High-level meeting to assess progress since 1995 UN social summit

8 February 2005

United Nations Member States are poised to assess the progress of meeting the commitments they made at the 1995 Social Summit, including eradicating poverty and promoting full employment, universal access to quality education and accelerated development in Africa.

The occasion is a session of the 46-member UN Commission on Social Development beginning tomorrow. Its concluding document will be relayed through the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) to the General Assembly's high-level review in September of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which aim to halve extreme poverty by 2015.

Some 40 ministerial and other high-level delegations will take part in the Commission from 9 to 18 February, the Commission Chairman, South African Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo, told journalists at a headquarters news conference.

Three simultaneous roundtables of cabinet ministers, academics, civil society representatives and, possibly, private sector executives will examine the implementation of the 1995 commitments in the Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development and Programme of Action and their links to the MDGs, he said.

Governments alone could not achieve the social development goals, Mr. Kumalo added.

In reaffirming the Copenhagen Declaration, the Commission will explore such issues as social exclusion, unemployment and the particular problems of youth and the elderly, as well as the social catalysts for conflict, including discrimination, human rights abuses and poverty, the South African representative said.

Answering a question about African development, Mr. Kumalo said to implement social development policies the continent needed international partnerships and attention paid to the realities of ordinary people's lives. Most people had forgotten that East Africans had been affected by the Indian Ocean tsunami, he added.

A session background paper says, "Among the many economic factors that are obstacles to, or undermine, poverty reduction are low or unevenly distributed economic growth, high unemployment, heavy external debt, trade system barriers, high levels of income inequality and commodity dependency."

It asks for recommendations to improve the coherence of international policies and arrangements to make them more conducive to poverty reduction.