54th Session of the Commission for Social Development / Agenda item 3(b) / Social Groups
Statement by H.E. Mr. Karel Jan Gustaaf van Oosterom, Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the UN, 54th Session of the Commission for Social Development, Agenda Item 3(b )/ General discussion - Social Groups, New York, 5 February 2016
I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.
The Candidate Countries the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia *, Montenegro*, Serbia* and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Ukraine , the Republic of Moldova, and Georgia, align themselves with this statement.
* The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.
Last year marked the 20th anniversary of the World Summit for Social Development, held in 1995 in Copenhagen, where Governments pledged to put people at the centre of development.
And last year also saw the first-ever integrated and universal global deal achieved for people and planet, which took shape in the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals, placing social development at the core of the efforts to achieve truly sustainable development.
It is in the context of these two achievements that the Commission today is discussing and reviewing the situation of a number of social groups – persons with disabilities, families, older persons and youth. It is important that we continue to discuss how we can enable all individuals to realize their full potential. Such measures need to be based on respect for human rights, non-discrimination and equality, as well as the active participation of members of the social groups themselves.
Persons with disabilities
Persons with disabilities in the EU continue to be overrepresented among those without employment, underrepresented in tertiary education, and have higher risks of poverty. As a Party to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the EU continues to mainstream disability issues in the actions to combat unemployment and works towards their full participation in society on an equal basis with others. The EU welcomes the concluding observations of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, issued last September. The implementation of the recommendations has already started for example with the adoption of a proposal for legislation on accessibility of products and services. Furthermore, a structured dialogue with representative organisations of persons with disabilities has been organised to discuss the practical implementation of those observations reflecting the commitment of the EU to improve the situation of persons with disabilities. The work of the Special Rapporteur serves as a source of inspiration for the implementation of EU disability policies. The EU continues to promote the rights of persons with disabilities in its development cooperation policies and programmes and in its human rights dialogues. The 2030 Agenda, with its references to disabilities, including in the targets, sets an inspiring framework for taking forward the implementation of the Convention while the recent increased attention to disability in the 2030 indicators will contribute to improving the monitoring of the Convention.
In the dedicated panel to this topic, we will discuss how to mainstream disability in social development. The comprehensive mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities and the interaction with this Commission, with the Human Rights Council and the Conference of States Parties of the CRPD provides an excellent platform to connect the UN action and work in areas aiming at the inclusion of persons with disabilities.
The EU remains at the forefront of international and multilateral efforts to promote youth employment, including within the G20 whose members committed last year to decrease youth unemployment by 15% by 2025, through the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), which set out substantive guidelines last December to improve youth labour market outcomes, and by supporting global efforts, such as the development and implementation of a global strategy for youth as established in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, which is an integral part of the 2030 Agenda.
Youth employment indeed remains a top political priority in most EU Member States. 7.1 million people in the 15-24 age group are neither in employment nor in education or training in Europe. The EU Youth Guarantee will ensure that, within four months of becoming unemployed or leaving formal education, all young people receive a quality offer of a job, a traineeship or an apprenticeship, or the chance to continue their education. The past two years have seen a lot of progress: European countries have improved the capacity of their public employment services, have introduced incentives to stimulate job creation, and have taken steps to improve vocational education and training systems and increase the number of quality apprenticeships and traineeships. In autumn 2016, the European Commission will release its full report about the implementation of the Youth Guarantee programmes.
Long-term unemployment is another major hurdle to Europe`s growth. Therefore, we are making great efforts to better help the long-term unemployed return to work, including young people. In December 2015, EU Ministers agreed on a recommendation committing their countries to strengthening support for more than 11 million people unemployed for over a year, offering a clear pathway towards employment. This recommendation will lead to simplified and more effective access to support for those out of work for long periods.
Ensuring the rights and well-being of older persons continues to be a fundamental part of the agenda of the European Union and its Member States. EU proposals and activities take due account of the impact of ageing. The EU sees a need for governments to take active steps to address, among other things, age discrimination, decent work availability for the elderly, social protection including access to adequate pensions, and health and long-term care and the risk of elder abuse.
During the 2012 European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations, the European Commission started supporting the development of a measure of active ageing, or the extent to which older people are not a burden on the rest of society. Active ageing is not just about staying longer in employment and retiring later. It is also about social participation, providing care within the family and volunteering in the community; and it is about being in good health and being able to live independently. These three broad dimensions of active ageing – employment, social participation and independent living – are brought together in the Active Ageing Index. It has been calculated for women and men in every EU country, using a variety of data sources available.
We are committed to continue exploring how the human rights of older women and men and those elderly persons with disabilities can best be strengthened in our ageing societies. This is also exemplified by our active role and input to this year's Open Ended Working Group on Ageing and our support for the Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons.
The EU and its Member states are committed to promoting equality between women and men and recognize the need to promote appropriate support to families taking into account the diversity of family patterns. EU initiatives cover issues such as parental leave, reconciling family and work life and improving the living conditions of vulnerable families. In order to promote child and family policy evaluation and the exchange of good practices, we have created the European Platform for Investing in Children. In 2013, the European Commission adopted a recommendation under the title “Investing in Children – breaking the cycle of disadvantage”, which urges Member States to make particular efforts to tackle child poverty and social exclusion and to promote children’s well-being.
Within the context of strengthening the coordination of economic policies of the EU Member States, in 2015 the EU issued country specific recommendations to the Member States in the area of child poverty, well-being and work-life balance.
We consider that providing better support for families, in all their forms, enhancing the well-being of children, and allowing the reconciliation of work, family and private life for women and men constitute crucial elements to a better quality of life and to economic and social development. But for these policies to be successful, they must also be inclusive. Across the EU, as in the rest of the world, families have changed and continue to change with time - illustrating the fact that a family is a living, dynamic entity.
We are committed to advancing social development and to empowering all people, irrespective of which group they belong to. Discrimination on whatever ground should have no place in our world and no person should be denied their universal human rights and basic economic opportunities. We are looking forward to discussing in this Commission how social groups can be empowered and how we can ensure social development on a broad basis.