There was now a common understanding that social policies inclusive of persons with disabilities were a “sound” investment in society and that their exclusion from decisions came with economic costs that countries could no longer ignore, the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities told the Commission for Social Development today, outlining ways to ensure the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development built on historic gains in their recognition.
“We have undoubtedly advanced,” said Catalina Devandas-Aguilar, who was appointed in 2014 by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council. She recalled that when the Millennium Development Goals were negotiated, “we were completely absent” from discussions, agendas, goals, indicators and processes. There were no statistics or comparable methodologies, nor a clear understanding of the need to include everyone in poverty eradication.
Today, she said, the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, an expert committee and a Conference of States Parties all had been established. There were also “great chances” to ensure that the 2030 Agenda included persons with disabilities. She proposed that States build social protection systems that reduced their poverty and facilitated participatory decision-making. The Economic and Social Council could create a permanent space for the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to update on activities to advance the Sustainable Development Goals, she said.
Ms. Devandas-Aguilar’s keynote address dovetailed with a panel discussion on “Implementation of the post-2015 development agenda in light of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities”, in which four experts recounted experiences gleaned over decades of advocating for rights, respect and recognition — both at the United Nations and in other global social development fora.
Capturing the sense of anticipation around the creation of the 2030 Agenda, Vladimir Cuk, Executive Director of the New York Office of the International Disability Alliance, who moderated the panel, said that, at the time, he would have been pleased to have seen two or three targets included. “We have seven,” he said, thanking States for working with persons with disabilities to design the 2030 Agenda.
Yet, said Osamu Nagase, visiting research professor at Ritsumeikan University in Japan, it was “disturbing” that the 2030 Agenda referred to the prevention of “behavioural, developmental and neurological disorders”, given that such “ground-breaking” advocacy had preceded its creation. Services should ensure the best possible health for everyone, rather than work to prevent certain people from being born. He also pointed out the “nothing about us, without us” principle embodied in the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunity, which the Commission had helped to elaborate.
In that context, Li Xiaomei, Deputy Director-General of the International Department of China Disabled Persons’ Federation, recalled that, between 1955 and 1980, there had been a shift in how to tackle disability issues, away from a welfare perspective to one of social welfare. She pressed the United Nations to create a coherent intergovernmental agency to monitor disability issues.
In the afternoon, the Commission began its general debate on the “Review of relevant United Nations plans and programmes of action pertaining to the situation of social groups”, with participants examining the situation of persons with disabilities, families, older people and youth and outlining measures that aimed to help all people realize their full potential. Such efforts, many said, must be grounded in respect for human rights and equality.
To strengthen families, speakers underlined the need to support parental leave, help reconcile family and work life and improve conditions for vulnerable families, with some stressing that such steps should take into account the diversity of family patterns. Thanks to an inclusive definition of families, said Brazil’s representative, 36 million Brazilians had been rescued from poverty. South Africa’s delegate said no single definition of family could be extensive enough to cover all of them, given the multicultural nature of his country. His Government promoted the family unit as a way of fighting the country’s social challenges. Kuwait’s delegate called the family the principle unit of society, without which sustainable development could not be achieved.
Others stressed that when young people were included in decision-making and “nerve centres” within society, they provided a fresh look at problems and envisaged more effective solutions. Yet, said a youth delegate from the Netherlands, decision makers had largely failed to recognize the value of young people’s contributions to programme development and policymaking, stressing the need to raise the visibility of the World Programme of Action for Youth.
Still, others encouraged States to combat violence and discrimination against older persons, with the representative of El Salvador, on behalf of the Group of Friends of Older Persons, looking forward to the adoption of a resolution during the General Assembly’s seventy-first session that supported a follow-up reporting mechanism on the implementation of the outcome of the second World Assembly on Ageing.
Also delivering statements during the general debate were the representatives of the Netherlands (speaking for the European Union), Dominican Republic (also for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), Chile, Zambia, Argentina, Nicaragua, Switzerland, Romania, Slovenia, Japan, Italy, China, Poland, Morocco, El Salvador, Paraguay and Republic of Korea.
A representative of the New Future Foundation also delivered remarks.
The Commission will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 8 February, to continue its work.
CATALINA DEVANDAS AGUILAR, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, recalled that when the Millennium Development Goals were negotiated, “we were completely absent” from discussions, agendas, goals, indicators and processes. There were no statistics or comparable methodologies, nor a clear understanding of the need to include everyone in poverty eradication initiatives. Today, policies that included persons with disabilities were understood to be a sound investment in society, with exclusion having economic and social costs no country could ignore.
Further, she said, the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, an expert committee and a Conference of States Parties had been established, as had the Special Rapporteur mandate and methods for data collection. To ensure that monitoring and evaluation mechanisms included persons with disabilities and that progress towards the creation of respectful communities was measured, the highest level of political commitment was essential, nationally and internationally. Monitoring and evaluation systems must include impact studies of inclusive policies and persons with disabilities must be engaged through their representative organizations.
In that context, she said the Convention was a human rights instrument that was also dedicated to social development, and thus, informed the implementation of the 2030 Agenda from a disability perspective. As such, she proposed two lines of action for States to devise inclusive development policies: to build social protection systems that responded to the needs of persons with disabilities, reduced their poverty and promoted their inclusion; and to facilitate participatory decision-making. She encouraged the Economic and Social Council to consider creating a permanent space in which the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities could provide information on activities to advance implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.
The Commission began the day with a panel discussion on “Implementation of the post-2015 development agenda in light of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities”.
Moderated by Vladimir Cuk, Executive Director of the New York Office of the International Disability Alliance, the panel featured presentations by Osamu Nagase, a visiting research professor at Ritsumeikan University, Japan; Li Xiaomei, Deputy Director-General of the International Department of China Disabled Persons’ Federation; Valery Nikitich Rukhledev, President of the “All-Russian Society of the Deaf”, Russian Federation; and Christine Brautigam, Director of the Intergovernmental Support Division at the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women).
Mr. CUK described references to persons with disabilities in the 2030 Agenda as a “huge success”. Recalling that when persons with disabilities had begun advocating in the United Nations, he would have been “super happy” to know they would “finish that race” with two or three targets. “We have seven,” he said, thanking States for working with persons with disabilities to design the Agenda. It was time to consider changing narratives. For the first time, persons with disabilities had been recognized in an international development agenda. The two most important tools were the 2030 Agenda and the International Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities, both of which were people-centred.
Mr. OSAMU said the Commission had played a major role in the elaboration of the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunity, which stemmed from both the 1989 Swedish initiative for the Disability Convention and a “ground-breaking” 1987 Italian proposal. Given those historic developments, it was “disturbing” that the 2030 Agenda referred to prevention of “behavioural, developmental and neurological disorders”, as health services should ensure the best possible health for everyone and not be seen as trying to prevent certain people from being born. The Standard Rules promoted the “nothing about us without us” principle of self-advocacy for persons with intellectual disabilities, which he was carrying out by starting self-advocacy groups in Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam.
Ms. LI recalled that, 10 years ago as a diplomat, she had been negotiating the Convention “line by line” with her counterparts from other countries. The “Social Commission” was founded in 1946, before being renamed as the Commission for Social Development. From 1955 to 1980, tackling the issue of disability had evolved from a welfare perspective to one of social welfare. The two decades after the 1970s, when human rights were introduced into disability advocacy work, was a “golden age”, with the 1993 adoption of the Standard Rules that had mandated the Commission to monitor their implementation. Throughout, the Commission had been a driving force for United Nations work on disability issues. While she dreamed of a day when the United Nations would create a “UN disability” agency, she pressed the Organization to create a coherent intergovernmental agency to monitor pertinent issues.
Mr. RUKHLEDEV said his organization comprised 100,000 persons with hearing disabilities. Having gained Economic and Social Council special consultative status in 2007, it had worked to ensure civil rights access to information, education, professional training and employment. In the Russian Federation, the Commission on Disability Affairs effectuated relevant policies, while subregional advisory bodies included representatives of disability organizations. Interaction at all levels reflected the Government’s readiness to solve the issues. The Accessible Environments 2011-2015 programme aligned laws and standards with the Convention, with amendments made to 30 federal laws. The Government had extended the programme to 2020 to increase access to priority buildings and services, allocating $5.5 billion to complete that phase.
Ms. BRAUTIGAM said an estimated one in five women lived with disabilities. Women and girls with disabilities were more likely to experience physical and sexual abuse and remained at the margin of public life. As such, disability-related policies, programmes and mechanisms must respond to those realities in a deliberate manner, while gender equality policies must consider multiple grounds of discrimination, including disability, to ensure no one was left behind. Describing work by the Commission on the Status of Women to support women and girls with disabilities, she concluded with examples of UN-Women’s efforts to galvanize action, notably engagement by its regional and country offices with Government, civil society and other stakeholders in the collection of data relating to women and girls with disabilities.
In the ensuing discussion, Nigeria’s representative stressed the need to form a high-level technical panel to discuss the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, ensuring the participation of all stakeholders, such as persons with disabilities, academia, civil society organizations and local governments. The family played an important role in guaranteeing the inclusion of persons with disabilities into the society. He then asked about the creation of mechanisms such as disability assistance programmes within the context of the 2030 Agenda.
Mexico’s delegate, regretting that Member States had less than an hour to participate in the discussion, said one of the greatest achievements of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was linking human rights and social development. Drawing attention to the issue of limited resources, he warned the Commission against duplication of efforts.
The representative of Costa Rica underscored the importance of using international instruments to promote and protect the rights of persons with disabilities within the context of the Sustainable Development Goals. Thanking the Special Rapporteur for her valuable work, he asked the panellists how Member States could help the United Nations system to enhance data-gathering processes.
India’s delegate noted that his country was the one of the first signatories to the Convention, with the goal being to serve persons with disabilities at the grass-roots level. He then asked about the main barriers to social development and how to move forward.
Romania’s speaker asked for further information about how to ensure the participation of relevant national mechanisms without creating duplication.
The representative of Bulgaria commended the work of the Special Rapporteur for advancing the human rights of persons with disabilities and for contributing to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. With regard to the proposal for a new mechanism on disability, it was important to avoid duplication of existing mechanisms. In that regard, Bulgaria did not support the establishment of a new special rapporteur. The most effective way to engage the Commission in that important discussion was to ensure that a multistakeholder panel was held annually to discuss the Goals’ implementation.
Germany’s delegate supported the European Union’s position in relation to the Commission’s work and noted that close cooperation between United Nations agencies and Member States in a coherent manner was key to ensuring the successful implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
A representative of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) noted that the agency would launch a new module to measure child disability. She hoped that it would contribute to countries more reliable and comparable data.
Delegates from Ireland and Spain thanked the Special Rapporteur for her valuable work and looked forward to her engagements in future sessions. Turning to the proposal for a new mechanism on disability, both warned against the duplication of existing mechanisms and opposed the idea of establishing a new special rapporteur on the issue.
Ms. AGUILAR noted that current resources and technology had allowed advanced data collection and dissemination. She then expressed gratitude to UNICEF, International Labour Organization (ILO) and World Health Organization (WHO) for their projects and initiatives and asked the United Nations Statistics Division to provide strong support to move forward.
Mr. RUKHLEDEV said it was essential to prepare a joint report outlining the needs.
Mr. NAGASE decried general education systems for not including children with disabilities and called upon all Member States to initiate programmes to ensure inclusive education.
Ms. LI thanked delegates for their valuable contributions and noted that the high-level technical panel should reflect on issues and trends. Success depended on sharing best practices and cooperation among all stakeholders, she stressed.
Also participating in the discussion were representatives of Antigua and Barbuda, Cambodia, Finland, Kuwait, New Zealand and the Republic of Korea. A representative of the World Federation for Mental Health also spoke.
KAREL JAN GUSTAAF VAN OOSTEROM (Netherlands), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said persons with disabilities were overrepresented in unemployment, underrepresented in tertiary education and had a higher risk of poverty. With regard to the latter, he welcomed the concluding observations of the Committee on Persons with Disabilities. Youth employment was a top political priority, with the Youth Guarantee ensuring that within four months of becoming unemployed or leaving formal education, all young people received a job offer, traineeship or apprenticeship, or the chance to continue their education. Active aging was about social participation, volunteering, being in good health and able to live independently — aspects reflected in the Union’s active aging index. On family issues, he cited initiatives, such as parental leave, reconciling family and work life, and improving conditions of vulnerable families.
FRANCISCO ANTONIO CORTORREA (Dominican Republic), speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), noted that international cooperation, including the developed nations’ commitment to devote 0.7 per cent of their gross domestic product (GDP) to official development assistance (ODA), South-South and triangular cooperation and other technical efforts, were essential to promote social development in that region. CELAC member States had “unprecedented” experiences in implementing programmes for social inclusion and the empowerment of persons living in vulnerable situations, including women and girls, indigenous peoples, people of African descent, children, youth, older persons, migrants and persons with disabilities.
An estimated 66 million people, roughly 12 per cent of the Latin American and Caribbean population, lived with at least one disability, he said, calling for an adequate consideration of disability in implementation of the 2030 Agenda. It was alarming that a high percentage of the region’s youth did not receive an education or had paid work. Given that the number of older people would increase most rapidly in the developing world between 2015 and 2030, CELAC countries were actively promoting their inclusion. The international community should pay more attention to the issue of ageing populations. CELAC also recognized the key role families played in social development, he said, noting that specific needs of and challenges faced by families must be addressed.
JUAN EDUARDO FAÚNDEZ (Chile) said his country, one of the most open and liberal economies in the world, had met the concept “social development” during Michelle Bachelet’s first presidential term. Drawing attention to widening inequality levels within and among countries, he noted that States had played a key role in addressing such a phenomenon. For its part, the Government had created public policies focused on restoring the State’s role, which was to ensure that it provided social security for all. The main objective, in that regard, was to overcome poverty and provide assistance to those in need. The year 2016 would be an important year in carrying out those policies in harmony with the Sustainable Development Goals, he stressed.
RUBÉN IGNACIO ZAMORA RIVAS (El Salvador), speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends of Older Persons, stressed the need to further mainstream issues of relevance into efforts to achieve sustainable development and to heed to their voices in that process. Living in poverty was particularly challenging for the elderly, as their options for escaping it were limited. An unprecedented expansion of social protection programmes and benefits was needed to end poverty. The 2030 Agenda, with poverty eradication as its main aim, was an important platform for addressing those and related issues, with the recommendations in the Secretary-General’s report on Follow-up to the International Year of Older Persons (document A/70/185) being a useful guide for ensuring that no older person was left behind. He looked forward to the General Assembly’s seventy-first session for a consensus adoption of a resolution on following up on the second World Assembly on Ageing. He encouraged all States to promote and fully achieve all human rights and fundamental freedoms for older persons through steps to combat age discrimination, neglect, abuse, violence and marginalization.
DAVY CHIKAMATA (Zambia), associating himself with the “Group of 77” and the African Group, said the current global trend was reminiscent of the situation in his country, which faced high poverty levels, high unemployment, especially among the youth and women, widening inequality and a lack of social inclusiveness. Zambia was committed to social development through crafting better policies and structural transformations. Cognizant of the centrality of humanity in sustainable development, his Government had repositioned its national development plans. It had put in place policies focused on creating jobs and reducing poverty and inequality and was developing the seventh national development plan with social development as one of its pillars. That would accelerate the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals relating to poverty, hunger, health, education and employment, he concluded.
MAGINO CORPORAN (Dominican Republic), speaking in his national capacity, said the 2030 Agenda had strengthened the “peaceful revolution of social development”. Citing major achievements, he said his country had created 400,000 jobs, lifted thousands of people out of poverty and had broadened literacy rates. Further, the Government had created and implemented various inclusive public policies targeting its people’s active participation in society. To address the needs of older persons, the Government had created care centres to help to end neglect at homes and hospitals and to promote well-being through social and health-related services.
HÉCTOR RAÚL PELÁEZ (Argentina) said social protection was a fundamental component of his country’s social policy and a key instrument to ensure just and sustainable development. States had the primary responsibility to address the needs of their people at all stages of life. He welcomed the inclusion of older persons as a cross-cutting issue in the 2030 Agenda, however, expressed regret over the lack of a legally binding document exclusively dedicated to them. For its part, Argentina had given priority to addressing the needs of the most vulnerable people, such as older persons. In that regard, Argentina had developed various strategies, providing health care to almost 6 million adults.
MARÍA RUBIALES DE CHAMORRO (Nicaragua), associating herself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, CELAC and the Group of Friends of the Family, urged intensified efforts to achieve the Copenhagen Declaration through social and environmental justice within a compassionate and sustainable economic model. Nicaragua would introduce natural medicine within the public health system, while a family counselling system was already in place. The country had adopted new laws for young people, older persons and persons with disabilities. “We want to include them in our policymaking,” she said, and ensure that policies provided them with basic services, especially to combat hunger. Nicaragua was committed to ensuring decent employment for all and eradicating hunger and illiteracy.
CARLOS SERGIO SOBRAL DUARTE (Brazil), associating himself with CELAC and the Group of Friends of Older Persons, advocated for consolidating the human rights of older persons into a legally binding document that addressed the “regulatory dispersion” of those rights, strengthened their monitoring and fostered national policies to better define State responsibilities. Another priority was the full realization of the rights of persons with disabilities, she said. Young Brazilians, who accounted for more than 35 per cent of the population, were key to the success of social development efforts. In 2014, Brazil had signed the Iberoamerican Convention on the Rights of Youth, the only such legally binding instrument. It contained an inclusive definition of families and 36 million Brazilians had been rescued from poverty.
Ms. HESS (Switzerland) said the unemployment rate among youth was relatively low due to the good level of general and higher-level learning and the dual education system. But, young people with a migratory background often had greater difficulties finding employment, with the percentage of long-term unemployment among that group being almost double as that of Swiss nationals. During times of great migratory movement, that problem might further be exacerbated, she said, urging Governments and civil society to maximize their efforts towards creating an environment of integration and solidarity, so that all young people had an equal chance at establishing a solid foundation for their adult lives.
SAYA ABDULLAH and SAHAR AFZAL, youth delegates from the Netherlands, stressed the need to raise the profile and visibility of the World Programme of Action for Youth. Young people’s involvement in the Sustainable Development Goals was crucial in creating a human-centred development framework. Youth were a vital human resource for development and agents for social change, economic development and technological innovation. Yet, decision makers had still largely failed to recognize the value of young people’s contributions to programme development and policymaking, often believing that young people lacked the necessary skills, expertise and knowledge, and that decisions should best be made by adult experts. They also called on Member States to include youth representatives in their delegations.
ABDULAZIZ S M A ALJARALLAH (Kuwait) said development was possible only with inclusive policies that considered social, economic and environmental aspects. For its part, Kuwait had implemented several policies and plans of actions in partnership with civil society and the private sector. As a result, the Government had managed to improve the labour market and increased social protection. Drawing attention to the crucial role of family, he noted that sustainable development was not possible without ensuring its protection.
Mr. SHEZI (South Africa), describing the year 2015 as a turning point in history, welcomed the 2030 Agenda, which sought to build on the Millennium Development Goals and complete what had not yet been achieved. He then noted that eradicating poverty and hunger were the main challenges to achieving the newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals, particularly in Africa. To meet the continent’s special needs, concerted efforts were required, he said, stressing that sustainable development could not be achieved without mutual support within and among countries. His Government promoted the family unit as a way of fighting the country’s social challenges, he said, adding that no single definition of family could be extensive enough to cover all of them, given the multicultural nature of his country.
ANCA AGACHI and DAVID TIMIŞ, youth delegates from Romania, suggested the creation of youth advisory boards to help draft national strategies for carrying out plans to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and local governing bodies to help implement and monitor the 2030 Agenda. Shaping “the future we want” was both an individual and Government pledge, with institutions that acknowledged peoples’ requests kindling society’s full potential. People could transform the world by upholding their rights, giving back to communities and making their voices heard. Participatory budgeting could offer a solution, they said, pointing to a town in Poland that had allocated a small part of its budget to locals, and in turn, had better identified needs.
ANDREJ LOGAR (Slovenia) said the Commission remained an important international forum for shedding more light on social development issues through an exchange of ideas and best practices in an open dialogue. Despite progress made over the past years, it was unfortunate that social and economic inequalities continued to persist. The 2030 Agenda, in that regard, was a step forward, which acknowledged interlinkages between social, economic and environmental issues. However, its success depended on effective and collective action. Turning to demographic changes, he said his Government was developing a comprehensive strategy to address the consequences of a rapid increase in the number of older persons. The strategy would include efforts to ensure a high quality of life and active ageing of the entire population.
MINORI ITO (Japan) said her country sought to realize a “society for all”, having ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2014 and provided development cooperation focused on persons with disabilities in developing countries. Empowering young people was essential and Japan had continued with its efforts to reduce child poverty. To implement the 2030 Agenda, Governments, civil society, the private sector and non-governmental organizations must be engaged. Japan, along with Brazil, had submitted a resolution on volunteerism to the General Assembly’s Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural). As persons over age 65 comprised 26 per cent of the population, Japan’s amended law on stable employment of older persons had come into force in 2014, she said.
INIGO LAMBERTINI (Italy), associating himself with the European Union, said young peoples’ involvement in decision-making and in the “nerve centres” of society could provide a fresh look at problems and more effective solutions. The concept of intergenerational responsibility was crucial in that regard. The role of older persons in society, far from being seen as a burden, must be safeguarded by promoting their active involvement. Recalling Italy’s role as Vice-President of the Conference of State Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, he said the issue of “invisible” mental disabilities was of special interest, as many people were afraid of discussing it for fear of worsening their social exclusion.
CHU GUANG (China) supported the continuation of the position of Special Rapporteur on Persons with Disabilities. His delegation was ready to discuss the creation of other relevant mechanisms to monitor the implementation of the 2030 Agenda targets relating to persons with disabilities, the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons and the Standard Rules of Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities. Youth must contribute to and benefit from social development. China supported the United Nations focus on youth development and youth-oriented policies and programmes. His Government made great efforts to promote and protect the 85 million people in China with disabilities and it issued guidelines in 2015 on the matter. A recently implemented subsidy programme would directly benefit more than 20 million people with severe disabilities. He also cited microcredit and vocational training programmes for youth in rural areas.
PATRYCJA PUZ (Poland) recognized the special role played by the family and had introduced a year-long paid maternity leave. Drawing attention to declining birth rates, she noted that the Government had encouraged its people to have children. Primary education was compulsory and the curriculum fully respected and supported gender parity and sustainable development. Furthermore, she noted that children with disabilities had access to schools providing general and special education and the Government had increased their access to free text books.
MAJDA MOUTCHOU (Morocco), reiterating her country’s commitment to the 2030 Agenda, said her Government had initiated a reform programme aimed at eradicating poverty and social exclusion and reduce disparities between regions. Turning to education, she noted that laws had recognized the rights of children with disabilities and created 600 integrated classes. Depending on the level of disability, studying in regular or integrated classes was possible for those children, she concluded.
KARLA LEMUS DE VÁSQUEZ (El Salvador), associating herself with CELAC, said her Government had allocated $2.5 million over the last three years to residences for older adults and had provided technical resources to their caregivers. “We must move away from a vision of older adults as a vulnerable group focused solely on providing them assistance,” she said. On persons with disabilities, the president of a national council serving their needs was a person with disabilities elected by civil society. With 56 per cent of the population was under the age of 30, it was a priority to stimulate the economy and generate business opportunities. Because young people were both “at risk” and strategic drivers of development, the national youth policy aimed at building their identity and independence.
FEDERICO A. GONZÁLEZ (Paraguay), associating himself with CELAC, said 60 per cent of the population was under age 30, while 30 per cent was between 18 and 30. Their professional preparation was important for the country’s future. Older adults accounted for more than 10 per cent of the population and policies for them focused on the promotion and protection of their human rights to education, training, assistance and social and health coverage. The country had also launched a food programme aimed at alleviating poverty among those aged 65 and older. While challenges remained in providing services to persons with disabilities, a few laws had improved their situation, including legislation that had outlined incentives for employers and had focused on inclusive education.KIM HYEJIN (Republic of Korea) thanked the United Nations for concentrating on improving the situation of persons with disabilities by promoting and monitoring the implementation of the Standard Rules and the World Programme of Action. At the national level, the Government was working tirelessly to ensure their full and active participation in all aspects of life. In that regard, it had expanded its social services, including improved access to health care and transportation.
DELOIS BLAKELY of the New Future Foundation noted that social movements were becoming key in the framing of social development issues and possible alternatives to solve them. The high level of social networking in an interdependent world presented challenges and opportunities to both Governments and civil society. People were increasingly sharing their experiences and views on different matters and together they could create synergies and policy options. Turning to changing dynamics of jobs and education, she noted that high incidences of unemployment were the trap of middle-income countries. The foundation focused on the importance of education and employment for young people in all countries, she said, expressing the importance of youth and their involvement in economic, social and environmental goals. Providing for and investing in youth with resources gave them more opportunities for a better future, she stressed.