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Maharey takes Closing the Gaps message to UN

4 July 2000 Media Statement

New Zealand's determination to close the gaps sits well with a new declaration to build a more just and equitable world agreed by to a special session of the United Nations General Assembly, Social Services and Employment Minister Steve Maharey said today.

Mr Maharey represented New Zealand at the Twenty-fourth special session of the United Nations General Assembly which has just finished meeting in Geneva. The Assembly, meeting as the World Summit for Social Development, was called together to review the progress made by member states to implement the 1995 Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development and Programme of Action. The new Government's determination to close the gaps within New Zealand mirror the aims of the post-Summit declaration agreed to by Assembly participants.

"Over the past 15 years the gaps in New Zealand society have widened. Large gaps also continue to exist between the nations of the world and between the living standards enjoyed by the peoples of the world.

"New Zealand's new Government has committed itself to closing the gaps in our society. We need to reinvigorate our communities if our people are to thrive in the global economy we are now part of.

"Social development is also an integral element of New Zealand’s overseas aid programmes. The Government intends to progressively increase the percentage of gross national product devoted to aid towards the goal of 0.7% with key assistance focused on education and health partnerships.

"As a small egalitarian society we have shown social policy leadership in the past and, by actively investing in the future of New Zealanders, we intend to again lead by example within the international community," Steve Maharey said.

Contact: Michael Gibbs, Press Secretary, (04) 471 9154 or (025) 270 9115. Copies of the Declaration agreed to by participants at the UN World Summit for Social Development are available from Mr Gibbs.

(Eds note: Mr Maharey is currently in the United Kingdom on a series of official visits and is available to be interviewed).
1 July 2000
English only

Twenty-fourth special session
of the General Assembly entitled
“World Summit for Social Development
and beyond: achieving social development
for all in a globalizing world”

Unedited final outcome document as adopted by the Plenary of the special session


Proposals for further initiatives for social development

Political Declaration

1. Five years have passed since the United Nations World Summit for Social Development, which marked the first time in history that Heads of State and Government had gathered to recognize the significance of social development and human well-being for all and to give these goals the highest priority into the twenty-first century. The Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development and Programme of Action established a new consensus to place people at the centre of our concerns for sustainable development and pledged to eradicate poverty, promote full and productive employment, and foster social integration to achieve stable, safe and just societies for all.

2. We, the representatives of Governments, meeting at this special session of the General Assembly in Geneva to assess achievements and obstacles and to decide on further initiatives to accelerate social development for all, reaffirm our will and commitment to implement the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action, including the strategies and agreed targets contained therein. The Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action will remain the basic framework for social development in the years to come.

3. Since the Social Summit, recognition of the imperative of social development requiring an enabling environment has spread and strengthened. Furthermore, there is a growing awareness of the positive impact of effective social policies on economic and social development. Our review and appraisal has shown that Governments, relevant international organizations as well as actors of civil society have made continued efforts to improve human well-being and to eradicate poverty. However, further actions are needed for the full implementation of the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action. It has also become clear that there is no single universal path to achieving social development and that all have experiences, knowledge and information worth sharing.

4. Globalization and continuing rapid technological advances offer unprecedented opportunities for social and economic development. At the same time, they continue to present serious challenges, including widespread financial crises, insecurity, poverty, exclusion and inequality within and among societies. Considerable obstacles to further integration and full participation in the global economy remain for developing countries, in particular the least developed countries, as well as for some countries with economies in transition. Unless the benefits of social and economic development are extended to all countries, a growing number of people in all countries and even entire regions will remain marginalized from the global economy. We must act now in order to overcome those obstacles affecting peoples and countries and to realize the full potentials of opportunities presented for the benefit of all.

5. We therefore reiterate our determination and duty to eradicate poverty, promote full and productive employment, foster social integration and create an enabling environment for social development. The maintenance of peace and security within and among nations, democracy, the rule of law, the promotion and protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to development, effective, transparent and accountable governance, gender equality, full respect for fundamental principles and rights at work and the rights of migrant workers are some of the essential elements for the realization of social and people-centered sustainable development. Social development requires not only economic activity, but also reduction in the inequality in the distribution of wealth and more equitable distribution of the benefits of economic growth within and among nations, including, inter alia, realization of an open, equitable, secure, non-discriminatory, predictable, transparent and multilateral rule-based international trading system, maximizing opportunities and guaranteeing social justice, recognizing the inter-relationship between social development and economic growth.

6. Full and effective implementation of the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action is necessary at all levels. We reaffirm that while social development is a national responsibility, it cannot be successfully achieved without the collective commitment and efforts of the international community. We invite Governments, the United Nations and other relevant international organizations within their respective mandates to strengthen the quality and consistency of their support for sustainable development, in particular in Africa and the least developed countries, as well as in some countries with economies in transition, and to continue coordinating their efforts in this regard. We also invite them to develop coordinated and gender sensitive social, economic and environmental approaches in order to close the gap between goals and achievements. This in turn requires not only renewed political will but also the mobilization and allocation of additional resources at both national and international levels. In this connection, we will strive to fulfill the yet to be attained internationally agreed target of 0.7% of GNP of developed countries for overall ODA as soon as possible.

6bis. We recognize that excessive debt-servicing has severely constrained the capacity of many developing countries, as well as countries with economies in transition, to promote social development. We also recognize the efforts being made by indebted developing countries to fulfill their debt-servicing commitment despite the high social cost incurred. We reaffirm our pledge to find effective, equitable, development-oriented and durable solutions to the external debt and debt-servicing burdens of developing countries.

7. The fight against poverty requires the active participation of civil society and people living in poverty. We are convinced that universal access to high quality education, including opportunities for the acquisition of skills required in the knowledge-based economy, health and other basic social services and equal opportunities for active participation and sharing the benefits of the development process are essential for the achievement of the objectives of the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action. Recognizing Governments’ primary responsibility in this regard, we acknowledge the importance of strengthening partnerships, as appropriate, among the public sector, the private sector and other relevant actors of civil society.

7bis. We reaffirm our pledge to place particular focus on and give priority attention to the fight against the worldwide conditions that pose severe threats to the health, safety, peace, security and the well-being of our people. Among these conditions are: chronic hunger; malnutrition; illicit drug problems; organized crime; corruption; natural disasters; foreign occupation; armed conflicts; illicit arms trafficking; trafficking in persons; terrorism; intolerance and incitement to racial, ethnic, religious and other hatreds; xenophobia; and endemic, communicable and chronic diseases, in particular HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.

8. We reiterate our resolve to reinforce solidarity with people living in poverty and dedicate ourselves to strengthen policies and programmes to create inclusive, cohesive societies for all - women and men, children, young and older persons - particularly those who are vulnerable, disadvantaged and marginalized. We recognize that their special needs will require specific targeted measures to empower them to live more productive and fulfilling lives.

8bis. Although Africa and the Least Developed Countries have made continued efforts to implement the commitments of Copenhagen, widespread poverty remains. Recognizing the internal and external constraints facing these countries, we reiterate our will to continue to support their efforts by allocating resources, including by fulfilling internationally agreed commitments, as well as by strengthening initiatives, in particular in the area of social development.

9. Enhanced international cooperation is essential to implement the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action as well as the further actions and initiatives adopted by the special session, and to address the challenges of globalization. We recognize the need to continue to work on a wide range of reforms for a strengthened and more stable international financial system enabling it to deal more effectively and in a timely manner with new challenges of development. We acknowledge the need for a coordinated follow-up to all major conferences and summits by Governments, regional organizations and all of the bodies and organizations of the United Nations system, within their respective mandates.

10. Determined to give new momentum to our collective efforts to improve the human condition, we here set out further initiatives for the full implementation of the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action. At the dawn of the new millenium, aware of our responsibilities towards future generations, we are strongly committed to social development, including social justice, for all in a globalizing world. We invite all people in all countries and in all walks of life, as well as the international community, to join in renewed dedication to our shared vision for a more just and equitable world.

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