Social Development Commission Concludes Sixty-First Session, Recommending Four Draft Resolutions to Economic and Social Council for Adoption
The Commission for Social Development, acting by consensus on the final day of its sixty-first session, decided to forward four draft resolutions to the Economic and Social Council for adoption — including one focused on creating full employment and decent work for all to overcome inequalities and accelerate the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Commission approved the text “Future organization and methods of work of the Commission for Social Development” (document E/CN.5/2023/L.3), in which the Economic and Social Council would decide that the priority theme for the sixty-second session of the Commission will be “Fostering social development and social justice through social policies to accelerate progress on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and to achieve the overarching goal of poverty eradication”. Among other things, it would also decide that the Commission shall adopt a decision at its sixty-second session to establish the priority theme for its sixty-third session, in accordance with the provisions of the present resolution.
The representative of Mexico reiterated her position on the Commission’s working methods, particularly regarding the decision on the priority theme of the Commission’s sixty-second session, given that General Assembly resolution 74/290 mandates the Assembly to adopt a decision in this regard. Further, the same resolution also mandates the commissions of the Economic and Social Council, including the Commission for Social Development, to adopt their own themes in line with the main theme of the Council, as referred to by paragraph 3 of the resolution just adopted. Therefore, she expressed regret over the prejudging of the outcome of priority topics to be discussed during the sixty-second session, as picking a topic so far ahead of time may risk that the topic is no longer relevant.
The representative of Iran said she was disassociating from the Commission’s decisions and resolutions which ran counter to her country’s laws, norms and values. In addition, she stressed that monitoring social protection indicators hinder the responsibility of the Government, further disassociating from references made to “multiple intersecting forms of discrimination”.
The draft resolution “Social dimensions of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development” (document E/CN.5/2023/L.5) was also approved today. By its terms, the Council would acknowledge that the attainment of the seven aspirations of the African Union’s Agenda 2063 is critical to ensuring a high standard of living for all citizens of Africa through jobs and decent work and poverty and hunger eradication, among others. It would note with great concern the continuing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on African countries and also urge African countries to pay close attention to sustainable growth through employment-intensive investment programmes, among other things.
The representative of Cuba, introducing that draft on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, highlighted elements such as the African Peer Review Mechanism, the elimination of female genital mutilation, a just transition approach to tackle climate change and the African Union’s International Centre for Education of Girls and Women in Africa.
The representative of the United States said that, while he appreciated the references to the important role of civil society and efforts to strengthen good governance, human rights, and sound economic management, these issues are adequately addressed in the annual New Partnership for Africa's Development resolution negotiated through the General Assembly. Also underscoring that trade language, negotiated or adopted by the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council, has no relevance for his country’s trade policy, he expressed concern about the terms “illicit financial flows” and “right to development”. Regarding the latter term, he noted his concerns that the “right to development” in the text protects States instead of individuals.
The representative of Senegal dissociated from references to the 2016-2030 Action Plan, which concerns sexual and reproductive rights and the implementation plan for that work.
The Commission then approved the draft resolution “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” (document E/CN.5/2023/L.7). By its terms, the Council would note, among other things, that multiple crises, including the pandemic, have increased the number of those living in poverty, widened inequalities, increased unemployment and has continue to disproportionately impact people in vulnerable situations. It would also stress the need to address challenges faced by those working in informal or vulnerable jobs, by investing in the creation of more decent work opportunities.
The representative of Mexico expressed disagreement with preambular paragraph 33 which spotlights the 2025 Summit, calling for a transparent process and for the appointment of facilitators to steer the process. Stressing that the family is a sociological concept that changes when development takes place, she noted that the resolution forgets to mention the diversity of the family.
The representative of Malaysia voiced disappointment that the interest of developing countries continues to be stonewalled, resulting in the adoption of resolutions that are incongruent with the realities in developing countries. He disassociated from the term “multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination” featured in operative paragraphs 26 and 34 due to their inconsistency with Malaysia’s national position.
The representative of Senegal emphasized that the resolution falls in a post-COVID context, seeking to bolster social protections by facilitating decent jobs and reducing inequality. Opposing non-consensus-based language, he disassociated from the terms “multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination”, as well as references to families which are in odds with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The representative of Hungary disassociated from preambular paragraph 19, noting that the mention of certain minorities — including migrants — excludes others who are equally vulnerable and deserve equal attention from the international community.
The Permanent Observer for the Holy See, describing the inclusion of controversial language related to discrimination as “regrettable”, noted that the expression “multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination” lacks a definition agreed upon by the international community. He added that the term “gender” is grounded in biological and sexual identity.
The representative of the United Kingdom highlighted the universalization of social protection, including the recent efforts for global accelerator for social protection. Reducing the disability gap is a key priority for his Government, he said, also stressing the importance of ensuring that young people, as well as family units are supported by the labour market.
The representative of Nigeria, underlining the importance of families in the realization of social protection, condemned attempts to block the efforts to protect the family. She expressed regret over the inclusion of non-consensual terms, such as “multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination”. The term “gender” is understood by her delegation as referring to men and women in the context of society, she added.
The representative of Djibouti stressed that the family is the central element of all social development, adding that he deplored the counterproductive efforts to introduce controversial language about families. The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated that measures benefiting the family can make a real difference, giving it even more relevance, he noted.
The representative of Iran underlined the leading role of family in social development, raising reservations to operational paragraphs 26 and 34.
The representative of the United States said that, in regards to calls on Governments to strengthen various aspects of education, in his country, educational matters are done in terms consistent with federal, state, tribal and local authorities. Also expressing concern about the lack of an agreed-upon definition of the term “illicit financial flows”, he disassociated from preambular paragraph 30. Among other things, he noted his concern of this resolution’s reference to the right to life and dissociated from such language in preambular paragraph 24. The language creates confusion about the scope of the right to life by suggesting that the obligations extending from the right may apply to circumstances involving poverty.
The representative of Libya expressed reservations over the language used in paragraphs 42 and 45 as they are not internationally agreed terms and are inconsistent with Libya’s national culture.
The representative of Mauritania stressed the importance of the concept of the family, which is the main unit of society. Based on Mauritania’s religious and social convictions, gender represents either a man or a woman; therefore, she expressed reservations about the use of language that contravenes such ideas.
The representative of Kazakhstan, also speaking for Cabo Verde and Portugal, then introduced the draft text “Policies and Programmes involving Youth” (document E/CN.5/2023/L.4). He said the draft contains agreed language from previous sessions, along with some new paragraphs linked to this year’s priority theme. Special attention was given to the continued effects of the pandemic on young people’s lives and well-being, the digital divides they face, especially young women and girls, and youth in vulnerable situations. The text also highlights the importance of quality and inclusive education, trainings and apprenticeships, as well as the digital skills for boosting the employability and social inclusion of young people. The Commission then approved draft resolution “L.4” without a vote.
Speaking after action, the representative of the United States, reiterating how educational matters are primarily determined in his country, also noted that the resolution does not fully reflect the United States’ understanding of international human rights law.
The representative of the Russian Federation took issue with operative paragraph 19, which dealt with the setting up of a United Nations Youth Office, noting that the establishment of this body was hasty, leaving him unsure of its methods of work or accountability. The functions mentioned in the paragraph in question appear to be incomplete. Further, intergovernmental consultations and agreed language needs to be considered.
The representative of Hungary expressed regret at the lack of ambition of the zero document, and disassociated with preambular paragraph 22, adding that migration does not have a positive developmental impact on all countries involved.
The representative of Malaysia disassociated from preambular paragraph 9, concerning the World Programme for Human Rights Education, as it contains elements inconsistent with his country’s position, he said.
The representative of Iran disassociated from operative paragraphs 2 and 5, and preambular paragraph 9.
The Commission then approved, without a vote, the draft resolution “Fourth review and appraisal of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing, 2002” (document E/CN.5/2023/L.6). By its terms, the Council would recognize the successful conclusion of the fourth review and appraisal of the Madrid Plan and encourage Member States to strengthen the Plan’s implementation as a tool for building an inclusive society with intergenerational solidarity. The Council would also call on Member States to fully utilize the potential of older persons and create an enabling environment for their equal, full, effective and meaningful participation in political, social, economic and cultural life. Further, the Council would encourage Member States to promote digital literacy with a special focus on enhancing older persons’ digital skills and competencies.
The representative of the Russian Federation, referencing language contained in operative paragraph 19, said that the word “gender” is used instead of the intergovernmentally agreed term “sex”. He said that his delegation will continue to construe the word “gender” as referring to men and women.
The representative of Senegal also disassociated from the interpretation given to “gender” in the draft resolution.
The representative of Zambia, Vice-Chair-cum-Rapporteur, introduced the draft resolution on the report for its sixty-first session (document E/CN.5/2023/L.2), which was approved by acclamation. She said the report will summarize the procedural elements of the current session and contain the text of all resolutions and decisions approved by the Commission today. In addition, members approved a draft provisional agenda and documentation for its sixty-second session, to be held in 2024 (document E/CN.5/2023/L.1).
Delivering brief closing remarks, Commission Chair Alya Ahmed Saif al‑Thani (Qatar) summarized the session, noting: “We emphasized the need for strong financing of global public goods, reforming the international financing architecture to fund actions for sustainable development, [and] bolstering strategies to reduce informality, promote decent work and universalize social protection.” Representatives also discussed the need for a just transition to greener and more equal societies. In addition, countries committed to providing official development assistance (ODA) and financing for vaccines, as well as supporting the proposed World Social Summit in 2025. “Now it is time to commit ourselves to taking actions in our respective national contexts to create decent work opportunities for all, and to reduce inequality for the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda,” she said.
Immediately following the closure of the sixty-first session, the Commission opened the first meeting of its sixty-second session. Acting by acclamation, it elected Ruchira Kamboj (India) as its Chair. The Commission then elected, also by acclamation, Jon Ivanovski (North Macedonia), Carla María Carlson (Dominican Republic) and Thomas Lammar (Luxembourg) as Vice-Chairs of the sixty-second session.