2 October 2019
Seventy-fourth Session, 3rd & 4th Meetings (AM & PM)

Youth Delegates Call for Meaningful Work, Inclusion in Decision-Making, as Third Committee Concludes Debate on Social Development

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) concluded its debate on social development today, with youth delegates demanding greater access to education and job opportunities, as well as a voice in decisions that will help them overcome entrenched marginalization.

Young people from around the world raised a range of concerns, including climate change, stark societal divides and lack of equal opportunity.  Youth delegates from Ireland deplored the reigning economic model that destroys the planet, creates inequalities, and fails to provide young people meaningful and stable work.  Such a system fails young people, and betrays their faith in meritocracy, they added.  Echoing their views was the youth delegate from Sweden, who asserted that a society that does not consider the perspectives of young people would design faulty policies and visions.

Their counterpart from Georgia underscored the role of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in ensuring the inclusion of those who are marginalized in more than one way.  Citing the example of a schoolmate who is blind and unable to visit her family in Abkhazia, which is currently “occupied by the Russian Federation”, she noted that vulnerable young people face multiple barriers, in education, free movement and decision-making.  In a similar vein, a youth delegate from Ukraine — whose father had fled the Taliban — spotlighted the “bullets flying in the heart of Europe” in “occupied Donbas and Crimea”, and stressed that sustainable development is not possible without protecting the rights of the conflict-affected.

Meanwhile, the youth delegate from the Netherlands expressed concern about stark and widening societal divides and polarization, which are exacerbated by social media “echo bubbles” — platforms that instead could be used to bridge societal divides and bring people together, she added. 

Several delegations joined such calls.  Suriname’s representative highlighted the importance of amplifying young people’s voices and cited United Nations data revealing that 783 million people live below the international poverty line.  Such numbers are “anxiety-provoking”, considering that young people account for 16 per cent of the global population, he stressed.  Expanding access to education can help combat poverty.

Other delegates described their countries’ efforts to strengthen social safety nets to ensure more equitable development, with China’s representative pointing to policies that lifted 850 million people out of poverty, and Namibia’s delegate detailing its programmes to widen health care access and extend the social safety net to those impacted by climate change.  Meanwhile, several speakers described how targeted policies have enabled them to reach vulnerable groups.  In that context, Nepal’s delegate described cash transfers that his Government has extended to the elderly, people with disabilities, Dalits and endangered ethnicities.

Migration was another common theme raised throughout the day, both as a promise and as a challenge.  For Cameroon’s representative, migration could alleviate inequalities by widening access to opportunities.  Colombia’s delegate, however, said that his country’s social infrastructure was overwhelmed by the 1.4 million Venezuelans who had sought refuge there and called for international assistance to help meet their needs.

Also speaking today were representatives of Cuba, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Costa Rica, South Africa, Brazil, Egypt, Ghana, Israel, Liberia, Austria, Brunei, Guatemala, Italy, Kyrgyzstan, Sri Lanka, Nicaragua, Iran, Slovakia, Botswana, Georgia, Serbia, Ukraine, Panama, Sudan, Nigeria, Bulgaria, Kuwait, Azerbaijan, United Arab Emirates, Albania, Haiti, Chile, Jamaica, Thailand, Burkina Faso, Denmark, Bhutan, Belarus, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan, Morocco and Kazakhstan.  

Exercising the Right of Reply were the Russian Federation, Ukraine and Georgia.

A representative of the International Labour Organization (ILO) also spoke. 

The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 3 October, to begin its debate on international drug control.


The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) continued its debate on social development today. (For background, please see Press Release GA/SHC 4258)


Mr. BHANDARI (Nepal), associating himself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, called for removing barriers to social mobility.  Inequality can be curbed with the right policies and institutions, and as such, Nepal is reaching out to the most disadvantaged groups and implementing social policies for all sections of society, including women, persons with disabilities and indigenous groups.  The Government’s wide range of social protection measures includes cash transfers for the elderly, single women, people with disabilities, Dalits and endangered ethnicities, as well as scholarships for the poor, girls and those from marginalized groups.  Policies and programmes seek to ensure a rights‑based and non‑discriminatory approach for all citizens, he said.

KHIANE PHANSOURIVONG (Lao People’s Democratic Republic), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said many countries face increasingly severe effects from climate change.  His country has experienced heavy rainfall and flooding, causing enormous damage to infrastructure, agriculture and livelihood that will be costly to rebuild.  The Government prioritizes the delivery of such basic social services as education, health care and income generation.  While a gap persists between urban and rural areas, the Government is mobilizing resources so that the country can graduate to upper‑middle‑income status by 2030.  Vientiane also aims to improve access to high‑quality, equitable health care and provide free services to pregnant women, children younger than five and the poor.  He also detailed Government measures to improve education — including ending illiteracy and strengthening secondary education — and called for international support of developing countries in their pursuit of national development objectives.

Ms. GRANDA(Cuba) urged States to step up social spending, guarantee universal health coverage and enhance social protections without any discrimination.  It is crucial that developed countries honour their official development assistance (ODA) pledges, as well as end protectionist and discriminatory trade policies against countries of the South.  The many millions of resources that are currently spent on war should instead be harnessed and spent on development.  Cuba’s youth policy prioritizes vocational training and finding work, as well as involving young people in decision making.  Attention to older people is also a priority in order to guarantee their quality of life.

Mr. RUGELES (Colombia) said States must place equality and social justice at the heart of social development, aiming to improve income distribution and allow the most vulnerable to have educational opportunities.  Headway must be made in ending poverty in all its forms and in creating equal societies.  Inequality is a multidimensional phenomenon that includes income, education, health, productive goods and access to financial services, which all affect economic growth.  More than 4 million Venezuelans have had to leave their country and Colombia has hosted 1.4 million of them.  This migratory crisis has overwhelmed capacities in the health, education and child protection sectors, and he advocated international support for such efforts.

WU HAITAO (China), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said that poverty, unilateralism and protectionism are impacting the world economy and aggravating inequities.  Stressing that development is the “master key to all problems”, he called on all Member States to intensify efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and to take a stand together against protectionism, which is impeding development.  Developed countries should help narrow the North‑South gap through funding and technical assistance, he said, noting that people‑centred development entails not just “making a larger cake”, but on “cutting it well” and ensuring equitable distribution.  Spotlighting China’s achievements on its anniversary, he said that not just had the country grown into the world’s second biggest economy, it had also lifted 850 million people out of poverty, widened education access, and ensured strong social protection.  For all this, he credited Socialism with Chinese characteristics.  In addition, China also provides lots of foreign development assistance, including medical assistance and unconditional debt relief for least developed countries.  Nonetheless, he said China still must redress its urban‑rural gap.

RODRIGO A. CARAZO (Costa Rica), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, as well as the Central American Integration System and the Group of Friends of Older Persons, welcomed the 2030 Agenda’s focus on inclusion and social development.  Social divides continue to persist 25 years after the World Summit on Sustainable Development, he said, adding that such divisions are compounded by weakened trust in institutions.  Income is merely one dimension of equality; it was equally important to focus on human rights and access to opportunity, he stressed.  In addition, Costa Rica promotes universal access to health care, which covers 95 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP), as well as enhancing school enrolment.  He touched on a national social development plan which identifies seven areas of intervention linked to the Sustainable Development Goals, ensuring provisions made for vulnerable groups, including Afro‑Caribbeans and migrants.  He underscored the importance of efficiently and responsibly using public resources.  Not doing so would lead to corruption and distrust, he said.

XOLISA MFUNDISO MABHONGO (South Africa), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, the African Group and the Group of Friends of Older Persons, called for targeted youth policies to ensure that countries benefit from the demographic dividend.  South Africa prioritizes economic transformation and job creation, education, skills, health, consolidation of the social wage, social cohesion and safe communities.  Achieving universal health coverage is a key component of social protection, he observed, pointing out that national health insurance proposed by the Government will prove a crucial mechanism for realizing constitutional obligations.  Regarding older persons, he called for efforts towards their full participation in social, civil and political life free from discrimination and violence.  Moreover, social protection floors in South Africa focus on individual family members, with benefits ranging from child support and disability grants to pensions.  “Migration and urbanization patterns have had a serious impact on family dynamics,” he noted, emphasizing the need for relevant social protection policies.

RICARDO DE SOUZA MONTEIRO (Brazil) outlined actions aimed at guaranteeing dignity for the most vulnerable Brazilians, stressing that social programmes have been refined to meet their needs.  For example, Brazil has increased payments of the “Bolsa Família” stipend programme, which benefits more than 15 million families, and introduced the “Progress” programme, which offers vocational courses.  Brazil is also strengthening family‑centred programmes, such as the “Happy Child”.  In order to tackle high youth unemployment, the Government is developing initiatives to foster new forms of work in the digital economy, improve employability and raise education.  Attentive to the need of the elderly, it also is reforming the pension system, he said, noting that people with disabilities receive priority attention in Brazil’s social development policy.

Ms. KAMAL (Egypt), associating herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said her country was among the first to adopt a national plan to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals with its “Egypt Vision 2030” initiative.  A social dialogue is now underway to update that plan, involving civil society, Parliament, youth and people with disabilities.  The updated plan will be launched in the coming days and include Egypt’s priorities for implementing the Goals, particularly as related to health.  Calling universal health coverage a fundamental human right, she said Egypt’s “One Hundred Million Healthy Lives” campaign aims to detect hepatitis C virus among citizens.  So far, it has screened more than 60 million citizens, successfully detected several cases and provided treatment.  Other initiatives focus on health problems specific to women and children, detecting hearing loss among new‑borns, for example, as well as obesity, anaemia and stunting among schoolchildren.

MARTHA AMA AKYAA POBEE (Ghana), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, and the African Group, said her country has reduced extreme poverty from 18.2 per cent in 2002 to 8.2 per cent in 2017.  It also has launched a number of flagship social development initiatives, such as the “Lively Empowerment Against Poverty” programme, which provides unconditional and soft conditional cash transfers to extremely poor households.  As for Goal 3 (health), Ghana has been implementing initiatives since the 1970s, and in 2003, established a national health insurance scheme to provide equitable access to basic health care, which today has 10.6 million members.  Yet, financial challenges persist.  Ghana has been working to meet increased demand for secondary education and has committed to ensuring kindergarten access to four- and five-year-olds.  She called for stronger cooperation between developed and developing countries.

WINSTON ADABA (Suriname) cited United Nations data revealing that 783 million people in the world live below the international poverty line.  Since 16 per cent of the global population is young people, these numbers are anxiety-provoking.  In Suriname, young children from poor families are forced to sell fruit on the road, alongside their parents.  Poverty at a young age can lead to poverty in the future, compounding the heartbreak.  Education is a powerful tool to combat poverty, he continued, citing data from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) showing that 263 million children, adolescents and young people worldwide are out of the school.  That translates to 1 in every 5 young people.  In Suriname, access to education is impeded by lack of infrastructure.  The socio-economic disparities between the rural, costal and interior areas are stark, limiting education opportunities for lower-income young people.  He remembered that, as recently as 10 years ago, households routinely burned their waste on their sidewalks.  That practice is now rare, demonstrating the effectiveness of environmental awareness, he said.

RUTH MOATTI, youth delegate from Israel, recalling her country’s history of fostering innovation and entrepreneurial spirit, said she represented Israeli students and young professionals who want to use their unique skills to help communities — both local and international — to impact the world.  Suggesting that Israel should be known for its socially impactful start‑ups rather than big companies involved in billion‑dollar deals, she went on to note the accomplishments of several such entities including ReWalk, WaterGen and Mobileye.  Israel will continue to harness its human resources and innovation to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, she said.

DEE-MAXWELL SAAH KEMAYAH Sr. (Liberia), said his country aligns its development efforts with the Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development and the World Summit for Social Development, as well as the Sustainable Development Goals.  Outlining a national plan for inclusive development, which focuses on economy, peace and good governance, he said that expanding the social safety net is crucial to address the needs of the poor.  Liberia has taken steps to enhance food security, including take‑home rations, and is working to achieve universal health coverage, he said, adding that the Government allocates 14.3 per cent of its budget to health, which is the highest such allocation in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) region.  Liberia also aims to strengthen its public health system and reduce the high incidence of maternal and neonatal deaths.  Welcoming the Secretary‑General’s call to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and its partners to scale up assistance to low‑ and middle‑income countries, he said that Liberia cannot work towards the Goals “in a silo”.

PATRICIO UNTER, youth delegate from Austria, said that young people he had met in recent months were concerned about education, employment, and above all, the climate crisis.  Noting that this year marks the thirtieth anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, he stressed that the occasion was overshadowed by environmental degradation and extreme weather conditions, which impacted basic children’s rights.  In Austria, the demonstrations of young people and parliamentarians led to the Parliament recently declaring a state of climate emergency by a large majority, he said, adding that youth participation in politics is facilitated by measures such as a national youth council and the ability of young people to vote at the age of 16.  He called for greater sustainable and local agriculture, and for an urgent reduction in the use of plastics, as well as funding and research for alternative materials and recycling.

NELLY BANAKEN ELEL (Cameroon), associating herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, recalled that the 2030 Agenda focuses in part on the role that migration can play in reducing inequalities.  Thus, it is crucial that actions be taken in countries of origin, transit, and destination in order to improve integration.  There should also be better recognition of diplomas gained abroad, she said, calling social progress the bedrock of Cameroon’s policies.  Cameroon is an emerging democratic country unified in its diversity and all social groups should participate in decision‑making.  The Government’s social inclusion strategy seeks to support the most vulnerable:  both young and older people, people with disabilities and indigenous peoples among them.

RAHIMAH IBRAHIM (Brunei Darussalam), associating herself with ASEAN and the Group of 77 and China, said the youth agenda is a national priority as young people account for almost 44 per cent of the population.  The Government provides numerous platforms for youth to lead discussions on poverty elimination, leadership, the environment and sustainable development.  It also promotes youth entrepreneurship and self‑reliance, providing factories to young Bruneians so they can start manufacturing businesses.  Renewed domestic policy in the form of the National Youth Policy and Strategy 2019‑2035 will help realize the “Brunei Vision 2035” initiative and make the country one widely recognized for the accomplishments of its people, quality of life and dynamic, sustainable economy.

Mr. PADILLA (Guatemala), associating himself with the Central American Integration System, and the Group of 77 and China, said that he was pleased to hear from youth delegates as the United Nations needs change.  Guatemala’s Constitution guarantees life, justice, security and peace.  It also guarantees the holistic development of people and protects their human rights.  As a middle‑income country, Guatemala faces structural gaps and lags behind in health care and access to basic services such as sanitation.  This particularly affects young persons, people with disabilities and older persons.  Disparities in health, education and other dimensions of human development make it difficult to break the cycle of poverty and this leads to disadvantages being passed down through generations, he said.

GUILIA PARENTI and SIMONE MOSTRATISI (Italy), associating with the European Union, said cultural heritage enables youth to connect with both the future and the past, creating a new framework in which young generations are the true protagonists in the fight for climate solutions, peace, security and economic growth.  In the context of globalization and its tensions, a deep connection with the past is essential for building a fairer future led by young people.  Cultural heritage is a tool, one that young people can harness to foster development, peace, security and economic growth.

AKYLAI BATYRBEKOVA, youth delegate from Kyrgyzstan, raised the issues of ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education, lifelong learning for all, decent work and economic growth in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals.  The lack of access to quality education affects people in diverse ways, in the form of hunger, poverty, inequality, damage to the environment and the imperfect functioning of social, cultural and political institutions.  The multiplier effect works rapidly and the consequences of this are difficult to reverse.  Learning outcomes indicate the need to improve performance and she called for increasing the potential for teachers and ensuring higher access to preschool education.

GANGULALI DE SILVA and AMRIT EDIRISOORIYA, youth delegates from Sri Lanka, described their country’s welfare policies, which include access to free education and health facilities, acknowledging a challenge in bridging young people’s skills gap and tackling youth unemployment.  In securing quality education, it is vital that Sri Lanka bridge social disparities, especially in post‑conflict areas and in the plantation sector.  Sri Lanka recognizes the importance of focusing on social cohesion, they said, adding that young people must embrace a system of shared values and learn from the past.  Recalling attacks carried out on Easter Sunday in April, leaving more than 250 dead and hundreds injured, they stressed that young people should be guided in the process of healing and reconciliation.

NEVILLE GERTZE (Namibia), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, and the African Group, said his country has enacted laws, policies and programmes to make free education and nearly-free health care accessible to everyone.  By committing more resources to the Ministry for Health, Namibia surpassed the 90-90-90 target on HIV/AIDS ahead of the 2020 deadline.  The negative effects of climate change, such as drought, have been mitigated by the provision of food, essentials and animal feed to rural communities and through resilience-building education.  He went on to discuss the importance of universal access to social protections, a principle enshrined in Namibia’s Constitution, allowing the country to create one of the “most comprehensive social protection systems on the continent”.

JAIME HERMIDA CASTILLO (Nicaragua), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, and the Central American Integration System, named poverty as the main structural problem to be eradicated.  The establishment of partnership models between the Government, businesses and workers has made it possible to address challenges and reach economic indicators.  Between 2014 and 2018, Nicaragua maintained economic growth by carrying out more than 40 flagship programmes to tackle poverty.  It has established targets for the delivery of land titles, provision of water and electricity, job creation, health, and support to micro, small and medium enterprises.  It also has focused on education and housing in efforts to ensure the social development of Nicaraguan families.

MOHAMMAD HASSANI NEJAD PIRKOUHI (Iran) said the international community and its development partners have a responsibility to support developing countries fight poverty.  However, many developing nations receive no support and face barriers designed to thwart their social achievements.  The imposition of illegal, inhumane unilateral sanctions is a clear instance of such harmful practices.  “A genocidal economic war is waged against Iranians,” he said, through sanctions targeting the daily life of ordinary citizens.  Despite these hardships, Iran is determined to maintain the social spending necessary for ensuring universal education, health and social protection coverage.  The percentage of Iranians with health coverage increased from 68 per cent in 2007 to 91 per cent in 2015, he said, while out-of-pocket payments declined from 59 per cent in 2014 to 35 per cent in 2018.  In addition, 916 health posts and 374 new, comprehensive suburban health centres have been created.

HAJAR YAGKOUBI, youth delegate from the Netherlands, recalled coming across a term in a social science textbook that gave her pause, as a Dutch girl of Moroccan origin: “the Moroccans problem”.  This caused her to wonder why her people’s identity was being reduced; “why all of a sudden there was an us and a them”.  Observing that recent research has shown an uptick in polarization in the Netherlands, she went on to blame social media “echo bubbles” and the lack of interaction between people of different ethnic backgrounds, income levels and political views for the widening divides.  She expressed concern about social media algorithms that feed people content that fits their views, even if they are extreme.  Nonetheless, she stressed, the same platforms can also be used to bring people together, fostering activism and global interconnectedness.   “With this human side of social media, we can fight polarization off,” she added.

PETRA PAUEROVÁ, youth delegate from Slovakia, said the disconnect between young and leaders is disconcerting.  Young people and policymakers must trust each other, knowing that they are working to achieve the common Goals.  She hopes to be the last youth delegate demanding mutual trust, she said, because the United Nations can bring together world leaders and hold them accountable.  She added that, without having won a competition in Slovakia to become its youth delegate, she would have been unable to intern at the United Nations.  The costs of living in New York City would have prohibited it.  Internships can play a crucial role in the career development of a young person, and the Goals were created to provide everyone with fair opportunities for accessible, quality education; and guaranteed decent work.  Young people have the characteristics needed to fulfil the Goals, she assured.

EDGAR SISA (Botswana), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, and with the African Group, said his country continues to improve access to education, health care, electricity, sanitation and social protection programmes to reduce extreme poverty.  The Government devotes more than 25 per cent of its annual budget to education and training, and 4 per cent of its GDP to social assistance spending.  As a result, the percentage of people living below the poverty line decreased from 19.3 per cent of the population in 2009-2010 to 16.3 per cent in 2015-2016, while extreme poverty fell from 6.4 per cent to 5.8 per cent over the same period.  In addition, Botswana’s 2011 inclusive education policy meant that school enrolment for students with special needs increased from 1,718 in 2015 to 2,194 in 2018.  He also noted the Ministry for Local Government and Rural Development has helped 9,475 orphans and vulnerable children access tertiary education as of 27 February 2019.  Other policies focus on improving rural and remote community livelihood.

KATJA HOLBÖLL, youth delegate from Sweden, said there can be no development without civil society — and no civil society without the engagement of young people.  However, the democratic space for civil society is under attack.  Shrinking civic space is no longer an abnormality but a global trend.  Legislation to restrict rights to free association, assembly and expression have multiplied, while funding for civil society groups has diminished.  Youth organizations, in particular, perform functions that are necessary for safeguarding basic human rights and democracy.  A society that does not place young people’s participation at its core will design faulty policies and visions that do not consider the perspectives of a crucial segment of the population.  Youth should be included in all levels of decision making, she asserted.

ESMA GUMBERIDZE, youth delegate from Georgia, hailed the 2030 Agenda as an important step towards the democratization of the international community through the inclusion of previously invisible groups such as rural youth, refugees, women and persons with disabilities.  Pointing out that overlapping identities can increase the likelihood of exclusion, she recounted the story of one of her schoolmates from a public school for the blind in Tbilisi.  This girl was not able to visit her family while studying in the capital because she is from Gali, in the “Georgian region of Abkhazia currently occupied by the Russian Federation”, and therefore her status as a young woman with disabilities from a conflict-affected area resulted in multiple barriers for her.  Georgian and Abkhaz youth face violations of their rights to free movement, to study in their native language and to participate in decision making.  In response, she urged the international community to provide access to high-quality education to all, especially the vulnerable.

Ms. VELKOV (Serbia), associating herself with the European Union, said that given the increasing global youth population, there is an amazing opportunity to advance youth-related targets as defined by the 2030 Agenda.  Serbia is strongly committed to implementing the Agenda, and this year for the first time, it presented its voluntary national review on progress towards its implementation.  Proud of its Ministry for Youth and Sports, and recognizing the social position of young people, Serbia is creating a legislative framework to address issues related to young people.  It features a law on youth and a national youth strategy for the period 2015-2025, as well as an action plan covering 2018 to 2020.  Also, the city of Nov Sad holds the title of European Youth Capital for 2019, allowing the municipality to highlight the positive energy of young people for one full year.

DARYNA HORBACHOVA (Ukraine) said that despite heavy security and defence expenses incurred as a result of the Russian Federation’s armed aggression, her country is undergoing fundamental transformations on social, economic and political tracks.  Ms. MOKHD, youth delegate, said Ukraine can be proud of its youth, whose participation in social movements has greatly increased.  Sustainable development is impossible without ensuring the rights of people affected by conflict, who understand first-hand that to become a refugee means to lose ground.  Her father was forced to leave his homeland during the Taliban’s regime.  Having moved to Ukraine, he was not indifferent to the problems of other migrants.  Now, in the twenty-first century, in the heart of Europe, there are still bullets being fired.  So far, the Russian Federation’s aggression has claimed 13,000 lives and left 30,000 wounded, as well as forced 1.5 million people out of their homes in temporarily occupied Donbas and Crimea.  Being aware of this problem, it is not possible to remain indifferent.

ISBETH LISBETH QUIEL MURCIA (Panama) said that social development and reducing inequality are priorities for her country, underscoring the urgent need to improve the quality of life for its citizens.  In such efforts, investment in people is crucial.  With that in mind, Panama directs resources towards early childhood-related issues, and more broadly aims to break down intergenerational barriers.  Recalling Panama’s efforts to address poverty through a multidimensional approach, she underscored the value of strategic partnerships and breaking the cycle of systematic poverty by ensuring quality education and private sector involvement in implementing the 2030 Agenda.  Panama protects the interests of young people, women, indigenous people and people with disabilities, she stressed, adding that gender-based language is included in public policies.

VALERY MOLAY and JACK O’CONNOR, youth delegates from Ireland, decried that young people around the world are taught that education and hard work will be rewarded, but eventually realize that society is often not so meritocratic.  Instead of allocating scarce resources efficiently, the economic system creates inequalities, destroys the planet and wastes young people’s potential, keeping them trapped in a life of constant scarcity.  It is difficult to stay confident about the future if the labour market fails to provide meaningful work, income security and work-life balance.  The world must shift its focus away from obsessive economic growth towards the pursuit of a good life for all.  Turning to mental-health issues, they urged the United Nations to bolster efforts to eradicate mental-health stigmatization and suicide, and called for increased collaboration with mental-health organizations and for initiatives allowing people to seek support in safe spaces that are both relevant and comfortable.

NAWAL AHMED MUKHTAR AHMED (Sudan), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China and the African Group, said her country is undergoing deep political and social transformations.  The Constitution document signed in August 2019 states that the new Government will provide social care through health, education, housing and maintaining a clean environment.  This document safeguards women’s rights and provides free maternal and child health care.  In pursuit of the 2030 Agenda and the Addis Ababa Action Plan, Sudan has made tireless efforts to end poverty and achieve full employment, focusing on the most vulnerable groups.  The Government is addressing climate change and has drawn up a national action plan that includes 17 social support areas, notably to boost youth employment and expand literacy and education.

SAMSON SUNDAY ITEGBOJE (Nigeria), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, and the African Group, said quality education for all is the cornerstone of social development and contributes exponentially to poverty eradication, improvement of health outcomes, gender equality, environmental sustainability and the building of peaceful, resilient societies.  Like a chain, society is as strong as its weakest link, which is why, on 23 January 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari signed into law the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act 2018, banning discrimination on the basis of disability and imposing fines and prison sentences on those who contravene it.  Similarly, the National Senior Citizen Act 2018 mandates all tiers of Government to establish a National Senior Citizens Centre to address the welfare needs of the elderly, he said.

BOGOMILA KORMANOVA and MINKO DASKALOV, youth delegates from Bulgaria, advocated for the inclusion of young people in decision‑making at all levels.  Applying the full potential of the world’s 1.8 billion young people to tackle the global challenges would bring a necessary change.  Underscoring the utter importance of education, they called for critical thinking, problem solving and creativity to be offered at school from an early age, as well as for technologies to be incorporated into secondary and tertiary education.  Young Bulgarians demand to be paid fairly and proportionally to their level of education, they said, adding that renumeration must allow for meeting living standards.

Mr. ALSENAN (Kuwait), endorsing the statement by the Group of 77 and China, said the promotion of social integration is critical for national development.  Underscoring the important role of family in social development, he said Kuwait also works to protect vulnerable groups, providing homes for the elderly and enacting robust policies to enable them to fully contribute to society.  Youth‑related policies are also of great importance for creating jobs and other opportunities for young people.  Drawing attention to a national fund for economic empowerment, and the role played by the Ministry for Youth in its establishment, he said sustainable development requires international cooperation.

LALA MEHDIYEVA (Azerbaijan), associating with the Group of 77 and China, said her country’s social development model is both inclusive and centred on people’s needs.  In the past 15 years, strong economic performance has translated into important reductions in poverty and growth of the middle class.  Pointing to social sector reforms, she said the minimum wage has increased almost two‑fold, and the minimum pension by 40 per cent.  Further, more than 300,000 internally displaced persons have been provided homes in a settlement built just this year.  The Government has introduced a mandatory social health insurance, determined to develop rural areas.  Azerbaijan has enacted policies that support youth empowerment and their economic and social integration, she said, citing education as a top priority.

Ms. BELHOUL and Mr. AL ZAROON, youth delegates from the United Arab Emirates, noting that young people face unemployment, inequality and marginalization, called for a “youth‑empowering” approach to resolving these problems.  The youngest female Minister of Youth in her country was only 22 years old when appointed, they said, highlighting the establishment of a youth council at municipal and national levels and efforts to establish vocational training centres.  The United Arab Emirates also launched an initiative to help youth start their own projects.  He further underscored the need to raise awareness about mental health, stressing that one billion young people deal with such health issues.

Mr. SHOLA, youth delegate for Albania, said there is now a global crisis, with issues unlike the those in the past.  They demand that everyone become the architects of common solutions.  Young people must have a seat at the table, and it is of crucial importance that they are taken seriously by global leaders in efforts to forge a safe, inclusive and sustainable future.  He called for an inter-generational partnership, welcoming the inclusion of youth in the 2030 Agenda.  Successful implementation of the Youth 2030 Strategy will depend on collaboration between the United Nations and young people themselves, he said, stressing that the Strategy calls for the establishment of youth engagement platforms within each relevant United Nations entity.

Ms. PIERRE-FABRE (Haiti), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, as well as the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that while significant progress has been made, many countries, including her own, are encountering difficulties in reducing inequalities and fostering inclusion.  The main aims of social development can only be achieved by implementing all of the Sustainable Development Goals.  Haiti has sought to be consistent in its policymaking, with a view to improving living conditions for all people, especially the most vulnerable people.  “The caravan of change” initiative, for example, aims to mobilize national resources for infrastructure, which in turn, should have a positive impact on agriculture, rural development and environmental protection, she said.

Ms. BERNAL (Chile) described her country’s progress in fostering inclusive development, mindful that it must continue to make headway in overcoming inequality.  Policies to reduce poverty and increase equity do not simply require transparent and efficient public institutions, she said, but also alliances with civil society, the private sector and academia.  Having undertaken implementation of the 2030 Agenda as a State policy, Chile has a national agreement for comprehensive development, with particular attention placed on increasing investment and improving consumer protections, as well as ensuring that small- and medium-sized businesses are protected.

COURTENAY RATTRAY (JAMAICA), aligning with the Group of 77 and China, and Caribbean Community (CARICOM), expressed concern that despite efforts to achieve Goal 10 (reduced inequality) — including through public administration reform and expanded social protection coverage — Latin America and the Caribbean have the highest levels of income inequality.  Stressing the intrinsic connection between improved living standards for the most vulnerable citizens and the collective ability to recover from natural disasters, he reported that Jamaica’s Ministry for Labour and Social Security is expanding its presence and service offerings across the island.  Highlighting the importance of including elderly in the labour market, he said the Government is working on several initiatives to promote the transfer of inter-generational social and cultural skills.  In addition, Jamaica prioritized the implementation of the disabilities act, also increasing the financial support for accessing medical care, education and aids, he said.

Ms. THONG-IAM, youth delegate from Thailand, said world leaders are taking steps to assist people in vulnerable situations.  Young people appreciate these commitments and are determined to help address gaps and advance the 2030 Agenda.  Along with political will, most issues can be solved through cooperation.  Underlying the Goals is the principle of inclusion of all people, she said, recalling that the first United Nations universal health care declaration last week came with a promise that world leaders will enact a more equitable health care systems that leave no one behind.  Mr. TONGINTEE, another youth delegate, then said it is imperative that Goal 4 (quality education) be realized in an inclusive manner and drew attention to an initiative to provide Internet access to thousands of rural villages.  Education cannot be limited to classrooms or simply prepare students for the labour market; it must also help students become productive members of society.

MARIAME FOFANA (Burkina Faso), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, and the African Group, stressed the importance of social cohesion and described her country’s safety net programme which began in 2015.  In addition to economic empowerment for youth and women, she pointed to various funds that provide financial support to low-income populations.  With a particular focus on education and vocational training — pillars of sustainable development — Burkina Faso aims to increase literacy and has allocated $2 million to help girls who have recently enrolled in school.  Various strategies also have been enacted to help the most vulnerable, notably free health care for pregnant women aimed at reducing child and maternal mortality.  There is also a roadmap to help persons excluded from work as a result of witchcraft accusations.

Ms. BJERVE, youth delegate from Denmark, said that when it comes to social development, there must be an awareness of how the parameters of success are shaped.  Young people, with their knowledge, perspectives and ambitions must be included in this process.  Denmark collects vast amounts of data, but not everything within social development can be measured by numbers and plotted in a spreadsheet.  Numbers alone cannot provide a nuanced definition of quality education, just as statistics will not provide sufficient information to identify every child or youth in danger of being left behind.  While a growing number of delegations now involve young people, they must ensure that such efforts are not simply “a box to be checked off” or limited to the hosting of youth forums and summits.  She encouraged delegates to allow young people to use these platforms as stepping stones to other forums at the United Nations, including the High-Level Political Forum for Sustainable Development and General Assembly.

DOMA TSHERING (Bhutan) underscored that investing in people is essential to developing human capacity and achieving social development.  She also called for increased international cooperation to promote universal health care and inclusive, equitable access to education.  Bhutan guarantees its citizens free basic public health services in both traditional and modern medicines — including referrals outside of the country — and recent domestic programmes will ensure both mothers and children will receive full institutional support from the national health care system for the first 1000 days of a baby’s life.  Education is crucial for accelerating economic growth and Bhutan guarantees every child the right to free basic education.  Government efforts are underway to review technical, vocational and tertiary curricula to make them more relevant by including enhanced computer literacy and information-technology skills.  In June, Bhutan introduced measures that made teachers the highest-paid civil servants in the country.

Mr. OPIMAKH (Belarus) advocated a focus on young people, people with disabilities and older people, pointing out that demographics in Belarus reflect the progressive aging of the population.  He called for policies that serve older people, enabling them to be active and study so they can fulfil their potential.  Belarus pays special attention to people with disabilities through social integration and the creation of inclusive employment opportunities.  Resolving the problem of inequality will not be possible without the involvement of non-state and non-profit organizations and he stressed the role of technology in this regard to help devise effective strategies.

ALBERT SHINGIRO (Burundi), associating with the Group of 77 and China, and the African Group, said national efforts are geared towards combating poverty and creating social inclusion.  In 2014, the Government ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and national laws and policies align with it.  A national social protection policy meanwhile focuses on vulnerable people.  Given that young people under 25 account for more than half of Burundi’s population, investing in youth is essential in order to attain sustainable development.  An investment bank has been set up to promote entrepreneurship among young people, he said.

PASCALINE GERENGBO YAKIVU (Democratic Republic of Congo), associating herself with the African Group, Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Group of 77 and China, described measures undertaken to encourage social integration.  The family enables people to thrive, and with that in mind, the Democratic Republic of the Congo works to make families stable.  More than half the population is under age 25, and as such, one Government policy aims to integrate young people, create jobs and encourage entrepreneurship.  A ministry for persons with disabilities has also been established, headed by a woman who has a disability herself and who is therefore able to understand the issues.

Mr. AZIZ (Pakistan) said development cannot be sustainable if it is not broad-based and inclusive, and he drew attention to the importance of Goal 10 on reducing inequality in that context.  Member States have committed to improving the regulation and monitoring global financial markets, in addition to enhancing the representation of developing countries in the international economic and financial institutions, he said.  Full implementation of Goal 10 would help achieve the objectives outlined in the 1995 Copenhagen World Conference on Social Development.  Stressing that significant disparities remain across regions and within countries, he said Pakistan has mainstreamed the 2030 Agenda and launched its largest-ever poverty‑eradication programme earlier this year.  Steps are also being taken to facilitate an investment-friendly environment, investing in human capital, empowering women and formalizing the undocumented economy.

ANEL BAKYTBEKKYZY (Kazakhstan) described a new economic policy aimed at guaranteeing higher quality education, health care, affordable housing and enhanced social security.  Kazakhstan ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and adopted a related social protection law.  To fight poverty, Kazakhstan operates a three-tiered system of social security and provides funding for employers to subsidize jobs.  To fulfil the objectives of the United Nations and spread them throughout the region, Kazakhstan offered to establish a United Nations Centre for Sustainable Development Goals, he said, noting that it provides capacity building in partnership with UNDP for a number of foreign affairs ministries in Africa and promotes the advancement of landlocked developing countries to overcome their geographical disadvantages.

HANAA BOUCHIKHI (Morocco) said that during the last decade, qualitative transformations have shown that development is closely linked to human rights.  In Morocco, State programmes and policies promote the rights of various groups, and specifically, work to improve the economic and social status of vulnerable people.  In relation to women, the State’s gender equality policy aims to institutionalize the principle of fairness, she said, while another policy for child protection aims to fight violence and exploitation.  For the elderly, Morocco’s programmes seek to protect them from marginalization.  Institutions also have been established to provide them with mental and physical health services, as well as sport and entertainment, she said.

MATTHIEU COGNAC, speaking for the International Labour Organization (ILO), recalled that at the 1995 World Summit for Social Development, pledges were made to conquer poverty, achieve the goal of full employment and foster social integration.  Almost a quarter of a century later, most of the 3.3 billion people employed globally experience a lack of material well-being, economic security, equal opportunities or scope for human development.  An estimated 172 million people worldwide are unemployed, including more than 59 million young people.  While this snapshot may not sound encouraging, it lies within the context of unprecedented transformations affecting the labour market.  Technological change effects the way work is done and “has a say” in the creation of jobs — not just the elimination of them.  He drew attention to the General Assembly resolution welcoming ILO’s “Declaration for the Future of Work” which emphasizes the need for a human-centred approach.

Right of Reply

The representative of the Russian Federation, exercising his right of reply to respond to comments by his counterparts from Ukraine and Georgia, expressed regret that Ukraine’s delegate remained silent on the social and economic situation in its country.  Apart from general assurances, there was no specific information provided on Ukraine’s efforts to create decent working conditions, or provide access to education, quality medical services — even social protections — for pensioners or persons with disabilities.  Rather, Ukraine’s representative used the meeting to spread politicalized accusations against the Russian Federation.  It is a source of deep regret that Ukrainian diplomats lured the Ukrainian young people into “their little games,” he said.  On Georgia and the occupation of Abkhazia, he encouraged colleagues to meet with the Abkhazia side to discuss the issues.  It is a shame that delegates cannot hear directly from the young people of Abkhazia right here in this room, he said.

The representative of Ukraine said that for more than six years, Crimea has been an area where violations of fundamental freedoms occur and human rights law is disregarded.  There is a growing desire by the Russian Federation to replace the problem of occupation and international with “concepts that have nothing to do with international law”.  To divert attention from accountability, it presents a booming and prosperous Crimea, which is not true.  Any attempts to legitimize occupancy are null, void and have no legal consequences.  The continued aggression of the Russian Federation undermines the basic human rights of civilians.  The grave violations and abuses of human rights committed in Donbass and Crimea must not be ignored.

The representative of Georgia, in response to comments by the representative of the Russian Federation, recalled the Russian Federation’s occupation of Abkhazia, a point which has been reiterated by various international bodies.  The Russian Federation exercises effective control over that territory, and as such, has the sole responsibility for the human rights violations there.  She reiterated that all the needs and issues that face young people there must be resolved internationally.  They cannot be resolved internally by Georgian authorities, as they cannot exercise effective control.

For information media. Not an official record.