Opening of 56th Session of Commission for Social Development

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29-Jan-2018 03:00:35
Commission for Social Development Fifty-sixth session - Opening meeting.

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More Protection, Focus on Helping Vulnerable Groups Key to Achieving 2030 Agenda, Speakers Stress, as Social Development Commission Begins Annual Session

Conflicts, inequality, volatile financial markets, corruption, climate change challenges and health‑related threats were among the obstacles stymying progress on achieving sustainable development for all, delegates warned at the opening of the fifty‑sixth session of the Commission for Social Development, with many calling for sharpening the focus of national and global efforts to reach vulnerable groups.

“Eradication of poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including extreme poverty, remains the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development, particularly in Africa and in the least developed countries, small island developing States, landlocked developing countries and in middle‑income countries,” said Ghada Waly, Minister for Social Solidarity of Egypt, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, summing up a common view.

In tackling obstacles to development gains, the Commission had a crucial role to play in identifying targeted strategies, ministers and representatives stressed. Gaps and inequalities persisted, cautioned some, expressing concerns about uneven progress and exchanging stories of success and challenges.

Viet Nam’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), reported that innovation, inclusivity and international cooperation had kept the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development on track, with the number of people living in extreme poverty in the region dropping to 44 million in 2015 from 138 million in 2000.

The representative of Equatorial Guinea, speaking for the African Group, said that despite multiple poverty eradication commitments and pledges, 390 million Africans remained mired in extreme poverty. Obstacles needed to be overcome, including challenges related to poverty drivers such as economic slow‑downs, war and civil unrest. Further, international support and partnerships were needed to boost ongoing efforts, with stepped‑up investments from the private sector, civil society and the United Nations.

More generally, the international community must boost cooperation and coordination, many delegates said. Similarly, Deputy Secretary‑General Amina J. Mohammed declared “this Commission has a key role in addressing these challenges”, calling on countries to empower people living in poverty and address the phenomenon’s root causes.

Social policies that ensured social protection, including safety nets, could be crucial, she said, describing the current absence of such mechanisms in many countries as “unacceptable”. “I encourage you to be creative and to prioritize accelerating action” to help implement the 2030 Agenda, she said.

Liu Zhenmin, Under‑Secretary‑General for Economic and Social Affairs, said that while the Commission was meeting at a time when the global economy continued to show signs of improvement, “economic growth is not enough”. While some 1.1 billion people had escaped poverty since 1990, many were still living barely above the absolute poverty line and remained at risk of falling below it again if impacted by disaster, illness, the loss of a job or lack of social protection. Going forward, it would be crucial to develop a comprehensive and integrated socioeconomic policy framework.

Economic and Social Council President Marie Chatardová (Czech Republic) said the Commission’s deliberations on eradicating poverty would significantly contribute to the forthcoming United Nations high-level meeting on sustainable development. Policies produced during the session would serve to guide future generations, she continued, adding that the Economic and Social Council Youth Forum, which would begin on January 30, could benefit the Commission’s work by hearing young people’s perspectives.

Agreeing, Commission Chair Nikulás Hannigan (Iceland), elected at the outset of the meeting, emphasized that the 2030 Agenda’s success depended on empowering all groups in society. “Let us seize this opportunity and strengthen international cooperation in implementing the 2030 Agenda, building on the achievements of the World Summit and the Millennium Development Goals and seeking to address their unfinished business,” he said. “Let us also ensure that this year’s resolution places a strong emphasis on social policies and strategies that have proved effective at eradicating poverty.”

Daniela Bas, Director of the Division for Social Policy and Development of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introduced the United Nations Secretary‑General’s reports on ageing and poverty eradication strategies as well as a note by the Secretariat on emerging cross‑cutting issues, focusing on innovation and interconnectivity for social development.

Delegates also debated strategies for eradicating poverty to achieve sustainable development for all during a high-level panel discussion moderated by Jane Barratt, Secretary‑General of the International Federation on Ageing. It featured a keynote address by Juan Somavía, Director of the Diplomatic Academy of Chile, and panellists Ana Helena Chacón Echeverría, Vice‑President of Costa Rica; Ghada Waly, Minister of Social Solidarity of Egypt; Mark Kamperhoff, Head of the Unit of European Union Coordination and International Affairs of the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth of Germany; and Mark McGreevy, Group Chief Executive of DePaul International and the founder of the Institute of Global Homelessness.

The fifty‑sixth session, which runs through 7 February, would feature several high‑level panel discussions on a range of issues.

At the start of the meeting, the Commission adopted its provisional agenda (document E/CN.5/2018/1 and Corrigendum 1) and elected Mr. Hannigan as Chair and Lot Dzonzi (Malawi) and Mihaela Mecea (Romania) as Vice‑Chairs, with Ms. Mecea also serving as Rapporteur.

Delivering statements today were ministers, senior officials and representatives of Bulgaria (for the European Union), Costa Rica (also for the Group on Ageing), Peru, Paraguay, Portugal, Egypt, Ghana and Guatemala.

Also delivering statements were representatives of the NGO Committee for Social Development and of the European Union Youth Forum.

The Commission will reconvene at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 30 January, to continue its work.
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