As it drew to a close Friday, the UN’s 54th Commission for Social Development (CSOCD) passed a resolution setting its theme for next year; one close to Vincentian hearts: “Strategies for the Eradication of Poverty to Achieve Sustainable Development for All.” The Commission met February 3-12 in New York to consider the topic, “Rethinking and Strengthening Social Development in the Contemporary World.” It enabled civil society to offer input into Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and measurements, although more opportunities to be heard are sought.
Highlights of the nine-day Commission included two additional resolutions, an address by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, a preliminary Forum conducted by the NGO Committee on Social Development, multiple panels and side events on social topics connected to (SDGs), and messages about contemporary issues delivered by two actresses.
Africa is spotlighted in the second resolution, which calls for a comprehensive approach to social and economic policies on the continent due to its levels of poverty and social exclusion. The Commission asks that the UN encourage African nations to prioritize structural transformation, modernize smallholder agriculture, add value to primary commodities and improve public and private governance. A third resolution recognizes that each country bears the primary responsibility for its own economic and social development but that significant additional domestic public resources, supplemented by international assistance, would be crucial. These resolutions will be forwarded to the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), which the Commission advises on social development policy.
“If poverty is to be alleviated in any lasting way, inequality in all its dimensions-from education to opportunity and from discrimination to dignity-must be addressed,”
UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon discussed global inequalities while addressing the Commission. “Experience has shown that a thriving economy is not enough to eradicate poverty and promote shared prosperity,” he said. “Economies must be put at the service of people, through effective integrated social policies.” Mr. Ban noted that inequalities affect poverty and social cohesion in both developing and developed nations. “There are too many people who continue to face exclusion and are unable to realize their full potential,” Mr. Ban commented.
“The work of the Commission affects the lives of 1.2 billion young people, more than 900 million older persons and 1 billion persons with disabilities around the globe, among many others,” Mr. Ban pointed out. “Your work will be crucial in ensuring that the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs truly leave no one behind.” The role of youth in achieving the SDGs, indeed, was a repeated Commission theme.
Through the Committee on Social Development Forum, civil societies sent a message to the Commission about existing inequalities and the importance of leaving no one behind in the 2030 agenda. “If poverty is to be alleviated in any lasting way, inequality in all its dimensions-from education to opportunity and from discrimination to dignity-must be addressed,” noted the Committee. Its message focused on the primacy of relationships, connected specific SDGs to the call to end inequality, and spoke of equality holding potential for a range of solutions to social problems.
Among multiple side events during the Commission, the Vincentian Family participated in one entitled, “Grass Roots Matter, Anchoring the SDGS in Community Based Economies.” The side event enabled panelists to convey the results of a survey on grass roots initiatives, and highlight several exemplary projects. Guillermo Campuzano, CM, served as moderator, while Sr. Margaret O’Dwyer, DC, presented on a Fijian project involving women who convert trash to marketable goods. The side event was sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Ireland to the United Nations.
With protocols and prescribed language, the UN proceedings can sound dispassionate. But Actress Mira Sorvino made a fervent pitch earlier in the Commission to end human trafficking, while Saoirse Ronan addressed migration issues, last Thursday evening, following the showing of her movie “Brooklyn” in the ECOSOC Chamber.