Youth Delegates Demand ‘a Seat at the Table’ to Help Shape Inclusive, Safe, Sustainable Future, as Third Committee Continues Debate
Young people’s hopes and concerns, ranging from growing discrimination to direct participation in decision-making processes, came under the spotlight as the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) concluded its debate on social development.
Several youth delegates stressed that they wanted “a seat at the table” and to be active participants not only in shaping decisions affecting them, but also on national and global issues. Ireland’s youth delegate emphasized the importance of engaging young people in the implementation, review and monitoring of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adding that engagement should go beyond ticking a box.
Those views were echoed by Sweden’s youth delegate, who also called on countries to create an inclusive and enabling environment for all young people by providing accessible welfare systems, free access to education and mechanisms to fighting prejudice. Some youth delegates pointed out that conversations with their peers revealed that they believed in building inclusive societies founded on respect for human rights. However, Germany’s youth representative pointed out that young people were worried the path towards a peaceful and inclusive future was being threatened by conflicts, rising right-wing populism and growing militarization.
While such challenges persisted, some States said their belief in the next generations made them try harder to overcome obstacles. Young people were a pillar of development, said Libya’s delegate, adding that although his country was going through a difficult transition period, it was working to ensure schooling for displaced children and protect them to allow them a better future while trying to ensure the participation of youth.
In response to a growing interest from young people to take part in political processes, several Member States had put in place measures to engage them in decision making. Nigeria’s representative said the Government had created targeted programmes for youth, including a “Prosperity Scheme” and a bursary programme providing support to engineering, mathematics, science and technology students. The United Arab Emirates’ delegate described efforts such as establishing national youth councils and holding seminars for young people to exchange ideas. Myanmar’s representative said youth had a say in the national peace process while Jordan’s speaker elaborated on a joint effort with Norway to launch Champions of Youth, a group of countries aimed at continued political commitment to youth agendas of peace and security, and the Group of Friends of Preventing Violent Extremism. Similarly, Malaysia’s delegate highlighted its national youth development policy, which encompassed leadership and volunteering.
Countries had also introduced programmes to cater specifically to the needs of young people, such as providing them with quality education and jobs. Sudan’s representative said national efforts included youth employment and gender equality programmes. Bahrain’s speaker said his Government had recently hosted youth from around the world to discuss strategies for achieving sustainable development and was also working with the private sector to promote growth, with young people as a guiding force. The Government of Maldives had implemented entrepreneurship programmes to help young people launch small and medium enterprises with the aim of allowing them to make a decent living.
To many youth delegates, preparing young people for the workforce must start with quality education. Suriname’s youth delegate said efforts were underway to advocate strongly in favour of draft legislation to increase the age of compulsory education to age 16 from age 12 while her counterpart from Romania placed access to education and the creation of skills as a policy priority.
Youth delegates also took the opportunity to bring attention to the plight of migrant children. Serbia’s young representative noted that migrant children in her country were given access to social services such as schools. Thailand’s young speaker said youth also played a key role in helping migrants integrate in society and stressed the importance of teaching multiculturalism in schools.
Also participating in the debate were representatives from Saint Lucia (for the Caribbean Community), Kyrgyzstan, Algeria, China, United States, Dominican Republic, Kazakhstan, Costa Rica, Turkey, Nicaragua, Ukraine, Kuwait, Venezuela, Belgium, Zimbabwe, Burkina Faso, Nepal, Ethiopia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Djibouti, Bangladesh, Morocco, Luxembourg, Czech Republic, Burundi, Togo, Denmark, Madagascar and Bolivia, as well as the International Labour Organization (ILO) Office to the United Nations.
Representatives of the Russian Federation, Georgia and Ukraine spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 4 October, to begin its debate on crime prevention, criminal justice and international drug control.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian & Cultural) continued its debate on social development today. For background, see Press Release GA/SHC/4195.
COSMOS RICHARDSON (Saint Lucia), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, said a regional strategy had been approved to guide development efforts among CARICOM members. The strategy sought to build economic, social, environmental and technological resilience from early childhood to old age. Social resilience had been identified as a clear priority in efforts to empower individuals, families and enterprises to be productive and adaptable to changing trends, he said, adding that recent adverse weather patterns underscored the importance of building resilient societies.
Social exclusion of any kind denied those affected full participation in social and political life, he continued. Inequality, including that between countries remained a major challenge to prosperity. Noting that the gap between rich and poor was widening even in advanced economies, he said that in order to bridge those gaps human beings must be the “primary resource” determining the development process. CARICOM recognized the importance of multi-stakeholder partnerships and of investing in the human and institutional resources that would manage those partnerships, he said, emphasizing that every citizen should have the opportunity to contribute to prosperity and realize their full potential.
MIRGUL MOLDOISAEVA (Kyrgyzstan) said that eliminating poverty and providing decent work remained pivotal, adding that large-scale flows of migrants and increasing inequality demanded coordinated measures. Kyrgyzstan was creating a long-term development programme for 2040 intended, among other goals, to reduce poverty, and ensure quality education, health care and environmental protection. Outlining several initiatives, she said a nationwide project was targeting corruption, while child mortality levels had dropped and, in 2016, more than 98 per cent of children had attended school. With strong legal and political frameworks to strengthen the role of women, Kyrgyzstan’s law on legal documents ensured that all draft laws were reviewed to consider gender, and it had changed the criminal code to better protect them against violence, she said.
NORA IMANE BELLOUT (Algeria), associating herself with the African Group and the Group of 77 and China, emphasized the need for special attention to social development, citing several national initiatives. Algeria had launched a national plan to pay for care within poor communities and had created institutions to address the needs of disadvantaged groups. Monthly subsidies were provided to persons with disabilities, the elderly or those unable to work, she said. Algeria had also enforced social integration and was working to provide opportunities for young people, women and persons with disabilities. Going forward, Algeria would continue to work with partners, using cutting-edge technology in pursuit of social justice.
WU HAITAO (China), associating himself with the Group of 77, said social development needed greater attention and inputs, calling for proper operational mechanisms to be put in place for eradicating poverty and ensuring greater access to health services and education. Social development could be more easily realized with a universal and sustainable social protection system and international as well as North-South cooperation whereby developed countries lent a helping hand to developing States through official development assistance (ODA). China had put in place a social protection system entailing a unified basic pension insurance plan for urban and rural residents, he said. By the end of 2016, the insured population under that system had reached 888 million while those covered by basic medical insurance had exceeded 1.3 billion, which meant that more than 95 per cent of the population was covered. China was also committed to a path of green and innovative development and remained committed to eradicating global poverty, he said, adding that his country would be providing 60 billion RMB in assistance to developing countries over the next three years and would work with African countries to support development efforts in that region.
LAURIE SHESTACK PHIPPS (United States), highlighting the issue of cyberbullying among young people, said it was on the rise due to the spread of social media. Online bullies had been emboldened because they could act in anonymity, but the negative effects of cyberbullying were tremendous, she said, noting that they ranged from mental stress to suicidal tendencies. Putting a stop to bullying among young people could be achieved by ensuring that they grew up in healthy families that inculcated empathy and kindness. However, too many children and youths were being left behind because of poverty and conflict, she noted, adding that young people should be encouraged to use technology in positive ways that would result in solutions to challenges and in building stronger communities and families.
LAUREN FLANAGAN, youth delegate from Ireland, called upon the international community to be brave, not in rallying to war but in committing to peace, pointing out that conflict and persecution had forcibly displaced 22.5 million refugees, more than half of them under the age of 18. In direct contravention of customary international law, States had turned refugees away from their borders, an indication of the broader international backlash against human rights, she said, declaring: “We cannot turn a blind eye to the dangerous rhetoric of populism”. Describing international human rights treaties as the tools for realizing a brighter future, she called upon Governments to recognize the inherent potential of all young people, saying States should ensure that each one received quality higher-level education.
PAUL DOCKERY, youth delegate from Ireland, emphasized the importance of engaging young people in the implementation, review and monitoring of the 2030 Agenda, adding that engagement should go beyond ticking a box. “It means giving young people the right to sit at decision-making tables,” he said, adding that it was essential to encourage and empower young women and girls to enter politics and hold public office. Noting that 176 of the 196 speakers during the recent general debate had been men, she called upon States to engage with youth, women and girls, and those from marginalized backgrounds stressing that young people did not wish to inherit a world in chaos or one beyond the point of repair.
FRANCISCO ANTONIO CORTORREAL (Dominican Republic), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China and with the Group of Friends of Older Persons, said people could only develop insofar as their Governments invested in them. The Dominican Republic was spearheading initiatives to end poverty and inequality by investing in education and health care, he said, citing one programme, “Surprise Visit”, which was creating thousands of jobs and improving the quality of life for farmers. The national development strategy was in keeping with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the country was ready and willing to work with the new Envoy on Youth, he affirmed. The Dominican Republic intended to include young people in all decision-making processes, not only those immediately affecting them. The Government was also working to design programmes intended to meet the needs of disabled persons in schools. Families and communities must share responsibilities, he emphasized, while also stressing the need to combat a rising tide of violence against older persons. It was crucial to establish a legally binding international instrument to promote and protect their human rights, he added.
HANNA BERGMAN, youth delegate from Sweden, said that, in ensuring a world at peace and without violent xenophobia, structural racism, homophobia, gun violence and other causes of human suffering, Security Council resolution 2250 (2015) on youth, peace and security must be implemented seriously, and young people must have a seat at the table. Emphasizing the role of every nation in creating an inclusive and enabling environment for all youth, he said accessible welfare systems, free access to education and hard work against prejudice were particularly important. Describing inequity in the world as “an ancient monster refusing to die”, he stressed that it included not only gender-based violence, but all kinds of discrimination and injustice, including unequal vulnerability to climate change.
RUSLAN BULTRIKOV (Kazakhstan), recalling the proposal by his country’s President that each State consider allocating 1 per cent of its annual defence budget to the Organization’s Special Fund for Sustainable Development, said that democratic policymaking called for supportive, transparent and accountable public institutions. He said that his country’s national strategy, “Kazakhstan 2050”, focused on higher-quality education and health care, affordable social housing, and enhanced social security. It also enabled young people to enjoy free formal education at all levels, while the Council on Youth Policy ensured youth participation in national policy and decision-making processes. Furthermore, Kazakhstan was implementing the National Action Plan 2012-2018 with a view to opening new horizons for persons with disabilities, he said.
The representative of Germany introduced his delegation’s two youth delegates — Anaïck Geißel and Mio Kuschick.
Ms. GEIßEL (Germany) said she had travelled through Germany for months, talking to young people who said they were scared the future would bring war and who also feared rising right-wing populism, growing militarization, and diplomacy losing ground to military might. Germany believed in diplomacy and that young people could find new ways to solve conflicts peacefully, she said, emphasizing that nuclear weapons must be banned and arms control supported for the safety of future generations.
Mr. KUSCHICK (Germany) said that during their tour of Germany, the youth delegates had not spoken exclusively with young Germans, but also with young refugees who had fled conflict and terrorism. Their hopes of a peaceful future were the same as those of European youth, he noted. Societies gained when they included diverse groups of people, but they must all – lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and questioning persons – enjoy the same rights, he emphasized, adding that solidarity among different groups would make the world a better place.
Ms. PANSA, youth delegate from Suriname, emphasized the importance of access to quality education, saying that by investing in early learning initiatives, States could ensure a greater degree of success for citizens. Suriname’s youth were advocating strongly in favour of draft legislation that would increase the age of compulsory education from 12 to 16 years, she said. Turning to sexual violence against girls and boys, she said that it was an increasing problem in Suriname, due partly due to the difference in upbringing between girls and boys. Parents and caregivers must be educated to address issues of sexual and reproductive health, she stressed.
Ms. MATAR (United Arab Emirates) said the direct participation of young people in decision-making processes was crucial. Youth should be seen as partners and not wait for ready-made solutions. The United Arab Emirates had developed policies that would cater to the needs of young people while involving them in political processes through national youth councils. In addition, seminars had been conducted for young people, giving them forums in which to exchange ideas, she said, adding that her country was ready to share its experience of engaging young people in decision-making with other countries.
TEODORA PAVKOVIĆ, youth delegate from Serbia, said her country had devised a national strategy on young people focused on addressing their real needs. It had also adopted a law on youth that put both legal and administrative measures in place to protect their rights. The national focus on youth extended to young migrants who passed through Serbia on the way to Western Europe, she said, noting that migrant children were given access to social services such as schools. Young people were also committed to achieving a path of inclusive growth and should be included in national working groups where they could contribute to implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.
JUAN CARLOS MENDOZA-GARCÍA (Costa Rica), associating himself with the Group of 77 and with the Group of Friends on Older Persons, said his country had made sustained efforts to ensure that each individual could fulfil his or her potential. Groups on the fringes of society, such as migrants, must be reached, and the international community must work to reduce inequality by developing solutions, he emphasized. Vulnerability and exclusion could lead to poverty, he explained, noting that Costa Rica used a multidimensional poverty index to develop an analysis of that condition. Each indicator was linked to an existing social policy, he explained, saying the index made measuring poverty easier. Costa Rica was also bringing information and communications technology to the most vulnerable members of society and improving education for children, he said. Describing both formal and informal education as drivers of social development that enabled young people to enter the labour market, he expressed concern that increasing numbers of young people were neither in the labour market nor in education.
MURAT UĞURLUOĞLU (Turkey) affirmed his country’s strong commitment to the transformative 2030 Agenda, adding that the national development strategy encompassed social protection and inclusion as well as rapid economic growth and macroeconomic stability. Sustainable development would be impossible without the integration of all human potential into global efforts, including that of women, persons with disabilities and of all ages. Turkey’s current development plan was oriented towards that goal and was yielding positive results, he said, citing improved access to education and health services in particular. The country would keep gender equality and youth employment high on its agenda. He called for greater international cooperation in assisting displaced persons, pointing out that his country hosted the world’s largest refugee population, including 3.1 million Syrians.
JUANA SANDOVAL (Nicaragua), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, stressed the importance of eradicating poverty, saying that could only be achieved through peace, solidarity and sufficient political will and commitment. Nicaragua had made progress in reducing poverty and promoting sustainable development through policies that focused on gender equality, increasing access to infrastructure and creating jobs. The Government also ensured that the rights of the elderly and of people with disabilities were safeguarded, she said, expressing the Government’s continuing commitment to protecting the human, social, political and human rights of all citizens.
IOANA COVEI, youth representative of Romania, said young people wanted opportunities to express themselves and to be taken seriously by those in power, noting that when people felt ignored they may choose to remain silent. Romanian youth placed access to education and the creation of skills as their policy priority, she said, adding that developing problem-solving skills was also central to success on the job market. Without critical thinking, young people would repeat past mistakes, she cautioned, urging greater investment in non-formal education to foster the creation of skills.
VLAD MACELARU, youth representative of Romania, said discrimination remained a barrier to development, noting that such barriers were preventing the largest young generation the world had ever seen from achieving their full potential. Awareness of diversity provided a path to empowerment and the decision-making autonomy of young people, he said. Given the right tools and opportunities today, young people would be better decision-makers tomorrow, he stated.
DARYNA HORBACHOVA (Ukraine), associating himself with the statement delivered by the European Union delegation, reaffirmed his country’s commitment to the 2030 Agenda, despite ongoing Russian aggression. Priorities in that context included ensuring adequate sustainable energy, an effective public health system, affordable education and decent work, as well as promoting innovation and developing infrastructure. With such efforts and following recent agreements, Ukraine was becoming an integral part of the European continental economy, he said, adding that it was also implementing economic reforms and finally making progress against corruption. Further efforts included extending universal health care and strengthening gender equity. Describing legal and humanitarian steps to address the massive displacement caused by the conflict in eastern Ukraine, he said that ending military aggression and restoring full Ukrainian sovereignty was the best way to restore economic and social development for those affected.
PWINT PHYU THINN (Myanmar), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, said social development was the core of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development. Myanmar recognized that promoting the all-round well-being of young people would secure a prosperous future for them, and to that end, youth were having a say in the national peace process, she said. Turning to the question of older persons in Myanmar, she said their care was traditionally handled by families and local communities while the Government provided social services and cash disbursements. Greater integration of people with disabilities was enshrined in national legislation, and particular efforts were made to assist the deaf, she said, adding that programmes were being implemented to increase employment among persons with disabilities.
SAMSON SUNDAY ITEGBOJE (Nigeria), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China and with the African Group, said Governments must remain focused on meeting the goals of the 2030 Agenda. Nigeria remained committed to fulfilling the social contract through people-centred social policies. A conditional cash-transfer scheme disbursed money to the poorest and most vulnerable in society, and a housing scheme provided loans that enabled Nigerians to build or buy their own houses. A financial inclusion scheme provided interest-free loans to entrepreneurs, without collateral, and a “Prosperity Scheme” took aim at young people, as did a bursary scheme providing support to engineering, mathematics, science and technology students. Regarding persons with disabilities, he said Nigeria recognized the importance of their economic empowerment, and had embarked on developing a national policy on ageing. For Nigeria, family values were an integral aspect of social development, he said, emphasizing that the family was the natural, organic and fundamental unit of society.
ALI NASEER MOHAMED (Maldives) said his Government’s policies were framed to ensure the progress and well-being of all individuals, adding that inclusivity was the foundation of all its social development programmes. Recognizing the role of young people in development, he said access to primary and secondary education and to health care was guaranteed for all youth. The Government was implementing entrepreneurship programmes to help launch small and medium enterprises, he said, adding that such initiatives would reduce unemployment and encourage all young people to seek a decent living. Employment initiatives were also in place to help persons with disabilities. As for the empowerment of women, he said laws enshrining the principles of equal opportunity and equal outcomes had been passed. He added that promoting the development of vulnerable groups would help them reach their aspirational goals.
Ms. ALZOUMAN (Kuwait), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, said young people had an important role to play in the pursuit of sustainable development. Youth in Kuwait were involved in voluntary work that allowed them to gain a better understanding of how to contribute to society. Kuwait was also committed to protecting the rights of the vulnerable, including people with disabilities and the elderly, she said, adding that the Government provided them with the means to work and with access to medical, social and psychological services. In addition, it provided the elderly with monthly subsidies and special housing, and they were exempted from paying taxes. The Government also provided divorced women with support services and had established centres for settling family disputes and preventing violence within families, she said.
ROBERT ALEXANDER POVEDA BRITO (Venezuela), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said that social development was at the heart of his country’s social policies. A vast portion of the national budget was devoted to social programmes, including poverty eradication and protection of the rights of the vulnerable, he said, adding that progress had been made in reducing inequality while housing had been provided for the poor. He stressed the need for greater cooperation among countries of the global South as they worked towards a shared and sustainable future.
AMIR HAMZAH MOHD NASIR (Malaysia), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said young people played a crucial role in shaping the 2030 Agenda as the international community worked toward sustained development. Malaysia’s national youth development policy encompassed leadership and volunteering. On the former, the Government had developed an initiative allowing Malaysian youth to engage in the policymaking process. Issues affecting youth included the cost of living and unemployment; another pertinent challenge was social exclusion caused by growing inequality. Malaysia championed South-South and triangular cooperation to strengthen the transfer of knowledge and skills, as recommended by a related Secretary-General’s report on social development. Nations could only develop their real potential through inclusive development programmes, he said, noting that Malaysia would continue to work for progress on those issues.
WORAWIT DUMKLANG and JARIDA CHITTRAWAT, youth delegates from Thailand, offered insight into their experiences. Mr. DUMKLANG said achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals called for the recognition of young people as agents of change. The ability to absorb information without bias made young people central to bridging the inequality gap. People-centred, inclusive development also called for greater involvement of older persons in decision-making, he said, noting that Thailand had developed initiatives to foster cultural exchanges between young and older generations. Ms. CHITTRAWAT said young (people) played a key role in helping migrants of all kinds integrate into society. Migrants were positive contributors to economic and cultural development, she stressed, adding that they helped to cement prosperity in Thai society (and) must be seen as agents of development. Multiculturalism could be fostered from an early age in schools, she said, noting that achieving inclusion called for use of the Internet to shape public sentiment and achieve social harmony.
ANNELIES VERSTICHEL (Belgium) said education was a vast topic with both academic and social aspects. Youth should be involved in school decision-making processes, which would have a positive impact on the schools and students. MARIAME KEITA and MATHIAS ROMBOUTS, youth delegates, also spoke, with Mr. ROMBOUTS saying that Security Council resolution 2250 (2015) had acknowledged the potential of youth in peacebuilding, which legitimized youth taking action in a whole range of related fields. Ms. KEITA said quality education was inclusive, but diversity was not always visible, giving as an example her law school classes. Of more than 400 students, there were only a few with African and Asian origins. Young people’s socioeconomic backgrounds were strong determinants of educational success, but children should be able to succeed despite any disadvantages affecting them. While not everyone needed a university degree, all young people should have equal access to a quality education. Likewise, Member States should invest in support for learners and promote inclusive education.
NAWAL AHMED MUKHTAR (Sudan), associating herself with the African Group and the Group of 77 and China, said inclusion must drive the fight against poverty. Given that education was the main driver of social change, Sudan was implementing programmes to combat poverty with a focus on youth employment and gender equality through a plan to expand access to schooling and to eradicate illiteracy. Political stability and social development were closely linked, she said, adding that Sudan was pursuing a peace process to consolidate stability and empower the most vulnerable sectors of society. People with disabilities were also benefiting through Government projects such as microfinancing and housing assistance. In closing, she called for stronger international cooperation to push for comprehensive social development efforts.
MAHMOOD NAJEM (Bahrain) said youth in the Middle East accounted for nearly 60 per cent of the population and had to be viewed as a “source of social strength”. With United Nations guidance, Bahrain was developing youth empowerment strategies to ensure their participation towards the achievement of the 2030 Agenda objectives. Those efforts were incorporating all sectors of society, he said, identifying inclusion as central to working towards the Sustainable Development Goals. Bahrain had recently hosted youth from around the world to discuss strategies around achieving sustainable development, he said, adding that the economic empowerment of young people would help them to meet labour demands. Bahrain was also working with the private sector to promote growth, with young people as a guiding force.
FREDERICK MUSIIWA MAKAMURE SHAVA (Zimbabwe), associating himself with the African Group and Group of 77 and China, said sustainable development was at the core of the country’s economic development plan. The plan was based on national priorities which covered areas such as food security, social services and poverty eradication. The Government had introduced several measures to eradicate poverty such as a maize import substitution programme to address food security challenges. The program allowed the country to achieve a bumper harvest in the 2016-2017 agricultural season and had been expanded to the production of other crops such as soya beans and wheat. Partnerships with United Nations agencies had also brought progress in the areas of gender equality, HIV and AIDS programs and public administration and governance. He noted that 1 million Zimbabweans had access to anti-retroviral treatment (ART) this year and the country was moving closer towards achieving universal access for the 1.3 million HIV positive populations.
MARIAME FOFANA (Burkina Faso), associating herself with the African Group and the Group of 77 and China, said much progress has been made in youth employment and protection (of) the rights of the vulnerable. Developing inclusive societies was at the heart of Burkina Faso’s policies, with the Government taking a number of steps in that regard. It had ratified the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and national economic and social development plans protected the needs of the youths, persons with disabilities and the elderly. In addition, legal and regulatory frameworks had been strengthened to allow persons with disabilities to have greater access to employment and basic social services while other programmes had been launched to care for orphans and street children.
DURGA PRASAD BHATTARAI (Nepal), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said the world was witnessing immense strides forward in social development. However, inequality and exclusion continued to be a harsh reality at a time when security and climate challenges were most directly affecting least developed and landlocked countries. Inclusion had been identified as the glue to social cohesion and national strength, he said, emphasizing that achieving a pluralistic society was the goal of all Government policies. Providing some examples, he said Nepal had affirmed its commitment to the economic and political empowerment of women and other vulnerable groups, established constitutional commissions to protect the rights of minorities and provided assistance through social protection schemes for older people and persons with disabilities.
SAMAR SUKKAR (Jordan) said the influx of Syrian refugees and protracted regional crises had pushed her country’s absorptive capacity to its limits. Jordan 2025: A National Vision and Strategy, however, aimed at achieving a prosperous, resilient and inclusive economy. The empowerment of women and youth were crucial prerequisites of sustainable development in Jordan and represented the most critical crosscutting themes related to achieving goal set out in the 2030 Agenda. Together with Norway, Jordan had launched Champions of Youth, a group of countries aimed at continued political commitment to youth agendas of peace and security. The two countries had also launched the Group of Friends of Preventing Violent Extremism. As the social development agenda was focused on shared prosperity, burden sharing could not continue to be disproportionate and Jordan remained committed to achieving the 2030 Agenda for the benefit of its citizens and the world.
HAILESELASSIE SUBBA GEBRU (Ethiopia), associating herself with the African Group and the Group of 77 and China, said the world had made progress towards achieving the eradication of poverty, full employment and social integration. But, conflict and natural disasters had affected gains. For the good of future implementation of international agreements such as the Addis Ababa Action Agenda of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development, policymakers needed to pay attention to women, the elderly, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, migrants and refugees. Ethiopia, for its part, was working to mitigate climate change consequences, which had been affecting social development. Other efforts included working to promote equal opportunity for persons with disabilities, enacting a national plan on older persons and taking action on the health needs of persons living with HIV/AIDS. Poverty would not be solved by growth alone; social protection programmes were critical to reducing poverty over the long term.
HABIB MIKAYILLI (Azerbaijan) said that despite remarkable progress in combating poverty, the phenomenon continued to affect millions of people across the globe. For its part, Azerbaijan was experiencing consistent economic growth that was enhancing the development of social services, with a projected 1 per cent reduction in poverty by 2020. Efforts included expanded education programmes, assistance to internally displaced persons and initiatives that allowed children with special needs to receive education at home. The national youth policy focused on awareness raising and empowerment, both nationally and internationally. Turning to the issues of older persons, he said caring for them was deeply rooted in Azerbaijani culture and, with that in mind, the Government was implementing programmes to strengthen their social protection and promote active ageing.
LILIT GRIGORYAN (Armenia), associating herself with the European Union, said caring for the needs of displaced people posed serious risks and challenges. Armenia had received over 22,000 displaced persons in recent years and had prioritized their integration and settlement. In other areas, gains were also being made. The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs was working with United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to implement a project aimed at enhancing access to services for persons with disabilities. Youth development was also another priority, with targeted education programmes launched to help them reach their full potential. However, Armenia continued to grapple with challenges that stood in the way of its development agenda, including unilateral coercive measures and closed borders.
MOHAMED SIAD DOUALEH (Djibouti), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said social development was a priority to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Multi-sectoral policies were being implemented to ensure inclusion of all citizens in development strategies. Building the resilience of its citizens would actively promote their well-being. With increased focus on young people, those strategies sought to ease the transition into adulthood. Djibouti was working to ensure the socioeconomic integration of young people through, among other things, vocational programmes to provide skills for young people to pursue positive opportunities. Focus on education was necessary to build a brighter future. Inequality posed serious challenges to development. State policy since 2015 directly supported increasing the purchasing power of marginalized groups. The Government was targeting development efforts at the most vulnerable households.
Ms. KHALED (Bangladesh), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, said the key to eradicating poverty was empowering all citizens. Combating inequality called for the provision of social safety nets, decent employment and financial inclusion. Better employment opportunities were pivotal to youth development, she said, adding that achieving the Sustainable Development Goals required building social awareness and ensuring sustainable livelihoods. Bangladesh recognized the need to embrace the demographic shift caused by its increasing older population and was promoting active ageing. To reach all vulnerable groups, families were identified as the main building block for development. Bangladesh affirmed its commitment to working with the international community to improve the livelihood of marginalized people, including migrants.
The representative of Morocco handed the floor to two youth delegates, the first, ANAS BEN MEJDOUB, who said he represented dynamic and thriving youth eager to do more for inclusion in society. Morocco was among those who had called for the active involvement of youth in the General Assembly. Morocco’s second youth delegate, NOUR MEHADJI, said that while the world changed continuously, so did the issues regarding youth. Youth saw poverty and economic disparity persisting. A lack of tolerance in the world led to more and more conflict, undermining the premise of a better future. Youth in Morocco made up 26 per cent of the population, and the country had put the development of youth at the centre of initiatives. The integrated national youth strategy targeted strategic goals; the creation in Rabat of the Union of Young African Parliamentarians allowed youth to build a strong African continent.
CLEMENTINE RIXHON (Luxembourg) said she and her co-delegate were the first youth delegation from Luxembourg and that the rise of populism as well as Brexit had caused young people to revolt and engage to tackle their future. Young people were rejecting extremism. Young people who lacked prospects for the future could find responses in radical ideologies; that was also a quandary for the European Union. Youth had concerns about the welfare of those fleeing violence and poverty, she said, saying that youth cared about human rights and principles of international human rights, such as non-refoulement. Youth would continue to exert pressure to ensure people left behind were cared for. Luxembourg’s second youth delegate, MATTHIEU LOHR, said youth acted as agents of peace, yet many young people were too frequently marginalized. Inclusion mattered, not least because terrorist groups targeted not only young educated people but also marginalized people.
DAVID ULVR and PETRA SYKOROVA, youth delegates from Czech Republic, delivered a joint statement, noting that they were appearing before the Committee as members of the first generation of young people born into the free, democratic, liberal country of the Czech Republic. While their presence meant that young people in that country were being given consideration, “this is only a start”, and more measures were needed to guarantee a better future. Calling for the space to create and express their opinion in an atmosphere free of the bias of ageism, and which would provide inclusive, participatory education, they noted that Assembly resolution 70/133 had recognized the importance of youth participation for development and urged Member States and the United Nations to promote new avenues for their participation. Such participation must be institutionalized in decision-making processes, and youth should be included in the implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of development strategies. Security Council resolution 2250 (2015) had also emphasized the importance of youth participation.
ALBERT SHINGIRO (Burundi), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China and the African Group, welcomed the priority given to reducing poverty and combating exclusion of vulnerable groups. Burundi had ratified laws protecting people with disabilities and further protections were up for consideration this year. The Government had set up social protection programmes based on the principle of equality for all. Turning to young people, he said investing in youth was central to the sustainable development of Burundi. Plans were in place to establish a youth investment bank to encourage their economic integration. Gaps in gender equality remained, with high dropout rates among female students. To that end, schooling was being offered equally to boys and girls. Burundi called attention to “hasty” unilateral sanctions imposed against it that were negatively affecting vulnerable people.
Mr. DOUTI (Togo), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China and the African Group, said meeting the Togolese people’s expectations called for participatory national development plans. Togo’s development strategies prioritized improving wellbeing of all citizens, infrastructure development, sustainable use of the environment and consolidating peace. Community development was being undertaken with United Nations assistance with the recognition that social stability was critical to establishing peace and security. Those efforts were reaching the most isolated populations. Turning to youth empowerment, he said employment opportunities, including in the agricultural sector, were central to economic integration. The construction of decent affordable housing remained a key priority, he said, adding that 5,000 social housing units were expected to be built by 2020.
IBRAHIM K. M. ALMABRUK (Libya), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China and the African Group, underscored the importance of the Secretary-General’s report on social development. Disparities between rich and developing countries had had a negative impact on economic development. Growth rates had remained relatively low because financing programmes were insufficient. Developing countries needed both aid and assistance to build the necessary infrastructure and provide chances for employment. Libya was going through a difficult transition period, the country was nevertheless doing its best to implement laws on issues such as social security. Libya was working to ensure schooling for displaced children, and tried to protect children to allow them a better future. Libya had significant challenges to meet, however, particularly in the area of health. Young people were a pillar of development, he observed, adding that Libya with its large numbers of young people faced difficulties in meeting its objectives. However, Libya tried to ensure the participation of youth.
CLARA HALVORSEN, youth representative of Denmark, called for the Sustainable Development Goals to become a reality in the next 13 years. The Goals constituted a “contract between generations”. Fulfilment of the contract required development strategies created with youth, rather than for youth. Denmark had identified young people as a key priority for development cooperation. Youth-related issues should not be viewed as isolated. Rather, they had to be incorporated into existing development agendas. Danish youth organizations were already afforded the opportunities to engage with young people across the world. Those initiatives fostered inclusion and instilled trust in young people of international mechanisms, she concluded.
HANTASOA FIDA CYRILLE KLEIN (Madagascar), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China and with the African Group, said Madagascar had adopted a programme to improve the lives of people through social protection mechanisms. Measures included access to basic social services for people in situations of social precariousness. Young people were at the heart of Madagascar’s initiatives, and the country had adopted important measures allowing youth access to training on family planning, HIV/AIDS and education. To address the heightened prevalence of early marriages and pregnancy, she said that a new law allowed universal access to family planning. As for persons with disabilities, Madagascar had multiple initiatives including rights to education. The conduct of a general census of Malagasy people was needed, as the last one had been held in 1993. There could be no development without the knowledge of the needs of the people.
JUAN MARCELO ZAMBRANA TORRELIO (Bolivia), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said realities in the world today were rather discouraging, with social conflict and migratory crises. Those crises gave a feeling that the world was going backwards and not forward. States had made commitments to raise the living standards of all, but social gaps seemed to be increasing fast, with wealth becoming concentrated among ever fewer hands. Bolivia had been implementing new programmes allowing the country to balance the economic and social landscape, and aimed to universalize basic services. The nationalization of hydrocarbons played a strategic role; from the oil income, Bolivia was building infrastructure. It was crucial that basic services were recognized as human rights, he said, and that the rights of Mother Earth were recognized.
KEVIN CASSIDY, the representative of the International Labour Organization (ILO), reiterated the Secretary-General’s message that decent work was the most sustainable path out of poverty. Voices everywhere were expressing doubts that the global economy could meet people’s expectations. A lack of employment opportunities was a root cause of many of the problems the international community faced, and there would need to be greater concerted efforts made to tackle stagnating wages and social exclusion. As the international community attempted to tackle challenges in the field of employment, that field was changing to the degree that it could be called a new industrial revolution. The ILO would study the future of work; with partners including the World Bank Group and the European Commission, a Global Partnership for Universal Social Protection had been launched, too.
Right of Reply
The representative of the Russian Federation, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, regretted the use of the United Nations by Georgia and Ukraine as a platform to disseminate trumped up and distorted information. She urged both delegations to acknowledge the actions taken by their own Governments and denounced the politicization of social development issues.
The representative of Georgia said the Russian Federation had continued violating Georgian sovereignty and integrity and had been the perpetrator of military aggression, ethnic cleansing and continued occupation. He then called on the Russian Federation to honour its international obligations.
The representative of Ukraine said the scale of atrocities that the Russian Federation had committed was a clear breach of its international obligations, adding that Russia had been recognized as an occupying Power. She noted that, since the start of the Russian occupation of Crimea, mortality rates in the region had increased.