Speakers Highlight National Steps Taken to Promote ‘Social Integration’ in Face of Economic Crisis, as Social Development Commission Concludes General Debate

5 February 2010
Economic and Social CouncilSOC/4760
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Commission for Social Development

Forty-eighth Session

6th & 7th Meetings (AM & PM)

Speakers Highlight National Steps Taken to Promote ‘Social Integration’ in Face

of Economic Crisis, as Social Development Commission Concludes General Debate

Also Hears Presentation by Special Rapporteur on Disability,

Who Describes Activities since Assuming Position in August 2009

The economic slowdown had weakened the world’s social safety net, but delegates of countries from Nicaragua to Kenya, speaking during the Commission for Social Development’s forty-eighth session today, reported some progress in improving the socio-economic situation of their most vulnerable and marginalized citizens thanks to a range of social integration programmes.

Nicaragua’s representative, speaking as the Commission concluded discussion on its priority theme of social integration, said that, despite the financial crisis, her country had used a mix of public and private investment to bring everything from food security to decent jobs to free health care services, particularly to traditionally excluded groups.  The Nicaraguan Government was promoting a new model for citizenship that empowered people to design projects for their own communities.  The popular “Zero Hunger” Programme had benefited small agriculture producers and issued credits and bonuses to empower women in agribusiness, while health care strategies had led to a reduction in maternal and natal mortality.

Nicaragua was working in solidarity with neighbouring countries to erase discriminatory practices and effect positive social change, she said.  A good example of that was the Cuban-Nicaraguan Medical Brigade “Everyone has a Voice” -- which was conducting research on disability in Nicaragua, going house to house to identify physical, mental and genetic disabilities.  Once finished, its research would inform Government strategies for health, education and employment to help disabled people.  The Government also recently ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Venezuela’s representative said it was also partnering with the Cuban Government to improve health care for all -- one of the goals of the 1995 Copenhagen Summit.  The two Governments had created a hospital network where thousands of Cuban and Venezuelan doctors provided treatment to almost 25 million people, nearly 90 per cent of the Venezuelan population.  The Venezuelan Government’s “Barrio” mission -- one of 31 social missions created to meet the citizenry’s basic needs in health care, education, food, employment and housing -- had brought health care clinics in low-income communities throughout the country.

The Government believed that, with firm political will, it was possible to reduce poverty, and that belief was the driving force behind the missions’ work, she said.  Poverty had already dropped from 51 per cent in 2002 to 25 per cent in 2008.  The Government had allocated 44.7 per cent of the 2010 federal budget for social programmes to further push down poverty and inequality indicators.  The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) had ranked Venezuela 61st on its Human Development Index of 191 countries, and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) had declared Venezuela illiteracy free.

Kenya’s representative shed light on his Government’s efforts to help the disabled and the elderly.  For example, it had set up a National Council of Persons with Disability and a Disability Fund.  It had also adopted a national policy on ageing in 2009 and set up flexible national and community-based social welfare services for older persons.  A social protection programme gave cash transfers to households headed by elderly persons, and in the current fiscal year the Government provided more than 500 million shillings to benefit 33,000 older persons aged 65 and older.

Zambia’s Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Community Development and Social Services said his Government had developed myriad policies to fight exclusion.  The fifth national development plan promoted social and civic participation and better access to labour markets, as well as aimed to provide a social safety net for vulnerable groups like street children and households affected by HIV/AIDS or headed by women and children.  A social cash transfer scheme benefited destitute and incapacitated households.  Like other countries grappling with the economic crisis, Zambia was taking steps to limit the risk of long-term unemployment and to support younger workers, low-wage earners and low-skilled informal workers.

The Republic of Korea’s representative said his Government would aim to help other nations struggling to achieve the Copenhagen goals by tripling its official development assistance (ODA) from $1 billion to $3 billion by 2015.  It had adopted a holistic approach to social integration, identifying ideological intolerance, regional sectionalism and generational discord as the main obstacles to achieving it.  It set up four subdivisions within a presidential committee to tackle each problem, as well as a national evaluation index for social integration and a centre to monitor implementation of social integration policies.

Also today, Shuaib Chalklen, United Nations Special Rapporteur on disability, addressed the Commission.  He said that, to date, 78 national Governments had ratified the Disabilities Convention.  But many persons with disabilities were still at great risk of poverty and marginalization and they required urgent attention.  As most of them lived in least developed countries, it was incumbent upon the international community to collectively ensure that development spending benefited those most in need and that the Millennium Development Goals focused on improving the plight of the disabled, especially women and children with disabilities.

He said he intended to meet with United Nations agencies and bilateral and multilateral donors to advocate for full participation of persons with disabilities in the current “MDG processes”.  Persons with disabilities should be both agents and beneficiaries in all aspects of development processes.  The proposed conference in Libya on Disability and Development in Africa would be an excellent opportunity to highlight those peoples’ concerns.

Also speaking today were Government Ministers from Malawi and Ghana, as well as senior Government officials from India, Spain (on behalf of the European Union) and Argentina (on behalf of the Southern Common Market).

The representatives of Colombia, Croatia, Algeria, Belgium, Armenia, Cuba, Japan, Swaziland, Malta, Bangladesh, Egypt, Peru, Syria, El Salvador, Tunisia, United Republic of Tanzania, Pakistan and Haiti also spoke, as did youth delegates from Romania.

Representatives of the International Labour Organization (ILO), Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), International Organization for Migration, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) spoke.

Also taking the floor were representatives from several non-governmental organizations, including the Baha’i International Community, Triglav Circle, International Federation on Ageing, Help Age International, Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants (CURE) and the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, Inc. (INPEA).

The Commission will reconvene at 10 a.m. Monday, 8 February.


The Commission for Social Development met this morning to conclude its general discussion on the promotion of social integration, with an emphasis on why the goal of creating “a society for all” remains elusive.  (For details, see Press Release SOC/4757 of 1 February.)


CLAUDIA BLUM (Colombia), associating herself with the statement made on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said her country’s development policy was based on ensuring that all Colombians had access to quality education, to equitable and inclusive social security, to employment and business markets and to effective mechanisms for social protection.  The establishment of a social welfare system in 1993 had sought to protect the entire population from economic risks and help the poor to overcome their situation in the short and long terms.  In 2002, law 789 had defined the Social Protection System as a set of public policies aimed at reducing the vulnerability of the population and improving their quality of life, particularly for the most vulnerable.

She said that Colombia had a broad portfolio of social assistance programmes, through direct and indirect transfers to vulnerable groups.  As part of the poverty and inequality reduction strategy, it was implementing the network “JUNTOS”, aimed at providing comprehensive care to families in extreme poverty through preferential access to the supply of social programmes and projects, turning them into “managers of their own development”.  By December 2009, more than 1 million families had been covered by that programme.  To ensure women’s equitable participation in income generation, the Programme for Comprehensive Support for Female Heads of Household had been created.  It promoted women’s social and economic development through access to credit, training and business management, with a gender approach.  The Government had also created incentive programmes for companies that decided to hire persons with disabilities, and it had created the social assistance programme for older persons in extreme poverty.  However, most of the Government’s efforts had been focused on addressing the international economic crisis, which threatened to weaken and undermine the most important indicators and the progress made to date.

MARÍA RUBIALES DE CHAMORRO ( Nicaragua) said her country had made significant progress in implementing the National Human Development Plan and others aimed at promoting and restoring the rights of all Nicaraguans, particularly traditionally excluded sectors.  Nicaragua was building a new model for citizenship, to make it possible to have true social integration.  In that model, citizens organized themselves to decide on their own projects and corresponding budgets.  Thanks to a system of participatory democracy, Nicaragua had made important progress in the past three years.  Despite the financial crisis, it had created jobs with public and private investment, and it had strengthened social programmes to ensure food security.  The Food Seed Programme benefited small producers and the Zero Hunger Programme benefited small producers and empowered women through credits and bonuses.

Health care services were free, and since 2006, health care had improved and services had been extended to previously marginalized areas, she said.  The number of medical clinics had risen by 68 per cent, hospital admittances by 21 per cent and surgeries by 52 per cent.  A new Government programme had led to a reduction in maternal and natal mortality.  The Government worked in solidarity with the Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of America.  A good example of solidarity with other Latin American countries was the Cuban-Nicaraguan Medical Brigade “Everyone has a Voice”, which was conducting scientific research on disability in Nicaragua.  It went house to house to identify physical, mental and genetic disabilities.  Once finished, the study would inform Government strategies for health, education and employment to help disabled people.  The Government recently ratified the Optional Protocol to the Disabilities Convention.  Also, thanks to education programmes, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) had declared Nicaragua free of illiteracy -- which now stood at just 3.56 per cent.   Student enrolment in primary and secondary schools was now at an all-time high.

RANKO VILOVIĆ ( Croatia) said one of his country’s strategic goals was to take all necessary measures to benefit families, children and youth, persons with disabilities, the elderly and all other members of society.  In 2007, the function of Ombudsperson for Persons with Disabilities had been created to ensure those persons’ more effective protection.  Croatia had been among the first countries to have ratified both the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol.  Croatia affirmed the right of all citizens to equally participate in all segments of society, as embodied in the Declaration on the Rights of Disabled Persons, adopted by the Croatian Parliament.  Towards that goal, the Government had adopted numerous acts, measures, policies and strategies stipulating activities that provided conditions for society’s social improvement.  Fully cognizant that a prosperous economic situation was not enough in itself, the primary aim of Croatia’s national policy on social development was to strengthen the role of the family as a pillar of society.  In 2006, the Government had begun establishing family centres offering unique services aimed at preventing violence and fostering recognition of responsible parenthood.

In that connection, he noted that the Government placed great importance, not only on assisting victims of domestic violence, but also on helping perpetrators to change their behaviour patterns, as well as their system of values.  On a biennial basis, Croatia reassessed and accordingly adapted its National Strategy for the Protection against Family Violence.  Flowing from that, it had adopted several measures, including the National Programme for Youth; the National Strategy for Prevention of Violence among Youth; the National Strategy for Equalization of Possibilities for Persons with Disabilities; the Programme of Day Care; and Aid to the Elderly in Their Homes.  Croatia was also fully committed to combating intolerance and discrimination and to promoting mutual respect and understanding among peoples from all walks of life.  By including non-institutional programmes, as well as civil society, as partners for development, the country recognized and protected the most vulnerable and marginalized groups.

MOURAD BENMEHIDI ( Algeria) said globalization had exacerbated the gap between rich and poor.  The global economic crisis had further darkened that picture.  It had resulted in decreased social spending and restrictions on access to credit, and it had made achievement of the goals set forth at the Millennium Summit and the Copenhagen Summit out of reach, particularly for African countries.  In Africa, social exclusion was a consequence of chronic instability, unemployment and underemployment, poverty and a lack of health care services and education.   Africa needed significant support from the international community to overcome those challenges.  Donor countries must honour their development aid commitments.  The fight against poverty and unemployment could not be seen separately from the global economic system.

The Algerian Government, with a duty to national solidarity and justice, was working to combat all sorts of discrimination, he said.  It had taken, and was taking, many steps.  For example, the 2010-2014 National Development Plan comprised programmes to improve health care, education, living conditions, and water and energy services.  The Plan aimed to strengthen social cohesion and create a sense of solidarity with impoverished people.  In 2009, Algeria had ratified the Disabilities Convention.  It had also amended the 2002 law on persons with disabilities, to improve their socio-economic lot and help them obtain employment and better living conditions.  It had decided to create 120 centres for disabled people, to supplement the existing 30 centres.  A draft law would soon be submitted to the Government Council on disabled peoples’ rights, before it was sent to Parliament for adoption.  He stressed Algeria’s support for the Copenhagen goals and the Millennium Development Goals.

DAVISON K. MENDAMENDA, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Community Development and Social Services of Zambia, said his Government was pursing a variety of approaches to fight exclusion.  It had developed policies to promote social and civic participation and improve economic inclusion and better access to labour markets.  The fifth national development plan, currently being implemented, demonstrated the Government’s focus on social protection and disability.  The plan outlined several strategies for social integration, which targeted all vulnerable groups, including households affected by HIV and AIDS, female- and child-headed households, street children, the elderly and persons with disabilities.  Zambia remained committed to the action plan for persons with disabilities and, in that regard, had ratified the United Nations Convention in 2010.  Currently, persons with disabilities played an important role in the national constitutional review.  In an effort to empower those individuals, Zambia had a national vocational rehabilitation centre to provide them with vocational skills.

He noted that his Government also provided several support programmes for youth.  Among those were the provision of bursaries to vulnerable youth in all Government-run vocational training institutions; a youth development fund to provide seed money to youth-related projects; and rehabilitation and reintegration of vulnerable youth.  Those programmes were aimed at making youth self-reliant.  Of equal importance was the welfare of the elderly and, in that regard, the Government had been piloting a social pension scheme whose main goal was to contribute to reducing poverty among the elderly.  The scheme would target persons over the age of 60.  The Government had also been implementing a social cash transfer scheme, whereby cash was given on a bimonthly basis to destitute and incapacitated households in five districts.  The hope was to make the scheme a national programme.

The role of the family as a basic and fundamental unit of society in promoting social integration was also significant, he said.  In an effort to protect children from all forms of violence, exploitation and abuse, Zambia had passed appropriate laws, including the Employment of Young Persons and Children (Amendment) Act.  The country had also domesticated the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention No. 182 on the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour, as well as Convention No. 138 on Minimum Age for Admission to Employment.  To protect the family from the human trafficking scourge, it had enacted the Anti-Trafficking Act in 2008.  Zambia was currently drafting an Anti-domestic violence bill.  Zambia, like other countries, had not been spared the effects of the global financial and economic crisis.  It was undertaking measures to limit the risk of long-term unemployment and increased labour market informality, and it had instituted measures to accelerate support for vulnerable women and men, including youth, low-wage earners and low-skilled informal workers.

GEORGES-LOUIS BOUCHEZ ( Belgium) said education’s virtues in the framework of social development were many.  It helped to combat unemployment and poverty, particularly among youth.  It informed them about the risks related to drug abuse and sexually transmitted diseases.  It helped teach them that work could, and should, respect individuals and preserve the health of the population.  Having well-educated people made it possible for countries to count on their citizens.  Education taught social and cultural codes, and that was important for cohesion and the proper functioning of any society.

Making education the exclusive responsibility of families could only exacerbate and reproduce social inequities, he said.  That was why States could not abandon poor children.  Schools must inform students about world problems.  Schools should be a place of openness about the outside world and they should be rigorous.  School should never become a place that responded only to the specific needs of enterprise.  Rather, quality education and critical thinking should be encouraged.    According to UNESCO, two thirds of children not attending school were girls.  There must be investment in education, as that investment reduced inequality and violence.  Further, it was essential that every student had the same opportunity to succeed.

NOUNEH ZASTOUKHOVA ( Armenia) said that, with the current economic situation, additional constraints had been imposed on Governments as they made efforts to construct a society for all, with equal rights and equal opportunities.  Armenia was not void of the dramatic effects of the ongoing financial crisis.  The Armenian Government had done its best to safeguard the socially vulnerable.  No cuts in the budget had been made in the social sector in 2009.  Even more significant, wages had been raised by 12 per cent on average, to offset the negative consequences of the crisis.  Nonetheless, it was expected that the crisis could reverse the progress registered in the country in the past two to three years.  Armenia had revised its poverty reduction strategy paper in 2008 and renewed the benchmarks.  It would contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, with its specific focus on population development, reproductive health and rights, and gender equality.  A main focus of the first United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) country programme was the sexual and reproductive issues of young people.  It was incorporated into all components and viewed from the wider perspective of population ageing and its impact on the country’s economic and social development.

She said the sharp change in the population structure, as a result of a significant emigration of the able population of reproduction age, owing to the dire economic conditions ‑‑ coupled with the decline in birth rates ‑‑ could lead to a rapidly ageing population, if unaddressed.  That would place enormous pressure on the socio-economic fabric and the overall development of Armenia.  The urgency of the issue had necessitated the development of the National Action Plan and Strategy Paper on Ageing, in 2009.  The Paper had later become the basis for the exchange of experience in the region, via a conference organized for the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).  It addressed existing demographic challenges and sought to strengthen the national capacity and institutional mechanisms for implementing, monitoring and evaluating social policies and programmes.  Several vulnerable groups, including the poor, disabled and refugees were hardest hit by the gaps in economic and human development.  While several legal provisions guaranteed their social protection, in practice, those groups often had difficulty accessing health and social protection and achieving full integration into society.

She touched on work under way for the establishment of a new European model for persons with disabilities; education for handicapped children; State vocational training programmes; disability pensions; family protection; and reproductive health and rights.  Social issues remained a priority for the Armenian Government and would continue to be so in the years ahead.  The main objective of its policies and programmes would be achieving inclusiveness, accessibility and affordability for all strata of society, especially the most vulnerable in all spheres of life.  She hoped the economic recovery after the crisis would enable Armenia to continue on the charted path to reaching agreed targets, including the Millennium Development Goals.

PEDRO NÚÑEZ MOSQUERA ( Cuba) said injustice and exclusion due to the current international order had caused increased marginalization in the South.  High levels of illiteracy, hunger, extreme poverty and premature death, among other problems, continued in many countries.  Solidarity with developing countries in great need was a duty.  He called for creation of more just societies within countries’ own borders, in order to more equitably distribute wealth and prevent it from ending up in the coffers of transnational corporations and banks in the North.  Social integration could only occur when powerful nations met their official development assistance (ODA) commitments, developing countries stopped using one fifth of their exports to pay external debt and technology transfer occurred under mutually agreed terms.

A new international order that promoted true social integration was increasingly urgent, he said.  Industrialized countries had the resources to give development aid, but lacked the political will to do so.  The United States blockade against Cuba, the main obstacle to social advancement, had not limited Cuba’s progress in health care and education, which was free for all Cubans.  Life expectancy was higher than 77 years, the infant mortality rate was 4.8 per every 1,000 live births, primary school enrolment was 100 per cent and secondary school enrolment was 99 per cent.  The Government had sent 448,649 Cubans to 167 countries since 1961 to work as health care professionals, teachers, sports trainers and other specialists.   Cuban’s scholarship programme had benefited tens of thousands of students from the Third World.  Cuban doctors had attended to more than 35,000 patients and performed more than 3,000 surgeries in Haiti after the earthquake there.

TAKASHI ASHIKI (Japan) said that achieving a society for all meant establishing policies and taking prompt action to promote social integration by protecting children, women, the elderly, persons with disabilities, indigenous people, minorities and other vulnerable groups and people, and by working to ensure that all were able to participate actively in society.  The global financial and economic crisis had left vulnerable groups in an even more difficult situation than before and, thus, it was all the more important to minimize the harm they suffered and strengthen their capacities, to enable them to better meet the challenges.  Today, threats to individuals had become more diverse and serious, ranging from poverty to terrorism, military conflict and climate change.  To realize a society for all, it was essential to fully address those threats from the perspective of human security, which focused on each individual and aimed to protect and empower those who were most vulnerable.

He said that unemployment must be addressed as a priority.  Measures to address that were not only critical to a global economic recovery, but were crucial to poverty eradication.  The most vulnerable groups and individuals must be accommodated and decent work for all must be ensured.  Nationally, Japan had carried out emergency employment measures aimed at promoting job security.  Those included support for workers striving to hold onto the jobs they already had, support for new graduates seeking employment, support for all those seeking re-employment, and housing support.   Japan had also provided assistance at the international level to realize the goal of decent work for all.  In Armenia, for example, it had supported a project called “Sustainable Livelihood for Socially Vulnerable Refugees, Internally Displaced and Local Families”, through the United Nations Trust Fund for Human Security.  In India, as another example, the Japanese Government had made available a financial assistance scheme to provide job training for women and persons with disabilities in rural areas and to build medical care facilities there.  Education was the basis of social development and it was essential to empower the socially vulnerable to participate in the policymaking process, obtain the desired work and be free from poverty.

KIM BONG-HYUN ( Republic of Korea) said the Secretary-General’s report on social integration was a reliable guide and a source of inspiration to enhance social integration.  In the last several decades, the Republic of Korea had recognized that economic growth was important for social integration.  The food, energy, climate change and financial crises were very real to people in need of social integration.  As Chair of the Group of 20 (G-20) Summit, the Republic of Korea was considering including the issue of development cooperation on the agenda of the G-20 Summit in Seoul in November.  In a bid to share its gains in economic growth and social development, the Republic of Korea would triple its ODA from $1 billion to $3 billion by 2015.  Poverty was not just about a lack of money, it was about deprivation, social exclusion and isolation.  It could not be eradicated by only fulfilling basic social needs.  Ending poverty required full employment and decent work for all, including people with disabilities and the elderly.

The Government had taken a holistic approach to social integration by creating the Presidential Committee on Social Integration last December, he said.  The Committee had identified four main obstacles to promoting social integration: class conflict; ideological intolerance; regional sectionalism; and generational discord.  It had then set up four subdivisions to tackle each problem.  It had developed a national evaluation index for social integration, and operated a centre to monitor implementation of social integration policies and receive feedback from all stakeholders.  In light of the dramatic increase in migrant workers and Korean marriages to foreigners, the Government had set up, among other things, 100 multicultural family support centres to provide legal advice, counselling, language and cultural training.  It would set up another 40 centres this year.

ZACHARY D. MUBURI MUITA ( Kenya) said that, despite pockets of good news, Africa was still confronted with alarming statistics.  It had certainly registered economic growth, but, notwithstanding its modest gains, large segments of the population still wallowed in poverty.  Many young people lacked secure employment or sources of income.  That situation was further exacerbated by high levels of inequality, which reduced the rate at which growth was transformed into poverty reduction or real social development.  In sub-Saharan Africa, climate change pushed further south, thus meaning that communities that until now had been self-sufficient in food had become dependent on imports.  A synergy existed between the Millennium Development Goals and the Copenhagen targets, certainly in terms of the quantitative targets to be achieved by 2015 in relation to poverty, hunger, literacy, health and infant mortality.  A critical issue for Kenya remained the challenge of how to integrate economic and social policies to foster not only economic and social development, but also stable and just societies.

In the context of social integration, he said that Kenya had spent considerable effort and resources to develop an enabling political, social, cultural and legal environment for social development.  That had led to greater awareness of the need for respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, greater participation of civil society, as well as transparency and accountability.  Providing a brief synopsis of what Kenya was doing to address the myriad challenges relating to social integration, he highlighted the establishment of the National Council of Persons with Disability and related legislation; the creation of a disability fund; the adoption of a national policy on ageing in 2009; and training opportunities and affordable and flexible national and community-based social welfare services for older persons.  The Government had also put in place a social protection programme aimed at providing cash transfers to households headed by elderly persons.  In the current fiscal year, the Government provided more than 500 million shillings to benefit 33,000 older persons aged 65 years and above.  There were also development policies intended to promote an integrated approach to community practice and gender equality.

MOIRA MÉNDEZ ROMERO ( Venezuela) said her Government had set up 31 types of social missions to meet the citizenry’s basic needs in health care, education, food, employment and housing.  The Government guaranteed the cultural rights of one’s own identity, notably that of indigenous people.  One mission worked to ensure food security for low-income people.  The Barrio mission set up health care clinics in low-income communities.  There were also diagnostic and rehabilitation centres nationwide.  A Cuban-Venezuelan Government partnership had created a network of hospitals where thousands of Cuban and Venezuelan doctors worked together, providing treatment to almost 25 million people, or 88.9 per cent of the population.  Health care missions, working with the Niño Jesus Programme, assisted pregnant women.  The Milagro mission had performed surgeries free of charge on 16 million people.

Missions were set up to provide literacy courses to more than 1 million Venezuelan adults, enabling them to complete primary education, she said.  Thanks to those and other education efforts, in 2005 UNESCO had declared Venezuela illiteracy free.  The Government offered free secondary education.  The Sucre mission enabled thousands of high school graduates formally excluded from higher education to go on to college.  The Che Guevara mission had provided job training for thousands.  One programme aimed to place street children in permanent homes.  Others provided job training and placement for single mothers, comprehensive care for the disabled, housing, land distribution, leisure activities and music education.  With firm political will, it was possible to reduce poverty.  Poverty had dropped from 51 per cent in 2002 to 25 per cent in 2008.  The Government had allocated 44.7 per cent of the 2010 federal budget for social programmes to further push down poverty and inequality indicators.   The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) had ranked Venezuela 61st on its Human Development Index of 191 countries.

JOEL MUSA NHLEKO ( Swaziland), aligning himself with the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77, said that, in tandem with the Copenhagen action plan, his country fully subscribed to the notion that social integration was the process of building the values, relations and institutions essential for the creation of an equitable and dynamic society.  In Swaziland, orphans, the elderly and destitute, street children, widows and people with disabilities were considered to be the most vulnerable social groups.  Notwithstanding existing challenges, his Government had pursued policies aimed at combating exclusion, often with a focus on the most marginalized groups and individuals.  For instance, it provided grants to the elderly, persons with disabilities, former military servicemen, orphans and vulnerable children.  It also provided full financial assistance to the latter group of children for school and examination fees.

The dramatic increase in the number of orphans and vulnerable children -- due to poverty and the HIV/AIDS pandemic -- posed one of the most visible challenges for Swaziland, he continued.  The extended family system, which had historically absorbed such children, had been overwhelmed, and a new phenomenon of child-headed households had emerged and was rapidly increasing.  Thus, the grant for those children had been increased by 61.5 per cent, to enable them access to basic education.

He said that, despite poverty reduction since the World Summit for Social Development, an estimated 1.4 billion people still lived in extreme poverty worldwide, with more than 70 per cent of them going hungry.  His Government had put in place its poverty reduction strategy and action plan, which sought to halve poverty by 2015 and ultimately eradicate it by 2022.  That might sound like a very ambitious goal, but it was attainable “with lots of commitment”.  Reducing poverty was the central challenge for Swaziland, and the Government had embarked on a national drive to revive the economy.  The first of such initiatives had been the development of a national vision enshrined in the National Development Strategy (1997-2022).  While the importance of private sector and civil society in financing and delivering social services was recognized, the Government remained the primary provider for its people.  For that reason, he called on Swaziland’s development partners for increased technical assistance and increased ODA, in accordance with internationally agreed targets.

CLAUDE BONELLO ( Malta) said his country’s social character was based on a strong sense of community and close family ties.  Its social welfare system actively protected those at risk for poverty.  But, globalization, demographic trends and lifestyle changes were making it harder to rely solely on traditional methods of promoting social cohesion and reducing poverty.   To address that changing environment, Malta’s Ministry of Social Policy had drawn up a 2008-2010 National Action Plan aimed at promoting social inclusion of children and equal opportunity for all.  It aimed to develop social-inclusion strategies for such vulnerable groups as the chronically unemployed, single parents, migrants, people dependent on drugs and alcohol, the mentally ill, victims of domestic violence, the disabled, older people, children and young people at risk.  It identified and addressed the main challenges to ending poverty and social inclusion.

Among the plan’s goals were to reduce the school dropout rate and educational underachievement, as well as to sustain efforts to end the digital divide through computer literacy training, he said.  It also aimed to increase the employment rate, expand access to adequate and affordable housing, end the cycle of poverty being passed down from one generation to the next and reform the social protection system to ensure its was stable, effective and comprehensive.  The National Plan included strategies to assess whether the current social security system provided adequate income support; facilitate the entry of women and vulnerable groups into the labour market; and create a better work-life balance.

ABDUL MOMEN ( Bangladesh) reviewed the many achievements of the past 15 years, including adoption of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing, but said that document was lagging in implementation.  The number of older persons stood at 737 million, globally.  A great majority of those elderly people lived below the poverty line, which made them vulnerable to all sorts of injustices.  At the global level, there were both normative and implementation gaps in terms of addressing the ageing issue.  He welcomed the general recommendation on older women proposed by the Committee that monitors implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, aimed at reducing the normative gap.  Elderly people -- both men and women -- required special attention.  That was truer for those living in the least developed countries.  Despite resource constraints, his Government had undertaken many social programmes, in that regard.  For example, it was providing monthly allowances to the elderly, as well as to persons with disabilities.  It was also trying to increase that coverage, for which it needed assistance from its partners.

In that connection, he said the international community had a responsibility to work towards reducing the implementation gap, as well as to provide adequate resources for full implementation of the national programmes adopted for elderly persons by national Governments.  Rights of migrant workers was yet another area that had drawn focus in the last two decades.  There too, there was a long way to go.  Unfortunately, in many societies, they were still treated as “foreign elements” and were often discouraged from participating in the very societies in which they lived.  A shared society would remain a dream as long as attitudes towards migrants did not change in this era of globalization.  The ongoing global financial and economic crisis, which further exacerbated the world food crisis, threatened to diminish achievements made since the adoption of the Millennium Declaration.  It is “really outrageous” that each year nearly 500,000 women died from avoidable pregnancy-related complications.  It was also true that 1.2 billion people, or one fifth of the entire global population, still lived under abject poverty.  That issue must be addressed and adequate resources allocated to improve the situation.  “There is just no other way out,” he asserted.

MOHAMED FATHI EDREES ( Egypt) said social integration could only be achieved by reducing poverty, creating jobs and turning the Millennium Development Goals into reality.  There could be no progress in development without human development and the participation of all social groups in decision-making, particularly women, youth, older persons and people with disabilities.  For that to happen, there could be no discrimination based on race, religion, ethnicity or gender.  There must be economic integration to put everyone on an equal footing and to achieve parity in the work place.  Social integration meant eliminating unemployment and poverty, and providing basic social services, including education and health care.  Those were particular challenges for developing countries, who were striving to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 during the difficult times brought on by the financial and economic crisis.  The crisis had made social security and social safety nets even more important than before.

The crisis had a negative impact on socio-economic development, he said.  Hence the need for rigorous and comprehensive national policies to support basic health-care services, education, professional training and gender parity in the workplace.  It was necessary to protect the rights of migrants, many of whom suffered from social exclusion.  Egypt’s Ministry for Social Security was striving to create a social security network that enabled poor and low-income people to weather the crisis and the subsequent price hikes and job cuts it had caused.  The State had devised programmes to help women participate in economic life on an equal footing with men, giving them the necessary resources to run small and mid-sized businesses.  African leaders had met in October 2008 in Namibia to adopt an agenda for social development in Africa.  During that meeting a common African position was developed for stability in African countries emerging from crisis.  The Arab League had also met in Cairo to create a common Arab position.

LUIS ENRIQUE CHÁVEZ ( Peru) said his Government had undertaken several measures to overcome poverty, which had resulted in its significant reduction.  In 2008, the country had achieved the first Millennium Development Goal to halve poverty by 2015; in fact, it had reduced it by 92 per cent.  That reduction had been possible because of, among other factors, a stable macroeconomic policy.  At the same time, a national policy had been established to promote the social, political and cultural inclusion of the “least favourable” social groups.  Action had been taken to promote decent work for, and the integration of, youth.  Beginning in September 2009, a plan of action had been developed for youth employment, aimed at enabling young people to have dignified and productive work.  The programme would benefit more than 330,000 people between the ages of 15 and 29.  The Government had made it a priority to include youth in the development of the communities.  It also promoted the inclusion of young people at international forums.  Next March, Peru would host a forum for the Latin America and Caribbean region and the European Union on social cohesion, with a focus on employment generation for young people.

He said his country was aware that social integration required combating discrimination and promoting equal opportunities, so work was under way to eliminate all forms of discrimination against persons with disabilities.  A general law was in place and a national council had been set up for those persons.  In July 2009, a law had been adopted to deal with regular offences and non-compliance.  Extreme disability was a factor in greater exclusion and marginalization, so measures were being implemented to improve those persons’ access.  But, that necessary task also required international cooperation.  A law for older persons made it possible to create integrated care centres, which, among other things, sought to raise educational levels and cultural participation.

Efforts were also ongoing to promote the economic, social and cultural inclusion of Peru’s indigenous people.  On 7 December 2009, the President had expressed a historic apology to Afro-Peruvian people for the abuse they had suffered since colonial times and he had recognized the role they had played in building the Peruvian State.  Their natural resources were being protected, as was their right to their lands, and their economic status was being augmented.  But, dialogue must be accompanied by concrete action.  While it was the primary responsibility of States to provide for the welfare of their populations, national efforts required a favourable international environment.  That meant, among other things, open trade and the elimination of subsidies and other barriers.  There was no doubt that international cooperation played a decisive role.

Presentation by Special Rapporteur

SHUAIB CHALKLEN, United Nations Special Rapporteur on disability, reviewed his mandate as follows:  advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities; create awareness of the Convention; act as a catalyst to promote international and technical cooperation on disability issues; and collaborate with all relevant stakeholders.  He recalled that the catalyst for the evolution of that mandate had been the adoption of the World Programme of Action in 1982 and the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities, adopted in 1993.  So far, 78 countries had ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  His work and priorities built on the three instruments on disabilities, relevant human rights and development instruments, and relevant international commitments and standards.  Those historical developments had brought about a change in the terms of reference of the Special Rapporteur, geared towards ensuring the utility of all the instruments to its optimum level.

He said he had assumed his position at a time of enormous opportunity to bring about sustainable change in the conditions of all persons with disabilities, with particular attention to Africa and other developing regions.  The situation of persons with disabilities that were now in greater risk of poverty and marginalization required urgent attention.  Those opportunities and challenges had informed his vision for his term.  His vision was for a global situation of equal opportunities and the full participation of persons with disabilities in society and development, informed by international cooperation.  He intended to bring together the disability community, Governments, the United Nations system and civil society to promote that vision in practical action for a real change on the ground for persons with disabilities.

Since his appointment in August 2009, he said, he had started to develop concrete ideas as to how to translate that vision into action, starting with a conference in Cape Town organized for the African Decade of Persons with Disabilities.  The conference shared information on the institutional mechanisms required at a national level to ensure the proper monitoring of the Convention.  That had given him an opportunity to share his terms of reference with representatives of many African countries.  He had also attended, among other meetings, the Rehabilitation International Middle East Regional Conference in Dubai in November 2009.  During the week of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, he had addressed the Swedish Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee and met with the Swedish International Development Agency, which had consistently supported disability-specific development programmes in Africa for many years.

To give effect to his vision, he said he intended to focus on the following priorities:  monitoring, promotion and implementation of the Standard Rules; focusing international cooperation as envisaged in article 32 of the Convention, the Standard Rules and other relevant instruments; promoting mainstreaming; raising greater support for the Convention and Optional Protocol; and focusing special attention on measures to address vulnerabilities of specific groups of the disability community, such as women and girls with disabilities, children and persons with mental disabilities.  He would also focus on the blockages to implementation of disability-specific programmes and policies in countries around the world, including through the sharing of information and technical cooperation.

The overwhelming majority of persons with disabilities lived in the least developed countries, which posed an enormous challenge and responsibility for all to collectively ensure that development spending benefited those most in need, he said.  It must be ensured that the Millennium Development Goals became inclusive of persons with disabilities, especially women and children with disabilities.  He intended to meet with the relevant United Nations agencies involved in the Goals and with as many bilateral and multilateral donors as resources permitted to advance inclusion of disability and full participation of persons with disabilities in the current “MDG processes” and beyond.  He would also raise the Convention and its Optional Protocol with Governments.  He would highlight the needs of groups requiring further attention, and in the least developed countries.  The proposed conference in Libya on Disability and Development in Africa would be an excellent opportunity to highlight the concerns of the vulnerable among persons with disabilities.

He said he would also like to meet with the bilateral donors engaged in humanitarian efforts, such as those under way in Haiti, as well as those advocating for inclusion of disability in their development cooperation agenda.  Persons with disabilities should be both agents and beneficiaries in all aspects of development processes.  Their equality and empowerment were key to any successful development outcomes.  He endeavoured to achieve the kind of results that would contribute to sustained change in the lives of persons with disabilities.  Some of the expected results were an increase in the number of countries, especially in the South, with “implementable” and resourced programmes and policies; a flow of information, as well as technical cooperation; an increase in the disability-specific development budgeting; an increase in the number of countries that ratified the Convention; and a heightened awareness of the most vulnerable persons with disabilities.

Questions and Comments

The representative of Australia asked how the high-level review of the Millennium Development Goals in September might be used to talk about the issue of persons with disabilities.  She also asked for the Special Rapporteur’s views on the possibility of developing international standards or guidelines on accessibility.

The representative of Cuba said his country was among the 78 that had ratified the Convention and was preparing an elaborate initial report, in accordance with that instrument.  It had also prepared three national action plans dealing with persons with disabilities.  Projects included a joint endeavour with Nicaragua, which involved the sharing of doctors and medical expertise to travel to the far reaches of the latter country to provide data on persons suffering from severe disability.

Mexico’s representative noted that the question of disability had evolved in recent years, from the provision of assistance to promotion of those persons’ effective involvement in society and assurance of their full inclusion in all areas of life.  That new approach was in line with the Convention.  The speaker asked about mechanisms by which to strengthen that approach.

The representative of the Republic of Korea said he agreed with the Special Rapporteur’s priorities on the importance of international cooperation.  In that regard, his country was planning to host several forums and conferences, including, in 2012, three meetings.  One was the final review of the Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons.  Pursuant to United Nations recommendations for implementing the Convention, his Government had enforced several relevant measures to ensure those persons’ full participation in society and to advocate for their rights.  Since 2009, those efforts were being monitored.  Additionally, a national report was being prepared for the Committee that monitors the Convention, in 2011, and efforts were under way nationally to enhance the livelihoods of persons with severe disabilities.  A pension act for them would be introduced in January this year.

The representative of Nicaragua noted the limited resources in developing countries, but said that what was frequently lacking was political will.  As Cuba’s representative had said, many means could be used to provide persons with disabilities with equal opportunities.  A very innovative programme of South-South cooperation was under way in which Cuban and Nicaraguan doctors were going to the remote areas of the country to gather data on the number of Nicaraguans suffering from severe disabilities.  That would give the country a better “map” of the situation, including disaggregated data, in order that the resources and plans were used and adjusted accordingly.  Nicaragua had recently ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention.

Qatar’s representative, noting the comment by the Special Rapporteur that he intended to address the situation of specific groups, asked if he could elaborate on the realization of rights of persons with disabilities in situations of armed conflict and foreign occupation.

The representative of Argentina said account had not been taken of the activities of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR).  International cooperation was needed there, as was greater attention to isolated persons with disabilities, particularly women.  He noted Argentina’s support of Haiti and its plans to hold a workshop to build prostheses for such emergencies.  Mr. Chalklen was asked to elaborate on the question of disabilities in emergency situations.

A representative of the International Disability and Development Consortium welcomed the work of the Commission.  This year’s theme in particular struck a chord with her member organizations in their efforts to overcome the exclusion of persons with disabilities.  As the Convention understood, social barriers were the main cause of that exclusion.  She drew attention to the key issue in the coming year -- the need to include persons with disabilities in the “MDG processes”.  The review summit was only eight months away, and it was urgent that the needs of persons with disabilities be urgently expressed.

Responding to the questions and comments, the Special Rapporteur, referencing the queries by the Australian delegate, said that in reviewing the Millennium Development Goals, there was currently a lack of comparable data, but that was being addressed.  He thought that guidelines on accessibility was “an excellent proposal”, as in practice there was a lot of convergence around an international standard.

To Cuba’s representative, he said there was no deliberate intention to not refer to Latin America in his statement.  He was from South Africa, and there was a lot of dialogue and cooperation between African and Latin and South American countries.

Yes, he told Mexico’s delegation, a lot of changes had taken place since the World Summit’s action programme and adoption of the Disabilities Convention.  There were challenges in mainstreaming persons with disabilities.  Those included the question of their increased participation in different organs and at different levels, including internationally, at the United Nations.

He referred the Nicaraguan delegation to his response to Cuba’s representative.

To Qatar, he said he had mentioned in his statement that he would consider the situation of disabled people in situations of risk and humanitarian disasters, and that would include countries under foreign occupation and situations of armed conflict.  It was his intention to address that as widely as possible.  So, that was not an omission on his part.

He said he agreed with Argentina’s speaker that account should be taken of what was happening in the MERCOSUR region, and he looked forward to working with them more and gathering additional information on what was taking place there.

Regarding the question about the Millennium Development Goals raised by the non-governmental organization, he reiterated that there was a lack of data at present, and that was being addressed.


REEN KACHERE, Minister for Persons with Disabilities and the Elderly of Malawi, said her country recognized the importance of integrating youth, persons with disabilities, the elderly and women in its development agenda.  As such, the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy, Malawi’s overarching national development strategy, ensured that disadvantaged groups were not left behind in the achievement of the national development agenda.  The Malawi Decent Work Country Programme and the National Social Support Policy, now in its final stages of completion, would facilitate the mainstreaming of social integration in all development activities.  The policy evolved around provision of welfare support; protection of assets; productivity enhancement; and policy linkage and mainstreaming.  It was intended to facilitate implementation of social transfer schemes, public works programmes and village savings and loans programmes, all of which were designed to support vulnerable groups in helping themselves.

She said her Government regularly consulted civil society groups and non-governmental organizations in reviewing Malawi’s policy and regulatory framework, in order to increase the participation of vulnerable groups in addressing the many developmental challenges they faced, including gender inequalities, lack of access to credit, land and decent work, and the effects of climate change.  The latter was yet another burden on vulnerable people, particularly poor women and children, persons with disabilities and the elderly.  And it was a real threat to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.  No effort must be left untried to address its effects on the poor.  For that reason, her Government had relocated the management of climate change from the Ministry responsible for environmental affairs to the Ministry responsible for Development Planning and Cooperation, to ensure that climate change management was mainstreamed in all aspects of Malawi’s social and economic development agenda.

The Malawi Government was also currently finalizing the Equalization Opportunities Bill, which would ensure that the rights of persons with disabilities were within the country’s legal framework, she noted.  And to ensure that the physical environment was accessible, the Government was developing standard guidelines on accessibility.  The Government was also currently reviewing family-related laws to ensure that the family was at the centre of national development and, in partnership with civil society, it was stepping up its social inclusion efforts to children in destitute situations through several child protection efforts, including provision of social rehabilitation services to street children and children facing various forms of abuse and violence, as well as child-headed households.  That area of the social sector required innovative financing.  Engaging youth in national development was not a matter of choice, but rather an imperative.  In that regard, the Government had put in place strategic programmes in such areas as youth participation and leadership, youth economic empowerment, youth health, and youth guidance and counselling.

BASHAR JA’AFARI( Syria) said that, despite progress, there were still major challenges and grave threats that undermined sustainable development and creation of a stable society.  Syria’s traditions had made it easier for society to cope with the crisis, reinforcing them.  The Syrian Government was increasingly working with non-governmental organizations to help the disabled, young people, the elderly and refugees.  On 23 and 24 January, the Syria Trust for Development hosted the First International Development Conference.  It brought together development actors to exchange ideas and experiences on development projects in such areas as rural development, the promotion of community-based efforts and small and medium-sized businesses.  The Syrian Government was also focusing on expanding employment and creating decent work and wages for all.

He said the Euro-Arab Conference to support small and medium-sized businesses, scheduled for later this month, would aim to create links between businesses in the two regions, create incentives for the establishment of joint Euro-Arab investments and facilitate transfer of European know-how and technology to the Arab world.  Syria was also working to promote and strengthen the family unit ‑‑ the bedrock of society ‑‑ as part of its strategy to achieve social development.  In order to achieve the Copenhagen goals, everyone must make good on their commitments.  That included helping people suffering under occupation, notably the victims of the Israeli occupation.  Their rights had been hindered, as had their right to self-determination.

ADRIAN SOLCAN, Youth Delegate from Romania, said the ongoing global economic and financial crisis had disproportionately affected countries where youth populations were among the most vulnerable groups.  In such an uncertain economic climate, many young people were entering an adulthood that promised fewer jobs and limited pathways for continued growth.  Indeed, according to ILO, one third of the 34 million people who had lost their jobs in 2007 had been youth.  That number was expected to increase, as countries around the globe continued to shed jobs and an alarming rate.

While making stops throughout Romania ahead of the Commission’s session, he had realized that the crisis had not bypassed his country.  “We saw the sad and worried faces behind such statistics,” he continued, stressing that the only thing the unemployed young people expected was for their leaders to allow them the opportunity to demonstrate their willingness and capacity to contribute to their country in a meaningful way.

All the young people he had seen were united by the simple shared hope for secure employment, and to start families assured they would be able to provide a secure and stable life for them.  With all that in mind, he urged delegations to drastically step up their efforts to combat worldwide youth unemployment, and stressed that, no mater how well intentioned, initiatives like the Decent Work Agenda and the Global Jobs Pact were worthless if Governments failed to implement them.

Continuing on that point, another Romanian Youth Delegate, BIANCA SARBU, said that, while her compatriots from around the world had made that same call during the General Assembly’s general debate last year, they were back in New York again, lobbying for concrete actions and plans for the short and medium term.  Spotlighting several specific initiatives that might spark serious action, she said that active labour market programmes could greatly facilitate young people’s entry into the labour market.

She went on to say that, with the increasing numbers of young people working in intermittent, low-paying and insecure jobs, along with their overrepresentation in the informal economy, Governments must identify urgent measures to improve their working conditions and ensure equal pay for equal work.  In addition, ensuring that young people were provided with free, high-quality education, both formal and informal, would empower them and open the door to more opportunities for decent work in their adulthood.  Finally, she said that young people needed to be more actively engaged in decision-making processes at all levels where labour market practices were designed.

SUTAPA MAJUMDAR, Director, Planning Commission of India, said the eleventh five-year plan (2007-2012) for inclusive growth was presently being implemented in India.  India endeavoured to ensure that the gains of economic growth reached all segments of the population.  In that context, special efforts were aimed at ensuring that rural India, where the majority of the population lived, derived direct benefit from the growth dividend.  Special attention was also being paid to gender equity issues and to the inclusion of vulnerable and marginalized groups in the country’s development efforts.  In addition to setting up a target for growth, the plan identified 26 measurable indices of performance relating to poverty, education, health, and women and children.  Those would reflect social integration achieved through development policies and programmes.  There were targets that could be monitored to cover the multidimensional economic and social objectives of inclusive growth.  To ensure efficient and timely implementation of the accompanying projects, those targets were disaggregated at the level of the States that implemented them.

She said that a demand-driven revolutionary instrument of empowerment for breaking down social inequalities and ensuring social dignity was essential.  To ensure that, grass-roots empowerment had been a major effort.  One flagship programme was the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, which ensured 100 days employment to every rural household and improved wage levels.  Education was key to ensuring greater inclusion; an educated labour force achieved faster growth.  In that context, the eleventh plan sought to strengthen elementary education.  The infrastructure for primary schools was almost complete, and the focus now was on quality and expansion of infrastructure for secondary education.  The plan also proposed a five-fold blueprint for gender equality.  Policies and strategies were being designed to achieve social development and ensure that no one was left behind.  Social integration was essential for fostering a stable, safe, harmonious, peaceful and just society.  That did not mean uniformity, but respect for diversity and promotion of equal opportunity and the participation of all.

CARMEN MARÍA GALLARDO HERNÁNDEZ ( El Salvador) said social integration and development was important to meet the basic needs of the population, particularly vulnerable groups.  El Salvador was committed to achieving the goals of the World Summit on Social Development and other internationally agreed development goals.  That strategy was the basis for its “Hope Brings Change” programme for development.  The Government had developed a medium- and long-term strategy to respond to social development and social integration challenges.  It aimed to create macroeconomic stability and conditions that ensured human, geographic and territorial integration, as well as facilitated progress at the community level.  It sought to improve the quality of, and people’s access to, basic services, create jobs and strengthen social participation.

Further, it worked to consistently provide opportunities in health care, education, culture and recreation, and access to adequate housing, employment and income.  Social inclusion and social cohesion played a central role in the economic development of El Salvador.  Social inclusion was one of three pillars of social development.  As young people in El Salvador comprised 19 per cent of the population, it was necessary to develop inclusive policies to achieve objectives that benefited them and allowed them to develop leadership skills and knowledge.  Investment in human capital was essential for development.  Education was fundamental for development and a vital tool for vulnerable groups, including the elderly and the disabled, to break the cycle of poverty.  The Government was working on integral literacy programmes for the elderly.  Further, the Government had set up a legislative commission to develop regulations in accordance with the Disabilities Convention.

GHAZI JOMAA ( Tunisia) emphasized the global nature of the notion of social integration.  In that vein, integration must be seen as a necessary right for any disadvantaged nation or any social category of people in need of support.  The current session was coming at an opportune time to take stock, 15 years after the Copenhagen outcome.  As for Tunisia, there had been several gains, including in improving the lives of persons with disabilities.  Several activities had been spearheaded to safeguard the conditions needed for a decent life and to ensure the necessary resources, improve accessibility to surrounding environments and improve communication, education, skills and vocational training.  For older persons, a national strategy had been developed, which included grants for poorer older persons, improved housing conditions in centres for the elderly and access to free health care for elderly people in need.

He said the Government would also continue to promote the role of young people, with a view to giving force to its commitment to that crucial segment of society.  Young people had a crucial role to play in building a better world.  Tunisia’s approach was based on strengthening their rights to health care and increased participation in culture, the community and public life.  All efforts were made to guarantee that young people maintained a balance, individually and socially, and were integrated effectively into society.  That was the only way to protect them from poverty, marginalization, extremism and terrorism.  On that basis, Tunisia had submitted a draft proclamation proclaiming 2010 the International Year of Youth, which had recently been adopted by the General Assembly.  He hoped activities would be organized that offered young people opportunities, pending an international world conference of youth, to be held in concert with the United Nations.  Tunisia reiterated its commitment to cooperating further with the United Nations family to make its work on the issues at hand more successful.

JEANNE K. NDYETABURA (United Republic of Tanzania) said that fulfilment of the Copenhagen action plan was necessary for the attainment of internationally agreed development goals.  Her Government continued to implement the action plan through national development programmes, particularly the National Strategy for Growth and Poverty Reduction.  While there had been some notable achievements, the global financial, food and energy crises, as well as the impact of climate change, posed a critical challenge to sustaining those gains.  It was imperative to examine how policy options had been impacted by those crises and amend or devise alternative policies and mechanisms to address them.  Her Government was committed to the goal of social integration, and had been developing and implementing people-centred development policy.  The “ujamaa” policy, which was the pillar of Government policy, had the aim of ensuring equality among all people and reducing the “differential gap” in society.

She noted that her Government had also incorporated issues affecting vulnerable groups in its national strategy for growth and poverty reduction, and it had developed a national social protection framework to improve the coordination and enforce implementation of pro-poor policies.  Social integration could not be separated from poverty reduction, employment and decent work.  The majority of Tanzanians lived in rural areas and agriculture was their main economic activity.  Thus, poverty reduction, job creation and decent work must be achieved through improvement in the agriculture sector.  For that reason, the Government had initiated a programme known as “Kilimo Kwanza”, or “Agriculture First”.  It was also implementing several skill-enhancing programmes to improve the quality of the labour force.  The challenge in maximizing potential benefits from the agriculture sector was in transforming and modernizing the sector to make it productive.  In that endeavour, the Government appealed to the international community for support through public-private partnerships.

AMJAD HUSSAIN B. SIAL ( Pakistan) said poverty eradication, full employment and social integration were interrelated and mutually reinforcing.  Provision of full and decent employment was key, as it benefited growth and equitable distribution.  Developing countries were the worst affected by the financial and economic meltdown, as employment uncertainty had led to lower wages, which in turn had resulted in declines in demand and economic growth, thereby aggravating poverty.  A continuous rise in unemployment would be an important impediment to social integration.  As the family provided the first level of social integration, that institution needed to be strengthened on a continuous basis.

He said his country was undergoing a demographic transition and was investing in human resource and skills development targeted at young people, in order to benefit from the “youth bulge”.  His Government had adopted an integrated and holistic approach to reduce poverty, provide social protection to the poor and achieve social integration of marginalized groups.  Initiatives that had produced positive results included the Benazir Income Support Programme, the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund, the Gender Reform Action Plan and the Employees Old Age Benefits Institution.

NICOLE ROMULUS ( Haiti) thanked the organizers and sponsors of the 3 February meeting on the situation in her country, which had suffered from a devastating earthquake that completely destroyed the Haitian capital and neighbouring towns.  In just a few seconds, all Haiti’s recent progress in social development and socio-economic reconstruction had been undermined.  It was important for all Governments to try to expand all social programmes to help the most vulnerable in society.  The right to health and education were fundamental.  Priority must be given to strengthen national structures.  She expressed hope that Haiti would be granted broad social support for rehabilitation and reconstruction.  Sufficient resources were needed to create global development and social programmes.

Haitians continued to be traumatized by the aftershocks of the earthquake, she said.  Yesterday, an aftershock had occurred near Port-au-Prince.  People were sleeping outdoors, or in the few buildings left standing.  Work was a form of emotional therapy for them.  She supported the “cash-for-work” programme set up by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which had enabled 30,000 people thus far to earn a daily wage by clearing roads and working on local reconstruction.  The Ministry of Social Affairs’ division for persons with disabilities was now faced with the difficult task of assisting the 5,000 to 6,000 people that had received amputations after being injured in the earthquake.  Because of those challenges, she called on the international community to help create appropriate aid and psychological support for the Haitian people.  In a great show of solidarity, the Haitian people living in areas outside the capital were sharing the little they had with people in the capital and were receiving people from the capital.  Decentralization was a Government goal, but those towns could not adequately absorb the influx of people, and assistance was needed.

JANE STEWART, Director of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Office for the United Nations, said that, faced with the prospect of a prolonged global increase in unemployment, poverty and inequality, ILO, in June 2009, had organized a global jobs summit, during which world leaders had strongly supported the adoption of a Global Jobs Pact designed to guide national and international policies to stimulate recovery, generate jobs and protect working people and their families.  The Pact would also aim to reduce the lag time between the return to economic growth and employment recovery.  In addition, the Pact proposed a range of crisis response measures that countries could adapt to their specific needs and situations.  It was a portfolio of options based on successful examples, designed to inform and support action at the multilateral level.

The Pact, she said, among other things, urged measures to build adequate social protection for all, including access to health care; income security for the elderly and persons with disabilities; child benefits; and income security, combined with public employment guarantee schemes for the unemployed and working poor.  ILO’s Global Employment Trends, released in January, showed that the number of unemployed youth in 2009 had been between 79 million and 87 million by the end of the year.  To reduce the negative impact of the crises on youth employment, Governments should ensure that youth were targeted as part of policy interventions and that integrated youth employment programmes to promote labour market integration of disadvantaged youth were designed and implemented.  ILO was assisting a number of countries in their efforts to strengthen in-country labour market policies and programmes, and was collaborating with multilateral institutions to ensure policy-coherence across such national initiatives.

Ensuring access to decent work for women and men with disabilities -- approximately 10 per cent of the world’s population, including 470 million persons of working age -- remained another major challenge, particularly at this time of financial and economic crisis, she said.  The framework for ILO’s work to promote equal employment opportunities for persons with disabilities was provided by ILO Convention No. 159 concerning vocational rehabilitation and employment of persons with disabilities, now ratified by 80 countries.  The project on promoting the employability and employment of persons with disabilities through effective legislation had produced a series of tools and products, in various languages, aimed at increasing the capacity of constituents regarding law-making and policy design, as well as strengthening implementation.  The ageing global population also had major implications for economies and societies, and the Global Jobs Pact called for the establishment of a social protection floor, which included ensuring income security for older people.  Households headed by older adults with young dependents were most at risk of extreme poverty.  Social protection, in the form of a social pension, could make a tremendous difference in the lives of older people, their families and communities.

FREDERICO NETO, Chief of the Social Development Division, Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), said that, in Western Asia, millions of people still faced several obstacles to social integration, including poverty, unemployment and insecurity.  According to some estimates, almost 35 million people lived on less than $2 a day.  Many groups and categories of poor people faced obstacles beyond, or in addition to, poverty.  The inclusion of those groups in society was not only an ethical priority, it was an economic and social imperative.  Inclusive societies were better equipped to achieve peace and prosperity.  That basic premise informed several ESCWA projects and initiatives that focused on helping Member States implement national strategies to enhance social integration.

Most Western Asian countries had weathered the worst of the global economic and financial crisis, he said.  But, the long-term effects on the poorest and certain segments were often concealed by national and regional averages.  Of particular concern was unemployment and growth of the informal economy, in which vulnerable social groups were often overrepresented in many countries.  Many ESCWA members had responded to the crisis by stimulating job creation through increased investment in infrastructure.  Some had adopted measures to support workers through job and skills training, as well as more elaborate social protection systems.  For example, Bahrain had created an unemployment insurance scheme financed by contributions equally shared among workers, employers and the Government.

LILA HANITRA RATSIFANDRIHAMANANA, Director of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Liaison Office with the United Nations, discussed how investment in agriculture and rural development contributed to ensuring a greater sustained social integration.  Given that, by 2050, the world population was projected to reach 9.1 billion and that the number of undernourished people had already risen above 1 billion, it was crucial to expand food production by 70 per cent and, at the least, invest $44 billion per year in agriculture and rural development.  Several commitments to increase investment in agriculture, particularly in developing countries, had been made recently, but it was necessary to go beyond food production and agricultural investment and include an additional dimension that focused on the right to adequate food.  Basing food security interventions on human rights would give voice to the hungry, promote empowerment and non-discrimination, and thus, a greater social integration.

She said rural employment was critical to enhancing social integration of the rural population.  Three of every four poor persons in developing countries lived in rural areas, and most of them depended directly or indirectly on agriculture for their livelihoods.  As a consequence, promoting employment was an imperative for fostering sustainable, inclusive and equitable development and for reducing poverty, hunger and malnutrition.  Together with ILO, FAO was fully committed to promoting development strategies in rural areas that were socially, environmentally and economically sustainable, gender sensitive and equitable.  However, many rural jobs did not ensure decent levels of income, or sustainable livelihoods.  It was essential, therefore, to raise on- and off-farm incomes and to explore emerging forms of employment in other sectors, such as fisheries and forestry.  Promoting productive work that delivered a fair income, workplace security and social protection for workers and their families could be one of the means towards achieving greater social integration and personal development.

MONIQUE RAKOTOMALALA, Director of the African Centre for Gender and Social Development, Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), spotlighted several recent studies carried out by the Centre, which had revealed slow progress towards the social development of marginalized and vulnerable groups in African countries.  The overall exclusion of young people, women, persons with disabilities, indigenous people and refugees, among other vulnerable groups, was reflected not only in their low incomes, but also in their lack of education, poor health and underrepresentation in the political process.

She said all the priority areas of the landmark New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Action Plan targeting social development included, among others, human resources development, agriculture and food security, and infrastructure rehabilitation to support social development, including in areas such as sanitation, transportation, information and communications technology and energy.  To further strengthen NEPAD’s social development and integration objectives, African countries had adopted a common position on social integration in 2008, calling specifically for pro-poor growth, empowerment, social protection and other issues related to inclusive development.

The African Centre for Gender and Social Development had prepared a social development agenda report that focused on placing social integration at the heart of development matters on the continent.  That report, which would be released shortly, would call for African countries to pursue policies that promoted social integration as a means to address lingering inequalities caused by differences in income, gender, rural/urban location, or age.  She said social integration went beyond the provision of social services and recognized the human right to development, education and health, including sexual and reproductive health.

ANKE STRAUSS, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said the plight of migrants, especially the undocumented, had never been met with much compassion.  But that plight was attracting even less sympathy now, because of the economic crisis.  At a time when some Governments were adopting short-sighted attitudes towards migrants, including criminalizing them, it was important to support the Secretary-General’s findings that policies aimed at including them in institutions and social networks of the host society and expanding their opportunities for economic and civic engagement were investments in a cohesive society.  The primary intended beneficiaries of most integration policies were newly arrived migrants residing legally in the host country for a long time, but policymakers targeted their second- and third-generation offspring.

Integration measures were intended to achieve or maintain a State’s vision of a cohesive society and to help people become active participants in economic, social and cultural life, he said.  For that reason, IOM and the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations were collaborating on an online community on migration integration that aimed to harmonize co-existence between newcomers and host communities, thus improving social cohesion and intercultural relations.  The website would adopt a practical, innovative and positive perspective and illustrate how good integration practices could lead to full participation of migrants in host societies and mutual contributions to development.

JOSE MIGUEL GUZMAN, Chief, Population and Development Branch, Technical Division, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said social integration meant equal access and opportunities for all.  Social integration should, therefore, seek to reduce gender inequality and promote access to basic social services for all, in particular education and health care, including reproductive health.  That could be accomplished with the participation of social groups, such as youth, older persons, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, migrants and people living with HIV and AIDS.

He said that, to reduce poverty, it was critical to empower women and girls as equal members of society.  Sustainable poverty reduction required raising household incomes and the level of employment, as well as fighting discrimination and inequity.  A particularly vulnerable group often affected by the lack of social integration was that of the elderly, who often were poor and frail.  Many of the elderly were women, posing a triple jeopardy of gender, old age and poverty.  UNFPA promoted a society for all ages and the full participation of older persons in community life, as well as the full realization of their human rights, including the elimination of discrimination, violence and abuse.

To ensure the social integration of all groups in society, he said, there was a need for inclusive policies to address poverty and provide social services and opportunities.  To achieve those goals, conclusive evidence, based on solid data, was needed.  UNFPA, therefore, supported countries in the collection and analysis of data.  That could help Governments formulate appropriate policies to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, especially during the 2010 round of censuses.

VICTOR ORTEGA, Deputy Director, New York Office of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), said the Copenhagen Declaration had recognized that communicable diseases, such as HIV, hindered social development and often caused poverty and social exclusion.  The Declaration had, therefore, called on Governments to give the highest priority for their prevention and treatment.  He said the HIV/AIDS epidemic had had a devastating impact on social and economic development.  The deadly virus often led to the dissolution of families and, in the hardest hit countries, undermined traditional support networks and affected labour productivity and the human capacity necessary for poverty reduction and the provision of health services.

He declared that the Copenhagen Declaration’s call to foster inclusive societies that were safe, stable and tolerant, and which promoted equality and respect for diversity, went straight to the heart of the AIDS response.  As such, there could be no true social integration and inclusiveness in a world where HIV-related stigma and discrimination were persistent and where the rights of people living with, or affected by, the virus were violated.  It was unfortunate that, nearly 30 years into the epidemic, millions of people worldwide continued to face discrimination, social exclusion and violence because of their HIV status.

He said it was imperative that Governments stand by their obligations, including as adopted in the 2006 Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS, to address HIV-related stigma, especially in the workplace, and to empower women and girls to protect themselves from HIV, by ensuring equal legal rights and providing education and economic opportunities.  Moreover, he continued, it would be impossible to stop the virus unless young people were empowered to protect themselves from infection by having access to the necessary information, services and commodities for sexual and reproductive health.

A representative of the Baha’i International Community said that, in this time of transition to a new social order, processes of social integration gathered momentum alongside related processes of disintegration, such as collapsed moral foundations, outworn institutions and disillusionment.  The process of collective deliberation, or consultation, was a unifying process, which enabled participants to express themselves freely, fostered diversity and led to an idea of an individual becoming an idea of the group.  That approach, unlike those of partisan confrontation or debate, sought to shift deliberation towards a new centre, away from competing claims and interests to the arena of the principle.  Collective goals and courses of action were, thus, more likely to surface and prevail.  The experience of the worldwide Baha’i community, residing in 188 countries and 45 territories, suggested that consultation had universal application and did not favour any one culture, class, race or gender.  He invited the Commission to join in a collaborative process of inquiry by asking, among other questions, what social structures were needed to support more inclusive deliberation and decision-making.

A representative of Triglav Circle said social integration was necessary for the well-being of small communities, nations and the world community.  It required a balance of rights and responsibilities.  It required free citizens who were aware of their duties and public institutions that were aware of public interests.  Such private and public virtues had to be informed and oriented by love.  Applied to social integration or to any segment of human affairs, such as the functioning of the world economy, love meant thinking of the other and building bridges of solidarity in the heart and mind of everyone and in the culture of established institutions.  Without solidarity, human survival was in jeopardy.

A representative of the International Federation on Ageing said that social integration and social inclusion was the fundamental basis for social development.  Social inclusion should be the right of every person of any age.  Regrettably, older persons, despite their increasing numbers worldwide, remained marginalized in both developed and developing countries.  Age discrimination and neglect could be documented in virtually every country.  It was abundantly clear that social inclusion could become a reality for older persons only when their rights were recognized and acted upon.  Simply put, those included the same rights as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Yet, older people remained invisible in the human rights discourse.  Given that, the Federation was taking steps towards formalizing the rights of older persons.  Among other developments, the newly established Advisory Committee to the Human Rights Council had made the rights of older persons a priority and would present its recommendations in 2010.  The Federation stood ready to join in partnership with Governments to achieve an inclusive society that integrated both young and old -- a true society for all ages.

A representative of HelpAge International said his organization worked to better protect the rights of elderly women and men, so they could better contribute to development.  Age discrimination made that difficult to do.  He welcomed the recommendations in the Secretary-General’s report.  He called for creation of a working group within the regular session of the Commission to better protect older people’s rights.  The Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing recommended social protection for all older people.  He supported a universal, categorical approach and suggested a non-contributory pension, so that poor people received a minimum income in old age.  Such pensions supported people at different poverty levels, reduced the risk of having some people fall deeper into poverty and lifted others out of it.  That pension system could enhance social cohesion, address gender inequality and have a positive impact on social integration.  He recommended that Governments fully explore the non-contributory pension option.

The representative of Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants (CURE) said failures to provide social development in lower economic layers of society were manifested in hopelessness and frustration, which, in turn, stimulated disorder and crime.  Those could be “heavy drags” on the development of society, and they could consume national resources and plunge society into turmoil.  Human capital formation in lower economic layers, including the social development of the millions in detention around the world, could generate a “trickle-up” revitalization of society, as opposed to the inadequate “trickle-down” relief.  Many societal costs, including in the areas of police, judiciary, jails and so forth, could be reduced.  That would produce less crime and greater security for all.  The quality of ingredients of such a plan included recognition of the rights of every individual to fair justice -- the inclusion of all equally in the mechanics of justice; the use of alternatives to prison, which would replace brutal punishment with harmony in the community; protection of the incarcerated from torture and other unnecessary unbridled abuse; limiting the spread of communicable disease; and a recognition that the many millions in detention were “redeemable” as productive citizens, if given a measure of social development.

A representative of the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, Inc. (INPEA) said Member States should focus on achieving the goal of full social integration for older persons, so they could fully realize their human rights.  Older people experienced isolation, poverty, violence and abuse, and they had limited access to social services, health care and education.  They often laboured in the lowest-paying jobs, which left them impoverished.  Their role as caretakers and educators of grandchildren and others was often not appreciated.  Older persons were unrecognized and increasingly excluded and discriminated against.  That was a clear violation of the rights of older people and the United Nations principles on older persons adopted in 1991.

INPEA and the World Health Organization (WHO) had conducted seminal research on elder abuse that revealed that older people perceived elder abuse as a form of societal abuse, she said.  Older women were most vulnerable to abuse and they suffered more severe consequences in times of war and conflict.  An interagency standing committee report produced by HelpAge International in 2007 showed that the humanitarian needs of those women were not being met.  That exclusion ran contrary to the United Nations guidelines to protect internally displaced persons.  There was no monitoring or enforcement mechanism to protect the rights of older persons.  She urged the Commission to adopt the Secretary-General’s recommendations concerning the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing.

The Commission then turned to its review of United Nations plans, action programmes pertaining to situation of social groups, which includes the world programmes of action on persons with disabilities, youth and ageing.

FRANCISCO MOZA ZAPATERO, Secretary General for Social Policy and Consumer Affairs of Spain, speaking on behalf of the European Union, recognized that continuous attention and action were needed to engage challenges to the Copenhagen framework in a sustained way.  At the same time, the Union was aware that it had to tackle challenges in Europe.  In 2010, it celebrated the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion, in order to reaffirm and strengthen the political commitment originally expressed in the Lisbon Strategy.

He said that, since the Second World Assembly on Ageing, held in Madrid in 2002, great achievements had been made.  The increase in population over the age of 65 remained a determining factor in the European social panorama, compelling Europe to take the appropriate measures to ensure opportunities for dignified ageing that could benefit the whole society.  For one thing, it was crucial to have a sustainable pension system that enabled older persons to live in dignity.  Economic policies must be aimed at increasing and improving employment, including for older persons who were willing to continue working.  Health was another area requiring particular attention when dealing with older persons.  Palliative rehabilitation and social support measures, and the promotion of preventive aspects of ageing, must be integrated, not only to improve personal health and welfare, but also as a measure to control the increase in health care expenditure.  Active and participative ageing boosted intergenerational relations, and it was essential to promote a culture of participation by all groups.

Along those lines, the Spanish Presidency of the European Union would hold a conference entitled “Active and Healthy Ageing”, he said, adding that the Union was presently reflecting on designating 2012 as the European Year for Active Ageing and Intergenerational Solidarity, to make society aware that ageing affected all and must be lived in dignity.  Promotion and protection of the rights and dignity of older persons remained a priority in policy planning and adoption of legislation aimed at protection against all forms of discrimination, abuse or violence and at achieving gender equality.  The Union also stressed the importance of fully integrating the rights of persons with disabilities in the agenda for social development.  It understood that the internationally agreed development goals could only be fully reached by explicitly and proactively including persons with disabilities in the development process.

Both at the Union and at the level of member countries, the rights of those persons had been a priority in policies, programmes and projects, he continued.  A twin-track approach of mainstreaming those rights and developing specific actions to improve the situation of those persons guided the Union’s work in that area, particularly in its main policy framework -- the EU Disabilities Action Plan 2003‑2010.  Its experiences would shape the forthcoming European disability strategy, which was under development and had as its objective full implementation of the United Nations Convention.  As the Union countries were currently facing important socio-demographic challenges, such as low birth rates, ageing, the growing culture of diversity in its societies and differing forms of family arrangements, special attention was paid to the family’s adequate social, legal and economic protection.  In recognition of the essential role families played in social cohesion, many instruments were available to address such key issues as reconciliation of work, family and personal life, equal opportunities, intergenerational solidarity economic security, health, education, access to housing and employment, and management of family disputes.  The Union was developing several initiatives on families to address demographic change and promote family policy evaluation.

He said that 2010 would be a key year in the framework of the Union’s youth policy.  The main fields of action for future initiatives were education and training; employment and entrepreneurship; health and well-being; participation; voluntary activities; social inclusion; youth and the world; and creativity and culture.  A renewed framework adopted in November 2009 opened new ways for cooperation between the Union and third States and international organizations.  In that new framework, the designation of 2010 as the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion became particularly important.  With the current world economic crisis affecting the most vulnerable groups in a harsh way, including young people, the Union’s efforts in the youth field would focus on improving the situation of young people at risk of social exclusion or poverty.

MONICA ROQUE, National Director of the Office for Policies for Older Persons, Secretariat for Children, Adolescents and Family Affairs of Argentina, speaking on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), said population ageing would increase.  In 2007, 10.7 per cent of the global population had been 60 years or older.  That percentage would reach 15.1 per cent in 2025 and 21.7 per cent in 2050.  Trends in ageing varied among countries, given the fact that each country was in a different stage of demographic transition.  In 2007, in Latin America and the Caribbean, 9.1 per cent of the population was 60 years of age or older.  The region was ageing gradually, but inexorably.  In absolute terms, between 2000 and 2025, 57 million people over age 60 would be added to the 41 million at present.  The percentage of the population over the age of 60 would quadruple between 2000 and 2050.

Millions of older persons were denied their rights, she said.  They experienced isolation, poverty, discrimination, violence and abuse, and they had limited access to social and health services, information and legal protection.  There was no legally binding instrument to standardize and protect the rights of older persons.  Heads of State of MERCOSUR had called for an international convention on the rights of older persons, with the goal of providing the elderly with a legal instrument to standardize their rights and to set up mechanisms to enforce them.

STEPHEN AMOANOR KWO, Minister of State of Ghana, said polices and programmes aimed at improving the living conditions of social groups must be an integral part of any meaningful social development agenda.  To ensure broad socio-economic development, individual nations must seriously analyse the situation of their youth, women, disabled persons, elderly persons and families to provide the relevant data to help with the development of effective and efficient action plans targeted to meet their needs.  Stressing that macroeconomic stability and economic growth were not enough to improve the situation of those groups, he said all-inclusive social policies and programmes were needed.

Since its independence, Ghana had followed a rights-based approach regarding development of the country’s youth population.  That approach included ensuring, among others, the right to education and skills training, employment and health, arts and culture, and access to information and social security.  He went on to highlight Ghana’s programme of action on the disabled, and its plan of action on ageing.  Ghana was also implementing a number of policies and programmes to support family development.  Those included the National social protection strategy, the children’s act and the domestic violence act.  Under the livelihood empowerment and poverty programme, the Government was providing a cash transfer to vulnerable groups, such as the elderly, disabled persons without productive capacity and households providing care for orphans or vulnerable children.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.