Speakers Highlight Rights-Protection Obligation of Governments as Commission for Social Development Discusses Inclusion, Link between Disability, Poverty

SOC/4845
3 February 2017
Fifty-fifth Session, 6th & 7th Meetings (AM & PM)

Speakers Highlight Rights-Protection Obligation of Governments as Commission for Social Development Discusses Inclusion, Link between Disability, Poverty

Delegates Take up Situation of Young, Elderly People on Session’s Third Day

Delegates spotlighted the obligation of Governments and international organizations to promote and protect the inalienable rights of the world’s 1 billion persons with disabilities today, as the Commission for Social Development entered the third day of its fifty-fifth annual session.

Participants in a panel discussion this morning, including senior Government officials and academic experts, focused on the nexus between disability and poverty, underscoring the need to incorporate disability into all future development efforts.  They also responded to a range of comments and questions raised by delegates, including several persons with disabilities, who demanded full participation in decision-making and emphasized that “nothing about us without us”.

Catalina Devandas Aguilar, the Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, declared:  “The 2030 Agenda [for Sustainable Development] is a unique opportunity to eradicate poverty, but that goal cannot be achieved without persons with disabilities.”  Emphasizing that all actors working to implement that Agenda — including Governments, development specialists, United Nations agencies and others — must take account of disability issues in a rights-based manner, she pointed to the clear correlation between disability and inequality, saying structural barriers such as lack of access to education and transport contributed to their exclusion.

Ana Helena Chacón, Vice-President of Costa Rica, echoed those sentiments, saying that poverty represented a situation of “flagrant violence” for the world’s weakest people — including those with disabilities.  Disability was not merely a biological issue, she said, pointing out that it also had social, cultural, economic and other implications.  “Human dignity doesn’t have chosen people or favour one person over another,” she added, pointing out that tolerance and respect for diversity must be practised “without nuance”.

Steen Lau Jorgensen, Director of Social Protection and Labour at the World Bank Group, was among the panellists who drew attention to the recurring cycle of disability and poverty.  He said that while the World Bank was not a development agency, it had a responsibility to help countries tackling rights-related issues with economic and development implications.  In that regard, the Bank was working alongside such agencies as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to develop better surveys and data on persons with disabilities.

Mosharraf Hossain, Director of Policy, Influencing and Research for ADD International, emphasized the need to develop market-based solutions to poverty that would be more inclusive of persons with disabilities.  Outlining a number of “entry points” that could facilitate their access to the marketplace — including collective organizing and engaging employers in removing attitudinal and physical barriers — he said inclusive markets were critical because they promoted human rights and independence, built resilience to shocks, improved livelihoods, increased tax bases and reduced public costs.

During the ensuing interactive discussion, speakers commented on those presentations, raised questions for the panellists and shared national perspectives.  Among the topics generating the most discussion were the role of the United Nations in mainstreaming questions of disability, the importance of social-protection schemes in supporting the poorest and most marginalized, funding challenges, and the distinction between meaningful participation in decision-making and mere “tokenism”.

In the afternoon, the Commission began its general discussion on the situation of social groups.  The Czech Republic’s youth delegate, who said that despite the Security Council’s landmark resolution 2250 (2015), which recognized young people for the first time as crucial actors for change in conflict-resolution and peace processes, and recognition of young people as the main beneficiaries of the Sustainable Development Goals, many of them did not feel included in those processes, she emphasized.  Calling upon Governments to “start acting on our words”, she said they must strengthen youth participation channels at all levels.  In addition, they must not lose sight of solidarity with those “whose realities and pains we have not lived”, including young minority women, persons with disabilities, members of the LGBTIQ community, refugees and those struggling against multiple forms of discrimination.

Also making statements were delegates and youth delegates representing Malta (on behalf of the European Union), El Salvador (on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), Madagascar, Paraguay, Philippines, France, Dominican Republic, Switzerland, Afghanistan, Qatar, Georgia, Romania, Netherlands, Japan, Tunisia, Algeria, Brazil, Republic of Korea and China.

Representatives of the International Labour Organization (ILO), Doha International Family Institute, International Federation for Family Development, and International Federation on Ageing also addressed the Commission.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply was the representative of Nigeria.

The Commission for Social Development will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 6 February, to continue its work.

Panel Discussion

Moderating the Commission’s morning panel discussion, on the theme “Leaving no one behind:  Poverty and disability”, was Nora Groce, Professor and Director of the Leonard Cheshire Centre for Disability and Inclusive Development at University College, London.  It featured five panellists:  Ana Helena Chacón, Vice-President of Costa Rica; Catalina Devandas Aguilar, the Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities; Steen Lau Jorgensen, Director in Charge of Social Protection and Labour at the World Bank Group; Mosharraf Hossain, Director of Policy, Influencing and Research for ADD International; and lead discussant Maria Aparecida Borghetti, Vice-Governor of the State of Parana, in Brazil.

Ms. GROCE opened the discussion by emphasizing that the inclusion of the world’s 1 billion people with disabilities had never been of such vital importance as it was today.  The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development offered a new opportunity in that regard, she said, noting also the growing evidence base on disability and development, the rising number of experts on that question and a global framework in the form of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  “What we need now, and hopefully what this panel will provide us with, are new and innovative ways forward” for the systematic inclusion of persons with disabilities in all development efforts, she said.

Ms. CHACÓN said poverty represented a situation of “flagrant violence” for the weakest people, including those with disabilities.  While injustice and lack of protection were multiplied exponentially in their case, however, persons with disabilities must not be viewed as subjects for charity, she cautioned.  “Human dignity doesn’t have chosen people or favour one person over another,” she said, emphasizing the need for tolerance and respect for diversity “without nuance”.  Disability was not merely a biological condition, but was, in fact, defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a barrier experienced in particular contexts.  People with disabilities were among the poorest and most excluded, suffering from such social and logistical challenges as lack of accessible transport and proper education.

Ms. DEVANDAS AGUILAR also underlined the need to break that cycle, noting that at least 125 million persons with disabilities were living in extreme poverty around the world.  There was a clear correlation between disability and inequality, she said, pointing out that the impact of poverty was greater on women with disabilities, as well as those who must care for family members with disabilities.  Poor persons with disabilities contributed less to economic growth, a cost estimated at between 1 and 7 per cent of gross domestic product.  Lack of access to education, transport and communications, as well as other structural barriers, contributed to their exclusion, she said, noting that their living expenses were estimated to be 30 per cent higher than those of people without disabilities.  Nevertheless, many national social-protection systems remained largely inadequate.  All actors working to implement the 2030 Agenda — including Governments, development specialists, United Nations agencies and others — must take account of disability issues in a rights-based manner as they carried out their work, she stressed.  “The 2030 Agenda is a unique opportunity to eradicate poverty, but that goal cannot be achieved without persons with disabilities.”

Mr. JORGENSEN declared:  “The progressive realization of rights is something we should all be concerned with.”  While the World Bank was not a development agency, it had a responsibility to help countries tackling rights-related issues with economic and development implications.  “Disability may increase the rate of poverty and poverty may increase the rate of disability,” he noted, emphasizing that the primary need was to prevent health impairments through health, safety, peace and resilience-building interventions.  The World Bank was seeing success in its accessible-transportation projects, he said, citing several community-based initiatives in India, among other countries.  Stressing the need to work closely with disability organizations on programme and policy design, implementation, follow-up and monitoring, he said innovative partnerships and improved data were also critical.  In that regard, the World Bank was working alongside such agencies as the WHO and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to develop better household surveys and model disability surveys.  He concluded by underscoring the need to “look at the people beyond the numbers”, and to remember the needs of individuals.

Mr. HOSSAIN drew attention to the massive inequality in the world, noting that its eight richest individuals currently held the same quantity of wealth as the 3.6 billion poorest.  Describing his work in developing market-based solutions to extreme poverty, he emphasized the need to work harder to reach those left furthest behind.  Market-based solutions would become more inclusive to persons with disability through better participation, he said, describing several concrete “entry points” that facilitated access for persons with disabilities to the marketplace, including collective organization and engaging employers to remove attitudinal and physical barriers.  While market-based solutions could not, on their own, eradicate extreme poverty, inclusive markets were crucial because they promoted human rights and independence, while building resilience to global shocks.  They also improved livelihoods, increased tax bases and reduced public costs, he said.  “Social stigma is the root cause of social exclusion,” he explained, calling upon Governments to implement the principles enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and to engage in broad, multisector partnerships to help make markets more inclusive.

In the ensuing discussion, Government delegates and representatives of non-governmental organizations — including many representing persons with disabilities — shared their perspectives and raised questions for the panellists.

A speaker representing the European Union said the bloc’s member States were working on specific programmes that would offer employment support to persons with disabilities and prevent disincentives in that regard, emphasizing that it took the views of citizens with disabilities into account at every stage of programme planning.  He asked Special Rapporteur Devandas Aguilar to single out the three most important points she would like to be able to deliver in fulfilling her mandate.

The representative of New Zealand asked how the United Nations could support their various proposals.

The representative of Morocco said that, despite the adoption of global plans and development programmes, many countries — especially developing ones — still faced challenges relating to growing inequality, armed conflict and humanitarian crises.  The scope of the poverty and discrimination faced by persons with disabilities arose from the absence of access and inclusion, she said, adding that such challenges would continue without adequate funding and strong multisectoral partnerships.

The representative of China was among speakers who described concrete national plans to support persons with disabilities, including scaled-up vocational training, employment promotion and increased accessibility.

The Secretary of State for the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities of Portugal highlighted her country’s strides in terms of promoting inclusivity in politics and decision-making.  Portugal had recently elected its first parliamentary deputy with a disability, as well as herself as its first State Secretary with a disability.  She asked the Special Rapporteur to describe her plans for mainstreaming disability issues into United Nations entities.

A representative of the non-governmental organization Inclusion International spoke on behalf of the International Disability Alliance network, emphasizing the importance of self-advocacy among persons with disabilities.  “Disability is not inability,” he emphasized.  Governments must provide adequate, accessible education and involve them at all levels of decision-making.  In that regard, he asked why the panel did not include persons with disabilities, stressing their need for “a seat at the table”.

PHILIPP CHARWATH (Austria), Chair of the Commission, responded briefly to that question, saying that while the panellists had been selected on the basis of their expertise and the need for gender and geographical balance, the Commission would take those concerns into account in its future sessions.

Ms. DEVANDAS AGUILAR, in response to a question about her mandate, said it must have a strong focus on helping States develop policies that were more inclusive of persons with disabilities and that offered them greater concrete support.  Priorities included contributing to the fight against poverty and informing the United Nations about the challenges affecting persons with disabilities.

Mr. HOSSAIN underlined the need for “real inclusion” rather than “tokenism” in responding to questions about the role of the United Nations in promoting inclusivity and its efforts to mainstream disability into its various entities.

Ms. CHACÓN advocated affirmative-action approaches to helping persons with disabilities gain access to comprehensive education and decent jobs, and making them more competitive in the market.

Ms. DEVANDAS AGUILAR, meanwhile, called for a United Nations system-wide action plan on disability to develop a coherent response to the challenges faced by persons with disabilities.  She also emphasized the need to review the Organization’s allocation of resources in order to ensure that it was actively advancing implementation of the Convention and contributing to “leaving no one behind”.

Mr. JORGENSEN emphasized the critical importance of United Nations leadership and guidance on such issues as the rights of persons with disabilities, from the perspective of an intergovernmental agency.  While it might sound contradictory, “mainstreaming will only come with special emphasis”, he said, adding that the particular needs of persons with disabilities needed greater attention.

Other questions raised throughout the discussion focused on issues ranging from ways to improve disability data and statistics to calls for advice on effective national social-protection floors.

The representative of Ghana asked, in that regard, how a country like her own, where most persons with disabilities were forced to beg for charity, could finance the cost of such critical items as wheelchairs.

The representative of Botswana asked Mr. Jorgensen about the World Bank’s work on wage bills, saying that many feared they could have a negative impact on the employment rates of persons with disabilities.

The representative of Malawi proposed a distinct United Nations office for disability issues.

Mr. JORGENSEN, responding, said the World Bank sometimes had “tough conversations” with Governments about how they spent their money to fulfil international obligations, including those relating to persons with disabilities.  While there was no doubt that social protection should be universal, the main challenges entailed improving coordination and addressing gaps, he emphasized.

Ms. DEVANDAS AGUILAR emphasized that, in the context of the 2030 Agenda, “we cannot wait” to improve the collection of disaggregated data because developing successful strategies to implement the Sustainable Development Goals would hinge on data.  Addressing Ghana’s representative, she emphasized the need to include persons with disabilities in the care economy.

Mr. HOSSAIN agreed that “everyone needs to be counted” in realizing the Sustainable Development Goals, adding that while social protection was a right that Governments must guarantee to their poorest people, such systems should aim to link recipients to financial markets.

Also addressing the Commission were speakers representing Mexico, Senegal, Japan, Zambia and Kenya, as well as the School Sisters of Notre Dame, the Somali Health Organization and Rehabilitation International.

Statements on Item 3(b)

MICHAEL FARRUGIA, Minister for the Family and Social Solidarity of Malta, speaking on behalf of the European Union, described the bloc’s various efforts to improve people’s lives.  While the youth unemployment rate had substantially decreased from its peak, the objective of further reducing it remained a top priority; in that regard the bloc had proposed a package known as “Investing in Europe’s Youth” that set out action in areas such as employment, education, learning mobility and solidarity.  The package underlined the importance of pursuing the full and sustainable implementation of the Union’s Youth Guarantee, which ensured employment, continued education and apprenticeships for all people under 25.

Noting that the European Commission had proposed to increase the budget of its Youth Employment Initiative from €6.4 billion to €8.4 billion until 2020, he went on to outline programmes aimed at supporting persons with disabilities in the areas of employment and education, those relating to gender equality and women’s empowerment and others ensuring the rights and well-being of older persons.

RUBÉN IGNACIO ZAMORA RIVAS (El Salvador), speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), expressed concern over the uneven economic progress, major development gaps and constant obstacles to fulfilling international commitments.  He called for a reinvigoration of the global partnership for development and a holistic and balanced approach to development.  The Community would continue to promote the rights and dignity of the marginalized, including women and girls, indigenous peoples, people of African descent, children, youth, migrants and persons with disabilities.  High youth unemployment was a critical challenge for the region.  Young people accounted for a large segment of the population and must, therefore, be given adequate educational opportunities and training.

He expressed concern that the number of older persons aged 60 years and over was projected to grow by 56 per cent by 2050, representing a worrying demographic shift.  Recognizing that the family played a key role in social development, he stressed the need to address the specific needs and unique challenges faced by families.  Social issues had to be tackled in the economic and political spheres.  Economic prosperity hinged on inclusive social development and better living standards for all absent of discrimination.  Rather than pursuing social, economic and environmental policies as piecemeal initiatives, a holistic and integrated approach would be vital.  That would help create comprehensive strategies to eradicate poverty and tackle exclusion.

JEAN ANICET ANDRIAMOSARISOA, Minister for Youth and Sports of Madagascar, said urban and rural youth — which combined represented 65 per cent of the population of his State   were dealt with on an equal footing.  Special attention was being given to reproductive health, he said, noting that 48 per cent of girls under the age of 18 were either pregnant or had at least one child, and that only 12 per cent of young people aged 15 through 19, and 33.5 per cent of those aged 20 to 24, used contraceptives.  Much remained to be done, he stated, adding that a high school dropout was another aggravating factor for Madagascar’s youth.

HÉCTOR CÁRDENAS (Paraguay), associating himself with CELAC, said that almost 70 per cent of his country’s population was under the age of 30.  To meet their needs, the Government had set up a national secretariat for youth with ministerial rank which enabled the youth perspective to be incorporated into public policy.  At the same time, the proportion of elderly in Paraguay was growing, he said.  For them, policies dealing with human rights, education and pensions were in place.  He noted that in June, Paraguay would hold an intergovernmental regional conference on ageing in Latin America and the Caribbean that would examine progress, as well as gaps, in the implementation of international agreements on older persons, thus contributing to progress in achieving the 2030 Agenda.

ALELI B. BAWAGAN (Philippines), drawing attention to a clear link between disability and poverty, said the additional costs of coping with disability could push families into poverty.  On the other hand, poverty could lead to disability as a result of poor health conditions, lack of services or poor living conditions.  Noting that the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons and the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities contained principles and policy guidelines in that regard and had served to guide the Philippines’ national strategies, he recalled that in 2016 the country had implemented a law granting a 20 per cent discount on certain goods purchased by persons with disabilities in addition to their exemption from the national value-added tax.  The country had also set up a National Council on Disability Affairs and undertaken various initiatives to support its senior citizens, including passing an Anti-Age Discrimination in Employment law.

CHANTAL GATIGNOL (France), associating herself with the European Union, expressed her delegation’s commitment to protecting and promoting the rights of older persons and described national efforts to adapt the provisions of the Madrid Plan of Action XX on the ground.  Immediate action was needed to combat lack of information on that issue, she said, noting that France’s own reforms were fully in line with the Madrid Plan of Action and aimed at helping older persons shape their own destinies.  The Government was particularly focused on preventing elder abuse, combating their financial abuse and protecting the rights of persons with disabilities.  “Our challenge is to create a world where older persons play a full role,” she said, describing them as the “linchpins” of society.

KARLA VANESSA LEMUS DE VASQUEZ (El Salvador), associating herself with CELAC, describing national efforts to boost human development, improve livelihoods and combat poverty, said special attention was paid to women, children, persons with disabilities and older persons.  In 2016, the country had achieved the literacy of thousands of older persons and had achieved health coverage for about 39,000 older people.  In addition, specialized cultural programmes were being put in place and efforts were under way to improve their registration rates.  She also drew attention to a draft bill to help promote the rights of older persons, including by clearly establishing the State’s obligations in that regard.  In addition, the Government had implemented a Youth Development Plan for the next five years, which included a new youth employment policy aimed at skills development, while other national plans aimed at the provision of education and sexual and reproductive health care for persons with disabilities.

MAGINO CORPORÁN (Dominican Republic), associating himself with CELAC and the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said development was only possible if Governments invested in their people.  That was being done in the Dominican Republic, where a Government initiative was creating jobs and improving the quality of life while reducing poverty.  He went on to say that the Ministry of Youth was working on fellowships for young people, while the Government was working with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to reduce the rate of pregnancy among adolescents and to prevent sexually transmitted diseases.  Work was also under way to improve the lives of persons with disabilities by creating opportunities in education and the labour market.

STEPHAN CUENI (Switzerland) said poverty and the marginalization of persons with disabilities was an important concern for his country.  Eradicating poverty was a matter of national policy, he said, emphasizing the need to ensure an adequate quality of life as a first step to preventing the alienation of a section of the population.  Employment of those with disabilities needed to be promoted by adapting workplaces and offering training opportunities.  Public buildings and transportation must also be made barrier-free, he said, underscoring the connection between the 2030 Agenda and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  Concluding, he asked other countries to share their best practices in supporting companies that employed persons with disabilities.

MIRWAIS BAHEEJ (Afghanistan) said the 2030 Agenda’s implementation could not be achieved through a “one-size-fits-all” approach.  Strategies to eradicate poverty and towards sustainable development needed to be tailored to meet the unique needs and priorities of different countries and regions, as well address their specific social, economic and cultural contexts.  Afghanistan’s strategy for poverty eradication combined investments to improve growth and productivity with targeted programmes to help the poor improve their skills and increase access to opportunities.  Recalling that the country’s National Peace and Development Framework would serve as its development road map over the next five years, he said that strategy had identified three national priority programmes to achieve its goals of social inclusion and poverty eradication, namely social protection, women’s empowerment and the “Citizen’s Charter”, aimed at reducing poverty and breaking the cycle of fragility and violence.

GHANIM AL-HUDAIFI AL-KUWARI (Qatar) expressed hope that the session’s outcome would help to elaborate new plans for eradicating poverty.  Describing his country’s Vision 2030, he said Qatar had increased spending in various social sectors, providing support for youth, in particular.  Young people could be drivers of important social change, he said, drawing attention to increasing size of the country’s young population.  “We prepare and empower young people through investment in their skills”, while working to expand their opportunities, he said, adding that the Government was also working to eliminate barriers to the full participation of persons with disabilities in society.  Qatar had also put in place a solid social protection plan for older persons, he noted.

TATIA DOLIDZE, youth delegate from Georgia, emphasized the need to go beyond “business-as-usual” approaches to development and politics, and instead to generate social good.  Calling for the active involvement of youth — who brought energy, motivation, imagination and technological know-how to the development process — she drew attention to the severe limitations of movement suffered by young people in the Gali district of the occupied Abkhazia region.  “The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development clearly recognizes the roles of youth as agents of change and identifies global and national priorities,” she said, adding that the World Programme of Action for Youth served as a solid platform for substantive youth engagement in decision-making, enhancements in youth employment, ensuring access to quality education, improving young people’s quality of life and ensuring their access to rights.  Noting that those priorities were in line with those of her Government, she described three national best practices in the institutionalization of support to science, technology and innovation; support to young entrepreneurs; and church-led efforts to empower youth through education.

DENISA BRATU and GABRIEL UIFĂLEAN, youth delegates from Romania, said that current economic practices might leave future generations lacking resources, emphasizing the urgent need for “intergenerational equity” and national councils that would focus on minimizing the dangers that young people faced in the labour market.  They said that they shared the Romanian view that “you have to work your way to success”, but that should not mean losing sight of those who had never had a chance to unlock their true potential.  Young Romanians feared being ignored by leaders, competing with corruption and favouritism, and lacking trust in their own strengths, they said, welcoming a campaign in Romania intended to embolden young people to enter public office.

SHAHAR AFSAL and ELIAN YAHYE, youth delegates of the Netherlands, emphasize that it was time the Commission not only talked about young people, but also gave them an opportunity to speak for themselves.  The Economic and Social Council Youth Forum was perfect for that purpose, they said, adding that it should be formalized to make it a recognized part of the United Nations structure.  Turning to the World Programme of Action for Youth, they pointed out that it had been adopted before their birth.  In many respects, the Programme had nothing to do with the current state of affairs, and should be reassessed and revised, they said.

ZUZANA VUOVÁ, youth delegate from the Czech Republic, said the 2017 review of the World Programme of Action for Youth was crucial because more than half the world’s current population was under the age of 30.  Welcoming recent progress in defending youth rights, she drew particular attention to the Security Council’s landmark resolution 2250 (2015), which recognized young people for the first time as crucial actors for change in conflict-resolution and peace processes.  Young people were also recognized not only as the main beneficiaries of the Sustainable Development Goals, but also as key drivers in their implementation, she noted.  Nevertheless, many young people on the ground did not feel included in those processes, she emphasized, calling upon Governments to “start acting on our words”.  They must strengthen youth participation channels at all levels, join the United Nations Youth Delegate programme and support civil society organizations.  She also urged Governments not to lose sight of solidarity with those “whose realities and pains we have not lived”, including young minority women, persons with disabilities, members of the LGBTIQ community, refugees and those struggling against multiple forms of discrimination.

Ms. LEO (Japan) said poverty enhanced violence and conflict and prevented people from living with dignity.  Outlining several ways her country was investing in education and health care, she said it would provide assistance totalling over $1 billion to improve response to public health emergencies and strengthen health systems.  The priority was on achieving universal health coverage.  With regard to women’s empowerment, he said quality education for girls and women was key to the success of future generations.  Japan also pledged to utilize more funding to provide access to quality education to women and girls.  Achieving sustainable development required cooperation with a wide range of stakeholders including non-governmental organizations, academia and the private sector.  There was a need for a holistic approach and the sharing of best practices.

KARIMA BARDAOUI (Tunisia) said that leaving no one behind called for combatting all forms of poverty, exclusion and vulnerability.  It would be impossible to achieve sustainable development without new strategies to fight poverty in all its forms, and she cautioned against a one-size-fits-all approach.  Youth, who made up a third of Tunisia’s population, played a crucial role, but challenges such as unemployment and underemployment prevented their full engagement in development.  She emphasized the important role in Tunisian society played by older persons, noting how improved medical services and higher living standards had increased life expectancy.  Turning to persons with disabilities, she outlined measures taken to promote their interests and ensure their rights.

MOHAMMED BESSEDIK (Algeria) said that ensuring the rights of persons with disabilities required comprehensive global action.  International instruments ratified by Algeria were based on the fundamental principle of equality and rejection of all forms of discrimination.  The Government in recent years had conducted national surveys which led to a broader definition of disability that served as a policy reference point.  He outlined a number of Government mechanisms to assist persons with disability, including a solidarity allowance and encouraging for setting up their own businesses with the use of microcredit.  Grants and technical support were available for children with disabilities.

Ms. FONSECA (Brazil) said youth policies should aim to provide quality education and create access to the labour market.  Brazil was a member of the Inter-Ibero American Youth Organization, and its Youth National Council proposed guidelines for Government action.  Meanwhile, the country’s National Youth Policy encouraged youth protagonism in line with the highest international standards.  Brazil also made serious efforts to implement the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and worked to eliminate all forms of discrimination against persons with disabilities.  In 2015, the country had created a Permanent Commission on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and put in place a number of policies in that area.  In addition, the protection of families and addressing the needs of children in early childhood had long been priorities of her country’s social policies.

Ms. LEE (Republic of Korea) said that social groups, including persons with disabilities, young and older persons, as well as families, were policy targets who should be included in development processes.  At the same time, however, they were active agents who could make significant changes in society, and their participation must be supported.  For its own part, the Government of the Republic of Korea was establishing a wide range of policies targeting those social agents, including a five-year plan for the development of persons with disabilities, she said.  Recalling that her country had led the General Assembly’s adoption of resolution 70/170 on that issue, she went on to outline the Republic’s efforts to expand social welfare provisions further and to help provide older persons with stable incomes.  In the area of family policies, she said the Government focused on strengthening the foundations and resilience of all types of families, and provided counsellors to carry out one-on-one parental education.

YAO SHAOJUN (China) said it was imperative to fully protect the rights and interests of persons with disabilities.  That could be done, in part, by strengthening economic growth and enabling persons with disabilities to share in the benefits.  It was also important to mobilize resources to address ageing, which was a common challenge for all countries.  However, all such policies must be carried out in line with national priorities and according to the local context.  Drawing attention to the importance of youth, which could continue to inject a new vitality into development processes, he expressed support for policies to support families and outlined a number of examples of his country’s social policies.

VINICIUS PINHEIRO, Special Representative and Director of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Office to the United Nations, said it estimated that the global youth unemployment rate was expected to remain at around 13 per cent in 2017.  Many young men and women were also working but not earning enough to lift themselves out of poverty, with over 40 per cent of the world’s active youth population expected to be either unemployed or living in poverty despite being employed.  Noting that the existence of national strategies for youth employment was one indicator to track progress under Sustainable Development Goal 8 on decent work for all, he said the ILO’s Call for Action in Youth Unemployment provided a set of guiding principles and policy measures in that area.  In addition, the United Nations had launched the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth, bringing together 22 entities in an effort to expand country-level action in that regard.

ANIS BEN BRIK of the Doha International Family Institute pointed to considerable evidence revealing that the family was indispensable to the welfare of society and to the individuals that comprised it.  “Poverty eradication hinges upon the strength of families to care for their members and build intergenerational solidarity,” he said, urging States to commit to focusing poverty alleviation policies on the family as a unit; acknowledge that family breakdown could be both a root cause and an effect of poverty; promote the well-being of families and their members by addressing their various functions; and bring an end to insecurity and exclusion while fostering family and social resilience through family-focused social protection.

JOSÉ ALEJANDRO VÁZQUEZ of the International Federation for Family Development, describing poverty as a powerful outcome measure for detailed policy assessment of the success of Government efforts to support families, drew attention to the link between negative family outcomes and poverty.  Evidence showed that children from poor households were more likely to grow up poor, experience unemployment, have lower education levels and experience a range of poor health outcomes.  Families raised by a single parent were generally poorer than those raised by couples.  In that context, he made a number of recommendations, including that Governments protect the incomes of households with the poorest children; focus on improving the educations of disadvantaged learners; place equity at the heart of child well-being agendas and build children’s voices into data collection processes.

FRANCES ZAINOEDDIN of the International Federation on Ageing, describing his organization as a global membership of individuals and groups aiming to improve the quality of life of older persons, said poverty was a multifaceted concept including social, economic and political elements.  “Poverty strikes at the heart of our human rights, affecting individuals of all ages regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, religion, level of education, community standing, nationality and/or country of residence,” she said.  Policies that generalized poverty would not have the lasting effect of achieving sustainable development because poverty was experienced differently by different groups.  In that regard, she made a number of recommendations, including the development of poverty reduction policies underpinned by an in-depth understanding of the intersecting forms of discrimination; the inclusion and engagement members of those subpopulations; and commitment to a global research agenda that captured evidence to create an interdisciplinary portfolio of strategies for the eradication of poverty from different perspectives.

Right of Reply

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Nigeria, referring to a statement made the day before by the BILIE Human Rights Initiative, said his country was one indivisible entity in which the rights and privileges of citizens were given due recognition.  The Government, he added, would remain focused on the welfare of Nigeria’s people.

For information media. Not an official record.