Third Committee Opens Session with Delegates Calling for Inclusion of World’s Most Vulnerable in Social Development Policies
Global Extreme Poverty Not on Track to End by 2030, Under Secretary-General Warns, Cites Slow Progress in Reducing Child, Maternal Mortality among Factors
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) opened its session today, with delegates underscoring the need to focus on the world’s most vulnerable groups — including youth, older persons and people living with disabilities — in order to achieve true social development.
In opening remarks, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Liu Zhenmin reminded delegates of the commitments made at the 1995 World Summit for Social Development, which positioned social progress as vital to creating opportunities for the world’s poor. With that in mind, the Committee’s deliberations this year could not be more crucial for realizing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
In particular, he urged delegates to consider the variety of factors undermining progress. Of these, inequalities predicated on age, gender, disability, race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status, are engrained in developed countries and developing countries alike. Similarly, slow global economic growth, climate change, hunger, income disparities, gender inequality and extreme poverty, remain intractable challenges, he said.
Daniela Bas, Director of the Division for Inclusive Social Development in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introduced several reports by the Secretary-General, highlighting in particular, the importance of proper technical and vocational training to ease the “delicate transition from school to work”. On the opposite end of the spectrum, she spoke of the specific needs of older persons, especially in emergency situations, and more broadly, focused on lifelong learning as a tool for empowering those who might otherwise be disadvantaged, such as ethnic minorities and people living with disabilities.
Rosa Kornfeld-Matte, Independent Expert on the Enjoyment of All Human Rights by Older Persons, said she was pleased to address the Committee on the International Day for Older Persons and outline her efforts to ensure equality. Older people are sometimes invisible, both figurately and in policy-making, she said, which is a mistake, as older persons have a vital role to play in society. However, they face a variety of challenges that are exacerbated in emergency situations and often complicated by difficulties in communication.
In the ensuing debate, delegates outlined a range of social development challenges facing their countries and regions. The representative of Saint Lucia, speaking on behalf of Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that equality was essential in the fight to end poverty. With that in mind, CARICOM has firmly commited to improve health care and the health care sector. He also described efforts to provide opportunities for youth, by harnessing the potential of the green economy.
In a similar vein, El Salvador’s representative, speaking for the Central American Integration System, said the increasing number of older persons in Latin America is both an opportunity and a challenge. Policies must be created and implemented that fully promote their social inclusion.
On that point, an observer for State of Palestine, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said the contribution of older persons to society is vital. Tackling the many challenges they face is a core responsibility of the international community. She called for fighting ageism so that older people can fully enjoy their human rights. This is a priority for inclusive development, she assured.
Among the many youth delegates taking the floor on their Government’s behalf was the young speaker from Finland, who said shrinking civic space and growing inequality, combined with Internet algorithms, have all triggered a polarization of opinions and lived experience. This has led to a lack of understanding about “the other”. Stressing that 40 per cent of young people in Finland have faced hate speech online, she underscored the importance of overcoming divisions by supporting social campaigns and cited the current global climate movement as “a great example of bottom-up political engagement”.
In other business, the Committee approved its organization of work.
Also speaking today were representatives of Zambia (also speaking for the African Group), Malaysia (speaking for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Chile (speaking for the Group of Friends of Older Persons), Iraq, Japan, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Maldives, Germany, Iceland, Australia, Slovenia, Equatorial Guinea, Turkey, Peru, Argentina, Republic of Korea, Norway, Ecuador, Russian Federation, Viet Nam, Algeria, Philippines, Mexico, Myanmar, Romania, Djibouti, Belgium, Saudi Arabia, Hungary, Eritrea, Czech Republic, Kenya, India, United States, Singapore, Syria, Senegal, Qatar, Monaco, Poland as well as an observer for the Holy See and the representative of the European Union.
The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 2 October, to continue its debate on social development.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) opened today to adopt its work programme for the session and begin its debate on social development.
Delegates had before them seven reports by the Secretary‑General, titled: Social development challenges faced by persons with albinism” (document A/74/184); Implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and of the twenty‑fourth special session of the General Assembly (document A/74/205); Promoting social integration through social inclusion (document A/74/133); Cooperatives in social development (document A/74/206); Policies and programmes involving youth (document A/74/175); Implementation of the objectives of the International Year of the Family and its follow‑up processes (document A/74/61-E/2019/4); and Follow‑up to the International Year of Older Persons: Second World Assembly on Ageing (document A/74/170).=
The Committee also had before it a Secretariat note on the World social situation 2019 (document A/74/135).
LIU ZHENMIN, Under‑Secretary‑General for Economic and Social Affairs, described the strong momentum for implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), notably as global extreme poverty is not on track to end by 2030. While there has been progress in promoting gender equality and reducing both child and maternal mortality, progress is slow and uneven. Slowing global economic growth may disrupt progress on the Goals, particularly in countries in vulnerable situations, while the unabated effects of climate change, such as extreme weather events, are shattering communities. Hunger is also on the rise, he said, noting that in 2017, an estimated 821 million people were undernourished globally, compared with 784 million in 2015. Inequality in income, wealth and opportunities is rising in many countries. The forthcoming Report on the World Social Situation by the Department for Economic and Social Affairs will confirm that inequalities based on gender, age, race, ethnicity, migrant status, disability and socioeconomic status are pervasive in developed countries.
Population ageing is a global phenomenon, he said, underscoring that in 2018, for the first time in history, persons aged 65 years and over outnumbered children under the age of five — a trend that reflects success in reducing premature mortality, but also highlights the need for policies that leverage ageing as an opportunity and recognize older persons as active agents in development efforts. Noting that the Third Committee will reflect on ways to accelerate progress through the important policy issues on its agenda, he recalled the commitments made at the World Summit for Social Development, which recognized social progress as essential to increasing opportunities for the world’s poor and unemployed. It also understood that deploying integrated policies, firmly rooted in the principles of social justice and inclusion, are essential to build a society for all. Deliberations in the Third Committee could not be more critical for realizing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, he said.
DANIELA BAS, Director of the Division for Inclusive Social Development in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introduced six reports and one Secretariat note. On the first report — on implementing the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and the twenty‑fourth special session of the General Assembly — she called for greater international cooperation on education and health care and for addressing the special needs of least developed countries in reaching the Summit’s targets. The Secretariat note, on the World Social Situation 2019, highlighted the urgent need to address inequality by tackling four powerful “mega-trends” — technological innovation, climate change, urbanization and international migration. She pointed out that technological change and urbanization could be positive, but in practice, amplified inequality.
Moving on to the second report, which addressed promoting social integration through social inclusion, she stressed the need for empowerment through lifelong learning, by ensuring the inclusion of disadvantaged minorities — notably ethnic minorities and people with disabilities — and by focusing on women’s economic empowerment. More must be done to mobilize domestic resources and optimize public spending. In addition, a human rights‑based approach to inclusion is vital. The third report meanwhile describes the contributions of cooperatives in social development, underscoring their important role in expanding health care access and promoting financial inclusion. “Some 100 million households worldwide enjoy access to health care thanks to cooperatives,” she noted. The fourth report details progress achieved in implementing policies and programmes involving youth — especially responsive technical and vocational training that can facilitate the “delicate transition from school to work”. There is a need to strengthen evidence‑informed policies by supporting the generation and use of disaggregated data. The fifth report analyses family trends with a focus on poverty and social protection and highlights good practices in national policy‑making. The sixth report deals with ageing‑related policies and priorities in implementing the 2030 Agenda, stressing the need to include older persons in disaster risk reduction, as well as in local and national emergency planning and response frameworks.
ROSA KORNFELD‑MATTE, Independent Expert on the Enjoyment of All Human Rights by Older Persons, quoted an author from Mozambique who said, “They saved him from death but not from life.” This, she said, described the situation of older persons in emergencies, noting that her recent visit to Mozambique allowed her to enrich her report on this topic. Sometimes older people are invisible and it is important to pay attention to them. This population is diverse and numerous factors contribute to its vulnerability. It is vital to recognize the important role played by older persons during voluntary and enforced displacement. Stressing that ageing is a context‑based social construction, she said it varies according to circumstances, cultures and other considerations. In emergencies, data collection, especially about older persons, is essential, she said, noting that in 2017, 335 natural disasters were reported.
Free and informed consent for treatment is an issue that is compounded in emergencies, she said, describing the risk of older persons being mistreated in emergencies and the insufficient awareness about this problem, which is linked to a lack of respect. It would also be wrong to believe that older persons are not subject to sexual violence, including gender‑based violence. There is a trend among older persons to not report such cases, which can be linked to fear of reprisals and difficulties in communication. She commended Uruguay for protecting the rights of older persons, noting that nearly 20 per cent of its population is over age 60. More broadly, she said more financial resources must be allocated to protect these rights and bolster policies. Recalling today as the International Day for Older Persons, she said she is working to ensure equality among people of all ages.
In the ensuing interactive dialogue, the representative of the United States agreed with most of the report’s conclusions. However, there are already human rights instruments to protect individual rights. Rather than use resources to negotiate a new instrument, delegates should devote themselves to actions that address the immediate needs of older persons. Brazil’s delegate asked the Independent Expert to elaborate on the importance of disaggregated data on older persons and to share success stories on how countries can improve their data collection.
The representative of Slovenia, associating herself with the European Union, asked for best practices on how humanitarian programmes are reaching older persons, while Argentina’s representative agreed that older persons are disproportionately affected during humanitarian crises. He welcomed the Independent Expert’s analysis of the consequences, due in part to the lack of an international framework to protect them and asked about the most effective measures for ensuring older persons’ access to national systems.
The representative of the United Kingdom meanwhile asked how States could better use data to support older persons in emergency situations. The European Union’s delegate, similarly asked about best practices, particularly the positive role that older persons can play in emergency response. The representative of Morocco acknowledged that there are different views regarding international instruments. Morocco follows the views of the national human rights institutions and civil society. There are two tracks: one focused on the international instrument and the other on the rights of older persons and she urged delegates to find a middle ground. She also asked how data can be gathered during situations of crisis and emergency.
Ms. KORNFELD‑MATTE replied that an international convention would provide a great deal of support for older persons. There are various instruments for persons with disabilities, women and children, yet none for one of the most vulnerable groups.
On data compilation, she said that the concept of age is an important one. A refugee aged 50 who has been traumatized by war cannot be compared with someone turning 50 in New York or Geneva. However, data compilation often ignores these differences. Social networks can provide information that helps older persons identify their needs. The lack of such disaggregated data is a serious problem and can exacerbate a crisis situation. She also described the importance that copies of data are held elsewhere so that data is not lost in cases of emergency. Tools must be developed to ensure that communication channels are properly maintained and tailored to the needs of older persons.
SOMAIA BARGHOUTI, speaking for the State of Palestine on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, urged the Committee to focus on action‑oriented strategies. She welcomed last week’s Sustainable Development Goals Summit, which called for a decade of ambitious measures to achieve the Goals by 2030. That same week, the international community adopted the political declaration on universal health coverage, which should accelerate access to health care, quality and affordable medicines and vaccines for all. Such access is essential in order to reduce poverty and achieve sustainable development for all. Recognizing the contribution of older persons to society, she described the many challenges they continue to face and urged the international community to fight ageism so that older persons can fully enjoy their human rights. This is a priority for inclusive development. More broadly, she said South‑South cooperation should complement — rather than substitute for — North‑South cooperation, describing it as a collective endeavour for developing countries, as affirmed in the outcome of the 2009 High‑level United Nations Conference on South‑South Cooperation, also called the Nairobi outcome document.
LAZAROUS KAPAMBWE (Zambia), speaking on behalf of the African Group and associating with the Group of 77 and China, underscored the need to combat inequalities within and among countries, build just and inclusive societies and ensure the planet’s protection. He called for the full implementation of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and welcomed the increased contribution of South-South cooperation to sustainable development. In the last decade, Africa has made significant achievements in social and economic development: some African countries, for example, provide social protection to the elderly, persons with disabilities and to children who lost their parents to HIV and AIDS. However, challenges remain, in particular, widening income inequality between people and among African countries and rising youth unemployment, which is higher than the average for the general population. He stressed the need to help least developed countries, landlock developing countries and small island developing States which depend on global partnerships for financial resources. African leaders are convinced that industrialization is the most viable path to employment, he said, noting that Africa continues to face challenges, as it relies on natural resources and agriculture. Furthermore, the continent is prone to major shocks and natural calamities, while most of its population relies on climate-sensitive sectors such as agriculture, fisheries and tourism. He called for the implementation of poverty reduction strategies and provision of tertiary education to all children.
COSMOS RICHARDSON (Saint Lucia), speaking on behalf of Caribbean Community (CARICOM), underscored his region’s susceptibility to the effects of climate change and environmental degradation, propelling the international community to address its challenges. Equality is essential to eradicating poverty, he said, reiterating CARICOM’s commitment to improving the health sector and providing access to quality health care. Welcoming the greater access to education worldwide, highlighted in the Secretary‑General’s report, he stressed that advancing human capital development has been a central pillar of his region’s social development framework and the CARICOM Strategic Plan‑2015‑2019. CARICOM is also working towards the implementation of its Human Resource Development 2030 Strategy. Acknowledging the participation of young people in climate change discussions, he described CARICOM’s efforts to ensure decent work and entrepreneurship opportunities for youth through unlocking the potential of the green economy. He further recalled CARICOM’s commitment to the provision of social protection systems.
DATO’SYED MOHD HASRIN AIDID (Malaysia), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), noted that in a world facing multi-polar crises, with unparalleled consequences on social development, there must be a greater focus on basic needs and improving the livelihood of the poorest. Asian countries have taken a proactive approach to fostering equitable and harmonious societies, he stressed, touching on several related initiatives, including the Hanoi Plan of Action. He added that their approach to social welfare and development is guided by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the Madrid Plan of Action on aging. Noting that Sustainable Development Goals provide an excellent framework for social development, he underscored the Asian countries’ commitment to participating with the United Nations in order to achieve the 2030 Agenda.
HÉCTOR ENRIQUE JAIME CALDERÓN (El Salvador), speaking on behalf of the Central American Integration System, described social integration as one of the five pillars around which its members organize their work. These countries have a strong commitment to promote inclusive economic growth, social progress and sustainable development by designing and implementing national plans aimed at the universal enjoyment and exercise of all human rights. The Central American Integration System was conceived as a multidimensional process, based on an ambitious idea of development. Its member countries recognize that nationally appropriate social protection systems can make a critical contribution to realizing human rights for all, particularly those trapped in poverty. Committed to providing greater opportunities for young people and equipping them with the skills necessary to achieve their goals, System members are also promoting the full inclusion and integration of persons with disabilities. He said the growing numbers of older persons in his region is both a significant opportunity and a challenge. The challenge is to design and implement policies that promote their social inclusion and protect their human rights and dignity.
CHRISTOPHE FORAX, European Union, said the bloc is fully committed to achieving inclusive, equitable and quality education for all in a lifelong learning perspective at all stages in life, both within the Union and globally. Universal access to inclusive, quality education and training for everyone — regardless of gender or disabilities — is a fundamental human right and a prerequisite for breaking cycles of inter-generational poverty. It is also instrumental in fostering active citizenship, promoting empowerment and enabling knowledge-based, inclusive and innovative societies. Inequalities are more moderate in Europe than in other regions due to its set of public policies. Significant public expenditure in health care, education and training, employment, social inclusion, pensions and long-term care are a key part of the European social model.
MILENKO ESTEBAN SKOKNIC TAPIA (Chile), speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends of Older Persons, said the increasing numbers of older persons globally and the growing trend of ageing societies represents a significant change to the demographic structures of societies. Because of this, greater attention must be paid to the specific challenges they face in the global development policy framework, including by identifying possible gaps and how to address them. One of the most pressing challenges to the welfare of older persons is poverty. Homelessness, neglect, abuse, violence, malnutrition, unaffordable medicines and income insecurity are just a few of the most critical human rights issues that many older persons are facing. In that regard, designing and implementing programmes and intersectoral policies — as well as legal frameworks that allow for the full social inclusion of older persons — will help ensure their dignity and empowerment. It will also help them fully enjoy their human rights and participate in their societies.
Ms. AL ABTAN (Iraq) said that her delegation is committed to enacting policies to ensure no one is left behind and underscored the importance of addressing the needs of minorities, older persons and children. She detailed several initiatives in this regard, including the creation of a sovereign fund, supported by Iraq’s Central Bank, to finance projects for youth and sport, programmes for education and training, and to make modern technologies available. There will also be targeted programmes to ensure the needs of older persons are met. She touched on programmes to prevent domestic violence and to address the needs of persons with disabilities, for which Iraq would work with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other agencies.
AKANE MIYAZAKI (Japan), said her country places great importance on the holistic empowerment of all individuals, including women, people living with disabilities, older people, youth and lesbian, gay, transgender and intersex people. Japan plans to use the momentum around the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games to encourage those living with disabilities to participate in various sectors. The Government also promotes universal health coverage so that everyone can receive affordable basic medical services, an issue Japan first raised at the 2016 Group of Seven Summit and later promoted at the sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development held that same year. At the 2019 Group of 20 Summit, Japan held ministerial meetings to strengthen health financing to achieve universal health coverage and remains committed to implementing this coverage. She added that, since 1993, Japan has supported Africa’s development by promoting robust health systems, championing the rule of law and accelerating women’s social advancement. In August, Japan committed to increase private investment towards the continent.
Ms. WAGNER (Switzerland) advocated a focus on inequality within and among countries. Inequality must be measured globally, however, there are not the statistical resources to do this. Switzerland supports all efforts to make comparative statistics available. As the High Commissioner for Human Rights has pointed out, Governments cannot use the absence of data to justify inaction. Placing people affected by inequality at the centre of efforts is vital, as they must be involved in solving the problems affecting them. She then turned the floor over to Alicia Joho, youth delegate, who stressed that young people around the world are hard hit by high unemployment. More than one in five are not taking part in education, employment or training. Their exclusion hampers progress by depriving all sectors of the economy of their skills. Helping young people navigate the transition from education to the labour market is the responsibility of all Governments, she said, stressing that education must be of high quality and inclusive, as discrimination in schools leads to a loss of human capital.
Ms. RENEVIER (Luxembourg), associating herself with the European Union, said that achieving the 2030 Agenda requires coherent planning across several spheres. There must be a “cross‑cutting approach” to ensuring social inclusion, she added, going into detail about several initiatives, including an active ageing strategy and a policy providing a basic subsistence to those furthest from the job market. She detailed a “complete integration programme” for asylum seekers, which allows for their “dignified reception” and provides language training. She also touched on several programmes to enhance the professional participation of persons with disabilities and women. Luxembourg’s new parental leave policy outlines that the cost of additional paternal leave is partly shouldered by the State. In addition to national programmes for social and economic integration, Luxembourg also earmarks 1 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) for development cooperation, she said.
THILMEEZA HUSSAIN (Maldives) said that a year ago, the people of her country voted for change, justice, equality, good governance and greater accountability. The new President has pledged that all citizens will be treated with respect and that there will be no discrimination based on gender, age or place of origin. Noting that the Government is working to integrate climate change into social development programming, she said the Maldives also aims to mainstream gender into policy planning and budgeting. It has strived to provide quality health services to improve life expectancy at birth. With a priority focus on education, inclusive policies, starting at primary school age, have resulted in 98 per cent school enrolment. Other social protection schemes support the equal rights of the elderly and persons with disabilities.
NIKOLAS KARANIKOLAS, youth delegate from Germany, described his experience traveling 10,000 kilometres, meeting thousands of young people in his country and collecting 3,000 demands in the last six months. There is no one definition of youth. Rather, young people are colourful and diverse. Former youth delegates from Germany have already demanded disarmament, the creation of a United Nations Youth Board and that the United Nations pay its interns. JOSEPHINE HEBLING, also a youth delegate, said that when youth delegates work with young people to collect their ideas, they meet those who are both privileged and poor. Many have not heard of the United Nations. Pointing to the success of solutions that have involved youth, she encouraged delegates to act more like young people and invite a new perspective into discussions.
ESTER HALLDOTTIR, youth delegate from Iceland, underscored her country’s increased political will towards young people’s inclusion and called for the establishment of a national youth policy, as well as the revision of current laws. Young people are not “a public strategy or a hollow photo opportunity”, she said, pointing to their contribution to society, reflected in school strikes for the climate change. Recalling the #MeToo movement, she pointed to the issue of discrimination and gender inequality. Women are facing a backlash related to their sexual and reproductive rights, she said, voicing concern over the fact that the very rights which women have fought for fiercely are now being threatened.
Mr. EL-ANSARY, youth delegate from Australia, said that during his travels across Australia, he saw first-hand how systems are both enabling and failing young people. He also saw the capacity young people have to shape their communities with pragmatic and creative solutions. This hope is tempered by the fear that action is not being taken fast enough to address today’s issues. There are still stigmas around mental health, and disparities in health care and public infrastructure, as well as unemployment and an education system struggling to prepare students for the real world.
DARJA BAVDAŽ KURET (Slovenia), associating herself with the European Union and the Group of Friends of Older Persons, welcomed the work of the Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing. In the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, there is a joint responsibility to promote the fundamental human rights of older persons. In this field, Slovenia, along with the Group of Friends, delivered a statement at the most recent session of the Human Rights Council. The country also has embarked on awareness raising campaigns to show how ageism prevents the full inclusion in society of older persons.
Mr. BOLE, youth delegate from Slovenia, said the world is becoming more digital each day, presenting both threats and opportunities for young people. Disinformation and scams, for example, mean that digital literacy is critical for young people.
Ms. KIBIYENE (Equatorial Guinea), associating herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said her country has a health action plan for implementing short- and medium-term social measures, and has established free neo-natal health and care for women with complicated pregnancy-related issues. Also, the country’s first mental health clinic has been built. More broadly, she said Equatorial Guinea’s education system is free and compulsory at pre-school and vocational levels.
AYSE INANC-ORNEKOL (Turkey) said reducing regional disparities, and improving both public services and gender equality are challenges that must be addressed. Turkey’s national development model is in line with the 2030 Agenda, with a focus on the needs of children, youth and persons with disabilities. On the rights of the elderly, she noted that Turkey recently held its first council on aging. It is also working to enhance social protections for people with disabilities, including through legal provisions to improve their participation in education and the labour market. Observing that half of Turkey’s population is under the age of 32, she went on to enumerate several measures taken to improve youth participation in social and economic life, such as lowering the age limits for election to Parliament. She also spotlighted measures to help Turkey’s 3.5 million-strong refugee population, including provision of food, health care, psychological support and access to the job market. Emphasizing the need to provide education for 1 million Syrian children, who are enrolled in public schools and temporary education centres, she called for greater cooperation and “meaningful burden and responsibility-sharing” from the international community.
GONZALO ARNALDO RIVERA ROLDAN (Peru) underscored the need to empower the world’s most vulnerable and called for a more inclusive approach. Peru’s social development plan has a special focus on tackling anaemia in children. Recalling the significant progress made by Peru in recent years, including with its macroeconomic policies, he said the country’s vision entails ensuring a decent life for everyone, which will be guaranteed not only by economic growth but also public policies. On that point, he described the target of reducing poverty to 15 per cent, stressing that public policies should work in a coordinated manner to close gaps in access to public services. Promoting social integration, especially through inclusion, is crucial in order for people to exercise their rights, he said, stressing the need to reduce vulnerabilities of all kinds.
HELLEN MKHWEO CHIFWAILA (Zambia), associating herself with the African Group and the Group of 77 and China, agreed that social progress remains slow and uneven globally. Zambia has continued to increase its social protections, especially in rural areas. So far, 18,706 workers in the informal economy have registered with the pension scheme as of June 2019. On the rights of workers, the Government has consolidated the employment act and the employment of young person acts, among others, into a single labour code that was passed by Parliament in 2019. It aims at enhancing employee protections in the workplace.
BERNARDITO CLEOPAS AUZA, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, said that the elderly, persons with disabilities, youth and their families are among those in most need of international support and assistance. Society‑building measures must be based on the centrality of the human person, his or her dignity and the rights flowing therefrom. He cautioned that human development and the exercise of human dignity cannot be imposed, and that these must unfold for each individual and family in relation to others. To this end, he urged the creation of new opportunities for the elderly, persons with disabilities and youth to access education and employment. Protecting these groups and promoting their inclusion and integration in society begins with investing in the family. As such, social programs and Government initiatives should support the family’s caregiving role. The international community must strengthen its efforts to protect the poorest and the weakest.
ALEJANDRO VERDIER (Argentina), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, as well as the Group of Friends on Ageing, underscored the need to implement comprehensive policies to integrate all people into society, from early childhood until old age. Argentina has a robust system of social protection for vulnerable families, which focuses on promoting social mobility, gender equality, and the inclusion of women, children, indigenous peoples and migrants. Argentina also has built an effective social protection system that guarantees free compulsory public education, positively influencing enrolment rates. It is currently devising a national budget that allows space for early childhood‑related issues and the full participation of older persons.
HYUNG WON SUH, youth delegate from Republic of Korea, highlighted the 2018 United Nations Youth Strategy, which aims to foster youth empowerment. As a cofounder of a youth‑led citizenship education project, which provides a platform for debate and leadership on health, marginalization and entrepreneurship, she went on to underscore the need to address youth mental health issues, particularly those related to school violence. Moreover, young people need to have real agency; to be able to “do good” as well as “look good” merely participating, she added.
Ms. GUNNUTSEN (Norway) said education must be at the forefront of development, citing estimates by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees that 3.7 million displaced children have dropped out of school. Indigenous children and youth are also being denied their basic human rights, facing national educational systems determined to erase their culture and traditions from their collective memory through racial and assimilating bias. While young people are often portrayed as victims or perpetrators of conflict, they can play a vital role in conflict resolution. In many fragile countries, young people comprise the majority of the population and can become advocates for peace if given the opportunity.
FABIÁN OSWALDO GARCÍA PAZ Y MIÑO (Ecuador), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Friends of Older People, said it is crucial to define strategies on fiscal wages to mitigate inequalities. While welcoming efforts made to reduce inequality and poverty, he noted that structural change is needed in economic and social policies for better wealth distribution. Social protection is among the main policy instruments to reduce poverty while promoting inclusive growth, he said, pointing to Ecuador’s national development plan, which provides a social protection floor to improve people’s quality of life. Ecuador’s efforts in the sphere of childhood include its “Tenderness” project to enable early childhood development, while its “Home for All” initiative aims to provide housing for those most in need. “My First Job” meanwhile focuses on young people and students, and “My Best Years” provides older people with pension assistance and recreational opportunities.
STEPAN Y. KUZMENKOV (Russian Federation) said that despite the illegal unilateral sanctions against his country, the Russian Federation fulfils all its social obligations to its people as seen in their improved living conditions. For example, salaries of all public servants will be increased in 2021 and 31 million retirees will receive additional pension payments. He described a federal project to support older persons, as well as various measures to improve life expectancy, including social services delivered both in the home and in facilities. The Russian Federation also aims to uphold the rights of persons with disabilities, protect families and ensure a work-life balance for women.
DINH NHO HUNG (Viet Nam) said his country is struggling with the legacy of an estimated 800,000 tons of residual explosive remnants of war. Viet Nam is hoping to be mine-free by 2025, he continued, an achievement which would greatly foster social development. The Government has reduced the ratio of poor households from 9.8 per cent in 2015 to 7.7 per cent in 2017, he said, adding that 98 per cent of those households did not relapse into poverty. However, climate change poses a strong challenge to Viet Nam’s progress. The country aims to mitigate the impact of natural disasters, increase forest coverage, and recover degraded forestry ecosystems. An updated climate change and rising sea level scenario is undertaken regularly for localities and the public’s active response. The Government is also taking steps to end single-use plastics by 2025, he said.
MOHAMMED BESSEDIK (Algeria), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said universal health coverage faces many challenges related to financing, rising costs of medication and human resources. More than 100 million people are pushed to extreme poverty due to “a catastrophic spending on health”, he lamented, adding that, in Algeria, free health care is a human right enshrined in its Constitution. The country’s health coverage index is 76.01 per cent. In terms of education, Algeria has ensured full and free access to primary and high education, achieving an enrolment rate of 98.5 per cent of children aged six, and has implemented a plan to combat illiteracy, which currently stands at 8.71 per cent of the population. Algeria views health and education as inalienable human rights, and thus, provides free tuition and health care for its citizens, as well as to migrants and refugees resident on its soil. Achieving Sustainable Development Goals 3 (health) and 4 (education) requires countries to strengthen international cooperation, he asserted.
Kira Christianne DANGANAN Azucena (Philippines) said that her country’s development plan has reduced poverty incidence to 21 per cent and grown GDP by 5.5 per cent this year and has secured an employment rate above 94 per cent as of the end of 2018. Pointing out that the Constitution requires the Government to accord spending priority to education, she stated that more than 27 million pupils avail themselves of free basic education and, further, that students do not have to pay for tertiary education at public institutions. The Government’s plan also prioritizes the human rights and development of youth, women, indigenous peoples, older persons and persons with disabilities. The latter group receives free access to health care, while recent laws provide youth with business grants, loans and training. The Government also legally recognizes indigenous peoples’ rights to ancestral lands, self-governance, cultural identity and full development and empowerment. She urged all States to implement the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, decried illegal drugs and aligned the Philippines with ASEAN’s desire to achieve the goals of the 2030 Agenda.
Mr. HERNANDEZ, youth delegate from Mexico, said that 25 years after the World Summit for Social Development, the time was right to reflect on progress made. In 1995, an ambitious agenda was set, for example to eradicate poverty and foster social integration. With the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, States reiterated their commitments to the social development agenda. With a priority focus on indigenous peoples, youth and older persons, Mexico is integrating these groups into the country’s political and social life. Without a focus on social development, there will be no peace or sustainable development and he advocated continued efforts to create democratic and inclusive societies.
CHAN AYE (Myanmar), aligning himself with ASEAN, said he supports collective efforts to address challenges in achieving development goals, noting that fair economic development, good governance, political and social stability increase a country’s resilience. Achieving growth with equity and sustainable development have become crucial challenges, he said, underscoring the need to create “win‑win” strategies through regional integration so that the benefits of global economic integration can be widely shared among countries. Adding that the global economic system must adopt different strategies to improve cooperation, he stressed the importance of more comprehensive and effective collaboration with international organizations.
Mr. BLIDARU and Ms. LINH PHAM, youth delegates from Romania, speaking alternately, said there are too many places in the world where 15‑year‑old children walk eight kilometres every day in order to reach school. There are still university students suffering from depression and anxiety without being aware of it. There are still 18‑year‑olds who have spent their lives in orphanages. Representing more than 2.4 million young Romanians, they said they are here today to address the struggles of young people in their country. They called upon the United Nations to ensure a constant assessment of the implementation of the SDGs at the national level and to continue helping countries develop youth‑centred education systems, by providing essential resources and tools.
YOUSSOUF ADEN MOUSSA (Djibouti), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said that to achieve the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, a key role must be played by the international community, working together and focusing on shared goals. Solutions need to be found within the context of an international partnership and there is a need to implement socially inclusive strategies. For its part, Djibouti is focused on patient‑centred health care to provide universal insurance and care. He drew attention to the growing numbers of people in his country with non‑communicable diseases, creating a great burden for the people themselves, their families and the health care system.
LISA KOOPMAN AND FRANÇOIS DECLERCQ, youth delegates from Belgium, said participation in global decision-making is about listening, communicating, discussing and working together to make policymaking inclusive. Young people need a seat at the table with policymakers, where their voices can be heard. Schools must be recognized as the breeding ground for youth participation. A replica of democratic society should be created in those institutions to provide youth with a better understanding of how society works and what their place can be. It is also important to develop, with young people, assemblies to represent them in local communities. Finally, youth in each country should be represented at the national level by acknowledging the role of youth councils and organizations, and supporting them to include youth in decision-making.
MOHAMMED ESSAM M. KHASHAAN (Saudi Arabia), associating himself with the Group of 77, said tackling poverty is a priority, as it is not purely economic but rather, is closely linked to social and political variables. Saudi Arabia has introduced a number of strategic reforms and a social protection scheme for low‑income families, aiming to develop a system that prioritizes poverty eradication and gender equality. Recalling the disability care system developed in 2002, he said Saudi Arabia aims to provide care to all social groups without discrimination, including the ageing population. He further stressed the importance of achieving universal health care and developing health infrastructure, including psychological clinics.
Mr. SPARKS, youth delegate from Hungary, said that Goal 3 (health) is most important, as health is a prerequisite for all other aspects of life. He underscored the importance of prevention through vaccinations and health education, in particular to decrease infections from contaminated foods. On Goal 4 (quality education), he said that if children’s health education starts at an early age, there will be fewer consumers of cigarettes, drugs, alcohol and unhealthy foods, and in turn, fewer people suffering from chronic diseases like diabetes or cancer. Turning to the health of the planet, he stressed that it is suffering from global warming and pollution.
ZEBIB GEBREKIDAN (Eritrea), associating herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said that two decades after poverty and inequality were identified as pressing global challenges, hundreds of millions of people still live in poverty. Inequality within States has widened. Describing investments in human capital and a wide range of infrastructural projects, she said Eritrea aspires to be an economically prosperous middle-income country by 2030, pointing also to inclusive policies for persons with disabilities. Underscoring the role of women and youth in society, she called for more investment and stronger cooperation.
BARBORA KVASNIČKOVA and ALŽBETA FILIPKOVA, Youth Delegates from Czech Republic, said they consider 2019 to be the year of civic engagement, not only for young people but the whole society. By gathering in the same places where the Velvet Revolution broke out 30 years ago, young people are bringing back to life the legacy of young people in 1989. Recalling that young people were a moving force of democracy 30 years ago in the former Czechoslovakia, they called for a broader space for youth involvement on all levels, intergenerational dialogue as well as greater Internet access and climate literacy. Fighting climate change goes hand‑in‑hand with protecting human rights, they stressed, noting that many young people have already lowered their carbon footprint.
LAZARUS OMBAI AMAYO (Kenya), associating himself with the Group of 77 as well as the African Group, said prejudice and discrimination remain pervasive obstacles to equal opportunity. He underscored the need to address disparities in health, education and other dimensions of human development, pointing to Kenya’s investments in education and health aimed at achieving social inclusion and securing the future of all Kenyans. Kenya’s children now enjoy an average 10.7 years of schooling — the highest in the region — and the country is on a committed path to achieving universal health coverage by 2022, with health spending expected to increase from $610 million in 2018 to $730 million in 2021, and coverage to reach 100 per cent by 2022. Kenya also aims to tackle youth unemployment.
MANSI LOIWAL, youth delegate from India, associating herself with the Group of 77, said her country has undertaken several innovative measures to pursue inclusive growth and has reduced multidimensional poverty. She noted the biometric-based unique identification system Aadhaar now covers over 90 per cent of the population, 370 million people who had no access to financial services now have bank accounts, and over $90 billion has been disbursed to more than 330 million people. The National Health Protection Scheme is the world’s largest, covering 100 million families and providing free treatment to 500 million people. In addition, the Clean India Mission, the world’s biggest sanitation campaign, has built 110 million toilets over the last five years, and 80 million free cooking gas connections were issued to protect women and children from indoor air pollution. She noted that India is one of the world’s youngest countries with a median age of 29, making youth employment a priority, with 10 million being trained to start their own enterprises. With a focus on gender progress, 75 per cent of recipients of collateral-free loans are women.
Ms. KORAC (United States) said reform of the Commission on Social Development is the surest path to ensure social development. Only through reform can Member States act in a way that is consistent with the 2030 Agenda’s promise to leave no one behind, she said, emphasizing the need for consistency with the Secretary-General’s reform agenda and to avoid duplication. She went on to say that instead of working on the same recurring draft resolutions, Member States should negotiate a single document. Halving the number of reports, conferences and negotiations can ensure tangible results on the ground, she added.
JENNI SUNDQVIST, Youth Delegate of Finland, said that shrinking civic spaces and increased inequality, combined with Internet algorithms, have triggered a social polarization of opinions and lived experiences. This contributes to a lack of understanding of “the other”, filled with demonizing and securitization. She noted that 40 per cent of young people in Finland have faced hate speech online, an extremely urgent issue that must be tackled. Many people, especially women and minorities, feel that the current online climate can even deter them from participating, as they cannot cope with the hate speech targeting them. She noted the importance of overcoming divisions by supporting civil society through movements, campaigns and petitions, citing the current global #fridaysforfuture climate movement as “a great example of bottom-up political engagement”. Such initiatives on a broader scale can open debate on what society should look like.
KHOO FANG XUAN (Singapore) said her country has among the highest life expectancies in the world, at 85 years. While Singaporeans living long lives is something to be celebrated, it also presents challenges for sustainable development, she said. To prepare, Singapore has a comprehensive plan to cover all aspects of older people’s needs, from health to social inclusion. Digital clinics have been established to provide seniors with digital skills, and a mobile app helps them locate accessible health and social programmes. Singapore also recognizes the valuable contributions of older residents, putting into place flexible work arrangements for continued employment. The Government recently passed legislation to protect seniors’ interests by allowing authorities to intervene as a last resort if an adult is unable to protect himself or herself.
NOUR ALI (Syria) said her country’s social fabric is based on solidarity and complementarity and those traditions have remained alive despite recent events. Syrians are ready to embrace transformation and her country has undertaken a package of socio-economic reforms to both enhance infrastructure, and improve the lives of people with disabilities, young people and older persons. Syria continues to face threats in the form of unilateral, illegal measures. Despite the terrorist war against Syria, her country remains committed to overcoming all obstacles. The Ministry for Social Affairs and Employment strives to bolster social protection systems and improve health, with programmes set up for family members who died in war or persons who lack family care. Despite Israel’s occupation of Syria, his country continues to create an enabling environment for social development.
ABDOULAYE BARRO (Senegal), associating with the Group of 77 and the African Group, called for greater action to reduce social inequality and fight poverty. For its part, Senegal introduced an important vision for social inclusion, with priority focus on universal health care coverage, the rights of people with disabilities and protection for the aging population. Another project seeks to address migration. Turning to education, he said Senegal has registered improvements in gender equality, bringing more girls to school, and in literacy rates. It has also improved the accessibility of free care for children under the age of five.
Ms. NESSF (Qatar) noted that in 2020, her country will host the second international conference on young people. She underscored Qatar’s efforts in providing quality education for millions in conflict zones and disaster areas. She also discussed legislation in Qatar aimed at helping people with disabilities reintegrate into society. Qatar supports the promotion of the International Year of the Family and will facilitate negotiations to that end, she added.
Ms. CALEM-SANGIORGIO (Monaco), quoting Cicero as saying that great things result from reflection, force of character and judgment, said progress in health care means people are living longer active lives and contributing to society. However, age-based discrimination is very real, with elderly women particularly at risk. She described the policies for older persons that have been implemented in Monaco, where the life expectancy of 85.7 years is the highest in the world.
Ms. WOJCIK, youth delegate from Poland, said that in her travels around her country, inequality, insufficient educational opportunities and limited scope for expression emerged as issues of concern. The discrepancy of opportunities between big cities, on the one hand, and smaller towns and villages, on the other, is a contributing factor. She called on Member States to work with civil society in reducing inequalities within and between countries. The international community would benefit from listening to young voices, she said, as youth will be the beneficiaries — or victims — of decisions taken today.
STANLEY RALPH CHEKECHE (Zimbabwe) said his country has integrated the Sustainable Development Goals into its social development agenda. Spotlighting women’s empowerment measures, he noted that 29 per cent of women in Zimbabwe are now land owners, thanks to an ambitious land reform programme that reserves a 20 per cent quota for women. He touched on measures taken for youth empowerment, such as the creation of youth focal desks and apprentice programmes to reduce unemployment. Zimbabwe’s inclusive education policy, which accounts for its consistently high literacy rate, is enhanced by the 2018 approval of the right to State-funded primary and secondary education, with guarantees for children with disabilities, he added. On AIDS, he said Zimbabwe has introduced a levy to mobilize domestic financial resources; a model that is now used in many other countries.