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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.
Today’s discussion on item 3b) of the 51st Session of the Commission for Social Development addresses: the review of relevant UN plans and programmes of action pertaining to the situation of social groups: persons with disabilities, youth, older persons and families.
Persons with disabilities
We thank the Secretary-General and the Special Rapporteur on disability for their reports. We support continuing efforts to promote the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and of related international labour standards in all regions. We welcome the reports’ presentation of regional developments and recommendations to this regard. The European Union acceded to the UN Convention on 22 January 2011; EU Member States have ratified it or are in the process of doing so.
These developments take place in the context of the European Union’s disability strategy for 2010-2020. The Strategy’s objective is to empower women and men with disabilities to enjoy their full rights and benefit fully from their participation in society. The Strategy includes a commitment to mainstream disability in our development cooperation, in accordance with Article 32 of the Convention.
We look forward to the forthcoming High Level Meeting of the General Assembly on disability and development which should provide further guidance on the mainstreaming of disability in development, including in the emerging development agenda beyond 2015. The High Level Meeting should be characterized by a gender equality perspective. Woman and children must be at the core of the efforts for the High Level Meeting. Women and children are often at grater risk of violence and certain measures must be taken in order to change the situation. We strongly welcome the recommendations of the reports as to the involvement of all stakeholders and civil society organisations in this High-level Meeting. We would also suggest taking advantage of the experience developed by the ILO Global Business and Disability Network. We believe that this is an excellent example of a public-private partnership and a concrete sign of the commitment of employers to the enjoyment of human rights by persons with disabilities.
In relation to development objectives, the Equality Summit “Promoting equality for growth” of the EU that took place in Cyprus in November 2012 has shown that equality policies can support growth, and that growth is more sustainable where it is broad-based, inclusive and offers opportunities to all. It highlighted the importance of ensuring accessibility through design. Enhancing accessibility of products and services provides an important opportunity for business growth and innovation. The annual reports on the implementation of the UN Convention in the EU of 2011 and 2012 focus on accessibility from the perspective of legislation, regulations and standards implementing Article 9 of the Convention and include further national evidence on progress made in the areas of education, employment and poverty reduction to meet European targets for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.
The specific attention devoted to the rights of children with disabilities in the UN Convention should be recalled. On an equal basis with other children, children with disabilities are to be ensured the full enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to education, to care within the community, to health and to leisure activities. It is thus important that the links between the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child be recognised, so that the two Conventions are applied in a holistic manner.
In relation to youth, we welcome the review of national and international programmes in the report of the Secretary General and share his recommendations on the need for coordinated approach to issues facing both young women and young men through strengthened collaboration and coordination among UN entities and programmes.
We would like to stress that tackling youth unemployment – which has reached unprecedented levels in many countries – is of utmost priority. About 75 million young people worldwide are currently unemployed—4 million more than in 2007. In addition, more than 200 million young workers earn less that the equivalent of US$2 a day.
In the EU, a Youth Opportunities Initiative was launched by the European Commission and many Member States have recently stepped up their measures in support of youth employment. We are in the process of developing more strategic approaches to youth employment policies on the basis of European Commission proposals contained in a Youth Employment Package of December 2012. The establishment of Youth Guarantee schemes aims to ensure that all young people up to the age of 25 receive a good-quality offer of employment, continued education, an apprenticeship or a traineeship within four months of becoming unemployed or leaving formal education. Further, we work towards a Quality Framework for Traineeships, a European Alliance for Apprenticeships and increased intra-European job mobility.
The lack of employment opportunities for young people is a global problem. The call for action on youth employment adopted at the International Labour Conference in 2012 was instrumental in advancing policy coordination and implementation in this area. We reiterate our support to the follow-up of ILO’s call for action and acknowledge the role of ILO in this field.
Pooling our efforts at an international level, including under the umbrella of the UN World Programme of Action for Youth, will help address the youth challenges. We also welcome the appointment of Mr Ahmad Alhindawi as the UN Secretary’s-General Envoy on Youth. We hope further discussions and initiatives at the international level will lead to effective strategies to create opportunities for our youth that will give them the chance of building a sustainable future.
Ageing continues to be high on the European Union’s agenda, with most recently 2012 designated as the European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations. Many actions were taken to raise awareness of older people’s contribution to society, to identify and disseminate good practice, and encourage policy makers and stakeholders at all levels in these matters. As a result, guiding principles were adopted to serve as a checklist for national authorities and other stakeholders on what needs to be done to promote active ageing and to support greater cooperation and solidarity between the generations. A broad common vision for adequate, sustainable and safe pensions in the European Union was also set in 2012.
Furthermore, 2012 presented an opportunity to review the implementation of the Madrid Plan of action on Ageing ten years after its adoption- an opportunity to promote synergies and enhance the visibility both of the UN’s and the EU’s action on ageing, including at the European level through the UNECE Ministerial Conference on the theme “Ensuring a society of all ages: Promoting Quality of Life and Active Ageing”. Together with UNECE the European Commission has also promoted the development of an active ageing index which should help policy makers to strengthen the gender perspective and understand what progress can be made in terms of giving older women and men a more active role in their countries. We intend to pursue this joint work further and to promote a wider use of this monitoring tool.
We would like to emphasize that it is fundamental that the concept of dignity is taken into account. This implies that elderly persons should be socially included in society and treated with respect, in particular, when in need of health and social care.
In addition, given the correlation between disability and ageing and the possibility of acquiring an age related disabling condition, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities effectively applies also to the protection of the rights of older people who acquire a disability during their life.
We would like to conclude on this aspect by supporting the recommendation to mainstream the active ageing perspective across all relevant policy areas and to strengthen partnerships on ageing issues between governments, social partners, civil society, and relevant stakeholders at different levels.
As regards families, we thank the Secretary General for the interesting information provided in his report, in particular on activities at the regional level and we agree with the conclusions and recommendations proposed.
The current economic and financial situation has confirmed once more the vital importance of family support measures when it comes to enhancing generation solidarity and fighting poverty. As referred to in the report, we are developing several initiatives on families, to address demographic change and promote family policy evaluation, or the exchange of good practices, through specific programs, such as the European Alliance for Families or the European Demographic Forum. In 2012, we dedicated particular efforts to tackling child poverty and social exclusion and promoting children’s well-being. We see it as a crucial investment in our future.
With full awareness of the diversity of families and of national family policies, we consider that better support for families, enhancing the well-being of children and allowing the reconciliation of work, family and private life for women and men with caring responsibilities are crucial to a better quality of life and to economic development.
We look forward to the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family in 2014 as a further opportunity for exchange on the development of family-focused policies.
In closing, I would like to recall the priority theme of this 51st session of the Commission: empowerment of people. We emphasise that in the case of each of the social groups under discussion – whether it be persons with disability, older persons, or youth – policy making must only happen with the active participation and involvement of the groups themselves.
The European Union and its Member States are determined to cooperate in the advancement of social development. We look forward to playing an active role in the debate, aware that the Commission for Social Development is the key forum for coordinating all international efforts in an integrated manner.
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