|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-second General Assembly
3rd & 4th Meetings (AM & PM)
PROBLEMS OF YOUNGER GENERATION HIGHLIGHTED AS ASSEMBLY’S SOCIAL
COMMITTEE CONTINUES REVIEW OF DEVELOPMENT ISSUES
Youth Delegates Win Approval; Debate Focuses on Global
Efforts to Meet International Goals Set by United Nations
The particular problems of youth were highlighted today as the General Assembly’s Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) continued its review of social development questions. Many countries were represented by younger delegates, whose contributions sometimes drew applause.
The youth representative of Australia ended his statement by imploring the delegates to help young people around the world create a brighter and more united world. “Help us to ensure the branches of youth flourish,” he said.
Most of today’s speakers addressed their progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations at what was noted was the approximate halfway point between the year of their adoption, and the year for achieving their implementation, in 2015.
Comparing the state of world progress towards the Millennium Development Goals to half-time at a soccer match, the Danish youth representative said that a commentator watching the “game” would say that the players needed to work harder to win, because in this tough match, the strongest players had remained seated on the bench.
Several countries noted the importance of meaningful employment for all job seekers, and also the central role reducing unemployment had on other indicators of social development such as poverty. Indonesia’s representative said that in addition to promoting employment opportunities for all, States should also promote equal rights and opportunities for migrant workers. Educating the labour force to respect the rights of this vulnerable group of workers was also important.
The representative of Thailand commented that more than just employment was needed; emphasis on education and entrepreneurship went hand in hand with increased labour participation.
Commenting on the economic aspect of social development through employment, the representative of Myanmar said that, with regards to his country, the imposition of unilateral sanctions was an additional burden on the economy, which had forced foreign investors to shut factories within the country. He said this had resulted in undue hardship for workers who had lost their employment as a result of the situation.
Statements were also made today by the representatives of China, Egypt, Sweden, Switzerland, Honduras, Dominican Republic, Qatar, Bangladesh, Finland, Algeria, Brazil, Belarus, Germany, Italy, Iraq, Chile, Gabon, Norway, Slovak Republic, New Zealand, Angola, Viet Nam, Thailand, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, El Salvador, Morocco, Iran, Israel, Libya, Kenya, Panama, India, Senegal, Syria, Malawi, the United Republic of Tanzania and Eritrea.
The observers of the Holy See and the International Labour Organization also spoke.
The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 10 October, to conclude its general discussion on social development. It will then reconvene at 3 p.m. to begin consideration of its agenda item on crime prevention, criminal justice and international drug control.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to continue its general discussion of social development.
For background information, please see Press Release GA/SHC/3882 of 8 October 2007.
ZHANG DAN ( China) said that with its large population China had made expansion of employment an important element of its macroeconomic and social development policy. It also paid great attention to vocational training and re-employment of laid off workers, and worked constantly to improve the unemployment insurance system. Thanks to rapid economic growth, 5 million jobless workers last year found new jobs, and the registered unemployment rate in urban areas was 4.1 per cent lower than the world average. Vigorous efforts had also been made to improve the social security system that, by 2020, should cover all urban and rural inhabitants. It would be the world’s biggest social security system, covering more than 20 per cent of the world’s population.
An acute problem for China was ageing, she said. Some 143 million of its people were over the age of 60, which was 11 per cent of the total population and half of the aged population of Asia. Safeguarding the rights and interests of the elderly was a great challenge. In the past two decades, China had promulgated about 200 laws, regulations and programmes relating to ageing, creating a comprehensive legal and policy system for the aged. China hoped that the five-year review of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing would lay down a foundation to determine future actions and priorities. China was pleased that more than 100 countries had signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and hoped that its implementation would help further the cause of the disabled.
SOHA GANDI ( Egypt) noted the rise in global unemployment rates, and said that was contributing to increased poverty levels and causing social disintegration, especially in developing countries. Unemployment was also causing other social problems, such as illegal migration and “brain drain” away from developing countries to industrialized countries.
She said special attention should be given to salaries and enhancing the workplace environment by guaranteeing minimum wages, internationally approved working hours, and safety and health conditions at work. However, all of this was jeopardized by “the radical decrease” in official development assistance directed towards enhancing social services and infrastructure in Africa. Egypt considered providing every Egyptian citizen with dignified job opportunities the way towards creating economic and social stability.
GABRIEL EHRLING, youth representative of Sweden, quoted a neon sign at Stockholm airport that read, “I’m a citizen of the world. All countries are my home.” All generations were part of a global society, he said, and decisions made in this building today would affect people worldwide for decades to come. Recounting the story about the building of a skateboard park in his hometown Avesta, he said young people deserved to have power over their own fate. Youth-led organizations gave young people power over their lives. The greatest challenge today was climate change; an agreement stronger than Kyoto was needed. Youth unemployment was also a huge challenge, with 66 million young people without paid work last year. Without jobs, young people ran a high risk of enduring alienation and lack of power. Young people had to have the option of either being employed or creating their own living through entrepreneurship.
He said there was no alternative to a more global society. Outdated visa policies needed to be changed; freedom of movement did not need to stand in the way of national security. There was an urgent need to fulfil the rights contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. People were crossing borders not only for work or holiday, but to survive -- to run from countries where people were killed for loving another person of the same gender. Human rights should protect those who sought asylum, therefore a person’s sexual orientation must be considered grounds for asylum. Time was short and challenges were at the doorstep. He said the people of the world could not afford to have one-half of the population unable to contribute to their full potential. If efforts were coordinated, children and youth would be able to grow and feel meaningful, with the tools to make their ideas come true.
ADINA ROM, youth representative of Switzerland, said three rights set out in the Declaration of Human Rights and in the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights were of particular relevance to the situation of young people in today’s world economy: the right to a decent standard of living, the need for access to education, and the right to social protection. To realize those rights, it was essential to adopt laws that included them in national and international legislation, and to force non-State actors such as international corporations and financial institutions to assume their social responsibility.
Continuing, she said special efforts were required to eliminate all forms of discrimination -- whether direct or indirect -- against girls and women, immigrants, the poor, homosexuals and other vulnerable or marginalized groups. Discrimination was a serious infringement on the dignity of the individual. It was an obstacle to equality of opportunity and social mobility. The global action programme on the rights of young people was an important instrument. However, it was out of date and no longer covered the major areas of importance to youth today. That was why the addendum proposed by the Social Development Commission should be adopted.
IVÁN ROMERO MARTINEZ ( Honduras) said he wished to underscore the rights of migrants. “These are human beings who are seeking a better life,” he said, “and deserve our respect and solidarity.” The world needed to devote greater attention to the struggle against poverty. The full and comprehensive development of people must be a constant concern during the debate, he said, as this discussion concerned a fundamental struggle for livelihood.
He said HIV/AIDS had to be prevented and treated, and added that the struggle for gender equality was a concern his delegation shared in full. The United Nations must be in the vanguard to ensure the full and effective implementation of women’s rights in the world. Protection of indigenous peoples’ rights was also important. He urged Member institutions to make contributions to the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), since the organization was based on voluntary contributions. It should not be abandoned.
ENRIQUILLO A. DEL ROSARIO ( Dominican Republic), speaking for the Rio Group, said full and productive employment and decent work should be a priority for international cooperation. To that end, the member States of the Rio Group had incorporated national strategies and policies, including social dialogue. Unemployment was a main cause of poverty, and while productive employment and decent work were essential for sustainable development, the overall number of poor workers showed that for many people, merely having a job was not enough to ensure a decent standard of living. The region with the most inequality on the planet was still Latin America and the Caribbean; though most countries in the region were middle income, many people still lived in extreme poverty. The multidimensional character of poverty required new and effective strategies. That would help attain the Millennium Development Goals.
He spoke of the growing strategic cooperation within Latin America, through technical cooperation, exchange of best practices, and other tools of South-South cooperation. It was important for developed States to give 0.7 per cent of their gross domestic product to official development assistance. Greater involvement of the private sector and civil society was essential for strategies to eradicate hunger and poverty. Youth unemployment was a priority and the international community had to keep developing new and efficient approaches to it. The Rio Group unequivocally supported the Madrid International Plan on ageing, and recognized the important contribution of immigrants to the development of their countries of origin and destination. Concrete measures were needed to impede the violation of the human rights of migrants, no matter their status.
ALYA AHMED SAIF AL THANI ( Qatar) said family policy development should be a major focus of the United Nations Family Programme, and her country was a sponsor of a resolution to that end. It emphasized the formulation of national policies, implementation, evaluation and capacity building. The focus on capacity building initiatives would be a major contribution to achieving the goals of the International Year of the Family. And, the focus on family policy development would lead towards “consensus and the search for commonalities” with the development of a partnership culture, free of the ideological conflicts that might otherwise hamper the Family Programme.
She said her country’s newly established Doha International Institute for Family Studies and Development was a product of the International Year and sought to serve the Year’s objectives. It was global, supportive of United Nations initiatives, and focused on developing pragmatic measures and approaches that were beneficial to countries around the globe regardless of ideology. Also, a national strategy for youth had been developed for the years 2008 to 2013. Overall, youth programmes should emphasize the strengthening of national capacities to achieve priorities in the labour market. Qatar would focus on capacity building and institutional development in its international activities in the family and youth related field over the next years.
ISMAT JAHAN ( Bangladesh) said that, as one of the least developed countries, Bangladesh faced unique challenges. Inadequate progress had been made towards poverty reduction, and not enough attention had been paid to poor agricultural workers. There had been insufficient focus on the protection of workers in informal sectors. “Migration is not a zero-sum game,” she said. It was, instead, an indispensable feature of the globalized economy. Temporary labour migration provided a livelihood option, and renewed international efforts were necessary for free movement of those seeking opportunities.
She said Bangladesh remained committed to making progress in all areas of social development, and had developed a strategy agenda by decreasing poverty. The family was considered the most essential unit of society in Bangladesh. The country had succeeded in reducing both the birth rate and child mortality rate. It would be happy to share its experiences in microcredit financing with all interested countries in the world. She noted that Bangladesh had ratified the disability convention, and said ageing was a sobering problem for developing countries. Technical cooperation from developed countries was needed. On education, she noted that Bangladesh had the highest primary school enrolment rate in the developing world. Finally, she said, the equitable distribution of income, including between men and women, was a goal to strive for.
ARCHBISHOP CELESTINO MIGLIORE, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, stressed that economic policies could not be separated from social policies. In the last dozen years, there had been a clear trend towards greater inequality between rich and poor, between developed and developing or under-developed States, and within individual nations. The benefits of global economic growth had, in general, not touched the poorer segments of society. Only a few States had struck the right balance between a successful market-driven economy and the preservation, or even fine-tuning, of social protection. New forms of poverty had appeared; the elderly had been left on their own, sick people had no health insurance, migrants could not find work, and women and children suffered from family breakdown.
He said the 1995 Copenhagen World Summit for Social Development foresaw that rapid globalization would provoke renewed attention to the social dimension of economic development. Today, the world was suffering from the de-linking of social development from economic progress. The Copenhagen Declaration was still relevant, as it showed the way to overcoming marginalisation and to creating the conditions for all to benefit from economic development.
Individual governments had primary responsibility for social equality, but the international community had the duty to cooperate, by creating favourable trade and financial conditions and by rejecting conditions that would make it harder for States to adopt policies to help the less favoured sectors of society. Education was the cornerstone of all social policies. Eradicating poverty and full enjoyment of basic social rights were fundamental moral commitments; they were goals that had to be enshrined in all economic and development policies.
EEKKU AROMAA, youth representative of Finland, said the world was facing serious threats in the form of climate change and global warming. Today’s youth, she observed, would be living in the world that was created by today’s decision makers, and today’s youth would have to bear the consequences of those decisions. It was necessary to make sure that young people’s basic needs were fulfilled, including access to education, without which youth would have no possibility to form opinions about anything that happened to them or around them. Unemployment was also a serious problem, she added.
Although proud to be present at the General Assembly, she said youth participation should not remain a privilege of the already privileged few. Member States must act upon the commitments made in the framework of the World Programme of Action for Youth. What youth needed most of all was to be included in the actual decision making process that would be affecting them. Returning to the issue of climate change, she urged Member States to do everything possible to reach a binding and strict agreement on the reduction of emissions for the post-Kyoto period.
YOUCEF YOUSFI ( Algeria) said that social issues were a core concern for all States. Many regions were still hit by poverty. It was true that poverty and unemployment created a vicious circle that could feed all forms of violence and extremism, threatening peace and international security. Fully conscious of the challenge posed by unemployment, the Algerian Government had made job creation its main priority. Job creation programmes for young and adult workers, microcredits aimed essentially at housewives, and a pre-employment scheme for new graduates were among the measures taken. Such steps had begun to bear fruit: the unemployment rate had fallen from 17.7 per cent in 2004 to 12.3 per cent in 2006. Because employment alone was not enough to combat poverty and guarantee a decent life, full social insurance coverage was guaranteed for all Algerian workers and their dependents.
He said international cooperation had an important role to play, notably in terms of fair trade, with an environment favourable to investment and free circulation of capital and labour. Ageing of the global population was, without a doubt, a crucial matter for coming decades, not only for developed countries but for developing ones as well. Even after active lives, the elderly still fully took part in the social dynamic and made considerable contributions in maintaining social integration. Disabled persons faced prejudice, incomprehension and discrimination, even though they represented 10 per cent of the world’s population. It was a point of pride for Algeria that it had been among the first signatories of the Convention on disabled persons and its protocol.
MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI ( Brazil) said her country was fully identified with United Nations commitments to development. Fighting hunger and poverty, improving social conditions and promoting decent employment were high priorities that had been translated into successful policies aimed at combining social development and economic growth. An example was the “Zero Hunger” initiative that promoted nutrition and food security by ensuring social inclusion and citizenship rights for those most vulnerable to hunger. It encompassed a range of specific actions in such areas as access to food and strengthening family farming. Another family programme had helped lift 11 million families from poverty. A National Programme for Youth Inclusion would provide assistance to over 4 million youth who were out of school and without professional education in more than 4,000 cities.
Outlining other programmes related to initiatives on higher education, the elderly and persons with disabilities, she said more international cooperation was needed on promoting development while fighting hunger and poverty. For example, in 2004 her country had launched the “Action against Hunger and Poverty” programme together with France, Chile and Spain. A pilot project already launched was providing access to drugs at reduced prices. All the developed countries should become engaged in more forceful actions to help others overcome structural obstacles to growth and development. “Good governance will not suffice to reduce poverty,” she ended. National efforts must be supported by official development assistance in the case of poorer countries, and by access to the markets of developed countries.
SERGEI RACHKOV ( Belarus ) said his country viewed work on social issues as one of the most important and promising areas of the United Nations’ activity. Decisions of the Organization on social development, enshrined in recent years in many important documents, had contributed to the effectiveness of its work. At the same time, at the national level the situation in the social sphere had been ambiguous, requiring States to implement additional measures. Unemployment was a key obstacle to the development of States and needed more attention. Social policy in Belarus favoured growth and prosperity for all. A reliable system of social protection had been put in place.
In his country, he said, providing for employment had been a key activity, based on government programmes and regulations. In a report in June 2007, the European Commission stated that Belarus had one of the lowest indicators of unemployment in Europe; it currently stood at 1 per cent. Possibilities for work were being extended in smaller cities and rural areas, with attention given to creating both new jobs and conditions for entrepreneurship. Microfinancing and subsidies were available. For the disabled, employers had been compensated for providing specialized equipment; support was also available from a specialized State employment service. Education and literacy were important; spending on education stood at 6 percent of gross domestic product, higher than in many developed States, and its illiteracy rate was among the lowest in the world.
MARAH KÖBERLE, youth representative of Germany, said young people in her country had noted the year 2007 for two reasons: the G-8 Summit, which had taken place in Heiligendamm; and the fact that 2007 was the halfway mark to the 2015 Millennium Development Goals, but those Goals were far from halfway to being achieved.
She said youth summits had been held throughout the country to consider questions raised by those two events, including issues on development and in relation to HIV/AIDS and climate protection. As a youth delegate, she had travelled widely for six months to meet young people of all backgrounds and hear their views. They all wanted equal opportunities, not only in education but in developing their personality and capacity to benefit from globalization. Young people were often a step ahead of politics; the inclusion of youth delegates at the United Nations should serve as a model for youth participation at the local, national and regional levels.
Continuing on behalf of Germany, JONATHAN MACK enumerated specific demands of young people, including a strong and sincere commitment on the part of leaders to achieving the Millennium Development Goals on time. He said States should also provide equal opportunities to enable youth to benefit from education and work, as well as from the eradication of poverty. Finally, States should make a strong commitment to empowering young people, including by supporting the UN Habitat Youth Fund and by adopting the supplement to the World Programme of Action for Youth.
KARSTEN LAURITZEN, youth representative of Denmark, also noted that 2007 marked the halfway point on the journey to 2015, saying it was increasingly clear that the progress was not matching the responsibilities and promises made with the Millennium Development Goals. He compared the work towards the goals to a football (soccer) match, and said that if this were half-time, the commentators would be saying the game was going badly because the best players were sitting on the bench. He said new tools and untraditional ideas were needed “for the football match of the Millennium Development Goals was to be won”.
Global youth, who had the most at stake, wanted to make a contribution and to focus their energy and enthusiasm and make the world a better place by taking the Millennium Development Goals forward. He added that today’s youth, more than any previous generation, were also global citizens for whom the process of globalization had been a reality all their lives. Youth were determined to fulfil the responsibilities that came with the opportunities presented by that process.
MARCO DACRI ( Italy) said it was impossible to discuss global economic competition and growth without looking at the new generation. The young people of a country could play an active role, or they could be considered economic actors at risk. A high level of training for youth was a characteristic of countries with high growth rates; innovation in the economic sense was strongly linked with such training. He said the United Nations Training Centre at Turin in his country was a good example of good practice in training. There, the UN Staff College and related entities were all on the same campus, looking at the best ways to transmit knowledge between countries and across generations.
However, he added, training alone was not enough to achieve the desired goals. Policies on youth should be linked with economic policies to facilitate the access of young people to employment. Policymakers must coordinate with the private sector. Policies should also be formulated for the high growth sectors, in information and communications technology, where the innovativeness of young people could be an asset for themselves and the industry. Dedicated funds could be established to help develop the creativity of youth, whose participation in science could also be encouraged.
HAMID AL-BAYATI ( Iraq) said human rights were the basis for human existence and human coexistence. By the same token, they were at the core of the aspirations of the United Nations for world peace and development. The Government of Iraq was seeking to reduce poverty, with measures including social subsidies to the poor and projects to improve rural areas and the socio-economic infrastructure of those areas. The current security situation in Iraq was, however, a grave obstacle in achieving development, and was hampering the Government’s plans for development and contributing to increased unemployment.
He said terrorism was making the problem worse. Al-Qaida and the former regime were targeting the skilled cadres, such as scientists and doctors, with a view to impeding the development of democracy. Economic growth was slowed because a lot of resources were taken up by security needs. The migration of scholars, and the consequent “brain drain”, was a result of the tense security situation which, he noted, Iraqis were not solely responsible for.
He referred to initiatives towards development such as updating statistics and strategies to curb poverty, disease and hunger, and said he looked forward to a partnership with the United Nations in achieving a democratic and stable Iraq. His Government, he said, was determined to overcome the plight that bedevilled his country, and looked forward to returning to the international community.
IGNACIO LLANOS ( Chile) said that, to fight poverty and the shortcomings of modern life, social protection policies were needed. Economic growth was not enough to eradicate poverty; public policies were needed to underpin the social rights held by individuals. Economic growth did not automatically imply job growth. Escaping poverty through employment might be a worthy solution, but in Chile, in 1999 through 2004, for every percentage point increase in economic growth, the number of jobs created had risen only 0.2 per cent. Nor did economic growth automatically end inequality. Using the internationally recognized Gini index, Chile had seen 3.7 per cent growth in 2003, and the Gini index stood at 0.552 points; not much changed from 0.554 points in 1990 or 0.553 points in 1996.
To close the gap between rich and poor, he said, State-provided services were needed throughout the lives of individuals. After 17 years of democratic government, gains had been made in Chile in combating poverty. Women had a bigger role in the workforce, and the number living below the poverty line had fallen from 40 per cent to 13.7 per cent. Chile had three pillars of social protection; the first aimed to help the homeless and the live-alone elderly; the second directed at children with working mothers and those in low-income households; and the third focused on pension reform. New benefits, such as minimum pensions, had been made available to 1.5 million Chileans. The current aim was to reduce, over the next 10 years, the level of poverty in Chile to a level on par with that in developed countries; it had already succeeding in meeting practically all of the Millennium Development Goals.
FRANKLIN MAKANGA ( Gabon) said that, with the Millennium Development Goals, the international community had shown a strong political commitment in favour of human development, particularly in terms of reducing poverty and social exclusion. Gabon had subscribed to all international commitments in the area of social development. According to the 1997 census, there were about 10,000 disabled people in Gabon, for whom the Government provided material assistance, such as orthopaedic devices, and financial help. For children with hearing problems, a special school had been created, and there was a unit for the mentally handicapped at the Libreville regional hospital. Making the disabled more autonomous, and ensuring their integration into Gabonese society, was the policy of the Government, working hand-in-hand with civil society.
He said extreme poverty was one of the biggest challenges facing the world today. Significant resources would have to be mobilized at the national and international levels to meet the target in the Millennium Development Goals of halving extreme poverty by 2015. International cooperation would have to be increased, particularly official development aid. The Secretary-General’s initiative to create a steering group to realize the Goals in Africa was welcome. Gabon’s classification as a middle-income country put it in a difficult situation; it did not benefit from the facilities accorded to other developing countries, yet it still earmarked 40 per cent of its budget to debt repayments. Gabon thus had little with which to finance its development. It was hoped that future measures of international solidarity for Africa would take into account Gabon’s situation.
MARIANNE NERLAND, youth representative of Norway, said lack of access to clean water and safe sanitation was one of the greatest challenges facing the world, with enormous impact on the lives of millions of children and young people. She quoted the 2006 Human Development Report, which focused on the world’s water situation, as stating that the problem was not too little water, but lack of political will for priority to be given to safe water systems. She also said that, currently, water services were being treated as a commodity in the World Trade Organization (WTO), and that certain States were requesting it to be opened up to foreign corporations. Liberalizing water services was also being advocated in other institutions such as the World Bank, which had made it a condition for obtaining loans, funding or debt relief.
She said that privatization of water services had often proved to be a bad solution. There were a good many examples of rising prices, reduced access to water, and poorer water quality in countries that had privatized water services. Decisions on water issues should be taken at the lowest level with the participation of young people. Empowering young people meant allowing them to make informed decisions that affected their lives. Access to clean water and safe sanitation was a fundamental human right of children and young people which must not be violated.
She urged States and international institutions to withdraw requests for privatization of water services. Water must be treated as a human right, and water services should not be included in negotiations in the General Agreement on Trade in Services. She urged Governments to include youth representatives at all forums where issues that affected them were being debated.
ELENA DIKACOVA, youth representative of the Slovak Republic, said that for many young people in Africa and Asia, poverty, war, hunger and insufficient health care systems were everyday realities. Others faced social instability, lack of financial resources, unequal access to higher education, and racist and xenophobic treatment in their personal and professional lives. Those factors negatively influenced the level of their participation in the social and economic life of their countries.
She said the United Nations had many times proved that it was not indifferent to the needs of young people. The adoption, 12 years ago, of the “World Programme of Action for Youth to the year 2000 and Beyond”, the creation of the Youth Employment Network in the year 2000, and the conclusions from the forty-fifth meeting of the Economic and Social Council last February, demonstrated that there was a common will to solve the problems faced by young people. She said young people must use every opportunity to show their passion, enthusiasm, knowledge and energy for active participation in decision-making processes at the local, national, regional and international level. They were able to come up with original, innovative and constructive solutions and act as key stakeholders in diverse fields of social and economic life.
She urged that the voice of young people should be listened to, and a real chance given to them to be equal partners in decision-making processes. She also called for the implementation of the Secretary-General’s report on “Follow-up to the World Programme of Action for Youth to the Year 2000 and Beyond”. Member States that had not prepared their action plans for youth must do so, and also ensure their implementation.
Charles Kingston ( New Zealand) commended the youth representatives who had spoken, and the atmosphere they provided to the Third Committee. He said New Zealand welcomed the Secretary-General’s Report on follow-up to the Second World Assembly on Ageing. His country had three strategic priority themes for the next decade, related to economic issues, national identity and family issues. The family commitment of the Government also included a commitment towards programmes to help older people.
He said that, recognizing the importance of regular consultation with older people in the community on policy development issues, New Zealand had established an Office for Senior Citizens which led, monitored and promoted the New Zealand Positive Ageing Strategy.
BEN GROOM, youth representative of Australia , said climate change was one of the greatest concerns of young people all over Australia. On a “listening tour” of the continent, he had met with students in the farming town of Benalla who had not seen a drop of rain in a whole year, he said. But Australia’s youth, through education in their schools about the importance of conserving water, were teaching their parents and grandparents how to do the same.
Too many young people, he said, were marginalized and felt isolated from society because they lacked meaningful opportunities. Often, he noted, this was the result of a family breakdown. These young people needed the full attention of the United Nations, including the adoption of the supplement to the World Programme of Action for Youth. He also urged all Member States to consider including a youth representative in their delegations to the United Nations. Unwavering optimism was a powerful characteristic of being young, he added. The unprecedented environmental awareness and sense of community among young people were helping them make their opinions count. “We feel a sense of urgency,” he said in conclusion. “Help us to ensure the branches of youth flourish, and we will help you create a brighter and more united world.”
ADIYATWIDI ADIWOSO ASMADY ( Indonesia) said the world had made uneven progress towards implementing the Programme of Action agreed at the 1995 World Summit on Social Development. In her region of Asia-Pacific, the social Millennium Development Goals remained a challenge, even if great leaps were made in economic growth. Noting the daunting issue of climate change, she said the Bali conference in December would be important in that regard.
She said migrants often had little means of legal protection against exploitation, especially women migrant workers. States should educate the domestic labour force to respect the rights of migrant workers. Indonesia’s commitment to improve the social condition of its people was reflected in its process of democratization, as well as the highest portion of the development budget being devoted to education and health and anti-poverty programmes. Indonesia adhered strongly to the notion that the prosperity of a nation was directly linked with the health and vitality of families. She emphasized the need for coherence between the Commission on Social Development, the Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly. She said the effective, efficient and transparent work of the operational activities for development of the United Nations, as well as the work of the regional commissions and the Secretariat’s continued support -- particularly United Nations DESA -- could not be overlooked.
Where the Committee met again this afternoon, TETE ANTONIO ( Angola) said his country was deeply concerned with the rise of youth unemployment rates in the world. In recent years, he added, the Government had been making efforts to reconstruct the country’s infrastructure, with a view to enabling access to education and combating illiteracy. The country had adopted administrative reform in the form of a First Job Law, which sought to provide unemployed persons with an active working life.
Fully aware, he said, of the difficulties faced by the social protection system in Angola, the country had promoted the establishment of supplementary professional social protection systems, mainly by companies in the oil and diamond sectors, with a view to attracting and keeping workers. He said Angola maintained that, in spite of the central role of the State in the matter of social protection -- which in most poor countries was limited or ineffective -— private companies should also take responsibility.
NGUYEN TAT THANH ( Viet Nam) said economic and social development needed to be more inclusive and equitable. Economic growth was not always coupled with social development or increased employment, and the resulting phenomenon of “jobless growth” threatened efforts to achieve the global goal of full employment. Productive work and employment should be central to poverty reduction and development strategies, and all countries needed to work individually and collectively towards that end. On a national level, his Government had created a Plan of Social Development to bridge development gaps among regions and nationalities. It had also implemented a National Targeted Programme for Employment for 2006-2010 that set ambitious targets for job growth while placing equal emphasis on both quantity and quality of employment.
However, much more needed to be done to achieve more inclusive socio-economic development. To reach that objective, he said his Government would further develop and implement policies and programmes on social development, in particular on employment and minimum wage, and persons with disabilities. His country was grateful for the support and assistance it had received from the International Labour Organization (ILO), but he stressed that the efforts of one country were not enough. The international community should create an enabling and equitable economic environment for narrowing social and economic development gaps among countries.
CHIRACHAI PUNKRASIN ( Thailand) said no sector in society should be developed at the expense of others; it was imperative for each Government to finds ways and means to ensure equal opportunity for its citizens. The pursuit of full and productive employment and decent work for all was fundamental to social development. Having a good job inspired hope, affirmed self-worthiness and dignity, and created confidence. Youth employment needed urgent attention. While young people accounted for one-quarter of the working age population, they also accounted for one-half of the total number of unemployed. If the situation were left unattended, jobless youth would be vulnerable to the loss of self-esteem and hope, vulnerable to ideological manipulation, substance abuse and various forms of delinquencies.
He said emphasis on jobs had to go hand-in-hand with no less an emphasis on education and entrepreneurship. Education was broader than just going to school and graduating; it had to be lifelong. Genuine social development could happen only if society was strong from within; Thailand thus believed that a strong family institution was at the core of every strong and advanced society. The financial crisis in the late 1990s showed how, in Thailand, a strong family structure could provide a much needed social safety net. However, with greater urbanization and migration, traditional family structures had been challenged and eroded everywhere. International emphasis had to be given to that phenomenon, and a family perspective integrated into all policymaking. Thailand had adopted Family Institution Development Policies and Strategies for 2004-2013 as a compass to guide relevant agencies in working towards a long-term strengthening of family institutions.
The dignity and potential of persons with disabilities were important for social progress, he said. Social development efforts would reach maximum potential without taking into account an ageing population. Thailand’s population had been rapidly ageing, and in this area, it had no room for complacency.
ZHANAR KULZHANOVA ( Kazakhstan) said social development issues, including timely and full realization of the development goals, outcomes of the World Summit for Social Development and the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly, could be dealt with only through a firm commitment by Member States of the United Nations to global partnership for development, at the international and regional levels. Social development depended on economic factors such as growth, employment, decent work, social security and the protection of older persons, youth, and women.
She pointed to unemployment as one of the most challenging issues in the sphere of development and poverty eradication. While national programmes were important, social and economic issues needed to be addressed on a macroeconomic level, with sound policies accompanied by a balanced national development agenda.
She said the protection of youth, and youth employment, continued to be a challenge. Youth migration, on the national and international levels, was another important issue, since economic situations often led young people to migrate in search of a brighter future. It was important to study patterns of migration, together with related questions about challenges faced by youths in their countries of destination, remittances, employment and health issues.
She said Kazakhstan remained committed to timely attainment of the Millennium Development Goals through coherent work on the implementation of its strategy “Kazakhstan 2030”. Increasing the standard of living of the population was a priority of the Government, to which end social spending on health care, education, employment and other areas was being steadily increased.
ROVSHAN MURADOV, youth representative of Azerbaijan, said Governments should find more effective ways to engage young people in the development of their countries, stressing that youth should be seen as equal partners in the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
In Azerbaijan, he said, youth programmes were at the core of social development policy, targeted employment, support for young families, and care for vulnerable groups such as youth with disabilities. Changes to the 2002 law on youth policy aimed to improve social and economic opportunities for young people, specifically through the planned creation of a country-wide network of social service institutions and provision of favourable bank loans. A recently adopted “education abroad” programme, sponsored by the Oil Fund of Azerbaijan, would allow 5,000 young people to gain professional experience in developed countries.
The conflict with Armenia remained a challenge, he said, and young people were particularly vulnerable to displacement, economic and social insecurity and psychological trauma. More effective handling of their needs should focus on health, housing and education issues. He acknowledged the role of the International Labour Organization and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) among other organizations that had provided support for young people.
ALISHER VOHIDOV ( Uzbekistan) said Uzbekistan was giving priority status to social development. Every year, the Government implemented programmes such as the year of women, the year of family, the year of health, and others. The State budget for 2007 had increased resources towards social protection. The State increased social spending for families.
In recent years, he said, there had been widespread State programmes for the protection of women and children. The president of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov, had declared 2007 to be the year of social protection. As a result, a series of targeted measures had been implemented to enhance social protection, as well as measures aimed at preventing income polarization. Uzbekistan had also approved a law on charity and on preventing iodine deficiency diseases, he added.
He said that more than a million jobs had been created in the last year. This was important because a significant percentage of Uzbekistan’s population was under 18 years of age. Uzbekistan was taking steps to improve the social situation of the population.
CARMEN MARĪA GALLARDO HERNĀNDEZ ( El Salvador) said her country was dedicated to implementing the commitments set out at the Social Development Summit, the World Summit, and especially the Millennium Development Goals. It was a national commitment to enhance the progress that had been made in communities -- progress that should generate jobs and income at the local level. Basic services and the role of civil society would likewise be heightened. El Salvador was fully aware of the importance of job creation and decent work in tandem with social development, and social development was seen as a long-term undertaking. A role for older persons in that process was acknowledged.
She drew attention to the importance of the well-being of her country’s human capital. El Salvador’s social plan was an example of efforts that had been undertaken to promote social development. Such resolve was also to be seen in a series of programmes directed at the most vulnerable members of society, especially in rural areas. Employment was key to ensuring prosperity while maintaining social stability. El Salvador was a post-conflict country; it had thus aimed its efforts at creating jobs for young people. Youth employment was indispensable for poverty eradication; it followed that there had to be greater access to education. The role of the private sector in social development was fundamental. Regarding the aged, El Salvador was pleased to announce that a few days ago, its Parliament had ratified the convention on the rights of the disabled and its protocol. These instruments were seen as crucial tools to promoting social policy.
HAMID CHABAR ( Morocco) restated his country’s firm determination to fulfil the commitments undertaken at Copenhagen to overcome poverty and ensure fundamental rights and freedoms. Twelve years after the Copenhagen summit, he declared, 5 billion people faced a dramatic situation. Persistent poverty, plus rising unemployment, had raised doubts at the start of the twenty-first century. Morocco had undertaken measures to tackle poverty, with the personal involvement of King Mohammed VI. These included more budgetary resources earmarked for social sectors, aimed at making such services as health, roads, water and sanitation more accessible.
Turning to education, Mr. Chabar underlined the importance Morocco gave to education; its Government had put into place an annual strategy to confront the illiteracy which still affected 1 million people. It had implemented a programme to encourage the education of young rural girls in an appropriate environment. Morocco was proud to have been among the first to sign the Convention on the rights of the disabled, and encouraged other States to support the ongoing African decade for disabled people. Conscious that social development could not be complete without the full participation of women, Morocco had reformed its family law, a turning point vis-à-vis the role of the family and underpinning of the country’s evolution to a modern society based on a culture of human rights.
MOHSEN EMADI ( Iran) said that despite the commitments made at the World Summit on Social Development in 1995, young people without privilege and wealth were, today, struggling to get a foothold in the labour market. Older people were enjoying less and less security for a lifetime of work, he added. Employment had to be placed within the broader debates in order to advance an inclusive social development.
He noted areas of concern within the same issue of employment: growth in joblessness, informal work increasing globally, and economic and social liberalization. For the most part, he said, the results led to increased insecurity for workers. Iran remained committed to accomplishing the goals set by the World Summit for Social Development, and it placed special emphasis on improving health, fighting poverty and providing job opportunities. Also, in order to improve the quality of life for vulnerable segments of the population, he said Iran has started the privatization of state companies, selling shares in State-owned enterprises, and distributing some to poor and low-income people.
MEIRAV EILON SHAHAR ( Israel) said the scourge of abject poverty had to be addressed if there were to be a society for all. Israel believed that the first and foremost responsibility of governments was to promote social and economic equity among people, and to reduce dependency on the welfare system. To expand employment, Israel had stimulated its economy by allocating resources to develop infrastructure and by direct intervention in the labour market.
She said that while more women had joined the workforce, the results for migrants had been mixed. Progress had also been complicated by a notable increase in women migrants, mostly in low-status, low-wage and service production jobs. That had led to higher degrees of exploitation, violence and trafficking. As a country that absorbed migrants and hosted migrant workers, Israel had been making a particular effort to work with immigrants, and to facilitate social integration and gainful employment. Specific domestic legislation to protect the rights of migrant workers was in place in Israel.
She said youth today were better placed than ever to take part in, and to benefit from, global development. But the number of younger adults who left their family and community framework posed a challenge. Often, the security situation in a region impacted on youth, their education, employment and vulnerability. To ensure that such “at-risk” youth made responsible choices, community projects had been put in place to reabsorb such youth and offer vocational training.
She went on to say that ageing was an indisputable fact, posing new challenges and opportunity. With its elderly population growing twice as fast as the general population as a whole, Israel considered it extremely important to cooperate with the elderly when setting legislative policy, planning, and providing services. Services had become more equally accessible, and adapted for different cultures, including the Arab population. It was noteworthy that the Pensioners’ Party had won seven seats at the last Parliamentary election, with votes coming from a broad constituency.
Mr. SERGIWA ( Libya) said developing countries had continued to suffer from unemployment, abject poverty and other social ills, as the Secretary-General had pointed out in his report. Libya called upon industrialized countries to fulfil the commitments they had undertaken at the Copenhagen and Millennium summits. They should shoulder their responsibilities and remove all hurdles to development, such as debt burdens and depressed commodity prices. They should equally adopt measures to safeguard the net flow of financial resources to developing countries.
He said youth were the future of any nation. Youth unemployment was too big a problem to overlooked. Libya had launched “Qadhafi project” for youth, children and women in Africa in 2006, extending help with food, medicine and training with a view to combating poverty, hunger and disease, as well as to spread education and training in African society.
This year, Libya had also set up a fund for development and assistance to Africa, providing humanitarian supplies to States hit by flood and drought. It had also hosted an international youth forum in Benghazi city in August this year, which set out a number of proposals to encourage youth to take up political action and to participate widely in decision-making processes.
U THAUNG TUN ( Myanmar) said that more than a decade after the 1995 World Summit in Copenhagen, the global employment situation left much to be desired. Despite the growth of the global economy, the worldwide unemployment rate had increased, showing that economic growth alone could not guarantee more employment opportunities. The problem, he said, would persist unless national and global policies focused on job creation and poverty reduction.
He said globalization sometimes entailed uncertainty and insecurity for workers who relied on jobs provided by foreign direct investment. Unilateral sanctions and coercive measures imposed on countries also caused job insecurity, he noted. “Sanctions impact negatively on the economy of those countries,” he said. Unilateral sanctions imposed on countries for political reasons had caused foreign investors to close down factories, thus depriving thousands of workers of employment.
He noted that the realization of the international community’s goal of “full employment and decent work for all” depended on the international community’s ability to translate the commitments of the World Summit for Social Development into global action.
MICHAEL D. KINYANJUI ( Kenya ) said issues such as poverty eradication, creation of full employment and social integration could not be credibly addressed without access to resources, fair international trade, markets, technology, and a conducive environment for partnership. He reaffirmed the importance of creating gender equality, youth employment and social inclusion.
In Kenya, he said, the Government had established legal and institutional frameworks for women, youth, the disabled and older persons, in partnership with the private sector and civil society. The level of effective development cooperation, however, remained inadequate, and the goal of full employment was hampered by resource constraints. Despite Kenya’s unprecedented 6.1 per cent economic growth, unemployment had increased. Youth accounted for 61 per cent of the unemployed, he explained, adding that 92 per cent of unemployed people lacked job training. To address such problems, the Government recently established the Youth Development Fund, which sought to increase access to loans for young entrepreneurs, among other things.
He said Kenya was among the first to sign the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and was on track to ratify it. Further, the Government, together with non-Governmental organizations and the private sector, had introduced a community-based rehabilitation education strategy to increase acceptance of persons with disabilities.
He said cooperatives played an important role in Kenya, as the movement had provided a framework for rural communities to chart their advancement. He urged countries to provide predictable resources and implement proven initiatives to help change the reality of those who continued to battle abject poverty and disease.
MARY MORGAN-MOSS ( Panama) said Panama had taken action against extreme poverty, which had benefited thousands of Panamanians. Laws prohibiting all forms of discrimination had been adopted in Panama this year, including one which prohibited any kind of age discrimination. The national Government had begun a literacy project, where millions of people were provided with literacy training. This special programme followed a curriculum where people could learn to read and write in only seven weeks.
She said the protection of children and adolescents was also on Panama’s agenda, and the Government had instituted various sporting and cultural activities for young people. Awareness raising and sensitization actions on issues like street crime —- which had become a matter of concern for Panama -— had been implemented. All the social development programmes of the nation were impossible to list in such a short address, she said, but the ones she had mentioned nevertheless reaffirmed Panama’s commitment to the World Summit on Social Development in Copenhagen.
NIRUPAM SEN ( India) said the major United Nations conferences since Copenhagen had all underscored the role of productive employment in achieving the primary goals of that 1995 Summit, namely poverty eradication and promoting social development. But, a cursory glance at the progress made so far revealed a dismal picture. For instance, Sub-Saharan Africa had suffered a setback since the mid-1990s, and while the global labour force had increased from 438 million workers to about 2.9 billion between 1995 and 2005, the unemployment rate had risen from 6 per cent to 6.3 per cent. In addition, the unemployment rate continued to rise despite the fact that global output had increased yearly by 3.8 per cent.
He said a number of developing countries were now struggling to come up with ways to counteract the “jobless growth” trend and to reconcile market forces with the objective of “a decent work agenda”. Direct anti-poverty programmes were necessary as a social protection measure, he said, and it was also imperative that persons working in the informal sector be brought into the ambit of those protection systems.
He said India’s Prime Minister had recently emphasized the need for growth processes that were more inclusive, that raised the income of the poor, that eased poverty, that generated better jobs and ensured access to essential services such as health and education for all communities. Along with a series of employment targeted “Five Year Plans”, India had been implementing various employment and self-employment programmes, as well as poverty eradication programmes. Those initiatives had been targeted at both educated and uneducated people, particularly youth and women.
LEYSA SOW ( Senegal) said her country put great store on improving living conditions through its various economic and social development plans. Despite an upsurge in economic growth, a certain tension in social relationships had lingered, resulting from such factors as greater urbanization and the negative impact of structural adjustment programmes, which had had an impact on the family and on social solidarity with the elderly, disabled and so forth. The recommendations that came out of the Copenhagen summit and the Millennium Development Goals, among others, had been a useful frame of reference for Senegal in setting out policies, programmes and projects to combat poverty.
She said the eradication of poverty remained a principal concern for Senegal. To reduce extreme poverty by one-half by 2015, the State had put into place a robust economic and social policy, with sustainable solutions for vulnerable sectors of society. To heal a wide social divide, much remained to be done. Much importance was attached to the family; some measures had been taken to ensure the stability of the family structure despite global changes. A long road had still to be travelled to meet the Millennium Development Goals. Senegal appealed to all African nations and to all its partners to unite their efforts to lift “the dear African continent” out of its current situation.
WARIF HALABI ( Syria) said her country’s commitment to the World Summit on Social Development in Copenhagen was consistent. Syria had made enormous steps in this regard, and had elaborated a plan focusing on human development. In accordance with the plan, a number of legal and institutional reforms would take effect in the near future. By linking education and training, youth could face the challenges of the age, and both genders had to be provided with possibilities.
She said social care programmes were providing support for families, adding that there was a need to link national and international levels in relation to new developments. She said she wanted to protest the “policies of blockade and the disregard for peoples’ rights through foreign occupation”, which had lasted for 40 years, displacing Syrian citizens in the occupied Golan and denying them rights.
ROSELYN MAKHUMULA ( Malawi) said the provision of that decent work for all was critical for achieving the Millennium Development Goals. In Malawi, the agricultural and informal sectors were important for youth employment. For that reason, the country had actively tried to involve youth in policy development and implementation, with a focus on microcredit. In addition, it was promoting the establishment of community skills development centres known as village polytechnics, along with other rural social programmes.
She said that having signed the Convention on persons with disabilities, Malawi planned to ratify it in the near future. The international community should seize this opportunity to consolidate all disability related activities within the United Nations system, and to find ways of streamlining the reporting procedures for Member States.
Ageing issues, she said, had also been incorporated into national policies on education, social safety nets and soft credit, and efforts were being made to harness the energies and skills of older persons. The Government was taking more and more interest in matters concerning the elderly, now that an increasing number of them were caring for orphaned children due to HIV/AIDS.
JOYCE SHAIDI (United Republic of Tanzania) said her country had continued its efforts to implement the Copenhagen commitments. Its National Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty was being mainstreamed through three main clusters: growth and reduction of income poverty; improved quality of life and social well-being; and good governance and accountability. Tanzania had also ratified core ILO conventions and reviewed its labour laws, and taken steps to ensure that workers were not paid less than the minimum wage.
Despite efforts undertaken by the State, the problems of unemployment, underemployment and poverty in Tanzania have either remained stable or increased. Several measures to curb unemployment and to promote productive and decent work had been undertaken, including micro-financing and vocational training. In addition, the Government was reviewing its legal framework to formalize the informal sector of the economy, to give it access to productive resources and to place value on informal assets. She said youth in Tanzania (aged 15 through 35) made up a third of the population and 68 per cent of the productive force; thus they were crucial for spearheading development. Great opportunities for eradicating poverty and bolstering employment were offered by the cooperative movement; Tanzania had already seen the positive experiences that cooperatives had for women, youth, the elderly and the disabled.
AMANUEL GIORGIO ( Eritrea) said his country was making serious efforts to rebuild the country’s infrastructure, and the Government’s activities were guided by the principle of equity.
Youth should be empowered, he said, adding that Eritrean youth were entrusted with the task of defending the nation. The Government was concentrating its efforts to meet the needs of the most vulnerable groups, including people with disabilities. He said that unless the global community coordinated its efforts, achieving the Millennium Development Goals would be difficult. But, with coordination, the increase in poverty and hunger could be reversed, and eventually eradicated.
DJANKOU NDJONKOU, Director for the International Labour Organization (ILO) Office in New York, said that last year the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) had adopted a Ministerial Declaration which had recognized “full and productive employment and decent work for all” as a global goal, and as a means to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. By that Declaration, Member States requested the organizations throughout the entire multilateral system to mainstream full employment and decent work in all their policies, programmes and activities.
To that end, the United Nations Chief Executive Board had asked the ILO to take the lead in developing a Toolkit for Mainstreaming Employment and Decent Work, which fostered greater policy coherence across various agencies, funds and programmes on issues related to employment and the Goals.
On ageing, he said that in many countries, longer life expectancy had not been accompanied by longer working lives. While there was much debate about the impact of ageing on social security financing, that discussion had obscured a key issue: a large number of men and women were unemployed, inactive or worked in the informal sector, instead of being formally employed and contributing to pension plans. The ILO had played a key role in developing innovative strategies to meet those challenges and to facilitate extending working lives in productive employment.
He noted that during the 2009 session of the International Labour Conference -- on “Employment and social protection in the new demographic context” -- a general discussion would take place to develop an effective plan of action to promote policies and strategies to ensure active, decent, and secure old age. Turning to matters related to families, he underscored, among other things, the importance of addressing the work/family conflicts in developing as well as developed countries, both for workers in the formal sector and for the many families who worked in the informal economy and agriculture.
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