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Seventieth Session,
1st & 2nd Meetings (AM & PM)
GA/SHC/4129

In Shadows of New 2030 Agenda, Third Committee Opens Session with Speakers Sharing Achievements, Concerns on Social Development Challenges Ahead

Tackling a range of issues threading through the newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) began its work today, with speakers and youth delegates describing successes, challenges and concerns facing the international community in its push towards meeting the 2030 Agenda’s promises.

Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said the Agenda, which builds on the successes of the Millennium Development Goals, sought to foster shared prosperity, reduce inequality, protect the planet and transform the world for the benefit of all.  Yet events that were unfolding around the world were reminders of the daunting task ahead of sustaining social development gains and of building more inclusive societies, he said.

Of great concern, Mr. Wu said, was the “massive wave” of refugees and migrants in the Mediterranean and the Sahel, as well as the displacement of people by poverty, lack of opportunity, conflict, religious extremism and fear.  Other challenges included significant and rapid demographic change and, in most major economies, insufficient job growth in the wake of the global economic crisis.  Governments must move beyond the traditional solo mindset, he said.

Elaborating on that point, Committee Chair Omar Hilale (Morocco), in opening remarks, underlined that 9 of the 17 objectives set out in the Agenda were “directly connected” to its work.  He added that, in light of current events, the Committee was being called upon to carry out “strong, effective and concerted action” that would help to resolve major global issues.

During the ensuing discussion on the Committee’s agenda item on social development, several speakers gave examples of such pressing issues.  The representative of South Africa, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, underscored the importance of integrating the economic, social and environmental aspects of development, but expressed concern that a raft of global crises had put constraints on the fight against poverty.  Her counterpart from Ecuador, speaking for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said much could be accomplished, even with limited resources, as long as there was a political will to do so.  The delegate from the Philippines, on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said many sustainable development issues required closer regional and international cooperation.

Representatives of Member States and regional groups also described their efforts to address concerns.  The Deputy Head of the European Union Delegation outlined efforts being made towards an integrated growth strategy, while his counterpart from the United States underlined her country’s long history of volunteerism, a crucial factor for social development.

Throughout the day-long meeting, youth delegates took the floor outlining their generation’s concerns.  Norway’s youth representative expressed regret over a “major democratic deficit” that had resulted from a lack of young people’s access to formal decision-making.  A youth speaker from the Republic of Korea said the empowerment of younger generations through quality education was a key to achieving social development.  Indeed, Peru’s youth delegate summed up that there could not be sustainable development without quality education for all.

The Committee also engaged in an interactive dialogue with Rosa Kornfeld-Matte, an independent expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons, who emphasized the need for more attention to be given to issues relating to an ageing global population.  Weaving the dialogue back to the 2030 Agenda, she noted that the new Goals had put an emphasis on States to incorporate the rights of older persons in discussions on public policies and programmes.

In addition, the Committee heard the introduction of reports and adopted its programme of work for the session.

Also speaking today were representatives of Sierra Leone (on behalf of the African Group), Netherlands, Egypt, Colombia, Slovenia, Morocco, Mexico, United States, Italy, Finland, Singapore, Peru, Syria, Paraguay, Republic of Korea, Cuba, Thailand, Algeria, Russian Federation, Switzerland, Germany, Chile, Kazakhstan, Tunisia, Senegal, Ireland, United Arab Emirates, Nicaragua, Jamaica, Iraq, Turkey, Iran, Norway, Armenia, Austria, Belgium, Viet Nam and Pakistan, as well as the Holy See.

Daniela Bas, Director of the Division for Social Policy and Development of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, and Jordi Llopart, Chief of the United Nations Volunteers Support Office in New York, also spoke.

The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 7 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 began its discussion on social development.  Before members was the first report of the General Committee on the Organization of the seventieth regular session of the General Assembly, adoption of the agenda and allocation of items (document A/70/250).

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/70/173); world social situation 2015: leaving no one behind (document A/70/178); celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family in 2014 (document A/70/61-E/2015/3); integrating volunteering in the next decade (document A/70/118); ways to promote effective structured and sustainable youth participation (document A/70/156); cooperatives in social development (document A/70/161); and promoting social integration through social inclusion (document A/70/179).

The Committee also had before it a report by the Secretary-General on follow‑up to the International Year of Older Persons: Second World Assembly on Ageing (document A/70/185).

Introductory Remarks

WU HONGBO, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, noted that the Committee was beginning its work a fortnight after the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Unfolding events, however, were a reminder of the daunting task ahead.  Of great concern were the “massive wave of refugees and migrants” in the Mediterranean and the Sahel, and a rising number of people displaced by poverty, lack of opportunities, conflict, religious extremism and inequality.  The Committee was also meeting at a time of major demographic change, when the world was witnessing the largest-ever generation of young people.  Yet, in most major economies, employment growth had remained below pre-economic crisis levels and other concerns included low pay and inadequate social protection.  At the same time, the number of people over the age of 60 was projected to grow to 1.4 billion in 2030, surpassing the number of children under the age of 10.

Leaving no one behind would require rethinking social inclusion policies and ensuring non-discrimination, he continued.  Inclusive participatory and representative governance would also be required as would removing discriminatory barriers and reforming legal frameworks.  Implementing the 2030 Agenda must be coherent, otherwise it would be a lost opportunity, he said, adding that implementation would not be easy.  Governments must move beyond “a traditional silo mindset” and think holistically instead, with social development goals becoming localized to reflect national circumstances and priorities.  Governments must engage all institutions and sectors of society and tap the power of the data revolutions.  “We must seize opportunities” by making sustained investments in education, health and agriculture, taking concrete measures to address climate change and implementing full employment policies, he concluded.

DANIELA BAS, Director of the Division for Social Policy and Development of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introduced six reports under the Committee’s agenda item on social development.  The first report’s priority theme was rethinking and strengthening social development in the contemporary world by implementing the Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development.  The report, which underlined that uneven progress had been made across regions, noted the high level of unemployment worldwide.  Accordingly, social development and policies were fundamental to realizing inclusive sustainable development.  Turning to cooperative business enterprises, she underlined their key role in efforts aimed at ending poverty, securing education and combatting inequality.  The report on youth targeted the sustainable participation of youth in policies and programmes concerning them, and presented a variety of activities and initiatives undertaken to achieve meaningful participation and decision-making.

Turning to the report on family, she said related policies and progress had been initiated in line with the Sustainable Development Goals and that recommendations included encouraging Member States to extend the definition of family in their national laws to ensure better protection.  On social inclusion, the report called for active participation of people in social, economic and political life and highlighted national activities in poverty reduction, fighting against discrimination and equal access to education.  It also encouraged the systematic exchange of good practices.  The final report on ageing provided a detailed analysis on how the existing agenda would fit within the framework of the 2030 Agenda and the new Sustainable Development Goals.

JORDI LLOPART, Chief of the United Nations Volunteers Support Office in New York, said there had been growing public recognition of volunteerism, including the promotion of opportunities for marginalized groups such as women, youth, persons with disabilities and older persons.  Volunteering had been made easier by better laws, standards, funding and capacity development programmes.  Innovative and diverse schemes, including online efforts, had broadened opportunities for people worldwide to join initiatives, from grass-roots to global levels.  When volunteerism was fully integrated into national development strategies and United Nations plans, people were increasingly able to help deliver results.

More attention, however, needed to be paid to the social and physical protection of volunteers in order to ensure their sustained contributions to peace and development, he said, highlighting the Plan of Action contained in the Secretary-General’s report of volunteerism.  Decreasing investments, disparities in access to new technologies, gaps in research on volunteerism and concerns about security and protection would require more efforts to raise the place of volunteerism vis-à-vis development.

ROSA KORNFELD-MATTE, Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons, at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, described her official duties, saying her main responsibility was to assess the implementation of existing international, regional and national laws on the rights of older persons.  She also monitored and reported on the implementation of human rights of older persons, including those with disabilities and others belonging to indigenous groups and ethnic and religious minorities.  In addition, she conducted awareness-raising activities on problems that older people were facing, and encouraged States to provide necessary programmes.

The 2030 Agenda highlighted that States should take all necessary measures and incorporate the rights of older persons into discussions on public policies and programmes.  To that end, she had analysed international, regional and national laws on the care for older persons, and had monitored existing legal instruments to strengthen cohesion and promote and protect their rights.  Accordingly, a number of recommendations had been made to help States to apply existing laws to enable the independence of older persons in all areas of their lives.

In the ensuing interactive dialogue, Ms. KORNFELD-MATTE addressed questions posed by the representatives of El Salvador, Singapore, Argentina, the European Union, Brazil, Morocco, Slovenia, Yemen, the United States and Chile.

In general, she underlined the need for more attention to the issue of ageing.  On a question about the best practices, she called upon all States to work together to share information.  Turning to a query on transportation related issues, she said services must be accessible to all older persons, especially for those with disabilities.  She underlined that ageing was a cross-cutting issue, she said a democratic process should ensure that efforts would affect and reach all persons equally.

Statements

SHERINA SARAN (South Africa), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, stressed the need for integrating economic, social and environmental aspects of development.  Welcoming the 2030 Agenda and its message that no one in any society should be left behind, she said the Group supported a people-centred approach to development to ensure inclusivity and social protection.  Comprehensive policy frameworks that adopted universal approaches were important.  Too much work, however, remained to be done to promote the participation of everyone in public life.  In that regard, the United Nations system should help Member States.

Of deep concern were constraints on the fight against poverty arising from various crises, including the global financial and economic crisis, climate change, violent extremism, terrorism and forced displacement of people, she continued.  Further action was needed to remove all obstacles to the rights of peoples to self-determination.  It was crucial and imperative that developed countries honoured their pledges, she said, calling for the fulfilment and timely implementation of commitments made with regard to internationally agreed official development assistance.  During the session, she said, the Group would be presenting three draft resolutions on social development, ageing and the International Year of the Family.

FRANKLYN BRIMA FAWUNDU (Sierra Leone), speaking for the African Group, expressed profound satisfaction with adoption of the post-2015 development agenda, calling it a clear demonstration of the international community’s commitment to embark on transformative steps to move the world onto a resilient and sustainable path and to realize the future they wanted.  The Group reaffirmed the centrality and indispensability of the institution of the family in Africa and its critical role in the continent’s political, cultural and socioeconomic development.

On youth development and empowerment, the Group recognized that the continent’s demographics presented a major challenge.  More than 40 per cent of the population was under age 15.  While Africa was experiencing positive economic growth, progress had been slow in the creation of productive employment and decent work, with youth facing both unemployment and underemployment.  On older persons, the African Union Framework and Plan of Action on Ageing in Africa had bound all member States to develop policies on ageing and recognized the need for advocacy to improve the adaptation and enactment of policies at the national level.  The Group stressed that addressing inequality required broadening the scope of global partnerships for development.  Accordingly, international trade needed to support measures targeting equal opportunities for participating in global markets.

DIEGO ALONSO TITUAÑA MATANGO (Ecuador), speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said hunger and poverty were among the worst forms of human rights violations.  Eradicating them was an ethical, political, social and economic challenge.  The Community had been reaping the benefits of growing investments in a people-centred agenda, with the Secretary-General recognizing the region as an example of how cash transfer programmes improved health and education for the poorest households.  Indeed, concrete actions were required to address poverty and inequality alongside environmental concerns such as climate change, disasters and the loss of biodiversity.

After two decades, the Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development and Programme of Action remained a key reference point, he said, adding that reforming the global financial and economic system was a matter of paramount importance.  CELAC members had had “unprecedented experiences” in implementing social inclusion programmes and it was clear that much could be attained, even with limited resources, if the political will existed.  Turning to other areas of concern, he said about 66 million people in the region lived with at least one disability, he said, noting that they faced many forms of discrimination and they needed to be integrated into development programmes.  With regard to ageing, the greatest increase in the number of elderly people had been occurring in the developing world.  CELAC members had been promoting the inclusion of older persons in social strategies, he concluded, noting that the international community should pay more attention to ageing issues.

LOURDES ORTIZ YPARRAGUIRRE (Philippines), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), presented the group’s achievements in realizing a people-centred and socially-responsible community, in consonance with the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action.  Guiding those efforts were three main objectives — eradicating poverty, promoting employment and decent work for all and social integration.  A regional framework and plan of action, to be adopted in November, were being developed to strengthen cross-sectoral collaboration in social protection.  In addition, a conference of ASEAN senior officials had been held in the Philippines to share good practices and make policy recommendations highlighting the social protection needs of women in business.

Many sustainable development issues required closer regional and international cooperation to resolve, she continued.  In that vein, ASEAN had organized a regional workshop to assess achievements made towards the Millennium Development Goals and to identify priorities for the post-2015 development agenda.  The Association’s member States had also continued to focus on the issue of social security of workers and had organized workshops to share good practices.  The Association welcomed the recognition of its efforts in the Secretary-General’s report on integrating volunteerism, including the ASEAN Professionals Volunteer Corps, which brought together young professionals in efforts addressing education, health, agriculture and environment issues.  In the area of cooperation for persons with disabilities, a regional workshop had been convened in February 2015 on rights-based, sustainable community development.  In closing, she said the Association was firmly committed to continuing to strengthen its efforts to promote social welfare and to protect vulnerable groups.

IOANNIS VRAILAS, Deputy Head of the European Union Delegation, said that despite an improving economic situation across Europe, challenges remained, chiefly in employment and social policy and particularly in long-term employment, poverty, inequality, social cohesion and social inclusion.  An integrated growth strategy aimed at ensuring fair and balanced growth would lead to quality jobs and protection for all throughout the life cycle while reducing inequalities within and among Member States.  Investment and structural reforms were key to achieve those ends, he said, adding that a €300 billion investment plan would stimulate the economy.  With 7.1 million people in the 15 to 24 age group neither employed in education or in training, the “EU Youth Guarantee” ensured that, within four months of becoming unemployed or leaving formal education, all young people would receive a quality job offer, traineeship or apprenticeship.  Other efforts were being made to address ways for the long-term unemployed to return to work.

A range of issues the European Union was addressing included the rights and well-being of older people and the high unemployment and under-representation in tertiary education of persons with disabilities.  In addition, the European Union was promoting gender equality in all policies and activities, and was also addressing family-related issues, such as parental leave, reconciling home and work life, and improving living conditions of vulnerable communities.  Investment and structural reform should be underpinned by the principles of sustainable development, he said, adding that the best protection against poverty and social exclusion was having a decent job, which, beyond its economic dimension, provided human dignity.

Mr. ABDALLAH, youth delegate from the Netherlands, recalled that sixteen years ago, he had been a refugee queuing up for water, walking for days and holding the hand of his brother so he would not get lost.  His family’s “long and uncertain” journey had ended in the Netherlands, and it was with pride that today he represented all the young people of that country.  The response of “too many Governments” to the refugee crisis had been to protect borders and neglect people in need.  Sixteen years ago he had asked for safety, water and food.  Today, he asked the international community to show solidarity with one of the largest refugee populations the world had ever seen.

OSAMA ABDEL KHALEK (Egypt) said the traditional family was the natural and fundamental core unit of society as it held the primary responsibility for nurturing and protecting children.  For its part, the Government of Egypt had developed a strategy to combat youth unemployment through efforts aimed at building entrepreneurial capacities of young men and women and facilitating their access to labour market information.  In addition, the Egyptian National Council for Disability Affairs was currently drafting a new disability law to mainstream related issues as an integral part of its national sustainable development strategy.

MARÍA EMMA MEJÍA VÉLEZ (Colombia) said the 2030 Agenda was a historic opportunity in the quest to eradicate poverty in all its forms.  Everyone would feel its benefits.  Speaking at the United Nations recently, Pope Francis had stated that people must become the drivers of their own fate in order to escape extreme poverty.  To achieve that goal, the 2030 Agenda must be implemented in an effective, coherent and integrated manner.  Speaking at the General Assembly, the President of Columbia had called for an end to the longest armed conflict in the Western Hemisphere; it was hoped that the demise of that conflict would lead to a just society and equity for all.

ANDREJ LOGAR (Slovenia), associating with the European Union, welcomed that the issue of ageing had been acknowledged by the 2030 Agenda and recognized the need for addressing malnutrition, the provision of green public spaces, as well as the importance of an independent autonomous life for older persons.  He commended multilateral efforts to promote and protect older persons’ rights, including through the Inter-American Convention on Protecting the Human Rights of Older Persons and the African Protocol on the Rights of Older Persons.  He also welcomed the resolution on ageing adopted by the European Parliament in September.  Recalling that the Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons had visited Slovenia in November 2014, he said his Government continued to draft policies aimed at countering the abuse of older persons and supported the Independent Expert’s mandate.

KATJA CIMERANICIC, the youth delegate from Slovenia, said unemployment was among the biggest threats facing youth today.  In the European Union, more than 4.5 million people were unemployed in 2014.  To increase youth employment, the bridge between education and the labour market must be established.  Obtaining practical experience, recognizing informal education and integrating companies into the educational system were essential for improving their education.  Young people in Slovenia did not trust the political system and demanded their rights by signing petitions and organizing rallies.  Those efforts were not enough.  Only with young people’s inclusion at the national, regional and international levels would social development be possible.

Ms. MOUFLIH (Morocco), noting that inequalities had increased in some regions, said more than 836 million people around the world continued to live in extreme poverty.  Terrorism threatened the security of many countries, and more than 60 million people had fled violence, war and persecution.  The international community must develop better approaches to development and address gaps in international relations to better address future challenges in a spirit of cooperation.  There was no single way to achieve development, as each country had its own civilizational, cultural or religious background.  Morocco had continued its democratic path, including through constitutional, human rights, political, economic and social reforms, which had led to an average 4.4 per cent economic growth.  New reforms, including investments in renewable energies, aimed at reducing emissions.  The question of peace and security was linked to development and human rights and should be prioritized.

LANDABURU IBARRA (Mexico), outlining measures to reduce inequality, recalled the importance of a broad vision on well-being.  A prosperous society required not only eradicating poverty, but also addressing the needs of vulnerable people, including migrants and persons with disabilities.  Mexico promoted social development through measures to prevent teen pregnancies and address older persons’ needs.  The family was the nucleus of society, and as such, must be protected.  It was also important to recognize families “in all their diversity”.  The adoption of the 2030 Agenda marked a turning point, and the international community must now address how the Economic and Social Council and other United Nations bodies could adapt their work.  She encouraged young people to take ownership of the new Agenda.

STEFANIE AMADEO (United States) encouraged all partners to promote and protect the rights of persons with disabilities, endorsing equal access to all.  She also encouraged partners in crisis situations to improve their technical expertise and to share best practices.  Noting that her country continued to fund the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), she recalled the United States’ long history of volunteerism, which was crucial for social development.  She looked forward to engaging in a constructive dialogue with all Member States.

EMILIA GATTO (Italy) said her Government had established a monitoring mechanism for policies on persons with disabilities, in partnership with civil society.  In addition, it had approved the first guidelines on persons with disabilities and would soon finalise the national disability action plan.  On ageing, Italy promoted the concept of successful ageing and had organized an international workshop on “the silver economy”.  Young people were at the centre of related policies and programmes, she said, adding that Italy also attached great importance to the issues of education, training and volunteerism.

MIKKEL NÄKKÄLÄJÄRVI, youth delegate from Finland, recalled speaking as the first Finnish Sami youth delegate at the General Assembly.  Indeed, young people had a crucial role in solving global challenges, especially when it came to inequality.  Improving the status of women was a requirement for development that was economically, ecologically and socially sustainable.  The new Sustainable Development Goals were the key to a better tomorrow, he said.

NG WOAN CHYI (Singapore) said that, as an ageing nation, his country was committed to implementing the 2002 Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing.  Singapore had recently announced a $3 billion action plan for successful ageing, to be implemented through programmes aimed at creating opportunities for all ages, strengthening inter-generational cohesion, and improving accessibility for ageing persons.  In addition, Singapore would provide assistance to the bottom 20 to 30 per cent of people aged 65 and over.  Two new legislative texts would be enacted to protect vulnerable adults from abuse or neglect, and to better protect mentally incapacitated persons by simplifying the process to appoint family members as deputies.

GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) affirmed his country’s commitment to the Copenhagen Programme of Action and to the 2030 Agenda and its priorities.  Social development was a major challenge facing the international community and States must focus their efforts on empowering people and developing social inclusion programmes.  The major task of developing countries was to transform the economic growth they had achieved into concrete improvements on the lives and well-being of their citizens.  He then stressed the importance of the protection of human rights and its links to social development.

MARTIN GALLARDO GARRATH, a youth delegate from Peru, said that achieving all the Sustainable Development Goals would require States to implement social programmes that would lead to the active participation of youth in the process of economic and social growth.  There could not be sustainable development without quality education for all.  In Peru, 97 per cent of children had access to primary education, he said, adding that gender equality and the empowerment of women were also key to achieve social development.

AMJAD QASSEM AGHA (Syria) said the world was still facing poverty and hunger, as well as increased unemployment and threats to peace and security.  His country was making efforts to address the challenges to social development that terrorism had created.  Embargoes imposed by some European countries and the United States were a violation of international law and had had a negative impact on Syria’s citizens, including with regard to access to health and education.  Unilateral coercive measures had a dire impact on societies and social development, he said.  That, together with the negative impacts of colonization, should be better addressed in future reports of the Secretary-General.

FEDERICO A. GONZALEZ (Paraguay), reaffirming his country’s commitment to the outcomes of the Copenhagen Summit, said that the international community needed to do its part to achieve poverty eradication and social development.  While progress had been made over the years, social and economic inequalities continued to grow between and within countries.  The population of Paraguay had similarly suffered from inequalities.  To address such challenges, the Government had initiated several policies and programmes, especially on persons with disabilities, older persons and indigenous people.

HAHN CHOONG-HEE (Republic of Korea) said that with the holistic approach of the 2030 Agenda, the international community would be able to capitalize on the synergies and links among social, economic and environmental issues.  The new framework was not a mere tool box, but rather a value-oriented deliverable that would “guide us in this first-of-its-kind journey”.  Empowering disadvantaged groups, such as women, persons with disabilities and older persons, would bring more revenue than costs, he said.  A level playing field would motivate people to be more productive and social safety nets would serve individual needs while saving on costs to society.  Expressing confidence about the next 15 years, he said young people would benefit from lessons already learned until now to become a “reliable backbone” to achieve shared responsibilities for people and the planet.

CHO MOON SUN, a youth delegate from the Republic of Korea, emphasized that empowering youth through quality education was one of the keys to achieving social development.  However, the direction education would take was as important as its quality, she said.  Stressing the importance of global citizenship education, she said people could learn universal values such as human rights, respect for diversity, rule of law and democracy.  With those values, people could play proactive roles in the transformation envisioned in the 2030 Agenda, she said, adding that youth could also provide education to other social sectors, such as vulnerable groups.

The representative of Cuba stressed the important impact of the Copenhagen Programme of Action and agreed that eradicating poverty was the main issue needed to achieve development.  It was important to implement public policies to implement the Sustainable Development Goals and to promote international cooperation in that regard.  The commitment to promote social progress had continued to be a dream that had not been achieved, when millions around the world continued to live in poverty.  Cuba had complied with the Millennium Development Goals and would continue to provide technical assistance to its partners.  Cuba had been able to achieve great progress despite the embargo imposed on it, which had a negative impact on social development in Cuba, yet the country would never give up its convictions and commitment to provide social justice to its people.

Ms. BUNVANIT and Ms. PROMKHATKAEW, youth delegates from Thailand, explained that the Royal Thai Government had made significant efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals through the provision of basic health care services in a non-discriminatory manner.  As a result, maternal and child mortality had been greatly reduced and the access to health from the poor had been enhanced.  The “Sufficiency Economy Philosophy” had promoted self-sufficiency and environmental sustainability.  By following that, rural people, including youths, could sustain their living.  Education was the key to overcoming many economic and social challenges and, in that regard, the Government had been, for the last two decades, providing free schooling for all up until the high school level alongside distance-learning opportunities for students in rural areas.

SABRI BOUKADOUM (Algeria) said austerity measures to address the current oil crisis had not affected efforts to eradicate poverty and reduce social exclusion.  Algeria had prioritized initiatives for the elderly, persons with disabilities, unaccompanied children and unemployed youth, notably through a solidarity allowance and tax exemption on some income.  Incentives had been put in place to strengthen investment in agriculture, tourism and small- and medium-sized businesses.  In 2014, school enrolment had reached 96 per cent for children between ages 6 and 15.  For its part, Algeria was committed to ensuring health coverage for vulnerable groups, especially for persons with disabilities.  Laws, regulations and policies to protect the human rights of older persons were also being adopted, he concluded.

EGOR SHULGIN (Russian Federation) said the world could not manage to eliminate poverty and hunger and to achieve education equality.  To achieve global targets, effective coordination was needed through global partnerships.  For its part, the Russian Federation had developed a holistic approach to increasing the living standards of its people and planned to create 25 million jobs by 2030.  The Government’s social policies had been targeted to provide people with equal opportunities, including persons with special needs.  Highlighting the serious challenges faced by ageing populations, he noted that older persons needed further support in health care.

Ms. WACHTES (Switzerland) said the adoption of the 2030 Agenda had triggered a paradigm shift.  The 193 Member States of the United Nations General Assembly were now required to translate the Agenda’s Sustainable Development Goals into national strategies.  It was essential to develop coherent policies to not merely limit the damage, but also to combat the causes of undesirable development.  The implementation process of the Agenda also required a contribution from the private sector.  That contribution could be further strengthened by investing in key sustainable development sectors, as well as through public-private partnerships and corporate social responsibility.

CARINA LANGE and ALEXANDER KAUSCHANSKI, two youth delegates from Germany, delivered a statement together, saying what was first needed was a reform of the United Nations to make the Organization more efficient in order to fulfil its goals of securing peace, guaranteeing human rights, fostering international cooperation and protecting the environment.  They called into question the “sacred” concept of economic growth, which was not sufficient enough to measure a country’s progress.  Youth had the power to change the world, they said, and its talents should be put to use through mechanisms that ensured their participation in decision-making processes.  What was also needed was action to ensure the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals as an agenda for peace, prosperity and the preservation of the planet.  Human rights had to be protected for all, nobody should be discriminated against based on their sexual orientation and gender identity and every person had sexual and reproductive rights.  In closing, they underlined that refugees must feel welcomed everywhere.

CARLOS OLGUIN (Chile) said that, 20 years after the World Summit on Social Development in Copenhagen, reducing poverty and inequality remained priorities for his country.  The Government had undertaken reforms leading to a more balanced relationship between workers and employers.  Efforts had also been made to identify the most vulnerable parts of the population in order to better address their needs through more comprehensive public policies.  He stressed the vital importance of addressing inequalities and achieving a more inclusive society.  Another priority area was to guarantee inclusive education and equal access for girls and boys, as well as children with disabilities.  In addition, Chile had adopted policies to adapt to the ageing of its society, including national services for the elderly.

KAIRAT ABDRAKHMANOV (Kazakhstan) said that, while a number of States had cut social spending, his country had increased social support and protection for its children and youth, women, ageing persons and people with disabilities.  Through its national strategy, “Kazakhstan 2050”, it aimed to rank among the top 30 most developed countries of the world.  That strategy and a new economic policy would guarantee higher quality education, health care, affordable housing and enhanced social security.  Also part of the strategy was a “roadmap to employment” enabling youth to have free formal education at all levels, as well as vocational training.  To promote inclusion of persons with disabilities, his country had ratified the relevant United Nations convention and had been effectively implementing its action plan since the adoption of the law on the social protection of persons with disabilities.  Noting that older persons constituted 10 per cent of his country’s population, he reaffirmed Kazakhstan’s commitment to ensuring that they fully enjoyed their rights without any discrimination.

KARIMA BARDAOUI (Tunisia) said that, two decades after the Copenhagen Summit, the world had continued to face various challenges, including poverty, hunger and social inequality.  More needed to be done by the international community to support children, youth and older persons.  The new Agenda gave hope to his delegation as it aimed to provide better education, greater employability and better social protection.  Concluding, she noted that the real “jihad” needed to be against poverty, disease and ignorance.

GORGUI CISS (Senegal), drawing attention to the promises made in Copenhagen 20 years ago, stressed the strategic importance of social development.  It was worrying that the global unemployment level had increased to 220 million people in 2013.  That, along with the high global levels of unemployment, persistence of inequalities and armed conflicts, had continued to affect women and children.  To move forward towards those promises, improved social development needed greater participation of women, people with disabilities, youth and the elderly in decision-making processes at all levels.

ORLA MURPHY, Ms. FITZMAURICE and Mr. O’LIATHAIN, youth delegates from Ireland, which represented over 200,000 Irish young people worldwide, pointed to the challenges faced by young people in their country.  Youth suicide remained a major issue and to tackle it, Ireland was promoting initiatives that recognize the maximum potential of young people by respecting their voice.  Moreover, the global goals for sustainable development were vital to Ireland, where youth unemployment was still a problem.  Young people deserved more, as they were trailblazers in many ways.  Earlier in 2015, for example, Ireland had become the first country in the world to pass marriage equality by popular law, they said, noting that, only 22 years ago, homosexual acts had been a criminal offense.  Critical to that dramatic shift was a “groundswell” of youth that had organized marches, knocked on doors, lobbied Government and organized online campaigns.  In one innovative campaign, titled “Ring Your Granny”, young people telephoned their grandparents asking them to vote “yes”.  In sum, young people affect big issues and have great potential to make positive change, they said.

SAEED MOHAMED BAOMRAN (United Arab Emirates) said that, although progress had been made, millions continued to live in extreme poverty around the world and challenges such as climate change and terrorism continued to hamper the full realization of social development.  The United Arab Emirates had implemented strategies and measures that had resulted in great progress, including policies to empower women.  Efforts had led to a reduction of the poverty and unemployment rates in the country.  The United Arab Emirates had devoted important resources to improving access to education and training teachers, and to addressing the needs of elder persons to improve their inclusion into the society.  The country had also been involved in regional initiatives on social development.  States should seize the opportunity of the anniversary of the Copenhagen Summit to adopt strong commitments on climate change, he said.

JUANA SANDOVAL (Nicaragua) said that, despite crises and challenges, some countries had successfully achieved great success in implementing the Millennium Development Goals.  As 2015 marked the twentieth anniversary of the Copenhagen Summit, it was indispensable for countries to develop and have access to new technologies to be able to achieve the new Sustainable Development Goals.  For its part, Nicaragua had adopted action plans for social development and had made progress regarding the inclusion of women, youth, older people and persons with disabilities.  Elderly and the family continued to be considered priorities for Nicaragua.  Nicaragua, despite the progress it had achieved, continued to face challenges and would continue its efforts to combat extreme poverty achieve gender equality and protect human rights.

COURTENAY RATTRAY (Jamaica) said social development was a “linchpin” of his country’s efforts to ensure that sustainable development was achieved with people as its focus.  Work in that area must improve the status of specific social groups by ensuring their full rights and addressing their vulnerabilities.  To that end, Jamaica had recently passed the landmark Disabilities Act, geared towards ending discrimination and empowering people to achieve their full potential.  The country had recently updated its national youth policy and was working on a youth development act.  In addition, Jamaica had joined other countries in the Americas in unanimously adopting the Organization of American States’ (OAS) Inter-American Convention on Protecting the Human Rights of Older Persons and was working towards reducing poverty in older persons.  Finally, the family had an integral role to play in advancing social development, he said.  With that in mind, Jamaica had taken recent steps to improve the capacity of the family as a vital contributor to social development through the establishment of a National Parenting Support Commission.

MOHAMMED AL-OBAIDI (Iraq) said that his country’s 2005 Constitution had addressed the economic, social and cultural rights of the family, youth, women, children and the elderly, providing for a dignified life free from illness.  A new law in 2013 also addressed care for the disabled.  The country’s 2013-2017 development plan had included a strategy for the health, security and the empowerment of women and the reduction of youth unemployment, which would lead to a more cohesive society.  Iraq was facing a double crisis — the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/ISIS) and a decrease in the price of oil.  ISIS had destroyed different sectors of Iraq, which had led to poverty and deprived children of their education.  The Government of Iraq continued to work on improving social cohesion despite the challenges it was facing, he said, calling on the international community to support the victims of ISIS.

MURAT UĞURLUOĞLU (Turkey) said that the session was being convened at a very meaningful time, not only marking the twentieth anniversary of the Copenhagen Summit, but also constituting a significant milestone for the newly adopted 2030 Agenda at a moment that the world was facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the Second World War.  Social development lay at the core of development efforts and Turkey took that challenge seriously.  As such, the country had become party to all major international conventions and was in the process of integrating them into national legislation.  Pointing out that awareness needed to be raised regarding the rights of the elderly, he said social development agendas needed to take into account new demographic realities and would remain incomplete, for example, without a firm commitment to women’s empowerment and ensuring gender equality.  Economic hardship and conflict increased social economic vulnerability, and it was essential to support conflict-prone countries and those in post-conflict stage in the areas of development.

MOHAMMAD HASSANI NEJAD PIRKOUHI (Iran), associating himself with the statement on behalf of the Group of 77, said his country offered many services to its senior citizens, including illiteracy programmes, income security and free access to social and public services, recreation and treatment facilities.  The Government had also extensively invested in family-friendly programmes and supported civil society and pro-family non-governmental organizations at policy and implementation levels.  “The achievements of our young generation against the backdrop of illegal and unjustified sanctions and all other impediments have been exceptional and inspiring,” he said, adding that, thanks to its youth, the country was at the cutting edge of science and technology.  His Government also gave high priority to empowerment of persons with disability and offered incentives to entrepreneurs to provide jobs for them, he concluded.

ERLING LAUGSAND, youth representative from Norway, said a lack of access to formal decision-making bodies had contributed to a “major democratic deficit”, hindering the protection of young peoples’ human rights.  Education and academic freedom were under attack, with students being expelled from universities and persecuted for their political engagement.  He urged States to endorse the Safe Schools Declaration and help persecuted students.  In addition, Sustainable Development Goal indicators must include references to persons with disabilities, and young people must be at the centre of the global partnerships that were essential for implementing the new Agenda.

SAHAK SARGSYAN (Armenia) said poverty, inequality and unemployment had been exacerbated by an aggression and ongoing blockade.  Despite that, Armenia had updated its development strategy with a focus on human capital, employment, social protection and modernization.  The 2014-2025 strategy focused on promoting human rights, protecting persons with disabilities and prioritizing the elderly.  As the ageing population contributed wisdom, “passing the torch” to the new generation was vital to the country’s well-being.  A bright future could only be achieved if time was invested in young people’s empowerment, education and employment.  Armenia had increased the social and economic inclusion of young people, but much more had to be done.  Unemployment among people up to 25 years old twice exceeded the average rate.

BERNARDITO AUZA, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, recalling Pope Francis’ advice to the General Assembly to be guided by a perennial concept of justice, said that, too often, there was a false dichotomy between the economic and social realities of development.  An economic model driven solely by market forces and the pursuit of profit did not find value among the marginalized and excluded, as they were deemed to have little economic value.  But, the 2030 Agenda’s broader understanding of development had squarely placed the person at its centre, and had committed itself to measuring success by the degree to which it left no one behind.  He called on Member States and all stakeholders to renew and strengthen their commitment to advance social inclusion within the context of that Agenda.

JULIA RAINER, youth delegate from Austria, said the refugee crisis was making itself felt in her country in every shelter, newspaper and political debate.  Borders and fences were not the solution to the problem.  “When we shield ourselves from people who need our help, we lose our humanity,” she said.  A global solution was needed, and the values that had to be protected were those of the United Nations Charter.  Societies all over Europe were changing, demanding rights for refugees.  The civil society volunteers who were helping people in need were the silent heroes of our time, she said.

Ms. VERSTICHEL, Ms. EL KADDOURI and Mr. LECHIEN, youth representatives from Belgium, requesting the United Nations to tackle youth unemployment, recalled that the 2030 Agenda urged States to achieve full and productive employment and decent work, including for young people.  “Let’s seize this unique opportunity to allow entire generations of innovative talents to unfold,” she said, noting that one out of five young people in Belgium was unemployed.  Drawing attention to the situation of ethnic-cultural minorities who were three times more likely to be unemployed, she said the need for an inclusive labour market had become more urgent than ever against the backdrop of the global refugee crisis.

NGUYEN PHUONG NGA (Viet Nam), associating with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, and ASEAN, said that with commitment, significant investment and stakeholder engagement, Viet Nam had made progress in all areas, including healthcare, education, job creation, and housing.  Youth-oriented policies and programs had created new jobs for 1.4 to 1.7 million young workers each year.  For its 9.4 million older persons, which comprised 10.5 per cent of the population, Viet Nam had established institutions, such as the National Committee on Older Persons, and looked forward to the elaboration of an international legal instrument to promote and protect their rights.  Through its family development strategy, the Government had assisted families facing extreme difficulties in rural and mountainous areas.  The Government would strengthen the role of cooperatives in promoting sustainable production and consumption, given their role in the economy over the last 60 years.

SAHEBZADA AHMED KHAN (Pakistan) said the concept and status of social development had entered a new qualitative stage with the adoption of the 2030 Agenda.  Unlike the Millennium Development Goals, the new Agenda explicitly recognised social development as one of the three pillars of sustainable development.  The Sustainable Development Goals, accordingly, had the aim of leaving none behind, and “making no discrimination on the basis of age, sex, disability, caste, ethnicity, religion or belief”.  Goal 10 was particularly significant, as it addressed the reduction of inequalities within and among countries.  He expressed hope that its implementation would accelerate progress towards the achievement of objectives outlined at the Copenhagen World Conference on Social Development.

For information media. Not an official record.