14 February 2006

Integrating World's 1 Billion Young People into Society Essential for Social Development, Commission Told, as It Concludes Discussion of Social Groups

Importance of Addressing Needs of Older Persons, Those with Disabilities Also Discussed

NEW YORK, 13 February (UN Headquarters) -- Achieving genuine social development would only be possible by integrating the world's more than 1 billion young people into the social and economic fabric of society, the Commission for Social Development was told today, as it concluded its consideration of the situation of social groups this morning.

With young people between the ages of 15 and 24 comprising more than 1.2 billion of the total world population, a representative of the World Youth Alliance said it only followed, that young people had the most to gain from the eradication of poverty and the implementation of social development policies. 

85 per cent of youth lived in developing countries.  None of the Millennium Goals could be accomplished without the involvement of youth.  Member States had everything to gain from the inclusion of youth in their plans for action, but youth were vastly underrepresented at the Commission's current session.

Addressing the issue of youth unemployment, a representative of the International Labour Organization (ILO) noted that youth unemployment had reached intolerably high levels around the world.  Nearly 40 per cent of the world's population was below the age of 20, and 85 per cent of those young people lived in developing countries, where many were especially vulnerable to extreme poverty.  Many were working under conditions of forced labour, with little or no pay and no social protection, and were engaged in hazardous forms of work.  While youth employment problems must be addressed, that should not be done at the expense of older persons.  The ILO had long been committed to the issue of older workers and population ageing, specifically elaborating international labour standards on older workers in employment, old-age and survivors' benefits, and standards and guidance on retirement policies.

Turning to the issue of persons with disabilities, a representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) stressed that disabled people did not live in isolation.  Indeed, many of them made important contributions to the day-to-day survival of their households, families and communities.  Working towards a greater inclusion of persons with disabilities in agricultural production, could have a positive influence on both the disabled persons and the people around them.  The FAO's experience showed that "investment" in persons with disabilities had positive effects that transcended that target group.

A cornerstone of the Philippine development plan, that country's representative said, was empowering the vulnerable sectors of the society, so that they could participate in the development process.  Those sectors were given preferential access to Government-led social assistance, social protection and capacity-building programmes.  Her Government's efforts to uplift the lives of those sectors were rooted in the intrinsic obligation to guarantee protection of their human rights.  The work of protecting their human rights occurred in the practical context of ensuring their development, she added.

Outlining her country's efforts to promote the situation of youth, Peru's representative described improvements in the number of youth completing secondary education, with an increasing number of young people now literate.  While 88.5 per cent of young people were employed in urban areas, mainly in the private sector, informal labour and family work was prevalent in rural areas.  Some 54 per cent of the population was affected by hunger and poverty, however, with some 3.5 million young people living in a state of poverty.  The greatest challenge in the area of health care was to include young people in health coverage schemes.  Regarding their participation in society and decision-making, the creation of the national youth council had been a significant development.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Japan, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Monaco, Republic of Korea, the Central African Republic, Indonesia, Senegal, Kazakhstan, Qatar, Mali and the Sudan.

Representatives of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, also spoke.

Representatives of non-governmental organizations also spoke, including the International Federation of Pedestrians, Observatory for Cultural and Audiovisual Communication in the Mediterranean and in the World, New Humanity and the International Federation for Family Development.

The Commission will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 14 February, to considerate its working methods.


The Commission for Social Development met this morning to continue its consideration of relevant United Nations plans and programmes of action pertaining to the situation of social groups.

(For background on the Commission's forty-fourth session, see Press Release SOC/4692 issued on 2 February.)


SATOMI OKAGAKI (Japan) noted that her country was one whose population was ageing with unprecedented speed.  The percentage of the population over 65 in Japan had reached 19.5 per cent in 2004, and the reality of an ageing society presented serious challenges.  In order to meet some of those challenges, Japan recognized the importance of creating an enabling and supportive environment for older persons, and had steadily taken measures regarding the employment, income, health and welfare of older persons.  Among other things, Japan had initiated reforms of its pension and medical care systems.  Her country, as one of the most acutely ageing societies, would vigorously seek to incorporate the challenges of ageing and the concerns of older persons into its national policy.

Concerning persons with disabilities, she said that Japan was committed to promoting the rights and well-being of such persons, and had been implementing legislative, administrative and other measures towards that end.  In order to further ensure equal opportunities for persons with disabilities, Japan had amended the Basic Law for Persons with Disabilities in 2004.  Also, last year, the Japanese parliament had revised the Law for Employment Promotion of Persons with Disabilities, to further enhance their employment opportunities and had enacted the Law to Help Persons with Disabilities Become Independent in their Social Life.

In order to promote the sound development of young people, she said the Government had established the Headquarters for Youth Development within the Cabinet Office in 2003.  Young people were an important asset for sustainable economic growth and social development.  Since the creation of employment for youth would contribute to poverty reduction in developing countries, Japan was committed to international cooperation and supported youth in developing countries, by providing development assistance, as well as by engaging in international exchange and volunteer activities, such as providing educational material and equipment.

SIN SONG CHOL (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) commended the Secretary-General's report as objectively reflecting the issues concerning poverty eradication.  The main objective of the first United Nations Decade was to eradicate worldwide poverty through bold national action and international cooperation.  Poverty eradication was also the first of the Millennium Development Goals.  During the ten-year period under review, significant efforts had been made to implement those commitments, particularly by United Nations organizations.  The establishment of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) was an important contribution to the full realization of poverty eradication.  Mankind had produced much wealth in recent years, especially with the development of information technology.  Poverty still existed, however, and the gap between the rich and poor had widened to an extreme.  Globalization, trade protectionism and hostile coercive measures, such as embargos, severely violated the rights to existence and development of the targeted countries, thus sustaining the vicious circle of poverty and providing a breeding ground for the poverty phenomenon.

For the international community to achieve social development goals, developed countries must get rid of protectionist practices, he said.  Coercive measures, such as invasion by foreign States, should end, in compliance with the United Nations Charter and other relevant international agreements.  Moreover, bilateral and multilateral trade relationships should be developed to end mistrust between nations.  Developed countries must assist with financial and technical aid, for it was their moral duty.  They should also fulfil their obligations for financing for development.  If every country implemented a people-centred strategy, social development commitments would be fulfilled.  The people of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea enjoyed their rights and received free housing, medical care and education.  People-centred policies were the driving forces behind the path his country had chosen, amid frantic United States sanctions and temporary economic difficulties.  His Government would further develop friendly relations with countries that respected its system.

GILLES NOGHÈS (Monaco) said that, bearing in mind current demographics, his Government had drawn up a plan for elderly persons, making the distinction between their situation and that of those in middle age.  The Government had striven to provide a humane response, respecting the provisions of the Madrid Plan of Action on Ageing.  It encouraged sport and education activities for older persons.  The health and social authorities, along with others, had striven to provide the delivery of services, such as meals to the home, the maintenance of the home, and health and sanitation assistance in the home.  The maintenance of the domicile was a priority.  The creation of a coordination network for elderly people had proven vital.

The task of the Government was facilitated by a network of care and in providing help with all professionals concerned, he said.  The Government had recognized the major role of the family in providing care for older persons.  The family was always invited to be involved in the process and in alleviating the financial burden associated with taking care of an elderly person.  The ageing of the population involved costs and consequences, which were reflected in the retirement and social security system.  Public funding had, for the most part, covered those costs.  Currently two options were being studied by the State:  health care paid through salary contribution; and the creation of a special allocation for social assistance through a fund basically provided by the State.

SHIN DONG-IK (Republic of Korea) said that people with disabilities were traditionally among society's most invisible and marginalized groups.  Relevant national policies generally focused on rehabilitation and welfare, rather than on promoting the guarantee of the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities.  The paradigm had begun to shift, however, and there was greater awareness that persons with disabilities should be integrated into all levels of society and be encouraged to participate actively in social and economic life, he said.

The Republic of Korea had, likewise, adopted such a rights-based, social model, with the approval of a Declaration of Human Rights of Persons with Disabilities, in 1998, and was now also set to adopt a national act on the elimination of all kinds of discrimination.  He said the Government had extended financial assistance to and increased job opportunities for persons with disabilities, adding that the goal of the national "Able 2010 Project" was to create 100,000 jobs for persons with disabilities by that date.  He also stressed his Government's particular efforts to address the situation of women with disabilities, as well as its "serious engagement" in developing the full potential the country's young people.  Along with building an environment that encouraged young people to develop their individual identities, the Republic of Korea had also established a policy implementation centre in the Ministry of Health, to promote ageing-specific policies to work towards mainstreaming older persons.

ROMY TINCOPA (Peru) outlined her country's efforts to promote the situation of youth in the areas of education, employment, hunger alleviation, poverty reduction, health care and participation in society.  On education, she noted that some 58.7 per cent of young people concluded secondary studies.  An increasing number of young people were now literate.  Gaps in the quality of education existed, however, including between private and public schools, and rural and urban centres.  The education sector was involved in the consolidation of efforts to overcome illiteracy, especially for the rural population.  On the issue of employment, some 88.5 per cent of young people in urban areas were employed, mainly in the private sector.  Informal labour and family work was prevalent in rural areas.  The Government had implemented a pro-youth programme to increase integration into the productive labour segment by, among other things, providing training.

Some 54 per cent of the population was affected by hunger and poverty, she said, with some 3.5 million young people living in a state of poverty.  To improve the situation, the State was promoting income generation programmes in poor zones, with emphasis on providing income for low income families.  Concerning health, the great challenge was to include all young people in health coverage.  Only some 24 per cent of young people were covered by the programme, however.  Regarding their participation in society and decision-making, the creation of the national youth council had been a significant development.  Implementation of national youth policy guidelines was another.  On the Madrid Plan of Action, she supported the theme of adjusting to an ageing world.  Peru had established 36 specific measures to address the issue of ageing, including the creation of a network of elderly people and self-help programmes.  A comprehensive care system was being established for elderly persons.  One of the greatest challenges it faced was in the area of raising awareness.

Concerning disabled persons, she said the drafting of an international convention would contribute to the recognition of their rights.  Peru promoted a pragmatic text, focusing on equal opportunities for all, and was working towards that end.  On the question of migration, she appreciated the call for high-level dialogue on the issue next September.  The link between migration and development should be analyzed, and she supported the Commission's contribution to that.

MARIE YVETTE BANZON (Philippines) said that, in responding to the basic needs of the poor, her Government's efforts had been directed towards the strengthening of microfinance institutions, hastening of asset distribution, developing and operationalizing a social protection framework, pursuing health sector reform and institutionalizing empowerment strategies through stronger political participation by the poor.  Also, the Government was implementing four major employment strategies in the pursuit of decent and productive employment: employment generation, employment preservation, employment facilitation and employment enhancement. 

A cornerstone of the Philippine development plan was empowering the vulnerable sectors of the society, so that they could participate in the development process, she said.  Those sectors were given preferential access to Government-led social assistance, social protection and capacity-building programmes.  Sectors targeted were women and children in need of special attention, such as those living in rural areas; the victims of exploitation, abuse, calamities and disasters; indigenous people; older persons; persons with disabilities; and families undergoing crises.  The efforts of her Government to uplift the lives of those sectors were rooted in the intrinsic obligation to guarantee protection of their human rights.  The work of protecting their human rights occurred in the practical context of ensuring their development, she added.

Ms. PAGONENDGI-NDAKALA (Central African Republic) said her country gave great importance to the development of human beings as a vital national resource.  The Central African Republic had faced many military and political problems, which had created an unprecedented situation in the country, with much of the population living below the poverty threshold.  While the country had great potential in terms of its natural resources, it had not been able to improve its development level.  The health situation, especially mortality rates among infants and mothers, had increased significantly.  Many women gave birth in health centres where the HIV/AIDS virus was prevalent.  The employment situation was also difficult, and the country currently faced unprecedented budgetary restraints.  While programmes had been drawn up with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, further study was needed to understand differences between rural and urban areas.

Regarding the issue of persons with disabilities, she said the Government had intervened in that area, with the Ministry for Families taking charge of persons with disabilities.  Legislative measures had also been taken to ensure the protection and rehabilitation of persons with disabilities.

MAKMUR SUNUSI (Indonesia) noted that, without the active cooperation and support of Governments and other stakeholders, helping disabled persons was an extremely difficult mission.  Only through a dedicated collaborative effort, would the international community create a new world for disabled people, focusing on their strengths and not only on their limitations.  Concerning ageing, he shared the importance of a bottom-up approach, which included efforts to enable older persons to identify and provide solutions to age-related challenges.  Indonesia fully supported actions to keep the spotlight on the agenda for elderly people, and agreed with 2007 as the target year to consolidate findings at the global level and for the identification of appropriate modalities to conduct regional review and appraisal of the implementation of the Madrid Plan.  While he supported the theme for the first cycle of the review, "Adjusting to an ageing world", some consideration should be given to other proposed themes mentioned in the report, taking into account the need for elasticity to accommodate the diverse interests, concerns and priorities of different Member States over the five-year cycle of the review and appraisal process.

Like many other countries, Indonesia had been laying the foundation for the creation of a truly ageing-friendly society, he said.  Responding to the needs of older persons, Indonesia remained fully committed to the implementation of the Madrid Plan of Action.  In Indonesia, the needs of older persons had had a strong impact on the formulation and implementation of national development policies.  In keeping with the spirit of the Madrid Plan, the participation of older persons in their communities had been greatly enhanced.  Regarding youth, he said the main concern was to establish a sound employment policy framework at the macroeconomic level.  In that regard, Indonesia had drawn inspiration from the World Programme of Action for Youth to the Year 2000 and Beyond, as it provided a universal policy framework and practical guidelines for national action and international support to improve the situation of youth.  The Government had emphasized measures to safeguard young people from such social ills as human trafficking, drug abuse and the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Concerning disabled persons, he said his Government had put in place a National Action Plan for Persons with Disabilities.  Work was also being done to infuse the Government's programming activities and the private sector with the goals of national legislation to assist disabled persons.  Indonesia was heartened by progress achieved in the negotiations for a convention on disability, and was committed to engage in future deliberations.  With regard to the family, the Government had stressed the well-being and empowerment of the family as the basic unit of society.  Every human being was the product of a family.  Several programmes had been put in place to benefit families of all categories, and steps had been taken to make them more resilient.  Supportive social networks and partnerships were being established to assist families, and efforts were being made to restore wholesome traditional values to families, so that they could endure the pressures of modernity.

MARE LO, Ministry of Women, the Family and Social Development of Senegal, said that the choice of the priority theme for the current session reflected the ongoing drama that many families continued to suffer, both in developing and developed countries.  The fulfilment of the Copenhagen commitments depended on several factors, including the protection of human rights, good governance and the development of democracy.  Important political measures taken by Senegal, such as the development of democracy and the establishment of a national programme to fight poverty, had placed the country on an irreversible path of nation-building.  Firm measures were also taken to ensure the protection of the rights of children, women, the family, and a national strategy for gender equality had been drawn up.

All those efforts had been beneficial for the population, he noted.  Indeed, domestic revenues had increased, and there had been a reduction in poverty.  Since 2004, the Government had strengthened the programme of investments in the social infrastructure.  The Government devoted 40 per cent of the national budget to education and 10.5 per cent to health.  There was also a plan of action for youth employment, as well as plans to invest $52 million in full employment for young people.  The national strategy also sought to extend social protection to vulnerable groups.  Real efforts were being made in Senegal, and in Africa, to fight poverty and protect social groups.  However, oftentimes the measures adopted did not meet all the needs.  Therefore, the Government was undertaking additional measures, such as the revision of the poverty eradication strategy, and new guidelines to bring about a double-digit economic growth rate growth.

BARLYBAY SADYKOV (Kazakhstan) said it had been ten years since the adoption of the Copenhagen Plan of Action, and five since the adoption of the Millennium Declaration, but problems of social development remained, and some countries' economic and social indicators had even worsened.  In addition to the drafting of well designed programmes and strategies, there should be greater focus on results, accountability and responsibility.  His country had consistently implemented the decisions taken at the Copenhagen, Madrid and other conferences, and remained committed to attainment of the Millennium Development Goals.  Its national Programme on Poverty Reduction had resulted in a drop in the poverty level from 34 per cent in 1999 to 16 per cent in 2004.

He said Kazakhstan attached great importance to the role of microcredit in poverty eradication, and had established a national Small Business Development and Support Programme.  Among other programmes for social development, he mentioned one on the Reform and Development of the Health Care System for 2005-2010.  In the national budget, some $50 million had been allocated to housing for socially vulnerable groups.  Primary education covered 99.5 per cent of the population, and higher education and vocational training were free of charge.  A Youth Programme for 2006-2007 provided for the development of social adaptation of employability mechanisms for youth. As for the review of the United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty, he noted the lack of due attention to the challenges of social development in Asia, even though it was the most populated region in the world, with a rather high level of poverty.

SUHAIM HAMAD AL-THANI (Qatar) said his country continued to respond to the challenges confronting youth, older persons, disabled people and women by: engendering a greater sense of civic community; providing universal quality education and primary health care; and by raising the standard of living.  Gender equality, care of elderly persons and catering to the needs of persons with disabilities, were prime responsibilities of the Government.  Regarding the reports before the Commission, he said that the international community should ensure that the follow-up to the tenth anniversary of the International Year of the Family should be an integral part of the multiyear programme of work of the Commission, and that the United Nations Family Programme should articulate family concerns worldwide.

He encouraged the Department of Economic and Social Affairs to provide more advisory services and training to increase technical and institutional capacities of countries in the implementation of the international plans of action in the development field.  It was imperative that the Commission consider the need to strengthen the human, institutional and technical capacities of countries to ensure that social policy concerns were integrated within national planning and budgetary processes; and that implementation of the plans of action required a focus, not only on prioritizing social and economic issues, but also on the development planning process itself.  The Commission should also study how social integration could be fostered, given its many paths and distinctions within and between regions of the world.

DJIBRIL TANGARA, Minister for Social Development of Mali, said the priority topic of the session -- the review of the first United Nations Decade -- was particularly important for Mali.  The history of the fight against poverty had proven that the United Nations had played a pioneering role in raising awareness on the need to eradicate the scourge of poverty.  Mali, a sub-Saharan country with a population of some 12 million, was a very poor country.  Yet, it was resolved to eliminate, or at least alleviate, poverty and had, in that respect, adopted a national strategy to combat poverty, as well as a medium-term framework for poverty relief.  The main objective was to reduce the incidence of poverty, from 63.8 per cent in 2002 to 47.5 per cent in 2006.  The strategy had been executed in the context of decentralization, with the establishment of 703 municipalities and the creation of sectoral programmes, in such areas as drinking water, justice and projects to combat poverty.  Within that framework, the Government had made available a number of basic infrastructures, such as health centres, schools, drinking water sources and vaccination centres.

He said underperformance on the part of Mali was due to a number of factors, including rising oil prices, rainfall and farm subsidies.  In 2006, Mali would, therefore, take every opportunity to remedy insufficiencies, taking into account the Millennium Development Goals.  Through sectoral programmes, Mali was working to ensure its commitments regarding older and disabled persons, as well as for youth.  For elderly people, his department, in coordination with civil society, had set up a social reintegration programme.  On the issue of ageing, Mali had adopted a national plan in 2005, and its implementation was being carried out in coordination with agencies for elderly persons.

On the issue of youth, Mali was working in partnership with stakeholders to address the main concerns of young people, he said.  In that regard, the Government had set up a young people's employment programme, with the goal of helping youth to integrate into social life.  Despite such efforts, however, the Government's policies faced difficulties, including the harmful effects of globalization, and a shortage of sufficient financial resources.  He appealed to the international community to honour its commitments for official development assistance (ODA) and to ensure the full transfer of technology from developed to underdeveloped countries.  He also stressed the need for South-South cooperation.

THELMA KAY, Chief, Emerging Social Issues Division, Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), said that ESCAP's activities focused on continuing to help Governments develop effective national plans of action on disability.  The Economic Commission also worked on employment opportunities for persons with disabilities with the International Labour Organization (ILO), and on developing capacity for disability data collection.  A high-level intergovernmental meeting on the midpoint review of the Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons was scheduled for 2007.  The number of youth in the ESCAP region currently stood at approximately 716 million, representing almost 62 per cent of the total world youth population.  The 2006 Economic and Social Survey for Asia and the Pacific highlighted issues of employment, particularly the high rates of youth unemployment in South and South-East Asia.  It emphasized the social implications of youth unemployment and the need to enhance employment opportunities.

She said that, while remaining resilient, the family in Asia and the Pacific was undergoing tremendous transition, and had been affected by social change, such as changing values and lifestyles, changing family structures, smaller-size households, and delayed marriage and childbearing.  In cooperation with Thailand and non-governmental organizations, ESCAP had organized a one-day seminar, in May 2005, on family development issues to observe the International Day of Families.  In addition, issues such as the impact of international migration on children and families, human trafficking, and the development impact of remittances and diasporas had been covered in ESCAP's technical activities.

FLORENCE CHENOWETH, Director of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Liaison Office with the United Nations, said there were many dimensions to the impact of population ageing on agriculture and rural development.  The effects of ageing were determined by factors such as population density, economic productivity, economies of scale, agricultural technologies, and social and economic policies.  In some settings, rural ageing could significantly add to existing problems in agricultural and rural development.  The increasing demands of agricultural modernization, for example, might drive many older farmers from their lands.  Given the implications that population ageing had for agriculture, food security and rural development, it was of crucial importance that efforts were strengthened to assist agricultural policy-makers to anticipate the effects of ageing on the rural sector and develop appropriate policy responses.

Turning to disabled persons, she said that, in recent years, the FAO had initiated several country projects and/or pilot models targeted at rural people living with disabilities.  Projects included support to income generation by war-disabled rural people through the establishment of a fish hatchery (Bosnia and Herzegovina) and a training programme to support disabled people in small-scale agricultural production (Ethiopia).  Disabled people did not live in isolation, she said.  Many of them made important contributions to the day-to-day survival of their households, families and communities.  Working towards a greater inclusion of persons with disabilities in agricultural production could have a positive influence, not only on the disabled themselves, but also on the people around them.  The FAO's experience showed that "investment" in persons with disabilities had positive effects that transcended beyond that target group.

DJANKOU NDJONKOU, International Labour Organization (ILO), said that the ILO's World Employment Report pointed to some serious challenges thwarting efforts to achieve poverty eradication.  Despite a fairly robust growth rate of 5 per cent in the previous year, global employment had expanded by only 1.7 per cent.  In other words, the amount of jobs generated globally was not sufficient to accommodate the growing labour force.  Official unemployment had grown by more than 25 per cent.  It would be necessary to create about 40 million jobs annually in the next 10 years, simply to keep up with the growth of the global labour force.  Those factors had resulted in a global jobs crisis, with over a billion working poor, unemployed or underemployed.

Youth unemployment had reached intolerably high levels around the world, he said.  More than 1 billion people today were between 15 and 25, and nearly 40 per cent of the world's population was below the age of 20.  85 per cent of those young people lived in developing countries, where many were especially vulnerable to extreme poverty.  Many were working under conditions of forced labour with little or no pay, no social protection and were engaged in hazardous forms of work.  The first global alliance formed to address that issue was the Secretary-General's Youth Employment Network, which brought together a wide range of partners to link political commitment with country level action.

Though youth employment problems must be addressed, he said, that should not be done at the expense of older persons.  The ILO had long been committed to the issue of older workers and population ageing, specifically elaborating international labour standards on older workers in the areas of employment, old-age and survivors' benefits, standards and guidance on retirement policies, the level of pension entitlements, and maintaining the standards of living of pensioners.  The most comprehensive instrument on the subject was the Older Workers Recommendation, 1980 (No. 162).  He added that the ILO Disability Programme promoted decent work for women and men with disabilities, and facilitated means to overcome the obstacles preventing people with disabilities from full participation in the labour markets.

BERTRAND DE LOOZ, Sovereign Military Order of Malta, said the notion of poverty and its eradication was the very raison d'être of the Order, which had, since its inception, focused its efforts on the needs of the homeless and sick, regardless of race and creed.  The Order's humanitarian commitment had doubled over the ages, while its military commitment no longer existed.  The Order's humanitarian commitment, in terms of poverty, hunger, disease, inequality, injustice and natural disaster, was valid for its many volunteers and members around the world.

He added that many of the Order's activities had been aligned with the Millennium Development Goals, focusing on social development and humanitarian crises.  He was pleased to note that all speakers had stressed the need to eliminate poverty.  The fact that that conviction had been put in writing in the various plans and declarations was an achievement to be celebrated.

BRENDA E. BENTLEY-GOENKA, International Federation of Pedestrians, said that mobility was freedom.  "If your mobility is impaired -- for instance, by lack of a safe sidewalk -- you lack the full freedom to get where you need to go, to work, to play, to better yourself, to pursue your dreams."  Mobility was a central, vital ingredient of economic and social development.  Safe and efficient transportation in all its forms was a vital, central ingredient of a society which could prosper, enjoy prestige and attract outsiders.  Of all the modes of transportation, of all the vehicles used for personal mobility, walking -- using the human body to move -- was the most basic.  Driving was a licensed privilege, not a right.  Machines could not replace walking as the primary mode.

Walking was basic, she said, adding that most of the world's people did not have a choice about it.  Pedestrians were not trespassers on the public street.  They were traffic, which was not polluting the air or making thunderous noise; they did not threaten other road-users and did not require expensive roadways.  Designing safe pedestrian infrastructure into the public street was not an option.  Freedom of movement was an essential right, which cultivated both the individual and the larger society.

Mr. SAPORITO, the Observatory for Cultural and Audiovisual Communication in the Mediterranean and in the World, noted that, over time, the plight of poverty had resulted in revolutions and wars.  Violence and corruption was a collateral effect of the phenomenon of poverty, which was an outcome of underdevelopment, among other things.  The real needs of poor communities must be considered and overcome, only through a policy of inclusion and the advent of even the most basic forms of telecommunication.

It was important to remember that the industrial revolution had brought western civilization out of poverty, he said.  Likewise, it would be absurd not to exploit the information and communication technology revolution for the world's disadvantaged communities.  Thanks to connectivity, that was possible today.  With connectivity, local communities could, in a short time, become active participants in the global economy, achieving high levels of competence and providing innovative solution to development issues.

JOSEPH KLOCK, New Humanity, said that New Humanity oversaw a project called the Economy of Communion, which was designed as a model for entrepreneurs who wanted to apply their business acumen towards the elimination of poverty.  The Economy of Communion sought to put the human person in the forefront.  In a spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood, owners of 797 businesses, including seven with annual sales exceeding $10 billion, allocated up to two thirds of their profits to the relief of people living in misery and to educate people about the Economy of Communion project, so that it continued to spread.

He said the Economy of Communion looked at poverty in two different, but closely connected ways:  involuntary poverty and voluntary poverty.  Those living in involuntary poverty suffered under conditions of misery and indigence caused by conditions beyond their control, while those living in voluntary poverty freely chose to live a life of poverty, or a life detached from possessions.  The Economy of Communion invited people who were not indigent to freely choose a moderate or poor lifestyle, sharing their profits with those who suffered the most.

Mr. ALI (Sudan) said the reports before the Commission were complete, pointing to national and international efforts being carried out in the area of poverty eradication, as well as challenges ahead.  Despite the fact that the issues of poverty, youth, ageing, persons with disabilities and the family had always been included in the United Nations work programme, the path ahead was long.  Armed conflict, disease, debt, the lack of infrastructure and the need to develop regional and international cooperation were challenges to be confronted, especially in Africa.  The peace accords, concluded in January 2005, in the Sudan, had ended years of war, opening up the way for social development.  The establishment of a coalition national Government would help to strengthen the Sudan.  The new Government continued to make efforts to create social and economic development, and to fulfil its commitments.  In spite of difficulties, progress had been made, including by setting up different national bodies to combat poverty.

The issue of youth was especially important for his country, he said, noting that youth network associations had been established to train young people, so that they could acquire skills and obtain credit.  The family, as an important basis of society, could not be overlooked.  Taking into account the need to balance work and family life, he said the Sudan was providing expectant women one year paid maternity leave.  Assistance programmes for elderly persons had also been established, allowing the Government to benefit from their experience.  In that regard, the Sudan supported the Madrid Plan.  The Sudan had also prepared national strategies to integrate disabled persons into society and to provide a framework for them to enjoy their rights.  Regional and international cooperation was essential for attaining the goals of social development.

Ms. MAURICE, International Federation for Family Development, said that the Federation worked on behalf of strengthening family life, and had, for over 25 years, conducted parent and grandparent training courses in all regions of the world.  Those programmes were focused on improving parenting skills and developing true intergenerational dialogue within the family.  The World Assembly on Ageing provided an opportunity to restudy the importance of the role of ageing and the opportunities for grandparents to contribute positively to families and communities.

Programmes in favour of children's rights did well to fully engage the family as the primary actor, unsurpassed in effectiveness, she said.  The family -- the parents and grandparents -- were closest to the unique needs and potential in each child, and freely contributed their wisdom and energy.  She added that the tenth anniversary of the International Year of the Family in 2004 had stressed again the pivotal role of the family in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

MARK MOROGE, World Youth Alliance, said that young people between the ages of 15 and 24 made up more than 1.2 billion of the world's population.  Eighty-five per cent of youth lived in developing countries, and it followed, that young people of the world had the most to gain from the eradication of poverty and the implementation of social development policies.  None of the Millennium Goals could be accomplished without the involvement of youth.  Member States had nothing to lose and everything to gain from the inclusion of youth in their plans for action.

Youth were vastly underrepresented at the current session of the Commission, he said.  Youth all over the world were interested in the work of the United Nations and wanted to be part of its policy-making process.  As such, financial resources should be devoted towards ensuring the inclusion of a diverse group of youth at the United Nations, especially from developing countries, both as official youth delegates and as representatives of non-governmental organizations.  As the Commission restructured itself, he asked that all social groups address the Commission through the lens of the substantive theme.

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