Commission for Social Development to Focus on Empowering Poorest, Most Vulnerable as Headquarters Hosts Fifty-first Session, 6-15 February

4 February 2013

Commission for Social Development to Focus on Empowering Poorest, Most Vulnerable as Headquarters Hosts Fifty-first Session, 6-15 February

4 February 2013
Economic and Social Council
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Background Release

Commission for Social Development to Focus on Empowering Poorest, Most Vulnerable

as Headquarters Hosts Fifty-first Session, 6-15 February


Giving the poorest and most vulnerable the voice and tools needed to lift themselves out of poverty is key to bolstering efforts towards and beyond the achievement of global development goals, according to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s latest report on promoting people’s empowerment, the priority theme of the Commission on Social Development’s fifty-first session when it meets from 6 to 15 February at United Nations Headquarters.

The Commission’s 10-day session includes high-level panels, more than 30 side events and consideration of five resolutions, as well as recommendations by the Civil Society Forum on promoting the empowerment of people to achieve social development goals.

Despite gains, nearly 80 per cent of the world’s population is without adequate access to social protection.  The lack of social, political and economic opportunities results in people living in poverty often feeling powerless to improve their position, as stated in a report of the Secretary-General on promoting empowerment of people in achieving poverty eradication, social integration, and full employment and decent work for all.

While more than 600 million people have overcome poverty since 1990, by the 2015 deadline to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, 1 billion people will still be struggling to reach that goal, the report said.  Future successes depend on including promoting empowerment for the poorest in the process of forging plans for progress.

“Empowerment is critical to poverty eradication and to development,” Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said at the expert group meeting on promoting empowerment of people which took place from 10 to 12 September 2012 in New York.  “Indeed, I would even say that any long-term solution to poverty must start with empowerment.”

Lessons learned so far along the road towards achieving the Millennium Goals have shown that investing in people is critical.  Partnerships with United Nations agencies have helped persons with disabilities to lift themselves out of poverty in Ethiopia, Kenyan consumers and slum dwellers to gain access to water, and indigenous peoples in Bolivia and the Philippines to register 1 million hectares of their land, strengthening their institutions and opening doors to participation in political processes.

However, the economic crisis and high food and fuel prices have slowed the rate of poverty reduction, the Secretary-General’s report noted.  Globally, 200 million people were unemployed at the end of 2011, an increase of 27 million jobless persons since 2007, and 621 million young people are neither in employment, school or training nor looking for work.

Many individuals and social groups continue to experience discrimination and poverty and lack decent work and a voice in decision-making processes.  In most countries, the incidence of poverty increases further with age, with member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development reporting that the average percentage of people aged 65 and over living in poverty is 13.5 per cent, against a rate of 10.6 per cent for the population as a whole.

To better understand how to promote empowerment and how the social dimension can be integrated into the new development agenda, participants at the Commission’s session will hear from high-level experts leading dialogues and discussions on the priority theme (promoting empowerment of people), ageing, youth, and the social dimension in the global development agenda beyond 2015.  United Nations Special Rapporteur on Disability Shuaib Chalklen will deliver a presentation to get Member States, local non-governmental organizations and experts’ views.

Side events span a range of issues, including one meeting organized by non-governmental organizations and workers and trade unions will discuss the role of major groups and other stakeholders in the post-Rio, post-2015 agenda.

The 46-member Commission, established in 1946, has been the key United Nations body charged with follow-up and implementation of the 1995 Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action.  Each year the Commission takes up social development themes as part of its follow-up.

Additional information on the 2013 session is available at

For information, please contact Eileen Travers, United Nations Department of Public Information, at tel.:  +1 212 963 2897, e-mail:

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*     Reissued for technical reasons.

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