– Check against delivery –
Thank you Chair,
I am speaking on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.
The Acceding Country Croatia1, the Candidate Countries Turkey, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Iceland2 and Serbia*, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, Armenia, and Georgia, align themselves with this declaration.
We thank the Department of Economic and Social Affairs for the preparatory work carried out in advance of this session and the Secretary-General for his informative report which provides a good basis for our debate today. We welcome the focus of this session of the Commission for Social Development on the empowerment of people which we consider essential to sustainable development and social justice including to each of the three core goals identified in the Copenhagen Declaration – poverty eradication, social integration, and full employment and decent work for all.
These are goals which the EU and its Member States remain firmly committed to and have enshrined in all relevant policies. For example, efforts to combat poverty are a key part of the external dimension of EU policies, as reflected in our treaties. Since the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals the EU and its Member States have been increasingly supporting developing countries in their efforts to alleviate poverty, in particular through improved access to health, education, water, food and nutrition security, the promotion of social protection and decent work, but also by means of trade policy, and by reinforcing democracy and good governance.
Similarly, “The European Platform against Poverty and Social Exclusion” initiative, launched as part of the Europe 2020 Strategy, is aimed at laying the foundations for a strong and balanced recovery from recent global crises. – It underscores our commitment to ensuring an equitable approach that prioritises and values social inclusion, while recognising the interdependence of the other two core goals – poverty eradication and full employment.
We also stress that tackling youth unemployment – which has reached unprecedented levels in many countries – is of utmost priority. We would like to reiterate our support to the call for action adopted at the 2012 International Labour Conference and to acknowledge the ILO role in providing global leadership in this field. We emphasize the importance of involving young people themselves in partnerships on this issue and engaging them in becoming part of the solution to the crisis. We are convinced that full and productive employment, decent work and social protection should have a central place in the development of the global development agenda beyond 2015.
These are all challenges that cannot be overcome without empowering people to be agents of their own positive change. An empowered society, in all its diversity, represents an integral component of any democracy, a rich resource for the development of more effective and equitable policies, and a key contribution to inclusive sustainable growth and development.
In promoting empowerment particular attention must be paid to the empowerment of women. We stress in particular the close inter-linkages between sustainable achievements in poverty reduction and development and the empowerment of women, including at the political level. Gender equality should therefore be central to programming, implementation, monitoring and evaluation policies. Particular attention must also be paid to other traditionally marginalised and vulnerable groups, including children, persons belonging to minorities, indigenous peoples, refugees, migrants and persons with disabilities – many of whom are among those at highest risk of suffering social exclusion and poverty.
As the Secretary General’s report rightly recognises empowerment of people – socially, economically, politically and legally – is something that must be actively promoted by Governments through facilitative policy frameworks and practical measures.
This includes through the adoption of a rights-based approach to empowerment, such as that outlined in the Strategic framework on Human Rights and Democracy, adopted by the EU in 2012. Respect for, and the promotion and protection of, human rights – such as promotion of non-discrimination, freedom of expression, opinion, assembly and association, both on-line and offline – are essential to empowerment, Furthermore, transparency, accountability and the fair and impartial administration of justice are necessary safeguards to these rights and to their meaningful exercise.
Empowerment can also be promoted through awareness raising and education. 2013 is the European Year of Citizens. The year is designed to promote awareness and dialogue between governments, civil society and business regarding the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, and is premised on the understanding that the better informed people are of their rights the more empowered they will be in their decision-making and in their participation in all aspects of society.
The report rightly emphasizes the need for governments to strengthen civic engagement in general and foster broad-based inclusive partnerships with all stakeholders. The role of civil society organisations, including social partners, is of particular importance in this regard. They have the capacity to empower, represent, defend and reach out to vulnerable or socially excluded groups, including children and minorities. They can also encourage economic and human development, as well as social cohesion and innovation. Moreover, these organisations often engage in initiatives to advance participatory democracy for transparent, accountable and legitimate governance, including in fragile situations.
More specifically, the role of trade union and employers’ organisations and of social dialogue, one of the four pillars of decent work, needs to be given greater recognition, as provided for by the fundamental principles and rights at work promoted by the ILO. With its integrated approach covering productive and freely chosen employment and full respect for rights at work, social dialogue and social protection, the ILO Decent Work Agenda fits well into the building blocks on inclusive social and economic development.
We particularly welcome the attention paid in the Secretary General’s Report to social protection as a practical measure to promote empowerment. We would like to draw attention to the Recommendation on the Social Protection Floors adopted at the 2012 International Labour Conference which notably provides for tripartite participation with representative organizations of employers and workers, as well as consultation with other relevant and representative organizations of persons concerned.
We recognize that social protection is a human right, that is essential for the eradication of poverty and should also be seen as an infrastructure for human development without which sustainable and inclusive economic growth would not be possible. We should consider social protection systems as strategic investment, and not as a cost. We stress our support to the development of inclusive, nationally-owned social protection policies and programmes, including social protection floors, which address gender-related concerns, protect against protracted crises and build resilience, focus on measures for capacity building, and integrate civil society, social partnership, private sector initiatives, and high quality public services; and ensuring that those beneficiaries who can are enabled to participate in productive economic activity and employment.
Finally, the EU also sees a clear need to intensify efforts to promote economic, social and cultural rights. We consider it necessary to strengthen efforts to ensure universal and non-discriminatory access to basic services, with a particular focus on poor and vulnerable groups.
Thank you, Chair.
1 Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process
2 Iceland continues to be a member of the EFTA and of the European Economic Area