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Sr. Mayce: A Civil Society Statement

By May 13, 2014No Comments

52nd Session of the Commission for Social Development 

Civil Society Statement

Margaret Mayce – Chair, NGO Committee for Social Development

Sr. Mayce

Sr. Margaret Mayce
Dominican Leadership Conference (the DLC) to the UN

Madam Chair, Excellencies, Distinguished Guests,

I am grateful once again for this opportunity to address you as the representative of civil society, and to share with you what we believe to be non-negotiable elements in the ongoing discussion on the priority theme: promoting the empowerment of people in eradicating poverty, social integration and full and decent employment for all. As I begin, I cannot help but recall my concluding comments last year when I addressed you at the 51st Session of this Commission. At that time I said: It is the fervent hope of civil society that this 51st Session of the Commission for Social Development will take the challenge seriously, both this year and next – by mobilizing its political will, and partnering with its civil society colleagues in this essential pursuit of the common good – in realizing the future we want for all.  Here we are, a year later, and it would seem that there has been no significant change.

We address the theme of empowerment of people in eradicating poverty, social integration and full and decent employment for all in a world in which inequality is escalating, leaving millions behind. The recently released report of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) entitled Humanity Divided: Confronting Inequality in Developing Countries, provides us with the stark reminder that the world is more unequal today than at any point since World War II, and that there are clear signs that this situation cannot be sustained for much longer. Inequality has been jeopardizing economic growth and poverty reduction. It has been stalling progress in education, health and nutrition. It has been limiting opportunities and access to economic, social and political resources; and, it has been driving conflict and destabilizing an already fragile international community. In other words, inequality sabotages all of our efforts to do what we speak about in this Commission – that is, promoting the empowerment people.

The UNDP report goes on to remind us that there is nothing inevitable about inequality, and that what is needed is a genuinely holistic approach that will address the multiple factors that cause inequality and create the conditions for a truly inclusive – and peaceful – society.

We, the members of civil society, as direct service providers, NGOs and other grassroots organizations live and work on a daily basis with people living in poverty. We seek to partner with them in overcoming inequality, and support their efforts to move out of poverty, acquire decent work and create/ live in an inclusive society.

We have listened, participated, and contributed to the many consultations and conversations among UN Member States, UN Agencies, Major Groups, and other stakeholders seeking to put in place a transformative post-2015 development agenda, and to assure that such an agenda is seen as a moral imperative, based on core principles of justice and equity for people and planet. It is in that spirit that we offer these recommendations:

  • Implementation of the ILO Recommendation No. 202 concerning the establishment of national social protection floors, as adopted by the global community at the International Labour Conference in 2012, and the decent work for all agenda (including the “Global Jobs Pact”) as an effective means of enabling people to secure full employment and income security.
  • Implementation of the recently adopted Guiding Principles on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights. Our own recommendation is echoed in the UNDP report which states: …extreme inequality contradicts the most fundamental principles of social justice, starting from the notion, enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that “ all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”
  • Promotion of the legal empowerment of all people, especially those living in areas of conflict, war, and/or extreme poverty, by ensuring the protection of their human right to justice, property, labor protections, and essential identity registrations and documents.
  • Focus on ways to address unsustainable patterns of production, consumption, and resource/ worker exploitation, in order to promote sustainable social and economic development and environmental protection.
  • Provision of formal and informal quality education for everyone, regardless of gender, across the lifespan—empowering people to become agents of change in their societies, while exercising their rights and responsibilities.
  • Expansion of innovative sources of financing for development that prioritize public financing over public-private partnerships, e.g. the Financial Transition Tax, the Global Fund for Social Protection, the reduction of military spending, and the promotion of progressive taxation.

We would also like to note the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family observed this year, and the opportunity it provides to revisit family-oriented policies as part of overall Post-2015 development efforts, and call on Member States to reaffirm the vital role that the family plays in social development. Governments should ensure that families are afforded the “widest possible protection and assistance,” as noted in the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. We see this as essential for sustainable eradication of poverty and the development of flourishing societies.

In a globalized world too often driven by economic and financial engines, it is easy to lose sight of people, and of the Planet, which serves as our one, common home. When wealth and power are sought as ends unto themselves, there is the danger that society can be reduced to a collection of nameless, faceless individuals, and the common good is reduced to fit the outcome achievable by private, for profit firms. The market-based approach to development has tended to concentrate wealth in the hands of a few, while countless numbers of our brothers and sisters have seen their economic power, and their real power to influence decisions that affect their lives diminish. In this regard we turn to the words of Pope Francis, who spoke of “ the scandal of poverty in a world of plenty as a piercing moral challenge for the whole human community.” He continues, “A way has to be found to enable everyone to benefit from the fruits of the earth, and not simply to close the gap between the affluent and those who must be satisfied with the crumbs falling from the table…there must be a new stimulus to international activity on behalf of the poor, inspired by something more than mere goodwill, or, worse, promises which all too often have not been kept.”

 As representatives of civil society worldwide, we believe that these recommendations and their appropriate means of implementation are a step in the right direction toward securing a “Life of dignity for all,” and safeguarding the integrity of the planet.  However, all is dependent upon the political will to empower and invest in people. The question posed by Ambassador Macharia Kamau (Republic of Kenya) at the 4th Session of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals bears repeating – what would be the price of inaction? From the perspective of civil society, the price of inaction would be the continued irresponsible exploitation of people and natural resources, persistent inequality, poverty, injustice and ongoing conflict.

But it is not civil society, alone which bears responsibility for the answer. Rather, it is a question that goes to the very heart of global governance, and the integrity of world leaders. All the weaponry in the world will not make our planet a more peaceful, secure place in which humanity can thrive without fear or want. While no one government can bring about the transformative change that is so desperately needed in our world today, all governments bear a measure of responsibility to seriously consider the options that we know are available to us—and this consideration must be done in light of the overall common good of People and Planet.

The UNDP report reminds us all that millions of voices are asking the world’s decision makers to confront rising inequalities. It is imperative that this demand be met if the ideals of a prosperous, peaceful and sustainable society are to be realized. 

Sr. Margaret Mayce

Dominican Leadership Conference to the UN