Press Releases

    SOC/4668
    15 February 2005

    Speakers Call for Targeted Action against Poverty, Unemployment, Social Exclusion, As Social Development Commission Concludes High-Level Discussion

    Morning Panel Highlights Need for Commitment to World Programme of Action for Youth

    NEW YORK, 14 February (UN Headquarters) -- With entire social groups across vast regions trapped in dire poverty,  the only way to achieve the lofty goals of the 1995 World Summit for Social Development was through a mix of macroeconomic policies that included social development goals and targeted packages to address poverty, unemployment and social exclusion, the Commission for Social Development was told today, as it concluded its high-level discussion.

    Noting that a “one-size-fits-all” policy to advance social development was impossible, the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) said that 10 years after the landmark Copenhagen Declaration, the situation of poverty, employment and social integration continued to be marked by many negative trends. Along with countries in sub-Saharan Africa facing continued food insecurity and a rise in extreme poverty, many others, especially those constrained by adverse geographical conditions, were “tied in poverty traps”. Unstable socio-economic political environments and military conflicts in the Middle East and Africa had hindered the adoption of socially friendly policies and diverted resources from development to the military and police.

    Describing the devastating effect of the recent Indian Ocean tsunami, the Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) said the massive earthquake and resulting tsunami in December 2004 had devastated lives of communities of 11 Indian Ocean nations, from Indonesia to Somalia. Some 280,000 people were presumed dead, and more than 1 million had been displaced. In terms of social impacts, poverty would worsen in the more severely affected places. With 62 per cent of the Sri Lanka’s fishing fleet out of action, the livelihood of those people, already vulnerable before the tsunami, could not simply be rebuilt. Among other affected groups, the number of people with disabilities had increased by some 20 per cent as a result of the disaster. Migrant workers were also at risk, and the number of both documented and undocumented migrants from Myanmar killed in Thailand was unknown.

    Noting that human mobility was now one of the defining features of the globalized world, the Permanent Observer for the International Organization for Migration said that, since Copenhagen, the number of international migrants worldwide had reached some 185 million -- an increase of some 60 million in 10 years. While many objectives set forth a decade ago remained the goals of today, the collective appreciation for their relevance and complexity had sharpened, along with the recognition that migration was an essential, inevitable and potentially beneficial component of the economic and social life of every State and every region.

    Taking up the situation of social groups this morning, the Commission for Social Development heard a panel presentation entitled, “Working with Young People on Common Goals”. Opening the panel, Johan Scholvinck, Director of the Division for Social Policy and Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, noted that with almost half of the world’s population 24 years old or younger, renewed commitment to the World Programme of Action for Youth was needed. When the World Programme had been adopted in 1995, there had been 10 priority issues. Five new issues had since been added, including globalization, information and communication technologies and HIV/AIDS. With some 88 million young people unemployed and 12 million with HIV/AIDS, youth must be seen as active partners in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

    Other panellists included Joao Salviano of the European Youth Forum; Renata Florentino of Brazil Youth Voices; and Guido Schmidt-Traub, Policy Adviser to the Millennium Project.

    Participating in the general discussion that followed were the representatives of Indonesia, Cuba, Jamaica, Luxembourg (on behalf of the European Union), South Africa, Senegal, Namibia and the Dominican Republic.

    Presenting her report to the Commission this morning, the Commission’s Special Rapporteur on Disability, Sheikha Hissa Al-Thani, called on governments to redouble their efforts to meet the needs of persons with disabilities, including by providing adequate health-care services and taking serious measures, at a political level, to guarantee education and general participation in society to persons with disabilities. With more than 80 per cent of the global population of persons with disabilities living in the developing countries, poverty, debt and limited resources had impeded improvement.

    Introducing related reports of the Secretary-General this morning, Mr. Scholvinck noted that social integration remained an elusive process, difficult to achieve in many national contexts. Major efforts aimed at a better understanding of the needs and particularities of social groups were needed to build more coherent and socially cohesive societies.

    Speaking in the high-level discussion this afternoon were the representatives of Myanmar, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iraq, Cameroon and the Philippines.

    Representatives of the International Labour Organization (ILO), World Bank and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) also spoke.

    The Permanent Observer for the Sovereign Military Order of Malta also made a statement, as did representatives of the ATD Fourth World, International Chamber of Commerce/International Organization of Employers, International Council on Social Welfare, International Federation of Associations of Elderly, the NGO Committee on Human Settlements, and the Triglav Circle.

    This afternoon, the Commission also began its general discussion of the review of relevant United Nations plans and programmes of action pertaining to the situation of social groups.

    Participating in that discussion were the representatives of Luxembourg (on behalf of the European Union and associated States), Switzerland, China, Japan, Argentina and Indonesia.

    The Commission will meet again tomorrow, 15 February, at 10 a.m. to continue its work.

    Background

    The Commission for Social Development met today to conclude its high-level discussion and to begin its general discussion and consideration of relevant United Nations plans and programmes of action pertaining to the situation of social groups. [For background information on the forty-third session, see Press Release SOC/4658 dated 3 February 2005.]

    Introduction of Reports

    JOHAN SCHÖLVINCK, Director, Division for Social Policy and Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introduced reports of the Secretary-General on youth and older persons. He also forwarded the report of the Special Rapporteur on Disability of the Commission for Social Development on monitoring the implementation of the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities for the period 2003-2005. The Special Rapporteur’s mandate, he added, would end in 2005.

    Regarding the findings of the World Youth Report 2005 (contained in document A/60/61-E/2005/7), he said the report provided an overview of the global situation of young people on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the adoption of the World Programme of Action for Youth to the year 2000 and beyond. Young people, defined as persons between the ages of 15 and 24, currently comprised about one fifth of the total world population, or about 1.2 billion people. The report demonstrated how governments responded in practical ways to challenges old and new in the area since the adoption of the World Programme of Action. With over 200 million youth living in poverty, 130 million illiterate, 88 million unemployed and 10 million living with HIV/AIDS, the case for a renewed commitment to the goals of the World Programme was abundantly clear.

    He said the World Youth Report 2005 demonstrated that, while some progress had been achieved in a number of priority areas, the current generation of young people was facing even more complex challenges compared to the previous generation. At the same time, there was a need to develop a set of verifiable indicators, some of which could be drawn from the Millennium Development Goals. Stressing the growing recognition of the importance of youth participation in decision-making and policy development, he said effective youth participation often required changes in how societies perceived young people. Young people must have their own voice, as well as the opportunity to constructively express their views.

    Turning to the report on the follow-up to the Second World Assembly on Ageing, he said that report highlighted the progress made and obstacles encountered by the United Nations system in the implementation of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing, adopted in 2002. The report also contained information on implementation efforts by major international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working in the field of ageing. While national and international policy debate had moved forward considerably since the adoption of the Madrid Plan, because of the limited human and financial resources devoted to the promotion of the social inclusion of older persons, only slow progress had been achieved. The report contained several recommendations to remedy the situation, stressing the need for additional capacity-building at the national level and calling for support to the United Nations Trust Fund on Ageing.

    Social integration remained an elusive process, difficult to achieve in many national contexts, he said. Major efforts aimed at a better understanding of the needs and particularities of social groups were needed to build more coherent and socially cohesive societies.

    SHEIKA HISSA AL-THANI, Special Rapporteur on Disability of the Commission, presented her follow-up report on heightening awareness of the needs of persons with disabilities. The first chapter was on the work programme, and the second was on challenges facing persons with disabilities and efforts at the local and governmental levels to address them. The work programme throughout 2004 had covered many activities, including a dialogue with governments and more than 150 organizations in Latin America, Canada and the United States, Europe and elsewhere, in the framework of heightening awareness. There had also been a survey on international action and various studies, making it possible to follow the situation of those persons at international, regional and national levels.

    Drawing attention to the several persistent challenges, she cited a lack of statistics and data on the degree and nature of the needs of persons with disabilities. That was one of the most significant challenges undermining attempts to define policies. In addition, many societies were prejudiced towards people with disabilities, evoking negative images and making the decade-old Standard Rules difficult to implement. With more than 80 per cent of the global population of persons with disabilities living in the developing countries, poverty, debt and limited resources also impeded improvement. Also, persons with disabilities were marginalized by international organizations. The health care of persons with disabilities was another problem. Medical research had indicated that most such situations could be improved with improved nutrition during pregnancy and after birth. A compulsory medical exam prior to marriage would also help.

    War crimes and internal conflicts were another problem, she said. Those conflicts increased the number of persons with disabilities and delayed services and assistance that could improve their situation. The commitment and political will of States also seemed to be weakening. Adoption of the Standard Rules had been a moral and political obligation for the States that had adopted them. In industrialized countries, organizations for persons with disabilities formed a powerful political lobby, but in other countries there was no such group to represent the claims of those persons in need and make them a priority of government action. She asked governments to renew their commitment and redouble their efforts to, among other things, provide adequate health-care services and take serious measures, at a political level, to guarantee education and general participation in society to persons with disabilities.

    Panel Discussion on Youth

    The Commission then began a panel discussion entitled, “Working with Young People on Common Goals”. Participating in the discussion were Johan Scholvinck, Director of the Division for Social Policy and Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs; Joao Salviano, bureau member of the European Youth Forum; Renata Florentino of Brazil Youth Voices; and Guido Schmidt-Traub, Policy Adviser to the Millennium Project.

    Mr. SCHÖLVINCK noted that almost half of the world population was 24 years old or younger. Some 85 per cent of young people lived in developing countries. When the World Programme of Action for Youth had been adopted in 1995, there had been 10 priority issues, including education, employment, hunger and poverty, health issues, the environment, drug abuse, delinquency, leisure, girls and young women and participation in decision-making. They had been clustered into three groups, namely, youth in global economy, youth in civil society and youth at risk.

    Regarding the first cluster, he said half a billion young people lived on less than $2 a day. The only way to cope with poverty was to find work, including through forced entrepreneurship or migration. There was some good news -- today’s youth were among the best educated. The percentage of primary school completion was higher than ever, with four out of five eligible youth enrolled at the primary education level. That was a major achievement. However, a large number of young people were not in school, especially girls. About 88 million young people were out of work and the number was increasing; youth accounted for almost half of the world’s unemployed.

    On youth in civil society, he said today’s youth were showing a special concern for environment. Young people were the driving force behind the environmental movement. Young people needed to participate in decisions that actually affected them. Using new technologies, young people were increasingly organizing themselves into networks. Concerning youth at risk, he listed several concerns, including reproductive health risks and behavioural risks, including accidental deaths from alcohol and drugs. Increasing numbers of young people were using drugs, especially synthetic drugs. On girls and young women, concerns included access to reproductive health services, violence against women, sexual abuse and gender based stereotyping.

    Since 1995, he explained that five new issues had been added, including globalization, information and communication technology (ICT), HIV/AIDS, youth and conflict prevention and intergenerational relations. While economic globalization was benefiting educated youth, it was also hurting those that were not well educated. Globalization allowed for easier connections among youth. Local issues were becoming global issues, described by the term “glocalization”. On HIV/AIDS, he said some 12 million young men and women lived with AIDS, with 5,000 to 6,000 new infections each day. Women were increasingly at risk. Ninety-five per cent of infections were from unsafe sex.

    Concluding, he said the report contained twelve findings, including the need for renewed commitment to youth and the recognition that youth can be partners in achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Other findings related to: the convergence of youth cultures through globalization; urbanization; ICTs and the media; the fact that youth policy was driven by negative stereotypes; the need to invest in youth starting with children; and the strong need to scale up investments in youth. Governments were encouraged to implement integrated youth strategies. Governments should also continuously review their youth policy.

    Mr. SALVIANO, who represented the European Youth forum at the recent consultative meeting in Portugal on the 10-year review of the World Programme of Action for Youth, held in Coimbra, Portugal, from 31 January to 3 February, summarized the discussion of youth representatives on the themes: “Youth in the Global Economy”; “Youth in Civil Society”; and “Youth at Risk”. He also provided examples of ways in which the work of national youth councils and international youth organizations could contribute to the implementation of both the World Programme of Action for Youth and the Millennium Development Goals.

    He said that that meeting had been able to identify some of the voids in the World Programme of Action for Youth, while formulating the necessary solutions for the future. Good discussions had enabled a better understanding of the United Nations’ role and capacity, while also identifying the role of all of the actors involved, from national governments to youth organizations. Various analyses had emerged, as did a clear consensus that, 10 years later, much remained to be done. The list of problems to be tackled continued “to pile up”, and could only be overcome by a willingness of all to implement the World Programme for Youth. Youth groups had committed themselves to playing an even more active role in the coming years, including monitoring implementation by providing the tools needed to measure achievements. All parties were responsible for meeting commitments by complementing each other’s efforts, he stressed.

    Ms. FLORENTINO of Brazil Youth Voices, who had represented Interagir Brazil at the consultative meeting on youth and the implementation of the World Programme of Action and the Millennium Development Goals in New York, said Interagir was also collaborating with Brazil’s Government on the 10-year review of the World Programme of Action for Youth. She recently returned from the World Social Forum, held in Porto Alegre, Brazil, where she had held several workshops on the toolkit developed by the United Nations to assist young people in evaluating national youth policy, entitled “Making Commitments Matter”.

    Following her power-point presentation today, Ms. Florentino identified, among other things, pockets of youth unemployment around the world. She had come today to say that making and implementing policy was possible. She invited governments, youth organizations, the private sector and the United Nations system to “talk on a common agenda”, not just of youth issues, but of development. She truly believed that youth was one of the most important development partners.

    Mr. SCHMIDT-TRAUB noted that the Millennium Development Goals were basically youth development goals. While only one Goal specifically mentioned youth, they could not be achieved without substantially improving the plight of youth. Halving poverty could not be achieved unless the situation of youth changed dramatically. The targets and strategies for youth fit directly into the Millennium Development Goal agenda. The Millennium Project’s report, which had recently been submitted to the Secretary-General, explained that the basic shortfall in those countries not on track was a lack of public investments in basic infrastructure, services and environmental management. Among the key recommendations related to youth was the very important focus on education. Lack of access to energy services and good transportation acted as the main obstacles to school attendance. Health was intricately linked to youth needs. Investments in youth nutrition were also critical. Other issues included access to basic environmental services, such as water and sanitation.

    Continuing, he said the report called on countries to adopt poverty-reduction strategies that were broad in scope and bold in action. Civil society had a critical role in that regard. The process needed to be empowered by the necessary resources. In most of the countries that were most off track, monitoring mechanisms required major investments. It was important to start thinking operationally, namely, how investments in infrastructure could be planned and executed. He urged all delegations to make 2005 a breakthrough year for the Millennium Development Goals.

    When the floor was opened for discussion, delegations asked the panel to identify priority actions that governments could take to address the needs of youth, particularly in light of the Millennium Development Goals.

    On the five new themes on the youth agenda, another speaker stressed the need for youth programmes to include not only youth and conflict, but also youth and humanitarian emergencies. The issue of natural disasters and their impact on youth was extremely relevant. The disastrous example of the recent tsunami on young people was a case in point. On the issue of globalization, he also asked the panel to address the issue of youth and the media, noting that the media often had a distorting factor for youth. Certain types of consumption were simply unaffordable for many young people. He also asked for information on the way in which indicators would be decided upon, in terms of action both at the national and international level.

    Responding to the comments made by Cuba’s representative, Mr. SCHÖLVINCK said that he had been quite right that universalizing culture was not necessarily a positive development, but that was perhaps a fact of life. The media’s role was undeniable, and it should be possible to get the message across. In response to another question, he said data was not disaggregated by age or sex in many countries, so it was difficult to assess youth’s progress there, including in education, health and poverty eradication. Within the Millennium Project, various groups were dealing with the question of indicators.

    Mr. SCHMIDT-TRAUB said it was important to maintain a close focus on the outcomes of the major international conferences. The Millennium Development Goals should not be seen as replacing commitments, but as providing coherence. He also strongly agreed with the need to focus more on the impacts of natural disasters, not just on youth, but on development as a whole, especially in those areas prone to such disasters.

    On the role of the media, he had been struck by the emerging international discussion about development in the international media, not only in the United States, but in Europe and in many developing countries. That had been a first; he could not recall a similar level of discussion, which had showed that the issues being discussed at this session were germane to the lives of many people. Clearly, the media had a significant role to play in advancing development.

    He drew attention to the ongoing process of revising and refining the Millennium Development Goals indicators. The consensus now was not to expand the list, but to place emphasis on national systems of follow-up and monitoring. That was the right path, along with increased investment.

    All slogans about development were wrong, he added. There was no magic bullet to solve the problems of a country, or of youth. Broad-based investments were needed along those different fronts. That was a huge challenge for governments, because that meant mobilizing along the various ministries, but that was what investment in development meant.

    Responding to another question, Ms. FLORENTINO stressed that youth could be partners for development. What was needed to spur employment were campaigns and training and capacity-building.

    Mr. SALVIANO said that governments “should stick together” with youth organizations, as development partners. It was important that they went in the same direction, with a clear agenda and focus. Education was a priority, as that provided young people with the necessary tools with which to develop themselves and become useful actors in society. In terms of employment, the paternalistic approach among the levels of power must be eliminated. Youth did not have the same power as government, but they wanted to be heard and understood. They were not looking for a job in government, or to replace government. They just wanted to be able to “grab the available support”.

    To the question of curbing the media, he said that those who believed in freedom of expression wished to use the media as a tool to promote the message. The media had not ignored youth issues, and that had been important.

    On natural disasters, he said that volunteerism had been critical in the Indian Ocean tsunami-stricken areas, including the remarkable participation of youth and other segments of civil society.

    One representative said that no direct reference had been made to youth in the context of the family. A recent study showed that children and young people with married parents did consistently better than those living with single parents, or parents who were cohabiting, divorced, or step-parenting. That factor was stronger than any other indicator, including race, ethnicity, the neighbourhood, and so forth. In terms of education, children from one-parent families were twice as likely to drop out of school, and in two-parent families youth were less at risk for poverty. She asked the panellists how they would address that.

    Several speakers, recognizing the high rates of youth unemployment, asked the panellists how to best “come to grips” with the problem and have governments ensure that youth were absorbed into the labour market. A number also asked how youth and their organizations could best help governments implement the objectives embodied in the world action programme.

    Senegal’s representative noted that, at the President’s initiative, his Government had employed a 27-year old as Minister for Youth Affairs. To his knowledge, he was the youngest government minister in Africa.

    Another speaker worried that youth’s potential had not been sufficiently tapped by society. Youths were sometimes denied opportunities because they did not have experience, but in most cases it was feared that such a dynamic group might “rock the boat”. Their potential contribution should be better channelled. A related question concerned the importance of government policy on the greater inclusion of youth in governmental decisions.

    Responding, Mr. SCHMIDT-TRAUB said it was essential to implement the “compact” agreed at Monterrey, including on good governance, and aid and not just trade. Information communications technology, likewise, was critical in production and development. Countries without it found it difficult to compete and participate in the global economy. Many needed to increase investment. Information and communications technology was also a critical input in delivering services. For example, it could promote an effective health-care system. So national “ICT” strategies were absolutely critical.

    He said that two themes had been prevalent throughout the discussion, namely, youth unemployment and the contribution of the private sector. The evidence was strong that those nations with high youth unemployment had a high birth rate and low economic growth rates. Youth tended to be the last ones employed and the first ones to lose their jobs. Private-sector involvement could be promoted through good institutions, the rule of law, respect for property rights, and so forth. What was also needed for private-sector development in many countries today was sound infrastructure; without a functioning court, electricity around the clock, and good transportation, it was very difficult to get private-sector development going.

    Among the panellists’ other responses, Mr. SALVIANO said there must be a sustainable way to approach youth employment. There were many things that young people could do. “Just give us the opportunity, and we’ll take it for sure”, he said. He implored delegates to include in their delegations to the General Assembly next fall a youth delegate. “Bring someone who can speak for the young people in your country. Let them discuss and negotiate among other youth delegates the important issues for them”, he said, adding that he was sure they would reach agreement much faster, and in a much more practical way, than the adult delegates, because they did not have the same restraints.

    Responding to another question, he said that young people could create their own jobs, but they needed access to education, housing, credit and so forth. “Provide us with the basic requirements, the basic conditions with which to succeed in life, and we’ll do it”, he stressed.

    Reluctant to delve into the issue of family, a minefield in this “house”, Mr. SCHÖLVINCK said things were not as simple as it might seem. From the age of 10, he had lived with only one parent. There were many ways one could finally reach a successful end point. It was unrealistic to outlaw divorce or out-of-wedlock births, so single-parent families existed, whether or not that was the delegate’s picture of the ideal family. So, rather than judge such families, perhaps it was wise to consider ways to help them.

    Continuation of High-Level Discussion on Implementation of Recommendations of World Summit

    KYI TUN (Myanmar) said that, while the Copenhagen Summit had emphasized the primary responsibility of governments to attain social development goals, it had also recognized that international cooperation had a major role to play in supporting national social development efforts. For developing countries, the debt crisis was one of the main constraints for overall development and development of the social sector. He hoped this year’s review would result in a concrete commitment by the developed donor countries and international financial institutions to find an equitable solution to the problem of the debt crisis. Myanmar’s Government placed great importance on the three core issues outlined at the Summit, namely, poverty eradication, employment and social integration. As an agriculture-based economy, Myanmar had placed greater emphasis on expansion of agricultural production. In that regard, the Government had encouraged farm mechanization and large-scale farming. The expansion of agriculture enabled increased food security, promoted commodity exports and alleviated poverty.

    Myanmar was also implementing a 30-year plan for the period 2001-2031 for rural development, he said. That plan aimed to provide a viable rural water supply and to improve the transportation system. A total of 285 township development affairs committees and 57 town development affairs committees were implementing the plan. To develop its industrial capacity, 26 industrial zones had been established throughout the country. Those industrial zones had created employment opportunities, promoted the viability of the private sector and improved people’s living standards. Microcredit and microfinance could contribute to achieving poverty reduction. Another significant endeavour in poverty eradication was the implementation of the Border Areas and National Races Development Programme, initiated since 1989, and the approval in 1994 of the Master Plan for the Development of Border Areas and National Races

    KIM CHANG GUK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said it was imperative that delegations defined challenges and seek bold measures. The current international political situation was not favourable to the goals of social development. Today, the rights of people to life, existence and development were ruthlessly violated by the imposition of sanctions and aggression in pursuit of unilateral political purposes. The United States’ invasion of a sovereign State based on falsified information constituted an impediment to the international community’s endeavours in social development. An unfair international economic order had failed to produce results in the advancement of social development.  Social development could not be achieved without creating favourable conditions and an enabling environment.

    The international community had to establish a new strategy in conformity with the United Nations Charter and relevant international agreements that attached importance to dialogue and cooperation, he said. Governments were fully responsible for social development, but international organizations within the United Nations system should actively support that effort. The people were authentic masters of social economic development. If every country set forth its own people-centred strategy for social development, it would be possible to fulfil the commitments of the Social Summit. International cooperation should also be promoted. International organizations within the United Nations system should implement without preconditions the commitments agreed upon at Monterrey in 2002.

    His Government made as its primary principle the improvement of its people’s livelihood, he said. They enjoyed their rights at higher levels, without discrimination. There were no social troubles in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, such as unemployment and homelessness. His country had been able to follow the path it had chosen without any social or political agitation amid United States sanctions for more than 60 years. The Government had put forward principles of national independence, peace and patriotism for reunification, which provided a firm foundation for ensuring peace and common security. The Government would do its utmost to improve people’s livelihoods and actively cooperate with the international community in attaining the goals set forth by the Summit.

    SAMIR SHAKIR MAHMOOD SUMAIDAIE (Iraq) said his country had considerable material and human potential, but, for many years, it had suffered the bad management of its resources, through wars and systematic pillaging. That had led to the destruction of its infrastructure. The wars had cost billions of dollars and had caused the death of thousands of innocent people, suffering under a “fascist, bloodthirsty regime”. Iraq’s present situation had become the subject of heightened global attention, particularly as it had taken its first steps towards democracy. The “new Iraq” sought a new moral vision through the adoption of an ethical social development agenda, which respected moral and ethical values and religion, and placed social development at the centre of its development agenda, along with individual and family prosperity and respect for human rights.

    Noting that the international community had committed to providing $32 billion for Iraq’s reconstruction, he said that security problems had delayed that process and had interrupted many development projects. Terrorist operations aimed at individual Iraqis and foreigners had made improved security an enormous challenge in the reconstruction process, as the country strove to put everything in place for the establishment of a truly inclusive political system. The security problems had not put an end to all reconstruction and development efforts, however. Iraq had restarted its oil production, and its exports were now at more than 2 million barrels of oil per day, new legislation had been adopted, the currency had become more stable and the Government was seeking to limit inflation. The economy was the cornerstone of reconstruction and social stability, but energy production was below the level of need, and further investment was needed in that sector. Water remained a central problem, particularly in the area of health. The Government was also seeking to ensure an effective primary health system. It had also set up several new ministries, including for human rights and women.

    CATHERINE BAKANG MBOCK (Cameroon) said her country had spared no pain to implement the commitments it made at Copenhagen, including strengthening social integration, which was the basis for stable social development. Indeed, that remained a top priority, as borne out by the recent reorganization of the Government in December 2004 involving several departments specifically responsible for social issues. At the beginning of the 1980s, Cameroon, like many other countries, had endured the devastating fallout of the international crisis, which had led to an impoverishment of its public coffers. That, in turn, had been exacerbated by the draconian financial measures of the global financial institutions, the consequence of which had been an increase in the number of poor people. All of that had had a very severe negative impact on the living conditions of Cameroon’s people, marked by a drop in incomes and difficulties in gaining access to the most basic social services, such as health and education.

    She said that since then her country, along with its multilateral partners, had pursued an ambitious development policy focused on realization of the individual’s full potential, in line with its poverty-reduction strategy. It had adopted judicial and regulatory measures, promoted food security, and disseminated knowledge about agriculture. Financial instruments had also been set up, including a microproject investment fund and a fishing development mission. Steps had also been taken to speed enrolment of girls in school. The Government was also promoting non-formal education for girls through centres for women’s advancement. Programmes for vulnerable children and orphans had also been launched, in response to the fallout from HIV/AIDS. In that regard, prevention and subsidization of medication were stressed. The country’s overall health policy was aimed at improving citizens’ health in general by making basic and quality health care more readily accessible. Social development remained the “ultimate point and purpose” of any real economic growth.

    BAYANI S. MERCADO (Philippines) said that even with lingering external and structural challenges over the past four years, his country had continued building durable peace and a sound economic framework by implementing policies that, among other things, addressed the most critical threats to macroeconomic stability and social development. It was strengthening human capital by improving basic social services and encouraging broad participation of the wider citizenry, particularly the vulnerable. All that formed the basis of the Philippine’s anti-poverty efforts, which it hoped would help contribute to global goals set at the Millennium Summit, namely, halving the number of people living in extreme poverty by 2015.

    In order to truly achieve the Copenhagen Declaration’s vision of a “society for all”, the Philippines believed that it was essential to not only recognize the rights of the different sectors of society, but to empower them by making them the engines of their own development. That could chiefly come about through job creation and ensuring that programmes were in place to ensure the social integration of vulnerable or disadvantaged groups. While the Philippines targeted depressed areas, integrated the delivery of basic social services and strengthened cooperation with civil society to that end, it also focused many of its socio-economic programmes on protecting the rights of its considerable population of young people and ensuring that they became productive members of society.

    He stressed that finding the resources to cover all those objectives was the Philippine’s constant challenge. The Government realized that more creativity was in order and continued to strive to meet the objectives of the 20/20 Initiative -- a guiding principle that developing countries commit 20 per cent of their budget for basic social services for human development, and donor countries commit 20 per cent of their official development assistance (ODA) to build and buttress those services. He called on the international community to revisit that plan and to explore new ways of mobilizing resources “if only to make certain we meet our targets before 2015”.

    DJANKOU NDJONKOU, International Labour Organization (ILO), delivering a statement on behalf of the ILO Deputy Executive Director, Jane Stewart, noted that 10 years ago the World Summit had sent out a powerful message that the creation of productive and remunerative employment was the most effective means of reducing poverty and overcoming social exclusion. The Summit had taken place at a time when the dominant economic paradigm was that economic growth alone, driven mainly through market forces, could deliver economic prosperity and reduce poverty. The Social Summit had been the first international forum to question that view. The Social Summit had also sent out a strong message that labour markets were different from other markets. Labour was not a commodity, and labour markets relied on human motivations and needs, including the need for security and fairness of treatment.

    By the time of the 2000 special session, it had become clear that with globalization, the ground rules for achieving social goals had been changing rapidly, he said. Pursuing the employment objective in a relatively closed economy was one thing. It was quite another when domestic policies, encompassing fiscal, monetary and exchange rate instruments, were being increasingly dictated by international forces. Incorporating employment into poverty-reduction strategies had not been easy. Decent work was an essential enabling mechanism for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. The ILO was working with policy makers and social partners in many countries to ensure a decent work approach to development. Another challenge was globalization. Despite all of the efforts over the past decade, the global employment situation remained grim. The growing number of natural and man-made crises had a disastrous impact on the employment and the labour market situation. Overcoming that fundamental imbalance in the global labour market was the most pressing issue of the time.

    GIAN LUIGI VALENZA, of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, said it was clear that inequality had remained pervasive since Copenhagen, creating obstacles in attacking poverty’s structural causes and its negative effects on disadvantaged and vulnerable sectors. Malta had acquired a body of knowledge and expertise, not only through its Knights and Dames, but also through its 50 national associations, 40 relief services and several foundations, which had, at their core, several hundred thousand volunteers. The Order of Malta was present in 115 countries, running hundreds of hospitals, medical centres, homes for the elderly and the disabled, and hospices for the terminally ill. The Order had also developed international structures to coordinate its action worldwide, known as ECOM, or the Emergency Corps of the Order of Malta, and Ciomal (fighting leprosy and AIDS).

    He said that, as everyone new, a review signalled a busy time for the international community, as it tried to draw a clear and fair assessment of what had been accomplished. Unfortunately, despite the many achievements, it was not a time for complacency. Despite the outpouring of money and good will, the impact of the terrible natural disaster in South Asia on families, displaced persons, widows, and orphans would remain for a long time to come. And, the impact of HIV/AIDS throughout the world would also be felt for a long time to come. Many young children in parts of Africa would probably never have the chance to call anybody “grandpa” or “grandma” in their lifetime because the life expectancy there was just at 47.

    EDUARDO DORYAN of the World Bank, delivering a statement on behalf of Caroline Kende-Robb, Sector Manager, Social Development, World Bank, said the Bank had been increasingly focusing on some key social development areas in the last 10 years. They included: human capital and service delivery, gender mainstreaming, community-driven development and pro-poor growth and employment generation. Creating an enabling environment for social development was central to the World Bank’s work to fight poverty. Experience had shown that the operational principles of inclusion, cohesion and accountability provided for a foundation for sustainable economic growth and sustainable poverty reduction.

    An important element of the social development strategy was its emphasis on institutions in promoting or constraining development, he said. The Bank believed that inclusive, cohesive and accountable institutions promoted pro-poor growth, more appropriate policies and projects, and a better quality of life for poor people. Given the importance of inclusive, cohesive and accountable institutions in empowering people, the Bank would transform how it promoted social development to better support the Millennium Development Goals and realize its goal of a “world free of poverty”.

    BRIGITA SCHMOGNEROVA, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), said that 10 years later the situation of poverty, employment and social integration continued to be marked by many negative trends. Along with countries in sub-Saharan Africa facing continued food insecurity and a rise in extreme poverty, many others, especially those constrained by adverse geographical conditions, were “tied in poverty traps”. Likewise, entire groups in various regions, such as indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities, suffered from social exclusion and remained entrenched in dire poverty. Unstable socio-economic political environments, military conflicts in the Middle East and in extensive areas in Africa, had hindered the adoption of socially friendly policies and diverted resources from development to the military and police. The negative trends across the regions were alarming, but there had been some positive achievements.

    She said that the Copenhagen and Millennium Summits had brought the social agenda to the attention of the policy makers. Achievements in social development had been significant in the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) region, linked to the impressive economic success in Asia and the Pacific region. The Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) region had managed to reduce illiteracy rates, advance women’s status, improve family planning and reproductive health, and decrease maternal mortality. In the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) region, the efforts of governments to increase social spending -- in addition to more responsible macroeconomic policies -- had reflected a strong commitment to reduce poverty and improve social cohesion. In many regions, however, unemployment had been on the rise, and in that situation, women bore a disproportionate burden of exclusion. Notably, long-term unemployment, especially in urban areas, often exacerbated problems of social integration. It was impossible to design a “one-size-fits-all” policy to advance social development, yet experience showed that a mix of macroeconomic policies that included social development goals and a targeted package was necessary to address poverty, unemployment and social exclusion.

    KIM HAK-SU, Executive Secretary of ESCAP, said the massive earthquake and resulting tsunami had devastated lives of communities of 11 Indian Ocean nations, from Indonesia to Somalia. ESCAP countries affected were Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand. Some 280,000 people were presumed dead and more than 1 million had been displaced. In terms of social impacts, poverty would worsen in the more severely affected places. Many of those killed were poor, living in places with weak record systems and vulnerable to disasters. The impact had been especially severe for fisheries, aquaculture and coastal livelihoods. Sixty-six per cent of the Sri Lankan fisheries fleet was out of action. Their livelihoods, already vulnerable before the tsunami, could not simply be rebuilt.

    Other population groups at risk included women, he said. Many reproductive health clinics had been destroyed, and many health-care providers killed. It was now all the more important that women had a voice in the reconstruction efforts. It was estimated that the number of people with disabilities had increased by some 20 per cent as a result of the disaster. Many had had their limbs amputated owing to the lack of proper medical treatment or facilities. More than 40 per cent with disabilities already lived in poverty in the region. People with disabilities were marginalized in ordinary situations. Disaster would only worsen their situation.

    Another group at risk was migrant workers, he said. The number of both documented and undocumented migrants from Myanmar killed in Thailand was unknown. In the Phang Nga Province alone, there were some 30,000 legally registered Myanmar migrant workers. Older persons had also been severely affected, as they had often been neglected or marginalized in the relief effort. Older persons also suffered greater distress and faced difficulties in adjusting to new environments compared to children. The ESCAP would be playing a coordinating role in the reconstruction efforts. The disaster, while tragic, had also provided a window of opportunity to alleviate poverty, provide health care and social protection and to rebuild the livelihoods that reduced vulnerabilities of future disasters.

    DESMOND JOHNS, Director of the New York Office of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), said that, in support of the objectives of the World Summit for Social Development, the Programme had been active in mainstreaming AIDS education; strengthening services for sexual and reproductive health; ensuring that migrant populations had access to basic health and education services; promoting further study of the impact of AIDS on development; and strengthening national legislation for protection against HIV-related discrimination. The UNAIDS also focused on the vulnerability of young people and women. Last year, it had launched the Global Coalition on Women and AIDS, which specifically sought to reduce the vulnerability of women to HIV infection and mitigate the impact of AIDS on women and girls.

    In addition to prevention measures, he outlined the efforts to expand access to life-prolonging anti-retroviral treatment, including the WHO/UNAIDS “3 by 5” initiative. While a recent progress report on that programme indicated a doubling in the number of people on anti-retroviral treatment in just over a year, it was sobering that the goal of having 3 million AIDS patients on treatment by the end of this year had not been fully attained. However, with appropriate long-term investments in human capacity and public infrastructure, that treatment gap could be progressively narrowed.

    He added that as the premier generator of HIV/AIDS-related policy guidance, UNAIDS strived to identify and disseminate information on the actions that made a difference. It would also continue to give its full support to national and international efforts to analyse trends, understand patterns, evaluate progress and conduct operations research to refine programmes. As the world had awakened to the threat of HIV/AIDS, there had been a commendable increase in the resources available to fight it. Making the money work was the underlying principle behind an initiative advocated by UNAIDS and its partners, which sought to unite the efforts of all partners at the national level behind a single national AIDS plan, coordinated by a single body and monitored by a common evaluation system.

    LUCA DALL’OGLIO, of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said that social development had taken on an increasingly significant importance and now permeated the international policy agenda. Much progress had been made since Copenhagen to translate that social integration agenda into action, in what had become an extremely dynamic “migration environment”. Human mobility was now one of the defining features of the globalized world. Since Copenhagen, the number of international migrants worldwide had reached some 185 million, an increase of some 60 million in 10 years. Their yearly remittances sent back home had multiplied to more than $100 billion, and the average annual flow of migrants from less developed countries to the more developed regions had doubled. Similarly, the patterns of human mobility, already complex and multidirectional, had continued to adjust to new circumstances, making the public perception of migrants a highly debated topic.

    He said that public perceptions reflected real issues and real problems, but they also reflected prejudice and fears. In the rapidly changing migration landscape, new social and institutional actors had also emerged, adding fresh perspectives and original viewpoints, and a growing and more articulate diaspora had also come forward in countries of immigration, representing a new constituency, voicing their concerns and, at times, challenging the status quo in both their host societies and countries of origin. While many objectives set forth a decade ago remained the goals of today, the collective appreciation for their relevance and complexity had sharpened, along with the recognition that migration was an essential, inevitable and potentially beneficial component of the economic and social life of every State and every region, with a strong link to development goals. That realization had stimulated a call for constructive dialogue to channel that migration into safe, humane, socially cohesive and productive avenues, which benefited individuals and societies.

    Ms. REDEGELD, of the ATD Fourth World, noted that a new vision for poverty eradication had been introduced in Copenhagen. In that vision, people were seen as wanting to contribute to the development of their communities. Peoples living in poverty were not the passive beneficiaries of services, but were active players in the struggle against poverty. The elimination of poverty depended on partnership. That challenge must be met, especially in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals.

    WILLIAM STIBRAVY, of the International Chamber of Commerce, reaffirmed the business community’s support of the objectives of the Copenhagen Declaration. It was now broadly accepted that the market system was the key to achieving social development goals. Private enterprises of all kinds provided more than 90 per cent of new jobs, with the bulk generated by small and medium-sized companies. Private domestic capital remained the largest source of new investment in developing countries. It was, on average, more than five times the level of foreign investment and far outweighed ODA in most of those countries.

    Open markets could improve living standards in all segments of society, he continued. Of course, globalization was not a miracle cure for poverty eradication. While the economic growth it brought was essential, it was not enough. A much more complex set of policies must be brought into play on the national level. Governments must institute policies that would promote democracy, the rule of law, independent courts, anti-corruption and anti-discrimination measures, protection of human rights and freedom from arbitrary government action. The focus of policy should be not on equalizing the distribution of income and wealth, but on maximizing the opportunities offered to people.

    The informal economy represented a large part of the economy in most developing countries, and it was important to bring the informal sector in each country into its economic mainstream, he said. It was also necessary to eliminate corruption, as the heavy economic costs of that scourge had been thoroughly documented. The International Chamber of Commerce had been committed to the battle against corruption for over 25 years. In particular, it had actively supported the development of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Convention to Combat Bribery of Foreign Public Officials and incorporation of the anti-corruption principle into the Global Compact. It had also contributed to the United Nations Convention against Corruption.

    UTA STITZ, of the International Council on Social Welfare, said that poverty had become a major international agenda item, but the response to it had been “very unequal”. The fixation on the “dollar-a-day” mantra of the Millennium Declaration Goals, while a worthwhile hook for the discussion of poverty, was a limited and constricting concept, which reflected an economic bias and ignored the broader definition of poverty adopted at the World Summit on Social Development. Those were the insidious factors working against poverty reduction. Moreover, long-term programmes to remove the causes of poverty suffered every time there was a crisis and resources were diverted. The commitment at Copenhagen, and reaffirmed here, was to place employment creation at the centre of government policies. Yet, the Millennium Development Goals gave little attention to employment, with a reference only to youth.

    She called on the United Nations to maintain its commitment to social integration and social development. Despite the fact that social integration had been a prominent component of the Copenhagen Declaration, it was omitted in later commitments made at the United Nations. The International Council also sought a renewed commitment to the Summit’s Declaration for “taxation systems that are fair, progressive and economically efficient”. There had been little progress in that area, although at the World Economic Forum, France’s President had advocated a form of international taxation. The participation of civil society should be furthered, as there was a very uneven evolution of civil society inclusion in democratic forms of government. The United Nations was the only global organization with a broad responsibility and membership to provide a balanced framework to meet the challenges of economic and social development and, in that regard, the Economic and Social Council should be strengthened.

    ALBERT MAGARIAN, of the International Federation of Associations of Elderly, said that while many commitments had been made at Copenhagen to ensure social integration, there had been backsliding. The victims of that backward trend were mainly the elderly, people with disabilities and children. The elderly especially suffered from discrimination. It had been the rule that people over the age of 65 were old. Today, that was no longer the case. A 75-year old person could feel younger than a 65 year old. Problems affecting people over the age of 65 included the issue of driving, as if someone who had reached 65 and one day could no longer drive. His organization supported the United Nations efforts for the ageing.

    Mr. WALKER, speaking on behalf of the NGO Committee on Human Settlements, said that all 10 Copenhagen commitments applied to human settlements, although some required urgent action by States, intergovernmental organizations, NGOs and the private sector, including: poverty elimination, support for employment, protection of the right to adequate shelter, and achieving equity between women and men. High on the list of goals for action was poverty elimination. The people who lived in slums had no funds to upgrade their homes, no access to water, and often no transportation to take them to jobs. Frequently, they could not pay for their basic needs –- shelter, food and health services. Policies should address the employment needs of vulnerable groups, such as women and older persons, which were concentrated in urban areas. Disabled and elderly persons often were unable to travel on regular facilities or access the necessary services to keep them healthy and useful, such as toilets, medical facilities, and water for drinking and bathing.

    He said that the right to housing was an indispensable part of ensuring human dignity. Adequate housing encompassed more than just the four walls of a room and a roof over one’s head. Housing was essential for normal, healthy living, and fulfilled needs for privacy and personal space, as well as physical needs for security and protection from inclement weather. It also met social needs for basic gathering points where important relationships were forged and nurtured. In many societies, a house also served as an economic centre where essential commercial activities were performed. Critical for all people was the right to participate in decision-making that might affect their communities. He urged the support of active local groups in monitoring implementation of all people-centred projects and programmes.

    JACQUES BAUDOT, Triglav Circle, said the Copenhagen text had a strong and explicit moral dimension. It presented, for example, the eradication of poverty as a moral imperative. Today, public discourse urgently needed to include calls for the respect and application of high moral standards in the conduct of human affairs, especially by those in a position of power. High moral standards were straightforward and universally understood. To shy away from articulating those universal values was to leave the floor to a vacuous technocratic discourse. To assume that humankind had a “reservoir” of moral principles, that did not need to be constantly replenished and nurtured, was an error that the materialist, utilitarian and pragmatic philosophical current had not been able to avoid.

    The text adopted in Copenhagen had great strength, he said. The elimination of poverty, linked with the reduction of inequalities, the provision of work and employment opportunities and respect for human rights was a moral imperative to be filled through concrete national and international processes. The moral corpus upon which the United Nations had been built was demanding. The Social Summit had been deficient in establishing controls or monitoring mechanisms. In the last 10 years, many had voiced their concerns about the rapid sidetracking of the commitments, notably with regard to employment, social integration and the creation of a favourable environment for social development. More thinking was needed on the exercise of moral power of the United Nations and on its relations with enforceable legal obligations.

    General Discussion

    JEAN-MARC HOSCHEIT (Luxembourg), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that the main goal of the convention on the rights of disabled persons must be to tailor existing rights to the situations faced by persons with disabilities, so that they could enjoy their human rights without discrimination. The drafting of the new convention, mainstreaming of a disability perspective in the implementation of already existing instruments and the contribution of the Special Rapporteur on Disability -- whose mandate should be renewed -- were all complementary and necessary. As for the Union’s efforts in the field of disabilities, he said that the European Year of People with Disabilities in 2003 had raised awareness of disability issues, and work to advance equal opportunities for persons with disabilities would continue. The main priorities in that respect included improved access to the built environment, support for life-long learning, and use of new technologies to empower people with disabilities.

    Many changes had taken place since the adoption of the World Programme of Action for Youth in 1995, he continued. Among the new issues that had been identified, he listed the impact of globalization, the use of information and communication technologies, increase of HIV/AIDS among young people, their involvement in conflicts; and the need to address intergenerational issues in an ageing society. The European Union welcomed ongoing efforts of the United Nations to solicit input from youth organizations and young people in the review of the Programme of Action. Also, recognizing that young people could play an important role in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, he supported initiatives that examined the links between the Youth Programme of Action and the Goals, such as the panel discussion this morning or the third world youth congress planned in Scotland next summer.

    The European Union reasserted its commitment to the Madrid Plan of Action on Ageing, he said, welcoming the proposals aimed at overcoming the remaining obstacles to its implementation. Those efforts should take into account a gender-sensitive approach on ageing policies and try to address the need for additional capacity-building at the national level. Within the Union, individual member States coordinated information on their strategies to deal with ageing, in order to identify best practices and exchange experiences. In the enlarged European Union, the ageing of its population remained an important challenge for the years to come. The expectations of older persons and economic needs of society demanded that older persons be able to participate in the economic, political, social and cultural life of their societies. The empowerment of older persons and promotion of their full participation were essential elements of active ageing.

    And finally, in connection with the tenth anniversary of the International Year of the Family, he said that the Union remained as firmly committed to supporting and protecting families as it had been in 1995 –- the year of the adoption of the Copenhagen Declaration and Plan of Action. Enduring qualities and values offered by all families must remain at the forefront of any discussions about families at the national or international level. For those discussions to be fruitful, they must also be inclusive. They must recognize the various forms families could take in order to avoid excluding -- among others -- single parents and adoptive or foster families. The importance the Union attached to the role of families was exemplified by recent European Union conferences of families and family-related policies, held in support of the tenth anniversary of the International Year of the Family. During the anniversary celebration last December, the Union had sent a strong signal of its collective support to all families, whatever form they took.

    RACHEL GROUX (Switzerland) said her country was particularly concerned about youth unemployment. For several years, it had faced increasing youth unemployment. Those figures were now higher than that of the active working population, owing to the inexperience of youth seeking to enter the labour market. Switzerland, therefore, had improved its system of professional training and unemployment benefits, in order to enhance young people’s access to work.

    The Government was also working to actively increase the number of apprenticeships, for which it sought to ensure gender equality and a broad menu of programmes from which women could choose, she said. It also promoted job fairs and internet sites, and it established regular contacts with its social partners to “brainstorm” on ways employers could provide jobs to young people and ensure their access to the labour market. Switzerland had evaluated the programme of action for youth employment, which it would submit to the sixtieth session of the General Assembly.

    ZHANG YISHAN (China) said his Government had adopted a people-centred approach to build a harmonious society in which the needs of all sectors of society were addressed. With the enactment of laws, some 16 billion people with disabilities had seen considerable improvement. For various reasons, however, some people with disabilities still lived in poverty. The Government had convened a conference in that regard, to take concrete measures to guarantee their rights and interests. In an effort to further improve their situation, China looked forward to the early adoption of the convention on persons with disabilities.

    The Government had also stepped up work to provide for its senior citizens, including by providing pensions and other retirement benefits, he said. Senior citizens enjoyed many preferential treatments. China was also addressing the issue of youth. In China, 460 million people between the ages of 14 and 35 accounted for some 38 per cent of the total population. The Government educated youth in good citizenship and gave priority to the protection of their rights and interests. The Government had also launched a project to provide primary and basic education in poor areas. Some 1.8 million had been kept in school due to that project. China had organized several international and regional seminars to contribute to the situation of persons with disabilities, youth and elderly persons. China was committed to the relevant programmes of action and stood ready to enhance international cooperation in the hope of building a harmonious society for all.

    AKIKI TEJIMA (Japan) focused on her country’s efforts to address its rapidly ageing population. There was an urgent need to reform Japan’s social security system, including reforming pension schemes and long-term care insurance programmes. Although the Government realized it would be difficult to create a system that would satisfy everyone, particularly since there was a sharp generational difference of opinion on the issue, every effort would be made to secure the future of all Japanese citizens. And since many other countries would soon be impacted by similar demographic challenges, Japan attached importance to the broad implementation of the 2002 Madrid International Plan on Ageing.

    In line with the objectives set at Madrid, Japan, for its part, had moved to further empower its senior citizens by taking concrete steps regarding employment and income, and health and welfare. Efforts were being made to promote the introduction of a continuous employment system that would apply to persons up to the age of 65, and to elaborate a system that promoted re-employment of elderly persons. In addition, grants had been allowed for companies that provided exercise and physical fitness courses, to help keep elderly people fit and allow them to live independently for as long as possible.

    Life expectancy in Japan was the highest in the world -– currently 78.36 years for men and 85.33 years for women -– and was predicted to increase every year, she said, and the task now was to build a society in which people not only had long lives, but happy ones. Turning next to issues facing persons with disabilities, she said Japan had been participating in the work of the Ad Hoc Committee on the elaboration of a relevant international convention and would continue to promote the effort to formulate a strong effective instrument that would obtain the broadest possible global support. At the national level, Japan had, among other things, enacted a basic law for persons with disabilities, which had been amended last June to include articles on anti-discrimination and enhancing disabled people’s participation in policy-making.

    Mr. CULLEN (Argentina) said that, in the 1990s, the Government had reformed the State and privatized public services and public enterprise. The State’s shrinking role had minimized its involvement in social policies, which had led to social exclusion. At the turn of the century, the national Government had redefined its strategy of intervention and moved the individual to the forefront in an effort to meet their basic needs, which, unmet, perpetuated poverty and inequality. The new, integrated policies required strong and active investment, so the federal network of social policy was set up. Among its tasks was the coordination of the steps being taken in the following areas: food security; socio-economic development; and family and human development. Social policies took into account the social needs of each location to which they were targeted and promoted the participation of local stakeholders. The federal social policy network coordinated the social policies pursued by the relevant ministry and other State bodies, as well as those promoted by civil society stakeholders.

    In accordance with those guidelines, he said Argentina had moved forward on a number of levels, including in terms of its institutional responsibilities, under which it developed the food security programme to deal with the most acute hunger situations and a local and social development plan called “hands on to get the job done”, aimed at helping the jobless and others in society with the least resources. The Government also formulated a family plan that placed families at the heart of the programme. Since 2002, when Argentina had suffered one of the greatest crises in its history, it had become convinced that training and preparing its citizens for work was the best way to integrate them socially. The Government was continuing to make strides in establishing closer ties between it and organizations for special groups, such as for persons with disabilities. In terms of integrating youth in the social fabric of a country, Member States should include young people in their delegations to the General Assembly next fall.

    DJOHARIS LUBIS (Indonesia) said his country supported the mainstreaming of disability issues into development programmes. The Government had sought to incorporate its law on disabled persons into government and private sector programmes. It was also preparing a draft national action plan to enhance the social welfare of disabled persons, by which it would implement measures that fostered their inclusion in the development process. His country also remained committed to implementing the World Programme of Action for Youth, which provided a policy framework and practical guidelines for national action and international support to improve the situation of youth. The challenges facing Indonesia’s implementation of the Programme of Action were formidable, as it had to address the many emerging social issues surrounding the young generation. Among the priorities for dealing with the nation’s youth were combating trafficking of women and children, HIV/AIDS and drug abuse, as well as promoting gender equality.

    He said that particular attention would also be paid to the impact of poverty on youth. More than one third of all children in developing countries were living in absolute poverty. Youth and poverty were interrelated issues; youth was the engine of economic growth, but, unfortunately, young people trapped in poverty were preventing from making an optimal contribution to their community’s development. Enabling access to economic and social resources was of crucial importance. All of Indonesia’s youth, male and female alike, should have access to education, health services, and employment opportunities. The country was similarly focused on the ageing issue, and it was fully committed to implementing the 2002 Madrid Plan of Action on Ageing and the 1999 Macao Plan of Action on Ageing for Asia and the Pacific. With the well-being of older persons -- which made up nearly 23 per cent of the national population -- in mind, Indonesia formulated a draft national plan on ageing and established a national commission.

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