Senior United Nations officials today addressed the Commission for Social Development as it marked the 20th anniversary of the Copenhagen Declaration – the outcome of a summit which emphasized, for the first time, the need to put people at the centre of development – with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today that the world's current generation is the first able to wipe out extreme poverty and the last that could address the worst impacts of climate change.
“There is one word above all that must guide us on this roadmap to ending poverty, transforming lives and protecting the planet,” he told the Commission, and added: “That word is: dignity.”
Mr. Ban said that policymakers in the past had focused too much on economic growth, without taking into account social concerns or environmental factors.
World Summit on Social Development helped reorient thinking,” he said. “It emphasized that economic growth must be judged in terms of its impact on human well-being – rather than an end in itself. It stressed not just the quantity, but the quality of growth.”
He described how the 1995 World Summit – which has become informally known as the 'Social Summit' – has emphasized the integrated nature of social, economic and environmental pursuits and had emphasized the need to put people “at the centre” of development.
Joining Mr. Ban at the event was Denis G. Antoine, Acting President of the General Assembly, on behalf of Assembly President Sam Kutesa, who also noted the “particular relevance” of the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action to efforts to formulate the world's new development agenda.
“The three main focal points of the Copenhagen Declaration; poverty eradication, full and productive employment and decent work for all, and social integration should still remain key priorities in the new development framework,” said Mr. Antoine. “Indeed, these priorities have been recognized as such in the outcome of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals.”
He said the need to build just societies was as relevant now as it was 20 years ago and he noted that despite significant progress on poverty eradication, nearly 1.2 billion people remained in extreme poverty and inequality was on the rise in many countries. The commemoration, therefore, should serve as a reaffirmation and reminder of the need to strengthen the role of social development for sustainability.
“The new development agenda should deepen our collective commitment to social development, while recognizing that to secure social progress we must also give due attention to economic development and environmental protection,” he said.
The Secretary-General also stressed the need for the same balance and integration of social, economic and environmental development efforts, and he emphasized the need to put people “at the centre” of development.
The Secretary-General went on to emphasize the importance of social development to making the planet just, safe and healthy for everyone and he said that all development should be built on a foundation of policies centred on peoples' needs and aspirations.
Noting the year's importance to global development, with the target date of the MDGs approaching and negotiations ongoing for a new sustainable development agenda under way, Mr. Ban underlined the importance of the Commission's continuing work following-up and implementing the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action.
“On this 20th anniversary of the World Social Summit, let us reaffirm our commitment to promoting social development and social justice, and building a better – more sustainable – world for all,” he said.