7 February 2005

Poverty, Unemployment and Social Integration on the Copenhagen +10 Review Agenda

United Nations Commission for Social Development to Discuss the 10-Year Review of the 1995 World Summit for Social Development during 43rd Session from 9-18 February

VIENNA, 7 February (UN Information Service) -- Eradicating poverty, promoting employment and fostering social integration will be the focus of the 43rd Session of the United Nations Commission for Social Development to be held in New York from 9 to 18 February 2005. These issues will be discussed in three thematic high-level round tables which will examine progress made since the World Summit for Social Development, which took place in Copenhagen 10 years ago. The themes for the high-level round tables will be discussed in the context of the Millennium Development Goals.

Social justice is not only an issue in low-income countries, but in the industrialized world as well. According to a survey by Eurostat, the statistical information service for the European Union, 930,000 persons were living in poverty in Austria in 2003, 12 per cent of the total population. In Austria, the ‘Poverty Conference’ which is a network of organizations, provides a platform to address the interests of the poor and marginalised members of Austrian society, with the goal of strengthening social integration.

The current debate on poverty eradication aims at broadening the definition of poverty by characterizing it not only as lack of adequate income but also as lack of participation in society. This covers  lack of productive resources, access to education and other basic services, as well as participation in decision-making and in civil, social and cultural life.

Another problem, which is strongly linked to poverty, is related to the rise in unemployment over the past decade. An unprecedented 186 million people were unemployed worldwide in 2003, accounting for 6.2 per cent of the working population, up from 140 million a decade earlier. Of all the age groups, the increase in unemployment rates was most pronounced for youth between 15 and 24 years. The effects of globalisation, increased competition and national policy decisions have influenced this phenomenon. As a result, the second round table on the commitment to employment of the Copenhagen Declaration will review among other things, which policy proposals have been implemented to rectify the imbalance between the pace of globalisation and the ability of governments to establish policies aimed at increasing employment rates.

The latest figures in Austria indicate that 2004 saw the highest unemployment rate since the establishment of the second republic in 1955. The unemployment rate increased continuously from 5.8 per cent in 2001 to hit 7.1 per cent last year.

Besides poverty reduction and employment, the Commission is deeply concerned about discriminatory practices, social polarization and fragmentation that hinder integration as well as global social justice and harmony. 

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