Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Elderly Demand More Focus, Delegates Say
Given young people’s demographic weight, their voices should be amplified at the national and international levels, young delegates told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today as it concluded its general discussion on social development.
Young people from around the world advocated for meaningful involvement in political decision‑making, stressing that their full participation is crucial to shaping lasting peace and achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Youth delegates from Sweden underscored that one in three people is under the age of 30. In Yemen – a country still in the throes of a major armed conflict — 46 per cent of the population is under age 16, they said. Yemeni youth have dreams which cannot be fulfilled in a nation at war, and like others around the world, they are often unable to contribute to the discourse on peace and security, they stated.
These concerns were echoed by the youth delegate from Afghanistan, who stressed that “youth inclusion is not a choice, but a must”. While his country lost much to protracted terrorism and conflict, young people have been at the centre of many successes, he asserted, pointing out that many candidates participating in the upcoming Afghan elections are young.
His Australian counterpart challenged the idea that young people are “waiting in the wings”, yet to experience the real world. They are front and centre, experiencing myriad issues at the heart of social development — from racial prejudice and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, to harassment, bullying, and mass unemployment. “We can enrich our policy conversations if we provide young people with a seat at the table,” he declared.
Expressing similar opinions, youth delegates from Germany expressed disappointment that this year only 20 per cent of all Members States involved youth delegates in their official delegations. They called for the creation of youth advisory boards within United Nations entities to serve as a platform for channelling their ideas.
Delegates, for their part, suggested the United Nations adjust its strategy for carrying out the 2030 Agenda. Colombia’s representative pointed out that the Sustainable Development Goals constitute a broad development framework that coexists with other agendas such as the 1995 Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development. The United Nations must make progress in identifying such synergies, she said, stressing that the various agendas must converge to bring about results.
Mexico’s delegate said the Third Committee continues to discuss youth, older persons, persons with disabilities and families separately, as if the 2030 Agenda did not exist. Its discussions overlap with those of the Second Committee (Economic and Financial).
Striking a similar chord, the United States delegate recalled that the Secretary‑General’s reform agenda calls for eliminating duplication among United Nations bodies. She asked whether the Commission for Social Development is still able to provide value given that new frameworks now examine social, cultural and humanitarian issues.
Other speakers outlined their countries’ efforts to protect and promote the rights of older persons, with Singapore’s representative noting that changing demographic trends call for concerted action to ensure the needs of older persons are adequately met. Emphasizing her country’s support for family caregivers through respite services and support groups, she said it will invest in community nursing to facilitate community care. It is also exploring new caregiving models that facilitate ageing within communities as an alternative to individualized care.
South Africa’s representative spotlighted the International Day of Older Persons, which celebrates the elderly as repositories of indigenous knowledge. His Malian counterpart pointed out that October is solidarity month in Mali, an annual initiative that mobilizes all stakeholders to step up their support to vulnerable segments of the population, notably older persons.
Also speaking today were representatives of Israel, Romania, Brazil, Norway, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Kazakhstan, Paraguay, Indonesia, Poland, Ecuador, Jamaica, Argentina, Georgia, China, Ireland, Italy, Algeria, Qatar, Bulgaria, Maldives, the Republic of Korea, Iran, Thailand, Slovakia, Czechia, Libya, Zambia, Belgium, El Salvador speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), Estonia, Sri Lanka, Namibia, Serbia, Suriname, Myanmar, Nepal, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Guatemala, Senegal, Djibouti, Kyrgyzstan, United Arab Emirates, Ethiopia, Sudan, Morocco, Ukraine, Luxembourg, Cameroon, France, Kuwait, Azerbaijan, Lesotho, Central African Republic, Nicaragua and Zimbabwe, as well as the Holy See and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
Representatives of the Russian Federation and Ukraine spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 4 October, to begin its debate on crime prevention and drugs.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian & Cultural) continued its debate on social development today. (For background, see Press Release GA/SCH/4226.)
POLINA KEMPINSKY, youth delegate from Israel, said she enjoys opportunities that her parents, who grew up in the former Soviet Union, were denied. She expressed hope for living in a world where inclusion is “a given”, not a privilege. Gender, sexual orientation and race should not influence access to opportunities. Stressing that her generation is able to set aside the prejudice and judgment of previous centuries, she said efforts should not be seen as fighting for women’s rights or the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transsexual persons, but rather, as the natural way of the world.
Mr. DRAGOS, youth delegate from Romania, said long-lasting endeavours for the well-being of young people prompted his country to analyse their daily burdens. Surveys revealed that although the status quo improved, youth are still confronting the same challenges: education, civic engagement and employment are the main concerns. He called for implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and for a national framework able to reduce early school leaving and increase participation in early education. Lifestyles and human needs are in constant change. Many jobs done today did not exist 20 years ago, while others will not be the same in the next two decades.
Ms. GARCIA LOZANO, youth delegate from Mexico, said the Committee continues to discuss youth, older persons, persons with disabilities and families separately, as if the 2030 Agenda did not exist. Its discussions overlap with those of the Second Committee (Economic and Financial), she said, asking: “What is the point of repeating the point in five different forums?” Mexico is building a more prosperous society by ensuring all people are able to exercise and fully enjoy their human rights, viewing young people as subject of rights and actors of development. Its programmes for equality take into account the wide range of Mexican families and aims to foster respect for sexual and gender diversity.
RICARDO DE SOUZA MONTEIRO (Brazil) said that while more than 1 billion people have been lifted out of extreme poverty since 1990, the richest have most of the wealth. In addition, since 1980, there has been a shift from public to private ownership in all countries, and more attention must be paid to reverse that trend. Describing vulnerable groups impacted by income inequality, he said women are paid less and do most of the domestic work. By fighting social inequality, human rights — such as health care, water, sanitation, housing and digital technology and services — are promoted. Pressing the United Nations to play a role in addressing these issues, he said it is high time to react in a coordinated manner, as the World Bank and other regional commissions have the best data and are reporting about inequality.
Ms. QUIZA (Colombia) said her country is focused on leaving no one behind. She pointed out that the Sustainable Development Goals constitute a broad development framework that coexists with other agendas such as the Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development. The United Nations must make progress in identifying their synergies, she said, stressing that the various agendas must converge to bring about tangible results.
AMANDA GRAN, Association of Norwegian Students Abroad, and BJØRN‑KRISTIAN SVENDRUD, Progress Party’s Youth, delivering a joint statement, said more than 400 million young people live in areas affected by armed conflict, forcing many to flee from their homes. Young people also lack access to food and education and are exposed to child marriage or recruitment to armed groups. Those pressures are exacerbated by climate‑related shocks, resulting conflicts and food insecurity. Meanwhile, half of the world’s youth who do not attend school live in conflict‑impacted areas and some are targeted by groups waging war or using violent, extremist tactics. Once seen as only a problem or a potential risk factor, children and youth are now recognized as positive and important change‑makers in conflict resolution and peacebuilding processes. They must be enabled to become part of the solution and to shape a better future for all.
ANTONIA KUHN and LUKAS G. SCHLAPP, youth delegates from Germany, said that involving youth in decision-making requires well-structured and transparent mechanisms, such as those proposed in the recently launched United Nations Youth Strategy. “We especially appreciate the idea of introducing youth advisory boards within United Nations entities to serve as a platform for the ideas of youth,” they emphasized. The argument used against young people’s participation is that they are too young and inexperienced, but that position neglects the fact that the best solutions are not necessarily found by those who have studied the most or lived the longest. Good solutions often only require creativity and passion. “These attributes do not depend on age,” they said, noting that education and youth unemployment are issues that affect youth disproportionately. Turning to the United Nations Youth Delegate programme, they expressed disappointment that this year, only 20 per cent of all Members States involved youth delegates in their official delegations. “This is not enough to ensure a good geographic representation of the world’s youth,” they asserted.
FRANSICO CORTORREAL (Dominican Republic) said his country is working to break the cycle of poverty and to align those efforts with the National Planning Strategy and the Sustainable Development Goals. The Youth Ministry is working to ensure young people’s full participation in society, building global citizens and fostering an entrepreneurial culture, while the “Let us speak of everything” initiative invites them to discuss issues, including teenage pregnancy. Education is a public policy priority for the President, attention that has laid the foundation for ensuring access to learning and building a fair, safe country. The Government’s commitment to the well-being of teachers is another priority, he said, citing as a challenge the inclusion of all students in the system as a way to lower the dropout rate. A system to help older persons during disasters is also in place, as is one for those living in poverty.
Ms. KORAC (United States) said the Secretary General’s reform agenda calls for eliminating overlap and duplication among United Nations bodies, and structuring institutions so they augment existing efforts. Since the establishment of the Commission for Social Development, new frameworks have come into being which examine the same topics. Given the existence of these high-profile bodies, she asked whether the Commission is still able to provide value. She recommended holding shorter annual sessions, eliminating multiple reoccurring resolutions and having a single negotiated documented. The Commission should also reduce the number of reports and activities that were being duplicated elsewhere.
HAMZA IBRAHIM, youth delegate from Sweden, said today’s generation of young people is the largest the world has ever known. One in three people alive is under the age of 30, and around 90 per cent of young people are living in developing countries. In Yemen — a least developed country in the midst of a major conflict — 46 per cent of the population is under age 16, he stressed, emphasizing that Yemeni youth, just as youth around the world, have dreams which cannot be fulfilled in a nation at war. Despite being a large part of the global population, young people are often unable to contribute to the discourse on peace and security. They often find themselves in vulnerable circumstances. They must be engaged in decision-making at all levels, he said, adding that nearly 25 million people under the age of 18 have been forced to leave their homes and currently lack access to health services, education, water, food and housing. Migration is not criminal, and migrants should not be treated as criminals. “Children must never be detained because of their parent’s migration status,” he continued, expressing concern over growing racism in many countries.
MAYRA SORTO (El Salvador), aligning herself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, as well as the Group of Friends of Older Persons, described a national strategy to eradicate extreme poverty and inequality. El Salvador has made efforts to take into account the specific needs of all vulnerable groups, she assured, stressing that the fight against poverty must be carried out with a universal and holistic approach. The Government has also put in place policies to help young people acquire skills and reduce teenage pregnancy. She affirmed El Salvador’s commitment to uphold the human rights of older persons and to promote the full inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities.
Mr. ISSETOV (Kazakhstan) recalled the proposal at the Assembly’s seventieth session to allocate annually one per cent of defence budget to the Special Fund for Sustainable Development. With support from the World Bank, regional banks and regional organizations, he called for implementation of recommendations outlined in the Addis Ababa Plan of Action. For its part, Kazakhstan has increased financing for children, youth, women, the elderly and persons with disabilities. Higher quality education, health care, affordable housing and enhanced social security will be guaranteed by the “Kazakhstan 2050” strategy and the “Path to the Future” economic policy. “Disability must be given national, regional and global recognition as a human rights issue,” he stressed, drawing attention to Kazakhstan’s law for the Social Protection of People with Disabilities and the near completion of the national action plan for 2012-2018, which offers avenues for those persons to be more included in society. He also cited the Employment Roadmap 2020 to create jobs for persons with disabilities. Older persons comprise almost 10 per cent of the national population, he said, citing his Government position on active ageing.
JULIO ARRIOLA (Paraguay) said it will not be possible to achieve progress without a commitment by all countries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. In Paraguay, the three branches of Government have committed to the 2030 Agenda, and together, will continue to implement social protection programmes, he assured, emphasizing that the unit on social action was recently transformed into a ministry for social development. Paraguay will continue to ensure all persons, without discrimination, live in dignity and enjoy social, economic and social rights.
Mr. ISNOMO (Indonesia), aligning with the Group of 77, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), stressed the importance of inclusive development for healthy, productive societies. Reaffirming Indonesia’s commitment to the 1995 World Summit for Social Development outcomes, he underlined the need to systematically review and strengthen partnerships to eradicate poverty, provide decent work, foster social integration and boost sustainable development. Indonesia’s strategy focuses on comprehensive social protection, access to basic services and sustainable livelihoods, an approach that has resulted in a significant decrease in the proportion of people living below the poverty line. Job creation through infrastructure development had been coupled with programmes to address education disparities, including stipends for poor students and skills training to meet market demands. At the same time, a new law ensures a human-rights approach to empowering people with disabilities, he added.
BOGNA RUMINOWICZ (Poland), associating herself with the European Union, said the Government has enacted a number of family-oriented policies, notably the “Family 500+” programme, which offers a financial benefit for all families, regardless of income, for the second and each subsequent child. Social assistance supports families unable to overcome a difficult life situation in the form of cash benefits and benefits-in-kind, provided at the local level. Ms. KLONOWSKA, youth delegate, said youth unemployment is widespread and structural, stressing: “We cannot overestimate the issues”. The market is changing fast and soft skills are needed, she said, warning that youth unemployment harms both personal development and political stability. Youth delegate Ms. KRZASTEK, added that decent jobs for all must be ensured, as well as adjusted when needed. “We must do more,” she said, as young people are a source of solutions. She called on all States to address the critical challenges young people face after they finish school and before they enter the labour market.
Mr. ZAMBRANO, (Ecuador) said the Copenhagen Declaration is more relevant than ever. His country is adopting a multidimensional approach to development to ensure the right to live fully, in harmony with nature, oneself and others, while avoiding the excesses of the consumer society. He reiterated the need to strengthen the protection and enjoyment of older persons’ rights. For Ecuador, it is crucial to acknowledge that all stakeholders have a shared responsibility to protect human rights.
TYESHA TURNER (Jamaica), associating herself with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and the Group of 77, stressed that greater investment in human capital leads to exponential returns for national development. The Jamaican Social Investment Fund directs investment towards “pro-poor” economic growth and has benefited some 1.4 million people. The Government is ensuring inclusive development by combating inequality and vulnerability, she said, adding that its poverty reduction agenda is crafted on the belief that each person should be provided with the opportunity to enjoy a sustainable and good quality of life. She reiterated Jamaica’s commitment to inclusion, integration and empowerment of persons with disabilities and older persons.
Mr. GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina) said that his country — as chair of the Group of 20 economic cooperation forum since December 2017 — is gearing its work to foster inclusive growth by focusing on sustainable habitat, sustainable business and investment in early childhood. The protection of children’s rights and the empowerment of youth are fundamental to achieve sustainable development, he stressed, calling for a binding universal international instrument to ensure the full participation of older persons in the development of their societies.
LIKA TORIKASHVILI, youth delegate from Georgia, said she realized at a young age that to make a positive impact on this world, one can start right away: there is no need to be a Government official. At age 14, along with fellow Georgians, she established the “Paint the World in Tbilisi” organization, aiming to unite young people of diverse cultural backgrounds with community service. It provides psychological support to those in crisis by implementing art therapy projects in hospitals, orphanages, hospices, elderly shelters and centres for people with disabilities. As the movement has expanded internationally, efforts must focus on transforming the educational system so that every school helps children pursue their passions.
WU HAITAO (China) said all countries must commit to the goal of cooperation for win‑win results, stressing: “We should respect the development path chosen by each country and the right of all countries to pursue a better life.” Countries must integrate the 2030 Agenda into national development strategies and pursue people‑centred development by building universal and sustainable social security. They should also promote full employment and decent work, as well as increase public financial input as a way of protecting the legitimate rights of vulnerable groups and narrowing the gap between rich and poor. Over the past four decades, China has lifted more than 700 million people out of abject poverty, and covered 1.35 billion people with basic medical insurance.
Ms. OBOULE, youth delegate from Ireland, said young people are experts in their own needs and lived realities. Governments must invest in initiatives that support young people in exercising their agency, leadership and voice. Noting that climate change impacts young people, she said that efforts must seek to prevent severe weather from growing in intensity and frequency. While girls and women comprise half the global population, their priorities remain on the sidelines, with patriarchal practices and norms discriminating against them, jeopardizing their safety and making it difficult for them to access quality health care. Mr. MOORE (Ireland) said Governments should instead use their resources to enhance education. Indeed, the young make up 25 per cent of the world’s population and 100 per cent of the future.
Mr. BAKHTIAR, youth delegate from Afghanistan, stressed that, while his country lost much to protracted terrorism and conflict, every Afghan persistently fights to free the country from the shackles of war. Young people have been at the centre of many successes: In 2002, women and girls were prevented from attending educational institutions. Today, 9.2 million children, including girls, are enrolled in school, which has fostered profound social development. These developments must be protected and sustained. Further, given that youth comprise the majority of the population, their voices must be amplified. Their participation in decision‑making is a precondition to social development and sustainable peace, he said, underscoring that many current candidates for parliament are women and youth. “Youth inclusion is not a choice, but a must,” he stated.
FIORELLA SPIZZUOCO and PIETRO FOCHI, youth delegates from Italy, said that to ensure a positive transition from one generation to the next, greater inclusiveness must start now. Italy has established a Youth Delegate Programme and tackles discrimination against young people on the basis of ethnicity, gender, religious belief and other factors. Describing the Sustainable Development Goals as pillars of Italy’s development cooperation, they said people — as individuals and as members of communities — are at the centre of this policy. Italy is committed to protecting and promoting the rights of persons with disabilities, and inclusive policies in this field are crucial. Drawing attention to Italy’s candidacy on the Human Rights Council for the 2019-2021 term, they noted the allocation of $500,000 to a new Department of Economic and Social Affairs project titled, “Promoting Sustainable Peace through National Youth Policies in the Framework of 2030 Agenda”. Indeed, youth and inclusion policies represent the best link between the peace and security agenda and the 2030 Agenda.
JASMINE LIM (Singapore), associating herself with the Group of 77 and ASEAN, said her country’s population is ageing rapidly: one in seven Singaporeans is 65 or older. Changing demographic trends call for concerted action to ensure the needs of older persons are adequately met. The Secretary‑General has underscored the importance of providing care and support to enable older persons to live independently and with dignity. Through its Action Plan for Successful Ageing, Singapore is maximizing opportunities arising from longevity, she said, underscoring its focus on health, housing, transport and retirement. Further, Singapore commits to support family caregivers through respite services and support groups. The Government is exploring new caregiving models that facilitate ageing within communities as an alternative to individualized care, and will invest in community nursing to facilitate community care networks.
AHMED SAHRAOUI (Algeria) associating himself with the African Group and Group of 77, said Member States are a long way from achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and called for implementation of a true global partnership for development. Algeria’s development plans since 2000 have allowed it to achieve, before term, most of the Millennium Development Goals and to reach a high level of human development. Education policy is grounded in ensuring full and free access to primary and higher education. In terms of employment, Algeria has established several mechanisms to facilitate access to loans and investment opportunities that prioritize agriculture and tourism. The Government is committed to ensuring health coverage for all citizens and attaches great importance to the rights of persons with disabilities, he added.
Ms. ALTEMIMI (Qatar) said an effective social protection system promoted human rights and ensured people’s dignity and access to care without discrimination. Calling social protection a top priority, she drew attention to Qatar’s social plans and programmes among efforts taken to overcome obstacles stemming from a unilateral, unfair blockade. While these conditions have been imposed over the past year, Qatar has continued to assist the affected families and people, she said, citing also efforts taken to serve people with disabilities. Young people are also part of the State policy, which encourages them to take part in sport and offers job opportunities.
BERNARDITO CLEOPAS AUZA, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, said that even though the global economy continues to grow, social and economic inequalities are still present among countries as well as within them. A purely economic approach to poverty and inequality provides only a partial solution to a multidimensional problem. “Such inadequate responses inevitably encourage the growth of injustice, social inequality and marginalization, especially for the most vulnerable,” he said, warning that those left behind develop pent‑up anger, driving social unrest. As the world grows more interconnected, inequalities become even more conspicuous as lives can more easily be compared to others. He drew attention to the family as a natural and fundamental unit of society, calling for access to social benefits for those with low incomes and pressing Governments to invest in both early childhood and higher education. Persons with disabilities and the elderly often feel alienated and left behind, he said, calling for greater dialogue and connection.
Mr. MANOLOV and Mr. GALEV, youth delegates from Bulgaria, said young people have a crucial role to play in implementing the 2030 Agenda and shaping lasting peace and security. Bulgarian youth recently identified the right to quality education and decent jobs as their main concerns, they said, adding that unemployment affects over 71 million young people around the world. In many places, economic growth has not been translated into quality employment for young people, while outdated education systems are ill equipped to meet changing labour‑market demands. Noting that entrepreneurship gives young people critical thinking and decision‑making skills essential to fostering development, they said young people in Bulgaria are also calling for global action on environmental issues, improved health care and coordinated responses to illegal substance abuse.
AMOS WASHINGTON, youth delegate from Australia, said there is a misconception that young people are “waiting in the wings”, yet to experience the real world. However, young people are front and centre experiencing myriad issues affecting them — from racial prejudice and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, to harassment, bullying, and mass unemployment. Young Australians in educational institutions, community groups and juvenile detention centres consider mental health to be at a crisis point. Young people see the connection between mental health and other issues facing their communities. The education system must emphasize the importance of mental health, while support services must consider the diversity of young people. “We can enrich our policy conversations if we provide young people with a seat at the table,” he asserted.
ALI NASEER MOHAMED (Maldives), noting that national social development policies seek to reduce social and economic inequality, said nearly universal literacy has been achieved, as has universal immunization and the elimination of polio, measles and malaria. Further, the Government now provides universal and free medical care to every Maldivian, has established mechanisms to ensure that persons with disabilities have equal employment opportunities, and has introduced a disability allowance. The global social and economic inequality described in the Secretary‑General’s report must be addressed as a matter of urgency, he added.
CHOI EUN JAE (Republic of Korea) said many marginalized people are not aware they are entitled to human rights and must be given full access to information on those rights. The inclusion of young people is essential for social development, she said, highlighting the Republic of Korea’s Youth Participation Committee which allows young people to propose policies and participate in decision‑making. States should prioritize gender equality, she said, noting that non‑governmental organizations must play a crucial role in addressing the gender gap and that the “Basic Plans for Gender Equality” policies tackle those issues. Robust civil society has also played a central role in promoting human rights and democracy in the Republic of Korea. Noting that there are 9 million youths in her country, she expressed a strong desire for peace and an end to the 70 years of hostilities.
ESHAGH AL HABIB (Iran), aligning himself with the Group of 77, said ending poverty everywhere and ensuring healthy lives for all are integral to the common development agenda. Such goals are universal and interlinked, and must be addressed in unison. Recalling the 1995 World Summit for Social Development, he underlined the need for an appropriate mix of State policies and called illegal, inhumane unilateral sanctions a clear example of harmful practices that impede the goals. As persons with disabilities are more likely to live in poverty, he cited the new “Comprehensive Law for the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities”, Iran’s provision of both health insurance and a monthly allowance, as well as allocation of 3 per cent of public sector job openings for them. New measures have been designed to improve work conditions and facilitate quality time between parents and children, he said, noting that public employees receive 90 days of paid maternity and paternity leave. Iran will host the Regional Conference on Ageing in October 2018, and on literacy, he expressed regret a substantial number of young people and adults, especially women, have poor literacy.
Ms. WATTANAYAKORU and Ms. TAWINBOOM, youth delegates from Thailand, emphasized the importance of the “three Ps” of the people’s agenda: People are the foundation of society and must be empowered with quality education; the planet must be protected for future generations; and partnerships must be leveraged to address global challenges. She cited the successful rescue of the youth football team in Thailand as an example of such partnership. Young people hope to build a culture of partnership and volunteerism at home and abroad, she said, emphasizing the power of volunteerism in efforts to achieve the 2030 Agenda.
DOMINIK PORVAŽNIK, youth delegate from Slovakia, lauded the increasing role played by young people in decision-making and stressed the relevance of intergenerational trust. Senior leaders need advice from young people and vice‑versa, he said, adding that young leaders are full of energy and can benefit from guidance of senior decision makers. He expressed disappointment over the amount of disposable plastic he saw in use at the United Nations Secretariat. Noting the negative impacts of plastic pollution, he said the use of disposable plastic brought into question the Organization’s commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals. He called for mutual trust and intergenerational dialogue to build a world where nobody is left behind.
BARBORA ANTONOVICOVA and PATRIK PLAVEC, youth delegates from Czechia, said Czech and Slovak youth are at the forefront of resistance and independence movements advocating democracy and human rights. They called for rigorous involvement of youth in public affairs and for inclusive, high-quality education. Accessible, effectively individualized education is key to unlocking young people’s potential, they said, adding that formal and non-formal forms of education facilitate well-informed public discourse. Czech youth demand significant changes to the education system, with changes allowing for critical thinking and honest debate in schools, as knowledge-sharing is a precondition for inclusive societies. They appealed for recognition of the innovative capacity of young people and said there must be space for them to share ideas with peers.
Ms. ELMARMURI (Libya), aligning herself with the Group of 77, as well as the African Group, said that due to economic and financial difficulties, it is not possible to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Highlighting Libya’s health and well-being programmes, and the benefits of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities for her country, she said the Government also promotes children’s rights, good governance and the rule of law. Other challenges include providing humanitarian assistance and meeting the needs of women, elderly persons, youth and persons with disabilities. Having consulted with the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), she highlighted three priority areas: making institutions accountable, providing basic services to foster social cohesion, and enhancing the rule of law. She affirmed the importance of national sovereignty and human rights, adding that each country has the right to shoulder its own responsibilities.
LAZAROUS KAPAMBWE (Zambia) said poverty eradication continues to be a major challenge for many countries around the world, including his own. However, the Government is committed to upholding various social protection programs, particularly for older persons, persons with disabilities, orphans and vulnerable children as a means of fostering human dignity and human development. Zambia is also committed to promoting workers’ rights. Concerning HIV and AIDS, it ensures that HIV is a priority area in all policy frameworks.
SARA COGHE and MATTHEW GRÉANT, youth delegates from Belgium, said that in today’s age of excess connectivity, too many young people find themselves feeling insecure, vulnerable and lonely. Quality education is the most important tool to empower young people, helping them to find a place in society and preventing them from becoming easy targets in conflict situations. Young people must have their equal share in decision-making, especially concerning peace and security, as they are entitled to live in a safe world. While there is no armed conflict in Europe, hate speech, intolerance, discrimination, psychological violence and extremism persist. “We all have a responsibility,” they said, citing the involvement of Belgian youth in youth parliaments and student initiatives to help underprivileged peers. “Young people don’t want to be represented, they want to be present,” they said.
MAYRA LISSETH SORTO ROSALES (El Salvador), speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), reiterated its commitment to achieve social inclusion and integration and eradicate poverty and hunger. He expressed deep concern about the unequal progress achieved: 1.6 billion people live in poverty and those living in extreme poverty is unacceptably high. He reiterated CELAC’s commitment to promote inclusive economic growth, social progress and sustainable development through the design and implementation of national policies and plans. To break the cycle of poverty between generations, States should promote the well-being of all people, no matter their age. Describing the high percentage of young people who do not obtain decent education as “alarming”, he said they need education and training to find decent jobs. As almost 12 per cent of the Latin American and Caribbean population has a disability, it is essential to integrate their rights into all programmes and policies. He urged all Member States to establish universal social protection measures and encouraged the Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing to consider the establishment of an international convention on the protection and promotion of the rights of people with disabilities.
Ms. KULDMAA, youth delegate from Estonia, voiced her concerns over youth involvement, highlighting the good cooperation between the National Youth Council and the Ministry of Education. Given the lack of relevant policies, youth participation should be a priority. Guaranteed access for all to education — both formal and informal — is a fundamental right. The number of social media users around the world has jumped to 3 billion people with the rise in Internet access. “We need an education on how to judge information accurately”, she said, adding that everyone, regardless of income, should have access to higher and vocational education. She stressed that educated people make healthier decisions, quoting Malala Yousafzai, the youngest Nobel Prize winner and human rights activist: “One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.”
SATYAJIT ARJUNA RODRIGO (Sri Lanka), associating himself with the Group of 77, spotlighted Government initiatives for youth, persons with disabilities, ageing populations and other vulnerable groups. Free technical and vocational courses are provided to young Sri Lankans, while a national career guidance and counselling centre is being set up to raise young people’s awareness of such training. Noting Sri Lanka’s ratification of the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2016, he said many policies are in place to address the socioeconomic needs of those persons. The National Human Rights Action Plan for 2017‑2021 outlines areas for improving respect for the rights of persons with disabilities.
NEVILLE GERTZE (Namibia), aligning with the African Group, and the Group of 77, said infrastructure can facilitate youth empowerment and job creation. Only by harnessing the human capital dividend through youth empowerment can sustainable growth be ensured, he said, noting that 37 per cent of the population is between 16 and 35 years old. Technical, vocational education and training are a priority in tackling high youth unemployment. Namibia has one of the fastest poverty reductions in the region — from 28.8 per cent to 17.4 per cent over the last decade. It has increased the monthly grant for pensioners, with 3.8 per cent of the national budget allocated for such grants. Noting that Namibia was the first African country to publish data on albinism, he called for ending the stigma associated with that condition, and more broadly, both monitoring and evaluating social development programmes. A culture of solidarity must be embraced to relieve the plight of people living in poverty, terror and unspeakable misery.
TIJANA ČUPIĆ and NIKOLA PETROVIĆ, youth delegates from Serbia, said young people are encountering new challenges such as climate change, terrorism and violent extremism. Serbia faces challenges of both developed and developing nations, they said, noting that State‑youth partnerships are based on equality. Serbia has a clear vision that young people are the single most powerful social group capable of bringing about social change. They pointed to the country’s Fund for Young Talents as an example of good practice in fostering leadership and said youth volunteer projects involve young people in bringing about small but important changes.
EMANUEL SANVISI and XAVIER BIEGMAN, members of the National Youth Parliament of Suriname, said social media allows people to connect with others around the world with both positive and negative results. In Suriname, Facebook is the most popular social media platform. “Sadly enough, interpersonal violence, fights, pornographic content and cyber bullying are some of the issues that are being recorded and exchanged by youth,” they said, behaviour that has created a troubling and demoralizing environment. “How many of us have heard stories of someone who killed themselves just because they were bullied on social media,” they asked, adding: “Young and old people are not aware of the full impact of using social media.” On the issue of healthy families, they said that every child must feel the love of a father and expressed concern over the growing incidence of single‑parent families. “There are men who don’t know how to be brave enough to be sensitive, strong enough to be vulnerable,” they said.
Mr. HENDRICKS (South Africa), aligning with the Southern African Development Community (SADC), African Group, Group of 77, and Group of Friends of Older Persons, said the ideals of the late Nelson Mandela — such as freedom from oppression and poverty eradication — guide efforts to improve the lives of South Africans. He pointed to the growing number of child support grants, which will cover 12.8 million people in the next year, as a success, as well as celebration of the elderly as repositories of indigenous knowledge with the International Day of Older Persons. He underscored the need to promote, protect and fulfil the rights of persons with disabilities as equal citizens, notably through the Vision 2030 plan, which addresses disability in inclusive budgeting. Youth unemployment remains a critical challenge, while access to health care — especially reproductive health care — is a constitutional right linked to the right to life.
MIN THEIN (Myanmar), associating himself with the Group of 77 and ASEAN, said the national youth policy, implemented since January, aims to create opportunities for young people to keep up with emerging technologies that are transforming labour markets. State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi has also been holding peace talks with youth in many cities and states across Myanmar. On the issue of ageing people, he said it has been Myanmar’s tradition to take care of its elderly. “It is also a kind of social obligation,” he added, noting that there are more than 80 homes or community day-care centres for the elderly in Myanmar. Through the social protection policy, the Government offers cash assistance to pregnant women, persons with disabilities and student-feeding programmes.
BHARAT RAJ PAUDYAL (Nepal), associating himself with the Group of 77, said inequality and unemployment within and among countries persists, while social exclusion remains a hard reality for too many people. Developing countries, particularly least developed ones and those that are landlocked, are extremely vulnerable to climate change, violent extremism, and food and energy crises. “They are the neediest, the weakest, and the furthest behind,” he said, noting that Nepal’s Constitution provides a sound framework for unleashing potential. With social justice at the core of the country’s democratic polity, the representation of women, Dalits, indigenous people, and persons with disability has been guaranteed at all levels of Government, while scholarships are offered to children from remote areas. “These efforts are not without challenges,” he said, adding that social justice will continue to guide Nepal in its journey to build an egalitarian society.
Mr. KOUNFOUROU (Mali), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and the Group of African States, said his country is prioritizing social development and working towards a Mali that leaves no one behind. It seeks to provide all citizens with universal health coverage. Regarding youth employment, measures have been put in place to foster the development of the private sector. Mali also has a strategic plan to promote the rights of persons with disabilities. October is solidarity month in Mali, an annual initiative that mobilizes all stakeholders to step up their support to vulnerable segments of the population, notably older persons.
EZE DURUIHEOMA (Nigeria), associating himself with the Group of 77, and the African Group, says the economic recovery and growth plan targets upward growth, social infrastructure, global competitiveness and environmental sustainability. The Conditional Cash Transfer programme provides monthly stipends to 1 million poor households, while the “N-Power Youth Employment Scheme” has deployed 400,000 graduates to agricultural, health and teaching sectors. Further, Nigeria both lowered the qualification age to run for President to 35, and passed the National Senior Citizen Act 2018 to better care for the elderly. Working to bridge the social inequality gap, including for its 19 million persons with disabilities, the Government encourages companies to reserve 2 per cent of their vacancies for them. Reaffirming the family as a natural, fundamental unit of society involving man, woman, children and relatives, he said “Nigeria will always reject any socially constructed redefinition of the concept” and work with like-minded countries to uphold its sanctity.
MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh), associating himself with the Group of 77, said his Government is working relentlessly to eradicate poverty through people‑centred development plans, with significant strides being made in terms of social and economic development. Consistent investment in health, water, education and sanitation has led to a pronounced decrease in infant mortality, with 17 per cent of the national budget directed at the health sector this year alone. Bangladesh is also investing in human resources development, especially for youth, he said, pointing to 100 per cent primary school enrolment as a success of those efforts. Bangladesh is committed to a “whole of society” approach to ensure the Sustainable Development Goals are met. Inequality remains among the biggest impediments to achieving uniform social development, he asserted.
EDGAR ANDRÉS MOLINA LINARES (Guatemala), aligning himself with the Group of 77, SADC and Group of Friends of Older Persons, said his country was taking a leadership role in social development efforts. Addressing gender gaps, poverty and inequality, he called for more rapid progress, emphasizing the importance of identifying the gaps between political commitments and practices on the ground. Development policies and programmes should have targets with specific measures. Highlighting the difficulties facing persons with disabilities and the ageing population, he said targeted efforts should address issues related to human rights. Noting that many older persons have no fixed income or pension, with some being victims of violence, he said they are also often considered a burden after their productive years. As such, he underlined a need to improve policies at national and international levels. Turning to the need to include young people in the 2030 Agenda process, he said that while the world has made progress in including them, work remains to be done to ensure their participation in employment initiatives and in the politic sphere.
ABDOULAYE BARRO (Senegal), associating himself with the African Group, recalled that 20 years ago, the international community agreed to place human dignity at the heart of development — a commitment now carried out through the 2030 Agenda. However, actions are more than necessary and inclusivity requires ambitious efforts. Senegal promotes sustainable human development through better empowerment for underprivileged families, and others, including women’s organizations. He described Senegal’s family security grants and investments in education, noting that frameworks are needed for the national gender strategy and that a national strategy to promote women’s entrepreneurship is in place. Many social development challenges are linked to climate change, water, soil, and both natural and made-made disasters. Managing those phenomena is critical for the long-term survival of systems.
YOUSSOUF ADEN MOUSSA (Djibouti), aligning himself with the African Group and Group of 77, highlighted several of the critical issues raised at the World Summit in Copenhagen. However, the world’s current social development report card remains at an impasse in light of protectionist trends and other such measures. Despite various efforts aimed at achieving development targets, much remains to be done to overcome this impasse. Highlighting national efforts, he said Vision Djibouti 2035 and the national development action plan 2015-2018 target a range of challenges. Spotlighting several, he said efforts are under way to address access to basic services and to draft a structural plan for economic growth. Meanwhile, improvements have been made in broadening access to quality physical and mental health services. Turning to global challenges, he said solutions required all stakeholders to work collectively.
Mr. AITBAEV, youth delegate from Kyrgyzstan, said his country is undergoing deep reforms to build a democratic and equitable State. Kyrgyzstan is a young republic, with 30 per cent of its population aged 14 to 28 years. Since independence, it has pursued policies that foster legal and socio-economic conditions for youth development. The Government focuses on rural development programmes as the majority of young people reside in those communities. Efforts are underway to support small- and medium-sized business, which in turn, improve export opportunities and transport infrastructure for rural communities. Noting that cultural diversity is essential to the promotion of peace and stability, he stressed that young people hold the key to sustainable development.
Ms. ALZAABI and Mr. ALBRAIKI (United Arab Emirates) described the Government’s support for youth, stressing that: “Our care for youth should come first”. As such, it appointed a Minister of Youth, the youngest minister in the world at age 22, with the goal of involving youth in decision making. Policies to support youth, embodied in the national youth agenda, allow for investment in empowerment, while youth councils advise the Government on implementing the Sustainable Development Goals. Young people also launched 84 workshops to consider such ideas. Young people are motivated by the desire to change, he said, stressing: “Let’s not wait for opportunities but make opportunities.”
NURIA MOHAMMED (Ethiopia), associating herself with the African Group and the Group of 77, said billions of people live in poverty and crises continue to impact country efforts to reduce poverty and attain social inclusion. Underlining the importance of the 2030 Agenda, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the Paris Agreement on climate change to addressing those critical gaps, she called for a continued focus on efforts to end poverty and advance sustainable development, with an emphasis on social integration based on equal opportunities in education, affordable health services, employment and decent work for all. Outlining Ethiopia’s efforts to those ends, she spotlighted its National Social Protection Policy, it community‑based health insurance scheme and its Growth and Transformation Plan.
MOHAMED AWADALLA SALLAM ADAM (Sudan), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and the African countries mentioned in the Addis Ababa Agreement, described the national plan to eradicate poverty, which defined 17 target areas, including employment, literacy and education. Calling education a driver for change, he underscored the importance of family, health care and support for elderly persons, also citing decent work initiatives for persons with disabilities. Sudan’s vision for 2015‑2020 outlined efforts for microfinancing, a national fund for persons with disabilities, housing access and prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disabilities. On initiatives for family support, he said Sudan promotes a culture of family, expressing regret over insufficient progress on sustainable development and requesting international and national cooperation.
Ms. SENTISSI (Morocco), stressing that poverty grips too many people, said disparities are a legitimate source of concern. There is a collective responsibility to address those challenges and “we should not shirk [them]”, she said. There is no single recipe to understand development, as each region has its own model. Efforts must focus on how to trigger development, which is driven in part by social and cultural assets and resources. Reforms in Morocco is part of broader change, on all levels, to bolster the rule of law, education, health, jobs and social protection. Change is impossible without the human dimension; economic and human development must run in parallel. Stressing that young people are drivers of development, she said Morocco is taking a forward-looking approach to 2030, envisioning scenarios to improve its trajectory, while considering how to meet demands of the day.
DARYNA HORBACHOVA (Ukraine), aligning herself with the European Union, said her country has incurred heavy security and defence expenses due to foreign aggressions. Yet, it has consistently implemented progressive reforms, including its National Poverty Reduction Strategy and an education initiative that fosters skill development for youth. Emphasizing that 3.4 million people from the Donbas region require humanitarian assistance according to the United Nations, she said Ukraine’s budgetary allocations for internally displaced went up six-fold people since 2014. The Government is also implementing measures to improve their quality of life.
Ms. ZUTTER, youth delegate from Luxembourg, described a proactive policy for youth to participate in political decisions and a framework for their involvement as youth delegates. “Youth, as agents of peace, are often not included enough” so as to be heard, she said, encouraging Member States to include young people in an institutional framework so they have a seat at the table. Mr. WINCKEL, youth delegate, said that a week ago the Government outlined a youth plan with 10 target areas, including climate protection and education. This is a way to foster equitable job market access and she called on States to invest in education as a central political priority.
Ms. BANAKEN (Cameroon) drew attention to widening inequality, stressing that gaps must be addressed. His country is fighting inequality, working to create an environment that fosters job growth and establishing both a minimum wage and equal pay for men and women. The pension fund plays a key role and those with informal jobs can register voluntarily. The goal is to reduce inequality through cash transfers, which work with support from the World Bank.
HAYET ZEGGAR (France) said the social inclusion of older people is crucial to ensuring that societies remain cohesive. Given that people’s lifetimes extend, it is essential that Governments pay close attention to this issue when planning for the future. Preserving the dignity of older persons and promoting their quality of life is a constant concern for the France, she assured.
Mr. ALSHATTI (Kuwait), aligning with the Group of 77, and the African Group, stressed that “we must combat inequality in all its forms, promote social cohesion and social development”. International and national policies must comply with the Sustainable Development Goals, he said, calling for greater efforts in that regard, and citing Kuwait’s funding of more than 960 projects in many countries. He reiterated the importance of young people’s empowerment, drawing attention to Kuwait’s national fund for young people, Ministry for Affairs of Young Persons and the Young People Council. More broadly, he advocated for an exchange of experiences of persons with disabilities, and underscoring the importance of education, said illiteracy among adults is only 2.9 per cent, and that there is full literacy among children.
HABIB MIKAYILLI (Azerbaijan) said 11 per cent of the world lives in extreme poverty, despite advances made since the Copenhagen Summit, calling inclusive economic growth crucial to reverse that situation. Azerbaijan has improved the well-being of citizens with high economic growth, new schools and hospitals, a targeted social protection system and housing for low-income families, he said. With one of the youngest age distributions among Eastern European countries, Azerbaijan promotes quality education and job opportunities, as well as volunteerism, notably to strengthen social protections for older persons. The Government attaches great importance to increasing monthly pensions and disability benefits, as well as to ensuring vocational training and entrepreneurship.
NTHABISENG MONOKO (Lesotho) said her country is susceptible to uneven distribution of income, jobs, education and access to opportunities for both men and women. As such, the Government is focused on promoting equality in various sectors. Women have the right to own land and an additional one third of seats had been guaranteed to women in local government elections. Young people are seen as instruments of social development and good citizens who deserve their rightful place in society; they should be empowered to fully participate in Lesotho’s economic and social development. Primary education continues to be free for all, with the goal of providing children and young people with the skills they need.
MÉLANIE CORINE NINA GOLIATHA (Central African Republic) highlighted a number of national concerns some of which were obstacles to development. Achieving sustainable development progress requires the return of her country’s displaced population, which has shown a strong desire to work and aspires to a future of peace and security. However, clashes between armed groups and tensions related to economic interests continue to prevent the authorities from effectively re‑establishing judicial and financial services throughout the country. To address some of those issues, the Government is now gradually deploying armed forces and restoring basic social services, she said, emphasizing the need to restore the State’s authority.
JAIME HERMIDA CASTILLO (Nicaragua) aligning with the Group of 77, and SADC, said international relations, especially among powerful countries, have grown intense, threatening peace. He stressed the need to meet commitments and to overcome conflict through dialogue. While expressing regret that Nicaragua is far from achieving the 2030 targets, said economic and social programmes are nonetheless making progress. Describing various efforts, he said Nicaragua continues to grant land titles, improve housing, protect environment and restore the rights of older persons to pension. He advocated for granting the right to recreation, describing support provided to families through the “Good life, Beautiful Life” programme.
DANIELLE LARRABEE, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said her organization was currently responding to 36 emergencies and protracted crises across the world. Noting that its functions rely heavily on the contributions of an estimated 12 million volunteers, she said they “are often the first to respond to emergencies and the last to leave”. However, the global landscape is changing and so is the work volunteers are called upon to do. First responders face ever‑increasing needs in more complex and prolonged crises. Underlining the needs and often unrecognized contributions of youth and persons with disabilities, she said the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 1 in 4 refugees in camps has a disability. She further outlined various initiatives IFRC has taken to include older persons and people with disabilities within their humanitarian policies and practices.
STANLEY RALPH CHEKECHE (Zimbabwe) underscored the country’s commitment to ending poverty, and sharing recent developments, noted the June launch of a women’s microfinance bank, which offers loans to women and small businesses. Zimbabwe also opened its first youth-centric microbank, providing financial solutions to rural areas. The private sector is a partner in youth employment, notably in providing entrepreneurship training. Moreover, the Government recognized the role of education in economic development; children from poor families can now stay in school thanks to Government programmes, and at least 10 per cent of those funds are reserved for children with disabilities.
Right of Reply
The representative of the Russian Federation, exercising the right of reply, regretted to point out that his counterpart from Ukraine had invented circumstances of external aggression as well as made an unconstitutional claim.
The representative of Ukraine, responding, said that, looking at historical events in 2015, the Russian Federation carried out an aggression when it invaded Crimea and committed unlawful activities. In addition, the Russian Federation has no right to refer to presidential and parliamentary elections as a coup.