Young Delegates Urge Better Access to Education, Inclusion of Youth in Decisions, as Third Committee Tackles Inequality, Unemployment, Conflict Prevention
Delegates in the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) shared the floor with youth representatives today, grappling with issues of inequality, unemployment and xenophobia that hampered young people’s advancement, as they concluded their two-day debate on social development.
Education was high on the list of priorities for delegates, both young and older, many of whom called for greater access to quality education and better employment opportunities. Indeed, unemployment and underemployment were driving inequality, said Australia’s youth delegate, calling for greater access to relevant education. In that context, representatives of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Kazakhstan cited the investments that their respective Governments had made in technical and vocational training to address that challenge.
Other youth delegates reminded Member States that while education was a human right, 59 million children of primary school age remained out of school. Many of them had been displaced by war and violence, which made the current refugee and migrant crisis a generational one. Failure to provide education to young refugees would lead to a lost generation, Sweden’s representative warned.
On that point, Turkey’s representative explained that his country was host to more than 3 million refugees – a situation that posed challenges to the country’s social development agenda. He called for greater support for host countries and the sharing of responsibility for the crisis.
Some youth delegates called for more meaningful participation in decision-making, in accordance with resolution 2250 (2015), with the young speaker from Belgium emphasizing that it must go beyond consultation to encapsulate substantive participation. Echoing that sentiment, a youth delegate from Ireland stressed the need for them to “build a future not just for everyone, but with everyone”. Ukraine’s youth delegate recalled his own participation in his country’s revolution, emphasizing the need to involve young people in conflict prevention.
In turn, delegates shared steps their Governments had taken to include young people in policy making, with Singapore’s speaker noting an increase in youth volunteerism and involvement in interest groups. Senegal had set up a national youth council to involve young people in social decisions, that country’s representative said. Honduras’s representative said his Government had ratified the Ibero-American Convention on the Rights of Youth in 2006, and had since included young people in formulating policies and implementing programmes. Taking a broad perspective, Nigeria’s representative urged the United Nations to create a youth agency that would integrate youth issues throughout the 2030 Agenda.
Also speaking today were representatives of Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, Burkina Faso, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Georgia, Germany, Guinea, Hungary, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Monaco, Mongolia, Namibia, Nepal, Pakistan, Palau, Panama, Poland, Qatar, Romania, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Singapore, South Africa, Sudan, Sweden, United Republic of Tanzania, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Uganda and Zambia, as well as representatives of the Holy See, Sovereign Order of Malta and the International Labour Organization (ILO) Office to the United Nations.
Representatives of the Russian Federation and Georgia spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The representative of Algeria spoke in a point of order, requesting clarification of the procedural basis for allowing youth delegates to participate in the proceedings of an intergovernmental organization.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 6 October, to begin its debate on crime prevention and criminal justice.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian & Cultural) met today to continue its debate on social development. For background, see Press Release GA/SCH/4163.
BERNARDITO AUZA, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, said that, while poverty had declined dramatically and people were now healthier, more educated and better connected than ever, progress remained uneven. Nowhere were social and economic inequalities more apparent than in cases of protracted conflict, where too many young people had been raised under the rules of war rather than the rule of law. Underscoring the basic right of every person to enjoy the security that provided the foundation for lasting social development, he said the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development continued to show great promise in addressing the root causes of the world’s current crises. In particular, it was crucial to address the needs of those forced to migrate, risking their lives in the hands of human smugglers and trafficking networks, and facing hostility, fear, racism and xenophobia if they were lucky enough to reach their destination. While the recently adopted New York Declaration on Refugees and Migrants had set the stage for the negotiation of several global compacts to meet those challenges, political will, cooperation and solidarity were required to translate hope into reality.
SAAD AHMAD WARRAICH (Pakistan), aligning himself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, stressed the interlinkages and mutually reinforcing nature of the social and economic dimensions of development. Recognizing that development could not be fully realized without the full participation of individuals, Pakistan placed great importance on uplifting its people. In particular, the country was investing in technical training for vulnerable members of society. It was also taking steps to ensure the financial inclusion of women and to formalise the undocumented economy. He assured the Committee that Pakistan’s national goals and priorities complemented the 2030 Agenda.
TANGIE KAY (Singapore) said the participation of young people was central to bringing about social change and an integral part of her country’s vision of an inclusive society. The Singapore International Foundation, a member of the International Forum for Volunteering in Development, was among those organizations acknowledged in a General Assembly resolution. The number of youth volunteers in Singapore was on the rise, as were those participating in youth interest groups and social enterprises. Explaining that Singapore had worked to integrate volunteerism into national implementation strategies, she emphasized three areas of special focus: education, volunteer champions and digital platforms. The establishment of a “youth ecosystem” was essential in order to encourage young people to give back to the community, and a critical step towards implementing the 2030 Agenda.
DANIEL ROSA, youth delegate from Honduras, said her country’s National Congress had ratified the Ibero-American Convention on the Rights of Youth in 2006 and the Government had since included young people in the development of new policies and implementation of programmes. Last week, President Juan Orlando Hernandez had announced a Presidential Programme for Scholarships that would provide 33,000 scholarships for students facing economic hardship. The creation of small enterprises was crucial for the advancement of youth and to achieve that, the Government had created the “Banca Solidaria” programme to support young entrepreneurs. It also had launched “Tu Banca Joven”, which provided resources to 6,000 students so they could build their own microenterprises, he said.
MANAL HASSAN RADWAN (Saudi Arabia), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and China, and Egypt, said social development goals had been integrated into her country’s national development plans. Saudi Arabia had carried out a number of activities to provide services for persons with disabilities and had been the first country to sign the related Convention. Further, her Government had implemented measures to support youth employment and families. She reiterated her country’s commitment to implement the Madrid Action Plan on Ageing, noting that the main obstacle to social development was a growing population, and citing the situation of least developed countries in that regard.
TATIA DOLIDZE, youth delegate from Georgia, thanked the United Nations for its efforts to keep young people informed, involved and impelled. Georgia sought to fulfil the 2030 Agenda principle of “no one left behind,” a difficult endeavour when 20 per cent of Georgian territory was under Russian occupation, and people living in that territory suffered from mass infringements on property rights, restrictions to the freedom of movement, arbitrary detentions and even deprivations of life, as well as “linguistic genocide”. Within the Government’s four-point reform plan on the Sustainable Development Goals, she highlighted the Solidarity Fund, which supported young people suffering from oncological diseases, and StartUp Georgia 2016, which funded innovative youth entrepreneurial initiatives.
CHRIS EIGELAND, youth representative from Australia, recalled that resolution 2250 (2015) urged Member States to increase the representation of youth in decision-making, saying: “The stage has been set for empowering young people around the world, but there is much practical, pragmatic work that needs to be done”. He said he had met young Australians from all walks of life and their message was one of confidence, tempered by fear of inequality. For many, inequality was driven by unemployment or underemployment, he noted, calling for improvement of the relevance and accessibility of education, as well as better opportunities for young women; for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and inter-sex youth; and for migrants, asylum seekers and indigenous youth.
WU HAITAO (China), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, noting that hundreds of millions of people in the world were living in extreme poverty, said that the international community needed to give greater prominence to social development. Among other areas to focus on was the need to design proper mechanisms and agenda, to ensure that social development received the full attention it deserved. The United Nations must play a greater role in helping developing countries achieve social development. Turning to national achievements, he noted that China’s vision of innovative, green, open and shared development was in line with the overall direction and requirements of the 2030 Agenda. China would continue to provide assistance to Africa and the least developed countries with a view to achieving common development and prosperity.
The representative of Eritrea, speaking on a point of order, asked about the possibility of adding an oral presentation by the Commission of Inquiry to the Committee’s agenda. He said that he had expressed his readiness to discuss that matter with the Secretariat the previous day, but had not been included in subsequent discussions with the Office of Legal Affairs. He conveyed his delegation’s wish to participate in the formulation of any query on the matter to that Office.
A Secretariat official responded by saying that a point of order made in respect of an agenda item not under consideration should normally not be entertained. The Committee had moved on to consider item 26 and would no longer discuss organizational matters.
The Chair assured the representative that time would be found for a meeting later today.
ISABELLE F. PICCO (Monaco) expressed her commitment to social inclusion and social development as agreed upon during the World Summit for Social Development. She noted that uneven progress remained a concern, adding that illiteracy and unemployment were obstacles to development, as were the situations of persons with disabilities and other marginalized groups. Further, climate change required more attention and action by the international community. Addressing illiteracy was essential in efforts to eradicate poverty and it must be a priority, she said, expressing support for United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) initiatives in rural areas. The cycle of illiteracy and poverty must be broken in order to achieve development, she stressed.
SUKHBOLD SUKHEE (Mongolia), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, said that to reach all segments of society with inclusive development, there was an indispensable need to examine interrelated factors, such as poverty reduction and decent work. Reviewing Mongolia’s national action to implement the 2030 Agenda, he said the Government would prioritize family support, poverty reduction, employment generation, improvement of living standards, and improving social protection for citizens. As the main sponsor of a bi-annual resolution on literacy, Mongolia underlined the power of literacy to empower individuals.
GHOLAMALI KHOSHROO (Iran), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, and Friends of the Family, called for structural shifts at both local and international levels to ensure that every individual and country could realize its fair share of global prosperity. Iran placed high priority on youth empowerment. Despite challenges imposed by war and sanctions, Iran had invested heavily in education and health care. While the fruits of those investments were reflected in the country’s rising human development index, his Government was aware that more needed to be done to improve employment opportunities. Iran was ensuring the rights of its senior citizens and working to empower persons with disabilities through education and vocational training, and by offering incentives to businesses to provide jobs to persons with disabilities.
INIGO LAMBERTINI (Italy), aligning himself with the European Union, noted that with the Sustainable Development Goals, Governments had committed to a bold new sustainable development vision. Today’s young people were the largest generation in history, and Italy was committed to empowering and valuing them. Italy had established a National Civilian Service for youths aged 18 to 28 years, and had made the European Voluntary Service one of its objectives. Italy was also Vice Chair of the Bureau of the Conference of the States Parties of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and its Parliament had adopted an “After Us” law recognizing protections for persons with severe disabilities upon the passing of their caretaker-parents.
NOURA BERROUBA, youth delegate from Sweden, stressed the importance of equal access to quality education. Noting that there were still more than 59 million out-of-school children of primary-school age, she reminded the Committee that education was a human right. “Human rights apply to everyone, always, everywhere, without exception,” she said. Yet, too many displaced and refugee children were missing out on school. The current refugee and migration crisis was also a generational crisis; failure to provide education to young refugees would lead to a lost generation. Finally, she called for greater inclusion of young people in social, political and economic platforms. “Youth are experts on their own lives, but also on so much more”.
KHIANE PHANSOURIVONG (Lao People’s Democratic Republic), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said his Government attached great importance to social development, particularly the areas of poverty eradication, education, health and employment. Among other national initiatives within those fields, the Government gave special importance to the development of technical and vocational education, in order to meet the needs of the labour market. The Lao People’s Democratic Republic was committed to fulfilling its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, he said, reaffirming its commitment to translating the 2030 Agenda into concrete action.
WILFRIED I. EMVULA (Namibia), associating himself with the African Group and the Group of 77 and China, said his country was implementing the 2030 Agenda alongside other national and regional plans. Namibia was also drafting its fifth national development plan, to be launched next year, with the aim of addressing the needs of people from all 14 regions. It would be drafted with input from all relevant stakeholders and sought to move away from centralized plans, which had not included the views of people living far from urban areas. Describing the Harambee Prosperity Plan, he said the Government had achieved some of its goals, such as the launch of urban food banks. The free primary education policy had been extended to secondary education, he said, adding that the Government continued to provide social safety nets to the elderly, orphans and persons with disabilities.
SAMANTHA B. O’REILLY and COLM O’ROURKE, youth delegates from Ireland, called for greater education and integration to counter growing racism and xenophobia. Ms. O’REILLY thanked the United Nations for its work to promote gender equality, but recalled that the battle was far from over. “As a young woman, why must I face a future where I am less likely to be paid as much as my male colleagues,” she asked? She welcomed the Organization’s efforts to build a more equitable world, but urged Member States to build that future not just for everyone, but with everyone. Mr. O’ROURKE said young people had expressed a number of priorities, including education, employment and housing. At the same time, we’re concerned about the rise of political extremism. Youth participation could help to counter extremism and young people should be involved in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. He stressed that young people were needed to achieve sustainable development, urging Governments to place more trust in them.
DAMIANO BELEFFI (San Marino) said that in armed conflict situations, the world had witnessed the gross and systematic violations of human rights. Different forms of discrimination persisted across the world and he expressed his belief that the promotion and protection of human rights was crucial to achieving peace, security and sustainable development. Reaffirming his country’s commitment to implement social development goals, he said that in such work, special attention must be paid to the situation of the most vulnerable groups, including children and older persons. Stressing the importance of advancing women’s rights, he also drew attention to the challenges faced by persons with disabilities. Older persons must also play an active role in society and San Marino had adopted measures to support their integration. He expressed his hope for the universal ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, noting that the United Nations had the duty to protect children.
DENISA BRATU and GABRIEL UIFALEAN, youth delegates from Romania, said more must be done to connect humanity so that common goals and aspirations could be achieved. They highlighted the importance of technology and music in connecting societies and in achieving sustainable development, stressing that young people’s civic engagement should be encouraged. The less fortunate also deserved more attention and compassion. They noted the challenges young people faced in looking for learning opportunities or entering the labour market. The 2030 Agenda was an important framework for addressing global challenges and young people must push for its implementation.
MWABA P. KASESE-BOTA (Zambia), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and China and the African Group, underscored her country’s commitment to fostering social justice, equality and inclusiveness. The Government had put in place policies focused on creating jobs and reducing poverty on a sustainable basis. She expressed concern over the continued plight of persons with disabilities, noting also that Zambia had conducted a national disability survey in 2015 to ascertain the prevalence of disability. Preliminary findings had shown that 7.2 per cent of the population lived with a disability. Progress had been recorded on literacy, rising from 67.2 per cent to 83 per cent in 2010.
INÈS SWAELENS and NAOMI N’SA, youth delegates from Belgium, described the importance of youth participation and quality education. Citing Security Council resolution 2250 (2015), Ms. SWAELENS called upon Member States and civil society to “unleash the potential of youth” by giving more attention to youth participation, which meant real participation in policy making and not simply consultation. Her fellow delegate, Ms. N’SA, recalled the opportunities that quality education had made available to her as an immigrant to Belgium. By failing to provide education to millions of children around the world, the international community had neglected its obligations under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Inequities in educational quality was a problem throughout the world and she welcomed steps to address those issues in Belgium.
ALYA AHMED SAIF AL-THANI (Qatar), endorsing the positions of the Group of 77 and China, and the Friends of the Family Group, said social integration was particularly important in achieving development for all. Qatar had adopted a people-centred approach to eradicating poverty and providing quality education for all. She commended efforts to integrate disability into the 2030 Agenda, noting that Qatar had included that issue in its national development plans. She expressed her concern about the illiteracy statistics in the UNESCO report, urging greater efforts to address that issue, and to promote education in conflict-prone regions. As the family was the basic component of society, Qatar had developed a national vision to expand protection of the family, and awareness programmes to strengthen inter-generational family ties. Qatar also attached great importance to the inclusion and integration of youth.
AHSAN SYED and DALIA TEJEDA-ALIX, youth delegates from Canada, said changes in global geopolitics, environment, economics and technology had inspired today’s young people, the largest generation in history, to be more engaged with the world. It was important to recognize that the imagination, energy and ideals of young people were vital for the development of society. Underscoring the need to foster equal opportunity, they said it was also important to promote participation in quality education in order to develop workforce-ready skills and support youth entrepreneurism. Partnerships among industry, Government and education institutions could help ensure that students learned both inside and outside the classroom.
MOHAMED RIDA AL-HUSSAINI, (Iraq), recalled several provisions in the Iraqi Constitution that ensured the protection of the family, youth, the elderly and persons with disabilities. The country had increased financing for social benefits and launched a development programme which covered health care and social services for vulnerable groups. Despite those efforts, security and economic factors hindered the country’s development. Attacks by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) were taking a toll on infrastructure and citizens’ access to services, such as health care, as well as contributing to unemployment. Despite those obstacles, the Government was sparing no effort to improve living conditions and welcomed the support of the international community in that context.
KAIRAT ABDRAKHMANOV (Kazakhstan) underscored the urgency of combating extreme poverty, and rising inequalities within and among countries. The 2030 Agenda required enormous resources for its implementation and attention should be paid to the situation of the most vulnerable in that context. Democratic and participatory services should be put in place. For its part, Kazakhstan had increased support for vulnerable groups. The “Kazakhstan 2050” national strategy and “NurkyZhol — Path to Future” — economic policy each provided quality education, health care, affordable housing and enhanced social security. Also, the Government provided free formal education at all levels and additional vocational training. A number of national institutions ensured youth participation in national policy-making, he said, adding that the Government was working to integrate persons with disabilities and older persons.
MURAT UĞURLUOĞLU (Turkey) said the world was facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the Second World War, with serious implications for the social development of affected countries. The 2030 Agenda required an inclusive, rights-based policy framework. Turkey was prioritizing social inclusion for persons with disabilities, the elderly, and women, as well as providing proper education and decent employment opportunities for youth. Host to more than 3 million refugees, Turkey faced considerable challenges to its social development agenda. He stressed the need for greater international cooperation and burden-sharing in order to support displaced people and their host communities.
DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, and ASEAN, said the world was in the first year of implementing the 2030 Agenda, and yet the global economy remained sluggish. The international community must help people who were living far behind, economically and socially. Among other points, he said equal access and opportunities to employment were a key factor in social inclusion, noting that the family was the basic social structure. Nationally, Indonesia was pursuing programmes aimed at protecting women from violence and discrimination. For youth, an educational programme for rural areas had been organized. Indonesia’s national action plan on human rights emphasized the need for an inclusive environment for persons with disabilities.
BANKOLE ADEOYE (Nigeria), endorsing the positions of the Group of 77 and China, the African Group, and the Friends of the Family, underscored his commitment to implementing international agreements and protocols to promote social development. Regionally, Nigeria had shown leadership in realizing the African Union Agenda 2063 on Social Development, the African Union Plan of Action on the Decade of People with Disabilities (2010-2019), and the African Union Policy Framework and Plan of Action on Ageing in Africa, among other plans. In 2015, the Government had launched an ambitious social protection programme aimed at lifting people from poverty. He reiterated the call for the establishment of a United Nations youth agency that would mainstream youth issues into the 2030 Agenda. He also reaffirmed the centrality of the family, “involving man, woman, children and relatives” in Nigeria’s political, cultural, and socio-economic development. In prosecuting the war on terror, his Government placed a premium on the welfare of the two million internally displaced persons in camps across the country.
MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said that while there had been social progress over the last two decades, it had been uneven across regions and within countries. Social exclusion was still an obstacle in many parts of the world, while poverty eradication remained a major challenge. Momentum gained by adopting the 2030 Agenda must be matched by progress in achieving the objectives of the 1995 Copenhagen Summit. He urged all stakeholders to intensify efforts to implement that summit’s programme within the context of the 2030 Agenda. The Commission for Social Development should be strengthened as a potential platform for following up the social dimension of the Sustainable Development Goals.
MIKOLAJ SOLIK and MICHAL SKRETA, youth delegates from Poland, said young people should not be viewed as a burden, but rather, as a valuable asset, full of energy, creativity and idealism. It was important to give them the right to voice their concerns and implement legislation, particularly towards eliminating age discrimination and digitalizing schools. Youth empowerment was not about claims for privilege. The issue ought to be viewed as a platform for equitable treatment and mutual understanding. Rather than levelling criticism at the United Nations, he urged reflecting on the nature of the young generation. Youth must be included whenever change was needed or necessary.
MS.HORBACHOVA (Ukraine) said her country had made significant progress in improving maternal health, nearly halving child mortality, reducing HIV/AIDS incidence and combating tuberculosis. Ukraine was also working towards improving education, promoting gender equality and environmental sustainability. The occupation of Crimea had, however, resulted in the killing of thousands of people and the displacement of nearly 1.8 million others. Her Government had established the Ministry for Temporarily Occupied Territories and Internally Displaced Persons in order to secure the social needs of those displaced. Particular attention had been given to children who had lost their families due to the “Russian aggression”, she said, adding that establishing peace and restoring Ukraine’s full sovereignty over the Donbas region and Crimea were “extremely important” in order for people to return to normalcy.
Mr. BESKOROVAYNY, youth delegate from Ukraine, said the international community could not be indifferent to the problems of others. Three years ago, he had fought on the streets for the democratic future of his country. Those peaceful student protests had led to the “Revolution of Dignity”, and shown that youth could make a strong impact, he said, adding that while the revolution was over, the fight for freedom was not. He appealed to the Committee to increase youth representation in all levels of decision-making in order to secure and prevent conflicts.
The representative of Algeria requested clarification on the procedural mechanisms permitting youth delegates to take the floor. He asked whether those speakers were official representatives of their countries and if proper procedures had been followed to grant them a platform.
A Secretariat official explained that youth delegates were speaking on behalf of their official delegations.
The Chair said she would request written clarification from the Secretariat.
DATO ABDUL GHAFAR ISMAIL (Brunei Darussalam) focused on the rights of persons with disabilities, noting that their rights were universal and must be both protected and promoted. Brunei Darussalam was working towards mainstreaming those rights across national laws and policies, in collaboration with national partners from civil society and the private sector, as well as with regional partners. National activities included targeted health care, an inclusive education policy and opportunities for guidance and training. Further, a national action plan on persons with disabilities had been put in place to promote their rights and ensure their full participation.
YASUE NUNOSHIBA (Japan) expressed support for the guiding principle of the 2030 Agenda, namely “leaving no one behind”. It was important to create a more inclusive society by supporting persons with disabilities to participate and ending discrimination against them. Japan had passed an act in April calling on administrative bodies and private companies to take steps to eliminate discrimination, and had expanded its financial assistance to schools that accommodated students with disabilities. As African countries faced challenges from poverty and social inequality, Japan had led the Tokyo International Conference on African Development since 1993, and had made contributions not only towards economic development, but also to improving health-care systems, comprehensive education and women’s empowerment.
NOKULUNGA ZANDILE BHENGU (South Africa), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, and the African Group, said 2016 had been marked by growing challenges, such as health and migration crises that had impacted socioeconomic development, particularly for women and children. Africa accounted for the world’s poorest people, and concerted efforts by the international community were required to fulfil commitments concerning the continent’s special needs. She urged implementing social policies to address the various concerns of families, adding that, given the multicultural nature of South African society, no single definition of “family” could be comprehensive enough to cover the various forms of families in the country.
MADINA KARABAEVA (Kyrgyzstan), associating herself with the Group of Friends of the Family, said development could not be achieved without a focus on the family. Indeed, social rights were an important link in development. A number of social development goals had not been achieved and she urged seeking more comprehensive measures. Migration and remittances were a significant contribution to countries’ social development and she firmly believed in the protection of migrants. In 2015, her Government had adopted a strategy for social development and protection, aiming to improve well-being, including through support to families and older persons. Additional measures had been taken to engage young people.
MS. KYDYRALIEVA, the youth representative, said statistics had shown the important role and contribution of young people. There were a number of national and international bodies for youth participation, she said, noting that Kyrgyzstan had a youth council and a variety of programmes to support young people.
RWAYDA IZZELDIN HAMID ELHASSAN (Sudan), endorsing the statements of the Group of 77 and China, the African Group, and the Friends of the Family, said daunting challenges, such as the financial crisis, climate change and unemployment, had cast bleak shadows on the future of social development. Concerted international efforts were needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly their social aspects. To achieve the commitments outlined at the Copenhagen Summit, Sudan had elaborated a national plan to combat poverty. It was also establishing social-care centres for the elderly, and had elaborated a strategy for persons with disabilities.
FODÉ SECK (Senegal), endorsing the statements of the Group of 77 and China, and Egypt, emphasized the need to include all groups in work to advance social development. The goals adopted at the Copenhagen Summit were pressing, and combating poverty should be a priority. Senegal had pursued inclusive economic growth through a national plan which also had strengthened the rule of law and human rights protections. He underscored the need to protect all human rights, notably for the poorest populations and the family. Social programmes had been initiated, including a family security plan and a national gender-equality strategy. Noting that older persons must be fully integrated into society, he said literacy programmes had led to higher school enrolment for children, especially in rural areas. The Government also promoted youth employment, he said, noting that a national youth council had involved young people in the development of social policies. He reiterated the importance of families as the core unit of society.
Mr. GLOSSNER, Mr. KLAUSCH and Ms. BUCH, youth delegates from Germany, said young people they had met were fighting for a cleaner environment, bridging cultural differences and involved in student government. They told stories of a young man organizing intercultural soccer matches to help migrants and refugees integrate into German society. Another young woman had organized a Model United Nations at her school to encourage youth participation in global governance. Those young people wanted to be included in decisions that would impact their lives. They had seen the possibilities to shape their environments and been inspired to change the world for the better. “Our generation is strong,” one youth delegate said, urging Member States to eliminate barriers hindering young people from participating in society. Young people everywhere deserved access to food, water, sanitation and information. Member States should also do more to educate children and youth about being part of civil society. Every country should review its youth participation mechanisms in accordance with the World Programme of Action for Youth, they added.
LEWIS G. BROWN (Liberia), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, and the African Group, said his country in 2016 had started the work of aligning its national agenda with the 2030 Agenda. Liberia recognized the importance of meeting all the Sustainable Development Goals, but it had taken an incremental approach in order to achieve a sustainable and inclusive process. Amid rising unemployment in Liberia, reform of training programmes had paid special attention to marketable skills. The Government had identified social protection as a crucial way to reduce poverty. Liberia was a young nation, with a high fertility rate. The youth bulge could easily be a challenge, but the Government considered young people an asset.
LAURA ELENA FLORES HERRERA (Panama), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, and CELAC, underscored the need to fully implement social development goals. For its part, Panama had adopted a national framework to implement the 2030 Agenda, with particular attention to the most vulnerable. In partnership with all sectors, the Government had established a national body to coordinate all social initiatives. She recognized the value of reporting and exchange of good practices, and in that context, announced that Panama would participate in the voluntary review during the 2017 High-Level Political Forum. As inequality and poverty persisted in rural and indigenous areas, there was a need to strengthen community partnerships. The Government had created a national index to measure poverty, and a disability certification to ensure economic equality, she added.
PETRA BEZDEKOVA, youth delegate from Czech Republic, said children and youth might find themselves lost in the amount of information they dealt with on a daily basis. Quality education that fostered critical thinking and other valuable skills was an important part of youth development. Turning to employment issues, she noted that, in today’s world, a university degree was not enough to secure a job, and that sometimes pursuing a degree had left students with extreme financial burdens. The number of unemployed young people was alarming.
Ms. VUOVA, another youth delegate, called on the Committee to continue pushing for the youth agenda, and help young people open the window of opportunity. The international community must be louder in denouncing all forms of discrimination and more mindful of deep-rooted forms of socioeconomic inequalities.
NIRMAL RAJ KAFLE (Nepal), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said that people-centred social development required more effective action and better policies to eradicate poverty, create jobs, promote inclusive and sustained growth and provide social protection. Nepal’s new Constitution and development policies fully embraced the principles of human rights, inclusion and proportional representation, with particular emphasis on the advancement of women and marginalized peoples. Programmes to enhance the skills of vulnerable persons were a focus of the current development plan. In addition, social security programmes covered senior citizens, widows, deprived minorities and persons with disabilities. Vulnerable children, particularly girls, had been targeted for improved access to education. He affirmed Nepal’s commitment to implementing the 2030 Agenda, including the social agenda, despite the challenges of poverty, post-conflict ills and natural disasters.
RICHARD NDUHUURA (Uganda), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, and the African Group, said progress had been made in social development. Measures had been adopted to empower and protect women, while access to education had been strengthened. Turning to the unprecedented movements of refugees and migrants, he said all refugees and migrants must be protected and treated with dignity. For its part, Uganda had started implementing the 2030 Agenda. There was a need to bridge the gap between the humanitarian and development sectors, and address the refugee crisis in a comprehensive manner. He also attached importance to tackling new trends in crime so as not to jeopardize development gains.
Mr. OMER (Eritrea), associating himself with the African Group, and the Group of 77 and China, said this year marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of his country’s independence. Those years had been marked by rehabilitation and development, as well as healing war wounds. Social justice was at the core of Eritrea’s social development programmes, which aimed to ensure access to basic social and economic services. Education, which absorbed the lion’s share of the Government budget, had cut adult illiteracy to less than 20 per cent in 2015, from nearly 90 per cent in 1991. Eritrea was among the few African countries to have hit all the Millennium Development Goals. Today, every Eritrean could access health care within five kilometres. Faced with a substantial population of disabled persons as a result of a three-decade war, Eritrea was working towards eliminating stigma, ensuring medical and rehabilitation services, and providing financial assistance. Young people were the country’s biggest asset, however, sanctions and the occupation of parts of Eritrea had impeded efforts to help young people reach their full potential.
MYRIAM AMAN SOULAMA (Burkina Faso), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, and the African Group, said her country had recently implemented measures to address the situation of the most vulnerable groups, with the adoption of a national social protection policy. Efforts needed to be taken from a standpoint of inclusiveness and could encompass education and training placements for young people, she said, noting that Burkina Faso had a very young population. Drawing attention to issues of women’s empowerment and care for persons with disabilities, she said the institutional and legal framework to protect vulnerable groups also considered elderly people.
SOFYA SIMONYAN (Armenia), associating herself with the European Union, recalled the Copenhagen Declaration and commitments made to place people at the centre of development. New commitments could not be implemented by rhetorical gestures. People must be empowered. Full realization of human rights meant leaving no one behind, she said, noting that her Government had implemented a new social strategy to realize all rights for all groups, and prepared a new national development strategy. She noted that refugees were protected through residency permits, housing assistance and health care programmes, noting that social development challenges had been compounded by turmoil along Armenia’s borders.
Mr. VOLOM, youth delegate from Hungary, said the world’s common sustainable future depended on those who lived in poverty, faced hunger, received insufficient education and had no immediate prospects for personal development. Urging Member States to support the organic development of youth communities – both formal and informal – he said that lasting change could only be achieved through local grassroots progress. Low engagement of young people remained a worldwide problem that must be addressed if the Sustainable Development Goals were to be met. Warning that poverty, lack of education, high youth unemployment, illiteracy and marginalization all created a fertile ground for radicalization, he advocated involving young people in activities that were beneficial for society, in line with the Secretary-General’s Plan of Action on Preventing Violent Extremism.
MILDRED GUZMÁN (Dominican Republic), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, and with CELAC, said the 2030 Agenda sought to bolster economic development through innovation. The Dominican Republic was committed to eradicating poverty by bolstering public policies, including through investment in education, health care and youth employment. Those efforts were pillars in its efforts to break the cycle of poverty, she said, noting that more than 800,000 adults had overcome illiteracy. The 2030 Agenda constituted an opportunity for persons with disabilities, and in the Dominican Republic, the Government and the private sector had increased their commitments in that regard. She urged the international community to promote the participation of the elderly, people with disabilities and young people.
MULUGETA ZEWDIE (Ethiopia), endorsing the positions of the African Group, and the Group of 77 and China, said significant progress had been made in the two decades since the Copenhagen Summit. However, he expressed concern about the high number of people still living in poverty and effects of conflicts and disasters, noting that it was crucial to fully implement the new international agreements. Ethiopia had taken steps to protect and promote the rights of persons with disabilities and older persons. Recognizing the importance of the family as the main agent for inclusive development, the Government had taken measures to strengthen the family. Programmes to increase youth participation also had been bolstered.
Youth delegates from United Arab Emirates said the best way to promote sustainable development was to include young people in the process. Young people needed to tackle several challenges, including extremist ideology, climate change and the worldwide humanitarian situation. The youth in his country had benefitted from a good, free education, and received all the services of the market economy.
They said that a national dialogue had been carried out and a dynamic agenda had been agreed. Development and innovation were not limited, and the role of young people was vital. Working cooperatively, the international community could build a better future for young people.
YAHSAR ALIYEV (Azerbaijan) recognized the progress made since the Copenhagen Summit, and expressed his concern about remaining gaps. He welcomed the attention paid to social development in the new agreements. Creating strong economies was not enough to ensure social development for all; social justice was required. For its part, Azerbaijan had made remarkable progress in improving socio-economic conditions, while also maintaining spending levels in the social sector. In addition, more housing had been made available to low-income families.
ELLEN MADUHU (United Republic of Tanzania), associating herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said her Government had integrated the Sustainable Development Goals into its national development plans and strategies, including the second five-year development plan and the new poverty reduction strategy for Zanzibar. To ensure that no one was left behind, it had put in place social protection policies that aimed to reduce poverty among disadvantaged groups including the elderly, persons with disabilities and youth. Despite successes made in policy, legislation and administrative reforms, the country faced a number of practical challenges to reducing poverty among persons with disabilities, such as a lack of assistive devices and limited access to education and training programmes for independent living.
RASHID ABDULLAH AL-NOAIMI (Bahrain) said the Bahraini Parliament had adopted an action plan addressing the social and economic aspects of development. The plan was a result of amendments made to the Constitution in 2012. Families had been empowered through initiatives such as a family bank that provided funding, and development centres which offered family counselling. Bahrain’s social development efforts included rehabilitation for persons with disabilities. Further, the Ministry of Education and Learning had adapted schools and universities to the needs of persons with disabilities. The Government was working on several fronts, aware of the importance of social development.
NORA IMANE BELLOUT (Algeria), associating herself with the African Group, and the Group of 77 and China, pointed out the opportunity to develop a new global partnership focused on well-being and inclusive development, and built on the recent international agreements. The challenges were multidimensional and complex, requiring an integrated response that addressed poverty, gender inequality, child and maternal mortality and environmental degradation. For its part, Algeria had achieved a qualitative leap with the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals, which it had achieved through targeted national plans to reduce poverty, create jobs and develop rural areas. Algeria also had strengthened investment in several sectors, including agriculture and tourism, and provided health-care coverage for vulnerable populations, which, in turn, reduced maternal and infant mortality. In addition, it had guaranteed the rights of persons with disabilities and strengthened the social and economic integration of older persons.
ROLANDO CASTRO CORDOBA (Costa Rica), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, and with CELAC, said the international community must come up with cohesive agendas to promote equal opportunity, and access to quality education and decent jobs. Economic and social development was crucial to the enjoyment of human rights. Costa Rica had implemented strategies which addressed poverty from a multisectoral approach. The international community needed to fight discrimination in all its manifestations. Guaranteeing the empowerment of women and girls was a key to eliminating poverty, he said, stressing the need to include women in formal sectors of the economy.
CALEB OTTO (Palau) said 450 million people worldwide were affected by mental health conditions, while one in four people would become directly affected by one in their lifetime. Such conditions were a leading cause of premature mortality, with suicide alone accounting for nearly 1 million deaths each year. For most people, basic mental health services simply were not available and even when they were, many did not use them out of fear of being stigmatized. Stressing that development and mental health were interconnected, he said mental wellness could not flourish in conditions of poverty, conflict and injustice. It was vital to redouble efforts to eradicate structural barriers that exacerbated mental health conditions and prevented people from using services available. “Mental health conditions can be treated,” he said, emphasizing the need to overcome attitudinal barriers, starting in families and communities.
MAMADI TOURE (Guinea), associating himself with the African Group and the Group of 77 and China, said Guinea faced a number of social development challenges, such as increasing social exclusion and negative effects of natural disasters. The Government continued to provide free education and had organized literacy programmes for women in particular. Further, effective health care was provided to women, and a share of mining taxes was used to remedy malnutrition. Services and goods were also provided to persons with disabilities to improve their well-being. He reiterated his commitment to support and integrate older persons into society, adding that post-Ebola recovery funds had been set aside to compensate for losses stemming from the Ebola crisis.
FIAMMA ARDITI DI CASTELVETERE MANZO, an observer of the Sovereign Order of Malta, said every person had a right to live a healthy life with dignity. The Sovereign Order of Malta was dedicated to combating exclusion through various initiatives. It had participated in a summer camp for young people with disabilities and provided meals on wheels and transport services for elderly people. Many of those charitable projects were run by volunteers wanting to make a difference in the world. On climate change, she said the increase in natural disasters had affected crops and living conditions, and transmitted disease. The Sovereign Order of Malta had implemented disaster risk reduction measures, assisting in long-term reconstruction projects.
KEVIN CASSIDY, speaking on behalf of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Office for the United Nations, said that in adopting the 2030 Agenda, Governments and the international community had recognized that the goal of an inclusive world meant addressing several interdependent goals. For many people, decent work was the route out of poverty. The profound changes driving the world today had created opportunity and optimism in some, and insecurity and fear in others. ILO had taken numerous initiatives to respond, including launching, with the World Bank Group, United Nations agencies and international non-governmental organizations, a Global Partnership for Universal Social Protection. Decent work could be an important policy instrument to ensure that development efforts were people-focused, rights-based and to the benefit of all.
Right of Reply
The representative of the Russian Federation, speaking in exercise of his right of reply, expressed regret that the social development agenda had been exploited for political considerations. The representative of Georgia should be less concerned with bringing forward accusations, and rather, focus on dialogue. He deplored that the representative of Ukraine continued to make accusations against the Russian Federation, which only created further tensions. However, he noted that his Ukrainian counterpart had been silent on the social problems his country faced. With regard to Crimea, he decried that sanctions had been put in place, noting that, despite them, tourism continued to flourish and pensions had increased.
The representative of Georgia, exercising her right of reply, expressed concern for the young people living in Abkhazia and their human rights. She noted that their access to education and health care had been limited by the tensions.