UN - United Nations

10/01/2019 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 10/01/2019 12:13

Third Committee

Note: A complete summary of today's Third Committee meetings will be made available after their conclusion.


The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) opened today to adopt its work programme for the session and begin its debate on social development.

Delegates had before them seven reports by the Secretary‑General, titled: Social development challenges faced by persons with albinism' (document A/74/184); Implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and of the twenty‑fourth special session of the General Assembly (document A/74/205); Promoting social integration through social inclusion (document A/74/133); Cooperatives in social development (document A/74/206); Policies and programmes involving youth (document A/74/175); Implementation of the objectives of the International Year of the Family and its follow‑up processes (document A/74/61-E/2019/4); and Follow‑up to the International Year of Older Persons: Second World Assembly on Ageing (document A/74/170).

The Committee also had before it a Secretariat note on the World social situation 2019 (document A/74/135).

Opening Remarks

LIU ZHENMIN, Under‑Secretary‑General for Economic and Social Affairs, described the strong momentum for implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), notably as global extreme poverty is not on track to end by 2030. While there has been progress in promoting gender equality and reducing both child and maternal mortality, progress is slow and uneven. Slowing global economic growth may disrupt progress on the Goals, particularly in countries in vulnerable situations, while the unabated effects of climate change, such as extreme weather events, are shattering communities. Hunger is also on the rise, he said, noting that in 2017, an estimated 821 million people were undernourished globally, compared with 784 million in 2015. Inequality in income, wealth and opportunities is rising in many countries. The forthcoming Report on the World Social Situation by the Department for Economic and Social Affairs will confirm that inequalities based on gender, age, race, ethnicity, migrant status, disability and socioeconomic status are pervasive in developed countries.

Population ageing is a global phenomenon, he said, underscoring that in 2018, for the first time in history, persons aged 65 years and over outnumbered children under the age of five - a trend that reflects success in reducing premature mortality, but also highlights the need for policies that leverage ageing as an opportunity and recognize older persons as active agents in development efforts. Noting that the Third Committee will reflect on ways to accelerate progress through the important policy issues on its agenda, he recalled the commitments made at the World Summit for Social Development, which recognized social progress as essential to increasing opportunities for the world's poor and unemployed. It also understood that deploying integrated policies, firmly rooted in the principles of social justice and inclusion, are essential to build a society for all. Deliberations in the Third Committee could not be more critical for realizing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, he said.

DANIELA BAS, Director of the Division for Inclusive Social Development in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introduced six reports and one Secretariat note. On the first report - on implementing the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and the twenty‑fourth special session of the General Assembly - she called for greater international cooperation on education and health care and for addressing the special needs of least developed countries in reaching the Summit's targets. The Secretariat note, on the World Social Situation 2019, highlighted the urgent need to address inequality by tackling four powerful 'mega-trends' - technological innovation, climate change, urbanization and international migration. She pointed out that technological change and urbanization could be positive, but in practice, amplified inequality.

Moving on to the second report, which addressed promoting social integration through social inclusion, she stressed the need for empowerment through lifelong learning, by ensuring the inclusion of disadvantaged minorities - notably ethnic minorities and people with disabilities - and by focusing on women's economic empowerment. More must be done to mobilize domestic resources and optimize public spending. In addition, a human rights‑based approach to inclusion is vital. The third report meanwhile describes the contributions of cooperatives in social development, underscoring their important role in expanding health care access and promoting financial inclusion. 'Some 100 million households worldwide enjoy access to health care thanks to cooperatives,' she noted. The fourth report details progress achieved in implementing policies and programmes involving youth - especially responsive technical and vocational training that can facilitate the 'delicate transition from school to work'. There is a need to strengthen evidence‑informed policies by supporting the generation and use of disaggregated data. The fifth report analyses family trends with a focus on poverty and social protection and highlights good practices in national policy‑making. The sixth report deals with ageing‑related policies and priorities in implementing the 2030 Agenda, stressing the need to include older persons in disaster risk reduction, as well as in local and national emergency planning and response frameworks.

ROSA KORNFELD‑MATTE, Independent Expert on the Enjoyment of All Human Rights by Older Persons, quoted an author from Mozambique who said, 'They saved him from death but not from life.' This, she said, described the situation of older persons in emergencies, noting that her recent visit to Mozambique allowed her to enrich her report on this topic. Sometimes older people are invisible and it is important to pay attention to them. This population is diverse and numerous factors contribute to its vulnerability. It is vital to recognize the important role played by older persons during voluntary and enforced displacement. Stressing that ageing is a context‑based social construction, she said it varies according to circumstances, cultures and other considerations. In emergencies, data collection, especially about older persons, is essential, she said, noting that in 2017, 335 natural disasters were reported.

Free and informed consent for treatment is an issue that is compounded in emergencies, she said, describing the risk of older persons being mistreated in emergencies and the insufficient awareness about this problem, which is linked to a lack of respect. It would also be wrong to believe that older persons are not subject to sexual violence, including gender‑based violence. There is a trend among older persons to not report such cases, which can be linked to fear of reprisals and difficulties in communication. She commended Uruguay for protecting the rights of older persons, noting that nearly 20 per cent of its population is over age 60. More broadly, she said more financial resources must be allocated to protect these rights and bolster policies. Recalling today as the International Day for Older Persons, she said she is working to ensure equality among people of all ages.

In the ensuing interactive dialogue, the representative of the United States agreed with most of the report's conclusions. However, there are already human rights instruments to protect individual rights. Rather than use resources to negotiate a new instrument, delegates should devote themselves to actions that address the immediate needs of older persons. Brazil's delegate asked the Independent Expert to elaborate on the importance of disaggregated data on older persons and to share success stories on how countries can improve their data collection.

The representative of Slovenia, associating herself with the European Union, asked for best practices on how humanitarian programmes are reaching older persons, while Argentina's representative agreed that older persons are disproportionately affected during humanitarian crises. He welcomed the Independent Expert's analysis of the consequences, due in part to the lack of an international framework to protect them and asked about the most effective measures for ensuring older persons' access to national systems.

The representative of the United Kingdom meanwhile asked how States could better use data to support older persons in emergency situations. The European Union's delegate, similarly asked about best practices, particularly the positive role that older persons can play in emergency response. The representative of Morocco acknowledged that there are different views regarding international instruments. Morocco follows the views of the national human rights institutions and civil society. There are two tracks: one focused on the international instrument and the other on the rights of older persons and she urged delegates to find a middle ground. She also asked how data can be gathered during situations of crisis and emergency.

Ms. KORNFELD‑MATTE replied that an international convention would provide a great deal of support for older persons. There are various instruments for persons with disabilities, women and children, yet none for one of the most vulnerable groups.

On data compilation, she said that the concept of age is an important one. A refugee aged 50 who has been traumatized by war cannot be compared with someone turning 50 in New York or Geneva. However, data compilation often ignores these differences. Social networks can provide information that helps older persons identify their needs. The lack of such disaggregated data is a serious problem and can exacerbate a crisis situation. She also described the importance that copies of data are held elsewhere so that data is not lost in cases of emergency. Tools must be developed to ensure that communication channels are properly maintained and tailored to the needs of older persons.


NAME TO COME, speaking for the observer State of Palestine on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, urged the Committee to focus on action‑oriented strategies. She welcomed last week's Sustainable Development Goals Summit, which called for a decade of ambitious measures to achieve the Goals by 2030. That same week, the international community adopted the political declaration on universal health coverage, which should accelerate access to health care, quality and affordable medicines and vaccines for all. Such access is essential in order to reduce poverty and achieve sustainable development for all. Recognizing the contribution of older persons to society, she described the many challenges they continue to face and urged the international community to fight ageism so that older persons can fully enjoy their human rights. This is a priority for inclusive development. More broadly, she said South‑South cooperation should complement - rather than substitute for - North‑South cooperation, describing it as a collective endeavour for developing countries, as affirmed in the outcome of the 2009 High‑level United Nations Conference on South‑South Cooperation, also called the Nairobi outcome document.

LAZAROUS KAPAMBWE (Zambia), speaking on behalf of the African Group and associating with the Group of 77 and China, underscored the need to combat inequalities within and among countries, build just and inclusive societies and ensure the planet's protection. He called for the full implementation of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and welcomed the increased contribution of South-South cooperation to sustainable development. In the last decade, Africa has made significant achievements in social and economic development: some African countries, for example, provide social protection to the elderly, persons with disabilities and to children who lost their parents to HIV and AIDS. However, challenges remain, in particular, widening income inequality between people and among African countries and rising youth unemployment, which is higher than the average for the general population. He stressed the need to help least developed countries, landlock developing countries and small island developing States which depend on global partnerships for financial resources. African leaders are convinced that industrialization is the most viable path to employment, he said, noting that Africa continues to face challenges, as it relies on natural resources and agriculture. Furthermore, the continent is prone to major shocks and natural calamities, while most of its population relies on climate-sensitive sectors such as agriculture, fisheries and tourism. He called for the implementation of poverty reduction strategies and provision of tertiary education to all children.

COSMOS RICHARDSON (Saint Lucia), speaking on behalf of Caribbean Community (CARICOM), underscored his region's susceptibility to the effects of climate change and environmental degradation, propelling the international community to address its challenges. Equality is essential to eradicating poverty, he said, reiterating CARICOM's commitment to improving the health sector and providing access to quality health care. Welcoming the greater access to education worldwide, highlighted in the Secretary‑General's report, he stressed that advancing human capital development has been a central pillar of his region's social development framework and the CARICOM Strategic Plan‑2015‑2019. CARICOM is also working towards the implementation of its Human Resource Development 2030 Strategy. Acknowledging the participation of young people in climate change discussions, he described CARICOM's efforts to ensure decent work and entrepreneurship opportunities for youth through unlocking the potential of the green economy. He further recalled CARICOM's commitment to the provision of social protection systems.

NAME TO COME (Malaysia), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), noted that in a world facing multi-polar crises, with unparalleled consequences on social development, there must be a greater focus on basic needs and improving the livelihood of the poorest. Asian countries have taken a proactive approach to fostering equitable and harmonious societies, he stressed, touching on several related initiatives, including the Hanoi Plan of Action. He added that their approach to social welfare and development is guided by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the Madrid Plan of Action on aging. Noting that Sustainable Development Goals provide an excellent framework for social development, he underscored the Asian countries' commitment to participating with the United Nations in order to achieve the 2030 Agenda.

NAME TO COME (El Salvador), speaking on behalf of the Central American Integration System, described social integration as one of the five pillars around which its members organize their work. These countries have a strong commitment to promote inclusive economic growth, social progress and sustainable development by designing and implementing national plans aimed at the universal enjoyment and exercise of all human rights. The Central American Integration System was conceived as a multidimensional process, based on an ambitious idea of development. Its member countries recognize that nationally appropriate social protection systems can make a critical contribution to realizing human rights for all, particularly those trapped in poverty. Committed to providing greater opportunities for young people and equipping them with the skills necessary to achieve their goals, System members are also promoting the full inclusion and integration of persons with disabilities. He said the growing numbers of older persons in his region is both a significant opportunity and a challenge. The challenge is to design and implement policies that promote their social inclusion and protect their human rights and dignity.

CHRISTOPPHE FORAX, European Union, said the bloc is fully committed to achieving inclusive, equitable and quality education for all in a lifelong learning perspective at all stages in life, both within the Union and globally. Universal access to inclusive, quality education and training for everyone - regardless of gender or disabilities - is a fundamental human right and a prerequisite for breaking cycles of inter-generational poverty. It is also instrumental in fostering active citizenship, promoting empowerment and enabling knowledge-based, inclusive and innovative societies. Inequalities are more moderate in Europe than in other regions due to its set of public policies. Significant public expenditure in health care, education and training, employment, social inclusion, pensions and long-term care are a key part of the European social model.

NAME TO COME (Chile), speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends of Older Persons, said the increasing numbers of older persons globally and the growing trend of ageing societies represents a significant change to the demographic structures of societies. Because of this, greater attention must be paid to the specific challenges they face in the global development policy framework, including by identifying possible gaps and how to address them. One of the most pressing challenges to the welfare of older persons is poverty. Homelessness, neglect, abuse, violence, malnutrition, unaffordable medicines and income insecurity are just a few of the most critical human rights issues that many older persons are facing. In that regard, designing and implementing programmes and intersectoral policies - as well as legal frameworks that allow for the full social inclusion of older persons - will help ensure their dignity and empowerment. It will also help them fully enjoy their human rights and participate in their societies.

NAME TO COME (Iraq) said that her delegation is committed to enacting policies to ensure no one is left behind and underscored the importance of addressing the needs of minorities, older persons and children. She detailed several initiatives in this regard, including the creation of a sovereign fund, supported by Iraq's Central Bank, to finance projects for youth and sport, programmes for education and training, and to make modern technologies available. There will also be targeted programmes to ensure the needs of older persons are met. She touched on programmes to prevent domestic violence and to address the needs of persons with disabilities, for which Iraq would work with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other agencies.