11 October 2001


Press Release

Fifty-sixth General Assembly

Third Committee

7th Meeting (AM)



As the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) concluded its consideration of social development issues this morning, members placed emphasis on the negative effects of globalization, manifested most visibly in widespread poverty throughout the developing world, as one of the major threats to social progress and human security.

This morning, the representative of Nepal said it was disheartening to note that over the last decade, the disparity in socio-economic conditions had widened.  “Islands of prosperity” had continued to flourish in “an ocean of unspeakable poverty”, he said.  People in developing countries were still living without access to clean drinking water, education, good health and other basic services of life.  This was an affront to human dignity and should not be allowed to continue.

The representative of Cameroon said the World Social Summit had been a chance for the international community to voice its concerns about poverty around the world and to undertake actions to begin the eradication process.  Unfortunately, today billions of people lived in abject poverty, nearly one billion were illiterate and some 14 million died yearly for a lack of adequate medical care.  This flagrant contradiction was unacceptable, and it must be remedied immediately.

Summing up the deliberations, John Langmore, Director of the Division for Social Policy and Development, noted that recurring issues such as debt relief, foreign direct investment and other topics discussed at the 1995 Copenhagen World Social Summit should be implemented at the national level to ensure sustainable social development. 

Throughout the week-long debate, delegations addressed numerous other social development concerns, such as the scourge of HIV/AIDS and widespread illiteracy in developing countries.  Youth representatives from several countries urged the Committee not to ignore the contributions young people could make to the international social agenda.  Speakers also stressed the importance of recognizing the contributions of persons with disabilities, as well as the implementation of policies to help them realize their full potential. 

But time and again, speakers returned to the issue of globalization.  Many warned that the global phenomenon, unchecked and even promoted during the last decade, had prompted marginalization and exclusion, making it difficult for some countries to implement the outcomes of the Copenhagen Conference and the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly.

Countries also touched upon the phenomenon of the world’s ageing population, pledging their support for the upcoming Second World Assembly on Ageing, to be held 8-12 April 2002 in Madrid.  Mr. Langmore said this morning that ageing was viewed as a major achievement of the twentieth century, and a major challenge of the twenty-first.  The Assembly would give nations the opportunity to look at best practices, and to decide how to move forward.

Other delegations participating in the morning session included Morocco, Japan, China, Sri Lanka, India, Sweden, Belarus, Ethiopia, Israel, Guyana, Benin, and Madagascar.

The Committee will reconvene tomorrow at 10 a.m. to begin its joint consideration of crime prevention, criminal justice and international drug control.


The Third Committee met this morning to conclude consideration of issues related to social development, including preparations for the Second World Assembly on Ageing in Madrid in 2002, and the implementation of outcomes adopted at the World Summit for Social Development in Copenhagen in 1995, as well as its follow-up mechanisms approved last year in Geneva.

HICHAME DAHANE (Morocco) said despite the commitment undertaken by states at the World Social Summit in Copenhagen in 1995, developing countries still suffered from poverty and malnutrition, among many other problems.  During that summit, leaders recognized that social development was inseparable from economic and cultural rights.  During the Millennium Summit, the world leaders again pledged to halve extreme poverty by 2015.

Morocco, since the beginning of the 1990s, had aimed to improve social development, and improve the livelihood of disadvantaged peoples, he said.  Expanding the access to primary social services -- drinking water, housing, and education, among others -- were the major guidelines of his Government's strategy.  The strategy benefited the people living below the poverty threshold, particularly in the rural areas.  Social development affected several sectors.

Regarding the war on poverty, Morocco had undertaken several efforts.  In education, his Government aimed to expand school enrollment so that all children between 6 and 15 would be enrolled by 2006.  The resources allocated to the Ministry of National Education were significant, and reflected the commitment of the country to education.  Regarding disabled persons, in 1994 a High Commissioner for the Disabled was established.  The Secretariat had established a Programme of Action that included important services for persons with disabilities.  For older persons, his Government had drawn up a national plan of action that addressed their needs.  Further, the Government had been active in the preparation of the Second World Assembly, to be held next year in Madrid, which would be an important conference to review what the international community had done to address the requirements of an ageing population.  Morocco had made progress in implementing nearly all objectives of the Copenhagen conference, particularly in health services and education.  But the developed countries needed to take the same action as the developing ones.  Action had to be taken to benefit the poor of the earth.

YOSHIYUKI MOTOMURA (Japan) said the global community was facing rapid population ageing.  While that phenomenon had been a major issue in developed countries for some years, it was now rapidly taking hold in developing countries. By 2015, Japan expected its own 65 and older population to increase from 17.5 percent to 25 percent of the total population.  The country’s strategy for dealing with the economic and social aspects of such growth -- including providing pensions and healthcare -- had been aimed at creating a society based on the principle of “active ageing”.

In 1996, he continued, the Government had formulated five general principles concerning measures for an ageing society.  Those principles covered working and income, health and welfare, learning and social development, the living environment and research.  Many aspects of that plan had been implemented at the national and local level, in cooperation with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), corporations and individuals.  Progress in implementing the plan was to be reviewed every five years.  On the upcoming Second World Assembly on Ageing, he hoped that the new Plan of Action on Ageing to be developed there would reflect current socio-cultural, economic and demographic realities.

Turning next to address the situation of people with disabilities, he said it was of utmost importance to respect the rights of such persons in order to enable them to live more full lives.  Japan had formulated a new long-term programme:  “Disabled Persons Towards a Society for All”.  That Programme aimed to assist persons with disabilities to achieve full participation and equality.  In addition, the Government had established a cabinet level meeting on a “Barrier Free Society” last year.  That meeting served as a forum for discussion of issues relevant to persons with disabilities by ministers and heads of agencies.  Japan had also shared with developing countries the technologies and experiences it had accumulated in that regard.(end)

YANG XIAOKUN (China) said in recent years, the world had witnessed continuous growth in the ageing population, a group that had contributed to social development and was in need of special care and attention from society.  With a large base figure in its population, China was faced with the increasing challenge of an ageing population.  The present population aged 60 or over totaled 126 million, approximately 10 per cent of the total population.  By 2050, that population would reach 400 million -- about 25 per cent of the population.  The Chinese Government had promulgated well-time laws, regulations and policies on the protection of the rights and interests of older persons.

The issue of ageing affected the political, economic, cultural, and traditional fields and many other areas, he said.  Earnest research in the present situation and future development of ageing carried important significance to the settlement of practical problems facing older persons.  Therefore, investigative and research activities had been carried out jointly by his Government at national and local levels, research institutions and relevant international organizations.  As China was a developing society, there remained a lot to be done to provide quality services to older persons.  China would continue its efforts to this end.  The Government also called for greatly enhanced international cooperation in this field to build a true society for all, regardless of age.

NALLATHAMBY NAVARATNARAJA (Sri Lanka) said his country believed that social development must be coordinated, well financed and based on a holistic approach.  It must also take into account the full range of human factors, including physical and mental concerns to ensure a rewarding and sustainable livelihood.  In that regard, Sri Lanka had for many decades consistently invested in sectors crucial to its social development, including health and education.  Significant progress had been achieved, as reflected by social indicators which showed increased literacy, school enrollment, and life expectancy.

He said that Governmental social development plans complemented the work being done by NGOs and the private sector.  Those actors had a critical role to play in the country’s social development efforts, including poverty alleviation and identifying employment opportunities.  The country’s experience had also shown that its population would be the third oldest in the Asian region by 2025.  Thus, the upcoming World Assembly on Ageing would be a particularly important milestone for both developing and developed countries to address the issue of ageing in a comprehensive manner with the aim of adopting a realistic international Action Plan.

BHARAT REGMI (Nepal) said there was growing realization that economic development should be accompanied by social and cultural progress to ensure that all enjoy the progress of society.  During the 1990s, many international conferences focused on social and economic development -- Copenhagen in 1995 was the first one to address the core issues affecting all societies.  However, it was disheartening to note that over the last decade, the disparity in socio-economic conditions had widened further.  The islands of prosperity had continued to prosper in an ocean of unspeakable poverty.  One-fifth of the world's population enjoyed 80 per cent of its resources, while the majority desperately toiled away, barely surviving on the margins on less than $1 a day.  People in developing countries were still living without access to clean drinking water, education, good health and other basic services of life.  This was an affront to human dignity and should not be allowed to continue.

Nepal had adopted, as the sole objective in the Ninth Plan, the eradication of absolute poverty within the next 20 years, he said.  Aware that without productive employment, poverty could not be eradicated, many programmes providing micro-credits for the poor had been launched.  Resources and development activities had been allocated at the local levels, helping to ensure social development and justice.  Nepal was fully aware that the primary responsibility for socio-economic development lay with the individual countries themselves.  At the same time, however, the developing countries, and particularly the least developed countries, could not achieve the target of socio-economic development without external resources.  Therefore, increased Official Development Assistance (ODA) and deeper, wider debt relief were critical for poor countries to achieve their social development goals.  Foreign direct investment and easier market access for the products of those countries to international markets were equally essential for socio-economic development.

A.K. BHATTACHARJEE (India) said the ever increasing interdependence and integration of global societies required closer evaluation of the impact actions in one part of the world had on other regions and societies.  As highlighted by the 200O Report of the World Social Situation, understanding that interconnectedness was never more important than it was today, as significant issues such as globalization, financial crises, the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS, increased poverty and shrinking resources were seriously affecting global dynamics.

The tidings were particularly grime for developing countries, he continued.  Indeed, it was no wonder that disruptions persisted.  An international environment that did not enable development or provide resources for even the most basic social services could not promote principles of social justice and human rights. 

The situation was equally grim for several social groups, as highlighted by other reports before the Committee.  One report showed that many governments had failed to reply to comments on draft guidelines for creating a supportive environment for the development of cooperatives.  India recommended that the guidelines be circulated again and that broader participation be encouraged.  He also hoped that the issue of youth employment would be given priority on the international agenda, as that was undoubtedly the most serious impediment to their empowerment, particularly in developing countries.

CATHERINE MAHOUVE (Cameroon) said the World Social Summit in 1995 was a chance for the international community to voice its concerns about poverty around the world, and to undertake actions to begin the eradication process.  Unfortunately, today there were 3 billion people living on less than $2 a day, one billion illiterate people, and 14 million who died for a lack of medicine.  This flagrant contradiction was unacceptable, and it had to be remedied immediately.  Cameroon, which was chairing the Economic and Social Council, had ensured that next year's high-level debate would be on education and health.  United Nations strategies could help in the eradication of poverty, but in order to improve the situation, these mechanisms needed to be implemented at the national level.

Social development for Cameroon, she said, was not only a priority, it was an urgent imperative.  Cameroon had done its part, and it was helped by a favourable economic environment, the return of growth and the aid of foreign partners.  Cameroon also had governmental stability, which was necessary for sustained social development.  Her Government had decided to make primary education free, and primary healthcare was made available throughout the country.  The most vulnerable strata had been the recipients of a number of initiatives.  This was a long-term project that needed the work of everybody.  It was imperative that the international community remembered that.

MARK KLAMBERG (Youth Representative, Sweden) said the participation of young people in decision making at local, national, regional and global levels was essential to incorporation of their concerns.  Young people were not only the leaders of tomorrow, but also the opinions of young people mattered today.  The work carried out by young people already had had an impact.  In some countries, young people played an active role in the development of a democratic system.  Among the different groups of society, young people had been among those who had been most concerned with the difficulties, challenges and opportunities connected with increasing globalization.  If young people were excluded from decision making at various levels and areas of society, it was not only a threat to their well-being, but it would also be destructive for society as a whole.  The youth of the world did not only want a better tomorrow for the next generation -- they wanted a change today.

One of the major threats to the health of young people, he said, was HIV/AIDS.  Millions of young persons were living with HIV/AIDS.  The United Nations and its members had rightfully raised the issue in various fora, conferences and documents.  As societies and social patterns changed, government policies had to adapt.  Policies that restricted themselves to promoting abstention from sex had not proved successful.  Policies on HIV/AIDS had to address the lifestyle of young people today, which was why information on issues concerning the disease had to be spread.  If it was proved that knowledge could not be provided to young people by their families, governments had a responsibility to provide adequate information.  However, information was not enough -- the most successful measure to stop the spread of infection of the disease was the use of condoms.  State leaders who ignored the importance of information and the preventive potential of condoms should consider their responsibility to the health of the young people of their countries, and the negative consequences of their policy choices.

ANZHELA KORNELIOUK (Belarus) said the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action, as well as other initiatives adopted, clearly defined that governments bore most of the responsibility for social development.  Belarus was building a democratic, market-based strategy that was taking into account the good practices of other countries.  One of the objectives set forth by her Government was improving the infant mortality rate, and increasing life expectancy as a whole.

Social development was linked with the economic growth of a country, she said, adding that over the last four years, the gross domestic product had grown by 27 per cent.  Her Government was also aiming to increase salaries and every able-bodied person had the opportunity to provide for his own welfare and for his own family.  Non-able bodied people were recipients of social assistance.  Over 98 per cent of the public was literate, and education was compulsory.  The international community had to help implement the commitments which it had made.  This was the real basis for ensuring social development of all mankind.

ATSEDE KIDANU (Ethiopia) said it was difficult to ensure social development in places where poverty, unemployment, conflict and both manmade and natural calamities persisted.  Moreover, decreasing resource flows, and the decline in official development assistance (ODA) had further hampered social development prospects for many African countries.  The situation for the least developed countries was even more precarious.  All this made it obvious that unless there was a swift and substantial effort to relieve the crippling debt burden, it would be difficult for developing countries to invest adequately in their own development or enhance their capacity to compete in a liberalizing international trade environment.

She said that in order for social development efforts to bear fruit in African countries, creditor nations and multilateral financial institutions should adopt concrete measures, including debt cancellation beyond prescribed Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Debt initiatives.  In order to create an enabling environment to implement the outcome of the 1995 Copenhagen Social Development Summit, her Government had put in place several relevant policies and strategies. Those included programmes on education, health, women and employment.  The alleviation of poverty and protection of basic human rights for women had been at the heart of most of those policies.  Much had also been done to increase the participation of youth in various social and development activities.

ARYE GABAY (Israel) said since the Tenth anniversary of the International Year of Youth, there had been many activities for young people in the international sector.  The international community, as a whole, and each country individually, should make it a priority to integrate young people into the decision-making process.  In civil rights and human rights, young people had proven their creative capabilities.  Economically, they had shown they can establish businesses, build computers and run systems.  It would be beneficial to have a great number of young people in all institutions of society.  Adults did not have a monopoly on wisdom, new ideas or the ability to solve problems.

He said young people needed to have the tools that had become available through scientific and technological advances.  It was the young people in the forthcoming years who would improve the living conditions for all people.  It could be beneficial to organize an economic summit, following the example of Davos, for young CEOs, technical directors and other business leaders.  Israel applauded the document adopted in Dakar.  If every society was able to adopt at least 50 per cent of its recommendations, then all aspects of society would benefit greatly.  That commitment would be carried out by Israel.

Regarding the remarks of the delegate of Syria, he said it should be stated that their own house had to be put in order first.  Her country was the last one that could teach the world lessons.  It would be better to talk about peace and social development.  This forum would have been better served in that manner.

SONIA ELLIOT (Guyana) said the current debate was taking place at an important time in the world’s social and economic development.  Indeed, leading financial experts pointed to a global economy that was steadily moving toward recession.  That downturn had been projected to increase the level of poverty and social exclusion worldwide.  It was clear that social development was closely linked to economic development and both issues would have to be examined thoroughly.  A long-term approach to social development was indispensable and must include all actors, particularly families.  Debt relief and market access strategies were also invaluable to ensuring full human development and social security.

Guyana, she said, supported the importance of empowering youth.  The international community must be vigilant in efforts to protect young people from the risks that disproportionately affected them, particularly the HIV/AIDS virus. To that end, all must fight against fear, prejudice and stigmatization in order to ensure long-term protection, support and development for world youth.  Her country also looked forward to the outcome of the upcoming Second World Assembly on Ageing.  In her own country, she said, the Government had taken several initiatives that promoted employment as well as programmes targeting all segments of the poor population, including the rural poor and poor youth communities.

ELISHA NICOLE (Benin), on behalf of Benin, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Côte D'Ivoire, Senegal, Guinea, Gambia, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Cape Verde, Togo, Niger, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali and Mauritania, said that group of countries was among the poorest groups in the world.  Social development fell primarily in the responsibility of governments, but at a time of globalization, those countries had to privatize and liberalize their economies, and that had not been done anywhere without difficulty.  There often was a need to bring the State back into the privatized area.  In the years after Copenhagen, many people still did not have access to drinking water or electricity, and school dropout rates and rampant illiteracy were high.  Progress made in settling these problems would go a long way towards solving problems such as armed conflict in western Africa.

West African countries faced enormous difficulties, she said.  Besides armed conflicts, there were problems with HIV/AIDS and other diseases.  Child labour and other problems continued to sap the strength and energy of countries there.  Still, those nations were working to improve the situation in health, education and employment.  The African Initiative pledged to set Africa on a new path, with peace and democracy.  The Initiative contained action plans for different sectors, like health and education, and the containment of HIV/AIDS.  With help from the Initiative and the international community, Africa could be set on the path of social development.  That would help realize the goal of halving extreme poverty by 2015.  Economic difficulties had a dangerous impact on the social fabric, as families suffered.  Parents housed children with friends, or in some cases with people they did not know, to give them a better life.  The elderly, at one time cherished, had seen their standing in society diminished.  Improvement of the situation of the family would help with the treatment of children, elderly and disabled persons.  The States of West Africa were determined to carry out their responsibility to work toward social development.

HELENA RAJAONARIVELO (Madagascar) said after studying the reports before the Committee, it was clear that globalization was at the source of the development gap between the North and South.  International development measures had sadly turned out to be too insignificant to reverse the widespread inequalities, such as marginalization, exclusion and poverty.  At the same time, globalization could have many positive effects on economic and social development.  It had been encouraging that the Millennium Declaration and the 1995 Copenhagen Summit on Social Development had both aimed at promoting globalization with a “human face” and thus ensuring adequate employment, access to economic resources and world markets.

While Madagascar understood that it was incumbent on national governments to promote development, international cooperation was also critical, she continued.  All must reconsider calls for the total elimination of debt and provide developing and least developed countries with access to markets and modern technologies.  For its part, Madagascar had instituted many policies aimed at reducing poverty, paying special attention to the situation of the poor in rural areas.  Those policies also placed emphasis on priority sectors such as health, food and water security.  Many policies aimed to improve the country’s economic performance by bringing the poor into common markets and encouraging their broad participation.

JOHN LANGMORE, Director of the Division for Social Policy and Development, said the current discussion was interesting and important.  For the first time, the Third Committee had the implementation of the Social Summit and its follow-up on its agenda.  Many comments were made about the need for poverty eradication efforts, with comments pointing out those were important in order to establish just and open societies.  It was stated that countries should take a stance against governments that targeted minorities or specific religious or cultural groups.  It was also noted that the follow-up to the Social Summit had been reinforced by the adoption of the Millennium Agenda.  Several countries underlined that inequities of globalization should be the main theme of the Conference on Financing for Development, to be held next year in Monterrey.

The impediments of slow economic growth and lack of market access, he said, were stressed by many countries, as were the lack of both debt relief and foreign direct investment.  Many said that the HIV/AIDS pandemic was a major obstacle to social development.

Many references were also made to the report on the world social situation, he said.  Some countries supported the United Nations Literacy Decade, and the Secretary-General's Social Compact.  There were many comments about ageing, persons with disabilities, and youth.  Ageing was viewed as a major achievement of the twentieth century, and a major challenge of the twenty-first century.  The Second World Assembly, to be held next year, would give nations the opportunity to look at best practices, and to decide how to move forward.  Several delegations highlighted the importance of barrier-free environments, and to ensure the full participation of disabled persons in all aspects of society.  Also, many spoke of youth, and the ability of youth to be playing a positive role in social change.  It was said that young people deserved a bigger role in the decision-making process at every level.  It was heartening to see many youth delegates address the Committee.  Social development had a prominent place on the global agenda.

For information media. Not an official record.