Speakers Focus on Greater Solidarity with World’s Most Vulnerable People, Unequal Economic Progress, Need to Empower Youth, as Third Committee Opens Session
Casting an overview of challenges facing social development - ranging from inequalities in employment through specific issues facing rural populations - the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) began its work today, with delegates calling for closer international cooperation and solidarity with the world’s most vulnerable groups.
Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, stressed in opening remarks that implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals would require transformative leadership and national ownership of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. He reminded the Committee that not all regions had shared equally in the progress made. Moreover, economic inequality was rife both between countries and within them. Sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia had not shared in the gains, he added.
As delegates began their debate on social development, several addressed the issue of inequality, with Thailand’s representative, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, welcoming the continuing focus on youth. Noting that young people comprised more than 60 per cent of the Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM) population the representative of the Bahamas stressed on behalf of that grouping the need for greater investment in youth if the region was to achieve sustainable development.
Youth development and empowerment were also central to African development, said Angola’s representative, on behalf of the African Group. Greater investment in young people would allow the continent to harness the demographic dividend and address the inequalities at the root of many global challenges. The representative of the European Union, meanwhile, underlined the importance of ensuring the rights and well-being of older people, urging Governments to take steps to address age discrimination. On that point, the representative of the Philippines, speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said the bloc had adopted the Kuala Lumpur Declaration on Ageing last year.
Several youth delegates also advocated solution-oriented approaches. Finland’s youth representative underlined the transformative potential of start-up culture, a thread also picked up by two youth representatives from Bulgaria, who said that technology and innovations were essential for achieving sustainable results with global impact. The international community must support social entrepreneurship among young people, they emphasized.
The Committee also engaged in a brief interactive dialogue with Venketa Subbarao Ilapavuluri, Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and Daniela Bas, Director for Social Policy and Development in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, who introduced their respective reports.
Meeting the Sustainable Development Goals - for everyone at all ages - required identifying who had been left behind and in what ways, Ms. Bas said, adding that leaving no one behind required special measures that called for institutional change. While progress had been made, further efforts were needed to ensure the monitoring of the 2030 Agenda to be inclusive of people with disabilities.
Mr. Ilapavuluri said the UNESCO report also noted the importance of a specific focus on marginalised groups. He called on Governments to scale up innovative literacy programmes for children, youth and adults with particular attention to persons with disabilities and those in humanitarian emergencies.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Djibouti, Eritrea, Dominican Republic (on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), Egypt (on behalf of the Group of Friends of the Family), Paraguay, Kuwait, Switzerland, United States, Philippines, India, Argentina, Mexico, Austria, Brazil, Cuba, Morocco, Slovenia, Nicaragua, Libya, Peru, Bolivia, Belarus, Viet Nam, Russian Federation, Colombia, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Republic of Korea, Norway, Syria, Maldives (on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States), Ecuador, Tunisia, Chile, Guatemala and the Netherlands.
The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 5 October, to continue its debate on social development.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this morning to adopt its work programme for the session and begin its discussion on social development. Before it was the first report of the General Committee on the Organization of the seventy-first regular session of the General Assembly, adoption of the agenda and allocation of items (document A/71/250).
Also before the Committee were reports of the Secretary-General on the realization of internationally agreed development goals for persons with disabilities (document A/71/214); implementation of the objectives of the International Year of the Family and its follow-up processes (document A/71/61-E/2016/7); and a note of the Secretary-General transmitting the report of the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization on literacy for life: shaping future agendas (document A/71/177).
The Committee also had before it a note by the Secretariat on the World Social Situation 2016: Leaving No One Behind - the Imperative of Inclusive Development (document A/71/188).
MARÍA EMMA MEJÍA VÉLEZ (Colombia), Chair of the Third Committee, said that through its resolutions, the Committee must consolidate progress in guaranteeing civil and political rights. All those rights accrued to all persons without discrimination and no one should be left behind. She said she would work for greater cooperation with the human rights system bodies and mechanisms and the Human Rights Council, and hoped to “breathe new life” into issues of crime prevention. The appointment of a goodwill ambassador on trafficking in persons had had a profound effect on those who had seen her message. Indeed, the work agenda for the Third Committee would be complex, and delegates must reach agreements which would have positive effects on people’s lives.
In that context, she underlined her own identity as a Colombian and Latin American woman, noting that her compatriots had seen the “joy and difficulties” of a recently agreed peace agreement. Peace had been elusive, but the international community could not lose the opportunity or the progress that had been so hard-won, she said. It would take more time and more will, but legitimacy would be gained. Thanking the international community for its solidarity and support for Colombia’s search for peace, she said that, with a view to the future of that country and the region, commitment for building a more inclusive world would guide the work of the Third Committee.
The representative of Djibouti requested that the Committee agenda be revised to include an oral presentation on the human rights situation in Eritrea. His delegation had submitted such a request, however, the change had not been included and he asked that the agenda be modified accordingly.
The Secretariat representative responded that the commission requested could not be invited to present to the Committee because it was no longer in existence.
The representative of Eritrea said his understanding concurred with that of the Secretariat, and underlined its lack of opposition to the list of mandate-holders. There were no grounds for the Committee to get a briefing from former members of a Commission of Inquiry.
The representative of Djibouti’s delegate, taking note of the Secretariat’s commentary, disagreed, saying the resolution had called for an oral update to be provided on the human rights situation in Eritrea. The Secretariat was called on to include the item on the agenda.
The list of special mandate holders was then approved, and the Chair said she would consult with the Office of Legal Affairs on the issue raised by Djibouti’s representative.
WU HUNGBO, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, stressed the need to implement the Sustainable Development Goals in their entirety. That process would require transformative leadership and national ownership of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It was crucial that efforts focus on strengthening institutions and making them more inclusive. The success of the Agenda also hinged on the ability to foster policy coherence and integration.
He reminded the Committee of the great progress that had been made towards sustainable development over the past two decades – in health, nutrition and school enrolment – but regretted that not all regions had shared equally in that progress. Moreover, economic inequality was rife both between countries and within them. Sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia had not shared in that progress. More needed to be done to support families and protect the rights of indigenous people, persons with disabilities, the elderly, women and children.
DANIELA BAS, Director of the Division for Social Policy and Development in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introduced three reports under the Committee’s agenda item on social development, and a note by the Secretariat. The reports presented recent initiatives based on information contributed by Governments and organizations of persons with disabilities, and presented many positive initiatives, while noting that the international community was still at the beginning of achieving internationally agreed goals for persons with disabilities. While progress had been made, further efforts were needed to ensure the monitoring of the Agenda for Sustainable Development to be inclusive.
She said the Secretariat’s note on the world social situation in 2016 provided an overview of the world social situation. Meeting the Sustainable Development Goals for all at all ages required identifying who had been left behind and in what ways. The full report on the situation examined patterns of social exclusion and found that some people were excluded from access to resources and had little voice in political processes. The report also argued that promoting social inclusion required, among other measures, those to facilitate participation. A universal approach was the key to development. Leaving no one behind also required special measures and called for institutional change. A growing body of evidence pointed to family policies contributing to poverty reduction. The report emphasised that gender equality started in families and must be secured in access to justice and fair family laws. The report called attention to violations of women’s and children’s rights within families as insufficiently addressed by the legislative framework.
VENKETA SUBBARAO ILAPAVULURI, Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), reviewed the findings of his organization’s report, “Literacy for Life: Shaping Future Agendas”. He stressed that literacy was a development accelerator, contributing to efforts to realize an equitable, inclusive and sustainable world. UNESCO had supported some 40 countries in building institutional capacity in literacy, placing particular emphasis on literacy for women and girls. Innovations, such as digital learning, were a key component of UNESCO’s approach to expanding literacy. The organization had contributed to knowledge on literacy through its research and publications, and had continued its data monitoring work through the Institute for Statistics. Further, UNESCO had launched the Global Alliance for Literacy, a multi-stakeholder partnership to assist Member States in achieving their literacy goals. The report called for Governments to scale up innovative literacy programmes for children, youth and adults with particular attention to marginalised groups, including girls, women, indigenous people, persons with disabilities and those in humanitarian emergencies.
Questions and Comments
The representative of Mongolia requested details about plans for the Global Alliance for Literacy.
Mr. ILAPAVULURI responded by saying that more than 757 million youth and adults were unable to read, and millions of children were not reading or writing at the expected level. The international community had decided that a new initiative was needed. Addressing the literacy challenge worldwide involved two broad strands of work, including placing lifelong learning at the heart of the 2030 Agenda. Innovative approaches using the untapped potential of information and communications technologies held hidden potential. Innovative, inter-sectoral approaches could achieve tangible progress.
The representative of Algeria said the international community sought a world where slums and shanty-towns would no longer be found. For its part, Algeria had an unemployment rate under 10 per cent. Vulnerable groups had been provided with basic amenities and work was being done on education. At the international level, he said that despite various summits on combating extreme poverty and hunger, the phenomena continued to grow. The international community was more focused on slogans than action. The 2030 Agenda would suffer because a large number of countries did not have the means to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
Ms. BAS replied that the issue raised by Algeria’s representative must be tackled both by the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) and the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural). The Commission for Social Development was a platform for discussion. Financial constraints had an impact, but basic gains could be made by using tools at the international community’s disposal.
VIRACHAI PLASAI (Thailand), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, stressed the importance of social development in the implementation of the recent outcome documents. He expressed deep concern about the uneven progress made, the challenges in poverty eradication and growing inequalities which had been compounded by the financial and economic crises. He highlighted the negative effects of those crises, including food insecurity, unemployment and violent extremism, while underscoring the need to remove obstacles to the full realization of the rights of peoples to self-determination. Further, he emphasized the importance of international cooperation across all countries.
Welcoming the continued focus on youth and persons with disabilities, he called on Member States to make all efforts to advance inclusive job creation, skills development and vocational training for youth, to enhance accessibility and to work towards non-discrimination for persons with disabilities. He also welcomed progress made since the proclamation of the International Year of the Family, in 1994, adding that Member States had to develop a better response to the changing age structure in societies. Full implementation of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing and relevant regional initiatives was key in ensuring the well-being and human rights of older persons.
LOURDES ORTIZ YPARRAGUIRRE (Philippines), on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said the region’s next phase of strengthening its community was guided by the ASEAN Vision 2025 and the new ten-year Blueprints for the Political-Security and Economic and Socio-Cultural Community Pillars, efforts that were instrumental in achieving people-centred development and complementarity with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
She elaborated on progress made in different areas, noting that the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Social Welfare and Development had adopted a new strategic framework on social welfare and development for the period 2016 – 2020. ASEAN also continued to implement the Declaration on Strengthening Social Protection. In November 2015, the bloc had adopted the Kuala Lumpur Declaration on Ageing. She expressed concern about the welfare of persons with disabilities in the region, drawing attention to a number of initiatives taken in that regard, including on long-term care and community-based rehabilitation. Within the framework action plan on rural development and poverty eradication, ASEAN helped vulnerable groups to participate in socioeconomic opportunities.
ISMAEL ABRAÃO GASPAR MARTINS (Angola), speaking on behalf of the Group of African States and aligning himself with Group of 77, focused on the challenges that inequality posed to the African continent. Youth development and empowerment were central to the African development agenda. Greater investment in youth would allow Africa to harness the demographic dividend and address the inequalities at the root of many global challenges.
Turning to the rights of persons with disabilities, he said resources and services for such persons were few in Africa. Stronger social protection mechanisms must be established for persons with disabilities because they were some of the most vulnerable to poverty. Protecting the rights of older people was also of concern to the African Union, as was the need to provide greater support to families. Economic and health crises, such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and Ebola, had posed challenges to achieving development targets. The Group welcomed international support in coping with the Ebola crisis and called for continued assistance to countries in need.
FRANCISCO ANTONIO CORTORREAL (Dominican Republic), speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said States in the region had taken measures to guarantee the rights of everyone to adequate living standards. Noting that hunger eradication must be addressed, he said that social inclusion and integration of persons living in poverty should include the study of universal access to health, adequate housing, decent work, gender equality, and many other social goods. The universal provision of basic social services was an important tool for promoting social integration. Further, education was a social investment, and improving the quality and equality of education was necessary in order to eradicate poverty.
He went on to reaffirm the importance of the 1995 World Summit for Social Development and its outcome, the Copenhagen Declaration, urging greater efforts to ensure implementation of such outcomes. It was also important to undertake reforms of the global financial system. He attached high priority to strengthening technical education and promoting land ownership, stressing the need for attention to families in rural areas and to decent, sustainable work. He supported the appropriate consideration of persons with disabilities in the 2030 Agenda, adding that the family played a key role in social development, and as such, should be strengthened.
ELLISTON RAHMING (Bahamas), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), underscored the group’s efforts to provide more equal opportunities to every citizen. The major focus areas were youth development, investing in education and mainstreaming the Community’s disability agenda. Noting that youth comprised more than 60 per cent of the population of the region, he stressed the need for greater investment in youth if the region was to achieve sustainable development. In that context, he said the region’s Youth Development Action Plan outlined measures to empower young people through entrepreneurship, leadership training and engagement with at-risk youth.
He went on to stress CARICOM’s commitment to providing equitable high quality education that would equip the region with the skills needed to compete in the global economy. Despite those efforts, however, the region faced challenges from crime and violence, which were associated with high levels of unemployment and under-employment, and he expressed hope that implementation of the education sub-programme would stem such violence. He also expressed CARICOM’s commitment to ensuring persons with disabilities were able to participate as full and productive members of society.
CHARLES WHITELEY, European Union Delegation, said economic progress should go hand-in-hand with improving people's lives, and both investment and reforms were important to that process. The European Union was working to ensure that people had access to the right skills, and intensifying the fight against segmentation of the labour force. Pension systems were being modernised, while the European Union youth guarantee ensured that all young people had the chance to continue their education, among other options. Ensuring the rights and well-being of older people was also fundamental, he said, urging Governments to address age discrimination, and include in social protection programmes access to adequate pensions, among other issues.
He went on to say that persons with disabilities were overrepresented in unemployment statistics. The European Union continued to promote gender equality in all its programmes. All women should be able to exercise their rights and the bloc was working to address the gender pay gap and make affordable child-care available, among other initiatives. The European Union supported the fight against violence and discrimination against women, and considered family-related issues to be of great importance. Divergences remained across Member States. The European Union had launched consultations on a pillar of social rights, which would identify principles needed for well-functioning labour markets.
AMR ABOULATTA (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends of the Family in New York, recalled that the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action highlighted the family as one of the main elements of an enabling environment for sustainable development and as the basic unit of society. As such, the family should be strengthened, he said, reiterating that it was the natural core unit of society and had the primary responsibility for nurturing, protecting and educating children. It played a key role in social development and social cohesion and integration. It was therefore the responsibility of Member States and the United Nations to provide all necessary support to families and to strengthen the institution of the traditional family, in line with obligations under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
He urged the Department of Economic and Social Affairs and its focal point on the family to play a more active role in raising awareness on the importance of the family in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. He also called on Member States to consider family-oriented policies and programmes with a view to ending poverty and hunger, promoting well-being for all ages and lifelong learning and in achieving gender equality. He expressed his belief that joint efforts in partnership with all stakeholders were essential in promoting the important role of the family.
Speaking in his national capacity, he outlined efforts that Egypt had undertaken to realize sustainable and inclusive development. The Government had established a Department for Family and Childhood and celebrated the “Day of the Family” every year. It also had submitted draft laws on youth and sports to Parliament for consideration and developed a strategy to expand youth employment. Further, a National Council for Senior Citizens had been established and a new draft law on disability finalized. He noted the importance of eradicating poverty and addressing inequalities in achieving inclusive societies, stressing that acts of terrorism had a negative effect on social development. Lastly, he expressed his conviction that the social dimension of the 2030 Agenda should be prioritized, in line with national policies and priorities.
MARCELO ELISEO SCAPPINI RICCIARDI (Paraguay), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and CELAC, highlighted the work his country was doing to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Paraguay’s national development plan focused on poverty reduction and inclusive development. The Government had implemented important social protection programmes, such as cash subsidies, school feeding programmes, pensions for older persons and an affordable housing programme. Investing in youth, who comprised 60 per cent of the population, was essential. He conveyed his readiness to support the Committee’s work towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
ALIA ABDULLAH ALMUZAINI (Kuwait) aligning herself with the Group of 77 and China, and Egypt, said her country provided support to persons with disabilities and had carried out research and surveys on their needs. Such support included access to healthcare, education and employment opportunities. Kuwait also provided support to youth and older persons, including education and financial support. She stressed that Kuwait would spare no effort to promote and achieve social development and the well-being of all people.
SONJA HUTTUNEN, youth delegate from Finland, focused on migration, start-ups, and equality and non-discrimination. The mass migration of people was largely a movement of young people, she said, noting that a lack of education and employment opportunities were pushing young people to leave their homes. There needed to be greater global attention to education and entrepreneurship training. Start-ups had the potential to change the world and presented a special opportunity to young people. Finally, she stressed the importance of upholding human rights.
The representative of Switzerland said the country had launched a national initiative encouraging people to remain employed beyond the retirement age. For people with family responsibilities, the aim was to ensure that childcare was available and to develop family-friendly workplace conditions. Each actor had a different role in implementing the initiative, with the State creating the appropriate framework conditions, and social partners encouraging companies to hire more women and workers over the age of 50 years old. Noting that 73 million young people did not have a decent job, the representative said social media platforms were also being used to spread hate. The propaganda of hatred was fed by various factors that included unemployment, poverty and a lack of education. Switzerland was committed to training young people and supporting extracurricular activities.
ALEKSANDRA MIRCHEVA and IVA TSOLOVA, youth delegates from Bulgaria, called upon Governments to engage youth in all levels of decision making, stressing that young people had the potential to transform today’s challenges into powerful solutions. In particular, they highlighted the need for better educational opportunities, including support for non-formal education. They called upon Governments to recognize and support non-formal education and create a system to evaluate its quality. Technology and innovations were essential for achieving sustainable results with global impact. In addition, the international community needed to support social entrepreneurship among young people.
The representative of the United States said the inclusion of all social groups was critical to achieving sustainable development. The United States was committed to eliminating social exclusion and discrimination, both domestically and through its foreign policy. Respect for human rights and the principle of non-discrimination played an important role in States’ efforts to leave no one behind. Challenges to social development were faced by youth, older persons, persons with disabilities, families, indigenous peoples, women, children, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and inter-sex persons, refugees, internally displaced persons, migrants and others. Social exclusion had an impact on political empowerment, health outcomes and economic wellbeing. Describing the delegation’s efforts to ensure that major United Nations documents had included references to members of often-marginalized groups, the representative underscored the importance of ensuring that civil society representatives had access to the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) and other United Nations forums to make their views heard.
LOURDES ORTIZ YPARRAGUIRRE (Philippines) said persons with disabilities were an integral part of society, with many national laws recognizing their dignity and need for protection, including a new amendment granting them tax exemptions and discounts. Furthermore, special disability offices in every province, city and municipality promoted disability rights. Additional efforts included the allocation of at least 1 per cent of governmental positions, which would enhance said group’s influence in society, and the establishment of accessible polling stations to increase their participation in elections. The Philippines was preparing to submit a resolution on realizing development goals for persons with disabilities, she said, adding that she looked forward to the support of all Member States.
MANISH CHAUHAN (India) recalled that although social progress made in recent decades had been unprecedented, social and economic inequalities had worsened. As “islands of prosperity” continued to race ahead, globalization and economic crises continued to leave millions of people behind. There was a need for reforms in all dimensions of sustainable development: social, economic and environmental, he said, adding that India’s top priority was poverty eradication with a focus on vulnerable sections, rural areas, and social and physical infrastructure creation. To that end, the country had established social welfare schemes, passed national legislation to ensure equal opportunities for the elderly and persons with disabilities, and developed employment programmes for the youth. Having achieved universal primary education, India was now focused on the quality of education. Health programmes had increased life expectancy and decreased both infant and maternal mortality. “Poverty and peace are interlinked and their full realization is threatened by the scourge of terrorism and external threats”, he warned, urging nations to stand together to eliminate that plague.
MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN? (Argentina), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and CELAC, warned that absent provisions for social inclusion, economic policies would not generate the long-term, deep-rooted changes the world needed to achieve sustainable development. Social policies were needed to address the complexity of poverty, addressing both its material and human dimensions. Achieving the goal of “zero poverty” was a major challenge for Argentina. In particular, he stressed the need to support children throughout their lives, starting from infancy. Countries must ensure the full and active participation of adolescents, persons with disabilities and the elderly. In that context, he called for an international universal legal instrument to protect the rights of the elderly.
JUAN SANDOVAL MENDIOLEA (Mexico) said the current session provided the opportunity to coordinate and break down barriers within the United Nations system. Discussions should integrate various outcome documents and work should be carried out in an integrated and coordinated manner. For its part, Mexico had undertaken great efforts to address inequality, especially as it affected young people and older persons. He stressed that in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, those groups deserved particular attention.
DENNIS VETTER, youth delegate from Austria, described obstacles facing today’s young people as they sought to live safe and successful lives. Focusing on “jugendpartizipation” – or youth participation – he said that, too often, young people stood on the side lines of politics and decision-making. Laws were made by people who believed that experience was required in order to achieve progress; because of that, the voices of motivated and engaged young people might be heard, but they were often not taken seriously. Warning that easy policies that only satisfied short-term needs would come at a long-term expense borne by younger generations, he underscored the need for inter-generational fairness and appealed to the international community to strengthen the voice of youth on issues that mattered most. More places around the world should join Austria in allowing young people to vote at age 16.
The representative of Brazil said that while considerable progress had been made towards development over the past two decades, great challenges remained, particularly with respect to income inequality and unemployment. Brazil was committed to strengthening social protection in the face of such challenges, but it was also important for there to be more partnerships between the public and private sector. A higher standard of living would not be possible without greater literacy. Brazil had made great strides in improving literacy thanks to decades of investment in education and family support programmes. Finally, the global migration crisis had illustrated the interdependency of social development, economic development and peace. He rejected arguments that linked migration to the loss of economic opportunities and called for solidarity with migrants.
The representative of Cuba, associating with CELAC, said many of the United Nations’ goals remained an illusion, with 74.5 million young people unemployed and 17,000 children dying each day from curable illnesses. Underscoring the importance of poverty eradication, full employment and social integration, the representative said the international economic and political order was unfair and unsustainable. Countries in the global South continued to suffer from its effects, including social and political consequences. In that context, the representative drew attention to the failure of many States to fulfil their official development assistance (ODA) commitments, as well as their continually high annual military spending. Reviewing Cuba’s progress towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, including low infant mortality rates, and universal, accessible and free health care, the representative said the country had achieved those targets despite the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed against it for over half a century.
The representative of Morocco regretted to note that inequality had increased in certain regions. More than 836 million people were still living in extreme poverty and 10 million children under age five were malnourished. Numerous countries were crumbling under the effects of war and mass migration, violations of human rights, terrorism and violent extremism were threatening the security of many others. Recognizing the vital link between human and economic development, Morocco was investing heavily in human capital. Its national initiative for human development aimed to fight poverty, social exclusion, address gaps in social services, promote revenue-generating activities and assist the most vulnerable groups. In addition, Morocco was taking the lead in implementing climate-friendly policies through massive investments in renewable energy.
ANDREJ LOGAR (Slovenia), aligning with the European Union, highlighted his Government’s efforts to create an inclusive society and affirmed the importance of fighting ageism. Older persons faced specific human rights challenges that were not yet addressed systematically. For that purpose, the existing framework should be strengthened and new instruments created. Slovenia was working to create a new national strategy for a long-living society through an inclusive human rights approach. He expected such measures to be reinforced through international standards in the area.
ANDRAZ SILER, a youth delegate of Slovenia, stressed the importance of implementing Sustainable Development Goal 8 on decent work. Actual unemployment was just part of the problem in Slovenia and the rest of Europe. Safe, stable work that led to a viable future was needed. He had heard much talk about youth unemployment but had seen little action. “We don’t demand much, but we do want opportunity to show our skills, knowledge, talent and wisdom,” he said, noting that almost half of the world’s population was under age 30. “Young people should become driving factors”.
MARÍA RUBIALES DE CHAMORRO (Nicaragua), aligning herself with the Group of 77, CELAC and Egypt, noted the struggles of the international community with the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. She reminded Member States of the principle of shared but differentiated responsibilities. The international community must achieve social inclusion and leave no one behind. Moreover, social development could not be achieved without addressing the need for peace, stability and democratic elections. Social policies must be strengthened, people must be empowered and marginalized groups must be included, she stressed, adding that her Government continued to implement policies to ensure security in the country as a prerequisite for development.
The representative of Libya, aligning himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said the global economic crisis, food insecurity and climate change were casting shadows over the future of social development in many countries. In the 21 years since the adoption of the Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development, great progress had been made in lifting people out of extreme poverty. Yet, many were now falling back into it. Unemployment among youth, extremism and conflict stood in the way of development. A greater focus must be put on generating employment opportunities and investing in infrastructure, health and education. The family — as the nucleus of society — needed to be at the heart of development efforts. Other priorities included women’s participation in economic life, youth involvement in decision making and the provision of a decent standard of living for the elderly and persons with disabilities, he said, emphasizing the need to respect national sovereignty and the cultural and religious values of States.
VERONIKA BUSTAMANTE GOMEZ (Peru), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and CELAC, reasserted the importance of the 2030 Agenda, which must be in harmony with respect for human rights. Democracy and equal opportunities must be ensured for all, she said, emphasizing that social development required all Member States to be ambitious and transformative in their approach. All social groups had to be empowered by Governments, she stressed.
A youth delegate of Peru urged that models of the past must be broken. Young people had to be protected, he stated, and the Government had developed guidelines to that effect which would ensure youth participation.
The representative of Bolivia, aligning with CELAC, said eradicating poverty was the main way to achieve development. Bolivia had managed to reduce inequality through policies designed to deal with the global crisis of capitalism. A crucial factor in that success was its nationalization of natural resources. The Government had also managed to reduce illiteracy and maternal and infant mortality, through programmes that had provided bonuses to pregnant women and children under age two. Other important social development programmes included providing housing to vulnerable groups and initiatives to improve drinking water. Bolivia took seriously the challenges that socioeconomic vulnerability posed to young people and the importance of guaranteeing a dignified life for older persons.
ANDREI DAPKIUNAS (Belarus), aligned himself with Egypt, recalled the World Summit for Social Development and its vision. That vision was included in the 2030 Agenda, he said, drawing attention to the importance of social development for the implementation of its Sustainable Development Goals. For its part, Belarus had worked towards becoming more inclusive and had undertaken a number of initiatives, including the launch of a campaign for more policies that addressed the needed of vulnerable groups and children. More generally, he said his Government supported the concept of the traditional family.
PHAM THI KIM ANH (Viet Nam), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, and ASEAN, said that, despite progress, the magnitude of remaining challenges showed that it was necessary to strengthen efforts to sustainably fight poverty within the new global framework. In his country, social development was of the highest priority. There were ongoing efforts to improve access to health care, education, water and sanitation, nutritious food, land, social protection and decent work, with Government spending an important factor in all such areas. Policies to promote quality, sustainable employment were a particular focus, as were programmes to enhance the social participation of women, children, persons with disabilities, older persons and ethnic minorities.
The representative of Russian Federation, aligning himself with the Friends of Family Group, said that to achieve sustainable development it was necessary to eradicate poverty, sustain economic growth and guarantee decent employment for all. The Russian Federation was investing in large-scale economic projects. Recognizing the centrality of the family to sustainable development, the Government had made achieving balance between work and family responsibilities a priority. Another priority was expanding support for the elderly, who comprised a 20 per cent - and rising - share of the Russian population. The youth policy was focused on social adaptation, entrepreneurship, volunteerism, civil society, youth media, tolerance and young families. Finally, his country had made positive steps in improving the lives of persons with disabilities, particularly through the expansion of inclusive education.
MIGUEL CAMILO RUIZ BLANCO (Colombia) said that the 2030 Agenda must aim at reducing equality gaps so that all forms of discrimination could be eliminated. Despite great progress since the Copenhagen Summit, gaps had remained. Going forward, the international community must focus on new challenges. Among them was ensuring the inclusion of marginalized groups, including children and older persons. Indeed, strengthening the protection of older persons was a priority and relevant instruments must be fully implemented.
KOKI MULI GRIGNON (Kenya) said notable progress had been achieved over the last two decades following the adoption of the Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development. Poverty had declined but remained a global challenge, while social exclusion had persisted, and in some cases worsened, leading to growing inequalities. Having prioritized a people-centred approach, Kenya had allocated 30 per cent of all public procurement to women, youth and persons with disabilities. Through the national policy on older persons, it had established a social protection fund to provide access to credit and cash transfers to financially unstable and vulnerable households with citizens older than 65 years, she said. In addition, the Government had integrated information and communications technology into education, as well as rehabilitated and expanded technical and vocational education institutions. It also had introduced various policies targeting persons with disabilities, including preferential treatment in procurement, employment opportunities and enhanced enterprise-development support. Describing job creation and the extension of social protection as key to ensuring development, she said it was critical to invest further in those areas.
The youth delegate from Sri Lanka, said their participation in the discussion was important, adding that the national policy of Sri Lanka defined youth as those between ages 15 and 29. The needs and wants of young people were diverse and complex. The Sri Lankan youth parliament brought together grassroots youth leaders and its free education system had contributed toward the overall literacy rate among Sri Lankan youth. Meanwhile, there still remained a need to improve the computer literacy rate.
The youth delegate from Sri Lanka, said volunteers could make sustainable development a reality. In the context of the promotion of human rights, youth must be given citizenship education. Measures also must be taken to improve the number of female parliamentarians, he said.
OH YOUNGJU (Republic of Korea) said the development agenda had been reshaped in 2015, refocusing efforts on the full realization of social development, including zero poverty, full employment and decent work. Current momentum had to be sustained, she said, stressing that refugees and other forcibly displaced populations were the definition of the most vulnerable. In addition, persons with disabilities, regardless of their nationality, race, ethnicity or sex, had to be protected. Without addressing the gender gap, it was impossible to fulfil the Goals. The Government remained committed to providing humanitarian assistance.
UN HYUNG LEE, youth delegate from Republic of Korea, said that, through education, young people could help achieve the 2030 Agenda. Their participation should be ensured at all levels. In her country, young people had seen gradual, positive change in their participation in decision-making, she said, stressing: “The young generation of the Republic of Korea is ready to play a bridging role in international efforts to achieve the goals for people, planet and prosperity for all.”
MARGRETE BJØRGE KATANASHO, youth delegate from Norway, said that half the displaced persons in the world today were children, many of whom had fled without parents or caregivers to protect them. Member States were urged to endorse the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ “#withrefugees” demands, to ensure that all refugee children received an education and a safe place to live.
JARLE AARBAKKE TOLLAKSEN, youth delegate from Norway, recommended all Member States to cooperate with the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Member States were further called on to take into account the voices of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.
BASHAR JA’AFARI (Syria), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, recalled the adoption of the outcome of the World Summit on Social Development and noted that hunger and inequality prevailed. Unemployment and violence had hampered social development. Syria had found itself in a gruelling war. His Government was fighting terrorism and he decried the lack of international support. According to a report of a Special Rapporteur, his country had been subjected to unilateral measures which were detrimental to development. The international community had to do more to address violent conflict and inequality.
The representative of Maldives, speaking on behalf of Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and aligning himself with the Groups of 77 and China, said small island developing States faced many challenges due to remote locations, distance to markets, susceptibility to external shocks and vulnerability to the effects of climate change. Nowhere was the vulnerability of small island developing States made more clear than in the face of disasters. When islands faced extreme weather events, strengthened by the impacts of climate change, damage to hard and soft infrastructure was debilitating and reversed development gains.
He asked that the international community take into account the specific challenges and vulnerabilities faced by small island developing States, including the impacts of climate change. He said it was also important to consider criteria other than GDP when determining eligibility of concessionary and non-concessionary financing opportunities, and appealed to the international community to support efforts to develop multidimensional measures that accounted for the particular contextual vulnerabilities faced by small island developing States. He further called for participation of small island developing States in the decision-making and norm-setting processes by which they were affected.
HORACIO SEVILLA BORJA (Ecuador), aligning with the Group of 77 and China, and with CELAC, said that the Copenhagen Declaration and its Action Plan remained fully relevant. The international community must recognize that eradicating poverty was the key to development, as well as the greatest moral imperative of mankind. Better social welfare must be achieved and the new Agenda had to be human-centric, allowing for better wealth distribution in society. Tax evasion and tax havens must be ended through political action, as they deprived societies of their ability to invest in and bring about development.
MOHAMED KHALED KHIARI (Tunisia), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, and the African Group, reiterated the need to be more inclusive and to leave no one behind. That goal was also reflected in the Copenhagen Declaration, and it was now time to make it a reality. International efforts must be more concrete and tangible, and the approach more people-centred. He stressed the importance of good governance, sustainable economic development and solidarity in that context, adding that, while Tunisia faced challenges in terms of economic stability and security, the Government sought to ensure development for all.
CRISTIÁN BARROS MELET (Chile), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, and CELAC, said the goal of eradicating poverty must be addressed within the framework of the 2030 Agenda. His Government recognized that poverty had many dimensions, and had, therefore, undertaken methodological changes to identify gulfs that needed to be bridged. The greatest challenge was to reduce inequality in all its dimensions, and the Government was working to guarantee protection in education, health and work. While progress had been made in reducing maternal mortality, a particularly acute challenge was in achieving greater equality between women and men.
JOSÉ ALBERTO ANTONIO SANDOVAL COJULÚN (Guatemala) aligning himself with CELAC and the Group of 77 and China, urged Member States to work towards inclusive societies in order to achieve social development and realize human rights for the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Guatemala supported Goal 10, on reducing inequality, he said, noting that the Government provided various services to address social risks. To achieve sustainable development, interrelated problems must be tackled, including climate change. Further, the rights of persons with disabilities must be strengthened, as social services and funding were lacking. Another priority was investing in young people, who must participate in all sectors. The commitments made to support older persons must also be realized, he said, stressing that age discrimination was inacceptable.
The youth delegate from the Netherlands said that, as a child, she had befriended another child from Senegal who had become a student in her class. The other child, Lena, had experienced violence, was illiterate and had HIV. The experience had opened the youth delegate’s eyes to the fact that not all children experienced the rights of children in the Netherlands. Children’s rights were still not respected in the world and she urged Member States to look at their own countries and apply self-criticism, as children had the right to grow up in an equal world. Vulnerable young citizens should be protected from terrorist organizations, she added.