More Inclusive Policies Needed to Protect Elderly, Youth from Conflict, Natural Disasters, Poverty, Speakers Tell Social Development Commission

SOC/4861
5 February 2018
Fifty-sixth session, 10th Meeting (AM)

More Inclusive Policies Needed to Protect Elderly, Youth from Conflict, Natural Disasters, Poverty, Speakers Tell Social Development Commission

Representatives of non‑governmental organizations advocated for more progressive, inclusive policies on a range of critical issues — from disaster resilience and early childhood education to support for families and farmers — as the Commission for Sustainable Development continued its fifty‑sixth annual session this morning.

Rounding out the body’s annual general debate, delegates from religious, business‑based and academic groups, including the only student‑run organization accredited with the United Nations Economic and Social Council, took the floor to urge Member States to prioritize the needs of young people, rural dwellers, older persons and others in special situations.  Of particular concern were the effects of poverty, conflict and natural disasters on those most vulnerable populations.

Among those advocating for the rights of older persons was the representative of the International Federation of Associations of the Elderly, whose organization addressed the specific needs of the elderly in crisis and emergency situations around the world.  Noting that elderly persons were particularly vulnerable to the consequences of disasters, as well as to pandemics and the results of wars and conflict, he said the need to manage the post‑traumatic stress disorder of older populations — who often suffered from shock and depression after such crises — was rarely taken into account by State policies.

At the other end of the age spectrum, a representative of the International Relations Students’ Association of McGill University (Canada) — noting that hers was the only student‑run group enjoying consultative status with the Economic and Social Council — warned that the world had recently been jolted by transnational systemic and structural changes so unprecedented “that the future of my generation may be left hanging by a loose thread”.  Meanwhile, global decisions on such issues as environmental change, food security, migration and energy were too often made without input from young voices.  In that regard, she cautioned Member States to avoid the bias of “adultism” in their policymaking, adding:  “The status quo on social development cannot be improved by those who cling to a present that is already dying.”

A representative of the World Organization for Early Childhood Education said millions of children under the age of 5 in poor and emerging countries continued to fail to reach their full potential.  Emphasizing that early childhood interventions mitigated the impacts of negative experiences in early years, providing an entry point for peacebuilding, she said early childhood education was one of the best investments societies could make.  Indeed, the toll of not implementing such policies was unacceptable.  “Poverty is not destiny,” she stressed.

Delegates from several organizations also called for more efforts to empower small‑scale farmers and other rural communities.  The representative of Bäuerliche Erzeugergemeinschaft Schwäbisch Hall, for one, warned that globalization and industrialization were accompanied by the degeneration of local and small‑scale economies, small‑scale farming and local trade, often leading to rural poverty and starvation.  Small farmers and rural dwellers, representing more than 80 per cent of the world’s population, were being robbed of their common assets by such practices as land- and knowledge‑grabbing.  He therefore called for the establishment of new value chains and value generation that favoured local economies of the global South, with the goal of achieving a fair share of international trade for poor and emerging societies.

A representative of the S M Sehgal Foundation said his organization’s initiatives in India aimed at empowering the rural poor through support for a range of projects.  Innovations already introduced included irrigation models and the provision of more than 15,000 volunteers to help bridge the income gap.  Communities were working to establish good governance to enhance knowledge of local laws and legislation, with an emphasis on women’s participation.  When citizens worked to climb up the ladder of prosperity, development goals were automatically met, he said.

Also spotlighted was the importance of ensuring widespread insurance coverage, particularly against the backdrop of current crises such as climate change and related natural disasters.  The representative of the BJD Reinsurance Consulting group, warning that risks were accumulating today at an unprecedented rate, recalled that several global associations had been created in recent years to help optimize and extend the use of insurance and risk management, with the aim of building greater resilience and protection for people, communities, businesses and public institutions.  Those included the Insurance Development Forum, launched in 2015, and the InsuResilience Global Partnership for Climate and Disaster Risk Finance and Insurance Solutions, launched in 2017 by an array of nations, civil society groups, international organizations and private sector entities.

Also speaking were the representatives of Malawi and Guinea, as well as several United Nations agencies and affiliated bodies.  Those included the International Labour Organization (ILO), International Telecommunication Union (ITU), United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) and the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

Representatives from several other non‑governmental organizations also delivered statements.  Those were:  the International Federation for Family Development, All Together in Dignity, Society of Catholic Medical Missionaries, WOOMB International Ltd., Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, UDISHA, HOPE Foundation, Hellenic Association of Political Scientists, African Youth Movement, Irene Menakaya School and the International Committee for Peace and Reconciliation.

The Commission will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 7 February, to take action on the session’s draft proposals and other items.

Statements

MCCALLUM SIBANDE, Director of Administration for the Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare of Malawi, associating himself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China and the African Group, said the 17 Sustainable Development Goals had been incorporated in his country’s overarching, medium‑term development plan.  Central to that strategy was a holistic approach to eradicating poverty, while ensuring that no one was left behind, he said, adding that it aimed at establishing a “self‑reliant Malawi”.  The inclusion of specific disability objectives, expected outcomes and indicators should provide countries with a reference and justification for all national sectoral plans, policies and programmes to focus on disability issues in a more concrete manner.  Outlining several such concrete plans under way in Malawi, he went on to note that a Government cash transfer programme had benefited some 176,00 households — including many that were female‑headed — by September 2017.  Other plans were in place to support early childhood development and to support the overall social, physical, intellectual and emotional development of all children in Malawi.

VINICIUS CARVALHO PINHEIRO, Special Representative to the United Nations and Director, International Labour Organization (ILO), said decent work for all was one of the best ways to break the cycle of poverty.  About 300 million workers around the world currently lived in extreme poverty, with many resorting to the informal employment sector.  Women were particularly affected by this phenomenon, having less access to employment opportunities, and earned on average 25 per cent less than men.  Issuing several recommendations to address those challenges, he said some important goals included ensuring equal pay for work of equal value; ensuring employment access to youth; strengthening national minimum wage policies; adopting policies that protected the rights of all workers; and ensuring social protection for all.

MOHAMED DIABY, Deputy National Director of the Ministry of Social Action for Women’s Advancement and Children of Guinea, said his country’s population was young and faced the major challenge of high unemployment rates.  For that reason, it was estimated that almost half a million people had emigrated abroad from Guinea in recent years.  In response, the Government had put in place inclusive development policies focused on building human capital.  For example, a National Reinsertion of Youth policy had been instituted following the region’s Ebola outbreak.  Policies were also in place to combat all types of gender inequality, including by fighting the practice of female genital mutilation.  An initiative had been launched to provide millions of women with microcredit.  Noting that the Ebola epidemic had exacerbated economic challenges, especially for young people, he stressed that “the Government has learned from this danger” and strengthened its national response policies.  To show true political will on behalf of persons with disabilities, the country was also implementing inclusive policies and working to reshape their image as active agents in society.

URSULA WYNHOVEN, International Telecommunication Union (ITU), said that information and communications technology (ICT) was a key means of implementation for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.  Half the world was not yet connected to the Internet, and women, girls, older persons and persons with disabilities faced additional barriers to getting online.  Access to ICT could greatly enhance the lives and increase the independence of persons with disabilities and older persons with mobility challenges.  Digital skills were critical, and even youth, the most connected age group in the world, did not necessarily have such skills needed by employers.  The digital inclusion of all people for social and economic development required comprehensive national digital inclusion policies, strategies and guidelines, including for digital skills development.

MARIANN KOVACS, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), said chronic hunger among people around the world was rising, to 815 million in 2016 from 770 million in 2015, with many living and working in rural areas.  As such, investing in rural areas was critical to reducing poverty and hunger, and plans must empower local actors, including women farmers and youth.  Indeed, women were the backbone of the rural economy, but received scant support when compared to men.  In addition, youth involvement must be boosted, addressing the significant potential of younger generations.  Among the greatest climate change dangers were negative food production consequences, she said, emphasizing that programmes must address those and related challenges.

MARINE DAVTYAN, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), said poverty eradication required a holistic approach that addressed inequality.  Investing in human capital and health services was essential, she said, calling on Member States to support the broad availability of HIV treatment, which provided needed care to those affected and averted the spread of infection.  Full employment and decent work for all must also be extended to people living with HIV, she continued, calling on States to take steps to make that happen.  Social protection was a critical enabler of the AIDS response, as it reduced risk behaviour and broke down barriers to health services.  In that vein, she asked Member States to do their part in providing needed services in an inclusive manner.

LILY GRAY, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said ongoing programmes were firmly rooted in the principles of human rights.  For its part, UNESCO led the monitoring of Sustainable Development Goal 4, including through supporting Member States in their efforts to build inclusive education systems.  High and rising inequality had hindered progress, she said, emphasizing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’s pledge to leave no one behind.  Some challenges included closing the science gap in learning and improving exchanges of experiences and information because effective policies must be based on evidence‑informed approaches.  Citing several examples of UNESCO partnerships, she said Gabon would soon co‑organize a ministerial meeting on poverty eradication.

Ms. SUBRAMANIAM, speaking on behalf of both the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) and the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), said the Arab region was characterized by a large youth bulge that called for the generation of more productive jobs and enhanced, active participation of young people in all aspects of life.  Meanwhile, the region was also witnessing an unprecedented rise in the absolute number of older persons, with more than 100 million such people expected there by 2050.  ESCWA was working on a number of relevant reports, including one titled “Ageing with Dignity in the Arab Region”.  Noting that most Arab countries had ratified or acceded to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, she said that many were partnering with ESCWA, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs and other organizations to increase the collection of relevant data and convene workshops to promote inclusive policy development.

Speaking next on behalf of ESCAP, she said that despite the Asia‑Pacific region’s rapid economic growth, it continued to be home to some 400 million people living in extreme poverty.  There was also a rising concentration of income and wealth inequality, along with persistent rural‑urban and gender inequalities.  Over 690 million persons with disabilities in the region faced numerous barriers to full and effective participation; meanwhile, young people faced challenges in their transition from school to work.  In response, ESCAP had launched an online Youth Policy Toolbox to promote good practices in youth policy and smooth school‑to‑work transition.

Mr. VAZQUEZ ALARCON, International Federation for Family Development, described his organization’s participation in implementing the European Union’s Families and Societies project, which focused on policy contexts and diversity over the life course and across generations.  That four‑year‑long project had broadened understanding of how policies could promote well‑being, inclusion and sustainable societal development among families.  Related to the project’s findings were issues such as the sense of uselessness and idleness that often affected people, especially young people, who were unable to find employment.  “This situation can lead to increased crime, mental health problems, violence, conflicts and drug trafficking,” he said, adding that decent employment was therefore critical to youth integration, poverty eradication and even the very ability to start a family and contribute to social development in a sustainable way.

MONICA JAHANGIR, All Together in Dignity, said goals set out in the 2030 Agenda could be reached only through a human rights‑based approach that put the poor at the centre, including through the establishment of social protection floors such as basic health care and income security.  She encouraged the Commission to adopt strong language in that regard.  For its part, her organization and Oxford University were working together to investigate how best to measure poverty, with preliminary findings providing insight to current programmes and information to better guide future efforts.

CELINE PARAMUNDA, Society of Catholic Medical Missionaries, said all people were born with rights, but that many inequalities existed.  Faith‑based organizations were in a unique position to promote sustainable development efforts, yet they were excluded from participating in decision‑making forums.  Extreme poverty was the highest form of human rights violations, she said, suggesting several ways to tackle related changes, including breaking the silo approach within the United Nations and allowing faith‑based organizations to participate in related efforts.  In addition, best practices and experiences must be shared and programmes must focus on establishing social protection floors.

Ms. BARRETT, WOOMB International Ltd., said poverty could spread across borders and cohesive development must consider a range of issues, including economic sustainability and society development.  WOOMB International Ltd. promoted natural fertility regulation in an ecological manner, and natural health, prevention of disease and unwanted pregnancies were among its activities, reaching women in more than 100 countries.

Ms. MATHEW, Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, said addressing inequality would be critical to narrowing divides between people, preventing social conflict and achieving sustainable development.  Expressing concern about inertia in that regard, she warned that many of those who had climbed out of extreme poverty in recent decades continued to live precariously, just above the poverty line, and were at risk of falling backwards.  Persistent inequalities constituted a systemic violation of human rights and “cannot be tolerated”, she stressed, calling for good governance marked by the separation of the three branches of State working in proper balance.  The United Nations and Member States must work to urgently reform the current global financial structure to combat corruption and put people and the planet’s resources at its centre.

FABIO MENICACCI, International Federation of Associations of the Elderly, said his organization addressed the specific needs of the elderly in crisis and emergency situations around the world.  The elderly were particularly vulnerable to the consequences of such disasters, as well as to pandemics and the results of wars and conflict.  The need to manage the post‑traumatic stress disorder of older populations — who often suffered from shock and depression after such crises — was rarely taken into account by State policies.  In that regard, he called on States to pay more attention to the main pillars of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015‑2030, including building States’ resilience and strengthening recovery, rehabilitant and recovery programmes.  Those should include the participation of both elderly persons and persons with disabilities, he said, calling for the development of more specific strategies to address the needs of the small island developing States in particular.

Ms. PRIJA, UDISHA, called for enhanced efforts to identify global problems that were both challenges in themselves but also exacerbated the problem of poverty.  Organizations should understand the different needs of urban and rural areas and tailor their policies as required.  Noting that small‑scale industries and non‑governmental organizations could assist in poverty eradication at the local level, she also called for bolstered programmes to ensure access to sanitation to all.  “Poverty is an umbrella problem,” she stressed, adding that all national policies should include a focus on the impacts of poverty.  That global problem should be addressed holistically by all nations.

MALINA GILKA, International Relations Students’ Association of McGill University, recalled that the world had recently been jolted by transnational systemic and structural changes so unprecedented “that the future of my generation may be left hanging by a loose thread”.  Global decisions on such issues as environmental change, food security, migration and energy were too often made without input from young voices, she said, pointing out that her organization was the only student‑run group with consultative status with the Economic and Social Council.  Its members shared a strong drive to succeed, but also faced shared challenges and collective obstacles, including the subconscious bias against youth known as “adultism”.  “The status quo on social development cannot be improved by those who cling to a present that is already dying,” she stressed, calling for joint efforts — including young people — to continue to push ideas forward.

Mr. ILUNG, HOPE Foundation, said education, skills training, food security and sanitation were among his organization’s focus areas to address current needs in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  To further achieve development goals, he recommended several essential areas for action, including promoting youth involvement, agricultural road‑building and small‑scale farmers’ funding.  Moreover, efforts must be boosted to support local non‑governmental organizations who were effective actors in the fight against poverty, he said, emphasizing that peace and security were the foundation for promoting development.

AJAY PANDEY, S M Sehgal Foundation, said his organization’s initiatives in India aimed at empowering the rural poor through support for a range of projects.  Innovations had already been introduced, including irrigation models, and now more than 15,000 volunteers were helping to bridge the income gap.  Communities were working to establish good governance to enhance knowledge of local laws and legislation.  Women were also being encouraged to participate, and targeted efforts were ongoing to promote leadership roles for them.  When citizens worked to climb up the ladder of prosperity, development goals were automatically met, he said.

Ms. PANAGOPULU, Hellenic Association of Political Scientists, said young people must acquire the skills and knowledge needed to enhance their participation in societies.  Education was key in that regard and must keep pace with innovation and change in the world.  The influx of refugees in Europe in recent years had provided a new challenge and unique approaches could be seen, including in Greece’s response efforts that had addressed psychological and educational needs and related issues.  Education remained the optimal means of establishing of democracy, she said, emphasizing that action was needed now to make progress on development‑related goals and to find solutions for the future.

RUDOLF BÜHLER, Bäuerliche Erzeugergemeinschaft Schwäbisch Hall, said globalization and industrialization were accompanied by the degeneration of local and small‑scale economies, small‑scale farming and local trade, often leading to rural poverty and starvation.  “Small‑scale farmers and rural societies, who are more than 80 per cent of the world’s population, are being robbed of their common assets” by such practices as land‑grabbing, genetic‑grabbing and knowledge‑grabbing, he stressed, calling for the establishment of new value chains and value generation that reached the bottom and favoured local economies of the global South.  The goal was to achieve a fair share of international trade for poor and emerging societies and economies, with small‑scale farmers contributing both through subsistence farming as well as the generation of cash crops grown “with their own hands” and from their local natural resources.

BOGDAN J. DUMITRESCU, BJD Reinsurance Consulting, emphasized the importance of closing insurance protection gaps.  In today’s world, risk was accumulating at an unprecedented rate, threatening efforts to sustainably reduce poverty.  The insurance protection gap was widening, with a majority of economic losses from natural hazards still uninsured.  At the twenty‑first Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) in Paris, world leaders including the World Bank and the insurance industry had announced the launch of the Insurance Development Forum, with the goal of optimizing and extending the use of insurance and its related risk management capacity to build greater resilience and protection for people, communities, businesses and public institutions.  In November 2017, the InsuResilience Global Partnership for Climate and Disaster Risk Finance and Insurance Solutions was launched, bringing together “Group of 20” (G‑20) countries in partnership with the “Vulnerable 20” group, civil society, international organizations, the private sector and others to help enable countries to carry out more timely and reliable post‑disaster response and better prepare for climate and disaster risks.

JUDITH WAGNER, World Organization for Early Childhood Education, said millions of children under the age of 5 in poor and emerging countries continued to fail to reach their full potential.  Emphasizing that early childhood interventions mitigated the impacts of negative experiences in early years, providing an entry point for peacebuilding, she said robust studies across many fields had shown that early childhood education was one of the best investments societies could make.  Among other things, it helped realize the human rights of children, including their rights to nutrition, security and education.  Such interventions also provided for quality childcare, allowing parents to return to work sooner.  Describing the toll of not investing in young children as unacceptable, she called for the collection of more disaggregated data, better monitoring and the incorporation of quality early childhood interventions in all national development policies.  “Poverty is not destiny,” she concluded.

Ms. DAVIES AIBIAMU, African Youth Movement, said fashion was a tool to break the poverty cycle in Nigeria.  The fashion business had the potential to create millions of jobs, provide employment for women and help to eradicate poverty.  The market potential was untapped, she said, calling on the United Nations to promote tariff‑free or tariff‑reduced trade to boost the fashion industry’s ability to promote development.

ADA OKIKA, Irene Menakaya School, echoing concerns about the impact of poverty on the 2030 Agenda’s implementation, said war and conflict could derail economic, national and human development.  Eradicating poverty was an important vehicle for achieving global peace, she said, calling for policies to focus on creating innovative solutions and the skills needed to ignite action in overcoming poverty at all levels and among all groups.  The Commission could contribute to such efforts through HUG4PEACE campaigns, while also encouraging Member States, relevant regional organizations and agencies to research and promote development programmes and policies aimed at poverty reduction, education and decent work.

SIVARAM CHELLURI, International Committee for Peace and Reconciliation, said society was united by a common goal and families played a key role, with their involvement fostering inclusion and preventing alienation, which could lead to intolerance.  Much remained to be done, however, with poverty being the main obstacle to social integration.  It was time to rethink how poverty could realistically be eradicated, and the rich must be made to understand that it was in their own interest to have the living conditions of the poor uplifted.  Only when the poor and rich worked together could poverty be eliminated.  New techniques and prescriptions would be needed as times changed, but education would remain the vehicle for ending poverty.

For information media. Not an official record.