Press Releases

    GA/SHC/3816
    6 October 2005

    Delegates Stress Need for Greater Focus on Concerns of Disabled Persons, Youth, Elderly, as Third Committee Concludes Debate on Social Issues

    NEW YORK, 5 October (UN Headquarters) -- Marginalized groups deserved greater focus in strategies and programmes to achieve the millennium targets, if the world was to truly foster social integration for all its citizens, representatives told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today as it concluded its debate on social development.

    Persons with disabilities and their support organizations had been an invisible minority for far too long, both at the national and international levels, and even within the United Nations system, said Denmark's representative, noting that disabled people lagged well behind the average standard of living that even poor non-disabled persons enjoyed.  While Member States had committed themselves to meet the Millennium Development Goals, they could not do so without giving particular attention to the disabled, the group most in need of socio-economic development. An equal share of growth in the gross national product (GNP) was not enough since disabled people needed much more compensation before they obtained equal economic opportunities.  Preferential treatment should, therefore, be a natural part of all development programmes as should mainstreaming the disability dimension into any major international framework.

    Myanmar was taking that counsel to heart.  For example, it was drafting an update to its 1958 Disabled Person's Employment Act to focus more closely on health care, education and work opportunities for disabled persons, Myanmar's representative told the Committee.  The country's social welfare policy aimed to give equal opportunity to other vulnerable sectors -- including children, youth and women, he said, noting that the Declaration on the tenth anniversary of the World Summit for Social Development reaffirmed the need for poverty-alleviation programmes that fostered social integration through equal opportunity for marginalized groups.

    Iran's representative expressed hope that by showing more flexibility and political will, States would be able to finalize the process of drafting a legally binding instrument to promote and protect the rights of disabled persons.  Encouraging civil society -- particularly non-governmental organizations and the private sector -- to invest in youth education, health and other needs should also be on the agenda of all Governments.  If Member States expected youth to observe important and sacred principles in society, they had to provide appropriate grounds for their growing up.  The same held true for the world's burgeoning population of older persons.  As people lived longer, the need to protect and provide for them had increased.

    Qatar's representative agreed, noting that her country's Family Council was preparing a strategy on ageing, based on the objectives of the Doha Declaration on Ageing. According to a report published last month, Qatar's human development indexes revealed record achievements in that regard.  Similarly, Qatar gave the well-being of the family top priority and had adopted a law that sought to involve society as a whole in family development.  The country's vision of social integration and development overall included extending good health care and education to its own citizens, as well as people throughout the developing world.  It had earmarked $8 billion for a health-care fund and an education fund for that purpose.

    Representatives of Cambodia, United Arab Emirates, Uganda, Kenya, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Congo, Ethiopia, Suriname, India and Kazakhstan also made statements.

    Also speaking was a representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

    The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Friday, 7 October, to begin its discussion of international drug control, crime prevention and criminal justice.

    Background

    The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to conclude its general discussion of social development. For background information, please see Press Releases GA/SHC/3814 of 3 October and GA/SHC/3815 of 4 October.

    Statements

    JANUS TARP (Denmark) said that the disability movement was looking forward to the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals with great expectations.  Persons with disabilities and their organizations had been an invisible minority for far too long, both at the national and international levels, and even within the United Nations system.  While Member States had committed themselves to fulfil the millennium targets, that aim would not be achieved if the most vulnerable group of all -- persons with disabilities -- was not included.  One of the key measures to be applied was mainstreaming the disability dimension into any major international framework.

    Programmes aimed at fulfilling the millennium targets should not only include, but should also have a special focus on, people with disabilities as one of the segments of the population most in need of improvement in economic and social development, he continued.  Persons with disabilities were lagging far behind the average standard of living, which even poor non-disabled persons enjoyed.  An equal share of growth in the gross national product (GNP) was, therefore, not enough for persons with disabilities, as they needed much more compensation before they obtained equal economic opportunities.  Preferential treatment of persons with disabilities should, therefore, be a natural part of all development programmes and should also be given special attention in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals.  He added that the organizations of disabled persons participated in the ongoing negotiations with great optimism.

    CHEM WIDHYA (Cambodia) said that while it was encouraging to see that a great deal of emphasis was still placed on the issues of social development, the fact remained that the dreadful and inhumane impacts of poverty were still experienced by the majority of the world's population.  Although poverty could be easily regarded as a problem of disproportionate distribution of wealth among members of societies, cohesive and consistent multi-layered approaches must be devised and implemented by Governments and international organizations to combat such malady successfully.  Efforts should embrace a great array of sectors, such as sustainable development, social integration, education and health, and participation by private sectors and civil societies, among others.

    Providing an overview of his Government's efforts to combat poverty, HIV/AIDS, and to improve employment in Cambodia, he said that for progress and development to be sustained, active involvement from all sectors was necessary.  Furthermore, it was clear that the eradication of poverty continued to require greater and wider access to economic opportunities both for the people within nations and for nations within the international community.  National efforts in poverty eradication would not be sufficient, or would even fail, if the international environment was not conducive to the development process.  The questions of balancing economic efficiency and social integration, improving interaction between the State and society, and among various groups of the society were the core issues for a broad-based concept of sustainable social development.  Therefore, it was the responsibility of all Member States to ensure that they would succeed in efforts to provide a better future for generations to come.

    MARIAM AL-SHAMISI (United Arab Emirates) supported the outcomes and recommendations of United Nations conferences and summits on social development and reaffirmed the importance of strengthening international efforts to implement those outcomes.  The United Arab Emirates had made remarkable progress in most social development indices and was ranked forty-first in the human development index of the 2005 United Nations Human Development Report, up from forty-sixth the previous year.  That progress was due to rising per capita income, increased Government spending on education and health services, greater women's participation in the work force, lower rates of post-partum and infant mortality, and the elimination of dangerous diseases.

    Human resource development and social welfare for all, particularly youth, the handicapped and the elderly, was a top priority for the United Arab Emirates, she continued, and was the basis for national development policies of free basic education and job creation programmes.  The nation's leaders also recognized the importance of volunteerism to enhance social solidarity and thus contribute to social development.  In that regard, they had supported volunteer and humanitarian organizations through legislation governing their public work and services.  Volunteer groups had contributed generously to social welfare services and national development programmes.  Such contributions accounted for 87 per cent of the total earnings of non-governmental social welfare groups.

    CATHERINE OTITI (Uganda) said her delegation welcomed the Secretary-General's reports on social development issues, which reminded all of the urgency to implement the Millennium Development Goals, so that an ideal world for all became a reality.  She welcomed, in particular, the strong emphasis by the Secretary-General on rural development as a prerequisite for overall national development and a mitigating factor against urban and rural poverty, as well as large-scale migration.  Volunteerism provided a valuable contribution to the efforts of nations to improve the well-being of all.  If youth were to be utilized in national poverty-alleviation efforts, universal primary education, including adequate teacher training, was indispensable.  In tandem with education for all, it was crucial that poverty eradication strategies were implemented effectively by Governments with the support of development partners, particularly regarding increased official development assistance (ODA).

    Turning to the issue of ageing, she said it was a process that no one was exempt from, and much remained to be done to address the needs of older persons.  She encouraged United Nations agencies and other stakeholders to coordinate their intervention so that optimum gains were realized.  Regarding disability rights, it was important that discourse culminated in the successful implementation of a comprehensive and integral international convention on the protection and promotion of the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities.  Recognizing that the marginalization of disabled persons should be redressed and their viability utilized, she welcomed the cooperation of development partners.  She also expressed hope that the deliberations of the Committee would further propel Member States as they endeavoured to achieve equity, equality, security and dignity.

    U MAUNG WAI (Myanmar) said adequate financing was essential for social development, particularly in developing countries.  The Declaration on the tenth anniversary of the World Summit for Social Development reaffirmed that cooperation was essential to implement the Copenhagen objectives, he said, stressing the importance that developed donor countries create financial mechanisms to equitably solve the developing world's debt crisis, as called for in the Declaration.  The Declaration also reaffirmed the need for poverty-alleviation programmes that fostered social integration through equal opportunity for marginalized sectors and groups.

    Myanmar's national socio-economic development strategies aimed to alleviate poverty, bridge the gap between rich and poor, and create balanced growth in urban and rural areas, he continued, through border area and rural area development schemes and the creation of special development zones throughout the country.  Seventy per cent of Myanmar's population lived in rural regions.  The country's social welfare policy aimed to give equal opportunity to vulnerable groups -- children, youth, women, disabled persons and the handicapped.  A new draft to update the 1958 Disabled Person's Employment Act was being prepared by the Central Law Scrutinizing Committee, and would focus on health care, education, rehabilitation and work opportunities for disabled persons.

    MOSTAFA ALAIE (Iran) said that a lack of adequate human and financial resources for social development continued to hinder planning and implementation of the goals of the World Summit for Social Development and the Millennium Declaration.  In some cases, rapid and unsustained economic growth and liberalizations would aggravate social and cultural problems.  While aged populations were growing, providing protection for older members of societies had added to their responsibilities. Disintegration of the family could be intensified if necessary policies and measures were not in place in pursuing social development goals.  Governments had the primary responsibility in removing all forms of inequality, discrimination, and social disintegration in the society.  The necessities required for social development included strong political will; passing appropriate and comprehensive legislation; access to secured employment with sufficient income; participation of society in decision-making processes and policy implementation; and paying further attention to vulnerable groups in society.

    Encouraging civil society -- particularly non-governmental organizations and the private sector -- to invest in youth education, health and other needs should be on the agenda of all Governments.  If Member States expected youth to observe important and sacred principles in society, they had to provide appropriate grounds for their growing up.  He also expressed hope that by showing more flexibility and political will, States would be able to finalize the process of drafting a legally binding instrument to promote and protect the rights of disabled persons.  There was also an increasing need for further international cooperation to meet the millennium targets by 2015.  No single country could disregard its own responsibility in advancing the causes and materializing the commitments that still were valid and relevant.  Collective actions and further commitments, particularly on the part of developed countries, could reverse trends and bring about prosperity and well-being for all nations, he added.

    THOMAS AMOLO (Kenya) said that, despite significant achievements made since the 1995 Summit on social development issues, many ethical and cultural aspects had not been inculcated smoothly and coherently into the national legislation of Governments.  The outcome of the World Summit on Social Development had not been sufficiently addressed.  Despite implementing strategies to reduce poverty with specific time-bound commitments, Kenya's Government still faced enormous burdens to foster social integration.  Such strategies included a Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper, Economic Recovery Strategy for Wealth and Employment Creation, as well as a Poverty Eradication Commission to coordinate public and private sector initiatives.  The recently launched Millennium Development Goals Needs Assessment and Costing Report indicated that Kenya needed $3.1 billion annually to bridge the funding gap to achieve the millennium targets by 2015, with particular attention to Goal No. 8 focusing on global partnerships.

    Kenya's youth, more than 60 per cent of the country's population, was hardest hit by poverty, he continued.  The Government had financed rural youth development projects, and a Sessional Paper of Youth Policy was awaiting parliamentary debate and approval.  The successful implementation of universal free primary education and enactment of the 2004 Disability Act had reaped social and economic benefits, but had placed a heavy burden on the federal budget.  The Government was also working to increase the retirement age and introduce a universal affordable health-care plan.  Consideration external assistance was necessary to address the resulting financial challenges.

    SAYSONGKHAM PHANOUVONG (Lao People's Democratic Republic) said that while some developments were positive, most poverty-alleviation efforts still faced many obstacles, especially for young people in developing countries.  It had been identified that hunger, poverty, inadequate access to education, gender inequality and the risk for youth in health, drug abuse and delinquency remained complex challenges that the international community needed to address.  To overcome those problems, national governments could not act alone and succeed.  The support and assistance of the international community was a critical factor.  All nations -- developed and developing alike -- should continue to work hard and collectively to promote the cause of young people.

    Since its foundation in 1955, the Lao Youth Union had actively and valiantly take part in the struggle for national independence, he said.  As an active mass organization, the union participated in formulating national youth policy and contributed to numerous efforts in the socio-economic development of the country.  Much had been achieved in the country, but a lot remained to be done.  As a landlocked least developed country, Lao People's Democratic Republic was still facing manifold difficulties and obstacles.  He urged the international community to lend more assistance to his country, especially in the areas of education, health care, information and communication technologies, in order to assist the country in ensuring a better future for its young generation.

    RENÉ NSEMI (Congo) said that 10 years following the Copenhagen Summit, the social situation was marked by a persistent socio-economic divide between wealthy and developing countries.  The progress made towards achieving the aims and objectives of the Summit had been halting.  Furthermore, while the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action remained the basic framework for the promotion of the social development of all, additional resources and efforts were necessary to meet those goals.  His delegation particularly agreed with the final declaration, which reaffirmed the link between respect for the objectives of Copenhagen and the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals, as well as the need to step up international cooperation.  Member States must resolve to implement the commitments in the Copenhagen Declaration and the Millennium Summit, as well as those made at other occasions.

    Highlighting his country's efforts to deal with such social development issues as youth and HIV/AIDS, he said the Congo was unable to meet the challenges that it faced on its own.  Stronger international cooperation was indispensable, and he welcomed the strengthening of commitments made by developed countries, in particular, an increase in ODA and the cancellation of the debt of 18 highly indebted countries, many of which were in Africa.  He also encouraged the implementation of financial objectives for developing countries.  The objectives of the World Summit for Social Development would only be accomplished if the international community recognized the interdependence of its nature and if it implemented all the commitments made at the Millennium Summit and other conferences, he added.

    FESSEHA TESFU (Ethiopia), aligning himself with the statement on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, said the advances in social development witnessed at the global level had not fully materialized in sub-Saharan Africa, where poverty had continued to rise and over one third of the population was undernourished.  There had been a net addition of more than 63 million people to the ranks of the poor, and unemployment and underemployment were extremely high, affecting 40 per cent of the labour force.  The progress in democratization and improvement in governance had led to some progress in social integration, but conflict, instability, drought and HIV/AIDS continued to wreak havoc.  The commitment made by world leaders at Copenhagen to accelerate the economic, social and human development of Africa had yet to be fulfilled.

    His own country had taken important steps to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, among other things, through adoption of the Sustainable Development and Poverty Reduction Programme, he said.  It had also enhanced efforts to improve social integration through the civil service and justice system reform.  Although achieving social development was primarily the responsibility of national governments, international cooperation was also imperative.  Ethiopia had done its share to bring about social development through adoption and implementation of appropriate policies, but needed assistance from the international community to scale up progress.  The needs assessment had shown that the ODA level should reach $109 per capita in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.  The current level stood at $13 ODA per capita.

    EWALD LIMON (Suriname) said the right to development was a basic human right, and development needed to be human centred and sustainable.  He supported strengthening the links between the goals set at Copenhagen and during the Millennium Summit.  However, he warned that broad concepts of social development affirmed by world leaders in Copenhagen had gradually become less comprehensive and severely weakened in global policymaking, as stated by the Secretary-General in his report on follow-up to implementation of the outcome of the World Summit on Social Development.  Lack of an enabling environment remained a major challenge and had led to a decline in the focus on social development.  Social development depended on inclusiveness and participation of all stakeholders and non-State actors and on socio-economic policy integration.

    Suriname had set up a national social security system to fight poverty, particularly among disadvantaged groups such as the elderly, youth, disabled persons and people with low incomes, he continued.  It was implementing health sector reform and low-income shelter programmes.  Further, it had devised a strategy to increase cooperation with the private sector and non-governmental organization to help increase income among vulnerable groups.  Productive employment and targeted training were essential to break poverty's vicious cycle.  Suriname had set up vocational training facilities for dropouts and capacity-building programmes for small entrepreneurs.

    M.S. GILL (India) said that continued implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and of the twenty-fourth special session was crucial to ensure a coherent, people-centred approach to development.  That required the integration of economic and social policies, as well as a new approach to relations between the public and private spheres.  His Government believed that social integration policies should widen public participation in decision-making by ensuring access to information to citizens and by establishing mechanisms for reviewing government policies.  India was also concerned about the uneven progress in achievement of the Summit's main goals, including the reduction of poverty and elimination of extreme poverty, and the creation of full employment and integration into stable, safe and just societies.  The only means to address those problems was through capacity-building in developing countries, and international cooperation continued to be a key element for that.

    The developmental models and strategies pursued by India since independence had had a profound effect in the social sector, as measured in indicators such as alleviation of poverty, demographics, education and health, he said.  His Government had set in motion effective measures to seek improvement in the quality of life through increasing the availability of public services and developing and expanding economic and social opportunities, including those for productive and gainful employment.  His Government also endorsed the recommendations of the Secretary-General's report on Cooperatives in Social Development relating to the role of cooperatives in poverty reduction, the need for broadening the outreach of cooperatives, particularly in rural areas, and the need to improve access to technology for cooperatives and provide a political, social and economic-enabling environment for cooperatives.  The work of United Nations agencies and civil society in providing support to the efforts of national governments in caring for ageing populations was extremely important, as was the early conclusion of the ongoing negotiations for a convention on disabled persons.

    BARLYBAI SADYKOV (Kazakhstan) said that the problems of social development and development, in general, were still on the agenda, and the economic and social indicators of some countries had even worsened.  People were still starving and dying of preventable diseases, as well as lack of opportunity to receive even elementary education.  Member States were still responsible for a balanced development of the world, irrespective of the level of their own economic development.  Economically advanced countries had to honour their obligation to increase the level of international assistance, whereas the developing and least developed countries should utilize assistance provided to them as efficiently as possible.

    His Government had been consistently implementing the decisions taken at the Copenhagen, Madrid and other international conferences on social development, and remained committed to a timely attainment of the Millennium Development Goals.  A national strategy of social development was being successfully implemented, and the 2005 Millennium Development Goals Report indicated that Kazakhstan had already achieved or was on the way to achieving those goals.  The Outcome Document of the Summit, as well as speaker after speaker during the general debate, had emphasized that social development, improved well-being of the population, poverty elimination and job creation were key elements of collective security and the fight against terrorism.  In that context, it was very important for Member States and specialized United Nations agencies to ensure joint and coordinated action, as well as the implementation of their obligations regarding the Millennium Development Goals and other basic documents on social development.

    Ms. AL-HAJIRI (Qatar) said the right to development was a human right and was essential for social development and for eliminating conflicts in many parts of the world.  Her country had worked to create a conducive climate for socio-economic development through several strategies and programmes.  Also, Qatar gave the well-being of the family top priority and had adopted a law that sought to involve society as a whole in this goal. Her Government cooperated with many organizations to implement social development strategies, particularly among youth, disabled persons and other marginalized groups.

    The Family Council was preparing a strategy on ageing, based on the objectives of the Doha Declaration on Ageing, she continued.  According to a report published last month, Qatar's human development indexes revealed record achievements in that regard.  The country's vision included extending good health care and education to people throughout the developing world, and Qatar was setting up a health-care and an education fund, capitalized at $8 billion, for Qatar and other developing countries.  In addition, it had provided financial assistance to other funds to reduce poverty worldwide and was trying to help other nations minimize the negative effects of globalization worldwide.

    FLORENCE CHENOWETH, Director of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Liaison Office with the United Nations, said that the World Summit for Social Development made important gains in reshaping both national and international development policies, as well as in institutions and resources to promote more equitable and people-centred sustainable development.  During the 10 years that had elapsed since the Copenhagen Summit, the nature of development challenges had changed.  Today, problems such the HIV/AIDS pandemic, demographic ageing, or persistent gender inequality jeopardized the development of more low-income countries than was the case a decade ago.  In their consequences, those problems represented a major threat to social development, economic growth and political stability on a worldwide scale.  Her organization, with its global mandate of improving food security and encouraging sustainable rural development, was fully aware that social issues needed to be taken into account when formulating and implementing development strategies.

    The main conclusion emerging from FAO's work was that rural policy interventions must pay close attention to many social factors, ranging from demographic trends and the social impacts of human diseases, to the socially conditioned disparities and inequalities between men and women. Her organization's experience indicated that today's development challenges had less to do with isolated problems than with how societies were able to organize themselves to cope with the multifaceted processes of social and economic change they were undergoing.  To achieve a truly equitable social development, countries needed to comprehend their social and economic situation, develop greater sensitivity to ongoing global developments, recognize the real needs of their people, and implement effective solutions to respond to those needs.  She added that the battle for a more equitable social development would be won only when societies made full use of their human resource potential, when women and men had equal access to productive resources, when they could develop and adapt their knowledge and experience, and when they could benefit from technical and financial support, as well as good governance and the rule of law.

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