In January 1977, the UN Commission for Social Development (CSocD) met in Geneva for its 25th session, under the chairmanship of Romania. It was an important event in the efforts to reform the UN social sector. Based on a Romanian proposal, CsocD put, for the first time, the Youth topic on the UN agenda. The Commission also reviewed progress made by the UN in applying a unified approach to development, requested Member States to prepare monographs on national experience in mobilizing resources for social development, examined government policies on equitable distribution of food production, called for the creation of social development regional research centers, and proposed that the Secretary General appoints a group of experts to make recommendations with regard the role of social development in the UN.
Almost 40 years later, on 3-12 February 2016, CSocD will meet again under the Romanian chairmanship and, as Ambassador of Romania to the UN, I will chair this 54th session. The reform of the UN social sector is once more on its agenda, this time in the context of implementing the sustainable development goals (SDGs) adopted last September. After all, as the UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson remarked a few days ago: "Development is a work in progress. Development is never finished".
Problems of today may be similar to those of 40 years ago, but the environment is different. In the last decades, we have witnessed that peace and security depend on a multitude of factors and that for the international system to work, peace, development, good governance and human rights have to coexist at the same time. We have also learned the immense value of partnerships. Bringing together key actors - governments, civil society, private sector and academia - helped significantly the UN action in sectors like energy, education or food security. It would be wise to extend this multi-stakeholder approach to other areas.
CSocD will be the first of the functional commissions of ECOSOC to meet in the new context. If successful, its outcome could eventually inspire the work of other UN bodies. The compass was given by the Report of the Secretary General on critical milestones towards coherent, efficient and inclusive follow-up and review at the global level, released on 19 January 2016: "Under the guidance of ECOSOC, the functional commissions will need to integrate the 2030 Agenda in their review work... The functional commissions of ECOSOC will support the High Level Political Forum Thematic Reviews of progress in achieving the sustainable development goals".
As the Agenda 2030 includes a strong social dimension, it feels natural for CSocD to bring its contribution to the monitoring, implementation and follow up of all social development aspects pertaining to SDGs.
Sustainable development requires an integrated approach of economic, social and environmental policies, and the fine tuning may be on the social dimension because Agenda 2030's ultimate goal is to "leave no one behind". Poverty favors violence, conflicts, mass migration and instability, and President Obama said that "sustainable development is part of countering violent extremism". Topics like poverty eradication, social integration and gender equality are interrelated and mutually reinforcing and, in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, they have to be pursued simultaneously.
Twenty years after the World Summit for Social Development (Copenhagen, 1995), its core commitments remain largely unfulfilled and acutely relevant. Poverty has been reduced, but it is far from being eradicated. Unemployment remains as high as it was in 1995. Youth, women, older persons, persons with disabilities and indigenous people still encounter barriers in participating to social, economic and political life.
CSocD priority theme for this session is "Rethinking and strengthening social development in the contemporary world". A high-level panel discussion will engage Member States and other stakeholders on concrete policy options, with particular attention to the inter-linkages between social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainable development. A resolution will be proposed for adoption.
Another panel will be on "Implementing the Agenda 2030 for sustainable development: moving from commitments to results in achieving social development", with focus on the most marginalized and vulnerable people. The UN Secretary General's Special Envoy on Youth is invited to deliver a keynote address, and a resolution on the Commission's methods of work is envisaged. CSocD will also hold a multi-stakeholder panel discussion on the "Implementation of the post-2015 development agenda in light of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities", with the Special Rapporteur o the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as keynote speaker.
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon noted recently that "2015 has been a year in which the UN has proven its ability to deliver hope and healing to the world". Expectations run high for the United Nations in 2016 too, because is the first year of implementation of the Agenda 2030. But the UN is just as strong and dynamic as its Member States allow it to be. In a time of so many contradictions in the world, what we need is to streamline our efforts, have a clear division of responsibilities and build on a mutual trust. This was precisely the mood in preparatory meetings we had in the Commission for Social Development. Its 54th session could be a first test.