The Commission for Social Development held its 53rd session (CSocD53), "Rethinking and strengthening social development in the contemporary world," from February 4-13 at United Nations headquarters in New York. In preparation, a civil society forum took place on February 3 with the theme "Civil Society Perspectives: Re-Centering Social Development in a Sustainable World." Sr. Claris Zwareva sends the following report which was published in the March-April 2015 NewsNotes.
Civil society panelists including Simona Mirela Miculescu, ambassador of Romania, who was chair of the 53rd session, and Daniela Bas, director of the UN Division for Social Policy and Development, participated in the discussion focusing on social issues that affect sustainable development.
Margaret Mayce, chair of the non-governmental (NGO) Committee on Social Development, stressed the need to place people at the center of the development agenda. Poverty is an affront on human dignity therefore it is necessary to address inequalities, human rights, and ensure accountability in the process of implementing poverty eradication measures. As in previous years the chair of the NGO Committee for Social Development presented the results of the forum to the delegates during the session of the Commission. Civil society was there representing not only their respective organizations but the people deeply affected by poverty who have a voice but their voice is not heard. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the first World Summit for Social Development held in Copenhagen. At that time governments agreed to give social development goals the highest priority, committing themselves to eradicating poverty, promoting full employment and fostering social integration based on the enhancement and protection of human rights.
Ambassador Miculescu said, "Our task today is to carry on the vision, principles and commitments adopted at the Social Development Summit into the post-2015 development agenda. This will achieve a truly transformative, inclusive and socially, economically and environmentally sustainable development." UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, in addressing the Commission, said, "The year 2015 must be a year of global action. We are the first generation that can wipe out extreme poverty. We are the last generation that can address the worst impact of climate change. Let us reaffirm our commitment to promoting social development and social justice and building a better world for all." The discussions that followed highlighted the importance of placing people at the center of the sustainable development agenda as they shared achievements while also looking at what still needed to be done.
It is undeniable that there has been progress in poverty reduction but current development models do not meet today’s need for employment that ensures a living wage. Lack of employment jeopardizes the health and wellbeing of people and planet endangering families and communities with disintegration while depriving them of their right to development. The United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights clearly states that "Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for health and well-being of himself and his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control." (Article 25)
Therefore, in order to reach a truly transformative social development agenda, it is necessary to place human rights at the center of development otherwise economic development will not truly address the underlying causes of poverty and deprivation. As new challenges arise, there ought to be a paradigm shift in the way these rights will be addressed. Among the emerging challenges is that of climate change. It calls for serious action so that the development agenda can be truly transformative. As some delegates stated, the lack of people-centered policies and poor governance could lead to regression for those countries that are on the road to successful development. True democracy and policies that give people a voice are assets to a successful development agenda. During the interactive dialogue speakers stressed the importance of transparency as a tool that will promote successful development while highlighting that words and actions must go hand in hand.
In an exemplary manner the UN Department of Social Policy and the Department of Social Affairs will soon launch a yearlong campaign titled "For Inclusion. For Equality. For People." The aim of the campaign is to highlight the importance of social development and to emphasize the role of social progress post-2015.
As people of faith living the Pascal mystery, we must work to promote human rights so that all may have enough. Guided by the example of Jesus who fed the multitude from five loaves and two fishes (John 6:11), we must work to promote a post-2015 development agenda that will address the needs of those who are poor by placing human rights at the heart of development.