4 October 2016, New York – European Union Statement delivered by Charles Whiteley, First Counsellor, Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations, at the General Assembly Third Committee on Item 26: Social Development
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I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.
The Candidate Countries Turkey, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Serbia* and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, Armenia, and Georgia, align themselves with this statement.
One year ago, here in New York, world leaders pledged common action and endeavour across an ever broader and universal policy agenda for people, planet and prosperity. The 2030 Agenda underlines the importance of social development as one of the three dimensions of sustainable development.
Europe`s implementation of the new agenda in its internal and external policies is in the making. So it is fitting at this time to take stock of the situation within the European Union. Our founding treaty notes the determination of the Member States to “promote economic and social progress for their peoples, taking into account the principle of sustainable development.” We have made considerable progress. But the challenges faced in continuing our work, and in implementing the 2030 Agenda, should not be underestimated, and are reflected in the challenges faced in many other areas of the world.
Despite an improving economic situation across Europe, pressing challenges remain in the social areas. Risks and challenges are particularly acute regarding long-term unemployment, poverty, inequality, social cohesion and social inclusion. The EU has the ambition that economic progress goes hand-in-hand with improving people’s lives.
To achieve this, investment and reforms are of key importance.
With its Investment Plan of 300 billion euro, the EU stimulates the real economy, where jobs are created. At the same time, we ensure that people have access to the right skills, and intensify the fight against a segmentation of the labour market and undeclared work. We shift the tax burden away from the labour force; we modernise social protection systems, including pension systems, in order to make them adequate and efficient; and we invest in skills to improve the employability of young people and the long-term unemployed.
While youth unemployment rate has substantially decreased from its peak in 2013, the objective of reducing it further remains a top priority for the EU. In 2015, still 6.6 million young people were neither in employment nor in education or training (NEETs). And this is simply too much. The good news is that the EU Youth Guarantee has become a reality across our Member States, yielding encouraging results. The EU Youth Guarantee involves ensuring that, within four months of becoming unemployed or leaving formal education, all young people receive a quality offer of a job, a traineeship or an apprenticeship, or the chance to continue their education. The past two years have seen a lot of progress with bold structural reforms. European countries have improved the capacity of their public employment services, introduced incentives to stimulate job creation, taken steps to improve vocational education and training systems, and increase the number of quality apprenticeships and traineeships.
Ensuring the rights and well-being of older people continues to be a fundamental part of the agenda of the European Union and its Member States. EU proposals and activities take due account of the impact of ageing. The European Union sees a need for governments to take active steps to address, amongst other things, age discrimination decent work availability for the elderly, the risk of elder abuse, with special attention to older women, social protection, including access to adequate pensions and health and long-term care. We are committed to continue exploring how the human rights of older women and men can best be strengthened in our ageing societies, which is also exemplified by our active role and input to this year’s Open Ended Working Group on Ageing.
Persons with disabilities in the EU continue to be over represented among those without employment and underrepresented in tertiary education. The European Union as a Party to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities continues to mainstream disability issues in the actions to combat unemployment and works towards their full participation in society on an equal basis with others. The EU welcomes the concluding observations of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, issued in September last year, which are the result of the first ever dialogue with the UN on the EU implementation of an international Human Rights Treaty. The recommendations, together with the input of representative organisations of persons with disabilities, is feeding the preparatory work of the progress report on the implementation of the European Disability Strategy which will be reflecting the commitment of the EU to improve the situation of persons with disabilities.
The European Union continues promoting gender equality in all its policies and activities, internal and external. All women should be able to exercise their rights to participate in all spheres of society and decision making. The European Union pursues the engagement and actions to increase the female rate of employment, to address the gender pay gap, to better reconcile work and family life, to fight against labour segregation, to make affordable and quality childcare available and to combat violence against women. We welcome the pledges made by countries and regional organisations at the Global Leaders’ Meeting on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, in order to accelerate implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the Sustainable Development Goals and Targets of the 2030 Agenda relating to gender equality and women’s empowerment. The European Union fully supports the fight against violence and discrimination against women as stated by the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.
The EU considers of great importance family-related issues and develops a number of important actions addressing issues such as parental leave; reconciling family and work life; improving the living conditions of vulnerable families; and domestic violence. In order to promote child and family policy evaluation and the exchange of good practices, we have created the European Platform for Investing in Children. In 2013, the European Commission adopted a recommendation under the title “Investing in Children – breaking the cycle of disadvantage”, which urges Member States to make particular efforts to tackle child poverty and social exclusion and to promote children’s well-being.
Within the context of strengthening the coordination of economic policies of the EU Member States, in 2016 the EU issued country specific recommendations to the Member States in the area of child poverty, well-being and work-life balance.
Still, there is no room for complacency. Despite the fact that, overall, labour market resilience is growing in the EU, divergences remain across EU Member States, and in particular within the euro area, in terms of employment and social outcomes. That is why the EU has launched a broad public consultation on an European pillar of social rights. This pillar would identify a number of principles to guide national policies needed for well-functioning labour markets and welfare systems in Europe, including through a renewed convergence within the euro area. The goal is also to reflect on new trends in work patterns and societies. We need to better understand these trends in order to make the European model future-proof.
* The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.
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