CITING ECONOMIC, SOCIAL VALUE OF OLDER PERSONS, SPEAKERS IN SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION STRESS NEED TO INCLUDE AGEING ISSUES IN DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMMES
Commission for Social Development
7th & 8th Meetings (AM & PM)
CITING ECONOMIC, SOCIAL VALUE OF OLDER PERSONS, SPEAKERS IN SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
COMMISSION STRESS NEED TO INCLUDE AGEING ISSUES IN DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMMES
Describing the cultural, economic and societal value of older persons, members of the Commission on Social Development emphasized the need to include ageing in social development programmes, as it continued its second day of discussion on the situation of the most vulnerable social groups.
While population ageing had become a common challenge to all countries, China’s representative said, developing countries faced even greater challenges in dealing with that issue. The international community, developed countries in particular, must assist developing countries in dealing with the range of issues caused by that issue. Some 70 per cent of China’s ageing population was under the age of 70. Healthy and energetic, most wanted to contribute to China’s socio-economic development. The Government had actively encouraged older persons to remain engaged with society and volunteer in community activities.
Having achieved full employment, Malaysia’s elderly persons were viewed as a productive resource capable of making valuable contributions to the national economy, that country’s representative said. As an initial step, the Government had recently extended the retirement age for public sector employees.
The representative of the United States said the message from the Second World Assembly on Ageing was clear: a society for all ages must be created. The United States was working to strengthen Medicare and Medicaid, the bulwark of the health-care system for elderly and disabled persons. Legislators were also engaged in a great endeavour to reform the social security retirement system to ensure that social security was able to meet the needs of retirees in the near future when the number of Americans over the age of 65 was expected to double to 70 million. Economists estimated that, in the United States alone, family members provided care for the elderly worth some $250 billion each year. The financial implications were enormous, but the quality of care and the enhanced dignity that elderly and disabled persons received from the family were unquantifiable.
Noting the swift pace of ageing of the population, Mexico’s representative said that by 2050 there would be some 27 million older adults in Mexico, with
80 per cent of that increase taking place by 2020. Such trends made the Madrid Plan of Action on Ageing all the more important as a practical tool to develop policies for ageing.
Also today, speakers addressed the needs of other high-risk social groups, namely the young and persons with disabilities. While noting many concrete achievements in including persons with disabilities and youth in national programmes, many speakers emphasized the need for continued and increasing international assistance in meeting the goals and targets of numerous United Nations conferences.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Morocco, Israel, Thailand, Algeria, Mali, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Bulgaria, United Republic of Tanzania, Argentina, Cameroon, Greece (on behalf of the European Union and associated States), Ethiopia, Viet Nam, India, Switzerland, Philippines, Jamaica and Nigeria.
Representatives of the United Nations Educational and Scientific Organization (UNESCO) and UN-Habitat also spoke.
In addition, statements were made by the following non-governmental organizations: International Longevity Centre, International Federation on Ageing, American Association of Retired Persons, the International Movement ATD Fourth World, Help Age International, Oxfam, European Youth Forum, International Council on Alcohol and Addictions, and the World Confederation of Labour.
The next open meeting of the Commission will be on Thursday, 20 February.
The Commission for Social Development met this morning to continue its discussion of the situation of social groups. For background information on the current session, see Press Release SOC/4621 issued 6 February.
MOHAMMED LOULICHKI (Morocco) said his country had adopted a strategy to improve access to basic social services and to promote employment. The challenges of meeting the objectives of social development were numerous and complex. Morocco was determined to promote a culture of national solidarity and to fight poverty. Establishing solidarity would crystallize the country’s authentic traditions and promote a culture necessary for social development. Moroccan civil society was making a vital contribution in social areas. Establishing innovative partnerships was an inextricable element of cooperation for social development.
At the national level, he said the fight against poverty was among Morocco’s top priorities. Actions on the ground and local projects were of critical importance to the fight against exclusivity. In 1999, the Government had decided to create the Social Development Agency, with the objective of providing financial and institutional support to associations that undertook various projects. The work of the Agency went hand in hand with the larger projects of the State. The Agency’s work was based on a spirit of partnership. Morocco had also put in place an agency to modernize the economic fabric of the various regions of the country.
Morocco cooperated with various agencies of the United Nations system in carrying out projects for social development, he added. Morocco would organize, in August 2003, the Second World Conference of Youth with the theme of promoting solidarity, tolerance and action of youth for sustainable development. Realizing social developmental objectives required more substantial support from the international community. Morocco appealed for support of New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), which was an imaginative response to the many challenges of the African continent. He also appealed for the strengthening of North-South and South-South cooperation.
YAFFA GEV, Deputy Director, Division of International Relations, Ministry of Education of Israel, said that, while the challenges and issues raised in the Secretary-General’s report were great, they could be addressed. Israel supported the need to build partnerships at the international, national and local levels. The challenges of social development could be met through joint ventures and partnerships between different sectors working to produce fruitful and synergistic results.
Describing various projects in Israel, she said that youth participation must become an integral aspect of local, national and international policies. It must also provide the framework for decisions that affected the daily lives of children and young people. To that end, the Israeli Parliament had endeavoured to give greater consideration to the needs and concerns of children when adopting new legislation. Israel had passed a state law, “The Children’s Rights Act” and, at the initiative of the educational authorities, “The Pupil’s Rights Convention”.
The key to realizing those rights lay in cooperation between the Government, non-governmental organizations and private bodies, she said. Such partnerships had already produced a range of measures to make the rights of the child a reality in all spheres. To assist the transition to adulthood, Israel had taken steps to facilitate the entry of adolescents into the labour market. Young people applying for jobs were provided counselling and guidance. Education, the cornerstone of human capacity-building, was the single most important factor for young people to lead productive lives. Successful partnerships, however, must go beyond the non-governmental organization (NGO) community. The common thread in all of Israel’s endeavours was the need to build viable working partnerships between the Government, the private sector and NGOs.
KIRASAK CHANCHARASWAT (Thailand), said that, given the fast changes in technological advances that came with globalization, it was important that children were adequately equipped to benefit from the opportunities those advances offered. It was vital, therefore, that efforts were strengthened to address children’s lives and development, including access to health and social services, education, employment and protection from violence and exploitation.
Because of their particular vulnerability to drugs, HIV/AIDS, other infectious diseases and human trafficking, children should remain at the centre of the international community’s fight in those areas. In formulating policies and programmes to address youth issues, it was important that their voices be heard, he said, as this would ensure that their concerns and needs were adequately addressed, particularly at the national level. At the international level, youth events such as those of the twenty-seventh session of the General Assembly on children and the World Youth Forum were good examples of youth participation in the work of the United Nations and interaction between government and youth organizations.
Thailand also attached great importance to strong family bonds because it believed that the family had a crucial role to play in social and human development. To that end, his country had focused on the promotion of a loving and caring environment within the family, family self-sufficiency and the prevention of violence. Further, older persons also needed closer and greater attention to ensure that they were not deprived of opportunities to participate in, contribute to, and benefit from the development of their societies, he said.
ZHANG ZHIXIN (China) said the Madrid Plan of Action was an important guide to countries and various sectors of society in their work on ageing. To facilitate work on ageing, joint efforts of the international community were needed to truly implement the Plan of Action in light of the specific situations of each country.
Population ageing had become a common challenge to all countries, he said. Developing countries faced even greater challenges in dealing with population ageing, and would encounter more difficulties in implementation of the Plan of Action. In that regard, he called on the international community, and developed countries in particular, to assist developing countries where appropriate and help them to enhance capacity-building so that they could deal with the range of problems caused by population ageing.
China attached great importance to the follow-up to the Second World Assembly on Ageing, he said. In urban areas, insurance plans for minimum pension and primary health care and a security system for a basic standard of living, which also covered the elderly, had been put in place. In some 91 per cent of the municipalities and prefectures of the country, primary medical insurance was provided to employees. To ensure that retirees received their pension benefits in full and on time, the central Government had subsidized local pension funds in the amount of 40.8 billion yuan in 2002. In rural areas, an integrated pension scheme had been developed, which combined social support and family responsibility in the care of elderly persons on the basis of guaranteed availability of farmland.
Continued education for older persons was also given special importance, he said. Great attention was paid to the upbringing of the young with the right ethics and values. The need to respect, love and help the elderly had been incorporated in the curriculum for value education in primary and middle schools to raise student’s awareness of those values. Some 70 per cent of China’s ageing population was under the age of 70. Healthy and energetic, most wanted to contribute to China’s socio-economic development. The Government had actively encouraged older persons to remain engaged with society and volunteer in community activities.
SICHAN SIV (United States) said that development required a base of transparent and accountable governance with sound economic policy, as well as investment in people through health and education. Partnerships between developed and developing countries, and between the private and public sectors, could be a major force for promoting economic and social development. Private capital flowed to countries where investments were safe; where the rule of law was strong; and transparency was entrenched. In such countries, every dollar of development assistance attracted two dollars of private capital, a powerful multiplier. Conversely, countries that failed to put their people first found it difficult to attract the capital necessary to support economic development.
As the world’s largest donor to developing nations, the United States had a clear interest in seeing its funds used wisely and effectively, he said. The new Millennium Challenge Account was based on the principle that people in countries that were justly governed, and that followed sound economic practices, would benefit most from United States assistance. An important illustration of the United States commitment to effective international assistance was the Emergency Plan for AIDS relief, which President George W. Bush announced in his State of the Union address on 21 January. The Plan would commit $15 billion over five years and would focus on 14 countries in Africa and the Caribbean hardest-hit by the pandemic. Of $10 billion in new money, $1 billion would be dedicated to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The United States had seen the benefits of advances in prevention and treatment and wanted to help other nations make strides in the same direction.
The fight against AIDS had important consequences for social development, he said. Success against AIDS would support the goal of strengthening families, which was central to so much of the social development agenda. The family was the core of the society, providing values and protection for children and youth, assisting in old age and disability. The United States had made a concerted effort to support and promote a safe and stable family life, and had long appreciated the role of families in caring for the disabled and elderly. Only recently had the financial impact of such care been quantified. Economists estimated that in the United States alone, family members provided care for the elderly worth some $250 billion each year. The financial implications were enormous, but the quality of care and the enhanced dignity that elderly and disabled persons received from the family were unquantifiable.
The message from the Second World Assembly on Ageing was clear, he said. A society for all ages must be created. The United States was working to strengthen Medicare and Medicaid, the bulwark of the system of health care for elderly and disabled persons. Legislators were also engaged in a great endeavour to reform the social security retirement system to ensure that social security was able to meet the needs of retirees in the near future when the number of Americans over the age of 65 was expected to double to 70 million.
In the same way that family members shared in the care of the elderly, while the Government maintained suitable programmes to ensure their well-being, families could benefit from Government actions to support and enable persons with disabilities, he said. Many of the 54 million Americans with disabilities attended school or participated in the workforce. The United States’ landmark legislation -- the Americans with Disabilities Act -- promoted basic rights for persons with disabilities, such as the right to enter the classroom and receive an education and the right to compete for and perform a job for which they were qualified.
President Bush’s New Freedom Initiative helped persons with disabilities through increased access to technology.
FARIDA BAKALEM (Algeria) said partnership was one of the most effective means of promoting governance and social communication systems. New ways of adapting to local conditions were needed. Actions should include promoting employment strategies, which involved the private sector and civil society. In Algeria, incentives had been set up, including the establishment of an agency to promote investment and the granting of micro credit to young people. Algeria had recently adopted measures for people with disabilities, including free transportation.
In Algeria, the emerging private sector was organizing itself to better address the challenge of adapting to globalization, she said. The private sector was expanding to include the iron and steel industry, as well as the textile sector. Private sector representatives and foreign partners were exchanging experience in areas such as housing and services. Algeria welcomed the contribution of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in joint projects with governmental and non-governmental organizations.
Regarding regional partnerships, NEPAD was both an example and a tool to mobilize and bring together Africa’s energies, she said. The New Partnership would lead to the development of basic infrastructures. The commitment of economic and social partners was crucial. Partnerships between the Government, civil society organizations, the public and private sectors must be expanded into new areas.
Ms. COULIBALY, (Mali) said improving the quality of life of all peoples was the objective of social development. The search for solutions to poverty, unemployment and social exclusion required large-scale joint action, both from a national and international perspective. Interaction between the public administrations, civil society, and development partners was the best guarantee for achieving the Millennium Development goals. Mali had drawn up a strategy to fight poverty based on a participatory process. The Strategy to Combat Poverty was presented to development partners as a reference framework. From an operational point of view, the Strategy included the development of vast sectoral programmes for the poor, including a programme for culture and justice.
In social integration, she said, Mali intended to cover the social protection of the population not only by increasing social security schemes but also through insurance. Dynamic partnership was possible in Mali because of a vibrant civil society and NGO community. Solidarity and sharing were treasured virtues in Mali, which was why October had become the month of solidarity. The role of older people was also a part of age-old culture. In Africa, it was said that when an elderly person died, a library burned.
The National Council of Elderly Persons was represented both in Government and in civil society, she said. Regarding people with disabilities, the African Union had devoted 1999-2009 as the Decade of People with Disabilities. A policy called community rehabilitation had been set up through a grass-roots strategy to prevent handicaps, provide professional training for persons with disabilities, and to discover income-generating solutions.
DAGMAR RATAJOVA, of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs of the Czech Republic, said that, because of the unfavourable demographic changes that took place in the country in the 1990s, the nation had realized that, unless issues of an ageing population were addressed, society would face very difficult and probably insoluble problems in a few years. With the expected further demographic development, it became necessary for a national action plan on ageing to be formulated that would address not only the older generation, but also the
middle-aged and the younger generation.
To attain those goals, adequate measures to respond to population ageing were laid down, together with the concrete terms of their fulfilment, by responsible ministries and State agencies, she said. The involvement of NGOs concerning older persons, women and persons with disabilities formed a crucial component for the preparation of the National Programme, which would serve as the basis for the assessment of its implementation. That Programme would be updated in 2007 with a view to making it operational for another five-year period up to 2012.
She said her country was convinced that the exchange of experience within the Commission for Social Development would lead to the comprehensive review of the achievements on the global level and, also, to the identification of areas of major obstacles, concerns or new challenges on the country’s path to a “society for all ages”.
Ms. ESPINOZA (Ecuador) said that, in recent years, not all countries had been put on the path to social and economic growth. On the contrary, inequalities between various countries were becoming increasingly apparent. Without social development, economic development could not be achieved. Social protection must be seen as an investment in human capital and a productive expense. To prevent inequity, multilateral measures must be adopted to halt poverty, which was a violation of human dignity. Debt-servicing absorbed valuable resources that could be used for vital public services. The international community must adopt effective and lasting measures to remedy such serious problems.
She also stressed the need for social development to take into account the must vulnerable sectors of society, including people with disabilities. She appealed to all governments and members of civil society to pool their efforts to make the convention on people with disabilities a reality. No society could be considered inclusive if it failed to include people with disabilities.
VASSIL IVANOV, Minister of Youth and Sports of Bulgaria, said his Government subscribed to the newly emerging concerns for the fulfilment of youth, having taken up the challenge to provide the best possible conditions for their sustainable development. However, he expressed apprehension at the unpredictable effects of the globalization process, which Secretary-General Kofi Annan had described as a “double-edged sword, offering benefits to some that are often accompanied by costs to others”.
It was with that realization and apprehension in mind that Bulgaria preferred to rely on the paradigm “think globally, act locally,” he said. The last 14 years of transition towards democracy and market economy had brought about specific issues and problems for the country’s youth. Thus, the priorities established by the new Bulgarian government for the development of its youth policy conformed with the recommendations of the European Commission white paper which, among others, had called for an integrated approach to solving young people’s problems; promotion of a healthy way of living; and the development of better conditions for their physical activity.
In compliance with the recommendations of the European Commission, he said, Bulgaria had launched a youth-development policy strategy whose main objective was to unite and coordinate all governmental and non-governmental institutions’ efforts aimed at achieving a sustainable youth-development model.
CARLOS PEREZ LOPEZ (Mexico) said older persons and people with disabilities were a high-risk population. In Mexico, the ageing of the population was taking place at a swift pace. By 2050, there would be some 27 million older adults, with 80 per cent of that increase taking place by 2020. Such trends made the Madrid Plan of Action on Ageing all the more important. The Plan of Action was a practical tool to develop policies for ageing.
A recent measure to address Mexico’s ageing included the creation of the framework law on the rights of older people, he said. The framework law was aimed at guaranteeing the exercise of rights of older people, as well as establishing the terms for its compliance. The framework, which had led to the establishment of the National Institute of Older Persons, was based on the principles of autonomy, participation and equity. The law determined that the family played an important social function in providing care for the elderly. It also advocated interaction between various federal institutions on ageing matters.
Mexico had travelled a long road to create conditions for comprehensive care of people with disabilities, he added. President Vicente Fox had set up an office for the promotion of persons with disabilities to encourage, among other things, their social integration. Through a presidential agreement, a national council had been established as a coordinating body for the various strategies to address the needs of people with disabilities. The Council was comprised of five State secretariats, as well as representatives of various public administration branches.
Mexico’s efforts for people with disabilities included rehabilitation and social integration, he said. Among other actions, Mexico was analysing labour market trends and encouraging business people to hire people with disabilities. The national system for the development of the family directed public policies for the development of families of persons with disabilities. Mexico was pleased with the work of the ad hoc Committee to create a comprehensive convention on the rights of people with disabilities. The Commission had a responsibility to provide elements for discussion concerning the convention.
CHRISTINE KAPALATA (United Republic of Tanzania), aligning herself with the statement of Morocco on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said action for social development called for an international framework, and the cooperative efforts of the international community and other actors working as partners. That partnership required equal and reciprocal commitment from all, as the most effective way to the achievement of the desired development goals.
She said that because poverty eradication was her Government’s overriding concern, her country had, in recent years, intensified its macroeconomic policy reforms aimed at the creation of a more stable macroeconomic environment. It had also embarked on a series of measures to address poverty more effectively, including the completion two years ago of a comprehensive Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP). That Paper was an integral part of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Debt Initiative process focussed on poverty alleviation.
On ageing, she said her country believed that, like gender, the ageing question had to be mainstreamed into all social development policies and
poverty-reduction strategies, since that issue was also an important aspect of social development. To that end, her country paid keen attention to older people’s demands for a government policy that would address credit schemes for them; the establishment of an older persons’ development fund; and legislative support to maintain the employment rights of older persons, among others.
She observed that, while her country recognized the central role of the family in the economic set up of the country, sadly however, today, more than ever before, the family lived in abject poverty. That meant that more and more women and children lived in insecure and difficult circumstances, she said.
Mr. CULLEN (Argentina) agreed that education was the most important factor to allow youth to lead a productive life. Today, free public education was not enough to guarantee the attendance of the poor sectors of society. The question of youth employment also deserved careful consideration. National strategies must bear in the mind the need to promote the possibility of finding jobs. Flexible job offers, training and social protection for young people were also needed. Their participation in decision-making was also important. Last year, Argentina had ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the participation of children in armed conflict.
Since the adoption of the World Programme of Action for persons with disabilities, Argentina had made great strides, he said. Regarding integration in the labour market, legislation had established a four per cent quota for employment in State organizations. A support programme for workforce integration included workshops, training, and the development of micro-enterprises. The ageing of the population was a phenomenon that especially affected developing countries. When accompanied by poverty, the quality of life of older person dropped sharply. Older persons had the ability and right to actively contribute to society.
MAHOUVE SAME (Cameroon) said social development was a question of equity and social solidarity. Cameroon had put in place a number of measures, including the consolidation of democracy and the rule of law, as well as the protection of human rights and vulnerable social groups. Cameroon’s strategy to combat poverty was underpinned by several multisectoral action plans including the national action plan for nutrition, the food security programme and a central health policy. Regarding HIV/AIDS, Cameroon had established a national plan to combat the disease that included a major promotional campaign to prevent infection. Other measures included the provision of low-cost antiviral treatments.
While Cameroon had made significant economic progress, the weight of debt and the harmful effects of globalization had impeded its efforts, she said. Cameroon still faced numerous challenges, including high maternal mortality rates, lack of access to safe drinking water and malnutrition. In that regard, the support of the international community for NEPAD was essential. Cameroon was pleased with many of the recommendations contained in the Secretary-General’s report
Ms. GOLDEN, of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said her organization viewed with great interest the Secretary-General’s policy recommendation contained in his report, which called on the international community to expand learning opportunities and strengthen national capacities for social development. It also called for the formulation of social policies. UNESCO would attempt to follow up on that recommendation.
Equally important was cooperation between the United Nations family and NGOs, she said. The Literacy Decade, for which UNESCO was the lead agency, was the United Nations General Assembly’s initiative to refocus the efforts of the international community on the alleviation of poverty through the empowerment of the poor and to meet a key objective of the Millennium Development Goals.
S. ANANTHAKRISHNAN, the chief of Partners and Youth Section of UN HABITAT, highlighted some of the key initiatives in which UN HABITAT was engaged. Its focus on youth embraced many aspects of its work, including the launching of a Global Campaign on Urban Governance as a means of implementing its goal of sustainable human settlements in a rapidly urbanizing world.
The aim of the campaign was to contribute to the eradication of poverty through improved urban governance and increased local governance capacity-building for all stakeholders. Mr. Ananthakrishnan, who also chaired the meeting, said promoting good governance was one of strategies identified by the
Secretary-General’s Road Map for achieving the goals of the Millennium Declaration.
He said UN HABITAT was developing a global policy paper on children, youth and urban governance, which would provide the conceptual and operational framework for the implementation of the international social development agenda by UN HABITAT. From Dakar to Mombasa, from Lima to Port Moresby, and from Port Elizabeth to Alexandria, UN HABITAT had engaged with young people in developing their partnership potential, he stated.
NORA O’BRIEN, Director, Partnerships and Special Projects for the International Longevity Centre – USA (ILC), said the implementation of the Madrid plan was a daunting task that required all stakeholders to strive for more coordinated efforts despite competing demands on limited resources. As part of its follow-up activities, the ILC had published a “Panel Report on Preparing Health Care Professionals for Longevity and Population Ageing,” which contained the recommendations of a panel convened in Madrid.
The publication would be a useful aid to governments for initiating and/or improving training programmes in geriatrics and gerontology called for in the Madrid Plan, she said. In the area of education and communication, the ILC had also organized an “Age Boom Academy” in Madrid for journalists, and it had been replicated in New York last November. She noted that a threat to longevity existed with infectious diseases like malaria, tuberculosis and others, which were not completely eradicated, and also with the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Further, it was important to stress the need for technical assistance to countries to help build national capacity and enable data development, research and policy formulation. However, without international efforts, many in the civil society were concerned that the momentum generated by the Second World Assembly on Ageing would be lost, she noted.
HELEN HAMLIN, speaking on behalf of the International Federation on Ageing, an NGO, expressed satisfaction at the success of follow-up meetings so far held regarding the Madrid Plan of Action. However, she stated that her Federation was concerned that unless there was a clear process for reviewing the various stages of progress, the achievement of the fundamental goals as set, and agreed upon, in that Plan of Action were in jeopardy.
She called on the Commission members to respond to the Secretary-General’s call for strengthening of focal points on ageing and preparation of a road map for the plan. Further, she urged a clear definition and approval of the issues addressed in the mandate given to the Commission by the Madrid plan. The responsibility for effective implementation of the strategy should also include a process of monitoring that was transparent, participatory and involved the participation of all players.
She said it was also important that those involved in monitoring progress recognized the different points of departure, as well as the differences in culture. Participation of civil society in that regard was therefore important and necessary. The meeting should also “exercise its responsibility” to follow up on appraisals, and issues concerning older persons must be incorporated in the work of the Commission more meaningfully.
Ms. FRANK, of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), said that achieving a society for all ages required sound policies and the implementation of regional strategies. The AARP supported the regional strategies to protect pensions, improve the health of ageing populations, encourage lifelong learning, and encourage full participation of the ageing. The AARP was disappointed in the lack of specific implementation methods and benchmarks for monitoring progress with the Madrid Plan of Action.
Increased life expectancy represented a remarkable success story, she said. Nevertheless, the serious challenges presented by ageing could be addressed. The AARP urged the Commission to monitor follow-up to the Second World Assembly.
Ms. EIGLER, International Movement ATD Fourth World, said strategies for poverty reduction must emphasize age-appropriate strategies for supporting the efforts of youth to leave poverty behind, primarily through education. Employment strategies should not overshadow the importance of education. States must recognize the barriers faced by adolescents, especially girls, in terms of access to, and quality of education. Innovative methods for combining education and employment must be developed. Strategies for including youth who had missed years of school must be a part of those plans, as many adolescents were in need of a second chance at education. The experiences of youth must be heard at all levels of advocacy and decision-making, she concluded.
Ms. MAPETLA, Help Age International, said that, prior to the Second World Assembly, her organization had worked hard to enable the voices of older persons to be heard. Help Age was fully aware of the challenges ahead. Implementation could only happen through effective partnerships, and could only be sustainable when older persons were genuinely involved. Implementation must address the linkages between poverty, inclusion, HIV/AIDS, conflict and lack of resources to older persons. Although the Millennium Development Goals did not contain a specific goal on older persons, they could only be met if the needs of older persons were addressed. Older persons were ready to embark on measures to achieve shared goals.
FEDERICO M. ROSSI, International Youth Parliament, OXFAM, said it had become a cliché to say that globalization was one of the defining characteristics of the times. Every generation felt that it lived in a time of great change, and today was no exception. While many celebrated the continued interconnectedness of national economies towards a single international economy, the dilution of culture and increases in communications technologies occurred almost daily. There were many concerns about the direction of globalization, its impacts on the most vulnerable persons and the loss of local community. To make globalization work for young people, it was necessary to look at the core of the debate.
ADAMANTIOS VASSILAKIS (Greece), speaking on behalf of the European Union, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey and Iceland, said that national youth policies and strategies were more effective if they were based on a
multi-sectoral approach. Since education was a fundamental way to enable young people to build full and productive lives, emphasis should be placed on formal and non-formal education, especially for girls, and lifelong learning. Students should also participate as partners in reviewing educational systems. In addition, the role of youth volunteers should be promoted as a way to encourage young people to participate actively in social development.
On the family, he attached particular importance to all actions that enable women and men to reconcile and share equally family and employment responsibilities, and to face the growing care responsibilities due to demographic changes and to ageing societies. He stressed the importance of promoting education policies to advance the equality between women and men within families and within society in general.
The European Union’s proclamation of 2003 as the European Year of People with Disabilities would drive progress toward achieving equal rights and full participation for people with disabilities. Governments should mainstream disability issues in the development of policy and promote coherence between different policies so that a disability perspective was integrated into all relevant policies. Persons with disabilities should receive the support they needed.
He emphasized the importance of promoting the implementation, at the national and local level, of the Madrid Plan of Action on Ageing and its instruments of regional implementation. The European Union fully supported the “bottom-up” approach to the review and appraisal of the Plan of Action. The
all-encompassing nature of population ageing required that such review and appraisal should engage governments, the United Nations system and civil society.
LULIT ZEWDIE G/MARIAM (Ethiopia) said that the social condition in her country had improved since the holding of the Social Summit. Delivery and coverage of social services in health and education had shown significant improvement. General health service coverage, primary school enrolment, and the average share of the national budget allocated to the social sectors had all increased.
However, with 45.5 per cent of the population living in abject poverty, and with a high rate of unemployment, the achievement of social development remained illusive. Because of recurrent drought, there were currently up to 15 million people threatened by famine. The HIV/AIDS pandemic, hosting large numbers of displaced persons, high levels of external debt and debt-servicing requirements were major hindrances to investment in education and health care services.
The decline in official development assistance (ODA), dependence on a single commodity for export earnings, and lack of access to international markets were undermining development prospects, she continued. Therefore, achieving social development goals at the national level required a conducive international environment, which called for further debt cancellation, increased ODA, fair international trade terms and, above all, increased foreign direct investment (FDI).
P. MANOGRAN (Malaysia) said the family was the basic unit of society. Family stability would ensure societal stability. Malaysia had implemented various modules under the family development programme. Care for the young, the sick, the elderly and the disabled was the responsibility of the family. While institutionalization was viewed as a last resort, the Government and NGOs ran homes for the poor, orphans, disabled persons, the sick and the elderly.
The elderly were viewed as a productive resource that was capable of making valuable contributions to the national economy, he said. As an initial step, the Government had recently extended the retirement age for public sector employees. The private sector was expected to do the same. The Government had also embarked on a programme to bridge the digital divide among senior citizens. Similar programmes were being planned for people with disabilities.
NGUYEN THI XUAN HUONG (Viet Nam) said the Government paid special attention to older people, who accounted for some 10 per cent of the country’s population. In 1989, Viet Nam had some 4.6 million people –- about 7.2 per cent of the population -- over the age of 60. In 2000, the figure had risen to 5.9 million. By 2020, the country was expected to have more than 12 million older persons. For Viet Nam, older persons constituted a treasure of intelligence and talent and deserved to be cherished. The Government’s policy on elder persons was based on national tradition, the recognition of their contributions to the country and their vast knowledge and experience, especially their ability to solve all aspects of social life and organize effective businesses.
Programmes for the care of older persons were being integrated into other socio-economic development programmes, she said. The Government had adopted laws and regulations for taking care of older persons. In 1995, the Viet Nam Association of Older Persons was founded. Its functions included improving the quality of life of older persons and encouraging their continuing education. In 2000, the Ordinance on Older Persons was issued, specifying the privileges to which older persons were entitled and assigning specific tasks to each relevant Governmental agency.
She said Viet Nam had been actively implementing its international commitments, including the Plan of Action adopted at the Second World Assembly on Ageing. Viet Nam, a poor developing country, would face an increasing number of older persons. Many older persons were suffering from the consequences of war. Ensuring adequate care for them and integrating them into the mainstream of society was no small task.
A. GOPINATHAN (India) said that, to maintain the momentum of social development, efforts were required at the national level to commit resources, formulate policies and design strategies. Those needed to be done in accordance with national development plans and priorities. The sense of “national ownership” in developing policies, priorities and strategies was crucial if development programmes were to succeed.
Partnerships, he noted, constituted an essential ingredient in the social development in countries today. Increasingly, the participation of civil society and the private sector in achieving social development had gained wider acceptance within nations. In developing countries, where such partnerships were still at a nascent stage, the growth of partnerships required time for maturity and successful implementation. Within developing countries themselves, the numbers of stakeholders were several, and it was essential that their viewpoints be heard and participation harnessed. He cautioned against advocacy groups from outside trying to distort the national priorities of the developing countries, claiming their legitimacy under the involvement of stakeholders.
On the issue of social responsibility, he said that, while governments assumed legally binding obligations by signing and ratifying legal instruments, corporate responsibility was promoted through voluntary codes and self-regulation. In many cases, there were no mechanisms to enforce transparency and accountability. Measures were required to correct the imbalances existing in this area.
NATALIE ERARD (Switzerland) said the continuation of the Fourth Global Youth Forum seemed to be relevant as long as its modalities and functioning were improved to ensure an effective outcome. It was important to ensure linkage between the Forum and governmental youth-related conferences. Young people not only needed to express their views on issues of importance to them but also to ask questions. The proposal to hold the Fourth Youth Forum was timely and would provide that opportunity.
Weaknesses in the structure of the event needed to be addressed, however. Participation in the Forum should be the basis of geographical balance, age and gender equality. Governments had a core role to play both in terms of preparation and follow-up. A well-defined timetable was also important for the future of the Youth Forum. While she supported the principle of holding the Youth Forum, she called for an analysis of its organization, structure and goals.
Mr. CHUACOTO (Philippines) said the commitments made in Copenhagen had set the stage to strengthen the resolve of the international community to reduce poverty, increase employment and utilize efficiently the resources for social development, among other things. The Millennium Development Goals and the commitments made in Madrid further strengthened the resolve of governments to address the deteriorating social situation in many countries.
As the international community prepared for the celebrations for the tenth anniversary of the International Year of the Family, it was necessary to take steps to protect that basic unit of society. Social and economic policies must take into account changes in family situations, such as increases in single-parent families and female-headed households. Since families constituted the building blocks of society, he hoped the international community would provide necessary support for them.
There was still a need, he said, to improve the security and productivity of the world’s ageing population. To provide for a more productive life for them, his Government had adopted a plan for the ageing, which was currently being reviewed to incorporate the commitments undertaken in Madrid and the meeting of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) held in Shanghai. The international community must also increase effective action for assistance to persons with disabilities. Much work remained to be done within the context of the ad hoc committee for the elaboration of a convention on the rights of persons with disabilities.
FAITH D. INNERARITY, Director, Social Security, Ministry of Labour and Social Security of Jamaica, said the country had had in place, for nearly 40 years, a contributory social insurance scheme which provided pension and dependants benefits, complemented by a range of non-contributory social assistance programmes. A national poverty eradication programme had been implemented, and a national policy for senior citizens had been adopted in 1997. In 2000, a national policy for persons with disabilities had also been adopted and was currently being reviewed for transformation into a Disability Act.
The Government, within the context of its social and economic policy agenda, was reforming the country’s social protection system to target the poorest segments of the population, she said. The overarching policy goal was to ensure acceptable living standards for the most vulnerable in the society, including families below the poverty line, the elderly and persons with disabilities. Jamaica had adopted a comprehensive approach to social development that recognised the basic human rights principles and the interconnectedness between human development and poverty eradication.
The methodology for beneficiary selection was based upon the recognition of the family as the basic unit of society, she said. It also took into account the socio-cultural dimensions of the Jamaican family structure, which was marked by variations in domestic organization. That included a high incidence of
female-headed households and extended family groups. Multiple family units sometimes existed within a single household. Transparency in the selection process was a cardinal objective to safeguard legitimacy and avoid charges of corruption or political bias. In order to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty, children between the ages of 6 and 17 must attend school regularly, or benefits would be suspended.
G.O.O. ALABI (Nigeria) said that, despite the commitments expressed by the international community in all the declarations and plans of action, the actual living conditions and general welfare of the people were still generally gloomy. Globalization had failed in many important respects, especially in the area of social and economic stability and development. Its tendency to widen
socio-economic disparities among and within nations, and increase marginalization and exclusion, had contributed to slow economic recovery in many developing countries.
Foreign direct investment and income-generating projects were almost totally absent, he added. Unemployment was rife, and poverty was on the increase. There was great difficulty on the part of states to satisfy the basic needs of the growing population in such areas as energy supply, transportation, education and health.
He acknowledged the primary role and responsibility of national governments as indispensable actors for the formulation of sound policy, and the laying of a solid foundation for social and economic growth. At the same time, his country’s experience had taught it that national efforts for social development needed to be supported by complimentary international support with financial and technical assistance. The success achieved so far would not have been possible without international support and partnership with the United Nations system and its various agencies. Social development could better be achieved through cooperation and partnership between governments, institutions, donors and other stakeholders working closely with civil society and NGOs.
Ms. FRISCHKOPF, European Youth Forum, said that youth and youth organizations were vital components of society. Their role and importance were stressed in both the Millennium Declaration and in the Social Development Summit outcomes. Youth organizations had an enormous ability to undertake outreach, peer education and non-formal education. Effective youth participation was essential for the success of decision-making, implementation and evaluation processes.
Youth participation must be fostered on all levels from the local, national, regional and global levels to guarantee the coherent implementation of United Nations policies, she said. Youth participation within the United Nations must be promoted through increased inclusion within all facets of the United Nations work.
PETER CROWLEY, International Council on Alcohol and Addictions, said the presence of the family as the cornerstone of society was a prerequisite for the development of children and youth, just as its absence was often the cause of a destabilizing void. The family was further recognized as an economic structure, which intersected with the larger social and economic system. The roles of families were partly private and partly public in their interaction with demographic, cultural, political, legal and economic factors. The failure to take a family-focused approach to national and international cooperation for social
development could have the consequence of losing a whole sphere of partners directly involved in the intricate day-to-day challenges confronting society.
He trusted that the tenth anniversary of the International Year of the Family in 2004 would re-emphasize the permanence of family issues in the work and programmes of the Commission. He welcomed the active and supportive role the United Nations was playing in facilitating the exchange of information by NGOs in the preparations for 2004. The Vienna NGO Committee on the Family and the Department of Economic and Social Affairs had agreed to set up an interactive Internet forum at www.10yearsIYF.org, with the support of international NGOs. The goal was to prepare a report on past and present projects carried out for families since 1994 by each international NGO, and plans of each international NGO to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Year.
Mr. TENNASSEE, World Confederation of Labour, said his organization was most concerned with the issue of poverty. If the United Nations planned to halve the number of people living in poverty, what would happen to the other half? The informal economy was expanding throughout the developing world. Yet the transformation of the informal economy had not been addressed.
As an example of the problem of capacity-building, he said some 300 teachers had been recruited to teach in New York, whereas criminals from the United States and Canada were sent to the Caribbean. Why did the World Bank have to design a new social strategy for its development work when other relevant bodies had done so much work? The Commission should, in its final recommendations, make clear how countries could opt for alternative development strategies rather than market fundamentalism.
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