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Joint motion for a resolution on Zimbabwe, the case of Pastor Evan Mawarire and other cases of restriction of freedom of expression – RC-B8-2017-0191/rev.1

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on Zimbabwe,

–  having regard to the Local EU Statement on Local Governance of 30 June 2016,

–  having regard to the Local EU Statement on violence of 12 July 2016,

–  having regard to the joint Local EU Statement on the abduction of Itai Dzamara of 9 March 2017,

–  having regard to the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission’s press statement on public protests and police conduct,

–  having regard to Council Decision (CFSP) 2016/220 of 15 February 2016 extending EU restrictive measures against Zimbabwe until 20 February 2017(1),

–  having regard to the Declaration by the High Representative on behalf of the EU of 19 February 2014 on the review of EU-Zimbabwe relations,

–  having regard to the Global Political Agreement signed in 2008 by the three main political parties, namely ZANU PF, MDC-T and MDC,

–  having regard to the Council of the European Union conclusions of 23 July 2012 on Zimbabwe and to Council Implementing Decision 2012/124/CFSP of 27 February 2012 implementing Decision 2011/101/CFSP concerning restrictive measures against Zimbabwe(2),

–  having regard to the African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights of June 1981, which Zimbabwe has ratified,

–  having regard to the EU Guidelines on the promotion and protection of freedom of religion or belief,

–  having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of December 1948,

–  having regard to the Constitution of Zimbabwe,

–  having regard to the Cotonou Agreement,

–  having regard to Rules 135(5) and 123(4) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas the people of Zimbabwe have suffered for many years under an authoritarian regime led by President Mugabe that maintains its power through corruption, violence, elections plagued by irregularities and a brutal security apparatus; whereas the people of Zimbabwe have not experienced true freedom in decades and many under the age of thirty have therefore only known lives of poverty and violent repression;

B.  whereas the #ThisFlag independent social media movement founded by Evan Mawarire, a pastor and human rights defenders based in Harare, catalysed the frustration of citizens with the Mugabe regime during last year’s protests against the government’s inaction against corruption, impunity and poverty; whereas Pastor Mawarire has called on the government to address the failing economy and respect human rights; whereas the #ThisFlag movement has drawn support from churches and the middle class, which had hitherto tended to steer clear of street politics;

C.  whereas Pastor Evan Mawarire was already arrested on charges of incitement to commit public violence and released in July 2016, and subsequently left Zimbabwe the same month for fear of his and his family’s safety;

D.  whereas on 1 February 2017 Pastor Evan Mawarire was arrested at Harare airport on his return to Zimbabwe; whereas he was initially charged with ‘subverting a constitutional government’ under Section 22 of the Criminal Procedure Act, an offence which is punishable with imprisonment for up to 20 years; whereas on 2 February another charge was added, that of insulting the flag under Section 6 of the Flag of Zimbabwe Act; whereas Pastor Mawarire was only released on bail after having spent nine days in custody;

E.  whereas, in a public statement, the Zimbabwean Human Rights Commission expressed deep concern about the brutality and violent conduct of the police, stating that the fundamental rights of demonstrators were violated, and called on the Zimbabwean authorities to investigate and bring the perpetrators to justice;

F.  whereas Itai Dzamara, a journalist and political activist, was abducted on 9 March 2015 by five unidentified men at a barbershop in Harare; whereas the High Court ordered the government to search for Dzamara and report on progress to the Court every fortnight until his whereabouts had been determined; whereas the fate of Mr Dzamara remains unknown;

G.  whereas Promise Mkwananzi, the leader of #Tajamuka, a social movement linked to the July stay-away, was arrested and charged for inciting public violence ahead of the call for ‘shutdown 3.0’ scheduled for 31 August 2016 and has been released on bail; whereas another #Tajamuka activist, Mrs Linda Masarira, who was previously arrested in May 2015 and remanded out of custody on free bail, was arrested again during the protest in July 2016;

H.  whereas the EU restrictive measures against the Zimbabwe regime were renewed in February 2017 until 20 February 2018; whereas the asset freeze and travel bans will continue to apply to President Mugabe, Grace Mugabe and Zimbabwe Defence Industries; whereas an arms embargo will remain in place; whereas the EU has lifted restrictions on 78 people and eight entities;

I.  whereas Zimbabwe is a signatory to the Cotonou Agreement, Article 9 of which stipulates that respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms is an essential element of ACP-EU cooperation;

J.  whereas the EUR 234 million allocated to the National Indicative Programme (NIP) for Zimbabwe for the period 2014-2020 under the 11th European Development Fund is to be focused on three main sectors, namely health, agriculture-based economic development, and governance and institution building;

1.  Deplores the arrest of Pastor Evan Mawarire; stresses that his release on bail is not sufficient and that the politically motivated charges against him must be completely withdrawn;

2.  Calls on the Zimbabwean authorities to ensure that the criminal justice system is not misused to target, harass or intimidate human rights defenders such as Pastor Evan Mawarire;

3.  Believes that freedom of assembly, association and expression are essential components of any democracy; stresses that expressing an opinion in a non-violent way is a constitutional right for all Zimbabwean citizens and reminds the authorities of their obligation to protect the rights of all citizens;

4.  Is deeply concerned by human rights organisations’ reports of political violence, as well as restrictions on, and intimidation of, human rights defenders; regrets that since the last elections, and the adoption of the new Constitution in 2013, little progress has been made with regard to the rule of law and in particular towards reforming the human rights environment;

5.  Calls on the Zimbabwean authorities to ascertain Mr Dzamara’s whereabouts and to ensure that those who are responsible for his abduction face justice; notes that expressing opinion in a non-violent way is a constitutional right for all Zimbabwean citizens and it is the obligation of the authorities to protect the rights of all citizens;

6.  Expresses also its concern about the case of Mrs Linda Masarira, who was convicted on public violence charges arising from the national strike held on 6 July 2016; calls on the Government of Zimbabwe to show restraint and respect the human rights of all Zimbabwean citizens, including the right to free speech and freedom of assembly; reminds the government of its responsibilities as regards respecting, obeying and not subverting the Constitution, and serving all Zimbabwean people impartially without exception;

7.  Calls on the EU Delegation in Harare to continue to offer its assistance to Zimbabwe in order to improve the human rights situation and to explore the possibilities of facilitating an EU election observation mission;

8.  Stresses again the importance for the EU to start up a political dialogue with the Zimbabwean authorities in the framework of the Cotonou Agreement, thereby confirming the EU’s commitment to supporting the local population;

9.  Insists that the EU must ensure that the funding allocated to Zimbabwe for its National Indicative Programme effectively addresses the sectors concerned, and calls on the Government of Zimbabwe to allow the Commission unhindered access to EU-funded projects and to enhance its openness to technical assistance for jointly agreed projects and programmes;

10.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Commission, the Council, the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the EEAS, the Government and the Parliament of Zimbabwe, the governments of the South African Development Community and the African Union.


OJ L 40, 17.2.2016, p. 11.


OJ L 54, 28.2.2012, p. 20.

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Female Empowerment Would Unleash Potential to Chart New Global Future, Secretary-General Tells Commission on Status of Women

Inclusive Economies Powerful Way to Break Cycles of Poverty, UN-Women Chief Says

From classrooms and boardrooms to military ranks and peace talks, the world was better off when the doors of opportunity were opened to women and girls in all aspects of productive life, Secretary-General António Guterres said today as he opened the sixty-first session of the Commission on the Status of Women.

Organized under the priority theme “Women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work”, the two-week session will feature a plenary debate alongside a ministerial segment, expert panels and interactive dialogues on the review theme on “Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls”.

In opening remarks, Mr. Guterres said his most important message today was one of gratitude to participants for raising their voices on behalf of women’s equality and dignity around the world.  “We need you more than ever,” he said, stressing that globally, women were suffering new assaults around their safety, with extremists building their ideologies around the subjugation of women and girls.

He went on to say that sexual violence, forced marriage, human trafficking and virtual enslavement were weapons of physical and psychological warfare in today’s world.  Some Governments had enacted laws that curtailed women’s freedoms, while others had rolled back legal protections against domestic violence.  “Attacks on women are attacks on all of us,” he said. “This is why we have to respond together.”

For the 830 women at risk of dying each day from childbirth-related causes, the 15 million girls forced to marry each year — and importantly, the nearly 1 billion women who would enter the global economy in the next decade — empowerment would unleash their potential to chart a new global future.  The United Nations would support women every step of the way.

Announcing that he would join the International Gender Champions campaign, he advocated a cultural shift — in the world and the United Nations — that recognized women as equal and promoted them on that basis.  In peacekeeping, he would ask Member States to move beyond current levels, where women comprised just 3 per cent of peacekeepers.  “We stand for a powerful truth:  women’s equality works for the world,” he said.  “Hold us to our promises.  Do not let us off the hook.”

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Under-Secretary-General for Gender Equality and Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), said the Commission was a barometer of progress being made towards a world free of gender inequality.  “Inclusive economies and a positive world of work are powerful ways to break repeating cycles of poverty,” she said.  Yet, with the global pay gap at 23 per cent, women were consistently earning less than men, she said, urging action to address that “daylight robbery”.

Antonio de Aguiar Patriota (Brazil), Commission Chair, called on participants to build on gains that had been made, including the 2016 road map for the gender-responsive implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  The session must provide guidance on eliminating work-related structural barriers and ensuring that women took full advantage of new opportunities.  Men and boys must engage as gender advocates for transforming social norms, he said, which required challenging “rigid” notions of masculinity.

Manuela Tomei, Director of the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Conditions of Work and Equality Department, said that, in many ways, the quest for women’s economic empowerment would be lost or won depending on how well women gained entry into the labour market.  A striking feature of today’s world was the lack of progress made on global women’s economic empowerment and gender equality.

On that point, Dubravka Šimonovic, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, said the Commission’s priority theme for 2017 would look at violence against women in the workplace.  States and international organizations were still not using all tools available to address the realities of women and girls living in conditions of normalized violence at home or in the workplace.

Dalia Leinarte, Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, provided a snapshot of ongoing efforts, saying women’s economic empowerment had been a focus in its dialogues with States parties, calling on them to eliminate sex-based discrimination, gender pay gaps and sexual harassment.

In the afternoon, four ministerial round tables were held on “Gender pay gaps in the public and private sectors”; “Technology changing the world of work”; “Informal and non-standard work” and “Full and productive employment and decent work for all”, with participants examining how to achieve equal pay for equal work, harness technology to accelerate women’s economic empowerment and develop policies that ensured women were at the centre of the 2030 Agenda.

Also today, the Commission adopted its provisional agenda and work programme (documents E/CN.6/2017/1 and Add.1/Rev.2).  It also appointed Belgium to serve on the Working Group on Communications.

Also delivering opening remarks were Frederick Musiiwa Makamure Shava (Zimbabwe), President of the Economic and Social Council, and Peter Thomson (Fiji), President of the General Assembly.  Aminata Gambo, an activist from the Mbororo Pastoralists Community in Cameroon; Hannah Woodward, a youth delegate from Australia representing the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts; and Mary-Kate Costello, of the Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development’s Working Group on Youth and Gender Equality in the United States, delivered a joint statement.

The Commission on the Status of Women will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 15 March, to continue its sixty-first session.

Opening Remarks

ANTONIO DE AGUIAR DE PATRIOTA (Brazil), Chair of the Commission on the Status of Women, welcomed ministers, senior officials, experts and civil society representatives from around the world, saying their participation was an expression of a strong commitment to gender equality and women’s human rights, as well as the belief that “together we can and will accelerate progress for women and girls everywhere”.  During the session, participants would be called upon to build on recent gains, including the road map laid out in 2016 for gender-responsive implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  The session, under the priority theme “Women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work”, must provide clear guidance on eliminating work-related structural barriers within and across countries in which women faced discrimination, he emphasized.  Indeed, women were paid less than men, carried an undue burden of unpaid domestic work and were concentrated in the informal economy, where they lacked protection and opportunities for advancement.  The Commission should give clear guidance as to how Governments could ensure that women took full advantage of new opportunities.

Describing women’s voices and leadership at all levels of economic decision-making — whether in Government, the private sector or trade unions — as a driver for change, he stressed the need to put legislative frameworks in place to ensure compliance, strengthen institutions and gather stronger evidence to guide such actions.  The session would also focus on identifying policy options and opportunities to empower indigenous women and girls, while assessing progress on the review theme “Evaluating implementation of the Agreed Conclusions from the fifty-eighth session”, on challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls.  Noting the role of non-governmental organizations in delivering services to women, and their collaboration across borders to advance gender equality, he emphasized that civil society and youth groups must enjoy a safe environment in which to speak on behalf of women and girls everywhere.  Gender equality could only be realized if men and boys took full responsibility, engaging as gender advocates and speaking out as agents who could transform social norms and stereotypes.  The crucial task of engaging men and boys must involve challenging rigid notions of both masculinity and traditional perceptions of manhood, he stressed.

ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said his most important message today was one of gratitude to participants for raising their voices on behalf of women’s equality and dignity around the world.  “Every day you are on the front lines for fairness and for a just and decent world,” serving as an inspiration as they championed equality, he said, stressing that women’s empowerment must be a priority in a male-dominated world.  Empowerment was about breaking structural barriers, he added, pointing out that all were better off when doors were opened to women and girls in schools, military ranks and peace talks.  Such efforts were vital in addressing historic injustices, he said, adding that Governments and other institutions achieved better results when gender equality reflected the people they served.

He went on to cite the findings of a study to the effect that women’s equality could add $12 trillion to global growth over the next decade.  Women enjoying better reproductive health earned more and invested more in their children’s health — investments that paid dividends for generations.  Empowerment was also the best way to prevent challenges arising from violent extremism, human rights violations, xenophobia and other threats.  “We need you more than ever,” he said, noting that globally women were suffering new assaults on their safety, with extremists building their ideologies around the subjugation of women.  Sexual violence, forced marriage, human trafficking and virtual enslavement were forms of physical and psychological warfare in today’s world, he said.  Some Governments were enacting laws that curtailed women’s freedom, while others were rolling back legal protections against domestic violence, a sign that common values were under threat.

“Attacks on women are attacks on all of us,” he emphasized.  “This is why we have to respond together.”  For the 830 million women at risk of dying each day from childbirth-related causes, the 225 million lacking access to modern contraceptives, the 15 million girls forced to marry each year, the 130 million women and girls who had suffered female genital mutilation, and the nearly 1 billion women who would enter the global economy in the next decade, empowerment would unleash their potential to lead the world to a new future, he pledged.

The United Nations would support women every step of the way.  Announcing that he would join the international gender champions, he encouraged other senior leaders also to do so, emphasizing that a  cultural shift was needed to recognize women as equal and to promote them on that basis, with the actions, targets and benchmarks required to measure progress.  Since gender equality was a function of all United Nations efforts, the Organization had announced an ambitious attempt to combat sexual exploitation and abuse, which would require the employment of more women in uniform and the promotion of more female leaders, he said.  “Hold us to our promises,” he urged.  “Do not let us off the hook.  Keep our feet in the fire.”

FREDERICK MUSIIWA MAKAMURE SHAVA (Zimbabwe), President of the Economic and Social Council, said the Commission was an indispensable arm of the Council system, addressing issues of vital interest to the well-being and progress of half of humanity.  “When it succeeds in the execution of its mandate, we all succeed,” he said, noting that the current session was taking place at a pivotal moment when commitments under the 2030 Agenda must be turned into action.  Practical contributions emanating from the current session would enrich efforts to realize the full empowerment of women and contribute significantly to the 2030 Agenda, he said, adding that the Commission had set the bar high in 2016 by providing a comprehensive road map for gender-responsive implementation of the Agenda.

“This road map should continue to guide and inspire Member States and all other stakeholders,” he continued, describing the Commission’s 2017 priority theme on women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work as highly relevant to the Council’s own focus on the eradication of poverty.  “The [2030 Agenda] envisages a world in which every country enjoys sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth and decent work for all,” he said, noting that women’s economic empowerment was a prerequisite to realization of that vision.  Women and poverty — 1 of the 12 critical areas of the Beijing Platform for Action, adopted at the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995 — as well as the feminization of poverty were the subjects of long-standing concern on the Commission’s part, he said, adding that it acknowledged the mutually reinforcing links between gender equality and empowerment of women and girls on the one hand, and the eradication of poverty on the other.

PETER THOMSON (Fiji), President of the General Assembly, recalled that gender equality had been enshrined in the United Nations Charter at the Organization’s founding, but despite some great strides on that front, progress remained slow and uneven to the present day.  Noting that all his own grandchildren were girls, he expressed faith that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development would enable them to grow up enjoying the same rights as their male peers.  In particular, Sustainable Development Goal 5 committed all stakeholders to achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women, he noted.  “I see the day when all forms of violence against women and girls are eliminated, when women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities are ensured.”

Recalling that the Commission had called for the 2030 Agenda to take a “transformational and comprehensive approach” to gender equality, he said that, rather than resting on its laurels, it had instead pushed for key gender-equality actions within the framework of implementing the Sustainable Development Goals.  It had also placed emphasis on women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work, he said.  Technology and innovation could be the key to unlocking the approximately $28 trillion that could be added to the global gross domestic product (GDP) annually if women and men were treated equally in the world of work.  In addition, technology could help expand women’s access to the formal economy and markets, facilitate their employment through flexible work conditions, help monitor and enforce workplace and legal protections, and eliminate the global shame of violence against women.

PHUMZILE MLAMBO-NGCUKA, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), described the Commission as a “barometer of progress” towards a world free of gender discrimination and inequality — “a world that leaves no one behind”.  “Inclusive economies and a positive world of work are powerful ways to break repeating cycles of poverty,” she said.  Citing both progress in some areas and the erosion of gains already made, she emphasized that much-needed positive developments were not happening fast enough, calling for “constructive impatience” to help in reaching targets.  The current session was renewing focus on the needs of those furthest behind, including young women, refugees and migrants, women affected by gender-based violence, those denied sexual and reproductive health rights, and those facing multiple or intersecting forms of discrimination.

Noting that virtually all economies relied on the unpaid care and domestic work of women and girls, she emphasized the need for positive changes to enable such work to be valued and shared by parents within the family unit.  The relevant report of the Secretary-General — titled “Women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work” (document E/CN.6/2017/3) — paid greater attention to women working where they were at highest risk of being left behind, she said.  Calling on the Commission to focus on women’s participation in male-dominated sectors and in the informal sector, she said the latter — comprising low-wage farm workers, flower vendors, street-food vendors and others — offered a major opportunity, pointing out that there were 190 million informal-sector workers in India alone.  With the global pay gap at an average of 23 per cent, women were also consistently earning less than men, she said, underlining the need for action to address such “daylight robbery”.

DALIA LEINARTE, Chair, Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, described ongoing work, saying dialogue with States parties aimed at consistently raising women’s economic empowerment, including calls for them to eliminate sex-based discrimination, gender pay gaps and sexual harassment.  It had also urged them to provide economic opportunities for women in rural areas, those with disabilities, refugees, migrants, victims of trafficking and those wishing to leave prostitution.  Education was crucial for economic empowerment and women’s full participation in economic, social and political life.  States must ensure safe school environments and diversify educational choices to promote women’s and girl’s access to scientific, technical and managerial professions.

She said the Committee was currently preparing a draft general recommendation on girls and women’s right to education to provide guidance to States parties.  Gender-based violence was another issue intrinsically linked to women’s economic empowerment, often preventing them from breaking out of poverty.  The Committee’s general recommendation would guide States parties in their efforts to eliminate all forms of gender-based violence against women.  It would also address the need for systematic data collection disaggregated by the relationship between victims and perpetrators and in relation to intersecting forms of discrimination.  The plight of migrants and refugees must also be addressed.  Natural disasters had added to large-scale migration movements of people, she added, emphasizing that climate change adaptation programmes had failed to address the structural barriers facing women.  Linking the Convention to the 2030 Agenda had great potential in advancing women’s economic empowerment.

DUBRAVKA ŠIMONOVIC, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, said the struggle must be grounded in a quest for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in all areas.  Since the beginning of her tenure in 2015, she said, official visits to Argentina, Australia, Georgia, Israel, State of Palestine and South Africa had resulted in a country report with specific recommendations on actions needed to address gaps in combating violence against women.  Her next thematic report, on shelters and protection orders, which she planned to present at the Human Rights Council’s June session, would focus on States’ obligation to address violence against women through coordinated national legislation and prevention policies, including the provision of shelters, crisis centres, safe houses, help lines and civil and criminal protection.  “We have gone a long way in defining violence against women as a human rights violation and form of discrimination,” she said.  While the international community now had a solid understanding of required actions to combat those violations, States and international organizations were still not using all agendas and tools at their disposal to address the realities of women and girls living in conditions of normalized violence at home or in the workplace.

She said that under the Commission’s priority theme for 2017, the international community must look at violence against women in the workplace.  Indeed, evidence showed that around 50 per cent of women experienced unwanted sexual advances, physical contact or other forms of sexual harassment at work.  For women in politics, recent studies had found that sexism, harassment and violence against women parliamentarians were real and widespread, and that they existed in every country, albeit in different degrees, she said, calling upon Governments to enact, strengthen and enforce laws and policies to eliminate that phenomenon.  In her first vision-setting report, she had called for stronger cooperation between global and regional mechanisms to improve synergies and accelerate the use of existing instruments.  Also concerning were gender-related killings of women, she said, noting that preventing that pandemic was one of her priorities.  Turning to the ongoing existing work on data collection on femicides, she proposed a flexible model to establish a “national femicide watch” to work as a preventive mechanism.

MANUELA TOMEI, Director of the Conditions of Work and Equality Department, International Labour Organization (ILO), said the Commission’s priority theme resonated with the ILO mandate.  In many ways, the quest for women’s economic empowerment would be lost or won depending on how well they gained entry into the labour market.  While the world of work was changing in profound ways, where those changes would lead in terms of supporting women’s economic empowerment was not preordained.  To secure a better future for all, better policies must be put in place now.  A striking feature of today’s landscape was the lack of progress made on global women’s economic empowerment and gender equality.

To address those issues, she said the ILO Women at Work Centenary Initiative had sought to understand the obstacles to progress and challenge assumptions of what they wanted in the working world.  Launched on 8 March, an ILO report, titled “Towards a better future for women and work: Voices of women and men”, had included a poll interviewing 149,000 people in 142 countries and territories.  It offered the first ever account of global attitudes about working women, finding that most preferred that they had paid jobs.  Most participants had cited the work-family balance as among women’s top challenges, followed by unfair treatment, sexual harassment and unequal pay.  The findings supported a policy agenda that included a focus on the care economy — a rich source of future jobs — and on the link between paid and unpaid work.  Ensuring equal pay for work of equal value was also essential, as women earned 23 per cent less than men, mainly due to the way wages were structured.  ILO was committed to making the future of work one where gender equality and women’s empowerment were drivers of a better world.

Delivering a joint statement were three representatives of the Commission’s recently-concluded annual Youth Forum: Hannah Woodward, youth delegate from Australia; Aminata Gambo, activist from Cameroon; and Mary-Kate Costello of the Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development’s Working Group on Youth and Gender Equality in the United States.

Ms. WOODWARD, speaking for the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, recalled that the Youth Forum had brought together more than 750 young leaders to discuss emerging challenges and opportunities to achieve equality, justice and the economic empowerment of all people.  That dialogue had been anchored in the experiences of young people, especially young women, she said, noting that the Forum’s Outcome Document had recognized the reality that gender was not binary and that prioritizing marginalized voices meant going “beyond tokenism” to address discrimination against all young people.  Stressing that men and boys must also be involved in those key actions, she went on to outline the various priorities identified by the Youth Forum, including:  young women’s leadership; technical and financial support for the involvement of young women in policies that affected their lives; protection and support for human rights defenders; the creation of conditions that would allow young women to participate in policy development; and investments in youth-led campaigns.

Ms. GAMBO, speaking for Cameroon’s Mbororo Pastoralists Community, outlined a number of additional priorities, including the need to address the crisis of unemployment and under-employment that disproportionately affected women and young people; to build partnerships with the private sector and other actors to improve training, education and workforce development, thereby ensuring decent work for women; and to recognize the need for equal pay for equal work in order to close the unjust wage gap between women and men.

Ms. COSTELLO said other priority areas included creating and strengthening intergenerational dialogue; ensuring access for all young women - including refugees and migrants - to free, safe and affordable education through secondary school; ensuring access to comprehensive, youth-friendly health services and information, including on sexual and reproductive health and rights; increasing leadership by women and girls in developing policies to combat climate change; and enhancing interreligious and intercultural dialogue that would contribute to the economic empowerment of women.

Round Table A

Moderating an afternoon ministerial round table titled “Gender pay gaps in the public and private sectors: how can equal pay for work of equal value be achieved in the changing world of work?” was Elke Ferner, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and youth of Germany, the discussion featured statements by ministers and senior officials.

Ms. FERNER said that despite advances in securing formal employment for women and raising their education levels, gender pay gaps characterized all labour markets.  Defined as the difference in average wages paid to women and to men, it was the cause of an overall lifetime income gap, estimated globally to be at 23 per cent.  While varying in size, it persisted in all countries and was often greater in the private than in the public sector.  She asked participants for examples of national laws and policies that had reduced gender pay gaps and about steps for ensuring women were paid the same as men for work of equal value in the private sector.

With the floor opened for discussion, speakers agreed that women’s empowerment was essential for economic growth, with many outlining ways in which their countries were addressing the pay gap.

KRIS PEETERS, Deputy Prime Minister of Belgium, said the pay gap in his country had been reduced to 8 per cent, among the smallest in the European Union.

LYDIA MUTSCH, Minister for Equal Opportunities of Luxembourg, said the Government sought to reduce the 8.6 per cent wage inequality through legislation, advocacy, and preventative and partnership actions.  Companies should set goals for eliminating the gender gap on boards of directors, she added.

PIRKKO MATTILA, Minister for Social Affairs and Health of Finland, said the Nordic experience had shown that investing in equality made economic sense.  Women’s employment in Finland stood at 67 per cent, nearly the same as that for men, she said, pointing out, however, that the gender pay gap was still almost 17 per cent.  Pay transparency was an important in tackling wage discrimination.

EGLĖ RADISAUŠKIENĖ, Vice-Minister for Social Security and Labour of Lithuania, said under his country’s pay transparency policy, companies with more than 20 employees were required to disclose the size of the pay gap.  Lithuania’s pay gap had been 15.6 per cent in 2015 and continued to grow, he said, adding that the largest gap was in financial and insurance activities, at nearly 40 per cent.

SOLVEIG HORNE, Minister for Children and Equality of Norway, said most of her country’s gender pay gap could be explained by the segregated job market.  To counter that problem, the Government was working to increase the number of girls choosing an education in technology.

WAJIH AZAIZEH, Minister for Social Development of Jordan, said his country had established a commission to ensure pay equality and was working towards more flexible workplaces so that women could enjoy a work-life balance.  Jordan had been signatory to the ILO Convention on revenue equality since 1966, he noted, declaring:  “This is a cultural issue and it is important that men are fully aware of women’s rights to work in all sectors.”

NEZILHA LABIDI, Minister for Women of Tunisia, said her country was among the most advanced Arab States in terms of respect for women’s rights, thanks in part to its personal status code.  Tunisia had ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1985, and Articles 21 and 46 of the 2014 Constitution addressed equal participation in decision-making and combating gender inequality.  Despite such measures, women still earned less than men, with an average 485 dinars for women and 600 for men in 2011, she said, noting that the gap was especially pronounced for rural women working in agriculture.

BASSIMA HAKKAOUI, Minister for Solidarity, Women, Family and Social Development of Morocco, said there was no salary discrimination in her country’s public sector, but it persisted in the private sector, where only 12 per cent of entrepreneurs or company leaders were female.  Men did not see women as equals, she added.  “They hire who they want and fix salaries at will,” preferring single women without children she said, emphasizing:  “We must tackle stereotypes and mind sets.”

MUNGUNCHIMEG SANJAA, Deputy Minister for Labour and Social Protection of Mongolia, said her country had closed the gender pay gap in the public sector through a pay grade system based on skills, education and performance.  However, the gap persisted in the private sector, with the annual average between men and women in various industries standing at 15 per cent.

CHOI YONG SHIK, Director of International Cooperation, Ministry of Gender Equality and Family of the Republic of Korea, said the Government was working to realize equal pay for the same job by focusing on the disruption of women’s careers since many of them dropped out of the workforce after age 30.

MADINA ABYLKASSYMOVA, Vice-Minister for National Economy of Kazakhstan, said 60 per cent of all women in her country were economically active and had achieved gender parity in small and medium-sized enterprises.  However, women tended to be employed in economic sectors offering lower compensation, she said, calling for free skills training to be made available in more productive sectors of the economy.

JANET CAMILO, Minister for Women of the Dominican Republic, said Central Bank data revealed a gender pay gap of 21 per cent in her country, and all efforts were being made to eliminate discrimination against women.

FATIMA PELAES, Minister for Women Policies of Brazil, said constitutional changes had been made in favour of the rights of domestic workers.

ANA MARIA ROMERO-LOZADA, Minister for Women and Vulnerable Populations of Peru, said her country’s equal-opportunity law promoted the economic, social and political participation of rural, indigenous and Afro-Peruvian women.

ANA BAIARDI, Minister for Women of Paraguay, said public policies governing the care sector should ensure that child care was addressed on an equal basis.

Also speaking were ministers and other senior officials representing France, Switzerland, South Africa, Canada, Poland, Spain, Greece, Sudan and Portugal.

Round Table B

Valentin Rybakov, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belarus, moderated the round table titled “Technology changing the world of work: how can technology and innovation be harnessed to accelerate women’s economic employment?”

Mr. RYBAKOV opened the discussion by asking for examples of national policies that had increased women’s access to digital and mobile technologies, ideas for public and private sectors to channel digital change in order to create jobs for women, and for Governments to encourage public and private investment in women’s fluency in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

When the floor opened, ministers and senior officials from around the world agreed that technology had the power to increase women’s independence, change stereotypes and reduce gender inequality.  Many outlined ways in which their countries were working to increase the hiring of women for high-paying jobs.  Several speakers described measures for eliminating gender gaps in science, technology, engineering and mathematics education.

MICHAELIA CASH, Minister for Women and Employment of Australia, emphasized the particular importance of such an education since 75 per cent of her country’s fastest-growing sectors were in those fields.  Because women represented only one in four employees in Australia’s workforce, the Government was subsidizing doctoral and other fellowships to attract and retain female talent, she said.

Other speakers described measures for integrating gender issues into major policies and programmes.

SANGARE OUMOU BA, Minister for the Advancement of Women, Children and Family of Mali, cited her country’s national scientific research policy for and its “Digital Mali 2020” programme.  Another law mainstreamed gender issues into administrative processes, she said, noting also that women had achieved 20 per cent representation in recent elections, as opposed to 9 per cent in years past.

EDWIN JENAMISO TATSHU, Minister for Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs of Botswana, described his country’s science and technology mentorship programme for women and girls, saying the Government had also launched a young innovators competition and Information and Communications Technology Day to promote the involvement of women and girls in those fields.  Given the low female participation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, Botswana would intensify efforts to enrol women in those fields, notably through an inter-ministerial coordination committee.

FAZILA JEEWA-DAUREEAWOO, Minister for Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare of Mauritius, said her country’s new cyber cities initiative would open opportunities for women and girls.  Information and communications technology was recognized as a tool for promoting gender equality, and the national computer board advocated equal access to such tools, she said, pointing out that 15 computer clubs established in empowerment centres served some 250,000 women.

VICTORIA KALIMA, Minister for Gender of Zambia, said her country had reformed its regulatory framework to create a one-stop business centre to encourage greater women’s participation in business.  The Government had reviewed the Patent Act to promote innovation among energetic young female entrepreneurs who were able to multitask, she said.

RAIT KUUSE, Deputy Minister for Social Policy of Estonia, said online platforms had fostered gender equality in her country, and starting a company could now be done online.  That offered women a chance to start businesses and fostered a work-life balance, allowing both men and women to work from home.

KUMAR KHADKA, Minister for Women, Children and Social Welfare of Nepal, also described a Government-established initiative — an online business portal that allowed entrepreneurs to register from anywhere in the country.  Integrated media campaigns had helped to break stereotypes against women, while phone-based services had increased their access to finance, he added.

MOTOME TAKISAWA, Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, addressed challenges ahead, saying that not many Japanese women chose advanced education in science, technology, engineering or mathematics, even if they wished to do so, due in part to the influence of their parents.  There was a lack of female role models in those areas, which made it difficult for female students to imagine a career path.  Japan had established a teacher-training programme because fostering a change of mind-set called for a favourable learning environment, he said.

Also speaking were ministers and other senior officials representing the Czech Republic, Niger, Argentina, Italy, South Africa, China, Burkina Faso and the United Arab Emirates.

Round Table C

The Commission also held an interactive ministerial-level round table on the theme “Informal and non-standard work:  What policies can effectively support women’s economic empowerment?”  Chaired by Motome Takisawa, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, it featured a short summary by Lakshmi Puri, Deputy Executive Director of UN-Women, and statements from ministers and other high-level Government officials.

Mr. TAKISAWA opened the session by declaring:  “As the world of work is changing, women continue to be confronted with pervasive and persistent inequalities and discrimination that need to be tackled for a better and more just future.”  The informal sector was the primary source of employment for women in developing countries, he said, adding that a defining feature of the sector was the lack of social protection and labour rights.  Women comprised more than 80 per cent of home workers, or industrial outworkers, as well as 30 to 90 per cent of street vendors and 83 per cent of the world’s 53 million domestic workers.  Noting that countries were currently taking a range of measures to make informal employment more economically viable, he asked speakers to describe measures aimed at creating favourable environments for women workers, steps to extend social protection coverage to those in the informal economy and efforts to better regulate part-time work.

Responding to those questions, many speakers stressed the need to raise the visibility of women in the informal sector, especially in rural and domestic labour, and to enact strong laws to protect their rights.  Several ministers outlined their Governments’ concrete strategies to support women workers through the provision of microfinancing and other credit schemes, underscored the importance of investment in women’s livelihood projects and emphasized the need to eliminate workplace harassment and ensure equal pay for equal work.

LORENA CRUZ, President of the National Women’s Institute of Mexico, was among the speakers calling for decent work for women, as established by ILO.  In Mexico, only 43 per cent of women participated in the formal labour market — a low number considering their high educational achievement.  Describing the Government’s efforts to increase that percentage, she said it had recently generated more than 2 million new jobs and established a national programme to provide loans to women in the informal sector and train them to enable a transition to the formal market.

DOREEN SIOKA, Minister for Gender Equality and Child Welfare of Namibia, said 78 per cent of her country’s rural population worked in the informal sector, and the majority of such workers were women.  Actions that the Government had taken to protect those labourers included the 2016 introduction of a minimum wage law, the establishment of a national gender policy and the implementation of various credit, technology and equipment aid schemes for small and microentrepreneurs.

VALENTINE RYBAKOV, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belarus, described similar efforts, including the adoption of a national plan for human rights that enshrined gender equality and laid out plans to work with media outlets to reduce stereotyping.  The Government was also supporting women in opening their own businesses and working to expand child care and preschool services.

MERESEINI RAKUITA VUNIWAQA, Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation of Fiji, emphasized that each country’s strategies aiming at the economic empowerment of women must be context-specific and sensitive to communities’ cultural nuances.  Fiji was implementing such policies in a targeted and multifaceted manner, focusing primarily on building a strong legal framework and collaborating with stakeholders on the ground.

HAYFAA Al-AGHA, Minister for Women’s Affairs of the State of Palestine, said the informal sector was also the major source of women’s employment in territories chafing under foreign occupation around the world.  “This is a marginalized sector” in Palestine, she said, where women suffered disproportionately from the Israeli occupation, in particular from the absence of legal protections and market standards protecting their products.  Among other things, she called for the elimination of forced and child labour and for an urgent end to the occupation in general.

Ms. PURI, delivering a brief summary, said the speakers had highlighted women’s overrepresentation in the informal employment sector.  Many had also described women’s disproportionate burden of unpaid and care work, their concentration in low-wage domestic work and frequent lack of social protection.  In that context, many speakers had spotlighted the need to tackle violence and harassment and raise the visibility of women’s work.  The measures they described ranged from tax breaks to entrepreneurship support and improved access to finance and credit, as well as laws, policies and labour market interventions that were both transversal and targeted in nature.

Also speaking were ministers and other senior officials from Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Mozambique, Hungary, Angola, Eritrea, Chile, Congo, Guatemala, Romania, Madagascar, El Salvador, Kenya and the United Republic of Tanzania.

Round Table D

The Commission’s final round table of the day addressed the theme “Full and productive employment and decent work for all:  How can Sustainable Development Goal 8 be realized for women by 2030?”  Chaired by Fatma Al-Zahraa Hassan (Egypt), it featured statements by ministers and senior officials and featured a closing summary by Ms. Puri of UN-WOMEN.

Ms. HASSAN, noting that an estimated 600 million new jobs would be needed by 2030 to keep pace with the growth of the global working-age population, said that conditions also needed to be improved for the 780 million women and men who were currently working, but not earning enough to lift themselves and their families out of poverty.  While entrepreneurship could be an important vehicle in that regard, discriminatory social norms and family responsibilities often prevented women from even starting a business.  Other obstacles included structural barriers, such as discriminatory property and inheritance laws.

Describing the various policy options available to Governments to increase the number of decent jobs for women, she raised a number of questions to guide the discussion, including what measures Governments were taking to stimulate public provision of full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men and incentives and regulations that were encouraging the private sector to create decent work for women.  She also asked how Governments could encourage women’s entrepreneurship in the context of decent work, and which policies had helped to remove structural barriers.

Speakers in the ensuing discussion outlined interventions and other best practices, ranging from innovative tax policies to fines levied on companies that paid women and men differently for the same work.  Many also underscored the importance of instituting paid family leave and making child care affordable and accessible, while some spotlighted the important role of a responsible private sector in realizing those policies on the ground.

ALEJANDRA MORA MORA, Minister for the Status of Women of Costa Rica, described her country’s Seal of Gender Equality management tool that aimed at achieving equity and reducing productivity and wage gaps in both private and public institutions.  Costa Rica had also implemented training programmes offering tools to help women to join the labour market, with a focus on science and technology sectors, where the widest gap between women and men existed.

ALEXEY VOVCHENKO, First Deputy Minister for Labour and Social Protection of the Russian Federation, said his country was actively engaged in efforts to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 8 on decent work for all.  It was building and subsidizing more preschools and kindergartens, embracing flexible work schemes and significantly increasing salaries in traditionally female-dominated sectors such as health care and education.  In addition, it was supporting women’s entrepreneurship by subsidizing start-ups, leases and loans.

MARIÉTOU KONÉ, Minister for Women, Protection of Children and Solidarity of Côte d’Ivoire, recalled her country’s 2013 decision to open its military schools to women and described its efforts to employ more people — both women and men — from vulnerable groups, including persons with disabilities.  Other recent legislative reforms now required private sector companies to provide women with 14 weeks of maternity leave.  Côte d’Ivoire was also increasing its investments in women’s microfinance loans and village associations.

ÅSA REGNÉR, Minister for Children, the Elderly and Gender Equality of Sweden, said her country had achieved near parity in women and men’s employment as a result of policies such as individual taxation and the introduction of parental leave for both women and men.  Ensuring access to sexual and reproductive health and rights, including contraceptives and safe abortions, had also been critical.  However, Sweden still struggled with a gender pay gap and more diversity was needed in sectors that remained male- or female-dominated.

Ms. PURI said the speakers were all trying to assess the gaps and structural barriers women faced in accessing decent work.  They had described interventions on the demand and supply sides of the labour market, addressing gaps in entrepreneurship, access to technology and essential services in particular.  Many had also spotlighted women’s disproportionate burden of unpaid care work and outlined efforts to make public sector employment more gender responsive, she said.

Also speaking were ministers and other senior officials representing Ukraine, Guinea, Egypt, Guatemala, Georgia, Morocco, United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Philippines, Ireland, Afghanistan, South Africa, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Cuba and Uganda, as well as the European Union.

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Social Development Commission Integral to Helping World’s 786 Million Poor Reach Their Human Potential, Speakers Stress at Opening of Fifty-Fifth Session

The Commission on Sustainable Development — whose past work had been critical to the evolution of many principles underpinning the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development — now had a critical role to play in that framework’s implementation, stressed delegates as they opened the Commission’s fifty-fifth annual session today.

Many speakers welcomed the relevance of the session’s theme, “Strategies for eradicating poverty to achieve sustainable development for all”, underscoring the Commission’s enormous potential to guide inclusive policies aimed at leaving no one behind.

“The adoption in 2015 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was a historic step forward in our common approach to tackling the many challenges all societies and countries face,” said Commission Chair Philipp Charwath (Austria), who was elected by acclamation at the meeting’s outset.  While progress had been made in promoting the rights of vulnerable people — including persons with disabilities and the rapidly growing number of older persons around the globe — poverty remained a major threat.  As part of its work, the Commission would help address such issues by supporting the thematic reviews of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, he said.

Peter Thomson (Fiji), President of the General Assembly, said the Commission’s longstanding work to promote people-centred development had helped shape key sustainable development concepts and laid the foundation for the 2030 Agenda.  The body would now help ensure that that “master plan for people, planet and prosperity” was implemented, he said, expressing confidence that the achievement of its 17 Sustainable Development Goals was “firmly within our reach”.

“Today’s generation can be the one that eradicates poverty and turns the tide on inequality, exclusion and environmental degradation,” agreed Frederick Musiiwa Makamure Shava (Zimbabwe), President of the Economic and Social Council.  Noting that it was increasingly difficult to reach people living in extreme poverty and that progress was often temporary, he emphasized that achieving the 2030 Agenda’s objectives would require a broad set of mutually reinforcing social and economic policies, as well as leveraging the synergies among them.

Delivering a statement on behalf of Secretary-General António Guterres, Lenni Montiel, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, said the Commission was meeting at a time of global contradictions.  While significant progress had been made in eradicating extreme poverty, conflicts were reversing gains in social well-being and the gap between rich and poor was growing.  Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals would require whole-of-society approaches tailored to national contexts, he stressed, adding that diversity must be viewed as an asset rather than a threat.

As the Commission began its general debate, many Government ministers and other high-level officials expressed optimism that the Commission’s unflagging support of inclusive, rights-based development strategies would dovetail with the 2030 Agenda’s implementation and continued reductions in poverty.

Nomtoibayar Nyamtaishir, Mongolia’s Minister for Labour and Social Protection, was among those reporting significant strides made towards achieving sustainable development, as well as positive returns on social investments.  Noting that his country had eradicated poverty while preserving its ecological balance, he described a number of key laws and strategies, including a policy aimed at job generation and several efforts to empower Mongolia’s youth.

Ecuador’s representative, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, urged the Commission to send a clear message to the High-Level Political Forum that the Sustainable Development Goals were inextricably linked to the rights of women, young people, indigenous people, persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups.  He also noted that the slowdown of global economic growth, volatile world financial markets, high youth unemployment, humanitarian crises, climate change and others challenges had obstructed the achievement of global social development goals.

Malta’s representative, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that across Europe, 119 million people were at risk of poverty and social exclusion, with children and young people most vulnerable.  In response, the bloc had prioritized job creation and the connection between economic and social issues, while tax and benefits schemes were increasingly geared towards providing social support and work incentives.  National pension systems were also better reflecting life expectancy and efforts were being made to ensure that health policies supported social safety nets, he said.

Ana Helena Chacón, Vice-President of Cost Rica, delivering a statement on behalf of the Group of Friends of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, stressed that growing global inequities challenged the universality of human rights.  Youth, older persons, persons with disabilities, minorities and migrants, and women and girls continued to face paramount obstacles to their development, while people living in extreme poverty lacked the political power and the material and educational opportunities to take charge of their destiny.  Human dignity must be at the centre of any sustainable development process, she stressed, warning against the notion that people should be passive beneficiaries of the State.

Also today, the Commission held a panel discussion on the session’s priority theme, which was moderated by H. Elizabeth Thompson, Executive Director of the State University of New York-University of the West Indies Center for Leadership and Sustainable Development.  It featured a keynote speech by Martin Ravallion, Professor of Economics at Georgetown University and former Director of the World Bank’s research department, as well as presentations by a number of social development experts and Government ministers from around the world.

At the outset, the Commission elected, by acclamation, Lot Dzonzi (Malawi) and Alanoud Al-Temimi (Qatar) as Vice-Presidents of its fifty-fifth session.

Daniela Bas, Director of the Division for Social Policy and Development, introduced a number of reports related to the Commission’s work, while Daniel Perell, Chair of the NGO Commission for Social Development, reported on the outcome of the Civil Society Forum held from 30 to 31 January.  In addition, Rozemarijn Ter Horst, a youth representative, briefed the Commission on the work of the Economic and Social Council Youth Forum, also held from 30 to 31 January.

Also participating were ministers and other representatives from Viet Nam (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Austria, Brazil, the Russian Federation, Paraguay, Turkmenistan, Portugal and France.

The Commission will reconvene at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 2 February, to continue its work.

Opening Remarks

PHILIPP CHARWATH (Austria), Chair of the Commission for Social Development’s fifty-fifth session, declared:  “The adoption in 2015 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was a historic step forward in our common approach to tackling the many challenges all societies and countries face.”  In that context, the Commission’s mandate was to discuss, evaluate and make policy recommendations in the field of social development, a task made all the more relevant by the Agenda’s promise to leave no one behind.

While extreme poverty continued to decline fairly rapidly, 786 million people still lived in poverty, he said, pointing also to worrisome trends of rising inequality and social exclusion in both developing and developed countries.  “Growth continues to disappoint,” he said, highlighting the particular need for prosperity to reduce unemployment and for effective youth policies around the world.  Through the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth, the United Nations was already hard at work with many partners in that field, he said, drawing attention to the needs of girls and young women, youth with disabilities, indigenous youth, young migrants and rural youth.

While some progress had been made with regard to the rights of persons with disabilities, he said, they nevertheless continued to face marginalization and barriers in daily life.  Poverty remained a major threat for older persons, whose numbers were growing rapidly and would reach about 1.4 billion globally by 2030.  The long-term success of strategies to end poverty also depended largely on policies targeting families with children.  The Commission would contribute to the follow-up to the 2030 Agenda by supporting the thematic reviews of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, and would focus on the theme, “Strategies for eradicating poverty to achieve sustainable development for all”.

FREDERICK MUSIIWA MAKAMURE SHAVA (Zimbabwe), President of the Economic and Social Council, said the Commission’s work would set an example for all other commissions that would meet this year to discuss socioeconomic issues.  It played an essential role in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals.  Given that it was increasingly difficult to reach people living in extreme poverty, and that progress was often temporary for those who had moved out of poverty, he had identified infrastructure development and industrialization as his top priorities.  “Today’s generation can be the one that eradicates poverty and turns the tide on inequality, exclusion and environmental degradations,” he said, adding, however, that achieving those objectives would require a broad set of mutually reinforcing social and economic policies, as well as leveraging the synergies among them.  The Commission’s deliberations would provide important guidance to Member States in that regard.

LENNI MONTIEL, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, delivering a statement by António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said the Commission was meeting at a time of global contradictions.  Significant progress had been made in recent decades in eradicating extreme poverty, and the adoption of the 2030 Agenda had set the bar higher with its goals aimed at leaving no one behind.  However, these were challenging times, with conflicts reversing gains in social well-being, and a growing gap between rich and poor.  Even in peaceful societies, prosperity had not been shared.  Anxiety meanwhile was growing as societies dealt with such megatrends as urbanization and climate change.  The Sustainable Development Goals would require whole-of-society approaches tailored to national contexts.  Social development was an end in itself and the best way to secure and ensure lasting peace.  Top priority must be given to gender equality and women’s empowerment, he said, adding that diversity must be seen as an asset rather than a threat.

Introduction of Reports

DANIELA BAS, Director of the Division for Social Policy and Development, introduced several reports related to the “Follow-up to the World Summit for Social Development and the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly”, including a report of the Secretary-General on “Strategies for eradicating poverty to achieve sustainable development for all” (document E/CN.5/2017/3).  The report provided an overview of progress made towards the eradication of poverty and highlighted strategies implemented by countries to achieve that objective.  It focused on challenges faced by countries and concluded with a set of recommendations for further action.

Among other things, she said the report demonstrated that new policy approaches and strategies were required to tackle poverty in all its forms, including extreme poverty.  It also underlined the importance of political will, institutions, governance, partnerships and the combination of mutually reinforcing social, economic and environmental policies.  Importantly, it cautioned that mainstreaming the policy “status quo” would not get the job done.  Strategies must be in line with varying national contexts, priorities, capacities and fiscal constraints.

Turning to the Secretary-General’s report on “Social Dimensions of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development” (document E/CN.5/2017/2), she said it highlighted progress made in implementing the Partnership’s various programmes and priorities, including reducing poverty and hunger, promoting employment creation, improving education and health outcomes, promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment and infrastructure development.  It urged African countries to continue to accord priority to investing in agriculture, promoting structural transformation, increasing investments in health, education, skills development and social protection, and strengthening inclusive and accountable institutions.

She said the Secretary-General’s report on “Mainstreaming disability in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” (document E/CN.5/2017/4) provided an overview of disability inclusion in existing international development frameworks, as well as the status of persons with disabilities in social and economic development.  It examined the evolution of the Commission’s role in mainstreaming disability in the development agenda and made related recommendations for the implementation of global development goals.

Next, she said a report of the Secretary-General on “Policies and programmes involving youth” (document E/CN.5/2017/5) spotlighted the need for robust, stand-alone youth policies coupled with consistent cross-sectoral efforts.  It also provided a compilation of recent youth policy initiatives based on input from Member States, United Nations entities and civil society organizations.  It made a number of recommendations under three broad themes of gender, participation and inclusion, and marginalized groups.

She also drew attention to the Secretary-General’s report on the “Third review and appraisal of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing:  preliminary assessment” (document E/CN.5/2017/6), which analysed the preliminary findings of the third review and appraisal exercise, including the identification of emerging issues and policy options.  Noting that the Commission in 2018 would conduct the global segment of the third review and appraisal cycle, she said the report listed substantive and organizational suggestions offered by regional commissions for consideration by Member States.  Delegations might consider those recommendations when elaborating the work programme for the Commission’s fifty-sixth session in 2018.

Finally, she said, a report of the Secretary-General on “Emerging issues” (document E/CN.5/2017/7) focused on areas that were important for promoting integrated poverty eradication policies in the context of youth development in the 2030 Agenda, for which the Commission could play a key role.

DANIEL PERELL, Chair of the NGO Commission for Social Development, reported on the outcome of the Civil Society Forum, held from 30 to 31 January.  Its deliberations had emphasized the role of social protection as a fundamental tool for alleviating poverty, he said, underscoring the need to reconsider the relationship between independence and interdependence in the context of development.

ROZEMARIJN TER HORST, a youth representative, then updated the Commission on the work of the Economic and Social Council Youth Forum, also held from 30 to 31 January.  Highlighting the Youth Forum’s focus this year on youth and poverty eradication, she said its outcomes would inform the Commission’s work.  Issues raised stretched from gender equality to youth unemployment to the meaningful participation of young people in decision-making.


HORACIO SEVILLA (Ecuador), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, recalled that 2015 had been a historic year when the international community had come together around a universal set of commitments to guide its work in the coming years.  The 2030 Agenda, in particular, had acknowledged that poverty eradication was a sine qua non for the achievement of sustainable development, he said, stressing that the international community must bolster current commitments in that critical area.  It must also implement an ambitious sustainable development agenda to ensure that no one was left behind, he said, underscoring the Commission’s own responsibilities in that regard.  “This Commission must send out a clear message to the High-Level Political Forum” that the Sustainable Development Goals were inextricably linked to the rights of women, young people, indigenous people, persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups, he stressed.

Reaffirming the Group’s commitment to the goals agreed at the World Summit for Social Development in Copenhagen more than 20 years ago, he went on to express deep concern about uneven progress in achieving those targets.  The slowdown of global economic growth, volatile world financial markets, high youth unemployment, humanitarian crises, climate change and others challenges had created obstacles for the achievement of social development goals.  “The eradication of poverty is perhaps the most imperative objective facing the global community,” he stressed, adding that social exclusion was still a major challenge around the world.  Warning against a “business-as-usual” approach to tackling those issues, he called for adequate financing for social development goals and underscored the Commission’s role in supporting the rights of vulnerable people, including those living under foreign occupation and colonial domination.

DAVID MANSFIELD (Malta), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that across Europe, 119 million people were at risk of poverty and social exclusion, with children and young people most vulnerable.  Priority had been placed on job creation and millions of young people had already benefitted from investment measures to combat the cycle of poverty.  More emphasis had also been placed on the connection between economic and social issues, while tax and benefits schemes were increasingly geared towards providing social support and work incentives.  National pension systems were also better reflecting life expectancy and efforts were being made to ensure that health policies supported social safety nets.

Further, he said, a plan launched last year sought to improve people’s skills and address the 70 million Europeans lacking adequate reading and writing abilities.  Efforts to engage with European Union and national public and private actors included those to promote better dialogue with social partners and civil society.  Going forward, the European Union would continue to promote an international development policy in the area of the environment, agriculture, and fisheries, while a new European Consensus on Development, once adopted, would provide the framework for a common approach to development policy.   While that proposal reflected that each country had a primary responsibility for its economic and social development, it also promoted a new global partnership for sustainable development encompassing shared policy and financial means.

NGUYEN PHUONG NGA (Viet Nam), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, reiterated ASEAN’s commitment to the 2030 Agenda, which complemented its efforts to raise living standards in the region.  Over nearly three decades, the share of people living in extreme poverty in the ASEAN region had fallen from one in three to one in eight.  While the 2030 Agenda would guide poverty eradication efforts in South-East Asia, there was no one-size-fits-all approach to its implementation, she said, emphasizing that efforts should be tailored to meet the unique needs, priorities and backgrounds of each country and region.  It was also important for any comprehensive strategy to build resilience against potential shocks such as economic instability, food insecurity and climate change, she said, citing ASEAN initiatives in that regard.

She said more could be done through participation and partnerships to eradicate poverty and advance sustainable development.  In that regard, she drew attention to annual ASEAN forums on rural development and social welfare, as well as the Association’s efforts in promoting public-private partnerships and strengthening its relations with international partners, including through the ASEAN-United Nations Plan of Action for 2016-2020.  ASEAN called for a strengthened global partnership that would include the fulfilment of official development assistance commitments, enhanced capacity-building and technology transfer, and the creation of favourable conditions for developing countries in the formulation and implementation of poverty eradication strategies.

ANA HELENA CHACÓN ECHEVERRÍA, Vice-President of Costa Rica, speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, said that despite all achievements, many countries had been left behind and growing global inequities challenged the universality of human rights.  Poverty was a system and the poor continued to be deprived, above all, of the capacity to claim their inalienable rights.  Human dignity must be at the centre of any sustainable development process, he said, warning against the notion that people should be passive beneficiaries of the State.  To the contrary, people must be genuine agents of change, entitled to certain basic living conditions, such as reaching their potential.

And yet, he said, the realization of economic, social and cultural rights remained a “mirage” for millions.  Youth, older persons, persons with disabilities, minorities and migrants, and women and girls continued to face paramount challenges to their development.  Moreover, people living in extreme poverty had neither the political power nor the material and educational opportunity to take charge of their destiny.  Respecting, promoting, and protecting rights required Governments to take positive action, which in turn, demanded national compliance with international obligations, particularly the 2030 Agenda.  Highlighting the vital role of civil society and other stakeholders in promoting human rights, he stressed that attaining sustainable development required commitment from all.

Ms. Chacón, speaking in her national capacity and associating herself with the Group of 77 and with the statement to be delivered by the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), described a number of her Government’s strategies aimed at meeting the needs of vulnerable people and implementing the Sustainable Development Goals.  Among other vulnerable groups, those instruments addressed the needs of persons with disabilities, women, young people, persons living on the street, persons of African descent, refugees and indigenous peoples.  Costa Rica’s poverty, as measured by traditional indexes, had decreased from 22.3 per cent in 2015 to 20.5 per cent in 2016, with extreme poverty having dropped significantly over the same period.  In addition, she said, the country was working to build a fairer, more inclusive society that fully respected human rights.

SOPHIE KARMASIN, Minister for Family and Youth of Austria, said war, famine and natural disasters in one region could have direct impacts on countries in other regions.  “We can longer deny the globalized, interlinked world we live in,” she stressed.  The global fight against poverty could only be won by improving the lives of children, and as such, families should be at the centre of economic policies.  Describing the “Companies for Families” network and efforts to combat gender-related inequality, she said Austria was working to support women in returning to work after giving birth and had allocated funds for child care.  Poverty eradication also depended on the availability of decent work, particularly for young people.  Associating herself with the European Union, she said the bloc’s Youth Guarantee initiative was an excellent tool to reduce youth unemployment.  She also described national efforts to enhance digital competence for those seeking to enter the workforce, underscoring the importance of both social protections and multi-stakeholder partnerships aimed at eradicating poverty.

NOMTOIBAYAR NYAMTAISHIR, Minister of Labour and Social Protection of Mongolia, said his country had eradicated poverty and preserved its ecological balance as it continued to build a strong and stable country.  It had integrated the Sustainable Development Goals into its policies, plans and budgets, including the Mongolia 2030 Sustainable Development Vision and the Action Plan for 2016-2020.  That framework was focused on establishing a national economic policy that collaborated with regional and international economic trends, while remaining absolutely sovereign from political influence.  Further, the new law on national development sought to create sustainable economic growth by generating jobs and shifting people from welfare beneficiaries to contributors to the achievement of the Goals.  Highlighting Mongolia’s various investments in its youth, he recalled that the country had hosted a regional forum on youth involvement in the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015.

ALBERTO BELTRAME, Vice-Minister of Social and Agrarian Development of Brazil, said his country, through a rights-based approach, had made consistent efforts to reduce inequality.  It had overcome extreme poverty, reduced poverty and taken itself off the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) hunger map.  Going forward, Brazil understood that poverty was multidimensional and that policies to address it must be socially sustainable.  He outlined some of Brazil’s social policies, including the “Bolsa Família” cash transfer programme.  While income transfer strategies were important, he said, there was still a need for policies to address the intergenerational reproduction of poverty, create opportunities for human development and encourage labour market inclusion.

ALEXY CHERKASOV, Deputy Minister for Labour and Social Protection of the Russian Federation, said the Commission would be an effective coordinator within the United Nations on a range of social development questions.  In his country, special attention was paid to such vulnerable groups as families with children, older people, those not in regular paid employment, and persons with disabilities.  The employment situation in the Russian Federation was stable, with unemployment lower than global Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and European Union standards.  However, citizens without a legal source of income represented a serious socioeconomic problem, as they comprised 23 per cent of the working population, which had an impact on the national budget.  He outlined Government efforts to address the legal status of self-employed persons and the prevalence of low-paid, low-output workplaces, and to increase the minimum wage.

HECTOR RAMON CARDENAS MOLINAS (Paraguay) stressed the need to step up country efforts to eradicate poverty, reduce inequality and combat climate change, all while leaving no one behind.  “We need to overcome the challenges of uniting political will to ensure more inclusive societies,” he added, reaffirming his country’s zero tolerance policy for discrimination.  In recent years, and thanks to the Government’s strategic efforts, Paraguay’s poverty – including extreme poverty – had dropped significantly.  Nevertheless, the Government continued to push forward to improve the participation of all people in the achievement of sustainable development, and provided support through such programmes as responsible cash transfers, school feeding programmes and the building of affordable housing.

MUHAMMETSEYIT SYLAPOV, Deputy Minister for Labour and Social Protection of Population of Turkmenistan, recalled that following the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, his country had immediately begun to integrate its targets into its national policies.  Noting that the goal of development was to bolster the material and spiritual well-being of people while respecting their fundamental rights and freedoms, he described several recent changes to Turkmenistan’s Constitution, which reflected the country’s accession to various international human rights treaties.  In that regard, the Government had drafted a national action plan to combat human trafficking and was working on similar strategies for the protection of the rights of children and other vulnerable groups.  Economic and productive growth was another priority.

ANA SOFIA AUTUNES, Secretary of State for the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities of Portugal, associating herself with the European Union, said poverty took different forms in different parts of the world, but it had one common consequence:  depriving people from fulfilling their potential and well-being.  Eradicating poverty required strategic, integrated and coherent measures at all levels, targeting such groups as persons with disabilities, migrants, refugees, and those from ethnic and religious minorities.  She described a social benefit that Portugal had introduced for those certified as disabled, and emphasized the difficulties that the long-term unemployed, particularly those over the age of 50, faced when returning to the labour market.

MARIE-CHRISTINE BAUDURET, Head of Labour, Employment, Social Affairs and Human Rights, European and International Delegation, Ministry for Social Affairs of France, associating herself with the European Union, said the Government maintained an integrated approach to poverty eradication that took into account the views of vulnerable populations.  France’s tool for achieving Goal 1 (no poverty) was a multi-annual plan to fight poverty and promote social inclusion that drew on input from private and public stakeholders.  She emphasized the importance of lifelong learning, noting that the digitization of jobs might bring with it employment loss for those lacking qualifications.

Address by President of General Assembly

PETER THOMSON (Fiji), President of the General Assembly, said the Commission’s longstanding work to promote people-centred development had helped shape key sustainable development concepts and laid the foundation for the 2030 Agenda.  The body now had a key role to play to ensure that that “master plan for people, planet and prosperity” was implemented over the next 14 years, he said, adding that this year’s theme on poverty eradication could not be more timely or relevant.  Expressing confidence that achieving those goals was “firmly within our reach”, he pointed out that the number of people living in extreme poverty around the world had been reduced from 1.9 billion in 1990 to about 702 million in 2015.

In that regard, he called for continued efforts to build sustainable, inclusive economic growth, in particular through people-centred investments such as the provision of equitable, quality education.  Peace must also be sustained, as people in conflict-affected countries were among those most at risk of being left behind.  “Without sustaining peace, sustainable development is not possible”, he stressed, noting that the United Nations had now accepted that the two concepts were deeply interlinked.  Finally, he underscored the need to secure long-term financing for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals — estimated to cost between $5 trillion and $7 trillion annually — through policies that supported both private and public funding efforts.

Interactive Discussion

In the afternoon, the Commission held a panel discussion on the priority theme “Strategies for eradicating poverty to achieve sustainable development for all”.  Moderated by H. Elizabeth Thompson, Executive Director of the State University of New York-University of the West Indies Center for Leadership and Sustainable Development, it featured a keynote speech by Martin Ravallion, Professor of Economics, Georgetown University, and former Director of the World Bank’s research department.

It also included presentations by Ana Helena Chacón Echeverría, Vice-President of Costa Rica; Aisha Jumai Alhassan, Minister for Women Affairs and Social Development of Nigeria; Michelle Muschette, Vice-Minister for Social Development of Panama; Michel Servoz, Director-General of the Directorate General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion in the European Commission; Ifeyinwa Ofong, development consultant and a national coordinator of women in development and environment in Nigeria; and Alberto Beltrame, Vice-Minister for Social and Agrarian Development of Brazil.

Mr. RAVALLION said “fantastic” progress had been made against extreme poverty.  “That’s great news, but there are continuing challenges, real challenges,” he said, emphasizing that poverty monitoring must be relevant to social policy dialogue.  While there had been good overall progress in reducing absolute poverty, challenges remained and poorer countries that had relied on economic growth — rather than direct interventions — to combat poverty might need to adapt their policies.

Maintaining growth trajectories since 2000 without a rise in overall inequality would lift about 1 billion people out of extreme absolute poverty over the next 15 years or so, he said.  Such an optimistic path would require economic reforms that would make markets work better for poor people.  It would also need a measure of good luck, such as avoiding a major financial crisis or success in dealing with climate change.  Given that path, however, more than 1 billion people would still be living in relative poverty.

Among his recommendations, he said policies must be tailored to the realities of local situations.  Local information — including greater community-based participation — could help identify those in need, reinforced with strong Governments.  He also emphasized the crucial nature of monitoring and evaluating progress, and the need for policymakers to learn from mistakes and adapt to evidence of failure.  Bureaucratic inertia appeared to be a common problem, he said.

Ms. CHACÓN stressed the need to design public policies to meet the needs of people facing constant hunger, exclusion and poverty.  No development could be sustained if millions of people were left behind.  Poverty was the most flagrant violation of human rights.  Social policy must end the income gap and move towards peace, justice and inclusion.  Costa Rica had worked to implement since 2015 the national “bridge for development” poverty-reduction strategy.  It entailed social maps to track impoverished areas and understand their socioeconomic conditions.  A poverty index was used to measure poverty beyond income and to take into account shortages in education, health care, water and housing.  The strategy focused particularly on women, with substantial results.  If current strategies continued, Costa Rica was poised to eliminate extreme poverty in less than 10 years.

Ms. ALHASSAN said that despite its immense natural and human resources, Africa remained underdeveloped and plagued with extreme poverty.  Fully, 48.5 per cent of the global population and one third of the sub-Saharan African population experienced malnourishment and exclusion.  To address that, in 2013 African Union Heads of State adopted 2063 Agenda to eradicate poverty.  Since 1995, Nigeria had adopted an affirmative action strategy, whereby 30 per cent of the Bank of Industry’s investment funds were earmarked to reduce female poverty.  The Government had set up a basic education scheme to end illiteracy and equip beneficiaries with lifelong skills to be self-reliant.  It provided free immunization for infants to reduce infant mortality.  Among other things, she cited a capacity-building scheme to reduce youth unemployment; an agriculture scheme for 3 million rural farmers to reduce hunger and end poverty; programmes to improve farming techniques and enhance food production; and an $800 million revolving loan scheme of the Central Bank of Nigeria for small business entrepreneurship.  The current Administration was rolling out new initiatives to end poverty, such as cash transfers, a school feeding programme, and scholarships for science and technology classes.  Annually, $164 million was earmarked for no-interest loans for rural businesses.

Ms. MUSCHETT, discussing Panama’s policies for poverty reduction, emphasized the importance of taking stock of available resources and for a consensus with civil society to be in place.  In her country, macro policies such as an increase in 2016 of the minimum wage and a monetary transfer programme had assisted those in extreme poverty.  Reducing poverty brought challenges, however.  She explained her Government’s new strategy which focused on reinforcing links between existing policies, with the goal of reducing extreme poverty to the lowest possible level, guaranteeing social protection and halving multidimensional poverty by 2030.  The results should help families emerge progressively out of poverty.

Mr. SERVOZ, reviewing the features of the European Union’s approach to poverty, emphasized the importance of a comprehensive and integrated strategy, with specific instruments for the most vulnerable.  He also underscored the importance of multi-stakeholder partnerships.  Noting that the European Union was still struggling from the 2007 economic crisis, he said an integrated approach that covered a range of issues, including education and fiscal matters, was needed.  The bloc regarded trade policy as essential to creating decent jobs and supporting its social protection systems.

Mr. OFONG said a one-size-fits-all strategy to end poverty would not work.  She asked whether people were poor because they were lazy or because institutions had failed to create policies for an enabling environment in which people could be well fed and cared for.  Among the lessons learned from poverty-eradication programmes was that data was vital in order to know whom to target.  In surveys of poor people in her country 95 per cent of respondents said they preferred to receive funds, rather than training.  Poor people had an important role in helping to develop strategies for charting their own path out of poverty.  Poverty eradication must be linked to rural development.

She said it was necessary to talk with the poor — many of whom had resigned themselves to their lot — and help them understand the meaning of sustainable development.  All strategies must enhance their capacity to help themselves.  Governments must develop good road networks and markets for their products, she said, noting that many developing countries lacked a well-functioning financial system to grow economies and create jobs.  Investment, particularly in domestic production chains and economic diversification, were vital.  Most African parliamentary systems, derived from European or United States models, were too costly to enable Governments to spend limited resources wisely.  New models were needed.

Mr. BELTRAME said remarkable achievements in recent decades, with millions of Brazilians lifted out of poverty and the nation removed from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Hunger Map, had helped raise quality of life and reduce inequality.  The challenge was to sustain those gains.  The national poverty reduction strategy entailed conditional cash transfers, social inclusion, and promotion of human development, with a focus on early childhood care.  Through the Bolsa Familia cash transfer programme, 13.6 million low-income people received stipends provided they kept their children in school and following a vaccination schedule.  This year, the Government would launch a National Strategy for Social and Productive Inclusion to build professional skills and generate income.  The Happy Child Programme was launched last year and would give regular assistance, including home visits, to 530,000 children in 2017 and 1.5 million in 2018.

In the ensuing discussion, the moderator asked Mr. SERVOZ why, for the European Union, partnerships were important.  He replied that, to implement the Goals, the commitment of Governments was not enough; others must participate as well.  However, he stressed, Governments had an obligation to mobilize other actors, particularly social partners.

A representative of the Baha’i community asked how to develop policies that did not create a sense of separateness between haves and have-nots.

Responding, Ms. MUSCHETT emphasized the importance, when identifying target populations, of understanding contexts and expectations.  Most policymakers were never going to understand “in their skin” what experiencing poverty was really like.  Panama’s history with cash-transfer programmes was fairly new and under constant assessment, but to judge from the experience of other countries, such as Brazil, those programmes alone would not free people from poverty.

Mr. RAVALLION added that it was expensive to address poverty at a micro level, especially for poor countries.  Policies must be tailored to local realities or they would not work.  There should be more discussion around State capacities and building effective Governments in poor countries.  Tension could emerge between finely targeted programmes and middle-class support, and in such instances, it would be necessary to strike a balance, appropriate to each country.

A representative of UNAMANA International said people living in poverty must be asked what they needed.  In that regard, she asked the panellists what interventions countries might take in consultation with their local communities, and how their success could be monitored.

Mr. RAVALLION responded that it was critical to consider what would work best in each situation.  “We have a menu of options,” he said, and there was no single magic bullet.  While the science of measurement and evaluation had come a long way, he warned against generalizing and stressed that methods should be adapted to the local context.

Ms. THOMPSON raised questions related to the role of governance, how best to address environmental issues in the eradication of poverty, and ways to galvanize people around the 2030 Agenda.  A representative of the International Association of Schools of Social Work then asked panellists how to ensure that the world’s current power concentrations did not hinder efforts to leave no one behind.

The representative of Romania said the best measure of social development was “jobs, jobs, jobs”.  Leaving no one behind meant moving forward together, he said, stressing that the motto represented the “best equation” for eradicating poverty.  He then responded to several questions by Ms. Thomson relating to his choice of the word “jobs” as opposed to “decent work” and whether jobs should be targeted to groups such as youth and women, stressing that he was talking about a “decent way of life” in general.

Ms. CHACÓN said the Sustainable Development Goals, while ambitious, were more realistic than their predecessors, the Millennium Development Goals, which had not been achieved by many countries.  In Costa Rica, the Government had created a public alliance through which it engaged academia, civil society and State institutions in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals.  Measurable and specific targets and indicators, as well as implementation time frames, had also been put in place.  She underscored the importance of investing in education, which would help countries remain competitive and generate “jobs, jobs, jobs”.

Ms. ALHASSAN said that, without the appropriate frameworks, the roles of Government and other stakeholders remained unclear and those entities could not be held accountable.  Policies required adequate legislation to enforce them, she added, calling in particular for social safety nets for the most vulnerable and citing a number of examples from her country.

A representative of SustainUS, also speaking on behalf of native Hawaiians, raised a question about land rights and displacement, their relationship to poverty, and the situation of indigenous peoples.

Ms. OFONG said those who lived in poverty needed to know what the Sustainable Development Goals were about.  Civil society felt that Governments must simplify the Goals and translate them into local languages.  Thought should be given to teaching the Goals in schools.  Regarding governance, she said it was costly for most African countries.  Each country should revisit their political structures and reduce costs in order to have more money for poverty eradication.

Ms. ALHASSAN addressed the topic of land-holding by women.  In most of Africa, and especially in Nigeria, women had had no land-owning rights, despite that they represented the majority of farmers.  The Government in Nigeria was addressing that issue in equal opportunities legislation.

Mr. SERVOZ said many poverty strategies were about education, fiscal policies and other issues.  However, education ministers did not get along well with counterparts who dealt with social policies, and it was the same for finance ministers.  He also addressed a question from the moderator about the environment, saying the European Union was committed to full implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change and reducing energy poverty.

Ms. THOMPSON, emphasizing that environmental resources could not be squandered, said nobody got along with environment ministers, as they were considered too “restrictive”.

Ms. MUSCHETT said that, following a major consultative process, Panama was developing a national plan for indigenous peoples.  Poverty in her country was concentrated in five regions populated by indigenous peoples, but each of those regions was different.  She added that environmental vulnerability was one dimension of Panama’s multidimensional poverty index.

Mr. CHARWATH, Chair of the Commission, in brief closing remarks, highlighted the importance of data, stressing that without data, there could be no policy formulation.


*     The 1st Meeting was covered in Press Release SOC/4837 of 12 February 2016.

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Amid Rising Global Discontent, States Must Partner with Young People to Create Equitable Future, Speakers Tell Economic and Social Council Youth Forum

Convening amid a backlash against globalization, expanding economic inequality and marked shifts towards nationalism and isolation around the world, the sixth annual Economic and Social Council Youth Forum opened to hundreds of Government representatives and youth delegates today with an urgent focus on the role of youth in poverty eradication and promoting prosperity.

Speakers opening the two-day event stressed that the world’s 1.8 billion young people had been disproportionately affected by rising inequality brought about by rapid technological innovation, and continued to face unemployment, discrimination and exploitation.  Many stressed that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development — with its concrete targets and promise to leave no one behind — must serve as a unifying roadmap for all generations, in sharp contrast to the “bans and walls” proposed by some world leaders.

Council President Frederick Musiiwa Makamure Shava (Zimbabwe) said the broad participation in the Forum was a sure sign that people “have not given into despair and cynicism”.  The 2030 Agenda was a blueprint for action “by and for the youth”, as it sought to achieve lasting prosperity while preserving the Earth for coming generations.  He underlined a number of priorities in that context, including boosting investments in education, putting in place social safety nets and promoting sustainable production and consumption patterns.

Secretary-General António Guterres, addressing the meeting via videoconference, issued a broad appeal to youth delegates gathered at the Forum as well as those following through social media from around the world:  “We want to hear from you — tell us how the United Nations can see the world from your perspective and address your concerns.”  Noting that his Envoy on Youth, Ahmad Alhendawi, was approaching the end of his term of office, he thanked him for four years of dedicated work in elevating youth issues on the global agenda. 

“When youth are left out of the equation, the results speak for themselves,” said Mr. Alhendawi.  Recalling that the 2007-2008 global economic crisis had resulted in high youth unemployment, protests, and finally, radicalization and violent extremism — raising questions about how to address young people’s concerns — he emphasized the need for everyone to do more for youth and to engage with them in candid discussions.  Young people were central to everything the United Nations did, he added.

Echoing that sentiment, Assembly President Peter Thomson (Fiji) said the Forum had become a dynamic, innovative and essential fixture on the United Nations calendar in just a few short years.  Emphasizing the relevance of the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement on climate change to the Forum’s current focus on poverty eradication, he said the best chance for achieving a sustainable way of life lay in ensuring that young people were fully engaged and empowered as innovators in those development processes.

Keynote speaker Trisha Shetty, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of SheSays, representative of the Major Group for Children and Youth and member of the United Nations Young Leaders, declared:  “We must be acutely aware that every minute we are losing young lives to violence and discrimination.”  Noting that the 2030 Agenda offered a holistic road map forward — in contrast to bans and walls — she said the 17 Sustainable Development Goals should also serve as a template for young people to demand accountability from their Governments.

Hisham Bin Mohammed Al-Jowder, Minister for Youth and Sport Affairs of Bahrain, also delivered a keynote address, stressing that young people’s “enthusiasm, dynamism and drive” must not be wasted.  Recalling that their hopes and ambitions had been instrumental in designing the Goals, he said it was now crucial to create young leaders in fields ranging from science to sports and music to social work.

During an interactive round-table discussion on the role of youth in poverty eradication and promoting prosperity, a number of Government ministers responded to questions from youth delegates as well as from the moderator, Mr. Alhendawi, who pointed out that the Forum’s discussions would feed directly into the Council’s High-Level Political Forum on the 2030 Agenda’s implementation.

The cross-cutting nature of youth issues was underscored by the presence of a range of Government ministers, not just those responsible for youth affairs, he said.  Among those represented were ministers for education, human resource development, equal opportunities and foreign affairs, many of whom described national efforts to empower youth, support their development and institutionalize their participation in decision-making.

The topics discussed ranged from the importance of intergenerational dialogue and the creation of local youth councils, to the provision of education and other services, to the massive flows of young refugees fleeing conflict in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere.  The heads of a number of youth organizations and major groups also participated, calling in particular for more financing to support young people as the “custodians of the future”.

Also today, the Forum held six breakout sessions on the Sustainable Development Goals to be reviewed under the High-Level Political Forum in 2017, as well as a second round table on the role of technology in the implementation of the Goals, moderated by Erhardt Graeff, PhD Researcher at the Center for Civic Media, MIT Media Lab.  The discussion centred on young people’s contributions to addressing developmental challenges.

The Youth Forum will reconvene at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 31 January, to conclude its work.

Opening Remarks

FREDERICK MUSIIWA MAKAMURE SHAVA (Zimbabwe), President of the Economic and Social Council, said the broad participation in today’s meeting was a sure sign that people around the world “have not given into despair and cynicism”.  Indeed, there was a readiness to respond to the clarion call, made through the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, to leave no one behind.  “Your presence here tells me that you recognize that years of collaborative action, through the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals and other development goals have resulted in tangible progress toward poverty eradication,” he said.  However, global prosperity had been uneven, with inequalities rising.  Today, the very ideas of globalization and international trade were viewed by many with a sense of unease and anxiety.  In particular, the world faced massive migration flows and youth unemployment.  “As 2017 dawned, many were asking what went wrong.”

However, there was an alternate direction available through implementation of the 2030 Agenda, which he called a blueprint for action “by and for the youth” as it sought to achieve lasting prosperity today while preserving the Earth for coming generations.  “We must ensure that economic growth is as inclusive as it is sustainable,” he stressed, adding that the failings of the current models must be addressed.  Social safety nets could help spread the benefits of globalization more equitably, and investment in education — which should be relevant to the needs of the labour market, unleashing both creativity and innovation — was critical.  Noting that climate change was among the biggest challenges, he called for increased investment in sustainable consumption and production, and policy actions to promote innovation in those areas.  “Youth have a special stake” in implementing the 2030 Agenda, he concluded, stressing:  “this will be your world”.

ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary-General of the United Nations, addressing the Forum via videoconference from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, emphasized that millions of young people continued to struggle to find work, and suffered from violence and discrimination — even in places where peace prevailed.  He urged youth around the world to help steer the United Nations.  “We want to hear from you — tell us how the United Nations can see the world from your perspective and address your concerns,” he said, thanking the Envoy on Youth for his work in elevating their issues on the global agenda.

PETER THOMSON (Fiji), President of the General Assembly, said that within a few short years, the Youth Forum had become a dynamic, innovative and essential fixture on the United Nations calendar.  The focus this year could not be more fundamental to poverty eradication efforts.  Poverty affected young people disproportionately, with 156 million youth around the world living in extreme poverty, he said, a number that could grow amid automation, digitization, slowing economic growth and environmental destruction.  Emphasizing the importance of the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement on climate change, he said the best chance for achieving a sustainable way of life lay in ensuring that young people were fully engaged and empowered as innovators in development processes.

He called for young people to be part of inclusive new partnerships involving Governments, the United Nations, civil society and the private sector that would drive implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.  They must also help shape new ways to run economies, do business and manage labour markets so that those systems were based on principles of sustainability and equality, and featured access to education, health and decent green jobs.  In addition, the Youth Forum should be strengthened so that young people were heard and could help shape policies.  Young people today would, as adults, inherit the success or failure of the 2030 Agenda, and he called on them to bring their energy, passion, idealism and ideas to the task of implementing the Goals.

AHMAD ALHENDAWI, Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, said it was heart-warming to see young people gain recognition during three “waves” that included the 2007-2008 economic crisis, which had resulted in high youth unemployment, protests in 2011 and then radicalization and violent extremism, which had made the world question how to deal with young people.  He expressed hope that another crisis would not be required in order to discover young people’s role in development.  “When youth are left out of the equation, the results speak for themselves,” he said, emphasizing the need for everyone to do more for youth and to engage with them in candid discussions. 

Recalling that this was his last week as Youth Envoy after a four-year term, he said it had been an exceptional journey that had enabled him to see the centrality of youth in everything the United Nations was doing.  Sixteen indicators in the 2030 Agenda related to youth, while Security Council resolution 2250 (2015) on youth, peace and security had benefitted from contributions by the large youth peacebuilding movement.  Indeed, Governments were better off when they listened meaningfully to youth and struggled when they did not, he added.

He urged young people to be a source of hope, saying: “We make progress when we don’t underestimate our power, or the power of showing up, when shared values are under attack.”  Young people around the world were remarkably similar, but the situations in which they found themselves were linked to access to opportunities.  Youth today were the most connected generation in history, but they were also dealing with the most interconnected challenges.  Recalling the 1985 film Back to the Future, in which the future was set in 2015, he said young people were “here right now”.  Expressing his belief in the United Nations and the multilateral path to peace and progress, he encouraged youth delegates to take time, learn and speak with representatives of Member States who were also attending the Youth Forum.

HISHAM BIN MOHAMMED AL-JOWDER, Minister for Youth and Sport Affairs of Bahrain, delivering a statement on behalf of Sheikh Nasser Bin Hamad Al Khalifa, said the world’s 1.8 billion young people between 10 and 24 years old had become ever more essential in shaping the future.  Their hopes and ambitions had been instrumental in designing the Sustainable Development Goals and it was now critical to provide them unconditional guidance and limitless opportunities.  Young people must be empowered and become leaders in all fields, from science and sports, to music and social work.  He urged recognizing that without young people’s participation, implementing change would be near impossible.

“Their enthusiasm, dynamism and drive should not be wasted,” he stressed, outlining ways that Bahrain had encouraged opportunity for young people, including through partnering up with the United Nations.  The private sector was also empowering young people from different cultural backgrounds through novel and creative means.  Recognizing the role of various sectors and the importance of promoting a global culture that invested in and involved young people, he emphasized that good habits formed at a tender age.  It would not be enough to simply talk of empowerment behind closed doors.  Rather, conversations must happen everywhere and nations must commit to believing in young people.

TRISHA SHETTY, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of SheSays, representative of the Major Group for Children and Youth and member of the United Nations Young Leaders, described three cases of child rape and murder in which her team was currently involved in her home country, India.  Among those were the sexual abuse and murder of a young woman in her home, the rape of a four-and-a-half-year-old child by her neighbour and the discovery of the dismembered body of a three-year-old girl.  “We must be acutely aware that every minute we are losing young lives to violence and discrimination,” she stressed, adding that the many challenges facing people around the world disproportionately affected young people.  Millions of young people faced violence, discrimination and the effects of climate change, she said, emphasizing that “these statistics are not alternative facts”.  The 17 Sustainable Development Goals offered a holistic road map forward, she said, in contrast to bans and walls.

It was critical to build the resilience of the most vulnerable — including women and youth — and to safeguard their environment.  They must fight for a seat at the table that went beyond “tokenism” by investing in youth parliamentarians and through programmes such as the Special Envoy’s Office’s “Not too Young to Run” campaign.  “You had better step up,” she said, calling on Government representatives present in the room to advocate more strongly for the youth that could vote for them.  Better policies were also needed at the national levels, she said, recalling that marital rape had yet to be criminalized in her country and that those who advocated for a change to that policy were sometimes termed “western-imported feminists”.  More data, disaggregated by age, were needed, and young people needed to use the Sustainable Development Goals as a template to demand accountability from their Governments.  “We will get up, lace up and show up to fight to make our existence known,” she concluded.

Interactive Round Table on Role of Youth in Poverty Eradication

The Council then held an interactive round-table session on the theme “The role of youth in poverty eradication and promoting prosperity”.  Moderated by Mr. Alhendawi, it featured Government ministers and other high-level speakers from around the world.

Mr. ALHENDAWI, opening the discussion, said the Council’s annual Youth Forum offered the most institutionalized setting for the United Nations to join together with young people, as it would feed into the discussions of the Council’s High-Level Political Forum on the 2030 Agenda’s implementation.  The cross-cutting nature of youth issues was underscored by the presence today of various Government ministers, not only ministers for youth.

IGOR CRNADAK, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina, to a question on how youth issues were being brought to the international stage, replied that young people were critical to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.  Almost 90 per cent of young people lived in developing countries, and many lacked access to adequate education, health systems or employment.  Bosnia and Herzegovina had worked to help youth hold their Government accountable, and was bringing youth perspectives to the fore at the local, national, regional and international levels.  The region had seen much cooperation, including in the area of intercultural development, which was especially critical given its turbulent past.  However, “we need more active participation”, he said, including through non-governmental organizations, youth groups and at international forums such as the United Nations. 

NIELS CASZO, President of AIESEC International, asked by Mr. Alhendawi to describe progress made on youth issues, said many young people still lacked a decent understanding of global issues, especially the 2030 Agenda.  Asking participants whether they felt all their peers understood the Agenda and its 17 Goals — to which not one delegate raised his or her hand — he stressed that the work done for and by youth so far was “just the tip of the iceberg”.  His organization’s “Youth for Global Goals” project had reached out to millions of young people, thousands of whom had taken action in their communities.  However, despite many good intentions by Member States, funding for such work remained a challenge.  “If we say young people are the custodians of the future, we need to give them more support through funding,” he said.

SHRI BIREN SIKDER, State Minister for Youth and Sports of Bangladesh, asked how his country was engaging youth in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, explained that in Bangladesh people between the ages of 18 to 35 represented one third of the population.  The Government believed they could play a vital role, and that it was its duty to provide young people with proper guidance and institutional support.  He described a number of programmes in that regard, adding that there should be several platforms at the United Nations to engage youth in the formulation of global policies.

DALJIT B.K. SHREEPALI, Minister for Youth and Sport of Nepal, asked how his country aligned its national youth policy with the Sustainable Development Goals, discussed the work of the National Youth Council.  The Government had linked its various youth development programmes with the Goals.  For example, special programmes had been put in place to address gender violence, girl trafficking and domestic violence, while other important policy initiatives sought to enhance the status of youth in Nepal.

ALEXEI PALAMARCHUK, Acting Head of the Federal Agency on Youth Affairs, Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation, to a question on how to promote the Goals at the nineteenth World Festival of Youth and Students, explained that the event, to be held in Sochi from 14 to 22 October, would bring together youth from around the world who had different views, but were united in their determination to create a better world.  Organizers were planning a number of round tables, parallel discussions and lectures on education, the environment, security, economic growth and other topics.  He invited the Youth Forum to participate in the festival and looked forward to support from the United Nations. 

JOÃO PAULO REBELO, Secretary of State of Youth and Sport of Portugal, responding to a question about how his country was setting the stage for the implementation of the Goals, said youth policies interacted with all ministries, from education and employment, to health care, the environment, citizenship, communities and political participation.  Portuguese young people engaged with the Economic and Social Council, as well as with the European Union’s decision-making processes and Ibero-American dialogue, and with the Portuguese Speaking Countries Community.  Portugal, along with Senegal and the Republic of Moldova, planned to present a resolution to the General Assembly’s seventy-second session on the empowerment, participation and integration of youth in decision-making.

AZAD RAHIMOV, Minister for Youth and Sports of Azerbaijan, asked how his Government would engage on youth issues, said Azerbaijan was working to mobilize young people to embrace the Sustainable Development Goals, especially those related to health, education, gender and employment.  It was working with partners to ensure that targets were achieved before the deadline, he said, drawing attention to a partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to raise awareness of the Goals among young people.  Also, the Youth Foundation was working on thousands of youth-led projects, worth millions of dollars, he said, adding that “investing in youth domestically and abroad is a smart investment”.

CARIZA SEGUERRA, Chairperson of National Youth Commission of the Philippines, responding to a question about how his country’s national youth policy engaged young people in the implementation of the Goals, said youth comprised 30 per cent of the Philippines’ population.  Among other things, its youth policy defined the duties of local governments in addressing young people’s political, cultural and civic rights.  As part of its Chairmanship of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) for 2017, the Philippines had also worked to align its youth policies with those of the group, as well as with the 2030 Agenda.  “Youth will help realize the [Goals],” he said, calling for adult-youth partnerships at all levels of Government and creation of more youth councils around the world.

MAX TREJO, International Youth Organization from Ibero-America, asked to relay information from the group’s recent summit, responded by drawing attention to his organization’s “Pact for Youth”, which had been agreed with 22 Ibero-American States and established 23 actions to help young people.  “This shows that in our region actions are stronger than words,” he said, warning against “resting on our laurels”.   More work was needed to implement those agreements, targets and indicators, requiring efforts by United Nations agencies.  Underscoring the importance of civil society organizations in engaging young people, he said more efforts were needed to mobilize Governments, monitor implementation of the 2030 Agenda and address related gaps.  “Today, some Governments want to build walls,” he said, stressing that “now is the time” to not let history repeat itself.

SAMANTHA O’BRIEN O’REILLY, youth delegate from Ireland, asked how many Governments, in drawing up national implementation plans for the Sustainable Development Goals, had sought the input of young people.  If young people were to put their energy into building sustainable societies, they must be empowered to do so.  The 2030 Agenda would be achieved by cooperation, not by command.

KAREN ELLEMANN, Minister for Equal Opportunities of Denmark, was asked by a Forum participant from Tunisia to share her country’s best practices regarding young people and closing the gender gap.  Replying, she said the recipe was clear — everyone had the same rights, and thus, everyone had equal opportunities in Denmark as well as equal responsibilities.  On a global level, she emphasized such challenges as domestic violence and honour-related crimes, stressing that Denmark would continue to push for full sexual and reproductive health rights until all women and girls could decide freely over their own bodies.

SAMANTHA MARSHALL, Minister for Social Transformation and Human Resource Development of Antigua and Barbuda, described her country’s efforts to promote youth and women in leadership positions.  Since 2014, there had been an equal number of female and male senators, she said, including the country’s youngest-ever female senator, who was around 23 years old.  She emphasized the need to sensitize the public about the Goals and ensure that women and girls understood them. 

SOLVEIG HORNE, Minister for Children and Equality of Norway, to a question about youth education and youth employment, said it was her Government’s goal to increase access to work.  It sought to reduce the proportion of young people lacking jobs, education and training.  She described a number of programmes that Norway had put into place, including one that would provide mentors for those aged 14 to 23 who were in danger of dropping out of school or work.

Ms. WU, speaking on behalf of the Major Group for Children and Youth, asked the representative of the United States a question related to access to secondary education and the large burden of student loan debt often seen in his country.

ANDREW RABENS, Special Adviser for Global Youth Issues of the United States, responded that access to quality education was among the most critical challenges around the world.  “We need to prevent the lottery of birth determining one’s prospects in life,” he stressed, calling education the “great equalizer” and a springboard for young people to pursue their passions and create opportunities.  The United States was working to guarantee equal access to education early in life and ensure that it prepared young people for knowledge- and innovation-fuelled jobs. It was estimated that nearly half of young people now entering grade school would one day enter industries that did not yet exist.  Thus, it was crucial to better understand the labour market, align education with emerging opportunities and keep the costs of higher education down.

Mr. ALHENDAWI, noting that some 6 million school-aged refugees were currently registered with the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR), then asked Akif Cagatay Kilic, Minister for Youth and Sport of Turkey, how his country was tackling the fundamental rights of young refugees during the present crisis.

Mr. KILIC agreed that Turkey had seen a “shocking” number of refugees — nearly 3 million — from neighbouring Iraq and Syria.  As the provision of education and other basic services was a big challenge, it was critical to prevent young refugees from becoming a “lost generation”, he said.  Refugee children took part in the Turkish school system, with thousands enrolled in the country’s universities.  The Government was also carrying out a number of important social inclusion programmes.  “We need to give opportunities to youngsters who are eager to take part in the world” while also helping them keep their traditions alive in the face of the great challenges, he said.  It was the human responsibility of all people, including through the United Nations, to give young refugees a chance at a better future.

Ms. ILLES, Deputy Minister of State for Family and Youth Affairs of Hungary, asked to describe her country’s efforts to reduce youth unemployment, said that rate had recently fallen to under 12 per cent — below the European Union average.  Hungary had developed a multilateral approach to help young people transition from education to employment.  Family and children were a top national priority, she said, drawing attention to such projects as the Youth Guarantee Programme, which aimed to support young people holistically.  Mr. VOLOM, youth delegate from Hungary, then took the floor to emphasize the importance of intergenerational dialogue.

CHRISTOPHER DEKKI, International Movement of Catholic Students PAX-Romana, addressed a question about national efforts to help youth entrepreneurs to the Permanent Representative of Kenya.

MACAHRIA KAMAU (Kenya) responded that, with young people comprising more than 30 per cent of his country’s population, youth issues were a major priority.  Kenya had established a Youth Enterprise Development Fund to support young entrepreneurs in start-ups and business expansion, provide skills training and create access to employment abroad.  It had distributed loans, on soft terms, to more than 1 million young Kenyans, and helped them develop links with large enterprises.  Among other things, the Fund was also fostering access to affordable commercial infrastructure and helping young people to win tenders for the provision of goods and services to county governments.

Mr. ALHENDAWI then drew attention to the central role played by youth in the recent peace agreement between Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) group. 

JUAN CARLOS REYES, President of Colombia Joven, said young people had been especially active after the Cartagena Peace Agreement was rejected by a small majority in October 2016.  They had risen up to stress the importance of ending the war, and as a result, generated the climate necessary for the Government and the FARC to return to the negotiating table and adjust the peace agreement.  Youth organizations, in particular, had worked to influence Parliamentarians to endorse and implement the agreement.

DESSIMA WILLIAMS, Special Adviser to the President of the General Assembly for the Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, noted that today’s discussions would contribute to the High-Level Political Forum on the Sustainable Development Goals that the Economic and Social Council would hold from 10 to 19 July.  She described the work of “two fabulous young women” — one, from Morocco, who was using art to help people embrace the Goals, and the other, from Guinea, who had established an organization to promote the Goals.  She also emphasized the importance of the United Nations outlining a set of values, including justice, equality, non-discrimination and leaving no one behind.

Interactive Round Table on Role of Technology

In the afternoon, the Economic and Social Council Youth Forum held a panel discussion on the “Role of technology in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals,” moderated by Erhardt Graeff, PhD Researcher at the Center for Civic Media, MIT Media Lab.  The panel included the following speakers: James Powell, U-Report Global Lead, United Nations Children’s Fund; Zoe Carletide, U-Report Manager, World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts; Nevena Vukasinovic, Secretary-General for the Organisation Européenne Non-Gouvernementale des Sports (ENGSO), Belgrade Initiative for Digital and Public Diplomacy-UN MGCY Science Policy Interface Platform; Zain Habboo, Senior Director for Digital and Multimedia Strategy, UN Foundation; and Jake Horowitz, Founder of MIC and young leader for the Sustainable Development Goals.

Mr. GRAEFF, introducing the panellists, said that one of the most exciting opportunities for youth was technology, yet too many young people lacked access to digital tools and other infrastructure necessary to leverage technology.  In some places, information was simply shut down and misinformation was rampant.  Today’s discussion would focus on the contributions of young people to addressing developmental challenges and equipping youth with skills.

Mr. POWELL underscored the need to exploit the most connected generation in history through bold and innovative ideas.  The tools to reach millions of people now existed even in hard to reach places, ensuring that people who had never been part of the development process could now be involved.  To reach the most marginalized people, technology would have to be affordable.  Partnerships between the private sector and civil society must focus on empowering young people and youth organizations.  As the digital world could be a dangerous place, it would be critical to ensure a safe space for young people to express themselves without fear of repercussion. 

Ms. CARLETIDE said U-Report supported and empowered millions of girls to share their challenges, views and hopes.  U-Report allowed UNICEF to collect qualitative data in a quantitative way.  Noting that the current poll on the website had garnered some 4,000 responses on incidents of sexual violence, she said many reported that sexual violence against girls and women was worsening, and remained a major barrier to women securing their full rights and well-being.  It would be critical to work together to build a future where everyone felt safe, she added.

Ms. VUKASINOVIC said there were ongoing debates over whether technology had had a positive or negative impact on societies.  The answer was both:  Technology had become so prevalent that it was difficult to measure its impacts; however, it remained the key driver of sustainable development.  To reap its full benefits while minimalizing its negative impacts, technology and innovation must work hand-in-hand.  Digital literacy would help provide decent jobs for youth.  Enhancing young people’s meaningful participation would also empower them to shape their future.  “I refuse to be left behind,” she said, emphasizing that action meant shared engagement and that young people were the best catalysts of hope.

Ms. HABBOO said the UN Foundation was a big believer in media partnerships as a means of raising awareness of the Sustainable Development Goals, with a focus on print and digital-only media.  In 2014-15, it had observed a 228 per cent increase in English-language media coverage of sustainability and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Mr. HOROWITZ described his experience with a high-school friend in launching a news company that would appeal to millennials and become “the next CNN”.  It was time for youth to show that it had a voice.  The power was with the people and the current generation must go into the streets and make their voices heard.

The panel then took questions from the moderator and others in the Forum on such topics as creative storytelling methods, reaching youth in areas of low Internet penetration, partnerships with the private sector, localized languages and the use of social media to radicalize young people.

Mr. HOROWITZ responded that everyone today had a mobile phone and understood how to go live on social media.  He recalled how social media had been used a few months earlier to draw attention to Native American issues during protests at Standing Rock against pipeline construction.

Ms. HABBOO said that, whatever the platform, when someone discovered the story they wanted to tell, and to whom they would tell it, then the story would tell itself.

Ms. CARLETIDE added that voices would more easily heard when people joined or helped to build a community.  That was especially important for marginalized people.

Mr. POWELL said that in areas of low Internet penetration, face-to-face interaction remained valuable if conducted with goodwill and enthusiasm.  He also noted the creation of innovation funds by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and UNICEF in support of youth innovation.

On social media and the radicalization of youth, he said he viewed the issue as a battle between good and bad information.  Social media companies had a responsibility and they were clamping down.  However, ignoring young people’s concerns was what drove radicalization.

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Text adopted – Human rights in 2003 and EU policy – P5_TA(2004)0376 – Thursday, 22 April 2004 – Strasbourg – Final edition

The European Parliament ,

–   having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to all relevant international human rights instruments(1) ,

–   having regard to the entry into force of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court on 1 July 2002 and to its resolutions of 19 November 1998, 18 January 2001, 28 February 2002 and 4 July 2002(2) related to the ICC,

–   having regard to the United Nations Charter, particularly Article 2,

–   having regard to the entry into force on 1 July 2003 of Protocol No 13 to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms concerning the abolition of the death penalty in all circumstances,

–   having regard to Article 3 of the four Geneva Conventions,

–   having regard to Article 12 of the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,

–   having regard to the UN declarations and resolutions on the rights of disabled persons and the UNESCO Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights (1997),

–   having regard to Articles 12(1) and 16(1)(e) of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, as well as to General Recommendations 21 and 24 of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women,

–   having regard to the Declaration and Action Programme of the Fourth World Conference on Women adopted in Beijing on 15 September 1995, and to the Outcome Document of the Fourth World Conference on Women +5 Conference adopted on 10 June 2000,

–   having regard to the Millennium Development Goals adopted at the Millennium Summit of the United Nations on 8 September 2000 and the Declaration adopted by the United Nations World Summit on Sustainable Development on 4 September 2002,

–   having regard to the 2002 report of the UN Population Fund on the state of world population,

–   having regard to the report of the Council of Europe on the impact of the Mexico City Policy(3) and the Commission's proposal for a Regulation on aid for policies and actions on reproductive and sexual health and rights in developing countries (COM(2002) 120),

–   having regard to its resolution of 1 November 2001 on HIV/AIDS(4) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 20 September 2001 on female genital mutilation(5) ,

–   having regard to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union(6) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 3 September 2003 on the Commission communication "Towards a United Nations legally binding instrument to promote and protect the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities',(7)

–   having regard to Articles 3, 6, 11, 13 and 19 of the Treaty on European Union and Articles 177 and 300 of the Treaty establishing the European Community,

–   having regard to the entry into force on 1 April 2003 of the ACP-EU Partnership Agreement signed in Cotonou on 23 June 2000(8) ,

–   having regard to the Euro-Mediterranean Assembly, which was established on 22-23 March 2004, and to its related resolution of 20 November 2003(9) ,

–   having regard to the European Convention for Human Rights and Biomedicine (1999),

–   having regard to its resolution of 13 December 1996 on the rights of disabled people(10) , its resolution of 9 March 2004 on population and development(11) , and its previous resolutions on human rights in the world(12) ,

–   having regard to its previous resolutions on the situation of fundamental rights in the European Union, in particular its resolution of 15 January 2003(13) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 23 October 2003 on peace and dignity in the Middle East (14) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 10 February 2004 on the 60th Session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, 15 March to 23 April 2004(15) ,

–   having regard to the fifth EU Annual Report on Human Rights (13449/03),

–   having regard to Rule 163 of its Rules of Procedure,

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Common Security and Defence Policy (A5-0270/2004),

A.   whereas progress has been made worldwide in particular through the European Union's commitment to establishing and strengthening democracy, human rights, the rule of law and good governance,

B.   whereas at the same time the situation has worsened in a large number of countries, where human rights continue to be violated as a result of discrimination on the basis of race, gender, religion and social class, and of bad governance, corruption, repression, abuse of power, weak institutions, lack of accountability and armed conflict,

C.   whereas on paper there is an impressive degree of endorsement of human rights values by the international community, with over 140 countries having ratified the two major covenants and almost all states having ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child,

D.   whereas a steadily growing number of countries has abolished the death penalty or has established or extended moratoria on executions, but in some countries there appears to be a reverse trend, in particular in China,

E.   whereas the role of the international community in assisting the truth and reconciliation process in post-conflict societies is recognised as a means of fostering reconciliation, peace, stability and development,

F.   whereas in countries which respect and uphold human rights, pressure groups and a free press help ensure that the democratic state functions well; whereas they must not be subject to censorship or restricted freedom of expression,

G.   stressing that in recent years control and repression of Internet use has increased dramatically in the People's Republic of China and dozens of people have been arrested for distributing messages calling for greater freedom and democracy, or for simply having distributed information via the Internet; whereas the number of arrests in such cases increased by 60% compared to the previous year,

H.   whereas the same phenomenon is occurring systematically in Vietnam, where several democracy activists have been arrested in recent months,

I.   convinced that all acts of terrorism deny the very concept of human rights,

J.   whereas the European Union supports and actively cooperates with the work of the Ad Hoc Committee of the 6th Committee of the UNGA in its work towards the preparation of a Draft Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism and the preparation of a Draft International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism,

K.   whereas a state that has suffered acts of terrorism may collaborate with other states in a spirit of reciprocity, but with due respect for human rights and international law,

L.   whereas extradition should be refused if there are serious reasons to believe that the person to be extradited would be subject, in the country applying for extradition, to treatment that does not comply with international law,

M.   whereas in some cases a military procedure with no appeal or monitoring is imposed on alleged terrorists except those with the nationality of the country accusing them,

N.   whereas democratic countries must set an example when they want to pursue the perpetrators of such acts or bring them to justice, by granting them all the rights and safeguards that a country that respects human rights must provide for any accused person,

O.   whereas certain countries have created and/or put in place extra-territorial areas which are not subject to any concept of basic law or monitoring, contrary to all the international conventions and treaties,

P.   whereas the fight against terrorism constitutes a special situation that allows for restrictions on, and even outright suspension of, individual freedoms, particularly in countries with dictatorial regimes; stressing that all these countries have used the fight against terrorism as a pretext for stepping up repression against subjugated populations or any form of political dissidence,

Q.   subscribing to the principle that the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition; fully supporting the WHO principles; concerned in particular about the situation as regards the right to access to health, as this right is closely linked to the economic, social and political situation of every individual country,

R.   recognising that access to reproductive health is a fundamental human right and that women and men should therefore be guaranteed the freedom to make their own informed and responsible choice in regard to their sexual and reproductive health and rights, while being conscious of the importance of their decisions for other individuals as well as for society,

S.   whereas studies have proved that there is a direct link between access to information and high standards in all aspects of health, including lower levels of HIV/AIDS and other transmitted infections, the risk of unwanted pregnancies and correlated abortions, the risk of still-births and maternal and infant deaths,

T.   condemning the practice of female genital mutilation still used in many countries which has already produced more than 130 million victims worldwide, and poses a threat to some 2 million young girls or women each year; welcoming, in this connection, the Maputo Protocol adopted by the African Union in July 2003,

U.   whereas reproductive health is a major concern for the social and economic well-being of a nation, and deficiencies in access to reproductive health have direct effects on the economic and social fabric of the country concerned,

V.   concerned at the deliberate withholding of information in a large number of countries, which are the most affected by low standards of reproductive health,

W.   shocked by the lack of willingness shown by developed countries to ensure the necessary funding to meet the basic standards outlined in the Action Programme of the UN Conference on Population and Development adopted in Cairo on 13 September 1994 and even more concerned by the sharp decrease in the funds available since the entry into force of the Mexico City Policy, diminishing US funding to any NGO which is not following a strict abstinence promotion policy,

X.   whereas access to information on, and the promotion through social marketing of condoms can for the moment be considered as the most effective preventive measure against all forms of sexually transmitted diseases,

Y.   whereas the denial of access to treatment for HIV/AIDS through a lack of available funds, in particular access to anti-retroviral drug combinations, which are proving successful at stabilising but not curing HIV/AIDS, is causing a major security threat both regionally and worldwide, including in Eastern Europe and Central Asia where there is a sharp and deplorable increase in sexually transmitted diseases and in sexual violence;

Z.   concerned by the sharp decrease in the funds available since the entry into force of the Mexico City Policy,

AA.   whereas 2003 was the European Year of the Disabled,

AB.   whereas the UN estimates that more than half a billion people in the world are disabled through mental, physical or sensory impairment,

AC.   noting that in many countries unacceptable barriers are still too often raised against the inclusion of disabled people, thus preventing them from fully enjoying a social, professional, family, emotional and sexual life,

AD.   stressing that the specific needs of disabled people apply unreservedly to disabled people who are accused or suspected of crimes and/or are or could be imprisoned or held on remand,

AE.   whereas the international community must take into account the problem represented each year by the hundreds of thousands of people who, as a result of wars and conflicts, are disabled or physically or mentally handicapped;

1.  Expresses its satisfaction that the fifth parliamentary term has seen a number of major innovations in relation to EU policy on human rights, including the creation or further development of important instruments, that correspond largely to its own initiatives;

2.  Notes that it has contributed considerably to strengthening the human rights dimension and in putting human rights issues on the European agenda;

3.  Considers that terrorism is one of the most serious common challenges facing the international community; condemns all acts of terrorism as criminal and unjustifiable, irrespective of their motivation, forms and manifestations; underlines that the fight against terrorism has to remain a matter of the highest priority for the EU;

4.  Manifests its commitment to continuing to act in support of respect for human rights and promotion of democracy worldwide, and to pursuing in particular its initiatives in favour of the abolition of the death penalty and torture, the fight against impunity, the elimination of racism, xenophobia and discrimination, the protection of women's rights and children's rights (including child soldiers and child labour); the protection and accompaniment of human rights defenders; the protection of social and workers' rights, the protection of refugees (including internally displaced people), the defence of the interests of indigenous populations and of minorities, such as moutain-dwellers in Vietnam, the victims of systematic repression, freedom of the press and other means of expression, non-discrimination of homosexuality, freedom of religion and conviction and all other rights;

5.  Reiterates its view that strengthened efforts are needed to find a coordinated approach in order to mainstream human rights in its external relations activities, to link the activities of its future subcommittee on human rights, its main committees responsible and its interparliamentary delegations and to ensure a consistent follow-up to Parliament's resolutions by the Commission, the Council and the third countries concerned; reiterates its call for Parliament's financial and human resources dedicated to human rights activities to be considerably increased;

6.  Underlines the need to pursue its efforts in order to make major progress in dialogue with the Council on EU human rights policy and calls on the Council to agree upon a structure which allows systematic and timely reaction to EP resolutions; recalls, in this context, its proposals made on the basis of the Council's conclusions of December 2002;

7.  Strongly supports the Council's intention to achieve a more effective and visible EU human rights and democratisation policy through increased coherence and consistency between Community action and the CFSP, mainstreaming, greater openness and regular identification and the review of priority action;

8.  Insists that concerns on human rights situations be discussed more openly and regularly at Association/Cooperation Councils and at EU summits with third countries and that the respective conclusions should fully reflect this discussion point;

9.  Welcomes the recent release of political prisoners in Syria, but insists that all political prisoners should be set free, at the latest before the signing of the EU-Syria Association Agreement, as this would significantly facilitate Parliament's assent;

10.  Welcomes the fact that the Council's annual operational programme for 2003 was the first to be jointly drawn up by the Greek and Italian Presidencies; considers, however, that the major political priorities and actions in external relations outlined in the work programmes of the Commission and the Council would need a more explicit human rights perspective;

11.  Welcomes the fact that, at the invitation of the EU Presidency, Members of the European Parliament participated in the 3rd round of the EU-Iran Human Rights Dialogue on 8/9 October 2003 and considers that Members of the European Parliament should be involved in the same way in future human rights dialogues with third countries; invites the Presidency to transmit its in-depth evaluation of the China dialogue as soon as possible and to prepare a similar evaluation of the Iran dialogue;

12.  Deplores the fact that the 3rd Round Table of the EU-Iran Human Rights Dialogue had a very abstract academic character and considers that at coming Round Tables the debate must have a stronger political dimension and contain real dialogues;

13.  Welcomes the establishment in 2003 of a Subgroup on Governance and Human Rights under the Cooperation Agreement with Bangladesh and calls on the Council and the Commission to create similar Subgroups where appropriate for the other Cooperation Agreements;

14.  Welcomes the efforts undertaken to engage in a similar exercise with other third countries and looks forward to the start of the work with Vietnam and Morocco;

15.  Is strongly convinced that human rights dialogues should not be a justification for the marginalisation of human rights vis-à-vis security, economic or political priorities; recalls its demand on the Council to formulate concrete objectives and benchmarks for human rights dialogues and to ensure that the results are regularly evaluated;

16.  Reiterates its demand for more openness and transparency on the part of the EU institutions and on the part of the Council in particular; maintains its criticism that the calls made in its resolutions for the Council to report back on the outcome of specific human rights issues, in particular as these come up in international organisations, are systematically disregarded; insists that Parliament should be given a full explanation whenever its human rights recommendations are not followed by Council or Commission;

17.  Takes note of the fact that the structure of the EU Annual Report on Human Rights 2003 has been improved, but regrets that the report still does not focus particular attention on individual cases and their follow-up, including those raised in Parliament's resolutions, nor contain any response to proposals adopted in its own Annual Report on Human Rights in the World;

18.  Calls on the Council, in this connection, to step up dialogue with civil society and, in future, to involve the relevant NGOs more closely in its initiatives and in the drawing up of its Report on Human Rights and the shaping of the annual Human Rights Forum;

19.  Welcomes the creation of the Commission's website on human rights which includes analyses, reports and research done on key issues and which allows even better information to NGOs and civil society as a whole;

20.  Recognises the progress made in paying outstanding commitments and in speeding up the pace of payments' execution in the EIDHR budget implementation within the general 60 days' time scale and the implementation plan for each budget heading as well as the Council's guidelines ensuring complementarity and consistency of EU external policy measures between the Community and Member States;

21.  Decides to create a proper format for its Annual Reports on Human Rights in the World, which adequately evaluates the human rights policy of the Council, Commission and European Parliament in the period under consideration, and provides a systematic follow-up to proposals and statements included in the preceding Annual Report on Human Rights of the European Parliament; considers that the rapporteur can further choose special themes of particular relevance for the report;

22.  Considers that the European Parliament Annual Report should be produced at a fixed time every year, and include an analysis and evaluation of the Annual Report of the Council of the same year;

23.  Decides to retain closer contacts with former winners of the Sakharov Prize to enable the prize to play a role in safeguarding and helping to ensure respect for human rights in the countries concerned; stresses, in particular, the need to continue and increase support for former Sakharov Prize winners who are still suffering from repression in their country, in particular Leyla Zana, Aung San Suu Kyi and Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas; with regard to the last of these, recalls the support given to the 'Sakharov Initiative' conducted within the European Parliament and calls on the Cuban authorities to refrain from placing any further obstacles in the way of Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas travelling to the European Union to meet with its institutions;

24.  Underlines the fact that serious human rights crises persist in a large number of countries, often in a context of violent conflict, with the international community failing to have any decisive influence; notes that the EU's existing potential has not been used in such a way as to effectively confront some of the world's worst violators; regrets that in such situations human rights have never constituted a bottom line in the EU's external policies; is convinced that respect for human rights will not result from solemn declarations which are not supported by effective actions for their implementation;

25.  Is convinced that the new European security strategy provides an important conceptual framework in relation to armed conflict and conflict resolution and insists that a proper human rights dimension has to be developed, based on a concept of prevention;

26.  Welcomes the London Declaration on Colombia (10 July 2003) and reaffirms the requirement that all parties in the Colombia conflict are required to comply without qualification with all recommendations of the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia;

27.  Calls on the Council to ensure that responsibility on human rights issues is made a part of crisis management and of long-term engagement in post-conflict resolution;

28.  Fully supports the Guidelines adopted by the Council on 8 December 2003 on Children and Armed Conflict and looks forward to the Commission's review of Community assistance in this area as a first contribution to the implementation of the Guidelines;

29.  Regrets, in particular, that Parliament's demands for a serious and non-selective application of human rights clauses appear to have had no visible effect on the human rights policies of the Council, the EU Member States and the Commission;

30.  Stresses, in addition, that on several occasions EU human rights policies have been undermined by the non-respect of EU arms embargoes, efforts to lift arms embargoes prematurely and by Member States not maintaining systematically a strict application of the EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports; emphasises that firm political action against the proliferation of all types of weapons, both conventional and WMD, both heavy arms and light weapons, is essential to the success of any EU campaign on human rights;

31.  Regrets that the Euro-Mediterranean Association Agreements lack clearly defined procedures for implementation of the human rights clause;

32.  Insists on the necessity for a mid-term review of Article 2 of all Association Agreements in order to evaluate whether respect for human rights, particularly women's rights and democratic principles, is fully implemented, and calls for specific mechanisms to enable human rights clauses to be applied more effectively and efficiently;

33.  Calls on the Commission to report back to Parliament on the state of preparation of an implementation mechanism for the human rights clause in order to maintain explicit pressure for significant improvements of the human rights situation in the countries concerned and to encourage sections of society that are in favour of promoting democracy and respect for human rights;

34.  Reiterates its call on the Council, the Commission and Member States to enforce effectively all EU political instruments, including the sanctions policies, in furtherance of human rights and to ensure that actions are not taken which deliberately undermine such policies;

35.  Reiterates its call for periodic review of sanctions policies in order to assess and enhance their effectiveness;

36.  Considers that meetings with parliamentarians and civil society from third countries having signed the human rights clause contribute to Parliament's monitoring of the concrete implementation of the clause, but is of the opinion that this effectiveness could be enhanced;

37.  Welcomes the Commission's communication on 'Reinvigorating EU actions on human rights and democratisation with Mediterranean partners - Strategic Guidelines (COM(2003) 294)', which is aimed at finding a structured approach in order to regularly assess compliance by States with their human rights obligations; supports, in particular, in line with its own proposals, a systematic discussion of human rights issues in the Association Council's meetings and welcomes the fact that the idea of establishing working groups on human rights with partner countries is gaining ground; appreciates, in particular, the 10 concrete recommendations to upgrade knowledge and expertise, improve the dialogue between the EU and its Mediterranean partners as well as to enhance cooperation on human rights issues, including through the development of MEDA National Action Plans on human rights and democracy with those partners willing to engage in such an exercise;

38.  Calls on the Commission to define a coherent EU strategy on human rights, which includes all relevant elements such as the human rights clause, dialogue, financial assistance and the reinforcement of international standards, and which is elaborated in the same way as the existing strategies for the Mediterranean partners, as well as other countries and regions;

39.  Welcomes the entry into force of the new ACP-EU partnership agreement (Cotonou) on 1 April 2003; considers that the human rights clause in the agreement has a clear implementation mechanism providing for procedures to make its application binding, suspension as a last resort and the establishment of dialogue between government and civil society, which merits being negotiated for further agreements with third countries;

40.  Stresses nevertheless that strengthening or resuming EU economic, financial and technical assistance to the developing countries, particularly the ACP countries, can only be envisaged if the authorities of the countries concerned give a parallel undertaking to remedy any continuing human rights abuses in a verifiable and lasting manner and demonstrate their commitment to good governance, democracy and the rule of law through joining in concrete action against persistent human rights violators such as the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe;

41.  In the framework of implementation of the "Wider Europe" policy, supports the Commission in its commitment to ensure that human rights and democratisation issues are fully taken into account in the political chapter of "Wider Europe Action Plans", to be negotiated with the Union's eastern and southern neighbours;

42.  Calls on all states, in the spirit of the UN Millennium Declaration, to put their commitment to uphold respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms into practice and to dedicate themselves to the full and effective implementation of international human rights treaties to which they are parties; this means that whenever domestic laws (e.g. Sharia laws) are contrary to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international treaties, these laws must be amended and brought into line with the commitments that have been given;

43.  Welcomes the UN Human Rights Sub-Commission guidelines on multinational enterprise (18 August 2003), as an important stepping stone towards a binding global code of conduct;

44.  Reiterates its call on all states that have not done so to establish a moratorium on executions, as a first step towards the universal abolition of the death penalty, which no state should reject; calls upon the EU to start a dialogue on invoking the human rights clause against those countries which continue to execute non-adult and disabled individuals;

45.  Regrets the deaths of UN staff in Iraq, symbolic of human rights defenders worldwide; insist that firm policies should be developed to support all those who campaign for the respect of human rights; welcomes therefore the initiative of the Irish Presidency to produce guidelines on the protection of human rights defenders;

46.  Expresses grave concern at the continuation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has led to a seemingly endless spiral of hatred and violence and to increased suffering for both Israelis and Palestinians;

47.  Shares the deep concern expressed by the Council at the continuation of illegal settlements and expropriation of land for the construction of the so-called 'security fence', which leads to the violation of a number of basic human rights such as freedom of movement, and the right to family life, to work, to health, to an adequate standard of living, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to education; the prohibition on discrimination contained in many international conventions is clearly violated in the closed zone in which Palestinians, but not Israelis, are required to have permits;

48.  Takes note of the fact that the situation in each of the Central Asian countries is different; reiterates its concern with regard to human rights violations and cases of political repression, particularly in Turkmenistan where the human rights situation has deteriorated dramatically recently and in Uzbekistan where there are continuing serious concerns;

49.  Welcomes the determined EU campaign against all forms of torture and degrading behaviour; regrets that by December 2003 only six EU Member States had signed (and ratified) the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture as adopted by the UN in 2002; insists that the human rights clause must be invoked against all economic and political partners of the EU which allow their judiciary and police services to continue torture practices against their citizens; reiterates its concern that the Commission undertakes the financing of torture prevention projects at the cost of projects for the rehabilitation of torture victims; urges that a ban be introduced on the production, sale and exportation of torture equipment;

50.  Reiterates its demand on the EU, and the Commission in particular, to fully support the cause of indigenous populations, in particular to provide all aid possible to the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples and the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations;

51.  Recalls its priorities for the 60th Session of the UNCHR as spelled out in its abovementioned resolution of 10 February 2004;

52.  Reaffirms the importance of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights as the world's highest body for human rights protection to ensure public scrutiny of situations of gross and persistent abuse;

53.  Insists that, for the EU's global human rights policies to be effective, there cannot be 'double standards' in which human rights violations within the enlarged EU are not addressed properly and exemplarily;

54.  Welcomes the EU's support for the establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC) but reiterates that the EU and its current and future Member States should stand more firm and united against pressure from states which do not wish to adhere to the Court and who want to reduce the ICC's scope and efficiency;

55.  Underlines that no immunity, as recognised under Article 41, paragraph 2, of the Vienna Convention of 18 April 1961 on Diplomatic Relations, should ever afford the possibility of impunity for any individual accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide, and is concerned about the fact that some regions of the world are still severely under-represented within the group of countries that have signed and ratified the Rome ICC Statute;

56.  Urges the Council and the Commission to use the EU's political leverage under Cooperation Agreements in order to promote the signature and the ratification of the Rome ICC Statute by as many countries as possible;

57.  Expresses its regret that an ad hoc International Criminal Court has not yet been established by the UN Security Council, as this would be the most expedient way of dealing with the case of the detainees held in Guantánamo;

58.  Asks the US authorities to put an end immediately to the current legal limbo in which the detainees held in Guantánamo Bay have, since their arrival, been placed and to guarantee immediate access to justice in order to determine the status of each individual detainee on a case-by-case basis, either by charging them under the rules laid down in the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions and the International Convenant on Civil and Political Rights (particularly Articles 9 and 14 thereof) or by releasing them instantly, and to ensure that those charged with war crimes receive a fair trial in accordance with international humanitarian law and in full compliance with international human rights instruments;

59.  Welcomes the projects undertaken by the Commission to promote freedom of expression under the EIDHR, and calls on the Commission to extend such projects specifically to the promotion of freedom of conscience and religion;

60.  Reiterates its call on the Council and the Commission to make the early identification of the abuse of religions for political purposes a priority of EU human rights policy, and calls for reinforced EU efforts to seek to prevent violent religious extremism which threatens human rights;

61.  Calls again on the Council, Commission and Member States to make religious freedom a priority for action in the European Union's relations with third countries where appropriate, and requests that penalties be laid down for violation of this freedom;

62.  Recalls the decision of the Valencia Euro-Mediterranean Ministerial Conference to set up a EuroMed Foundation, providing a structure for intercultural and interreligious dialogue with and between the countries and societies on the Mediterranean's southern shore, and urges all governments involved to provide sufficient funding in order to make the establishment of the Foundation possible by the announced date of 1 July 2004;

63.  Calls on the Commission to enhance the dialogue with non-governmental organisations, including with religious and non-religious organisations, in order to promote peaceful coexistence between different religious and cultural communities; considers that such dialogue should, to start with, take place in the framework of the implementation of the abovementioned Commission Communication;

64.  Reiterates that access to modern communications technologies and language courses can facilitate inter-cultural exchanges, tolerance and understanding for other cultures and religions within and outside the European Union, and welcomes in this respect the many initiatives undertaken by the Commission such as the Euromed Youth programme, the Asialink and the eSchola Programmes, and looks forward to receiving annual evaluations of these programmes;

65.  Insists that there should be no diminution of support by the Commission and Council for mine action and stresses the importance of assistance to countries and NGOs engaged in activities to clear anti-personnel landmines and other unexploded ordnance, as well as assistance to mine victims; urges the Commission to publish regular progress reports to clarify how far the Member States of the enlarged EU adhere to their obligations under the Ottawa Treaty (a global ban on anti-personnel landmines) and to what extent these states follow Parliament's expressed wish that cluster submunitions no longer be used;

66.  Underlines that the fight against terrorism has to take place in the framework of international law; calls on the Council and the Member States to work actively in the preparation of the Draft International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism and the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism, which should include an internationally recognised status for victims of terrorist acts, as a means of further developing a comprehensive legal framework of conventions dealing with terrorism and to inform Parliament regularly about important developments in this area;

67.  Acknowledges that the legal or regulatory policy concerning reproductive health falls within the Member States' sphere of competence, but considers that on an international level the EU is obliged to do its utmost to meet the Millennium Development Goals and to ensure that obligations are fulfilled in the framework of the UN Charter, UN Conventions and many other agreements covering the issue;

68.  Calls on the Commission to pay particular attention to assisting not only developing countries, but also countries in Eastern Europe, Latin America and Asia, which are not covered by the Cotonou Agreement, and to provide financial and technical support as well as training for personnel;

69.  Welcomes the action taken by ECHO in the field of humanitarian aid, which often has a component of reproductive health, and urges it to pay even greater attention to the dramatic situation caused by the lack of access to all aspects of reproductive health in emergency situations and in refugee camps;

70.  Insists that the Council and the Member States have to address even more firmly the magnitude of HIV/AIDS, which represents a major threat to global security, with 3 million people dying yearly despite the possibility of treatment; underlines that the fight against HIV/AIDS must include effective public health programmes involving education, prevention, treatment, care and support;

71.  Calls on the Commission to step up its funding of educational programmes devoted to reproductive health, focusing on the fight against sexual violence and female genital cutting or mutilation, and educating people on responsible sexual behaviour and the use of modern family planning methods, as well as available HIV/AIDS preventive methods;

72.  Calls on the Council to act upon its stated intention to step up funding for the Global Fund, specifically for programmes in the field of reproductive health as well as funding of NGOs under all assistance programmes (TACIS, PHARE, MEDA, CARDS, etc.) via not only health projects, but also projects dedicated to drug problems and general educational and awareness-raising projects;

73.  Asks the Commission, in particular, to step up its reproductive health programmes in the TACIS area as the situation is increasingly worrying and the countries concerned do not have the means to meet educational and supply needs, which results in a sharp increase of HIV/AIDS transmission (1.2 million people living with HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe/Central Asia), an extremely high rate of abortions (3.6 abortions per lifetime per woman), poor-quality contraceptive methods and a high infant mortality rate (up to 74 per 1000 compared to 5 per 1000 in France);

74.  Calls on the Member States to meet their obligations under the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria as one of the most effective means in the fight against AIDS and other contagious, poverty-related diseases;

75.  Calls on the Commission and the Council to take all appropriate measures as soon as possible, including the necessary legislative measures, to fulfil their commitment to act upon the decision of the General Council of the World Trade Organisation on the Implementation of Paragraph 6 of the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health;

76.  Welcomes the report on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health presented to the 60th Session of the Commission on Human Rights, and the report on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography and other aspects related to the issue;

77.  Calls on the Commission to make up for the loss of funds due to the Mexico City Policy, and to the US policy advocating exclusively abstinence promotion programmes, in particular to step in for the funds withheld from UNFPA and the funds cancelled for NGO programmes;

78.  Urges all Member States and applicant countries to respect the human right to privacy and the right to travel freely, and to fully respect the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights in this area; is outraged at recent attempts by applicant countries to disregard this ruling;

79.  Calls on the Commission and Council to make ratification of the Maputo Protocol one of their priorities in relations with third countries affected by the phenomenon of female genital mutilation;

80.  Regrets that people arrested in Egypt on grounds of their sexual orientation are all too often denied certain aspects of their fundamental human rights, including the right to a fair trial;

81.  Following persistent arrests and harassment of homosexual men in Egypt and the entrapment of homosexuals by security services over the internet, expresses deep concern about the denial of fundamental rights, including the right to free association, the right to privacy and the right to a fair trial;

82.  Welcomes the statement of the Council in the EU Annual Report on Human Rights 2003 on the situation of disabled people and the steps taken in the international arena towards advancement of persons with disabilities; however, considers that although some progress has been made, persons with disabilities are still unable to fully enjoy human rights on an equal basis;

83.  Notes with regret that in some states there are numerous obstacles, unacceptable restrictions and/or limits to access to training and/or education for disabled children, adolescents or students, in so-called normal as well as special schools, disregarding the human right to education and training;

84.  Considers that accessibility and use of public space and the built environment, both public and private, is a fundamental right and an essential guarantee of disabled people's freedom of movement, equal opportunities, and freedom from discrimination and thus of respect for human rights;

85.  Stresses that disabled people exercising their right to mobility must not suffer any form of direct or indirect discrimination, whether deliberate or not, or financial discrimination, and regrets that public transport (buses, coaches, taxis, underground trains, trams, and transport by rail, air, river and sea) are still hard for disabled people (and their guide dogs) to access and use;

86.  Deplores the human rights abuse experienced by many disabled people in the world, notably disabled persons living in institutions subject to degrading treatment, violence and abuse, as well as exploitation of disabled persons by organised begging and cases of forced sterilisation, and calls on the Commission to draw up a specific report on the subject of human rights abuse of disabled people;

87.  Condemns the continued use of caged beds for some mentally ill patients in a small number of Accession countries and calls on the Commission to encourage and support a swift end to this inhuman and degrading method of restraint;

88.  Welcomes the programmes set up to provide proper medical assistance for at least some of the Chechen children terribly affected by the war in their country and calls on all Member States and the EU itself to help strengthen humanitarian programmes of this kind so as to cater for the enormous needs of the Chechen population in this respect;

89.  Asks the Commission to include in the horizontal EIDHR programme measures to increase awareness of the human rights of disabled people among various social and political actors and decision-makers in the partner countries, as is happening in the area of cultural dialogue, and to include in the various countries" strategic programmes objectives concerning the accessibility for disabled people of health care, education and public buildings in that country;

90.  Supports the assistance provided by ECHO and disability NGOs in emergencies; stresses that psychiatric problems caused by conflicts must be diagnosed and treated, particularly in children;

91.  Asks the Commission to record the various ways of caring for and treating disabled people in the countries with which it has Cooperation Agreements and to identify and reinforce good practice, while remaining aware of the particular circumstances of each country;

92.  Insists that the unacceptable differences between rich and poor countries in the options available for treating post-infection and post-trauma disabilities must be reduced as a priority through appropriate programmes;

93.  Calls on the Member States and the Council to continue their support for an International Convention to ensure the full enjoyment of human rights by persons with disabilities, to actively support its resolution of 3 September 2003 and to ensure that the UN Convention includes effective monitoring and implementation mechanisms at both national and international level, also guaranteeing the active participation of representative disability organisations throughout the process;

94.  Reiterates its call on the Commission and the Council to strongly support initiatives to promote and enhance the fight against caste discrimination in all relevant United Nations fora; calls on the Commission and the Council to ensure that the issue of caste discrimination and policies to combat this wide-spread form of racism is properly addressed in all country strategy papers, mid-term reviews of these and communications on countries affected by it;

95.  Deplores that no action has been taken by the Commission and the Council to enhance the political and human rights dialogue with caste afflicted countries on the issue of the continued dehumanising practice of caste discrimination, and that the effectiveness of EU human rights policy in terms of addressing caste discrimination still remains to be assessed;

96.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, Commission, the governments and parliaments of the Member States and the accession countries, the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the OSCE and the governments of the countries mentioned in this resolution and the offices of the main human rights NGOs based in the EU.

(1) NB: for all relevant basic texts, please consult the table annexed to report A5-0270/2004 of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Common Security and Defence Policy.
(2) OJ C 379, 7.12.1998, p. 265; OJ C 262, 18.9.2001, p. 262; OJ C 293 E, 28.11.2002, p. 88; OJ C 271 E, 12.11.2003, p. 576.
(3) CoE document 9901, 11.9.2003.
(4) OJ C 78, 2.4.2002, p. 66.
(5) OJ C 77 E, 28.3.2002, p. 126
(6) OJ C 364, 18.12.2000, p. 1.
(7) P5_TA(2003)0370.
(8) OJ L 317, 15.12.2000, p. 3.
(9) P5_TA(2003)0518.
(10) OJ C 20, 20.1.1997, p. 389.
(11) P5_TA-PROV(2004)0154.
(12) P5_TA(2003)0375 adopted 4.9.2003; OJ C 131 E, 5.06.2003, p. 138; OJ C 65 E, 14.3.2002, p. 336; OJ C 377, 29.12.2000, p. 336; OJ C 98, 9.4.1999, p. 270; OJ C 20, 20.1.1997, p. 161; OJ C 126, 22.5.1995, p. 15; OJ C 115, 26.4.1993, p. 214; OJ C 267, 14.10.1991, p. 165; OJ C 47, 27.2.1989, p. 61; OJ C 99, 13.4.1987, p. 157; OJ C 343, 31.12.1985, p. 29; OJ C 172, 2.7.1984, p. 36; OJ C 161, 10.6.1983, p. 58.
(13) OJ C 38 E, 12.2.2004, p. 247.
(14) P5_TA(2003)0462.
(15) P5_TA(2004) 0079.
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Answer – Funding sanitation facilities – E-006753/2016

As underlined by the Honourable Members, ensuring universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene is an essential core element of global sustainable development and poverty eradication, contributing also to gender equality and woman empowerment. Since 2007, the Commission has engaged more than EUR 2.5 billion on water and sanitation action in 62 countries, including in projects funded through EU regional blending facilities which have also triggered private investments.

The project in Senegal referred to by the Honourable Members is an illustration of the type of successful actions that have been supported. The Commission is committed to continuing engaging in this important area.

The disproportionate impact on women and girls of the lack of sanitation and safe water being one of the negative effects that keeps girls out of school and limits the economic productivity of women is well recognised. Gender equality is one of the main priorities of the Commission in its development cooperation policy and action, including in the water and sanitation sector. It is also promoted in ongoing programmes, where water and sanitation is a focal sector in 13 partner countries (Angola, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Cook Islands, Djibouti, Lesotho, Palestine, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Sao Tome et Principe, Senegal, Solomon Islands and Togo) and in a number of regional programmes.

Sanitation facilities will also be financed in the framework of wider interventions in the Republic of the Congo, Republic of Guinea, Mauritania, Mozambique, Nepal, Pakistan, Peru, Sierra Leone, Timor Leste, Uzbekistan and Zimbabwe.

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Background – 32nd ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly session

The keynote debate at the 32nd plenary session of the ACP-EU JPA, entitled " Demographic growth: challenges and opportunities" will focus on issues related to uncontrolled population growth, on the consequences of strong demographic pressure in various regions of the world but also the impact of population aging in Europe. These elements will fuel intensive discussion throughout the session.

The Assembly will vote on Wednesday 21 December on 3 resolutions:

  • Constitutional limits on presidential terms (debate on Tuesday morning, co-rapporteurs: Tulia Ackson (Tanzania) and Ignazio Corrao (IT)),

Two urgent topics will be debated and concluded by resolutions:

On Tuesday, 20 December, MEPs and their counterparts from national parliaments of the ACP countries will also discuss the role of trade in attaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A keynote speech will be given by UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi.

Another current topic, “How to support the resettlement of migrants in their home country” will be among those debated on Wednesday, 21 December.

The formal opening session of the 32nd session of the JPA on Monday, 19 December at 11.00, will take place in the presence of Justin Muturi, Speaker of the National Assembly of Kenya. MEPs will also hold debates with Commissioner Neven Mimica (HR) on Monday, 19 December, and with representatives of ACP and EU Councils on Wednesday, 21 December.

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