Inclusive Recovery from Pandemic Requires Greater Push to End Poverty, Hunger, Delegates in Social Development Commission Stress, as 2022 Session Continues
Ministerial Forum Explores Policies to Counter Food Insecurity, Renew Social Contract between Governments, People in Improving Well-Being
The Commission for Social Development began its general discussion today, with speakers calling on the international community to build a global architecture to recover from the coronavirus pandemic and address the entrenched drivers of poverty and hunger.
During the half-day virtual discussion, delegates explored ways to emerge from the pandemic better positioned to end poverty and hunger, and reviewed United Nations programmes designed to address the needs of vulnerable groups.
Against that backdrop, Finland’s representative, speaking for the Nordic countries, noted the impacts of COVID-19 on children, particularly those in vulnerable situations. “The pre-existing inequalities will impact the lives of children for a long time ahead,” she said, stressing the need to break an intergenerational cycle of poverty and deprivation. Calling for the promotion of all children’s rights and well-being, she said multiple measures must be taken to address their poverty and social exclusion, including through education, social and health services, as well as child and parental leave benefits.
Pakistan’s delegate, speaking for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said an unprecedented crisis requires an unprecedent response. He urged the international community to build a global architecture in which no one is left behind. Noting that developing countries will need $3.4-3.5 billion a year to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, he called on developed countries to fulfil their 0.7 per cent target for official development assistance (ODA).
Jamaica’s representative spoke on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), emphasizing the need to eradicate all forms of poverty — particularly extreme poverty. The combination of COVID-19 and natural disasters wreaked havoc on the region, with perilous consequences on everything from crop yields to potable water access. There is an urgent need to address the impact of the pandemic and climate change, and to strengthen food security. CARICOM has taken steps to do so, including through a COVID-19 response food plan, he said.
Mali’s delegate, speaking for the African Group, spotlighted the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) as an important initiative that advances social and economic development on the continent, and called on partners to scale up support for its full implementation. He also called for stronger strategies to combat illicit financial flows out of developing countries, pointing out that the recovered funds could reduce hunger and help achieve food security.
Also speaking during the general discussion were senior officials and representatives of Peru (on behalf of the LGBTI Core Group), Chile (on behalf of the Group of Friends of Older Persons), Egypt, Philippines, Zimbabwe, Morocco and Qatar.
In the morning, the Commission held a virtual Ministerial Forum, in which senior Government officials shared national experiences in addressing food insecurity and the eradication of poverty.
The Commission will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 9 February, to continue its sixtieth session.
This morning, the Commission for Social Development held a Ministerial Forum on the priority theme “Strengthening multilateralism to deliver well-being and dignity for all by addressing food insecurity and the eradication of poverty, including through the promotion of sustainable food systems”.
Moderated by Commission Chair María del Carmen Squeff (Argentina), the discussion featured presentations by Dina Boluarte, Vice-President and Minister for Development and Social Inclusion of Peru; Hanna Sarkkinen, Minister for Social Affairs and Health of Finland; Sahil Babayev, Minister for Labour and Social Protection of the Population of Azerbaijan; Williametta E. Saydee-Tarr, Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection of Liberia; Mariam bint Ali bin Nasser al-Misnad, Minister for Social Affairs and the Family of Qatar; Ariunzaya Ayush, Minister for Labour and Social Protection of Mongolia; and Kentaro Uesugi, Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan.
Ms. BOLUARTE said joint actions among countries allow for the attainment of well-being and dignity for all. She stressed the importance of international cooperation, noting that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated poverty and food insecurity, widening inequalities and the vulnerability of many excluded populations. The Government carried out complementary measures aimed at reinforcing responses to the crisis, offering vouchers to urban and rural populations and direct transfers through social programmes. Turning to food security, she said it is essential to intervene in food supply chains. Describing how women participated in operating canteens and soup kitchens, becoming a key part of ensuring food security, she said these programmes benefited 8 million people. Food baskets were delivered to 1.6 million people and school meals were provided to 4 million students in 64,000 public institutions. Some 230 municipalities received training in food services management. In 2022, the Government increased the budget to support canteens by 65 per cent, she said, underscoring the importance Peru places on multilateralism.
Ms. SARKKINEN stressed the importance of preparedness and resilience to withstand shocks, like the COVID-19 pandemic, noting that Finland has a strong health system and a transparent welfare model, and underscoring the importance of investments in health systems and skills. Finland’s pre-existing system worked well so that it had to make few adjustments during the pandemic. Yet, the Government needed to strengthen social protection for small and mid-size businesses. The pandemic prompted the Government to consider measures for strengthening social protections. Turning to Finland’s “affordable housing for all” policy, she said support is provided as soon as people become homeless and the initiative aims to eradicate homelessness by 2027. The right to food is a human right, she said, noting that Finland provides free school meals. Such investment in human capital has had a vital role in development, she said, inviting all States to join the global coalition for free school meals. Social and gender equality is the tradition of Finland, where secondary education is now provided free of charge. The Government is also undertaking reform to better support families, including by expanding family leave.
Mr. BABAYEV said significant progress has been made recently following steps taken to strengthen social protection measures with programmes that now reach 1 million people. Increasing pension, minimum wage salaries and other income programmes are leading to a reduction in poverty, especially for vulnerable groups. Several other social assistance programmes aim specifically at reducing poverty, given that pandemic-related challenges have continued over the past two years. Social benefits became another tool to protect people from the risk of falling into poverty, he said, highlighting several ongoing projects that target, among other vulnerable groups, elderly persons and those with disabilities. In 2020, Azerbaijan restored its territorial integrity, he said, adding that related actions have been taken to address the population’s needs, from employment to gender equality. The Government also adopted comprehensive measures to address a variety of shocks caused by the pandemic, with social services now available to a broader number of citizens through digitization.
Ms. SAYDEE-TARR said Liberia is challenged, from food insecurity — with 2.4 million affected — to malnourishment, at a time when the pandemic continues to pose problems. The Government held an agricultural fair in 2021 to offer opportunities in agribusiness, which increased from 77 entities in 2020 to almost 150 in 2021. Liberia also launched a range of related interventions, notably ensuring that bumper crops reach markets, assisting rice farmers, building five market buildings to support farmers and constructing a major road to ease transport challenges. Partnerships with the World Bank support other projects. Emphasizing that Liberia is establishing the building blocks to address challenges while recognizing its own limited resources, she highlighted such efforts as home‑building and the mainstreaming of gender equality in that context. The Government has also implemented a road map to address the fact that women and girls are more vulnerable to sexual exploitation or trafficking. She also highlighted Liberia’s efforts to forge strong partnerships and ensure the realization of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Ms. NASSER AL-MISNAD agreed on the need to promote multilateral partnerships in support of social development, particularly given today’s global challenges. Among Qatar’s international priorities is the provision of support for economic and social development in low-income countries, as well as countries experiencing conflicts and facing natural disasters. Describing some of those initiatives, she outlined various programmes aimed at mitigating the impact of climate change, including in the world’s small island developing States. Among other crucial partnerships, Qatar signed an agreement with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to provide $90 million in food support to Yemen, and it gave $10 million to the COVAX Facility to support the provision of 1.3 billion doses of safe, effective COVID-19 vaccines to 92 low-income countries by the end of 2022. Qatar also opened the United Nations House in its capital, Doha, which now hosts many United Nations offices that work in the fields of social and economic development.
Ms. AYUSH, in a pre-recorded message, said Mongolia has both mid- and long‑term programmes to ensure food security, including interventions in food supply chains, value-added taxation schemes and price fluctuation mitigation measures. During the pandemic, Mongolia’s production of major agricultural products increased. However, as a landlocked country, it faced challenges in accessing markets and delays in receiving imported supplies. The Government is working hard to address these disruptions. Describing efforts to identify and address poverty, she expressed Mongolia’s commitment to reduce poverty and hunger, in cooperation with FAO and international organizations.
Mr. UESUGI, in a pre-recorded message, said nutrition is fundamental for well-being and dignity. Describing how undernutrition and obesity have become global problems, he said Japan hosted the Tokyo Nutrition for Growth Summit 2021 and led discussions on five themes: health, food, resilience, accountability and financing. The outcome document — the Tokyo Compact — provides direction for the international community to improve nutrition. At the Summit, various stakeholders announced more than $27 billion in nutrition-related funding, including Japan, which announced more than $2.8 billion in assistance. The Government provides emergency food assistance, school meals and programmes to encourage the development of farmland through the World Food Programme (WFP). Based on the principle of human security, Japan will continue to contribute to strengthening multilateralism towards a world where “no one’s health is left behind”.
In the interactive dialogue, the representative of Malawi, speaking on behalf of her country’s Minister for Agriculture, said the pandemic has impacted sustainable food systems which were already grappling with the effects of climate change, noting that in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region, close to 46 million people are food insecure due to issues like supply chain failures, leading to price increases, with women-led households in the lowest quartile of income being most affected by poverty. She set out measures undertaken by the Government to bolster food security, including the development of a 2021-2022 Lean Season Response Plan to coordinate the implementation of humanitarian assistance for food‑insecure households and the promotion of Village Loan Groups, where over 80 per cent comprise women. However, these efforts have been compromised by Cyclone Ana which struck in January, leading to the loss of lives and livelihoods and setting back years of progress on Sustainable Development Goals 1 and 2. The cyclone’s intensity is a reminder of the nexus among climate, food security and poverty, she said.
The representative of Portugal, underlining the need for multilateralism in pandemic recovery, asked about missed opportunities to build back better and ensure an inclusive recovery.
A speaker from the European Commission, underscoring the importance of multilateral cooperation to face global challenges, asked how cooperation can be improved in a networked multilateral system to address poverty and hunger.
The representative of Argentina, noting that the pandemic offers an opportunity to rethink models of international cooperation, asked how such cooperation can advance a fairer, more sustainable form of social development.
The representative of Brazil outlined measures taken by the Government to address food insecurity during the pandemic, including a food distribution initiative, which provided 2 million food baskets to 850,000 families, and the Feed Brazil Programme, through which the Government acquires food from family farmers and allocates to those in food insecure situations. She went on to ask how the pandemic impacted food insecurity, and what can be done to address the problem.
The representative of China, observing that the pandemic pushed many more people into poverty, emphasized the need for anti-pandemic cooperation that is mindful of the special needs of developing countries, and called for vaccine nationalism to be abandoned, and for the climate divide to be bridged. Pointing to China’s Global Development Initiative Cooperation as an example of its support for global social development, he invited States to join the endeavour.
The representative of Peru said the pandemic has led to a worsening of food security, to which States are responding with different strategies with far-reaching approaches. He underlined the need for more to be done to generate employment and ensure adequate social protections.
Ms. SARKKINEN, responding to questions, said questions about eradicating poverty and hunger are not separate from economic policies, adding that an effective broad-based tax system is a precondition for a strong social protection system. In Finland, progressive taxation contributes to equity and social cohesion and ensures resources for social investment in health care and other social support systems. Highlighting the concept of the economy of well-being, which promotes cross-sectoral cooperation and long-term stability, she underscored the role of civil society organizations globally and domestically to promote international cooperation. On food security and the pandemic, she said Finland responded to the situation by making adjustments to its already robust social protection system.
Mr. BABAYEV said that an initial anti-COVID‑19 package of $3 billion was introduced in his country, but with the pandemic persisting, Azerbaijan is doing its best to continue such efforts, taking into consideration what it has learned in terms of best practices. It is staying in touch with international partners and specialized United Nations agencies to introduce other packages addressing long-term problems. He underscored the “inevitable” role of cooperation with regard to vaccines.
Ms. DEL CARMEN SQUEFF, responding, said the directors of specialized United Nations programmes can contribute to dealing innovatively with the problems raised. For no one to be left behind, everyone must work very hard, and in a coordinated fashion, for which the United Nations plays a major role.
The representative of Peru, speaking a second time, underlined the need for an integrated approach among United Nations agencies, deploying greater sums towards achieving greater results. An active dialogue between agencies and Member States will ensure the synchronization of efforts with individual social development policies, he said, adding that multilateralism can help foster flexible conditions to fund necessary expenditures for post-pandemic relaunch and recovery, for States that requiring such efforts.
Ms. SARKKINEN underscored the need to strengthen the United Nations system in terms of funding and political support. Noting that the pandemic has demonstrated the need for strong international organizations, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), she called for a post-pandemic assessment or understanding of such bodies’ funding needs. The role of the Commission can also be strengthened, she added.
The representative of Finland, speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries and aligning herself with the European Union, noted the impacts of COVID-19 on children, particularly those in disadvantaged or vulnerable situations. “The pre‑existing inequalities will impact the lives of children for a long time ahead,” she said. “There is an intergenerational cycle of poverty and deprivation that needs to be broken.” She called for promoting all children’s rights and well‑being. In tackling inequalities, multiple measures must be taken to address children’s poverty and social exclusion, including through education, social and health services, as well as child and parental leave benefits. She highlighted the role of healthy and nutritious school meals, which can be subsidized in many ways, notably through economic support to families with children. She also emphasized that good nutrition and healthy meals act as a widespread social safety net. She noted that persons with disabilities and older persons have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic and urged States to fulfil their obligations under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the United Nations Decade on Healthy Ageing. “We are facing a new era for social protection and universal health care,” she stressed. The social dimension of the 2030 Agenda must be fully integrated into global efforts. A youth delegate from Finland then drew attention to an increase in youth unemployment, unstable income, social inequality and a lack of opportunity — which accumulate as poverty and hunger if actions are not taken. “Most countries that suffer from extreme hunger and poverty are the ones that were colonized for hundreds of years,” he added, calling for action to help these countries.
The representative of Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the world is engulfed in multiple challenges, which reversed progress towards the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals. Poverty and hunger are intertwined, and COVID-19 continues to take a heavy toll on livelihoods, with the devastating impact on those already suffering poverty and hunger. Progress towards ending poverty and hunger will only be possible if words are put into action. Noting that developing countries will need $3.4-3.5 billion a year to achieve the 2030 Agenda, he urged developed countries to fulfil their 0.7 per cent target for official development assistance (ODA). International financial institutions should provide new special drawing rights and concessional financing, as developing countries need access to grants, not loans that will increase their debt burden. For its part, the United Nations can mobilize funding so developing countries can build sustainable infrastructure for post-pandemic recovery and transition. Also, it is important to close the digital divide, as many still lack access to distance learning. An unprecedented crisis needs an unprecedent response, he said, urging the international community to build a global architecture in which no one is left behind.
The representative of Jamaica, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and aligning with the Group of 77 and China, emphasized the need to eradicate all forms of poverty — particularly extreme poverty — as well as inequality in all dimensions to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. While the pandemic spared no one, it had a disproportionate impact on the most vulnerable and exacerbated inequalities, he said, underscoring the need to build back better for a resilient economic recovery. Noting that climate change has a wide-ranging impact, affecting human health and food security, among others, he pointed out that the combination of COVID-19 and natural disasters wreaked havoc on the region, with perilous consequences on everything from crop yields to potable water access. There is an urgent need to address the impacts of both crises, and to strengthen food security. CARICOM has taken steps to do so, including through a COVID-19 response food plan which takes into account the high food import budget and the high levels of non-communicable diseases. It has also undertaken a survey to assess the pandemic’s impact, gathering data on livelihoods and food security. The bloc is committed to inclusive social policies, building resilience and supporting recovery. Tackling the crisis’ long-term effects will entail a “significant paradigm shift from business as usual”, he said. He underscored the need for a Multidimensional Vulnerability Index for small island developing States, and welcomed that the Secretary-General’s report highlighted the need for new measurement tools, which reflects a deep understanding of the process through which people move in and out of poverty.
The representative of Peru, speaking on behalf of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transexual and Intersex (LGBTI) Core Group, chaired by Argentina and the Netherlands, said the pandemic has worsened the situation of the most vulnerable, who face increased discrimination and unemployment. Many undertake informal work, without social protection, are excluded from accessing sick leave and face barriers in the labour market. Given the dramatic global recession, which especially impacts developing countries, which lack sustainable structures for welfare, LGBTI people are more exposed to poverty, hunger, violence, discrimination and exclusion. Pandemic recovery must therefore prioritize integral social development and ensure respect for human rights. Echoing the Secretary-General’s report, which stated that human dignity is incompatible with discrimination, he called for the framing of policies that empower vulnerable groups and ensure their aspirations and needs are satisfied. Recovery plans must embrace such inclusive and well-targeted ideas, pertaining to employment, combating hunger and food insecurity.
The representative of Chile, speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends of Older Persons, said COVID-19 has pushed older people into poverty and aggravated misery for those who are already living in poverty. Noting that older persons suffer multiple forms of marginalization, abuse, neglect and discrimination, he said social protection measures must prevent poverty across the full life cycle. Welcoming the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing, adopted in 2002, he said older people not only face challenges posed by the pandemic, but also pre‑existing problems, such as violations of their human rights. Older women are particularly vulnerable and more likely to fall into poverty, he said, stressing the need for disaggregated data on older women. The Madrid Plan offers a road map linking ageing and sustainable development. He said the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) report on “ageing in the digital age” describes older persons as valuable, rather than vulnerable. As the Madrid Plan was not designed to address the human rights protection gap, he called for the development of a legally binding instrument for the protection of older people’s human rights.
The representative of Egypt said economic reforms launched since 2015 have enhanced the economy’s resilience to sudden shocks. The Government has adopted multiple policies to mitigate the financial effects of COVID-19, including the allocation of a $6 billion stimulus package — equivalent to 1.8 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) — to ensure resources for health and social protection measures. It also supported 5 million households with food packages, medical supplies and other necessities, at a cost of $310 million, efforts that enabled it to achieve three Guinness records for humanitarian and charity campaigns. The Government delivered family‑planning tools and children’s milk to the poorest women, while 150,000 vulnerable women running microfinance projects were financially supported to pay 50 per cent of their loans. She also highlighted Egypt’s online psychological and education support for vulnerable groups, including children with disabilities, adding that Egypt’s digital transformation and electronic payment efforts have facilitated its survival and adaptation.
The representative of the Philippines said the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act was passed into law in 2020 to cushion the impact of COVID-19, mandating that the Department of Social Welfare and Development implement measures to help the most affected families and individuals. At the core of the Act is the Emergency Subsidy Programme, which covers 25 million low-income families nationwide. The Philippines also created a National Food Policy, aimed at achieving “zero hunger”. Response and recovery plans are focused on sustaining the well-being of the poor, strengthening collaboration and coordination with stakeholders in the provision of social protection programmes and ensuring responsive policies that address the pandemic’s impact. Noting that social amelioration measures had reduced the number of Filipinos who might have become poor to around 410,000 families, he stressed that investing in information and communication technology and infrastructure to support the “new normal” operations of social welfare and development programmes is among the country’s top priorities.
The representative of Zimbabwe drew attention to inclusive social protection initiatives in his country, notably sustainable livelihood programs, in-kind and cash transfers, and food, health and education assistance. For example, Zimbabwe extended its unconditional cash‑transfer programme — which ordinarily targets ultra-poor households that are labour constrained, and child‑headed and female‑headed households — to cater to households rendered transiently poor by the pandemic. Citing community works projects in horticulture and crop production by small‑holder farmers, he went on to describe an education assistance programme expanded to cover fees for vulnerable children and those with disabilities. In 2022, cash transfers will be extended to households, with learners receiving assistance to engage in income-generating activities, he said, also highlighting Zimbabwe’s priority on the provision of food relief to food‑insecure and ultra‑poor households. Legislation has been enacted to provide care and protection services to children, and a national disability policy recently launched, which provides for the mainstreaming of disability across all sectors, and the establishment of targeted disability projects.
The representative of Mali, speaking on behalf of the African Group, and associating with the Group of 77 and China, echoed the Secretary General’s report which stated that, in sub-Saharan Africa, owing to limited social protection coverage amid the pandemic, many rural households are employing harmful coping strategies, including selling their productive assets, such as farming equipment, land and livestock, to meet their needs, thereby threatening future income and productive capacity. Noting that poverty eradication is one among three pillars of social development, as identified at the 1995 World Summit for Social Development in Copenhagen, he expressed concern that more than a billion people around the world live below the poverty line, with less than a decade remaining to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 1. He reaffirmed the African Group’s strong commitment to continue implementing the Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development and Programme of Action, in line with the Addis Ababa Action Plan for Financing for Development. More broadly, he expressed concern that vaccination rates in high-income countries are seven times higher than in African nations, and called on all countries and all manufacturers to prioritize vaccine supply to the COVAX Facility, and to share know-how and technology to facilitate the local production of tests kits, vaccines and therapeutics. Spotlighting the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) as an important initiative advancing social and economic development on the continent, he called on partners to scale up efforts and support its full implementation, and urged developed countries to implement their ODA commitments. He also underlined the need to strengthen strategies to combat illicit financial flows to developed countries from developing countries and strengthen good practices on assets return and recovery, to generate financing for development. Indeed, recovered funds could reduce hunger and achieve food security, among other objectives, he added.
The representative of Mongolia outlined steps the Government has taken to ensure implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, including its long‑term development policy, Vision 2050, which sets out a plan to reform the social insurance system, optimize social welfare services and increase employment. As part of its “from welfare to employment” policy, it has prioritized programmes to promote employment and reform social protection, and taken steps to improve the efficiency of budget allocation and targeting of social welfare services. She outlined measures taken to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on the livelihoods of poor and vulnerable households, including a five-time increase in assistance for children, a doubled food-stamp voucher and an increased welfare pension, as well as wage subsidies and soft loans. The Government has approved and implemented a four-year plan, costing 10 trillion Mongolian tögrög, to enhance the post-pandemic economy and protect the health of its citizens, in addition to a New Revival Policy, introduced in 2021, to eliminate developmental barriers, among other goals.
Also speaking were the representatives of Morocco and Qatar.