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    For information only - not an official document.
    Press Release No: UNIS/GA/1657
    Release Date: 30 June 2000
    High-level Government Officials Continue Statements
    On Further Initiatives for Social Development

    Speakers at General Assembly Special Session
    Call for Greater Cooperation, Increases in Aid

      GENEVA, 27 June (UN Information Service) -- High-level government officials speaking before a follow-up conference to the 1995 United Nations "Social Summit" offered further remarks this afternoon on problems posed by globalization, poverty, widening gaps in wealth and economic growth, and the foreign-debt burdens of the world's poorest nations.

     The speakers addressing the Geneva-based special session of the General Assembly continued debate on the topic of "proposals for further initiatives for social development" and sounded additional calls for debt relief, for higher levels of official development assistance (ODA) to impoverished countries, for greater attention to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and for concerted efforts to temper the negative effects of global markets and financial regimes.  They also noted that social welfare nets were lacking in many developing countries and still allowed millions to live in poverty even in such prosperous regions as Europe, and said effective educational systems were crucial if nations were to pull themselves out of underdevelopment and poverty.

     Addressing the meeting were the Prime Minister of Norway; Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Social Policy of Malta; First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Labour and Social Affairs of the Czech Republic; Deputy Prime Minister of Nepal; Minister for Social Security and Labour of Lithuania; Secretary of State for Education of Gambia; Minister of Labour and Social Insurance of Cyprus; Minister of State of the Office of the Vice-President of the United Republic of Tanzania; Minister for Social Affairs and Health of Finland; Minister of Employment and Social Services of Greece; Secretary of State of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning of Rwanda; Minister of Labour and Social Protection of Romania; Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports of Brunei Darussalam; Minister for Labour and Social Affairs of Saudi Arabia; Minister of Social Transformation of Barbados; Vice-Minister of Local Government of Botswana; Vice-Minister for Labour and Social Affairs of Uruguay; and Chairman of the delegation of Uzbekistan.

     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 -- 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 Wednesday, 28 June, to resume its debate.

    Statements

     JENS STOLTENBERG, Prime Minister of Norway, said there was a basic knowledge of what it would take to make a lasting difference in the struggle against poverty.  Reaching the goal of halving world poverty by 2015 was a tall order, but it was possible.  The many United Nations conferences had shown that the knowledge existed.  Now, what was needed was a stronger will to translate all that knowledge into action.  Real efforts should be made on human rights and labour rights.  Development meant respecting human rights.  All of them -- civil and political, as well as social and economic.  But poverty was a direct abuse of human rights and human dignity.  Combating poverty was the most crucial task for securing human rights of all.  Unemployment, wherever it was present, must be fought.  There should be a call for ratification of the International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions on basic workers' rights.

     Real efforts also had to be made on debt relief, on health, against AIDS, and to empower women, Mr. Stoltenberg said.  Without debt relief, how could poor countries be expected to invest in health, education and new infrastructure?  Concerning health, since Copenhagen it had been learned that a good health policy could be a highly effective instrument for poverty eradication.  More healthy people led to more sustainable development -- and the way out of poverty.  AIDS was a roadblock against development.  There needed to be a global mobilization and awakening.  It had to be on every development agenda.  And concerning the empowerment of women, it had been learned that seven out of 10 of the extreme poor were women.  In large parts of the world, women were denied political, economic and legal rights -- rights that could have helped them fight poverty.  Combating poverty meant investing in women, and it meant focusing on the role and responsibility of men.  In too many countries, men did not take their fair share of the burden.  Women's rights were far too often abused, and the struggle against poverty would not be won unless that was changed.  Men had to be a part of the solution.

     LAWRENCE GONZI, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Social Policy of Malta, said the world had moved forward in the five years since the Social Summit, and it was clear that a knowledge-based society, life-long learning, flexi-time and flexible working conditions required educational systems that could respond to modern economic demands.  Malta had developed a capacity building model to improve the economic and social situation of its citizens, and the Government's plan of action to follow up the Copenhagen Summit had led to measures to strengthen social security, ensure employment without discrimination, foster the equal status of women, provide equal and universal opportunity and access to free education, and offer the whole range of health services.  Among problems facing society were drugs, social exclusion, new medical and psychological problems, materialism and extreme individualism.

     Solidarity and cooperation were essential for translating words into deeds; social safety nets had to be built to ensure citizens of their basic needs.  The recent Lisbon conference had highlighted what was already obvious -- that Europe's economic success was dependent on and was intertwined with its unique social model.  It was clear that Europe would not have reached its present state of security, peace, and prosperity without its welfare system, whose noble objectives of equity and equality of opportunity must be preserved.  In fact, it needed to be enhanced, as millions in Europe still lived below the poverty line.

     VALDIMIR SPIDLA, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Social Policy of the Czech Republic, said that for five years a new public policy had been developed in his country around the idea that real social integration and the well-being of the population were solid supports of durable economic growth.  That concept was supported by the European Union, and beyond that he hoped that the financial institutions, such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), systematically integrated it into their development strategies.  Incontestably, the new technologies were originally based on the revolution of knowledge which was imposed on the world, and to which the leaders of the planet should favour the intellectual development of peoples.  Before, there was the need to improve the functioning of democracy, and today, it was also for economic reasons.

     Mr. Spidla told that a year ago his Government had approved a National of Plan for Employment, which was structured according to the four chapters of the Council of Europe in Luxembourg:  improving unemployment; developing the spirit of enterprise; adoptability of employers and salaries to market conditions; strengthening the equal opportunity between man and women and fighting against all forms of discrimination.  The implementation of those principles also needed the fight against exclusion, the prevention of unemployment and supporting employment possibilities.  The concept of the Government's strategy in employment was also largely influenced by the social partners.

     Mr. Spidla said that within his country's employment policy, the Government attached more importance to coordinating actions designed to reduce inequality that struck certain groups of citizens.  The minorities, particularly members of the Roma community, were the country's riches.  Measures were also taken to improve the conditions of those segments of the population.

     RAM CHANDRA PAUDEL, Deputy Prime Minister of Nepal, said the review of achievements since the Copenhagen Summit in 1995 had found that the world was facing paradoxes.  On the one hand, there was unprecedented achievements in science and technology with full capacity to get rid of human suffering.  Yet, there was also an ever-widening gap between the rich and poor.  Humankind had acquired enough capacity to comfortably feed itself.  Yet, it had the largest number of people going to bed with empty stomachs.  Beginning with the United Nations Charter, the number and coverage of commitments to defend human rights and to do away with human miseries were at a record high.  But so were the number of unfulfilled promises.

     The development needs of the developing countries, especially the least developed among them, were many.  To catch up, they needed a much higher level of assistance.  It was important that the commitment to provide 0.7 per cent of the industrialized countries' gross domestic product (GDP) as overseas development assistance be met.  There should also be improvement in the efficiency and efficacy of assistance and their utilization.  It was high time that transparency be assured at all levels and on all sides -- national and international.  Considering the severity of the debt burden on the least developed countries and the much needed resources flowing out of these countries in debt repayment, the international community should expand the scope of the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiatives to cover total debt relief of all least developed countries.  The available resources could be utilized for basic services and poverty alleviation.  In order to ensure freedom, social justice, solidarity and global peace, there was a need to review the current international cooperation agreements.

     IRENA DEGUTIENE, Minister of Social Security and Labour of Lithuania, said the country had established an inter-institutional social committee to develop a report on the implementation of the Copenhagen Declaration and to develop a Lithuanian poverty reduction strategy.  The report, which had been presented to the United Nations in 1999, indicated that expenditures for social protection in Lithuania were increasing, and that there had been a decrease in relative poverty.  The immediate social challenges confronting the country were the well-being of the rural population, the support of large families, and the integration of socially vulnerable population groups into society.  A draft of the poverty-reduction strategy had been presented to all political parties, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and the general public for comment.

     The strategy aimed at economic growth that was socially, politically and economically related to the improvement of the welfare of all citizens; a main objective was to increase employment.  Other intentions were to improve access to education and to foster the development of new businesses.  A National Employment Action Plan sought to strengthen employment through the years 2000-2002.  Social enterprises would be established for persons lacking professional education, inactive people, and people faced with social problems.  Other activities aimed at ensuring gender equality in the labour market and eliminating women's poverty.  A Commission for the Implementation of the Poverty Reduction Strategy was to be established.

     ANN THERESE NDONG-JATTA, Secretary of State for Education of the Gambia, said that her Government had put in place a programme of rectification that had created an environment conducive to social development.  That was made in full recognition of its part of the responsibility for the implementation of the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action.  It had infused dynamism to the "Vision 2020" initiative.  An all-encompassing initiative, Gambia's version of the Vision 2020 comprised a forward-looking strategy that placed emphasis, among other things, on guaranteeing a decent standard of living for all Gambians.  Also, a comprehensive National Poverty Alleviation Programme was the focal point for poverty alleviation.  In addition, an institutional coordinating mechanism had been put in place for the mainstreaming of programmes for gender and poverty concerns.

     Ms. Ndong-Jatta said that over and above the various strategies that have been put in place to implement the commitments in the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action, a flashback would reveal that while some progress might have made, the hurdles that remained in the path of social development were overwhelming.  Thus, while five years might not seem to be a long time, the current special session, taking place on the threshold of the new Millennium, was an important watershed in the history of human development.  Indeed, it accorded the international community an opportunity to reassess and re-evaluate the past concerted efforts to make the world a better place for the global community.

     The link of cause and effect between the debt burden and the slow rate of development and by extension poverty could not be over-emphasized, she continued to say.  Despite repeated appeals for a lasting solution to be found, the debt crisis remained a critical factor for developing countries.  She appealed again for cancellation or conversion of the debt stock of the least developed countries to enable them to target especially education, health and agricultural provisions for the general population.  That would set the tone for a concerted international effort for the eradication of poverty and quality education for all.  With regard to armed conflict, she said that it diverted resources that were needed for social development.  The African continent was a case in point of severe development derailment where stagnant development and civil unrest were the norm rather than the exception. 

     ANDREAS MOUSHOUTTAS, Minister of Labour and Social Insurance of Cyprus, said the review and appraisal of the outcome of the Copenhagen Summit showed that many new policies and programmes were initiated at the national level, while international organizations refocused their activities.  However, much still needed to be done in view of the increased globalization, especially since it clearly showed that the national and international policy responses were uneven.  There was a need to anticipate and offset the negative and potentially negative social and economic consequences resulting from the globalization process, and to maximize its benefits for all members of society, including those with special needs.  In this connection, Cyprus stressed that it attached the greatest importance to the International Labour Organization's Declaration on Fundamental Labour Rights, and to the promotion of the goal of full and productive employment.  Decent work was the cornerstone for preventing and alleviating poverty and achieving greater social cohesion.

     High priorities for Cyprus were investments in education and human development, improvements in the functioning of the labour markets, and promotion of gender equality and non-discrimination in employment and working conditions, as well as the protection, through special measures, of disadvantaged and vulnerable groups.  The document before the special session contained many good proposals, and their adoption would certainly move the social development agenda forward.  He singled out a proposal recommending the establishment of an expert working group to develop guidelines on sound principles and good practices in social policy to promote the three goals of the Summit.  This proposal was of particular importance and could be of great practical value to governments and international organizations.

     EDWARD LOWASSA, Minister of State (Vice-President's Office) of the United Republic of Tanzania, said the country, despite various obstacles, had increased its gross domestic product (GDP) in recent years, had significantly lowered inflation, had improved school attendance, and had cut infant mortality.  It was seeking to provide education, safe water, and health services to its population and had taken a number of steps to create an environment for social and economic development.  It remained one of the least developed countries, and about half its population lived below the poverty line of $0.65 per day.  The Vice-President's Office had been mandated to coordinate poverty-eradication initiatives and to adopt a poverty-eradication strategy.  Refugee flows into the country remained a serious drain on limited resources and a potential source of instability.

     He said the United Republic of Tanzania had received some debt relief, but regrettably the measures taken so far had not adequately redressed the devastating handicap posed by the country's debt burden; on behalf of the heavily indebted, least developed countries, this conference should firmly request cancellation of both the bilateral and multilateral debts of such countries.  The HIV/AIDS pandemic posed a huge threat to his country, and the international community must redouble its efforts to combat AIDS.  Meanwhile, the gap between rich and poor continued to grow wider, and it would be impossible in the long run to maintain high levels of social development in one region, while widespread and deepening poverty and human degradation prevailed in others.

     MAIJO PERHO, Minister of Social Affairs and Health of Finland, emphasized that issues of universalism and equal opportunities, gender, human rights including sexual and reproductive rights, health and education, and financing of social development were of particular interest to her country.  All of those issues were cornerstones of social development, and were increasingly recognized as such for economic development as well.  The dimensions of sustainable development -- social and economic development and environmental protection -- were interdependent and mutually reinforcing.  She stressed that particular sustainable social development was a prerequisite for development and well-being.

     Finland was fully committed to the implementation of the Copenhagen commitments, Ms. Perho said.  That applied to both domestic and international policies, including development cooperation.  The aim was to create a continuously developing society that would guarantee everyone an opportunity for meaningful work, independent living and active participation in the community and in the whole of society.  Finland's focus in order to increase social integration and reduce poverty was to ensure that all people had access to basic social services and that additional especially targeted social services were available to the groups with special needs.  In achieving a society for all, it was Finnish experience that it might not be enough to assist people in need with the specially targeted measures.

     She said that a high level of economic inclusion would be an essential element for maintaining social cohesion, while responding to the challenges of globalization and phasing in a knowledge-based society.  Women and girls should be specially taken into account in guaranteeing universal access to quality basic education, as well as to quality health-care services, including sexual and reproductive health services and family planning.

     ANASTASIOS GIANNITSIS, Minister of Labour and Social Security of Greece, said the experience of all these years showed that social development was not a linear evolution.  Progress in some issues was often accompanied by backwardness in other areas -- such contrasting phenomena were observed both within societies and among countries.  In the new globalized international context, social developments and new technologies created new inequalities over and above older ones.  For example, poverty, unemployment, immigration, violence, exploitation of women and children, and unbalanced and often unfair conditions in the workplace took new forms and became sources of concern for many countries.  At the dawn of the twenty-first century, it became more and more apparent that a new economic and social reality was emerging, a reality to which the policy objectives and instruments were increasingly associated to more targeted and selective approaches concerning the social implications of unemployment, technical change and globalization.

     Speaking specifically about Greece, there were three major features of the last five years that had a clear impact on social development.  Social expenditure as a percentage of GDP had slightly increased, creating a favourable impact on the success of the macro-economic policy.  Another effort was to complement restructuring privatization and general structural policies with interventions concerning a balanced distribution of costs and benefits among involved stakeholders.  Social dialogue and participation mechanisms were important elements of these policies.  And Greece, in the 1990s, experienced an influx of refugees from the Balkans, prompting a significant contribution to the social, as well as economic, stabilization of the region.

     CELESTIN KABANDA, Secretary of State of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning of Rwanda, said experience showed that the development strategies adopted by the majority of African countries over the last three decades had not had the results desired; causes included injurious macroeconomic factors, indebtedness, prolonged conflicts, and insufficient attention to the public good.  Women and children were still the worst hit by underdevelopment and poverty.  These problems were strongly present in Africa.  Cancellation of debt would make it possible for poor countries to redirect their resources to greatly needed social problems.

     The countries of the Great Lakes region were struggling to improve the lives of their citizens, but the conflicts that had hit the region were a huge obstacle.  Rwanda had endured difficulties as severe as genocide; it was still struggling to recover; the genocide, among other things, had greatly weakened the social and economic tissue of the country and had heightened poverty; there were new, vulnerable groups of widows and orphans of victims of the genocide.  The Government was struggling to create a situation of national reconciliation, to impose justice, to bolster democracy, to enhance women's rights, to reduce poverty, and to combat HIV/AIDS.  Strategies and plans extending to the year 2020 had been developed.  Greater international help was needed for the country to effectively battle poverty and achieve national reconciliation.

     SMARANDA DOBRESCU, Minister of Labour and Social Protection of Romania, said the transition period from a totalitarian regime to a democratic society and market economy had been marked by conditions of profound economic crisis accompanied with reduction in the living standards of the population.  At present, the income of the population had decreased by 40 per cent compared to that of 1989.  Poverty had become one of the grave social problems which was the concern of the Romanian society, and combating it was an imperative of the social and economic policy of the country.  Since the authorities were obliged to put in place a coherent programme of protection against poverty, that had influenced the rhythm of the reform process.

     Ms. Dobrescu said that in order to prevent the accentuation of poverty, social protection measures had been adopted.  Among the measures were the guarantee of minimum salary payment, prevention of unemployment and payment of unemployment benefits to persons who remained unemployed for long periods.  However, the effectiveness of the measures had been unfortunately reduced due to the general economic situation of the nation.  Accordingly, in 1998, the number of poor people had reached 7.6 million, making up 33.8 per cent of the whole population.  The households most affected by that phenomenon were the unemployed, peasants, or those working in the agricultural sectors.

     In order to face poverty, the Government of Romania had taken additional measures by creating a national commission for the prevention of and the fight against poverty, she said.  The commission coordinated programmes in that domain.  An agreement had also been signed between the Government and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to adopt further measures to combat poverty.  The general objective of the agreement was also focused on the elimination of extreme poverty and the reduction of poverty to acceptable economic, social and political levels.

     PEHIN DATO HAJI HUSSAIN MOHAMMED YUSOF, Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports of Brunei Darussalam, said the country, as a developing State, remained committed to ensuring poverty eradication, social integration and productive employment, which would enable the citizens to achieve sustainable social development.  The economic and social structure of Brunei Darussalam was founded upon a solid foundation on which the Malay society, the Muslim religious faith and the monarchial political system interacted.  These traditional values formed a firm foundation which yielded a prosperous nation with strong family bonds and a leadership which was committed to the raising of the standard of living for all the nation's citizens.

     The current National Development Plan had been outlined to consolidate and strengthen measures towards promoting human-centred sustainable development with special emphasis on the following:  improving the quality of life of the people; maintaining full employment and increasing the level of productivity; fostering a more disciplined, self-reliant and caring society; and having a clean and healthy environment.  Although the economy had grown steadily, albeit moderately, as a result of the recent good recovery progress in the Asia region, the Government had exercised utmost caution in its attempt to maintain the quality of life within the country, while, at the same time, working towards the efficient utilization of its financial resources to enhance the people's standard of living.  The social policy programmes enabled the Government to provide its people with the fundamental demands and needs of society, like the provision of a social safety net encompassing education, health, housing and infrastructure.  The Government allocated about 27.5 per cent of the total national development budget for social development programmes, which was indicative of it's continuing commitment to the overall economic development and prosperity of the people, as well as to improve the quality of life for all Bruneians.

     ALI AL-NAMLA, Minister for Labour and Social Affairs of Saudi Arabia, said that among the major challenges facing social development since the Copenhagen Summit were the eradication of poverty, the creation of employment opportunities and the building of stable societies.  The challenge facing the international community was to mobilize political will and thinking of practical strategies to implement the commitments undertaken in the 1995 Copenhagen Summit.  For its part, Saudi Arabia had intensified its efforts to eradicate poverty, increased spending on social security and was trying to create jobs for all its citizens in all sectors. 

     Saudi Arabia was also trying to bring about social integration and had undertaken measures to promote justice, prevent discrimination, and foster social solidarity, he said.  It had honoured the Cairo Commitment and the ILO Declaration of Principles, and had ratified numerous international human rights instruments.  Free education, from nursery to university, was also guaranteed.  Assistance to developing countries represented more than 4 per cent of the country's GDP.  Health, habitat, industry, water supply, communications and transport were also supported by the State through grants and loans without interest. 

     HAMILTON LASHLEY, Minister of Social Transformation of Barbados, said that while global economic integration was creating opportunities for people around the world, there were still wide divergences among countries in expanding trade, attracting investments and using new technologies.  Many of the poorest countries were marginalized from those growing global opportunities and the income gaps between the poorest and richest countries were widening.  The effects of globalization and trade liberalization on small island States such as Barbados could be devastating on economic and social stability.

     Mr. Lashley said the global feminization of poverty was of growing concern.  That phenomenon was no less true of the Caribbean, where women were often the single heads of households.  In Barbados, the eradication of poverty had been identified as a priority for action for all vulnerable groups.  The Government of Barbados had established a poverty eradication fund and had embarked on a series of measures to boost entrepreneurial activities to reduce unemployment among youth and women.  It had also established a Social Investment Fund which provided loans to poor disadvantaged persons to develop small business entrepreneurship.  The programme had been taken in cooperation with the UNDP.

     He also said that in tackling the problem of HIV/AIDS, Barbados had established a national AIDS committee to confront the complex problems associated with the HIV pandemic.  Through the committee, public awareness programmes had been instituted and the public had been sensitized and educated in AIDS prevention programmes.  The effort to deal with the disease was further supported by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) which represented a comprehensive response to meet the challenge of the disease.

     GLADYS KOKORWE, Vice-Minister of Local Government of Botswana, said that government initiatives and programmes were being pursued in the spirit of the Declaration and the Programme of Action adopted at the Copenhagen Summit in 1995.  All actions were guided by four national planning objectives:  sustained development, rapid economic growth, economic independence, and social justice.  Consistent with the outcome of Copenhagen, Botswana had developed a number of policies and programmes that aimed to advance the course of the Summit, including those affecting the national population, women, youth and industrial development.  Working with such partners as the United Nations and its agencies, local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the civil society, Botswana was engaged in the daunting task of implementing the various provisions of these policies.  They were relentlessly pursued to buttress government efforts to improve peoples' lives.  In the long term, when the aspirations and needs of the various populations were met, it was envisaged that that would contribute immensely to social integration -- a commitment that the entire international community shared.

     The ability to implement such policies could not yield results in the absence of a conducive economic, legal, social and political environment.  The Government spared no effort in cultivating and nurturing an environment that allowed sustainable development to take root.  Politically, the country was reputed to be one of the working democracies in Africa.  That derived largely from the tradition vested in the system that allowed people to express their views without hindrance while entrenching respect for one another.  The Constitution provided for equality for all before the law, regardless of status, colour, creed, religion or political orientation.

     JUAN FEDERICO BOSCH, Vice-Minister of Labour and Social Affairs of Uruguay, said that over the past 15 years the central objective of Uruguay's economic policy was to reduce inflation.  During that period, the country had experienced economic growth, posting a 34.5 per cent increase of its GDP from 1991 to 1998.  Regionally, Uruguay had reached high levels of social development, achieved not only thanks to economic growth but also because of concern for social justice.  Uruguay was also in third position in Latin America in terms of human development and had the lowest level of poverty.  Indeed, the number of households living below the poverty line had dropped from 12 per cent in 1990 to 6 per cent in 1997.

     Uruguay had also undertaken a profound reform of its education system as part of its poverty reduction strategy, he said.  Ten per cent of GDP was earmarked for health and the needy population enjoyed free access to health.  With regard to employment, special emphasis was given to training and introducing new technology, with the aim of ensuring the creation of high quality jobs and modernizing the country.  Uruguay also had a long history of respect for the rights of workers.  Nonetheless, the high level of protectionism by industrialized countries limited the expansion of Uruguayan exports, limiting the possibilities to create new jobs.  Social development needed to be considered in a broader perspective of a globalized world.  It was necessary to ensure reciprocity in trade among all countries so as to create equality of opportunities and enable all to have access to a life of dignity.  The international community was urged to dismantle the mechanism of protectionism and reduce inequalities between countries.

     ALISHER VOHIDOV, Chairman of the delegation of Uzbekistan, said that in accordance with the commitments of the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action, the problem of eradication of poverty had been placed among the priority goals of the social policy conducted in Uzbekistan.  At the same time, it was recognized that the civil peace and social accord in the society directly depended on a degree of social integration of indigent sectors of the population, and providing them with the necessary level of social guarantees and access to the systems of distribution.  In that connection, the policy of maintenance of incomes of indigent families had an important role.

     Mr. Vohidov said that strengthening the role of women and increasing their participation in public and political processes had a special significance for maintenance of social integration.  Women made up more than half of the population.  The social and economic policy of the country was based on the recognition of equality of rights for both women and men with regard to conditions and payment for work, employment and social protection.  Any gender discrimination was prohibited by the Constitution.  Coordinated efforts of the international community were necessary for the realization of a global, social policy on eradication of poverty, and for strengthening of social integration.  

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