10 February 2017
Fifty-fifth Session, 11th Meeting (PM)

Concluding Session, Commission for Social Development Approves Resolutions Encouraging African Development, Youth Empowerment

Concluding its fifty-fifth session today, the Commission for Social Development approved without a vote three draft resolutions for adoption by the Economic and Social Council that addressed issues of African development, youth and the rights of persons with disabilities.

Among the three texts approved today was one on the social dimensions of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (document E/CN.5/2017/L.5), which would have the Council welcome progress by African Governments to implement the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, notably by deepening democracy, human rights, good governance and sound economic management.

It would, however, emphasize that “increasingly unacceptable” poverty, inequality and social exclusion in most African countries required comprehensive social and economic policies.  The Council would encourage African countries to prioritize structural transformation, modernize smallholder agriculture, add value to primary commodities and improve public and private governance institutions.

Introducing the draft on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, Ecuador’s representative said the text contained updated language from the previous year, which unfortunately had been put to a vote for approval.  The current text highlighted the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, as well as Agenda 2063 adopted by the African Union.

In a general statement before action, the United States’ delegate said it would join consensus, recognizing the importance of the issue for its development partners.  He noted the United States’ longstanding concern about the concept of the right to development, which had no agreed international meaning, as well as the text’s use of the term “equitable” in multiple contexts.  He looked forward to making progress on similar texts in the future.

South Africa’s representative expressed gratitude to Member States for their constructive engagement.  Achieving social development required improved marked access, and increased foreign direct investment, technology transfer and debt relief, she emphasized.

In other action, the Commission approved, as orally revised, a draft resolution on policies and programmes involving youth (document E/CN.5/2017/L.4).  By its terms, the Council would urge Governments, in consultation with youth, youth-led and youth-focused organizations, to develop holistic and integrated policies and programmes based on the World Programme of Action for Youth and other internationally agreed development frameworks.  It would call upon Member States to implement the Programme of Action as a policy framework to improve the situation of young people at the local, national, subregional, regional and international levels.

Introducing the text, Portugal’s representative said that serious challenges faced by youth could only be overcome through implementation of long-term youth policies.  The draft urged Member States to ensure that youth issues were addressed in their implementation of the 2030 Agenda.  It also requested a report from the Secretary-General on the text’s implementation, to be submitted at the Commission’s fifty-seventh session.

South Africa’s representative said her delegation would have favoured a more comprehensive paragraph on health, given the apparent regression in the advancement of reproductive rights.  It was more critical than ever for Member States to take a strong stance in that regard, she emphasized.

Mexico’s representative, drawing attention to the technical error that had hindered the Commission’s work, expressed hope that it would not recur.

At the outset of the meeting, the Commission approved a draft resolution titled “Promoting the rights of persons with disabilities and strengthening the mainstreaming of disability in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” (document E/CN.5/2017/L.3).

By its terms, the Council would decide to give due consideration to mainstreaming the rights, participation, perspectives, needs and well-being of persons with disabilities in development.  It would call upon Member States, relevant regional organizations and United Nations bodies and agencies to ensure that all development policies and programmes take into account the inclusion of such persons in society on an equal basis with others.

Also today, the Commission took note of the Secretary-General’s report titled “Strategies for the eradication of poverty to achieve sustainable development for all” (document E/CN.5/2017/3); his report titled “Third review and appraisal of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing:  preliminary assessment” (document E/CN.5/2017/6); and a note by the Secretariat titled “Emerging issues:  promoting integrated policies for poverty eradication:  youth development in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” (document E/CN.5/2017/7).

As the Commission concluded the 2015-2016 review and policy cycle, it approved its draft provisional agenda and documentation for its fifty-sixth session (document E/CN.5/2017/L.1), as well as the report of its current session (document E/CN.5/2017/L.2), introduced by the Rapporteur.

In closing remarks, Commission Chair Philipp Charwath (Austria) looked back on the body’s deliberations, noting how it was often highlighted that empowerment should be the ultimate goal of social policies.  In light of the 2030 Agenda, effective answers would have to be found to ensure truly inclusive development that left no one behind.  He asked, based on his experience as Chair, whether the Commission could not provide better input into the broader work of the United Nations.  In that vein, he suggested that the Commission reflect on ways to better align its work with that of the Council and the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.

At the end of the day, he said, it was a question of what Member States wanted to achieve through the Commission.  They needed to take ownership of the Commission and try to contribute actively to the work of the Council and the Forum rather than engage in recurrent patterns.  “The work of the Commission needs to be concrete and up-to-date and should not shy away from experimenting with new formats,” he said, adding the Commission’s constructive atmosphere should not change as it was something the body should be proud of.

Immediately following the conclusion of the fifty-fifth session, Mr. Charwath declared open the fifty-sixth session, following which Yao Shaojun (China) and Bruno Rios (Mexico) were elected as Vice-Chairs.  It postponed the election of the remaining Bureau members from the Western European and Other States and the African States to a later date.

For information media. Not an official record.