As the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) continued its general debate today on social development, youth delegates, describing the issues they encountered in everyday life and the future they were facing, challenged the lack of robust political representation and called for young people’s right to participate fully and actively in decision-making processes, both at the national and international level.

The youth delegate of Australia, citing her peer’s description of the devastation from the climate crisis, urged States to engage the voices of youth and provide them with the opportunity to advance solutions to theirs as well as the world’s problems.  It was not just a matter of having a seat at the decision-making table, she remarked.  Indeed, “young people need to feel that they are able to take the table by the edge and shake it when they feel their words are falling to the side,” she stressed.

In a similar vein, the youth delegate of Morocco reported that young people represented the largest generation in history, yet were often left out of policy making, despite their social activism and the fact that “it is the youth who will bear the burden of the global challenges we currently face, most importantly climate change”.  Barriers to decision making processes must be removed, she said.

Echoing that, the youth delegate of the Czech Republic said that people under the age of 30 — who account for 49 per cent of the world’s population — made up only 2.6 per cent of parliamentarians.  His fellow youth delegate underscored that the issue was also about multilateralism and the protection of human rights and gender equality, particularly for marginal groups including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex people.  “Our identities are persecuted,” he said, reporting that in 69 countries, being gay is still a crime.

The youth delegate of Albania stressed that in conflict situations, young people and children remained powerless or were relegated to the role of victims or even perpetrators of violence.  With challenges ranging from the new post-pandemic reality to violent conflicts and climate change, targeted investment policies were needed to strengthen the delivery of accessible mental health services particularly in schools and communities.

The four youth delegates of Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands also underscored the need for mental health support, calling for States to make mental health care accessible to all by having more specialists available and ensuring services free of charge.  In addition, they spotlighted the difficulty of finding affordable housing and the challenges of entering the job market.

The youth delegate of Ukraine described how, while under attack every day, young people in the country were taking responsibility for their families, their nation and for the freedom of the world.  His fellow youth delegate also highlighted how youth activists were leading efforts to reconstruct the country.  “It is high time to take responsibility for our future.  We are to decide how this future will look like.  Responsible or irresponsible actions today define our tomorrow,” she stressed.

Throughout the meeting, speakers also touched on the other topics of social development that were under consideration, including the protection of older persons and the rights of persons with disabilities.

The representative of Chile, speaking for the Group of Friends of Older Persons, noted the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on the elderly and detailed challenges and possible solutions to guarantee them the full enjoyment of their rights.  In this regard, he called for a legally binding instrument, beyond the recommendations provided in the Madrid International Plan of Action on Aging.

The representative of Ghana stressed that social interventions must be inclusive of persons with disabilities.  States should join the Convention of the Rights of People with Disabilities or fully implement it if they have not already, so that people with disabilities could enjoy all rights and fundamental freedoms, she said.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Egypt, Ethiopia, Kuwait, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Malta, Sri Lanka, Djibouti, Japan, Paraguay, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Hungary, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Türkiye, Botswana, Myanmar, Saint Lucia, Bahrain, Tunisia, Indonesia, Tajikistan, Brazil, Morocco, Uzbekistan, Libya, Kiribati, Argentina, Fiji, Equatorial Guinea, Ecuador and Greece.  Youth delegates of Bulgaria, Sweden, Serbia, Denmark and Norway also spoke.

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

The Third Committee will reconvene Monday, 3 October, at 10 a.m. with a general discussion on crime, information and technologies and drugs.

General Discussion

LARA BERTEMES, youth delegate of Luxembourg, also speaking for Belgium and the Netherlands, also known as the Benelux countries, said that young people from these countries faced common challenges when it came to the housing and labour markets and the mental health-care system.  She stressed that international cooperation and the exchange of solutions would be beneficial for all generations.

MANAL MOUSSANE, youth delegate of the Netherlands, described the increases in housing prices in Luxembourg and Belgium and the lack of 26,500 houses for students in the Netherlands, which impacted youth’s mental health and their transition to adulthood.  Therefore, she called for accessible information points on rental contracts, basic instead of luxury accommodation, and youth participation in decision making.

INESS CHAKIR, youth delegate of Belgium, noted that young people did not necessarily have the right skills to access the labour market after graduation and were asked to have unachievable working experience.  Because they were recently recruited, they are more vulnerable to losing their jobs.  Stressing that the situation had worsened since COVID-19, she called for equal opportunities without any discrimination based on age, gender, origin.  She also highlighted the importance of banning unpaid internships, guaranteeing quality jobs and encouraging the hiring of inexperienced workers.

MAÏTÉ COPPENS, also a youth delegate of Luxembourg, spotlighting mental health, stressed that the Benelux countries only have around 20 psychiatrists per 100,000 people.  She urged States to take more preventive measures at a young age.  Mental health care should be accessible to all by ensuring that there were more specialists available.  Further, mental health care should be free of charge.

OSAMA MAHMOUD ABDELKHALEK MAHMOUD (Egypt), aligning himself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China and the African Group, said his Government had introduced far-reaching reforms in education, health, scientific research and housing.  Egypt had also adopted an ambitious plan to modernize its educational system and develop methods to expand the use of technology.  He pointed to comprehensive social protection programs — aimed at mitigating socioeconomic repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic — that covered millions of citizens, particularly women.  Statistics indicated that youth in Egypt made up more than half of the population, he noted, describing youth as the cornerstone for achieving sustainable development.  Stressing the importance of engaging youth in decision-making, he drew attention to the establishment of the Youth Office at the United Nations.  He reiterated his government’s commitment to enable persons with disabilities to achieve social justice and equal opportunities as well as enable the elderly to preserve their fundamental rights and freedoms.  The developing world was facing many challenges, including COVID-19 and climate change, that have led to an increase in the poverty rate, he cautioned, adding that such challenges obstruct social development and could cause setbacks in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

AYELE LIRE (Ethiopia), associating himself with the African Group and the Group of 77 and China, said that lingering consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic have hindered development in his country, even reversing previous gains.  Conflict and “global rivalry” only exacerbated effects, pushing many into extreme poverty with older persons, people with disabilities, low-income families and female-headed households particularly vulnerable.  As the most vulnerable faced the greatest consequences, the work of the Committee was more important than ever.  Thus, multilateralism was critical to accelerate the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, with a focus on resilience in order to “leave no one behind”.  Because the Horn of Africa faced climate change-induced drought that has increased food insecurity, the Government was continuing to integrate policies and strategies for social development, including its National Social Protection policy and the Productive Safety Net programme.  The latter had 8 million beneficiaries, including 1.1 million who received cash transfers, he said, also thanking international partners for providing emergency assistance for those affected by the drought.  Further detailing the country’s strategies for social development, he highlighted a housing development programme that specifically targeted women and persons with disabilities.  The family was a fundamental pillar to society, he said, and therefore promoted equality of men and women through progressive family law that affirmed women’s equal rights to all properties and as well as in all legal and administrative matters.

MARÍYA BADEVA, youth delegate of Bulgaria, stressed that the full engagement of young people was paramount in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, as they could offer innovative and creative ideas as well as extraordinary solutions to existing problems.  Detailing a nationwide survey that she conducted among young people in Bulgaria, she highlighted that they had been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in areas such as mental health and education. The Agenda 21, from the Earth Summit in 1992, and the Habitat II, from the United  Nations Conference on Human Settlements in 1996, touched on the importance of youth.  She also underscored that one of the keys for building a better world was to make the environment more inclusive, resilient and healthier.

ANGEL MITKOV, also a youth delegate of Bulgaria, stressed that Governments, industries, non-governmental organizations and young people should work together to solve environmental challenges.  He called upon Member States to ensure education concerning sustainability is implemented in schools.  “Although the future for the planet is not optimistic, we feel that we can avoid disaster scenarios,” he added.

Ms. ALMANSOUR (Kuwait), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and China, shared that article 11 of her country’s Constitution stipulates that the State provide support for the elderly and persons with disabilities.  Also highlighting its programme aimed at providing health-care services at all levels, including retirees, she said that the Constitution guarantees preserving and protecting the family as one of society’s main pillars and cornerstone.  Noting that her country had facilitated legislations to implement the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, she also spotlighted her country’s special attention towards youth which was reflected in the establishment of the Ministry of State for Youth Affairs.  Based on her country’s conviction in the importance of investing in human capital, she spotlighted its Vision 2035, aimed at providing well-being for all citizens through advanced infrastructure, reform of the education system, high quality health care and housing.  She called for concerted efforts and international cooperation, as well as the exchange of experiences to improve the wellbeing of people around the world.

IGOR PILIPENKO (Belarus) said his country prioritized unfolding the potential of every person, with national programmes designed on the principle of “leave no one behind”.  Although Belarus was under the unprecedented yoke of illegitimate sanctions, assisting older persons, veterans, youth and persons with disabilities was the calling card of its socioeconomic policy.  Supporting families underpinned the demographic security of the country, he stated, pointing to traditional marriage, family lifestyle and responsible parenthood.  In early 2022, the country amended its constitution to enshrine marriage as the union of a man and woman.  His Government continued to carry out comprehensive efforts to protect the interests of all people.  Motivated, well-educated and active youth were a strategic resource for the country’s future and economic security, he stressed, and the State must tap into their potential for the benefit of society.  The national strategy focused on “active longevity 2030” to create conditions to fully enhance elderly quality of life.  It was no secret, he stressed, that Belarus was among those countries under unilateral coercive measures — applied by certain countries in violation of international law — which seriously eroded the growth of those States, curtailing their ability to enhance the lives of their citizens.

YASMINE DJELLOUL, youth delegate of Sweden, raised alarm over how youth representatives are threatened, harassed and imprisoned due to their involvement in the youth movement.  She stressed that such threats and hatred  were causing mental illness, negative stress and burnout.  To arrestthis development, she said young people’s voices must be heard, and their perspectives and skills must be acknowledged.  Adding that the inclusion of young people must not lead to “youth washing”, she said consultations with them must lead to outcomes that include youth perspectives and provide opportunities to officially evaluate the results.  “The youth movement must be seen as an important social actor that is financed, consulted and allowed to work independently and freely with tasks and issues we ourselves consider important,” she emphasized.  In the same vein, she urged the United Nations system to ensure young people’s participation, regardless of their socioeconomic conditions or geographical background, adding that youth from the Global North and Global South must be represented in a balanced manner.

AIDA KASYMALIEVA (Kyrgyzstan) said her country had made specific commitments on inclusive education for all, human development, teacher training, digital learning and education financing.  She noted that her Government ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2019.  Currently, State policy was aimed at providing an accessible environment for persons with disabilities in all spheres of life, actively involving them in  decision-making processes.  Kyrgyzstan adhered to the global commitment of “leaving no one behind”, which is a fundamental principle of the Sustainable Development Goals.  Noting that 2022 marks the twentieth anniversary of the Madrid International Action Plan on Ageing, she recalled that Kyrgyzstan took part in 2021 in the Voluntary National Review on implementation of the Madrid Action Plan on Ageing.  The Action Plan for Improving the Quality of Life of Senior Citizens in Kyrgyzstan for 2019-2025 was currently being implemented to ensure a safe and dignified life for older citizens, who participated equally in political, social, economic and cultural spheres.

Ms. AHMED (Nigeria), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and China and the African Group, expressed concern that, with less than 10 years left to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, the world is not on track to end poverty, hunger, and malnutrition by 2030.  The pandemic reversed hard-won development gains, and developing countries have been disproportionately affected.  Their populations have been pushed into extreme poverty and are experiencing increased food insecurity and malnutrition.  More children were out of school, and the chances of many of them returning to school were low.  This waas also true for Nigeria, with poor children and children living in rural areas being impacted the most, particularly girls.  In response, her country had launched, in conjunction with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Nigeria Learning Passport to support pre-primary and secondary-aged learners with over 14,000 curriculum-mapped learning and instructional materials and programmes.  She also detailed national development programmes and frameworks on areas ranging from social inclusion to poverty reduction.  Touching on her country’s Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act 2018, she called on development partners to support Nigeria with regards to disability-inclusive development implementation in line with its own priorities.

VANESSA FRAZIER (Malta), aligning herself with the observer of the European Union, warned against the impact of conflicts on persons with disabilities.  In conflicts, children suffer disproportionately, deprived of their education and subjected to sexual violence, maimed and even killed, she said, highlighting the devastating impact of the war in Ukraine on children with disabilities.  Turning to older persons, she underscored the importance of full respect for their dignity and the right to make decisions about their care.  The International Institute on Ageing had pointed out that elder abuse is a global problem in many forms, including physical abuse, sexual abuse and emotional abuse, she added.  Describing literacy as a driver of sustainable development, she noted that the COVID-19 pandemic had exacerbated the prevailing global learning crisis.

MATTHEW MICALLEF ST. JOHN, youth delegate of Malta, stressed the importance of ensuring the universality of human rights to various forms of families.  Advocating for greater access to quality education, he called for youth participation and inclusion at all levels of decision making.  Social development also entailed the engagement of civil society, he added, cautioning against attacks on journalists and media workers, peaceful protestors, activists, and human rights defenders.

TAMARA STOJKOVIĆ, youth delegate of Serbia, said that youth grow up contending with health and economic upheaval, global insecurity and the climate crisis.  “It is not the future we imagined.  It is a future we feared” she said.  Urging all, and especially young people to find the energy for action, she praised the establishment of the United Nations Youth Office.  Turning to Serbia’s commitment to maintain the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable development, she said that young people were included in society through the Ministry of Youth and Sports, which worked with and for young people through the national youth strategy.  The strategy and related youth policy was regularly revised through active participation in round tables around the country, she said.

IVAN FILIP KOVAČEVIĆ, also a youth delegate of Serbia, said that the youth unemployment crisis is exacerbated by the weak link between formal education and the labor market.  Serbian educational institutions are trying to connect students with the private sector to ease access to professional qualification.  Training and seminars are organized to help young people acquire soft skills, including organization, communication, time managements and adaptation.  In addition, the United Nations Association of Serbia is celebrating 70 years of work promoting the Charter of the United Nations.  The United Nations is an “atlas” to ensure and protect the global rights to sovereignty and security.  Member States should uphold the Charter in difficult times, he said, adding:  “May we may inherit a better world than we were born in”.

PETER MOHAN MAITHRI PIERIS (Sri Lanka), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, said the world faces an unprecedented setback in socioeconomic development, with decades of gains and untold resources at risk of being wiped away.  Calling for visionary action, solidarity and multinational cooperation, he pointed to the multiple impacts of the pandemic on developing countries, ranging from inequitable vaccine access to reversal of development gains.  Poverty, unemployment and social exclusion continued unabated across the globe, he cautioned, noting that social development was undergoing challenging times due to  increased food insecurity, malnutrition and disruption of global health-care systems.  The international community must harness the potential of digital technology to speed up global transition to sustainable development that respected human rights and dignity.  Ongoing conflicts in different parts of the world are having devastating impacts on countries dependent on food imports from those areas, thereby creating food insecurity and shortages for the most vulnerable people across the globe, he said.  Stressing the importance of placing women and girls at the centre of social development, strengthening digital cooperation and ensuring sustainable financing, he voiced concern over the “morally bankrupt” international financial system.

YOUSSOUF ADEN MOUSSA, (Djibouti), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China and the African Group, said that his country’s National Development Plan 2020-2040 was adopted with an inclusive approach to better unify Government, civil society, technical and financial partners and the private sector.  The strategy promoted inclusion through social benefit policies targeted at marginalized people in both urban and rural areas.  Djibouti’s macroeconomic landscape remained negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the food and energy crises.  The country had experienced a decline in its port activities as well as a decrease in production and a consequent drop in tax revenue.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, fiscal revenues fell by 0.8 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) while expenditure increased by 0.3 per cent, deteriorating public finances.  COVID-19-related spending was 2.7 per cent of its GDP, which focused on health, relief for businesses and households, and food security.  Underlining this negative progression, he said the debt-to-GDP ratio worsened from 68 per cent in 2019 to 76 per cent in 2020.  Further, he stressed that recent conflict in the world had affected his country’s households through reduced incomes, access to public services and rising prices.

IRENE GASHU (Japan) said that since 2014, her country had been hosting a symposium called the World Assembly for Women, with participants from various fields, to promote women’s empowerment and gender equality.  Japan and Sierra Leone co-facilitated a new resolution on international cooperation for access to justice, remedies and assistance for survivors of sexual violence, which was adopted by the General Assembly in September.  Detailing national efforts for persons with disabilities, she highlighted new legislation enacted this year to enhance information accessibility and communication for that population, providing an enhanced legal framework for social participation.  Noting her country’s long engagement in food security, she said the Tokyo Compact on Global Nutrition for Growth garnered financial commitments of over $27 billion, including approximately $2.8 billion from Japan.  Given the food insecurity situation in the Middle East and Africa, her country is providing $200 million, as announced by Prime Minister Kishida at the Group of Seven Summit in June.

STEPHANIA MERCEDES GONZALEZ CABELLO MALDONADO (Paraguay), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and China and the Group of Friends of Older Persons, echoed the Secretary-General’s appeal to strengthen long-term social policies to improve the resilience of people to future pandemics.  In recovering from COVID-19, Paraguay continued to make progress in consolidating the social protection system, prioritizing care for the poor and those in vulnerable situations.  She spotlighted the implementation of a social protection programme that gathers information related to living conditions and access to basic services and raises awareness of the need of every household member.  She also drew attention to the implementation of an economic recovery programme with strong investment in job creation and housing.  Optimizing its management of existing social programs, including pensions for older persons in situations of poverty and assistance to fishermen, her Government remains committed to working on social cohesion, she said.

CECILIA ZADE ISENI, youth delegate of Denmark, said that youth delegates are the lucky few who have a forum in which their voices are heard; many young people do not enjoy the same privilege.  Young people protested against climate change as a result of decades of inaction and now are having to defend already-fought-for rights, she pointed out, adding that many feel like the world is crashing down around them and feel hopeless.  However, there is hope for the future, she said, describing her own experience being heard in international dialogue at the United Nations as empowering.  Youth will feel heard through promoting youth-to-youth-led partnerships, strengthening democratic practices, and sharing civic space.  Detailing these ideas, she recalled partnerships between Danish youth and groups of youth from the Global South leading to development projects supported by Danish development aid.  Further, to familiarize and encourage “active citizenship” in democratic processes, her Government partners with youth councils to stage mock elections.  In addition, youth councils also organized mock elections with Ukrainian schools prior to the invasion.  Underlining the “disappearance of civic space”, she encouraged the formation of assembly spaces where young people can express themselves freely.  Governments must encourage youth participation for young people to feel empowered and that their voices matter, she stressed.

MARITZA CHAN VALVERDE (Costa Rica) stressed that the war in Ukraine has had devastating humanitarian, financial and social consequences on a global level.  Thus it was urgent that the international community renew its commitment to the universal aspirations that transcend political, economic or cultural differences.  “The commitment to leave no one behind is more than an ethical call.  It is a vital and collective necessity,” she added.  Urging the international community to redouble multilateral action to respond to the complexity of the issues facing social development, she underscored that the World Summit for Social Development in 2025 would serve as a horizon to break down silos and increase intersectionality.  She voiced her support for the Global Accelerator for Jobs and Social Protection, which has the potential to be scaled up to other areas of social development.  Such efforts nurtured the mobilization of financial resources and international cooperation for the attainment of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, not for weapons or unsustainable fossil fuels.  She also called upon the international community to pay attention to difficulties faced by persons with disabilities, youth and the elderly, as the world was on the verge of the fourth evaluation and review of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing.

ANGELICA OJINNAKA, youth delegate of Australia, quoting another young person, said:  “You have choked our rivers and poisoned the air.  Skinned our forests and surrounded us in stone.  You bled the Earth dry like a parasite, dying alongside our hopes, dreams, and aspirations.”  Citing the plight of indigenous people, she pointed to the persisting issues of prolonged delays in accessible employment and economic opportunities, unequal distribution of youth-centric education initiatives in areas historically excluded, limited cultural knowledge transmission for indigenous youth and truth-telling to all communities.  She also underscored the ongoing issues of street and sexual harassment and the implementation of climate policies at both local community levels.  These concerns did not operate in silos, she said.  Society must engage the voices of those who are often depicted as the “non-convenient… who, like myself, may have many layers of barriers to break,” she stressed.  Young people needed the opportunity to actualize solutions in their own ways, to be heard in a world that cared, because their ideas were legitimate, but their problems were real and severe.  To be transformative was to be responsive and accountable, and this went beyond just having a seat at the table.  A seat was only one part, she said, adding:  “Young people need to feel that they are able to take the table by the edge and shake it when they feel their words are falling to the side.”

MAYRA LISSETH SORTO ROSALES (El Salvador), associating herself with the Group of 77, Friends of Older Persons and the Central American Integration System, noted that poverty affects many sectors of society, including women, girls, boys, indigenous people, youth, the disabled, migrants and the elderly, as they were excluded from the successes of national and international development.  Fighting poverty must therefore follow a universal and holistic approach.  Her Government was committed to economic and social development, creating the conditions necessary for girls and boys to achieve their potential, and has approved a programme to continue the positive transformation of the country.  El Salvador has launched an educational reform programme called “My New School” to raise the profile of learning on the national scene and is implementing policies to bring young people into the workforce.  She further cited the cross-cutting principle of equality and non-discrimination in State institutions, noting that the Government had ratified five conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO) to guarantee labour rights.

DOMOKOS PÉTER KOVÁCS, youth delegate of Hungary, noting his country was a neighbour to Ukraine, said that he would never forget the faces of young Ukrainian refugees as they entered his country, receiving support at the border from the Government, civil society and youth.  Highlighting recycling, he said that education, infrastructure development and the creation of a good working legal framework for a transition to a circular economy and sustainable lifestyle must be a priority.  Thus, he invited States to the “Art and Sustainability” exhibit held at Headquarters from 3 to 7 October.  Cross-border initiatives for the protection of rivers against plastic pollution was critical, he stressed, detailing his educational projects on recycling in schools at the origin of the River Tisza.  Further, States must support cross-border projects and do everything in their power to protect rivers.  He also emphasized the importance of multilingualism and the rights of linguistic minorities, recalling the UNESCO Youth Forum held in November 2021 in Paris which called for the creation of youth networks for linguistic minorities and the promotion of mother-tongue-based education.  “I am grateful that Hungary is a place where young people belonging to a national and linguistic minority can study in their mother tongue and where their minority rights are protected by the State,” he said, stressing that young Hungarians faced challenges when it came to their right of education in their mother tongue abroad.

RENÉ ALFONSO RUIDÍAZ PÉREZ (Chile), speaking for the Group of Friends of Older Persons, recognized the need to promote information and communication technologies (ICT) and make sure they were accessible and responsive to the need of older persons.  Noting the disproportionated impact of the pandemic on this group, he stressed that 15 million people died from COVID-19 in 24 months, 82 per cent of which were older persons and more than half of them in lower-middle income countries.  Further, he emphasized how intersectionality (age, gender, and disability) may affect older persons in the enjoyment of their rights.  Governments should insist that relevant sectors, including criminal justice and health and human services, collaborate to ensure accountability and protection.  He called for bridging the gap between age and digital technology, highlighting that older persons should be recipients of social protection and active agents of change.  The implementation of policies on accessing digital technology should be ensured.  On the older persons’ right to adequate housing, he encouraged measures to prevent forced eviction, and improved accessibility and economic autonomy.  While the Madrid International Plan of Action on Aging contains the recommendation on older person’s rights, he stressed:  “This is not a legal binding instrument and has not been designed to address existing normative gaps.”  Adding that it was not a sufficient tool to ensure full enjoyment of human rights by older persons, he encouraged the elaboration of a legally binding instrument on the issue.

ENKHBOLD VORSHILOV (Mongolia), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, said that on top of the COVID-19 pandemic, “conflicts are aggravating, trust is breaking down and misunderstanding is deepening”.  Action was urgently needed to accelerate an inclusive recovery to overcome the economic crisis and accelerate the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.  Against this backdrop, his country instituted a series of measures to improve the livelihoods of vulnerable population, including a doubling of food stamp vouchers; increase in welfare pension; exemption of some taxes; wage subsidies; and soft loans.  Stressing that education gives people the tools and confidence they need to realize their aspirations and contribute to their families, communities and societies, he commended the Secretary-General for convening the Transforming Education Summit.  Also underlining that young people should be at the heart of social policy development and implementation, he welcomed the Secretary-General’s initiative to establish the Youth Office and convene the World Summit for Social Development.  Emphasizing that the advancement of all women and girls and protecting their rights was one of the key priorities for his Government, he shared that his country hosted an international conference on the role of women in peacekeeping last June, as well as joining the Generation Equality Forum in 2021.

JAIME HERMIDA CASTILLO (Nicaragua), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China and the Central American Integration System, stressed the importance of inclusion of national policies in promoting the right to development and achieving the sustainable development goals of the 2030 Agenda.  He detailed his Government’s transformative policies aimed at reducing poverty and social inequality, generating employment and facilitating investment.  In the area of health, Nicaragua had increased its hospital network by building 22 hospitals as well as additional health and maternity centres.  Furthermore, Nicaragua had achieved growing 95 per cent of its own food and thus had achieved food independence for its people.  He also highlighted his country’s achievements in restoring the right of older persons to a dignified pension and establishing programmes to protect persons with disabilities.

SAIMA SALEEM (Pakistan) said that, as the social contract in Islam is based in equity, social justice and inclusion, her country had taken measures to create an inclusive welfare society.  She detailed initiatives including an income-support program providing aid to 8 million women and youth with employment programs, microcredit schemes, as well as targeted subsidies for farmers.  However, the COVID-19 pandemic had reversed decades of progress in developing countries and had limited progress on the Sustainable Development Goals.  She reminded the Committee that commitments made to fight climate change were still valid.  Hailing the Copenhagen Declaration and Program of Action, she expressed concern that social development progress had been slow or even reversed.  More than 400 million jobs have been lost and millions more are still living in poverty.  The International Community must redouble efforts with firm political will, and mobilize resources required by developing countries for social protection programs.  Further, she requested larger concessional finances from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other multilateral banks.  The intersection of poverty, food security and climate change require a sustainable livelihood approach through the creation of employment opportunities and the strengthening of climate adaptation in countries most affected by climate change.  Affirming that poverty eradication, full and productive employment and social inclusion through transformative action are possible, she declared:  “Let us make this the decade of social development.”

AYSE INANÇ ÖRNEKOL (Türkiye) noted that the number of people who were acutely food insecure or at high risk had soared to a record high of 345 million this year.  ILO studies revealed that more than 4 billion people across the globe lived uncovered by any social protection.  The goals of improving the quality, quantity and accessibility of public services, enhancing opportunities for lower-income, disadvantaged and vulnerable groups and protecting their human rights, unfortunately, remained far away.  In this regard, she spotlighted the United Nations Technology Bank, the designated body to contribute to technology transfer to the least developed countries.  As the largest refugee-hosting country in the world, with around 4 million people — of whom approximately 1.7 million were children and 825,000 were young people — Türkiye had put in place a comprehensive social cohesion policy and had reached 31 million in total employment.  Similar to those of many countries, the population of Türkiye was aging at a fast pace, and her Government had set a policy framework to better protect and promote the rights of older persons as well as to provide them with active and healthy aging, strengthened family integrity and opportunities for enhanced participation in the social sphere.

ALINA KURSKA, youth delegate of Ukraine, stressed that in the ongoing conflict in her country, Ukrainian people had demonstrated daily examples of heroism and courage through defending their motherland and its territorial integrity while fighting for the freedom of the entire democratic world.  During the war, youth in the country had supported vulnerable groups, including internally displaced persons, elderly people and children, and youth activists have led volunteer initiatives with non-governmental organizations as well as Governments to reconstruct civilian infrastructure.  Addressing youth around the world, she declared:  “It is high time to take responsibility for our future.  We are to decide how this future will look like.  Responsible or irresponsible actions today define our tomorrow.”

DENYS GANZHA, also a youth delegate of Ukraine, stressing that he had no speech dictated “from the top”, shared that, while being under attack every day, youth in the country had continued to take responsibility for their families, for their nation and for the freedom of the world along with its values.  Switching to Russian, he addressed the youth in the Russian Federation, stating:  “We will not forgive you for your silence and your lack of action starting in 2014.  We won’t forgive you for your participation and for your support toward the shelling of civilian cities, including my native city.”  However, he also added:  “if you stop mobilization in your country and if you save hundreds of thousands of people who are going into our territory to fight, we will understand if you surrender.”

EDGAR SISA (Botswana), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China and the African Group, said his country considers education and social protection vital for reducing poverty and inequality as well as vulnerability.  Adding that Botswana’s literacy rate was 90 per cent, he said the Government continued to expand access to education.  The Government had also developed policies addressing the specific challenges of vulnerable groups, such as children, young women, people with disabilities, people with HIV, older persons and people living in remote areas.  Highlighting the Smart Botswana Village connectivity project, which connects schools and health facilities in hard-to-reach communities through high-speed internet, he said ICT was a critical tool for digital learning.  To combat rising food and fuel prices, the Government reduced the Value Added Tax from 14 per cent to 12 per cent and exempted cooking oil and petroleum gas from it altogether.  Those in need are provided with food baskets and shelter and are listed in the universal Supplementary Feeding project in primary schools and the Vulnerable Groups Feeding Programme at health facilities.

PAVEL LINZER, youth delegate of the Czech Republic, stressed that people under the age of 30 — who represented 49 per cent of the world’s population — made up only 2.6 per cent of parliamentarians.  They would be the ones living in world of tomorrow, and should not be left out when it comes to deciding how that future will be shaped.  He reported that 65 per cent of young people in his country felt they had zero or marginal influence on any political decision-making, and he called for real participation on addressing the climate crisis, affordable housing, educational and health systems.  The world needed more ambitious national development strategies, as young people must be empowered to participate in social development.  The enrolment of youth delegates was crucially important to ensure there is hope for better future.

KRYŠTOF STUPKA, also a youth delegate of the Czech Republic, said that the issue was also about the future of the liberal democratic order, multilateralism and the continuity of social development.  Intergenerational solidarity must follow the basic principles of world peace, respect and protection of human rights and gender equality, particularly for marginal groups including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex people, whose interests had not been respected, and their rights and dignity violated.  In 69 countries, being gay is still a crime, he stressed, adding:  “Our identities are persecuted.”  There was an absence of positive laws, and of hope — even in places thought to be beacons of hope for those groups.  Regressions were clawing back rights in a riptide of deliberately negative State-sponsored actions.  “And yet we are here”, he stressed, calling for inclusive social development and equality before the law.  “Human rights must be enjoyed by everyone regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

KYAW MOE TUN (Myanmar), highlighting the progress made by the elected civilian Government of Myanmar, including social development of youth, women and persons with disabilities, as well as a legal framework for anti-corruption, reported that all of it was destroyed by the military dictators through the illegal military coup in February 2021.  All basic human rights had been seriously violated by the military-led State Administrative Council.  Over the past 19 months, the military has engaged in extrajudicial killings, torture and massacres, and it had violated human rights, amounting to crimes against humanity and war crimes.  The humanitarian crisis triggered by the coup had caused immense suffering to the people of Myanmar, with thousands of people brutally killed and more than 1.3 million people displaced.  The military has destroyed more than 28,000 homes and has burned entire villages.  More than 380 children have been reportedly killed by the military, and over 1,400 children have been arbitrarily arrested.  Warning against the increase in vicious attacks by the military and the use of heavy artillery and air strikes across the country, he urged the international community not to ignore Myanmar people’s desperate call for help.

ANIA SAUKU, youth delegate of Albania, said that in conflict, young people and children remain powerless or are relegated to the role of victims or even perpetrators of violence.  Therefore, she called on the Security Council and the United Nations to prioritize the youth, peace, and security agenda and young people’s agency and leadership in building peace.  Underscoring the lack of accessible quality mental health services in schools and communities, she called for targeted investment policies to enhance service delivery.  Her nation’s capital initiated the implementation of the “European Youth Capital 2022”, she said, calling for project proposals from and for young people.  Further, she drew attention to the first draft of the National Youth Strategy 2022-2029, developed by 45 youth-oriented non-governmental organizations and more than 1,200 children and youth.

DIOGJEN KOLICI, also a youth delegate of Albania, pointed to a questionnaire in which 44 per cent of Albanian children and youth marked education and transition to employment as their biggest challenge, and 49 per cent asked for contemporary curricula meeting the needs of the labour market.  Social justice, emotional learning, political and democratic literacy, and media and information awareness must be taught as tools for citizens and future leaders.

CARLTON RONNIE HENRY (Saint Lucia), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China and the Caribbean Community, said his Government placed people at the heart of the country’s development, despite its small size and unique challenges as a small island developing State.  Welcoming the establishment of the United Nations Youth Office, he stressed that youth empowerment is a priority for his Government, adding that Prime Minister Philip Pierre is also the Minister for Finance, Economic Development and the Youth Economy.  Further, the “Youth Economy” will be formalized in a new Government department and a catalyst for helping young people turn their skills into economic enterprises for their own empowerment.  To this end, legislation establishing a Youth Economy Agency had been passed and would be formally launched this year.  Viewing young people as tomorrow’s leaders and agents of change, he recognized the need to include them in the holistic development process of his country and region.  Reaffirming Saint Lucia’s continuing efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, he said setbacks in this regard include added challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change.

Ms. QAMBER (Bahrain), pointing to ongoing efforts to cope with the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, underscored the importance of social development, promotion of fundamental rights and the principle of partnership in social responsibility.  Promoting social efforts in all their forms was crucial in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, she added, detailing her country’s national strategy for rights of persons with disabilities.  Bahrain has reinforced integration to ensure that people with disabilities enjoy all their rights, she said, emphasizing the need for equal work opportunities.  Turning to older persons, she highlighted the role of assistance in ensuring their health, and the establishment of the Commission for Older Persons to implement public policies and develop programs for them.  Bahrain would continue to ensure social cohesion to guarantee a future that was safe and sustainable for everyone, she said.

CAROLYN ABENA ANIMA OPPONG-NTIRI (Ghana), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and China and the African Group, described the ongoing “One District One Factory” and the “Planting for Food and Jobs” programmes, among others, aimed at eradicating poverty.  In her country, the family was crucial in the development and socialization of children and are pillars of society.  In the coming 2024 Year of the Family, Ghana would organize seminars and symposia to address socioeconomic issues.  Further, following a policy assessment of orphanages by the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, the Government would implement a deinstitutionalization of childcare systems that placed children in orphanages into adoptive families.  She hailed the call of the Secretary-General in support of working parents through flexible working arrangements and investment in parenting education.  She also stressed that social interventions must be inclusive of people with disabilities.  Ghana was party to the Convention of the Rights of People with Disabilities, which informed policymaking in the country to abolish discrimination.  She encouraged States to join the Convention or fully implement it if they had not already, so that people with disabilities can enjoy all rights and fundamental freedoms.

Mr. KUNZENFORF, youth delegate of Norway, stressing that while the war in Ukraine is making children fight for democracy and human rights, they are being robbed of their childhood and their right to education as well as their freedom.  Pointing out that international conflicts poison the roots of societies, he underscored that education is the antidote to such poison.  He also highlighted that women, children, migrants, people living in poverty, those with disabilities and LGBTI communities are at even more risk in fragile States and States affected by conflict every day. 

Ms. LASSEN-URDAHL, also a youth delegate of Norway, emphasized that youth are often portrayed as victims or perpetrators during a conflict, but they can play a role in its resolution.  In this regard she stressed the need for youth to be included in all stages of a peacebuilding process, which would ensure their human rights and freedom.  Calling on the international society to take further action, she added: “We want to be agents for positive change, but we need our communities, our cities, our countries and, last but not least, the United Nations to listen to us.”

ALI BEN SAID (Tunisia), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China and the African Group, noted African countries accounted for 56 per cent of those pushed towards extreme poverty since 2020.  “We cannot face these unprecedented problems with traditional means,” he stressed.  Absent collective action, decades of progress since the World Summit for Social Development and the adoption of Agenda 2030 were at risk of erosion.  He noted the Secretary-General’s recommendation in Our Common Agenda to hold a new World Social Summit and update the Copenhagen Declaration to present a suitable opportunity for a bolstered collective action.  His country was fully committed to achieving the 2030 Agenda at both the national and the international levels and to leaving no one behind — especially marginalized groups such as young persons, older persons, women and girls and persons with disabilities.  The previous day, Tunisia adopted a national multisectoral strategy for the elderly for the period 2022-2030.  This aimed to improve their quality of life, preserve their full rights and ensure their care in a safe and inclusive environment, thus embodying active citizenship and intergenerational solidarity.  “We will continue to work with all our partners to ensure their health, well-being, food security and their full enjoyment of their human rights and fundamental freedoms,” he stated.

MOHAMMAD KURNIADI KOBA (Indonesia), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said the international community must not lose sight of the path to the future.  “What do we want 2030 to be?” he asked.  Work must focus on ensuring human resources development.  He noted 66 per cent of Indonesia’s population was 15 to 64 years old, making it essential to ensure lifelong learning and ramp up efforts to empower women, the elderly and the disabled.  States must also capitalize on the rapid development of technology — an inevitable change that brings both advantages and disadvantages.  Indonesia is fourth in the world in terms of Internet users, with 145 million netizens, making it crucial to capitalize on that wave.  Indonesia also established a nationwide digital literacy programme in 2021, focused on digital society, economy and Government.  He stressed the importance of building resilience for the future, as disasters and pandemics can erase decades of progress.  Forward-looking policies for development can go hand in hand with recovery efforts, he said.

Mr. LAFIZOV (Tajikistan), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, said that global challenges could reverse his country’s path towards the 2030 Agenda.  He detailed national initiatives, including the adoption and implementation of three poverty reduction documents; two public welfare improvement programs; and a long-term development strategy over the recent years.  Further, 156 public programmes were being implemented.  The National Development Strategy leading to 2030 was focused on education, health care, employment, food security, good governance, environment and management of the democratic process, among others.  The Strategy further included coordination and accountability of State administration bodies, businesses and civil society.  National strategies and documents supporting the rights of the persons with disabilities and the advancement of women, including in leadership positions, were also approved.  A goal of the Strategy is to increase the number of civil servants up to 30 per cent and women leaders up to 25 per cent.  Noting that Tajikistan is a young country, with 70 per cent of its population under 35, he said it attaches great importance to advancing youth empowerment and their involvement in public affairs.  Recognizing the United Nations efforts for youth engagement, he pointed to his country’s goal to promote their political participation for inclusive development.

LUÍS GUILHERME PARGA CINTRA (Brazil) underscored that social development cannot be reached without social inclusion.  Detailing the most efficient ways to promote his country’s sustainable development, he pointed to his Government’s social programmes designed to meet the evolving needs of the Brazilian population.  With the COVID-19 pandemic, Brazil had to restructure social public policies, he noted, describing technology as a driving force for modern society.  In this context, he recalled the record time in which the COVID-19 vaccines were developed and stressed the importance of vaccine access to the most vulnerable populations in developing countries.  Underlining that natural and human-made disaster disproportionately affect the most vulnerable, he called for the empowerment of persons with disabilities, older persons and youth.

MAJDA MOUTCHOU (Morocco), noting that the COVID-19 pandemic had made her country “more insistent” on reforms, she said it had expanded social protections systems, as well as developed strategies for digital technology, media and outreach..  She detailed the country’s digital strategy and e‑Government initiatives, which supported employment and sustainable development through incentivizing investment, improving employment and engaging youth.  To reform social cohesion, the Government continued to update the education and healthcare systems.  Related initiatives include the Government’s Plan for Equality and Public Policy for the Protection of Childhood.

Ms. ABAAKI, youth delegate of Morocco, said that young people are often left out of decision-making and policy-making, despite comprising the largest generation in history.  She welcomed the United Nations youth strategy, Youth2030, and the work of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, which allowed young people to be heard in decision-making processes.  Adding that “it is the youth who will bear the burden of the global challenges we currently face, most importantly climate change”, she stressed that young people must play a key role in decision-making on issues directly affecting them.  Lamenting that over 260 million young people are out of school, she emphasized that education was key to empowering young people.

GULYAMJON PIRIMKULOV (Uzbekistan) said the world today faces numerous critical obstacles to its development, including poverty, structural inequalities, a deficit of decent work and social protection, climate change, a growing shortage of natural resources and water and the spread of infectious diseases.  Sharing his Government’s recent adoption of a development strategy for 2020 to 2026, he outlined its aims to halve the country’s level of poverty, increase the effectiveness of its social protection system and strengthen food security.  In recent years, his Government implemented a new system of social protection called the “household notebook”, “women notebook” and “youth notebook”, all used by local authorities to identify families, women and young people in difficult social situations and take necessary measures.  Noting that young people under the age of 30 constituted two thirds of the country’s population, he said the Government had implemented measures over the past five years to triple the quota for admission to institutions of higher education.  Some 180,000 young people received the opportunity to become students this year.  “Young people have become main catalysts of change and a vital spring of ideas for modernizing the society,” he stated.

YOUSEF S. I. SALAH (Libya), associating himself with the Group of 77, noted the 1995 World Summit for Social Development launched efforts to eliminate poverty and provide support to women, youth and the elderly.  However, what had been achieved remained below ambitions.  Developing countries needed help to meet needs of their populations, with more concerted and coordinated efforts required from donor countries to aid Africa and Latin America in social development.  Reiterating his Government’s commitment to protect disabled people, he cited Libya’s proposal for an international year for the disabled, adding that it was the first State to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  His Government provided financial support for vulnerable populations and had passed national legislation guaranteeing that education, including free university, is a right for all Libyans.  Citing the inhuman situation of Palestinians under siege, he called for the end of settlement activities and the right of return to their homeland.  It is also crucial for the international community to steer away from the politicization of aid for development.

TEBURORO TITO (Kiribati), speaking of his country’s people-centred framework to improve living standards and well-being, spotlighted support schemes for youth, the elderly and people with disabilities.  His country had also provided subsidies for people who live in the outer islands and rely heavily on producing and selling copra for their day-to-day needs.  Families, churches and social groups often assist people in need since there are very few international non-governmental and civil-society organizations to establish institutions caring for marginalized communities in Kiribati.  Although his country hoped to do more in the future,  its current preference was economic transformation.  Financing for Kiribati’s 20-year development road map (KV20) and its five yearly development plans would come from fishing and tourism revenues, supplemented by the United Nations, World Bank and other multinational agencies.  While there were many roadblocks ahead, including the financial and climate crises, an even greater obstacle was the “I and me” approach, he emphasized.

FABIÁN ODDONE (Argentina), aligning himself with the  Group of 77 and China and the Group of the Older Persons, said that quick and effective actions were required to build a resilient future in the face of global crises.  Detailing national plans for development, especially to tackle hunger and boost employment, he noted that the elderly in the world were expected to reach 1.5 billion by 2050, when one out of six people globally would be an aged person.  He reiterated the need to continue safeguarding the rights of aging people though development instruments and the United Nations.  Under the framework of the Transformation Summit on Education,  Buenos Aires held the third regional meeting of education ministries of Latin America and the Caribbean, adopting the Buenos Aires declaration.  Argentina had also presented its national pledge on fundamental policies to ensure education until the age of 14.

PATRICIA CHAND (Fiji), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and China, said climate change remains the single dominant threat to humanity and called for a vigorous social development agenda.  All States must have the capacity to respond to public health emergencies, and vaccines must be a public good widely available to all.  In reiterating her full support of the implementation of the outcome of the 1995 World Summit for Social Development and the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly in 2000, she noted concern over the “tremendously slow” progress on the social development agenda as food insecurity, poverty, hunger and joblessness continue to ravage the Global South.  Spotlighting the predicament, intergenerational inequity and exclusion of youths, she welcomed the establishment of the United Nations Youth Office and expressed hope for greater, active engagement on the Declaration for Future Generations.  On the rights of older persons, she added her full agreement with the Independent Expert and welcomed a legally binding instrument for the protection of older persons.

MOKUY OYONO MBASOGO (Equatorial Guinea), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and China and the African Group, pointed to various challenges facing the world today, including climate change, transnational crime and armed conflicts.  The aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic continued to undermine progress achieved in social development in general, she said.  Stressing the need to focus on people affected by the negative consequences of health emergencies and build a more resilient post-pandemic world, she said the most vulnerable countries remain affected by inequalities.  During the first years of its independence, Equatorial Guinea lacked sufficient resources, she said, noting that political change has focused on structural reforms to guarantee the economic and social development of the country since August 1979.  Revenues from the oil sector had allowed the country to invest in basic social services, social housing, infrastructure, hospital assistance, education and new road networks.

46 – ELIZABETH MENDEZ (Ecuador)

MARIA THEOFILI (Greece), aligning herself with the European Union, underscored that strengthening education, as well as healthcare and social protection systems, should be the cornerstone of the international community’s collective efforts.  Noting that her country has not deviated from the Sustainable Development Goals, she underscored that the world should not lose sight of integrating climate action in its multi-sector development strategies.  The value of education is one of few certainties in this unpredictable world, and the Transforming Education Summit was the first tangible implementation of Our Common Agenda, which elevated education to the top of the global political agenda.  Being a nation of seafarers, fishermen and many thriving coastal communities, as well as a leading shipping power, her country fully understands that the sustainability of the marine environment is of paramount importance.  Greece is hosting the ninth “Our Ocean” Conference in 2024 to promote sustainable fishing and protection of land and seas.  Turning to the COVID-19 pandemic and noting that the elderly remain at a higher risk and are in need of more protection and assistance, she stressed the importance of promoting effective measures in this respect.

Right of Reply

The representative of the Russian Federation, in exercise of the right of reply, noted that the youth delegate of Ukraine spoke in Russian and asked why, if the Ukrainian Government prohibited the use of Russian in official structures and media following the 2014 coup, he spoke it fluently.  Further, he pointed out that the Committee heard a direct threat to Russian youth.  He reiterated the Russian Federation’s commitment to a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Ukraine and added that the Third Committee is not a forum for the matter.  International dialogue is carried out respectfully, he added.  Detailing recent fighting in the region, he said that that morning Ukrainian forces struck a column of refugees headed to Zaporizhzhia under Russian protection.  As well, there was a Ukrainian attack on another refugee column headed to the Russian Federation yesterday that killed women and children.  He also noted that he did not know what examples of Ukrainian heroism the youth delegate was referring to during his statement.

Procedural Matter

The representative of Brazil, on a procedural note, reminded the Committee that according to resolution A/76/236 on three mandates — programmes 13, 20 and 21 — due priority should be given to the time-sensitive agenda so the Third Committee could review said programmes.  It would refer its conclusions and recommendations to the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) by the end of the fourth week of the session at the latest.  He requested the Bureau to make necessary adjustments to the tentative programme of work.

Source: United Nations

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