9 October 2001


Press Release

Fifty-sixth General Assembly

Third Committee

4th Meeting (AM)



This morning as the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) entered the second day of its general discussion, youth representatives from several countries urged delegations to consider the social challenges and concerns facing young people around the world.

As the Committee debated myriad social development issues, the youth representative from Norway, recalling the tragic events of 11 September, said any issue concerning security and peace was an issue concerning young people.  Nothing could be more important for coming generations than peace on earth.  To avoid the escalation of violence and terror there had to be investments in health, education and participation, especially for the young.

Education, she continued, was perhaps the single most important factor in development.  And yet, there were still 130 million children who had no access to primary education.  Those children were being denied a fundamental human right.

A youth representative from Denmark implored delegations to remember that youth was one the world’s most easily accessible natural resources.  Global partners could not afford to ignore the fact that, by including young people in decisions concerning their lives, they would be able to better contribute to international social development efforts.

The youth representatives stressed that poverty, malnutrition, HIV infection, lack of access to proper health services and education, were major hurdles to youth development in many parts of the world.  Those problems not only affected youth today, but also threatened future generations.

The representative from Senegal said the Fourth World Youth Forum, held in Dakar in August 2001, aimed at strengthening the international capacity for youth action.  The “Dakar Strategy” also invited the international community to create the best possible initiatives for the protection and promotion of youth and youth activities.

He insisted that the Dakar Strategy could be an important tool that could be used by decision-makers to a coherently address the problems of the young, including social integration, access to equal education, the situation of young women and girls and armed conflict.

Also participating in this morning’s discussion were the representatives of the Sudan, Chile, Algeria, Brazil, Denmark, China, Ukraine, Uganda, Australia, Nigeria, Russian Federation, Qatar and Pakistan.

Representatives of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) also spoke.

The Committee will meet again this afternoon at 3 p.m., to continue its general discussion of social development issues.

Committee Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this morning to continue its general discussion of issues related to social development, including follow-up to the International Year of Older Persons:  Second World Assembly on Ageing; and implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development (Copenhagen, 1995) and of the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly.


ILHAM IBRAHIM MOHAMED AHMED (Sudan) said social development could not be separated from economic development and the environment of peace and stability. Despite the efforts made by the international community, following the Social Summit, and the Copenhagen +5 Conference, there was a long way to go to achieve sustainable social development for all.  It was primarily a national responsibility, which required efforts from national and international players.  Social development could not be achieved without better coordination between the national and international communities.  Such coordination was necessary in order to achieve the Millennium Summit's goal of halving extreme poverty by 2015.

The Bretton Woods institutions had to be made more democratic, so the burden of heavily-indebted poor countries could be lessened, he continued.  Least developed countries should be able to enter world markets, which was necessary to achieve development.  Infrastructures, especially in Africa, needed to be improved, with a large role played by the international community.  The right to development was an inherent right.  The United Nations should halt economic sanctions, and should guarantee to all the right to food and medicine.  Endemic diseases needed to be fought, especially malaria and HIV/AIDS. 

He said Sudan had adopted an effective strategy to address poverty, with programmes that increased job opportunities and strengthened family support structures.  The Government also stressed the importance of education at all levels.  The Government also looked forward to the Madrid Conference on Ageing next year, and was focused on integrating disabled people into society, so they could lead independent lives.

JUAN GABRIEL VALDES (Chile), on behalf of the Rio Group, said the reality of the ageing of society was being experienced in both developed and developing countries.  Advances in science and technology applied to medicine and nutrition had markedly raised life expectancy.  Moreover, the growing awareness in all societies and cultures of the need to provide basic social services to all members of society had increased life expectancy in all social sectors.

Unfortunately, the goals of development for all and the eradication of poverty were far from being attained, he continued.  The expansion of employment had not yet been achieved, in particular employment in the formal sector, which was subject to government regulation and provided social protection.  That led, in many cases, to a lack of financing for pension systems and a drop in the quality of the social services provided to older persons.  As a result, the elderly lived longer, but often with fewer resources.  They were then unable to live independently, which meant that they became a burden on their households and families, with their needs often going unmet.

In many cases, he added, particularly in rural areas, declines in family incomes made it impossible to survive without the older family members working.  Their active working lives were thus extended beyond the desirable age, thereby putting at risk their health and even their survival.  The exodus of rural populations to cities meant, in most cases, that older persons remained in their place of origin, separated from the younger members of their families, and thus unable to rely on their support.  They were then forced to continue to perform tasks that at times exceeded their physical capacities.  International migration flows accelerated by the process of globalization also represented an additional burden for older persons, since they were not only deprived of the assistance of their younger family members, but also, in many cases, had to take care of the children, who tended to remain in their place of origin.  For older persons, that meant assuming new responsibilities with modest and often insufficient incomes.

DALILA SAMAH (Algeria) said the international social development agenda should be structured to eradicate poverty, promote the humanization of globalization and equitable distribution of resources and protect human rights.  In all that, it was important to recognize the impact of the increasing population of ageing persons.  Indeed the acuteness of the ageing phenomenon affected countries differently.  In developing countries, which could not handle the increase in ageing populations, addressing that phenomenon had become a priority. 

With that in mind, she continued, the upcoming World Assembly on Ageing should, among other things, produce an outcome document that would be simple, clear and easily implementable.  The introduction of concepts such as euthanasia, which were controversial or contrary to laws and religious values of some countries, should be avoided.  No social development could be complete unless all citizens were protected, particularly those that were disadvantaged.  Her country had, therefore, instituted policies to protect such persons, including the disabled, children at risk and the elderly.  The Government’s policies promoted training of disabled persons, with a particular focus on those that were deprived or lived in inaccessible regions of the country.

She went on to say that Algeria had also strengthened its economic services, health, communications, legal and regulatory fields and family protection. Finally, highlighting Algeria’s belief in the importance of cooperatives, she proposed the establishment within the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) a structure of technical and administrative support for developing countries to create a real and sustained cooperative movement, as well as an international fund for such a movement.

MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI (Brazil) fully endorsed the view that social development required the integration of social and economic policies along with democracy, the rule of law and the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.  The consolidation of democratic institutions and the strengthening of participatory mechanisms in Brazil had set the stage for enhanced partnerships between the Government, civil society and the private sector.  She said the challenges Brazil was facing in its efforts to eradicate poverty made development the country’s top economic and social priority.

But pursuing economic growth was not enough, she continued, and therefore Brazil was also directing efforts at promoting equity, combating social exclusion and the fulfilment of all human rights.  The agenda agreed to during the

1995 Copenhagen Summit, highlighting the need to further initiatives to promote social development, remained valid.  At the same time, the deepening economic downturn made international cooperation to further the implementation of those goals, as well as those of Copenhagen +5 more, necessary than ever.

She said her country believed the actions and strategies to be defined at the upcoming Second World Assembly on Ageing should be based on the fulfilment of all human rights for older persons.  Brazil’s national policy on ageing set the basic principles which guided the activities of its older populations.  Non-governmental organizations worked in close cooperation with administrative agencies.  Also, a stipend was given to persons over 67 years of age who did not have family support or means to provide for themselves.  Brazil also gave a similar stipend to disabled persons.  The country had also undertaken two larger projects focused on youth: “Young Agents for Social development” and the “Youth centers” project.

HOLGER KALLEHAUGE (Denmark) said that through international cooperation Denmark aimed to prevent disability and improve the situation of persons with disabilities in developing countries.  To this end, Denmark had last November hosted the Nordic Conference on Development Cooperation and the Disability Dimension -- Good Practices -- Challenges of Inclusion, which was the first of its kind.  At the conference, the Nordic ministers for development cooperation adopted an ambitious communiqué in which they undertook to promote increased attention to the inclusion of the disability aspect in relevant development activities within the United Nations, World Bank, European Union and international development organizations.

Since last year's meeting of the Third Committee, he continued, one of the most important steps forward had been the seminar on human rights and disability, held last November in Sweden.  Its conclusion was that disability was not only a social, but also very much a human rights issue.  During the past decade, it looked as if there had been development in the international field of disability towards establishing legal rights for persons with disabilities, as a supplement to traditional welfare policy.  Welfare policy based on goodwill from governments and disability rights should be seen as complementary instruments, to secure equal opportunities for persons with disabilities at the national level.

JEPPE NYBO JORGENSEN, Danish Youth Council, speaking on behalf of Denmark’s youth delegation, said that today a great portion of the world’s population was between the ages of 15 and 24.  In spite of that fact, international attention was seldom drawn to the challenges youth populations faced.  It was true that millions of young people lived in extreme poverty, far too many were at risk of being infected by the AIDS virus, and most of the world’s youth would never have the opportunity to influence decisions concerning their own lives.  Youth, he said, was the most easily accessible natural resource in the world, and at the same time probably the most ignored.  Young people were not only the future, they were also the present.

Since it was well known that a young person’s access to basic necessities depended largely on his or her place of birth, he called upon Member States to fulfil their commitments to official development assistance (ODA) as a minimum guarantee to help youth realize those needs.  It was also imperative that all States work to solve the problems of all those less fortunate.  Political leadership was needed, particularly when it came to the global and national struggle against the spread of HIV/AIDS.  As a minimum, governments should include in the curricula of all educational institutions programmes focusing on sexual and reproductive health.

SHEN GUOFANG (China) said healthy, stable, well-balanced and comprehensive social development was not only the objective for economic progress, but also an important representation of the progress of human civilization.  The special session of the United Nations General Assembly on Social Development, held last year, further reviewed and evaluated the implementation of the outcome of the

1995 Social Summit and put forward new initiatives, thus laying out a stronger foundation for international cooperation in this field.

In order to translate into reality the proposals and initiatives put forward, countries had to join hands in a common effort to this end.  First, a peaceful and stable international environment constituted the precondition for the realization of social development.  Further, international cooperation for social development should be stepped up.  It was a responsibility squarely on the shoulders of governments and peoples of countries to seek their own social development.  Nowadays, however the whole world was closely linked together in economic and social development, since globalization was well under way.  Lastly, in promoting social development, attention had to be paid to old people, women, children, the disabled and other vulnerable groups.  Their interests had to be fully accommodated in the planning at national levels.  Only by so doing could a healthy, comprehensive, coordinated and well-balanced social development be achieved.

DINA KOROZHANA (Ukraine) said there needed to be a rebuilding of the contemporary architecture for international financial and economic cooperation, in order to bridge the gap between the extremes of poverty and wealth.  At the same time she stressed that every State should realize its crucial role in advancing people-centred sustainable development through actions to develop and maintain policies aimed at eradicating poverty and enhancing productive employment, universal and equal access to basic social services, social protection and support for disadvantaged and vulnerable groups.

Aiming to achieve tangible results on this road, the President and the Government of Ukraine worked consistently to translate international social strategies and policies into national programmes.  The development of a socially-oriented economy, and the enhancement of social policy based on the efficient use of existing resources, were among the ideas incorporated in the Presidential Initiative that aimed for social development in Ukraine between 2001 and 2004.  Poverty eradication remained at the centre of the national policy agenda in Ukraine.  In order to resolve the problem, it was implementing the programme on prevention of poverty, which included provisions relating to citizens' constitutional rights through a system of national minimum standards, as well as efforts at motivation of work efficacy, and increasing incomes through a system of raises for minimum wage earners and improvement of the social security system.

CATHERINE OTITI (Uganda) said all the issues before the Committee today broadly reflected the effects of inequality of opportunities and access.  The challenge the world faced in trying to establish a society of equals was greater than ever, as poverty seemed to be spreading as populations continued to grow.  That situation was exacerbated by the spread of disease and the overall lack of capacity of developing countries to meet the needs of their populations.  She was therefore pleased with the continued commitment to the successful launch of the global campaign for the eradication of poverty.

Commitment to that goal would further enhance the advocacy campaigns under way.  She hoped that an international environment conducive to sustained economic growth would be cultivated to make those campaigns a success.  She also reaffirmed her Government’s political will to work towards realizing literacy goals for all, with special emphasis on youth.  Uganda also applauded the work of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in helping promote a global strategy to sensitize the international community to broad education issues.

She went on to highlight the important role played by a number of United Nations agencies in efforts to remove the barriers faced by the world’s disabled populations, particularly in poor countries.  It was also encouraging that the world would soon embark on a process culminating in the adoption of an action plan on ageing.  Overall, it was clear that ensuring equitable and sustainable social development required dedicated attention.  Although social change did not always translate into social development, the fact that pervasive economic stagnation prevented social progress could not be ignored.

ANNE BEATHE KRISTIANSEN (Norway) said young people were an enormous resource.  They were committed to combating injustice and poverty for the sake of the future to be shared by all.  This meant that all Member States, as well as the United Nations system itself, were facing the challenge of empowering young people and encouraging and facilitating their participation in national and international policy-making.  Member States were called to implement the Dakar Youth Empowerment Strategy, adopted by the fourth World Youth Forum held last August.  If true empowerment was to be achieved, however, there were a number of measures that had to be taken, she said.  United Nations agencies should improve their routines for dialogue with non-governmental organizations (NGOs).  Members States were also encouraged to consider strengthening the United Nations Youth Unit so that efforts to promote young people's influence in the United Nations could continue and a global youth dialogue could be facilitated.

The recent tragic events had once again demonstrated how closely the peoples and nations of the world were interlinked.  Any issue concerning security and peace concerned young people.  No issue could be more important for coming generations than peace on earth.  To avoid the escalation of violence and terror, there had to be investments in health, education and participation, especially for the young.

Education was perhaps the single most important factor in development, she said.  And yet there were still 130 million children who had no access to primary education -- a denial of fundamental human rights.  Moreover, the communities where those children grew up were being denied the foundations for future development.  According to the Secretary-General, when he addressed the World Educational Forum last year, of the millions of children who should have been in school, two thirds were girls.  No development strategy was better than one that involved women as central players.  Educating girls was a social development policy that worked.

PAPA LOUIS FALL(Senegal) said the Fourth World Youth Forum which had been held in his country had resulted in the “Dakar Strategy” aimed at strengthening the international capacity for youth action.  The international community had also been invited to create the best possible initiatives for the protection and promotion of youth and youth activities, including:  the social integration of young people, the situation of young women and girls, combating armed conflicts, and sports.  Delegates at the Forum had expressed concerns about the worsening situation of youth, particularly in developing countries.  They reiterated their concerns about the effects of massive violations of human rights, forced labour and the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

He said the Forum had also identified the responsibilities of young people as well as that of world governments and civil society in the fight against HIV/AIDS.  While progress had been made in education, widespread inequities had led to a situation where tens of millions of children had been excluded from equal education.  The Dakar framework had called on governments to elaborate education policies that would help disadvantaged members of world youth populations.  That strategy also invited the United Nations to enhance youth participation in the work of the Organization. 

With all that in mind, he said Senegal insisted that the Dakar Strategy be fully considered by the United Nations, as it fell within the scope of preparations for the promotion of youth activities for the year 2000 and beyond. It could be an important tool that could be used by decision-makers to guarantee a coherent approach to the problems of young people.  The President of Senegal had always supported the virtues of youth, and he considered the promotion and protection of their rights a way to establish a world of justice and peace for all.

KIRSTEN HAGON (Australia) said young people deserved to have their views represented and to participate in decision-making, especially about the world they would inherit and pass on to future generations.  Australia had undertaken a number of initiatives to enable young people to put forward their views, to enable a greater number of youth to participate, and to involve young people in key decision-making processes.  The National Youth Policy gave priority to communication between the Government and youth, as well as enhancing the image of young people.  A National Youth Week highlighted the positive contribution of young people to society, focusing on their issues and concerns.  Other initiatives included national youth media awards to promote a positive image for young people, a youth information Web site with information on youth specific services and resources, and forums that allowed youth to communicate directly to the Government on issues that affected them.

Poverty, malnutrition, HIV infection, and lack of access to proper health services and education were major hurdles to youth development around the world.  Those problems not only affected youth today, but also threatened future generations.  International efforts were vital to addressing some of the most insurmountable barriers to youth empowerment and participation.  Australia recognized that mass poverty was an issue of fundamental importance.  Australia also recognized that education was the most basic building block for development and an essential prerequisite for empowerment and the participation of young people.  Violence, intolerance, armed conflict and hatred had devastating effects on young people worldwide.  But young people could also provide the hope for a peaceful, secure and less violent future.

ARTHUR C.I. MBANEFO (Nigeria) said there was an array of reports before the Committee touching on a wide range of social issues and calling for urgent action. Nigeria hoped that those issues would receive the attention they deserved.  The 2001 report on the world social situation presented a very gloomy picture of the global socio-economic landscape, as disparity in income between the developed and developing countries continued to widen.  Globalization and technological innovations in information and communication, structural adjustment programmes and liberalization policies, including privatization and deregulation, had led to further deterioration of social services in less developed countries.  The report also observed that the number of democratically elected governments had increased in recent years, leading to more open discussion on civil and political rights.  Unfortunately, however, those emergent democracies had not bee able to bring about material democratic dividends to distinguish them from preceding governments.  This had led to a rise in the number of social movements experiencing dissatisfaction with various aspects of governmental systems.

Improving the quality of life for Nigeria's youth remained a top priority for the Government.  It was recognized that economic success could only be achieved when the situation of youth was addressed.  The strategy adopted by the Government to achieve this included tailoring the educational needs of young people to equip them with productive skills.  The aim was to engage youth in productive endeavours and to reduce the risk of exposure to social problems arising from massive youth unemployment.  Nigeria had put in place the Universal Basic Education Programme with the objective of making education at primary and junior secondary school levels compulsory and free.

DMITRY KNYAZHINSKIY (Russian Federation) said the process of globalization clearly gave rise to new risks.  The global threat of international terrorism remained, and many countries were not able to take advantage of technological advances that could help combat it.  The report of the Secretary-General showed that the key issues of the World Social Summit and its follow-up conference required constant focus and monitoring.  In recent years, the Russian Government had allocated more and more budgetary funds towards social development and social needs.  For the first time in the history of Russia, expenditures for education were higher than expenditures for defence.

Russia had adopted a programme of social development until 2010.  Its aims were to reduce poverty, stimulate salary growth, and ensure that the population at large had access to jobs.  A substantial factor in solving those problems would be a social policy aimed at strengthening families and the proper rearing of children.  Russia was satisfied that the Secretary-General's report aimed at the situation of youth, and referred to the importance of recognizing and strengthening the role of youth.  They were the most important resource of the world today.  Next year's Madrid Conference on Ageing could address real issues challenging the modern world.  Russia supported the results of the first preparatory conference on the Madrid Forum.

ABDULLAH EID SALMAN AL-SULAITI (Qatar) said the Copenhagen Summit had highlighted the need for the promotion of employment, eradication of poverty and access to a decent life, particularly for women and elderly and disabled persons. It was therefore discouraging that a large number of people still lived in poverty, many with no hope of turning their situation around.  This was due mainly to underdevelopment, marginalization and foreign debt.  The international community should find means to eradicate poverty as a matter of priority.  The United Nations should also increase its support for national programmes in that regard.  Developed countries should recognize their responsibility by providing technical resources, among other things.  Employment opportunities should be increased at all levels.

He said that poverty eradication was at the core of the international debate on social development.  To that end international financial institutions should be aware of the role they played.  The global community should ensure the cancellation of foreign debt for developing countries.  There should also be access to markets and products of the developed countries.  Qatar had always invested in broad initiatives to ensure the protection of humankind.  It had undertaken a number of measures that ensured the integration of women into the most important sectors of society.  The country was also concerned with the protection and advancement of the family and the elderly.  Elderly persons were held in great esteem in Qatar, and it was hoped that the upcoming World Summit on Ageing would enhance international protection for older persons and promotion of their rights.

MASOOD KHALID (Pakistan) said the success story of the two social development conferences, in Copenhagen in 1995 and in Geneva in 2000, had been truncated, since in several key areas marginal or no progress had been made.  Inequality within and among countries still existed and was growing.  Abject poverty and endemic deprivation, acknowledged as the root causes of underdevelopment, had since aggravated.  Social exclusion and marginalization had further increased.  Epidemics like HIV/AIDS and malaria had virtually brought the process of development to a grinding halt.  Terrorism had surfaced as a major threat to humanity.  Pakistan had committed its full support to international efforts in the fight against that universal evil.  That principled position was based on the total abhorrence of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including State terrorism.

The advent of globalization, which coincided with the post-Copenhagen era, had ushered in new challenges as well as unique opportunities.  Determined efforts were required to contain the negative impact of globalization and to ensure equal distribution of its benefits.  Broad and sustained efforts, including policies and measures at the global level corresponding to the needs of developing countries, were crucial.  World leaders had acknowledged this during the Millennium Summit.  The United Nations had to be empowered to play a high profile and meaningful role in defining the global economic agenda for the new millennium.

There was fear of an impending humanitarian tragedy in the face of the current crisis, as millions of Afghans were leaving their homes.  Pakistan, which had been home to the world's largest refugee population for more than two decades, was faced with a massive influx of more than 1.5 million Afghan refugees.  It was hoped that the international community would respond to this humanitarian challenge swiftly and effectively.  Success would depend on the ability of the international community to operate in unfavourable environments.  There was optimism that Pakistan's friends in the international community would stand by it in the current testing times.

GARETH HOWELL, of the International Labour Organization (ILO), said that there was a growing polarization in the pattern of globalization:  while in many parts of the world incomes were on the rise and innovation flourished, elsewhere, there was persistent social and economic inequality and exclusion.  The

international community must strengthen the global capacity to promote the social and economic interests of all people.  The test of the global economy was its capacity to deliver decent work -- jobs now, as well as future prospects, adequate working conditions and wok balanced with family life.  For most people, jobs which provided a fair income were the best way out of poverty.

He said the ILO sought to marry employment-related rights, social dialogue and social protection with a growth and development agenda built around employment, enterprise and economic development.  He highlighted his organization’s efforts aimed at protecting the rights of disabled persons at work. On youth, he said that today over 70 million young people were unemployed.  The Secretary-General had committed himself, with the heads of the World Bank and the ILO, to establish a policy network on youth employment.  The network’s high-level panel met last July and emphasized four top priorities, including, employability through investment in education and vocational training, equal opportunities for young men and women, entrepreneurship and creation of employment as a central feature of macroeconomic and other public policies.

RICHARD LEETE, of the United Nations Population Fund, said there was broad awareness of the demographic imperatives the world faced and the attendant challenges that came with it.  More than ever, this was the time for global celebration of one of humankind's greatest achievements -- the extension of human life expectancy.  Population ageing had become a phenomenon of major significance to all societies at the dawn of the twenty-first century.  Globally, one out of every 10 persons was age 60 or over.  By 2020, the corresponding figure would be about one out of every eight.  The large proportions of older persons in the more developed countries had attracted a great deal of supportive concern.  By contrast, relatively little attention had been directed to the rapidly changing population structure in less developed countries.  In the past, preoccupation with rapid population growth had over-shadowed age composition.  But the scale and extent of population ageing in developing countries was beginning to see a major shift in focus.  In fact, most of the elderly lived in the less developed regions.  In numerical terms, less developed regions had around 350 million persons aged

60 and over in 2000, compared with around 225 million in more developed regions.  Those totals were expected to rise markedly in the decades ahead.

The United Nations held a series of global conferences and summits in the last decade to set a number of mutually reinforcing goals and targets for eradicating poverty and realizing human rights, he said.  At the Millennium Summit, world leaders agreed that those goals should be at the centre of the development agenda.  And a focus on goals and targets was entirely consistent with a rights-based approach to development.  Of course, people were not simply numbers.  Yet, goals, targets and indicators could inform on overall improvements in the quality of life -- of which women's empowerment and gender equality were crucial dimensions.  The Millennium Development Goals, when disaggregated by age and sex, provided a focus for meeting the basic needs of older persons, especially the poor.

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For information media. Not an official record.