Amid Gains in Human Well-being, States Must Adapt National Plans, Forge Wide Partnerships for Greater Progress, Social Development Commission Hears

SOC/4846
6 February 2017
Fifty-fifth Session, 8th & 9th Meetings (AM & PM)

Amid Gains in Human Well-being, States Must Adapt National Plans, Forge Wide Partnerships for Greater Progress, Social Development Commission Hears

While the Copenhagen Declaration had helped countries make great strides in improving living conditions, the international community must now align its work with modern reality, speakers told the Commission on Social Development today, with some calling on the 40-member body to revise its work programme and end duplication.

Concluding debate on the priority theme “strategies for eradicating poverty to achieve sustainable development for all”, representatives of Governments, non-governmental organizations and United Nations agencies alike offered prescriptions for creating more just, inclusive and equal societies 22 years after the 1995 World Summit on Social Development in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Decrying the Commission for implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with an “outdated” worldview, the United States representative cautioned that if it did not evolve, it would become vestigial body of the Economic and Social Council.  “We must be tactical in our demands of the Secretariat and practical in our alignment of the mandates established by the Commission with the work of the 2030 Agenda,” he said, suggesting a revision of its work programme.

Similarly, Mexico’s delegate urged the United Nations to eliminate duplication and strengthen its mechanisms for delivering better results.  He also recalled that his country would host the first regional follow up meeting on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

Throughout the debate, a number of delegates discussed national strategies to eradicate poverty.  Japan’s representative pointed to its 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 sharing of best practices, he emphasized.

“No one should be left invisible,” said Colombia’s delegate, stressing that Governments must monitor, evaluate and reform development agendas and initiatives as necessary.  It was essential to avoid “one-size-fits-all” solutions.

Providing a different view, Iran’s delegate emphasized that traditional planning must be redefined with a view to exploring innovative approaches.  However, new policies must be compatible with national ownership and leadership, he said, adding that social development would remain out of reach for many countries in the absence of technology transfer and a supportive global trade, monetary and financial system.

On that point, Bolivia’s speaker stressed the need to consider the relationships among States, natural resource sectors and transnational companies, underscoring that sustainable development would only be achieved through reform of the Bretton Wood institutions.

Turning to the work of the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, the Commission heard from Director Paul Ladd, who outlined activities during the 2015-2016 biennium (document E/CN.5/2017/8).  He noted how the 2030 Agenda had presented the Institute important opportunities to demonstrate the relevance of its research. 

However, the biennium brought significant challenges, with the Institute’s financial position at the beginning of 2016 reaching a “crisis point” and its operations threatened.  Following discussions and negotiations with its principal Government partners and the United Nations, emergency funds were mobilized to stabilize the Institute.  Considerable efforts were now needed to diversify core funding and increase project funding.

In other business, the Commission nominated Sylvie Durrer to serve as a new member of the Institute’s Board for a four-year term expiring 30 June 2021.  It also nominated Jimi Adesina, Asef Bayat, David Hulme, Joakim Palme and Onalenna Selolwane for an additional two-year term expiring 30 June 2019.

The Commission also considered its proposed work programme for the biennium 2018–2019, hearing from Daniela Bas, Director of the Division for Social Policy and Development of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

Also speaking today were representatives of Thailand, Zimbabwe, Slovenia, Finland, Bulgaria, Tunisia, Namibia, Argentina, Pakistan, Iraq, Republic of Korea, Poland, Sweden, China, Maldives, Indonesia, Italy, Germany, Bangladesh, Libya, Cabo Verde, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Nepal, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Ireland, Turkey, Venezuela, Guatemala, Malawi, Burkina Faso, Cuba, Zambia and Algeria, as well as the Holy See and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

Representatives of the following organizations also spoke:  General Italian Confederation of Labour, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, International Organization of La Francophonie, International Labour Organization (ILO), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN–Habitat), United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, International Organization for Migration (IOM), United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, Core Progresso, International Movement ATD Fourth World, Mountain Institute Mountain and the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, and the Youth Alliance for Leadership and Development in Africa.

The Commission will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 7 February, to continue its work.

Statements

MAITRE IMTHUSUT, Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security for Thailand, said the Government had established a national commission to monitor implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and would pursue a “sufficiency economy”, based on moderation, prudence and self-immunity.  While progress had been made in promoting the rights of vulnerable people, poverty continued to threaten persons with disabilities.  Eliminating poverty was a priority, and with that in mind, the Government had set up a child-support grant scheme as a long-term investment in human capital.  It also had introduced a programme to alleviate poverty among the elderly.  In addition to a monthly allowance and universal health scheme, Thailand had created a national savings fund as a social safety net for self-employed people.

PRISCAH MUPFUMIRA, Minister for Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare of Zimbabwe, said the Government had implemented a number of social development policies, among them, the Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation, which offered a platform to realize economic development, sustainable development and social equity.  As a result, people had benefited from land distribution, community-share ownership trusts and infrastructure construction.  Having brought together key sectors, it also focused on restoring service delivery in health, education, housing, water and sanitation.  Safety nets had been put in place to complement the harmonized social and cash-transfer programme, and a social protection policy framework had been launched to integrate various programmes.  Emphasizing that Zimbabwe’s economy was largely dependent on agriculture, she said the Government had set up an irrigation fund for farmers to access low-interest, long-term loans.

ANDREJ LOGAR (Slovenia), associating himself with the European Union, said it was important to take a deeper look at new and emerging challenges.  While the number of the long-term unemployed had dropped, the length of unemployment had increased.  Many of those who had lost their jobs during the recession had become dependent on social transfers and still struggled to successfully join the labour market and cut the dependency on social welfare benefits.  The lack of both social and work competencies and skills hindered people from entering the labour market again.  It was vital to address the challenges faced by young people by targeting employment and labour markets and education programmes.  Another important facet of support involved addressing the issue of housing, as many young people stayed at home well into adulthood.

ILMI SALMINEN, youth delegate from Finland, said that still too many women and girls did not have the right to make decisions concerning their own bodies.  “The autonomy and self-determination of women and girls must be enhanced,” she stressed.  Too often, it was men who controlled technology, while women’s and girls’ access was limited by the societies, communities and families in which they lived.  Girls must be enabled to access technology and take part in the digital environment.  She went on to emphasize gender stereotypes, noting how, in aspiring for leadership, her male friends were not encouraged to show their feelings.  In order to achieve a sustainable future, transforming normative gender roles and relations would be crucial.

ALEXANDRA MIRCHEVA, youth delegate from Bulgaria, said young people had played a key role in shaping the 2030 Agenda and should now be a driving force in its implementation.  Calling on Member States to involve youth as equal partners in the national implementation reviews and monitoring of the Agenda, she said her country’s youth delegates had launched a 10-month campaign to mobilize the efforts of different non-governmental organizations and Government institutions, with the support of the private sector, to promote the Sustainable Development Goals.  Noting that they had also identified a lack of quality education and economic and social inclusion as main challenges to realizing their human rights — particularly the right to education and work — she spotlighted social entrepreneurship as one of the tools available to address those challenges in a sustainable way.

KARIMA BADAOUI (Tunisia), associating herself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China and with the African Group, said much remained to be done before 2030.  Quoting former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, as saying that poverty was man-made, she recalled that Tunisia, since its 2011 revolution, had chosen the path of inclusivity and openness.  Social inequality and significant unemployment, particularly among young people, were major challenges, but the Government sought to recalibrate the national economy, having taken measure of the colossal work that would involve.  The goal was to guarantee human development in Tunisia, marked by improved living conditions and integration into the knowledge society, she said, outlining relevant programmes and congratulating “the Herculean efforts” of the country’s civil society.

NEVILLE GERTZE (Namibia), associating himself with the Group of 77 and with the African Group, said poverty was pervasive in his country, mainly due to the legacy of the previous apartheid colonial administration.  Income and wealth distribution were still defined along racial lines, leaving Namibia among the most skewed income countries in the world.  It was the Government’s challenge to reach those furthest behind first, he said, recalling that the President had declared a war on poverty with the aim of creating prosperity for all.  Noting that Namibia’s substantial rural population depended on agriculture, he said the biggest impediment to investment in that sector was climate change, and requested international cooperation in order to mitigate the effects of drought.

MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina), noting that the Government viewed poverty as a complex multidimensional phenomenon, emphasized the need to secure the partnership of all actors in national policies to achieve sustainable development.  In Argentina, social policies were provided to citizens from cradle to grave, he said, adding that the Government had created the national youth plan with a view to ensuring equal opportunities for boys and girls.  Argentina sought to provide services that would mitigate extreme vulnerability and intergenerational poverty, as well as achieve sustainable employment, and improve access to both advanced information and communications technology and financing.

Mr. HASAN (Pakistan), associating himself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said his nation’s development plan focused on improving living standards and mobilizing resources to promote the rights of the vulnerable and marginalized.  Reducing national poverty by half remained a priority.  Economic policies of the Government were aimed at achieving macroeconomic stability and economic growth, and provide sustenance to the momentum.  The Government had also taken a number of other steps to reduce the incidence of poverty and bridge the income inequality gap between various income groups.  That would include widening access to quality services like the endowment fund for education and upscaling nutrition.  Poverty was a cross-cutting issue that required action beyond the national level, he added.

Ms. ABDULLAH (Iraq) said that the Government, with a view to combating poverty and reducing inequality, had organized a number of workshops and meetings, created work plans, and defined priorities for the 2017-2021 period.  While poverty had declined following the introduction of social protection and credit programmes, it had increased again due to terrorist activities and lower oil prices.  Despite those setbacks, Iraq continued to provide financial assistance to the poor and persons with disabilities.  Furthermore, it was working with international support groups to address the growing numbers of internally displaced people.

CARLOS ARTURO MORALES LÓPEZ (Colombia) said that poverty eradication strategies must take into account the multidimensional nature of poverty, and secure partnership with the private sector, civil society and the academic community.  In order to achieve the 2030 Agenda, it was critical to identify vulnerable groups and address their needs through inclusive policies and programmes.  “No one should be left invisible,” he said, emphasizing that Governments must monitor, evaluate and reform development agendas and initiatives as necessary.  While doing so, it was essential to avoid implementing “one-size-fits-all” solutions.

KANG SANGWOOK (Republic of Korea) said that to implement the sustainable development vision, countries would need sophisticated poverty-eradication strategies and follow-up actions.  The Republic of Korea faced domestic challenges such as economic uncertainty among older persons and persons with disabilities, youth unemployment and gender wage gaps.   The Government had adopted multiple laws and policies to tackle those issues, including a pension programme and legislation to ensure the rights of persons with disabilities.  It was also enhancing development cooperation to support least developed countries and increasing humanitarian projects for fragile and conflict-affected States.   Women and girls, children and persons with disabilities deserved special attention, he added, calling on all stakeholders who shared the goal of poverty eradication to continue to communicate best practices.

Ms. PUZ (Poland), associating herself with the European Union, noted her country’s regular contributions to the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund to help communities affected by emergencies and imminent threats to peace and security.  Such support was complemented by official development assistance (ODA), which Poland sought to bring to 0.33 per cent of gross national income by 2030.  She emphasized that Poland was the second-largest donor of scholarships with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), adding that in implementing the concept of “development through trade” it had kept its economy open to exports from almost 90 developing countries.  Turning to demographics, she said the Government had introduced a programme last year to respond to the challenge of a population was both decreasing and aging.  Going forward, Poland was expected to elaborate a new comprehensive migration policy and make changes to facilitate labour immigration.

Mr. NORLANDER (Sweden), associating himself with the European Union, said employment was the link between poverty reduction and economic development, and that access to more and better jobs was critical to improving living conditions and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.  Sweden’s feminist Government was committed to accelerating gender equality and making a difference in people’s lives, he said, noting that Swedish society had undergone major changes in recent decades.  Describing a national strategies aimed at supporting equal participation in the labour market and work-life balance, as well as early childhood care and education, he also stressed that sexual and reproductive health and rights were integral components of human rights and vital to both poverty eradication and sustainable development.  Further, Sweden was engaged in initiatives to ensure that older people led active lives and exercised influence in society, and to protect the rights of persons with disabilities.

YAO SHAOJUN (China) said economic growth must be promoted vigorously, and that countries should — in light of their specific conditions — accelerate implementation of the 2030 Agenda.  Emphasizing the need to work towards inclusive development, he said countries should come up with holistic, integrated and coordinated poverty reduction strategies.  Such efforts should be more effective and targeted, while international cooperation must be reinforced.  Assistance to Africa and least developed countries should be increased, he said, urging developed countries to show political will and provide developing countries with funding, technology and other support with “no political strings attached”.  While poverty in China had been declining, the country was the world’s largest developing nation.  A State Council plan released in December 2016 aimed to ensure that the poor, as measured by existing criteria, would be lifted out of poverty by 2020.

Ms. OMIYA (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.

AHMED SAREER (Maldives) said his country had halted poverty in 15 years through setting targets, implementing strategies and monitoring progress.  “Less than 1 per cent of the population is living below the poverty line,” he said, noting that it had not been an easy achievement.  The Government had prioritized human capital development, education for all and the establishment of universal health care.  Further, several initiatives had been taken to maximize job opportunities for young people and eliminate gender disparity, including the employment act, which sought to achieve equal pay for equal work, and efforts to secure decent jobs for all segments of society.  However, Maldives was vulnerable to external shocks given its “island paradox”, he said, citing climate change as a significant threat to livelihoods and the national development agenda.

MASNI ERIZA (Indonesia) said his country had implemented a number of regional and national plans to foster peace, as well as pro-poor, pro-growth and equitable development.  Nearly two decades after the 1998 Asian financial crisis, poverty in Indonesia had fallen from 24.23 per cent to 11.13 per cent.  Going forward, the Government would implement an aggressive strategic plan to accelerate poverty alleviation, foster economic growth, promote sustainable livelihoods and both increase and expand basic social services.  Recognizing the family as a fundamental agent for poverty reduction, he said Indonesia had issued family and health cards that offered children access to free health services and education.

ILARIO SCHETTINO (Italy), associating himself with the European Union, said a person-centred approach to social development that included inter-generational responsibility was the only path that would be feasible in the long term.  Recalling Italy’s presidency of the Group of Seven, he said that entity’s accountability report this year would take stock of its commitment to education, including for refugees in protracted crises.  Domestically, Italy’s Chamber of Deputies was considering legislation to introduce a national day for the eradication of poverty.  In the context of the 2030 Agenda, he underscored Italy’s initiatives in Burkina Faso to ensure food security and support micro and small enterprises, and in Senegal, where a €13 million soft loan sought to address the root causes of irregular migration and extreme poverty.

Mr. KOEHLER, Mr. KLAUSCH and Ms. BUCH, youth delegates from Germany, described the experience of being “imprisoned” by social exclusion, a common feeling among young people around the world.  Stressing that there was an international duty to empower them, and noting that poverty played a major role in such situations, they went on to describe the lives of a woman with Down Syndrome and a Syrian refugee in Germany.  “We cannot take peace and open borders for granted,” they emphasized, citing the physical and mental barriers created by the recent rise of nationalism and populism.  Creating an inclusive society meant tearing down the walls that hindered poor, disabled, disadvantaged and otherwise marginalized groups from fully participating in society.  Noting that the United Nations had adopted resolutions that were “full of potential” if implemented accordingly — including the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the 2030 Agenda and Security Council resolution 2250 (2015) on youth, peace and security — they said far too many young people were still turning to violent extremism, driven in part by social exclusion.  “We, as young people engaged in our communities, can’t ignore that connection,” they said.

MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh) said the Government had mainstreamed the Sustainable Development Goals into the national development plan, and a platform under the supervision of the Prime Minister had been created to coordinate and monitor that work.  Bangladesh had experienced one of the fastest poverty reduction rates in the world with a modest resource base, reducing poverty from 56.7 per cent in 1991 to 22.4 per cent in 2016.  Further, despite the global recession, export earnings and remittance flows had increased nearly three-fold, while foreign currency reserves had jumped by 8.5 times.  People’s empowerment was at the heart of the national development agenda, he said, calling the family a basic social institution that was essential to eradicating poverty, reducing inequality and enhancing social well-being.3

MATTHEW DOLBOW (United States) said that while the Copenhagen Declaration, adopted at the 1995 World Summit for Social Development, had made great strides, the international community must align its work with modern reality.  Also, the Commission sought to implement the 2030 Agenda with an outdated worldview, which must evolve.  Otherwise, the Commission would become vestigial body of the Economic and Social Council.  Too often, when United Nations mechanisms failed to meet their mandates, the international community created alternative structures to achieve global aspirations.  “We must be tactical in our demands of the Secretariat and practical in our alignment of the mandates established by the Commission with the work of the 2030 Agenda,” he stressed.  To best direct efforts towards meaningful results, he suggested revising the Commission’s work programme so that it did not duplicate other United Nations activities.  Underscoring the need for the Economic and Social Council to deepen the coordination and coherence of its work and reporting efforts, he similarly urged an end to the duplication of resolutions and reporting demands across United Nations bodies.

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia), associating himself with the Group of 77, underscored the importance of the Commission’s follow-up to the 2030 Agenda.  Under its President, Bolivia has gone from a country of poverty and inequality to one in control of its sovereignty and natural resources.  Detailing how poverty, unemployment, illiteracy and chronic malnutrition had declined, while the average national salary and public investment in health care had grown, he said such progress had resulted from an economic model whereby 82 per cent of natural resource wealth remained in the country.  Emphasizing the need to consider the relationship among States, natural resources and transnational companies, he said sustainable development would only be achieved through reform of the Bretton Wood institutions.

IBRAHIM K. M. ALMABRUK (Libya), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said the failure to rescue the poor in sub-Saharan Africa had led to the dangerous phenomenon of irregular migration.  Countries of origin needed support in drafting and realizing poverty eradication programmes.  Political instability and armed conflict were factors behind migration, displacement and poverty, which had increased in the Middle East and North Africa.  International solidarity and political will were needed to end conflict in the region, he said, adding that social development was vital for long-term economic growth and welfare.  Stressing the need to help countries recover funds that had been smuggled abroad, he also advocated support for efforts to diversify the income sources of those countries whose economies depended on a single commodity.

JOSÉ LUIS ROCHA (Cabo Verde) said implementation of the 2030 Agenda required addressing the root causes of social inequality and poverty.  For its part, Cabo Verde was taking steps to integrate the Sustainable Development Goals into the national strategy through the design and implementation of policies and strategies aimed at achieving inclusive development.  In that context, he cited programmes to create jobs for young people, promote entrepreneurship and eliminate social exclusion.  Also, capacity-building programmes had been put in place, he said, stressing the need for increased partnership with the private sector and civil society.

EI EI KHIN AYE (Myanmar), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said national reconciliation was critical for inclusive development.  Myanmar was working towards improving education, health and social welfare and rural development.   Education was vital for improving other sectors, such as health, nutrition, women’s empowerment, micro, small and medium-sized enterprise and job creation.  The Government was also promoting workers’ rights in accordance with international norms.  Emphasizing the need to promote the interests of vulnerable groups, such as women, youth, persons with disabilities and older persons, he said positive developments had already been made.  Women’s participation in the Government had significantly increased and a law had been enacted to protect the well-being of the elderly.  However, mobilizing financial and human resources remained a significant challenge for developing countries.

JUAN SANDOVAL MENDIOLEA (Mexico) said his country had designed and implemented various strategies to achieve gender equality, end violence against women and children, eliminate hunger and enable access to universal health care, the last of which had received $6.2 million in funding.  In April, Mexico would hold the first meeting in the Latin American and the Caribbean region to follow up on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.  For its part, the United Nations must eliminate duplication in its work and strengthen its mechanisms for delivering better results.

SONIA GUARAGNA of the General Italian Confederation of Labour welcomed the universal human rights approach of the 2030 Agenda, and emphasized Goal 8 concerning sustainable employment and decent work for all.  Progress in that regard in recent years had been slow and uneven, with the current 200 million unemployed being 27 million greater than before the global economic crisis.  She called for the 2030 Agenda to be translated into action on the ground, including through the creation of quality jobs, especially for women and youth, and the right to collective bargaining.  Sustainable development indicators adopted by the United Nations Statistical Commission should include those for trade union rights.

CÄCILIE SCHILDBERG of Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, speaking on behalf of the Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors, underlined the vital role of universal social protection floors in ensuring that no one was left behind.  The Commission should consider the adoption of a draft Economic and Social Council resolution on social protection systems, including floors, as a necessary political step towards universal and comprehensive social protection.  Entitlement to universal social protection was a goal, not an option, she said, adding that it was unacceptable that 73 per cent of the global population lacked even the most basic forms of social protection.

JUANA SANDOVAL (Nicaragua), pointing to the relationship between development and income equality, said that Government policies had addressed concerns with far-reaching results in ending poverty, generating economic recovery and ensuring inclusive growth.  In order to bridge gaps in living standards, Nicaragua had sought responses within the population, which included women’s empowerment, the introduction of diversity programmes and capacity-building.

NIRMAL RAJ KAFLE (Nepal), associating himself with the Group of 77, said his country’s peace process had broadened the rights of women, children, the elderly and people with disabilities.  For example, it guaranteed women would represent 33 per cent of those in Parliament.  Efforts were being made to ensure that children, particularly girls, in difficult situations and from ethnic minority groups had access to free education.  Nepal also had been taking the necessary steps to graduate from least developed country status by 2022.  However, the 2015 earthquake had challenged and even reversed many of its gains.  He urged the international community to continue to acknowledge and support the specific needs of least developed countries by providing predictable financial and technical assistance.  Countries such as Nepal, which had also emerged from conflict, deserved particular attention, he added.

KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan) said the poorest and most disadvantaged people must be guaranteed basic living standards and social protections.  Hence, it was crucial to bridge gaps between international commitments and implementation at the national level.  Kazakhstan was focused on protecting human rights, promoting good governance and ensuring access to basic services.  Recognizing the need to guarantee a minimum social standard in order to reduce poverty, Kazakhstan had implemented programmes to improve education, health care and social services.  A national strategy to liberalize the labour market and modernize the social benefits system was also in place.   His country was committed to implementing the anti-poverty agenda through ensuring stable employment, human resource development and improving the system of targeted assistance and social benefits.

EBRAHIM ALIKHANI (Iran), associating himself with the Group of 77, said that, more than ever, traditional planning must be redefined with a view to exploring innovative approaches to poverty eradication.  However, new policies must be compatible with national ownership and leadership, he said, adding that social development would remain out of reach for many countries in the absence of technology transfer and a supportive global trade, monetary and financial system.  Iran had undertaken, with satisfactory outcomes, a multifaceted approach to poverty eradication that included universal health coverage, a food security scheme and incentives for out-of-school children.  It also had implemented initiatives for empowering women, persons with disabilities and older persons.

HABIB MIKAYILLI (Azerbaijan) said economic growth alone was insufficient to guarantee sustained poverty reduction.  Benefits must be shared among all segments of the population.  Azerbaijan’s economy had tripled during the last decade, translating into improved socioeconomic conditions for all.  Poverty and unemployment had dropped to 5 per cent and the Government had provided 100,000 families with targeted social assistance.  Some 3,000 schools and another 600 hospitals and health centres had been built or renovated, while more than 250,000 internally displaced persons had been provided homes in newly established settlements.  Furthermore, salaries and pensions had increased by 7 and 8 per cent, respectively.  A national fund had allocated preferential loans to entrepreneurs, while another entity had been set up to boost family business, as well as small and medium-sized enterprises.

Ms. O’BRIEN, youth delegate from Ireland, said peace, justice and a strong rule of law were essential to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and especially relevant for eradicating poverty.  Without access to justice and a transparent and accountable legal system, poverty eradication would be nothing more than an aspiration.  Exploitative trade practices and discriminatory property laws further entrenched poverty, affecting men and women differently.  She urged Member States to ensure that no child went hungry and no person experienced homelessness or illness due to a lack of affordable health care.

ADNAN ALTAY ALTINÖRS (Turkey), associating himself with the European Union, said his country’s development encompassed rapid economic growth and macroeconomic stability, as well as social protection and inclusion.  Under its 2014-2018 development, improved access to education and health was particularly significant, he said, adding that last year more than 3 million Turkish families had received Government support for housing, food, transportation and basic services.  An unprecedented influx of migrants and refugees had had a direct impact on Turkey’s social development.  Educating Syrian children was a priority, as they would be the ones to rebuild their country and contribute to regional peace and security, he said, stressing that they should not be lost to radicalism and violence.  In all, Turkey — including its non-governmental organization s — had spent almost $25 billion to support Syrians, while the total contribution from the international community was, at $512 million, far less than expected and promised.

ROBERT ALEXANDER POVEDA BRITO (Venezuela), associating himself with Group of 77 and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said it was concerning that only 1 per cent of the population controlled 40 per cent of global wealth.  Overcoming poverty and exclusion must be the chief priority of the United Nations.  Venezuela had placed social investment at the heart of its public policy and enshrined such rights in its Constitution.  Despite challenges, Venezuela would not falter with its ambitious goal of fairly distributing wealth.  He touched on several scenarios where Venezuela had improved access to housing and high-quality education, stressing that almost 4 million Venezuelans now had access to personal tablets and computers and millions of retired citizens received a pension.  Only through diplomacy and dialogue could inequality be solved, he said, advocating unity and cooperation among people of the global South.

JORGE SKINNER KLEE (Guatemala), associating himself with Group of 77 and CELAC, said it was important to continue to address structural gaps, such as poor education and social services.   He called on Member States to take advantage of the momentum brought forth by the 2030 Agenda and establish the minimal political agenda necessary for achieving sustainable development.  It was vital to address structural challenges to development, particularly for women, the indigenous, persons with disabilities and youth.  A lack of public services and discriminatory attitudes had hampered efforts to achieve equality.  Highlighting challenges young people faced, particularly in rural areas, he supported investment in and empowerment of young people to express themselves “since they know their own needs”.

LOT DZONZI (Malawi) said the Government had intensified implementation of pro-poor development policies and strategies to sustain economic growth.  The Ministry for Social Development had adopted a national social support programme to reduce poverty among the ultra-poor households.  It included social cash transfers, school meals, microcredit, village lending and saving schemes.  In addition, the Government had adopted a public works programme, providing short-term labour-intensive activities for the poor to enhance food security.  It had also had a decent work programme, which provided a strategy for promoting labour and employment activities in the country.

SOULEYMANE SOULAMA (Burkina Faso) said that if the Copenhagen Declaration was a turning point, then the Sustainable Development Goals demonstrated the failures in eradicating poverty.  Two major challenges — poverty and social integration — had yet to be overcome.  Implementing poverty eradication strategies involved everyone, she said, emphasizing that the most vulnerable in society were particularly affected by poverty.  Burkina Faso gave priority attention to vulnerable groups and sought to achieve sustainable development through policies and programmes that placed people at the heart of its work.  The success of any development programme depended on means of implementation, she added, underscoring the contributions to be made by civil society, private sector and citizens living abroad, among others.

Ms. RODRIGUEZ CAMERO (Cuba), associating herself with the Group of 77, said developed countries had a role to play in fostering a climate conducive for the development of all people.  She agreed with the Secretary-General that economic growth should be reflected by a reduction in poverty, adding however that it was also vital to create a conducive international climate.  The $2 trillion spent annually on the military could be diverted to development, she said, pointing also to the impact of an unfair global economic order, illegitimate sanctions and unilateral coercive measures taken mainly against countries of the South.  Poverty-eradication strategies might overlap, but there was no one-size-fits-all development model.  The priorities of each State must be judged on their own merits and developed countries must deliver on their assistance pledges without preconditions.

GERTRUDE K. MWAPE (Zambia), associating herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said poverty in her country, particularly among women and persons with disabilities, remained high.  It was especially rampant in rural areas.  The Government had implemented various social protection programmes, including public welfare schemes, an agricultural policy, which sought to improve the livelihoods of vulnerable farmers, and an employment policy that aimed to protect workers from exploitation.  The Government had also prioritized an “education for all” strategy to reduce the gender gap, particularly in the sciences.   To address the plight of the almost one million persons with disabilities, Zambia had enacted an agenda to address their unique economic and employment needs.

MOHAMMED BESSEDIK (Algeria), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said poverty eradication and food security policies must prioritize rural areas, where people must be helped out of extreme poverty and chronic hunger.   Hunger would not be eliminated by slogans alone, he said, recalling several summits that ambitiously pledged to end hunger and yet failed to do so.  Amid a climate of geopolitical upheaval, the international community must pledge unwavering support to multilateralism.  The planet must be more just and more unified, he said, urging the international community to come together to find rapid and efficient solutions.  The global agenda could not be planned by a few countries.  Return of trust and growth required greater coordination.  The United Nations and Bretton Woods institutions must complement each other, he added, calling for a large-scale movement based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.

TOMASZ GRYSA of the Holy See said that, during his annual address to the diplomatic corps, Pope Francis had recognized that combining civil progress with concrete economic development was the only road to peace, an active virtue requiring the cooperation and engagement of each individual and society as a whole.  But for too many people, peace appeared to be a blessing taken for granted; for many others, it was a distant dream.  Ending violent conflict must be the priority if the international community was to eradicate poverty and build enduring peace, he emphasized.  That would require addressing economic, social and spiritual poverty through education, jobs and opportunities encouraging personal growth and meaningful contributions, he said, emphasizing that it was also necessary to address the needs of the most marginalized people, such as the elderly.  The role of the family as the most cost-effective social safety net was crucial in that regard, especially when supported by tax credits or other targeted Government policies, he said.

PATRICIA HERDT of the International Organization of La Francophonie said the group placed youth at the centre of its decisions and action, having enacted support mechanisms for youth with a view to achieving responsible and sustainable development.  Youth contributed their opinions at Francophonie summits, while at the local level, the organization had carried out various projects, including the creation of an innovation fund.  The Francophonie Games, to be held next in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, in July, provided an opportunity for sports and cultural exchanges.  A 2016 initiative allow Francophone youth to express their commitment to freedom, tolerance and respect for others, while la Francophonie would soon launch a major survey on best practices in national youth policy.

BERTRAND DE LOOZ KARAGEORGIADES, Sovereign Military Order of Malta, said the suffering of those with physical and mental disabilities sometimes tended to be forgotten.  They were rarely visible, having suffered trauma resulting from armed conflict.  He outlined the Order’s work in more than 120 countries, including South Sudan, where it was teaching families more efficient farming methods; Turkey, where it operated a hospital, as well as schools for Syrian refugees; and Uganda, where the Order helped the mothers of children with disabilities.  The Order’s vocation, to serve humankind, was as valid today as it had been at its founding in the twelfth century, he emphasized.

AMBER BARTH, International Labour Organization (ILO), said global unemployment was expected to rise by 3.4 million in 2017, bringing the tally to 201 million.  Nearly 1.4 billion people were in vulnerable employment and wage growth had fallen to its lowest level in four years.  Supporting universal ratification and implementation of international labour standards, she said decent jobs mattered particularly for the most excluded.  As such, ILO entrepreneurship programmes assisted disadvantaged women and provided opportunities for young people in Liberia, India, Brazil and elsewhere.  Programmes could also be designed for indigenous people and trafficked migrants.  Noting that many low- and middle-income countries had extended social protection in recent years by broadening coverage and increasing benefits, she said that funding nonetheless had remained a challenge, she said, urging continued assistance to countries seeking to initiate and strengthen social protection.

CARLA MUCAVI of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said that, despite progress over in recent decades, poverty, hunger and malnutrition remained major obstacles to sustainable development.  Empowering rural actors, particularly women, youth and indigenous people, would enable them to play an active role in eliminating hunger and poverty.  Stressing the importance of increasing investment in agriculture and empowering rural farmers, she said engaging rural youth could be a “double win” as it would address youth unemployment and migration while, at the same time, rejuvenate the agricultural sector.  She highlighted the need for partnerships with the private sector and civil society to address the interlinked nature of the Sustainable Development Goals.  “Only by working together will we be able to make hunger and poverty history,” she said.

FRANCESCA DE FERRARI of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) said young people accounted for 43.7 per cent of the global unemployed.  That meant that almost every other jobless person in the world was between the ages of 15 and 24.  Exclusion from economic, political and social life could breed hopelessness and upheaval, she said, calling for a levelling of the playing field in access to education and employment.  Although evidence had shown that cities were making efforts to tackle youth poverty, the resources needed for such interventions were limited.  It was important to plan cities and regions in order to generate value, as well as the economic growth and conditions to overcome inequality.

TAKYIWAA MANUH, Director, Social Development Policy Division, Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), said that despite impressive economic growth over the past 15 years, the number of people living in extreme poverty on the continent had remained constant at about 390 million.  The structural pattern of growth in the last two decades and high inequality levels within countries was partly responsible for the slow pace in reducing poverty across the region, he said, adding that there was considerable evidence that Africa could be more successful in that regard given robust growth in manufacturing and other sectors enjoying high value-added per worker.  New initiatives were needed to increase productivity in agriculture, the sector in which up to half of the continent’s population still worked, and a new industrialization strategy was required to move workers faster into higher productivity and higher-wage jobs.  The ECA wished to ensure inclusive economic growth that would lead to improved living standards, he said.  Describing international migration as critical to development, improved welfare, peace and stability and better jobs for Africa’s growing population, he said the ECA was working closely with the African Union to establish a high-level panel on migration that would help to develop a common African position in that regard.

CHRIS RICHTER of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said migration could be a tool for poverty eradication, yet it had received only passing recognition in the Commission’s deliberations and outcomes.  Studies had demonstrated that, in the long run, migrants could be drivers of development.  He expressed concern over discrimination faced by migrants, emphasizing the need for policies that would prevent their exclusion and address barriers to them reaching their full potential.  When governed humanely, migration had endless advantages.

NAGESH KUMAR of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) said the Asia-Pacific region was characterized as the fastest growing in the world, yet 540 million of its people still lived in extreme poverty.  Informal employment, with little or no social protections, represented the majority of jobs in developing Asia.  Inequality meanwhile was growing, a trend that would likely continue without stronger efforts to address it.  Inequality disproportionately affected vulnerable social groups, with women and girls experiencing additional hardship.  In supporting the creation of a more inclusive and sustainable society in the Asia-Pacific region, ESCAP was aligning its work more closely to the Sustainable Development Goals, he said, citing a number of examples of its work.

Ms. GARZON of Corprogresso, recalling that her country, Colombia, had experienced an economic downturn in the 1990s, urged the Government to apply subsidies to help citizens.  Her organization was working to help the Government implement social programmes.  Some 2.8 million people had emerged from extreme poverty in Colombia in recent decades.  Emphasizing the need for education, health care and job creation, she said Core Progresso would continue to work to rebuild the social fabric of civil society.

MONICA JAHANGIR of the International Movement ATD Fourth World, from France, said people’s experience must be drawn upon to effectively ensure that no one was left behind.  Access to decent work for all and quality education were fundamental to achieving sustainable development.  People living in poverty must be empowered to meaningfully participate in the discussion.

Ms. BUSHHINI of the Mountain Institute Mountain and the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, speaking on behalf of the Mountain Partnership, emphasized the role of mountains in sustainable development.  Mountains tended to be viewed as unchanging, but their ecosystems were threatened by climate change.  “We are all connected to mountains, more than we realize,” she said, noting for example that half of humanity relied on mountain water sources.  Overexploitation of mountain ecosystems would undermine their resilience, with cascading consequences.  Noting that poverty had been rising in mountain areas, she called for the creation of a permanent United Nations entity for mountain lands and people.

Ms. NOGUEIRA and Mr. JEMEL of the Youth Alliance for Leadership and Development in Africa at Harvard University, a civil society organization that sought to train African leaders, emphasized the growth of the continent’s youth population, which by 2050 would represent the world’s biggest economic resource.  They cautioned against a failure to invest in such a resource, saying that currently half of African college graduates faced unemployment.  The global community must put an emphasis on sustainable jobs for African youth, they added.

For information media. Not an official record.