit agreed conclusions reflecting the full richness of the debate on social protection. The European Union had chosen not to embark upon a process of negotiation at all costs, at the risk of ending up with agreed conclusions which were too vague and too far removed from the specific context of social protection and thus lacking in substance. The European Union reaffirmed the importance it attached to the Commission for Social Development as an instrument of choice for following up undertakings entered into globally. The Commission must be able to take up and deepen the debate begun in Geneva at the twenty-fourth special session on specific topics, and at expert levels in capital cities. It must also provide a forum in which good practice and the lessons learned by those working in the field could be exchanged.
The European Union would also like to draw attention to matters concerning young people, the elderly, people with disabilities and the family, he said. Wanting to create a society for all, the European Union saw the participation of people of all ages, as well as that of people with disabilities, as vital. The situation for persons with disabilities was one of the important agenda items at the upcoming fortieth session of the Commission on Social Development in 2002. The Commission would, among other things, have to consider the urgent matter of future monitoring mechanisms of the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities. Furthermore, the Special Rapporteur on Disability would present his proposals to strengthen the Standard Rules, especially regarding a human rights perspective.
In preparation for the discussions on young people, which would be on the agenda for the Commission for Social Development in 2003, it was important to reflect on a more integrated and more horizontal policy which would incorporate the interests of young people in all planning, decision-making and implementation processes. The European Union, attached as it was to the principles of human dignity, equality and equity, was striving to promote maximum inclusiveness. Everyone had an important role in society. Participation and integration of young people in societal projects was fundamental.
LEUTLWETSE MMUALEFE (Botswana), speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said poverty continued to be a major economic and social problem in most developing countries. Indeed, poverty eradication was one of his region’s major social challenges. To that end, SADC countries were making an effort to implement elements of a new partnership agreement signed in Cotonou, Benin, aimed at reducing and eventually eradicating poverty, consistent with the objectives of sustainable development.
He went on to say that the HIV/AIDS pandemic had also become a major constraint to achieving social development. SADC member States that were party to the global strategy adopted at the General Assembly special session on AIDS last June were working tirelessly to reduce vulnerability of individuals to HIV infection and to develop strategies to alleviate the social and economic impact of the pandemic. Those States were also working to promote research and development initiatives aimed at identifying vaccines and microbicides. In his region, the impact of the virus was worst among women, and SADC members maintain that affordable treatment should be accessible. The need for additional resources and international donor assistance remained a priority for sustainable development.
He said SADC also maintained that peace and stability were necessary components of efforts aimed at ensuring broad social development. It was regrettable that the consequences of the war in Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo continued to pose serious impediments to the development efforts of the peoples in those two countries. SADC Governments remained committed to moving the peace process forward. He said that SADC Governments were also committed to ensuring universal education respecting the rights of disabled and elderly persons. He welcomed preparations currently underway for the Second World Assembly on Ageing.
CRISTIAN MAQUIEIRA (Chile), on behalf of the Rio Group, said the cowardly terrorist attack of 11 September had caused irreparable loss of human life and enormous material damage in the United States, which had worsened the worrying and long-anticipated trend towards declining growth in the world economy, with significant effects on developing countries. These worrying tendencies would affect developing countries in different ways, according to their particular areas of weakness, with all the social consequences of rising rates of poverty, vulnerability and exclusion. There would also be consequences for the industrialized countries, which had to revise downward their forecasts for growth in the year ahead, which in turn would have its own negative impact on their respective societies.
The fight against terrorism had now assumed priority importance on the international agenda, he said. The United Nations must not only legitimize international action taken in defense of peace and security, but it also had to make other substantive contributions to this cause, such as expediting the implementation of the agreements reached at the World Summit for Social Development, and the new initiatives agreed upon within the framework of Copenhagen +5.
The first task was the eradication of poverty. This would fulfil one of the principle objectives of the international community -- reducing by half extreme poverty by 2015. The fight against poverty was not an option, but an imperative. It was the uncompleted task of the twentieth century and the first priority of the twenty-first century.
Strengthening the role of the United Nations in social development, both among its various agencies and between those organizations and the Bretton Woods institutions, continued to be a task in which much more remained to be done. Meetings that would be convened this year should adopt agreements that led to greater and better inter-institutional cooperation to ensure meaningful policy coordination and to assist States in their efforts to improve the quality of life of their societies.
FELIPE H. PAOLILLO (Uruguay), speaking on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), said that since the 1995 Copenhagen Summit, social development had become one of the core issues of international debate. Following the related General Assembly special session last June, it had also become known that social development issues such as poverty eradication and capacity-building should now be considered in light of the phenomenon of globalization. MERCOSUR shared and defended the idea that in order to achieve broad based social development, policies and initiatives must be elaborated within a democratic framework, with respect for the rule of law and human rights and fundamental freedoms.
With that in mind, he continued, last year, MERCOSUR had established an agenda which elaborated common social development goals. The main thrust of the agenda aimed at achieving equitable and economically sustainable growth in the region. He reiterated that consideration must also be given to the impacts of globalization, particularly on developing countries. Globalization had most critically affected smaller countries' market access and liberalization processes. He said that combined efforts at national, regional and international levels would enhance the efforts undertaken to achieve the commitments set at Copenhagen and at the special session, thus ensuring sustainable and equitable social development for all.
LUIS ALBERTO AMOROS NUNEZ (Cuba) said humanity was involved already in a serious situation -- poverty in the developing world. Around 1.3 billion people lived in absolute poverty, including 200 million children, who suffered from malnutrition. A majority of the marginalized people were in the developing world, where 640 million would not reach their fortieth birthday. This was after commitments that were made at the Copenhagen Summit, commitments that were quite obviously not fulfilled. There was crippling external debt, and harsh structural adjustment policies. Globalization portended to further progress, but what it did was increase injustice.
Cuba had put into practice policies of social development, he said. All members of society had access to health care and education; children were protected against the 12 preventable diseases, and there was 99 per cent enrolment in primary education. There was no illiteracy at all. In Cuba, ageing was not only a human right, it was a policy of development and good health. Seniors had social security, which helped increase life expectancy to 75 years. Cuba would be in Madrid for the ageing conference next year to further those policies. The issue of disabled persons also received attention in Cuba. There was much attention placed on special education and programmes to help disabled people enter the employment sector. This was all done despite the economic blockade imposed by the United States.
AHMED ABOUL GHEIT (Egypt) said the universal declarations and documents on social development issues had repeatedly confirmed the right to development as a principle human right. Those mechanisms had also confirmed that sustained development and the well-being of all societies and individuals was a multi-faceted process, which must consider economic, social, cultural and political dimensions. While the 1995 Copenhagen Summit Declaration had given new momentum to the universal debate on social development, the actual results had been far from encouraging. Inequality within and among States continued to grow and technical cooperation provided by the United Nations and its affiliated agencies continued to shrink.
The international community and donor countries needed to increase efforts to bridge the social development gap and to reinvigorate technical cooperation and assistance programmes for developing countries. He went on to emphasize the need to recognize the cultural dimension of development, as reflected in the Copenhagen Declaration, in order to ensure respect for cultural and economic diversity among nations in formulating their own social development strategies. It was also important to avoid promoting or imposing a particular development approach for all nations, regardless of their economic, social or environmental conditions.
He said that development required not only serious economic activity, but also a reduction of inequalities in the distribution of wealth and the benefits of economic growth spurred by globalization. At the same time consideration must be given to the negative impacts of globalization on developing countries. Those included, among others, tariff barriers impeding access to products and services and barriers hindering technology transfer. He added that discussions of social development must be informed by a recognition of the principle right of all peoples to self determination. The right to live free of all forms of foreign domination and occupation included the right to exercise full sovereignty over natural resources.
LEE HO-JIN (Republic of Korea) said the Government wanted to underline the significance of the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly in Geneva last year, reaffirming the 10 commitments made at the Copenhagen Summit and recommending further initiatives. Among those, the most important were the commitments to halving the proportion of people living in extreme poverty by 2015 and to prevent HIV/AIDS infection. Significant measures to implement such commitments and initiatives had been discussed at the Millennium Summit in October of last year, as well as at the thirty-ninth Commission on Social Development a few months ago. The outcomes of those meetings had provided fundamental and internationally-agreed upon frameworks for a safe, stable and just society, further fueling efforts to overcome poverty, promote full employment and eradicate obstacles to social integration.
The Republic of Korea had been, and would continue to be, wholly committed to the cause of social development. The financial turmoil that swept Asia in 1997 had damaged labour relations and had led to a steep fall in employment rates. The crisis and its aftermath had weakened the social fabric and threatened to further alienate the underprivileged sectors of society. Nevertheless, the Government rose to the tremendous challenges during that time of adversity, effectively overcoming the hardships with extensive schemes to establish a system of "productive welfare". There was increasing recognition that education was the primary engine for social integration. Korea had made education one of its top priorities. Therefore, the Government heartily welcomed the special session's initiatives to close the gender gap in primary and secondary education by 2005, and to ensure free, compulsory and universal primary education for both girls and boys by 2015. Investments to enhance the quality of education at all levels were an indispensable part of the efforts to expand employment and to promote gender equality in schools and the workplace.
ZAINUDDIN YAHYA (Malaysia) said by 1995, the cold war had ended, the age of globalization was well under way, and the opportunities for greater prosperity seemed endless. Yet more than a billion people were still living in extreme poverty, millions of people were unemployed, and a growing number of societies were breaking up along racial, ethnic or social fault lines. Against this backdrop, the United Nations had convened the World Summit for Social Development to find global solutions to the problems of poverty, unemployment and social disintegration. The Summit focused on the most immediate and essential needs of individuals -- livelihoods, income, health, education and personal security. World leaders recognized the need to place people at the centre of development; pledged to eradicate poverty, promote full and productive employment, and foster social integration to achieve stable, safe and just societies for all. The Summit also alerted the world's major financial institutions that all economic plans had to recognize their social implications.
Malaysia acknowledged that social development was a national responsibility. However, it could not be successfully achieved without the collective commitment and efforts of the international community. In a globalized world, poverty and social disintegration constituted real threats to international peace and prosperity. The level of trade had grown over the last few years, but there had been a sustained overall decline in the official development assistance to developing countries. To uphold peace and prosperity, the international community had to shoulder a shared responsibility in managing worldwide economic and social development.
Malaysia was concerned that social violence against minorities, women and children had continued unabated the world over. The scourge of drugs, transnational crime and killer diseases, such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS were spreading rapidly. Those challenges were beyond the capacity of any one State to counter on its own. There was a need to forge genuine partnerships at the international level to ensure the successful implementation of the Summit goals. Malaysia urged developed countries to continue to assist developing countries in implementing their social and human development programmes.
JULIA T. ALVAREZ (Dominican Republic) said that the upcoming Second World Assembly on Ageing must focus positively on ageing and development. To grow old did not mean to become weak or vulnerable or dependent. For all countries, increased longevity had been a true revolution that should be seen as an opportunity to take advantage of ageing populations and what they could offer to broad societal development. The focus of the Assembly must therefore be on “productive ageing” -- continuing and deepening the material and non-material contributions of older persons.
She said there must also be a clear recognition in any adopted texts at the Assembly’s conclusion of the differences between developed and developing countries experiences with ageing. Indeed productive ageing was related to a central development issue: poverty eradication. In developing countries at least, poverty was not about individuals but about households. So solving the problem of poverty meant investing in older persons and making use of their collective wisdom. For many reasons, in rural areas, food producers were becoming increasingly older and policies needed to be in place to build on that.
She said the international strategy on ageing must also have clear time horizons, perhaps realistically set at twenty years. That would be appropriate, as demographic projections were sound up to that point, and policies could be proposed that would effectively cover one generation. She added that preparations for the Assembly should also consider the promotion and exercise of human rights by the elderly as well as the implementation of the International Plan of Action on Ageing.
BRENT APELAND (International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies) said the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) had been able to develop its activities in the International Year of Volunteers along several lines. As an international organization, the IFRC joined with United Nations Volunteers in promoting the ideals of the Year to the parliaments of the world, represented in the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU). It was heartened that the IPU adopted a decision encouraging parliaments and the leading volunteer organizations in their countries to open dialogue on measures that might be taken to improve volunteerism. The IFRC had continued its relationship with parliaments at a meeting last month that saw the adoption of two resolutions relevant to children living with HIV/AIDS.
Another stage for international and national debate on volunteers would be the Second World Assembly on Ageing, which would be held in Madrid in April 2002. The International Federation had extensive experience of the generosity and value of older people as volunteers. They brought years of experience to their task, had a wide range of experience to offer, and they enjoyed their ability to function as a valuable resource for vulnerable people in their communities. The reverse side of this was that research showed that older people who did volunteer
stayed healthier and lived longer than people that did not. Volunteering added quality to their lives, in every sense.
EDUARDO DORYAN (World Bank) said in these days after a tragedy of global impact, and when uncertainty was still all around, it was important to remember a powerful phrase from the civil rights movement -- "Keep Your Eyes on the Prize". Now more than ever, there was a responsibility to clarify what "prize" meant. The Committee's consideration of issues of social opportunity and human rights spoke directly to that ultimate prize of development, which brought with it human value, dignity, capacity, equality and opportunity. Those elements had more relevance for the half of the population who lived on less than $2 a day. At the Bank, based on the testimony of poor people themselves and changes in thinking about poverty, the definition of poverty had been expanded to include not only low incomes and low consumption, but also human and social development. In the last year, the Bank had stated that three core elements were needed to eradicate poverty -- opportunity, empowerment and security. The Bank came from an economic development perspective, and each of those three elements was essential to address poverty reduction and development as a whole.
There was no time to waste. Work should begin to shift from focus on lofty goals to practical plans put into action he said. It was important to right now create clear and targeted objectives. Development was only sustainable through the convergence of sound economics with the environmental and social principles embedded in the objectives adopted at the Social Summit. Further, clear implementation plans were required. The key to achieving those objectives was a clear implementation plan driven by political will. The international community could support countries in their implementation through comprehensive development frameworks and institutional instruments. Lastly, there had to be coherent partnerships and alliances. Implementation could only take place in the context of true partnership, with the countries at the lead and those in the international community providing the needed support in a coherent way.
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