54th Session of the Commission for Social Development / Agenda item 3(a) - Prority Theme

Statement delivered by H.E. Mr. Paul Alex Menkveld, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the United Nations, 54th Session of the Commission for Social Development, Agenda Item 3(a) General discussion Priority Theme New York, 3 February 2016

Mr. Chair,

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.

The Candidate Countries Turkey, 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, Armenia, 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.

First of all, we would like to thank the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the Ambassador of Romania as Chair of the Commission, as well as the other bureau members for the preparatory work carried out in advance of this session. We also thank the Secretary-General for his reports which provide essential input for the session.

We welcome the continuation of the discussion on the priority theme "Rethinking and strengthening social development in the contemporary world". In view of the unequal and fragmented progress over the last 20 years since the Copenhagen World Summit for Social Development - which we commemorated last autumn - we reiterate that ensuring social development is essential for the achievement of well-being for all and the harmonious development of societies. Ensuring social development is also essential for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and for filling key social development gaps that result in poverty, lack of social protection and labour rights for all, as well as of decent work for young people.

In order to successfully implement the new Agenda, we have to redefine our societies and our relationship with nature, as well as to balance the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development in an integrated manner. This is the main idea behind the 2030 Agenda.

And it is also about change at home for all countries and regions. We in Europe are determined to rise to this challenge and to turn around our societies to make them more fair, inclusive and sustainable. The EU is making significant steps to realise that goal. In 2010, the EU agreed to an integrated medium term growth strategy, known as the Europe2020 Strategy, to promote smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. This strategy affirms the interactions between economic, environmental and social policies and explicitly puts social issues among the core issues for our development. In particular, it sets headline targets for raising the employment rate, reducing early school leaving, increasing the proportion of students completing tertiary education or equivalent, and lifting at least 20 million people out of poverty.

The EU has endured a severe economic and financial crisis in recent years – and the after-shocks from that crisis continue. The crisis, and the policy responses to it, had economic and social costs: investment declined, millions of jobs were destroyed, youth unemployment increased dramatically, and inequalities deepened. Within the eurozone, disparities and divergences between national economies led to increasing social unrest and resentment towards the further integration of EU Member States.

There are now signs of a solid economic stabilisation and recovery. The EU has entered a phase of consolidation and adjustment to re-balance economic, employment and social reforms and to better address the global challenges ahead. We have taken steps to strengthen our Economic and Monetary Union, and we are considering how to address the social dimension of rebalancing major socio-economic disparities between EU Member States, particularly in the eurozone, as well as intensifying social inequalities.

The EU's investment plan, worth 300 billion euro, stimulates the real economy, where the jobs are created. At the same time, we are intensifying the fight against the segmentation of the labour market and undeclared work; we are shifting the tax burden away from labour; we are modernising social protection systems, including pension systems, in order to make them adequate, sustained and efficient; and we are investing in skills to improve the employability of young people and the long-term unemployed. With this in mind, a couple of months ago we agreed within the EU on joint policy guidance for simplified, more transparent access to support the long-term unemployed.

Improving the functioning of EU labour markets and of social protection systems also requires effective social dialogue, both at the EU level and in the EU Member States. The EU is working with social partners on a new start for social dialogue. 

The Youth Guarantee has become a driver for improving school-to-work transitions and reducing youth unemployment, and first results have now become visible with the share of young people not in employment, education or training decreasing.

Mr. Chair,

In order further to improve and ensure respect for our social and economic standards, the European Commission has launched activities to develop a European pillar of social rights, which takes account the changing realities of the world of work and which can serve as a compass for the renewed convergence, especially within the eurozone. The European pillar of social rights can complement what we have already achieved when it comes to the protection of workers in the EU.

Of course social development is not exclusively subject to social policies, but to a mix of policies which allow economic, social and environmental considerations to play out in a balanced manner. This is very much the underlying idea behind the Europe2020 Strategy and our process for economic policy coordination, which introduces the concept of social fairness into the EU economic and social priorities for 2016. We are well aware that sustainable development requires the meaningful involvement and active participation of all and we agree with the Secretary-General in his report that broad- based participation in policy making and governance processes is important as it enhances the capacity of public institutions to be transparent, accountable and responsive to the needs of all people.

Mr. Chair,

Social inclusion is also a central notion of the 2030 Agenda, whose effective implementation is among the key priorities for the EU. We are committed fully to play our role in this collective effort, including on the social areas, and in line with the Agenda's balanced and integrated approach. We look forward to working with partner countries, civil society and other stakeholders around the world towards a fairer and better society.

In our view, this Commission can be a platform to contribute to the review and follow-up of the 2030 Agenda and to promote policy coherence, particularly between social and economic policies. (SG report E/CN.5/2016/3, para 62)

Mr. Chair,

Looking back at the Copenhagen declaration and in light of current challenges, it is important to remind ourselves not just " that social development is central to the needs and aspirations of people throughout the world" but also " that there is no question that social development and social justice cannot be attained in the absence of peace and security or in the absence of respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms." Let us ensure that our deliberations at this, the 54th Commission for Social Development, move us forward towards realising these vital aspirations and the promises enshrined in Copenhagen.

Thank you

* The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.