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Summary record of the 6th meeting : 3rd Committee, held at Headquarters, New York, on Friday, 8 October 1999, General Assembly, 54th session

UN Document Symbol A/C.3/54/SR.6
Convention Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Document Type Summary Record
Session 54th
Type Document

5 p.

Subjects Ageing Persons, Persons with Disabilities

Extracted Text

United Nations
General Assembly Distr.: General
Fifty-fourth session 21 December 1999
Official Records Original: Spanish
Third Committee
Summary record of the 6th meeting
Held at Headquarters, New York, on Friday, 8 October 1999, at 3 p.m.
Chairman: Mr. Galuška . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (Czech Republic)
Agenda item 106: Social development, including questions relating to the world
social situation and to youth, ageing, disabled persons and the family (continued)
This record is subject to correction. Corrections should be sent under the signature of a member of the
delegation concerned within one week of the date of publication to the Chief of the Official Records
Editing Section, room DC2-750, 2 United Nations Plaza, and incorporated in a copy of the record.
Corrections will be issued after the end of the session, in a separate corrigendum for each Committee.
99-81508 (E)
The meeting was called to order at 3.05 p.m.
Agenda item 106: Social development, including
questions relating to the world social situation and to
youth, ageing, disabled persons and the family
(continued) (A/54/3, A/54/56, A/54/57, A/54/59,
A/54/61 and Corr.1, A/54/62, A/54/66-E/1999/6,
A/54/98, A/54/128-E/1999/70, A/54/256, A/54/268,
A/54/388 and A/C.3/54/L.2)
1. Mr. Akinsanya (Nigeria) said that the fifty-fourth
session of the General Assembly had devoted a two-day
plenary meeting to the International Year of Older Persons,
in recognition of the important role that older persons
played in shaping world events. His delegation associated
itself with the statement made by Guyana on behalf of the
Group of 77 and China. It also supported the objectives of
the International Year and the statement made by the
Secretary-General while launching the International Year
of Older Persons on 1 October 1998 to the effect that a
society for all ages was one that did not caricature older
persons as patients and pensioners. Instead, it saw them as
both agents and beneficiaries of development and honoured
traditional elders in their leadership and consultative roles
in communities throughout the world.
2. Within the context of the launching of the
International Year of Older Persons, his country’s Ministry
of Women’s Affairs and Social Development had
organized, in collaboration with non-governmental
organizations, a special seminar on the role of the aged in
national development.
3. Owing to its multi-ethnic culture and traditions,
Nigeria had considerable respect for older persons and was
therefore concerned about their increasing neglect,
especially in developing countries, where deteriorating
economic conditions adversely affected their situation and
welfare. His country, like other African countries, believed
that care for the elderly should be family based. That was
consistent with the time honoured cultural traditions of
Nigeria, which saw the elderly as repositories of wisdom
and values, which were best imparted to the younger
generation within the family setting. Within the family
environment, the elderly could take advantage of the
warmth and filial love of the immediate as well as extended
family members. That approach had been recommended
by the International Plan of Action on Ageing adopted by
the World Assembly on Ageing held in Vienna in 1982.
4. Another important measure aimed at encouraging
care for the elderly within the family setting was the
granting of tax rebates to those who took care of their
parents. In the last few years, his Government had taken
concrete measures to further alleviate the plight of the
weaker segments of society, including the elderly. The
measures taken included the family support programme
and the family economic advancement programme
designed to improve the living conditions and well being
of people at the grass roots, especially in the rural areas.
Moreover, his Government had undertaken a review of
pensions along with upward salary reviews in the public
sector as a way of insulating pensioners from the ravages
of inflation. Efforts were under way to expand the coverage
of the Nigerian national social insurance trust fund to
include pensioners outside the public sector.
5. The umbilical link between childhood, youth and old
age also needed to be underscored. It was often said that
the child of today would grow up to become the elderly
person of tomorrow. It was therefore important to look at
issues pertaining to childhood, youth and older persons in
a holistic manner if a society for all ages was to be
achieved. For those reasons, his Government had recently
restructured the former Ministry of Youth and Sports into
a new Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Youth
Development in order to achieve better coordination,
efficiency and integration of all programmes in those
6. Nigeria fully supported the decisions adopted at the
World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth held
in Lisbon in August 1998. With renewed determination,
the international community would be able to overcome the
problems that had persistently afflicted the institution of
the family. Those problems included the impact of the
HIV/AIDS pandemic, which was particularly acute in
Africa. In many cases, the younger generation was the
worst afflicted by that scourge, which rendered the more
vulnerable segments of society, namely the elderly, helpless
by saddling them with the task of taking care of those who
should normally take care of them.
7. The majority of older persons worldwide were
women. Therefore, Member States should fully take into
account their concerns, given the peculiar problems they
faced in terms of limited opportunities for social, economic
and political empowerment, unlike men. It was therefore
important that national activities commemorating the
remaining part of the International Year of Older Persons
should reflect those factors.
8. Despite so many difficulties, through common effort,
determination and political will, the quality of life of
families, including the youth and the elderly, could be
enhanced. The international community should take on the
collective responsibility of ushering in the twenty-first
century with the vision of creating a better and genuine
society for all ages.
9. Ms. Fonseca (Venezuela) said that her delegation
associated itself with the statements made by Guyana on
behalf of the Group of 77 and China, and by Mexico, on
behalf of the Rio Group. A gender perspective should be
incorporated into the implementation of programmes of
action designed to address the problems of the most
vulnerable groups of society, bearing in mind their specific
needs. Moreover, account should be taken of the impact of
the political, economic, cultural and environmental
changes that had occurred in recent decades, including the
phenomenon of globalization, on those groups.
10. The main thrust of Venezuela’s policy was social
development. Participatory democracy was the focal point
of development and for achieving the goals set. Her
Government had established a single social welfare fund
to make only one entity responsible for the mobilization
and administration of resources in order to optimize
policies and plans, regulate welfare programmes for
strengthening comprehensive health care and education,
promote a grass-roots and competitive economy, promote
and develop microenterprises and cooperatives as a form
of grass-roots involvement in economic activity and in job
training for young people and adults.
11. The Venezuelan National Council for the Integration
of Disabled Persons was responsible for harmonizing
policy in that area, and, in June 1998, had held its first
summit meeting with a view to coordinating measures and
policies for the integration of disabled persons into
development. Her Government welcomed the exchange of
experiences, supported all international initiatives aimed
at strengthening institutions and policies for the benefit of
disabled persons, and commended the elaboration of the
Inter-American Convention for the Elimination of All
Forms of Discrimination for Reasons of Disability.
12. Aware of the attention needed by young people, the
Venezuelan Government had provided training courses in
various areas so that they could develop productive and
useful activities, and had set up a local social network
offering protection for children and adolescents at high
social risk. It had also consolidated the national youth
prevention and social and job integration system, through
job training, the dissemination and promotion of job
opportunities, the integration of young people into the
labour market, prevention and social integration
programmes, a campaign against drugs, and the
strengthening and expansion of networks to promote the
interests of young people.
13. Her Government placed high priority on education
and intended to provide free education so that the whole
population could have access thereto. As a result of that
commitment, 600,000 children had enrolled in the new
school year beginning in September 1999. Pre-school
education was a fundamental phase in the development of
cognitive ability. During the current school year, therefore,
the Ministry of Education hoped to enrol 300,000 neglected
children in educational programmes and in addition to
strengthen assistance to day-care centres and group homes.
14. With regard to the needs and potential of older
persons, she said that the National Geriatric and
Gerontological Institute administered shelters for older
persons, homes where older persons could live and work
in agriculture, care units for older persons, a gerontology
training programme, a nutritional care programme and a
cultural and employment reactivation centre, the objective
of which was to reintegrate those over 50 years of age into
the labour market.
15. It was essential to redefine the role and significance
of the family for the new century and social and
development programmes should seek to defend the family
unit against the disintegration currently occurring. When
participating in the observance of the International Day of
Families, the First Lady of Venezuela had emphasized the
need to re-establish the family as the pillar of the whole
society, to protect its role as the guardian of the people’s
cultural traditions and effective values, and to strengthen
its formative, educational and productive capacities. The
tenth anniversary of the International Year of the Family
should serve as a propitious opportunity to strengthen
international commitment and complementary measures,
especially at the national and local levels.
16. Ms. Afifi (Morocco) said that the concept of social
development had emerged in the 1960s, at a time when
post-decolonization development activities had become a
primary concern of the international community. Human
beings had, however, been overlooked since the financial
institutions and other funding sources had not made them
central to their development strategies. Social development
questions, including the social situation throughout the
world, young people, older persons, disabled persons and
the family, were nevertheless still matters of continuing
concern and were of great importance to all countries and
to the international community. Accordingly, development
must be seen in its many macroeconomic dimensions so
that human needs and expectations could meet with a more
rapid and effective response. A review of the first half of
the implementation phase of the Programme of Action of
the World Summit for Social Development had revealed
a large number of limitations at all levels. Social problems
continued to multiply, and the negative aspects of
globalization, the detrimental impact of the international
financial crisis on a large part of the world, especially Asia
and Latin America, the deterioration of the environment,
the violence of structural adjustment measures, the rise in
indebtedness, and the proliferation of armed conflicts
continued to contribute to a worsening of the socioeconomic
situation of the developing countries, whose
annual demographic growth represented nearly 96 per cent
of the global rate. On the other hand, official development
assistance, which was the mainstay of the international
community’s solidarity with the poor, had declined by 40
per cent since 1992 and in 1998 represented barely 0.23 per
cent of the GNP of the developed countries, while the
international target had been set at 0.7 per cent. All those
factors had helped to create vast inequities between rich
and poor countries.
17. Africa, a region in constant crisis, was the continent
most affected by conflicts, instability, poverty, AIDS and
other social and political scourges that had hampered its
social development. Of the 33 million persons infected by
HIV/AIDS in the world, 22 million resided in Africa south
of the Sahara. Furthermore, 44 per cent of Africans and 51
per cent of the inhabitants of Africa south of the Sahara
lived in utter poverty. In the face of such obstacles, it was
impossible fully to achieve the goals of the World Summit
and rectify the deterioration of the social situation of
developing countries. However, with the recognition by the
rich countries and the international financial institutions
of the importance of the social dimension of development,
an important step had been taken and priority had been
given to social policies at all levels with a view to
promoting progress and social justice.
18. The social situation in Morocco was no exception, but
with firm political will and by mobilizing all sectors of
society, the Government had managed to launch a social
policy designed to respond more effectively to human
needs, especially by strengthening positive interaction
between economic and social policies. In that spirit, the
Government had formulated social development and
poverty elimination strategies, the goal of which was to
increase the access of the poor to basic social services and
to combat unemployment, inequities and social exclusion
by offering job opportunities, generating income, assisting
the most vulnerable sectors and reforming social protection
systems. Among the measures adopted, mention should be
made of the creation of a social development agency the
role of which was to support activities designed to reduce
poverty, to reform the basic foodstuffs subsidies
programme and to restructure the national assistance
institution to provide better care in rural and peri-urban
19. Morocco had undertaken numerous reforms in order
to create a favourable environment for the social
integration of all vulnerable groups. The State had spared
no effort to integrate the needs of the disabled into sectoral
policies and programmes and it had recently created a
Ministry responsible for that sector of the population.
Furthermore, in recent years, various measures had been
adopted to benefit older persons, including revision of the
legal and financial situation of the pension fund and
improvements to their social standing. In 1998, Morocco
had hosted the first meeting of the Arab-African Union of
Older Persons and, on 1 October 1999, it had celebrated
the International Day of Older Persons.
20. The special session of the General Assembly review
of the World Summit for Social Development should
provide an opportunity for new measures to be adopted and
for a more decisive commitment to be made by all those
concerned in order to achieve more equitable social
21. Mr. Tekle (Eritrea) said that, over the past year,
many problems had resulted in serious consequences for
social development in different parts of the world. Among
the most serious had been conflicts, both between and
within States, and major economic crises. However, 1999
had also been a year of great hopes and opportunities
because it was the International Year of Older Persons,
which had had a considerable impact and triggered many
national and international initiatives. His delegation
believed that the social sector should be given high priority
in the development process, since no economic
development programme could be meaningful if it did not
endeavour to eliminate hunger and illiteracy, provide
adequate health services, improve the quality of life, and
give due attention to human values.
22. The Government of Eritrea’s economic and social
policies were based on the conviction that, to be successful,
development must emphasize social development. That was
underscored in the National Charter of February 1994 and
the macro-policy of November 1994, which paid special
attention to human resources development and to health,
social welfare, and the rehabilitation of war victims and
other vulnerable and disadvantaged members of society,
especially women, young people and older persons. For that
reason, his delegation welcomed the attention that the
Committee and other international forums were paying to
social issues. In addressing those issues, the people and
Government of Eritrea had necessarily borne in mind their
own past experience, their current situation and their hopes
for the future. The war of independence had involved the
entire population and, since it had lasted for 30 years, all
age groups within each family had taken part in it; it was
therefore inevitable that it would spawn a society for all
ages. Under those circumstances, a dialectic process had
been created in which one generation educated the
following generation and passed on to it values such as
freedom, development based on self-reliance, and work as
a means to a dignified and prosperous future.
23. Eritrea’s policies and programmes were essentially
in consonance with the basic concepts and strategies of the
Copenhagen Summit and the various reports of the
Secretary-General on social development; for example, the
responsibility of children to care for their elders was a
principle as sacrosanct as that of the responsibility of
parents to care for their children. Both principles were
enshrined in article 22, paragraph 3, of the Eritrean
Constitution, which also gave an important role to the
family in the development and welfare of society and the
care of children and older persons. Indeed, the family
continued to play the same unifying role that it had played
during the war and to be a catalyst for cooperation and
development, helping to mitigate many social problems,
as society, the Constitution and the National Charter
24. Young people in Eritrea, who had shouldered a
historic responsibility and actively participated in the
liberation struggle, now assumed an equal responsibility
in the country’s defence and reconstruction. The National
Youth and Students Association had enabled young people
to participate in decision-making on major political, social,
economic and cultural programmes throughout the country.
25. Older persons had made an important contribution
to both the liberation struggle and the reconstruction of the
country in areas such as the rebuilding of the railway
system, education and health, and they had been given
access to microcredit to carry out agricultural and
commercial activities. At the same time, the Government
had organized a modest but effective programme to care
for those who could not perform any activity. The
programme included the establishment of residential
services, the reintegration of older persons into their
extended families and the provision of medical services.
26. To help the disabled to become self-reliant and to
reintegrate them into the workforce, the Government of
Eritrea had established a community-based rehabilitation
programme that opened direct channels to the community
by training local facilitators and creating rehabilitation
committees in the villages. The programme, in which the
communities were already participating actively, would be
given further impetus when the draft law on the disabled
entered into effect; that laws would allow the Government
to create new financial mechanisms to generate income and
assist the disabled to establish associations that would
allow them to take a more active leadership in advocacy,
whether or not they were war veterans.
27. His delegation joined the other delegations that had
recognized the devastating effect of conflicts on
development and urged the United Nations and the
international community to do whatever was necessary to
put an end to such conflicts. To that end, it urged the
United Nations and the international community to take
appropriate measures with regard to those countries which
used delaying tactics in an attempt to derail the peace plans
that were in place as a result of the efforts of the United
Nations and the relevant international organizations.
28. Mr. Krassowski (Deputy Director of the Division for
Social Policy and Development) noted with interest the
proposals and opinions that had been put forward, and also
the initiatives of the various countries, the analysis of
national and international trends, and the problems
encountered by each State. He added that he would ask the
Secretariat to programme as many activities and resources
as possible to help Member States to implement the
resolutions adopted by the General Assembly. Compared
to previous years, the discussion, in addition to having
been highly productive, had been enriched by the increased
participation of youth representatives, including young
people from developing countries. As a representative had
once said, the work of the Committee was the hardest of
all, because it did not consist in merely discussing practical
issues, reconciling interests or solving technical problems,
but rather in something as basic as deciding what exactly
was a society for all and achieving consensus among the
different viewpoints of States on a single definition, based
on a common concept of humanity.
The meeting rose at 3.50 p.m.