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Delegates Discuss Efforts to End Poverty amid Rising Inequality, Unprecedented Human Displacement, as Social Development Commission Continues Session

Delegates from around the world shared their experiences in combating poverty against the backdrop of both long‑standing and emerging challenges — including an unprecedented global displacement crisis, protracted conflicts and a rising tide of intolerance — as the Commission for Social Development continued its fifty‑sixth annual session today.

Speakers also cited economic sanctions, lack of adequate support from development partners and a slow recovery from the past decade’s financial crisis as major obstacles to poverty eradication.  Some pointed to rising inequality as another crucial impediment, calling for more progressive policies to distribute wealth, while others emphasized the need to focus on key groups such as women and youth.

With the discussion focused squarely on the drivers of — and possible antidotes to — poverty, South Africa’s Chief Director for Economic Development recalled former President Nelson Mandela’s belief that extreme poverty “demeans us all”.  Young people in South Africa continued to lack employment opportunities, she said, while the current global climate was driving increased discrimination based on race, national origins and other factors.  In response to such challenges, the Government was working to boost job creation, realize the goal of free education for all and ensure the rights of vulnerable groups such as persons with disabilities and older persons.

Spotlighting another vulnerable — and particularly critical — group, Zimbabwe’s Minister for Labour and Social Welfare said women comprised 80 per cent of her country’s agricultural workforce as well as 60 per cent of its informal employment sector.  Outlining concrete plans in such areas as employment creation, social protection and inclusive development, she said a national strategy now also reserved a 20 per cent quota for women’s ownership of agricultural land.

Denmark’s Minister for Fisheries and Equal Opportunities and Minister for Nordic Cooperation echoed the importance of focusing anti‑poverty initiatives on women, noting that their increased engagement and productivity would also benefit entire societies.  Calling for special attention to those living in protracted displacement or in countries affected by conflict and crisis — 50 per cent of whom still lived in extreme poverty — she also emphasized that eradicating poverty required a sustained, long‑term development effort.  For that reason, Denmark had delivered on the target of providing 0.7 per cent of its gross national income as official development assistance (ODA) for 40 years, and encouraged other countries to do the same.

Many speakers, including the Deputy Minister for Labour and Social Protection of the Russian Federation, voiced support for efforts to provide both universal health care and social services to all.  Despite the ongoing financial crisis and unilateral sanctions, he said, the Russian Federation had offered a wide array of services, including new measures targeting families and children in need and raising the national minimum wage across a range of professions.  Other strategic development projects spanned sectors such as health, education, labour and transportation, and efforts were under way to support entrepreneurs and train workers in the latest technologies.

Echoing those sentiments, the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belarus warned against selfish, politically motivated and unilateral steps, such as destructive sanctions, which had detrimental consequences to countries who sought development gains.  Describing his country’s efforts to guarantee employment and decent work for all, he added that combating poverty required a global approach, and encouraged the international community to assist in creating a “more just world” for humankind.

Several speakers, including the General Director of Youth for the Ministry of Social Development of Uruguay, focused on progressive efforts to redistribute wealth more fairly.  Noting that his country enjoyed the largest gross domestic product (GDP) in Latin America and had dramatically reduced its poverty rate, he said the Government had established a minimum wage, made health care a universal right, put in place a system of cash transfers for vulnerable families and enhanced access to jobs.  Stressing that no sustainable social development or economic growth could be accomplished without a more equal distribution of wealth, he also described Uruguay’s recent strides in such areas as marriage equality and the protection of reproductive and sexual rights.

During its afternoon session, the Commission held a high‑level panel discussion on the theme, “Towards sustainable and resilient societies:  Innovation and interconnectivity for social development”.  Moderated by Jeremy Millard, Chief Policy Advisor, Danish Technological Institute, of Denmark, it featured five panellists:  Gong Sen, Research Fellow of the Development Research Centre of the State Council and Executive Vice‑President of the China Centre for International Knowledge on Development; Noor Al Malki Al Jehani, Executive Director of the Doha International Family Institute; Walter Valdivia, Senior Fellow to the Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes, a science policy think tank at Arizona State University, adjunct faculty at Johns Hopkins University, and a senior policy editor at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University; Maria Garrido, Research Assistant Professor and principal research scientist at the Technology and Social Change Group at the University of Washington; and Donna Scheeder, President from 2015 to 2017 of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions.

Also delivering statements today were ministers, representatives and youth delegates from Niger, Congo, Chile, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Argentina, Hungary, Sudan, Thailand, Mexico, Georgia, Israel, Switzerland, Kenya, El Salvador, Dominican Republic and Namibia.

The Commission will reconvene at 10 a.m. Wednesday, 31 January, to continue its work.

Statements

PETRONELLA KAGONYE, Minister for Labour and Social Welfare of Zimbabwe, associating herself with the statements delivered on Monday on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China and the African Group, said her country had integrated the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals into its “Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socioeconomic Transformation”.  That plan addressed such issues as employment creation, poverty reduction, social protection and inclusive development, she said, noting that the majority of women in Zimbabwe were employed in the agricultural sector where they comprised 80 per cent of the workforce and 60 per cent of the 5.4 million people in the informal sector.  National strategies had reserved a 20 per cent quota for women entitled to apply for ownership of agricultural land, while others focused on the special needs of young people and prioritized education, leading to the achievement of gender parity in primary school enrolment rates and high literacy rates.  Still other programmes targeted the needs of populations including persons with disabilities, the elderly, and orphaned and vulnerable children.

AMADOU AISSATA ISSA MAIGA, Minister for Population of Niger, associating herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said her country had put in place several strategies to combat poverty and strengthen its population’s well‑being.  Its main framework for action aimed to see all men and women, especially the most vulnerable, benefit from basic services.  It also sought to boost women’s land ownership and offered a holistic vision of social protection and the provision of emergency humanitarian assistance where needed.  Niger had also passed laws to ensure equal opportunities for persons with disabilities and which enshrined their basic rights to employment, social services and freedom from discrimination.  “We must make the issue of disability a priority,” she stressed, citing concrete progress achieved since Niger’s ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2008, such as improved accessibility to public buildings and widespread awareness‑raising campaigns.  Social protection for older persons had also been enshrined in the country’s laws, ensuring their access to medical care and establishing a national solidarity office to address relevant issues.  As a result of those and other initiatives, poverty in Niger had fallen by 2.8 per cent between 2011 and 2014, she said.

ANTOINETTE DINGA‑DZONDO, Minister for Social Affairs of Congo, aligning herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said poverty‑targeted efforts were particularly important, especially for vulnerable groups.  Poverty affected half of Congo’s 4 million citizens, of whom 60 per cent were under age 30, almost 5 per cent were older persons and 1.4 per cent were living with disabilities.  Government programmes aimed at addressing various needs by expanding social protection services.  Projects targeted special needs, including cash transfers and job creation efforts, and an International Monetary Fund (IMF) initiative was making further steps such as boosting the digital economy, yet challenges remained, such as streamlining budgets and coordination.

JUAN EDUARDO FAÚNDEZ MOLINA, Vice‑Minister for Social Development of Chile, said poverty and violence were social obstacles to most societies, with international organizations playing a central role in efforts to address those challenges.  Highlighting the multidimensional nature of poverty, he said many aspects must be addressed simultaneously, including health, housing and religious life.  Chile was changing its methodology for measuring poverty, having submitted relevant reports to the United Nations.  It strongly supported the 2030 Agenda.  More detailed data had painted a clearer national picture of needs, from political participation to social protection gaps.  The new socially democratic Government was poised to promote a range of social issues, including education, women’s rights and shaping a new Constitution for the twenty‑first century.  Such efforts aimed at redirecting society towards a more humane and sustainable one.

ALEXEY CHERKASOV, Deputy Minister for Labour and Social Protection of the Russian Federation, expressed support for poverty reduction, as everyone should be covered by health and social services.  Despite the ongoing financial crisis and unilateral sanctions, the Russian Federation had offered a wide array of services, including new measures targeting families and children in need and raising the national minimum wage across a range of professions.  Strategic development projects spanned sectors such as health, education, labour, transportation and support for entrepreneurship.  Special efforts were, among other things, reaching those in remote areas and training workers in the latest technologies.  Turning to the work of the Commission, he said it had played a leading role in providing agreed upon guidance with regard to many issues, including youth, persons with disabilities and the role families could play.

EDI SUHARTO, Vice Minister for Social Services of Indonesia, aligning himself with the Group of 77 and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said the Sustainable Development Goals had provided a universal and global agenda, but now a comprehensive approach was needed to achieve those targets by 2030.  Indonesia had taken a number of steps towards those goals, for instance, with efforts aimed at cutting poverty to 7 per cent by 2019 from 10.7 per cent in 2016, and primary school enrolment having already climbed to more than 95 per cent.  Empowerment was key to development, including enhancing health and education sectors while reducing unemployment, but challenges remained.  While poverty was decreasing in Indonesia, the heart of the problem was its chronic cycle that must be broken.  Ensuring inclusive development was the way forward, he said, calling on stakeholders to find innovative strategies to make the 2030 Agenda succeed.

TAMADER ALRAMMAH, Deputy Minister for Direct Localization and General Director of Social Welfare and Family of Saudi Arabia, associating herself with the Group of 77, said anti‑poverty policies should be tailored to the specific cultural contexts of individual countries.  However, some elements were common to all nations, she said, describing Saudi Arabia’s own national programmes.  Those included a range of new social transformations aimed at empowering people, strengthening the participation of women in the workforce, bolstering food security, enacting new economic reforms and providing social protection to all.  Saudi Arabia was working to make social assistance available to persons with disabilities and their families, putting in place a national plan to that effect.  In addition, strategies had been enacted to protect the elderly and meet their special needs, including through the establishment of 38 centres for older persons throughout the country, the provision of stipends and the launch of a detailed study on their well‑being.  Efforts were also under way to promote education, including through the provision of scholarships, she said.

KAREN ELLEMANN, Minister for Fisheries and Equal Opportunities and Minister for Nordic Cooperation of Denmark, spotlighted four issues her country viewed as critical to eradicating poverty by 2030.  First was the need to build strong partnerships, including between Governments, the private sector, academia and civil society, all of which needed to work together to ensure that efforts were directed towards common goals for people, planet and prosperity.  Second, eradicating poverty required a sustained, long‑term development effort, she said, noting that Denmark had delivered on the United Nations target of providing 0.7 per cent of its gross national income as official development assistance (ODA) for 40 years in a row, and encouraging other countries to do the same.  Third, there was a need to focus on gender equality and young people, especially young women, she said, noting that their increased engagement and productivity would benefit not only them but also their countries as a whole.  Finally, it was critical to pay special attention to those living in protracted displacement or in countries affected by conflict and crisis, 50 per cent of whom still lived in extreme poverty.

GABRIELA AGOSTO, Executive Secretary of the National Council for the Coordination of Social Policies of Argentina, associating herself with the Group of 77 and the statement delivered yesterday on behalf of the Group of Friends of Older Persons, said some challenges — including climate change, migration and poverty — were facing all countries of the world.  The 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals were leading global efforts to confront such issues, she said, noting that Argentina was also working on a national level to guarantee quality social services, universal health care and education to all.  Among other things, the country guaranteed a basic income floor to its people and was working to expand its family allowance policy, while also adjusting the allowances provided to pensioners in order to improve the quality of life of older persons.  A national habitat plan was working with local and provincial governments to enhance access to water, sanitation, lit sidewalks and other important infrastructure.  Another critical pillar of the Government’s work dealt with education, including the provision of early education to all children, accessible from the time they were 45 days old.  That plan provided support to families, she said, noting that it helped with food security and allowed new parents to return to work.

KATALIN ANNAMÁRIA BOGYAY (Hungary) said a steady population decline had led the Government to introduce several measures since 2010.  From childcare benefits to decent work — seen in robust school attendance and an unemployment rate of less than 4 per cent — Hungary was focusing on further reaching those in need.  Free services, including meals and textbooks in schools and childcare for working parents, were among ongoing initiatives.  For those in need, affordable summer camp was accessible and subsidized housing available.  By working and establishing financial health, development goals could be successfully attained.

ZSOFIA RACZ, youth delegate from Hungary, said all countries faced different challenges.  For her country, challenges involving an ageing population must be addressed and future generations must have the tools to continue the brilliant work of the United Nations.  Ensuring youth participation was a priority and young people must be empowered, she said, highlighting the importance of the “zero step” in light of a declining population.

IBRAHIM ADAM IBRAHIM MOHAMED, State Minister at the Ministry of Welfare and Social Security of Sudan, aligning himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, provided a snapshot of his country’s national plan.  With 17 target areas such as youth employment, education, health and sanitation, Sudan aimed at broadening the reach of services to the most vulnerable.  Expanded programme areas included providing clean drinking water and long‑term security.  A strategy to develop microfinancing structures was supporting social projects for the full employment of youth and for strengthening institutions to combat poverty.  Sudan had also launched a social census to determine further needs and priorities.  Pursuant to the Secretary‑General’s report, what Sudan had achieved was enormous.  Drawing attention to the scourge of conflict as a driver for poverty, he said war created persons with disabilities and destroyed communities.  As such, conflict‑related issues must be duly addressed.

ANDREI DAPKIUNAS, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belarus, said establishing equal opportunity was the only way to eradicate poverty.  Belarus had focused efforts on guaranteeing employment and decent work for all, alongside initiatives to gather disaggregated data to better inform future projects.  Successfully combating poverty required a global approach, one that considered donor and recipient countries and their respective efforts to achieve sustainable development.  The international community could also assist in the progress of humankind in a more just world.  Countries must refrain from taking selfish politically motivated and unilateral steps, such as destructive sanctions, which had detrimental consequences to countries who sought development gains.  Instead, partnerships must be fostered, he said, adding that Belarus would soon host a forum on development cooperation.

PUTTIPAT LERTCHAOWASIT, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Social Development of Thailand, associating himself with ASEAN and the Group of 77, said that poverty eradication had always been the basis for Thailand’s development since the time of the late King Bhumibol’s reign from the mid‑1940s.  The 20‑year national strategy framework and twelfth national socioeconomic development plan articulated visions for structural transformation to address inequality in a comprehensive manner, and focused on implementation of the 2030 Agenda.  Starting in 2002, Thailand’s universal health coverage scheme made access to basic health care an entitlement for all, including documented and undocumented migrants and their families.  Basic education for all, regardless of nationality, was also accessible in Thailand.  As poverty could have more negative effects on women, the Government had given particular attention to that area.  It was urgent that a strong commitment to sustainable development be translated into concrete actions.

OLIVER ARROYO, Director General for Evaluation and Monitoring of Social Programs of Mexico, said a five‑year national strategy was under way, part of efforts to enhance progress on attaining the goals set out in the 2030 Agenda.  Actions had been guided by two main elements — the multidimensional nature of poverty and a policy of inclusion.  Food, education, health and social security were among the action areas, he said, providing examples of how the Government was making gains in breaking the cycle of poverty.  Among gains, a labour reform in 2012 had created 3.5 million formal jobs, and chronic child malnutrition had been reduced.  Quality education was also a priority.  Meanwhile, other projects focused on pension payments, particularly for women, and other social protection measures.  Reviewing working methods of the Commission should be considered alongside the transformation of its mandate so it could remain a pillar of development at the United Nations.

SOPIO KILADZE, Chairperson of the Human Rights and Civil Integration Committee of the Parliament of Georgia, stressing that “poverty has deep roots and many faces”, said the phenomenon’s manifestation depended on circumstances that differed from country to country.  In Georgia, the Government had fundamentally reformed its human rights protection system — especially with regard to civil and political rights — but poverty remained a major related challenge.  About 21 per cent of the population lived in poverty, she said, adding that children, youth, elderly persons and other vulnerable groups were among those affected.  Two main policies, namely Georgia 2020 and the global 2030 Agenda, were driving the Government’s efforts to combat poverty.  Among other things, Georgia had implemented its Social Worker Institution Reform Plan, drafted a legal child code to ensure the dignity of all children, and was working to stimulate the creation of more jobs through an active labour market policy.

AVIVIT BAR-ILAN, Head of Bureau, Department for International Organization, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Israel, said that, over the past three decades, the world had seen incredible results in the eradication of poverty.  However, 10 per cent of the world’s population still lived below the poverty line in 2013.  “If we are determined to win this battle, it will require the active participation of our entire societies,” she stressed, calling on all citizens to make the world more inclusive and tolerant.  Youth were particularly critical, as decisions made today would determine the course of tomorrow.  Israel took its youth, and their views, seriously.  More and more young people in the country were choosing to take a gap year between school and their military service, participating in programmes aimed at building leadership, assisting communities and sparking social change.  At the other end of the age spectrum, ageing persons were often socially excluded simply because of their age, and were disproportionately at risk of inadequate and insecure income as well as insufficient access to services.  Among other programmes, Israel was working to link together its ageing population with its youth, as the former had vast knowledge and experience to share with the latter.

JEAN-MARIE BOUVERAT, Chair of Delegation, Office of Social Insurance, International Organizations of Switzerland supported the international community’s efforts in favour of social protection, which was a fundamental approach to eradicating poverty, addressing inequalities and including the marginalized.  Switzerland also supported the development of agriculture in developing countries, as poverty was currently concentrated in rural areas.  Agriculture was clearly the driving force behind rural development, particularly development related to value chains.  One of Switzerland’s objectives, especially through its development cooperation, was to promote resilience and preparedness of vulnerable communities, especially in relation to climate change.  Social protection and support by the international community, including through cash transfers, could help curb the destructive practices by poverty‑stricken populations.  By providing social protection to populations displaced by humanitarian crises, it was also possible to relieve pressure on the environment and natural resources, such as through the practice of deforestation for fuel oil.

VALERIE MATLOU, Chief Director for Economic Development of South Africa, associating herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said former President Nelson Mandela — who would have turned 100 in 2018 — continued to inspire people around the world.  President Mandela had believed that abject poverty was an assault on the dignity of those who suffered from it, and “demeans us all”, she said, adding that older persons were often disproportionately affected.  Outlining several efforts by her Government to improve the well‑being of older persons, including their access to social services, she warned that today’s global climate was driving increased discrimination based on race, national origins and other factors.  In addition, the global economy’s slow recovery from the recent crises continued to negatively impact South Africa, with its youth largely excluded from the labour market due to lack of opportunities.  In response, the Government was working to boost job creation and realize the goal of free education for all, while ensuring the rights of vulnerable groups such as persons with disabilities.

FEDERICO BARRETO, General Director of Youth, Ministry of Social Development of Uruguay, noting that his country enjoyed the largest gross domestic product (GDP) in Latin America as well as progressive social policies, said the country had dramatically reduced both poverty and extreme poverty in the last decade.  Uruguay was also committed to the 2030 Agenda, including its promise to leave no one behind.  Among other things, it had established a minimum wage, created a Ministry of Social Development, made health care coverage a right to all Uruguayans, put in place a system of cash transfers for vulnerable families and enhanced access to jobs.  Moreover, he said, the Government believed that no sustainable social development or economic growth could be accomplished without a more equal distribution of wealth.  All vulnerable groups — including young children and older persons — had the right to assistance, he said, underlining the Government’s focus on early childhood care and education through such initiatives as the establishment of care centres.  Uruguay had also made strides in such progressive areas as marriage equality and the protection of reproductive and sexual rights.

JOSEPHINE MURIUKI, Director of the Department of Social Development, Ministry of East African Community, Labour and Social Protection of Kenya, supporting the position of the Group of 77, emphasized that 768 million still lived in extreme poverty, the majority in sub‑Saharan Africa and Asia.  Breaking the cycles of poverty was difficult and all efforts must be made to achieve progress in doing so.  Kenya’s development priorities included food security, nutrition, housing and manufacturing, with projects such as health packages offering new services and initiatives to subsidize education and training programmes.  In addition, information and communications technology (ICT) had been integrated in schools and mobile financing programmes had transformed the economic and social landscape, which had seen mobile phone usage doubling in recent years.  The Government was also in the process of implementing a pension payment plan, slated to commence in March.  Kenya was committed to social development, the 2030 Agenda and the eradication of poverty, she said, adding that partnerships must be strengthened to attain the goals and reach those farthest behind.

KARLA VANESSA LEMUS, Director for Social Development, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of El Salvador, aligning herself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Friends of Older Persons, highlighted poverty eradication gains, including subsidies and programmes aimed at reaching vulnerable groups.  Policies had introduced a range of efforts, from providing decent work opportunities to reducing malnutrition, she said, emphasizing that poverty was multidimensional, from temporary hardships to lack of access to services.  That paradigm shift must be considered when shaping programmes, policies and dialogue.  Such dialogue on the 2030 Agenda must include challenges middle‑income countries faced, with a view to ensuring that gains were not reversed.  The Secretary‑General’s report had failed to include those and other challenges.  For its part, El Salvador had taken steps to make progress, including preventing adolescent pregnancies and promoting respect for the human rights of older persons.

MAGINO CORPORAN LORENZO, Director of the National Council on Disability of the Dominican Republic, endorsing the positions of the Group of 77 and the Group of Friends of Older Persons, said his Government had created a platform to coordinate efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.  Providing several examples, he said a road map on eradicating poverty included projects to address the needs of young people.  Policies and programmes to assist youth aimed at including them in the labour market.  A society must include equal rights and the promotion of sustainable development, he said, underlining the importance of access to decent work.  As such, innovative programmes were now creating jobs with flexible hours.  For the first time in the Dominican Republic, policies had promoted healthy ageing and protected the rights and well‑being of older persons.  Turning to climate change challenges, a team had been established to address the related needs of older persons.  Efforts also targeted the needs of persons with disabilities.  Placing people at the centre of development was the key to achieving the goals, he said.

ALBERT BIWA, Deputy Director of Social Welfare of Namibia, aligning himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said national policies had already triggered growth and progress, but more needed to be done to break the cycle of poverty.  Adopting a social welfare approach based on human rights was the way forward.  Namibia had established a ministry to coordinate poverty eradication.  A blueprint was now targeting efforts, based on principles such as ending hunger, education and training development, gender equality and women’s empowerment and with a view towards leaving no one behind.  The Government was also investigating further efforts to prevent a duplication of services and was offering grants and cash transfer programmes to vulnerable groups.  It has also adopted a social safety net approach in eradicating poverty while implementing policies to reduce unemployment and allocating part of the national budget to education and tackling hunger, with services ranging from school lunches to helping farmers.

Panel II

The Commission held a high‑level panel discussion on emerging issues titled “Towards sustainable and resilient societies: Innovation and interconnectivity for social development”.  Moderated by Jeremy Millard, Chief Policy Advisor of the Danish Technological Institute in Denmark, the panel featured presentations by Gong Sen, a Research Fellow of the Development Research Centre of the State Council and Executive Vice‑President of the China Centre for International Knowledge on Development; Noor Al Malki Al Jehani, Executive Director of the Doha International Family Institute; Walter Valdivia, a Senior Fellow to the Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes, a science policy think tank at Arizona State University, adjunct faculty member at Johns Hopkins University, and a senior policy editor at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University; Maria Garrido, a Research Assistant Professor and principal research scientist at the Technology and Social Change Group at the University of Washington; and Donna Scheeder, President (2015‑2017) of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions.

Mr. MILLARD said that society was not just about economics and technology, but also about social development and people’s happiness and welfare.  Many people thought of technology as neutral, but it was also very much socially constructed.  Technology was often driven by the market, but it could also be driven by social need and social good.  One challenge today was the way technology was penetrating the digital world and every aspect of life.  A fourth industrial revolution was under way — a blend of the digital, physical and biological worlds.  He cited the example of 3D printing, which made it possible to turn digital bits of information from one part of the world into objects in another part.  Artificial intelligence, meanwhile, could take the place of medium- and high‑skilled jobs, as well as low- and no‑skill ones.  A fundamental issue, however, was what machines did best and what people did best.  Most algorithms being developed today were excellent at specialized tasks, but not so much at doing a range of tasks together and seeing the links between them.  There were still a lot of things that human beings could do, he said.

Mr. SEN, examining regional disparity and the rural‑urban divide in China through two case studies, first presented information on Chongqing, a municipality that had witnessed exponential growth based in part on the development of the transportation sector.  Alongside road and railway projects, air routes had been augmented, turning the city into a travel hub.  He then turned to the case of Alibaba Taobao village programmes, the effective rural revitalization initiative aimed at reducing urban population pressures and fostering economic growth.  From 2009 to 2017, the number of Taobao villages rose to 2,118 from 3, with projected employment opportunities climbing to 3 million jobs in 2020.  Grassroots entrepreneurship was the driving force, with efforts strongly backed by infrastructure, public services and the development of e‑commerce learning centres.

Ms. AL MALKI AL JEHANI explained interconnectivity benefits and challenges in the Arab world, saying that ICT had transformed societies, with social media engaging 80 million users in 20 countries.  Yet risks existed, as social inequalities, including low literacy rates and poverty, remained the most pressing development challenge, exacerbated by pervasive discrimination against women and weak youth engagement.  Social media also had mixed benefits among families, improving communication while also reducing personal contact, and among youth, providing them with an online voice, as with the Arab Spring, but also posing risks, by promoting radicalization.  Education had seen colossal benefits, with boosted teaching and learning opportunities, but challenges included widening regional disparities, lack of public investment and high costs.  Providing examples of how interconnectivity was promoting social progress, she said Qatar had launched an app to better serve older persons.  Among several recommendations, she encouraged support for innovative ICT in social and sustainable development efforts at national and regional levels related to the 2030 Agenda.

Mr. VALDIVIA said many Governments, non‑governmental organizations and businesses believed ICT was beneficial, with many supporting the belief that simply providing access to the Internet would promote development.  However, providing interconnectivity alone was not enough.  Markets were configured depending on technologies that emerged and transformed their industries and an array of economies, giving birth to new market arrangements.  Resilience and sustainability rested on equality, a principle that must be considered when examining how to embrace technology in an effective way to promote greater equity and more participation.  In that way, societies could possibly steer the direction of their communities along a more inclusive, democratic path.

Ms. GARRIDO discussed how access to information could create more socially and economically inclusive societies, highlighting the ever‑broadening online community, which now included 45 per cent of the world.  Noting that access to information had been included in 19 of the targets in the Sustainable Development Goals, she presented several key elements to promote those objectives.  Affordability was critical, she said, noting that 80 per cent of the globe was covered by at least 3G networks.  One way to make it affordable was through community mobile networks, which offered a cooperative‑based approach, with Government support essential to broaden access, as seen in Indonesia and Mexico.  Bridging the ICT gender gap was also imperative, in view of the fact that 40 per cent of women in less developed regions were active online, when compared with 80 per cent in more developed areas.  Social policies must support gender equality, including providing access, skills and leadership training, but they must also support freedom, as 60 per cent of Internet users lived in countries where people were arrested or imprisoned for posting content on political, social and religious issues, and 49 per cent of users lived in countries where people had been attacked or killed for their online activities.

Ms. SCHEEDER said sustainable development hinged on meaningful, inclusive access to information, which in turn depended on libraries.  The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions had launched the Lyon Declaration on Access to Information and Development, involving more than 570 organizations.  Its principles declared that access to information empowered people to exercise their civil, political, economic and social rights, learn and apply skills, make decisions and participate in an active civil society, create community‑based solutions, ensure accountability and measure progress.  Access and development links recognized the multidimensional nature of poverty, which included information poverty that kept half the world’s population offline.  “If we ignore the need to bridge the information poverty gap,” she said, “we get caught in a negative downward spiral.”  Such gaps must be addressed; inaction was not an option.  Libraries, often the only public space where communities can gather, were an essential part of an information ecosystem, bridging the digital divide.

In the ensuing discussion, delegates posed questions on national and global concerns, with many agreeing that interconnectivity contributed to development by, among other things, strengthening relations between Governments and the citizens they served.  Some shared examples of ways their Governments were making strides in broadening online access and services.  The delegate for South Africa described online social record management and cash transfers.  The speaker for Argentina said services included distance learning and digital literacy programmes for vulnerable groups, and the Vice‑President of Costa Rica elaborated on a strategy providing Internet access to poor households.  The representative of Hungary said her Government was providing free online textbooks to children nationwide, and the speaker for the European Union said members were developing a new approach to digitalization without leaving anyone behind.

Some made suggestions on ways forward.  The representative of Germany highlighted insights from an ongoing national dialogue on labour, saying substantial investments in skills and education were needed to help workers adapt to new technology, and innovation must be supported with a view to creating new work frameworks.  The speaker for Haiti called for solid public policies and strategies based on addressing the multidimensional nature of poverty, and the delegate for Cuba said genuine international cooperation was needed.  Raising the issue that poverty seemed to target the youngest generations, between ages 15 and 35, and rural populations, the representative of Burkina Faso said ethics must be considered in the pursuit of technological solutions.

A Member of Parliament from Ghana pointed out that the very principle of community was being challenged, with increased online use at, for example, the dinner table.  He then asked how to use the Internet to bring communities together and asked how connectivity was defined in various countries, particularly related to poverty reduction.

Mr. SEN, responding to the latter question, said beneficial connections could and should be made to the broader world to improve communities.  To the former, he confessed he had no idea how to deal with the Internet at the dinner table.

Ms. AL MALKI AL JEHANI, addressing that question, said families must make decisions to socially connect rather than disconnect by going online.  She reminded some delegates that most participants existed and lived before the Internet existed.

Mr. VALDIVIA emphasized that measuring connectivity could include examining access to digital banking or other financial services.  As for online connectivity at dinner, he said perhaps those who checked their phones at the dinner table could be punished by following the President’s Twitter feed for two hours.

Ms. GARRIDO emphasized that there was a need to reconceptualize the definition of connectivity.  In addition, the issue of available public social spaces should be examined.  Responding to a query on what key skills men and women would need in the future, she said information and mobile literacy were critical.

Ms. SCHEEDER added that a commitment to continuous learning was also important, as was connecting with one another during family time.

Also participating in the discussion were representatives of several non‑governmental organizations.

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Commission for Social Development

Note: Full coverage will be available after the meetings' conclusion today.

Statements

PETRONELLA KAGONYE, Minister for Labour and Social Welfare of Zimbabwe, associating herself with the statements delivered on Monday on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China and the African Group, said her country had integrated the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals into its “Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socioeconomic Transformation”.  That plan addressed such issues as employment creation, poverty reduction, social protection and inclusive development, she said, noting that the majority of women in Zimbabwe were employed in the agricultural sector where they comprised 80 per cent of the workforce and 60 per cent of the 5.4 million people in the informal sector.  National strategies had reserved a 20 per cent quota for women entitled to apply for ownership of agricultural land, while others focused on the special needs of young people and prioritized education, leading to the achievement of gender parity in primary school enrolment rates and high literacy rates.  Still other programmes targeted the needs of populations including persons with disabilities, the elderly, and orphaned and vulnerable children.

AMADOU AISSATA ISSA MAIGA, Minister for Population of Niger, associating herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said her country had put in place several strategies to combat poverty and strengthen its population’s well‑being.  Its main framework for action aimed to see all men and women, especially the most vulnerable, benefit from basic services.  It also sought to boost women’s land ownership and offered a holistic vision of social protection and the provision of emergency humanitarian assistance where needed.  Niger had also passed laws to ensure equal opportunities for persons with disabilities and which enshrined their basic rights to employment, social services and freedom from discrimination.  “We must make the issue of disability a priority,” she stressed, citing concrete progress achieved since Niger’s ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2008, such as improved accessibility to public buildings and widespread awareness‑raising campaigns.  Social protection for older persons had also been enshrined in the country’s laws, ensuring their access to medical care and establishing a national solidarity office to address relevant issues.  As a result of those and other initiatives, poverty in Niger had fallen by 2.8 per cent between 2011 and 2014, she said.

ANTOINETTE DINGA‑DZONDO, Minister for Social Affairs of Congo, aligning herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said poverty‑targeted efforts were particularly important, especially for vulnerable groups.  Poverty affected half of Congo’s 4 million citizens, of whom 60 per cent were under age 30, almost 5 per cent were older persons and 1.4 per cent were living with disabilities.  Government programmes aimed at addressing various needs by expanding social protection services.  Projects targeted special needs, including cash transfers and job creation efforts, and an International Monetary Fund (IMF) initiative was making further steps such as boosting the digital economy, yet challenges remained, such as streamlining budgets and coordination.

JUAN EDUARDO FAÚNDEZ MOLINA, Vice‑Minister for Social Development of Chile, said poverty and violence were social obstacles to most societies, with international organizations playing a central role in efforts to address those challenges.  Highlighting the multidimensional nature of poverty, he said many aspects must be addressed simultaneously, including health, housing and religious life.  Chile was changing its methodology for measuring poverty, having submitted relevant reports to the United Nations.  It strongly supported the 2030 Agenda.  More detailed data had painted a clearer national picture of needs, from political participation to social protection gaps.  The new socially democratic Government was poised to promote a range of social issues, including education, women’s rights and shaping a new Constitution for the twenty‑first century.  Such efforts aimed at redirecting society towards a more humane and sustainable one.

ALEXEY CHERKASOV, Deputy Minister for Labour and Social Protection of the Russian Federation, expressed support for poverty reduction, as everyone should be covered by health and social services.  Despite the ongoing financial crisis and unilateral sanctions, the Russian Federation had offered a wide array of services, including new measures targeting families and children in need and raising the national minimum wage across a range of professions.  Strategic development projects spanned sectors such as health, education, labour, transportation and support for entrepreneurship.  Special efforts were, among other things, reaching those in remote areas and training workers in the latest technologies.  Turning to the work of the Commission, he said it had played a leading role in providing agreed upon guidance with regard to many issues, including youth, persons with disabilities and the role families could play.

EDI SUHARTO, Vice Minister for Social Services of Indonesia, aligning himself with the Group of 77 and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said the Sustainable Development Goals had provided a universal and global agenda, but now a comprehensive approach was needed to achieve those targets by 2030.  Indonesia had taken a number of steps towards those goals, for instance, with efforts aimed at cutting poverty to 7 per cent by 2019 from 10.7 per cent in 2016, and primary school enrolment having already climbed to more than 95 per cent.  Empowerment was key to development, including enhancing health and education sectors while reducing unemployment, but challenges remained.  While poverty was decreasing in Indonesia, the heart of the problem was its chronic cycle that must be broken.  Ensuring inclusive development was the way forward, he said, calling on stakeholders to find innovative strategies to make the 2030 Agenda succeed.

TAMADER ALRAMMAH, Deputy Minister for Direct Localization and General Director of Social Welfare and Family of Saudi Arabia, associating herself with the Group of 77, said anti‑poverty policies should be tailored to the specific cultural contexts of individual countries.  However, some elements were common to all nations, she said, describing Saudi Arabia’s own national programmes.  Those included a range of new social transformations aimed at empowering people, strengthening the participation of women in the workforce, bolstering food security, enacting new economic reforms and providing social protection to all.  Saudi Arabia was working to make social assistance available to persons with disabilities and their families, putting in place a national plan to that effect.  In addition, strategies had been enacted to protect the elderly and meet their special needs, including through the establishment of 38 centres for older persons throughout the country, the provision of stipends and the launch of a detailed study on their well‑being.  Efforts were also under way to promote education, including through the provision of scholarships, she said.

KAREN ELLEMANN, Minister for Fisheries and Equal Opportunities and Nordic Cooperation of Denmark, spotlighted four issues her country viewed as critical to eradicating poverty by 2030.  First was the need to build strong partnerships, including between Governments, the private sector, academia and civil society, all of which needed to work together to ensure that efforts were directed towards common goals for people, planet and prosperity.  Second, eradicating poverty required a sustained, long‑term development effort, she said, noting that Denmark had delivered on the United Nations target of providing 0.7 per cent of its gross national income as official development assistance (ODA) for 40 years in a row, and encouraging other countries to do the same.  Third, there was a need to focus on gender equality and young people, especially young women, she said, noting that their increased engagement and productivity would benefit not only them but also their countries as a whole.  Finally, it was critical to pay special attention to those living in protracted displacement or in countries affected by conflict and crisis, 50 per cent of whom still lived in extreme poverty.

GABRIELA AGOSTO, Executive Secretary of the National Council for the Coordination of Social Policies of Argentina, associating herself with the Group of 77 and the statement delivered yesterday on behalf of the Group of Friends of Older Persons, said some challenges — including climate change, migration and poverty — were facing all countries of the world.  The 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals were leading global efforts to confront such issues, she said, noting that Argentina was also working on a national level to guarantee quality social services, universal health care and education to all.  Among other things, the country guaranteed a basic income floor to its people and was working to expand its family allowance policy, while also adjusting the allowances provided to pensioners in order to improve the quality of life of older persons.  A national habitat plan was working with local and provincial governments to enhance access to water, sanitation, lit sidewalks and other important infrastructure.  Another critical pillar of the Government’s work dealt with education, including the provision of early education to all children, accessible from the time they were 45 days old.  That plan provided support to families, she said, noting that it helped with food security and allowed new parents to return to work.

KATALIN NOVÁK, Minister of State for Family and Youth Affairs, Ministry of Human Capacity of Hungary, said a steady population decline had led the Government to introduce several measures since 2010.  From childcare benefits to decent work — seen in robust school attendance and an unemployment rate of less than 4 per cent — Hungary was focusing on further reaching those in need.  Free services, including meals and textbooks in schools and childcare for working parents, were among ongoing initiatives.  For those in need, affordable summer camp was accessible and subsidized housing available.  By working and establishing financial health, development goals could be successfully attained.

A youth delegate from Hungary said all countries faced different challenges.  For her country, challenges involving an ageing population must be addressed and future generations must have the tools to continue the brilliant work of the United Nations.  Ensuring youth participation was a priority and young people must be empowered, she said, highlighting the importance of the “zero step” in light of a declining population.

IBRAHIM ADAM IBRAHIM MOHAMED, State Minister at the Ministry of Welfare and Social Security of Sudan, aligning himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, provided a snapshot of his country’s national plan.  With 17 target areas such as youth employment, education, health and sanitation, Sudan aimed at broadening the reach of services to the most vulnerable.  Expanded programme areas included providing clean drinking water and long‑term security.  A strategy to develop microfinancing structures was supporting social projects for the full employment of youth and for strengthening institutions to combat poverty.  Sudan had also launched a social census to determine further needs and priorities.  Pursuant to the Secretary‑General’s report, what Sudan had achieved was enormous.  Drawing attention to the scourge of conflict as a driver for poverty, he said war created persons with disabilities and destroyed communities.  As such, conflict‑related issues must be duly addressed.

ANDREI DAPKIUNAS, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belarus, said establishing equal opportunity was the only way to eradicate poverty.  Belarus had focused efforts on guaranteeing employment and decent work for all, alongside initiatives to gather disaggregated data to better inform future projects.  Successfully combating poverty required a global approach, one that considered donor and recipient countries and their respective efforts to achieve sustainable development.  The international community could also assist in the progress of humankind in a more just world.  Countries must refrain from taking selfish politically motivated and unilateral steps, such as destructive sanctions, which had detrimental consequences to countries who sought development gains.  Instead, partnerships must be fostered, he said, adding that Belarus would soon host a forum on development cooperation.

PUTTIPAT LERTCHAOWASIT, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Social Development of Thailand, associating himself with ASEAN and the Group of 77, said that poverty eradication had always been the basis for Thailand’s development since the time of the late King Bhumibol’s reign from the mid‑1940s.  The 20‑year national strategy framework and twelfth national socioeconomic development plan articulated visions for structural transformation to address inequality in a comprehensive manner, and focused on implementation of the 2030 Agenda.  Starting in 2002, Thailand’s universal health coverage scheme made access to basic health care an entitlement for all, including documented and undocumented migrants and their families.  Basic education for all, regardless of nationality, was also accessible in Thailand.  As poverty could have more negative effects on women, the Government had given particular attention to that area.  It was urgent that a strong commitment to sustainable development be translated into concrete actions.

OLIVER ARROYO, Director General for Evaluation and Monitoring of Social Programs of Mexico, said a five‑year national strategy was under way, part of efforts to enhance progress on attaining the goals set out in the 2030 Agenda.  Actions had been guided by two main elements — the multidimensional nature of poverty and a policy of inclusion.  Food, education, health and social security were among the action areas, he said, providing examples of how the Government was making gains in breaking the cycle of poverty.  Among gains, a labour reform in 2012 had created 3.5 million formal jobs, and chronic child malnutrition had been reduced.  Quality education was also a priority.  Meanwhile, other projects focused on pension payments, particularly for women, and other social protection measures.  Reviewing working methods of the Commission should be considered alongside the transformation of its mandate so it could remain a pillar of development at the United Nations.

SOPIO KILADZE, Chairperson of the Human Rights and Civil Integration Committee of the Parliament of Georgia, stressing that “poverty has deep roots and many faces”, said the phenomenon’s manifestation depended on circumstances that differed from country to country.  In Georgia, the Government had fundamentally reformed its human rights protection system — especially with regard to civil and political rights — but poverty remained a major related challenge.  About 21 per cent of the population lived in poverty, she said, adding that children, youth, elderly persons and other vulnerable groups were among those affected.  Two main policies, namely Georgia 2020 and the global 2030 Agenda, were driving the Government’s efforts to combat poverty.  Among other things, Georgia had implemented its Social Worker Institution Reform Plan, drafted a legal child code to ensure the dignity of all children, and was working to stimulate the creation of more jobs through an active labour market policy.

AVIVIT BAR-ILAN, Head of Bureau, Department for International Organization, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Israel, said that, over the past three decades, the world had seen incredible results in the eradication of poverty.  However, 10 per cent of the world’s population still lived below the poverty line in 2013.  “If we are determined to win this battle, it will require the active participation of our entire societies,” she stressed, calling on all citizens to make the world more inclusive and tolerant.  Youth were particularly critical, as decisions made today would determine the course of tomorrow.  Israel took its youth, and their views, seriously.  More and more young people in the country were choosing to take a gap year between school and their military service, participating in programmes aimed at building leadership, assisting communities and sparking social change.  At the other end of the age spectrum, ageing persons were often socially excluded simply because of their age, and were disproportionately at risk of inadequate and insecure income as well as insufficient access to services.  Among other programmes, Israel was working to link together its ageing population with its youth, as the former had vast knowledge and experience to share with the latter.

JEAN-MARIE BOUVERAT, Chair of Delegation, Office of Social Insurance, International Organizations of Switzerland supported the international community’s efforts in favour of social protection, which was a fundamental approach to eradicating poverty, addressing inequalities and including the marginalized.  Switzerland also supported the development of agriculture in developing countries, as poverty was currently concentrated in rural areas.  Agriculture was clearly the driving force behind rural development, particularly development related to value chains.  One of Switzerland’s objectives, especially through its development cooperation, was to promote resilience and preparedness of vulnerable communities, especially in relation to climate change.  Social protection and support by the international community, including through cash transfers, could help curb the destructive practices by poverty‑stricken populations.  By providing social protection to populations displaced by humanitarian crises, it was also possible to relieve pressure on the environment and natural resources, such as through the practice of deforestation for fuel oil.

VALERIE MATLOU, Chief Director for Economic Development of South Africa, associating herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said former President Nelson Mandela — who would have turned 100 in 2018 — continued to inspire people around the world.  President Mandela had believed that abject poverty was an assault on the dignity of those who suffered from it, and “demeans us all”, she said, adding that older persons were often disproportionately affected.  Outlining several efforts by her Government to improve the well‑being of older persons, including their access to social services, she warned that today’s global climate was driving increased discrimination based on race, national origins and other factors.  In addition, the global economy’s slow recovery from the recent crises continued to negatively impact South Africa, with its youth largely excluded from the labour market due to lack of opportunities.  In response, the Government was working to boost job creation and realize the goal of free education for all, while ensuring the rights of vulnerable groups such as persons with disabilities.

FEDERICO BARRETO, General Director of Youth, Ministry of Social Development of Uruguay, noting that his country enjoyed the largest gross domestic product (GDP) in Latin America as well as progressive social policies, said the country had dramatically reduced both poverty and extreme poverty in the last decade.  Uruguay was also committed to the 2030 Agenda, including its promise to leave no one behind.  Among other things, it had established a minimum wage, created a Ministry of Social Development, made health care coverage a right to all Uruguayans, put in place a system of cash transfers for vulnerable families and enhanced access to jobs.  Moreover, he said, the Government believed that no sustainable social development or economic growth could be accomplished without a more equal distribution of wealth.  All vulnerable groups — including young children and older persons — had the right to assistance, he said, underlining the Government’s focus on early childhood care and education through such initiatives as the establishment of care centres.  Uruguay had also made strides in such progressive areas as marriage equality and the protection of reproductive and sexual rights.

JOSEPHINE MURIUKI, Director, Department of Social Development, Ministry of East African Community, Labour and Social Protection of Kenya, supporting the position of the Group of 77, emphasized that 768 million still lived in extreme poverty, the majority in sub‑Saharan Africa and Asia.  Breaking the cycles of poverty was difficult and all efforts must be made to achieve progress in doing so.  Kenya’s development priorities included food security, nutrition, housing and manufacturing, with projects such as health packages offering new services and initiatives to subsidize education and training programmes.  In addition, information and communications technology had been integrated in schools and mobile financing programmes had transformed the economic and social landscape, which had seen mobile phone usage doubling in recent years.  The Government was also in the process of implementing a pension payment plan, slated to commence in March.  Kenya was committed to social development, the 2030 Agenda and the eradication of poverty, she said, adding that partnerships must be strengthened to attain the goals and reach those farthest behind.

The Director for Social Development, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of El Salvador, aligning herself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Friends of Older Persons, highlighted poverty eradication gains, including subsidies and programmes aimed at reaching vulnerable groups.  Policies had introduced a range of efforts, from providing decent work opportunities to reducing malnutrition, she said, emphasizing that poverty was multidimensional, from temporary hardships to lack of access to services.  That paradigm shift must be considered when shaping programmes, policies and dialogue.  Such dialogue on the 2030 Agenda must include challenges middle‑income countries faced, with a view to ensuring that gains were not reversed.  The Secretary‑General’s report had failed to include those and other challenges.  For its part, El Salvador had taken steps to make progress, including preventing adolescent pregnancies and promoting respect for the human rights of older persons.

MAGINO CORPORAN LORENZO, Director of the National Council on Disability of the Dominican Republic, endorsing the positions of the Group of 77 and the Group of Friends of Older Persons, said his Government had created a platform to coordinate efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.  Providing several examples, he said a road map on eradicating poverty included projects to address the needs of young people.  Policies and programmes to assist youth aimed at including them in the labour market.  A society must include equal rights and the promotion of sustainable development, he said, underlining the importance of access to decent work.  As such, innovative programmes were now creating jobs with flexible hours.  For the first time in the Dominican Republic, policies had promoted healthy ageing and protected the rights and well‑being of older persons.  Turning to climate change challenges, a team had been established to address the related needs of older persons.  Efforts also targeted the needs of persons with disabilities.  Placing people at the centre of development was the key to achieving the goals, he said.

ALBERT BIWA, Deputy Director of Social Welfare of Namibia, aligning himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said national policies had already triggered growth and progress, but more needed to be done to break the cycle of poverty.  Adopting a social welfare approach based on human rights was the way forward.  Namibia had established a ministry to coordinate poverty eradication.  A blueprint was now targeting efforts, based on principles such as ending hunger, education and training development, gender equality and women’s empowerment and with a view towards leaving no one behind.  The Government was also investigating further efforts to prevent a duplication of services and was offering grants and cash transfer programmes to vulnerable groups.  It has also adopted a social safety net approach in eradicating poverty while implementing policies to reduce unemployment and allocating part of the national budget to education and tackling hunger, with services ranging from school lunches to helping farmers.

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Economic Cooperation

11/12/2017, Djibouti (Djibouti): The Stakeholder’s Meeting on the Sub-regional Coordination Mechanism (SRCM) for Eastern and Southern Africa, which is being hosted by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), this morning opened at the Djibouti-based IGAD Institute of Diplomatic during a brief inauguration ceremony presided over by IGAD Executive Secretary, H.E. Amb (Eng) Mahboub Maalim, with the Deputy Secreatry General of the East African Community (EAC), Eng Steven Mlote as Guest of Honour, and the Director of the UN Economic Commission for Africa’s (UNECA) Sub-regional Office for Southern Africa.

24-09-2017, Khartoum (Sudan): The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in partnership with the Horn Economic and Social Policy Institute (HESPI) this morning launched the 2017 HESPI Conference on IGAD Economies with focus on “Youth Unemployment and Creating Opportunities through Trade & Investment” at the Mamoun Beheiry Centre (BMC) in Khartoum during an inaugural ceremony presided over by the Minister of Finance of the Republic of Sudan, H.E Mr. Magdi Hassan.

IGAD Executive Secretary was represented at the high table by the Director of Economic Integration Division-Mr Elsadig Abdalla, with the HESPI Board Chairperson-Amb. Peter Robreh, the Deputy Executive Secretary and Chief Economist of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa-Dr. Abdalla Hamdok, and the Executive Director of MBC-Prof. Munzoul Assal, sitting for their respective organisations.

H.E Magdi Hassan pointed out that the conference was a demonstration of commitment to the issue of youth employment and that investment and trade were key for job creation and economic growth. He added that youth unemployment was not specific to the IGAD region only but that there was need for better education in order to prepare them to the employment market.

Director Elsadig emphasized that youth represents more than half of IGAD population and that they could be an asset of productivity or a source of instability depending on the ways their potential is harnessed. “As a central theme, regional trade and investment require a carefully elaborated analysis to meet the challenge of youth unemployment and of other economic challenges”, he said.

Dr Abdalla Hamdok noted that IGAD was home to Djibouti and Ethiopia which were among “the ten fastest and best performing economies in the world”. “IGAD countries should seek to enhance intra-regional trade by both strengthening regional cluster integration and lowering the cost of trade for harnessing the potential of a large and growing international market in the sub region”, he said.

The African Capacity Building Foundation is sponsoring this event.
###

21-08-2017, Djibouti (Djibouti): The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) this morning launched the IGAD Tourism Statistics Workshop for Strengthening of Tourism Statistical Systems & Development of Tourism Satellite Accounts for IGAD and Member States in Djibouti under the leadership of the Secretary General of the Ministry of Commerce and Tourism of Djibouti, Mr. Ali Daoud, The Director of Economic Integration-IGAD, Mr Elsadig Abdalla, and the Head Cluster on Sub-regional Initiatives for East Africa at the UNECA, Ms Daya Bragante.

This meeting is bringing together key IGAD tourism stakeholders, and serves as the 2nd Regional Tourism Meeting since the launch of the IGAD Sustainable Tourism Master Plan (STMP) 2013-2023.

The aim of this meeting is to advance IGAD STMP agenda, in particular, reviewing the implementation status with a view to identifying key milestones, key challenges and to recommending way forward to ensure that targets are met.

Mr Ali Dini declared that the meeting will allow harmonization of IGAD Member States procedures in regards to statistics, which will contribute to measuring progress made in the implementation of the IGAD STMP. “Our region is capable of engaging into the necessary reforms and investments in order to be more competitive as a premier global tourism destination”, he said.

Mr Elsadig highlighted that through collaboration between IGAD Secretariat, Member States, UNECA, and partners, the foundation land mark was laid with the IGAD Sustainable Tourism master plan 2013-2023. “The essence of this meeting is to see how far had we gone since we adopted our Master Plan, and to see how we can keep moving”, he said.

Ms Bragante noted the importance of tourism for the development of the region so rich in culture, history, and natural beauty.

The meeting provides a platform through which Member States and key tourism stakeholders exchange ideas and share lessons of best practice. In addition, given that there have been a number of developments including the African Union Agenda 2063 and Agenda 2030 for sustainable development, the meeting also serves as an opportunity to link the IGAD STMP to these emerging global and continental development agendas.

It is financially supported by the African Capacity Building Foundation, based in Harare the capital of Zimbabwe, and technical assistance is brought by the UNECA.
###

02-08-2017, Addis Ababa (Ethiopia): The Director of Agriculture and Environment Division of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), Mr. Mohamed Moussa on behalf of IGAD Executive Secretary, this morning opened a consultative workshop with Member States on establishing a systematic and regular Data Sharing Agreement (DSA).

This two-day workshop, held in Addis Ababa, is gathering officials in charge of statics bureaus in line ministries at respective Member States of IGAD.

The specific objectives of the workshop are to establish or consolidate formal institutional linkages and mechanisms for data/information sharing between IGAD Secretariat and national statistics offices, and also to improve coordination and collaboration between national statistics offices, regional, and continental organizations on harmonisation of statistics.

Mr Moussa, in his inauguration remarks, highlighted that “IGAD developed a road-map to establish a functional harmonized monitoring system to support the implementation of not only the IGAD Regional Strategy 2016-2020, but also the African Union Agenda 2063 and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals frameworks”.

He then explained that “the successful monitoring of these development agendas heavily” relied “on data and requires reliable and harmonized statistics from the National Statistical data systems”.

Thus, the need to develop “a comparatively structured regional statistics framework” that “requires the adoption of harmonized and standardised definitions and concepts, adaptation of international norms to regions realities and specificities, and the use of a common methodology for the production of statistics and their dissemination”.

Mr Moussa declared the meeting open after wishing the participants fruitful deliberations.
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11-07-2017, Mombasa (Kenya): The Intergovernmental Authority on Development this morning opened the 4th IGAD Business Forum (IBF) Bi-annual General Meeting in Mombasa, Kenya, under the co-chairmanship of the outgoing IBF Chair and Chair of the Chamber of Commerce of Djibouti, Mr. Youssouf Dawaleh, and the Chair of the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry-Mombasa, Mr. James Mereu, and in the presence of the Programme Manager Trade, Industry and Tourism, Mr. Joseph Rwanshote, representing IGAD Executive Secretary.

The 4th IBF Bi-annual General Meeting is aimed at assessing progress made since the 3rd General Meeting held two years ago in Djibouti in particular, and more also an opportunity to gauge progress made since the revival of the IBF since May 2010.

High level representatives from Chamber of Commerce from IGAD member States and high profile business leaders are taking part in this meeting that saw the handing over of the chairmanship of the IBF from Djibouti to Kenya during the opening session.

Mr Rwanshote noted that the region was witnessing a GDP growth of over 4% since 1998 and that the private sector was expanding. He also highlighted that one of the key pre-requisites for a smooth flow of cross-border trade was “modern and durable infrastructure”. “IGAD Secretariat is involved in the coordination of various important infrastructure investments” such as regional transport and interconnectivity, energy, Information and Communication Technology, and water development projects, according to Mr. Rwanshote. “The private sector is a key partner in this push to develop the requisite modern infrastructure that will facilitate greater trade in IGAD member States”, he said.

Mr Youssouf Dawaleh stressed that the private the private sector in the region “has been meeting regularly to express its willingness and commitment to work with governments to help lift the obstacles that hamper the development of intraregional trade and the creation of an enabling environment for investment”. He also announced the adoption during the 3rd IBF of the establishment of an International Arbitration Center to be based in Djibouti.

Mr Mereu, as Guest of Honour and speaking for the Chair of the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, officially opened the meeting.

This meeting is organized with financial support from the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF).

Read More

Economic Cooperation

11/12/2017, Djibouti (Djibouti): The Stakeholder’s Meeting on the Sub-regional Coordination Mechanism (SRCM) for Eastern and Southern Africa, which is being hosted by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), this morning opened at the Djibouti-based IGAD Institute of Diplomatic during a brief inauguration ceremony presided over by IGAD Executive Secretary, H.E. Amb (Eng) Mahboub Maalim, with the Deputy Secreatry General of the East African Community (EAC), Eng Steven Mlote as Guest of Honour, and the Director of the UN Economic Commission for Africa’s (UNECA) Sub-regional Office for Southern Africa.

24-09-2017, Khartoum (Sudan): The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in partnership with the Horn Economic and Social Policy Institute (HESPI) this morning launched the 2017 HESPI Conference on IGAD Economies with focus on “Youth Unemployment and Creating Opportunities through Trade & Investment” at the Mamoun Beheiry Centre (BMC) in Khartoum during an inaugural ceremony presided over by the Minister of Finance of the Republic of Sudan, H.E Mr. Magdi Hassan.

IGAD Executive Secretary was represented at the high table by the Director of Economic Integration Division-Mr Elsadig Abdalla, with the HESPI Board Chairperson-Amb. Peter Robreh, the Deputy Executive Secretary and Chief Economist of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa-Dr. Abdalla Hamdok, and the Executive Director of MBC-Prof. Munzoul Assal, sitting for their respective organisations.

H.E Magdi Hassan pointed out that the conference was a demonstration of commitment to the issue of youth employment and that investment and trade were key for job creation and economic growth. He added that youth unemployment was not specific to the IGAD region only but that there was need for better education in order to prepare them to the employment market.

Director Elsadig emphasized that youth represents more than half of IGAD population and that they could be an asset of productivity or a source of instability depending on the ways their potential is harnessed. “As a central theme, regional trade and investment require a carefully elaborated analysis to meet the challenge of youth unemployment and of other economic challenges”, he said.

Dr Abdalla Hamdok noted that IGAD was home to Djibouti and Ethiopia which were among “the ten fastest and best performing economies in the world”. “IGAD countries should seek to enhance intra-regional trade by both strengthening regional cluster integration and lowering the cost of trade for harnessing the potential of a large and growing international market in the sub region”, he said.

The African Capacity Building Foundation is sponsoring this event.
###

21-08-2017, Djibouti (Djibouti): The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) this morning launched the IGAD Tourism Statistics Workshop for Strengthening of Tourism Statistical Systems & Development of Tourism Satellite Accounts for IGAD and Member States in Djibouti under the leadership of the Secretary General of the Ministry of Commerce and Tourism of Djibouti, Mr. Ali Daoud, The Director of Economic Integration-IGAD, Mr Elsadig Abdalla, and the Head Cluster on Sub-regional Initiatives for East Africa at the UNECA, Ms Daya Bragante.

This meeting is bringing together key IGAD tourism stakeholders, and serves as the 2nd Regional Tourism Meeting since the launch of the IGAD Sustainable Tourism Master Plan (STMP) 2013-2023.

The aim of this meeting is to advance IGAD STMP agenda, in particular, reviewing the implementation status with a view to identifying key milestones, key challenges and to recommending way forward to ensure that targets are met.

Mr Ali Dini declared that the meeting will allow harmonization of IGAD Member States procedures in regards to statistics, which will contribute to measuring progress made in the implementation of the IGAD STMP. “Our region is capable of engaging into the necessary reforms and investments in order to be more competitive as a premier global tourism destination”, he said.

Mr Elsadig highlighted that through collaboration between IGAD Secretariat, Member States, UNECA, and partners, the foundation land mark was laid with the IGAD Sustainable Tourism master plan 2013-2023. “The essence of this meeting is to see how far had we gone since we adopted our Master Plan, and to see how we can keep moving”, he said.

Ms Bragante noted the importance of tourism for the development of the region so rich in culture, history, and natural beauty.

The meeting provides a platform through which Member States and key tourism stakeholders exchange ideas and share lessons of best practice. In addition, given that there have been a number of developments including the African Union Agenda 2063 and Agenda 2030 for sustainable development, the meeting also serves as an opportunity to link the IGAD STMP to these emerging global and continental development agendas.

It is financially supported by the African Capacity Building Foundation, based in Harare the capital of Zimbabwe, and technical assistance is brought by the UNECA.
###

02-08-2017, Addis Ababa (Ethiopia): The Director of Agriculture and Environment Division of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), Mr. Mohamed Moussa on behalf of IGAD Executive Secretary, this morning opened a consultative workshop with Member States on establishing a systematic and regular Data Sharing Agreement (DSA).

This two-day workshop, held in Addis Ababa, is gathering officials in charge of statics bureaus in line ministries at respective Member States of IGAD.

The specific objectives of the workshop are to establish or consolidate formal institutional linkages and mechanisms for data/information sharing between IGAD Secretariat and national statistics offices, and also to improve coordination and collaboration between national statistics offices, regional, and continental organizations on harmonisation of statistics.

Mr Moussa, in his inauguration remarks, highlighted that “IGAD developed a road-map to establish a functional harmonized monitoring system to support the implementation of not only the IGAD Regional Strategy 2016-2020, but also the African Union Agenda 2063 and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals frameworks”.

He then explained that “the successful monitoring of these development agendas heavily” relied “on data and requires reliable and harmonized statistics from the National Statistical data systems”.

Thus, the need to develop “a comparatively structured regional statistics framework” that “requires the adoption of harmonized and standardised definitions and concepts, adaptation of international norms to regions realities and specificities, and the use of a common methodology for the production of statistics and their dissemination”.

Mr Moussa declared the meeting open after wishing the participants fruitful deliberations.
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11-07-2017, Mombasa (Kenya): The Intergovernmental Authority on Development this morning opened the 4th IGAD Business Forum (IBF) Bi-annual General Meeting in Mombasa, Kenya, under the co-chairmanship of the outgoing IBF Chair and Chair of the Chamber of Commerce of Djibouti, Mr. Youssouf Dawaleh, and the Chair of the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry-Mombasa, Mr. James Mereu, and in the presence of the Programme Manager Trade, Industry and Tourism, Mr. Joseph Rwanshote, representing IGAD Executive Secretary.

The 4th IBF Bi-annual General Meeting is aimed at assessing progress made since the 3rd General Meeting held two years ago in Djibouti in particular, and more also an opportunity to gauge progress made since the revival of the IBF since May 2010.

High level representatives from Chamber of Commerce from IGAD member States and high profile business leaders are taking part in this meeting that saw the handing over of the chairmanship of the IBF from Djibouti to Kenya during the opening session.

Mr Rwanshote noted that the region was witnessing a GDP growth of over 4% since 1998 and that the private sector was expanding. He also highlighted that one of the key pre-requisites for a smooth flow of cross-border trade was “modern and durable infrastructure”. “IGAD Secretariat is involved in the coordination of various important infrastructure investments” such as regional transport and interconnectivity, energy, Information and Communication Technology, and water development projects, according to Mr. Rwanshote. “The private sector is a key partner in this push to develop the requisite modern infrastructure that will facilitate greater trade in IGAD member States”, he said.

Mr Youssouf Dawaleh stressed that the private the private sector in the region “has been meeting regularly to express its willingness and commitment to work with governments to help lift the obstacles that hamper the development of intraregional trade and the creation of an enabling environment for investment”. He also announced the adoption during the 3rd IBF of the establishment of an International Arbitration Center to be based in Djibouti.

Mr Mereu, as Guest of Honour and speaking for the Chair of the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, officially opened the meeting.

This meeting is organized with financial support from the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF).

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Condemning Attacks on Aid Efforts, General Assembly Adopts Package of Texts, One Urging States to Better Protect Humanitarian Workers, Respect International Law

The General Assembly today adopted seven draft resolutions, among them texts on credentials, the culture of peace and on strengthening the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance.

Condemning in the strongest possible terms the alarming increase in threats to and deliberate targeting of aid workers, the Assembly adopted without a vote the draft resolution “Safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel” (document A/72/L.22).  By its terms, the Assembly urged States to make every effort to ensure the full implementation of the rules of international law that protect aid workers.

Also by the text’s terms, the Assembly called upon all Governments and parties in complex humanitarian emergencies in countries in which humanitarian personnel were operating to cooperate fully with the United Nations and other humanitarian agencies and organizations and to allow those personnel to perform efficiently their task of assisting the affected civilian population, including refugees and internally displaced persons.  It also called upon all States to consider becoming parties to relevant international instruments.

Prior to taking action on “L.22” as a whole, the Assembly, by a recorded vote of 95 in favour to 12 against, with 17 abstentions, decided to retain two paragraphs referencing the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.  Several speakers, including the representative of the Netherlands, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that language related to the Court was worthy of inclusion.

Meanwhile, Sudan’s representative, whose delegation had requested the vote, warned against politicizing humanitarian efforts.  Stressing that the International Criminal Court was not a United Nations organ, he reiterated that it was instead “at best a threat to the peace and stability” in his country.

Also under the humanitarian assistance umbrella, the Assembly adopted, without a vote, three draft resolutions on:  international cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development; strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations; and assistance to the Palestinian people, which had been introduced on 8 December.  (See Press Release GA/11990 of 8 December).

Sharing the perspective of those providing aid, a representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), highlighted two worrying gaps in the United Nations indivisible new policy on prevention, development and peace.  The first was protection, as the policy focus rested on development and peace with recognition that protection was essential to both.  If people were being attacked, forcibly displaced, looted, impoverished, besieged, unlawfully detained or were too afraid to go to hospitals and schools, they would not attain development or peace.  The second gap was neutral, impartial and independent humanitarian action.  States must respect that essential practice — rooted in the Geneva Conventions — so that vulnerable people, both under or beyond the State’s control, could be protected and assisted impartially on the basis of need.

Raising another concern, a representative of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said risks driven by climate change would be unevenly weighted against poorer people living in areas of low development.  As such, she encouraged all stakeholders to ensure real progress by recognizing the added value of local actors in addressing and reducing disaster risks and impacts of climate change.

Turning to its agenda item on the culture of peace, the Assembly adopted the draft resolution “Promotion of interreligious and intercultural dialogue, understanding and cooperation for peace” (document A/72/L.29), reaffirming that interreligious and intercultural dialogue constituted important dimensions of the dialogue among civilizations.  It also condemned any advocacy of religious hatred that constituted incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence and underlined the importance of moderation as a value within societies for countering violent extremism and for further contributing to the promotion of interreligious dialogue, tolerance and cooperation.

By the terms of the draft resolution “Follow-up to the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace” (document A/72/L.30), adopted without a vote, the Assembly urged the appropriate authorities to provide age-appropriate education in children’s schools, including lessons in mutual understanding, tolerance, active and global citizenship and human rights.  It also underlined that early childhood development contributes to the development of more peaceful societies through advancing equality, tolerance, human development and promoting human rights.

The Assembly, by the draft’s terms, called for investment in early childhood education, including through effective policies and practices.  It also invited Member States to continue to emphasize and expand their activities promoting a culture of peace and to ensure that peace and non-violence were fostered at all levels.

Considering the Report of the Credentials Committee (document A/72/601), the Assembly adopted without a vote a resolution, contained therein, on the credentials of representatives to the seventy-second session of the General Assembly.

In other business, the Assembly also elected the following 17 members to the Committee for Programme and Coordination for a three‑year term beginning on 1 January 2018:  Belarus, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chile, Cuba, Germany, India, Iran, Japan, Pakistan, Portugal, Republic of Moldova, United Kingdom, and United States.  It postponed to a date to be announced the appointment of members to the Committee on Conferences.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Canada (also for Australia, Liechtenstein, New Zealand and Norway) Russian Federation, Ireland, Iran, Indonesia, Philippines, Bangladesh, Armenia, United States, Brazil, El Salvador, as well as the State of Palestine and the Holy See.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply was the representative of Azerbaijan.

The Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 12 December, to consider global health and foreign policy.

Humanitarian and Disaster Relief Assistance

ABDULLAH ABU SHAWESH, observer for the State of Palestine, said everyone must work together to ensure “no one gets left behind” in the quest for sustainable development.  All United Nations aid to the Palestinian people was strictly for relief and reconstruction.  “We cannot use these funds for true development,” he said, emphasizing that the Israeli occupation must be rejected so Palestinians could attempt to realize the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Describing a five‑year Palestinian strategy focused on the adaptation and monitoring of development goals, he said all such progress, however, was being jeopardized by the Israeli occupation.  Despite grave scarcity of resources and problems caused by the occupation, Palestinian determination remained unshakeable.  “We are capable of overcoming all difficulties,” he said, noting all the sacrifices the Palestinian people had made to date.

PHILIP SPOERRI, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said there were two worrying gaps in the United Nations indivisible new policy on prevention, development and peace.  The first was protection, as the policy focus rested on development and peace with recognition that protection was essential to both.  If people were being attacked, forcibly displaced, looted, impoverished, besieged, unlawfully detained or were too afraid to go to hospitals and schools, they would not attain development or peace.  Inadequate detention policies also posed a risk to development and peace because inhumane detention practices could increase political grievances.  The second gap was neutral, impartial and independent humanitarian action.  States must respect that essential practice — rooted in the Geneva Conventions — so that vulnerable people, both under or beyond the State’s control, could be protected and assisted impartially on the basis of need.

ANNE CHRISTENSEN, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said risks driven by climate change would be unevenly weighted against poorer people living in areas of low development.  Those included individuals crowded in urban slums without access to reliable water and electricity sources as well as displaced persons in disaster‑prone and climate‑exposed areas.  Addressing such risks would require increased investment in local action and strong effort to ensure assistance reached those suffering the most.  Ways must be found of linking science to policy, decision‑making and action on the ground — for example, addressing climate extremes through early warning systems that reached the most vulnerable communities and enabled them to act.  Her organization had been working on quick and early action by communities and local authorities through an innovative method of advance financing based on weather forecasts.  She encouraged all stakeholders to ensure real progress by recognizing the added value of local actors in addressing and reducing disaster risks and impacts of climate change.

Prior to taking action on the draft resolution “Safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel” (document A/72/L.22), representatives explained their delegations’ positions.

The representative of Canada, also speaking on behalf of Australia, Liechtenstein, New Zealand and Norway, regretted to note that a separate recorded vote had been called on several paragraphs of “L.22”, which sought to remove text that had been agreed upon for years.  Recent attacks on humanitarian and medical personnel in recent years only amplified the text’s relevance, she said.  Preambular paragraph 28 underscored the role the International Criminal Court could play and operative paragraph 7 called on all States to consider becoming party to the Court, she said, calling on all to vote to retain those paragraphs.

The representative of the Russian Federation said the seventy‑second session marked the second year that delegations were calling for others to review language in certain paragraphs because the draft resolution could no longer be considered consensual.  With the establishment of the International Criminal Court, the international community was expecting concrete actions to deal with impunity, settle existing conflicts and prevent new flashpoints of tension.  Yet many years into the Court’s existence, those expectations remained.  The alternative wording that had been proposed to the paragraphs in question deserved support because they considered salient issues.  Moreover, the proposed amendments should be supported because if adopted, they would return “L.22” to its consensual nature.

The representative of the Netherlands, speaking on behalf of the European Union, expressed regret that Sudan had called for a vote on preambular and operative paragraphs in “L.22”.  The International Criminal Court was a tool to fight impunity and contribute to international peace.  Its role was to complement rather than replace existing national judicial systems, he said, also stressing that perpetrators of crimes against humanity must always be held accountable.  The fight against impunity for the most serious crimes was critical in ensuring a fair and just society.  Peace and justice were complementary and not mutually exclusive, he said, expressing support for the paragraphs in question.

The representative of Sudan expressed serious reservations regarding the inclusion of references to the International Criminal Court in “L.22”.  The Court was not an organ of the United Nations, despite some parties painting it as such.  The principle of free consent meant that only those who were party to an agreement were bound by it.  Since 2003, the Court had been an impediment to peace in Darfur, creating a wedge between peace and justice, and was “at best a threat to the peace and stability in my country”, he said, adding that the Court was also fraught with corruption and scandals and lacked independence, as half of its budget was drawn from voluntary contributions from States and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who exercised control over it.  Noting the rejection of his delegation’s proposal to replace language in preambular paragraph 28 and operative paragraph 7, he emphasized that lofty goals of humanitarian assistance must not be mixed with a political agenda.

The Assembly then decided, by a recorded vote of 95 in favour to 12 against, with 17 abstentions, to retain preambular paragraph 28 and operative paragraph 7 of “L.22”.  Acting without a vote, it adopted “L.22” as a whole.

In a point of order, the representative of Israel referenced an Assembly resolution that had been adopted in 1998 on the participation of Palestine in the work of the United Nations.  The subject matter of today’s resolution did not fall under the rules of co-sponsorship, which were clearly indicated in the rules governing the United Nations.  Any decision to disregard those rules violated United Nations resolutions and undermined the Organization’s work.

The Assembly then adopted without a vote the draft resolution “International cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development” (document A/72/L.23).

The representative of Israel said Palestine’s participation as a co-sponsor did not fall under the rules of co-sponsorship.  Any decision to disregard those rules undermined the United Nations work.

The Assembly adopted without a vote the draft resolution “International cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development” (document A/72/L.24).

Also without a vote, it adopted the draft resolution “Assistance to the Palestinian people” (document A/72/L.25).

An observer for the Holy See reiterated his delegation’s reservations, including the belief that abortion was not a dimension of the terms “sexual and reproductive health” and “health-care services”.  With reference to gender, that concept was not to be interpreted as a social construction.

Credentials Committee

GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland), Chair of the Credentials Committee, introduced the “Report of the Credentials Committee” (document A/72/601), containing a draft resolution on the credentials of the representatives of Member States to the seventy-second session of the General Assembly.  The Committee had approved that draft resolution, which would have the Assembly accept the credentials of representatives of a number of Member States.

The representative of Iran, explaining his delegation’s position, said he supported a consensus decision, but expressed reservations to parts of the report that could constitute the recognition of the Israeli regime.

The representative of Indonesia drew attention to the “unfriendly” action of Vanuatu in including on their list of delegations a non-citizen of Vanuatu who had acted in a separatist movement of West Papua.  That person had spread malicious rumours and should not be granted credentials.  Indonesia objected to that act and rejected whatever message it had intended to convey.  It violated norms of multilateral conduct and the rights of Member States, he said, adding that the accreditation of Vanuatu, with knowledge that those individuals had such a mindset, was an act of hostility against Indonesia.  Member States should not play into the hands of separatists.  As such, Indonesia requested an explanation from Vanuatu concerning their delegation.

The Assembly then adopted the draft resolution without a vote.

Culture of Peace

TEODORO LOPEZ LOCSIN, JR. (Philippines), introducing the draft resolution “Promotion of interreligious and intercultural dialogue, understanding and cooperation for peace” (document A/72/L.29), said the text aimed to strengthen mechanisms and take action to promote sincere and constructive dialogue across cultural and religious divides.  The world was facing seemingly intractable conflicts and complex challenges that not only caused immense human suffering and economic loss, but also hindered socioeconomic cooperation and the pursuit of inclusive societies.  Suspicion and ignorance among various religions and civilizations were being exploited by extremist and terrorist groups to propagate their agendas.  It was essential to build on shared values and aspirations by strengthening mechanisms and actions through constructive dialogue, better understanding, moderation and promoting a global culture of peace.  He also pointed out several oral revisions to the text.

MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh), introducing the draft resolution “Follow-up to the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace” (document A/72/L.30), said that the current version of the text contained four new elements.  It acknowledged the high-level event on Culture of Peace and its focus on early childhood development and recalled that General Assembly resolution 70/272 on the review of the United Nations peacebuilding architecture had introduced the notion of “sustaining peace”.  In addition, “L.30” noted the establishment of the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism and recognized the role of the work of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations in promoting a culture of people.  The draft also reiterated the request to consider convening in September 2018 a high-level forum devoted to the implementation of the Programme of Action.

The Assembly then adopted without a vote “L.29” as orally revised.

Also without a vote, it adopted “L.30”.

The representative of Armenia, explaining his delegation’s position, said objections to some paragraphs in “L.29” were based on the fact that Azerbaijan had abused international fora.  Preambular paragraph 23 concerned an event named World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue, which was a glaring example of manipulation against Armenia.  Due regard should be given to Azerbaijan’s destruction of heritage, as in the case of the obliteration of a medieval cemetery.  As such, Armenia disassociated itself from that paragraph.

The representative of the United States said his country was committed to a culture of peace through rejecting violence and promoting human rights, including by supporting efforts to enhance interreligious dialogue.  However, each country had its own development priorities.  The word “moderation” remained undefined in international law, he noted, adding that programmes and policies must respect all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The representative of Canada said operative paragraph 10 in “L.29” noted that interventions countering violent extremism were context-specific.  Respect for human rights, diversity and inclusion were needed to help communities to become more resilient.  Intercultural and interreligious dialogue was needed to create mutual respect and understanding.  It was a difficult balance, but Canada was committed to working with partners to preserve it.

The representative of Brazil said his delegation endorsed the twin resolutions on the peacebuilding architecture, yet cautioned that while supporting both the culture of peace and sustaining peace concepts, those actions should run on parallel tracks to avoid conflating mandates and concepts.  The General Assembly could do more on the human rights and development elements of the culture of peace.

The representative of El Salvador said constructing a culture of peace required institutions to be strengthened, noting that “L.30” underscored the importance of development in early childhood.  It was crucial to ensure children completed their early education and for curricula to include the culture of peace.  El Salvador was a member of the Peacebuilding Commission, he said, adding that his country had experienced a transition and was now working on supporting the United Nations to facilitate a new national agreement.  It was important to create strong institutions, he said, calling on all Member States to support the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in implementing a culture of peace in connection with the Sustainable Development Goals.  He also appealed to the General Assembly President to convene a high-level forum on the implementation of the Programme of Action.  Peace could not be considered in a reductive fashion as just the absence of war; peace was an endeavour that the international community must produce together.

Right of Reply

The representative of Azerbaijan, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said multiculturalism was a long-standing tradition in his country.  “L.29” welcomed the Declaration and referred to the World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue and other fora.  Yet, there was nothing surprising in Armenia’s attempts to politicize resolutions.  By obstructing efforts and challenging global initiatives because of its relation to Azerbaijan, Armenia had demonstrated that its good faith was elusive.  Regarding human rights and international humanitarian law, he said Azerbaijan had preserved its diversity to the present day.

Programme and Coordination Committee Elections

The Assembly then turned to the election to the Committee for Programme and Coordination the following members, nominated by the Economic and Social Council, for a three-year term beginning on 1 January 2018:  Belarus, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chile, Cuba, Germany, India, Iran, Japan, Pakistan, Portugal, Republic of Moldova, United Kingdom and United States.

The Economic and Social Council had nominated Botswana, Burkina Faso and Cameroon for the three of the four seats among African States; India, Iran, Japan and Pakistan for the four seats among Asia-Pacific States; Belarus, Bulgaria and the Republic of Moldova for the three seats among Eastern European States; Brazil, Chile and Cuba for three of the four seats among the Latin American and Caribbean States; and Germany, Portugal, United Kingdom and United States for four of the five seats among the Western European and other States.

The following States were eligible for immediate re-election, after 1 January 2018:  Argentina, Bangladesh, China, Egypt, Eritrea, France, Haiti, Peru, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Senegal, United Republic of Tanzania and Zimbabwe.

The Economic and Social Council had postponed the nomination of one member from each of the following groups:  African States, Latin American and Caribbean States and Western European and other States for election for three-year terms beginning on 1 January 2018.  Members were also reminded of the remaining two vacancies among the Western European and other States, for terms beginning on the date of election and expiring on 31 December 2017 and 31 December 2018, respectively.

As one seat from Asia-Pacific States for a term beginning on the date of appointment and ending on 31 December 2019 remained vacant, the General Assembly President appointed China to fill that vacancy.  The General Assembly would take action to fill remaining vacancies upon the receipt of nominations by the Economic and Social Council.

The Assembly then postponed to a later date the appointment of members of the Committee on Conferences.

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