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6 October 2008 - Item 55 - Social Development - Statement delivered on behalf of the European union

— Unofficial translation — Mr. President,

I am speaking on behalf of the European Union.

The World Summit in 2005 constituted a key phase in rallying all levels of the international community around the United Nations to promote States’ implementation of decisions for achieving the Millennium Declaration, including the Millennium Development Goals, as well as other internationally-agreed development goals. Within the United Nations’ framework, the Millennium Summit, along with other major international conferences, reaffirmed the importance of social development and seeking well-being for all. The Declaration adopted subsequent to the 1995 World Summit for Social Development in Copenhagen, in addition to its Action plan, provided inspiration for the 2005 Summit. Thirteen years after the World Summit for Social Development, we must persevere in our efforts as much important work in social development still remains to be done.

The follow-up to the World Summit and the findings from the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly constitute a comprehensive framework for social development. In the context of the fight against poverty, implementing these commitments is essential for orienting social development towards full employment and better social integration. Taking into account human and social issues in the globalization process requires better inclusion of social problems in national economic policies.

To this end, the European Union encourages protecting and promoting economic, social and cultural rights, as well as international labour standards by broadening its cooperation with developing countries. The European Union promotes decent work as a positive factor for development. The need for a 21st-century "social contract" has never been more pressing. This is why the European Union would like to recall its determination to implement all international texts on social development.

Mr. President,

Today, an ageing population represents a major challenge for our governments and societies. In both rich and developing countries alike, too many older persons are still marginalized and excluded from social systems. It is therefore the responsibility of States to reckon this phenomenon in their social policies to ensure all guarantees necessary for the well-being of the elderly. The same holds true for their dignity.

To prevent these problems, we must provide them with decent living conditions by implementing relevant policies that enable older persons to live in security and free from want. We must also guarantee older populations their independence by meeting their basic needs and by providing them access to health care. Moreover, the European Union is especially attentive to the situation of elderly women, who are particularly vulnerable as they are more exposed to the risks of material insecurity and poverty related to old age.

Although ageing is not a new phenomenon, a lot still needs to be done to help the elderly in their daily lives. Almost ten years have passed since the International Year of Older Persons was declared in 1999; yet, our initiatives on behalf of this population remain insufficient. In addition, the European Union encourages further mobilizing the international community around these issues and redoubling efforts to better weigh up the precarious situation of older populations. We also encourage States to implement the Madrid Plan of Action on Ageing based on closer international cooperation.

Mr. President,

I would also like to emphasize the major role played by the United Nations in formulating youth policy at an international level. International Youth Year in 1985, the special session of the United Nations General Assembly on youth in 1985 and 1995, as well as the adoption of the Global Youth Action Programme Action have had a major influence on youth-oriented policies implemented in numerous countries around the world. Completing this Programme is essential in light of current foreseeable world population trends.

Today, one fifth of the world’s population is between 15 and 24 years old. The well-being of this population is essential for the balance and the future of our societies. We must therefore continue our efforts and strengthen the initiatives taken pursuant to the Global Youth Action Programme. We must set priorities for our national policies while ensuring that the points set forth in this programme — e.g. as regards education, employment and eradicating poverty — are implemented.

Mr. President,

Education for all, a basic right recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, is a key for economic and social development. Education for all also represents an international community commitment in accordance with the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. It is an essential prerequisite for equality, dignity and sustainable peace. In this regard, the European Union welcomes the political and financial commitments made by various international community actors at the last Millennium Development Goals Summit, at which they donated 4.5 billion dollars to the Education For All Programme.

The declaration of the United Nations Literacy Decade in 2003 reaffirmed that literacy is at the core of the universal right to education, and highlighted the need to enable all people around the world, both boys and girls, and men and women, to learn to read and write. The European Union supports the international community’s efforts to promote literacy, in particular with regard to women and marginalized populations.

The European Union also commends the outstanding work accomplished by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), a leader in the field of universal education and literacy. Nevertheless, some 75 million children still have no access to education and 774 million adults and young people cannot read or write. These statistics are unacceptable in the modern world. We must therefore continue to promote the Literacy Decade’s initiatives in order to achieve our common goal of universal literacy.

Mr. President,

Six hundred and fifty million people, or 10% of the world’s population, have a disability. Many forms of discrimination compound the difficulties associated with having a disability. Despite legal instruments in the area of human rights, persons with disabilities today remain marginalized, a situation which is intolerable. They have therefore requested that their rights be formally recognized through the establishment of a specific convention.

The international community responded favourably to their wishes by adopting the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on 13 December 2006. This convention reasserts rights already recognized under international law, and stipulates what these rights mean for persons with disabilities. It is a powerful reminder of the universality, indivisibility, interdependence and interrelatedness of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The European Union welcomes the speed at which this convention came into force. This urgency is an encouraging sign that attests to a collective awareness of the challenges faced by persons with disabilities. However, we must bear in mind that the success of this convention will ultimately hinge on its effective implementation on the ground.

Thank you very much./.

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Organisation des Nations Unies Présidence de la République France Diplomatie La France à l'Office des Nations Unies à Genève Union Européenne Première réunion de l'ONU