EU Presidency Statement - Review of Relevant UN Plans and Programmes of Action Pertaining to the Situation of Social Groups
Summary: February 6, 2004: Statement by H.E. Ambassador Richard Ryan, Permanent Representative of Ireland to the United Nations, on behalf of the European Union. Review of Relevant United Nations Plans and Programmes of Action Pertaining to the Situation of Social Groups. COMMISSION FOR SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT 42ND SESSION (New York)
I have the honour to speak on behalf of EU at the 42nd Session of the Commission for Social Development. The Acceding Countries Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia, the Candidate Countries Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro, and the EFTA country
Norway, member of the European Economic Area, align themselves with this statement.
Tenth Anniversary of the International Year of the Family
The European Union considers that the various events marking 2004 as the Tenth Anniversary of the International Year of the Family should lead to specific outcomes. These should include:
- a renewed recognition of the role of families in all their forms, and their contribution to overall societal development;
- a clear focus on how families, in all their forms, have been affected by the profound social, political, economic, demographic, cultural and other changes taking place at global, regional and national levels;
- an exchange of views and a comprehensive research-based analysis of whether and how policies need to be adapted and developed to meet these challenges;
- the continuation of determined efforts on the part of the State and society generally to implement necessary policy changes and other initiatives required to support families and ensure the full enjoyment of human rights by all their individual members; and
- the strengthening of the programme of work on family issues at the UN level by way of pursuing a coherent approach and mainstreaming family policy issues into national and international strategies.
EU Member States at national level have been putting plans and programmes in place for the observance of the Tenth Anniversary. These have involved for the most part broad participation and partnership between Government and the various interested parties. They cover virtually all components for such plans and programmes identified in the Report of the Secretary General. The Irish EU Presidency is hosting a major International Conference on "Families, Change and European Social Policy" in
Dublin on 13-14 May 2004, just before the International Day of the Family.
Strengthening families, in all their forms, requires appropriate supports in the performance of vital tasks such as parenting support, care for children and other dependant family members, providing a supportive and stable family life, and allowing all families to reach a greater degree of autonomy and social inclusion.
Currently, this should include a special focus on how best to support families, in all their forms, in reconciling work and family life. Such support requires action not just on the part of the State in terms, for example, of affordable child and elder care, but also on the part of employers, in terms of family friendly work practices, and on the part of families themselves, in terms of a more balanced distribution of family tasks and responsibilities between women and men.
Special recognition should be given to the importance of preserving and fostering the solidarity at the core of families, expressed in the support and care given to family members - a solidarity which is one of society's greatest resources. The profound changes mentioned put such solidarity under strain, but this can be offset by the provision of appropriate and targeted services. Service provision specifically for families, in all their forms, and the family dimension of all relevant services
should, therefore, receive particular attention. The EU considers that it is also essential in this context to ensure effective compliance with the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The best interests of the child must be the primary consideration.
The European Union renews its expression of deep concern for the increased number of children orphaned by HIV/AIDS. We are particularly alarmed at the growing number of child-headed households. The European Union considers this to be a major challenge to the basic rights of the child and, as such, deserving of special attention during this Tenth Anniversary of the International Year of the Family.
The European Union and its Member States look forward to receiving the reports on the outcome of this worldwide observance of the 10th Anniversary, which should make a major contribution to further policy and programme development to strengthen families in the years ahead.
Modalities for the review and appraisal of the Madrid International Plan on Ageing
The European Union expresses appreciation for the Note by the Secretariat on Modalities for the review and appraisal of the Madrid International Plan on Ageing. We are grateful to the Government of Malta for facilitating the expert group meeting in November 2003, which informed the preparation of the Note.
The European Union once again commits itself to the principles outlined in the Madrid Plan of Action and welcomes the proposals put forward by the Secretariat for advancing the implementation of its recommendations. In this regard, the focus on poverty reduction among older women and men constitutes an important aspect of the monitoring of the International Plan of Action on Ageing. It must include specific gender-sensitive ageing policies, and also incorporate mainstreaming policies into
national strategies and international development programmes, as was specifically emphasised at the Interregional Meeting on the Implementation and Follow up of the Madrid International Plan on Ageing, hosted by the Austrian Government in December 2003 in Vienna. In this regard, the EU recognises that a review by Governments of their national poverty reduction strategies should incorporate a review of key elements of Madrid
We see the bottom-up approach involving the active participation of all older people as a key element of the review. To be effective, this process needs to contain a number of elements. The starting point must be a campaign of information, within existing resources, aimed at raising awareness of the measures identified in the Madrid Plan. In addition, the information-gathering process must assess the views of all older people and take on board the qualitative and quantative data available. The
development of a set of indicators by the expert group meeting in Malta, will, we believe, be an invaluable tool in this part of the process.
Gathering information, identifying needs and gaps in services and polices, and reformulating policies or developing new ones to address these will not be an easy process. In our view, the suggestions put forward in the note by the Secretariat for managing this deserve further consideration and elaboration. In this regard, the importance of the collection of data and population statistics, disaggregated by sex and by age, for all aspects of policy formulation, by all countries, must be
recognised. In this context the EU welcomes the initiative taken by the Austrian Government, together with the UN Economic Commission for Europe, to provide technical support to the monitoring of the ECE Regional Implementation Strategy by contributing to the financing of the establishment of a special unit within the European Centre for Social Welfare Policy and Research in Vienna. The main functions of this newly created unit will include the promotion of the exchange of experience in the
field of ageing policies among ECE Member States, the collection of data, research and analysis conducted with other international organisations and UN agencies as well as the maintenance of a network of organisations, national authorities and other concerned bodies and individuals active in this field.
We welcome the recommendation that national governments should be assisted in their efforts by the sharing and exchange of information and by the provision of regional support. The Ministerial Conference on Ageing, hosted by the German Government in Berlin in September 2002, allowed Governments in the ECE region to engage in dialogue aimed at promoting the exchange of information as well as promoting networking.
We support the efforts for mainstreaming ageing policies into national and international strategies and the recommendation that the Commission should request Regional Commissions actively to support the review and appraisal at regional level by promoting networking and sharing of information, by assisting Governments in the gathering, analysis and presentation of information and by the development of regional analyses and setting of priorities. Such regional exercises facilitate the
implementation of the Madrid Plan and we look forward to learning from their outcomes.
Equalisation of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities
As you are aware, 2003 was the European Year of Persons with Disabilities. This year has contributed to increasing awareness throughout society of the rights, potential and contribution of persons with disabilities, and about disability issues generally. A wide range of projects took place across Europe at local and national levels under the themes of employment, youth and disability, rights, partnership and responsibilities, and awareness-raising. Activities for the Year were supported by
funding from the EU Commission and from Member States.
As a follow-up to the year, the EU Commission has prepared a Disability Action Plan which focuses on employment as the most important area for specific action to enhance the social inclusion of persons with disabilities. In this context, special attention will be given to action designed to create the conditions necessary to promote the employment of persons with disabilities, including access to and retention in employment, lifelong learning, new technologies and access to the public built
The Commission is putting in place a bi-annual reporting structure to monitor progress across all of the Member States, in order to provide a focus for policy review and development.
The EU has welcomed the Report of the former Special Rapporteur on Disability on the Standard Rules on the Equalisation of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities and on the suggested supplement to these Rules. The EU now welcomes the Report of the Secretary-General transmitting the views of Governments on the proposals contained in the Special Rapporteur's Report.
The Standard Rules have played a central role in the significant progress in policy development and legislation on disability which has been evident over the last ten years. The European Union is of the opinion that it is important to update and complement the Standard Rules on the basis of the experience gained in their implementation. The EU supports the idea of presenting complementary and additional provisions as a Supplement to the Rules. In this regard, the European Union considers that
it would be useful for the Commission for Social Development to set aside time to consider further the Supplement to the Standard Rules during this current session.
As part of a multi-track approach ensuring the equal and effective enjoyment of human rights by persons with disabilities, the EU is also actively involved in the work of the Ad Hoc Committee established by the General Assembly to consider proposals for a Convention on the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by persons with disabilities.
A Working Group had been established which met in January 2004 in order to prepare a first draft of such a Convention. In order to enhance the drafting process, the EU has submitted a common proposal of a draft text of an International Convention on the Full and Equal Enjoyment of all Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms by Persons with Disabilities based on the principles of non-discrimination, equality of opportunity, autonomy, participation and inclusion. We consider that the outcome of the
Working Group which met here in New York last month is a useful document which should help focus the work of the Ad Hoc Committee. The Union looks forward with confidence to making considerable progress in the development of the text of the proposed Convention at the forthcoming meetings of the Ad Hoc Committee.
- Ref: PRES04-009EN
- EU source: EU Presidency
- UN forum: Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Affairs)
- Date: 6/2/2004
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