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Sixty-ninth session,
1st & 2nd Meetings (AM & PM)
GA/SHC/4097

Development Must Centre on People, Realization of Social Rights, Third Committee Told at Opening of Session

Concern about the worldwide state of social and humanitarian affairs called for collective actions rooted in solidarity and inclusion, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) heard today as it began its discussions on social development.

“People — their social progress and the realization of their social rights — must be at the centre of development,” said Thomas Gass, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, delivering remarks on behalf of Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs.  Welcoming the progress made and lessons learned since the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals, he emphasized that the new development agenda would be built upon those lessons.

Echoing that sentiment, the representative of Costa Rica, speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said his region had worked towards a people-centred agenda.  Eradicating hunger and poverty was an ethical, political, social and economic challenge, he said, urging that measures were needed to promote inclusive development strategies that fostered a more equitable distribution of economic benefits and improved access to basic services, he added. 

A number of speakers voiced their concerns about older persons, with the representative of the European Union calling on Governments to take active steps in addressing age discrimination, decent work and social protection for the elderly, including access to adequate pensions, health services, long-term care and protection from elder abuse.  In the same vein, the representative of the United States noted that elder abuse was an underestimated problem to which effective responses needed to be developed.

Several reports of the Secretary-General addressing a range of issues were introduced by Jean-Pierre Gonnot, Chief, Social Integration Branch, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, who delivered a statement on behalf of Branch Director Daniela Bas.  A report promoting a disability-inclusive development agenda included measurable targets and indicators in post-2015 development frameworks.

Several delegates voiced their support for a more disability-inclusive development agenda.  The representative of Malaysia, speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said technical cooperation among its Member States was critical.  Some speakers provided overviews of national achievements and mechanisms that had been put in place to develop services tailored for persons with disabilities.  The representative of the Russian Federation also mentioned his country’s accessible environment programme aimed at providing unimpeded and free access for all individuals with disabilities. 

A number of youth delegates addressed the Committee, raising concerns about young people in their countries.  Australia’s youth delegate informed the Committee that mental health had been raised as a key issue, with suicide being the leading cause of death for people aged 16 to 24 years.  Globally, States must better integrate mental health into holistic health responses, she emphasized. 

Speaking during today’s meeting were representatives of Bolivia (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Malawi (on behalf of the African Group), Bahamas (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), Botswana (on behalf of the Southern African Development Community), Italy, Cuba, India, Japan, Switzerland, Israel, Mexico, Thailand, Brazil, Singapore, Philippines, Syria, Iran, Sweden, Senegal, Slovenia, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Colombia, Poland, Kazakhstan, Ethiopia, South Africa, Libya and Qatar.

Also addressing the Committee today was Venkata Subbarao Ilapavuluri of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Liaison Office in New York.

The Third Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. Wednesday, 8 October, to continue its debate on social development.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this morning to adopt its work programme for the current session and begin its discussion on social development.  Before members was the first report of the General Committee on “Organization of the sixty-eighth regular session of the General Assembly, adoption of the agenda and allocation of items” (document A/69/250).

Also before the Committee were reports of the Secretary-General on: “Implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and of the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly” (document A/69/157); “Preparations for and observance of the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family in 2014” (document A/69/61-E/2014/4); “Realization of the Millennium Development Goals and other internationally agreed development goals for persons with disabilities: a disability-inclusive development agenda towards 2015 and beyond” (document A/69/187); and “Follow-up to the International Year of Older Persons: Second World Assembly on Ageing” (document A/69/180).

The Committee also had before it a note by the Secretary-General transmitting the Report of the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization on literacy for life: shaping future agendas” (document A/69/183).

Introduction of Reports

JEAN-PIERRE GONNOT, Chief, Social Integration Branch, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, speaking on behalf of Daniela Bas, Director, Division for Social Policy and Development, introduced four reports on social development.  The first of those reports, on the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development, highlighted the important role played by Governments in creating an enabling environment by adopting an empowering approach to policymaking and implementation.  Empowerment could accelerate progress towards the Millennium Development Goals and support a post-2015 development agenda.  Moving to the report on the Year of the Family, he emphasized that making families the focus of social development efforts was a way to tackle persistent development challenges such as intergenerational transfer of poverty and inequality.  The report concluded that adding a family perspective to the post-2015 development agenda would contribute to empowerment and inequality reduction.

Introducing the report on persons with disabilities, he underscored the options contained within it to promote a disability-inclusive development agenda.  That included measurable targets and indicators for disability in post-2015 development frameworks.  Furthermore, a coordination mechanism within the United Nations system to address gaps and needs for technical assistance had been proposed.  Concluding with the report on Follow-up to the International Year of Older Persons, he mentioned the heightened discussions and recognition of neglect, abuse and violence against the elderly, in particular women, yet providing recent developmental and rights-based regional policy developments and publications.

VENKATA SUBBARAO ILAPAVULURI, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), introduced the report entitled “Literacy for life: shaping future agendas” (document A/69/183), which outlined how UNESCO had sustained — and would expand — gains made during the United Nations Literacy Decade.  Indeed, the Decade had focused on literacy in terms of “learning across the lifespan” and as a “development imperative”.  Without learning, people were at risk of being excluded from opportunities, such as the use of information and communication technologies to make informed life choices.  While the absolute number of illiterate adults had fallen, uneven progress across countries had shown that South and West Asia and sub-Saharan Africa were home to three-quarters of the world’s 780 million illiterate people.  Even high income countries were not immune from such challenges, he said.

Education systems were not robust enough to offer meaningful learning opportunities for children, he said, noting that an estimated 250 million primary school age children were failing in reading, writing and maths skills.  Meeting the literacy needs of all age groups was central to building a peaceful world, he said.  For its part, UNESCO would continue play a catalytic role, helping to develop States’ capacities in literacy assistance, scaling up opportunities for women and girls, expanding the knowledge base and monitoring and advocating for literacy on the global agenda.  Going forward, he emphasized, UNESCO would strive to increase action vis-à-vis marginalized girls and women and to build political momentum for literacy.

Statements

INGRID SABJA (Bolivia), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, called for integrated policies with a view to empowering people.  Institutional national support structures were also needed to bolster participation and the United Nations must stand ready to help States in that regard.  Stressing that 2015 was the twentieth anniversary of the World Summit for Social Development, she said poverty was a complex problem involving social development challenges that could not be “automatically” solved using economic policies.  Solutions must focus on people, she said, noting that new collective steps were needed to eliminate practices that were incompatible with people’s dignity, especially for people living under foreign occupation.

International cooperation, including South-South and triangular cooperation, were needed to meet international goals, supporting a more integrated, consistent approach to social development that took into account international commitments made, she said.  Further, the World Trade Organization (WTO) must ensure full access to global markets and comply with international agreements.  Turning to youth issues, she urged the United Nations and its partners to fully implement the outcome of the 2011 high-level meeting on young people.  A focus was also needed on the challenges associated with ageing populations, she said, pointing to the Madrid Programme of Action as a guide in that regard.  For its part, the Group intended to submit draft resolutions on the follow-up to the International Year of Older Persons, preparing for the twentieth anniversary of the Year of the Family, and on youth.

THOMAS GASS, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, spoke on behalf of Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, saying there was “a growing concern” about the current state of social and humanitarian affairs worldwide. “We must take collective actions that are rooted in and enabled by solidarity and inclusion,” he said.  Member States were in agreement in deliberations on the post-2015 development agenda.  “People — their social progress and the realization of their social rights,” he said, “must be at the centre of development.”  Welcoming progress made and lessons learned since the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals, he emphasized that the new development agenda would be built upon those lessons.

Recalling the recently concluded first ever World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, he applauded the commitment made by Member States.  The outcome of the Conference, he said, was a testament to recalibrating social issues within a new context of sustainable development.  With regard to the 2015-2016 Commission for Social Development, with its main theme being “Rethinking and strengthening social development in the contemporary world”, he said that the outcome of the Third Committee’s session would be instrumental in guiding its work.

CHARLES P. MSOSA (Malawi), speaking on behalf of the African Group of States, emphasized the continent’s progress in the last decade in the areas of social and economic development and recognized remaining challenges it faced in the education and health sectors.  The African Union had put in place several policy frameworks and action plans to address social inequality among the social groups under discussion, he continued.  Among them were efforts towards poverty eradication among African families, particularly for women and girls, and an African Union protocol outlining obligations and duties of State parties in promoting and protecting the rights of older persons.

Regarding persons with disabilities, he said despite specific plans of action, an insignificant proportion had access to care, rehabilitation and education services.  Recognizing that youth was the continent’s greatest asset, he suggested targeted action plans to invest in development, especially given high unemployment and underemployment rates.  Given the continent’s growth rates and challenges, he urged that when addressing current issues, such as the recent Ebola outbreak, more attention must be given to post-conflict reconstruction and socio-development efforts, such as agriculture and trade.

JUAN CARLOS MENDOZA-GARCÍA (Costa Rica), speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said 870 million of the 1.2 billion people living in extreme poverty were malnourished, making hunger and poverty among “the worst forms of violation of human rights”.  Eradicating them was an ethical, political, social and economic challenge, he said, adding that measures were needed to promote inclusive development strategies that fostered a more equitable distribution of economic benefits and improved access to basic services.  Full social inclusion required a “renewed” commitment by Governments and societies alike. 

For its part, his region would work for a people-centred agenda that reinforced its commitment to poverty eradication and sustainable development, he said.  International cooperation was essential in that regard, as was a reform of the financial and economic system.  His region had had “unprecedented” experience in the implementation of social inclusion programmes through South-South and triangular cooperation, having constantly promoted the rights of women and girls, indigenous peoples and people of African descent, among others.  It was essential to work for the participation of young people in education at all levels, he said, noting also that States should focus more on the issue of ageing populations.  Going forward, the post-2015 development agenda should build on the Millennium Development Goals, he said, stressing the Community’s commitment to that process.

ELLISTON RAHMING (Bahamas), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said climate change was undermining efforts of small island developing States to achieve sustainable development.  The Samoa Pathway, adopted at the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States last month, reiterated that the phenomenon was threatening their very existence.  Governments were continuing to develop modalities to address social development needs that focused on the interrelatedness of the challenges ahead, he said, using the 2015-2019 strategic plan as an example of embracing a holistic approach to enhancing human development.

Further, the Commission on Human Resource Development would begin its work next month by reviewing the region’s education and human resource development progress, while the Council for Human and Social Development was coordinating national efforts to address the challenges of climate change, education, health and health systems development.  Giving an overview of related regional efforts, he said youth were engaged in decision-making through the Caribbean Youth Ambassador Programme.  Noting that estimates showed that there would be more people over the age of 60 than children under the age of 10 by 2030, he urged considering such trends.  For its part, the Community had convened a high-level ministerial meeting on the rights of persons with disabilities in the Caribbean region last year.

HUSSEIN HANIFF (Malaysia), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), described that group’s efforts to become an integrated regional community.  Stressing the importance of social welfare in such integration, he spoke of a “people-centred” ASEAN, based on effective governance, better living conditions and women’s empowerment, among other aims.  Welcoming the Secretary-General’s recognition of the need to empower people, he added that such a goal was being pursued in the region by further enhancing social development and promoting social justice.

On persons with disabilities, he called them central to the ASEAN community and said specific mechanisms had been put in place to develop services for them.  Technical cooperation among ASEAN member States ensured a more disability-inclusive development agenda.  Turning to older persons, he underscored the group’s efforts in sharing and enhancing information through regional meetings.  On youth, he stated that they were critical agents for the group.  He described an ASEAN programme through which 97 young volunteers had been recruited to contribute to the betterment of communities in the region.

CHARLES THEMBANI NTWAAGAE (Botswana), speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said that the objectives of the World Summit for Social Development remained as valid today as in 1995.  In many countries, poverty and the absence of integrated, inclusive social development persisted.  The Community’s 15-year strategic road map provided direction for achieving social and economic goals across 12 priority areas, including poverty eradication, measures to fight HIV/AIDS and the promotion of gender equality.  What he called a “severe” lack of resources had, however, hindered its implementation, resulting in “debilitating” effects on Government efforts to enable people to pursue a prosperous life.

Hailing the Secretary-General’s call for a United Nations coordinating mechanism to respond to technical assistance requirements, he said the Community hoped to close gaps between national social development policies and the implementation of internationally-agreed development goals.  While gains had been made in the fight against HIV/AIDS, with mortality rates reduced through increased access to anti-retroviral drugs, the cost of the medications was still prohibitive.  Unemployment, notably among youth, was another challenge; his region was focused on transforming economies through “value addition”.  He called on the United Nations to “play its part” in assisting Governments to build capacity so that progress towards implementing the World Summit outcome could be accelerated.

THOMAS MAYR-HARTING, speaking on behalf of the European Union Delegation, said that youth unemployment was a major concern for the bloc.  As a result, job, growth and investment measures had become central to European policy.  Indeed, Union members established a "guarantee" through which all under the age of 25 received an offer of good-quality employment, continued education, apprenticeship or training within four months of becoming unemployed or leaving formal education.  The post-2015 development agenda, he added, should ensure that no one is left behind through a comprehensive human-rights-based approach.

Turning to older persons, he stressed the need for Government to take active steps to address age discrimination, decent work and social protection for the elderly, including access to adequate pensions, health services, long-term care and protection from elder abuse.  Speaking about persons with disabilities, he underlined the bloc’s commitment to removing barriers — through awareness-raising, financial support, data collection and monitoring, among other measures.

INIGO LAMBERTINI (Italy) said inclusive sustainable development could not occur without the full participation of all persons, including those with disabilities.  Italy had developed an action plan for persons with disabilities and, through international cooperation, promoted their empowerment around the world, he said, noting that education, employment and access to public space and transport should be granted to all.  Youth empowerment was another priority issue, with the United Nations having a crucial role to play in ensuring adequate measures were taken to empower young people.  Italy looked forward to taking a new approach to that issue, he said.  As for older persons, he said the Open-ended Working Group on Ageing was an effective instrument, recalling that gender equality must underline that and all other social issues. 

TERRI ROBL (United States) said there was a need to focus on the most vulnerable segments of society in shaping the next development agenda.  On the issue of violence against older persons, she noted that elder abuse was an underestimated problem to which effective responses needed to be developed.  The physical and mental consequences of elder abuse, as well as related financial exploitations, had consequences on the public sector, she continued.  Turning to the report of the Secretary-General on persons with disabilities, she underlined her delegation’s support to the principle “leave no one behind”, saying future development assistance would be used to assist related initiatives.  Quality education and literacy were important for social and political progress, she continued.  She also recognized the roles families played in development, saying it was essential to uphold the human rights of all forms of families.

NIKOLAI RAKOFSKY (Russian Federation) said national initiatives targeting vulnerable groups included social integration and decent work.  Agreeing with the United Nations belief of links between social, economic and political development, he said his delegation had promoted initiatives aimed at lowering inequality, decreasing poverty, supporting small- and medium-sized enterprises and increasing labour productivity.  The moral health of a society was based on its attention to vulnerable people, he said.  Turning to persons with disability, he mentioned the country’s accessible environment programme aimed at providing unimpeded and free access for all individuals with disabilities.  He pointed to a serious concern, noting that the increase of ageing populations had resulted in an increase in social services.  To support young people, he said his country had provided them with resources, including housing subsidies.  In closing, he noted the important role the traditional family played as a basis for stable social development.

DAYLENIS MORENO GUERRA (Cuba) said hunger, extreme poverty and premature death persisted in many countries, with those least responsible for the crises being among the most affected.  The Millennium Development Goals were far from being reached and official development assistance (ODA) was dropping in real terms.  Technology transfer was limited and imposed with conditions, she said, also noting that external debt had been paid several times over, yet was still increasing.  Against that backdrop, more resources must be found for the post-2015 development agenda.  In Cuba, the Goals had been met, despite the criminal blockade imposed by the United States.  The infant mortality rate was among the lowest in world and free, universal health care was provided.  Much could be done if developed countries showed political will, notably to meet ODA pledges, she concluded.

LAURA JOHN, a youth delegate from Australia, said that during consultations across her country, more than 10,000 youth had shared their dreams for the world.  “These dreams provide the blueprint for the future they want to help build,” she stressed.  Young Australians “across the board” had raised mental health as a key issue, with suicide the leading cause of death for people aged 16 to 24 years.  Globally, States must better integrate mental health into holistic health responses.  For its part, Australia was supporting 45,000 young people though counselling, education and employment services.  The “Headspace” programme offered a one-stop-shop approach to mental health, drug and alcohol issues and physical health services for young people.

MAYANK JOSHI (India) urged concerted global action to overcome poverty, notably through the post-2015 development agenda.  The approach of India’s twelfth five-year plan aimed at achieving faster, sustainable growth, featuring poverty reduction as central to an inclusive strategy.  India attached the utmost priority to the family, with programmes in the areas of housing and shelter, health insurance, employment generation and family planning that focused on supporting households.  The Right to Education Act had fostered “more or less” universalized education, while health interventions had increased life expectancy and bolstered immunization rates among children.  As for the “youth bulge” in India, the 2014 youth policy had recognized the potential of that “demographic dividend” and the Government had aimed at providing them with employment, education and health opportunities.

ARINO YAGUCHI (Japan) said that as her Government would continue to be involved in the negotiations for the post-2015 development agenda, the country had taken steps to address a number of related issues.  For its part, Japan had ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities earlier this year.  Further, her country appreciated the active engagement of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth and strongly promoted youth volunteering as a form of participation in society.  As “the most rapidly ageing society,” Japan would also cooperate with other Member States to address related challenges.  In closing, she recognized the importance of eliminating the threat of the Ebola virus, noting that the Government had already extended a total of $5 million of financial assistance to that cause.

SIMONE FEHR, a youth delegate from Switzerland, said migrant children were victims of serious human rights violations, including the contravention of their basic and universal rights when they migrated unaccompanied by adults.  She stressed that they continued to be the subject of exploitation, detention and forced returns in all parts of the world.  She implored that “migrant children should always be treated as children first and foremost.”  In closing, she said it was imperative that actions were taken to address those grave problems and underlined that there was a great urgency to take action.

NIMROD BARKAN (Israel) said his country was committed to promoting the rights of persons with disability through legislation, legal protection, education and active partnerships between Government and civil society.  Pointing out that the elderly were disproportionally at risk of inadequate and insecure income as well as insufficient access to quality health care and other services, he welcomed the appointment by the Human Rights Council of the first Independent Expert on the Human Rights of Older Persons.  On the issue of youth, he noted that in many societies young people were disadvantaged in income, unemployment and poverty.  For its part, Israel had developed programmes aimed at integrating youth into its society.

BRUNO RÍOS SÁNCHEZ (Mexico) said that with less than 500 days remaining to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, the international community still faced challenges and that progress had not been the same everywhere.  The post-2015 development agenda had to focus on structural issues, he said, noting that more vulnerable groups had to have their human rights recognized under the rule of law, and there must be effective public policy for development so success was greatest for those who needed it most.  Mexico was seeking to achieve full social development, redesigning programmes for each sector of the population.  The key was to invest in young men and women and to develop their full potential and economic growth.  Empowerment was a crucial tool for doing away with poverty, he implored.  Young people had to count as a priority item on the international agenda, and participate fully.  Recognizing the demographic trend for larger numbers of older persons, he said his delegation had welcomed the establishment within the Human Rights Council of a mandate on the rights of persons with disabilities.

PATPICHA TANAKASEMPIPAT, a youth delegate from Thailand, said she was deeply honoured to address the General Assembly on behalf of the children and youth of her country.  Underlining that education was the key to lifting people out of the poverty cycle, she said that both Education for All by 2015 and the Millennium Development Goals had brought momentous changes.  However, she said, there was much left to be done to fully achieve equal rights to basic education for every youth. 

PONGSAN AKHUPUTRA, a youth delegate from Thailand, reminded Governments to provide basic, affordable and non-discriminatory health-care services and facilities.  He said youth could have much to contribute in making decisions and taking actions that would make a difference.

GUILHERME DE AGUIAR PATRIOTA (Brazil) said that eradicating poverty and reducing inequalities must be prioritized while not losing the focus on issues that needed special attention, such as the rights of older persons, youth and persons with disabilities.  In many countries, those most in need bore the burden of shrinking social protection policies, rising unemployment and increasing inequality.  The post-2015 agenda offered the opportunity to make adjustments and corrections for the decades to come.  Recent experiences in developing countries showed that those who had invested in social inclusion were now reaping the benefits.  Welcoming the decision of the Human Rights Council to appoint an independent expert on the rights of older persons, he added that the consolidation of their human rights into a specific legally binding document would further strengthen the monitoring and realization of those rights.  Further, he said his Government had stressed the importance of promoting the rights of persons with disabilities in areas such as urbanization, access to education and modern technologies.  Increasing the mobility of children with disabilities was investing in the future, he said.  Brazil had experienced an unprecedented decline in inequality because of its investment in human capabilities and decent work, he concluded, praising the country’s “Family Stipend” programme that protected and supported all forms of families.

LIN SHILIE (Singapore) said his country had one of the fastest ageing societies in Asia and was deeply convinced of the value of older persons and the importance of the promotion and protection of their rights.  Singapore had been coordinated in a “whole of Government” approach, adopting a two-pronged strategy, providing accessible and affordable quality care and keeping seniors healthy, active and safe in the community to the largest extent possible.  Reiterating his delegation’s commitment to the implementation of the 2002 Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing, he said Singapore would be well-prepared for the opportunities and challenges that the demographic change would bring to their society.

LIBRAN N. CABACTULAN (Philippines) said there was a need to foster an empowering approach to policymaking to achieve inclusive, equitable and sustainable development.  Highlighting the Secretary General’s comprehensive report on the progress made in mainstreaming disability in the development agenda, he said his country welcomed the adoption of the outcome document of the General Assembly high-level meeting on related issues.  However, he noted that more information should be provided on laws, policies and practices, as only 21 Member States and 10 United Nations entities had done so regarding progress made towards the realization of the internationally agreed development goals and the Millennium Development Goals concerning persons with disabilities.

MONIA ALSALEH (Syria), aligning her delegation with the statement delivered on behalf of the “Group of 77”, said that her Government was continuing to develop solutions to the problem of terrorist armed groups that were attacking the country’s infrastructure.  Syria was establishing new projects for social protection for those most in need, in cooperation with UNHCR and civil society. The Syrian Government was also establishing projects for employment for young people.  The Government was also cooperating with all United Nations bodies and various social and non-governmental organizations for providing the technical and logistical support for humanitarian work.  Unfortunately, States that had supported terrorist armed groups were taking unilateral coercive measures that were not in accordance with international law.  Such measures were affecting Syria’s social development and undermining the Government’s work.  Citing the 2013 Department of Economic and Social Affairs report, she added that the sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies had had a negative impact on the livelihood of Syrians.  She said such coercive measures were imposed unilaterally and violated their rights to development and social growth.

GHOLAMHOSSEIN DEHGHANI (Iran) said that his country had always emphasized the empowerment of people as it sought to achieve poverty eradication, social integration and full employment, which were priority themes across its five-year development plans.  Global attention to the situation of persons with disabilities had been the focus of a 2013 high-level meeting, he said, adding that at the national level, Iran would in two weeks hold the first national conference on entrepreneurship for persons with disabilities.  Sport also played an important role in the empowerment of persons with disabilities, he said, noting the many Iranian achievements in the Paralympic Games.  The promotion and protection of the rights of older persons were also of great importance to his Government, which was developing and implementing an integrated national policy for the elderly.

JOANNA BLOSSNER, a youth delegate from Sweden, speaking for her country’s children and youth and for 700,000 young people engaged in over 80 different organizations, said that girls and boys faced different expectations in life and were often given different opportunities.  Underlining that access to education was both a fundamental human right and a key to the development of one’s full potential, she said 65 million girls across the world were not in school.  To remedy that, she called for investing in girls to reduce poverty, improve health and advance equality.  The world was facing a time of significant change, she said, adding that the progress and participation of the most marginalized were essential to succeed.  It was essential to focus on long-term sustainable development and to recognize the vital role of women for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security, she concluded.

FODÉ SECK (Senegal) underscored the close link between the elimination of poverty and social development.  Drawing attention to the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of Family, he stressed the strategic importance of the family and its inclusion in the post-2015 development agenda.  Also essential for improved social development was greater participation of such vulnerable groups as women, people with disability, youth and the elderly in decision-making processes at all levels.  Measures undertaken by his Government included the introduction of a universal health care system in 2013, which covered 80 per cent of its population, a programme to raise the level of education for vulnerable families and a microfinancing scheme for female entrepreneurs.

ANDREJ LOGAR (Slovenia) said that the lives of the older and younger generations were becoming increasingly interwoven and interdependent.  For its part, Slovenia was addressing the challenges associated with demographic changes in a holistic manner and considered it vital to develop various mechanisms established in this area in a cohesive way.  Applauding the appointment of Matte Kornfeld as the new independent expert on the rights of older persons, he welcomed her “on an early visit to Slovenia”.  The rights of older persons needed to be protected to ensure their safe and independent lives, free from discrimination and abuse, he said.

MIHA PONGRAC, a youth delegate from Slovenia, said that young people were becoming increasingly aware that formal education could offer only a part of the knowledge and skills needed to effectively transition from schooling to the job market.  Formal, informal and non-formal education were still insufficiently interlinked, he said, adding that although young people showed high potential and efficiency to work, their employment was insecure, based on short, fixed-term or temporary contracts.  Finally, he stressed the need for including young people in decision-making processes, as there could be no peace or prosperity without the full and equal participation of young people all over the world.

JILT VAN SCHAYIK, a youth delegate from the Netherlands, said that growing up in a small village, everyone had similar dreams and that “the world had become a village now”.  As a youth delegate, he had debated with Dutch students and participated in development programmes in the slums of Mumbai.  Everywhere, he had come across young people making an impact on their societies.  “Why was it that young people continued to be under-represented in decision-making processes?” he asked.  It was time to finally bridge the gap between young people and the United Nations, he said, stressing the importance of including not just educated youth in capital cities but also marginalized youth.  “Far away from New York, there was a world of young people whose voices were never heard,” he said.  All Member States should include youth representatives in their delegations to the seventieth General Assembly, he concluded.

CLARISA SOLÓRZANO (Nicaragua), aligning her delegation with the “Group of 77”, said that measures were needed to encourage inclusive development, including access to basic services.  Highlighting national efforts undertaken to satisfy basic human needs of people, she also said rights were recognized in a more participatory society.  Following the country’s economic growth, Nicaragua developed 39 social programmes aimed at eradicating poverty.  Turning to gender, she noted that strong legislation and programmes, a women’s committee and other policies had been established to strengthen the family and prevent violence.

RAJA REZA BIN RAJA ZAIB SHAH (Malaysia) said it was time for Governments to introduce policies that empowered individuals so that they could act as catalysts for social development.  Taking stock of his country’s achievements, he said that at the national level, the overarching legal framework aimed at developing resilient and caring Malaysian families.  The family policy provided for the implementation of programmes such as “Parenting at work” and the “Smart start pre-marital programme” that met the needs of families.  Further, the Government recognized youth as a critical driver in national development and would continue to employ the principle of engagement and participation of youth leadership, he said, pointing out that as a result, youth volunteerism was on the rise.  Noting that by the year 2030 Malaysia was expected to attain “ageing nation” status, he stressed the importance of fostering national and international policies to protect older persons.

MARÍA EMMA MEJÍA VÉLEZ (Colombia) said that poverty eradication was a prerequisite for social development and that the new development agenda should mainly focus on it.  Public policies could make a difference, she added, saying that the State had the tools to develop a legal framework and infrastructure to empower citizens and improve social development.  Therefore, the capacity of national institutions needed to be improved.  The twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family was an opportunity for empowerment.  Bearing in mind the numbers of families headed by single mothers, grandparents or older siblings, she called for their challenges to be addressed. 

ISABELA BANY, a youth delegate from Poland, said that the United Nations Charter was a reminder to the international community that it should not be satisfied by past achievements alone.  Recalling the Polish revolution of 1989, she said that the improvement of economic conditions in her country was a result of a solidarity movement that recognized the need for political and economic reform to improve the standards of living of ordinary Polish people.  Drawing on that experience, Poland had valid reasons to claim that sustainable development could not be achieved without the rule of law.  Modern youth were seeking the right to representation, she added.  The younger generation did not want to be limited to a role as an observer.  The advancement of the youth agenda required their inclusion in civil society and enhancing procedures for recruitment of young professionals in international organizations.

KAMIL PRUCHNIK, a youth delegate from Poland, said that developing economies were growing faster than advanced economies.  Many countries, however, had not implemented public strategies that would enable social growth and reduce inequalities.  Recent studies by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank suggested that those countries that had made it into the high-income groups had invested in a high stock of social and human capital.  In other words, economic development required people that were well-educated and had good ideas, institutions that could transform those ideas and infrastructure to make those ideas accessible.

KAIRAT ABDRAKHMANOV (Kazakhstan) said, against a backdrop of global challenges that included instability, fiscal crisis, escalation of conflicts, huge flows of refugees and displaced persons, outbreaks of diseases, food and energy crises, and increasing poverty, it was clear that social development policies had failed to reach certain vulnerable social groups.  Recommendations made in the Secretary-General’s report on social development were in unison with Kazakhstan’s 2050 development strategy.  Kazakhstan wanted to reach higher social standards and provide improved education and quality health care, especially for the unemployed and persons with disabilities, he said, providing an overview of ongoing projects and programmes.  In closing, he congratulated Member States for sending brilliant youth representatives who would be prime ministers, presidents and heroes of their countries in the future.

NEGASH KEBRET (Ethiopia) said that his country’s Constitution provided citizens with full guarantees for the promotion and protection of their social and economic rights by empowering them to receive essential social services and social protection, particularly in education and health sectors and by ensuring better access to decent job employment.  Based on that approach, the Government had adopted a National Social Policy by putting in place an effective social protection system that ensured the inclusion of all its citizens in socioeconomic development.  Recognizing disability as a cross-cutting issue, the Government had taken a number of steps, including developing a specific programme to meet the needs of children with disabilities and, at the university level, special needs education, including sign language courses and Braille, he concluded.

NICHOLA NOKULUNGA SABELO (South Africa) said that the recent Ebola outbreak had highlighted the importance of building health systems in developing countries.  Her country faced common developing world challenges and “the journey was far from finished”, she said.  Her Government was implementing a comprehensive social protection framework that combined various elements such as income support, compulsory education and subsidized housing, electricity and sanitation for those who qualified.  South Africa was a youthful nation, she said, recognizing the importance of utilizing that demographic.  For its part, the Government was hard at work addressing the unemployment gap.  Concluding, she said her country also supported the Madrid Plan of Action.

DIA A. A. ABUBAKER (Libya) said that the leaders of the world had committed themselves during the Copenhagen Summit to take measures to achieve lasting social and economic growth so that all people could have a dignified life.  Despite some progress, the situation was deteriorating and ordinary people were less and less optimistic.  The international community needed to cope with the new challenge of Ebola and the massive and terrible destruction caused by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Sham (ISIL/ISIS) and State terrorism.  It was most regrettable that after all the sacrifices made in 2011 there was instability in Libya, adversely affecting social growth.  Libyan authorities were redoubling efforts to fill all the gaps that had accumulated over the last few years.  In closing, he said protecting disabled women and children and integrating youth into development were high priorities for Libya.

AMEENA AL-MALKI (Qatar) said there were persistent challenges in implementing equitable development and eliminating poverty.  She recognized as a priority the empowerment of all individuals, especially among vulnerable groups.  Based on the importance of empowerment in consolidating efforts to combat poverty, she continued, the institutional mechanisms to address these challenges had been developed.  She also recognized the role played by the family in the development of her country.  Conscious of the need to protect the family, as well as to develop its capacity, she said the Government had established the Doha Institute of the Family. 

For information media. Not an official record.