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Speakers Discuss Ways Young People Can Help Implement Sustainable Development, as Economic and Social Council Youth Forum Concludes

Concluding the second day of the two‑day Economic and Social Council Youth Forum, young people and representatives of Government and civil society gathered to share their findings on how youth could help implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and help to build sustainable and resilient communities.

Liu Zhenmin, Under‑Secretary‑General of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said that the Forum had allowed young people, Member States and the United Nations to come together to share ideas.  He called upon everyone to continue their efforts in both policy and practice.

Young people could drive sustainable consumption to build more resilient communities, and their engagement was essential for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, Mr. Liu stressed.  Youth should continue to work with policymakers and governments to ensure their voices were heard.

Jayathma Wickramanayake, the Secretary‑General’s Envoy on Youth, said that the Forum had brought diverse stakeholders together to discuss the role of young people in the Sustainable Development Goals and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.  The Youth Forum was a good learning experience and a great opportunity to meet young people and ministers.   She looked forward to its work feeding into the high‑level political forum and being recognized for its important contribution.

Marie Chatardová, President of the Economic and Social Council, thanked the participants for gathering to share their stories and ideas about what needed to be done to build sustainable and resilient communities.  She noted that she would take two steps to ensure that the work done over the two‑day session had a lasting impact on the Council and also the high‑level political forum:  issue a Presidential Statement that would capture the key messages and recommendations that emerged from the Forum, and ensure that a more detailed summary, which captured the full highlights, would be prepared and shared.

During the day, the rapporteurs of three breakout sessions on regional concerns and development needs for youth reported on the outcomes of their respective sessions.

The Forum also held a round‑table session on the means of implementation and financing of youth development as well as a plenary session on stakeholders’ pledges of commitment to building resilient and sustainable communities.

Highlights of Breakout Sessions on Regional Concerns, Development Needs

GOGONTLEJANG PHALADI, Founder and Executive Director of the Gogontlejang Phaladi Pillar of Hope Project in Botswana, highlighted the main points that came out of the breakout session on Africa.  Participants had said that there had to be agreement that corruption was a serious challenge in Africa.  It had impeded progress, she said.  The young people participating also felt that there was not sufficient political will to win the fight against corruption.  They underscored that there was not sufficient space for them to participate in decision‑making processes. Youth made up 60 per cent of the population of Africa, and they could not be the missing face in decision‑making, she said.

DEJAN BOJANIĆ, Vice-President of the European Youth Forum, speaking on Europe and North America, said that his group had several recommendations that came out of the session.  The group recommended that Governments should become more accessible for young people, by making sure they used accessible language, for example.  The age at which young people could run for Government positions also needed to be lowered, as did the voting age.  The participants of the group also recommended that Governments ensured that all young people had access to quality citizenship education.  With regard to financing, no one should be left behind, and greater investment in youth organizations and initiatives was needed.

PEDRO ROBLEDO, of the Ibero‑American Youth Organization, speaking on Latin America, said that there were young people who did not have access to running water, or being able to attend secondary school.  There were many women suffering from violence and violations of their rights.  But everyone in the room at the Forum today was present and responsible for ensuring that everything discussed generated real action.  What was needed was to find the organizations that were making the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development into a reality and taking tangible action to change lives.  School curricula needed to contain tools for young people to enable them to participate in the labour market.

SHAQUILLE KNOWLES, Chairman‑elect of the Caribbean Regional Youth Council, spoke on her region’s breakout group.  There was a communication breakdown between Governments in the Caribbean and young people with regard to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.  In addition, young people were not encouraged to be involved in Government in the Caribbean, and there was a disconnect between youth and the older people in governmental positions.  In terms of education, only certain careers were being encouraged, and education in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics needed to be encouraged further.

TAHERE SIISIIALAFIA, Chair of the Pacific Youth Council, spoke on the breakout session for her region.  Participants had discussed the subjects of increasing resilience and attaining sustainability.  The group had also asked how a cultivating environment could be created that would unleash the potential of youth with regard to the 2030 Agenda.  Action needed to be planned and inspired by youth.  Local solutions should be found and action at the grassroots level was needed.  Mechanisms needed to be supported that would help the potential of youth to find creative solutions.

MONEERA YASSIEN, of the Youth Leadership Programme, spoke on the Arab States region breakout session.  She noted that her group was able to find important insights regarding the region.  The Arab States were not a homogeneous group, but faced different situations both between and within countries.  During the discussion, they were able to find strength in that diversity, she said, as well as a wealth of views on how best to implement the Sustainable Development Goals.  Barriers to political participation, the hindering of gender equality, conflict, difficulties accessing finance and lack of access to innovation support networks were some of the problems faced in the region.  Action was needed to help youth make contributions as engaged citizens, she said.  The United Nations was equipped to assist in many areas, and should help remove barriers to the inclusion of youth in development.

Round Table on Means of Implementation, Financing Youth Development

Before introducing the round‑table discussion, Jayathma Wickramanayake, the Secretary‑General’s Envoy on Youth, made some observations on the outcomes of the morning’s breakout sessions.  She said that they had harvested several common themes, including the idea that partnerships were most effective when they brought together Governments and young people.  There was also a focus on fostering education and skills development, and a strong gender perspective was also apparent in the various group discussions.  Turning to the subject of the means of implementation for the 2030 Agenda, she said that a global partnership was needed to help Governments, civil society, the United Nations system and others work together.  She also highlighted the vital role of the Conference on Financing for Development in the implementation of the Agenda.  There was a growing global recognition of the role that young people could play in the implementation of the Agenda, she said, noting that she hoped to see more youth delegates and youth organizations getting involved.

The moderator of the round‑table event was Andreas Karsten, a board member from the organization Demokratie & Dialog.  Raising the subject of voluntary national reviews, he emphasized that they were an important mechanism for young people to hold Governments to account on their progress on the Sustainable Development Goals.

The representatives of several countries noted their national policies with regard to youth and the 2030 Agenda.  Among the many speakers taking the floor, the Director General for the Institute for Youth of Spain discussed his country’s voluntary national review, noting that his Government would also soon create its own national United Nations young delegates programme.  That programme was part of a strategy for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the political participation of young people.  The youth delegate from the Netherlands, meanwhile, said that his country’s voluntary national review showed that his Government was recognizing young people as valuable partners in the co‑creation of a sustainable future.

The Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Sport, Youth and National Service of Namibia said that young people in her country were being empowered, and their needs were given space in its national development plan.  Namibia had also worked to help lower youth unemployment and developed employment creation projects for them.  In addition, youth‑friendly clinics had been set up, mainly for reproductive health.

The Additional Secretary (Youth Affairs) for the Ministry of National Policies and Economic Affairs of Sri Lanka said his country had given due consideration to the 2030 Agenda in its national priorities.  Youth skills development was being addressed to meet the needs of local and global employment markets, he said.

The Secretary of State for Youth and Sport of Portugal said that his country felt the responsibility to build better youth policies.  It was also developing a national plan for youth.  That country’s youth delegate, who also spoke, noted that young people were leading their organizations and making things happen for themselves.

A representative of the Ministry for Youth of Paraguay, where 60 per cent of the population was under the age of 30, said her country’s President was determined to prioritize youth.  Public policies and innovative projects aimed at young people were designed by young people, who were game‑changers, she said.  Government scholarships to more than 10,000 students represented a strong bet for the development of human capital.  Youth unemployment, running at twice the national average, was a pressing issue.  Paraguay was putting a strong focus on technical training, she said, adding that a voluntary programme enabled young people to serve in the most vulnerable communities.

A representative of the Agency of Youth and Sport of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia discussed his country’s national youth strategy, which envisioned youth as independent, equal and active participants in all sectors of society.  Young people deserved easier social inclusion, he said, noting also the Government’s initiative of youth employment projects.

A representative of the Mexican Institute of Youth said his organization was pushing for the establishment of a specialized technical unit within Mexico’s statistical agency for studying youth.

ISAAC KWAME ASIAMAH, Minister for Youth and Sports of Ghana, emphasized the role of youth in fighting corruption, which across Africa had not only depleted resources, but deprived young people of opportunities.  He drew attention to Government initiatives to boost youth employment, adding however that much more needed to be done to include young people in Ghana’s development agenda.

The United Nations Youth Adviser for Sustainable Development Goals Implementation of Indonesia said availability of data was a country‑level challenge.  The United Nations system was working with the Government to address that issue, helping it to come up with baselines that would identify the challenges faced by Indonesian youth.  He also described his country’s Youth Hub programme, aimed at mainstreaming the Sustainable Development Goals vis‑à‑vis Indonesian youth while helping develop a sense of youth ownership in the Goals.

A representative of the Russian Federation discussed the recent nineteenth World Festival of Youth and Students, which brought together 25,000 participants from 188 countries.  She also emphasized the importance her country attached to the development of international youth cooperation.

A representative of the Inter‑Parliamentary Union said it was important to campaign for younger members of Parliament, in addition to connecting with parliamentarians to ensure that youth concerns were taken into account in the legislative processes.

SOLOMON SELCAP DALUNG, Minister for Youth and Sports Development of Nigeria, said his country was particularly mindful of the role of youth in rebuilding Nigerian communities devastated by conflict and violent extremism.

A representative of the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations said mental health was not getting enough attention at the global level.  Emphasizing the link between mental health care and universal health coverage, she said her organization was providing its 1.5 million members with materials to campaign for better mental health care.  It was not a shame to have a mental health disorder, but it was shameful not to help those who did, she said.

The Minister for Youth and Sports of Nepal said his Government recognized youth as an invaluable asset, but owing to a lack of adequate employment opportunity, many young people in Nepal left in search of work elsewhere.  In response, the Government was establishing policies to encourage their return.

The State Secretary of the Ministry of Demography, Family, Youth and Social Policy of Croatia said a main cause of high unemployment in his country was the disparity between education and labour market requirements.  Young people in rural areas were particularly vulnerable in that regard, he said, emphasizing that it was vital to develop life skills that were often not related to formal education.

The Special Advisor for Global Youth Issues of the State Department of the United States said many young people in his country and elsewhere were struggling to turn their education and their passions into meaningful work.  That would get harder as technology changed the type of jobs people had, he said.  There was no need to be fearful, but more must be done to prepare for the twenty‑first century, with Governments better understanding how the world of work was changing.

The Minister for Youth and Sport of Serbia said that his country had financially supported projects for young people in the areas of mobility, information, creativity and activism, employment and education, among other areas.  Serbia had also established a mechanism for the active participation of youth in society.  The Minister for Culture, Youth and Sports of South Sudan, meanwhile, said that her country was affected by conflict, and its young people were struggling to catch up with the 2030 Agenda.  The Government’s responsibility was to work hard to encourage the productive work of young people to overcome their challenges, she said.

Pledges and Commitments

The representative of Mexico said that his country was convinced of the importance of the role of youth, and it had set up a strategy to achieve the 2030 Agenda.  Mexico, along with other international actors, had pledged to organize an an international conference on the Agenda that would provide a forum for dialogue for youth.

The representative of Singapore said that his country would hold an event this June called UNLEASH, which would empower young people to shape a more resilient and brighter future.

The representative of Panama said that projects currently under way in her country included a forum for youth for water, through which her Government was trying to raise awareness on how to properly manage water resources.

The representative of Saudi Arabia said that its initiative, Vision 2030, was built in 2016 and was the country’s national commitment to future projects on the 2030 Agenda.  Young people were the key to realizing that vision, as they made up 70 per cent of the population.

MAIMUNAH MOHD SHARIF, the Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN‑Habitat), said that she believed that investment in youth must continue.  Environmental challenges, climate change, and radicalization were among the challenges faced by youth today. If urbanization was the engine to prosperity, then youth were the engineers, she said.

LAURA LONDÉN, the Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said that the Forum had heard from the most open‑minded and best connected generation the world had ever seen.  UNFPA had placed adolescents and youth at the centre of its work and had been a trusted ally of young people.  Its strategic plan pledged that adolescents and youths would be empowered to make informed decisions about their futures, and would have access to the information they needed about their reproductive health and rights.

RICHARD CURTIS, film‑maker and Sustainable Development Goals advocate, said that in his experience, politicians were more interested in listening to young people than they were to old people.  He said he had met many young people who had, for example, changed child marriage laws and changed attitudes to peace.

TATANA GREGOR BRZOBOHATA, Miss World 2006, activist and philanthropist of the Czech Republic, said that her mission was to inspire others to be of service in the world.  Her 10‑year‑old foundation helped the elderly and also helped the work of other non‑governmental organizations in the Czech Republic.  Everyone might live in different areas around the world, but the language of service was one that everyone shared, she said.  She invited those listening to give back to their communities and start volunteering.

WANG YUAN, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Special Advocate for Education in China, said that education was a key factor in building confident and resilient children, and noted that he had recently visited a school where children were encouraged to work together to solve problems.  He was committed to his role with UNICEF to call attention to universal quality education for every child.

JOLLY AMATYA from the National Youth Council of Nepal, representing the Major Group for Children and Youth, said that children and youth were the foremost right holders, and Member States were duty bearers, she said.  Young people had a critical role to play in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.  The Group was committing and investing its capacities in policy and advocacy, and youth action and knowledge, she said.

EVELINA CABRERA, the President of the Women’s Football Association of Argentina, said that it was important to ensure that there was individual resilience among youth.  Youths were the key tool in implementing and achieving the 2030 Agenda, and the Association would work to disseminate it so that youth could implement it in their societies.

RALPH JOHNSON, the representative of the World Federation of United Nations Associations Youth Advisory Council for North America, spoke on behalf of the International Coordination Meeting of Youth Organisations.  He highlighted the actions of several groups, including the International Young Catholic Students organization, which was continuing its work in the implementation of several Goals through advocacy and data collection.

Closing Remarks

LIU ZHENMIN, Under‑Secretary‑General for Economic and Social Affairs, said that the Forum had allowed young people, Member States and the United Nations to come together to share ideas.  He called upon everyone to continue their efforts in both policy and practice.  The Department of Economic and Social Affairs held a key mandate on youth in the United Nations system, which included the implementation of the World Programme for Youth.  The discussions at the Forum had highlighted many examples of national progress of youth participation and engagement.  Participants had also shared ideas on how to create sustainable cities, including the implementation of initiatives that promoted more inclusive cities.  Young people could drive sustainable consumption to build more resilient communities, and their engagement was essential for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.  Youth should continue to work with policymakers and governments to ensure their voices were heard.

Ms. WICKRAMANAYAKE said that the Forum had brought diverse stakeholders together to discuss the role of young people in the Sustainable Development Goals and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.  She looked forward to the work feeding into the high‑level political forum, and hoped it would recognize the important contribution that the Youth Forum had made.  She said the Forum was a good learning experience and a great opportunity to meet young people and ministers.  She asked for feedback on the Forum to see if expectations were met, in order to improve and support everyone as equal partners.  She asked the government officials in the rook to take the outcomes of the Forum back to their countries and implement what they had learned.  She asked the young people in the room to keep holding governments accountable and to continue to represent young people in Forums like the present one.

MARIE CHATARDOVÁ, President of the Economic and Social Council, thanked those who had participated in the Youth Forum for gathering to share their stories and ideas about what needed to be done to build sustainable and resilient communities.  She noted that she would take two steps to ensure that the work done over the two‑day session had a lasting impact on the Council and also the high‑level political forum.  She would issue a Presidential Statement that would capture the key messages and recommendations that emerged from the Forum.  She would also ensure that a more detailed summary, which captured the full highlights, would be prepared and shared.

News

General Assembly Takes Action on Second Committee Reports by Adopting 41 Texts, also Passes Overhaul of United Nations Peace, Security Pillar

Increasing Official Development Assistance, Updating Bank Policies to Support 2030 Agenda among Resolutions Approved

Gearing up to implement the international community’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the General Assembly today adopted 41 resolutions and two related decisions aimed at strengthening nations’ efforts to reach agreed goals.

At the meeting’s outset, the Assembly also adopted, without a vote, a resolution on restructuring the United Nations peace and security pillar, presenting what several delegates described as “sweeping” proposals to overhaul it.

By the resolution’s terms, the Assembly took note of a Secretary‑General’s report containing five proposals, including the creation of a single political‑operational structure under Assistant Secretaries‑General with regional responsibilities, and establishment of a “Standing Principals’ Group” of the Under‑Secretaries‑General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and for Peace Operations.

Focusing then on the Second Committee, the Assembly turned to macroeconomic policy questions, adopting a resolution on international financial system and development in a recorded vote of 180 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with no abstentions.  By that text, the Assembly stressed that development banks should make optimal use of their resources and balance sheets, updating their policies to support of the 2030 Agenda.

By further terms, the Assembly committed to substantially curb illicit financial flows by 2030 by combating tax evasion, transnational organized crime and corruption through strengthened national regulation and increased international cooperation and reducing opportunities for tax avoidance.

Adopting another resolution on external debt sustainability and development, the Assembly stressed creditor and debtor responsibility in avoiding build‑up of unsustainable debt to diminish the risk of crisis.  By further terms, it urged countries to direct resources freed by debt relief to sustained economic growth and internationally agreed development goals.

By a resolution on commodities, adopted in a recorded vote of 182 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with no abstentions, the Assembly directed the international community to address factors creating structural barriers to international trade, impeding diversification and limiting access to financial services.  By other terms, it called on relevant stakeholders to address low industrialization and diversification of economies of some commodity‑dependent developing countries.

Other resolutions on macroeconomic policy questions concerned unilateral economic measures, international trade, financial inclusion, illicit financial flows and financing for development.

Focusing on special groups of countries, the Assembly adopted a draft on Follow‑up to the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries.  By that text, the Assembly underlined the urgent need to reverse the decline in official development assistance (ODA) to least developed countries, urging nations that had not met commitments to increase their contribution and make concrete efforts towards ODA targets.

By another resolution on Development cooperation with middle‑income countries, it encouraged shareholders in multilateral development banks to develop a graduation process (from a nation’s lesser developed status) that was sequenced, phased and gradual.

Addressing sustainable development, the Assembly adopted several resolutions, including one on disaster risk reduction, emphasizing that preventing and reducing such risk would provide exponential returns and significantly curtail response costs.  It also emphasized the importance of increasing the availability of multi‑hazard early warning mechanisms in ensuring early action.

According to another draft, the Assembly called for ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all, adopting it in a recorded vote of 183 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 1 abstention (Venezuela).  It also called on Governments to expand the use of renewable energy beyond the power sector to industry, heating and cooling, infrastructure and the transport sector.

Adopting a further draft on combating sand and dust storms, it recognized that such weather had inflicted substantial economic, social and environmental damage on the inhabitants of the world’s arid, semi‑arid and dry subhumid areas, underscoring the need to treat and promptly take measures to address them.

Other sustainable development resolutions spotlighted development of the Semipalatinsk region of Kazakhstan, sustainable tourism development in Central America, agricultural technology, desertification, biological diversity, education, camelids and World Bee Day.

Turning to a related item, the Assembly adopted a resolution on agriculture development, food security and nutrition in a recorded vote of 185 in favour to 1 against (United States), with no abstentions. By that text, the Assembly stressed the need to increase sustainable agricultural production globally by improving markets and trading systems as well as increasing responsible public and private investment in agriculture, land management and rural development.

By further terms, it stressed that a universal, rules‑based, open, non‑discriminatory and equitable multilateral trading system promoted rural development and contributed to world food security and nutrition.  It urged national, regional and international strategies to promote the participation of farmers, fishers and fish workers in their various markets.

The Assembly also adopted a resolution concerning natural resources in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Syrian Golan in a recorded vote of 163 in favour to 6 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, United States) with 11 abstentions, which called for Israel to cease exploitation of natural resources in those territories.

Further to the text, the Assembly called on Israel to comply with international law and cease all policies and measures to alter the character and status of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  It also called on Israel to stop harming the environment, cease destruction of vital infrastructure, remove obstacles to the implementation of critical environmental projects, and cease efforts impeding Palestinian development.

Resolutions were also adopted on transport links, agricultural technology, small islands, global climate, harmony with nature, oil slick on Lebanese shores, human settlements, globalization, science and technology, culture, landlocked developing countries, poverty eradication, women, human resources, operational activities, South‑South cooperation and family farming.

Committee Rapporteur Theresah Chipulu Luswili Chanda introduced its reports.

Also adopted, without a vote, was a plenary resolution on a world against violence and violent extremism.  Introducing that text, Iran’s representative urged Member States to avoid associating violent extremism with any single religion or nationality, adding that the Assembly could provide a platform to address the roots of that phenomenon.

The resolution spotlighted international efforts to combat violent extremism and reaffirmed the importance of the Secretary‑General’s Plan of Action on the matter.

In other business, the Assembly took note of a report of its General Committee and several appointments to the Committee on Conferences.  Botswana, France and the Russian Federation were appointed to serve three‑year terms on the Committee beginning on 1 January 2018.  The Assembly also noted that the Asia‑Pacific Group had recommended China’s appointment to fill a vacancy on the Committee for a term of office beginning on the date of appointment and ending on 31 December 2019.

Introduction of Draft Resolution and Reports

MIROSLAV LAJČÁK (Slovakia), President of the General Assembly, introducing a draft resolution titled “Restructuring of the United Nations peace and security pillar” (document A/72/L.33), said the Organization must be able to respond to today’s challenges “in the best way it can”.  However, there were new conflicts today that were harder to identify, as in the case of online recruitment of terrorist groups.  “Different threats require different responses,” he said, calling for adjustments to the Organization’s seventy‑year‑old mechanisms.  “We must evolve,” he stressed, noting that the resolution before the Assembly today would assist in that process, as it called for a second comprehensive report on the United Nations peace and security pillar.  Thanking the facilitators, he urged Member States to adopt the text by consensus.

The representative of Colombia, speaking in explanation of position on that item, said the resolution was critical to help make the United Nations more modern and transparent.  It contained a “visionary proposal” by the Secretary‑General, who had been chosen specifically “for this important task”.  Today’s peace and security challenges required bold measures to save lives, he said, adding that the resolution marked an important step forward in transparency.  It would also provide more feedback on “what is working and what is not working on the ground” in the United Nations efforts to enhance sustainable international peace.

The Assembly then adopted the draft resolution without a vote.

The representative of the United States said the United Nations would be better able to address the needs of those on the ground with more focused, effective and efficient operations.  Any reform that was implemented must advance political solutions and enable the Organization to tailor its responses to the needs of countries in conflict or transition.  The resolution demonstrated that the Secretary‑General had wide‑reaching endorsement from Member States for his vision to make the United Nations a stronger and more relevant institution that could prevent and respond to conflicts and atrocities.

The representative of Mexico said his country had joined consensus on the resolution, as it supported the Secretary‑General in his vision to make the United Nations a stronger organization.  It was critical to have the full backing of the Assembly so that the proposal could be implemented as soon as possible.  However, it seemed contradictory that the resolution on the reform of peace and security did not include references to sustainable development or the 2015 review process.  He expressed hope that the Secretary‑General’s report would be substantive in helping the Organization move towards greater understanding and the paradigm shift that peace required.

The representative of Argentina, welcoming the Secretary‑General’s initiative to reform the United Nations peace and security pillar, said the Organization should adopt a holistic and comprehensive approach to conflict prevention, building sustainable peace and development.  The text would help decrease the fragmentation in the Organization’s work, she said, adding that the “sweeping” proposal would help the United Nations focus more closely on the root causes of conflict, ensure national ownership, enhance conflict prevention and implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Voicing support for efforts to make the Peacebuilding Office a “liaison” between the various relevant organs of the United Nations, she stressed that “we must move forward”, and expressed hope that the upcoming work would reflect an active exchange of ideas between all Member States.

The representative of China voiced support for the United Nations efforts to better implement the responsibilities entrusted in it by its Charter, as well as to enhance multilateralism.  Also welcoming efforts aimed at integrating the Organization’s resources and improving its efficiency, thereby allowing it to better respond to today’s peace and security challenges, he said the restructuring of the United Nations peace and security architecture would also require greater consultation between Member States.

The representative of the Russian Federation, noting that his delegation had joined in the consensus, said the changes proposed would also impact the Organization’s political dimensions.  Voicing his delegation’s commitment to engage in all discussions going forward, he expressed full respect for the points of view of various Member States, and said the final analysis must help them reach a “mutual understanding”.  While the interlinked relationship between the United Nations three pillars underpinned the Organization’s work, that did not mean that they must be carried out in the same way.  In that regard, he expressed support for the Secretary‑General’s efforts to avoid duplication of labour as well as ensure geographical representation.

The representative of Egypt agreed that the non‑traditional challenges emerging in global peace and security issues required new ideas and a more efficient use of the United Nations toolkit.  Stressing that the Assembly and its organs were the only entities that could adopt any of the restructuring proposals — and that such an adoption must be undertaken with full respect for the mandates of all the United Nations organs without any amendments to those mandates — he warned against including controversial elements which had not been fully agreed by Member States.  In addition, he said, Egypt considered sustainable development to be a right and a standalone objective in itself, which must be achieved without any preconditions.

The representative of Brazil said the United Nations needed to be nimbler if it was to implement all initiatives under the pillars of peace and security, development and human rights.  His country supported reform of the peace and security pillar and welcomed efforts to overcome fragmentation in focusing on restructuring peacebuilding.  However, he said reform would not be complete without reference to the work methods of the Security Council.

The representative of Estonia, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the Assembly had expressed strong support for the Secretary‑General and reform of the Secretariat’s peace and security pillar.  He looked forward to a detailed report of all aspects of the new pillar.  The Secretariat must act as one while taking into account specificities of all facets on the ground, as through such efforts it could improve on efforts to maintain peace.  The Secretary‑General had the authority and now full political endorsement in proceeding with the first steps of implementing his vision.  With adoption of the resolution, the Assembly had set in motion not only reform but also a good precedent for other reforms.

THERESAH CHIPULU LUSWILI CHANDA (Zambia), Rapporteur of the Second Committee, introduced that body’s reports and the draft resolutions or decisions within, noting oral revisions for some.  She began with Strengthening of the United Nations system; United Nations reform: measures and proposals (document A/72/L.33); Information and communications technologies for development (document A/72/417); Macroeconomic policy questions (document A/72/418); International trade and development (document A/72/418/Add.1); International financial system and development (document A/72/418/Add.2); External debt sustainability and development (document A/72/418/Add.3); Commodities (document A/72/418/Add.4); Financial inclusion for sustainable development (document A/72/418/Add.5); Promotion of international cooperation to combat illicit financial flows in order to foster sustainable development (document A/72/418/Add.6); and Follow-up to and implementation of the outcomes of the International Conferences on Financing for Development (document A/72/419).

Turning then to reports focusing on sustainable development, she introduced Sustainable development (document A/72/420); Implementation of Agenda 21, the Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21 and the outcomes of the World Summit on Sustainable Development and of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (document A/72/420/Add.1); Follow‑up to and implementation of the SIDS [small islands developing States] Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA) Pathway and the Mauritius Strategy for the Further Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States (document A/72/420/Add.2); Disaster risk reduction (document A/72/420/Add.3); Protection of global climate for present and future generations of humankind (document A/72/420/Add.4); Implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa (document A/72/420/Add.5); Sustainable development: Convention on Biological Diversity (document A/72/420/Add.6); Education for sustainable development (document A/72/420/Add.7); Harmony with Nature (document A/72/420/Add.8); Ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all (document A/72/420/Add.9); and Combating sand and dust storms (document A/72/420/Add.10).

Next, she introduced reports on Implementation of the outcomes of the United Nations Conferences on Human Settlements and on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development and strengthening of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN‑Habitat) (document A/72/421); Globalization and interdependence (document A/72/422); Role of the United Nations in promoting development in the context of globalization and interdependence (document A/72/422/Add.1); Science, technology and innovation for development (document A/72/422/Add.2); and Culture and sustainable development (document A/72/422/Add.3).

Next, she introduced reports on Development cooperation with middle‑income countries (document A/72/422/Add.4); Groups of countries in special situations (document A/72/423); Follow‑up to the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (document A/72/423/Add.1); Follow‑up to the second United Nations Conference on Landlocked Developing Countries (document A/72/423/Add.2); Eradication of poverty and other development issues: report of the Second Committee (document A/72/424); Implementation of the Second United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (2008‑2017) (document A/72/424/Add.1); Women in development (document A/72/424/Add.2); and Human resources development (document A/72/424/Add.3).

Finally, she introduced reports on Operational activities for development (document A/72/425); Operational activities for development of the United Nations system (document A/72/425/Add.1); South‑South cooperation for development (document A/72/425/Add.2); Agriculture development, food security and nutrition (document A/72/426); Towards global partnerships (document A/72/427); Permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources (document A/72/428); Revitalization of the work of the General Assembly (document A/72/479); and Programme planning (document A/72/484).

Action on Draft Resolutions

The Assembly then turned to draft resolutions in the reports, beginning with a text on information and communications technologies for development (document A/72/417), which it adopted without a vote.

By that text, the Assembly called on all stakeholders to make bridging digital divides a priority, put into effect sound strategies contributing to the development of e‑government and continue to focus on pro‑poor information and communications technology policies and applications.

Next, it took up Macroeconomic policy questions, taking note of the report and adopting a resolution on Unilateral economic measures as a means of political and economic coercion against developing countries (document A/72/418/Add.1) in a recorded vote of 130 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States) with 48 abstentions.  By that text, the Assembly would call for the elimination of such measures against those States.

It then adopted a resolution on International trade and development (document A/72/418/Add.1) in a recorded vote of 182 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with no abstentions.  By that text, the Assembly promoted a universal, rules‑based, open, transparent, predictable, inclusive, non‑discriminatory and equitable multilateral trading system under the World Trade Organization (WTO) as well as meaningful trade liberalization.

Following that, the Assembly adopted a text on International financial system and development (document A/72/418/Add.2) in a recorded vote of 180 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with no abstentions.  By that text, the Assembly resolved to strengthen the coherence and consistency of multilateral financial, investment, trade and development policy and environment institutions and platforms.

Next, it adopted, without a vote, a resolution on External debt sustainability and development (document A/72/418/Add.3), by which it stressed the responsibilities of creditor and debtor nations in avoiding the build‑up of unsustainable debt to diminish the risk of crisis.  By further terms, it urged countries to direct resources freed by debt relief to sustained economic growth and internationally agreed development goals.

The Assembly then adopted a draft on Commodities (document A/72/418/Add.4) in a recorded vote of 182 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with no abstentions.  By that draft, the Assembly would have the international community address factors that created structural barriers to international trade, impeded diversification and limited access to financial services, particularly for developing countries.

By other terms, it called on relevant stakeholders to address the issue of the low industrialization and diversification of the economies of some commodity‑dependent developing countries.

Next, the Assembly adopted, without a vote, a text on Financial inclusion for sustainable development (document A/72/418/Add.5), by which it encouraged Member States to adopt and pursue national financial inclusion and gender‑responsive strategies to end structural barriers to women’s equal access to economic resources.

It then adopted, without a vote, a resolution on Promotion of international cooperation to combat illicit financial flows in order to foster sustainable development (document A/72/418/Add.6).  By that draft, the Assembly expressed concern that cryptocurrencies were increasingly being used for illicit activities.  It called for greater international cooperation and sustained dialogue to combat illicit financial flows and strengthen good practices on assets return.

The representative of Nigeria said efforts by his country and Norway had led to the establishment of the interlink between achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and combating illicit financial flows, which had been endorsed in numerous fora including the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.  While his delegation had expected a more robust outcome, the adopted resolution was sufficient, he said, and appealed to Member States to further request a report by the Secretary‑General on how the issue was central to achieving the 2030 Agenda.  The Assembly setting up an intergovernmental body would be key to coordinating relevant mandates, he said, adding that most developing countries supported that idea.  The African Union’s annual theme would in 2018 be “Winning the fight against corruption:  A sustainable path to Africa’s Transformation”.  Nigeria stood ready to contribute toward holding the high‑level conference on illicit financial flows and asset recovery which would be convened by the President of the seventy‑third General Assembly.  Urging Member States to share information to combat illicit financial flows, he underscored that returning stolen assets had a more positive impact than focusing on conditionalities hindering developing countries’ progress.

Following that, the Assembly adopted a draft, without a vote, on Follow‑up to and implementation of the outcomes of the International Conferences on Financing for Development (document A/72/419).

Turning to sustainable development, the Assembly adopted a resolution on Oil slick on Lebanese shores (document A/72/420) in a recorded vote of 163 in favour to 7 against (Australia, Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, United States), with 9 abstentions (Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Tonga, Vanuatu).  By that text, it noted that the oil slick damage to Lebanon amounted to $856.4 million in 2014, and the Assembly requested the Government of Israel to provide compensation to Lebanon for the damage and to other countries directly affected by the oil slick, such as Syria.

The Assembly then adopted, without a vote, a text on International Year of Camelids, 2024 (document A/72/420), by which it encouraged all Member States, the United Nations system and other actors to take advantage of the International Year to promote awareness among the public of the economic and cultural importance of camelids.

Following that, it adopted, without a vote, a resolution on World Bee Day (document A/72/420), by which the Assembly decided to designate 20 May as World Bee Day to raise awareness of the importance of pollinators, the threats that they face and their contribution to sustainable development.

Next, the Assembly adopted a draft, without a vote, on strengthening the links between all modes of transport to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (document A/72/420).  By that text, it called for efforts to promote regional and interregional economic cooperation, including by improving the planning of transportation infrastructure and mobility, enhancing connectivity and facilitating trade and investment.

It then adopted, without a vote, a text on international cooperation and coordination for the human and ecological rehabilitation and economic development of the Semipalatinsk region of Kazakhstan (document A/72/420).  By that text, the Assembly urged the international community to assist Kazakhstan in implementing special programmes and projects to treat and care for the affected population, as well as efforts to ensure economic growth and sustainable development in the Semipalatinsk region.

Following that, the Assembly adopted, without a vote, a resolution on sustainable tourism and sustainable development in Central America (document A/72/420), by which it stressed the need to promote the further development of sustainable tourism and strengthen the development of ecotourism, maintaining the culture and environmental integrity of indigenous and local communities.

Next, it adopted a draft on Agricultural technology for sustainable development (document A/72/420) in a recorded vote of 152 in favour to 1 against (Syria), with 29 abstentions.  By that text, the Assembly urged stakeholders to strengthen efforts to improve the development of sustainable agricultural technologies and their transfer and dissemination to developing countries.

The representative of Slovenia said that after three years of effort, the resolution on World Bee Day had received its final endorsement.  In the last three years, since the beginning of the initiative of the Slovenian Beekeeper’s Association in 2014, his country had been intensively notifying States around the world on a political as well as an expert level.  In the frame of the official procedures, the initiative had been unanimously adopted by the Conference of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations at its fortieth session in Rome in July.  After that endorsement, it was transmitted to the Assembly, and on 17 November the resolution was adopted by the Second Committee.  Global food security was a key social issue and an important priority in the development of agriculture.  A third of all food produced in the world depends on pollination, and bees had an important role to play in the preservation of ecological balance and biodiversity.  They were also good bioindicators of environmental conditions.

The Assembly then adopted a text, in a recorded vote of 131 in favour to 48 against, with 4 abstentions (Liberia, New Zealand, Norway, Turkey), on Implementation of Agenda 21, the Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21 and the outcomes of the World Summit on Sustainable Development and of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (document A/72/420/Add.1).

Next, the Assembly adopted a draft, without a vote, on follow‑up to and implementation of the SIDS Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA) Pathway and the Mauritius Strategy for the Further Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States (document A/72/420/Add.2).

Following that, it adopted, without a vote, a text on Disaster risk reduction (document A/72/420/Add.3), by which the Assembly emphasized that preventing and reducing such risk would provide exponential returns and significantly curtail response costs.  It also emphasized the importance of increasing the availability of and access to multi‑hazard early warning mechanisms in ensuring early action.

The Assembly then adopted, without a vote, a draft on Protection of global climate for present and future generations of humankind (document A/72/420/Add.4).  By that text, it emphasized that mitigation of and adaptation to climate change represented an immediate and urgent global priority.  It also urged Member States to strengthen mechanisms and provide adequate resources towards achieving the full and equal participation of women in decision‑making at all levels on environmental issues.

Next, the Assembly adopted, without a vote, a text on Implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa (document A/72/420/Add.5).

Following that, it adopted a draft, without a vote, on implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity (document A/72/420/Add.6), by which the Assembly called on Governments and all stakeholders to take appropriate measures to mainstream consideration of socioeconomic impacts and benefits of conserving and sustainably using biodiversity and its components, as well as ecosystems providing essential services, into relevant programmes and policies at all levels.

The Assembly then adopted a text, without a vote, on Education for sustainable development in the framework of the 2030 Agenda (document A/72/420/Add.7).  By that draft, it called on the international community to provide inclusive and equitable quality education at all levels — early childhood, primary, secondary, tertiary and distance education, including technical and vocational training — so that all people had access to lifelong learning opportunities that help them exploit opportunities to participate fully in society and contribute to sustainable development.

Following that, it adopted, without a vote, a text on Harmony with Nature (document A/72/420/Add.8), by which the Assembly decided to continue observing International Mother Earth Day annually.  It also called for holistic and integrated approaches to sustainable development in its three dimensions that guided humanity to live in harmony with nature and led to efforts to restore the health and integrity of the planet’s ecosystems.

Next, it adopted a draft on Ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all (document A/72/420/Add.9) in a recorded vote of 183 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 1 abstention (Venezuela).  By that text, the Assembly called for ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.  It also called on Governments to expand the use of renewable energy beyond the power sector to industry, heating and cooling, construction and infrastructure, and in particular the transport sector.

The Assembly then adopted, without a vote, a draft on Combating sand and dust storms (document A/72/420/Add.10), by which it recognized that that meteorological phenomenon had inflicted substantial economic, social and environmental damage on the inhabitants of the world’s arid, semi‑arid and dry subhumid areas, underscoring the need to treat them and take measures to address those challenges.

Next, the Assembly adopted, without a vote, a draft on Implementation of the outcomes of the United Nations Conferences on Human Settlements and on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development and strengthening of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN‑Habitat) (document A/72/421).

It then adopted a text on the Role of the United Nations in promoting development in the context of globalization and interdependence (document A/72/422/Add.1) in a recorded vote of 184 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with no abstentions.  By that draft, the Assembly underlined that achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and 2030 Agenda depended on means of implementation, particularly finance, international trade, technology and capacity‑building, calling for sincere and effective follow‑up on global commitments.

The Assembly then took note of the Second Committee’s report on “Promoting development in the context of globalization and interdependence”.

Following that, the Assembly adopted, without a vote, a draft on Science, technology and innovation for development (document A/72/422/Add.2), by which it called for strengthened support to those areas, particularly in developing countries.  It would also proclaim 2019 as the International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements to enhance global awareness of and education in the basic sciences.

Next, it adopted, in a recorded vote of 185 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with no abstentions, a text on Culture and sustainable development (document A/72/422/Add.3).  By that draft, the Assembly encouraged all relevant stakeholders to cooperate in supporting developing country efforts to develop, strengthen and consolidate cultural industries, tourism and related microenterprises.

It then adopted, without a vote, a text on Development cooperation with middle‑income countries (document A/72/422/Add.4), by which the Assembly encouraged shareholders in multilateral development banks to develop a graduation process (from a nation’s lesser developed status) that was sequenced, phased and gradual.

The Assembly then took note of the Second Committee’s report on “Groups of countries in special situations”.

Following that, it turned to a draft on Follow-up to the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (document A/72/423/Add.1), adopting it without a vote.  By that text, the Assembly underlined the urgent need to reverse the decline in official development assistance (ODA) to least developed countries, urging nations that had not met commitments to increase their ODA and make concrete efforts towards the ODA targets.

Next, it adopted, without a vote, a draft on Follow-up to the Second United Nations Conference on Landlocked Developing Countries (document A/72/423/Add.2).  By that text, the Assembly stressed that cooperation on fundamental transit policies, laws and regulations between landlocked developing countries and their neighbours was crucial for the effective and integrated solution of cross‑border trade and transit transport problems.

The Assembly then took note of the Committee’s report on “Eradication of poverty and other development issues”.

It then adopted, without a vote, a draft on Implementation of the Second United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (2008‑2017) (document A/72/424/Add.1).  By that text, the Assembly emphasized the importance of structural transformation leading to inclusive and sustainable industrialization for employment creation and poverty reduction.

Following that, it adopted, without a vote, a draft on Women in development (document A/72/424/Add.2), by which the Assembly emphasized the need to link policies on economic, social and environmental development to ensure that all people, in particular women and children living in poverty and in vulnerable situations, benefited from inclusive economic growth and development.

The representative of Sudan, explaining his delegation’s position on the “women and development” resolution, said it had joined the consensus.  However, he expressed concern over the wording of some of the resolution’s paragraphs, including false criticisms of particular national legal systems, and disassociated himself from that text.

Next, the Assembly adopted, without a vote, a text on Human resources development (document A/72/424/Add.3), taking note of the report on the same topic.  By that text, it called on the international community to place human resources development at the core of economic and social development as educated, skilled, healthy, capable, productive and adaptable workforces were the foundation for achieving sustained, inclusive and equitable economic growth and development.

The Assembly then turned to a draft on Operational activities for development of the United Nations system (document A/72/425/Add.1), adopting it without a vote.  By that text, it took note of the Secretary‑General’s report on “Repositioning the United Nations development system to deliver on the 2030 Agenda: ensuring a better future for all”.

The Assembly then took note of the Second Committee’s report “Operational activities for development”.

Following that, the Assembly adopted, without a vote, a text on South‑South cooperation for development (document A/72/425/Add.2), by which it stressed that such assistance was not a substitute for, but rather a complement to, North‑South cooperation.  It also called on the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other relevant organizations to assist developing countries in implementing projects of South‑South cooperation.

Next, the Assembly adopted, in a recorded vote of 185 in favour to 1 against (United States), with no abstentions, a draft on Agriculture development, food security and nutrition (document A/72/426).  By that text, it stressed the need to increase sustainable agricultural production globally by improving markets and trading systems as well as increasing responsible public and private investment in sustainable agriculture, land management and rural development.

By further terms, the Assembly stressed that a universal, rules‑based, open, non‑discriminatory and equitable multilateral trading system promoted agriculture and rural development in developing countries and contributed to world food security and nutrition.  It urged national, regional and international strategies to promote the participation of farmers, fishers and fish workers in community, national, regional and international markets.

It then adopted, without a vote, a draft on the United Nations Decade of Family Farming (document A/72/426), by which the Assembly proclaimed 2019‑2028 the Decade of Family Farming, and called on FAO and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) to lead implementation of the initiative.

The Assembly then adopted a draft decision to postpone discussion of the agenda item on “Towards global partnerships” until the General Assembly’s seventy‑third session.

Following that, it adopted, in a recorded vote of 163 in favour to 6 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, United States), with 11 abstentions, a text on Permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources (document A/72/428).  By that draft, the Assembly called on Israel to cease exploitation of the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Syrian Golan.

Further to the text, the Assembly called on Israel to comply with its obligations under international law and cease all policies and measures aimed at the alteration of the character and status of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  It also called on Israel to halt all actions harming the environment, cease destruction of vital infrastructure, remove obstacles to the implementation of critical environmental projects, cease efforts impeding Palestinian development and export of discovered oil and natural gas reserves.

The Assembly then adopted a draft decision to approve the Second Committee’s programme of work for its seventy‑third session.

Finally, it took note of a report on programme planning.

The Assembly then took up a draft resolution titled “A world against violence and violent extremism” (document A/72/L.32).

The representative of Iran, introducing that text, said it was a follow‑up to Assembly resolutions 68/127 and 70/109, both of which had been adopted by consensus.  That unity demonstrated the pressing need to act to combat violent extremism, especially through the principles of tolerance and moderation.  Calling for collective international action in that regard — especially in the wake of the atrocities committed over the last few years by extremist groups in Iraq and Syria, including by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Daesh) — he stressed that “dialogue, moderation and tolerance are the most effective antidote to violent extremism”.  Urging Member States to avoid associating violent extremism with any particular religion or nationality, he said doing so “played right into the terrorists’ hands” and further spread extremist ideology.  Noting that the Assembly could provide a strong platform to help address the roots of that phenomenon, he said the text also reaffirmed measures taken at the international level such as the Assembly’s high‑level 2016 meeting on the topic, and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) 2016 conference on youth and the Internet.  It also spotlighted the Secretary‑General’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism and requested him to report on the implementation of the present resolution at the Assembly’s seventy‑fourth session.

The Assembly then adopted that draft resolution without a vote.

Speaking following the adoption, the representative of Canada said her delegation strongly condemned all violent extremism, including violence committed on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.  The rights of all people must be respected, she stressed, noting that the Secretary‑General’s Plan of Action recognized the important link between social exclusion and violent extremism.  All States — especially the resolution’s main sponsor — should comply with their international obligations to protect human rights.

The representative of Israel said her delegation had joined in the consensus, but voiced concern not with “the message but the messenger”.  Iran, the text’s main sponsor, was in fact the “nerve‑centre” of violent extremism and terrorist incitement around the globe, as well as its main sponsor.  Iran’s proxies butchered innocent people and violated human rights, she said, adding that members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in Iran were hanged from cranes, journalists were arrested, girls as young as 12 were married off and prisoners were tortured.  In Syria, Iran’s continued support for the Assad regime had allowed it to use chemical weapons against its own people, and next door in Lebanon it had helped Hizbullah increase its weapons arsenal.  With the adoption of the present text, it was critical for the international community to focus on Iran’s own actions, she stressed, noting that that country had already violated the very resolution it was sponsoring.

The representative of Saudi Arabia said his country had joined consensus on the resolution based on its belief in a comprehensive effort to combat violence and extremism.  It supported all efforts aimed at fighting violent extremism, but must address contradictions concerning security.  It was clear that Iran, the sponsor of the resolution, was also the main sponsor of violence and violent extremism across the world.  Iran had worked to destroy Yemen and was continuing to do so through violations of international law.  Several of its militias had wreaked havoc in Syria and Lebanon, and it was supporting extremist groups with weapons and other prohibited items.  He condemned Iranian support for those groups, stressing the need to prevent and counter all forms of violent extremism.

The representative of the United States noted that the Assembly had on 19 December adopted a resolution condemning Iran for continuing to violate international law and voicing concern over the targeting of minority religious communities.  Yet, 24 hours later, Iran was sponsoring a resolution against violence and extremism.  It had often acted in clear violation of its international obligations, which ran counter to the spirit of the resolution.  Her country had joined consensus on the resolution, as it believed in a comprehensive effort to counter extremism.  While Iran urged countries to unite against violence, its Government actively fomented violence across the Middle East.  Its support for Hizbullah had expanded the group’s arsenal, directly challenging Lebanese sovereignty and threatening Israel.  Iran abused its own people, supported political opponents of other Member States and imprisoned journalists and tourists on trumped up charges.

The representative of the Russian Federation said her country had joined consensus, as it believed in the resolution’s potential.  It viewed extremism as separate from terrorism, although it was a breeding ground for it.  Efforts to counter violent extremism must be based on international law and the United Nations Charter.  That was important when vague terms were being used to put forth dubious concepts.  She noted that extremist propaganda could, without violence, lead to undermining of the rule of law, destabilization of society and mass violations of human rights.

The representative of the European Union delegation rejected any form of discrimination, including on the grounds of sex, race, colour, language, genetic features, religion, membership in a minority group or sexual orientation or any other.  All nations must respect international human rights, promote good governance and uphold the rule of law.  She therefore urged all States — including the resolution’s main sponsor — to respect the rights of all their people, including ethnic, sexual and religious minorities.

Right of Reply

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Iran responded to the statement delivered by the delegate of the “Israeli regime”, who had levied baseless allegations and lies against his country.  Israel’s anger over the resolution adopted today was understandable, as it was an occupying entity that had created an apartheid system in the territories it controlled.  The representative of Israel had clearly deemed the resolution to be “against itself”, he said, noting that it pursued one of the most extreme policies in the modern world and denied the people living under its occupation their most basic rights.  In contrast, Iran had done everything in its power to combat violent extremism.

Responding to the representative of the United States, he said that country had for almost a year pursued a new policy which included levying baseless allegations and lies against Iran.  It was also working to advance the interests of the Israeli regime in the Middle East and was taking advantage of some regional countries by creating a “local bogeyman”.  It was not a coincidence that the United States had gone into high gear in its false allegations against Iran following the massive condemnation it received on its decision to recognize Al‑Quds [Jerusalem] as Israel’s capital.  The United States Government’s regime change project inflicted severe suffering across the Middle East, he said, adding that that country supported, armed and trained known terrorist groups in Syria.  The United States’ own past aggressions and interventions in the region had created fertile ground for recruitment by those advocating the violent takfirist ideology.

Turning to the representative of Saudi Arabia, he said that that country was a main sponsor of violent extremism worldwide, having lavishly financed the export of its fanatical ideology to poorer nations over the last three decades.  Saudi Arabia remained a critical support base for Al‑Qaida, the Taliban and other terrorist groups, and it supported any group that would fight the Government in Syria.  Noting that ISIL/Daesh was a product of Saudi support and financing, he said that country’s ideology propagated hatred and sought to spread it abroad.

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Speeches: Trans-Africa Security: Combating Illicit Trafficking and Organized Crime in Africa

Good morning.

It is an honor to join you today at this year’s Senior Leaders Seminar hosted by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS). Let me first thank ACSS for their leadership over the years in fostering critical partnerships with African nations on combating today’s transnational security threats.

Let me also thank all of you for your commitment in participating in this important program. Having studied myself at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, I believe that these peer-based learning seminars are very important, not only to assess, evaluate, and discuss the broad array of security challenges facing the continent and international community, but towards developing and harnessing more effective strategies and cross-border responses.

As you have no doubt heard throughout the week in your seminar, the United States remains a strong partner in helping safeguard communities against the threats posed by illicit trafficking networks and is keen to elevate our partnership with all of your governments.

In this regard, the U.S. Department of State is similarly committed to strengthen international cooperation in support of our U.S. law enforcement and security agencies, and the capacities of our allies and partners in Africa to disrupt and dismantle transnational organized criminals.

Converging Threats: Corruption, Crime, and Terrorism Pave Illicit Trafficking Corridor

Today’s reality is one in which we live in a world where there is no region, no country and no community who remain untouched by the destabilizing effects and corruptive influence of transnational organized crime and violent terrorism.

Their impact is truly global and their real threat centers in some cases in their convergence. In particular, we must recognize that trans-regional illicit trafficking of drugs, arms, humans, and other illicit trade goods and services, are fueling greater insecurity and instability across Africa, and in other parts of the world.

While the world’s attention has in recent months been focused on the conflicts in Syria and Afghanistan, or the efforts by North Korea and others on the weaponization of nuclear missiles, the threats posed by transnational organized criminals remain very real in the United States, Latin America, Africa, and globally.

This is especially true as it relates to the increasing links between cross-border narcotics trafficking and other forms of transnational organized crime across Africa that imperil not only the rule of law, economic development efforts, the promotion of trade and investment, but helps to fuel greater instability and insecurity.

In fact, according to General Thomas D. Waldhauser, U.S. Marine Corps, AFRICOM Commander, “parts of Africa remain a battleground between ideologies, interests, and values: [where] prosperity, and peace are often pitted against extremism, oppression, and conflict. The strategic environment includes instability that allows violent extremist organizations to grow and recruit disenfranchised populations.”

This strategic environment today that General Waldhauser underscores is also impacted by other transregional threats that further complicate security in Africa including issues related to the webs of corruption and cross-border criminality, and related converging threats.

Convergence: I often talk a lot about convergence, and this is something that I encourage you to examine more closely moving forward – and to view today’s transnational security threats through a prism of “convergence crime”.

Because the reality on the ground is that we can no longer simply focus on one component of a threat. In a world of converging threats – where various threats collide to form a more potent mix of insecurity globally; each is individually dangerous but whose sum represents a far greater threat across borders.

Thus, we need to see the threat environment more holistically – how, for example, corruption and complicit facilitators enable the illicit space for criminals and terrorist groups alike to thrive, and to exploit weaknesses in our borders and institutions that imperil our security.

And because as illicit trade operates in the shadow of the global economy, increasingly sophisticated traffickers are diversifying their portfolios in everything from narcotics, people, arms, and wildlife to counterfeits including fake medicines, and illicit tobacco and alcohol goods.

On the governance front, the proceeds of drug trafficking and other forms of illicit trafficking are fueling a dramatic increase in corruption among the very institutions responsible for fighting crime.

The collusion and complicity of some government officials with criminal networks have helped carve out an illicit trafficking corridor that stretches from the West African coast to the Horn of Africa, from North Africa south to the Gulf of Guinea.

Through these illicit trafficking routes, criminals and terrorists alike are moving people and products. From the coca and opium poppy fields of Colombia and Southeast Asia to the coasts of West Africa and its hashish plantations, drug cartels and other criminal networks navigate an illicit superhighway that serves illicit markets across the continent and around the globe. Along across these illicit routes, bad actors and networks are corrupting critical institutions and enforcement systems that exacerbate everyone’s security.

They employ the latest technological advances and use commercial jets, fishing vessels, and container ships to move drugs, people, small arms, crude oil, cigarettes, counterfeit and pirated goods, and toxic waste through the region, generating massive profits.

How massive are these profits? As I will point out shortly in my slides on the recent research of the OECD Task Force on Countering Illicit Trade, the illegal markets in Africa, and globally, are booming with staggering levels of illicit wealth in the global economy. Hundreds of millions of USD every year enable criminals and other threat networks to corrupt the regional economies and the global financial system.

At a time when many are heralding the rise of some of the world’s fastest-growing economies in sub-Saharan Africa, these criminal entrepreneurs are undermining that economic development and growth by financing flourishing illicit markets, turning many vulnerable communities into a corridor of insecurity and instability, and siphoning the real potential of the legitimate economy.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the World Economic Forum (WEF), Global Financial Integrity (GFI), and other international organizations, generally estimate that the illicit trade in arms, drugs, and people, and other forms of “convergence crime” generate approximately between 8–15 percent of GDP, or several USD trillions to include corrupt proceeds and illicit financial flows.

Cocaine trafficking remains among the most lucrative illicit activities. In April 2017, the UNODC reported that developing markets are fueling a resurgence of cocaine trafficking through West Africa. UNODC further added that seizures on the Atlantic island of Cabo Verde, in the Gambia, Nigeria, and Ghana had contributed to a 78 percent increase in cocaine seizures from 2009-2014 compared to the previous reporting period.

Smugglers and traffickers who intake the cocaine from the Americas will typically transport drugs and other contraband overland across the Sahel and North Africa, before crossing into destination markets in Europe and these new developing markets in the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

West Africa has also become a major transit point for heroin destined for the United States.

Illicit markets are growing across Africa to meet global demand for arms, counterfeits, cigarettes, natural resources, diamonds and other precious minerals, wildlife, illegally-harvested timber, illegal fishing, stolen luxury cars, and other illicit commodities.

The Crime-Terror Continuum: Regional Spillover Effects

Unfortunately, what happens in Africa does not stay in Africa.

A convergence of actors is further paving the corridor of illicit trafficking and crime-terror continuum across Africa – including North Africa – as criminal insurgencies are becoming players themselves in illicit markets and using the proceeds to finance their terror campaigns, secure their training camps, establish safe havens, and export violence to other regions. Violent extremist and terrorist groups draw on public anger towards corruption as a means to radicalize, recruit new members, and deepen sectarian division.

We only have to look at some of the current regional hot spots to clearly comprehend how certain crime-terror dynamics continue to contribute to insecurity and instability that have a ripple effect across borders.

Today’s thriving illegal economy is so lucrative that terrorists are increasingly turning to criminal activities to fund their violent campaigns such as those that we are witnessing today by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Boko Haram, al-Shabaab, and others.

In Mali, as drugs are trafficked through the country, the Sahel, and Maghreb, AQIM and its sympathizers are manipulating socio-economic conditions to further advance an illegal economy that allows them to tax the drugs through the territory that they control and finance their terror campaigns.

Libya also continues to be challenged with violence and insecurity. AQIM and ISIS are attempting to forge alliances with violent extremist networks in Libya and across the Maghreb, Sahel, and West Africa, and are involved in smuggling and trafficking in persons. Organized crime networks exploit a currency black market, irregular migration and illicit trade across borders to enrich themselves and militias that defy law and order.

Nigerian organized criminal networks remain a major player in moving cocaine and heroin worldwide, and have begun to produce and traffic methamphetamine to and around Southeast Asia. In addition to drug trafficking, some of these criminal organizations also engage in other forms of trafficking and fraud targeting citizens of the United States, Europe, and globally.

Widespread corruption in Nigeria further facilitates criminal activity, and, combined with Nigeria’s central location along major trafficking routes, enables criminal groups to flourish and make Nigeria an important trafficking hub.

Nigeria is also confronting a terrorist insurgency led by Boko Haram and its offshoot ISIS-West Africa, which remains the cause of the insecurity in the Lake Chad Basin.

Maritime crime has also captured the attention of the regional states and international community. The reported number of incidents in the Gulf of Guinea and the level of violence associated with those acts remain a concern.

The Economic Communities of West and Central African States, the Gulf of Guinea Commission, and their member states should be commended for the continued commitment to implement the June 2013 Yaoundé Summit. The signed Gulf of Guinea Code of Conduct (GGC) covers not only armed robbery at sea and piracy, but also other illicit maritime activity such as illegal fishing, maritime pollution, and human and drug trafficking. The Yaounde Code of Conduct, along with the updates to the Djibouti Code of Conduct to cover other transnational maritime crime, and the newly adopted Lomé Charter, provide excellent frameworks for African states to adopt strategies and implement programs to counter transnational crime in the maritime domain.

In recent years, INL has partnered with the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, AFRICOM, and our African partners on maritime security and regional threat mitigation strategies and to build the capacities and capabilities to disrupt and dismantle transnational criminal networks.

U.S. Diplomatic Efforts and International Cooperation in Africa

The United States strongly supports the great strides many African countries have made to improve security, good governance, rule of law, and sustainable economic development.

As President Donald J. Trump highlighted in new Executive Order on Transnational Criminal Organizations (E.O. TCO), the United States will continue to assist our partners to strengthen their security footprint and capabilities to combat today’s threat networks.

In support of the President’s E.O. TCO, the United States is committed to strengthen and sustain our resolve and capabilities to protect the homeland and break the corruptive power of transnational criminal networks, attack their financial underpinnings, strip them of their illicit wealth, and sever their access to the financial system.

The United States and its partners continually recognize the importance of net-centric partnerships to confront converging threats and the lethal nexus of organized crime, corruption, and terrorism along global illicit pathways and financial hubs.

For example, targeted financial actions like the 2011 311 finding against LCB can have a major impact, strengthening deterrence and showing that the international community is keeping close watch on Hizballah’s global financial architecture. Through years of cooperation with the Lebanese banking sector and the Lebanese Central Bank, the country has significantly improved its capacity to detect the kinds of behavior that led the United States to designate LCB six years ago.

Let me now share how the Department of State helps fight transnational crime, and in particular the organization I work for, the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL).

INL training efforts help countries build effective rule of law institutions, strengthening criminal justice systems, and strengthening their police, courts, and anti-crime efforts—everything from anti-corruption money laundering, cybercrime, and intellectual property theft to trafficking in goods, people, weapons, drugs, or endangered wildlife.

In coordination with partners in sub-Saharan and North Africa, INL develops and executes foreign assistance programming to promote civilian security and criminal justice sector reform in support of U.S. policy objectives. INL programs improve access to justice, promote stability and democratic reform, professionalize law enforcement entities, support local justice sector officials, and strengthen correction systems.

INL’s sub-Saharan and North Africa projects support partner governments’ efforts to respond effectively to the growing demand for peace and security. INL’s four main objectives are to assist African partners in combating transnational organized crime, drug trafficking, and terrorism, and their effects; support post-conflict stabilization operations and security sector reform; strengthen criminal justice systems to be accountable to the public and to respect human rights; and promote regional cooperation. INL implements its Africa program through a comprehensive range of bilateral and regional initiatives designed to maximize positive change in host countries and regions.

Let me highlight a few examples of these bilateral INL projects across Africa on criminal justice reform, anti-crime, and in support of counter-terrorism efforts:

Deployment of Resident Legal Advisors (RLAs) and Senior Legal Advisors: U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) prosecutors embedded in U.S. Embassies to support justice sector development and capacity building: Some countries hosting RLAs include Ethiopia, Nigeria, Benin, Senegal, Niger, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, and others.

Kenya: Build the capacity of vetted units within the National Police Service and the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission investigations unit to investigate and prosecute high-level and government-wide corruption

Tanzania: enhance the criminal justice system in Tanzania to successfully prosecute wildlife crimes.

Benin: Build capacity of Benin’s law enforcement and judicial sectors to investigate and prosecute cases involving transnational organized crime, particularly drug trafficking; support to Benin’s border security agency; training of Formed Police Units (FPUs) for peacekeeping deployment; support to the Office Central de Répression du Trafic Illicite de Drogue et des Précurseurs

Ghana: Training police-prosecutors, creating a counternarcotics unit, training police SWAT unit; training FPUs for peacekeeping deployment; and improving the investigations and administration of justice related to maritime crimes, cyber-crime, and border-related crimes

Nigeria: Advise and support the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency; Justice and security dialogues project with law enforcement and civil society; international police education and training; curriculum reform; forensics support; Embedding advisors to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

South Africa: Senior law enforcement advisor support to professionalize law enforcement and fundamental police operations; building investigative and enforcement capacities to combat wildlife trafficking

Finally, INL also administers the Transnational Organized Crime Rewards Program (TOCRP) which offers rewards up to $5 million for information, leads, and tips that help hobble transnational criminal organizations involved in activities beyond drug trafficking, such as human trafficking, money laundering, trafficking in arms, counterfeits and pirated goods, and other illicit trade areas.

Our embassies and/or our INL offices would be happy to share further information on INL bilateral and regional programming in specific countries in Africa as requested.

Let me say also few words on several regional initiatives that INL supports:

The West Africa Regional Security Initiative (WARSI)

WARSI funds assist the 15 Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) members to establish and sustain effective, professional, and accountable criminal justice and civilian security sectors. Technical assistance facilitates partner-country efforts to counter transnational threats including illicit trafficking and to strengthen conflict mitigation and state legitimacy. WARSI focuses on security sector reform (SSR) in countries with more foundational assistance needs and criminal justice sector reform to counter transnational organized crime (TOC) in countries with more stable institutions. Counter-TOC assistance is more advanced, and often includes training specialized units, such as counter narcotics task forces.

The Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership

The Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP) is a multi-faceted, multi-year U.S. strategy aimed at developing resilient institutions that are capable of preventing and responding to terrorism in a holistic, long term manner. INL TSCTP programs in Africa work to counter and prevent violent extremism by empowering partner countries to (1) provide effective and accountable security and justice services to enhance citizen cooperation with and trust in law enforcement and (2) develop the institutional foundation for counterterrorism and related capabilities, including border security and prison security and reintegration efforts. In doing so, INL focuses on enhancing and institutionalizing cooperation among TSCTP countries so that they increasingly learn with and from each other. Partner countries include Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, and Tunisia.

The Partnership for Regional East Africa Counterterrorism

The Partnership for Regional East Africa Counterterrorism (PREACT) is the U.S. government’s multi-year, multi-sector initiative to build the long-term capabilities of East African partners to contain, disrupt, and marginalize terrorist networks in the region. INL’s PREACT funds empower East African criminal justice institutions to confront complex challenges posed by cross-border terrorism. INL’s active PREACT partners include Kenya, Somalia, and Tanzania.

Security Governance Initiative

The Security Governance Initiative (SGI) is a multi-year effort between the United States and partner countries to improve security sector governance and capacity to address threats. SGI partners with countries to undertake strategic and institutional reforms required to tackle key security challenges. Together with six current partners – Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, and Tunisia – SGI focuses on shared security priorities and enhance security sector management. SGI is managed by the State Department’s Africa Bureau but leverages expertise and experience from across the Departments of State, Defense, Justice, and Homeland Security, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the National Counterterrorism Center. Coordination and collaboration both within the U.S. government and with partner countries is a hallmark of SGI. INL’s activities undertaken as part of SGI seek to develop, support, and strengthen criminal justice institutions and capabilities to ensure citizen security and promote the rule of law, including sound policies, institutional structures, systems, processes, and effective management methods so that governments can efficiently and effectively deliver security and justice in a sustainable manner.

Regional Anti-Wildlife Trafficking Efforts

As many of you are aware, the United States continues to partner with the international community to combat the illegal wildlife trade.

INL is part of a whole of government approach to combating wildlife trafficking. We work closely with other parts of the Department and other agencies to support the global fight against wildlife trafficking through assistance to multiple countries in Africa. Under the National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking (CWT), INL builds the capacity of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute wildlife crimes and develops regional cooperation mechanisms.

Activities can include training, mentoring, and equipment provision for park rangers, police, prosecutors, non-governmental organizations, and civil society entities to address the multiple dimensions of poaching and wildlife trafficking. Our first projects began in Kenya and South Africa, followed by Namibia and Tanzania. Future projects will cover larger areas of central and southern Africa, and address both source and transit countries.

Regional Law Enforcement Training

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not highlight INL’s International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in Gaborone, Botswana. The ILEA program delivers courses on a wide range of law enforcement topics, and builds regional law enforcement networks to detect, disrupt, and dismantle transnational criminal organizations regardless of their means of operation and income.

Since inception in 2001, ILEA Gaborone has trained thousands of mid- and senior-level criminal justice officers in specialized skills on counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics operations, forensic accounting, customs interdiction, various forms of trafficking, document fraud, and illegal immigration. The program also engages with senior officials on the factors that facilitate these criminal networks, addressing public corruption, discussing modern community-oriented policing models, and cooperative international security networks that hinder illicit networks from flourishing.

As an outbranch of the successful ILEA network, INL opened the West Africa Regional Training Center (RTC) in Accra, Ghana, in January 2013. The RTC has convened hundreds of law enforcement, security, and judicial officials from multiple countries in West Africa and the Sahel, creating relationships across the region, and building knowledge and skills on topics ranging from investigative analysis to anti-corruption to counternarcotics.

We continue to explore future areas of assistance to include strengthening capabilities to preserve crime scenes for complex investigations, create strong case packages, and build more effective, evidence-based trials.

Conclusion: Partnerships for Sustainable Security

In closing, I want to again extend the appreciation on behalf of the U.S. Department of State for your commitment to work across borders, improve coordination and information-sharing, and leverage our respective capabilities and capacities to defeat our common adversaries.

We must continue to leverage all national economic, intelligence, and diplomatic powers to make it riskier, harder, and costlier for threat networks to do business within Africa, and externally.

Illicit trafficking remains the lifeblood of the numerous bad actors and networks, creating vulnerabilities for nations.

We must crackdown on corruption at all levels and cut off the ability of kleptocrats, criminals, and terrorists to enjoy the fruits of illicit enterprise and that enable the financial capacity to execute their operations.

By combating corruption, we can also shut the door and keep violent extremists from exploiting their grievances to wage jihad. We must prevent narco-corruption from destroying countries like Guinea and Guinea-Bissau.

In addition to our law enforcement and security cooperation, we also need to address underlying causes that are contributing to today’s conflicts and insecurity in Africa: food and water security, poverty, economic integration and development, and other socio-economic areas that empower communities and nurture growth markets, investment frontiers, and resiliency.

With careful, targeted assistance, and smart diplomatic engagement, together we can advance our common objectives and strategic interests.

If we do not act decisively, the region will remain an exporter of terror and a provider of safe havens where terrorists from other conflicts all over the world find refuge, illicit trafficking will continue to expand, arms and weapons will dangerously proliferate, women, men, and children will be trafficked, and drugs and illicit enterprise will corrode the rule of law and the gains of globalization.

We can only tackle these threats effectively if we work together and jointly synchronize our full spectrum capabilities and capacities. We must stay connected and continue to harness our network of networks at every level – local, regional, and global to win our fight against convergence crime.

If we do this, we can create hope, stability, opportunity, and an enduring peace.

Thank you.

News

Press Releases: Remarks at the 2017 Secretary of State's International Women of Courage Award Ceremony

MODERATOR:  Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the First Lady of the United States, Melania Trump; Acting Deputy Secretary of State Tom Shannon; and the 2017 International Women of Courage Award recipients.  (Applause.)

UNDER SECRETARY SHANNON:  Good morning.  It’s my great pleasure to welcome you to the State Department and the 2017 International Women of Courage Awards ceremony.  Madam First Lady, Mrs. Melania Trump, thank you so much for being with us today.  We are deeply honored by your participation in this important celebration and grateful for your commitment and that of the President to the well-being and success of women and girls across the globe.

Please join me again in welcoming the First Lady.  (Applause.)

I would also like to welcome the members of the diplomatic corps who are with us here today, and of course, the women joining us on this stage, the 2017 International Women of Courage.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

The Secretary of State’s Award for International Women of Courage is part of our celebration of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day.  The Secretary wanted to be here to present these awards himself.  Regrettably, he is on his way to Ankara and Brussels, but he extends his heartfelt congratulations to these honorees.

Since 2007, this award has honored women from around the world who have exhibited exceptional courage and leadership, who have drawn strength from adversity to help transform their societies.  These women have mobilized public sentiment and their governments to expose and address injustice, speak against corruption, prevent violent extremism, and stand up for the rule of law and peace, often with little more than their voices and sheer determination. 

We are honored to recognize this incredible group.  Shortly, you will hear each woman’s story.  They are an inspiring reminder of how individuals can make a difference.  Taken together, they provide a powerful message of courage and leadership.  As we celebrate the accomplishments of these women, we also provide them with a platform for telling their stories. 

After this celebration, they will participate in a State Department-sponsored exchange program to engage with American audiences around our country, contributing to the tradition of people-to-people diplomacy.  The United States is proud to honor these leaders as part of our commitment to advance the status of women and girls around the world.

I want to take a moment to thank my colleagues in the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues for the work they do to ensure that gender equality and women’s empowerment are integrated into our foreign policy.  I also want to recognize the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, whose programs, like the International Visitors Leadership Program on which these women are about to embark, are an important element of our diplomacy.  The work of our colleagues here at the State Department embodies a commitment that comes from the very top of our administration.

As Secretary Tillerson has said, there is study after study to confirm that when you empower women in these developing parts of the world, you change the future of the country, because you change the cycle within the family.  Women’s empowerment is not just a moral imperative; it is a strategic investment in our collective security.  In short, when women do better, countries do better.  Women’s security is a matter of international security.  Without it, we all lose.

President Trump and his administration are committed to expanding opportunities for women and girls domestically and across the globe.  On February 13, President Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau launched the United States-Canada Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders.  On February 28th, President Trump signed two bills into law – first, the Inspiring the Next Space Pioneers and Innovators and Explorers Act; and second, the Promoting Women and Entrepreneurship Act, both of which encourage women to pursue careers in engineering, science, and mathematics, and to provide support for women’s entrepreneurial programs through the National Science Foundation.

So it gives me great pleasure to introduce someone who has played a central role in that effort.  As a philanthropist and a humanitarian, the First Lady has been a driving force behind the administration’s efforts to promote the empowerment of women and children in our society.  Mrs. Trump has been an honorary chairwoman for the Boys’ Club of New York for five consecutive years, and in 2005 was awarded the title of goodwill ambassador by the American Red Cross.  She helped launch National Child Abuse Prevention Month in April 2008, and has been a champion for the American Heart Association.  Her deep concern for issues affecting women and children continue as she has focused as First Lady on the challenge of cyberbullying among our youth.

Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming the First Lady of the United States, Mrs. Melania Trump.  (Applause.)

(First Lady Melania Trump delivers remarks.)

UNDER SECRETARY SHANNON:  Thank you very much for your inspiring words, and once again, thank you for honoring us with your presence here today.  As the First Lady noted, courage takes many forms.  This year, we’re pleased to recognize 13 extraordinary women who are demonstrating courage in four pivotal areas: exposing and opposing gender-based violence, standing up to terrorists, combating corruption, promoting justice and human rights for all.  Twelve of them are here today.  We will call each one here to the podium, next to the First Lady, to receive her award and then have an opportunity to hear from some of the awardees.

The first awardee is Sharmin Akter of Bangladesh.  Sharmin, who recently turned 17, defied intense family pressure to marry a man decades older when she was just 15, despite there being a law in Bangladesh that prohibited early and forced marriage.  Holding her ground, and filing charges against her own family, Sharmin gained the support of a newspaper journalist who helped to expose the case, and she won the right to continue her education.  In standing up for her rights, she sets a precedent for other girls and their families to invest in their girls and envision a new future of opportunity for them. 

Sharmin is being honored for her exceptional courage and perseverance to break the silence around early and forced marriage, and for being a role model for other girls who suffer needlessly from this harmful practice.  Sharmin.  (Applause.) 

Our next awardee is Arlette Contreras Bautista of Peru, a survivor of abuse and of violence.  Her attack by a well-connected city councilman was filmed and splashed across social media and television.  Arlette turned her own personal tragedy into a national cause for advocacy.  When her abuser was sentenced to a token one-year suspended sentence, Arlette spoke out and dedicated herself to working with other victims of violence, which eventually led to her launching a grassroots movement called Not One Woman Less, to raise awareness of gender-based violence. 

Arlette is being honored for her fearless activism on behalf of survivors of gender-based violence and for standing up to demand that the government and judiciary hold perpetrators to account.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

Our next honoree is Malebogo Molefhe from Botswana, a beautiful country.  A former national basketball player who had her whole life ahead of her, Malebogo was brutally assaulted at the hand of an ex-boyfriend, escaped death, and now uses a wheelchair due to the injuries she endured.  Malebogo has dedicated her life to teaching other girls to fight harmful gender stereotypes and domestic abuse. 

Malebogo is being honored for her tenacity, strength, and resilience to help other women and girls overcome the scourge of domestic violence, especially those who have become disabled as a result of such abuse.  (Applause.)

Our next honoree is Natalia Ponce de Leon from Colombia.  In surviving a sulfuric acid attack by a stalker, Natalia underwent multiple surgeries to address burns to her face and body.  She calls her recovery a rebirth, which led her to start her own foundation to help other acid attack survivors.  As a result of her advocacy, the Colombian Congress passed the Natalia Ponce de Leon Law in January 2016. 

Natalia is being honored for her relentless pursuit of justice against acid attacks and fighting for the promotion of a law to hold perpetrators to account.  Natalia.  (Applause.)

Our next honoree is Jannat Al Ghezi from Iraq.  After surviving domestic abuse, Jannat’s tribal family threatened her life.  She now dedicates her life to protecting other women from violence.  She has furthered the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq’s cause of providing shelter, protection, training, and legal services for women, including those who have suffered brutality at the hands of ISIS. 

Jannat is being honored for selflessly working on behalf of women survivors of abuse, courageously telling her story at great risk to her personal safety, and for providing shelter, education, and opportunities for women to reclaim their lives from the threat of violence and extremism.  Jannat.  (Applause.)

Our next honoree is Major Aichatou Issaka Ousmane of Niger.  Soldier, mother, and United Nations peacekeeper, Major Ousmane of Niger exemplifies what it means for a woman to serve on the front lines of conflict and peace-building.  She has not only helped people deal with the trauma caused by conflict and the threat of violent extremism, including Boko Haram; she also understands the deep need for social services to pave the way to recovery for families affected by war and conflict. 

Major Ousmane is being honored for her steadfast devotion to healing those wounded by conflict and terrorism, for demanding social services for those left to suffer the consequences of war in order to prevent further violent extremism.  Major Ousmane.  (Applause.)

Our next honoree is Veronica Simogun from Papua New Guinea.  Founder of the Family for Change Association and advocate for women and girls in Papua New Guinea, Veronica lives and works in a country where two-thirds of women and girls have been physically and sexually abused due to their gender.  Despite facing death threats for her work with survivors, Veronica has devoted herself to helping others and to building relationships with local law enforcement and men and boys to overturn the cultural norms that deprive women and girls of their status and basic rights. 

Veronica is being honored for her relentless dedication to protecting victims of violence and vulnerable women and children and for the pursuit of supportive partners in men and boys to make her country a violence-free society.  Veronica.  (Applause.)

Our next honoree is Rebecca Kabugho of the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Subjected to repression, arrests, and months in jail for her political activism and speaking her mind, Rebecca was, at age 22, dubbed one of the youngest prisoners of conscience in the world.  Rebecca played a key role in a series of peaceful and nonviolent demonstrations demanding the Congolese Government hold credible elections in 2016, as required by the Congolese constitution.  Upon her release in 2016, she emerged as a voice demanding democratic reform and social change. 

Rebecca is being honored for her visionary leadership, commitment to ushering in positive change through nonviolence, and for standing up to improve the lives of the disadvantaged in her country.  Rebecca.  (Applause.)

Our next honoree is Sandya Eknelygoda from Sri Lanka.  When her husband, a well-known political cartoonist and journalist, disappeared in January 2010, Sandya resolved to seek the truth about his fate.  She appeared in court more than 80 times in the face of obstructionist judges and authorities.  Sandya has become a symbol for the many thousands of persons who have suffered the loss of disappeared relatives over the course of the 27-year civil war and earlier insurrections.

Sandya is being honored for her relentless pursuit of the truth about those who have disappeared during conflict, holding the government accountable, and bringing hope to others suffering a similar fate.  Sandya.  (Applause.)

Our next honoree is Saadet Ozkan of Turkey.  As an elementary school teacher, Saadet took the rare and bold step of exposing the sexual abuse of children by the principal of a small village school.  Even after suffering a debilitating car accident that left her incapacitated for months, she refused to back down from her claims, despite pressure from the authorities and threats by other teachers. 

Saadet is being honored for her unwavering determination to uncover generations of sexual abuse of schoolchildren, particularly girls, and for her integrity in pursuing justice in the face of government pressure and apathy.  Saadet.  (Applause.)

Our next honoree is Sister Carolin Tahhan of Syria.  Sister Carolin, a Roman Catholic nun working in Damascus, is being recognized for her outreach and service to the refugee community, internally displaced persons, and children.  Putting her own life at risk, Sister Carolin has become a beacon of hope to both Muslims and Christians alike.  In addition to running a nursery school and providing a safe environment for traumatized children, she also runs a tailoring workshop to provide job skills to vulnerable displaced women. 

Sister Carolin is being honored for her perseverance in serving those affected by the Syrian conflict and willingness to safeguard and empower the most vulnerable, including children, refugees, and displaced women.  Sister Carolin.  (Applause.)

Our next honoree is Fadia Thabet of Yemen.  A child protection officer and reporter on human rights violations in southern Yemen during the recent conflicts, Fadia risked her life to protect the region’s children from al-Qaida and Houthi militias.  Her acts of courage dissuaded young boys from joining terror groups and militias.  She exposed al-Qaida’s Yemeni branch, Ansar al-Sharia, as a recruiter of child soldiers, as well as documented human rights violations by other armed groups for the United Nations. 

Fadia is being honored for putting her own life at risk to protect children from being recruited by terrorist groups and militias and her bravery in exposing the human rights and violations and crimes committed by various armed groups.  Fadia.  (Applause.)

Finally, we honor one woman who is not able to be here today, Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh of Vietnam.  An outspoken critic of injustice and human rights violations, blogger, and online activist, Nguyen has been held incommunicado at a detention center since October after exposing a toxic waste dump, one of the worst environmental disasters in Vietnam’s history.  While Nguyen cannot join her fellow women of courage at this ceremony, we admire her for refusing to be silenced and her defense of freedom of expression. 

Nguyen is being honored for her resoluteness to expose injustices and corruption and using her voice to stand up for the protection of people’s rights and freedoms.  (Applause.)

Now it is my pleasure and my honor to introduce two of our International Women of Courage who will give remarks on behalf of the group.  May I bring to the podium Malebogo Molefhe of Botswana and Natalia Ponce de Leon of Colombia.  (Applause.)

MS MOLEFHE:  First Lady Melania Trump, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, good morning.  Today, for me, marks the pinnacle of every woman’s success story.  I am greatly honored to speak on behalf of the phenomenal awardees.  Oftentimes, we work selflessly, we sacrifice so others can learn from us.  We allow ourselves to be brave despite the ridicule, the judgments, and the societal prejudice.  This moment is for everyone who has supported me, most importantly, my family and my friends, and – (applause) – and for the courageous women who have stopped at nothing to effect change. 

As a gender-based violence survivor and also a woman in – living with a disability, a result of a brutal attack, I take pride in knowing that I didn’t lose my strength, and I continue to use my story to inspire other women and to learn from me, and to partake in changing – in helping change the lives of others who may be going through a situation in their lives and not knowing how to exit.

Allow me, please, to thank the organizers of this event for recognizing women who has made an impacting impression and continues to make a telling contribution in their societies and helping shape the lives of other women and helping change the brutal perceptions of the world.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

MS PONCE DE LEON:  Hello, everyone.  I never would have dreamed I would have the honor to be speaking to you today.  Let alone, I wouldn’t have imagined that in order to be here today, I would first have to go through a nightmare, and later, a rebirth. 

Almost three years ago, I was at my mom’s house, and I receive a call.  Supposedly, my ex-boyfriend left me something for me at the door.  I did not pay much attention, and when I went to take out the garbage, I was surprised by a man in a hood who attacked me with a liter of sulfuric acid.  I felt my skin burning, my clothes torn apart by the chemical, and I started losing my sight.  By the time I arrive at the hospital, 37 percent of my body was burned and my entire face.  My doctors were not sure what percentage of my internal body was affected.  I could be blind or have muscle trauma for a lifetime.  It was a time of doubt and uncertainty. 

Today, I thank my doctor for being my guardian angel and for everything he has taught me.  During my recovery, I understood that I had two options: the easy way, I could lie in bed, filling myself up with hate and anger; or the hard way, standing strong and making all these tragedies something greater.  And so I did.

Two days ago, it was three years since the day of the attack.  I ended a life I had planned and I started a different one.  I believe that after a long process, I can assure you that on March – 27th of March, I died and I was reborn from the ashes.  Amazingly, I started a better life, a life with a mission, a life dedicated to a bigger purpose.

My attack was not the only one, and I started to contact with other victims of acid attacks.  Talking to other victims was a relief and a pain at the same time.  It was living again what happened to me.  It required a lot of strength.  I would not have accomplished what I did in three years without strength.  I was mentally strength the effort to understand that a pain and suffering was something transcendent.  Courage is just a word without strength to accomplish it.  Our goals, small or big – that is subjective.  My biggest goal at the beginning was getting out of bed, like everyone else.  Today my biggest goal is to create a burn unit for hospitals in Colombia.  The most powerful tool we have is our mind and its strength.  It gives us opportunity to aim further and reach higher.

None of our goals, mine (inaudible) would have been accomplished without constancy.  For me, constancy is a quality to remain invaluable, regardless our circumstances.  It requires keeping yourself firm on mind along the way.  Constancy, keeping throughout 30 surgeries, five massages a day, no matter how painful they were, and the constant use of a mask to allow my skin to get back to where it was supposed to be.

I am not a perfect human being.  Honestly, none of us are.  But the wonderfulness about being a human being lies in the capacity for resilience and moving forward.  In order to do that, it is important to leave the past behind.  Forgiveness is what made me stand up and accept myself, accept my fate, and move forward.  I forgive how others wronged me.  I forgive how I wronged myself.  That built me up and gave me confidence.  Forgiveness and belief is the tool to move forward.  When you move forward, you know where you are heading, but you don’t know where you will end at. 

I created a foundation to help victims of attack like me – like mine.  Later, Colombia’s government passed a law with tougher sentences – tough sentences for acid attacks.  Today, I work hard to give my country the capacity to respond to these attacks, help survivors, and create more burn units in Colombia.  What will happen next, I don’t know.  But I trust that, with the strength, constancy, and forgiveness, we will end this horror. 

My message for you today is to take those three words, make them yours.  Use them in any order you will be willing to use them.  The order will not affect the product, because the outcome will be a human built, that we use what they have to help others to make our society better.

As a woman, I feel moved by other survivors of these attacks.  Also, I feel moved to see, as a woman, we have developed our sense of resilience to its maximum.  In so many fields, women help their communities to improve their life standard.  It is our task to honor what others have accomplished for us, to acknowledge the privileged position we are in.  We live now in a world with rights for everyone, because of others having cleared this path for us with their own sweats.

We have nothing left than to clear the future path, to have the courage that, no matter how tough situation are, we can reach more.  This is not only my fight; it’s everyone’s fight, because tomorrow this could be your son’s story, your daughter’s story, or your own story.  It is our task to keep the future bright.

To all my fellows today here who are honored here today, I saluted for – I salute you for your resilience and your courage.  Thank you so much.  (Applause.)

UNDER SECRETARY SHANNON:  Two incredible statements by two incredible women.  There’s really nothing left to say – (laughter) – except to thank all of you for your presence here today.  We have a stand-up crowd.  This shows how important this issue is here in Washington, here in the United States, and to this administration and to the American people.  So we’re very grateful for your presence here today.  Once again, we are grateful for the presence of the First Lady.  Ma’am, again, you have honored us.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

And to the 2017 International Women of Courage awardees, thank you all for what you have done and all that you will continue to do.  Thank you for your bravery and your commitment.  We honor you and we honor your work.  (Applause.)

We had an opportunity to take a photo with these incredible women, but we did not have an opportunity to take a photo with them holding their awards.  So if you don’t mind, if I could just ask you to hold tight for a moment as we gather them here and take a photograph with the First Lady.  But again, thank you all very, very much for being here today.  (Applause.)

News

Success of 2030 Agenda Depends on Empowering Young People, Speakers Tell Social Development Commission, Stressing Perils of Exclusionary Economic Growth

The fifty-fifth session of the Commission for Social Development continued today, with participants casting a spotlight on challenges faced by young people, and the perils of growing inequality, as Governments strove to put the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development into action.

A wide-ranging panel discussion on the theme of youth development and the Sustainable Development Goals in the morning set the stage for an afternoon of general discussion in which national delegations emphasized, among other points, how the Goals’ success hinged on the empowerment of young people.

Sophie Karmasin, Austria’s Federal Minister for Families and Youth, told the panel that youth unemployment — estimated by the International Labour Organization (ILO) at 74 million — was far too high, and that marginalized women and men risked being either perpetrators or victims of violence.

In similar vein, Ahmad Alhendawi, the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, called inequality the biggest challenge facing young people today, with around 500 million youth living on less than $2 a day.  He noted that 2016 was the first year since the global economic crisis in which youth employment had grown, stressing that inequality emanated from a lack of access to opportunities.

In the ensuing discussion, participants took up youth issues from several angles, with Brazil’s representative drawing attention to the unique problems faced by pregnant teenagers, while her counterpart from the Philippines underlined the seriousness of illicit drug use among young people.

In the afternoon debate, some two dozen delegations took the floor not only to identify challenges, but discuss the ways their respective countries sought to address them.  Speakers from Afghanistan and Ukraine in particular noted the policies and programmes that their Governments had put in place despite the burdens that conflict had placed on social development.

On behalf of the African Group, Nigeria’s Minister for Women Affairs and Social Development said that, despite impressive growth rates, the continent was at the bottom of social development indicators, prompting its leaders to scale up investments in youth, guided by the African Union “Agenda 2063” blueprint.  At the same time, she reaffirmed the role of the family in Africa’s political, cultural and socioeconomic development, characterizing it as central and indispensable.

South Africa’s representative said three decades of deepening inequalities globally had given rise to new threats to the ideal of a more inclusive world.  Those threats were epitomized by political regimes that sought to strengthen exclusionary national economies, he said, adding that “scapegoating and othering people based on any status, whether it be their religion or them being refugees and migrants is … not a solution to dealing with national and global inequities”.  If anything, he said, it made the eradication of poverty harder to achieve.

Also making statements today were representatives of Peru, Ghana, Cameroon, Philippines, Romania, Republic of Moldova, Czech Republic, Senegal, Kenya, Botswana, Switzerland, India, Netherlands, Mali, Viet Nam, Benin, Chile and Morocco.

A representative of the Nigeria’s Bilie Human Rights Initiative also spoke.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply was a representative of the Russian Federation.

The Commission for Social Development will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 3 February, to continue its work.

Interactive Discussion:  Youth Development in 2030 Agenda

In the morning, the Commission held a panel discussion on the theme “Promoting integrated policies for poverty eradication:  Youth development in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”.  Moderated by Vivian Onano, Partnerships Manager at the SEED Project, Global Youth Ambassador for Water Aid and Vice-Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Global Youth Empowerment Fund, it featured presentations by Sophie Karmasin, Federal Minister of Families and Youth of Austria; Santiago Soto, Director of the National Institute of Youth, Ministry of Social Development of Uruguay; Gemma Wood, a statistician and youth development consultant from Australia; Nada Al-Nashif, Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); Ahmad Alhendawi, Envoy of the Secretary-General on Youth; Nevena Vukašinović, Secretary-General, ENGSO Youth (Serbia) Sports; and Mark Kamperhoff, Head of the European Union Coordination and International Affairs Unit of the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth of Germany.

Opening the discussion, Ms. ONANO recalled how youth struggled with a lack of access to quality education and health, as well as and war and conflict.  Stressing that young people should claim their place at decision-making tables, she highlighted the use of sport as a tool for engaging youth, building leadership skills and uniting different tribes, races and peoples.  It was important for all policies, at all administrative levels, to be “pro-youth”.

Ms. KARMASIN said that in Austria, all ministries were required to ensure that planned legislation had no negative impact on children and youth.  Such “youth screening” was part of a strategy to mainstream youth issues throughout the Government and public administration.  Initiatives to help youth take ownership of their future included lowering the voting age to 16.  Outlining a number of challenges, she said youth unemployment was far too high and that marginalized men and women were at risk of becoming victims or perpetrators of violence.

Mr. SOTO said that in Uruguay, poverty was seen not only as a matter of insufficient income, but also as the absence of basic capacities and opportunities linked to freedoms and rights.  Youth and adolescence was a precious time in a person’s life, he said, noting in particular the biological changes in adolescent brains.  With a series of graphs, he explained the nature of youth poverty in his country, as well as initiatives that included cash transfers for households with children and a one-laptop-per-child programme that provided every Uruguayan youngster with a computer for home and school.

Ms. WOOD, emphasizing her work as a statistician, said the effective use of data had enabled a friend of hers, a young aboriginal woman in Australia, to emerge from multidimensional poverty and exclusion.  The design of a new statistical index had made it possible to focus on those people whose situations had not previously been evident in other forms of data collection and analysis.

Ms. AL-NASHIF emphasized the importance of a close and mutually reinforcing relationship between youth development and social sustainability.  Young people needed the capacity and motivation to engage meaningfully in their own societies.  Youth development ensured that young people could voice their ideas and concerns within society, she said, underscoring the need for coherence among national development strategies, national youth policies and other public sector policies affecting youth.  It was also essential to reach the most vulnerable and marginalized, as well as those who could be radicalized or engaged in violence.

Mr. ALHENDAWI called inequality the biggest challenge facing youth today.  Around 500 million youth lived on less than $2 a day, while 74 million were unemployed.  Last year was the first since the economic crisis to see an increase in youth unemployment, and unemployment was twice as high for young women everywhere than for men.  Inequality resulted from a lack of access to opportunities, he said, proposing that there were not only developing and developed countries, but developing and developed individuals within societies.  Typically, it took 19 months for a young person to transition from school to employment.  He drew attention to the World Programme of Action for Youth, adopted by the General Assembly 22 years ago, calling it a pre-Internet document that required a rethink.

Ms. VUKAŠINOVIĆ said it was necessary to understand local cases in order to advocate at a local level.  Technology was a driver for implementing the Sustainable Development Goals, but given its multidimensional nature, poverty was especially challenging to address.  Calling young people powerful agents of change, she said technological skills should be promoted on the basis of community needs.  However, information and communications technology required strong physical infrastructure to ensure reliable access, which was currently lacking in many areas.

Mr. KAMPERHOFF noted the introduction in Germany last month of a national framework for implementation of the new Goals.  Sustainable development meant assuming responsibility for current and future generations.  Germany had taken the 2030 Agenda as a starting point, and posted a draft of its policy framework online for comment prior to adoption.  Young people could break the intergenerational cycle of poverty, he said, adding that Germany, with the European Union and others, was committed to a “youth guarantee” to ensure that young people’s skills converged with job market requirements.

In the ensuing discussion, a representative of Portugal said his Government was committed to engaging young people in its decision-making process, recalling that next year marked the twentieth anniversary of the Lisbon Declaration that had emerged from the first-ever international conference of youth ministers.

The Minister for Youth and Sport of Madagascar, noting that 65 per cent of his country’s population was comprised of young people, discussed the promulgation last year of a national youth strategy.  He also cited the importance of sexual education and protecting young people from the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS.

A representative of China said youth were the big beneficiaries of poverty eradication.  Since 2015, a youth poverty reduction campaign had been under way in China.  Credit, training and facilities had been provided to young entrepreneurs, of which around 3,000 young people with doctoral degrees had gone out to work in poor regions of the country.  China encouraged the political participation of youth.

The Vice-Governor of the state of Paraná in Brazil said that, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), there were around 17 million pregnant teenagers in the world, most of them in developing countries.  By 2030, 3 million adolescent girls were expected to become pregnant under the age of 15.  For Brazil, preventing early pregnancy was a matter of importance, but when prevention failed, a “Happy Child Programme” offered home visits by qualified professionals as well as guidance for young mothers.  In order to leave no one behind, it was crucial to support young pregnant women, she said.

A representative of Iraq drew attention to violent behaviour among young people, leading to terrorism in some cases, and asked the panel about the reasons behind that phenomenon.

A representative of the Mexican Youth Institute asked panellists what action could be taken to make young people the guarantors of the 2030 Agenda.

Mr. ALHENDAWI called inequality the biggest challenge facing youth today.  Around 500 million youth lived on less than $2 a day, while 74 million were unemployed.  Last year was the first since the economic crisis to see an increase in youth unemployment, and unemployment was twice as high for young women everywhere than for men.  Inequality resulted from a lack of access to opportunities, he said, proposing that there were not only developing and developed countries, but developing and developed individuals within societies.  Typically, it took 19 months for a young person to transition from school to employment.  He drew attention to the World Programme of Action for Youth, adopted by the General Assembly 22 years ago, calling it a pre-Internet document that required a rethink.

Ms. VUKAŠINOVIĆ said it was necessary to understand local cases in order to advocate at a local level.  Technology was a driver for implementing the Sustainable Development Goals, but given its multidimensional nature, poverty was especially challenging to address.  Calling young people powerful agents of change, she said technological skills should be promoted on the basis of community needs.  However, information and communications technology required strong physical infrastructure to ensure reliable access, which was currently lacking in many areas.

Mr. KAMPERHOFF noted the introduction in Germany last month of a national framework for implementation of the new Goals.  Sustainable development meant assuming responsibility for current and future generations.  Germany had taken the 2030 Agenda as a starting point, and posted a draft of its policy framework online for comment prior to adoption.  Young people could break the intergenerational cycle of poverty, he said, adding that Germany, with the European Union and others, was committed to a “youth guarantee” to ensure that young people’s skills converged with job market requirements.

In the ensuing discussion, a representative of Portugal said his Government was committed to engaging young people in its decision-making process, recalling that next year marked the twentieth anniversary of the Lisbon Declaration that had emerged from the first-ever international conference of youth ministers.

The Minister for Youth and Sport of Madagascar, noting that 65 per cent of his country’s population was comprised of young people, discussed the promulgation last year of a national youth strategy.  He also cited the importance of sexual education and protecting young people from the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS.

A representative of China said youth were the big beneficiaries of poverty eradication.  Since 2015, a youth poverty reduction campaign had been under way in China.  Credit, training and facilities had been provided to young entrepreneurs, of which around 3,000 young people with doctoral degrees had gone out to work in poor regions of the country.  China encouraged the political participation of youth.

The Vice-Governor of the state of Paraná in Brazil said that, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), there were around 17 million pregnant teenagers in the world, most of them in developing countries.  By 2030, 3 million adolescent girls were expected to become pregnant under the age of 15.  For Brazil, preventing early pregnancy was a matter of importance, but when prevention failed, a “Happy Child Programme” offered home visits by qualified professionals as well as guidance for young mothers.  In order to leave no one behind, it was crucial to support young pregnant women, she said.

A representative of Iraq drew attention to violent behaviour among young people, leading to terrorism in some cases, and asked the panel about the reasons behind that phenomenon.

A representative of the Mexican Youth Institute asked panellists what action could be taken to make young people the guarantors of the 2030 Agenda.

Mr. ALHENDAWI called inequality the biggest challenge facing youth today.  Around 500 million youth lived on less than $2 a day, while 74 million were unemployed.  Last year was the first since the economic crisis to see an increase in youth unemployment, and unemployment was twice as high for young women everywhere than for men.  Inequality resulted from a lack of access to opportunities, he said, proposing that there were not only developing and developed countries, but developing and developed individuals within societies.  Typically, it took 19 months for a young person to transition from school to employment.  He drew attention to the World Programme of Action for Youth, adopted by the General Assembly 22 years ago, calling it a pre-Internet document that required a rethink.

Ms. VUKAŠINOVIĆ said it was necessary to understand local cases in order to advocate at a local level.  Technology was a driver for implementing the Sustainable Development Goals, but given its multidimensional nature, poverty was especially challenging to address.  Calling young people powerful agents of change, she said technological skills should be promoted on the basis of community needs.  However, information and communications technology required strong physical infrastructure to ensure reliable access, which was currently lacking in many areas.

Mr. KAMPERHOFF noted the introduction in Germany last month of a national framework for implementation of the new Goals.  Sustainable development meant assuming responsibility for current and future generations.  Germany had taken the 2030 Agenda as a starting point, and posted a draft of its policy framework online for comment prior to adoption.  Young people could break the intergenerational cycle of poverty, he said, adding that Germany, with the European Union and others, was committed to a “youth guarantee” to ensure that young people’s skills converged with job market requirements.

In the ensuing discussion, a representative of Portugal said his Government was committed to engaging young people in its decision-making process, recalling that next year marked the twentieth anniversary of the Lisbon Declaration that had emerged from the first-ever international conference of youth ministers.

The Minister for Youth and Sport of Madagascar, noting that 65 per cent of his country’s population was comprised of young people, discussed the promulgation last year of a national youth strategy.  He also cited the importance of sexual education and protecting young people from the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS.

A representative of China said youth were the big beneficiaries of poverty eradication.  Since 2015, a youth poverty reduction campaign had been under way in China.  Credit, training and facilities had been provided to young entrepreneurs, of which around 3,000 young people with doctoral degrees had gone out to work in poor regions of the country.  China encouraged the political participation of youth.

The Vice-Governor of the state of Paraná in Brazil said that, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), there were around 17 million pregnant teenagers in the world, most of them in developing countries.  By 2030, 3 million adolescent girls were expected to become pregnant under the age of 15.  For Brazil, preventing early pregnancy was a matter of importance, but when prevention failed, a “Happy Child Programme” offered home visits by qualified professionals as well as guidance for young mothers.  In order to leave no one behind, it was crucial to support young pregnant women, she said.

A representative of Iraq drew attention to violent behaviour among young people, leading to terrorism in some cases, and asked the panel about the reasons behind that phenomenon.

A representative of the Mexican Youth Institute asked panellists what action could be taken to make young people the guarantors of the 2030 Agenda.

A youth representative of Switzerland said that, every year, an estimated 20 per cent of the world’s youth, some 240 million young people, experienced mental health conditions.  About half of mental disorders began before the age of 14.  Switzerland strongly supported the WHO Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2020 and called on Member States to implement it, adding that everyone shared a responsibility to address mental health.

A representative of the 24-nation International Organization of La Francophonie said youth were at the heart of the organization’s decisions and actions.  It had adopted a youth strategy at its 2014 summit in Dakar, and young people had taken part in both biennial summits and ministerial gatherings.  Other initiatives included business incubators for young entrepreneurs, the promotion of environmentally friendly “green” employment, and a volunteering scheme.

A representative of the European Union raised the topic of youth unemployment, which at 18.2 per cent in the bloc, was still too high.  More action was needed to offer young people the opportunities they deserved, with attention due to the empowerment of women and vulnerable groups.  He asked panellists about the most effective action for integrating refugees and migrants.

A representative of the Ibero-American Youth Organization said young people must be strategic partners in implementing the 2030 Agenda, but wondered if that was indeed happening.

A representative of the Philippines expressed strong concern about illegal drug use among young people, asking panellists about their own countries’ experiences in dealing with that problem.

A representative of Libya asked for more details about Austria’s youth policies.

A representative of the European Youth Forum, expressing concern about the violation of young people’s human rights, said that without youth support, sustainable development could not be achieved, and without a focus on participation and social inclusion, “we are setting (ourselves) up to fail”.

A representative of the Commonwealth, noting that its youth programme had been in place for about 40 years now, asked how Government ministries reacted when required to include youth perspectives in their policies and programmes.

Ms. KARMASIN replied that isolation and the feeling of not being accepted was a main reason why young people became violent.  Her country offered opportunities for young people to participate, including through youth centres and counselling services.  She emphasized the need to integrate refugees and migrants at an early stage so that they felt accepted and part of society.  Responding to the Commonwealth representative’s question, she said every ministry had one person responsible for youth policy.  In some cases, it did not work well, “but that’s politics”, she said, adding that much emphasis was placed on youth-related data.

Ms. AL-NASHIF said youth should be engaged in a longer term in policy processes, both at the United Nations and in Member States.  In the developing world, building the capacities of youth ministries was a challenge.  Turning to the issue of unemployment, she said that in the Arab world, youth employment was not only a supply issue, but also a matter of creating quality jobs that young people would want to take on, noting that young women faced additional barriers to work.

Mr. SOTO said youth policy should not be an afterthought, but rather a key part of social policy.  Opening the door to youth today would have a knock-on effect for the future, he said, adding that youth must be involved upstream in the design of policies and programmes.  In Uruguay, they participated from beginning to end.

Mr. ALHENDAWI said youth policies must be coupled with political will at the highest level.  An increasing number of States had youth ministries or departments that were linked to their respective presidencies.  Youth policy also must be inclusive — an idea that appeared obvious, but was not always the case.

Ms. VUKAŠINOVIĆ responded that, for refugees, the best action would be not to close doors on them.  She emphasized the importance of integration through capacity-building, and providing institutional spaces for young practitioners and activists.

Ms. WOOD said youth were not only perpetrators of violence, but also victims.  In that regard, connecting with the community and encouraging civic participation created resilience.  She also said that, in asking youth for their voice, they were always told why they needed to be heard or how their opinions would be used.  Young people must be involved until the end so that they could see the impact their voices could have.  Regarding illegal drugs, she said rehabilitation was a complex matter, but people must be motivated to “get clean” so that opportunities for participation in society would be evident.

Closing the discussion, Ms. ONANO noted a number of recurring themes, including youth unemployment, civic participation, the role of technology, skills development and education, and access to platforms where young people could voice their concerns and participate effectively.  Empowering young people meant making them not only beneficiaries, but fully engaged partners, she said.

PHILIPP CHARWATH (Austria), Chair of the Commission for Social Development, highlighted the central role of data, especially disaggregated data, and the role of youth participation in policy formulation in that regard.

Statements

AISHA JUMMAI ALHASSAN, Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development of Nigeria, speaking on behalf of the African Group, and associating herself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said African economies had continued to register impressive growth rates, as well as improvements in social and economic development.  However, African countries were still at the bottom of social development indicators.  To halt that trend, the African Union had adopted Agenda 2063, as well as several policy frameworks and action plans to address inequality.  African leaders were determined to scale up investments in youth and ensure their access to health care, education and gainful employment.

She reaffirmed the centrality and indispensability of the family in Africa and its critical role in political, cultural and socioeconomic development, underscoring the challenges faced by African households due to poverty, the work-life balance and supported intergenerational solidarity.  Continuing, she emphasized the importance of economic empowerment and full participation of persons with disabilities, who required strong social protection mechanisms, given their increased state of vulnerability and greater risk of poverty.  While social development was the primary responsibility of Governments, international cooperation and assistance were essential.

Speaking in her national capacity, she said Nigeria had launched a Social Investment Programme that would benefit about 8.4 million people.  Summarizing the components of the country’s poverty eradication efforts, she described empowerment initiatives for women and youth, as well as a holistic scheme to provide farmers with loans, farm implements, improved seedlings, fertilizers and extension support services.  Other schemes address the concerns of persons with disabilities and the elderly.  Social development was challenged by the Boko Haram insurgency, but the Government was resolved to remain focused and unwavering.

LUCÍA CAYETANA ALJOVÍN GAZZANI, Minister for Development and Social Inclusion of Peru, said that Peru had over the last few decades made important economic and social progress.  More than 9 million of its citizens were lifted out of poverty.  The public and private sectors, civil society and agencies had worked to combat poverty, which stood at 20.4 per cent and extreme poverty at 3.4 per cent.  The Government had developed strategies and programmes focused on five priorities:  to achieve sustained, equitably distributed economic growth; to reduce gaps in access to water, sanitation, electricity and telecommunications; to reduce rates of chronic anaemia and malnutrition in infants; to give priority attention to socially marginalized and economically depressed areas in the Amazon; and to bolster the participation of civil society and the private sector to achieve social progress.

OTIKO AFISA DJABA (Ghana) said that in recent years the Government had adopted legal, institutional and policy frameworks, and introduced pragmatic projects to mitigate the effects of poverty on neglected, marginalized communities.  Programmes providing free meals, uniforms and books for schoolchildren, health insurance, microfinance and small loans had lifted many people out of poverty and destitution.  The aim over the next 13 years was to halve the current poverty rate and augment employment opportunities through productive inclusion and decent work programmes, as well as increase access to formal social security for 75 per cent of working age Ghanaians and 50 per cent of seniors.  In addition, the Government planned to develop a single registry database to identify and select potential social protection programme beneficiaries; a sustainable financing mechanism and a robust system to track progress.

PAULINE IRENE NGUENE, Minister for Social Affairs of Cameroon, welcomed the help given by the international community with regard to Boko Haram, migration and a recent railway accident.  She said her country, to eradicate poverty, had put into place a number of investment programmes with significant social measures to improve living conditions of its people.  On policy, she emphasized her Government’s efforts towards good governance, democracy, decentralization and combatting corruption.  Describing Cameroon as a microcosm of Africa, she described rural and agricultural initiatives, as well as the promotion of social entrepreneurship.  Cameroon had also introduced a three-year plan that would create jobs for 1.5 million youth.  She went on to note that Cameroon had integrated the recommendations of the Paris Agreement on climate change and the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference into Government policy.

ALELI BAWAGAN (Philippines) said that despite high economic growth in recent years, poverty remained high at 21.6 per cent.  The Government was doubling efforts to strengthen the economy and make opportunities available to all, while continuing policies that promoted the wise use of resources, good governance and zero-tolerance for corruption.  Revenue generated from taxes on tobacco and alcohol were being used towards the goal of universal health coverage.  Currently, 90 per cent of Filipinos were covered under Philhealth, the national health insurance programme.  The Government had resumed peace talks with the National Democratic Front and it was committed to extending development programmes to conflict-affected areas to secure peace and development gains.  She cited a cash transfer programme for poor households that helped achieve the goal of universal primary education, a reduction in child mortality and improved maternal health.  The Philippines Centenarians Act, adopted in 2016, allowed for a one-time cash disbursement for every Filipino over 100.  The long-term vision was to create a prosperous, predominately middle-class society by 2040.

ADRIAN DOBRE (Romania) said his Government’s priority was to create new jobs and employment opportunities.  To that end, it had taken steps to boost apprenticeship and alternative forms of education, especially for people in rural areas.  Developing sustainable entrepreneurship was a priority; special attention was given to at-risk youth.  The “Hope Programme” encouraged youth entrepreneurship through microgrants.  The Government provided rental subsidies for people working more than 50 kilometres from home.  To stop the nation’s brain drain, a comprehensive system was put in place to create decent wages.  In addition, a programme launched in 2016 aimed to guarantee a minimum income for all citizens, as well as cover health and housing insurance and emergency aid.  Also that year, a national mechanism to promote social inclusion was established.

MIRWAIS BAHEEJ (Afghanistan) said the threat of terrorism and violent extremism continued to undermine the enabling environment needed for sustainable development in his State.  As a result, Afghanistan’s youth faced increased vulnerabilities, perpetuating a vicious cycle of poverty and violence.  Despite such challenges, the Government was implementing an agenda of comprehensive reforms aimed at achieving self-reliance, with progress being made on infrastructure, private-sector and social development.  Total school enrolment had reached 9.4 million students, 39.3 per cent of them female, and more and more Afghans had access to health care.  He emphasized that poverty in Afghanistan was multidimensional, varying by region, gender and access to exit pathways.  It was particularly severe in rural areas.  The Government, however, was determined to move the country out of its history of war and poverty and begin a long journey to prosperity.

IURIE TABUNCIC (Republic of Moldova), emphasizing increased threats to stability, said his Government — in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) — was beginning the adaption and implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.  Expert groups had been set up, focusing on major pillars, and consultations with civil society had begun.  Economic growth and poverty reduction in the Republic of Moldova were closely related to remittances from abroad, he said, emphasizing also his Government’s efforts to strengthen the youth sector, including young people’s participation in decision-making processes.

JAN ZLONICKÝ (Czech Republic), associating himself with the European Union, said that 14 per cent of the population in his country were at risk of poverty or social exclusion.  That was the third-lowest rate in the European Union, with the long-term unemployed and incomplete families with children among the most threatened group.  Homelessness was a major issue as well, but the Government had no law in force to define social housing or to make it a reality.  As a result, rights and obligations of Czech citizens differed, based on their place of permanent residence, leading people to relocate to places that were more advantageous, putting those localities under increased pressure.  He said it was hoped that a social housing bill would pass the legislative process to become an effective instrument in the ongoing battle against poverty and social exclusion.

SIDY GUEYE (Senegal), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, pointed to anti-poverty strategies that gave priority to women and young people and to improving the economic growth process.  He cited emergency programmes for community development, building wider roads to correct imbalances in infrastructure, promoting more economic freedom for women, as well as access to drinking water and energy.  A €17.8 million programme to build or rehabilitate 45 infrastructure sites and health facilities for women was under way.  A literacy and a trade programme to fight poverty had helped educate young people.  The vision was to make youth the foundation of an in-depth tranformation of the country by 2025.  The exodus of young people who lived and worked on farms had prompted the Government to focus on job creation in rural areas and to expedite agricultural production.  He cited social safety net programmes that helped people with disabilities, the elderly and families.  In 2016, a total of 624 socioeconomic projects were carried out to aid the elderly.

NICHOLAS BOTONGORE (Kenya) said the Vision 2030 development blueprint aimed to transform his country into a globally competitive and prosperous middle-income nation with high quality of life in a clean, secure environment.  The blueprint’s social pillar focused on investment in education and training; health, water and sanitation; the environment; housing and urbanization; gender, youth, sports and culture; equity and poverty eradication.  Kenya’s poverty eradication approach promoted inclusive and equitable economic growth and a coherent social policy framework for inclusivity.  Among its features, he cited a national safety net programme to increase cash transfers to and coverage of the elderly, people with severe disabilities, orphans and vulnerable children, and those threatened by climate change.  Since its inception in 2013, some 1 million households had benefitted.  The Youth Employment for Sustainable Development Project promoted creation of youth-owned small and micro-enterprises.

BERZACK MAPHAKWANE (Botswana), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said that, with youth unemployment a significant challenge, the Government had set up a Youth Development Fund to promote entrepreneurship, job creation and a sense of responsibility among young people.  It took the place of a youth grant programme that tended to encourage a culture of entitlement.  However, young entrepreneurs still faced several challenges, including limited markets, high rents and lack of access to credit.  He noted that poverty in Botswana had a strong rural dimension.  However, a rural development strategy had helped to bring the number of people living below the poverty line from 30 per cent in the last 10 years to 19.9 per cent currently.

IAREMA V. ZHUGAIEVYCH (Ukraine) underscored the vital challenge of poverty eradication.  His country’s policy in that regard called for reducing social alienation and implementing new mechanisms to address that problem.  Consultations on adaptation of the 2030 Agenda in Ukraine were underway, and in 2016 — after years of unsuccessful talks — a general agreement was concluded between employers, labour unions and the Government.  He said the recent economic crisis, the occupation of Crimea and the Russian Federation’s aggression in the east of the country had had an impact on employment.  Transitioning from informal to formal employment was another key challenge.  Current demands by labour unions in Ukraine included effective social production for vulnerable members of society as well as maintaining and developing labour potential.

ZANE DANGOR (South Africa) aligning himself with the African Group and the Group of 77, said deepening inequalities globally over the last three decades, largely due to the predominance of exclusionary economic models, had given rise to new threats to the ideal of a more inclusive world.  The emerging threat was epitomized by the rise of political regimes that sought to strengthen exclusionary national economies within the existing inequitable global economic architecture.  Such narrow economic and political nationalisms by Member States contravened international law and threatened to take the world backwards.  “Scapegoating and othering people based on any status, whether it be their religion or them being refugees and migrants is, therefore, not a solution to dealing with national and global inequities,” he said.  “If anything, it makes a shared global compact to eradicating poverty and inequalities and the building of peaceful societies more difficult.”  South Africa’s poverty eradication strategies were embedded in a national development plan, with the commitment to build social and economic justice expressed through aid programmes that reached 17 million people.  He also cited the Older Persons Act, Children’s Act, White Paper on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the national minimum wage, sexual and reproductive health programmes, and social grant for poor children.

STEFAN CUENI (Switzerland) said one in every eight people in Switzerland was threatened by poverty, with the most vulnerable children from disadvantaged and single-parent families.  Since 2014, a decentralized programme had worked nationwide to place local authorities on the front lines of the fight against poverty.  His ministry closely cooperated with organizations that supported the poor.  Noting that the Government had proposed to Parliament to ratify the International Labour Organization (ILO) Protocol on Forced Labour, he said Switzerland had already ratified the ILO Domestic Workers Convention, Maternity Protection Convention and Transition from the Informal to the Formal Economy Recommendation.

TANMAYA LAL (India) said the benefits of globalization had been uneven.  Situations where profit-driven capitalism had advanced with little State regulation had widened disparities, while technology and skills gaps were emerging within societies and between nations.  In a world rife with conflict, sustaining peace would require long-term sustainable development that would focus on eradicating poverty.  “The right to development must gain more prominence,” he said, underscoring how India, representing one sixth of humanity, was playing a significant role in reducing poverty.  He described a number of policies and programmes undertaken by the Government to improve social, financial and digital inclusion, including better education access for the girl child.

LISE GREGOIRE-VAN HAAREN (Netherlands) said her country’s commitment to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals went hand in hand with its efforts to reach the Goals globally.  Accordingly, in 2015 it had invested nearly $7 billion in official development assistance.  Poverty in the Netherlands was relatively low, but it had grown in recent years due to the economic crisis.  As a result, the Government had stepped up efforts to boost employment, which was the best way out of poverty.  Poverty was also best tackled at the local level, she said, noting that while the causes and consequences of poverty differed among countries, States could help each other implement effective policies to counter it.

DIANGUINA DIT YAYA DOUCOURÉ (Mali) said the Government had set up strategies to improve living conditions, noting that the 2012-2017 poverty reduction strategy and 2014-2023 social and health development plan were the major reference documents.  National solidarity was a central component to develop human capital.  Laws for social action were implemented by public and private stakeholders, including laws to implement the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women.  Since 2007, Mali had built thousands of units of decent housing for low- and middle-income people.  The Government was committed to job creation for youth and had set up a national youth employment agency.

NGUYEN PHUONG NGA (Viet Nam) said her country had fulfilled the Millennium Development Goal on poverty reduction ahead of schedule, reducing poverty from 80 per cent in the early 1990s to 3 per cent at present based on the $1.90-a-day poverty line.  Viet Nam’s Human Development Index had significantly improved and was higher than most countries with similar per capita income.  Much of the success was due to comprehensive, integrated strategies to address poverty, with priority given to vulnerable groups.  The 2016-2020 Targeted Programme for Sustainable Poverty Reduction focused on the poorest districts.  Viet Nam was undergoing a process of structural economic transformation towards sustainable and inclusive development, with a strong focus on rural and agricultural development.

JEAN-CLAUDE DO REGO (Benin) said the “Benin Awakened” programme of action was the main development strategy for the 2016-2021 period.  It focused on fostering inclusive economic growth, ending structural inequalities and protecting vulnerable groups, establishing the rule of law and good governance, and improving living conditions.  Taking into account the Sustainable Development Goals, the Government aimed to reverse the poverty curve; 40.1 per cent of the population lived below the poverty line.  Benin ranked 166th on the global human development index.  The “Benin Awakened” programme aimed to create the conditions for rapid economic growth to generate 500,000 well-paying jobs by 2021.  To close the gap in social protection and financial resources, the Government had developed strategies for improved local health infrastructure, and better access to water and electricity.  It aimed to extend universal health insurance to 4 million people and give universal access to drinking water by 2021.

CRISTIÁN BARROS MELET (Chile) said that in the last 10 years, Chile had achieved gradual social progress.  Per capita income had increased and poverty had fallen from 40 per cent in 1990 to 14 per cent in 2013.  However, high levels of inequality still existed.  Combatting it had been the standard in Chile since 1990.  Local problems could not be understood without understanding that Chile had a rich biodiversity that was threatened by global warming, for which it was not responsible.  The great value of the 2030 Agenda was not necessarily in its immediate effectiveness, but rather in its symbolic strength.

OMAR HILALE (Morocco) said a qualitative change in social policy in Morocco had taken place in the past 10 years.  Development was considered a human rights matter and the Government was working to advance the rights of vulnerable, marginalized people, particularly in rural and poor areas.  It sought to prepare a unified social registry, as well as a public policy that addressed women’s rights and included them in public policies.  He pointed to draft legislation on fighting gender-based violence, ending violence against children and protecting the elderly, as well the creation of a consultative council on the family and children.  The Government had operationalized a social support fund for children, which benefitted more than 800,000 youngsters, and set up a fund that that provided support to 65,000 widows and orphans.  A World Bank-supported programme benefitted 14,000 people with disabilities, and included education services and vocational training.

A representative of the Bilie Human Rights Initiative based in Nigeria said the initiative worked to promote human rights, especially for indigenous people, as well as foster good leadership, economic development, poverty eradication, and peace and security.  It aimed to empower unemployed people, particularly women and youth in rural areas.  Strategies to end poverty included investments in agriculture and rural development, educational and apprenticeship schemes, and liaising with Governments and private multinational companies to receive financial grants and credits for women and youth involved in agricultural and cottage industries.

Right of Reply

The representative of the Russian Federation, responding to the statement by his counterpart from Ukraine, said Crimea had become part of the Russian Federation after the 2014 referendum.  Ukraine had tried to use today’s discussion to politicize matters that had nothing to do with issues on the Commission’s agenda.