Note: Complete coverage will be available at the conclusion of today’s meetings.
Briefing by Youth Delegate
RUXANDA RENITA, a youth representative speaking on behalf of the United Nations Major Group for Children and Youth, briefed the Commission on the ongoing United Nations Youth Forum, stressing: “We live in a non‑linear and non‑static world.” More than 50 million young people around the world were migrants or refugees in search of a new home, she said, adding that for many of them basic services, such as the right to safe water, seemed a distant dream. “We are left with two options: Submit or reinvent,” she said, noting that many young people had chosen the second option and were now formulating new solutions, especially in the social and environmental arenas. As an immigrant herself, she had jumped from continent to continent in search of a home where all her human rights would be realized.
In the Youth Forum’s current deliberations, young people had reaffirmed the basic right to safe water and sanitation, identifying the excessive burden women faced in those areas due to social taboos around menstrual hygiene, she said. Participants had identified a need to improve energy access to all populations and enhance the flexibility and effectiveness of energy systems in remote areas around the world. Cities also needed to become more youth- and gender‑responsive, enhanced efforts to combat social exclusion and ensure the safety of women and young people. A breakout session on Sustainable Development Goal 12 had spotlighted the role of social entrepreneurs, and youth present for that discussion had underlined the need to use both formal and non‑formal education, as well as better knowledge‑sharing, to improve the world’s consumption and production patterns.
Among other things, participants had called for improving the use of science, technology and innovation, greater involvement of young people at the grassroots level, more transparent Governments, reducing the voting age and stronger efforts to prevent radicalization. Within the United Nations system, youth participation had increased in recent years, as had the awareness of the important role young people would play in the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals. However, she said, more investment in such initiatives was still urgently needed.
SIDY GUEYE, Permanent Secretary of Ministry for Family, Women and Gender of Senegal, associating himself with the statements previously delivered on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China as well as the African Group, outlined programmes aimed at reorienting Senegal’s strategies to achieve a minimum 75 per cent health care coverage and the reduction of outward migration. A national fund devoted $411 million to enhancing employment opportunities for youth, and would be increased in upcoming years. National funds also offered support to entrepreneurs, and the country had declared 2018 a year of social development. The “National Agency of the Green Wall” had established a programme against decertification, working to reduce poverty and create jobs. Other Government ministries and agencies worked to ensure that rural populations remained independent and successful in their production activities.
MIRWAIS BAHEEJ, Director General of Planning and Consolidation of the Ministry for Economy of Afghanistan, said the threats of violent extremism and terrorism in his country continued to hamper efforts to combat poverty. However, the Government and people remained committed to move Afghanistan forward towards sustainable development, peace and prosperity. Among other priorities, the Government was working to boost women’s control over economic assets, create 1 million new jobs across various sectors, and increase production in order to substitute Afghanistan’s imports with domestic products. Noting that returning refugees and displaced persons were migrating in large numbers to the country’s’ cities, putting more pressure on local governments, he said the national Government had responded through accelerated efforts to increase job opportunities for returnees, and thereby improve their self‑reliance. It was also working to provide every Afghan village with access to basic services and the mechanisms for their delivery, as well as critical infrastructure, which would also create many new jobs. Afghanistan recognized the critical role youth would play in its sustainable development, and had therefore put in place a National Youth Policy that was now working to address the country’s high youth unemployment rates and bolster investments in young Afghans.
ABDESSAMAD LAURANI, Director of Social Development, Ministry for Family, Solidarity, Equality and Social Development of Morocco, said national progress over the last 15 years had been seen in areas such as human rights due to better investments in infrastructure and targeted programmes. Poverty had been reduced, basic services now reached all citizens and youth had been integrated into social development policies. Industrial, tourism and artisanal sectors had been developed alongside gains seen in agricultural and fisheries, with job creation that encouraged youth to undertake a spirit of entrepreneurship. Water resources had been addressed through waste management and renewable energy efforts. Vulnerable groups had benefited from policies addressing gender equality, child protection and protections for persons with disabilities. A new social registry aimed at combating poverty, institutional reform was improving coordination to ameliorate social assistance programmes and national plans considered youth, literacy and immigration.
A youth delegate from Germany said young people’s inspirational visions could guide policy in significant ways, as they believed in intercultural dialogue and equal gender rights. Asking delegates how they viewed the world when they had been young themselves, for instance, dreaming of a bright future or falling in love with someone whom they should not have due to various forms of discrimination, she wondered whether they would have liked the international community to help them realize their visions.
A youth delegate from Germany asked Member State representatives to imagine a world in which every person supported the vision of the 2030 Agenda because they had the knowledge to do so. He then asked them to take action in three areas — guarantee human rights for all, establish a youth delegate programme and support youth organizations to provide young people with the skills they needed today to reach the Sustainable Development Goals, including preparing them for future jobs that did not exist today.
PATRYCJA PUZ, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Poland, aligning herself with the European Union, said family development and security form pillars of the Government’s policies. A flagship scheme of family allowance had allowed extended investments in children’s education while a housing subsidy programme was reaching those in need. Social policy on older persons was being developed to set standards for assistance from welfare institutions. Medium- and long‑term actions aimed at advancing progress on responsible development were expected to decrease the number of people living in poverty. Actions also aimed to improve health care services.
PASCAL FOUDRIERE, Deputy Head of the European and International Affairs Unit of the Ministry for Solidarities and Health of France, associating himself with the European Union, said many countries had seen accelerated ageing in their populations and some remained unable to adapt their policies accordingly. Europe in particular must adapt its Government programmes to the needs of the twenty‑first century, he said, describing poverty eradication as a central goal and underlining the need for commitment at the highest level. National level social policies must be mutually strengthening and fully aligned with other measures, including economic ones, and such fully integrated approaches must also involve researchers, civil society, entrepreneurs, farmers, and others on the ground. New approaches must be identified to overcome the failures of past policies, he said, also calling for more equal opportunities for persons with disabilities. Ahead of the upcoming Olympic Games to be hosted in France in 2020, the country had invested some 870 million euros in improved transport and accessibility, and was increasing job creation and hiring.
NAJAT DAHAM AL ABDALLAH, Director of Family Affairs of Qatar, expressing her country’s commitment to inclusive social development and poverty eradication, said it promoted the creation of environments conducive to youth skills development and their participation in public life. Among other things, Qatar had recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the United Nations aimed at combating terrorism and protecting young people in particular from recruitment by violent extremists. Underlining efforts currently under way to ensure that the 2020 Football World Cup — to be held in Qatar — would be inclusive for all people, including those with disabilities, she went on to note that the country’s Vision 2030 plan was fully aligned with the global 2030 Agenda. Nevertheless, Qatar faced serious challenges following the June 2017 application of unjust, unilateral economic sanctions against it. Describing those measures as major violations of the economic, social and human rights of the Qatari people, she said they had disproportionately affected women and children, prevented students from continuing their university studies, and restricted the critical travel of Qatari citizens to other countries.
RALITSA DIKANSKA and ASSYA PANDZHAROVA, youth delegates of Bulgaria, said they were proud their country included youth empowerment and participation as one of its four main priorities in its political agenda. Youth engagement in national and global processes had become a tradition for Bulgaria, with young people having an important role in mobilizing their local communities to initiate action that would contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Their involvement was essential to eliminate poverty and all forms of inequalities and discrimination. Young people must be enabled to act as agents of positive social change, helping to promote awareness of the 2030 Agenda and using sports and intercultural dialogue as tools to enhance tolerance and respect for human rights. Including youth at all levels of decision‑making was crucial for fostering positive social change and creating sustainable societies, they said, calling on Member States to ensure their inclusion.
JAHKINI BISSELINK, youth delegate from the Netherlands, said by 2030 about 60 per cent of the world’s population would live in cities, 60 per cent of which would comprise people under age 18 who would face new challenges such as food and water accessibility. Empowering youth as agents of change would help to address those challenges, she said, suggesting ways to do so, including stimulating cross‑cutting youth participation, promoting inclusive dialogue and enabling local talent development. Elaborating on those recommendations, she urged all State and non‑State actors to start organizing and stimulating youth participation from local to global levels. As a young person who had been a news reporter at age 11 and a museum employee at age 16, she said such opportunities in rural and urban areas, especially for girls, stimulated talent development. Urban and rural areas needed vibrant local youth participation to realize their full potential to create resilient communities.
SAMEDIN ROVCANIN, youth delegate from Serbia, said youth inclusion was critically important in efforts related to the 2030 Agenda, pointing at the dreamers who had first conceived of the Millennium Development Goals. “We all want to live in richer societies, have better access to education and better jobs; this aspiration of ours makes us firm believers in the [Sustainable Development] Goals and staunch promoters of their  Agenda,” he said, emphasizing the role young people could play in implementing the Goals related to education and poverty eradication. Commending the United Nations and its Member States for including his peers in related discussions, he said Serbia had taken important steps to address national challenges, including creating a road map for strategic cooperation in improving good governance, reducing poverty and protecting the environment.
IOANA COVEI, youth delegate from Romania, said that to address the Commission’s theme of inclusive, resilient and sustainable development, her country looked to an expanded definition of what it meant to be poor, one that looked not only at income or basic needs, but also at empowerment. As the definition of a dignified life had evolved, poverty had come to include not only access to material resources but also to culture, political participation and the life of the community in general. Youth was a time when people made important decisions in their lives. For example, they could decide whether education was worth pursuing. Increased financial support for young people with lower incomes was important, so that poverty was not an obstacle to accessing a universal right.
VLAD MACELARU, youth delegate from Romania, said that for young people with disabilities, unequal access to education could lead to a significantly higher rate of unemployment, and it was important to stress that much more should be done in terms of accessibility. More training for teachers so that they could work with children with disabilities was essential to foster development. Ethnic identity was another layer that could lead to income poverty and poverty in terms of access. Obstacles to social development were connected and interdependent, and focusing on them separately diminished the potential for change.
KAI SAUER (Finland), associating himself with the European Union, said recent global crises had shown that economic approaches had negatively affected not only social rights but also long‑term fiscal and economic policies. In contrast, new momentum towards more integrated policies should lead to improved social conditions and poverty eradication. Calling for determined and integrated action to implement the 2030 Agenda — and for more attention to the follow‑up processes and the full use of indicators — he said Finland was currently carrying out several major reforms and pilot programmes related to economic and social rights. A basic income experiment, started at the beginning of 2016, had selected 2,000 random persons as a sample to receive basic income as a substitute for some basic benefits including unemployment allowance. That basic income — fixed at 560 euros per month — was tax-free, and meant to encourage people to accept temporary and part‑time work, allowing for a more empowering and streamlined employment incentive system. Based on its results, Finland would consider introducing basic income as a tool in its renewed social security system.
ANAYANSI RODRÍGUEZ CAMEJO (Cuba), associating herself with the Group of 77, said that in many countries, extreme poverty was still growing, and prospects for complying with Goal 1 were discouraging. Political will was not enough, she said, emphasizing the need for material and financial resources, technology transfer and human resource training. Developed countries must honour their commitments vis‑à‑vis official development assistance (ODA) and the international community must develop a genuine culture of solidarity. A just international order must be promoted, protectionist and discriminatory trade policies against countries in the South must cease and developed countries must assume their historic responsibility for a serious environmental crisis. She went on to note the progress Cuba had made in social development despite an economic, commercial and financial blockade that had gone on for nearly six decades.
ISSA KONFOUROU (Mali), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said the social needs of Mali’s people were a priority for its Government, which focused in particular on water, education, energy, health care and rural roads. It was also focused on the social integration of older persons, persons with disabilities, women and children, as well as those who were victims of natural disasters or otherwise in need of humanitarian assistance, and broader efforts were also under way to reduce social risks. Noting that 15 per cent of Mali’s national budget had been allocated to support the agricultural sector, surpassing the percentage mandated by the African Union, he said part of those funds were allotted as subsidies to farmers. In 2016, the Government had adopted a strategic framework aimed at economic recovery and sustainable development in a Mali that was unified and at peace. Included in that plan was a wide expansion of health insurance coverage and the establishment of a month of solidarity, to be celebrated annually in October, as well as additional efforts to support the most vulnerable.
JOSÉ LUIS FIALHO ROCHA (Cabo Verde) said the world had recently seen progress in eliminating poverty, but “a long journey is ahead of us” in reducing the many inequalities that had emerged. His country was committed to reducing poverty rates and had already made substantial progress during the Millennium Development Goal period. The country’s strategic plan for the period 2017‑2022 was aligned with the 2030 Agenda, and prioritized inclusive economic and social development. The needs of specific groups, including women, persons with disabilities and youth, were taken into account in that strategy as well as in national legislation. Government measures also aimed to ensure the universal access to health care and social protection for elderly persons. While domestic resources were central to funding all those measures, external partnerships also remained critical to helping Cabo Verde address its social issues and eradicate poverty. In that context, he expressed concern that the country’s graduation from the least developed country category had excluded it from receiving much‑needed aid, and called on partners to continue to support the development efforts of graduated small island developing States.
CHARLES T. NTWAAGAE(Botswana), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said that 1.1 billion people had been lifted out of extreme poverty between 1990 and 2013. Of the estimated 768.5 million people in the world living in extreme poverty, 390.2 million were in Africa. In Botswana, it was estimated that 5.8 per cent of the population lived in abject poverty. His Government had adopted several strategies, policies and programmes aimed at promoting sustainable development and eradicating extreme poverty. A comprehensive social protection system that targeted the vulnerable and needy persons was also in place. The Government had also created a Technical Devices Fund Levy, which promoted investment in the creative industries as an engine for job creation, poverty alleviation and economic diversification. Funds had been allocated to promote arts, crafts and performances by local artists.
MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh), citing his country’s progress in various social and economic development areas, said that as the world considered the future of social development, poverty eradication and the situation of least developed countries would be of particular concern. Ensuring quality jobs, food security and nutrition and empowering people would be critical, he said, pointing out that Bangladesh had been enjoying a gradual but significant reduction in poverty, having seen a 6 per cent economic growth rate for more than a decade. Bangladesh aimed to become a middle‑income country by 2021 and a developed nation after that. Noting that its latest five‑year development plan was fully aligned with the 2030 Agenda, he said top priorities included the reduction of inequality through enhanced education programmes and social safety nets. The country’s inclusive and “whole‑of‑society” approach targeted vulnerable groups and families in order to ensure that no one was left behind. However, the major recent humanitarian crisis emerging from Myanmar — with over 1 million Rohingyas having arrived in Bangladesh, most since August 2017 — was posing considerable challenges that threatened to negatively impact Bangladesh’s development efforts.
MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan), associating herself with the Group of 77, warned that increasing vulnerability and exclusion, the persistence of unaccountable institutions and continuing conflicts and violence all threatened global development efforts. That was even more true at a time when “the monster of social discrimination and exclusion based on religion, race, gender and ethnicity is raising its ugly head once again,” she stressed, adding that only realistic and determined social and economic policymaking and implementation could effectively combat poverty. The Government of Pakistan had put in place people‑centred policies aimed at lifting people out of poverty, promoting fiscal inclusion, boosting agricultural growth, accelerating rural development and providing education opportunities. The Pakistan Vision 2025 plan aimed to create new and better opportunities for the country’s people, and such initiatives as the Benazir Income Support Programme — a nationwide social safety net plan — provided support to vulnerable people. Citing gender empowerment as another crucial element, she also drew attention to robust regional partnerships and examples of South‑South cooperation, such as the China‑Pakistan Economic Corridor project.
MARÍA RUBIALES DE CHAMORRO (Nicaragua), aligning herself with the Group of 77, said national efforts were advancing progress on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, including through poverty eradication programmes and multisector projects guided by policies boosting job opportunities, increasing skills and ensuring women’s empowerment. Government strategies and policies would continue to focus on health, education, housing and employment, she said, emphasizing that human rights‑centred approaches were shaping future efforts.
SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍS (Bolivia), endorsing the statement made by the Group of 77, said a global context of social crisis, exclusion, migration, climate change consequences and youth unemployment had demonstrated rapidly increasing income gaps nationally and globally. Public policies in Bolivia had significantly reduced extreme poverty levels over the past decade, with a gross domestic product (GDP) that had more than doubled since 2005 alongside steady declines in school dropout levels and child mortality rates. Laws, policies and efforts were addressing the needs of persons with disabilities, and gains had been made in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals. Emphasizing Bolivia’s generous social spending programme, he said that before 2005, 82 per cent of the country’s oil wealth rested with transnational corporations and 18 per cent in national hands. Today, those figures were reversed, which could serve as an example to others.
SEBASTIANO CARDI (Italy) commended the work and priority themes of the Commission in regard to helping States implement the 2030 Agenda. Eradicating poverty would help to address the other Sustainable Development Goals and targets, he said, adding that Italy fully supported efforts to address the needs of groups such as women, migrants and children. The vicious cycle of poverty must be overcome by building resilience and ending a culture of dependency. Italy invested in young people as key drivers of change, including education programmes focused on human rights and the importance of intercultural dialogue. Citing other efforts, he said persons with disabilities enjoyed protection under laws and innovative projects.
ISABELLE F. PICCO (Monaco), noting that the 2030 Agenda goals had been based on the 1995 Copenhagen Programme of Action, raised three areas of concern — poverty eradication, health care and the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing. While progress had been achieved on the former, a new type of poverty in the form of nutritional or sanitary deprivation was emerging. Access to education and decent work would help to reduce inequalities, particularly between rural and urban populations, by investing in the most disadvantaged. Monaco also placed great importance on building effective health care systems that reached the most vulnerable. Turning to the needs of older persons, she said Monaco supported inclusive societies to foster sustainable development.
GEORGINA GALANIS from Soroptimist International, speaking on behalf of the Coalition for Global Citizenship 2030, said members promoted the values of the United Nations. The 2030 Agenda aimed at freeing the world of poverty and the correction of current inequalities in a sustainable manner. Global citizens aimed at empowering themselves in their communities, she said, emphasizing the need to take action on eliminating poverty and meaningfully addressing related pressing concerns. The root causes must be addressed, including the impoverishment of values that had led to, among other things, militarism and greed. To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, actions must centre on respect for one another, she said.
ALI NASEER MOHAMED (Maldives) said poverty was a common enemy of civil society and eliminating it should be a shared goal. Turning to the 2030 Agenda targets, he said national investments in education, housing and health were part of efforts to ensure that no one was left behind. Providing some examples, he said a national elderly policy provided financial and emotional support to older persons and the 2016 Gender Equality Act was addressing related objectives. Eradicating poverty required investing in the greatest resource: people, he said, adding that the most vulnerable must be reached with effective partnerships to craft shared solutions for a shared goal.