10 February 2005

Focus on Poverty Eradication, Social Integration, Promotion of Full Employment, as Commission for Social Development Opens Current Session

“Mixed Record” of Uneven Progress Cited in Implementation of Copenhagen Action Programme

NEW YORK, 9 February (UN Headquarters) -- Taking stock of global progress in advancing the broad goals of the 1995 Copenhagen Declaration, the Commission on Social Development opened today with speakers calling for renewed momentum and reclaimed purpose in meeting the core objectives of the landmark Declaration and Programme of Action, including poverty eradication, social integration and the promotion of full employment.

Noting that the 10-year review of the 1995 World Summit on Social Development Copenhagen Declaration revealed a “mixed record” of uneven progress, Jose Antonio Ocampo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said that while the historic Summit -- where governments pledged to confront profound social challenges and place people at the centre of development -- had succeeded in raising awareness of the importance of implementing social development policies, many hopes and expectations had been unfulfilled.  Most disquieting was that fact that the all-encompassing approach to development advanced by the Summit had been lost or severely weakened in the international policy-making arena.

Ten years after the Social Summit, he added, the comprehensive and demanding vision of social development agreed in Copenhagen and reaffirmed five years later in Geneva had yet to receive the attention it deserved.  While there had been progress in some areas, including a noticeable reduction of extreme poverty and greater overall access to primary education, that progress had been less than expected and often uneven, not only between regions but also across countries.  Situations of inequality had also remained pervasive, posing considerable obstacles to attacking the structural causes of poverty.

“The fact remained that no human being should be condemned to endure a brief miserable life only because of his or her class, country, religious affiliation, ethnic background or gender”, he said.  Overcoming those biases required a policy approach that placed human beings at the centre of development and viewed economic growth as a means and not an end in itself.  With the ultimate goal of improving the quality of life of current and future generations, world leaders had to remain committed to fostering social integration, thereby preventing the crystallization of segmented societies that would inevitably lead to more social conflict.

Opening this morning’s session, Commission Chairperson Dumisani S. Kumalo of South Africa said that while the Social Summit had made historic progress in some areas, the challenges of inequality, social injustice, unemployment and underdevelopment were as true today as they were 10 years ago.  Noting that the aims of the Millennium Declaration would never be complete without social development issues receiving their appropriate recognition, he said the forty-third session could make an important contribution to the forthcoming Summit to Review the Millennium Declaration and the Implementation of the Millennium Development Goals in September 2005.

Johan Scholvinck, Director of the Division for Social Policy and Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, noted that the Secretary-General had, in his report before the Commission, proposed strengthening the prospects of an enabling environment for people-centred development.  He stressed that  emphasis should be placed on the equitable distribution of benefits in an increasingly open world economy, with actions promoting democratic participation by all countries and peoples in decision-making processes governing international relations.  Realization of the commitments adopted in 1995 in Copenhagen had lagged far behind, and States now had a renewed opportunity to close the “implementation gap”.

In two panels today, the Commission took up the theme of reviewing progress in implementing the Copenhagen outcomes.  The panellists this morning were from the International Labour Organization (ILO), the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).  A World Bank representative warned that if the world did not deal with the social dimensions of the coming changes of the next 30 to 40 years, the planet would not be sustainable.  He pressed delegations to think about how economic growth could occur in a socially and environmentally responsible manner.  Questions centred on rising unemployment, especially among youth, and “collapsing societies”, owing to the negative effects of the globalization process. 

A second panel this afternoon featured the executive secretaries of the regional commissions, including the head of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), who drew attention to the devastating effects of the Indian Ocean tsunami, with fishermen, farmers and migrant workers among the hardest hit.  The Executive Director of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), whose 13 members included the occupied Palestinian territory, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria, said that a decade of political instability had been the region’s main feature, impeding commitments to the Copenhagen Summit outcomes.  Some progress had been made, however, in terms of literacy, education enrolment and health services.

At the outset of the meeting, Gerda Vogl of Austria was elected as Commission Vice-Chairperson to fill the vacancy left by the departure of Paloma Duran of Spain, who had assumed new duties outside of New York.  The Commission was also informed that Octavian Stamate of Romania, also a Vice-Chairperson, would serve as Rapporteur for the current session.

The Commission also adopted its provisional agenda and approved its draft organization of work for the session, which will conclude on 18 February.

Making presentations at this morning’s panel discussion was Gerry Rodgers, Director of the Policy Integration Department, International Labour Organization (ILO); Mark W. Plant, Senior Adviser, Policy Development and Review Department, International Monetary Fund (IMF); and Ian Johnson, Vice-President, Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Development, World Bank. 

Participating in the afternoon panel discussion was K.Y. Amoako, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa; Brigita Schmögnerová, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Europe and current Coordinator; Jose Luis Machinea, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean; Kim Hak-Su, Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific; and Mervat Tallawy, Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia.

The Commission will meet again tomorrow, 10 February, at 10 a.m. to begin its high-level segment.


The Commission for Social Development met this morning to begin its forty-third session.  [For background information, see Press Release SOC/4658 dated 3 February 2005.]

Opening Statement by Commission Chairperson

Commission Chairperson DUMISANI S. KUMALO (South Africa) said the struggle against poverty, inequality and social exclusion had various dimensions, many of which were ominously passed on to future generations as a bitter inheritance.  Ten years ago in Copenhagen, heads of State and government had begun to chart a way to deal with those challenges by adopting the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action.  The challenges of inequality, social injustice, unemployment and underdevelopment were as true today as they were 10 years ago in Copenhagen and five years ago in Geneva.  The forty-third session offered a window of opportunity to reclaim Copenhagen and renew the momentum to advance the social agenda.  In that way, it could make a contribution to the forthcoming Summit to Review the Millennium Declaration and the Implementation of the Millennium Development Goals in September 2005.  The aims of the Millennium Declaration would never be complete without social development issues receiving their appropriate recognition.

While the Social Summit had made historic progress in some areas, the Commission faced the same challenges identified 10 years ago, he said.  The Commission’s current session had the opportunity to produce an outcome that would chart a concrete way forward.  The presence of such a high number of ministers and high-level officials indicated there was great hope that the session could make a qualitative difference in the lives of millions of people living under conditions of poverty, social exclusion, inequality and underdevelopment.  The Commission had a unique role in harmonizing the synergies of the implementation of social development goals at the country and regional level together with the Commission’s work programme in New York.

Statement by Under-Secretary-General

JOSE ANTONIO OCAMPO, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said that the struggle for social development had been going on for centuries, and had continuously enlarged the prospects for equity and equality in human relations.  Copenhagen had neither been the starting point nor the final destination of social development.  What had been unique to the Summit had been the political will mustered by all governments to give an integral treatment to the social challenges of development, which, until then, had often been dealt with in a sectoral fashion.  Such an understanding -- that social development was much more than the aggregate result of social policies -- was not new, but the Summit enshrined that framework in international relations and multilateral decisions.

Nonetheless, he said, 10 years after the Social Summit, the comprehensive and demanding vision of social development agreed in Copenhagen and reaffirmed five years later in Geneva had yet to receive the attention it deserved.  The enabling environment envisaged by the Copenhagen Declaration was conceived to create the conditions for people to achieve social development.  The economic, political, social, legal and cultural dimensions embedded in it were especially important.  The commitments on eradicating poverty, promoting full employment and social integration had been accompanied by far-reaching policy recommendations based on the axiom that the well-being of people should be the centrepiece of national and international public attention.

That people-centred approach to policy-making had not lost its relevance, but it had been neglected in many quarters and threatened by recent developments on the international scene, he said.  Implementation should dominate and shape the national and international agendas, in order to revive the spirit of the World Summit and foster the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals.  Much had been said about the growing “implementation gap” or “delivery gap”, with respect to the obstacles that still thwarted progress in bringing to fruition internationally adopted decisions, and the Social Summit had been no exception.  In reviewing further implementation of its outcomes at the current sessions, clearly it included the establishment of an enabling environment for social development in line with the Summit’s vision, including the availability of financial resources.

He noted that there had been some progress in some areas, including a noticeable reduction of extreme poverty and greater overall access to primary education.  Nonetheless, that progress had been less than expected and had often been uneven between regions and, even more so, across countries.  In particular, in sub-Saharan Africa, there had been little, if any, improvement, and conditions on some fronts had worsened.  Situations of inequality had also remained pervasive, posing considerable obstacles to attacking the structural causes of poverty.  That had also had direct impacts on disadvantaged and vulnerable sectors and specific groups, such as youth, older persons, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, migrants and displaced persons.

Overall, he found, a 10-year review of Copenhagen revealed a “mixed record”.  There had been some positive developments, including that the Summit had succeeded in raising awareness and emphasizing the importance of addressing social development issues and implementing social development policies, culminating in the inclusion of several social development objectives in the Millennium Development Goals.  At the same time, however, many hopes and expectations had been unfulfilled.  One of the most disquieting aspects of today’s reality was that the all-encompassing approach to development, as advanced by the Summit, “has been lost or severely weakened” in the international policy-making arena.  It was essential that the three core issues of the Summit -- eradicating poverty, promoting full employment, and fostering social integration -- continued to be central in policy decision-making.  Furthermore, efforts to address the root causes and manifestations of poverty must not be abandoned.

Recalling that the General Assembly’s special session, held in Geneva in June 2000, had called attention to the effects of rapid globalization and rapid technological advances on social development, he said there had been wide recognition of the need for collective action to offset the negative social consequences of those phenomena.  The session had also underscored the importance of universal and equitable access to quality education and health care.  Against the background of a reduced capacity on the part of many governments, especially those in developing countries, to raise resources through taxation, several initiatives to mobilize resources at both the national and international levels had been agreed, including further studies on innovative sources of financing and supporting governments in establishing guidelines for generating domestic revenue for social services, social protection and social programmes.

One significant contribution of the special session had been the introduction of the goal of halving the proportion of people living in extreme poverty by 2015, which continued to resonate strongly as the first development goal of the Millennium Declaration, he said.  The session had also stressed the need to reassess market-oriented macroeconomic policies in the interest of greater employment generation and poverty reduction.  All of the values, principles, commitments and policy recommendations remained as valid today as in 1995 and 2000.  The fact remained that no human being should be condemned to endure a brief miserable life only because of his or her class, country, religious affiliation, ethnic background or gender.  Overcoming those biases required a normative and policy approach that placed human beings at the centre of development and viewed economic growth as a means and not an end in itself.

He stressed that the ultimate goal was to increase, protect and attain the opportunities for improving the quality of life of current and future generations.  The world situation today required that the world leaders remain committed to fostering social integration, thereby preventing the crystallization of segmented societies that would inevitably lead to more social conflict.  The tenth anniversary of the Social Summit was a crucial year in which the international community had before it the task of revitalizing the United Nations.  That task was guided by the vision of San Francisco, as well as that of the Millennium Declaration, and had at its heart three aspirations dear to humanity:  peace; human rights; and development.  The Chairman had the challenge of placing the goals of Copenhagen at the centre of the “raison d’être” of the United Nations.

JOHAN SCHÖLVINCK, Director of the Division for Social Policy and Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, noted that several trends were negatively affecting social development and diminishing hopes and expectations that had arisen from the Copenhagen Summit.  Among those was the persistent reality of socioeconomic deprivation and inequality among individuals, social groups, entire communities, countries and even some continents, as well as the rise in threats to civil liberties due to security concerns.

Highlighting the findings of the June 2004 Forum for Social Development, he said the Forum’s four-chapter report recommended that the Commission reaffirm the need for a people-centred approach to development, as well as its urgent and concrete implementation through coordinated and coherent efforts by the international community.  The Commission should also stress that people-centred development called for a revisiting of the still-elusive question of a proper integration of economic and social policies, namely, through the relationship between macroeconomic policies and social development goals;  better understanding and management of social consequences of the interdependence of nations in an increasingly globalized world; and a renewed conception of relations between the public and private sectors, as well as the role of States in formulating and implementing policies.

Noting that the Secretary-General’s report had proposed strengthening the prospects of an enabling environment for people-centred development, he stressed that emphasis should be placed on equitable distribution of benefits in an increasingly open world economy, with actions promoting democratic participation by all countries and peoples in decision-making processes governing international relations.  Implementing people-centred development also required intensifying integrated strategies and policies directly fostering poverty reduction and eradication; guaranteeing the existence of employment opportunities for all; and fostering social integration and cohesion, with policy-makers considering policies to counter the negative effects of globalization on social development and new threats posed by market-driven reforms.  Realization of the commitments adopted in 1995 in Copenhagen had lagged far behind, he pointed out, and States now had a renewed opportunity to close the “implementation gap”.

Presentation of Outcome of Civil Society Forum

Briefing the Commission on the outcome of the Civil Society Forum, JOAN BURKE, Chairman of the NGO Committee on Social Development, reaffirmed the commitments of civil society representatives to the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action.  The Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action were fundamental to social development throughout the world.  Civil society representatives reaffirmed their commitment to the four core areas of the World Summit, namely, poverty eradication, full employment, social integration and an environment that enabled social development for all.  Many governments had neglected the commitments made 10 years ago.  Civil society would take an active role in persuading governments that lasting security was built on assurance of human rights and equitable access to the basic necessities of life.

It was shameful that, in the current age of extraordinary wealth and technological advancement, some 1.2 billion people lived in extreme and chronic poverty, she said.  Implementation of the Copenhagen Declaration required political will, sustained through open partnerships, placing people and human rights at the centre of development, equitable investment in socio-economic development and ensuring inclusion of all affected by government policy.  The increase of preventable communicable diseases and infant death, the spread of HIV/AIDS and chronic poverty in old age continued to shame the world.  In a world where so many received quality education and had access to technology, the failure to provide universal basic education to all was unacceptable.  One third of the world’s workforce did not have decent or stable work, and three quarters of the world’s older population did not have social protection in old age.

She urged governments to apply its principles with new urgency.  Calling also on governments to abandon empty words and forego grand documents, she asked them to implement agreements already made.  Civil society urged the Commission to recall the holistic vision of the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of action as it prepared for the five-year review of the Millennium Declaration.  Social development was the underpinning of human security for all people and was an essential part of a needed global social contract.  Such a contract, grounding security for all in a commitment to social development for all, pointed beyond the Millennium Declaration to the full realization of the promises that Copenhagen gave to the world’s impoverished people.

Panel Discussion

The priority theme of the panel discussion, moderated by Mr. Ocampo, was a review of further implementation of the World Summit for Social Development and the outcome of the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly.

Participants were:  Gerry Rodgers, Director of the Policy Integration Department, International Labour Organization (ILO); Mark W. Plant, Senior Adviser, Policy Development and Review Department, International Monetary Fund (IMF); and Ian Johnson, Vice-President, Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Development, World Bank.

Opening the discussion, Mr. JOHNSON of the World Bank said that if the world did not deal with the social dimensions of the coming changes of the next 30 to 40 years, the planet would not be sustainable.  It was crucial to think about not only the economic growth needed to meet the Millennium Development Goals and beyond, but how that growth could occur in a socially and environmentally responsible manner.  Bringing together social, environmental and economic growth issues was one of the great challenges.  Even if the Goals were met by 2015 and even if that was done right, only half the job would have been achieved.  If one considered the sort of per capita income embedded in the poverty reduction target and extrapolate that to mid-century, the global economy, now at around $37 trillion, would be $140 trillion. 

Of paramount importance was whether the globe would be sustainable for the next generation, he said.  Food demand would have doubled by mid-century and the agriculture sector would be central to the delivery of that food, and an essential “driver” for rural employment and rural prosperity.  He saw a world in which social issues would emerge as very important, and linked with the environment, prosperity, wealth creation and economic growth.  Development aid, including from the Bank, had become much more sensitized to those issues, much more people-centred and country-centred.  Clearly, the heroic work of 10 years ago, crystallized in the Copenhagen commitments, had influenced the Bank.  In fact, the 10 commitments laid out a decade ago had become a framework against which the Bank measured progress.  It had begun to understand that social policies must be embedded in the economic perspective.  The institution’s accountability at all levels had become a guiding principle in its lending and operational work.

He said that important discussions were under way at the Bank on the centrality of Africa in the context of social and human development.  Since 1999, the Bank had embedded assistance at the country level in poverty reduction strategy papers (PRSPs), in collaboration with the IMF.  Most of the work in poor countries “travelled through” the country-owned PRSPs.  Community-driven development in 1997 had been relatively modest, whereas today the Bank had invested $2 billion in community-driven development, helping communities to own and direct their futures on several fronts.  Health and education now accounted for 25 per cent of the Bank’s lending, whereas when he joined the Bank many years ago, that had been a “tiny fraction”.  Africa now accounted for 51 per cent of “IDA” (International Development Association) resources, and all projects were now subjected to due diligence.

Mr. RODGERS of the ILO said the organization had been fully engaged with the Summit and the outcome’s implementation from the start.  Issues of employment, poverty, and social integration were at the heart of the ILO’s mandate and central to the quest for social justice.  The Summit had helped to set the ILO’s strategic direction.  In the years that followed, important steps had been taken towards universalizing the principles and rights identified at the Summit.  The organization had also expanded its support for national employment strategies.  In 1999, the Director-General had brought together the areas of rights at work and employment and social protection, or “decent work”.  Yet, progress towards achieving the Summit’s goals had been deemed slow in 2000.

For its part, the ILO and its constituents were investing heavily in making “decent work” a core part of national poverty reduction strategies, he said.  Undoubtedly, employment was the way out of poverty.  The ILO had responded to the challenge of the Millennium Declaration by establishing a world commission on the social dimension of globalization, in extensive collaboration with the United Nations system and the international financial institutions.  The ILO’s recent report argued for reinforcement of the existing mechanisms of policy coordination and coherence and the development of new ways of building coordinated solutions to key problems.  The report insisted on the need for better integration of economic and social policies, at both national and international levels.  The key issue was how to strengthen the employment impact of globalization.  It was not easy to reach a common view in that regard, but the potential gains from building consensus across the spectrum of different perspective were great.

The view at the IMF, Mr. PLANT said, was that there must be an integrated approach to development problems, which took into account the social impact of developmental policies.  The Millennium Development Goals had reinforced that view.  No one could “go it alone” in terms of achieving the Goals by 2015, thereby setting the ground for further progress.  Macroeconomics could not be separated from social or development problems.  The Fund would remain a macroeconomic institution, and not a development institution or bank, but it must be cognizant at every turn of the impact of its policies in the social sphere, and ensure that that was positive.  Many things had been renamed at the Fund, but he begged to differ with those cynics who said that only renaming had taken place.  The IMF had undergone “substantial change” in the past five years. 

In the field, the Fund had focused on development countries, particularly on their PRSPs and how macroeconomics framed the national policies, he said.  It no longer dealt only with a country’s finance ministry or central bank, but with all the ministries involved in the development struggle.  Lending was now linked more closely to the country-based PRSPs, and that link was far from routine.  There was still work to be done, but progress was being made with explicit account taken of the social impacts of macroeconomic policies.  Work had also been undertaken to incorporate the poverty reduction strategy process into headquarters’ work.  Among its other endeavours, the IMF was striving to understand how its work with countries affected donor disbursements.  The “on-off” nature of development aid had to stop; there must be continuous aid flows.  Addressing another problem, the Fund was working to deliver debt relief to some 38 low-income countries.  At the international level, cooperation with the development agencies had grown, as had cooperation with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil society groups.

When the floor was opened for discussion, several delegations asked the panel to identify examples of good practices for achieving social development and cooperation among the Bretton Woods institutions and the ILO.  Raising the issue of globalization, one delegation noted the growing interdependency of global economic relations.  If that trend continued, how would it affect global employment?

Responding, Mr. JOHNSON said it was important to recognize that the question of social policy were embedded at the country level and were context specific.  That was why the PRSPs had become an important vehicle for understanding the aspirations of local people.  There were many examples of best practices.  He had been impressed by community-driven development programmes to deliver services at the rural area.  He had also been impressed by how local communities had been able to hold accountable those who provided basic social services.  Genuine participation resulted in empowerment, which, in turn, resulted in prosperity.  There were close relationships between social, environmental and economic policy.  Poverty obviously had an important economic and financial dimension.  Another issue was that, while incomes had increased in some societies, so had social tensions.  Further, a clean environment was an important ally in the fight against poverty.  The intersection of social, environmental and economic policy was an important dimension of the battle ahead.

Mr. ROGERS, providing examples of progress between the ILO and the World Bank, noted the development of a joint action network on youth and employment.  At the country level, an example was the PRSP process.  In the past, the inter-organizational relationship around the strategies had increased.  There had also been joint support for national action for poverty reduction.  While there was always scope for improvement, there had been progress.  In the wake of the World Commission on the social dimension of globalization, the idea of building social coherence around global policies was also one in which there was strong dialogue with the Bank.  There was a need to build common approaches, as the starting points might be different. The Bank’s commitment to the follow-up to the World Commission was clear.  There was a good and increasingly strong collaboration around key themes of common interest.

On the relationship between globalization and employment, he said that over the last 20 years of globalization, the global employment situation had not improved.  Unemployment levels had risen, informal workers had increased and many parts of the world had not had access to global markets.  The deterioration of the overall employment situation and the globalization of the economy could be discussed at length.  Many countries had taken advantage of global opportunities.  The picture was not a simple one, however.  The World Commission had concluded that the outcome of globalization was policy dependent.  It was important that goals were embedded in international policies.  If globalization was to work for everyone, it had to create jobs.

In another round of questions, one representative said it was important that the IMF take into account the adverse impact of their policies on the poor nations.  Sub-Saharan Africa had been a major victim of prescriptive measures.  What policies was the IMF embarking on to reduce the negative impact of policies on a number of developing countries?

Addressing the relationship between globalization and risk, Mr. OCAMPO said the global view was that globalization had been increasing the risks that society and individuals faced.  An example at the individual level was the privatization of pensions systems.  Latin America had led many of the reforms in that regard, turning social security systems into mechanisms in which individuals faced much greater risk.  On the concept of pro-poor growth, he noted that, according to one view, any pattern that reduced poverty was “pro-poor” making that adjective redundant.  What was the usefulness of the concept and should it be eliminated?

Responding, Mr. PLANT noted that in the 1980s and the early 1990s, the situation confronting the IMF had been one of stabilization, which was a prerequisite for poverty reduction.  The objective of stabilization had been widely achieved in the 1980s and early 1990s.  While many countries had stabilized, however, they had not seen rapid growth.  That was the puzzle that the international community was facing.

On the issue of how budgets could accommodate the competing needs of developed countries, he said the Fund needed to think about the multiple pressing needs facing ministers of finance.  If the world commitment to the Millennium Development Goals materialized, they would also face the problem of inflows of aid.  For example, many of the countries receiving monies for HIV/AIDS did not have trained health professionals.

Mr. ROGERS said that history showed that high levels of employment had been achieved at various times and in various places.  Achieving social development goals depended largely on employment creation.  On the prospect for better risk- sharing, at the level of people, abrupt shifts in trade had resulted in unprotected workers -- for example, in the textile industry.  The present pattern of globalization was creating new forms of risk that were not being covered by existing mechanisms.  Some 80 per cent of world’s workers did not have adequate social protection.

Mr. JOHNSON said it was also important to recognize that risks were becoming increasingly global.  The issue of stabilizing trading regimes was an intergovernmental priority.  The private sector had a major role to play in reducing the risks associated with weather patterns.  On pro-poor growth, most growth had some positive impact on some poor people.  The question was, did it go far enough?  Agriculture in many countries had been ignored as a major driver of economic growth.  Inclusion must be seen as a driving force for economic and social change.

Another question concerned collapsing societies resulting from globalization, asking why the social risks had not been incorporated into the global development agenda.  Also, who was going to fund the social sciences research being promoted by some United Nations bodies, sorely needed by vulnerable and poor groups, in order to do away with their development obstacles?  If only those who could fund social research were benefiting from its results, then social research could not bridge the imbalances, the questioner said.

A question was also posed about the rising unemployment rate, which had increased considerably over the past 10 years and particularly affecting young women seeking to enter the market.  Strategies had been developed to deal with that alarming trend, but what had been the contribution of the Youth Employment Network? she asked.

Mr. RODGERS said he did not have details from the Youth Employment Network, but he added that youth employment was a reflection of the employment problem as a whole.  Solving the problem of youth employment virtually meant solving the problems of the market as a whole.  Within that, gender equality was critical.

In terms of collapsing societies emerging from the globalization process, he said that the answer lay in a decent work agenda.  The policy response both for preventing some of the adverse effects of globalization on families and societies and avoiding the exclusion of young women in the market lay in the creation of policies for all actors.  Those must systematically create decent opportunities to earn income for work that was fulfilling and protected, and include within them measures for gender equality and non-discrimination.

Touching on the human rights dimension of the Millennium Development Goals, Mr. PLANT said that everyone had agreed that the Goals were a rather narrow set of specific benchmarks and represented a confluence of many efforts viewed from many perspectives.  For example, the United Nations Human Rights Commission had drafted an interesting piece on how the PRSPs should be structured, not only from the perspective of the Goals, but from a human rights perspective.  Each institution should act according to its comparative and absolute advantage, and in accordance with the mandate given it by the international community.  There were other United Nations bodies that worked on human rights, so the IMF, while supportive, would not push forward that particular aspect of the Millennium Development Goals.

Replying to a question about the impact of migration “in real terms” on full employment and social development, Mr. RODGERS said that an analysis of the rules of the global economy revealed the lack of any global framework for international migration.  What was required was to move towards a common understanding of how the movement of people could be addressed in a way that dealt adequately with the concerns of countries of origin and destination.  That was the key to the fair treatment of the migration issue, within an adequate system of global rules.  The situation was far from that, but there had been a significant breakthrough at the international labour conference last year, in which the participating tripartite delegates had reached agreement on moving towards a voluntary, rights-based, multilateral framework for migrant workers and had started to lay out some principles on which such a framework might be constructed.

He said that migration was one of the most difficult and delicate issues imaginable, because it touched on issues of national sovereignty.  The notion that there needed to be a global approach was starting to take root.  It was known, for example, that migration drained communities of their most able people in the absence of opportunities.  It was also known that the movement of workers was a crucial component of any functioning market economy, and a strategy for global full employment required an adequate and globally agreed approach to the migration of workers and their families, he said.

Mr. JOHNSON added that migration was emerging as one of the most important issues and well worthy of international attention.  The World Bank was very interested in that area for the future. 

Drawing attention to the World Economic and Social Survey of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Mr. OCAMPO said the report had highlighted the need to coordinate international cooperation, as well as the lack of an agreed framework for migration.  It had surveyed the impacts of migration, given the large increase in that phenomenon globally, and a pattern had emerged that there was a fairly free movement of highly skilled labourers, while most of the restrictions were really affecting the unskilled workers.  Developing countries tended to have a bigger low-skilled labour force.  Those workers’ inability to move might be contributing to international inequality.

Responding to a question about the Global Compact, Mr. RODGERS said that four of its 10 principles directly related to the ILO, including on child and forced labour.  So, the organization and its constituents had both an interest and participation in the process.  More generally, the ILO was interested in corporate and social responsibility as one mechanism by which its own goals and values could be advanced.

Mr. OCAMPO described the Compact as a mechanism of social responsibility launched by the United Nations, though much broader than it.  Its process of strengthening corporate responsibility in a number of areas had attracted the interest of the largest number of private firms, although several similar processes were concurrently under way.

Updating the Commission on the outcome of the fourth International Forum for Social Development, Mr. SCHÖLVINCK, Director, Division for Social Policy and Development of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said the subject of the October 2004 meeting, “Equity, Inequalities and Interdependence”, had been chosen in relation with the Division’s review of the recommendations adopted in Copenhagen and reaffirmed in Geneva.  The World Summit for Social Development had placed at the core of social development the promotion of equity and equality.  It had also placed the realization of those values in an economic and political framework of freedom, openness and interdependence.

Inequalities had increased during recent decades, both within and among countries, he said.  There were, however, two important caveats or reasons for hope.  First, some forms of equality, most importantly equality between women and men, were, it seemed, on an ascending path.  Secondly, some countries had managed to maintain stable income, or even to improve its distribution, among social groups while participating fully in the world economy.  Domestic policies did matter, notably on tax systems.  In a number of countries, both inequality and extreme poverty had increased.  In some countries, while inequalities in income, assets and opportunities had risen, extreme poverty had been reduced.  In still other cases, the distribution of income had been stable or made more equal, but the incidence of extreme poverty had increased.  There seemed to be very few examples of countries having succeeded on all fronts.

Reduction of inequalities and reduction of poverty were mutually reinforcing objectives and policies, he said.  On the notion of openness of economies and societies, the Forum had noted that the free interplay of economic agents and forces inevitably created inequalities and inequities.  Lately, the forces that dominated the world economy had not been balanced enough by forces with different interests and perspectives.  A space had to be reopened for effective global social policy and for a developing strategy that would promote economic growth and equity in an interdependent world.  The United Nations should be able to contribute to the elaboration of a conceptual and political framework that would prevent the increase of inequality within and among countries.  In that sense, the central message of the World Summit would be best kept alive and adapted to current realities.  The involvement of all actors was crucial, as was a better understanding of the effects of macroeconomic policies on social structures and conditions.

Afternoon Panel Discussion

An afternoon panel set up to review the implementation of the Copenhagen outcomes was comprised of:  K.Y.Amoako, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA); Brigita Schmögnerová, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), and current Coordinator; Jose Luis Machinea, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC); Kim Hak-Su, Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP); and Mervat Tallawy, Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ECSWA).  Once again, Mr. Ocampo moderated the discussion.

Mr. OCAMPO stressed that the regional dimension of the United Nations’ processes was essential to understanding the international community, in light of the diversity and the specific characteristics unique to each of its regions.  In addition, the regional processes in many parts of the world had close interaction with the global processes at the United Nations.  Thus, those regional commissions were the bridge to the global institution on several regional processes, in which most parts of the world were deeply embedded.  He asked the executive secretaries to focus on the regional constraints impeding fulfilment of the Summit’s promises.

Ms. SCHMÖGNEROVÁ, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Europe and Coordinator, whose presentation was accompanied by a series of on-screen graphs and charts, drew attention to the fact the “ECE” region was very heterogeneous and comprised three country groupings:  the most advanced; emerging market economies, which included the new European Union member States, among others; and the less advanced economies.  The major challenges of the first group of emerging market economies were linked to, among other features, high unemployment rates.  There had also been a “massive deterioration” in basic services, particularly housing and access to health services.  The second group of countries also faced high unemployment.  The third group, or the least advanced, faced massive, or multidimensional, poverty. There had been a very sharp deterioration of access to and quality of health services and education, among other things. 

She said that in those countries the death rates had increased in the 1990s, but were now starting to improve.  There was still a sharp decrease in life expectancy, a decline in fertility, and the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS.  If that latter trend was not reversed, the damage would be as great as that which was occurring in Africa.  The next major challenge for the group of least advanced countries was the social protection of the elderly, the unemployed, and persons with disabilities.  Income inequality in Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) within the last decade had worsened.  Poverty was multidimensional in nature, and access to health care in those countries was severely limited, with most of the populations unable to afford any health care at all.

To reverse the situation, she suggested that the emerging market economies should accompany the first-generation reforms from planned to market economies with growth polices and targeted programmes.  In particular, targeted programmes were needed to increase employment.  The focus should also be on macroeconomic policies that promoted employment and health-care access and that also addressed the higher professional geographical mobility of labour.  Population ageing was becoming a key issue in the emerging market economies, requiring integrated policies that included pension, education and health-care reforms, among others. 

Mr. KIM, Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, said that the Indian Ocean tsunami had affected all areas of social development, with more than 300,000 people presumed dead and the livelihoods and communities of 11 Indian Ocean nations devastated.  As with most disasters, many of those killed had been poor and especially vulnerable people, including women, indigenous people, children, the elderly and people with disabilities.  In terms of livelihoods, fishermen, farmers and migrant workers were among the hardest hit.  He was also concerned about those living inland because their livelihoods were intimately linked to the tourism and farming sectors in the coastal zone.

Concerning poverty alleviation, he said that most nations in the region had developed their own PRSPs and programmes to implement them.  Several had already achieved the millennium development target on poverty reduction and had set their sights on even higher targets.  Nevertheless, translating the strategy papers into effective programmes to tackle the various dimensions of poverty simultaneously with limited resources remained a significant challenge.  In some landlocked and small island States, poverty and hunger had actually increased.  Much more needed to be done to ensure progress towards full employment.  Despite the economic recovery, employment performance in the region had not improved in several countries.  Notable trends included the fact that large numbers facing limited employment opportunities in their own least developed countries were now working abroad. 

He said that unemployment rates among women were generally higher than those of men in several countries, and youth unemployment had undergone a dramatic increase.  There was also a rising number of working poor, especially in South Asia and the Pacific island developing countries.  Central Asian countries had been affected by the adjustment processes from planned to market economies.  Literacy was another challenge, exacerbated by the large proportion of youth and unschooled children of ethnic minorities living in rural and remote areas, and urban slums.  Migration had become another important feature.  Many governments in the region had initiated certain measures in the past decade, including the formulation of comprehensive social development programmes.  Many had also revised existing regulations or introduced new legislation to strengthen or upgrade measures for vulnerable groups, and had established institutions and focal points.  The goal was education, health and shelter for all for the millions in the region.

Mr. MACHINEA, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, said that while poverty rates had decreased slightly, the total number of poor people had risen substantially.  The persistence of income concentration, together with employment constraints, threatened the pillars of social integration.  The good news was that the level of public social expenditure in the Latin American countries revealed the commitments of regional governments to supporting poor and vulnerable groups.  While per capita gross domestic product (GDP) had increased, poverty had climbed.  With each recession, there had been an increase in poverty and a decrease in employment.  As poverty went up, so did inequity.  Urban unemployment had risen between 1990 and 2004.  The number of self-employed workers had grown, aggravating the problem of social inequality.  The increase in employment in the informal sector had reduced social protection mechanisms.  Some 60 per cent of people did not have social coverage.

The income distribution situation in Latin America was worse than in any other part of the world, he said.  The only country with better income distribution was Uruguay.  While public service expenditure had increased, in some cases, social expenditures did not even reach $100 per capita.  There continued to enormous disparity across the region, and what was spent in actual terms was very low.  Among the main obstacles to achieving social integration was the increasing rate of urban unemployment and the rise in informal employment.  Disruptive processes had emerged, such as risky and violent behaviour among urban youth.  Young people with higher levels of education faced growing obstacles in the labour market.

Mr. AMOAKO, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa, noted that at Copenhagen, poverty, employment and social integration were seen as the core issues in social development.  Sub-saharan Africa was the only continent which had actually grown poorer over the past four decades.  The poor population had increased from 217 million to 290 million.  More than 63 million people had joined the ranks of the poor between 1990 and 2000.  Some 34 per cent of the African population was undernourished -- almost double the figure for the rest of the developing world.  Unemployment rates remained extremely high in Africa.  Overall, the situation was quite dire.  Africa’s youth were particularly hard hit by unemployment.

On the issue of social integration, he said there was some good news to report, namely, the increase in the number of democratically elected governments.  In sub-Saharan Africa, out of 42 countries, 29 had multi-party electoral systems representing some 464 million people.  Pluralism was on the rise.  While governance had improved, the capacity of institutions to deliver social services was still under great stress.

In the African context, the Millennium Development Goals provided a galvanizing effect in terms of development strategy, he said.  Constraints in meeting the Goals included a lack of financial resources and weak human and institutional capacity.  In Africa today, one could not discuss social development without mentioning HIV/AIDS, which had not only undermined growth, but had depleted human capital, the very foundation of social development.  In terms of initiates, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) provided African countries with a framework to address challenges.  As economic and political governance continued to improve across Africa, the prospects for social development were better now than a decade ago.

Ms. TALLAWY, Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, reviewed the 13 member countries in her region, which included the occupied Palestinian territory, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Yemen, and Egypt, as well as the six Gulf Cooperation Council members –- Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates.  During the last 10 years, political instability had been the main feature in the region, owing to conflict, wars and occupation.  That trend had affected the commitment to the Copenhagen Summit outcomes, as well as to the Millennium Development Goals.  Despite the political instability, however, certain progress had been made in some areas, such as increased literacy, higher enrolment in education, better health services, and the introduction of new legislation on gender-related issues.

She said she had a negative picture to report on poverty and unemployment, particularly among youth, whose unemployment rate was almost double that in any other region.  The majority of the population in her region was young.  Because of the instability, low investment and low productivity, employment opportunities were severely limited and not enough was being done to reduce poverty.  Productivity and investment were concentrated in one area of the economy -- construction.  That was why it had been impossible to overcome poverty.  As a result, the middle class was diminishing in size and the gap between the “haves” and the “have nots” was increasing.  Also owing to the economic factors, social inclusion was non-existent.  And for political reasons, there was still a large number of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon that could not be included in either the Palestinian or Lebanese societies.  One-half million Palestinians were living in Syria, and population was now moving from Iraq to Damascus.  The rising building prices in Jordan were also impeding social inclusion.

The ESCWA was trying to serve as a forum for exchange of ideas, experiences and best practices, she said.  It was now concentrating on social policies, and through a social policy project, the Commission had analysed successful social development stories in five member countries and was passing along some advice.  Clearly, coherent, integrated social policies would help the other countries overcome some of the problems.  On governance and democracy, ESCWA was trying to remedy the shortage of information in the region.  Local, community-based projects were under way to strengthen communities’ capacities through training and capacity-building, for which the Commission depended largely on the non-governmental organizations.  On poverty reduction, ESCWA was assisting member States by preparing technical studies in support of employment as a basic policy goal.  It was doing its best with the ILO to help member countries in that respect.

When the floor was opened for questions, the panellists were asked to describe cooperation between the regional commissions and civil society.  To what extent had the concept of gender mainstreaming been carried out in the different regions?  Which regional commissions were confronting the challenges of population ageing, and what were they doing to promote employment?  Had the regional commissions cooperated with the World Health Organization (WHO) to deal with the effects of the tsunami?  Another delegation asked for more information on the issue of youth violence.  Given the problem of reliable data, were there plans to ensure adequate data for monitoring progress? another speaker asked.

Responding to questions, Mr. KIM noted that ESCAP worked closely with the WHO, particularly in the wake of the SARS and Avian flu outbreak.  The Economic Commission also cooperated closely with civil society, especially in the area of persons with disabilities.

Ms. TALLAWY noted that large numbers of NGOs from around the ESCWA region were invited to attend the various intergovernmental meetings.  The agency had a consultative committee for the NGOs from the 22 Arab States.  An online discussion group had also been established.

Mr. MACHINEA of ECLAC said several studies, and even a book, had been commissioned to look at the problems besetting youth in the region.  The issue of violence was one reason for the mortality rate among young people, and that rate was three times higher among young women.  Young people had been discouraged from entering politics in the 1970s, but were now clamouring to have their voice heard, especially in the context of societal issues.  Youths now were far better trained and enjoyed greater access to health services.  Also, more young women were enrolled in secondary and university-level education than young men.  Still, a whole set of problems plagued the workplace.

Concerning civil society and gender issues, he said that several ECLAC gatherings with civil society had taken up those issues.  The Commission was also working “hand-in-glove” with civil society to improve access to information.  Overall, interaction with civil society had been “very intense” with respect to the gender issue.  Women’s position in society had improved, and their participation in politics had increased, while salary differences between women and men for the same level of education and the same job persisted, but those issues and many others were being worked on intensively.  Governments in the region were also facing problems with their pension systems, he added.

Ms. SCHMÖGNEROVÁ of the ECE said that, in her region, there was some political commitment by the governments both to gender issues and ageing, but when it came to action and to integrated policy approaches, the situation was “much worse”.  A recent meeting organized by the ECE had focused on mainstreaming gender issues in economic and social policies, but there was a discrepancy between political or verbal commitments and actions taken.  It was well known that many reforms undertaken by the emerging market economies and economies in transition had had negative consequences for women.  Pension reforms, for instance, did not consider women’s rural employment, and some social benefits reforms had also had negative implications for women.  Moreover, inadequate child care did not allow some women the possibility of reconciling family life with work life.

She said that a regional implementation strategy had been formulated to address the ageing issue.  It was very well articulated, and it integrated policies concerning how to address ageing at various levels.  Again, in emerging market economies and economies in transition where unemployment rates were notoriously high, two groups were most affected -- youth and older persons.  Governments made commitments, but when it came to delivery, the results had not been remarkable, and the achievements had been lacking.

Mr. AMOAKO of ECA acknowledged the very important role of civil society in ECA’s work, including for example, on governance.  On the HIV/AIDS issue, civil society interaction had also been extremely important, as well as on gender mainstreaming and development, on which much had already been accomplished.  A centre for women had been upgraded to a full division working on the gender dimension of development.  Emphasis was also placed on the importance of gender disaggregated data, for which several initiatives had been taken to “beef up” capacity in member countries.  A Board on African Development was among the other initiatives that had been set up, and was now compiling and analysing such statistics.  In terms of demographics, youth now constituted 60 per cent of the population in some countries.  Some of those countries were losing skilled workers and people in their productive years, owing to the HIV/AIDS pandemic.  So, the employment challenge was one of youth unemployment.

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