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Seventieth Session,
3rd & 4th Meetings (AM & PM)
GA/SHC/4130

Third Committee’s Youth Delegates Weigh in on Pressing Challenges, Threats, Emphasizing Education as Bedrock of Sustainable Future for All

Education was a human right, the cornerstone of critical thinking and the bedrock of a sustainable future, youth representatives told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today as it concluded its general discussion on social development.

Young people from around the world spoke candidly about the obstacles that they faced, from high suicide rates to rampant extremism, with several speakers lamenting that youth had not been given enough access to education.

With 61 million children worldwide out of school, a youth delegate from Sweden said, it was essential that education reached those in the most vulnerable situations.  “If refugee children and youth do not get their education because they do not have a home,” she stressed, “we will have millions without a future.”

Climate change was another looming threat; two youth delegates from Sri Lanka said “we don’t want to be the first generation to witness the beginning of the end our civilization.”  Underlining the alarming ignorance about that issue among youth in Sri Lanka, they said climate challenges could actually unite the power and energy of youth.  Warning of the consequences of inaction, they said what was required was action from the young people who would mature into adults over the next 15 years.

Many representatives agreed that the new generations must take action.  However, barriers were standing in their way, delegates said.  Some speakers raised similar concerns, including those facing young persons with disabilities.  Two youth delegates from Bulgaria said young people with disabilities needed opportunities to become active agents, rather than recipients.  Policies must ensure their social inclusion and help them realize their potential.  To that end, one possible tool was the introduction of informal educational practices, such as volunteering, they said.

Yet obstacles persisted, some speakers said.  Georgia’s delegate raised concerns about national challenges faced by youth, underlining that with about 400,000 internally displaced people in her country, young people continued to be prevented from exercising their right to education in their own native language.  A youth delegate from Australia summed up a range of issues of concern, including drug and substance abuse, employment and career opportunities, racism and discrimination and youth suicide, the latter growing to epidemic proportions.

Many speakers offered suggestions on how to include youth in the 2030 Agenda.  Indeed, some representatives said that the best way to spark social change was through the youth of any nation.  A youth delegate from Israel said a rigid definition of what constituted a “family” had affected youth.  As a fluid structure, a family unit was connected by love and commitment, she said, rather than by official ties and declarations.  Unfortunately, the struggle for acceptance of different family units was far from over, she continued, underlining that Israeli youth were active on that and other issues related to social development.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Belarus, Honduras, Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, Brazil, Nigeria, Philippines, Dominican Republic, Qatar, Niger, Kenya, Romania, Japan, India, Ecuador, Jordan, Bolivia, Argentina, Ethiopia, South Africa, China, Nepal, Poland, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, Zimbabwe, Eritrea, Ukraine, Maldives, Rwanda, Sudan, United Republic of Tanzania, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Bahrain, Venezuela, Burkina Faso, El Salvador, Kuwait, Panama and Libya as well as the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.  Also delivering statements were representatives of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO).

Delegates from the Russian Federation and Ukraine spoke, in exercise of the right of reply.

The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 8 October, to take up its agenda item on crime prevention and international drug control.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian & Cultural) met this morning to continue its debate on social development.  For background, see Press Release GA/SHC/4129.

Statements

LARYSA BELSKAYA (Belarus) said her Government had developed a strategy for sustainable development based on national priorities and those outlined in United Nations instruments.  Attaching great importance to young people, who would be the future of development, Belarus had taken initiatives aimed at improving access to the labour market and to a decent work.  As one of the challenges Belarus faced was its ageing population, the Government was developing measures to broaden their participation in social life and strengthen their access to jobs and health services.  Underlining the importance of the family unit, she explained that Belarus was implementing policies to better protect it, including discounts for large families to access to cultural events.  Among other efforts, in 2015, Belarus had endorsed inclusive education for persons with disabilities.  Concluding, she stressed that each of the Sustainable Development Goals was important and would only be achieved with regional peace.

ASTRID GUSTAFSSON, a youth delegate from Sweden, said education was a human right and the cornerstone of critical thinking and the development of the individual.  With 61 million children worldwide out of school, youth needed access to quality education.  Education had to reach those in vulnerable situations.  If refugee children and youth did not get their education because they did not have a home, millions would be robbed of their future.  The United Nations had adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and it was now time to put words into action.  Children and youth were depending on the Agenda and expecting it to be taken seriously.

SUYAPA CARIAS (Honduras) said that ever since the adoption of the Millennium Declaration, the Government had undertaken significant measures in line with the adopted goals.  To make progress in poverty eradication, the President had created a platform called “Better Life”, whose programmes covered several areas, including nutrition, decent housing and access to health care and basic education.  The Government had also created local laws and supported international resolutions, which had improved the inclusion of the youth in national dialogue and policymaking.  Despite limited resources and other challenges faced by the country, Honduras had made considerable progress in all areas, she said.

ERDENE SODNOMZUNDUI (Mongolia), associating with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the world was at the beginning of a historic era to end poverty, reduce inequalities and protect the environment.  The Government had always supported the United Nations initiatives on population and development and been committed to implementing them at the national level.  Mongolia had also initiated efforts to increase youth participation in policy-making and to support youth-led projects at all levels.  Further, Mongolia was committed to implementing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol.  Accordingly, the Government had developed the draft law on the rights of persons with disabilities and had submitted it to the Parliament.

TALAIBEK KYDYROV (Kyrgyzstan) said solving the problems related to development was highly relevant at a time of economic crisis.  People living in remote areas had difficulties accessing services, which worsened with climate change threats.  Populations there had to emigrate, which led to them facing additional problems and challenges to their well-being.  One third of the population comprised young people, he noted, and the Government had taken measures to strengthen their social inclusion.  Similarly, the Government had taken measures to address the needs of older persons, who made up 7 per cent of the population.  On education, he said there were high levels of literacy in the country and the Government had decided to invest into building schools in rural areas, in accordance with its commitment to ensure access to education for all.

ANTONIO DE AGUIAR PATRIOTA (Brazil) underlined the importance of ensuring social development for the most vulnerable groups, such as older persons, persons with disabilities and the youth.  Expressing regret that explicit reference to the rights of elder persons in core international human rights treaties had remained scarce, he called for the adoption of a legally-binding international instrument on ageing.  The full realization of the rights of persons with disabilities was also one of Brazil’s top priorities, he said, and the inclusion of that issue was one of the great achievements of the 2030 Agenda.  Turning to youth, he explained that efforts toward their social inclusion could not be successful without fulfilling the basic needs of the young: health, education, decent work and the realization of the right to freedom from fear and from discrimination.  As with older persons, the legal framework to promote and protect the rights of youth was insufficient.  To conclude, he explained that Brazil had made important achievements in reducing inequalities, thanks to a framework of social protection measures.

AMINA SMAILA (Nigeria), aligning with the “Group of 77” and the African Group, welcomed the attention afforded to social development in the Sustainable Development Goals.  Empowerment was critical to addressing poverty and unemployment, she said, adding that along with social integration and inclusiveness, it was among the fundamental objectives and directive principles of Nigeria’s Constitution.  Her Government welcomed strengthening the Commission for Social Development as a potential forum for following up the social dimensions of the new Goals.  For its part, Nigeria had incorporated the interests of persons with disabilities in national development plans and was creating a new all-inclusive social welfare policy to address their developmental needs and those of orphans, vulnerable children and the elderly.  The main objective was to provide a comprehensive social welfare programme to check the growing menace of street begging and address the plight of the aged and other vulnerable groups.  Turning to the issue of youth, she said her Government had established a Federal Ministry of Youth Development in 2007 and created structures and programmes for youth empowerment and entrepreneurship.

MARIAM SIKHARULIDZE, a youth delegate from Georgia, said disrespect for the fundamental principles of international law, human rights and basic freedoms in domestic affairs had significantly contributed to a dangerous erosion of trust between nations and peoples.  That, in turn, had played a pivotal role in the radicalization of youth in certain parts of the world.  Her country was robustly engaged with a range of counterterrorism-related issues, she said.  With about 400,000 internally displaced people in her country, she expressed concern that the youth among them were being prevented from exercising their right to education in their own native language.

IRENE SUSAN BARREIRO NATIVIDAD (Philippines), aligning with the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the “Group of 77”, recalled that 2014 had marked the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family.  The family was the foundation of the Philippines, she said, describing a conditional cash transfer programme targeting families that were most vulnerable to poverty.  The programme had reached some 4.4 million households, including 660,000 indigenous peoples’ households and an additional 220,000 that had at least one person with a disability.  The Philippines had high rates of school attendance and strong maternal health ratios.  In the area of work-family balance, the country had introduced a programme aiming to enhance and strengthen parenting capabilities of fathers in performing familial tasks and responsibilities, helping them to achieve an active and equal role with their spouses in fostering the optimal development of their children and to take a leadership in the community.

YARDEN HOLZER, a youth delegate from Israel, said the best way to spark social change was through the youth of any nation.  Israel raised youth awareness about social development needs and empowered its young people to challenge conventional paradigms and the status quo.  One of the key social issues affecting youth today was the rigid definition of what constituted a “family”.  A family unit was a fluid structure, connected by love and commitment, rather than by official ties and declarations.  Unfortunately, the struggle for acceptance of different family units was far from over, she said, adding that “in Israel, we strive for greater acceptance of a family however it chooses to define itself.”  Turning to the rights of persons with disabilities, she described several organizations, including the Israeli Scouts, that had unique programmes allowing youth with disabilities to join.  Concluding, she said that Israel strived to ensure engagement between its youth and it elderly, for the benefit of society as a whole.

MILDRED GUZMAN (Dominican Republic) said implementing the 2030 Agenda would require States to make efforts to address social inequalities.  It was timely to link the pillars of the Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development with the new Agenda.  Nationally, initiatives had been taken by the Government to strengthen access to education and health for all, she said, including young people and persons with disabilities.  The Office of the First Lady of the Dominican Republic was playing an important role in that regard.  The Government had also programmes and policies to help older persons, protecting them from violence, discrimination and social exclusion.  In addition, the Dominican Republic supported United Nations initiatives aimed at empowering young people and promoting their involvement into the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

ANINA YOVKOVA and DIMITAR DIMITROV, (Bulgaria), said young people with disabilities needed opportunities to become active agents, rather than recipients, of policies designed by others to ensure their social inclusion and to help them realise their potential.  One possible tool was the introduction of informal educational practices, such as volunteering.  Many Member States had identified different types of informal training and volunteering as efficient tools for motivating people to acquire useful skills that increased their employability and inspired them to engage in lifelong learning.  For their part, youth delegates and their team of volunteers had launched an initiative to promote better communication between young Bulgarians and refugees in the country.  It could encourage more young people to participate as volunteers and activities related to refugees’ integration in society and help refugees form hopeful bonds, they said.

ALANOUD QASSIM M. A. AL-TEMIMI (Qatar) said increasing participation of young people in the job market was a cornerstone for social development.  The Government had taken a number of steps to invest in young people and ensure their participation in decision making.  To prevent terrorism and address its root causes, the Government was working with partners, including the Government of Jordan and the United Nations, on research into that issue.  For its part, Qatar had a national strategy to become an advanced country and to provide high living standards for its citizens, she said, also underlining the role played by the family in the development of her country.

HALIMATOU DJIBO SADDY (Niger) said inequalities continued to persist in her country.  The population growth rate was the highest in the world, at 3.9 per cent.  With that in mind, the country needed more social services and employment opportunities for its people.  Further, lack of enough natural resources made it difficult to meet the population’s many needs.  To address domestic challenges, the Government had initiated support programmes, including cash transfers and the distribution of basic commodities.

ANTHONY ANDANJE (Kenya) said the transformative new Agenda sought to advance prosperity, secure the planet’s liveability and create a more equitable world for future generations.  Despite progress, tackling inequalities remained challenging for developing countries.  The Kenyan Government had implemented national programmes to enhance the participation of women, youth, persons with disabilities and elder persons.  It had also achieved great progress in combatting child mortality, HIV/AIDS and malaria.  Social progress could only be realised through the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, he noted, and international cooperation was an important aspect of the implementation of the new Agenda.  Among its efforts in that regard, the Government had introduced indicators to better measure the effectiveness of its policies in targeting persons with disabilities.  The Kenya National Youth Council had provided a voice for the youth and the new Constitution promoted their participation in the decision-making process.  Among the remaining challenges, he said was tackling youth unemployment.

DAVID TIMIȘ and ANCA AGACHI, youth delegates from Romania, said young people were at the forefront of building a better world.  Education, employment and civic engagement were key.  In Romania, significant discrepancies in education had been identified between rural and urban areas.  For graduates, entering the job market remained a difficult step due to a skills gap and lack of career counselling.  Youth-oriented policies were needed to make joining the job market easier and to foster entrepreneurship.  Civic engagement was crucial, but young people needed to be better informed and empowered in order to be part of the process.  One example of good practices was in the Romanian city of Timisoara, which had set up its own youth strategy, implemented a youth advisory board and organized regular consultations with young people.  By being proactive citizens, youth could become role models for their communities.

ARINO YAGUCHI (Japan) said the 2030 Agenda concept of “leaving no one behind” was aligned with the notion of human security.  Japan had ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in January 2014.  The country had engaged in international cooperation where persons with disabilities had an active role as specialists, instead of treating them merely as subjects to be protected, she said.  Japan had also nominated Professor Jun Ishikawa, an authority on the rights of persons with disabilities, as a candidate for the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2016.  With respect to ageing, she said that persons over the age of 65 comprised 26 per cent of the country’s total population, making Japan one of the most “aged” countries in the world.  It was important for the international community to cooperate on the issue of ageing, she said, noting that Japan was already engaged in efforts to improve the access to employment and their work environment and to combat discriminatory dismissal.  Japan would engage in the achievement of the empowerment of all individuals, including women, persons with disabilities, youth, older persons and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, she concluded.

BHAGWANT SINGH BISHNOI (India) described how his country’s approach to social integration over the past 70 years had been based on ensuring that social development was accessible to all.  Measures undertaken by India had included banking access for 170 million people and new social protection schemes in the insurance sector.  The Government had made water and sanitation a priority and had launched initiatives in a number of areas, including efforts to bridge the digital divide, provide skills training and to help families break the cycle of intergenerational poverty.  There was no “one size fits all” solution for social development, but overcoming funding gaps in developing countries was only possible if funding was led by official development assistance from developed countries.

DIEGO ALONSO TITUAÑA MATANGO (Ecuador) said the Government was working tirelessly to create income equality within society.  The concerned policies and programmes were based on a multidimensional approach, ensuring its citizens lived in dignity in harmony with nature.  Ecuador had made historic investments in health and education, recognised collective action, and raised awareness in public issues, as well as in social, political and economic rights.  Looking at the Millennium Development Goals, it was disappointing to see that the targets had not been met yet.  Accordingly, he called upon all Member States to work together to put an end to poverty.

MUAZ MOHAMAD A-K AL-OTOOM (Jordan) said the fight against poverty had been one of the priority issues for his country.  Noting that poverty was a development problem, he said that all Governments must improve the living conditions for their citizens.  Currently, Jordan was experiencing growing refugee flow to its country.  To address their needs, the Government had provided access to education and health services.

INGRID SABJA (Bolivia) reiterated her country’s firm commitment to social inclusion as one of the basic prerequisites to achieving social development.  In Bolivia, the oil industry had been nationalized, leading to improvements in the economic situation, illustrated by the country’s 5 per cent economic growth rate.  Bolivia had put an end to free-market and liberal policies and could therefore put an end to extreme poverty.  Those new policies had been undertaken for the benefit of the people, including children and the youth.  Bolivia had indeed increased investment in education and reduced illiteracy, with help from Cuba and Venezuela.  Bolivia had also improved health for women and mothers, decreased the rates of maternal and child mortality and improved the situation of indigenous families.  In addition, the Government had strengthened access to housing, water and sanitation and taken measures to help older people by bolstering their access to labour and education.  A national policy on ageing had been set to ensure that older persons had a life in dignity, she concluded.

ARIEL DAVID GONZÁLEZ SERAFINI (Argentina) said national efforts had focused on full social development inclusive of all.  The Government was committed to implementing the new Agenda, including through policies to increase access to health services, including sexual and reproductive health.  Argentina had prioritized the protection of indigenous peoples’ rights and the rights of marginalized groups and would continue to focus on development in a people-centred way.  The protection of the rights of older persons was a crucial issue, he said, noting that the elderly needed greater protection worldwide.  With regard to the existing international legal framework, there was a soft law and various levels of implementation.  Only a true legally-binding instrument would fully allow for a better protection of the rights of older persons.

FESSEHA A. TESSEMA (Ethiopia), associating with the African Group and the “Group of 77”, said there had been uneven progress between regions with regard to implementing the objectives of the Copenhagen Declaration.  Billions of people around the world still lived below the poverty line.  In Ethiopia, the Government had focused on poverty eradication for the last decade.  As such, poverty levels had fallen to 33 per cent in 2011 from 44 per cent in 2000.  Investment in “pro-poor sectors” and agriculture had been major factors towards economic growth and poverty reduction.  Increased investment in education and health had resulted in better human development indicators and there had been a decline in urban unemployment for men and women.  Ethiopia strongly believed that an inclusive society was vital for the social progress of all Ethiopians.

ZANDILE BHENGU (South Africa) said her Government had made priorities to eradicate poverty and inequalities.  To empower society’s most vulnerable groups, South Africa had adopted programmes and policies to strengthen social development, including measures to address the needs of children and to eradicate malnutrition.  The Government was also currently revising legislation on the situation of older persons and supported the adoption a legally-binding international instrument to protect their rights.  Her delegation also attached great importance to the recognition of the crucial role played by the family unit.  Ensuring the best possible education, access to employment, health and social inclusion were priorities for the realization of the development Agenda, she concluded.

YAO SHAOJUN (China) said comprehensive and inclusive social development should be promoted.  Widening gaps between the rich and the poor were obstacles to development.  As such, reforms and innovations were needed for both development and growth.  The new Agenda offered important guidance to national efforts for social development.  Going forward, international cooperation should be strengthened and gaps and inequalities between countries should be addressed to enable all to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.  For its part, China had taken measures to ensure access to rehabilitation services for persons with disabilities and had also made great efforts to increase access to employment and the quality of education.

SEWA LAMSAL ADHIKARI (Nepal) welcomed the reports of the Secretary-General and the recommendations towards strengthening the capacity of least developed countries while addressing their special needs and challenges.  On social development, Nepal had been implementing various national plans of action in line with the principles of the Copenhagen Declaration, the International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action and the Beijing Platform of Action.  Further, Nepal attached great importance to the issue of social protection.  National social security programmes might not be sufficient, yet they covered senior citizens, widows, deprived ethnic and indigenous groups, persons with disabilities and incapacitated persons.  The Government was also committed to ensuring that all children, particularly girls, those in difficult circumstances and those belonging to ethnic minorities, had access to free and compulsory education.

JOANNA SZTANDERA and WERONIKA SZWAJDA, youth delegates from Poland, said meeting the needs of a rapidly changing labour market had proven to be one of the main challenges for social development in recent years.  It was up to international organizations to set exemplary standards with regard to internships and graduate employment.  A better future for everyone could be attained by opening school curriculums to an information technology-oriented and flexible syllabus, encouraging educators to enhance their teaching methods and recognizing the potential within each individual.

MASNI ERIZA (Indonesia) said the Millennium Development Goals had improved lives and taught Member States important lessons on ending poverty and prompting sustainable development.  The 2030 Agenda was the international community’s commitment to invest more in the people and the planet, reducing inequalities and unemployment, providing social protection to all and empowering women and girls.  The Third Committee must spare no effort to contribute meaningfully to the implementation of the Agenda, he said.  That demanded a multisectoral approach as all the Goals were interconnected.  Indonesia had just mainstreamed the new Agenda into its domestic framework and was committed to pro-poor, pro-job, pro-growth and pro-environment policies.  The Government had been bolstering access to health, education and decision-making processes for the youth and was committed to further invest for education.  The Government was also focused on providing older persons with an enabling supportive environment, enhancing their health and well-being and ensuring their active participation in development.  It would be constructive to establish an intergenerational dialogue, which could better serve the need to develop a comprehensive and integrated approach to the shifting population structure.

ABULKALAM ABDUL MOMEN (Bangladesh) said the eradication of poverty and empowerment were top development priorities for his Government.  In efforts to realize that national Vision 2021 for a poverty-free and prosperous country, it had adopted a policy centred on poverty eradication, education, skills development, the elimination of discrimination and extremism, inclusion, participation and employment generation.  Bangladesh had invested heavily in education and skills development for youth, aspiring to transform the vast young population into human resources.  The family unit was fundamental to ensuring the rights of development for vulnerable groups such as the elderly and persons with disabilities.  National polices also focused on empowering specific members of the family, he said, pointing to a newly adopted act aimed at ensuring parents’ rights in their old age.  Climate change, however, was hampering his country’s path towards sustainable social development and posed an “existential threat”.  In that regard, Bangladesh looked forward to the fruitful outcome of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, to be held in Paris.

KHAIRUL ARIFFIN AJI (Brunei Darussalam) highlighted his country’s initiatives vis-à-vis the elderly, with 2015 marking the sixtieth anniversary of Brunei Darussalam’s old age pension scheme.  The Government had, in January 2010, raised the retirement age to 60 from 55.  Two activity centres for the elderly had been set up by the Government in cooperation with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and private individuals, and special counters or “fast lanes” had been introduced at hospitals.  While the elderly enjoyed a good standard of living, challenges remained, such as reaching them in remote areas.  Strong and stable families were, therefore, crucial and in that regard the Government had established programmes to strengthen and empower families in caring for the elderly.  Promoting the well-being and protection of the elderly would be more important than ever before with the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, he concluded.

FREDERICK MUSIIWA MAKAMURE SHAVA (Zimbabwe) said the Government had already begun transforming its economy to enhance industrialization, sustainable growth, infrastructure development and the creation of full employment and decent work for all.  Noting that young people constituted 41 per cent of the population and 59 per cent of the labour force, he said addressing unemployment was a priority for Zimbabwe.  The Government was already implementing the third generation of its Decent Work Programme, with a view to address those and other national concerns.  As part of the implementation process, Zimbabwe had cooperated with the local private sector, workers’ representatives and the International Labour Organization (ILO) to establish the “Skills for Youth” programme, which would promote community-based technical and vocational skills development and expand training to groups that were often disadvantaged.

ZEBIB GEBREKIDAN (Eritrea), associating with the “Group of 77”, said her country’s vision of social development was anchored in promoting social justice, with the objective of empowering all its citizens irrespective of gender, creed, nationality, geographic location, age, physical condition or social status.  Having devoted more than half of its annual budget to education, the availability of free education had accorded better opportunities to all communities.  Creating more economic opportunities and curbing “illegal migration” were among the challenges her Government was currently dealing with, she said.

IGOR BONDIUK (Ukraine), aligning with the European Union, said that his country had managed to improve its health system over the past year and remained committed to ensuring the right to education.  Social development, however, faced serious challenges today as a result of the Russian Federation’s aggression and illegal occupation of the Crimean Peninsula.  Thousands had been killed or displaced and social and environmental challenges had emerged.  He underlined the importance of Ukraine’s territorial integrity.  Despite the difficult economic situation, funds had been allocated to social issues, and the Government remained committed to protecting human rights and social development.

SHEA SPIERINGS, a youth delegate from Australia, said it was crucial for the international community to harness the positive impact of education on people both young and old.  Young Australians had concerns about drug and substance abuse, employment and career opportunities, racism and discrimination, mental health and gender equality.  Youth suicide, particularly among indigenous communities, had been growing to epidemic proportions and youth homelessness was a challenge as well.  Quality education systems could answer many such seemingly intractable social issues.  A greater focus on grass-roots community education was needed to empower young people.  Youth in Australia were resilient, determined and driven to participate in social and political processes, he concluded.

NAUSHALYA RAJAPAKSHA and THILINA PANDUWAWALA, youth delegates from Sri Lanka, said their country had always put youth at the heart of development.  Its Government considered youth skill development as a key to reducing youth unemployment and promoting ethnic reconciliation.  They pointed out that 80 per cent of youth in Sri Lanka had only “a fair knowledge” of sexual and reproductive health and mental health services and many did not know where such services were available.  Turning to the new Agenda, they said the Sustainable Development Goals could not be achieved by Governments spending billions of dollars that they did not have.  What was required was action from the young people who would mature into adults over the next 15 years.  Youth had a role in solving issues that concerned them.  It would not help if they were demoralized by a lack of space for civic engagement or policy advocacy.  The empowerment of youth required an effective use of State resources.  With regard to climate change, ignorance among youth in Sri Lanka about the issue was alarming.  Climate change was a concern that could unite the power and energy of youth, they concluded, emphasizing that “we don’t want to be the first generation to witness the beginning of the end our civilization”.

FARZANA ZAHIR (Maldives), associating with the “Group of 77”, said her Government was committed to translating the internationally agreed Sustainable Development Goals into the domestic sphere through a strategically envisioned national mechanism.  Empowering young people remained essential to achieving the developmental aspirations of any developing country.  Reviewing recent domestic legislation related to youth, women, vulnerable groups and elderly persons, she noted that building resilient societies through sustainable adaptation mechanisms to counter the effects of climate change would be fundamental to the survival and viability of small island developing States such as the Maldives.

JEANNE D’ARC BYAJE (Rwanda) underscored the significance of social development and human well-being as a high priority.  Promoting development was a collective responsibility and it was undeniably important to emphasize peacekeeping and peacebuilding as means to ensure that gains were not lost.  For sustainable development to go forward, citizen ownership of planning and implementation was key.  Many sectors of the population in Rwanda were vulnerable to poverty, including genocide survivors.  Despite tangible gains, the Government would redouble its efforts.  With young people accounting for more than 60 per cent of the population, Rwanda would focus on youth employment.  The long-term strategy was geared toward transforming itself into a middle-income knowledge-based economy by 2020.  To that end, the private sector would play a major role by undertaking large investments.  Rwanda would continue to rise to the challenge of building a more prosperous and equitable world.

MOHAMED IBRAHIM MOHAMED ELBAHI (Sudan), associating with the statements made by the “Group of 77” and the African Group, said grave challenges facing the world had shed a bleak light on the future of social development.  Political stability was the cornerstone to building a safe society.  In that regard, Sudan had been engaging in a comprehensive national dialogue that had led to the formation of a Sudanese Constitution in 2005.  In an attempt to fulfil the commitments of the Copenhagen Declaration, the Government had drafted a national plan for eradicating poverty that included assistance for university graduates, the expansion of education and literacy and special attention for the poor in rural and remote areas.  What was needed now was a deepening of international cooperation, free of any conditions that would slow the pace of development.  Sudan called for the lifting of “blatant sanctions” imposed on several developing countries that had gravely affected the livelihood of citizens.

RAMADHAN MWINYI (United Republic of Tanzania), aligning with the “Group of 77”, said his Government continued to implement the Copenhagen Plan of Action through various national programmes.  In that vein, it had established formal structures and institutions that permitted and encouraged meaningful participation.  It had also set up a decentralization programme to delegate powers to local authorities to ensure the participation of people in decision-making processes and implemented policies devoted to vulnerable groups, including the youth, the elderly, the family and persons with disabilities.  Education was among the country’s priority sectors geared towards leading its development.  As such, more primary and secondary schools had been established and enrolment had increased.  Despite those gains, the quality of education continued to be a challenge.  Recognizing that developing the agricultural sector was essential to provide full employment and curb poverty in rural areas, the Government had developed a multisectoral programme aimed at modernizing and improving production and productivity in that sector.  The Government was also committed to promoting the welfare of older persons and had developed related mechanisms and policies.  The Government was also committed to the protection and empowerment of persons with disabilities.

MAYTHONG THAMMAVONGSA (Lao People’s Democratic Republic), aligning with the “Group of 77” and ASEAN, said his country’s achievements in addressing poverty eradication, education for all, health and employment had demonstrated its commitment to social development.  Its poverty rate had declined to 17 per cent in 2014 from 49 per cent in 1990.  Going forward, the Government was taking various steps that would keep annual economic growth at 8 per cent or better.  Education was a key to success and youth represented the future of the country.  In that regard, every effort was being made towards universal primary education as well as higher enrolment rates at the secondary and tertiary levels.  While agriculture was the predominant sector, there had been progress in other areas, including manufacturing, mining, hydroelectric power, construction and tourism.  The Government was therefore promoting technical and vocational education to upgrade the skills of the work force.

HAYA ALROWAIEI (Bahrain) said human rights were a priority for the United Nations since the adoption of the Charter 70 years ago.  In that respect, Bahrain had been keen to provide welfare and human rights to its citizens without discrimination, including persons with disabilities.  Bahrain’s Constitution protected all rights, she said, and the country was a party to international human rights instruments and regional conventions on the rights of persons with disabilities.  The Government had taken a number of steps, including the provision of fully integrated services, and ensuring they were given priority with regard to access to employment.  People were also legally bound to provide support to persons with disabilities.  In addition, the Ministry of Education had given attention to persons with disabilities and had promoted their integration rather than their isolation. 

ANA CAROLINA RODRIGUEZ DE FEBRES-CORDERO (Venezuela) said the 2030 Agenda provided a new opportunity for States to strengthen their efforts towards the realization of development goals.  For its part, Venezuela had reached one of the highest education enrolment rates in the world and had considerably reduced illiteracy.  A housing programme had been adopted and efforts had been made in terms of access to health and to employment.  Venezuela had ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and had undertaken initiatives and policies for the protection of the rights of the youth.  To conclude, she called for poor and vulnerable people to be at the centre of all Governments’ policies to achieve social development.

MYRIAM AMAN SOULAMA (Burkina Faso), aligning with the “Group of 77” and China and the African Group, drew attention to the transition now underway in her country following the popular uprising of 30 and 31 October 2014, which had reflected deep aspirations for justice, equality, good governance and peace.  The Government had adopted a socioeconomic programme that considered the concerns of youth and women and also addressed education and health issues.  The authorities were also addressing the situation of persons with disabilities and judicial and institutional measures for the protection of vulnerable groups had taken groups, including elderly persons, into account.  A multisectoral study had been initiated to define a national strategy for the protection and promotion of the rights of older persons.  Responses to social development questions were almost similar throughout the world and Burkina Faso stood ready to share its experiences with others, she concluded.

RUBEN ZAMORA (El Salvador) recognized that challenges remained in combatting poverty, addressing gaps among developed and developing countries and ensuring advances in social development.  His country committed to social development and had made progress on the methodology of measuring poverty.  That would allow the Government to better address the needs of the population.  Indeed, poverty affected different people in different ways.  Combatting poverty and exclusion should have a universal focus while bearing in mind the specific needs of vulnerable groups, he said.  Continuing, he welcomed the Secretary-General’s focus on the rights of older persons and stressed his country’s determination to strengthen efforts to ensure the social inclusion of the elderly.  Youth were also a crucial driver of development.  As such, El Salvador had adopted policies and programmes to support its youth, combat delinquency and promote their access to education.

ALIA ABDULLAH A Y ALMUZAINI (Kuwait) noted the Secretary-General’s reports on social development and the recently adopted 2030 Agenda.  Social development issues, including the eradication of poverty and hunger, were important elements of the Agenda.  As recommended by the Secretary-General, steps had to be taken to mainstream ageing throughout public policies, she said.  In the area of youth, she explained that her country had implemented initiatives and projects to protect and empower youth.  Kuwait also provided health services to all its citizens.  She then called on the international community to pay attention to social development issues worldwide and particularly to the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

DESIRÉE DEL CARMEN CEDEÑO RENGIFO (Panama), aligning with the “Group of 77” and the Community of Latin America and Caribbean States (CELAC), said her country had made great progress in reducing poverty, thanks to social policies it had put in place in recent years.  The number of people living on less than one dollar a day had been reduced by half.  But, there was still a need to improve social indicators.  Building community leadership was key.  The family was the core unit of society and, in that regard, Panama appealed to Member States to adopt measures to ensure the well-being of families.  Panama was pleased to have included, for the first time, young people in its delegation to the current General Assembly.  Panama was committed to setting out strategies and programmes for the most vulnerable groups in society, she said.

JASEM K. S. HARARI (Libya), endorsing the statements of the “Group of 77” and the African Group, said the global financial crisis, unemployment, violence and terrorism had all had an impact on social development in different countries.  Libya was pleased to see the adoption of the post-2015 Agenda, which represented a guide for Member States to follow.  Improving the situation of families and ensuring greater involvement of women in decision making were priority areas.  Libya was committed to the rights of persons with disabilities.  Indeed, it was among the first to say, in the 1980s, that such rights should be included in the United Nations agenda.  Libya was striving to create a new society, he said, expressing hope that his country would become a new democracy with successful development.

NICOLA TEGON of the Permanent Observer Mission of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta said his delegation had been following the 2030 Agenda’s pledge of “leaving no one behind”, with a focus on the forgotten, most vulnerable in society — children, the elderly and persons with disabilities.  For its part, the Order had established, in 2011, the Global Fund for Forgotten People and had made approximately 40 grants a year for projects around the world, helping people live healthy and dignified lives.  Every year the Order had organized an international summer camp in Europe for the young persons with disabilities and had operated annual national-level camps.  Since 1984, more than 5,000 young persons and children with disabilities, from all over the world, had participated.  The Order also directed numerous specialized centres for the elderly and it would continue to work by helping those in need in partnership with the United Nations community, he concluded.

DANIELLE LARRABEE of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said one of the greatest achievements of the 2030 Agenda was its focus on the most vulnerable and marginalized and the need to integrate the rights, needs and voices of such groups — both in times of peace and in times of emergency.  Representing 189 National Societies and 17 million volunteers, her organization was trained and mobilized to respond primarily to the needs of their own communities.  For example, some 11,000 IFRC volunteers were active in Syria.  Youth were both major beneficiaries and contributors to the organization’s work.  Constituting half of its volunteer force, youth received skills training and participated actively in the governance, management and leadership of National Societies.  She stressed the need for financial resources as well as cooperation to ensure the safety and security of volunteers who were delivering humanitarian assistance.

CARLA MUCAVI of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced that “Social Protection and Agriculture: breaking the cycle of rural poverty” was the theme of the thirty-fifth World Food Day on 16 October.  Coinciding with the seventieth anniversary of the FAO, the theme had been chosen in order to draw global attention to the role social protection played in eradicating hunger and poverty.  Although economic growth was key to reducing poverty and malnutrition, enhancing productivity of smallholder family farms was key to progress.  Social protection directly contributed to the reduction of poverty and hunger by promoting income security and access to better nutrition, health care and education.  Experience had shown that social protection programmes in many countries had come at relatively low cost, she said.

KEVIN CASSIDY of the International Labour Organization (ILO) considered the adoption of the 2030 Agenda as an affirmation and victory for social development.  Highlighting its importance and integral role alongside economic and environmental development issues, he said the prominence of “inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all” in the Agenda, together with other important goals and targets, took the legacy of the Millennium Development Goals to a more robust and universal vision of development.  The Secretary-General’s report had implored Member States to recognize that “core labour standards of the International Labour Organization must be implemented in all countries.”  He also recalled that the ILO had recently adopted the first ever international labour standard, which specifically aimed at tackling the informal economy and helping hundreds of millions of workers move out into the formal economy.  While the global employment landscape was showing some warning signs for growth and job creation, challenges remained in addressing high unemployment and stagnant wages.  Policies should be adopted to strengthen labour market institutions, improve employment opportunities and improve job quality, he said, highlighting that the ILO would launch, on 8 October, a new report on the global youth unemployment rate since the global economic and financial crisis had stabilized at 13 per cent.  Although economic growth was necessary to eradicate poverty and advance the Agenda, it had to be inclusive, generate decent jobs and respect planetary boundaries.

Right of Reply

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of the Russian Federation referred to a humanitarian situation in southeast Ukraine resulting from “targeted action” by the authorities in that country, in which “peaceful citizens” had been the victims.  An economic blockade imposed by Kyiv was hindering access to food, water and medicine.  Drawing attention to humanitarian aid being provided by his country, he encouraged his counterpart from Ukraine to refrain from distorting the truth and to concentrate on working towards a sustainable peace.

The delegate from of Ukraine, exercising the right of reply, said his country had been suffering from aggression on the part of a Member State that was a member of the Security Council.  That country had surrounded itself with hotspots and frozen conflicts and had forgotten about the plight of ordinary people.  The Russian Federation had annexed Crimea and told “open untruths” to the international community.  Ukraine would continue to talk about the facts concerning a war that was being waged against his country and would do so until the Russian Federation withdrew.

For information media. Not an official record.