The importance of inclusiveness in efforts to achieve the social advancement of young people, families, persons with disabilities, those mired in extreme poverty and other vulnerable groups was stressed today as the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) began the work of its seventy-second session.
“We can only achieve the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals if we double our efforts and ensure that development efforts put people and planet at the centre and leave no one behind”, Liu Zhenmin, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs said in opening remarks.
Inclusive and fair globalization was critical to that effort, he said, as was facing the devastation of extreme weather. Youth unemployment and the kind of deep poverty that had not been affected by recent positive strides in global development were also notable challenges.
In the ensuing debate on social development, many speakers called for accelerated implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to foster inclusiveness. Ecuador’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said more international cooperation was needed to surmount the obstacles of conflict, slowed economic growth, climate change and corruption.
Egypt’s representative, speaking on behalf of the African Group, also noted hurdles to progress despite much work to improve education, sanitation and health services in Africa. To address such challenges, the overarching priority must be the eradication of poverty in all its forms, through collaborative partnerships and ambitious action plans, he said.
The European Union’s representative, meanwhile, said divergences across the world called for policies that simultaneously promoted sustainable development and social inclusion, adding that the priority must be placed on providing all people the choice to shape their lives.
Youth delegates from Switzerland, Slovenia, Finland, Italy and Israel prioritized education in ending exclusion, particularly in relationship to migrants and women of many different groups. Hate speech was seen by the Finnish youth representative as a major impediment to the inclusion of marginalized groups, while Bulgaria’s youth delegate stressed the importance of inter-cultural dialogue.
Also today, Daniela Bas, Director for Social Policy and Development in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introduced this year’s reports [see Background].
At the start of the meeting, the Committee elected Andres Molina Linares of Guatemala as its Rapporteur, by acclamation. It also approved its organization of work (document A/C.3/72/L.1* and Add.1/Rev.1) and recommended guidelines to improve effectiveness (document A/72/250).
It finally extended invitations to the special mandate-holders of the Human Rights Council and others whose names were read out by the Committee Secretary, to present their reports and interact with the Committee.
Also speaking today were representatives of Egypt (also on behalf of the African Group), Argentina (on behalf of the Group of Friends of Older Persons), Netherlands, Paraguay, Japan, Austria, Singapore, Mexico, Peru, Iraq, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Eritrea, Sri Lanka, Brazil, Russian Federation, Kenya, Syria, Republic of Korea, Namibia, Afghanistan, Viet Nam, Indonesia, El Salvador, Cuba, Monaco, Norway, Zambia, Iran, Qatar, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, South Africa, Guatemala, Bulgaria, India, Mongolia, Georgia, Mali, San Marino, Hungary and Bhutan, as well as of the European Union and Holy See.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 3 October, to continue its debate on social development.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this morning to adopt its work programme for the session and begin its discussion on social development. Before it was the first report of the General Committee on the Organization of the seventy-second regular session of the General Assembly, adoption of the agenda and allocation of items (documents A/72/250, A/C.3/72/1, A/C.3/72/L.1, A/C.3/72/L.1/Add.1/Rev.1)
Also before the Committee were reports of the Secretary-General on social development and albinism (document A/72/169); implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and of the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly (document A/72/158); cooperatives in social development (document A/72/159); follow-up to the International Year of Older Persons: Second World Assembly on Ageing (document A/72/161); implementation of the objectives of the International Year of the Family and its follow-up processes (document A/72/166); promoting social integration through promoting social inclusion (document A/72/189); and Youth development links to sustainable development (document A/72/190).
The Committee also had before it a note by the Secretariat on the World Social Situation 2017: Promoting inclusion through social protection (document A/72/211).
DANIELA BAS, Director of the Division for Social Policy and Development in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, presented six reports and a note by the Secretariat. The report on the World Summit for Social Development (document A/72/158) provided an overview of trends and strategies for reducing inequality. Highlighting the situation of young people, older persons, persons with disabilities, among others, the report recommended attention to the structural causes of poverty, investments in human capital and support for national poverty eradication commitments. The Secretariat note on the World Social Situation 2017 (document A/72/211) outlined conditions for promoting inclusive social protection: universal coverage — so that such programmes met the needs of diverse groups; improved access and sufficient benefits to guarantee adequate living standards.
Noting that the report on cooperatives (document A/72/159) made the case for why they were important for realizing the new Sustainable Development Goals, she said the report on ageing (document A/72/161) covered the determinants of poverty and vulnerability in old age, while that on the International Year of the Family (document A/72/166) analysed trends and described cash transfers as effective when accompanied by access to education and health services. The report on social integration (document A/72/189) covered strategies for youth, older persons, persons with disabilities and indigenous peoples, while the reports on youth (document A/72/190) and women and girls with disabilities (document A/72/227), respectively, recommended efforts to strengthen youth development policies, and to ensure the equal participation of those women and girls in the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol.
LIU ZHENMIN, Under-Secretary-General for Social Affairs, said: “We can only achieve the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals if we double our efforts and ensure that development efforts put people and planet at the centre and leave no one behind”. Inclusive and fair globalization was critical to that effort, as was facing the devastation of extreme weather and other rising challenges caused by climate change, demographics and other factors.
Describing sharp rises in unemployment and inequality, he said the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development stressed the importance of building strong partnerships to bring about the transformations needed to overcome such ills, as well as facing the strong hurdles to accomplishing what he called “the last mile of poverty eradication”, to assist the 766 million people still mired in extreme poverty despite overall progress. Implementation of the Agenda must be accelerated and the sharing of national experiences increased. Social protection should be recognized as a key policy tool in all such activities; universal access to such protection was a fundamental human right and necessary to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty. Most importantly, an integrated approach tying together all efforts was essential, he said.
HELENA YÁNEZ LOZA (Ecuador), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said marked social disparities persisted within and among countries. Calling on the international community to strengthen efforts to reduce inequality, she also noted that pace of implementation of the 2030 Agenda had been slow. The Group was nonetheless committed to support the Agenda and ensure that its objectives are met.
However, conflict, the slowdown of growth, climate change and corruption made it more difficult to achieve progress, she said, and it was vital to address such challenges to achieve social development. In making social progress, international cooperation was crucial. However, it was also important to respect the national laws and sovereignty of Member States, she said. In particular, the needs of young people, persons with disabilities and older persons deserved attention, she stressed, adding that economics must be also be inclusive and protect those groups from discrimination.
AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said the continent continued to make remarkable advances in net primary school enrolment, gender parity in primary education, women’s representation in decision-making, immunization coverage and reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS. However, the quality of education, health and sanitation services remained poor and was insufficient to achieve the 2030 targets in many countries. To address such challenges, the overarching priority must be the eradication of poverty in all its forms, through collaborative partnerships and ambitious action plans. He described the related policy framework of the African Union that targeted inequality related to families, the elderly, persons with disability and youth.
He said that African countries continued to fall to the bottom of any list measuring social development and economic activity because of financial crises, climate change, civil strife, conflicts, pandemics and other ills. The Group was committed to improving domestic financing on health as a way to improve investment and savings. It called again for continued international support in all such areas. More support must be accorded to the development of agriculture and food cooperatives that reached the most excluded segments of the population, and he reaffirmed the Group’s commitment to improved social development and reduced inequality among people in Africa.
GABRIELA MARTINIC (Argentina), speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends of Older Persons, said changing demographics posed new challenges to development. Meeting those challenges required designing and implementing policies that promote social inclusion and inter-generational solidarity. Older persons must be guaranteed full enjoyment and protection of their human rights and dignity, while greater attention must be paid to their specific challenges, she said, pointing to social development as key among them.
Older persons were capable of significant contributions to sustainable development when adequate guarantees were in place, she said. Their empowerment could ensure they were not just recipients of care, but active agents and beneficiaries of change. Achieving that goal called for legal frameworks that allowed for full social inclusion. The unrestrained involvement of older persons in social, economic and political affairs would ensure their dignity and empowerment. Greater international cooperation could foster inter-generational partnerships capable of achieving truly inclusive social development, she concluded.
GARRETT O’BRIEN of the European Union delegation stressed the need to achieve all Sustainable Development Goals in an integrated manner. The European Union would continue to base cooperation efforts on the “five Ps” of people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership, he said, noting that those principles would continue to guide partnerships with low- and middle-income countries. Following recent economic growth and labour improvements, the European Union was ensuring the sustainability of its recovery. Tackling persistent social challenges and maximizing new opportunities would improve living conditions for all.
Divergences across the world called for policies that simultaneously promoted sustainable development and social inclusion, he said. The European Union was mainstreaming social concerns into policy-making and developing a European Pillar of Social Rights to ensure living and working conditions across the region. The priority must be placed on providing all people the choice to shape their lives. Those efforts must be anchored in regulations with a view to enshrining a “future-proof society”. Meeting future labour challenges called for the promotion of skills that allowed citizens to make necessary shifts, he said.
ELIAN YAHYE, youth delegate from the Netherlands, said the diversity of his country was “a vulnerable strength”, and that after he had been democratically elected youth delegate, he had asked himself how it was possible to speak on behalf of so many different voices. While people who believed in different things did not always peacefully co-exist, issues such as radicalism and violent extremism were not the fault of diversity itself, but of Governments and institutions failing to connect with the groups they served. Inclusivity was the answer; everyone holding a public function should make an effort to meet with young people who were disadvantaged or otherwise distant from decision-making. That would make youth care about their societies and take responsibility for being part of, for instance, creating secure city centres. It was time for the international community to implement Security Council resolution 2250 (2015) on youth, peace and security.
Fatmaalzahraa Hassan Abdelaziz Abdelkawy (Egypt), speaking in her national capacity, described social development initiatives in her country, including four cycles of a national forum for youth led by the country’s president. Efforts to strengthen women’s rights and the status of the family continued, as did those to combat child labour, empower older persons and pursue other goals. Parliament included 10 persons with disabilities, while pensions had been created and social protections ensured for them. A national council for older persons was being constituted as well.
JULIO CESAR ARRIOLA Ramírez (Paraguay) said full implementation of all sustainable development plans must be done in line with the 2030 Agenda. Paraguay had aligned its programme with the Sustainable Development Goals. There were structural problems affecting many vulnerable groups, so inclusive programmes had been prioritized for the poorest people, for young people and for older persons. Subsidized food and housing were elements in those programmes. His country sought to create conditions in which everyone was able to enjoy social rights and work in a dignified fashion.
The representative of Switzerland stressed her country’s commitment to honour its social development pledges. Describing persistent poverty and inequality, she said there were signs that the situation was nonetheless improving. Access to social programmes remained a problem, in Switzerland as well as many other countries. Work was therefore being carried out to ensure that all had access to their rights.
SABINE FANKHOUSER, youth delegate from Switzerland, said she was searching for key issues that affected all vulnerable groups. Social inclusion served as an umbrella term that dealt with all related challenges, she said, commenting that young people were critical in changing attitudes toward marginalized people and fostering open-mindedness.
YASUE NUNOSHIBA (Japan) underscored the importance of the empowerment of women, persons with disabilities and older persons. Working to create a more inclusive society, Japan had instituted action plans on universal design for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. Universal health coverage was also an important issue, as was contributing to social development in Africa, where many countries had been experiencing rapid social development. In August 2016, Japan had hosted the sixth iteration of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development in Nairobi, Kenya, continuing to focus on the stabilization of societies. Japan would also host the World Assembly for Women, where draft recommendations for United Nations documents would be registered.
ANNA HOLZHACKER (Austria) said it was essential to include young people in decision-making, noting that her country had demonstrated its respect for the views of young people by allowing citizens to vote from the age of 16. However, involving youth in decision-making was not a common practice. Young people’s voices were often not heard in decisions on issues which involved them. “Talking about young people does not do the job, but talking with young people can change the future,” she declared, stressing that without knowledge, young people could not take action. It was crucial also to strengthen civic and political education to prepare young people to take an active role in political decisions.
DARJA BAVDAŽ KURET (Slovenia), aligning herself with the European Union and the Group of Friends of Older Persons, said the full participation of older persons was essential to creating cohesive societies. Slovenia was taking steps forward in its approach to inter-generational dialogue, she said, stressing that the concept of “active ageing” underpinned policy-making and that national strategies called for integration of relevant international standards. Attaching increased relevance to the welfare of the young over the old, or vice versa, was misguided and harmful, she noted, concluding that empowering people must not come at the cost of one generation for the sake of the other.
SABINA CARLI, youth representative from Slovenia, said young people must be given an active role in addressing challenges that concerned a common future. She called on Member States to take coordinated and inclusive approaches to addressing today’s most pressing issues. Unemployment and mismatch of labour skills were leading to delayed transitions to adulthood, she said, adding that realization of full human rights required stable work opportunities. The path forward would be paved by mainstreaming “principles of youth” and working closely with youth-led organizations, she said.
ILMI SALMINEN, youth representative from Finland, called for the recognition of young people as “positive change-makers”. Inter-generational dialogue was necessary for building a prosperous future, she said, urging Member States to involve youth in peace building efforts. The rights of young women and girls could not go ignored as women’s rights were human rights, she asserted. Member States had to protect the rights of women to build their own future, in terms of family and profession. Discrimination on the basis of gender, sexual orientation and migration status was fostering an environment of fear, she said. Fighting fear and discrimination required the involvement of young people at all levels of decision-making.
JUSTIN HOW (Singapore), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, said youth development was critical to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Echoing the Secretary-General, he called for young people to be seen as agents of change entrusted with potential to ensure a world fit for future generations. Education was the main vehicle for social development, he said, adding his country invested heavily in guaranteeing “a good head start” for every child. Noting that youth development must be underpinned by holistic strategies, he said investment in sports, culture and civic engagement could help ensure achievement of the Agenda’s youth dimensions.
BRUNO RÍOS SÁNCHEZ (Mexico) underscored the need to better coordinate work among the various United Nations committees so as to prevent overlap and reduce inefficiencies. Turning to Mexico’s progress, he said his country had created policies that considered the social and economic situations of all groups, including migrants and indigenous peoples. Aware of the growing issue of abuse of older persons, Mexico had developed national policies to prevent discrimination against them and to protect their rights. The Government also recognized that different types of family existed, and thus ensured that its policies protected the rights of all families, regardless of gender and sexual orientation.
WALTER HABICH MORALES (Peru) reaffirmed commitments made in previous conferences on social development. His Government had brought about what he called a social revolution and was transforming into an inclusive democracy that gave equal opportunity to all. Peru was in the process of updating its framework on closing the equality gap and boosting structures to combat poverty. The implementation of the 2030 Agenda depended on empowering vulnerable groups and treating boys and girls equally in educational settings, he commented. Affirming the importance of the private sector in achieving social development and social integration, he described partnerships in his country and called for action on related texts.
GIUSEPPINA DE MARCO, youth representative from Italy, aligning herself with the European Union, said young people gave meaning to the 2030 Agenda and shouldered the burden of an uncertain future. Describing Italy’s progress towards empowering young people and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, she noted that Italy no longer considered young people as vulnerable members of society, instead seeing them as “actors of change”. Plans were also in place to include sustainable development in the national education curricula, she said.
TOMMASO MURÈ, youth representative from Italy, said Member States must decide if they would make choices for youth or with youth. Indeed, youth involvement in high-level decision-making would help ensure more sustainable and inclusive development. He identified unemployment and non-involvement in education as two major challenges that required a focus on education and civic engagement. Non-formal education could become a powerful tool keeping young generations engaged and committed to a sustainable, peaceful future.
KEREN SUDRI, youth delegate from Israel, said Governments must consult young people when taking decisions that affected them. Describing a project she had created that connected children from low-income families with youth volunteers, she noted that Israel fostered a creative and innovative atmosphere where young people thrived. Youth had the energy and audacity to challenge the existing reality; what they needed was access to opportunities and a seat at the decision-making table. Young people’s voices must be heard so they could bring about lasting change and make the world a better place.
WILLIAM ISHAYA ODISHO (Iraq) said his Government had put in place national strategies to protect the needs of all groups, including youth and older people, and a social security plan was being developed. Aligned with international law, the plan would provide help for marginalized groups, such as subsidies for the unemployed. The Government also had focused on youth employment by hiring young people in both Government and the private sector. To ensure that they were included in political decisions, a youth parliament had been established, he said, stressing the need to also ensure that young people gained a better understanding of the challenges posed by terrorism. Civil society groups had organized trips for children to various regions so they could understand specific tensions and challenges.
GABRIELA MARTINIC (Argentina), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, said inclusion and dignity were essential components of truly sustainable development. Therefore, the element of social inclusion was critical. Argentina viewed poverty as a multi-dimensional, complex problem that could not be understood merely on the basis of income. All sectors of Government and society must therefore be brought together to face the challenge. All elements of life, from infancy to old age, must be considered in the context of development, as must disability, family protection and assistance and empowerment of young people.
CRISTIÁN BARROS MELET (Chile), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said his country had prioritized the fight against inequality with a focus on increasing access to education. Education reform was aimed at offering free education for all, regardless of social status. Labour reforms were also key to combating inequality. While acute poverty had decreased, multi-dimensional poverty continued to affect young and indigenous populations, he said, noting that measures were in place to promote the rights of those vulnerable groups. Policy was also being implemented to increase access to health services, while explicit health guarantees had been set. Chile also had adopted a broader understanding of the principle of universality in the context of health. A National Gender Equality Plan had begun to close the gender equality gap, he said, adding that measures were in place to increase women’s involvement in politics.
CARLOS ARTURO MORALES LÓPEZ (Colombia), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, said growing inequality was an obstacle to progress on social integration. He reiterated Colombia’s commitment to change and underscored its dedication to families, noting that it sought to develop policies that gave families a role to play in development. Colombia likewise was committed to the work of the open-ended working group as a tool to promote the human rights of elderly persons. Calling young people agents of change, he said Colombia was in the midst of an important peace process. The international community should make progress with rights and standards, and should revitalize a genuine world partnership for development.
TEODORO LOPEZ LOCSIN, JR., (Philippines) said his country had experienced unprecedented economic growth in recent years, but development had been uneven. The Government had therefore adopted measures to promote more inclusive opportunities for poor and marginalized communities, including a cash transfer programme that required children to attend school and get health services and required household heads to attend family development sessions, while also providing work and entrepreneurship possibilities. Describing opportunities under the national youth policy as well, he pledged the commitment of her country to creating a future in which poverty had ended.
MOHAMMAD ABDULRAHMAN S. ALKADI (Saudi Arabia) stressed the need to provide developing countries wider freedom to create their own development reform plans and address factors that hindered development. Foreign occupation was among the most detrimental to development, he said, pointing to the plight of Palestinians. The human being was the nucleus of development, a principle that underpinned the 2030 Agenda. Saudi Arabia was providing free education and investing in improving higher education, while the health care system provided free care to vulnerable populations. Developing social capital was identified as a priority, he said, noting that all such efforts aimed to reduce unemployment and engage youth in decision-making. Indeed, the ambitious ideas of young people would promote development, he said, advocating support for older people and people with disabilities.
PAIGE BURTON, youth delegate from Australia, said young people often did not have a seat at the table to contribute to public discourse. From her conversations with young Australians, she learned that young people wanted to be seen as diverse individuals. “We dehumanize this generation of youth when we think of them merely as young,” she said, noting that young people faced the same negative stereotypes stemming from gender, sexuality, disability and race. While young Australians felt disconnected from decision-making, they were committed to playing a bigger role in achieving a fairer, more inclusive society, she said, noting that most young Australians she had spoken with wanted to learn more about the United Nations. It was time to show young people that their views would be taken seriously and ensure they were included in decisions affecting them.
AMANUEL GIORGIO (Eritrea), aligning himself with the African Group and the Group of 77 and China, said poverty, youth unemployment and social exclusion posed challenges, especially in Africa. The international community must address obstacles that hindered nations from achieving their socioeconomic aspirations, he said, underscoring the need for them to choose their own development paths. Describing Eritrea’s achievements, he said the country was among the few in the Africa that had achieved all the health-related Millennium Development Goals. Free education was available to all, and a major water and soil conservation scheme had increased food production. Disabled war veterans received payments, as did families of martyrs. More investment was needed to consolidate such modest social development gains.
SHESHADRI KOTTEARACHCHI and SHEHAN KANNANGARA, youth delegates from Sri Lanka, delivered a joint statement, recalling that Council resolution 2250 (2015) and the Sustainable Development Goals had acknowledged the pivotal role played by young people as both stakeholders and decision-makers in ensuring progress, peace and security. Sri Lanka was a pioneer in the Asia-Pacific region, with a dedicated Ministry for achieving the Goals and a belief that young people had the potential to drive them forward. Noting that United Nations Youth Envoy Jayathma Wickramanayake – also from Sri Lanka – was a voice for billions of young people as well as an activist for girls, they said Sri Lanka was working towards addressing youth skills development, and maintained a literacy rate of more than 96 per cent due to its longstanding policy of providing free education.
Mr. ESTRADA MEYER (Brazil) said his country had resumed economic growth after withstanding a deep recession, having preserved social policies which guaranteed a sustained and successful effort to eliminate extreme poverty and improve social standards. The Government had introduced programs to ensure that the poor received access to education, health and social assistance while promoting social inclusion of various groups such as women, people of African descent and refugees. He highlighted the importance of tackling inequality, noting that, while extreme poverty had fallen, progress had been uneven. The Government was committed to meeting the needs of young people, people with disabilities and the elderly.
Ms. LIKINA (Russian Federation) said social development would ensure the eradication of inequality. The lead role of the United Nations in coordinating action for empowering vulnerable populations served the interest of all Member States. Despite the global financial crisis and unilateral sanctions, the Russian Federation was fulfilling the needs of its citizens. Vigorous actions had led to improved social indicators. The youth policy prioritized the hiring and stable employment of young people, she said, noting the importance of international dialogue to foster youth empowerment. Older citizens were being provided material resources, medical care and domestic and social services. Protecting the traditional family structure would help ensure the sustainable development of the Russian Federation, she concluded.
SUSAN WANGECI MWANGI (Kenya), aligning with the Group of 77 and China, the African Group and the Group of Friends of Older Persons, said the focus of the Committee’s current session resonated with Kenya’s people-centred approach to development for effective social and economic inclusion. That approach prioritized the empowerment of women, youth and all marginalized groups through affirmative action and social protection policies. She stressed, however, that developing countries could not meet such challenges without partnership and development assistance. In addition, she emphasized the need for greater security in the Horn of Africa so that gains were not lost. Describing the Partnership Platform established to achieve the 2030 Agenda, she said Kenya remained committed to realizing a just and inclusive world.
AMJAD QASSEM AGHA (Syria), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, said the World Summit for Social Development in Copenhagen had established a framework to create societies that lived in peace and dignity. Yet, results thus far had been disappointing, with famine and terrorism undermining stability. Syria was affected by threats to its security. A war on terror had raged for six years and the Government had not been able to advance the Sustainable Development Goals. Syria continued to work to improve living conditions, but fundamentalism and extremist Wahhabist ideologies were hindering development. Hospitals and other infrastructure had been destroyed, and foreign fighters had devastated the country. Unilateral measures imposed on Syria were affecting civilians and had led to worsening living conditions. Achieving sustainable development meant fighting terrorism and extremism in the region.
HYEON GYO SUH, youth delegate from Republic of Korea, noting the persistence of human rights violations, said the most vulnerable faced the worst burdens. The international community must redouble its commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals, while Governments must prioritize gender equality. Assistance for education was crucial. Youth empowerment, especially through education and participation in decision-making, would enable young people to work on progressive change. In the Republic of Korea, youth were proposing policies and the new Government was focused on boosting youth employment. Such measures rested on a belief that people should come first.
NEVILLE MELVIN GERTZE of Namibia associated himself with the African Group and the Group of 77 and China, stressing that his country had launched a fifth national development plan in consultation with communities from 14 regions. Social transformation through human capital and social development was among its priority areas, and required greater investments in education, health and housing. To that end, Namibia’s social policies prioritized the needs of the poor, and the social development continued to receive the largest chunk of the budget. Also, Namibia had welcomed the Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by older persons in March, she said, and had embarked on a consultative process to develop a national framework for addressing such issues.
GHULAM SEDDIQ RASULI (Afghanistan) said the National Peace and Development Framework sought to guide his country towards sustainable development, economic growth and prosperity through three priority programmes: social protection, women’s empowerment and poverty reduction. The social protection program aimed to reduce poverty by helping the poor increase their skills and productivity, while providing access to jobs. Women had been provided with technical and financial support to start their own businesses. A “Citizen’s Charter” also had been developed and underscored the Government’s commitment to provide every village in Afghanistan with education, health and basic rural infrastructure. However, his country had continued to grapple with security challenges posed by terrorist groups, he said, noting that the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) had documented 5,243 civilian casualties during the first half of 2017.
PHAM THI KIM ANH (Viet Nam), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and China, said her country was reducing inequality and empowering vulnerable groups. Yet challenges emanating from inequality persisted, she said, pointing to unequal wealth distribution and gender disparities. The negative impacts of inequality formed a web of interrelated problems and hindered growth. Surmounting those obstacles was “imperative” to social development, coherence, stability and peace. She called for integrated strategies that addressed the causes of inequality and identified education as the key to inclusive development. Education empowered people with knowledge and confidence, giving them abilities needed to control their lives. To that end, Viet Nam was directing 20 per cent of its national budget to education, she said, calling for greater cooperation.
INA HAGNININGTYAS KRISNAMURTHI of Indonesia, associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, said tremendous efforts had been made to elevate those living in less fortunate situations. Yet, there were still 896 million poor people in developing countries who lived on $1.90 a day or less. It was crucial that the poor were empowered and engaged, notably through access to education. It was also crucial to view social development as a national responsibility that required international partnership. For its part, Indonesia had reduced the percentage of those living in poverty from 17.75 per cent in 2006 to 10.7 per cent in 2016 through initiatives such as free family health services and free education. At the same time, Indonesia also promoted youth employment by encouraging entrepreneurship through funding for small‑ and medium‑sized enterprises. It also had focused on gender equality, protecting the rights of people with disabilities and enhancing the protection of the elderly.
HÉCTOR ENRIQUE JAIME Calderón (El Salvador), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China and the Group of Friends of Older Persons, recognized social inclusion and integration as basic tenets of development. Poverty remained an obstacle to inclusive development, he said, stressing the need to combat all forms of inequality. He urged Member States to promote equality, within and outside their borders, and to place citizens at the centre of policy-making. Vulnerable populations faced discrimination and exclusion, he said, calling for holistic approaches to development, which took young and older people fully into account. Youth-centred strategies must regard young people not only as vulnerable, but also as agents of change. He expressed El Salvador’s full commitment to promoting the social, political and economic inclusion of people with disabilities.
ANAYANSI RODRÍGUEZ CAMEJO (Cuba), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, said it was shameful that two decades after the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action on Social Development, 700 million people still lived in extreme poverty, 758 million adults were illiterate, 815 million people suffered from chronic hunger and millions of children died from curable diseases. Emphasizing the importance of public policies to foster sustainable development, she said an “outrageous” $1.7 trillion was invested annually in military expenditures while countries failed to comply with official development assistance commitments. Outlining Cuba’s national development efforts and deployment of thousands of health workers around the world, she said the country had reduced infant mortality to 4.1 per 1,000 live births and eliminated mother-to-child HIV transmission and other sexually transmitted diseases by providing organized, high-quality sexual and reproductive health services. The country also had no illiteracy and prioritized the care of its elderly population, while fostering the technical and vocational training of youth.
ISABELLE F. PICCO (Monaco), noting that 15 per cent of the global population had a disability, detailed the situation in her country, where persons with disabilities received support for integrating into society. Monaco gave grants through an assistance plan for minors with disabilities. Training for legal professionals and social workers to help persons with disabilities have their voices heard was mandatory. Persons with disabilities could address the authorities if they believed they had been victims of discrimination; Monaco had ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.\
DANIEL OVERSKOTT and MARIA MOE, youth delegates from Norway, said in a joint statement that special measures must be taken to ensure the right to education was extended to those children from marginalized groups who had been left behind as others made progress in accessing quality schooling. They also urged countries to protect schools in conflict situations, join the safe schools declaration and include youth in peace negotiations and policy‑making. In order to reach young people with development initiatives, they urged all Member States to gather in‑depth knowledge of young populations. It was particularly important to consider the situations of young people who had historically been excluded because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
LAZAROUS KAPAMBWE (Zambia), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China and the African Group, affirmed his country’s commitment to fostering social justice, equality and inclusiveness. As poverty in the country remained unacceptably high despite numerous interventions, economic reforms and other actions were being undertaken to promote inclusive growth. Social protections, including cash transfer programmes, had been scaled up for national coverage and had significantly reduced indicators of extreme poverty. Zambia also remained committed to the revamping of cooperatives through changes in administration structures and improving access to credit.
MOHAMMAD HASSANI NEJAD PIRKOUHI (Iran) said social development was integral to sustainability. The Government placed its citizens at the heart of its development efforts, an approach that gave equal priority to all sectors of society. Access to low-cost education and other social services helped to promote development in Iran, he said, adding that undocumented children were also allowed to participate in the education system. All Government strategic documents identified social development as a major theme and sought to eradicate poverty, empower the vulnerable and foster a “family-centred” economy. Ageing could not be viewed as a barrier to development. Providing older persons with income security and free public services were among steps being taken to support senior citizens. Inclusion of persons with disabilities was also being pursued.
Ms. AL-MANSORI (Qatar), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and China, said climate change and conflict were negatively affecting social development efforts. Qatar was taking legislative steps to create the environment to empower all sectors of society and providing quality education to children across the world. Training, education and youth employment could help protect people from being “swept away” by violent extremism. Noting that families were the basic element of society, she described legislation that enshrined families in social development programmes. Moreover, Qatar was working to protect and integrate persons with disabilities into the development process. Qatari society faced external challenges, she said, assuring that her country would pursue partnerships at all levels.
KHIANE PHANSOURINVONG (Lao People’s Democratic Republic), aligning with the Group of 77 and China, affirmed the centrality of social development to his country’s plans for advancement. Top priority had been given to human resource development. In addition, the mainstreaming of sustainable development goals had already led to a significant reduction in poverty, as well as improved healthcare, better education more employment opportunities. Programmes targeted at youth, persons with disabilities and the elderly were also bearing fruit, he said.
Mr. HENDRICKS (South Africa), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, the African Group and the Group of Friends on Older Persons, said development frameworks were instrumental to poverty eradication, social inclusion, and improved living standards of all South Africans. Yet, the majority of young people were still excluded. Welcoming an event on the “demographic dividend” held during the High-level week, he called for accelerated efforts towards social inclusion. South Africa would hold a month of promotions to care for children, persons with disabilities, and other groups. Family played an important role in development, he said, reiterating South Africa’s commitment to eradicate poverty.
JORGE SKINNER-KLÉE (Guatemala), associating himself with the Group of Friends on Older Persons and the Group of 77 and China, advocated a transformative approach to the interrelated problems that had worsened in recent years, such as inequality. “We must seize the opportunity offered,” he said, noting that persons with disabilities often faced attitudes which restricted their access to such possibilities. Guatemala had carried out a survey on disabilities, and the resulting statistics had allowed it to incorporate that issue into its census. Moreover, it was vital that countries made investments in young people so the Sustainable Development Goals could be achieved by 2030. He also urged States to work in a united fashion to address problems faced by older persons.
BERNARDITO CLEOPAS AUZA, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, said economic growth did not necessarily lead to social development or address the root causes of inequality and exclusion, notably because the global economy tended to emphasize success and self-reliance over community. It was therefore important that policies and investments empower the vulnerable, strengthen natural communities and protect the marginalized from exclusion. It was particularly important to focus on social development for young people, migrants and refugees, he said, also stressing the need for policies to help young people find dignified work. The human rights of migrants and refugees must be respected and special care should be given to migrant children and youth.
RALITSA DIKANSKA, youth representative from Bulgaria, said youth could play a crucial role in achieving social development, as they had the knowledge and courage to overcome social challenges. She stressed the need for developing soft skills and promoting non‑formal education as means for young people to acquire skills needed to succeed. Sport offered skills for young people to better serve their communities and beyond, she said.
ASSYA PANDZHAROVA, youth representative from Bulgaria, said skills acquired through formal and non‑formal education formed the basis for equal representation. Social development could be achieved through inter‑cultural dialogue, she said, noting that multi‑cultural education could play a key role in encouraging inclusive policy‑making and protecting vulnerable populations. Young people’s participation was crucial to achieving peace, sustainable development and human rights, she said.
MAYANK JOSHI (India), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, said inclusive social development was a priority for his Government. Policy was driven by pro‑people, proactive approaches for good governance, with social development and employment programmes empowering disadvantaged members of society. Over one billion biometric identification cards had been distributed, while an expansive financial inclusion programme had facilitated the opening of some 300 million bank accounts. Social sector reform was also being guided by health interventions to ensure the well-being of all sectors of society, he said.
TANU PRIYA, youth representative from India, said young people were among the world’s most valuable assets. Eradicating poverty, increasing access to education and developing skills were critical to unleashing the full potential of the world’s youth. Skill and entrepreneurship programmes were being implemented to help India fully take advantage of its growing youth population. She called for scaled‑up international capacity‑building to promote diversity and recognize the potential of youth.
SUKHBOLD SUKHEE (Mongolia), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said his country had been an early adopter of the Sustainable Development Goals, seeking to become an upper‑middle‑income country with improved social development indicators. Such goals had been incorporated into the Government’s action plan for 2016‑2020 and other relevant programmes addressing poverty, education, health, employment, social protection, gender equality, ageing, disabilities and inter‑sectoral coordination and partnerships. The social welfare law — amended in 2016 — had introduced additional needs‑based eligibility criteria for allowances to caregivers, while a youth development law had established a fund to support young people. In addition, Mongolia’s new law on the rights of persons with disabilities complied with the United Nations Convention on that matter.
GEORGI TUMASYAN, youth delegate from Georgia, calling for every young person to be empowered and provided the necessary tools, said a comprehensive solution to addressing today’s global challenges would be to invest in youth. “We must make education our very first priority, as every single educated and successful young person represents another step toward the achievement of the [Sustainable Development Goals],” he stressed. Calling on all delegations to appoint a youth delegate to the United Nations, he said Georgia’s top priority was to provide the benefits of the 2030 Agenda to those who were most excluded — “our compatriots living in regions of Georgia occupied by the Russian Federation”. Welcoming efforts by Georgia to reconcile with Abkhazians and Ossetians, he said breaking down barriers should be accomplished through direct communication, constructive dialogue, cooperation and development.
ISSA KONFOUROU (Mali), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, and with the African Group, said his country was committed to the wellbeing of youth, older persons, and persons with disabilities. National solidarity was essential for poverty reduction, and the Government aimed to combat exclusion and to promote greater humanitarian action. Mali was carrying out “positive discrimination plans” with a quota reserved for persons with disabilities so they could access social services. The challenge was to extend social security plans to those in rural areas, he said, and to those working in the informal sector. The month of October was in Mali the month for solidarity.
DAMIANO BELEFFI (San Marino) said the international community must commit to human rights, as inequality and social exclusion were growing in both rich and developing countries. Refugees and migrants were subject to abuse and trafficking, a reminder that countries must work together to mitigate them, he said, noting that the 2030 Agenda called for the rights of the most vulnerable people to be promoted and protected. San Marino was among the first countries to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Stressing that the protection of children’s rights must be at the centre of international efforts, he called for universal ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Ms. ROCZ, youth representative from Hungary, said young people had much to learn to better serve the needs of vulnerable people. Hungary was promoting the Sustainable Development Goals through youth‑led workshops and discussions that allowed young people to solve problems in their communities. Without inter‑generational dialogue, social development would not be attainable, she stressed, calling for education systems centred on theoretical knowledge and practical skills that helped young people adapt to changing labour demands. The time had come for young people to live in peace, she said, noting that building peace meant building a prosperous future.
Ms. CHODEN (Bhutan), aligning herself with the group of 77 and China, said her country was fostering people‑centred approaches to social development. National measures sought to reduce poverty, she said, while national indicators had been developed to assist vulnerable populations. Those efforts had halved the number of people in poverty, she said. With youth accounting for 60 per cent of Bhutan’s population, the Government had introduced overseas education and skills‑development programmes, providing loans to students wishing to access higher education abroad. Inclusion of all sectors of society was a priority, she said, noting that the Royal Society of Senior Citizens provided job opportunities for older people while early‑childcare centres had also been created.
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Within the European Union: helping citizens and Member States at home
EU Civil Protection Mechanism
When national capacities to respond to natural disasters are surpassed, European countries often show solidarity by sending assistance in the form of equipment, experts and assets such as planes or vehicles, during the emergency response phase.
This is done through the EU’s Civil Protection Mechanism, which has been put into action a record 8 times this summer to help countries affected by forest fires such as Italy, France, Portugal, Albania and Montenegro.
EU funding for reconstruction after natural disasters
Through funding, the EU lends a helping hand to its citizens and Member States when they are affected by natural disasters.
Finally, the Commission stands ready to modify Regional Policy programmes, upon request of the national authorities and within the flexibility of the existing rules, in order to respond to new priorities on the ground. For example, the Portuguese Centro region’s programme has been modified and funding was redirected to restore vital infrastructure and regenerate economic activity in the region following the forest fires of June 2017.
Emergency support within the EU for the refugee crisis
Since 2016, the European Commission can fund humanitarian aid for people in need within the EU territory through the Emergency Support Instrument. Until 2018, up to €700 million of EU-funding will be made available via partner organisations, such as UN agencies, the Red Cross and non-governmental organisations. At this stage, the EU has provided this emergency support to thousands of refugees in Greece, helping provide shelter, food, water as well as protection of child refugees.
The Commission’s humanitarian support complements other EU funding instruments which have already been providing significant financial resources for assistance in Greece such as the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) the Internal Security Fund (ISF), the European Fund for the Most Deprived (FEAD) and the EU Health Programme. It is also complementary to the voluntary offers for material assistance by states participating in the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.
EU solidarity in action: the European Solidarity Corps
Within Europe, the newly created European Solidarity Corps provides opportunities for young Europeans between 18 and 30 to provide help to people who need it most, either as a volunteer, or in the framework of a traineeship or a job. Just 11 months after President Juncker announced the new initiative for this first time in his State of the Union speech 2016, more than 34,000 young people have joined the European Solidarity Corps. In March 2017, matching with organisations began; since then, about 15,000 participants have been contacted and 700 placements were accepted, most of which already started. Just this week, the first group of European Solidarity Corps volunteers arrived in Norcia, Italy, to help with the ongoing efforts to repair damage and rebuild social services for the local community affected by the severe earthquakes that hit the region a year ago. In total, 230 European Solidarity Corps members will support Italian communities hit by the earthquakes in the next years. The aim is to have 100,000 young people taking part in the European Solidarity Corps by the end of 2020.
Outside of the EU: a global leader in humanitarian and development assistance
Emergency humanitarian assistance
Together with funding provided by EU Member States, the European Union is the world’s largest donor of humanitarian aid. Aid is provided to those most in need in places such as Syria and neighbouring countries hosting large amounts of refugees. It also goes to those forcibly displaced within Africa and other areas of the world. All humanitarian aid is impartial and independent, and is provided to non-governmental and international organisations, the United Nations and the Red Cross societies.
European solidarity is overwhelming supported by EU citizens: almost nine out of ten Europeans think that EU-funded humanitarian aid is important, according to the most recent Eurobarometer survey.
EU solidarity in action: EU Aid Volunteers
EU Aid Volunteers brings together volunteers and organisations from different countries, providing practical support to humanitarian aid projects and contributing to strengthening the local capacity and resilience of disaster-affected communities around the world. The programme offers opportunities for European citizens to become EU Aid Volunteers in humanitarian projects worldwide, showing solidarity with those who most need it; it provides professional support by trained and well-prepared volunteers to communities affected by disaster, capacity building for local staff and volunteers of organisations in countries hit by disasters, and technical assistance for organisations based in Europe to strengthen their capacity to participate in the EU Aid Volunteers initiative. The volunteering projects can last between 1-18 months. In total, 4000 EU Aid volunteers will be deployed to the field during the 6 year initiative.
Long term development aid
The EU is also the world’s largest aid donor. Official Development Assistance provided by the EU and its Member States reached €75.5 billion in 2016, an 11% increase compared to 2015 levels.
EU aid goes to the world’s poorest regions and works with partner countries to address extreme poverty and enhance resilience. We carry out programmes to empower women and young people, improve food and nutrition security, increase health care, create jobs, and increase renewable energies. As a result, more girls and boys are in school now than ever before, fewer children and mothers are dying from preventable causes.
The European Union was instrumental in creating coalitions of high ambition in a number of major international agreements, which will set the global framework for our external actions until 2030. These included the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, a ground-breaking approach to financing sustainable development, the comprehensive and universally-applicable UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the forward-looking Sendai Framework for strengthening disaster risk reduction capacities and the first-ever legally-binding global commitment to tackle climate change.
After seven years since the Sixth session of the Association Council (AC) of the European Union and the Arab Republic of Egypt, the seventh session took place in Brussels on 25 July 2017. Both sides took this decision in recognition of the great importance of their partnership in addressing their political, economic social, security and cultural interests and in confronting their common challenges in the region.
The seventh session was co-chaired by HE Sameh Shoukry, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Egypt and Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, in the presence of Johannes Hahn, the Commissioner of European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations.
The session confirmed the broader engagement of the EU-Egypt relations based on the resumption of the bilateral Association Agreement structure in 2015 and on the joint priorities identified in light of the revised European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) as well as the Sustainable Development Strategy: Egypt Vision 2030, which will guide our dialogue and cooperation for the next three years.
The Association Council welcomed the adoption of the jointly negotiated EU-Egypt Partnership Priorities that pave the way for a reinforced and mutually beneficial bilateral partnership and towards a stronger strategic engagement in areas of common interest, to address common challenges, to promote joint interests and to guarantee long-term stability on both sides of the Mediterranean. This partnership will include support to Egypt’s sustainable economic and social development, good governance, the rule of law, human rights, migration, security, counterterrorism, and cooperation in foreign policy through intensified consultations on regional and international issues.
The Association Council welcomed the solid and accumulated EU assistance to Egypt which amounts to over EUR 1.3 billion, of ongoing grants to support Egypt’s economic, social and political development to improve the future prospects of its people and contribute to stabilization and long-term prosperity. This work is carried out in parallel with efforts to help in particular youth and women.
The EU reiterated its support to Egypt’s efforts to achieve sustainable and inclusive economic growth, notably through the implementation of the IMF supported reform programme. Restoring macroeconomic stability, fostering sustainable economic growth and the same time mitigating the social impact of the reforms are all key priorities.
The EU and Egypt remained committed to combat terrorism which threatens the social fabric of nations across both sides of the Mediterranean. Combating these threats represents an common goal of the EU and Egypt who can cooperate through a comprehensive approach that will address the root causes of terrorism with due respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, in order to enable both sides to successfully counter and prevent radicalization and enhance socio-economic development.
The Association Council acknowledged Egypt’s contribution in hosting refugees and migrants and working to prevent and combat irregular migration, trafficking and smuggling of human beings, including identifying and assisting victims of trafficking. It welcomes the adoption of a new anti-smuggling law that represents a key transformation in legislation through criminalization of smugglers. The EU and Egypt will strengthen their cooperation on migration.
The Association Council provided an opportunity to identify areas where the EU and Egypt could enhance cooperation. In this regard, the EU and Egypt expressed their commitment to cooperate in diversification of energy sources, with a particular focus on renewable energy sources, energy efficiency actions and energy governance, where the EU could provide technical assistance to establish a regional energy hub in Egypt. Strengthening the energy dialogue is underway between the EU and Egypt and will contribute to the joint research, sharing experience and best practice, technology transfers, as well as sub-regional cooperation.
The Association Council welcomed the commitment undertaken by both sides, faced with the common challenge of climate change, via ratification of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The EU reiterated its willingness to support Egypt in this area.
The Association Council also noted the importance of student staff and researcher exchanges and welcomed Egypt’s active participation in EU programs such as ERASMUS+. In this regard, Egypt and the EU highlighted their interest in intensifying cooperation in the field of research and innovation, mainly through Horizon2020 projects and programs. Research and innovation has a key role in tackling issues of shared concern in the Mediterranean area. In particular, the Association Council welcomed the upcoming initialing of the international agreement between Egypt and the EU governing the participation of Egypt in the Partnership on Research and Innovation in the Mediterranean Area (PRIMA). PRIMA is expected to mobilize joint research and innovation in two fields of strategic importance for the Mediterranean area: water provision and food production.
Egypt and the EU expressed their commitment to enhancing democracy, fundamental freedoms and human rights as constitutional rights of all their citizens in line with their international obligations, and agreed that human rights are a common value and constitute a cornerstone of a democratic, stable and prosperous state.
The EU and Egypt agreed that civil society is an important and potent contributor to the implementation of their Partnership Priorities and to transparent, participatory governance and can support the sustainable development process underway in Egypt. They will work with civil society in contributing effectively in the economic, political and social development process in compliance with the Egyptian constitution and national legislation.
The EU and Egypt have a shared interest in reinforcing cooperation in foreign policy at the bilateral, regional and international levels. In line with the Partnership Priorities, Egypt and the EU expressed their readiness for greater cooperation and a common understanding of a range of issues, including in the multilateral sphere. The Association Council noted the importance of the partnership between the EU and Egypt for the stability and prosperity of the Mediterranean, the Middle East and Africa. Further cooperation between the EU and Egypt, including within regional fora, will aim to contribute to the resolution of conflicts, to building peace and to tackling political and economic challenges in these regions.