Social Development Commission Concludes Sixtieth Session, Sends 3 Texts to Economic and Social Council on COVID-19 Recovery, Decent Work for All
The Commission for Social Development concluded its sixtieth session today, forwarding three texts to the Economic and Social Council, including a draft resolution focused on an inclusive and resilient recovery from COVID-19 and the eradication of poverty and hunger to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, this year’s priority theme.
By the terms of that resolution, the Commission recommended that the Economic and Social Council — its parent organ — urge Member States to address multiple causes of poverty, hunger and inequality by creating decent work, improving coherence between social protection, food security and nutrition policies, and prioritizing investment in early childhood education, nutrition and care to break intergenerational poverty. “Sustainable agricultural production, food security, food safety and nutrition are key elements for the eradication of poverty in all its forms,” the Commission emphasized through the text.
A draft resolution, titled “Social dimensions of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development”, would have the Council decide that the Commission should continue to raise awareness of these social dimensions and give due consideration to Agenda 2063 of the African Union at its sixty-first session.
In a draft decision, the Commission recommended to the Council that the priority theme of the sixty-first session should be “Creating full and productive employment and decent work for all as a way of overcoming inequalities to accelerate the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”.
In other business, the Commission approved the draft provisional agenda of its sixty-first session (document E/CN.5/2022/L.1). Delegates also approved the draft report of the sixtieth session (document E/CN.5/2022/L.2), introduced by Rapporteur Hellen Chifwaila (Zambia).
Commission Chair María del Carmen Squeff (Argentina) then declared the sixtieth session closed and opened the first meeting of the sixty-first session. Delegates elected, by acclamation, Alya Ahmed Saif al-Thani (Qatar) as Chair, and Or Shaked (Israel) and Daniel Zavala Porras (Costa Rica) as Vice-Chairs, but postponed the election of remaining members of the bureau to a later date.
Action on Drafts
The Commission approved, without a vote, the draft decision titled “Theme of the Commission for Social Development at its sixty-first session” (document E/CN.5/2022/L.5), which would have the Council decide that the priority theme of the session is “Creating full and productive employment and decent work for all as a way of overcoming inequalities to accelerate the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”.
The Commission then turned to the draft resolution titled “Social dimensions of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development” (document E/CN.5/2022/L.4), by which the Council would decide that the Commission should continue to raise awareness of these social dimensions and give due consideration to the African Union’s Agenda 2063 at its sixty-first session.
Also by the text, the Council would urge African Governments to expand investment financing for agriculture to at least 10 per cent of the annual public sector budget, while also urging African countries and development partners to meet the needs of young people, in particular by tackling youth unemployment through the development of quality education, skills training and entrepreneurship programmes.
The representative of Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the draft represents a technical update from 2021, due to difficulty in negotiating the text virtually.
The Commission then approved the text without a vote.
In an explanation of position, the representative of the United States said his delegation joined consensus on the draft, welcoming the commitment to social protection, and references to the role of civil society and safeguarding of human rights. However, most issues in the text have already been addressed in the annual New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) resolution in the General Assembly. Clarifying his delegation’s stance on paragraph 58, he said implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development must respect independent mandates of other forums, and should not alter any World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements. Technology transfer must be voluntary and mutually agreed. Further, the phrase “illicit financial flow” lacks agreed definition, while the phrase “right to development” does not have an agreed understanding. The United States is concerned that such a right identified in the text protects States rather than individuals. He also expressed regret that a reference to the 2021 Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS was omitted and that language on gender‑based violence lacks urgency.
The Commission then approved, without a vote, the draft resolution titled “Inclusive and resilient recovery from COVID-19 for sustainable livelihoods, well‑being and dignity for all: eradicating poverty and hunger in all its forms and dimensions to achieve the 2030 Agenda” (document E/CN.5/2022/L.3). Through the text, the Council would acknowledge that recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic gives additional opportunity to develop integrated policy frameworks to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, and that such frameworks should aim to simultaneously eradicate poverty, hunger and malnutrition, as well as combat inequalities, enhance people’s well-being, and promote acceleration actions at the national, regional and international levels. It would also urge Member States to address multiple causes of poverty, hunger and inequality by creating decent work; increasing resilience; improving coherence among social protection, food security and nutrition policies; and prioritizing investment in early childhood education, nutrition and care to break intergenerational poverty.
In an explanation of position, the representative of the United States, while joining consensus, stated that the text is non-binding and does not create rights and obligations under international law. Any references to specific principles do not oblige States to apply them or act in accordance with them, he said, adding that this also applies to any mention of international instruments to which States are not a party. Further, abbreviated reference to human rights must be understood to be shorthand references. While the United States supports the realization of the right to education, within the scope of international human rights law, he said that when resolutions in this regard call on States to strengthen aspects of education, this must be done with respect to federal, state and local authorities. He expressed concern that the concept of “food sovereignty” could justify protectionism or other aspects with a negative impact on food security. He also expressed regret over the inclusion of language from a resolution that did not enjoy consensus and was most recently rejected by 50 States; therefore, the United States must disassociate from preambular paragraph 21 and operative paragraph 5.
The representative of Libya, while joining consensus on the text, objected to passages, which pertain to “various forms of discrimination” and “women and girls in all their diversity”, both of which are at odds with national legislation and social specificities.
The representative of Hungary disassociated from operative paragraph 16, which singled out marginalized groups such as migrants, thereby risking excluding others.
The representative of Saudi Arabia, speaking in explanation of vote, expressed concern over the use of the phrases “all intersectoral forms of discrimination” and “women and girls in all their diversity”, which are at odds with her country’s religious and social features.
The representative of Yemen joined consensus on the resolution, but expressed reservations with non-consensual language pertaining to “various intersecting forms of discrimination and violence” and “women and girls in all their diversity”, which are at variance with national legislation.
The representative of Senegal disassociated from paragraphs 26 and 34 as terms related to discrimination against women and girls are at odds with his country’s faith-based and social values.
The representative of France, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said it is significant that this “priority theme resolution” includes forward-looking recommendations to address inequalities and exclusion. Welcoming the recommendations to promote and protect the role of civil society organizations and to facilitate the meaningful participation and empowerment of those in vulnerable situations, he said the recommendations addressing the challenges facing children, especially girls, are particularly important. He also welcomed the commitments made to combat multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and violence, considering that the empowerment of women and girls in diverse situations and conditions will make a crucial contribution to progress across all the Goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda.
The observer of the Holy See said it is regrettable that the text failed to reaffirm that “the family as the basic unit of society […] plays a key role in social development and as such should be strengthened”. It is disappointing that this Commission is once again unable to reaffirm one of the fundamental principles of the Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development. Moreover, it is unfortunate that the resolution and its impact are diminished by disputed terms and concepts that are unclear and controversial, including contentious terminology related to discrimination and diversity — in particular, the inclusion of new elements in operative paragraph 25 that alter well-established language from the 2030 Agenda. The Holy See encourages the Bureau to evaluate the scheduling of negotiations, as the limited timeframe proved to be challenging, particularly as related to the discussion of contentious issues and novel language.