1 February 2008


1 February 2008
Economic and Social Council
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Background Release



Mainstreaming Disability in Development Effort Emerging Issue on Commission Agenda

Employment, ageing, and disability will be the main topics discussed by the Commission for Social Development when it meets from 6 to 15 February at United Nations Headquarters for its forty-sixth session.

The Commission will follow up on its 2007-2008 priority theme of “Full employment and decent work for all”.  Under its new working methods, the Commission will conduct its first policy session and consider recommendations that are expected to focus on practical measures to promote full employment and decent work, a central objective of national and international policies.

As an outcome of the priority theme discussions, the Commission is expected to adopt an action-oriented resolution calling on Member States to take actions to ensure that full employment and decent work are central objectives of national and international policies.

The Commission will also review the preliminary findings of the first review and appraisal of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing, adopted in 2002.

It will hear the report of the Special Rapporteur on disability, and explore ways to mainstream disability in the development agenda.  In addition, the Commission will have to decide on whether to renew the mandate for a Special Rapporteur on disability.

Carlos Tomada, Minister of Labour, Employment and Social Protection of Argentina, will deliver the keynote address on “Promoting full employment and decent work for all”, on 6 February.

A panel discussion on 6 February on the priority theme will address national and regional policies for promoting full employment and decent work.  Executive Secretaries from the five United Nations Regional Commissions will present preliminary findings of the review and appraisal of the Madrid International plan of Action on Ageing in each of their regions in another panel, on 8 February, while mainstreaming disability in the development agenda will be discussed on 12 February.

Side events will be organized at lunchtime by Finland, Slovenia, the European Commission, International Labour Organization (ILO), the AARP Global Ageing Program, HelpAge International and others.  These events will address such issues as “Delivering as one on Decent Work”, “Stronger Partnership on Social Protection Coverage” and “Indigenous knowledge and full employment”.  (The full list is available at

In addition, the NGO Committee on Social Development, the Fredrich Ebert Foundation and the Department of Economic and Social Affairs will convene a Civil Society Forum, on 5 February (Conference Room 4) to discuss the theme “Making Copenhagen Work:  Decent Work for a Decent Life”.


The Secretary-General’s report Promoting full employment and decent work for all (document E/CN.5/2008/4), argues that greater informalization of employment and “jobless growth” are the main labour trends and challenges of today.

In 2006, 1.5 billion people, or one third of the working-age population worldwide, were either unemployed or underemployed, the report says.  That figure includes 1.3 billion people who, although working, are unable to earn enough to lift themselves and their families above the poverty line of $2 a day.

The report also points out that robust economic growth in developing countries has not always translated into strong formal job creations.  Rather, changes in labour markets have contributed to a substantial growth of the informal sector.  An estimated 50 to 70 per cent of workers in developing countries are in the informal sector, with agriculture accounting for 55 per cent of the labour forces.

These trends, the report finds, are linked to “deindustrialization”, which is characterized by a tendency in developed countries to shed manufacturing jobs, even as manufacturing output expands.  In developing countries, the growth in industrial output is not accompanied by a similar growth in manufacturing jobs.  Thus, in many developing countries, deindustrialization has brought a net transfer of jobs from agriculture to services, many of which are low-paying and precarious.

Recent developments in the global labour markets have led to greater economic insecurity and greater levels of most forms of inequality, adversely affecting the ability of people to maintain decent work and satisfactory employment, the report concludes.

The report suggests that there is ample evidence that economic growth alone does not automatically lead to jobs creation.  Consequently, a more proactive approach that puts employment generation at the core of both social and economic policies should be pursued.

In addressing a policy framework for achieving full employment and decent work, the report focuses on macroeconomic policies, enterprise and rural development, education, training, social protection, and standards and regulatory policies.

In that context, the report recommends that:

-- Full and productive employment and decent work should be made a central objective of economic and social policies, and incorporated into national development strategies, including poverty reduction strategies;

-- Governments should promote enterprise development, including the development of farms and rural enterprises, small and medium-sized enterprises, cooperatives and microenterprises in the informal sector;

-- Priority should be given to training and skills enhancement at all skill levels to increase the employability of the workforce and its adaptability to changing labour markets;

-- Social protection systems should adapt to current labour market conditions, in order to provide economic security;

-- Greater attention should be given to developing appropriate institutions and regulation, including frameworks for social dialogue, as important elements for effective and fair functioning of labour markets, as well as the adoption and implementation of labour laws that protect workers’ rights;

-- National regulatory frameworks should be reviewed and strengthened with a view to ensuring that core labour standards are fully enforced in both the formal and informal sectors; and

-- The United Nations system should pursue more effective mainstreaming of the goals of full employment and decent work into its policies and programmes in support of national development efforts.


Also before the Commission are the report of the Secretary-General on the First review and appraisal of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing:  preliminary assessment (document E/CN.5/2008/7) and a note of the Secretary-General transmitting the report on Regional implementation of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing, 2002 (document E/CN.5/2008/2).

The Secretary-General’s report focuses on ageing-specific policies, efforts to mainstream ageing concerns and on a participatory bottom-up evaluation of the implementation of the Madrid Plan of Action.  The report also describes and analyses salient trends and responses to challenges and opportunities of ageing.  It finds that income security, human resources development in health care, the importance of a link between research and policy, as well as the need to have age-friendly environment were the key areas of concern five years after the adoption of the action plan.

The report of the Regional Commissions on regional implementation of the Madrid action plan provides regional perspectives on the activities related to implementation, and underlines the challenges that persist for the ageing population in the various regions.  The report finds that progress has been heterogeneous at the regional and subregional levels, in accordance with the different demographic, economic and social characteristics of each region.

While regions across the world are committed to implementing the Madrid Plan of Action, the report believes that more interregional cooperation is required.


The Special Rapporteur on disability, Sheikha Hissa Al Thani, will present her annual report on progress of the implementation of the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities (document E/CN.5/2008/3) on 8 February.

The report details the Special Rapporteur’s activities during the past year.  These activities were largely focused on awareness-raising and advocacy around seven issues, including the rights of persons with disabilities, the need to develop strong disability legislation at the national level and the need for Governments to sign and ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The report also presents a summary of the phase II analysis of the results of the Global Survey.  The results revealed a great discrepancy in implementation of the Standard Rules between regions, as well as between Governments and organizations.

A panel discussion on 12 February on the topic “Mainstreaming Disability in the Development Agenda” will bring together recognized experts from around the world, including representatives from organizations of persons with disabilities, the World Bank, and Governments.  The topic is particularly timely, as the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is close to receiving the 20 ratifications required for the treaty to enter into force.

Other issues before the Commission are contained in a note by the Secretariat entitled “Full employment and decent work:  intensification of efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women” (document E/CN.5/2008/8), as well as a further note by the Secretariat on mainstreaming disability in the development agenda (document E/CN.5/2008/6).

Overview of Commission

Established in 1946, the Commission is a functional body of the Economic and Social Council.  Its 46 members are elected for terms of office of four years on the following basis:  12 from African States; 10 from Asian States; 5 from Eastern European States; 9 from Latin American and Caribbean States; and 10 from Western European and Other States.  As a result of the World Summit for Social Development ( Copenhagen, 1995), the mandate of the Commission was reviewed and its membership expanded from 31 to 46 members in 1996.

The Commission has been the key United Nations body in charge of the follow-up and implementation of the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action.  Each year since 1995, the Commission has taken up key social development themes as part of its follow-up.  Past themes have included social services for all; social integration and participation of all; productive employment and sustainable livelihoods; reducing vulnerability in a globalizing world; integrating social and economic policy; national and international cooperation for social development; improving public sector effectiveness; and eradicating poverty and enhancing social protection.

In resolution 2005/11, the Economic and Social Council decided that, beginning with its forty-fifth session (February 2007), the Commission for Social Development would be organized in a series of two-year action-oriented implementation cycles, which will include a review and a policy segment, and the Commission would continue to review plans and programmes of action pertaining to social groups.

Commission Membership

The current members of the Commission with their terms of expiry are:  Andorra (2011), Angola (2009), Bangladesh (2009), Benin (2011), Bolivia (2009), Cameroon (2009), Chile (2008), China (2009), Côte d’Ivoire (2008), Cuba (2011), Czech Republic (2009), Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (2009), Democratic Republic of the Congo (2009), Egypt (2009), Ethiopia (2008), Finland (2009), France (2008), Germany (2008), Haiti (2008), India (2011), Indonesia (2008), Italy (2009), Jamaica (2011), Japan (2008), Mali (2008), Mexico (2011), Moldova (2008), Monaco (2009), Myanmar (2009), Namibia (2011), Nepal (2011), Netherlands (2009), Paraguay (2009), Peru (2008), Republic of Korea (2008), Russian Federation (2008), South Africa (2009), Spain (2011), Tunisia (2008), Turkey (2011), Ukraine (2009), United Arab Emirates (2011), United Republic of Tanzania (2009), United States (2008) Venezuela (2009).

Additional information on the session is available at

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.