21 February 2019
Fifty-seventh Session, 11th Meeting (AM)

Concluding Session, Commission for Social Development Recommends Three Draft Resolutions, Including on Addressing Inequality, Inclusive Fiscal Policy

The Commission for Social Development, acting by consensus on the final day of its fifty-seventh session, decided to forward three draft resolutions to the Economic and Social Council for adoption — including one focused on harnessing the potential of tax policies, wage floors and safety nets to combat inequality.

By the terms of a text titled “Addressing inequalities and challenges to social inclusion through fiscal, wage and social protection policies” (document E/CN.5/2019/L.6), the Economic and Social Council would stress that the benefits of social growth should be inclusive and distributed more equitably to close gaps and avoid deepening inequality.  Among other things, it would encourage Governments to combat discrimination and social exclusion; promote affordable and equitable access to basic services; use sound public spending policies to ensure universal health care; ensure active labour policies to provide decent work for all and a fair share of productivity for workers; and expand social protection to all people, despite limited fiscal resources.

The representative of the United States, speaking on that item, said her delegation would have preferred to see references to national determination in the text’s sections on social protection floors, in line with relevant recommendations of the International Labour Organization (ILO).  Expressing concern about language in operative paragraph 6 that promotes a hierarchy of services, she stressed that in the United States educational curricula is developed at the state and local level, and that health care should be provided in line with national priorities.  Spotlighting her country’s system of market-based health-care providers, she urged other nations to reduce costs and improve the quality of their services.  In addition, she emphasized that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and similar frameworks are non-binding documents that create no obligations under international law.  Each country has its own development priorities that must be respected, she said, adding that the 2030 Agenda must be implemented without prejudice to other ongoing negotiations in other forums.

The representative of Djibouti said the Commission’s work “does not stop today” with the conclusion of its session.  Its theme will be echoed in the Commission on the Status of Women, whose annual theme in 2019 will also focus on social protection.  Noting that family plays a fundamental role in social inclusion, he said family-related policies will help to reduce social inequalities and combat poverty, especially in Africa.  International cooperation also plays an essential role in strengthening capacity, he said.

The representative of Mexico expressed concern that the Commission remains hamstrung by its increasing irrelevance.  “We call for reflection on the inertia that frequently hampers our progress” towards a modern vision of social development, he said, voicing regret that after the 2030 Agenda’s adoption there remains resistance to updating the Commission’s work and moving beyond the dogmas of the past.  Moreover, so-called “agreed language” harkens back decades, he stressed, adding that the 2030 Agenda’s criteria of leaving no one behind should also be present in the Commission’s work.  Welcoming robust references to gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, among others, he declared:  “The more we update and align our work with 2030 Agenda, the more relevant our work will be.”

The observer for the Holy See welcomed the Commission’s consensus on the text and spotlighted various important parts of its content.

Also approved was a draft resolution titled “Policies and programmes involving youth” (document E/CN.5/2019/L.3).  It was introduced today by the representative of Portugal, who said that the World Programme of Action for Youth remains an important global instrument.  Portugal and Senegal, as the resolution’s main sponsors, therefore decided to spotlight that instrument by urging Member States to ensure that youth issues are adequately addressed in their implementation of the 2030 Agenda.  He also drew attention to the close links between inequality and youth unemployment and thanked the youth delegates who contributed to the negotiation process.

The representative of the United States disassociated herself from preambular paragraph 16 as her delegation does not recognize the link between migration and development as being pertinent to the issue at hand.  On operative paragraph 15, she called for mindful attention to the limited role of Government.

The Commission also approved a draft resolution titled “Social Dimensions of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD)” (document E/CN.5/2019/L.4), introduced by the Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine in his capacity as Chair of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China.  He said the resolution welcomes the African Union’s declaration of the period 2018 to 2027 as the African Decade for Technical, Professional and Entrepreneurial Training and Youth Employment with a focus on creation of decent jobs for youth and women.  The draft also emphasizes the importance of promoting the integrated and coordinated implementation, monitoring and reporting of the 2030 Agenda and the Union’s Agenda 2064 through joint activities and programmes.

Speaking on that item, the representative of the United States disassociated herself from trade-related language and references to the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on financing for development.  The circumstances surrounding trade have changed since July 2015, when that Agenda was adopted, she said, also expressing her delegation’s reservations about references to the 2008 financial crisis — which has no relevance to the current situation in the region.  A reference in operative paragraph 9 to illicit financial flows lacks any agreed definition, she said, also stressing that economic sanctions constitute an alternative to the use of force.

The representative of Romania, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the bloc’s member States join consensus on the text but are concerned that their proposals were not considered, putting that consensus at risk.  The final text is overly long and duplicative of other initiatives, most notably the annual General Assembly resolution on NEPAD.  The Union, therefore, encourages the Group of 77 to reconsider tabling this resolution, or at least to consider its submission biennially.

Mexico’s delegate welcomed some modifications to the text but urged the Group of 77 to ensure the text is re-drafted to reflect new developments and eliminate redundancies.  He also requested that the next report of the Secretary-General be aligned to the mandate of the resolution to spark Member States’ genuine interest in the text.

Also approved today was a draft resolution titled “Future organization and methods of work of the Commission for Social Development” (document E/CN.5/2019/L.5).  By its terms, the Council would decide that the priority theme for the Commission’s fifty-eighth session will be “Affordable housing and social protection system for all to address homelessness”.  It would also decide to promote the Commission’s efficiency by biennializing its resolutions with a view to strengthening its resolutions on the annual priority theme and eliminating overlap and duplication.

Speaking on that item, the representative of the United States, reiterating her previous interventions, welcomed the biennalization of the Commission’s resolutions.  She also welcomed the fact that the text no longer contains a paragraph which, in previous versions, called for the implementation of the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons — a document calling for a charity approach instead of a rights-based approach.

In addition, the Commission took note of a report of the Secretary-General on accelerating the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by, for and with persons with disabilities (document E/CN.5/2019/4); a report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of the objectives of the International Year of the Family and its follow-up processes (document A/74/61 – E/2019/4); and a note by the Secretariat titled “Emerging issues:  the empowerment of people affected by natural disasters and human-made disasters to reduce inequality:  addressing the differential impact on persons with disabilities, older persons and youth (document E/CN.5/2019/7).

It also approved the provisional agenda and documentation for its fifty‑eighth session (document E/CN.5/2019/L.1/Rev.1), as well as the draft report for its fifty‑seventh session (document E/CN.5/2019/L.2).  Fabrício Araújo Prado (Brazil), Rapporteur of the Commission, introduced the latter.

In closing remarks, Commission Chair Cheikh Niang (Senegal) said the Commission over the last eight days heard that inequality is “a defining issue of our time”, with delegates making an urgent call to address inequalities and challenges to social inclusion through fiscal, wage and protection policies.  The Commission also heard of deep concerns that more than 20 years after the World Summit for Social Development, progress has been slow and uneven.  It was strongly emphasized that fiscal, wage and social protection policies can significantly contribute to reducing inequality, including sustained public expenditure on health care, education, employment, social cohesion, pensions and long-term care.  Many also called for progressive tax systems in favour of low-income households.

Many delegations highlighted international cooperation, North-South, South-South and triangular cooperation and renewed partnerships as a way to support national efforts and speed up progress.  The United Nations was urged to push forward new, more realistic indicators of the financial system that go beyond gross domestic product (GDP) to address a data gap and to create a global financial registry to fight tax evasion.  “Let us continue to work together to ensure that no one is left behind,” said Mr. Niang.

Immediately following the closure of the fifty‑seventh session, the Commission opened the first meeting of its fifty-eighth session.  Mr. Niang announced that, to date, no nominations for the session’s chairmanship or other bureau positions have been received.  Accordingly, the Commission decided to postpone the election of members from all States’ groups to a later date.

For information media. Not an official record.