|For information only - not an official document.|
|Press Release No: UNIS/GA/1655|
|Release Date: 28 June 2000|
General Assembly Special Session Continues, as Heads of State,
High-level Ministers Discuss Initiatives for Social Development
Further Efforts Recommended to Spread Benefits of Globalization
GENEVA, 26 June (UN Information Office) -- Heads of State and high-ranking government ministers remarked on the unequal and sometimes negative effects of globalization this afternoon and called for a more balanced distribution of its benefits, as a General Assembly special session continued its follow-up to the 1995 United Nations Social Summit.
Those speaking under an agenda item on "proposals for further initiatives for social development" also described national efforts to implement commitments made at the Copenhagen Summit, including steps to improve health, education, employment, working conditions, and the status of women's rights, and to combat such problems as HIV/AIDS and child labour.
Addressing the meeting were the Crown Prince of Monaco; Vice- President of Iran; Vice-President of Venezuela; Prime Minister of Gabon; President of Zambia; Vice-President of Costa Rica; Deputy Chairman of the Russian Federation; Minister of Labour and Solidarity of Portugal; Minister for Social Welfare of Bangladesh; Special Adviser for Political Affairs to the President of Colombia; Minister for Employment and Solidarity of France; Minister of Economy and Finance of Burkina Faso; Minister for Development Cooperation, Migration, and Asylum Policy of Sweden; Minister and Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission of India; Secretary of Health and Human Services of the United States; Vice-Minister for Regional Development of Mexico; and Minister for Social Affairs and Employment of the Netherlands.
The process of globalization was described as powerful, irreversible, and often beneficial, but concern was expressed that the world's poorer countries, especially in Africa, were not sharing in the positive effects and were being left farther and farther behind as innovations in technology and economic progress accelerated.
Mohammad Ali Najafi, Vice-President of Iran, said inequality within and among States continued to grow, and that effectively combating social ills and achieving genuine, long-term development depended on organizing a meaningful global drive against want and poverty. Frederick Chiluba, President of Zambia, said the conference should address the man-made inequalities prevalent in a global economic system that had consigned millions of people to abject poverty while a lucky few enjoyed unparalleled affluence. Poverty continued to afflict the majority of people in developing countries, he contended. Valentina Matvienko, Deputy Chairperson of the Russian Federation, said globalization had not provided remedies for old social problems, but instead had created new risks and challenges, and as the gap between the world's richest and poorest was widening, it was necessary to redesign the entire modern architecture of international cooperation.
Officially titled the "World Summit for Social Development and Beyond: Achieving Social Development for All in a Globalizing World", the week-long special session -- the twenty-fourth in the General Assembly's history -- began this morning and is intended to review the fulfilment of 10 international commitments made at the 1995 Social Summit which was held in Copenhagen and aimed at eradicating poverty, achieving full employment, and strengthening social integration.
The commitments relate to (1) an enabling environment for social development; (2) poverty eradication; (3) full employment; (4) promotion of social integration; (5) equality and equity between women and men; (6) universal and equitable access to high-quality education and health services; (7) acceleration of development in Africa and in the least developed countries; (8) inclusion of social development goals in structural-adjustment programmes; (9) resources for social development; and (10) international cooperation for social development.
The special session will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 27 June, to continue debate on further initiatives for social development.
Prince ALBERT, Crown Prince of Monaco, said that when scientific and technological changes brought about changes in society, painful results must be expected at times. The challenge was finding a remedy for the painful results. The market economy also experienced natural limits. For capitalism to last, governments must mature and adopt social values. The benefits must extend to entire populations. Social development was, therefore, vital.
The authorities in Monaco had taken steps to foster social development. The Government paid voluntary contributions every year to United Nations programmes, including the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). The Government had also decided to contribute to the fund that allowed for monitoring of transmittable diseases, which was overseen by the World Health Organization (WHO). Several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Monaco carried out many missions that brought about social development, and the authorities in Monaco would not fail to provide support to these organizations.
MOHAMMAD ALI NAJAFI, Vice-President of Iran, said that the review and assessment of the implementation of the Copenhagen programme of action clearly presented a mixed picture. Despite modest advances in some areas and initiation of many new national policies and programmes in various societies, the overall result had been much less satisfactory. The most striking area of disparity between the objectives and the reality lay in the fact that inequality within and among States continued to grow. Effective combating of social ills and achievements of genuine long-term social development depended on organizing a meaningful global drive against want and poverty. Harmonizing overall economic policy reforms was imperative for the creation of a genuinely caring society.
Mr. Najafi continued to state that Iran had vigorously pursued the implementation of the outcome of the Copenhagen Summit and had accorded high priority to the objectives of social development. Substantial improvement in the past few years in the indices of social services -- including in the field of education at all levels, access to basic health services, and access to safe drinking water -- was indicative of the progress achieved thus far, as well as the potential for further betterment. Promotion of overall social development had been an integral part of the policy of President Khatami's administration since it took office in August 1997.
He affirmed that, in his view, achievement of social development called for the resolute will and determination of the entire human community. It required action at the national level and cooperation at the international level. The attainment of social development depended, first and foremost, on conflict resolution and promotion, and establishment and preservation of peace on a global scale. If history was any indication, long-term stability, as the very prerequisites of social development, could not be achieved through tolerance and understanding among all societies, cultures and peoples.
ISAIAS RODRIGUEZ, Vice-President of Venezuela, said the Government had recently drawn up a new Constitution, and it included full protection for social development rights. It guaranteed the rights for every person to choose his or her will democratically. The Government had been changing the relationship between the State and the population, allowing further participation, especially at the grass-roots level.
Various projects had been set up to ensure that the most vulnerable households would be helped. The Government had adopted a full array of measures to guarantee equal opportunities for women, and to ensure the protection of the pension system. Programmes had also been set up to make sure healthcare was more affordable and more accessible. Venezuela had met and was meeting its commitments. It was hoped that the international community would adopt measures that would further help developing countries.
JEAN-FRANCOIS NTOUTOUME EMANE, Prime Minister of Gabon, recalled that during the 1995 Copenhagen Summit about 118 heads of State and government had made a firm commitment to fight poverty, to reduce unemployment and to favour the promotion of social justice and equity. Today, five years after that important meeting, the current session provided the occasion to review the achievements made since then. However, since the promises were not all retained, one could observe that the results were not all satisfactory. With regard to the implementation and the growth reached by Gabon, it could be said that it had been considerably affected by the action of certain governments.
Mr. Ntoutoume Emane said that the economic crisis that had struck Gabon during the past years, doubled with heavy external debt, had led it to turn to the Bretton Woods financial institutions. In agreement with those institutions, Gabon had defined priority objectives in the fight against poverty. The fight was also against unemployment, and was for social integration, empowerment of women and access to education and quality of health. Today, Gabon had a relatively high unemployment rate of 18 per cent which had touched women and youth in particular. In order to face unemployment, an urgent plan of action and professional training had been put in place.
He further said that in order to guarantee social integration of the vulnerable segments of the population, the Government of Gabon had instituted a policy of social protection aimed at providing social assistance to those who were in need, to disabled persons, to the elderly and to those under distress. In addition, an institution had been established in the capital city, Libreville, to host abandoned children. Concerning the promotion of the rights of women, it was observed that among 60 per cent of the female population of Gabon, the majority was affected by poverty. Since 1998, an institution had been created to promote the socio-economic condition of women.
FREDERICK CHILUBA, President of Zambia, said the conference should address the man-made inequalities prevalent in the global economic system that had consigned millions of people to abject poverty while a lucky few enjoyed unparallelled affluence. Neither God nor nature ordained that order -- it was created by man through a deliberate process of commission and omission. Despite the commitment made in Copenhagen in 1995, poverty continued to afflict the majority of people in developing countries, with unemployment or under-employment characterizing their economic endeavours.
Terms of trade were declining for most developing countries and financial resources were being reduced, especially in Africa. That situation had been devastating for Zambia, whose ability to handle its external debt continued to decline. That limited the capacity for it to deliver on social development. Poverty in Africa and many third world countries was not an accident. It was the result of a long campaign of emasculation that characterized its economic and political interaction. It was a relationship devoid of compassion and empathy. Zambia appreciated the official development assistance (ODA) given by cooperating partners, but it was the nature of the aid that needed to be reviewed.
ASTRID FISCHEL VOLIO, First Vice-President of Costa Rica, recalled that when the current President of the country took office in May 1998, he had demonstrated his desire to promote a government of human rights and that prospective had allowed the definition of a policy of fundamental social objectives. Since the Copenhagen Summit, Costa Rica's economic development had taken a satisfactory path. The country's employment policy had been influenced by the high rise of immigration from the neighbouring countries, mainly from Nicaragua. Because of the immigration and the influx of victims of natural disasters in the region, the number of foreign workers had increased. Among the total population, 13 per cent were migrants from the Latin American countries.
Ms. Volio said that the number of women participating in government affairs had increased in past years. Women had been voting for the last 50 years, and in 1996 a significant reform had taken place making obligatory the inclusion of women candidates in all political parties for national or local elections. Consequently, the Vice-President of the Republic, the President of the Legislative Assembly and the presidents of the majority of political parties were women.
During the last decade, Costa Rica had taken a series of measures to reduce the poverty level by implementing social development schemes, Ms. Volio said. The measures had allowed the reduction of poverty levels from 30 to 20 per cent of families living in poor conditions. In addition, the Government had allocated 18 per cent of its gross national product (GNP) to social development. The Government had also developed a plan of action based on a solidarity triangle which was designed to include all persons in the social development programmes of the nation by developing projects in which all could participate.
VALENTINA MATVIENKO, Deputy Chairperson of the Russian Federation, said globalization had not provided remedies for old social problems, but instead had created new risks and challenges such as transnational terrorism and organized crime, militant separatism and inter-ethnic divides, and illicit trafficking in arms and narcotic drugs. The gap between the world's richest and poorest was widening; it was necessary to redesign the entire modern architecture of international cooperation. Countries with economies in transition were strongly determined to improve social indices, eradicate poverty, and achieve full employment, but their efforts were not getting a sufficient response from the international community. The comprehensive report of the Secretary-General described the aggravated situation in transition countries, but did not indicate what additional measures should be taken at the international level to prevent the social exclusion of millions of people in that region. Russia thought it was time for a large-scale, high-level regional conference to discuss the social development of such countries.
Russia could not survive another social shock or radical restructuring, she continued. The Government was now concluding elaboration of long-term nation-wide development strategy, and visible improvements had been seen in 1999. The Government would actively support Russian businessmen, strongly oppose discrimination against Russia in the world's markets, and strive for access to the World Trade Organization (WTO).
EDUARDO FERRO RODRIGUES, Minister of Labour and Solidarity of Portugal, on behalf of the European Union, said that in the last five years, the world had faced new challenges that had affected social development. Some progress had been achieved since 1995, but it had been uneven, and more work was required.
Women should be further included in building social development. Gender equality was men's, as well as women's, responsibility. A significant reduction in the number of people living in poverty by 2015 was a realistic goal, and all efforts should be made to reach it. Investments in education were of paramount importance, and the Union was committed to lifelong learning. Health promotion should also be prioritized, and required renewed national and international efforts. Concerted international efforts to include African nations and other developing countries should also be focused on. The relevant United Nations bodies and agencies should also further support economic and social development efforts.
MOZAMMEL HOSSAIN, State Minister for Social Welfare of Bangladesh, said that his country had made poverty eradication, expansion of productive employment and social integration its focused priority. Almost 42 per cent of the total allocation of the country's current Annual Development Programme was devoted to agriculture, rural development, social welfare, youth development, primary education and health sectors. Among other anti-poverty programmes were projects for the homeless, the Vulnerable Group Development Programme, food for work, food for education, special projects for disabled persons, and allowances for distressed widows and the aged. The success of the micro-credit programme in Bangladesh was well known. The programme was not only geared towards poverty eradication, but had had a significant impact on the empowerment of women in the country.
Bangladesh also placed special emphasis on generation of productive employment and social integration, he said. There was evidence to indicate that increased allocation in the social sectors had contributed significantly towards attainment of the Copenhagen Summit's goals. The population growth rate had dropped from 1.81 per cent in 1995 to 1.5 per cent in 1998; adult literacy had increased to 58 per cent in 1998 from 43.2 per cent in 1995 and 44.7 per cent of the population was living below the poverty line in 1999, compared to 47.9 per cent in 1996. The creation of an enabling environment for social development could not be achieved successfully without the collective commitment of the international community. Most least developed countries continued to confront problems of access to markets, and a decline in foreign direct investment and technology transfer. Unless urgent steps were taken, the goals of social development would remain elusive for most least developed countries.
JAIME EDUARDO RUIZ LLANO, Senior Adviser to the President of Colombia, stressed that the analysis of the efforts Colombia had made to solve the different structural problems, which limited its possibilities to reach better living standards for its citizens, should first consider the situation of violence stemming from the long-standing internal conflict and the drug trafficking which had seriously impaired the country's development. That situation had led to a vicious circle, in which violence had been a constant obstacle to finding a way for sustainable development. Probably, a concept guideline was needed to define and evaluate social development in such circumstances.
He said that although the country had been forced to face the complexity of the internal armed conflict and the destabilizing effect of drug trafficking, Colombia had made important efforts to increase its social investment. The evolution of public spending and the improvement of the living conditions of the Colombian population had also been accompanied by a series of structural reforms, which in the past 20 years had radically changed the social situation.
During the last decade, Colombia had embarked on an economic opening and integration process into the world's economy, convinced that the country would benefit from it, Mr. Ruiz Llano continued to say. The great challenge for the Government was to appropriately distribute those benefits among the members of society, so that globalization did not become an obstacle, but an opportunity to social development. However, the progress Colombia had reached in the social sphere had stopped in past years, and the effects of the structural reforms had been limited, as a result of the escalation of the armed conflict, fuelled by drug trafficking. In addition, incertitude had put investment at all-time low levels, and consequently, in 1999, for the first time in 60 years, Colombia had a negative growth rate and the unemployment rate had reached 20 per cent.
Violence and drug trafficking had become the main obstacles to continue on the path of social development, he stressed. Drug trafficking had inflicted severe economic and social costs on Colombia. The Government had been forced to spend every year around $ 1 billion to fight drug trafficking.
MARTINE AUBRY, Minister of Employment and Solidarity of France, said France was committed to following up the Copenhagen Summit. Among the most alarming things seen since 1995 was the inequality between the wealth of countries. The collective will of the countries present at the 1995 Summit needed to be recommitted.
There should be a concerted effort to battle poverty, she said. The developed countries should commit to send aid to developing countries. It was important for the international community to follow through on its commitments if it was to foster social development. It was also urgent to emphasize the prevention and treatment of AIDS, especially within developing African countries. The credibility of the United Nations was being challenged, and it could not afford to disappoint countries. Some sort of decisive progress had to be seen.
ANNE KONATE, Minister of Finance and Economy of Burkina Faso, said that many scourges were faced by the international community, especially in Africa. Approximately one and a half billion people, that is, one person out of four, still lived on less than one dollar a day. Although progress had been made since the 1995 Copenhagen Summit, a lot still remained to be done. Poverty had not decreased; it had even increased in some places. With regard to Africa, macro- economic indicators were positive. Thirty-one out of the continent's 53 countries had achieved growth rates which exceeded their population growth rate. Thirteen of these 31 countries had achieved a 5 per cent increase of their gross domestic product (GDP), the threshold needed to bring about a durable reduction in poverty. However, growth remained fragile and could not, by itself, put an end to poverty.
Three phenomena exacerbated poverty at the international level: conflicts, the HIV/AIDS epidemics, and environmental degradation. These phenomena had resulted in millions of people having been pushed below the poverty line over the past 15 years. In that context, poverty eradication would be the most serious challenge in the years to come, especially in sub-Saharan Africa where poverty constituted one of the foremost plagues. It was in sub-Saharan Africa that 50 per cent of the population lived in extreme poverty, in comparison to 20 per cent in northern Africa. Another issue of concern was the continued discrimination against African women. In the era of globalization and liberalization, Africa was the continent with the largest number of territorial subdivisions, with 165 borders dividing the region into 51 countries. Without regional cooperation, no African country could be competitive on international markets.
MAJ-INGER KLINGVALL, Minister for Development Cooperation of Sweden, underlined that poverty and exclusion were not just caused by a lack of material resources, but a lack of rights, knowledge, influence and health which might differently affect various groups in society. Poverty was a lack of power, which, in turn, was a matter of democracy. Poverty reduction required investments that could empower people to work for a better life for themselves, their family and their societies. It required integration between economic and social policy, based on an inclusive strategy, which encompassed each and everyone.
Human rights were universal, which required that rights-based policies should be applicable to all individuals, Ms. Klingvall said. If poverty and social exclusion were to be tackled, one should see the linkage between political, economic, environmental and social development. That required a strong partnership between governments, NGOs and other actors in the international community. The World Summit for Social Development in Copenhagen in 1995 was a ground-breaking event. For the first time in history, world leaders had explored the interlinkage between social development and economic growth.
She said that, since Copenhagen, it was known that progress had been made; the Summit had inspired the world community to place poverty reduction highest on the agenda. The current session should confirm that the joint target should be that the proportion of people living in extreme poverty should be reduced by half by the year 2015. Poverty eradication required political will and commitment. An even distribution of growing wealth was a fundamental tool to establish a more fair and equal society.
K.C. PANT, Minister and Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission of India, said a review of the progress in the last five years indicated that the goals set out in Copenhagen had only partially been achieved. New initiatives to ensure attainment of these needs were now being considered. Through the demands globalization placed on governments, traditions, social units and on individuals, a market economy involved enormous destabilizing social costs and pressures. The challenge then was how to secure the benefits of globalization, particularly for vulnerable societies, and safeguard social systems.
Development was the process of expanding human freedoms, and the assessment of development had to keep this into consideration. However, there was a tendency to attribute problems and lags in development to failures of governance, described sometimes as the weak link in social development. That assumption needed to be looked at closely. Governance must be democratic, open and participatory; these were preconditions for success, but in an era of globalization, governments were rarely the most powerful actors even in their own countries. The World Bank's Comprehensive Development Programme acknowledged that the process of development now presupposed a cooperative relationship between governments, donors, the private sector and civil society. However, though governments were only one of two players involved, and often weaker than some of the others, it was they who bore the responsibility for failure.
DONNA SHALALA, Secretary of Health and Human Services of the United States, said that five years after Copenhagen, poverty, lack of education, infectious diseases, violence against women, unemployment and debt still gripped much of the world. The United States was committed to eradicating poverty, promoting full employment and building a society where every voice was welcome. It was committed to working with all its international partners to foster economic growth, social integration and public health around the globe. It was also committed to a philosophy of social and economic development that viewed the poor not as passive recipients of aid -- but as decision makers in control of their own future.
Five challenges had to be met in order to reach the goals the international community set five years ago in Copenhagen. First, there could be no end to poverty without political rights, free expression and a civil society. Second, women should be given full equality. Third, health-care access should be expanded to everyone. Fourth, the benefits of development and globalization must be broadly shared around the globe. Fifth, the international community should continue to work together. The days of government dictating solutions were over. Today, the best answers come through partnerships among NGOs, the private sector, government and local communities.
MARIO PALMA ROJO, Vice-Minister for Regional Development of Mexico, said that since the Copenhagen Summit five years ago, Mexico had continued to realize social and economic programmes designed to improve the living conditions of its population. The Summit was a historic one for the consensus it had adopted on the subject of social development. It had also made nations include the Copenhagen objectives as part of their national agenda. The results of the Summit had been reflected in expressions of political will and conviction to concentrate on the fight against poverty at the international level, including against social exclusion. It was a legitimate aspiration of the people of the world.
Mexico had affirmed that the Copenhagen Summit coincided with its historic and legitimate struggle for freedom, sovereignty, social justice and democracy, Mr. Rojo said. Following the Summit, Mexico had continued to improve its democratic institutions and had made profound democratic reform in its history. In addition, the Government of Mexico had given priority to social areas in order to eradicate extreme poverty. It had also achieved economic stability with a 5 per cent economic growth at present.
He said that the Government had taken specific measures to fight poverty through the implementation of measures to that end. Those measures had affected about 40 million Mexicans. Besides, through the programme for education, health and nutrition (progressa), the Government had put in place a project in which 14 million persons benefited out of the action in favour of improving education, health and nutrition.
HANS HEINEMANN, Chairman of the delegation of the Netherlands, said the Social Summit in Copenhagen was an acknowledgement of the fact that prosperity and poverty existed side by side -- including in a wealthy country like the Netherlands. It was the end of the complacency and the start of a comprehensive programme for work and income. The report of the Secretary-General showed that progress had been made since Copenhagen -- there was more attention for fighting poverty worldwide; there was more attention for developing social policy worldwide; and consciousness was growing that economic progress should not be made at the expense of people. But that realization was only the beginning.
Five years was a short span of time for governments and organizations to fully implement Copenhagen. But five years was a long time -- too long a span -- for the people who need to be reached. Since Copenhagen, there were more poor people, there was an increasing number of the working poor, poverty in urban areas was increasing, and disparities between countries and within countries was growing. Better performance was required in work, health and education, which were inextricably connected with a better life. Further, there was a social responsibility that had to be borne by the private sector. Good governance was also a prerequisite for social development -- rule of law, effective State institutions, respect for human rights and the participation of all citizens in the decisions that affected their lives were essential elements that were dictated by the government system.
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