(7thSpace) Delegates to the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today underscored the failure of the global financial system to lift the world's most vulnerable groups out of the vicious cycle of poverty and exclusion, as they wrapped up their discussion on social development.
Emphasizing the gravity of the current financial crisis, the representative of India, one of some 40 speaking in two meetings today, noted that the impact of the crisis would affect the entire world, not simply the South. Projects were threatening to come to a halt in both the North and South, due to shrinking capital. Further, plunging stock markets and sharp declines in exports and commodity prices would surely have a devastating impact on employment everywhere. The promise of developed nations to allocate 0.7 per cent of their gross national income as official development assistance was likely to become increasingly difficult to honour as resources shrank.
Voicing a sentiment echoed by many others, he called for financial and trading institutions to be restructured, and a new system of economic governance installed. The Bretton Woods institutions should return to their original aim of helping countries to maintain high employment, while the Doha Round should tackle the issues governing fairer market access for disadvantaged nations. The international community should also cooperate to protect the vital interests of marginal farmers and workers, instead of pursuing pure commercial interests alone.
Throughout the discussion, several speakers recalled that, at the World Summit for Social Development, held in 1995 in Copenhagen, Governments had reached a new consensus on the need to put people at the centre of development through the creation of decent jobs. However, the representative of Morocco suggested that the process of globalization had been detrimental to that goal and, in particular, to the pursuit of the basic right to employment and decent work. The representative of Myanmar noted that opportunities for full and productive employment in developing countries were considerably less than in developed countries, where 84 per cent of the global labour force resided.
Numerous delegates suggested various avenues of approach to employment generation, including by providing greater access to quality education. Two youth representatives of Romania underlined the link between education and employment and encouraged Member States to review school curricula to ensure that schools provided the knowledge and skills required within the context of current economic realities. The youth representative of Azerbaijan said more incentives should put in place to encourage young people to consider entrepreneurship and to allow youth to create their own opportunities for employment.
The Director of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Office for the United Nations recalled the adoption of the Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalisation at the ninety-seventh ILO conference in June, which reflected the wide consensus on the need for a strong social dimension to globalization in achieving an improved and fair outcome. The declaration supported the notion that employment, social protection, social dialogue, and fundamental principles and rights at work -- the four strategic objectives of the Decent Work Agenda -- were interdependent.
Along with a possible restructuring of the international financial architecture, many delegates called on donor countries to make good on previously agreed-upon promises of aid. The representative of Ethiopia said it was time for a new social contract among all nations, based on international cooperation and a genuine commitment to fulfil the promises of official development assistance and debt relief. The representative of Venezuela warned, however, that the criteria used to award official development assistance tended to reproduce old colonial relationships between donor and recipient countries. Development was not possible under such an economic model, which favoured capital over people, and upcoming sessions on poverty eradication should focus on integration of traditionally excluded persons as the keys to the solution.
Also speaking today were the representatives of the Russian Federation, Yemen, Jordan, Kenya, Republic of Korea, Nicaragua, Republic of Tanzania, Qatar, Indonesia, Ukraine, Nepal, El Salvador, Syria, Haiti, United Arab Emirates, Senegal, Eritrea, Nigeria, Mongolia and Pakistan.
Youth representatives spoke on behalf of the Netherlands, Ghana, Jamaica, Slovakia and Australia.
The representative of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) also spoke.
The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. Thursday, 9 October, to take up crime prevention and criminal justice and international drug control.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to continue its general discussion on social development.
For background information, please see Press Release GA/SHC/3914 of 6 October 2008.
Questions and Answers
At the start of the meeting, SERGEI ZELENEV, an official from the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, responded to a request made by the representative of Syria during yesterday's discussion for more information regarding the work of the Special Rapporteur on disability concerning disabled persons in areas of conflict. The Special Rapporteur's office is located in Doha, Qatar. He had indeed published materials relating to disabled persons and armed conflict, which could be made available from his office. The Secretariat has his contact details.
HAMID CHABAR (Morocco), aligning himself with the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, said there was no excuse not to uphold the human rights of social groups, such as disabled persons, women, children and others, most of all in terms of employment. Yet, it would seem that globalization undermined the concept of full employment, and did not seem to carry the same meaning in developing countries as it did in the industrialized world. The International Labour Conference, in a declaration on social justice, had decided to promote fair globalization based on decent work. Morocco had sought to implement policies based on that philosophy.
He said the international community must negotiate the terms for debt relief and improved official development assistance in such a way that would promote full employment. Attention must be paid to agricultural development and building the capacity of rural enterprises, as Morocco was seeking to do through its "Green Morocco Plan". According to that Plan, the Government would raise agricultural productivity through increased investment, thus generating more jobs and turning agriculture into the main engine for growth. Large-scale development programmes would focus on building the capacity of local markets, as well as small and medium-sized enterprises. The Moroccan Government genuinely believed in giving all individuals the power to contribute to the country's growth, and had launched programmes to fight social exclusion, reform the education system, provide job training for young women and provide access to microcredit to aspiring entrepreneurs, among others. Its aim was to create a modern society founded on respect for human rights.
WOUTER THIEBOU, youth representative of the Netherlands, said that, though there had been some progress in the field of human rights and youth, there were still many challenges that required the world's urgent attention. Two of the most pressing were the issues of youth participation and access to water and sanitation. Regarding youth participation, he noted that less than 10 per cent of the 192 Member States represented in the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) had sent a youth delegate to participate in the current discussion, despite the fact that people under 25 years of age made up half of the world's population. It was extremely relevant and important to work with youth, especially in the context of achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Empirical evidence had shown that investing in the needs of young people was perhaps the single best and most cost-effective way to reach the Millennium Goals. As such, young people should have the opportunity to participate wherever and whenever decisions were made that affected youth and their future.
For youth to participate fully in society, they needed to be in good health and have access to water and sanitation, he continued. The human tragedy behind contaminated water and poor sanitation was enormous, especially for children and youth. In developing countries, 80 per cent of diseases that affected young people were water-related. As well, many children and youth, especially girls, were forced to drop out of school because of lack of sanitation. Young people should be involved in designing water and sanitation schemes in order to ensure that they would have the best possible access to water and sanitation. In March, his Government had recognized access to water and sanitation as a human right and he called on other nations to do the same. Young people didn't want just promises or resolutions; they wanted solutions. Youth participation should be made a "fact of life" and they should be fully involved in achieving the Millennium Goals.
NIKOLAY RAKOVSKIY ( Russian Federation) expressed his delegation's heartfelt condolences for the citizens of Kyrgyzstan, who had recently been hit by a powerful earthquake. Turning to the agenda items at hand, he welcomed the activities of the United Nations Commission for Social Development and urged the Commission to continue to take the lead in facilitating the creation of new social development policies. On a national level, it was the responsibility of Governments to lead social development efforts. His Government had launched a number of initiatives aimed at resolving social problems and improving the country's demographic situation. Projects to improve the national economy, making it more innovative and vital, were also a high priority. National improvements in education, life expectancy, income and social protection would have a positive impact on all persons, including youth, older persons and the disabled.
Currently, 20 per cent of the Russian Federation's population was aged, he explained. Those figures were expected to increase in the near future and it was, therefore, a high priority for his Government to ensure a dignified old age for its population. It was currently implementing a social security programme that would provide older persons with access to health care, along with other protections. On the issue of disabled persons, his Government had recently signed the Convention on the Rights of the Disabled, which proved the commitment it had to allowing disabled persons to fully participate in society. Currently, there were 12 million disabled persons living in the Russian Federation and work was under way to ensure that they had full access to adequate health facilities and equipment. Despite those national achievements, sustainable social development required both national and international efforts. Without the full commitment of the entire international community, there would be no genuine success.
WAHEED AL-SHAMI ( Yemen), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, said that poverty, unemployment and illiteracy continued to stand in the way of the achievement of international development goals throughout the world. Decent employment for all was of importance to Yemen, and was a cornerstone of the Government's third five-year plan to promote economic growth in all sectors. The Government's intention was to improve living conditions for the most vulnerable, through a national employment strategy. It had laws concerning employment to correct "distortions" in employment, and funds had been set up to help shore up small and medium-sized enterprises.
Turning to the rights of disabled persons, he said Yemen had participated in the negotiations surrounding the Convention on the Rights of Disabled Persons and was currently seeking to ratify it. It was also seeking to create domestic laws to ensure the rights of disabled persons and to build institutions to ensure their integration into society, for example through job training. In addition, 5 per cent of Government posts would be set aside to disabled persons. As for older persons, he said Yemen's Islamic philosophy called on society to provide assistance to the aged, which made up 3.4 per cent of the population. Yemen was doing that by providing homes and financial assistance for older persons, and would host a regional conference on the subject in November. He said the food and financial crises had had a negative impact on developing countries, such as his own. For that reason, he called on the international community to band together in assisting lesser-equipped nations to advance the cause of social development.
MOHAMMAD AL-ALLAF ( Jordan), aligning himself with the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said that education was the foundation for the full development of the human person. Education allowed individuals to fully participate in society and, considering its vital role, his Government had dedicated 12 per cent of its State budget to education. Strengthening partnerships between public sector and private sector partners in the field of education was also essential for improving access to, and the quality of, education. He noted one recent initiative that had been launched in partnership with the private sector that was aimed at improving 500 schools across the country.
International partnerships were equally important, he said. In Jordan, the development of the national strategy for education had been created in partnership with development partners in the United States and Canada, among others. Teachers were the basis of the national education system and, as such, a number of programmes had been launched that would help improve the lives of teachers, specifically in terms of proper housing. The health of students was equally important. The Ministry for Education, in all its strategies, sought to create a healthy environment for students, through meal programmes and other similar initiatives. Weak financing and poor infrastructure were still obstacles to achieving universal education for all. However, with the assistance of its partners, Jordan still hoped to achieve its education and development goals within the target dates.
ZACHARY MUBURI-MUITA (Kenya), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, said profound challenges were threatening to wipe out gains made and were also shaking the very foundation of traditionally strong economies. Kenya itself faced high unemployment levels and low agricultural productivity, which were major determinants of poverty and hunger. The agricultural sector's dismal performance was due to high production costs and low technology. Should the world not address the energy, food and financial crises, it would lead to cutbacks of social programmes being offered to the poor in Kenya.
He said the search for work among youth was exerting pressure on various sectors of the economy, especially in cities. The "Settlement Transfer Fund Trustees" initiative was aimed at formalizing land holders and enabling access to credit, with the ultimate goal of increasing agricultural productivity and yields in fish and livestock industries. A youth employment summit, to be hosted at the end of 2008, was aimed at identifying other sustainable approaches to youth employment. Plans are under way to establish youth-friendly resource centres for employment needs in various fields. In addition, the Government was also collaborating with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to develop action plans involving youth in the areas of health, crime and drugs, community services, education and training.
Touching briefly on the rights of disabled persons, he said Kenya had established a persons with disabilities act, under which the country would establish a social fund to assist that community. National laws also provided tax exemptions for disabled persons on the materials and equipment they used in terms of their employment.
U THAUNG TUN (Myanmar), aligning himself with statements made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said, despite unprecedented economic growth in some countries, the development gap between "haves" and "have-nots" had only become more pronounced. The financial crisis in major developed markets had negatively affected the global economy and the steep rise in food and energy costs was only compounding the problem. It was urgently necessary to scale up international efforts to guard against backsliding in achieving social development and human rights goals. On the issue of unemployment, he said the magnitude of the problem was more acute in the developing world than in developed countries. While 84 per cent of the global labour force lived in developing countries, the opportunities for full and productive employment in those countries was considerably less than in developed countries. Employment generation was, therefore, essential to redressing the situation.
The imposition of unilateral sanctions and coercive measures worked against national and international efforts to increase employment, he said. Sanctions not only denied workers of their right to decent work, but also deprived individuals of their dignity and countries of their right to development. Turning to the situation in his own country, he noted that efforts to achieve the Millennium Goals in Myanmar were on track due to the implementation of numerous national initiatives that promoted equitable and balanced socio-economic development in both rural and urban areas. However, while Governments held the primary responsibility to achieve development goals, the international community must play its part as well, and help to create an environment that would enable developing countries to realize their aspirations.
SANG-WOOK KOH ( Republic of Korea) pointed to income disparity, unemployment, population ageing and inadequate social protection as social problems that remained unsolved. More attention should be paid to socially vulnerable groups, such as women, youth, older persons, persons with disabilities, migrants and other disadvantaged groups in implementing the outcome of the 1995 World Summit on Social Development. He focused particularly on the situation involving older persons, saying that the ratio of older people to younger people was increasing in such a way that, by 2050, 1 out of 5 people would be aged 60 years or older. According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), over 400 million people in that population group were currently living below the poverty line. Poverty reduction strategies should, therefore, focus on the poorest and most vulnerable older persons, especially women. It was true that, traditionally, older people had been cared for within the family in many less developed countries. Now, Governments everywhere must grapple with the situation brought on by ageing societies, with the help of international cooperation. For its part, the Republic of Korea had launched a five-year ageing plan in 2006, through which it would reform the retirement system and strengthen the old-age safety net.
MARIA ELENA MEDAL GARRIDO (Nicaragua), aligning herself with statements made on behalf of the Rio Group and the Group of 77 and China, said that capitalism and the quest for a free-market system had threatened the very existence of humanity. Capitalism had produced few positive results and profits had benefited few. Today, the world was facing numerous challenges: rising food prices; rising energy prices; and growing rates of poverty. The dynamics of the market had failed to bring well-being to all people. To do so, aggressive Government policies were required to promote economic growth and social development. Employment and decent work for all should be at the centre of those policies. However, decent work for all could not be achieved without the existence of a positive and enabling environment, with fair trade practices and without agricultural subsidies.
Despite the great obstacles facing her country, Nicaragua had been able to guarantee free access to education and health for all its citizens, she said. Further, programmes had been launched to improve the overall quality of education and to promote student leadership. At the same time, the national agricultural sector was also beginning to recover, due to the implementation of a system of farm credits that allowed farmers to produce and sell food within the region at favourable prices. A number of initiatives had also been launched that helped improve the status of women in the country and literacy rates of both young people and adults. All social development strategies took into consideration the specific needs of indigenous groups and disabled persons. Such success had been achieved through national efforts and with the support of regional partnerships. In conclusion, she called on all Member States to ensure that the economy would be put at the service of mankind, and not humanity at the service of the economy.
NIRUPAM SEN ( India) voiced agreement with the Secretary-General's conclusions, as contained in his reports, that the outcome of various United Nations social policy meetings must be mainstreamed into the macroeconomic policies of nations. Given the nature of the crises facing the world, including the profound financial crisis just besetting the globe, that philosophy had become an imperative. Quoting a fourteenth-century French poet, he said today's financial system was based on the spirit of "pillaging and robbing [to maintain] the good life". Now, however, speculative capitalism was under attack. Ideas long discussed by trade unions -- the need to fight "casino capitalism" with taxation, regulation and worker involvement -- would necessarily become reality, for the impact of the financial crisis would affect the entire world, not simply the South. Projects were threatening to halt in both the North and South, due to shrinking capital. Further, plunging stock markets and sharp declines in exports and commodity prices would surely have a devastating impact on employment everywhere.
He noted that Keynesianism could not be applied in one place any more than socialism could be built in only one country. There must be a universal restructuring of financial and trading institutions and systems of economic governance. The Bretton Woods institutions must stop being the cheerleaders of capitalism, and return to their original aim of helping countries to maintain high employment. The United Nations was in the best position to ensure that the Bretton Woods institutions did just that. The Doha Round must buckle down and tackle the real issues of duty-free and quota-free trade and enforcing special products and safeguard mechanisms. The international community must cooperate to protect the vital interests of marginal farmers and workers, instead of pursuing pure commercial interests alone.
He remarked that politics was once defined as "postponing decisions until they were no longer relevant", but that option was no longer available, given the catastrophic effects to be had by the financial crisis. The promise of developed nations to allocate 0.7 per cent of their gross national income as official development assistance was likely to become increasingly difficult to honour as resources shrank. One positive fallout from the financial crisis was the reestablishment of the role of the State. State and civil society must come together to realize a new economic governance framework, within which less developed countries could be encouraged to use tariffs and subsidies to develop national industries, thus maintaining high employment levels in the process.
India itself had a rural employment guarantee act, which he likened to an "empowerment guarantee act", which assured 100 days of employment for every household. Related laws, such as the social security bill, were among the ways that India was empowering and mobilizing its people to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, so that its society would be "rich with the productive power of modern times". The right to education and health should also not be forgotten, as a basis of self-respect, and indeed, India's Supreme Court had made the right to education legally enforceable up to 14 years of age. By 2015, the country aimed to have very low levels of absolute poverty, and was already making progress to that end.
JOYCE KAFANABO (United Republic of Tanzania) said that the majority of people in her country lived in rural areas, and the development of the agricultural sector was, therefore, essential to its overall development. To meet the challenges related to agricultural productivity, more investments were required in the agricultural sector as a whole and, in particular, investments in infrastructure. Such efforts would help to curb poverty and provide full employment and decent work for all, as well. The recently launched World Food Programme (WFP) "Purchase for Progress" programme was a welcome initiative and would be an incentive to poor farmers who were cut off from markets, transportation or storage for their surplus crops.
Tanzania valued the inclusion of all social groups in development efforts, she said. Therefore, her Government had implemented a number of policies devoted to youth, the elderly, the family and people with disabilities. The progress made in the implementation of the Madrid Plan of Action on Ageing was regrettably slow. It was necessary to recognize the contributions made by older persons to the development process and to redouble efforts to raise awareness and advocacy around the Madrid Plan. Literacy was central to national development and her Government had ensured universal and free primary education for its citizens. However, despite those efforts, illiteracy rates in the country remained high, especially among rural women. Increased funding and human resources were required to overcome that challenge and to increase national literacy rates. Finally, she welcomed the role that civil society and development partners had played in efforts to improve the overall well-being of youth, people with disabilities and the elderly. There remained many challenges ahead, however, and greater international cooperation and collaboration would be necessary to overcome those obstacles.
NASSIR ABDULAZIZ AL-NASSER (Qatar), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, described his country's efforts to tackle illiteracy, saying that his Government had launched an initiative in cooperation with UNESCO to establish a schooling system that upheld the principles of independence, accountability, diversity and freedom of choice for learners. Qatar had also hosted several regional conferences to expand the pool of donors for literacy programmes, and to draw attention to the need to provide educational opportunities for adults in conflict-ridden areas and regions under foreign occupation. In addition, the Government was sponsoring the work of various humanitarian organizations that were working to rehabilitate the educational infrastructure in countries such as Lebanon, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Further, $15 million was recently earmarked for higher education in Iraq, to be placed in a fund newly established by the Government and UNESCO for that purpose. Bilateral cooperation programmes were also under way between Qatar and Mauritania. Such efforts were part of Qatar's strategy to build a knowledge economy, which was an important component of the sustainable development process.
WOINSHET TADESSE (Ethiopia), aligning herself with the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said that, although the universal goal to eradicate poverty had always been at the centre of the United Nations development agenda, the gap between the rich and poor was wider than ever before. The rate of unemployment among youth was increasing at an alarming rate, and developing countries -- mainly the least developed countries -- were suffering the most. Older persons often received little or nothing in terms of social protections and were currently made to suffer even more, as a result of the frequent ups and downs in the global economy. Likewise, disabled persons were more marginalized than ever before and were not, for the most part, allowed to have a say in areas of their concern.
Stable financial markets, just labour markets, prudent fiscal policies and the presence of a fair trade system would help to right those wrongs, she said. It was necessary to "re-think and re-invent" a new social contract, based on international cooperation and a genuine commitment to fulfil promises of official development assistance and debt relief. On a national level, Ethiopia had undertaken numerous policy measures that were aimed at increasing employment opportunities through the accelerated development of the agricultural sector and small enterprises. It had also established a number of technical and vocational training centres that worked in partnership with small-scale businesses in the country. Ethiopia had also implemented a number of measures to improve the quality of life for older persons and persons living with disabilities. However, national efforts alone would not be enough. She, therefore, called on development partners to complement the national efforts of developing countries to create employment for youth and to provide the adequate social protections for the aged and disabled.
ADIYATWIDI ADIWOSO ASMADY ( Indonesia) said the world was "working against the clock" in trying to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 amid "a global emergency". While economic growth underpinned efforts to achieve such internationally agreed goals, it was important not to forget that those goals were about people-centred growth, which, in turn, was powered through employment. However, full, productive and decent work remained elusive for many people, who, despite being employed, were unable to earn enough to lift themselves out of poverty. Thus, the international community must develop policies to improve the quality of jobs, especially in developing countries. Such policies should be assessed, and if needed, realigned, to favour the growth of enterprise, whether they involve rural communities or the youth. It was also necessary to mainstream disability, the ageing population and social protection into development and employment programmes. The social dimensions of climate change must also be taken into account -- employment challenges need to be understood in the context of a low-carbon economy.
Turning to the topic of literacy, she said it was vital for the international community to deepen its collective commitment to that cause. Improving youth literacy rates was important in light of their high unemployment and underemployment rates, with youth unemployment at around 510 million people worldwide. Indonesia's literacy rates had risen to 92.8 per cent in 2007, due to increased school enrolment. Current policy actions were focused on improving access to education for the poor, improving teacher performance, increasing the education budget to 20 per cent of the State budget, and promoting gender-based interventions to enhance education objectives.
OLHA KAVUN (Ukraine), aligning herself with the statement made on behalf of the European Union, said the World Summit for Social Development had resulted in powerful global commitments to social development, especially in regards to poverty eradication, full employment and social integration. Nationally, the social development agenda continued to present numerous challenges, and overcoming those obstacles was, therefore, a top priority. Ukraine was committed to the advancement of a socially oriented economy and the enhancement of social policies based on the efficient use of existing resources. In particular, the President of Ukraine had recently spelled out a number of social initiatives that had radically changed the social agenda of the country. The salaries of teachers, doctors and other professionals living in rural areas would be increased, as would child allowances for large families and monthly allowances to orphans attending universities or technical schools.
More improvements to Ukraine's social agenda were expected in the months and years to come, she said, including reforms to the pension system, the implantation of a national programme on employment, poverty eradication programmes and medical programmes supporting older persons and persons living with disabilities. Her Government was also eager to work, both nationally and internationally, towards the creation of a more competitive and dynamic economy based on sustainable development, social cohesion and social integration. Economic policies and strategies -- especially those aimed at achieving full employment and decent work for all -- should include specific measures to promote gender equality and foster social integration for all social groups.
MADHUBAN PRASAD PAUDEL (Nepal), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, said the priority theme chosen by the Commission for Social Development for 2007-2008, promoting full employment and decent work for all, was pertinent and timely. In his view, developed countries should be more accommodating to migrant workers from developing countries. He then went on to discuss the political and social transformation currently taking place in Nepal, where its Constituent Assembly was one of the most inclusive assemblies in the world. He said the interim constitution had incorporated a rights-based approach to development as a State obligation, and Nepal's interim plan had encompassed the delivery of basic services to all and the social inclusion of deprived communities. Programmes to provide social security for older persons and widows had also been established, although there was a need to collaborate at the regional level to promote the Madrid Plan concerning action on ageing.
As for programmes targeted at specific social groups, he said the Youth Ministry was working to ensure the involvement of youth in the policymaking process. The Government was also seeking to end illiteracy by making primary education universal, and making education inclusive and equitable at all levels. The country was also seeking to formulate a national policy and action plan for disabled persons, and had established a national coordination committee for that purpose.
Noting that the least developed countries were bearing the brunt of the food, fuel and financial crises, he called on the international community to make good on their pledge to provide financial and technical assistance to poorer countries. Least developed countries emerging from conflict needed special consideration, particularly "geographically handicapped" landlocked countries.
JOSE MARIA MONTEREY SUAY (El Salvador), aligning himself with statements made on behalf of the Rio Group and the Group of 77 and China, said that the goal of the national development strategy in El Salvador was to generate macroeconomic stability that would engender improvements for all members of society. In particular, El Salvador had focused on a number of priority areas, including, among others, broadening access to, and the equality of, basic services; decentralization; education; health; culture; sports; and housing. The issue of youth education and employment was also a high priority, given that youth represented roughly 19 per cent of the national population. Initiatives had already been launched that aimed at providing young people with better access to education, health and sports facilities, as well as other services that would provide them with the best possible quality of life.
The road to full development required a serious investment in human capital, he said. Young people should benefit greatly from those investments, as they were the future of nations. El Salvador had been investing in technical training programmes for youth and had encouraged entrepreneurship among young people. It would also host a summit on youth and development in the near future, with the intention of finding solutions for the problems facing youth in the region. Investing in youth was not just a good policy, it was an essential need. Investing in education was also an investment in youth, as education was a basic tool that would help young people break the vicious cycle of poverty and unemployment. Indeed, investments in education should benefit all members of society, particularly vulnerable groups, such as women. That was the approach that had been taken by his Government and he encouraged others to do the same. In regard to persons living with disabilities, El Salvador was working towards making its current legislation congruent with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Not only was El Salvador committed to fulfilling its responsibilities contained in that Convention, it was also fully committed to making good on all its development commitments.
BASHAR JA'AFARI ( Syria), aligning himself with the statement by the Group of 77 and China, said that the world should recommit itself to upholding the Copenhagen document and seeking durable development based on the motto "social development for all". Eradicating poverty and promoting full employment and social integration were the actions required to establish stable societies based on "justice for all". Syria had adopted measures, and was implementing national plans, that supported growth through a free-market economy that was balanced by a just distribution of income. Its employment policies took account of technological advances in the economy, and schools were being upgraded so that Syrian citizens knew how to take advantage of those advances. The national plan was focused on developing citizens with a strong sense of social responsibility, who were adept at problem-solving and were highly productive and creative.
He said Syria sought to guarantee political and social rights through its various laws and commitment to international normative frameworks. Syria was a pioneer in securing protection for the disabled, and had a five-year plan that called for direct financial assistance to poor, disabled persons. In addition, all recruitment centres were obliged to assign 4 per cent of available work to disabled persons, and employers received a tax benefit for hiring disabled persons. Disabled persons could enjoy a corporate tax exemption, as well as exemption from customs duties.
He voiced support for efforts to create an environment favourable to social development, pointing out that there was a link between national and international actions in this area. Other areas that deserved attention were: the issue of the right to development; securing the rights of people under occupation; and the rights of persons disabled through the use of weapons, such as cluster bombs and mines. He also voiced hope that the Madrid Plan of Action would include a provision covering the plight of older persons in occupied territories.
LAURENCE PeAN MEVS (Haiti), aligning herself with statements made on behalf of the Rio Group, Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Group of 77 and China, said the world had been struck by many crises that threatened to prevent countries from achieving their development goals. Haiti, for example, had seen its scant efforts "brought to nothing" due to the effects of four successive hurricanes in its region. Children were forced out of schools as the hurricanes passed, and only recently had they been able to return to class, thanks to Government efforts to finance the reopening and rebuilding of the schools. The future of Haiti was now in jeopardy due to the combined challenges of climate change, rising food prices, rising energy prices and the current financial crisis. All persons were affected by those challenges, especially vulnerable groups such as older persons, women and single parents.
In order to improve the situation in the country, the Government of Haiti had launched a number of initiatives that were aimed at reducing the vulnerability of certain groups. In particular, she highlighted the recent inauguration of an "intergenerational space" that had helped to raise public awareness of issues concerning older persons and had created a space where the elderly could meet and exchange ideas with children and youth. Other social service programmes had also been implemented for older persons, as well as for persons living with disabilities. Those successes had been achieved through national effort and regional partnerships, in particular through consultations with Cuba. Further success would be achieved in the future through similar partnerships, including private sector partnerships at national and international levels.
MONIRA AL MARZOUQI ( United Arab Emirates) said half the world's population lacked the simplest means of dignified living, with many of them beset by disease, suffering from illiteracy and unemployment, and victims of organized crime. The United Arab Emirates believed in social justice and sought to participate effectively in international proceedings to create a peaceful world. The Emirates had shown progress in its social development indicators, reflected in the rise in income levels, as well as increased spending on health, education and social protection schemes. Rates of illiteracy had decreased, and the enrolment of women in schools had risen, accompanied by their increased participation in the workforce and in Government.
On education, she said the first programme of action was launched to provide free education to citizens at all levels, so as to prepare the youth of both sexes for employment, in accordance with national development plans and consistent with changes in the labour market. Furthermore, the United Arab Emirates had provided 4 million people with education in Africa, South East Asia and the Middle East, in partnership with many multilateral organizations.
As for other social indicators, she said child mortality rates had been drastically reduced, and diseases like malaria and tuberculosis had been eliminated. A recent initiative sought to treat 1 million people suffering from diseases in Africa. She said laws were in place to combat human trafficking and unfair employment practices. Regarding youth, the United Arab Emirates had established special centres to care for their employment needs. In remote areas, centres had been set up to serve the needs of older persons.
LEYSA SOW ( Senegal) said the world had been plunged into a deep economic crisis, due to the rising cost of energy and food. At the same time, it faced the ongoing impacts of global warming and climate change. Such a situation put the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals at risk, and the international community now needed to move from promises to action to mobilize the necessary resources to meet those joint challenges. Despite the difficulties countries like Senegal faced, many developing countries had undertaken various national initiatives to meet their challenges. In particular, Senegal had implemented a plan of action to increase agricultural productivity and to ensure greater food security. As well, it had adopted a number of social development policies that promoted the material, moral and medical well-being of women and children.
Besides adopting measures that would improve the moral and physical well-being of older persons, the Government of Senegal had also adopted measures that would more fully involve older persons in everyday life and would reinforce their role at the centre of families, she said. Among her Government's most important priorities was risk and disaster management. A number of initiatives had already been implemented, but much more needed to be done, particularly in the field of prevention. By ensuring the coordination and promotion of prevention strategies and mechanisms, Senegal would be able to face climate change risks and keep them from negatively affecting development goals. To guarantee sustainable development over the long-term, the international community would also need to take part and support national efforts of countries like her own.
AMANUEL GIORGIO ( Eritrea), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, said the grave economic and social impacts of the various global crises merited unified action by all stakeholders. He reiterated his commitment to the goals of the various social summits, saying that a more equitable social system must account for the needs of vulnerable social groups, such as women, youth, disabled persons, older persons and others. It must encompass the delivery of social services to rural areas, where they were limited or non-existent. It was important to establish home-grown initiatives that reflected national priorities. For instance, Eritrea was able to mobilize its youth in a national development programme designed to promote growth, with much success.
As for issues concerning disabled persons, he said his Government was devoted to raising their profile as valuable members of society. It had created programmes specifically tailored for disabled persons, so as to improve their access to health services, education, vocational training, devices to improve mobility and housing.
AYO OLUKANNI ( Nigeria), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, expressed agreement with the view that people should be at the centre of all development strategies. The agenda of the Nigerian President emphasized wealth creation, education and employment generation for youths. In pursuing that agenda, the Government recognized the role of civil society, non-governmental organizations and the private sector in generating employment and adequately addressing the challenges of social development.
He said his country was also seeking to uphold rights for disabled persons and to mainstream women's affairs into its development programmes. To further the cause of social inclusion, the Government had embarked on a programme for the integration of destitute persons. A national policy on ageing was currently awaiting approval, which would enable day-care centres to be established for older persons. A draft labour standards bill sought to challenge discrimination and promote gender equality in the work place, and a national poverty eradication programme had been established to unite Government, commercial banks, microlenders, cooperatives and companies in providing loans for urban and rural poor. The Small and Medium Scale Development Agency sought to encourage youth and female entrepreneurs.
He expressed the view that a global recession would have serious implications for the international social development agenda. To prevent a rollback in the gains made throughout the world, he said the international community must help build the capacity of individual Governments.
ENKHTSETSEG OCHIR ( Mongolia) said considerable efforts at the national, regional and international levels had been exerted to build a more enlightened and humane world, particularly in the field of global education and literacy. Despite those efforts, however, illiteracy rates remained far too high in too many parts of the world. Literacy was a fundamental human right and an opportunity for global growth. Thus, the global community -- including international, national, public sector and private sector actors -- should redouble efforts to improve literacy rates and education overall. It was also necessary to redefine literacy to broaden its scope and content.
Mongolia was committed to achieving free universal primary education and efforts to do so had been mainstreamed into national development strategies, she said. National efforts had already shown remarkable success. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Mongolia was an underdeveloped nation suffering from particularly high illiteracy rates. One hundred years later, the literacy rate was at 97.8 per cent and national efforts were now directed at improving the quality of education through vocational and technical training. In today's globalized world, one could not underestimate the importance of education and literacy, and United Nations agencies played a crucial role in promoting education in countries like Mongolia.
RANSFORD M.K. ADDO, a youth delegate from Ghana, said his Government had established a fund for apprenticeship programmes and to provide soft loans to youths starting their own businesses. In addition, the Ghana education trust fund provided funding for education. To further boost access to education, the Government established free feeding programmes for primary school children. Computer training programmes were being provided in primary and secondary schools on a pilot basis. Because unemployment was a problem in Ghana, the Government established a national youth employment programme in 2006, through which over 100,000 young people had gained employment. In terms of health, the Ghana AIDS Commission had intensified education programmes for youth, with particular emphasis on prevention, to ensure that the unaffected remained HIV-negative, while managing high-risk behaviour.
He added that the youth were recognizing their role in managing the environment, and were participating in increasing numbers in movements to tackle climate change, pollution, erosion and other environmental concerns.
ANDREW NANA BARIMA POKU-BONSU, another youth delegate from Ghana, said there was still too little investment in youth development. The United Nations and other organizations that facilitated youth programmes should exchange good practices with similar organizations in Ghana. The youth wanted to take part in Government institutions responsible for formulating policies that affected youth. "A society that cuts itself off from its youth severs its lifeline," he said.
BOGDAN COVALIU, youth representative for Romania, said the level of unemployment among young people was two or three times higher than among adults. The situation was particularly critical for young women, who remained unemployed after graduation at a much greater rate than men. It was thus necessary to focus on specific paths of action. MARIA ALEXANDRA MARTIN, a fellow youth representative from Romania, described those paths, which included: a review of school curricula to ensure that schools provided the knowledge and skills required by current economic realities; greater support for the role of youth organizations in the global economy and development; and greater efforts towards abolishing the worst forms of child labour.
It was also necessary to promote self-employment and youth entrepreneurship as a way to integrate young people into the international labour-market, she continued. Youth employment policies should be integrated into national strategies to boost youth development and economic progress. Today's youth were tomorrow's leaders and young people should have the chance to meet their full potential, educate themselves and actively participate in the decision-making process at all levels. In conclusion, she expressed her hope that, in 2015, she would be able to tell her children that the international community had done its best for the world and that Romania had helped the United Nations make a difference towards that end.
ODALE MULGRAVE, a youth delegate from Jamaica, said the Caribbean was behind in meeting its Millennium Development Goals. It was his hope that the Caribbean community could build on the capacity of the United Nations' youth programme in that region to allow the youth a greater stake in the formation of policies at the international level. The United Nations Programme on Youth should redouble its efforts in partnership with the Caribbean to bring about greater participation of young people in the decision-making process.
He aligned himself with fellow youth delegates from Switzerland and Germany in calling on all Member States to support youth participation at the United Nations by including youth delegates in their delegations to the General Assembly and other United Nations related policy-making bodies. He urged Member States without youth councils to move swiftly to empower youth, by making provisions for the establishment of such councils and making amendments to their youth policies where necessary. Also, because his generation was "techno-centric", he appealed to Member States to devise creative technological means to include more young people in the movement to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
He added that problems produced by unstable families perpetuated a cycle of poverty among working-class urban youth. To that end, he urged the international community to foster a greater awareness of family needs. He also called on Member States to pursue vigorously the goals and targets of the World Programme of Action for Youth.
MICHAL ONDEReO, a youth delegate from Slovakia, said the youth in his country were slowly gaining a voice in Government. For example, the "Youth Parliament" in one town had begun participating at city council meetings, met regularly with the mayor and his deputy, and was managing part of the public transportation system in cooperation with a seniors council. It had been a significant win for the 30,000 students in that university city, illustrating that young people were willing to play a responsible part in the decision-making process. Hopefully, it would help transform the perception that youth were a passive force in society. He acknowledged that not every youth movement would cause as much noise as that of the French students of 1968. But, there was no denying that young people were willing to contribute to society. The spread of volunteerism among youth, for example, was "remarkable", in such areas as sub-Saharan Africa and others. He called on the "honourable excellencies" present to help strengthen youth participation, not least at the United Nations, where there were only 30 youth delegates.
ARAZ GASIMLI, a youth representative from Azerbaijan, said globalization had become synonymous with heightened inequality and insecurity, instead of with greater economic and social development. Many who were trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty and exclusion had their aspirations for development overshadowed by their struggle for survival. Developing strategies for poverty eradication must, thus, be regarded as a top priority by all nations. At the same time, it was necessary to create opportunities for young people in all fields, bridging the gaps in employment, health, gender equality and education. Those opportunities should also bring benefits to vulnerable and marginalized groups. The main objective should be to help young people transition from dependence to self-reliance.
Microcredit experiences from Asia should inspire further efforts to encourage young people to consider entrepreneurship as an option, he continued. Young people should also be given the necessary support and guidance for them to achieve their goals, and they should be protected from social and environmental influences that could interfere with their ability to reach a healthy adulthood. Investing in young people, and involving them meaningfully in the development of their own societies, was a mutually reinforcing goal that would ultimately bring enormous benefits to all nations. The world had never been richer than it was today. Yet, more than 1 billion people lived in extreme poverty. Youth could not solve such a "colossal contradiction" alone. However, with the support of United Nations agencies, international cooperation and the participation of youth, the global community might realize its goals and commitments.
ELIZABETH SHAW, youth representative of Australia, said that young Australians were eager to participate and contribute, in a meaningful way, in their local communities. Social inclusion and civic engagement were basic tenets of democracy. Young people had always played a vital role in leading key social movements in areas such as civil rights, women's rights, higher education and anti-war campaigns. Governments should, thus, not only work for youth, but also provide opportunities to allow youth to lead themselves. In Australia, a number of successful initiatives "by young people, for young people" had proven that youth were not only the leaders of tomorrow, but they were also the leaders of today.
MELANIE POOLE, also a youth representative of Australia, said there were distinct abilities shared by young people everywhere, such as optimism, honesty and the courage to question. An example of the ability of young people to propel change through questioning could be seen in the way young Australians viewed climate change. There were youth climate change action groups at almost every school in Australia, and they were forcing the issue onto the national agenda by asking questions about why more was not being done. Though many accused youth of being idealists, she countered by saying that the Third Committee and the United Nations as a whole existed because of idealism and the "collective dreaming" that created the United Nations Charter. Idealism was the force behind change and she called on the international community to involve young people in the decision-making process and to harness the idealism and constructive criticism of youth.
LORENA GIMeNEZ-JIMeNEZ (Venezuela), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and China and the Rio Group, said her country was focused on eradicating poverty and promoting the inclusion of all social groups in Venezuelan society, through the promotion of human rights and strengthened citizen participation. Social protection to such groups was also a priority, since full, productive employment would be meaningless without it, whether among migrant workers and homemakers or within the grey economy. She said 30 per cent of gross domestic product was invested in social services, mostly in education, social security and health.
She said her Government also believed in organizing cooperatives as social units of protection. The "Zamoranos Fund" allowed individuals or collectives to organize into "social productive units" in order to work agricultural lands protected by the Government. In addition to funding, they were also given technical assistance.
She said Venezuela was committed to building a just, equitable democratic society in solidarity with other regional Governments. In that regard, the Organization of American States had adopted a social charter of the Americas to protect the social and cultural rights of people in their part of the world. She noted that the criteria used to award official development assistance tended to reproduce old colonial relationships between donor and recipient countries. Development was not possible under such an economic model, which favoured capital over people. Upcoming sessions on poverty eradication should focus on integration of traditionally excluded persons as the keys to the solution.
FARUKH AMIL ( Pakistan), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, said the world was compelled to re-examine the structure of the global economy, where, instead of economic growth, the world was experiencing employment loss. The failure of the Doha Development Round and uneven impact of globalization were additional factors driving the world to look at the economy afresh. Successful implementation of international commitments on social development required fair play in international trade and a level playing field for developing countries. Their economies were mostly based on agriculture and a labour-intensive workforce. It was those sectors that required investment, through microfinancing and special attention to small and medium-sized enterprise.
He said Pakistan was focused on enhancing competitiveness through higher investment and maximizing the use of "knowledge inputs". The small and medium-sized enterprise development authority provided support to 3.5 million such enterprises throughout the country, while a nationwide national internship programme was helping to prepare up to 50,000 graduates for work annually. Special quotas had also been established for women and the physically challenged in public sector jobs.
He said the decline of official development assistance was widening the divide between rich and poor countries, leading to a rise in poverty levels and the continued marginalization of developing countries in international economic decision-making. Enhanced international cooperation -- including through the fulfilment of official development assistance commitments, the provision of debt relief and technology transfer -- were crucial to providing full and decent employment for all.
JANE STEWART, Director of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Office for the United Nations, recalled the adoption of the Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalisation at the ninety-seventh ILO conference in June, which had happened "at a crucial political moment, reflecting the wide consensus on the need for a strong social dimension to globalization in achieving an improved and fair outcome". The declaration supported the notion that employment, social protection, social dialogue, and fundamental principles and rights at work -- the four strategic objectives of the Decent Work Agenda -- were interdependent. In addition to encouraging adherence to that declaration, the ILO was encouraging the use of their "toolkit" for mainstreaming the concept of decent work into national and international development agendas.
She said almost every branch of the ILO dealt with issues directly related to youth, including providing support to Governments and employers in developing youth-targeted employment policies, job creation programmes and promoting social protection for young workers. The ILO also worked with agencies such as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the United Nations Development Programme to promote best practices in youth policies and programmes around the world.
In relation to the ageing population, she said the ILO was currently drafting a report to be submitted to an upcoming ILO conference on integrating employment and social protection issues in the context of that population group. Among other things, the ILO was expected to provide an analysis on the conditions of work that would affect the willingness and capacity of older workers to look for, or remain longer, in paid employment. The ILO had also developed a workplace training module that offered suggestions about how to confront employers' biased perceptions of older workers and help them to see the value of employing such workers.