4 February 2005

Background Release

Commission for Social Development Session, 9 - 18 February, to Address Poverty, Employment, Social Integration Ten Years after Social Summit

NEW YORK, 3 February (UN Headquarters) -- Ten years after the first-ever World Summit on Social Development in Copenhagen, “a number of trends are negatively affecting social development, notably socio-economic deprivation and inequality”, says Secretary-General Kofi Annan in a February 2005 report, adding that “threats to civil liberties derived from security interests are on the rise”.

The Commission for Social Development will review the commitments world leaders undertook in Copenhagen at its forty-third session, to be held at United Nations Headquarters from 9 to 18 February, with a high-level plenary meeting on 10 and 11 February.  The Commission will carry out a 10-year review of the implementation of the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action on social development, and of the follow-up special session of the General Assembly held in Geneva in 2000.

The Secretary-General will address the high-level meeting on Thursday, 10 February at 10 a.m., after the formal opening of the meeting by the Chairperson of the Commission, South Africa’s Permanent Representative Dumisani Shadrack Kumalo. Three simultaneous round tables will then address the implementation of the 10 commitments of the Social Summit and their linkages with the Millennium Development Goals:  Promoting Full Employment; Poverty Eradication; and Fostering Social Integration. The high-level meeting will conclude with the adoption of a declaration on 11 February.

Expected participants include ministers from Andorra, Brazil, Canada, Egypt, France, Ireland, Jamaica, Luxembourg, Morocco, Senegal, South Africa, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago and Zimbabwe.

On 8 February, a civil society forum, co-sponsored by the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Committee on Social Development and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, will focus on “Reclaiming Copenhagen”.  The outcome of the forum -- a civil society declaration -- will be presented to the Commission on 9 February. Side events will involve Social Watch, HelpAge International, the International Council on Social Welfare, the NGO Committee on Social Development, ATD Fourth World and others.

The 9 February morning session will feature a panel discussion with the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).  The afternoon session will include a panel discussion with the executive secretaries of the United Nations regional commissions.  Discussions will focus on the implementation of the commitments made in Copenhagen and Geneva.

During the second week (14-18 February), the Commission will review the 1982 World Programme of Action concerning disabled persons, the Secretary-General’s report on the World Youth Report 2005, the 2002 Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing, and the tenth anniversary of the International Year of the Family and Beyond.  A panel discussion in the morning of 14 February will focus on “Working with young people on common goals”.


At the World Summit for Social Development, held from 6 to 12 March 1995 in Copenhagen, 117 heads of State and government pledged to assign the highest priority “to the promotion of social progress, justice and the betterment of the human condition” so as to achieve secure, stable and just societies.  By adopting a Declaration and Programme of Action, world leaders pledged to make the conquest of poverty, the goal of full employment and the fostering of social integration overriding objectives of development.

The Summit, through its three core issues -- poverty, employment and social integration -- addressed social development in a comprehensive manner, treating it as a process involving participation by all.  It stressed that social development implies the promotion of a more equitable distribution of opportunities, income, assets and power, and called for the involvement of governments, civil society and the private sector to promote inclusion and participation.

The most productive policies and investments are “those that empower people to maximize their capacities, resources and opportunities”, the Summit said. The conference shifted the debate, inverting the traditional dependency of the social on the economic, and moving the focus to the many economic dimensions of social development -- be they trade, finance or technology -- which are significant for society, not on their economic merits, but on how they best promote productive activities to satisfy social needs.

Five years on, governments reconvened in Geneva at the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly, held from 26 June to 1 July 2000, to review what had been achieved and to commit themselves to new initiatives.  The special session adopted a political declaration, an assessment of the 1995 Summit, and further initiatives to implement the Copenhagen commitments.

Report of Secretary-General

Before the Commission is the Secretary-General’s report Review of the further implementation of the World Summit for Social Development and the outcome of the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly (document E/CN.5/2005/6).  The broad concept of social development affirmed in Copenhagen has gradually become less comprehensive, the report says, as reflected in the Millennium Development Goals and the World Bank’s Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers, which approach poverty eradication from mainly an economic vantage point.

The other two core issues of the summit have also suffered from a general disconnect between economic and social policy-making, the report says.  The centrality of employment to economic and social development is absent in the Millennium Development Goals, and the fundamental contribution of social integration to economic and social development has not filtered through to later policy documents.  The Millennium Development Goals make no reference to efforts to building more inclusive and just democratic societies.

However, the Goals are a concerted effort to fill in the “implementation gap” that followed several world summits and conferences.  The world situation has not improved -- not because of a lack of decision, but because implementation still falls short of the intended goals.  By selecting a few specific areas and spelling out targets and a time frame to achieve them, the Millennium Development Goals have contributed to better multilateral action and national policies.

Progress towards achieving the main goals of the Summit, the report continues, is, at best, uneven, the report continues.  Achieving social development continues to be characterized by a disparity between intentions and actions, proclaimed objectives and the actual orientation of national and international policies.

On the aggregate worldwide basis, there has been some progress, as measured by specific statistical indicators, in a number of areas. Global extreme poverty has declined; the number of women elected to representative office has increased; boys and girls are moving towards equal enrolment rates in primary and secondary schools; and the global female literacy rate is increasing.  Democratization has expanded, and civil society organizations have become important partners for social development. The economic environment for social development has also improved, but institutional policy-making needs to be strengthened at both the national and international levels to achieve the integration of social and economic policies.

But even in areas where global indicators have improved, the progress made and the pace of change often vary widely between regions, and even more so within countries.

There are also areas where there has been no or marginal progress, the report says.  The world unemployment rate has increased since Copenhagen, and the goals of full employment and social integration have not been fully incorporated into the development agendas.  The inequalities that come from being born a woman or being born at the “wrong place at the wrong time” continue to exist, as do unequal access to social services and the uneven application of legal rights and privileges.  Rising levels of income inequality within and among countries threaten the possibility of lifting people out of poverty and fostering social integration.

Economic globalization has expanded dramatically, while social and political institutions have remained largely national, not providing needed oversight of global markets to redress inequalities among countries.  The result has been “asymmetric globalization”, also apparent in an international policy agenda that favours free trade, protection of intellectual property rights, investment protection and financial market liberalization while neglecting items of interest to developing countries, such as international labour mobility, remittances, international taxation of financial flows, and mechanisms to coordinate macroeconomic policies among major economies.

Globalization is a fact, and participation is a prerequisite for benefiting from it, the report continues.  National and international efforts should aim at strengthening global governance, as well as mechanisms to promote a more balanced and inclusive globalization.

Power has tended to shift from the public to the private sector, with a greatly reduced role of the State in the economy, reducing resources available for social development.  This shift is partly due to the recognition of past failures of the State’s direct involvement in the economy and the provision of social services, and to a perception of State intervention in society as inefficient when compared with market mechanisms.  But the new emphasis on private-public partnerships should not be used for the State to withdraw from its responsibilities in providing social services.

Since the Summit, governments have given greater priority to poverty reduction by setting poverty reduction targets and enacting poverty eradication plans.  Progress has been uneven, according to the report.  The proportion of people living in extreme poverty dropped from around 30 per cent in 1990 to 21 per cent in 2001.  But while the situation had improved in most regions, it was stagnant in sub-Saharan Africa, while in Western Asia poverty actually increased.  Overall, a lack of sustained pro-poor growth has been a major obstacle to reducing poverty.

Economic growth by itself is not sufficient, and even high growth rates alone do not guarantee poverty reduction, the report states.  Economic growth that is broad, inclusive and increases average household income and consumption is more effective for poverty reduction.

Poverty reduction policies should attack poverty by addressing its root causes and manifestations, and guaranteeing that equity and equality dimensions are incorporated in these policies.  Specific policy measures should guarantee access by the marginalized to assets and opportunities -- particularly access to education, land, capital and technology.

Progress in expanding unemployment has fallen far short of expectations, and the past years have seen a rise in global unemployment levels.  Where job growth has taken place, it has been concentrated in insecure, informal jobs with low wages and few benefits.

Stimulating economic growth is not enough, says the report.  Policies also need to promote the efficient functioning of the markets and to spur employment, placing job creation at the centre of economic policy-making.  Given the level of job change and dislocation in today’s dynamic labour market, labour market policies are essential to foster the smooth reallocation of labour from declining industries to new and emerging ones.

Employment strategies should promote decent work under conditions of equity, security and dignity, and incorporate job creation into macroeconomic policy.  Specific measures should incorporate the informal sector in social protection programmes, and incentives should promote job creation by directing investment to sectors that are productive and labour-intensive, also encouraging small- and medium-sized enterprises.

Social integration policies should seek to reduce inequalities, promote participation, integrate immigrants, foster gender equality, and promote access to education and health care, the report continues.  They should counter the negative effects of globalization on social development and the new threats posed by market-driven reforms, as these appear to produce social exclusion.  Laws should protect cultural, religious and ethnic identities, and programmes should enlarge public participation in decision-making, by ensuring access to information by citizens and by establishing mechanisms for reviewing government policies.

The report recommends to the Commission that it reaffirms the need for a people-centred approach to development and for its urgent and concrete implementation.  The Commission should stress that people-centred development includes integrating economic and social policies, notably through the relationship between macroeconomic policies and social development goals; a better management of the social consequences of the interdependence of nations in a globalizing world; and a new concept of the relations between public and the private spheres and the role of the State in formulating and carrying out social policies.

The Commission is also invited to recommend to the General Assembly that it gives due consideration to a people-centred approach at its five-year review of the Millennium Declaration in September, by strengthening prospects of an enabling environment for people-centred development, intensifying strategies and policies for poverty eradication, guaranteeing employment opportunities for all and fostering social integration and cohesion.

Other Reports

The World Youth Report, a report of the Secretary-General (document A/60/61-E/2005/7), reviews the 10 priority areas of the 1995 World Programme of Action for Youth to the Year 2000 and Beyond, and recommends new inputs for global youth policy.  An annex to the report reviews new concerns since the adoption of the World Programme of Action:  the mixed impact of globalization on youth, the use of and access to information and communication technologies, the dramatic increase of HIV infections among young people, the involvement of young people in armed conflict, and the increased importance of addressing intergenerational issues in an ageing society.

A report of the Secretary-General (document E/CN.5/2005/2) on Review of the methods of work of the Commission for Social Development puts forward recommendations for improving the Commission’s methods of work, such as ensuring the participation of high-level representatives of the field of social development in its work; having more focused outcomes on the Commission’s priority themes, with new elements and valuable policy recommendations; adopting a biennial programme of work; including in its agendas an item on new challenges and emerging issues; encouraging more active involvement in its work by the United Nations regional commissions, funds and programmes, the Bretton Woods institutions and all relevant actors in social development; and identifying ways to be a more effective forum for fostering cooperation, partnerships and solidarity in the pursuit of social development.

A note by the Secretary-General on Monitoring the implementation of the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities (document E/CN.5/2005/5) transmits the report by the Commission’s Special Rapporteur on Disability, Sheikha Hessa Al-Thani, on developments in implementing the 1993 Rules, which deal with equality and full participation of disabled persons in social life and development.  The report covers efforts by governments to put into effect the rules, documents changing attitudes in the media, and contains recommendations to governments, non-governmental organizations, the United Nations, other international organizations, and the private sector.

Also before the Commission are notes by the Secretary-General on nominations of members of the Board of the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (document E/CN.5/2005/4) and on nominations of members of the Board of the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (document E/CN/.5/2005/4/Add.1).

Overview of Commission

Established in 1946, the Commission is a functional body of the Economic and Social Council.  Its 46 members are elected for terms of office of four years on the following basis:  12 from African States; 10 from Asian States; five from Eastern European States; nine from Latin American and Caribbean States; and 10 from Western European and Other States.

As a result of the Social Summit, the mandate of the Commission was reviewed and its membership expanded from 31 to 46 members in 1996.  Past themes of the Commission have been:  review of the Social Summit; social services for all; social integration and participation of all; productive employment and sustainable livelihoods; eradicating poverty and enhancing social protection; reducing vulnerability in a globalizing world; integrating social and economic policy; national and international cooperation for social development; and improving public sector effectiveness.

Commission Membership

The current members of the Commission with their terms of expiry are:  Argentina (2007), Austria (2005), Bangladesh (2005), Bulgaria (2005), Central African Republic (2007), Chile (2008), China (2005), Comoros (2005), Côte d’Ivoire (2008), Czech Republic (2005), Denmark (2005), Dominican Republic (2007), El Salvador (2005), Ethiopia (2008), France (2008), Gabon (2005), Germany (2008), Haiti (2008), India (2007), Indonesia (2008), Iran (2007), Italy (2005), Jamaica (2005), Japan (2008), Kazakhstan (2005), Libya (2007), Mali (2008), Malta (2007), Mexico (2005), Pakistan (2007), Peru (2008), Republic of Korea (2008), Republic of Moldova (2008), Romania (2007), Russian Federation (2008), Senegal (2007), South Africa (2005), Spain (2007), Suriname (2007), Switzerland (2005), Tunisia (2008), Turkey (2007), United Republic of Tanzania (2005), United States (2008), Viet Nam (2005) and Zambia (2007).

Additional information on the session is available at

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