Success of 2030 Agenda Depends on Empowering Young People, Speakers Tell Social Development Commission, Stressing Perils of Exclusionary Economic Growth

SOC/4844
2 February 2017
Fifty-fifth Session, 4th & 5th Meetings (AM & PM)

Success of 2030 Agenda Depends on Empowering Young People, Speakers Tell Social Development Commission, Stressing Perils of Exclusionary Economic Growth

The fifty-fifth session of the Commission for Social Development continued today, with participants casting a spotlight on challenges faced by young people, and the perils of growing inequality, as Governments strove to put the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development into action.

A wide-ranging panel discussion on the theme of youth development and the Sustainable Development Goals in the morning set the stage for an afternoon of general discussion in which national delegations emphasized, among other points, how the Goals’ success hinged on the empowerment of young people.

Sophie Karmasin, Austria’s Federal Minister for Families and Youth, told the panel that youth unemployment — estimated by the International Labour Organization (ILO) at 74 million — was far too high, and that marginalized women and men risked being either perpetrators or victims of violence.

In similar vein, Ahmad Alhendawi, the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, called inequality the biggest challenge facing young people today, with around 500 million youth living on less than $2 a day.  He noted that 2016 was the first year since the global economic crisis in which youth employment had grown, stressing that inequality emanated from a lack of access to opportunities.

In the ensuing discussion, participants took up youth issues from several angles, with Brazil’s representative drawing attention to the unique problems faced by pregnant teenagers, while her counterpart from the Philippines underlined the seriousness of illicit drug use among young people.

In the afternoon debate, some two dozen delegations took the floor not only to identify challenges, but discuss the ways their respective countries sought to address them.  Speakers from Afghanistan and Ukraine in particular noted the policies and programmes that their Governments had put in place despite the burdens that conflict had placed on social development.

On behalf of the African Group, Nigeria’s Minister for Women Affairs and Social Development said that, despite impressive growth rates, the continent was at the bottom of social development indicators, prompting its leaders to scale up investments in youth, guided by the African Union “Agenda 2063” blueprint.  At the same time, she reaffirmed the role of the family in Africa’s political, cultural and socioeconomic development, characterizing it as central and indispensable.

South Africa’s representative said three decades of deepening inequalities globally had given rise to new threats to the ideal of a more inclusive world.  Those threats were epitomized by political regimes that sought to strengthen exclusionary national economies, he said, adding that “scapegoating and othering people based on any status, whether it be their religion or them being refugees and migrants is … not a solution to dealing with national and global inequities”.  If anything, he said, it made the eradication of poverty harder to achieve.

Also making statements today were representatives of Peru, Ghana, Cameroon, Philippines, Romania, Republic of Moldova, Czech Republic, Senegal, Kenya, Botswana, Switzerland, India, Netherlands, Mali, Viet Nam, Benin, Chile and Morocco.

A representative of the Nigeria’s Bilie Human Rights Initiative also spoke.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply was a representative of the Russian Federation.

The Commission for Social Development will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 3 February, to continue its work.

Interactive Discussion:  Youth Development in 2030 Agenda

In the morning, the Commission held a panel discussion on the theme “Promoting integrated policies for poverty eradication:  Youth development in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”.  Moderated by Vivian Onano, Partnerships Manager at the SEED Project, Global Youth Ambassador for Water Aid and Vice-Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Global Youth Empowerment Fund, it featured presentations by Sophie Karmasin, Federal Minister of Families and Youth of Austria; Santiago Soto, Director of the National Institute of Youth, Ministry of Social Development of Uruguay; Gemma Wood, a statistician and youth development consultant from Australia; Nada Al-Nashif, Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); Ahmad Alhendawi, Envoy of the Secretary-General on Youth; Nevena Vukašinović, Secretary-General, ENGSO Youth (Serbia) Sports; and Mark Kamperhoff, Head of the European Union Coordination and International Affairs Unit of the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth of Germany.

Opening the discussion, Ms. ONANO recalled how youth struggled with a lack of access to quality education and health, as well as and war and conflict.  Stressing that young people should claim their place at decision-making tables, she highlighted the use of sport as a tool for engaging youth, building leadership skills and uniting different tribes, races and peoples.  It was important for all policies, at all administrative levels, to be “pro-youth”.

Ms. KARMASIN said that in Austria, all ministries were required to ensure that planned legislation had no negative impact on children and youth.  Such “youth screening” was part of a strategy to mainstream youth issues throughout the Government and public administration.  Initiatives to help youth take ownership of their future included lowering the voting age to 16.  Outlining a number of challenges, she said youth unemployment was far too high and that marginalized men and women were at risk of becoming victims or perpetrators of violence.

Mr. SOTO said that in Uruguay, poverty was seen not only as a matter of insufficient income, but also as the absence of basic capacities and opportunities linked to freedoms and rights.  Youth and adolescence was a precious time in a person’s life, he said, noting in particular the biological changes in adolescent brains.  With a series of graphs, he explained the nature of youth poverty in his country, as well as initiatives that included cash transfers for households with children and a one-laptop-per-child programme that provided every Uruguayan youngster with a computer for home and school.

Ms. WOOD, emphasizing her work as a statistician, said the effective use of data had enabled a friend of hers, a young aboriginal woman in Australia, to emerge from multidimensional poverty and exclusion.  The design of a new statistical index had made it possible to focus on those people whose situations had not previously been evident in other forms of data collection and analysis.

Ms. AL-NASHIF emphasized the importance of a close and mutually reinforcing relationship between youth development and social sustainability.  Young people needed the capacity and motivation to engage meaningfully in their own societies.  Youth development ensured that young people could voice their ideas and concerns within society, she said, underscoring the need for coherence among national development strategies, national youth policies and other public sector policies affecting youth.  It was also essential to reach the most vulnerable and marginalized, as well as those who could be radicalized or engaged in violence.

Mr. ALHENDAWI called inequality the biggest challenge facing youth today.  Around 500 million youth lived on less than $2 a day, while 74 million were unemployed.  Last year was the first since the economic crisis to see an increase in youth unemployment, and unemployment was twice as high for young women everywhere than for men.  Inequality resulted from a lack of access to opportunities, he said, proposing that there were not only developing and developed countries, but developing and developed individuals within societies.  Typically, it took 19 months for a young person to transition from school to employment.  He drew attention to the World Programme of Action for Youth, adopted by the General Assembly 22 years ago, calling it a pre-Internet document that required a rethink.

Ms. VUKAŠINOVIĆ said it was necessary to understand local cases in order to advocate at a local level.  Technology was a driver for implementing the Sustainable Development Goals, but given its multidimensional nature, poverty was especially challenging to address.  Calling young people powerful agents of change, she said technological skills should be promoted on the basis of community needs.  However, information and communications technology required strong physical infrastructure to ensure reliable access, which was currently lacking in many areas.

Mr. KAMPERHOFF noted the introduction in Germany last month of a national framework for implementation of the new Goals.  Sustainable development meant assuming responsibility for current and future generations.  Germany had taken the 2030 Agenda as a starting point, and posted a draft of its policy framework online for comment prior to adoption.  Young people could break the intergenerational cycle of poverty, he said, adding that Germany, with the European Union and others, was committed to a “youth guarantee” to ensure that young people’s skills converged with job market requirements.

In the ensuing discussion, a representative of Portugal said his Government was committed to engaging young people in its decision-making process, recalling that next year marked the twentieth anniversary of the Lisbon Declaration that had emerged from the first-ever international conference of youth ministers.

The Minister for Youth and Sport of Madagascar, noting that 65 per cent of his country’s population was comprised of young people, discussed the promulgation last year of a national youth strategy.  He also cited the importance of sexual education and protecting young people from the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS.

A representative of China said youth were the big beneficiaries of poverty eradication.  Since 2015, a youth poverty reduction campaign had been under way in China.  Credit, training and facilities had been provided to young entrepreneurs, of which around 3,000 young people with doctoral degrees had gone out to work in poor regions of the country.  China encouraged the political participation of youth.

The Vice-Governor of the state of Paraná in Brazil said that, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), there were around 17 million pregnant teenagers in the world, most of them in developing countries.  By 2030, 3 million adolescent girls were expected to become pregnant under the age of 15.  For Brazil, preventing early pregnancy was a matter of importance, but when prevention failed, a “Happy Child Programme” offered home visits by qualified professionals as well as guidance for young mothers.  In order to leave no one behind, it was crucial to support young pregnant women, she said.

A representative of Iraq drew attention to violent behaviour among young people, leading to terrorism in some cases, and asked the panel about the reasons behind that phenomenon.

A representative of the Mexican Youth Institute asked panellists what action could be taken to make young people the guarantors of the 2030 Agenda.

A youth representative of Switzerland said that, every year, an estimated 20 per cent of the world’s youth, some 240 million young people, experienced mental health conditions.  About half of mental disorders began before the age of 14.  Switzerland strongly supported the WHO Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2020 and called on Member States to implement it, adding that everyone shared a responsibility to address mental health.

A representative of the 24-nation International Organization of La Francophonie said youth were at the heart of the organization’s decisions and actions.  It had adopted a youth strategy at its 2014 summit in Dakar, and young people had taken part in both biennial summits and ministerial gatherings.  Other initiatives included business incubators for young entrepreneurs, the promotion of environmentally friendly “green” employment, and a volunteering scheme.

A representative of the European Union raised the topic of youth unemployment, which at 18.2 per cent in the bloc, was still too high.  More action was needed to offer young people the opportunities they deserved, with attention due to the empowerment of women and vulnerable groups.  He asked panellists about the most effective action for integrating refugees and migrants.

A representative of the Ibero-American Youth Organization said young people must be strategic partners in implementing the 2030 Agenda, but wondered if that was indeed happening.

A representative of the Philippines expressed strong concern about illegal drug use among young people, asking panellists about their own countries’ experiences in dealing with that problem.

A representative of Libya asked for more details about Austria’s youth policies.

A representative of the European Youth Forum, expressing concern about the violation of young people’s human rights, said that without youth support, sustainable development could not be achieved, and without a focus on participation and social inclusion, “we are setting (ourselves) up to fail”.

A representative of the Commonwealth, noting that its youth programme had been in place for about 40 years now, asked how Government ministries reacted when required to include youth perspectives in their policies and programmes.

Ms. KARMASIN replied that isolation and the feeling of not being accepted was a main reason why young people became violent.  Her country offered opportunities for young people to participate, including through youth centres and counselling services.  She emphasized the need to integrate refugees and migrants at an early stage so that they felt accepted and part of society.  Responding to the Commonwealth representative’s question, she said every ministry had one person responsible for youth policy.  In some cases, it did not work well, “but that’s politics”, she said, adding that much emphasis was placed on youth-related data.

Ms. AL-NASHIF said youth should be engaged in a longer term in policy processes, both at the United Nations and in Member States.  In the developing world, building the capacities of youth ministries was a challenge.  Turning to the issue of unemployment, she said that in the Arab world, youth employment was not only a supply issue, but also a matter of creating quality jobs that young people would want to take on, noting that young women faced additional barriers to work.

Mr. SOTO said youth policy should not be an afterthought, but rather a key part of social policy.  Opening the door to youth today would have a knock-on effect for the future, he said, adding that youth must be involved upstream in the design of policies and programmes.  In Uruguay, they participated from beginning to end.

Mr. ALHENDAWI said youth policies must be coupled with political will at the highest level.  An increasing number of States had youth ministries or departments that were linked to their respective presidencies.  Youth policy also must be inclusive — an idea that appeared obvious, but was not always the case.

Ms. VUKAŠINOVIĆ responded that, for refugees, the best action would be not to close doors on them.  She emphasized the importance of integration through capacity-building, and providing institutional spaces for young practitioners and activists.

Ms. WOOD said youth were not only perpetrators of violence, but also victims.  In that regard, connecting with the community and encouraging civic participation created resilience.  She also said that, in asking youth for their voice, they were always told why they needed to be heard or how their opinions would be used.  Young people must be involved until the end so that they could see the impact their voices could have.  Regarding illegal drugs, she said rehabilitation was a complex matter, but people must be motivated to “get clean” so that opportunities for participation in society would be evident.

Closing the discussion, Ms. ONANO noted a number of recurring themes, including youth unemployment, civic participation, the role of technology, skills development and education, and access to platforms where young people could voice their concerns and participate effectively.  Empowering young people meant making them not only beneficiaries, but fully engaged partners, she said.

PHILIPP CHARWATH (Austria), Chair of the Commission for Social Development, highlighted the central role of data, especially disaggregated data, and the role of youth participation in policy formulation in that regard.

Statements

AISHA JUMMAI ALHASSAN, Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development of Nigeria, speaking on behalf of the African Group, and associating herself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said African economies had continued to register impressive growth rates, as well as improvements in social and economic development.  However, African countries were still at the bottom of social development indicators.  To halt that trend, the African Union had adopted Agenda 2063, as well as several policy frameworks and action plans to address inequality.  African leaders were determined to scale up investments in youth and ensure their access to health care, education and gainful employment.

She reaffirmed the centrality and indispensability of the family in Africa and its critical role in political, cultural and socioeconomic development, underscoring the challenges faced by African households due to poverty, the work-life balance and supported intergenerational solidarity.  Continuing, she emphasized the importance of economic empowerment and full participation of persons with disabilities, who required strong social protection mechanisms, given their increased state of vulnerability and greater risk of poverty.  While social development was the primary responsibility of Governments, international cooperation and assistance were essential.

Speaking in her national capacity, she said Nigeria had launched a Social Investment Programme that would benefit about 8.4 million people.  Summarizing the components of the country’s poverty eradication efforts, she described empowerment initiatives for women and youth, as well as a holistic scheme to provide farmers with loans, farm implements, improved seedlings, fertilizers and extension support services.  Other schemes address the concerns of persons with disabilities and the elderly.  Social development was challenged by the Boko Haram insurgency, but the Government was resolved to remain focused and unwavering.

LUCÍA CAYETANA ALJOVÍN GAZZANI, Minister for Development and Social Inclusion of Peru, said that Peru had over the last few decades made important economic and social progress.  More than 9 million of its citizens were lifted out of poverty.  The public and private sectors, civil society and agencies had worked to combat poverty, which stood at 20.4 per cent and extreme poverty at 3.4 per cent.  The Government had developed strategies and programmes focused on five priorities:  to achieve sustained, equitably distributed economic growth; to reduce gaps in access to water, sanitation, electricity and telecommunications; to reduce rates of chronic anaemia and malnutrition in infants; to give priority attention to socially marginalized and economically depressed areas in the Amazon; and to bolster the participation of civil society and the private sector to achieve social progress.

OTIKO AFISA DJABA (Ghana) said that in recent years the Government had adopted legal, institutional and policy frameworks, and introduced pragmatic projects to mitigate the effects of poverty on neglected, marginalized communities.  Programmes providing free meals, uniforms and books for schoolchildren, health insurance, microfinance and small loans had lifted many people out of poverty and destitution.  The aim over the next 13 years was to halve the current poverty rate and augment employment opportunities through productive inclusion and decent work programmes, as well as increase access to formal social security for 75 per cent of working age Ghanaians and 50 per cent of seniors.  In addition, the Government planned to develop a single registry database to identify and select potential social protection programme beneficiaries; a sustainable financing mechanism and a robust system to track progress.

PAULINE IRENE NGUENE, Minister for Social Affairs of Cameroon, welcomed the help given by the international community with regard to Boko Haram, migration and a recent railway accident.  She said her country, to eradicate poverty, had put into place a number of investment programmes with significant social measures to improve living conditions of its people.  On policy, she emphasized her Government’s efforts towards good governance, democracy, decentralization and combatting corruption.  Describing Cameroon as a microcosm of Africa, she described rural and agricultural initiatives, as well as the promotion of social entrepreneurship.  Cameroon had also introduced a three-year plan that would create jobs for 1.5 million youth.  She went on to note that Cameroon had integrated the recommendations of the Paris Agreement on climate change and the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference into Government policy.

ALELI BAWAGAN (Philippines) said that despite high economic growth in recent years, poverty remained high at 21.6 per cent.  The Government was doubling efforts to strengthen the economy and make opportunities available to all, while continuing policies that promoted the wise use of resources, good governance and zero-tolerance for corruption.  Revenue generated from taxes on tobacco and alcohol were being used towards the goal of universal health coverage.  Currently, 90 per cent of Filipinos were covered under Philhealth, the national health insurance programme.  The Government had resumed peace talks with the National Democratic Front and it was committed to extending development programmes to conflict-affected areas to secure peace and development gains.  She cited a cash transfer programme for poor households that helped achieve the goal of universal primary education, a reduction in child mortality and improved maternal health.  The Philippines Centenarians Act, adopted in 2016, allowed for a one-time cash disbursement for every Filipino over 100.  The long-term vision was to create a prosperous, predominately middle-class society by 2040.

ADRIAN DOBRE (Romania) said his Government’s priority was to create new jobs and employment opportunities.  To that end, it had taken steps to boost apprenticeship and alternative forms of education, especially for people in rural areas.  Developing sustainable entrepreneurship was a priority; special attention was given to at-risk youth.  The “Hope Programme” encouraged youth entrepreneurship through microgrants.  The Government provided rental subsidies for people working more than 50 kilometres from home.  To stop the nation’s brain drain, a comprehensive system was put in place to create decent wages.  In addition, a programme launched in 2016 aimed to guarantee a minimum income for all citizens, as well as cover health and housing insurance and emergency aid.  Also that year, a national mechanism to promote social inclusion was established.

MIRWAIS BAHEEJ (Afghanistan) said the threat of terrorism and violent extremism continued to undermine the enabling environment needed for sustainable development in his State.  As a result, Afghanistan’s youth faced increased vulnerabilities, perpetuating a vicious cycle of poverty and violence.  Despite such challenges, the Government was implementing an agenda of comprehensive reforms aimed at achieving self-reliance, with progress being made on infrastructure, private-sector and social development.  Total school enrolment had reached 9.4 million students, 39.3 per cent of them female, and more and more Afghans had access to health care.  He emphasized that poverty in Afghanistan was multidimensional, varying by region, gender and access to exit pathways.  It was particularly severe in rural areas.  The Government, however, was determined to move the country out of its history of war and poverty and begin a long journey to prosperity.

IURIE TABUNCIC (Republic of Moldova), emphasizing increased threats to stability, said his Government — in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) — was beginning the adaption and implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.  Expert groups had been set up, focusing on major pillars, and consultations with civil society had begun.  Economic growth and poverty reduction in the Republic of Moldova were closely related to remittances from abroad, he said, emphasizing also his Government’s efforts to strengthen the youth sector, including young people’s participation in decision-making processes.

JAN ZLONICKÝ (Czech Republic), associating himself with the European Union, said that 14 per cent of the population in his country were at risk of poverty or social exclusion.  That was the third-lowest rate in the European Union, with the long-term unemployed and incomplete families with children among the most threatened group.  Homelessness was a major issue as well, but the Government had no law in force to define social housing or to make it a reality.  As a result, rights and obligations of Czech citizens differed, based on their place of permanent residence, leading people to relocate to places that were more advantageous, putting those localities under increased pressure.  He said it was hoped that a social housing bill would pass the legislative process to become an effective instrument in the ongoing battle against poverty and social exclusion.

SIDY GUEYE (Senegal), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, pointed to anti-poverty strategies that gave priority to women and young people and to improving the economic growth process.  He cited emergency programmes for community development, building wider roads to correct imbalances in infrastructure, promoting more economic freedom for women, as well as access to drinking water and energy.  A €17.8 million programme to build or rehabilitate 45 infrastructure sites and health facilities for women was under way.  A literacy and a trade programme to fight poverty had helped educate young people.  The vision was to make youth the foundation of an in-depth tranformation of the country by 2025.  The exodus of young people who lived and worked on farms had prompted the Government to focus on job creation in rural areas and to expedite agricultural production.  He cited social safety net programmes that helped people with disabilities, the elderly and families.  In 2016, a total of 624 socioeconomic projects were carried out to aid the elderly.

NICHOLAS BOTONGORE (Kenya) said the Vision 2030 development blueprint aimed to transform his country into a globally competitive and prosperous middle-income nation with high quality of life in a clean, secure environment.  The blueprint’s social pillar focused on investment in education and training; health, water and sanitation; the environment; housing and urbanization; gender, youth, sports and culture; equity and poverty eradication.  Kenya’s poverty eradication approach promoted inclusive and equitable economic growth and a coherent social policy framework for inclusivity.  Among its features, he cited a national safety net programme to increase cash transfers to and coverage of the elderly, people with severe disabilities, orphans and vulnerable children, and those threatened by climate change.  Since its inception in 2013, some 1 million households had benefitted.  The Youth Employment for Sustainable Development Project promoted creation of youth-owned small and micro-enterprises.

BERZACK MAPHAKWANE (Botswana), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said that, with youth unemployment a significant challenge, the Government had set up a Youth Development Fund to promote entrepreneurship, job creation and a sense of responsibility among young people.  It took the place of a youth grant programme that tended to encourage a culture of entitlement.  However, young entrepreneurs still faced several challenges, including limited markets, high rents and lack of access to credit.  He noted that poverty in Botswana had a strong rural dimension.  However, a rural development strategy had helped to bring the number of people living below the poverty line from 30 per cent in the last 10 years to 19.9 per cent currently.

IAREMA V. ZHUGAIEVYCH (Ukraine) underscored the vital challenge of poverty eradication.  His country’s policy in that regard called for reducing social alienation and implementing new mechanisms to address that problem.  Consultations on adaptation of the 2030 Agenda in Ukraine were underway, and in 2016 — after years of unsuccessful talks — a general agreement was concluded between employers, labour unions and the Government.  He said the recent economic crisis, the occupation of Crimea and the Russian Federation’s aggression in the east of the country had had an impact on employment.  Transitioning from informal to formal employment was another key challenge.  Current demands by labour unions in Ukraine included effective social production for vulnerable members of society as well as maintaining and developing labour potential.

ZANE DANGOR (South Africa) aligning himself with the African Group and the Group of 77, said deepening inequalities globally over the last three decades, largely due to the predominance of exclusionary economic models, had given rise to new threats to the ideal of a more inclusive world.  The emerging threat was epitomized by the rise of political regimes that sought to strengthen exclusionary national economies within the existing inequitable global economic architecture.  Such narrow economic and political nationalisms by Member States contravened international law and threatened to take the world backwards.  “Scapegoating and othering people based on any status, whether it be their religion or them being refugees and migrants is, therefore, not a solution to dealing with national and global inequities,” he said.  “If anything, it makes a shared global compact to eradicating poverty and inequalities and the building of peaceful societies more difficult.”  South Africa’s poverty eradication strategies were embedded in a national development plan, with the commitment to build social and economic justice expressed through aid programmes that reached 17 million people.  He also cited the Older Persons Act, Children’s Act, White Paper on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the national minimum wage, sexual and reproductive health programmes, and social grant for poor children.

STEFAN CUENI (Switzerland) said one in every eight people in Switzerland was threatened by poverty, with the most vulnerable children from disadvantaged and single-parent families.  Since 2014, a decentralized programme had worked nationwide to place local authorities on the front lines of the fight against poverty.  His ministry closely cooperated with organizations that supported the poor.  Noting that the Government had proposed to Parliament to ratify the International Labour Organization (ILO) Protocol on Forced Labour, he said Switzerland had already ratified the ILO Domestic Workers Convention, Maternity Protection Convention and Transition from the Informal to the Formal Economy Recommendation.

TANMAYA LAL (India) said the benefits of globalization had been uneven.  Situations where profit-driven capitalism had advanced with little State regulation had widened disparities, while technology and skills gaps were emerging within societies and between nations.  In a world rife with conflict, sustaining peace would require long-term sustainable development that would focus on eradicating poverty.  “The right to development must gain more prominence,” he said, underscoring how India, representing one sixth of humanity, was playing a significant role in reducing poverty.  He described a number of policies and programmes undertaken by the Government to improve social, financial and digital inclusion, including better education access for the girl child.

LISE GREGOIRE-VAN HAAREN (Netherlands) said her country’s commitment to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals went hand in hand with its efforts to reach the Goals globally.  Accordingly, in 2015 it had invested nearly $7 billion in official development assistance.  Poverty in the Netherlands was relatively low, but it had grown in recent years due to the economic crisis.  As a result, the Government had stepped up efforts to boost employment, which was the best way out of poverty.  Poverty was also best tackled at the local level, she said, noting that while the causes and consequences of poverty differed among countries, States could help each other implement effective policies to counter it.

DIANGUINA DIT YAYA DOUCOURÉ (Mali) said the Government had set up strategies to improve living conditions, noting that the 2012-2017 poverty reduction strategy and 2014-2023 social and health development plan were the major reference documents.  National solidarity was a central component to develop human capital.  Laws for social action were implemented by public and private stakeholders, including laws to implement the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women.  Since 2007, Mali had built thousands of units of decent housing for low- and middle-income people.  The Government was committed to job creation for youth and had set up a national youth employment agency.

NGUYEN PHUONG NGA (Viet Nam) said her country had fulfilled the Millennium Development Goal on poverty reduction ahead of schedule, reducing poverty from 80 per cent in the early 1990s to 3 per cent at present based on the $1.90-a-day poverty line.  Viet Nam’s Human Development Index had significantly improved and was higher than most countries with similar per capita income.  Much of the success was due to comprehensive, integrated strategies to address poverty, with priority given to vulnerable groups.  The 2016-2020 Targeted Programme for Sustainable Poverty Reduction focused on the poorest districts.  Viet Nam was undergoing a process of structural economic transformation towards sustainable and inclusive development, with a strong focus on rural and agricultural development.

JEAN-CLAUDE DO REGO (Benin) said the “Benin Awakened” programme of action was the main development strategy for the 2016-2021 period.  It focused on fostering inclusive economic growth, ending structural inequalities and protecting vulnerable groups, establishing the rule of law and good governance, and improving living conditions.  Taking into account the Sustainable Development Goals, the Government aimed to reverse the poverty curve; 40.1 per cent of the population lived below the poverty line.  Benin ranked 166th on the global human development index.  The “Benin Awakened” programme aimed to create the conditions for rapid economic growth to generate 500,000 well-paying jobs by 2021.  To close the gap in social protection and financial resources, the Government had developed strategies for improved local health infrastructure, and better access to water and electricity.  It aimed to extend universal health insurance to 4 million people and give universal access to drinking water by 2021.

CRISTIÁN BARROS MELET (Chile) said that in the last 10 years, Chile had achieved gradual social progress.  Per capita income had increased and poverty had fallen from 40 per cent in 1990 to 14 per cent in 2013.  However, high levels of inequality still existed.  Combatting it had been the standard in Chile since 1990.  Local problems could not be understood without understanding that Chile had a rich biodiversity that was threatened by global warming, for which it was not responsible.  The great value of the 2030 Agenda was not necessarily in its immediate effectiveness, but rather in its symbolic strength.

OMAR HILALE (Morocco) said a qualitative change in social policy in Morocco had taken place in the past 10 years.  Development was considered a human rights matter and the Government was working to advance the rights of vulnerable, marginalized people, particularly in rural and poor areas.  It sought to prepare a unified social registry, as well as a public policy that addressed women’s rights and included them in public policies.  He pointed to draft legislation on fighting gender-based violence, ending violence against children and protecting the elderly, as well the creation of a consultative council on the family and children.  The Government had operationalized a social support fund for children, which benefitted more than 800,000 youngsters, and set up a fund that that provided support to 65,000 widows and orphans.  A World Bank-supported programme benefitted 14,000 people with disabilities, and included education services and vocational training.

A representative of the Bilie Human Rights Initiative based in Nigeria said the initiative worked to promote human rights, especially for indigenous people, as well as foster good leadership, economic development, poverty eradication, and peace and security.  It aimed to empower unemployed people, particularly women and youth in rural areas.  Strategies to end poverty included investments in agriculture and rural development, educational and apprenticeship schemes, and liaising with Governments and private multinational companies to receive financial grants and credits for women and youth involved in agricultural and cottage industries.

Right of Reply

The representative of the Russian Federation, responding to the statement by his counterpart from Ukraine, said Crimea had become part of the Russian Federation after the 2014 referendum.  Ukraine had tried to use today’s discussion to politicize matters that had nothing to do with issues on the Commission’s agenda.

For information media. Not an official record.