Third Committee Opens Session Amid Calls for Governments to Design Comprehensive Social Development Policies, Empowering Youth, Tackling Illiteracy

Painting a picture of the obstacles to social development � economic inequality, social injustice, racism and issues affecting the rights of older persons � the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) opened its session today, with delegates calling for a greater international response to the needs of the world’s most vulnerable.

Liu Zhenmin, Under Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs, stressed in opening remarks that collective efforts were needed to keep on track to reach the Sustainable Development Goals. He reminded delegates of the great progress that has been achieved in recent decades: more people living longer, greater education and income. However, extreme working poverty is widespread and youth are impacted most. Hunger is on the rise and climate shocks are driving food insecurity. The pace of technological advance posed challenges to social development, he stressed.

Delegates opened the Committee’s general debate sounding alarms about the widening gap between rich and poor, with Morocco’s representative, on behalf of the African Group, stressing that tackling inequality is essential to ending poverty. While many had been lifted out of extreme poverty, the digital divide was substantial. In addition, the development crisis in Africa has not changed: the continent is at the bottom of any social and economic index, due to the financial and food crises, climate change, civil strife and HIV and AIDS.

Rosa Kornfeld-Matte, Independent Expert on the Enjoyment of All Human Rights by Older Persons, said the elderly are the fastest growing part of the world population, a sweeping demographic change that will have tremendous social consequences. Stressing that aging and its attendant issues were not given adequate attention within the Sustainable Development Goals, she said robots and artificial intelligence will impact elder care. Along with greater automation, massive amounts of data will be collected, an issue which triggers privacy concerns and should be considered through a human rights lens.

Literacy is a right, embodied in the Sustainable Development Goal 4, said Margarete Sachs Israel, Chief Programme Coordinator of the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning. Currently, 750 million adults are illiterate, the majority of them women, while many lack the literacy to meet daily demands. She called on Governments, development partners, civil society and the private sector to make youth and adult literacy a priority. Business as usual is not enough if we are to achieve the literacy agenda, she said, calling for greater national investment.

In that context, the role of young people is paramount, said Austria’s youth delegate, who had travelled her country to meet with representatives of youth, disabled persons and members of the LGBTQ+ community. Many had shared concerns over a growing focus on difference rather than similarity, polarizing societies worldwide, and described personal experiences of discrimination. Young people have an extraordinary will to participate in tackling today’s challenges, she declared. They want that opportunity.

More broadly, several delegates advocated a comprehensive approach to social development. Switzerland’s delegate underscored the importance of designing policies that consider the needs of future generations, efforts that are out of reach for some States. However, when resources are limited, helping the disadvantaged must remain a priority.

With that in mind, Ghana’s delegate pointed to the role of international cooperation and partnerships in reducing global inequalities and called for stronger support in the design of nationally appropriate social protection systems � a call echoed by Saudi Arabia’s delegate who pressed developed countries to better assist those requiring it. In such work, Egypt’s delegate, on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, emphasized the critical principle of common but differentiated responsibility.

In other business, the Committee elected Lahya Itedhimbwa Shikongo (Namibia) as Committee Vice Chair and approved its organization of work.

Also speaking today were representatives of Saint Lucia (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), Namibia (on behalf of the Southern African Development Community), Malaysia (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Guatemala (on behalf of the Group of Friends of Older Persons), Finland, Kenya, Slovenia, Netherlands, Cuba, Japan, Peru, Iraq, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Viet Nam, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Eritrea, Philippines, Brunei, India, Turkey and Hungary, as well as the representative of the European Union.

The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 3 October, to continue its debate on social development.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, and Cultural) met this morning to adopt its work programme for the session and begin its discussion on social development. Before it was the first report of the General Committee on the Organization of work at the seventy-third session of the General Assembly, adoption of the agenda and allocation of items (document A/73/250), as well as a Secretariat note (document A/C.3/73/L.1/Rev.1 and Add.1).

Also before the Committee were reports of the Secretary-General on the Implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and of the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly (document A/73/214); Implementation of the objectives of the International Year of the Family and its follow-up processes (document A/73/61�E/2018/4); Inclusive development for persons with disabilities (document A/73/211); Follow-up to the International Year of Older Persons: Second World Assembly on Ageing (document A/72/213); the Plan of action to integrate volunteering into the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (document A/73/254); and Literacy for life: shaping future agendas and education for democracy (document A/73/292). It also had before it a Secretariat note providing an overview of the United Nations 2018 flagship report on disability and development: realization of the Sustainable Development Goals by, for and with persons with disabilities (document A/73/220), which will be issued online in full on 3 December.

Organizational Work

At the meeting’s outset, the representative of Burundi opposed the addition of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Burundi on the list of Special Procedures and rejected its politically motivated report. There is no legal basis to justify its inclusion, as the Human Rights Council called for that Commission to communicate its report to the African Union and competent United Nations bodies. Communicating does not mean physically coming to the Third Committee. Secondly, the Council askes the Committee to present the report to the Assembly’s seventy-fourth session, not the current seventy-third session. This trend of wishing to place on the Committee’s agenda items on Burundi sets a dangerous precedent, as some hoped to exert geopolitical pressure. Selectiveness and double standards contravened the principles of universality and indivisibility of human rights.

A Secretariat official clarified that the Committee Chair had previously informed that the Special Procedures list could see the addition of the Commission on Inquiry and an expert on Somalia, should the Human Rights Council to extend the mandate of the Commission, whose report was currently before the Committee. The question at the time was whether the Commission mandate would be extended, to allow it to be invited to appear before the Committee. He recalled that Council resolution 36/19, adopted in 2017, extended the Commission’s mandate and requested it to present an oral briefing at, among other forums, the seventy-third session of the General Assembly.

The representative of Somalia requested the removal of the agenda item on the human rights situation in his country and requested clarity on the Independent Expert’s mandate.

The representative of Sudan rejected country-specific mandates, and as such, inclusion of the item concerning Burundi.

The Secretariat official cited operative paragraph 14 of Council resolution 36/27, requesting the Independent Expert on the human rights situation in Somalia to report to the Assembly’s seventy-third session, and operative paragraph 13 of Council resolution 39/23 extending its mandate.

The representative of Burundi reiterated his objection to including the item on the agenda, stressing that the mandate cited by the Secretariat official had been invalidated by another adopted by the Council in September 2018, asking the Commission to present its report to the Assembly’s seventy-fourth session.

The Secretariat official recalled similar cases of the Human Rights Council extending a mandate, which was then added at the last minute to the Committee’s agenda. Here we have exactly that situation, he said, referring Burundi’s delegate to the operative paragraphs of last week’s Council resolution, and last year’s Council resolution providing the legal basis for today’s actions.

The representative of Burundi said a resolution was adopted days ago in Geneva, calling on the Commission to present its report to the seventy-fourth session, which thus terminated the former mandate. Burundi should not legally appear on the Committee’s agenda.

Following further clarification by the Secretariat official, and a proposal by the Committee Chair to maintain the Special Procedures list, Somalia’s representative requested an opinion from the Office of Legal Affairs, while the representative of Burundi requested postponing the work programme, pending a legal opinion, a call echoed by the representatives of Egypt and Morocco. The representative of Mexico then proposed approving the list but leaving the Burundi item pending. The representative of Austria meanwhile shared the interpretation of the Secretariat as to established practice, highlighting that the Committee has been interacting with mandate holders and should be given the opportunity to interact with the two mechanisms in question.

The Committee then approved its organization of work, with the understanding it will be adjusted if the situation warrants.

Opening Remarks

LIU ZHENMIN, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said collective efforts must keep us on track to reach the Sustainable Development Goals. Considerable social progress has been achieved in recent decades: globally, more people are living longer, are more educated and have greater income. He underscored the important role played by economic growth, which has strengthened in both developing and transition economies since 2016. However, the overall progress has not brought about commensurate social benefits to all people. Extreme working poverty remains widespread � with youth bearing the brunt of its scourge � while hunger is on the rise for the first time in more than a decade. Climate shocks are driving food insecurity and fast technological advances pose challenges to social development. Global wealth inequalities are also increasing, particularly since the 2008 financial crisis.

As the proportion of the world’s older population is growing, the need for affordable and high-quality long-term care increases, he stated. Investment in youth is also a must for accelerating progress; it lays the foundation for a peaceful and sustainable future. There are still barriers that impede the full participation of persons with disabilities in social and economic development, and gaps remain between policies on indigenous people’s rights and their implementation. Four billion people were without any measures of social protection in 2016. Yet, it is an important policy tool to eradicate poverty, reduce inequality and promote inclusion.

DANIELA BAS, Director of the Division for Social Policy and Development in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introduced four reports under the Committee’s agenda item on social development. She said the reports’ common denominator is the concept of empowerment. To make the vision of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development a reality, there is a need for long-term care, lifelong learning, social protection, accessibility and inclusiveness in our cities, she stated. The first report highlights the significant progress that has been made on non-income inequalities between and within countries, despite the persistence of various inequality factors. The second report focuses on aging and the cross-cutting issues related the provision of long-term care to older persons.

Underlining that long-term care is often provided by women and migrant workers, she said it can benefit society at large because it contributes to poverty reduction. The third report centres on States’ family policies and programmes. Implementing more of these policies is indispensable, as they contribute to the well-being of people of all ages. The fourth report deals with persons with disabilities, focusing on disaster risk reduction, humanitarian action and urban development. Conflicts cause the number of people with disabilities to increase daily, she stressed, calling on delegates to change the way they think about disabilities. Urgent action is needed to create enabling environments that allow for the participation of persons with disabilities in society and development.

DOMINIQUE ALLEN, Chief of the United Nations Volunteers New York Office, stressed the importance of volunteerism to delivering support, and noted the contributions it makes to national capacities. In fact, 83 per cent of volunteers come from the global South. In addition, since the late 1960s, the General Assembly has discussed volunteerism in many resolutions, especially as related to disaster reduction and youth issues. Measuring volunteerism and integrating its impact into national plans could help strengthen the development agenda. Stressing that achieving the Sustainable Development Goals required the whole of society, he said volunteers can be an effective implementation mechanism. They can also play a role before and after disasters. He underscored the need for analysing volunteerism on a national level, with data that feeds into regional reports and is widely shared. Lastly, he noted a need to shift from ad hoc efforts to sustainable investment at scale.

MARGARETE SACHS-ISRAEL, Chief Programme Coordinator, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Institute for Lifelong Learning, presented the Secretary General’s report titled, Literacy for life: shaping future agendas and education for democracy (document A/73/292). Literacy is a fundamental part of the right to education, as well as a prerequisite for sustainable development. Yet, 750 million adults around the world are illiterate, the majority of them women, while more than 617 million children and adolescents do not achieve minimum proficiency in reading and mathematics. Recalling that target 4.6 of the 2030 Agenda concerns literacy, she urged Governments and partners to focus on marginalized and vulnerable groups at all ages, ensuring their right to education. Policies and programmes must take a lifelong and life wide approach.

She outlined six areas of the work of UNESCO, highlighting first its provision of technical assistance to help States improve education policies for youth and adult literacy, taking a lifelong approach. Another focus is on developing gender sensitive and responsive literacy policies and programmes for young and adult women. UNESCO aims to improve the quality and delivery of literacy programmes by promoting innovative approaches to literacy. On monitoring literacy progress, its fourth axis, the UNESCO Institute for Statistics provides literacy data, while the Global Report on Adult Learning and Education monitors progress in adult education. UNESCO expanded its knowledge base in the area of youth and adult literacy, publishing compilations on key themes and both mapping and analysing global trends. Lastly, the UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities is a platform for reinforcing literacy at local levels.

The report examines the implementation of resolution 71/8 on education for democracy, she said, and recommends responding to such challenges as the lack of universally agreed definitions and programme overlap with new approaches that foster cognitive, social emotional and behavioural capacities. It demands that efforts � through education � bolster the connection between democratic governance, peace and sustainable development, with the promotion of human rights. It also recommends that Governments develop legal frameworks for offering learning opportunities for all throughout life, as well as make youth and adult literacy a policy priority. As current funding levels are insufficient for meeting literacy objectives, the report calls for more and efficient investment through domestic and international aid, she stressed.

ROSA KORNFELD-MATTE, Independent Expert on the Enjoyment of All Human Rights by Older Persons, emphasized that older persons not only represent a significant portion of the global population but they are also the fastest-growing segment within it. In 2050, for the first time, there will be more older persons than children under 15 years old. Such an important demographic transformation will have considerable social consequences. Older persons are the most heterogeneous of all age groups, she recalled, pointing out that, while some enjoy good health and live independently, most require assistance. Robots, artificial intelligence, and a growing demand for assistance technologies will impact the concept of care for older persons, changes which require greater consideration in order to ensure their fundamental rights. There is a lack of instruments specifically designed for older persons and she suggested a review of the normative framework, with the goal of taking a human rights-based approach to aging.

The gentrification of neighbourhoods may contribute to the social exclusion of older persons, she said, as market interests tend to hold sway over the human rights of older residents. Although the Sustainable Development Goals mention all ages, the mere use of these words is not sufficient to guarantee that no older person is left behind. We must be aware of their social needs and take into consideration their contribution to society, she said. The lack of specialized human rights norms to ensure their rights has negative impacts for realizing the Sustainable Development Goals, she said, stressing that older persons must be considered active players who contribute to society, rather than as a burden requiring social protection.

When the floor opened for questions and comments, Qatar’s delegate asked about the role of families in protecting the rights of older persons, while Australia’s delegate said her country has adopted a swath of policies to uphold older people’s rights. Brazil’s representative said unpaid care is unsustainable, and the protection of the human rights of older people requires upholding the human right of those who care after them. He asked how the Independent Expert intends to coordinate with the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the World Health Organization (WHO). The European Union’s delegate said the focus is shifting from the needs of older persons to the protection of their rights, asking for suggestions on how to challenge ageism and ensure the inclusion of older people in the decision-making related to their places of residence.

The representative of Slovenia stressed the need of housing of older persons, adding that national housing policies must be strengthened while the representative of the United Kingdom pointed to the high quality care for older persons, noting that the country is ensuring that by 2020, all medical curricula will include ageing issues.

The representative of the United States pointed out that paying attention to social exclusion, housing, social protection and employment will foster the social inclusion of older persons. Equally important is their independence and well-being, and that of their families and care givers. She disagreed with the Independent Expert’s view on the need for a new instrument to address such issues, as the Declaration on Human Rights protects all, and requested recommendations on how Governments can improve care for older persons. The representative of Chile asked about measures for promoting the rights of older persons, while the representative of Namibia said his country had increased grants for alleviating poverty. The representative of Argentina pointed to the report’s conclusion on the lack of an international instrument protecting the rights of older persons, and asked about measures that would change society’s perception of older persons as active players. The representative of Columbia questioned the costs associated with use of robots, especially for lower- and middle-income countries. The representative of South Africa described the plight of unpaid care workers, especially women, expressing concern over indications of young children taking care of older persons.

In response, Ms. KORNFELD-MATTE spotlighted the joint work of WHO and ILO on cross-cutting issues, such as employment, health and care. Raising concerns on the role of the family, she said being at home with families is the greatest support for older persons. Older persons must be supported to live independently as long as possible. States and civil society must strongly support this effort, by providing qualified paid carers, adequate housing and accessible architecture. Alliances among social organizations, States and non-governmental organizations are important. Norms and standards must be developed to guide older persons, she said, voicing regret that Governments cannot always follow up with them. Social development measures need to be more precise and exact as we only look at economic development, she asserted.

Statements

MOHAMED EDREES (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, underlined the importance of addressing the particular needs of Africa and least developed countries, as well as those of young people, older persons, those with disabilities, families and indigenous peoples. Expressing concern about the lack of satisfactory progress in those areas, he cited conflicts, slowing global growth, volatile financial markets, high youth unemployment, corruption, global health threats and the impacts of climate change as sources of special concern. Moreover, he said, the pace of implementing the 2030 Agenda remains too slow for the world’s most vulnerable. Calling for efforts to tackle the unfinished business of the Millennium Development Goals, he underlined the need for development cooperation � especially North-South cooperation � as a fundamental catalyst and emphasized the critical principle of common but differentiated responsibility. Developed countries should bear the primary responsibly for financing development, he stressed, urging those States to fulfil their unmet official development assistance (ODA) commitments.

OMAR HILALE (Morocco), speaking on behalf of the African Group and aligning with the Group of 77, said that addressing inequality in all its dimensions is essential for eradicating poverty. He noted that despite global advances in that endeavour, African countries remain at the bottom of any measurement of social development. Affirming the Group’s commitment to improving financing for the health sector, he called for continued economic and development support to the continent. Inequality, he stressed, must be fought by fostering inclusive and sustainable growth, providing education and skills training and integrating vulnerable groups, with a gender perspective systematically incorporated. He urged intensified efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda through strengthened global partnerships in areas where progress has been slow. Describing the African Union’s 2063 Agenda in that context, he appealed for continued support to African States in their efforts to reduce inequality and boost development.

COSMOS RICHARDSON (Saint Lucia), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the bloc’s strategic plan for 2015-2019 will continue to focus on advancing health and wellness, human capital development, and citizen security and justice. To tackle non-communicable diseases, a serious concern, the Caribbean Moves initiative aims to foster healthier lifestyles. On inequality, he cautioned against a one-size-fits-all approach, advocating instead a multidimensional approach to reducing inequality. On the importance of quality education, he pointed to CARICOM’s Human Resource Development 2030 Strategy, which focuses on development of the whole person, also underscoring the pivotal role of young people in building more resilient societies. To invest in the future, is to invest in the youth, he stressed. Others concerns focused on the ageing population and their specific needs for long-term care, particularly for those with disabilities. Inequality can be exacerbated by climate change, he said, stressing that one storm can erase all the gains we made, thus further widening the inequality gap. It is imperative to build resilience in order to preserve infrastructure, resources and the Caribbean way of life.

LINDA SCOTT (Namibia), speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), recalled that the bloc chose the theme of promoting infrastructure development and youth empowerment for sustainable development for its 2018/19 summit. Member States recently met in Namibia to promote regional interconnectivity in that regard. The bloc also approved operations for the SADC University of Transformation, a virtual institution aimed at supporting the industrialisation agenda through entrepreneurship, innovation, enterprise development. She expressed concern about the impact of the current global financial crisis and unequal wealth distribution, emphasizing that in all our efforts to alleviate poverty, we must put in place efficient, sustainable and effective social policies. SADC continues to implement the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (2005-2020), striving towards ending poverty, combating HIV/AIDS, and achieving gender equality and sustainable development. It is also strengthening contingency plans to enhance drought preparedness, sharing best practices and taking joint measures in anticipation of food insecurity situations.

M. SHAHRUL IKRAM YAAKOB (Malaysia), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said poverty reduction, access to education and children’s welfare are at the top of the bloc’s social development agenda. Aligning himself with the statement made by Egypt on behalf of the Group of 77, he said social development has been imbedded in multiple ASEAN documents, which strive to provide access to equal opportunities, a collective effort that is reflected in various regional instruments and mechanisms. Noting the importance of social development for long term economic prosperity and regional stability, he said ASEAN will continue to promote social development and welcomes the United Nations engagement and cooperation in those efforts.

CHARLES WHITELEY, head of the European Union delegation, said the conclusions of the first European Union Social Summit, held 20 years ago, serve as a guide for implementing the 2030 Agenda. The European Commission is modernizing welfare systems to address expenditure and financing challenges and better protect people in non standard work and self employment. It also seeks to adapt to the increasing importance of adult learning as even the most basic tasks now require a broad set of digital and service skills. Millions of young people have benefitted from the European Union’s youth initiatives, which have helped bring youth unemployment to its lowest point since 2000. Yet, further efforts are needed to reach out to those with fewer opportunities. The European Commission’s policies help people balance work and family life, reduce the persisting gender pay gap that is often reflected in pensions, and facilitate the access of women and persons with disabilities to the labour market. Moreover, the European Consensus on Development supports social development both within the bloc and globally, he assured, stressing the need to create a broad partnership with various stakeholders to implement the Sustainable Development Goals.

OMAR CASTANEDA (Guatemala), speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends of Older Persons, said the growing global trend of ageing societies imposes new challenges to development. Greater attention must be paid to those affecting older persons, he said, underscoring the need for policies that promote social inclusion, intergenerational solidarity, human rights and the dignity of older persons. With adequate measures in place, older persons can make a significant contribution to the social, economic and sustainable development of their societies. Poverty is among the most pressing challenges to their welfare, he said, pointing to often inadequate living conditions. He stressed the importance of a rights-based perspective on ageing in the design and implementation of sustainable development policies and programmes.

JONNE JUNTURA, youth delegate from Finland, recounted her personal experience with anxiety and depression, recalling: I could not understand what was happening to me. Close to 1 million people commit suicide each year, and even in stable societies, only less than half of those in need of mental health services receive access to treatment. Noting that 70 per cent of all mental health disorders are diagnosed prior to the age of 25, she underscored that youth � more than half the world’s population � constitute a large percentage of those in need. Recalling that Security Council resolution 2250 (2015) on youth, peace and security called on Member States to find ways to engage young people in countering violent extremist narratives, she said high barriers to mental health services, strong stigma and discrimination all stand in the way of allowing youth to be healthy, active members of society. Calling for a holistic approach, she expressed support for the findings of a recent Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) report on youth and human rights and its recommendation of an international mechanism to ensure their full implementation.

NATALIE DANIELA HAAS, youth delegate from Austria, described her discussions with young people across Austria, including from minority groups, those with disabilities and from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, queer and intersex community. Noting that many expressed fear over a focus on differences rather than similarities, she said many people experience unjust treatment simply due to the groups to which they belong. Disparity in opportunities is a problem often faced by young people, even more so if they belong to an additional marginalized group, she said, adding that some face multiple forms of discrimination at once. However, youth in Austria are working to combat those challenges. The country became the first to allow voting from the age of 16, and young people are acting as change agents, offering innovative ideas to national challenges that break down old boundaries and reduce inequalities. She spotlighted several youth initiatives aimed at achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

THOMAS BURRI (Switzerland) said designing policies that consider the needs of future generations is not a measure within the reach of all States. When resources are limited, helping the disadvantaged must remain a priority. Nevertheless, fighting poverty is a duty of justice and preventing it is a key issue for posterity, he added. Social policies have an intrinsic sustainability dimension, and in Switzerland, professionally integrating young people into society is a political priority. The Commission for Social Development has an essential role to play in considering the underlying causes of poverty. Youth delegate TRISTAN ROBERT added that ensuring integration into the labour market is as essential for young people as it is for older workers. Young people everywhere demonstrate a high degree of international mobility, he observed, pointing out that social diversity diminishes the unknown and encourages cohesion.

Ms. KARUGU (Kenya), aligning herself with the Group of 77, as well as the African Group, said social and economic inequalities have widened in Africa despite efforts otherwise. African nations are struggling to meet the goals of the Copenhagen World Summit for Social Development. Kenya’s Constitution (2010) guarantees all Kenyans economic, social and cultural rights, binding the Government to provide social safety nets. Beyond that, the Government provides social assistance as a means of sustaining inclusive growth and is on a path to providing universal health coverage as part of its Big Four Agenda. In addition, Kenya has set aside 30 per cent of all public tenders exclusively for women, youth and disabled persons, and has uplifted the economic and social conditions of many by providing skills development and job creation. Kenya is making strides in innovation and interconnectivity, including with the Huduma programme, a one stop shop approach to reforming service delivery.

DARJA BAVDAZ KURET (Slovenia) said her country is promoting and protecting the human rights of older persons through national discussions on long term care and end of life policies. She stressed the need for reliable data and greater public awareness. Youth delegate URSA SVETELJ added that, while young Slovenians show high life satisfaction, youth participation in her country is truly alarming. Increased transparency and accountability and less bureaucracy are needed, she stressed, adding that these changes and youth participation go hand in hand.

JAHKINI BISSELINK, youth delegate from the Netherlands, reminiscing about her school days when teachers disabused her of the notion of reaching higher in education, said she is among the lucky few to attend university. Many marginalized young people, including those of non Western ethnicities, different sexual and gender identities and religious backgrounds, feel excluded. Native Dutch people also feel neglected by their Government, she said, describing social polarization as a root cause of violent extremism. In many villages in the Netherlands, diversity is not self evident, causing alienation and disidentification. She called for ambitious national policies connecting the fight against inequality with the agenda for youth, peace and security, advocating a focus on creating equal opportunities for all young people.

NORAH ABDULAZIZ H. ELGIBREEN (Saudi Arabia), aligning herself with the Group of 77, outlined her country’s social solidarity and volunteer programmes. The support offered to persons with disabilities has increased, while family policies are being integrated into national frameworks on sustainable development, she assured. Saudi Arabia has also created social centres that care for older persons and provide them with opportunities to continue contributing to society. It has also promoted literacy, including adult literacy, by reaching out to people in their place of residence. The challenges associated with social development require that developed country offer more support to countries that need it, she said.

ANA SILVIA RODRA�GUEZ ABASCAL (Cuba) called on developed countries to comply with their ODA commitments and uphold their responsibility regarding the environmental crisis. She advocated the promotion of a just international economic order and the end of protectionist, discriminatory trade policies. Cuba has put in place a development strategy for persons with disabilities, as well as policies fostering youth labour insertion and participation in governmental decision-making, she said, adding that the quality of life of the elderly is another priority. These policies are implemented through a multisectoral approach that allows for civil society’s participation. Despite the blockade’s direct impact on social development, Cuba has fulfilled several of the Sustainable Development Goals, she assured.

AKANE MIYAZAKI (Japan) described domestic measures to realize social development from a human security perspective, underscoring the need to build a society in which every person can participate by eliminating discrimination, addressing economic disparity and improving working environments. She discussed support for disabled persons and social development in Africa where, through the Tokyo International Conference on African Development, Japan promotes health systems, supports education and vocational training for youth, fosters a culture of lawfulness, and accelerates women’s advancement. Japan pledged to invest both Government and private sector funds towards Africa at the Conference’s sixth summit. It will host the next World Assembly for Women in March 2019, and further, is facilitating the resolution on volunteering to submit to the Third Committee.

RONNIE HABICH (Peru) said the social component of the 2030 Agenda requires States to focus on empowering the most vulnerable social groups. To that end, Peru will work to reduce the prevalence of anaemia in children under the age of three and pregnant women. In recent years, Peru has made significant progress thanks to sustained economic growth and robust macroeconomic policies. But policies fostering social inclusion and poverty reduction are also needed to achieve social development, he stressed, pointing out that his Government seeks to reduce poverty by 15 per cent. Peru is working to ensure people are able to develop their capacities and exercise their rights at all ages, he added.

FIRAS HASSAN JABBAR AL-KHAQANI (Iraq) highlighted the responsibility of all communities to care for older people, recalling that 1 October is the International Day of Older Persons. Referring to several international action plans on ageing, he stressed that the help of all communities is needed in such efforts, citing social protection plans and a draft law on financing for persons without families. On the role of young people, he pointed to the launch of microprojects and creation of a better business climate. Young people’s political participation is another concern, especially for those liberated from Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh). Thanking UNESCO for the aid in tackling illiteracy, he underscored the need for sufficient funding and the participation of all sectors and stakeholders.

CHAUDHARY JAWAD ALI CHATHA (Pakistan), associating himself with the Group of 77, said only inclusive economic growth can provide sustainable jobs and promote equality. Pakistan’s policies promote financial inclusion, agricultural growth, rural development, the provision of educational opportunities and poverty eradication. Its new Government is making education its signature priority, with the Prime Minister recently vowing to raise educational standards at public institutions. The country’s long term sustainable development strategy, Pakistan Vision 2025, aims to create new and better opportunities. Notably, the Benazir Income Support Programme provides financial support to the vulnerable by helping them overcome poverty and has been widely acknowledged for its positive contribution. He also highlighted the China Pakistan Economic Corridor project as an example of South South cooperation, observing that the venture offers economic opportunities for the entire region and beyond.

Mr. CHERNENKO (Russian Federation) said his delegation could not agree on the thesis on the question of social development, arguing that youth, older persons and family issues fall within the scope of the Commission for Social Development. Highlighting the financing of social projects, developing strategies for women, youth and older persons, he said a new national plan has been adopted which covers 12 areas: health care, employment, housing, education and others. The Russian Federation aims to broaden the scope of its youth policy by providing education and guaranteeing jobs thereafter. Pension reforms and welfare for older persons are other concerns, he said, stressing the importance of the Russian Federation’s efforts to promote family values and protect the family.

PHAM ANH THI KIM (Viet Nam), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and ASEAN, said the impact of climate change exacerbates inequality. As one of five countries most vulnerable to climate change, her country is particularly concerned with the increase in the frequency and severity of extreme weather, rising sea levels, land erosions and natural disasters. Those phenomena are leaving an impact for generations, especially in economically disadvantaged areas, she pointed out, calling on every member of the international community to strengthen commitments and efforts to respond to the threat. In addition, greater attention must also be paid to the relationship between digital divides and inequality, she said, underscoring the widening digital gap between the rich and the poor in her country. Viet Nam hosted the World Economic Forum on ASEAN this year. Leaders and the business community exchanged insights on the impact of Industry 4.0, not only on ASEAN member States, but the region as a whole. The Forum resulted in many initiatives that will strengthen the ASEAN community.

KHIANE PHANSOURIVONG (Lao People’s Democratic Republic), associating himself with the Group of 77 and ASEAN, described social development as one of the three pillars of his Government’s policies and a core part of its Five Year National Socioeconomic Development Plan. Outlining national efforts to protect and promote the rights of persons with disabilities, he also said that in the Lao culture and tradition aged persons are highly respected and cared for by siblings and relatives. They are sources of love, warmth and inspiration for both family and society, he emphasized, adding that the Government provides social security and public service to them.

AMANUEL GIORGIO (Eritrea) described the interrelated problems of poverty, unemployment and social exclusion. When progress in science and technology has opened massive opportunity to produce food and treat disease, it is unacceptable that millions languish in poverty and die from easily preventable or curable diseases. While there have been greater efforts to improve the global social situation, the aspirations of millions in the developing world have been impeded. The 2030 Agenda provides a new impetus for a global partnership and opportunities should not be missed to build a world where every person lives in dignity. In Eritrea, the Government recognizes that social justice policies not only contribute to social cohesion but are the only path to sustainable development.

TEODORO LOPEZ LOCSIN, JR. (Philippines), pointing to the uniqueness of the Third Committee, said that while other Committees discuss war and peace, here we take care of the injured, the sick and those displaced by fights over territories. His Government is implementing a 25-year vision to create a prosperous and predominantly middle-class society where no one is poor and where all Filipinos enjoy a stable and comfortable lifestyle. The Government also implements a cash transfer programme that focuses on human capital development of poor eligible households. It is the country’s biggest social protection programme, operating in 41,620 villages and 1,627 cities and municipalities. Further, in line with the country’s tradition of reverence to the elderly, social programmes are also in place for older persons and provide stipends to those most in need of support.

MARTHA A. A. POBEE (Ghana), associating herself with the African Group and the Group of 77, said social development policies must create fair and inclusive societies with equal opportunities for all. Emphasis should be placed on expanding access to quality education and health care, ensuring food security and access to water and sanitation, and strengthening protections for women, children, older persons and those with disabilities. Voicing support for an appropriate mix of macroeconomic, fiscal, employment and social protection measures, she said Ghana’s national policies are anchored in revitalizing the economy, transforming agriculture and industry, strengthening social protection and inclusion, revamping economic and social infrastructure and reforming the public service delivery. She also described its strong education focus � including a 2017 free senior high school programme � as well as progress in improving access to quality health care and nutrition through the National Health Insurance Scheme. In addition, programmes supporting widows and persons with disabilities have been put in place.

MASITAH JAAFAR (Brunei Darussalam) said population ageing is poised to become one of the most significant social transformations of the twenty first century. As leaders, caretakers and custodians of tradition, senior citizens play a major role in development. Highlighting national measures to safeguard the welfare and rights of the elderly, he described a special committee set up by the National Council on Social Issues to carry out social services for vulnerable groups. In May 2017, the Council approved an action plan in line with the Madrid Plan of Action on Ageing and the Global Strategy and Action Plan on Ageing and Health. More broadly, Brunei ensures access to comprehensive health care and takes a holistic approach to caring for the elderly that involves the private sector, non-governmental organizations the local community.

Ms. HAOKIP (India) said that strengthening the social dimensions of sustainable development is increasingly relevant when addressing persistent inequalities. In her country, sustained economic development has lifted millions of Indians out of poverty. Financial inclusion and employment opportunities – with a focus on women, youth and persons with disabilities – are at the heart of its development strategy, of which digital empowerment is key. For example, the biometric based identity system in India now covers 90 per cent of the country’s population, enhancing access to vital services. In addition, women in India now get 26 weeks of paid maternity leave – one of the longest in the world. Her Government is supporting the rights of persons with disabilities by promoting barrier free access in public spaces. India is also creating opportunities for youth through skill and entrepreneurship development, as well as harnessing digital technologies to improve access to information.

FATMAALZAHRAA HASSAN ABDELAZIZ ABDELKAWY (Egypt) described her country’s programmes to uproot poverty and inequalities, which target rural women, people with disability, and other vulnerable segments of the population, providing them with social housing and drinking water, notably. Egypt’s social protection programmes seek to provide beneficiaries with decent jobs, focusing on dignity at work rather than the provision of assistance. Recalling that Egypt signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, she stressed that it provides financial assistance to more than 1 million people. Other programmes aim to guarantee the rights of older persons and ensure young people’s financial inclusion. To win the fight against poverty, the public, private and social sectors must work together, she concluded.

Ms. INANC-ORNEKOL (Turkey) said development will be impossible unless all human potential is integrated into global efforts to achieve it. A policy framework, based on an inclusive, rights-based approach, was needed. Turkey has taken significant steps in the last decade to ensure that persons with disabilities can participate in social life as equal citizens, while its National Plan of Action on Ageing and the Situation of Older Persons covers a wide spectrum of rights for older persons, and legislative arrangements ensure their enjoyment of the right to autonomy and independence. The unprecedented global humanitarian crisis, characterized by 22.5 million refugees, half of them under the age of 18, underscored the need for greater international cooperation to assist the displaced.

AGNES SZUDA, youth delegate from Hungary, said she had met with young people across her country seeking to help them realize their potential to catalyse positive change. Stressing that potential, in itself, cannot change the world, she said young people must be empowered through quality education, labour market inclusion and participation in decision-making. Women and young girls face barriers to leadership, while young people with disabilities lose out on access to higher education or jobs, she said, advocating that such obstacles be destroyed and the means provided for them to fully participate in society. We need everyone to achieve inclusive, sustainable social development, she said, and concluding her speech in sign language, stressing: Let us work together for a common brighter future.

Source: United Nations