Note: A complete summary of today’s Third Committee meetings will be made available after their conclusion.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) continued its debate on social development today. (For background, please see Press Release GA/SHC 4258.)
NAME TO COME (Nepal), associating himself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, called for removing barriers to social mobility. Inequality can be curbed with the right policies and institutions, and as such, Nepal is reaching out to the most disadvantaged groups and implementing social policies for all sections of society, including women, persons with disabilities and indigenous groups. The Government’s wide range of social protection measures includes cash transfers for the elderly, single women, people with disabilities, Dalits and endangered ethnicities, as well as scholarships for the poor, girls and those from marginalized groups. Policies and programmes seek to ensure a rights‑based and non‑discriminatory approach for all citizens, he said.
KHIANE PHANSOURIVONG (Lao People’s Democratic Republic), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said many countries face increasingly severe effects from climate change. His country has experienced heavy rainfall and flooding, causing enormous damage to infrastructure, agriculture and livelihood that will be costly to rebuild. The Government prioritizes the delivery of such basic social services as education, health care and income generation. While a gap persists between urban and rural areas, the Government is mobilizing resources so that the country can graduate to upper‑middle‑income status by 2030. Vientiane also aims to improve access to high‑quality, equitable health care and provide free services to pregnant women, children younger than five and the poor. He also detailed Government measures to improve education — including ending illiteracy and strengthening secondary education — and called for international support of developing countries in their pursuit of national development objectives.
NAME TO COME (Cuba) urged States to step up social spending, guarantee universal health coverage and enhance social protections without any discrimination. It is crucial that developed countries honour their official development assistance (ODA) pledges, as well as end protectionist and discriminatory trade policies against countries of the South. The many millions of resources that are currently spent on war should instead be harnessed and spent on development. Cuba’s youth policy prioritizes vocational training and finding work, as well as involving young people in decision making. Attention to older people is also a priority in order to guarantee their quality of life.
NAME TO COME (Colombia) said States must place equality and social justice at the heart of social development, aiming to improve income distribution and allow the most vulnerable to have educational opportunities. Headway must be made in ending poverty in all its forms and in creating equal societies. Inequality is a multidimensional phenomenon that includes income, education, health, productive goods and access to financial services, which all affect economic growth. More than 4 million Venezuelans have had to leave their country and Colombia has hosted 1.4 million of them. This migratory crisis has overwhelmed capacities in the health, education and child protection sectors, and he advocated international support for such efforts.
NAME TO COME (China), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said that poverty, unilateralism and protectionism are impacting the world economy and aggravating inequities. Stressing that development is the “master key to all problems”, he called on all Member States to intensify efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and to take a stand together against protectionism, which is impeding development. Developed countries should help narrow the North‑South gap through funding and technical assistance, he said, noting that people‑centred development entails not just “making a larger cake”, but on “cutting it well” and ensuring equitable distribution. Spotlighting China’s achievements on its anniversary, he said that not just had the country grown into the world’s second biggest economy, it had also lifted 850 million people out of poverty, widened education access, and ensured strong social protection. For all this, he credited Socialism with Chinese characteristics. In addition, China also provides lots of foreign development assistance, including medical assistance and unconditional debt relief for least developed countries. Nonetheless, he said China still must redress its urban‑rural gap.
NAME TO COME (Costa Rica), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, as well as the Central American Integration System and the Group of Friends of Older Persons, welcomed the 2030 Agenda’s focus on inclusion and social development. Social divides continue to persist 25 years after the World Summit on Sustainable Development, he said, adding that such divisions are compounded by weakened trust in institutions. Income is merely one dimension of equality; it was equally important to focus on human rights and access to opportunity, he stressed. In addition, Costa Rica promotes universal access to health care, which covers 95 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP), as well as enhancing school enrolment. He touched on a national social development plan which identifies seven areas of intervention linked to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), ensuring provisions made for vulnerable groups, including Afro‑Caribbeans and migrants. He underscored the importance of efficiently and responsibly using public resources. Not doing so would lead to corruption and distrust, he said.
NAME TO COME (South Africa), associating him/herself with the Group of 77 and China, the African Group and the Group of Friends of Older Persons, called for targeted youth policies to ensure that countries benefit from the demographic dividend. South Africa prioritizes economic transformation and job creation, education, skills, health, consolidation of the social wage, social cohesion and safe communities. Achieving universal health coverage is a key component of social protection, he/she observed, pointing out that national health insurance proposed by the Government will prove a crucial mechanism for realizing constitutional obligations. Regarding older persons, he/she called for efforts towards their full participation in social, civil and political life free from discrimination and violence. Moreover, social protection floors in South Africa focus on individual family members, with benefits ranging from child support and disability grants to pensions. “Migration and urbanization patterns have had a serious impact on family dynamics,” he/she noted, emphasizing the need for relevant social protection policies.
NAME TO COME (Brazil) outlined actions aimed at guaranteeing dignity for the most vulnerable Brazilians, stressing that social programmes have been refined to meet their needs. For example, Brazil has increased payments of the “Bolsa Família” stipend programme, which benefits more than 15 million families, and introduced the “Progress” programme, which offers vocational courses. Brazil is also strengthening family‑centred programmes, such as the “Happy Child”. In order to tackle high youth unemployment, the Government is developing initiatives to foster new forms of work in the digital economy, improve employability and raise education. Attentive to the need of the elderly, it also is reforming the pension system, s/he said, noting that people with disabilities receive priority attention in Brazil’s social development policy.
NAME TO COME (Egypt), associating herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said her country was among the first to adopt a national plan to achieve the SDGs with its “Egypt Vision 2030” initiative. A social dialogue is now underway to update that plan, involving civil society, Parliament, youth and people with disabilities. The updated plan will be launched in the coming days and include Egypt’s priorities for implementing the Goals, particularly as related to health. Calling universal health coverage a fundamental human right, she said Egypt’s “One Hundred Million Healthy Lives” campaign aims to detect hepatitis C virus among citizens. So far, it has screened more than 60 million citizens, successfully detected several cases and provided treatment. Other initiatives focus on health problems specific to women and children, detecting hearing loss among new‑borns, for example, as well as obesity, anaemia and stunting among schoolchildren.
MARTHA AMA AKYAA POBEE (Ghana), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, and the African Group, said her country has reduced extreme poverty from 18.2 per cent in 2002 to 8.2 per cent in 2017. It also has launched a number of flagship social development initiatives, such as the “Lively Empowerment Against Poverty” programme, which provides unconditional and soft conditional cash transfers to extremely poor households. As for Goal 3 (health), Ghana has been implementing initiatives since the 1970s, and in 2003, established a national health insurance scheme to provide equitable access to basic health care, which today has 10.6 million members. Yet, financial challenges persist. Ghana has been working to meet increased demand for secondary education and has committed to ensuring kindergarten access to four and five-year-olds. She called for stronger cooperation between developed and developing countries.
WINSTON ADABA (Suriname) cited United Nations data revealing that 783 million people in the world live below the international poverty line. Since 16 per cent of the global population is young people, these numbers are anxiety-provoking. In Suriname, young children from poor families are forced to sell fruit on the road, alongside their parents. Poverty at a young age can lead to poverty in the future, compounding the heartbreak. Education is a powerful tool to combat poverty, he continued, citing data from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) showing that 263 million children, adolescents and young people worldwide are out of the school. That translates to 1 in every 5 young people. In Suriname, access to education is impeded by lack of infrastructure. The socio-economic disparities between the rural, costal and interior areas are stark, limiting education opportunities for lower-income young people. He remembered that, as recently as 10 years ago, households routinely burned their waste on their sidewalks. That practice is now rare, demonstrating the effectiveness of environmental awareness, he said.
RUTH MOATTI, youth delegate from Israel, recalling her country’s history of fostering innovation and entrepreneurial spirit, said she represented Israeli students and young professionals who want to use their unique skills to help communities — both local and international — to impact the world. Suggesting that Israel should be known for its socially impactful start‑ups rather than big companies involved in billion‑dollar deals, she went on to note the accomplishments of several such entities including ReWalk, WaterGen and Mobileye. Israel will continue to harness its human resources and innovation to achieve the SDGs, she said.
DEE-MAXWELL SAAH KEMAYAH Sr. (Liberia), said his country aligns its development efforts with the Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development and the World Summit for Social Development, as well as the SDGs. Outlining a national plan for inclusive development, which focuses on economy, peace and good governance, he said that expanding the social safety net is crucial to address the needs of the poor. Liberia has taken steps to enhance food security, including take‑home rations, and is working to achieve universal health coverage, he said, adding that the Government allocates 14.3 per cent of its budget to health, which is the highest such allocation in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) region. Liberia also aims to strengthen its public health system and reduce the high incidence of maternal and neonatal deaths. Welcoming the Secretary‑General’s call to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and its partners to scale up assistance to low‑ and middle‑income countries, he said that Liberia cannot work towards the Goals “in a silo”.
PATRICIO UNTER, youth delegate from Austria, said that young people he had met in recent months were concerned about education, employment, and above all, the climate crisis. Noting that this year marks the thirtieth anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, he stressed that the occasion was overshadowed by environmental degradation and extreme weather conditions, which impacted basic children’s rights. In Austria, the demonstrations of young people and parliamentarians led to the Parliament recently declaring a state of climate emergency by a large majority, he said, adding that youth participation in politics is facilitated by measures such as a national youth council and the ability of young people to vote at the age of 16. He called for greater sustainable and local agriculture, and for an urgent reduction in the use of plastics, as well as funding and research for alternative materials and recycling.
NAME TO COME (Cameroon), associating herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, recalled that the 2030 Agenda focuses in part on the role that migration can play in reducing inequalities. Thus, it is crucial that actions be taken in countries of origin, transit, and destination in order to improve integration. There should also be better recognition of diplomas gained abroad, she said, calling social progress the bedrock of Cameroon’s policies. Cameroon is an emerging democratic country unified in its diversity and all social groups should participate in decision‑making. The Government’s social inclusion strategy seeks to support the most vulnerable: both young and older people, people with disabilities and indigenous peoples among them.
RAHIMAH IBRAHIM (Brunei Darussalam), associating herself/himself with ASEAN and the Group of 77 and China, said the youth agenda is a national priority as young people account for almost 44 per cent of the population. The Government provides numerous platforms for youth to lead discussions on poverty elimination, leadership, the environment and sustainable development. It also promotes youth entrepreneurship and self‑reliance, providing factories to young Bruneians so they can start manufacturing businesses. Renewed domestic policy in the form of the National Youth Policy and Strategy 2019‑2035 will help realize the “Brunei Vision 2035” initiative and make the country one widely recognized for the accomplishments of its people, quality of life and dynamic, sustainable economy.
NAME TO COME (Guatemala), associating himself with the Central American Integration System, and the Group of 77 and China, said that he was pleased to hear from youth delegates as the United Nations needs change. Guatemala’s Constitution guarantees life, justice, security and peace. It also guarantees the holistic development of people and protects their human rights. As a middle‑income country, Guatemala faces structural gaps and lags behind in health care and access to basic services such as sanitation. This particularly affects young persons, people with disabilities and older persons. Disparities in health, education and other dimensions of human development make it difficult to break the cycle of poverty and this leads to disadvantages being passed down through generations, he said.
GUILIA PARENTI and SIMONE MOSTRATISI (Italy), associating with the European Union, said cultural heritage enables youth to connect with both the future and the past, creating a new framework in which young generations are the true protagonists in the fight for climate solutions, peace, security and economic growth. In the context of globalization and its tensions, a deep connection with the past is essential for building a fairer future led by young people. Cultural heritage is a tool, one that young people can harness to foster development, peace, security and economic growth.
AKYLAI BATYRBEKOVA, youth delegate from Kyrgyzstan, raised the issues of ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education, lifelong learning for all, decent work and economic growth in the context of the SDGs. The lack of access to quality education affects people in diverse ways, in the form of hunger, poverty, inequality, damage to the environment and the imperfect functioning of social, cultural and political institutions. The multiplier effect works rapidly and the consequences of this are difficult to reverse. Learning outcomes indicate the need to improve performance and she called for increasing the potential for teachers and ensuring higher access to preschool education.
GANGULALI DE SILVA and AMRIT EDIRISOORIYA, youth delegates from Sri Lanka, described their country’s welfare policies, which include access to free education and health facilities, acknowledging a challenge in bridging young people’s skills gap and tackling youth unemployment. In securing quality education, it is vital that Sri Lanka bridge social disparities, especially in post‑conflict areas and in the plantation sector. Sri Lanka recognizes the importance of focusing on social cohesion, they said, adding that young people must embrace a system of shared values and learn from the past. Recalling attacks carried out on Easter Sunday in April, leaving more than 250 dead and hundreds injured, they stressed that young people should be guided in the process of healing and reconciliation.
NEVILLE GERTZE (Namibia), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, and the African Group, said his country has enacted laws, policies and programmes to make free education and nearly-free health care accessible to everyone. By committing more resources to the Ministry for Health, Namibia surpassed the 90-90-90 target on HIV/AIDS ahead of the 2020 deadline. The negative effects of climate change, such as drought, have been mitigated by the provision of food, essentials and animal feed to rural communities and through resilience-building education. He went on to discuss the importance of universal access to social protections, a principle enshrined in Namibia’s Constitution, allowing the country to create one of the “most comprehensive social protection systems on the continent”.
NAME TO COME (Nicaragua), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, and the Central American Integration System, named poverty as the main structural problem to be eradicated. The establishment of partnership models between the Government, businesses and workers has made it possible to address challenges and reach economic indicators. Between 2014 and 2018, Nicaragua maintained economic growth by carrying out more than 40 flagship programmes to tackle poverty. It has established targets for the delivery of land titles, provision of water and electricity, job creation, health, and support to micro, small and medium enterprises. It also has focused on education and housing in efforts to ensure the social development of Nicaraguan families.
MOHAMMAD HASSANI NEJAD PIRKOUHI (Iran) said the international community and its development partners have a responsibility to support developing countries fight poverty. However, many developing nations receive no support and face barriers designed to thwart their social achievements. The imposition of illegal, inhumane unilateral sanctions is a clear instance of such harmful practices. “A genocidal economic war is waged against Iranians,” he said, through sanctions targeting the daily life of ordinary citizens. Despite these hardships, Iran is determined to maintain the social spending necessary for ensuring universal education, health and social protection coverage. The percentage of Iranians with health coverage increased from 68 per cent in 2007 to 91 per cent in 2015, he said, while out-of-pocket payments declined from 59 per cent in 2014 to 35 per cent in 2018. In addition, 916 health posts and 374 new, comprehensive suburban health centres have been created.
NAME TO COME, youth delegate from the Netherlands, recalled coming across a term in a social science textbook that gave her pause, as a Dutch girl of Moroccan origin: “the Moroccans problem”. This caused her to wonder why her people’s identity was being reduced; “why all of a sudden there was an us and a them”. Observing that recent research has shown an uptick in polarization in the Netherlands, she went on to blame social media “echo bubbles” and the lack of interaction between people of different ethnic backgrounds, income levels and political views for the widening divides. She expressed concern about social media algorithms that feed people content that fits their views, even if they are extreme. Nonetheless, she stressed, the same platforms can also be used to bring people together, fostering activism and global interconnectedness. “With this human side of social media, we can fight polarization off,” she added.