|For information only - not an official document.|
|Press Release No: UNIS/GA/1656|
|Release Date: 28 June 2000|
General Assembly Special Session Continues Debate on Poverty Eradication
Speakers Stress Need to Ensure Globalization Benefits All
GENEVA, 27 June (UN Information Service) -- Heads of State and high-ranking government officials from around the world this morning told the General Assembly special session on social development that for all the successes of globalization, there was a dark side to it that left hundreds of millions of people in poverty and without basic human needs.
Speakers maintained that it was imperative for the international community to work in concert to ensure that the benefits of new technologies and thriving economies were enjoyed by all.
Debate at the morning meeting focused on "proposals for further initiatives for social development," and included statements from the Prime Minister of Andorra, the head of State of Swaziland, the Vice-President of Burundi, the Prime Minister of Mozambique, the President of Tajikistan, the Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development of Germany, the Minister for Developing Cooperation of Denmark, the Minister of State of Turkey, the Special Advisor for Environment Affairs of Oman, the Minister of National Unity and Social Development of Malaysia, the Minister for Housing and Social Development of the Bahamas, the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs of Bahrain, the Minister of Labour and Social Policy of Bulgaria, the Minister of Women, Youth and Children's Affairs of Malawi, the Minister of Family and Gender Equity of Luxembourg, the Deputy Foreign Minister of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and the Permanent Secretary of Social and Community Development of Trinidad and Tobago.
One speaker told the meeting that there were remedies for areas of the world that were plagued by malnutrition, lack of education and poor health care, but they could not be realized unless the international community had the courage to address them. Another said the developing world was not yet experiencing the benefits anticipated after the 1995 United Nations Social Summit in Copenhagen, and was in danger of missing out on the growth potential of the information-technology sector as a result of the inequalities of globalization.
One official hoped the special session would result in a concerted effort to achieve sustainable development for those in need. The industrial and developed countries should provide assistance and should avoid discrimination when providing it, whether it was based on political, economic or other considerations.
Officially titled the "World Summit for Social Development and Beyond: Achieving Social Development for All in a Globalizing World", the special session -- the 24th in the General Assembly's history -- is intended to review the fulfilment of 10 international commitments made at the Copenhagen Conference.
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 3 p.m. to continue its discussion of further initiatives for social development.
MARC FORNE MOLNE, Prime Minister of Andorra, said hundreds of millions of people in this world of civilization and technology did not have basic needs of education, nutrition and health. The world was blind. It had to look behind the statistics, and build a better future. What could be done in partnership had to be examined thoroughly, and there had to be clear lines of accountability. There needed to be cooperation in every social area, and sharing knowledge was the true global approach. All States were involved in the quest for global social development. Andorra was landlocked and was making progress. With neighbours in Europe, it was watching what was being done with young people, because they were essential in the future of development. A dialogue had been established amongst all generations of Andorra's society. Without this, there could be marginalization that could lead to vast unemployment for young people. Andorra was studying youth-oriented plans, which was part of the Copenhagen Conference.
There was still work that needed to be done internationally. The African Continent was still struggling with AIDS and human rights violations, and it took the international community to ensure that the respect for human rights and free elections were held. States had to have courage themselves, and not hide behind international acronyms. For all of these problems, there were remedies available. The international community simply needed the courage to address them.
KING MSWATI III, head of State of Swaziland, said the developing world was not yet experiencing the benefits anticipated after the Copenhagen Summit, and was in danger of missing out on the growth potential of the information-technology sector as a result of the inequalities of globalization. Swaziland needed greater official development assistance; it had dwindled in recent years – especially, bilateral assistance. Developed countries were urged to honour their commitments. Swaziland supported debt relief but also believed that countries which had so far avoided the debt trap should be supported with concessional loan financing for worthwhile development projects. Swaziland had made substantial progress after Copenhagen, launching a development strategy that laid down priorities for the next twenty-five years, with emphasis on education, job promotion, and enhancement of women's rights. HIV/AIDS was a huge threat: the country stood to lose up to 22 per cent of its population in the next 10 years, and there were negative effects of the crisis on children, who were in danger, under this stress, of losing traditional moral values.
The disappointing lack of progress since Copenhagen indicated that a new approach was needed, King Mswati said. There should be a much stronger commitment from all members of the international community in the spirit of willingness to truly address priority issues.
MATHIAS SINAMENYE, Vice-President of Burundi, said that despite some progress in reducing poverty and promoting employment, many developing countries continued to face difficulties and their situation as compared to rich countries had worsened. Africa, in general, and the Great Lakes region, in particular, was having great difficulties in ensuring development and providing effective protection and well-being for the population. In Burundi, the crisis had exacerbated an already-daunting situation. Despite these difficulties, the Government had made serious efforts to implement the Copenhagen plan of action, with positive results achieved in such fields as education and health. Steps also had been taken to rehabilitate those injured during the conflict and to promote employment. Negotiations were taking place in Tanzania to end the conflict between the armed groups involved, and the talks had entered a crucial phase. A peace agreement must end violence in Burundi and put an end to impunity and many contentious issues still had to be settled.
Burundi was in a hurry to resume growth and progress, and needed help from the international community, including help for reconstruction and economic recovery, the Vice-President said. However, such aid would be most useful only if the entire region was stabilized. The problems in the Great Lakes area were regional and needed regional solutions. This Conference was an excellent opportunity to move forward on such matters.
PASCOAL MOCUMBI, Prime Minister of Mozambique, stated that the session was of great importance because it would allow the United Nations Member States to take stock and reflect on the progress achieved and the difficulties faced in the context of implementation of the Copenhagen Declaration and Plan of Action. The social sector had always been a top priority on his Government's agenda. However, in Mozambique, 700 to 800 people were being infected by HIV/AIDS daily, in particular, the young. The Government had designed a strategic prevention and combat plan aimed at halting the rapid spread of the disease of the century.
Mr. Mocumbi said that he strongly believed that the Copenhagen Plan of Action was an important instrument for the promotion of social development in order to made sure that the social benefits of global economic growth and the scientific and technological progress were shared by all peoples of the world in an equitable manner. Despite the efforts undertaken by governments world wide, it was known that the implementation of the Copenhagen decisions fell short of what had been committed to achieving. The vast majority of targets contained in the Copenhagen Declaration and Plan of Action had not been implemented. Today, the question was how to give concrete substance to the commitments undertaken in Copenhagen.
Mr. Mocumbi stressed that all countries, both developing and developed, should leave rhetoric behind and embark on concrete actions such as the adoption of economically more viable and more inclusive programmes aimed at reducing poverty and eliminating absolute poverty. There was need to evolve a new global partnership that involved necessarily advancing sustainable development strategies in which people were placed at the centre of development, through the provision of basic human development levels to all peoples. The eradication of absolute poverty was the backbone of Mozambique's five-year plan, which incorporated all the relevant aspects of the Copenhagen Plan of Action. It was his strong conviction that social disparities and inequalities were the major sources of political and social tensions and conflicts. He stressed the need to adopt new partnership approaches while one strengthened the existing ones, if one was to succeed in the fight against poverty and social disparities.
EMOMALI RAHMONOV, President of Tajikistan, said the ongoing integration processes in the world undoubtedly promoted globalization and strengthened economic inter-dependence among the States. At the same time, these processes constituted a threat to the developing countries and economies in transition. It was related to the fact that their companies were not able to equally participate in a competitive market. Their economies were getting increasingly resource-oriented and their debts were growing. An accelerated pace of privatization could cause serious destabilization of the social sphere at the initial stages. Therefore, these processes should be accompanied by reasonable and targeted social policies at the national and international levels.
In Tajikistan, the primary goal of national reconciliation and the establishment of peace had been achieved. A number of important political events aimed at building a democratic society, providing political stability and achieving social unity of the society had been carried out. In Tajikistan, as well as in other countries in Eastern Europe, the Baltic and the Commonwealth of Independent States, the process of implementation of the goals set up in Copenhagen required a long period of time. This was primarily caused by the transition from a centrally-planned economy to a market economy. In 1998, the Government began implementing a Midterm Economic Programme, supported by the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other international institutions. The success of this programme resulted in the country achieving macroeconomic stabilization -- for example, since 1997, there was an average growth of 5 per cent for the GDP in recent years.
HEIDEMARIE WIECZOREK-ZEUL, Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation of Germany, said she wished to say to the Prime Minister of Mozambique how much the rest of the world had suffered with the victims of the flood in his country and everyone hoped for a full and rapid recovery. It was true that much of humanity was being denied access to the "globalized" world, and that rapid economic growth was helping only a portion of humanity -- the widening income gap was frightening; the marginalization of part of mankind occurred not only between countries but within regions and within countries. It was a serious matter -- a threat to peace and a threat to the future.
The international community had to take on the responsibility of managing globalization -- rules had to be fashioned and international organizations strengthened and markets had to be put into a "social framework". Existing mechanisms were not sufficient. Germany, for its part, had taken steps to humanize economic forces, including through the passage of core labour standards and protection of the right of workers to organize. Globally, the interests of developing and industrialized countries had to be balanced -- concessions were needed from the rich nations; among other things, blatant and latent protectionism had to be eliminated, as it was destructively locking developing countries out of international trade in such sectors as agricultural products. Debt relief for poor countries should be expedited, development assistance expanded, and a global poverty-relief programme put into effect.
JAN TROJBORG, Minister for Development Cooperation of Denmark, said that after Copenhagen, development could no longer be reduced to economic growth and macroeconomic stability. The Copenhagen consensus was slowly replacing the "Washington consensus", with its emphasis on "trickle down", deregulation and liberalization, as the ultimate response to poverty reduction, employment generation and social integration. The ultra-liberal recipe proved no cure and one should not question the importance of the free market, of economic stability and sustained growth. But there was no law of nature ensuring that poverty and misery disappeared as a result.
Mr. Trojborg recalled that the 10 commitments agreed upon five years ago had set social development as the main priority in development efforts. It provided a yardstick against which progress could be monitored in achieving the three main goals: to abolish human misery fostered by poverty; to combat the hopelessness of unemployment; and to redress the grievance of the socially excluded. In some areas, progress had been made while in others there had been setbacks. Much remained to be done. In Copenhagen, the international community promised to eradicate absolute poverty. Five years later, the number of poor in the world was the same. Major progress had not been made in the fight against poverty. The testimony of the failure was overwhelming with 1.2 billion human beings still coping on less than $ 1 a day. Yet, those people had been promised real, tangible progress.
Mr. Trojborg said setbacks in the fight against poverty could sometimes be explained by factors beyond the control of any individual country -- a natural disaster, an international financial crisis, a serious epidemic. And yet, even in those cases, better preparation or more responsible behaviour could often make a difference. In addition, lack of social progress was most often due to failing political determination. Conflict, too, formed part of change. But peaceful settlement of conflict was the basis for social progress. There could be no sustainable social development without transparent administration and control of corruption; and without democracy, the rule of law, good governance and freedom of expression. In conclusion, he called upon the international community to assist the developing countries that made an effort to combat poverty. Globalization should be given a human face in the years to come. "We do not want to go down in history as a generation who turned its back on the poor", he said.
TUNCA TOSKEY, Minister of State of Turkey, said the phenomenon of globalization, which extended its impact on to the whole world in the 1990s, was evolving in a rather complex manner in terms of its economic, political and cultural outcome. Besides the advantages it offered, globalization also carried some risks and challenges the extent of which varied from one country to another. Globalization could also bring out instability and adverse developments. Depending on the volatility of international capital flows, developing countries became particularly vulnerable to crises unfolding outside their borders. Opportunities provided by globalization and technology boosted welfare levels of some countries on the one hand, while others, which were deprived of knowledge, capital, technology, and qualified manpower needed to capitalize on this global process, were becoming poorer and poorer. Strategies to eradicate poverty, to generate employment and to improve social integration required long-term structural transformation, rather than short-term solutions.
In the past five years, Turkey had endeavoured to implement economic and social policies in line with the Copenhagen Programme of Action. High inflation and a rapid rise in the public sector deficit led to macroeconomic instability in Turkey. This environment narrowed the Government's capacity to implement policies aimed at ensuring social welfare. In spite of all these difficulties, significant steps had been taken to reduce poverty and unemployment, and therefore, ensure social integration. Compulsory primary education was increased from five years to eight years in 1997, and more funds were allocated to the national education system in order to establish the infrastructure required by the new regulations. The portion of the population covered by social security programmes rose to 91 per cent, and 86 per cent of the total population was registered within health insurance schemes. The legal framework for the creation of unemployment insurance was introduced in 1999. In an effort to eliminate disparities in regional development, legislation aimed at promoting special investments and increasing employment in underdeveloped regions while providing tax exemptions and exceptions was put into effect.
SAYYID SHABIB BIN TAIMUR AL SAID, Special Advisor for Environmental Affairs to the Sultan of Oman, said the Sultanate had launched a comprehensive programme for sustainable development in 1970, among the first developing countries to give the social sector such high concern. The Copenhagen Summit had coincided with the first stage of a programme called Oman 2020. Focus was being placed on education, training, health care, productive work, and habitat protection. One result had been a sharp decrease in infant mortality.
Oman wished to add its voice to the voice of millions living in poverty around the world who were deprived of basic necessities and an acceptable standard of living. The special session, it was hoped, would result in a concerted effort to achieve sustainable development for those in need. The industrial and developed countries should provide assistance and should avoid discrimination when providing it, whether it was based on political, economic or other considerations. Oman believed in the need for international cooperation in all fields between the North and the South, and believed that was the way to achieve a secure and peaceful international community.
SITI ZAHARAH BINTI SULAIMAN, Minister of National Unity and Social Development of Malaysia, said that with the end of the Cold War and with the dividends of peace, it was hoped that the international community would be able to fully eradicate poverty. Poverty affected one in every five persons in the world, mainly in developing countries and mostly women. The World Summit for Social Development was the most significant international endeavour to forge a global consensus and commitments to address poverty eradication. Despite the best efforts of governments in developing countries to ensure an enabling environment for social development, including expansion of productive employment and social integration, certain aspects of unfettered globalization had made those goals difficult to achieve.
Ms. Sulaiman continued to say that globalization had made the international community more aware of how interconnected its members were and how similar their challenges were in social development. Globalization had been inevitably hastened with the rapid development in transportation and communications and with increasing accessibility, it had also facilitated movement of capital, goods, people and ideas across borders. Naturally, that had brought the realization that while nations and peoples might look and feel different, all shared the same hopes and fears. In fact, new challenges beyond the capacity of any one country to address had emerged, which made enhanced international cooperation imperative to successfully address challenges that were the downside of globalization.
Further, Ms. Sulaiman said that in spite of the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action, poverty and income inequality had yet to be effectively addressed. In fact, it had worsened in many parts of the world. In many countries, even with seemingly encouraging economic growth, the positive impact had been negated by runaway population growth, thus affecting real income. That was not conducive to sustained economic growth, social development and harmony between States.
ALGERNON ALLEN, Minister of Housing and Social Development of the Bahamas, said at the dawn of the twenty-first century, there was an excellent opportunity to reaffirm faith in humankind, to recommit efforts to the eradication of poverty, to promote full and productive employment, and to foster social integration to achieve stable, safe and just societies for all. The Bahamas shared the hope of many developing countries that the Summit would help achieve the noble goals and targets of the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action. It must concern everybody that since the universal commitment of the nations of this earth five years ago, the plight of the world's poor and the marginalized peoples and nations had not improved.
The Bahamas, as a small country in the Caribbean, had noticed that the prevailing global economic system and the powerful trading and economic blocks paid little regard to the fragile social and economic nature of developing countries in general, and small nations, like the Bahamas, in particular, when decisions were taken from a myopic perspective. For several years leading up to and then since Copenhagen, the Commonwealth of the Bahamas had enhanced and deepened its democracy, encouraged the active participation of civil society in social development through strategic social partnerships of Government, and enacted and instituted legislation and practices aimed at alleviating the social conditions of marginalized and vulnerable sectors of society. As the beginning of the new millennium, the Bahamas had the lowest unemployment rate in its history -- 7 per cent -- although poverty was multi-dimensional and could not be effectively measured by levels of income and wealth alone.
ABDUL-NABI ABDULLA AL-SHUALA, Minister of Labour and Social Affairs of Bahrain, said social and human development was vital. Bahrain had faith that human capital was the main component of development, and had translated that conviction into action; the country occupied a very prominent place among the countries of the world in this sphere, in spite of such challenges as a small territory and a high population density. Much effort had been put into advancements in health, education, social security coverage, employment, and child rights. Health care had exceeded standards set internationally. Economic-development projects had been designed to lower unemployment and to enhance the role of women in all aspects of social, economic, and public life.
The Copenhagen Summit in 1995 had been the climax of a series of world conferences, Mr. Al-Shuala said. The issues discussed there had amounted to recognition by the international community of the serious problems facing the world. Five years later, it was clear that numerous obstacles had impeded implementation of the Copenhagen Plan of Action. A review was needed of progress achieved and a better, more comprehensive approach to meeting the Copenhagen commitments was necessary. More had to be done to enable all the people of the world to live in peace, stability, and prosperity.
IVAN NEYKOV, Minister of Labour and Social Policy of Bulgaria, said that in the process of implementation of the Copenhagen Plan of Action, his country had developed a national programme for social development, which was elaborated with the widest participation of representatives of the civil society. In 1997, the Government programme "Bulgaria 2001" had envisaged specific measures aimed at preventing further impoverishment of the population and drastic economic destabilization. A comprehensive legal reform was launched, comprising in the social sphere, the adoption of laws of fundamental importance, as well as of new economic principles and relations.
Mr. Neykov stressed that his Government had succeeded in overcoming an unprecedented economic and social crisis. It had achieved political and financial stabilization, thus overcoming political isolation and transforming Bulgaria into a source of stability and security in the Balkans. Further, the Government had launched a package of active measures for alleviating poverty, including the creation of incentives for private individuals and collective income generating activities. Those measures were supported by the social partners. Cooperation agreements on the implementation of the reform and the development of market relations had been reached with the social partners.
Mr. Neykov said that globlization had affected a growing number of economic and political processes. The world was networking in all aspects of life. The international community had set up emergency task forces to deal with conflicts all over the world. It should be the right time now to introduce systems for emergency actions against social problems, which were the reasons for conflicts. Against that background and taking into account that sustainable economic development and growth were prerequisites for social progress and protection, last October at the Sofia International Labour Organization (ILO) conference, Bulgaria had launched an initiative for the establishment of a South-East European Council for Social and Economic Cooperation within the context of the Stability Pact.
MARY KAPHWELEZA BANDA, Minister for Women, Youth and Children of Malawi, said the country's economy was agriculture-based, with 80 per cent of the labour force working in that sector. It accounted for 62 per cent of the country's total exports. Poverty was rampant in Malawi, with over 60 per cent of the population living below the poverty line. There was also a high gender imbalance, with women, who constituted 51 per cent of the population, experiencing extensive socio-economic problems. The poverty situation in Malawi was characterized by low levels of education, gender imbalance, limited access to and control of means of production, food insecurity, poor access to safe drinking water and high population growth. The situation was compounded by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which had been estimated to affect 14 per cent of the population.
Of the 10 commitments that the World Summit for Social Development had adopted during its Conference in 1995, the Government had singled out five of them as the most critical for addressing issues relating to the social development in Malawi: the creation of an enabling environment for social development; eradicating wide-spread poverty; the promotion and attainment of universal and equitable access to health and education; integrating social goals in adjustment reforms; and mobilization and efficient utilization of resources for social development. While the Government had put into place various mechanisms to advance social sector development, there were several problems which were detrimental to the fulfilment of these commitments, including the country's indebtedness to international financial institutions, the ever-increasing health care needs of its people, and the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which was seriously affecting the productivity of the country's labour force.
MARIE-JOSEE JACOBS, Minister of Family and Gender Equity of Luxembourg, said it was clear, five years after Copenhagen, that the new economic order of the world had to be endowed with a new world social order. Several commitments made at the Social Summit were far from being fulfilled; social exclusion was increasing and social problems were widespread, not only in developing countries, but in the developed world as well. Luxembourg, one of the most wealthy countries in the world, still had not eradicated poverty and still had its share of social problems. The European Union recently, for the first time, had set up a European employment strategy. Employment was a major means of social integration. Many people were no longer employable and so other strategies were needed for their social integration. The adoption in 1998 of a declaration on minimum social rights had been noteworthy, but more needed to be done.
A consistent, coherent policy within a meaningful framework had to be set up internationally. If social development was to be extended to everyone, the industrial countries must, as agreed on in Copenhagen, increase aid to developing countries. Luxembourg intended to increase its aid to 1 per cent of its GDP. It aimed its aid at a small group of countries determined to be at the lowest levels of the human-development index, and fashioned its programmes carefully, with emphasis on the social sector. The principles underlying the aid were good governance, democracy, and transparency.
CHOE SU HON, Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, said that despite the efforts of the international community to implement the Copenhagen Plan of Action during the last five years, problems such as poverty and unemployment, the major concern of the Summit, were rather aggravated and the overall socio-economic development was faced with serious challenges. That was manifested by the statistical fact that the number of people in the world living in poverty had increased from 1 billion to 1.4 billion in five years. That could be a partial reflection of the adverse aspects of globalization. Globalization brought profits only to the developed countries. It imposed poverty, unemployment and economic subjugation upon the developing countries.
Use of force and arbitrary actions in violation of the sovereignty of other countries constituted another factor that hindered socio-economic development, Mr. Choe continued to state. Bombardment and economic sanctions against the sovereign States and various kinds of conflicts not only threatened the right to existence of people and brought about social instability, inequality and crimes, but also posed damaging consequences to socio-economic development of the neighbouring countries and regions. Korea was making all efforts to overcome the consequences of the several year-long severe natural disasters, while coping with the continued isolation attempts and economic blockade by foreign forces against his country.
Mr. Choe underlined that international trade and investment policies should be reformulated and the international financial structure reformed to increase preferential treatment. Concrete measures should be taken to increase international development and cooperation and to reduce or cancel external debts and introduce unconditional transfer to technology. In addition, the principles of respect for State sovereignty and non-interference in others' internal affairs should be strictly adhered to in the international relations.
SHASTRI ALI, Trinidad and Tobago, said there was no greater threat to humanity in the twenty-first century than that of world poverty. It was common to define poverty in purely material terms as a state of having little or no resources to allow for acquiring the most basic needs. Poverty, however, was also a function of several social and cultural factors. It should be noted that poverty and the deprivation experienced by many countries were the consequences of the unfair economic relationships which existed among countries. It was imperative, therefore, that ample attention be given to this when addressing the issue of globalization.
One of the major tenets of globalization was that the free play of the market, particularly free trade, could lead to growth. While this could be true, in some cases, many developing countries became victims of a widening gap between the haves and the have nots, which contributed to social conditions that led to poverty. Although globalization of the world economy had created opportunities for the development process in some countries, it had also created unstable labour markets and increased marginalization of individuals and groups. Since the world was heading very rapidly along the path of globalization, there was an urgent need to develop mechanisms at the national, regional and international levels to minimize its negative effects. Despite exogenous international factors which worked against the less powerful, policies and priorities should be adjusted to create the necessary environment to compete at the international level. This would mean fair access to fit into the global economy and to cultivate sustainable human development so that the society and the economic environment could optimize their interactions.
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