|For information only - not an official document.|
|Press Release No: UNIS/GA/1660|
|Release Date: 3 July 2000|
|Speakers Before General Assembly Special Session Urge Coordinated
Responses to Causes of Poverty, Marginalization
GENEVA, 29 June (UN Information Service) -- Economic globalization required coherent policies to make its effects humane and to distribute its benefits fairly, Government ministers said this morning before a General Assembly Special Session to follow up on the 1995 Copenhagen Social Summit.
Carrying into a fourth day a discussion on "proposals for further initiatives for social development", speakers said poverty, which occurred even in industrialized nations, was caused by a series of factors, and responses had to be similarly multi-faceted, including improvements in school attendance and quality, health care, and women's rights. They said repeatedly that measures intended to give a "human face" to globalization also had to be global, and that commitments made at the Copenhagen Summit under which developed nations undertook to aid less-developed States, should be adhered to. As earlier in the week, Government officials described national steps taken and difficulties encountered in implementing the goals set five years ago in Copenhagen.
Speaking were the Minister for Employment of the United Kingdom; the Minister of Social Services and Employment of New Zealand; the President of the National Council of Iraq; the Minister of Education and Culture of Jamaica; the Prime Minister of Senegal; the Minister for Social Affairs of Tunisia; the Minister of Planning of Chile; the Secretary of State of the Ministry of Social and Family Affairs of Hungary; the First Deputy to the Minister for Labour and Social Affairs of Ukraine; the Vice-Minister of Labour and Social Protection of Kazakhstan; the Assistant Minister for Civil Affairs and Communications of Bosnia and Herzegovina; the Chairperson of the Delegation of Australia to the Special Session; the Chairperson of the Delegation of Honduras; the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Human Development, Women and Civil Societies of Belize; the Director-General of the Department of Social Affairs of the Ministry of Labour and Human Welfare of Eritrea; the Chairperson of the Delegation of Mongolia; and the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria.
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. Proposals for expanding or giving greater emphasis to social progress are also anticipated.
The original Copenhagen 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 resume its debate.
TESSA JOWELL, Minister of Employment of the United Kingdom, said the Copenhagen Summit had made it clear that economic and social policies had to be mutually reinforcing -- sustainable long-term growth needed to be underpinned by effective social policies, and investing in such policies was economically productive. Much remained to be done -- there were still 1.2 billion people in the world with a life expectancy of less than 50 years, and there were high levels of child and maternal mortality, child labour, illiteracy, ill health, suffering and squalor. To build on Copenhagen, this summit should agree on the need for an operational framework within which individual countries could build effective social policies. National ownership of such projects was crucial -- one had to take account of regional and national differences. And new wealth and globalization's opportunities must be used to reduce global inequality.
In the United Kingdom, child poverty had increased three-fold over the last 20 years, and the Government was now committed to eradicating it over the next 20 years; thousands had been leaving school without even basic skills, and the Government was committed to raising standards in UK schools. There was no single cause and no single answer to poverty and social exclusion -- the solution could only be found through a combination of policies designed to tackle all the causes. That was true both at the national and international levels. The Special Session should come up with not just a collection of proposals but a programme of reform for the new century.
STEVE MAHAREY, Minister of Social Services and Employment of New Zealand, said his country had developed a reputation as an equally enthusiastic economic reformer, as it had moved from a protectionist to an open economy. In addition the country now enjoyed a strong economic base and a positive outlook. Growth was forecasted to average 3 per cent per annum over the next three years, and unemployment was predicted to fall to about 5 per cent by March 2002. New Zealand had not found the process of reform or the pressures of globalization to be painless. Changes in the labour market had impacted on some of its people's ability to participate. Those with few educational qualifications, those in unskilled occupations, and those in industries that used to be subject to trade tariff protection, had experienced dislocation from the work force or lowered incomes. The indigenous Maori population and New Zealanders of Pacific Island origin who historically had lower levels of educational attainment had been disproportionately affected.
As a small egalitarian society, New Zealand had shown social policy leadership in the past, and Mr. Maharey said he was determined that the country would do so again. The spirit of cooperation and commitment at the current session reflected the importance New Zealand and the other nations here attached to its goals. There was much in the Declaration and Programme of Action for all to reaffirm and build on, and New Zealand would continue to fully play its part to achieve the desired results of the World Summit for Social Development.
SADOON HAMMADI, Chairperson of the Delegation of Iraq, said while the developed countries enjoyed sustained growth since the World Summit for Development in Copenhagen in 1995, most of the southern States faced economic crises as a result of the increase in rates of poverty, inequality of income distribution and the increase in foreign debt. In addition, the economic sanctions undermined the growth capabilities of developing countries and increased the numbers of the poor. Since Copenhagen, Iraq had worked to establish a large number of actions to eradicate poverty. It had tried to introduce reforms in the field of health and education, it provided jobs and it implemented many programmes in the field of social care. However, these efforts encountered the obstacle of the unjust economic sanctions imposed on the country since 1990, and the US-British military aggressions since then.
Aggravated deterioration of the economic, social, cultural and health conditions of the Iraqi people characterized the past 10 years. The GNP had decreased by two-thirds. The World Food Programme had indicated that the prices of essential goods had multiplied 850 times. These factors brought a great percentage of the Iraqi people to the line of poverty. All health services had suffered a serious deterioration. According to a UNICEF report, mortality among children under five had increased to 7,000 per month. Moreover, one-fourth of children under five suffered from chronic malnutrition. The lifting of the unjust embargo on the people of Iraq was a humanitarian responsibility which should be borne by all. This summit should renounce the weapon of economic embargoes because it only contradicted the foundations on which this summit was based. It completely contradicted the principles and rules of human rights. The charter of the United Nations and international law prohibited human genocide. If what was happening in Iraq was not genocide, then what was?
BURCHELL WHITEMAN, Minister of Education and Culture of Jamaica, said the momentum of the Copenhagen Summit had not been lost, but gaps remained that had to be closed. Jamaica had responded with measures to eradicate poverty, expand productive employment, and improve social integration. Gender equality and the targeting of vulnerable groups were prime objectives. Constitutional reforms and political reforms had been made to foster democratization, and a national poverty-eradication programme had been developed. The intent was to reduce poverty by 50 per cent in targeted communities within three years, and in the long-term to eradicate poverty throughout the country. There was a National Social Development Commission, and institutional support was being provided for small and micro businesses, as these were a major engine for employment growth. The results to date had been encouraging.
Data for the Caribbean showed significant educational gaps between the poorest and richest quintiles -- in some countries, tertiary-level education reduced the chances of living in poverty by as much as 50 times. Among the questions that should be addressed by the current meeting were whether the strategies of recent world conferences could be harmonized; whether developing countries could better support each other; whether aid programmes could show more sensitivity and respect for developing countries; whether economic growth could be linked firmly with the social good; and whether new technologies could be put at the service of the most vulnerable.
MOUSTAPHA NIASSE, Prime Minister of Senegal, said five years ago the international community had affirmed its conviction that democracy, respect for human rights, transparency and good governance were among the conditions for the realization of social development for all, focusing on human beings and respect for their dignity. It also decided to put man at the centre of development. However, one recognized that the progress in implementing the ten commitments did not respond to the legitime expectations of the international community. The social inequalities within a nation and among nations had continued to grow. The field of poverty had been enlarged. Hunger and malnutrition had been affecting a number of regions of the world. And the recent international financial crisis and the controversial effects of globalization had contributed to the aggravated social situation in the world. In addition, the expansion of pandemic diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS constituted a serious threat to peace and to development, and a challenge to humanity.
Concerning education, it was unacceptable that 113 million children had no access to primary education while 880 million adults remained illiterate. The involvement of children in armed conflicts in Africa was also alarming. More critical was that in Africa and other less developed nations, the social index had been degrading. In 41 out of 53 African countries, the life expectancy was below 60 years, and some time around 40 years. Was that acceptable? Why that long? In the Sub-Saharan Africa, 59 per cent of the rural population and 43 of the urban population lived below poverty level, and were affected by under employment. The fight against poverty should not be one of speech or oral rhetoric, rather, concrete actions should be taken. The fight was not for a system of assistance but for a development assistance for mutual benefit based on partnership.
CHEDLI NEFFATI, Minister of Social Affairs of Tunisia, said the purpose of the conference was to assess objectively the progress made since the Copenhagen Conference in 1995. Recent years had been marked by the establishment of a new order based upon a market economy that had been changed by the liberalization of trade. But poverty had found an ideal breeding ground in many other parts of the world. Mankind had, in recent decades, achieved rapid advances in development, but that had also resulted in increased marginalization in a great many parts of the world. Poverty had become one of the greatest scourges threatening the whole of society, sparing neither developed or developing countries. More than 1.3 billion persons lived on less than $ 1 a day.
In Tunisia, there had been an effort to create jobs, particularly for young people. The Government had created a National Employment Fund, and had attached priority to the struggle against poverty in the most rural regions of the country. These efforts led to moving more than 171,000 families out of poverty, and this had enabled the country to improve the poverty rates which had dropped to about 6 per cent in recent years. The President of Tunisia had launched a World Voluntary Fund that aimed at eradicating poverty, not just in the country, but in Africa and across the entire world.
ALEJANDRA KRAUSS, Minister of Planning of Chile, said Chile had sought to make economic growth and equality compatible, and its approach had enabled the current Government to sustain progress in nearly every area of development. A second generation of reforms had been implemented, the most relevant of which was education reform -- the country expected to substantially improve the quality of education at all levels and to double the number of children attending early childhood education over the next six years. The intent was to have economic growth with equal rights and strengthened citizenship through a coherent, educated, participatory and tolerant society.
Chile could not feel satisfied with its own progress if poverty, inequalities and social injustice continued elsewhere, Ms. Krauss said. The responsibility for overcoming such problems lay with every person, with every State, with civil society, and with the international system, which must eliminate every hurdle that prevented social development. Deep transformations were occurring, and globalization, with its rapid flows of information and its competitiveness and demanding requirements for technological innovation, had brought progress but also serious difficulties for those who had failed to participate and now lagged behind. People and communities should be at the core of change; the market and financial flows must not drive these transformations. The path outlined in Copenhagen could lead everyone to a more integrated, socially just world.
GYULA PULAY, Permanent State Secretary of the Ministry of Social and Family Affairs of Hungary, affirmed that his country considered human rights and fundamental freedoms as indispensable prerequisites of social progress. The decisions of Copenhagen had had a marked influence on the national policies. The past five years had seen significant development in the social sphere. An unfavourable situation in the early 90s, featuring persistent high unemployment and a low participation rate, had been replaced by more favourable tendencies. There had been a shift in emphasis from an initial crisis management strategy towards meeting growing labour demands against a background of economic recovery, the development of economically depressed regions, increasing amounts of active employment policy measures, and the upgrading of the vocational training system. The Government had taken a fresh start in setting its employment policy objectives in full compliance with the Copenhagen commitments.
Hungary had taken important measures in order to promote equal opportunities for the disabled, and their social inclusion and employment. It had also been awarded the International Roosevelt Prize for the passage of legislation on equal opportunities and rights of the disabled and for measures taken for its implementation this year.
PETRO OVTCHARENKO, First Deputy to the Minister for Labour and Social Affairs of Ukraine, said mankind would never be able to live in peace if people could not live in security in their daily lives. Security could best be guaranteed in a democratic state where human rights were respected and man could decide his own fate. Following the Copenhagen Summit, Ukraine had taken many steps to create favourable conditions for economic growth. The process was underway for restructuring the economy, and there were other efforts for improving social security and social assistance. The country had the potential to carry out economic reforms, and it was obvious that this would positively affect the social conditions.
There were, however, difficulties. Creating a market-based economy coming from a socialist background did lead to a drop in social standards, especially given the residuals of the Chernobyl disaster. Children often felt the brunt of the drop in social standards, as did women and other vulnerable members of society. To address these, Ukraine was trying to determine a set of priorities. It recently did a study of child labour, and its study on living conditions was given high marks by the World Bank. Assistance from developed countries would certainly make possible new sources of finance, and it would be welcome. Countries in transition struggled in balancing State-based initiatives and creating a market-based economy. A very important role was to be played by ensuring fully productive employment. This was the key that would open the door to a society of social integration. However, in Ukraine, rapid privatization and the open door policy of the country to competition did lead to unemployment. These were not results desired.
VICTOR IVANOV, Vice-Minister of Labour and Social Protection of Kazakhstan, said developing countries and countries in transition still faced major barriers to effective participation in the world economy. Kazakhstan had taken a number of steps to establish social stability and ensure economic development, based on a long-range plan intended to achieve a vibrant employment sector and improve social security and social services. An anti-poverty programme was in effect; the most vulnerable groups were being protected against unemployment and ensured of economic development. Legislation on budgets in coming years would target assistance to citizens according to their needs; ecological and health protection also were priorities. Education was a major concern of the Government, and Kazakhstan had a model system of education in keeping with international standards. The leaders of multinational companies had been investing in training and economic growth, and this had led to a major drop in unemployment and an increase in economic growth.
Drug trafficking was a problem in Kazakhstan's region of Asia -- the country was on a major drug route, and steps had been taken to combat the sale and use of drugs in cooperation with international organizations. Kazakhstan was ready to make every effort to enhance living standards and to ensure implementation of the Copenhagen plan of action; it strongly supported creation of a more just and equitable world.
NUDZEIM RECICA, Deputy Minister for Civil Affairs and Communications of Bosnia and Herzegovina, recalled that the consequences of the four-year long war and the enormous destruction were still strongly felt both in the economy and in the infrastructure, especially the social infrastructure. Perhaps the strongest blow for the country was the fact that over half of its pre-war population became refugees and displaced persons, the majority of whom were still waiting to return home. About 600,000 refugees and displaced persons had returned into the country, but of that number some 200,000 were still waiting to return to their own homes. About 600,000 refugees abroad were waiting to return without having their status resolved in the countries where they were staying. About 700,000 internally displaced persons in Bosnia and Herzegovina were waiting to return to their homes. That was not only a politically serious problem, but was also an economical and social one which the Government could not resolve by itself. The figures were extremely high, taking into account 4.5 million persons, the whole population of the country.
The unemployment indicators showed that the number of the unemployed today in the country was 2.5 times higher than before the pre-war year, 1991, with 750,000 people looking for jobs. The problem became even more complex when one had in mind that the number of the employed compared to the pre-war period had decreased. Although the employment rate had tended to increase over the past five years, a great shock in the employment segment came with the demobilization of about 300,000 veterans in the years following the end of the war, as well as the current extensive activities for reducing the military forces in the country. Bosnia and Herzegovina believed that for developing countries, countries in transition, and especially for countries emerging from war, it was necessary to find new concepts of debt rescheduling and softening credit requirements and debt write-off.
LESLIE LUCK, Chairperson of the Delegation of Australia, said the goals of Copenhagen could not be achieved by States alone. The international community, the United Nations, multilateral financial institutions, regional organizations, local authorities, businesses, non-governmental organizations, communities and individuals all could have a positive contribution in achieving sustainable social development. The primary goal of this Summit was to create and support a framework for a working partnership between all these levels, recognizing rights and responsibilities. There were a number of areas in which this partnership was crucial, and none more so than in managing globalization. Partnerships between countries and financial institutions were essential to develop strategies to manage change and to ensure that the benefits of globalization were understood and were spread as widely as possible. A good example of such partnership was the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative, of which Australia was a strong supporter. In addition to existing multilateral contributions, Australia announced in April that it would provide 100 per cent bilateral debt forgiveness to countries which qualified for relief under the Initiative.
In the five years since the World Summit, Australia was taking serious its own task of translating Copenhagen's commitments into international and domestic action. It was a major international development assistance donor in the Asia Pacific region and beyond. Australia's aid for education and training, health and population programmes, water supply and sanitation, and government and civil society had more than doubled in absolute terms in the last decade, and was now estimated to be around 40 per cent of the total aid programme expenditure.
MARCO ANTONIO SUAZO, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Human Development, Women and Civil Societies of Honduras, said Honduras was a developing country that was vulnerable to natural phenomena, to the forces of globalization, and to the crushing weight of external debt. Steps had been taken to enhance the social conditions of Honduras's citizens, including legislation to protect vulnerable groups, advance women's rights, equalize opportunity, and prevent the spread of AIDS. Despite its achievements, Honduras suffered from the negative impacts of globalization, which combined with its external debt posed serious problems for lifting most of the country's citizens out of poverty. Hurricane Mitch had added a crushing blow -- recovery from the storm would take years, especially in terms of rebuilding infrastructure. Honduras appealed to industrial countries to expand aid and debt relief to countries damaged by Hurricane Mitch, so that further resources could be dedicated to recovery and social advancement.
Programmes and projects had been launched to improve education in Honduras, to improve housing, and to strengthen families, Mr. Suazo said. There was a firm resolve on the part of the Government to provide each citizen with basic services. Although the targets set in Copenhagen had not been reached, it had to be understood that not all countries had begun from the same level of economic development or the same level of resources. Greater official development aid should be forthcoming if globalization was to have a human face.
CARLOS SANTOS, Permanent Secretary and Chief Executive Officer, Ministry of Human Development, Women and Civil Society of Belize, said his Government saw social equity as one of the most critical elements of sustainable development and had, since the Copenhagen Summit, worked actively towards creating the necessary policies and mechanisms that reflected that new development approach. Social development had been prioritized and that development meant not only improvements in the traditional economic indicators, but also in the standard of living and the enhancement of the quality of life of all the people. Belize had taken its commitment seriously and had, over the last five years, focused its attention on the three core issues addressed in the Copenhagen Declaration.
Belize had remained engaged in forwarding the agenda of social development and had developed a national poverty-eliminating strategy and action plan. That plan spelled out in the integrated manner the range of policies and activities to be undertaken to eliminate poverty. The plan focused on economic empowerment of individuals and communities rather than welfare; it called for health reform, education reform, land administration reform, social security reform, literacy, and the building of democracy and local governance. Even while the plan was being developed, the Government had wasted no time in beginning to implement some of those activities. The Government of Belize was resolute in its commitment to eradicate poverty and remained convinced that the test of a country's progress was not just whether it added more to the abundance of those who had, but whether it provided enough opportunities to those who had too little.
HIWET ZEMICHAEL, Director-General of Social Affairs in the Ministry of Labour and Human Welfare of Eritrea, said when Eritrea emerged as Africa's youngest sovereign State in 1993, it had inherited tremendous social and economic problems. Decades of foreign occupation, neglect and war had made their impacts on all segments of Eritrean society and on all levels of national development. The economic, social, and infrastructural standards and other common indicators of development levels suggested that national building had to start from scratch. Eritrea believed that sustainable development could only be achieved with the development of the Eritrean person. The development of human resources virtually depended on education and training -- with education being made a priority. Since independence, the Government's vision of a new Eritrea focused on creating a modern, market-oriented economy, with a leading role for the private sector. This was an overriding development objective. To achieve this objective, the Government had developed an integrated national development plan whose major components included developing human resources with education; promoting the private sector; developing infrastructure; and restoration and protection of the environment.
Macro and sectoral policies were formulated to respond to present and future needs. These were intended to serve fundamental principles which included the maintenance of national unity, the reassurance of active participation of the population, the recognition of the decisive role of the human factor in working towards the prevalence of social justice, internal dynamism and effective governance. Although the level of social development in Eritrea today was still comparatively low, a great deal had been achieved in education, especially in building school facilities and making education accessible to children in their own mother tongue. The same could be said about the health sector. Other sectors, particularly infrastructure, including road construction and communication, had attained the minimum standards in terms of the services required for economic takeoff. These improvements were most noticeable in the countryside.
DANZANNAROV BOLDBAATAR, Chairperson of the Delegation of Mongolia, said the peaceful advancement of humanity could no longer be sustained in a world impregnated by abject poverty, external debt burdens, growing technological and economic gaps, widespread hunger and malnutrition, violence and discrimination, and drugs and infectious diseases. Mongolia had been grappling with transition issues for 10 years; market reforms had been boldly accelerated by liberalization of trade and prices, large-scale privatization, and other measures. The Government had introduced, among other things, a National Unemployment Reduction Programme, a National Poverty Alleviation Programme, a National Plan of Action for the Advancement of Women, and a National Programme for Support of Household Livelihood Capacity. Unemployment benefits and tuition expenses for retraining the jobless had been introduced as part of a social safety net.
Surveys in 1995 and 1998 showed that because of an increase in the workforce resulting from population growth, the rate of employment had been dropping, breeding poverty; much still needed to be done and the Government was mobilizing all possible means and resources. Last month a seminar supported by UNDP and the Swedish International Development Agency had been held in Mongolia on emerging concepts of human security, and the importance of employment and health had been emphasized. Mongolia was confident the Special Session would take an important step towards enhancing world social development.
OLUSEGUN OBASANJO, President and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, said that in Copenhagen, the international community had attempted to place people at the centre of development. It was a unique opportunity for the international community to open a new chapter of cooperation in the implementation of the social development agenda. No one should deny that there had been significant social and economic gains in the last few decades. Life expectancy in developing countries had increased from 46 to 64 years, and infant mortality had dropped by 50 per cent. At the same time, there was a more than 80 per cent increase in the proportion of children enrolled in primary school. And access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation had doubled.
But the picture was not as rosy as it seemed. The progress was not all universal, and in many instances, things had gotten worse. A large portion of humanity still remained desperately poor, and in the words of the Secretary General, extreme poverty was an affront to common humanity. It made other problems worse. Despite many governments in developing countries making poverty alleviation goals, poverty in many countries was on the increase. Its eradication therefore remained the greatest challenge facing most developing countries. Central to poverty alleviation was the issue of employment, a sector which had basically stagnated in most developing countries. Governments were constrained by policies of fiscal and budgetary austerity which were imposed on them by the international financial institutions. These imposed austerity measures left governments with few resources to initiate job creating programmes that would lead to employment for youths in the productive sector of the economy. Although a lot had been achieved in the field of human health, and life expectancy had increased especially in developed countries, a recent report by the World Health Organization indicated that the poor were disproportionately affected by diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, and others. More than 95 per cent of HIV infections were in developing countries, with about 70 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa, while 300 million persons were affected by malaria annually.
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