11 February 2005
Deputy Secretary-General Opens High-Level Segment of Social Development Commission, Stressing Importance of Social Dimensions of Economic Policies
21 Government Ministers Review Progress Towards Millennium Development Goals
NEW YORK, 10 February (UN Headquarters) -- The 1995 World Summit on Social Development was a landmark, not because it had begun global efforts to promote social development, but because it had put those efforts squarely on the international agenda, Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette said today at the opening of a ministerial-level review of the World Summits objectives.
Ten years ago, the world came together in Copenhagen, Denmark, to consider issues of social development on a global scale. They adopted 10 commitments to make headway on three core issues: poverty; employment; and social exclusion. At the General Assemblys special session in 2000, nations reaffirmed the Copenhagen agenda and their determination to take action to achieve a society for all.
Now, the Commission, a 46-member body of the Economic and Social Council, has set out to examine, 10 years later, implementation of the commitments, beginning with a high-level discussion that included ministers and other high-level delegations. The concluding text will be relayed through the Economic and Social Council to the Genera Assemblys high-level review of the Millennium Development Goals in September.
Copenhagen had raised the global standard for achieving development and social progress, Ms. Fréchette said. It had alerted the worlds financial institutions to the fact that economic policies must take into account their social implications. There had been progress, including reduced global poverty rates, the spread of democracy and primary education of boys and girls, but poverty remained shockingly high; HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria claimed nearly 5 million lives a year; and deep chasms persisted between haves and have nots, both within and between countries. Now was the time to address the implementation gaps, she urged.
Weighing the effects of globalization, Ms. Fréchette said the process had brought tremendous benefits to hundreds of millions of people, lifting them out of extreme poverty and promoting dramatic gains in longer, healthier lives. For large parts of the world, however, the process had widened the gap between rich and poor or bypassed people, altogether. Globalization might seem as immutable as a force of nature, but that did not mean that it could not be shaped through choices and actions. The challenge was to make it work for all.
As the high-level discussion began this afternoon, Jamaicas speaker, on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said that the inexorable tide of globalization had helped and hurt many countries in the South -- providing new market opportunities, on the one hand, while fostering punitive and discriminatory trade policies, on the other. While most of Asia and North Africa were on track to meet their poverty-reduction targets, scant progress had been recorded in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as in parts of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, where the number of poor people across those regions had increased by over 100 million since 2000.
Irelands Minister for Social and Family Affairs said there were few greater challenges than achieving social development. For much of its history, Ireland had been synonymous with poverty, underdevelopment and high levels of emigration. It had been steadily reversing that situation, however, and in the years since Copenhagen, it had experienced unprecedented growth. Now its per capita gross domestic product (GDP) was among the highest in the world; its unemployment rate was among the lowest; and net immigration had replaced emigration. Ireland had achieved successes by following the guidelines similar to the Copenhagen aims, such as investing heavily in education, promoting more open international trade, and ensuring transparent and accountable governance.
South Africas Minister for Social Development, whose delegation is chairing the current session, said that restructuring and improved management had resulted in almost continuous economic growth in his country, but not enough to keep up with the increased number of people looking for employment. Significant progress had been made in addressing poverty by, among other things, enhancing the income of poor households through social grants. Great strides had been made overall, but chronic poverty, exacerbated by HIV/AIDS, continued to affect too many of his people. Because of the countrys particular history, the task of social integration remained in the foreground of its efforts, with many of the instruments used to prevent social exclusion related to land and gender equality.
Statements at the ministerial level were also made by representatives of Luxembourg (on behalf of the European Union and associated States), China, Iran, Qatar, Sweden, Morocco, Suriname (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), Andorra, Canada, Peru, Brazil, Zimbabwe, United Kingdom, Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, Spain, Jordan and Mauritius.
The Commission on Social Development will meet again tomorrow at 10 a.m. to continue its general discussion.
Opening its high-level segment this morning, the Commission for Social Development was expected to move into three round-table discussions, to be followed by a high-level discussion in the afternoon. [For background information on the forty-third session, see Press Release SOC/4658 of 3 February 2005.]
Statement by Deputy Secretary-General
Deputy Secretary-General LOUISE FRÉCHETTE said the era of globalization had brought tremendous benefits to large parts of the world. In recent decades, hundreds of millions of people had been lifted out of extreme poverty and had enjoyed dramatic gains in living longer, healthier lives. At the same time, large parts of the world had been connected to the processes of globalization, but had seen too little progress. Many felt threatened by how those processes were affecting their communities, endangering their jobs or widening the gap between rich and poor. Other large parts of the world, particularly the poorest countries, were being bypassed by globalization altogether, with hundreds of millions of people excluded from the benefits of the global community, even while sharing the risks.
Globalization might seem as immutable as a force of nature, but that did not mean that it could not be shaped through choices and actions, she said. The challenge was to make globalization work for all the worlds people. Ten years ago, Member States had gathered in Copenhagen with just that aim in mind. At the World Summit for Social Development, developed and developing nations had adopted 10 commitments to make headway on three core issues: poverty, employment and social exclusion. At the 2000 special session in Geneva, Member States had reaffirmed the Copenhagen agenda and their determination to take action to achieve a society for all.
Copenhagen was a landmark, not because it had begun global efforts to promote social development, but because it had put those efforts squarely on the international agenda, in a holistic way, she continued. Copenhagen had stressed that the problems of employment, poverty and social exclusion were intimately related, and must be addressed comprehensively, with the participation of all. Copenhagen had raised the global standard for achieving development and social progress. In doing so, it had alerted the worlds financial institutions to the fact that economic policies must take into account their social implications.
Ten years after Copenhagen, there had been progress, including reduced global poverty rates, the spread of democracy and primary education of boys and girls, she said. Poverty, however, remained shockingly high; HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria claimed nearly 5 million lives a year; and deep chasms persisted between haves and have nots both within and between countries. Most distressingly, it was the poorest countries that were typically seeing the least progress. Official development assistance (ODA) as a percentage of the gross national product (GNP) of donor countries had only recently begun to rise after a steady decline, and the global trading system retained deep inequities in market access. Whatever the motivation - human rights, religious values, security, fiscal prudence, ideology -- development could and should be the common goal.
Relying on market forces would not, on its own, achieve major development gains, she said. Economic growth was a cornerstone for poverty reduction, but sustained economic growth would occur only when people were put at the centre of development policies. Developing countries must take steps to promote good governance, and must focus on practical public investments in health, education and other basic services that allowed people to participate in market economies. There were some quick wins that could, with adequate donor support, be undertaken immediately. Central among those was the recommendation for developing countries to eliminate user fees for primary education and basic health services, to ensure access for even the poorest individuals. There was no reason not to address such fundamental sources of exclusion.
The Commission was meeting in the early months of a critical year for the future of global development cooperation, she said. In September, world leaders would gather to measure progress in implementing all aspects of the Millennium Declaration. The central plank of the Millennium Declaration was the Millennium Development Goals, which were based on the key international development meetings in the 1990s. They were an expression of the broader United Nations development agenda, and a desire to expand successes in poverty reduction to those most in need. Yet all too often, bold pronouncements had not been followed with bold action. In the year ahead, Member States had an important opportunity to address the implementation gap, particularly by strengthening the global partnership for development that was itself one of the Goals.
At the current time of review and renewal in international development cooperation, todays high-level plenary session was an opportunity to stress a broad vision of development, in which efforts to eradicate poverty, promote full employment and foster social integration were backed up with the reforms and resources necessary to turn development targets into reality.
MARIE-JOSEE JACOBS, Minister for Family and Integration of Luxembourg, speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, noted that since the Copenhagen Summit, the Union had developed its social policies internally. The objectives of the policies in the areas of employment, the fight against poverty, job creation and social integration, agreed in many respects with the three objectives of the Programme of Action and with the initiatives adopted in Geneva in 2000. While the policies adopted by the Union were not automatically applicable to developing countries, the Unions approach might serve as a basis for reflection and the exchange of ideas.
During its history, the European Union had seen several enlargements, the most recent of which, in May 2004, had ended a tragic division of the European continent, she said. The European Constitution was designed to adapt the Union to the challenges of the twenty-first century. The European Union was not immune to unemployment or social exclusion. It had an average unemployment rate of 9 per cent, and 15 per cent of its population was on or near the poverty line. To keep poverty and social exclusion at bay, the Union needed to develop a favourable environment for economic growth and to take advantage of the positive effects of globalization, while preserving a European social model which guaranteed social justice. The welfare of the individual must be at the centre of all policies.
Since the Copenhagen Summit, the Union had successively put in place strategies to tackle the problems linked with unemployment and with poverty and social exclusion. At the 2000 Lisbon European Council, the Union had set the target of becoming, by 2010, the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion. To do that, it had adopted a strategy based on the concept of interdependence of economic, social and environmental policies. In an economy based on knowledge and technological development, a poorly educated population deprived of access to goods and services was clearly going to have a negative effect in terms of growth and employment.
While the development of economic growth and employment was vital in the fight against poverty and social exclusion, equal importance must be given to social policies, she said. In implementing the social inclusion strategy, the Union was guided by six strategic priorities, including ensuring that social protection schemes were adequate and accessible for all. Regarding social security systems, the Union members were making a particular effort to maintain safe and sustainable pension systems. Since the adoption of the Lisbon integrated strategy, some progress had been made. For example, more than 6 million jobs had been created since 1999 and several key markets had been totally or partially opened up to competition.
In a few weeks, the Commission on the Status of Women would analyse the implementation of the Beijing Platform of Action, adopted just a few months after the Copenhagen Programme of Action, she continued. One of the 10 commitments in the Copenhagen Declaration concerned equity and equality between men and women. In the same context, the Amsterdam Treaty included gender equality among the European Communitys objectives and confirmed gender mainstreaming in Community actions. While progress had been made in reducing gender inequality in a number of strategic fields, the Union must continue to promote gender equality in all spheres of society, she said.
The Union was aware of the need to promote solidarity with developing countries and to help them attain the Millennium Development Goals, she said. In its external action, the Union was the main partner of the developing world. It provided 55 per cent of official international aid and was by far the largest trading partner and foreign investor. Since 2000, the Millennium Goals had provided the international framework for development cooperation. Realization of those Goals would represent a significant improvement in the social development of the worlds poorest populations. The Millennium Goals would not be attained by compartmentalizing them, but by establishing clear links between them.
The primary aim of development cooperation must be to reduce poverty, she said. Official development assistance provided by the Union was constantly increasing. The Union had made a joint commitment to attaining an average ODA level of 0.39 per cent by 2006. That increase had already led to advances in combating poverty. It was also important to continue implementing the Monterrey Consensus on financing for development. Development aid programmes must be implemented in a spirit of partnership and respect for local ownership of the measures taken. The active involvement of civil society and institutional capacity-building were the surest means of guaranteeing people-centred development in which individuals played a full part. Investment in education and training were also very effective in increasing peoples ability to control their future.
Poverty reduction programmes must take full account of both the economic and social dimension, she said. To ensure that development programmes corresponded to the Millennium Goals and the international consensus on development, the Union must continue to improve coordination and coherence with other Community policies. The Union would continue to reinforce its partnership with Africa in particular. This year, the Unions ambitious development strategy set in Lisbon in 2000 would reach the halfway stage, and the current Social Policy Agenda, adopted by the Nice European Council in December 2000, would come to a close. The next Social Agenda would cover the period 2006-2010. As the Union started work on the new Agenda, it faced four major challenges, namely, globalization, the demographic imbalance, the growing diversity of its societies, and the transition towards a knowledge economy. The Union called for globalization with a human face that contributed to a safer world.
STAFFORD NEIL (Jamaica), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, highlighted the connections between the commitments set at Copenhagen and those pledged at the Millennium Summit in New York, particularly the targets related to hunger, poverty alleviation, literacy, health and infant mortality. And, with the recent report of the Millennium Project pointing to the possibility of achieving those goals by 2015, progress towards the Millennium Development Goals also meant progress for the Copenhagen Declarations call for comprehensive social development through, among other ways, poverty reduction, promoting human rights, and creating an enabling economic environment. Looking ahead, for the developing world, the biggest challenge was the availability of resources to finance relevant programmes to meet those noble objectives.
Among the developing countries, there had been both positive and negative trends associated with creating an enabling political, legal and cultural environment for social development to take hold. There was now a general movement towards democratization and a general awareness of the need to instil and promote respect for human rights and increase civil society participation and partnerships with governments. However, the institutional framework for policy-making at both national and international levels needed to be strengthened in order to fully integrate economic and social policies. Further, the inexorable tide of globalization had helped and hurt many countries in the South -- providing new market opportunities, on one hand, while fostering punitive and discriminatory trade policies, on the other, he said.
In addition, while most of Asia and North Africa were on track to meet their poverty-reduction targets, there had been little progress for sub-Saharan Africa, in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as in parts of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, where the number of poor people had increased by over 100 million people since 2000. The Group of 77 was particularly concerned with the situation of Africa and the least developed countries, which continued to struggle with marginalization and human suffering. He believed that long-term solutions, such as debt reduction and increased infrastructure investment and capacity-building, would help put those countries on track. The Group of 77 was also concerned by lagging youth employment and mounting social exclusion, particularly of elderly persons and persons with disabilities, he added, calling for renewed focus on people-centred development strategies.
ZOLA S.T. SKWEYIYA, Minister for Social Development of South Africa, said that restructuring and improved management had resulted in almost continuous economic growth in his country, but not enough to keep up with the increased number of people looking for employment. Significant progress had been made in addressing poverty by enhancing the income of poor households through social grants, by broadening access to basic social services and by increasing the ownership of assets, as well as access to opportunities. Great strides had been made, but chronic poverty, exacerbated by HIV/AIDS, continued to affect too many of his people. The AIDS epidemic was having a devastating impact on women and children, especially in the rural areas.
Because of the countrys particular history, he said, the task of social integration remained in the foreground of its efforts. Many of the instruments used to prevent social exclusion were related to land issues, the emancipation of women and gender equality. While significant progress had been made, there was evidence that discrimination in employment still existed. Another key element of its social integration efforts was the putting in place of policies and programmes that addressed the rights and needs of older persons, the disabled and youth. Enabling and sustaining the active participation of organizations representing those groups in the process of social development was a major determinant of success. The New Partnership for Africas Development (NEPAD), he added, was a tool for the economic and social transformation of the continent. Already, the Partnership had recorded success in having agriculture and infrastructure prioritized on the domestic and global agendas.
QIAO ZONGHUAI, Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs of China, said that in the past five to 10 years, many efforts had been made to implement the Copenhagen outcomes, and, gradually, the comprehensive and people-centred approach to development had become widely recognized and endorsed by the international community. Countries were attaching increasing importance to social development, but the world must not fail to see that such work on a global scale was facing grim difficulties and challenges. Despite some progress in eradicating extreme poverty, increasing womens political participation, popularizing basic education, and improving literacy rates and medical care, that progress had been far from even. There had been retrogression in employment, gender equality and access to legal and other social services. In sub-Saharan Africa, overall social development had tended to worsen. Many developing countries had not truly benefited from the dividends of globalization, and the overwhelming majority of those countries had failed to achieve the ODA/GNP ratio of 0.7 per cent.
In addition, he said, security factors were also increasingly becoming the major obstacle to social development. The harsh facts showed that there remained a long uphill journey before achievement of the Copenhagen commitments or the Millennium Development Goals. In order to promote their implementation, countries must work in tandem with a focus on the following: working together for peace; choosing the right road to development in line with national conditions; deepening cooperation and forging comprehensive partnerships; and enhancing coordination and effectively implementing action plans.
He said his country had gradually deepened and enriched its perception of development by taking stock of the history of human development and referencing international experience, both positive and negative. Modernization could not be achieved merely through a high economic growth rate, but rather through the balance between economic and social development, by way of a scientific approach that was people-centred, comprehensive, coordinated and sustainable. In parallel with its sustained, rapid and healthy economic growth, China had also made big headway in various social undertakings in recent years. Its population growth remained under effective control, and poverty had dropped substantially throughout the country. People were better educated on the whole, and public health services had been improved. As a result, the Chinese people now enjoyed better health. Cultural activities, sports and tourism were also flourishing, indicating that China had entered a new phase in its peoples material and cultural life.
GHOLAMALI KHOSHROO, Deputy Foreign Minister of Iran, said that overall assessment of the implementation of the Copenhagen commitments showed a mixed record of some positive developments in regard to education, health and poverty reduction, as well as many unfulfilled commitments. That was also consistent with the result of the review of the success and challenges faced in implementing the Summits outcomes at the national level. While Iran had realized significant achievements towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals, it still faced notable challenges that called for systematic efforts to meet the recommended targets by 2015. There had also been significant improvement regarding gender equality and fighting infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS. To achieve the targets of the Millennium Declaration, both the pace and the quality of those efforts should be strengthened.
Efforts to achieve the Summits goals had been affected negatively by a number of trends, including socio-economic inequalities among nations, he said. The huge socio-economic impacts of severe natural disasters that reduced the ability of countries to provide social services to their people should not be underestimated. Lack of sufficient financial and technical resources had also led to insufficient actions by governments. In that regard, it was necessary to ensure that different forms of international taxation, presented as innovative sources of financing, did not affect the development process of developing countries. Policies that prevented the integration of countries in the international trading system, as well as unilateral sanctions, were among the stumbling blocks that considerably limited the ability of countries to generate necessary resources for advancing social development.
He added that emerging challenges such as ageing, the feminization of poverty and unemployment adversely diminished the ability of countries to meet the Copenhagen goals. In that regard, the Commission for Social Development, in its future programme of work and in reviewing its method of work, should find the best way to address such issues, which deepened social inequalities, particularly for vulnerable groups.
HUSSEIN YOUSSEF AL-MULLA, Under-Secretary of Civil Services and Housing of Qatar, said his country abided by the commitments made at Copenhagen and had set up a high-level governmental committee to effectively follow up their implementation. Qatars commitment stemmed from the belief that the welfare of the individual must be the focus of national attention and the noblest objective of the development policies and programmes. That was the hallmark of the new phase on which the country had embarked since Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani assumed power. Social development enjoyed the support of the highest level of political leadership, which presided over both the Supreme Council for Family Affairs and the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, created in the Summits wake and which had achieved much in social development.
He said his Governments general orientation towards creating a favourable environment for social development, in conformity with the Summits vision of a society for all, had resulted in the attainment of a satisfactory to high level of social development in the country. Increased financial resources had been earmarked for that process, and a legislative approach was adopted that placed people at the centre of development. His country also sought to provide the highest quality of social welfare services for its citizens, and had become a vanguard of those countries that provided similarly outstanding social services. In addition, quality education and primary health-care services were universally and equitably provided. The progress achieved in the health and medical field had raised the standard of living and eliminated many diseases. A new stage in education sought to keep pace with the social and economic development, and illiteracy eradication, adult education and special education were promoted.
Social integration could not be realized without caring for those groups in society needing special attention, he said. That had prompted the establishment in Qatar of several institutions, including the National Committee for Persons with Special Needs. Older persons also occupied a distinct place in Qatari society and enjoyed outstanding social care. The State also created productive employment opportunities for graduates and eliminated the obstacles that impeded their practical life. The State had also provided work environments appropriate to the family role of Qatari women and had promoted gender equality in education. It had also undertaken to train women and develop their managerial and leadership skills. Also flowing from Qatars commitment to improve the framework of international, regional and subregional cooperation for social development, it had hosted several conferences and seminars dealing with related questions.
MIKAEL SJÖBERG, State Secretary, Ministry of Health and Social Affairs of Sweden, said that social development must be firmly based on a rights perspective that was based on human rights conventions. The broad definition of social development from Copenhagen should remain the political vision and guiding policy at the global, regional, national and local levels. Social development called for action at all levels. Creating a society for all meant, among other things, the need for improving social and health systems, policies that promoted full employment, education for all, equal opportunities for women and men and the possibility of combining work and family life. Putting people at the centre of development was an approach that considered economic growth as a means, indeed a necessary means, and not an end in itself.
Development in ageing policies in many countries was one of the best examples of progress made since the Copenhagen Summit, he said. In most countries, more and more people lived longer, and the proportion of elderly persons was increasing. One of the major challenges in the years to come was how to increase labour participation and lifelong learning among the elderly. Investments in healthy ageing and efforts to prevent early retirement were productive contributions to economic growth. In addition, giving children a good life by supporting and protecting their rights was an essential task. Any form of family today must have the possibility to reconcile work and family life. Paid parental leave and extended childcare were some preconditions for enlarged female participation in work life and an important factor in meeting the demands for increased labour supply and economic growth.
SEAMUS BRENNAN, Minister for Social and Family Affairs of Ireland, said that there were few greater challenges than achieving social development, which was vital for improving livelihoods. Of this, Ireland was all too aware, since for much of its history it had been synonymous with poverty, underdevelopment and high levels of emigration. But Ireland had been steadily reversing its situation and, in the years since Copenhagen, had experienced unprecedented growth. Now Irelands per capita gross domestic product (GDP) was among the highest in the world, its unemployment rate was among the lowest and net immigration had replaced emigration. Ireland had achieved those successes by following guidelines similar to the objectives set out in the Copenhagen Declaration, such as investing heavily in education, promoting more open international trade, and ensuring transparent and accountable governance.
One of Irelands remaining priorities has been to continue to combat poverty and social exclusion. Inspired by Copenhagen, the Government had introduced a National Poverty Strategy in 1997, and was also working with other members of the European Union to take decisive strides to wipe out poverty by 2010. Through that process, the Unions member States were working together and learning from each other, especially in addressing common challenges, such as unemployment, family change, migration and ageing. Ireland had made its biggest strides in reducing unemployment levels and increasing womens participation in the workforce. On the other hand, progress towards improving services, including health and child care, had not advanced as quickly as the Government would have hoped, chiefly because the country had had to make up for years of under-investment in those sectors.
Irelands own social development experience had influenced its approach to international development cooperation. Ireland had almost doubled its ODA over the past four years and had adopted the Millennium Development Goals as the general framework to guide its out-of-country initiatives. Africa continued to be a main focus for development cooperation, and, in general, Irelands aid initiatives had been focused on poverty eradication, mainly through the development of basic social services such as primary health and sanitation, and education. Ireland worked in close partnership with its programme countries at all levels and believed that every country was responsible for its own development and the welfare of its own citizens. In that light, progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals and the Copenhagen agenda could only be made if primary responsibility was assumed by the developing countries themselves.
ABDERRAHIM HAROUCHI, Minister for Social Development, Solidarity and Family of Morocco, said the struggle against poverty had to be waged by sustained economic growth that created jobs and wealth. Economic success could only be measured in terms of benefits for the poor, and Morocco was determined to continue efforts in line with the Copenhagen commitments. His country had undertaken many efforts in that regard, including measures to strengthen democracy, the protection of human rights, and the enactment of labour and family code for gender equality. Since 1995, it had set up a social development strategy and had improved access of the underprivileged to basic services. It had also improved its system of social protection and had created new social institutions. The past 10 years had been characterized by an emergence of civil society.
Despite those efforts, social problems had persisted, he said. Morocco had a poverty rate of some 13.7 per cent and an unemployment rate of about 12 per cent. Populations living on the peripheries of cities suffered from social exclusion. New risks facing the country had led to the establishment of a new integrated social strategy based on new concepts, including economic policies conducive to poverty eradication, sectoral social policies to better reach the poor and a cross-cutting programme to fight social exclusion. Those policies were being carried out throughout the country. All non-governmental and governmental actors were being mobilized to deliver on international commitments. Poverty and exclusion were growing threats to social cohesion, resulting in civil crisis and radicalism. Those scourges were sources of tension both within and among countries. In the current time, no country could see itself in isolation. Development, he said, must have as its goal the happiness and freedom of people.
SAMUEL PAWIRONADI, Minister for Social Affairs and Housing of Suriname, on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the world must not shy away from acknowledging its failures and the obstacles to improving implementation. Further, delegates here must leave with a clear idea as to the way forward. The review was sobering, as it was clear that there had been little progress made in achieving the three pillars of social development in the past decade. What progress had been made had been very uneven, with whole regions left behind and inequalities rising both within and between countries. Accordingly, CARICOM shared the assessment that, while a policy framework had been clearly and comprehensively elucidated, the gap between rhetoric and implementation continued to be wide. Narrowing that gap was a shared responsibility, to which the CARICOM delegations pledged their full engagement. Indeed, 10 years later, the obstacles to the full realization of social development for all remained formidable.
He said that perhaps no phenomenon had had a greater impact in the Caribbean region in recent times than natural disasters. The catastrophic hurricane season of 2004 had had a grave impact on the socio-economic development prospects of many of its small islands. Many years of painstaking human and financial investment in the social development of their societies had been lost, literally in a few hours of intense winds, rain and floods. While the region was rebuilding, the 2004 hurricane season and, of course, the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami in December of last year served as a stark reminder of the vulnerability of many developing nations to the devastating impact of natural disasters. He called for the full and timely implementation of the Mauritius Strategy, adopted last month, particularly the provisions related to natural and environmental disasters. Mitigating their devastating effects would enable the Caribbean community to sustain and build on its social and economic commitments, with fewer chances for such grave setbacks.
HIV/AIDS continued to pose a significant challenge to all governments in the region, he said. Aware of that challenge, they had launched aggressive campaigns at both the national and regional levels to mitigate the pandemics effects, but those efforts had entailed massive expenditures of scarce resources for prevention, care, support and treatment programmes. The CARICOM welcomed the regional and international assistance that had been provided, as its countries sought to turn the tide against that pandemic and counter the threat it posed to their continued social and economic development. On globalization, he said the process had not delivered on the promise of vast development opportunities on a global scale. The current world order was still characterized by economic disparities and social injustice, particularly with respect to worsening trade terms, threats to traditional economic activities, and the erosion of trade preferences. Also inescapable was that the debt crisis had remained a main constraint for developing countries and negatively affected their social development.
JULI MINOVES TRIQUELL, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Andorra, noted that since Copenhagen, the Andorran Government had progressively increased its contributions of development aid to some 0.6 per cent of its budget last year, or some 30 euros per person. Andorra had also created a specific department for development cooperation inside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. His country wished to continue increasing those contributions. Emphasizing the need to renew the commitment to good governance at Copenhagen, he noted that many massive and deadly conflicts had impeded the development of peoples, particularly in Africa -- a continent that had given such hope in the 1960s.
Some had suggested the creation of a tax on international transactions to finance a considerable increase in development assistance, a kind of Marshall Plan to pull the most affected countries out of poverty in two decades, he said. Ten years after Copenhagen, it was clear that more of the same would not work. The only way to have a more secure world was to put actions behind words. The United Nations must have the financial means to put far-reaching programmes into practice. The political will of both developed and developing countries was also necessary.
TONY IANNO, Minister of State (Families and Caregivers) of Canada, said that for all of Canadas success as a society, not everyone shared equally in the countrys prosperity. Pockets of its population remained at risk of exclusion, although the Government was determined that no one would be disadvantaged by birth or background. The Government would also continue to focus on those areas that held the most promise to improve the living conditions of Aboriginal Canadians, and it would continue to ensure that the gaps in life changes between them and other Canadians were reduced. Thanks to the countrys economic resurgence and responsible fiscal measures, it was investing significant additional resources in its citizens to ensure that no Canadian was left behind. Understanding that success in life was established in childhood, and in keeping with the Copenhagen commitment to pay particular attention to children, a national child benefit had been introduced in 1998 to provide income support to low-income families with children, as well as support and services to enable parents to move from welfare to work.
As a result, he said, the percentage of children living in low-income families had declined from 16.7 per cent in 1996 to 10.2 per cent in 2002, representing an improvement of nearly 40 per cent in a short period of time. In addition, through a comprehensive income security system, Canada had made significant progress in reducing the proportion of low-income seniors from
20.8 per cent in 1980 to 6.9 per cent in 2002. That had made the country a global leader in alleviating poverty among the elderly. It had also recently launched a programme to harness older Canadians skills and experience, while reducing their risk of isolation. A new package of measures would enhance the inclusion of Canadians with disabilities, particularly in productive employment. Canada was also proud to have a universal health-care system, which was accessible to all, regardless of income.
Similarly, Canada was reducing barriers to education and employment through enriched financial assistance for low-income students, special grants for marginalized populations, and lifelong learning opportunities for middle-aged and older workers, he explained. By addressing the countrys social challenges, the Government had established a department dedicated to social development. It would serve as a focal point for social policy across the federal Government and to work with other levels of government, the private sector, and civil society. His Government also recently had announced a debt-relief proposal to ease the debt burden for the worlds poorest countries. The proposal would provide low-income countries with the opportunity to invest in the future of their people, and not in the debt obligations of their past. Clearly, much more must be done to reduce disparities between nations. Canadians were determined to do their part.
ANA MARIA ROMERO-LOZADA, Minister for Women and Social Development of Peru, reaffirmed her countrys commitment to the Copenhagen Programme of Action and Declaration, as well as the agreements reached in Geneva in 2000. Ten years after Copenhagen, one could say that a consensus had emerged on the need to wipe out poverty. One decade ago, Perus Government had committed to moving forward the design and enactment of participatory social policies. It continued to honour that commitment. Between 1995 and the present, Peru had stepped up its social expenditures on social protection programmes, which accounted for some 45 per cent of the national budget. It had also expanded coverage for primary education and the basic health-care system. Nutritional programmes had become better focused to reach the most vulnerable groups. Access to drinking water and sanitation had also been improved. Despite those efforts, however, poverty had not been significantly reduced. Economic growth had not reached the areas of the economy with the most impact for job creation, and there had been no improvement in terms of distribution. Significant change was needed.
Reducing poverty required a global, less speculative financial system with new mechanisms and additional resources, she said. Such mechanisms would have to facilitate the expansion of public and private investment. On job growth, throughout the 1990s, the dynamics of the labour market had changed due to restructuring and labour reforms. To build efficient labour relations, the Government had enacted active policies for promoting job growth for the young and in poor rural and urban areas. The Government would also analyse the effects that agreements on free trade would have on jobs, particularly in the vulnerable textile sector. Another strategy for confronting land-holding inequalities was the decentralization of political decision-making to the municipal level. The international community also needed to focus on the issue of international migration, as one in 35 people in todays world were migrants. In that regard, Peru would convene an international conference for developing countries in Lima in 2005.
MARCIA HELENA CARVALHO LOPES, Minister for Social Development and Hunger Combat of Brazil, said her country, along with some others, had a double role in fulfilling the Millennium Development Goals. It had, as a task, not only to better the life conditions of its population, but also to join other countries in overcoming the obstacles to development. Her Government, committed as it was to reaching the agreed development Goals, had been implementing public policies for eradicating hunger and poverty. It had also become a tireless defender of the inclusion of poverty and hunger eradication as an urgent item of the international agenda. Brazil had also been at the forefront of combating HIV/AIDS. The universal health-care system granted access to all in the prevention of the disease and care of those people afflicted by it. On the global level, it had established an International Cooperation Programme with countries in Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean, which provided technical training to professionals and the distribution of medicine.
She said her Government fully endorsed the Copenhagen commitments and the notion of people-centred development, with the important participation of civil society to attain that objective. Yet, according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in 46 countries, people were poorer today than they were a decade ago, and in 25 countries, more people suffered from hunger. Deep inequalities separated peoples and countries, and the world still faced the challenge of improving market access for products and services from developing countries and of finding the ways and means by which those countries could benefit more evenly from globalization. As everyone knew, poverty in Brazil, in Latin America and in other parts of the world had its origins in the historical processes of each of those countries. It was an old and structural form of poverty, to which had been added another form, as a result of new productive processes, the technological revolution and the fact that economic growth at sufficiently elevated rates to create enough jobs was no longer possible.
Economic growth alone was not sufficient to oppose and overcome poverty, particularly in countries with elevated rates of inequality, as was still the case in hers, she said. The promotion of a more just society demanded that policies focusing on economic growth were complemented by others, specifically focused on the reduction of poverty and social inequality. The starting point for her Government was not to think of social development as a sub-product of economic development. To overcome the dichotomy between economic development and social development, public policies - from infrastructure to credit, from sectoral to social policies - should be geared towards a strategic vision of the integration of territory and population. ZERO HUNGER, conceived as a policy that united emergency and structural measures, and involving almost all ministries, the subnational governments, the entities of organized societies, and businesses, sought such integration. Similarly, the LIGHT FOR ALL programme aimed at ending electric exclusion in the country.
PAUL MANGWANA, Minister for Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare of Zimbabwe, noted that his countrys entry point to development was through the democratization of resource ownership and control, especially land, to empower the majority of the population to participate in economic development. Unfortunately, the international community had misunderstood that model of democratization, hence, creating a rather hostile development environment. Notwithstanding those negative circumstances, Zimbabwe had continued on a democratization process that took into account its historical realities. Since the Social Summit, Zimbabwe had gone a long way in developing a market-driven economy. Achievements on that front were positive, despite the withdrawal of the Bretton Woods institutions from supporting economic reforms in Zimbabwe. The country had created several macroeconomic liberalization reforms. Structural rigidities, skewed income and asset ownership had not allowed the benefits of reforms to benefit the majority of the people. As a result, since 1995, Zimbabwe had recorded major declines in most social indicators.
Zimbabwe was allocating significant resources towards social development, he said. Due to the economic crisis, however, a large portion of resources that could have been directed towards real social development was being channelled towards social safety nets. Despite the economic decline of the last few years, Zimbabwe remained committed to development and protecting its human capital. Since Copenhagen, Zimbabwe had demonstrated unwavering commitment towards poverty alleviation. The cornerstone of the countrys efforts in that area was the Poverty Alleviation Action Plan that was presented to the Summit as the countrys framework for poverty reduction. The main strategy of the Plan was to invest in people as the countrys key resource for development by regarding them as the primary agents of their own development.
Poverty and HIV/AIDS were two of the most devastating pandemics ever to hit Zimbabwe and the region, he said. Their relationship could not longer be disputed. Despite the fact that Zimbabwe had one of the highest prevalence rates in the world, it had been denied assistance under the Global Fund for HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis. It was unfortunate that political considerations were being used by some world bodies to deny deserving people their right to life.
He said the goal of full employment had been the most difficult to achieve in Zimbabwe. While his country had explored several options to promote the goal of full employment, its efforts had been hampered by several constraints, including macroeconomic instability and the adverse political image that the country had received as a result of opposition to its land reform programme. Zimbabwe had made significant investment towards implementing the commitment to promote social integration by fostering a society that was stable, safe and just. His country recognized the need to develop constitutional and legal instruments to institutionalize a human rights culture.
CHRIS POND, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions of the United Kingdom, associated himself with the position of the European Union and said that human development and social justice would be a priority for the United Kingdoms European Union and G8 presidencies this year. He was delighted that the Secretary-General was discussing those issues in London with Prime Minister Blair and other colleagues today.
The international community was off-track as far as implementation of the Millennium Development Goals was concerned, but there was time to meet those objectives if it redoubled its efforts, he said. The year 2005 presented a unique opportunity, but the scale of resources needed to tackle disease, illiteracy and global poverty was far beyond what traditional funding could offer today. The United Kingdom was fully committed to the United Nations aid target of 0.7 per cent of national income. Over the next year, his Government planned to ask donor countries to join it and nine others who had either reached that target, or set timetables towards it. But even the achievement of the 0.7 per cent target by one or two of the G7 tomorrow would not deliver the extra resources needed to achieve the Millennium Goals -- at least $50 billion a year -- now.
While supporting further exploration of proposals for global taxation, he believed that to keep the Millennium Summit promises, it was necessary to provide additional resources now. For that reason, he called on all countries to join the United Kingdom in implementing the International Finance Facility (IFF) to offer immediate, predictable, long-term aid needed to meet the Goals. The IFF worked by building on the commitments made in Monterrey, where donors had pledged an additional $16 billion a year. On the basis of those commitments, it leveraged in additional money from international capital markets to meet the Goals - effectively doubling aid to halve poverty. By frontloading, the Facility would deploy a critical mass of aid when it would have the most impact. Money spent would tackle the root causes of current difficulties and reduce the build-up of hugely expensive problems in the future.
His country, France and Sweden were working with the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation on a proposal for an International Finance Facility for Immunisation (IFFIm), which would mobilize significant extra resources in the next few years to overcome the lack of sufficient funds and stable, predictable cash flows. A $4 billion Facility could save over 5 million lives over 10 years and a further 5 million after 2015. The United Kingdom had proposed to pledge
$1.8 billion over 15 years to the IFFIm. This year, the country would also continue to work with international institutions, developing countries and donors to build support for solutions to the problems of social and economic development.
JOSEFINA VASQUEZ MOTA, Minister for Social Development of Mexico, said that technological progress and humankinds ability to increase wealth would be for naught if millions of people continued to die from preventable diseases, if human beings were not placed at the centre of social development.
Turning to the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals, she said that her country was moving towards attaining those Goals within the framework of social development, consolidation of democracy and promotion of freedom. Out of the 12 quantifiable objectives set by the United Nations in the Millennium Declaration, Mexico had attained seven ahead of schedule and had made significant progress towards the implementation of another four. She was convinced that, to meet social development challenges, it was necessary to improve institutional arrangements, disseminate technological innovations, and introduce better political instruments.
She described Mexicos new general social development law, which sought to coordinate the countrys social policies, promoting a long-term approach to development. Unanimously adopted by the countrys Congress, the law provided for the institutional machinery to attain the Millennium Goals. Efforts were being made to strengthen the programmes for the development of human capital and creation of opportunities, which were now reaching out to some 25 million people. Other projects initiated in the country addressed the issues of human settlements and pockets of poverty in urban areas. Mexico was trying to achieve a profound transformation of its cities, create opportunities for men and women of all ages, and ensure optimal use of tax resources.
In formulating its social and economic policy goals, Mexico was not only seeking to meet immediate development needs, but also to set ambitious targets beyond 2015. The Governments long-term plans included programmes to achieve not only universal elementary education, but universal secondary education, as well. The country would like to move faster towards the Goals, which would take into account regional differences and stimulate participation of local and municipal governments and civil society. The Government also intended to address various aspects of the problem of migration, including its links with poverty; to overcome urban poverty; and to incorporate the use of technology in the programmes to tackle poverty. Mexico also stressed the importance of United Nations efforts to promote microfinancing.
MUSTAPHA ABDUL-HAMID (Trinidad and Tobago) said his countrys priority was to foster an environment promoting continuous social progress. Government activities had included promoting an equitable society by eradicating poverty and reducing imbalances in society; developing a competent, productive and knowledgeable human resource base; sustaining robust economic growth through sound macroeconomic management; enhancing competitiveness to meet the challenges of globalization and liberalization; adopting environmentally sustainable development strategies for long-term growth; and promoting a more cohesive, tolerant and harmonious society.
Over the past five years, he said, the Government had been developing specific national policies aimed at disabled persons, the elderly, youth and gender, involving the target group in policy planning, development and implementation. In 2002, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago had set up the Coordinating Committee on the Social Sector to monitor and coordinate activities in the social sector and ensure expeditious implementation of social programmes.
In addition, Trinidad and Tobago was providing single parents, women, the elderly, children and youth, the unemployed, persons with disabilities and socially displaced persons with access to quality education and training, and opportunities for sustainable employment, he said. Such groups benefited from a wide range of career enhancement opportunities, youth development and community development programmes, as well as training in entrepreneurial development and micro-enterprise loans and grants. The country had also sought to equip the educational system with needed tools and resources, including textbooks, free transportation for needy students, and assistance with tuition expenses. Other ongoing initiatives were aimed at integrating the elderly, assisting the disabled, reintegrating ex-prisoners and departed persons into society, and promoting gender equity.
VALCARCE GARCIA, Secretary of State for Social Services, Family and Disability of Spain, said her Government supported the notion of swapping debt for social development initiatives. Reducing poverty was an urgent obligation, whose success would help her country attain its public policy objectives. Among them were peace, health, improved environmental quality, and security. Promoting social inclusion and building hope for all citizens required the involvement of all levels of Government and all players in society. Policies must focus on providing social and economic assurances for all people, at a time when European-wide inclusion strategies were yielding successes. Her country had also managed to keep its poverty level low, at 18 per cent. It had reduced poverty by more than half, but there was still a long way to go.
She said that fighting poverty and social exclusion effectively required access to housing, health, education, justice and family counselling. Warning signs of discrimination and xenophobia needed to be heeded, as ignoring them could spawn social exclusion. Attention should also be paid to stable and quality jobs, as that ensured social coherence. Spains national action plan for social inclusion (2003 to 2005) comprised strategic approaches involving, among other aspects: improving coordination of its social protection policy; advancing inter-territorial cohesion and upgrading vulnerable neighbourhoods; providing support to the family and in the workplace; and increased assistance to vulnerable groups, such as gypsies, immigrants, children, the homeless and the elderly.
As a result of those strategic approaches, she said her Government had adopted new socio-economic measures raising the minimum salary and increasing the minimum pensions. The latter advance had been difficult to achieve, as it was the first pension increase since 1979. For the first time in Spain, more than half of public expenditures were being converted to social expenditures. The time had come to achieve major gains in eradicating poverty. As a European Union member, Spain was resolutely working towards that and towards achieving the Copenhagen objectives. It would also become actively involved in swapping debt for social development initiatives, particularly in the field of education. Spain was also profoundly committed to attainment of the Millennium Development Goals.
RIAD ABUKARAKI, Minister for Social Development of Jordan, said his Government was committed to the implementation of social development policy. Among the Governments priorities was the need to improve social security and employment. Jordan had developed several programmes to fight poverty and had created certain funds to meet the needs of the poorest. Some $140 million had been collected for those funds. Overcoming poverty, a great concern for his country, involved improvements in education, health and employment. Jordan was focusing on providing education for all people, as well as full medical coverage, especially for the poorest. The Government had taken measures to ensure that all children under the age of six would receive medical coverage.
Reflecting its belief in the full participation of civil society, he noted that Jordan had over 900 civil society organizations. The Government was currently reviewing legislation in that regard. Jordan also stressed the importance of implementing various international conventions. Poverty knew no borders. As such, the international community had to act by implementing social development policies that adequately addressed social development issues.
SAMIOLLAH LAUTHAN, Minister for Social Security, National Solidarity and Senior Citizen Welfare and Reform Institutions of Mauritius, speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), noted that within the SADC countries, some 70 per cent of the population lived below the poverty line of two dollars a day, with about 40 per cent under the one dollar a day poverty line. HIV/AIDS was the leading cause of death in the region, and life expectancy had declined. Only 13 per cent of the roads were paved and less than 3 per cent of the population had a telephone line or mobile phone. Despite such setbacks, the SADC had shown strong commitment in addressing the issues raised in the Copenhagen Declaration.
As a whole, the SADC region had been able to obtain the medium level of social development, he said. Some members had achieved sustained annual GDP growth rates close to 7 and 8 per cent. Progress had also been recorded in key social indicators. Members had continued to pursue pluralism, democratic governance and commitment to the rule of law, through the expansion of civil liberties, electoral reforms and strengthening of local governance structures. Despite progress, however, the region was still faced with daunting social and human development challenges, including poverty. Since the mid 1980s, there had been a rapid increase in the prevalence of HIV/AIDS with some countries now having the highest level of infection in the world. Most countries had prevalence rates of some 20 per cent for the entire adult population between the ages of 15 and 49.
Employment levels and labour productivity trends were generally low in the region, due to factors such as distortions in prices and the negative effects of macroeconomic interventions, he said. Although there had been progress in achieving greater representation for women in governmental and intergovernmental structures in some countries in the region, there were still challenges in the promotion of gender equality. Violent crime, human and drug trafficking, and refugee flows had contributed to the disintegration of family and communal life. The social and human developments facing the region fell within the core issues of the Copenhagen Declaration. In spite of numerous financial and technological hurdles, SADC members were relentlessly pursuing the Copenhagen commitments and the fulfilment of the Millennium Development Goals. Genuine political commitment, coupled with financial support and technology transfer would enable the region to create more opportunities to eradicate poverty, promote full employment and foster social integration.
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