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Emerging issues, trends and new approaches, and programme activities of the Secretariat and the regional commissions relating to social development, including the situation of specific groups : report of the Secretary-General.

UN Document Symbol E/CN.5/1997/5/Add.1
Convention Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Document Type Report of the Secretary-General
Session 35th
Type Document

20 p.

Subjects Youth, Ageing Persons, Persons with Disabilities, Family

Extracted Text

Economic and Social Council
16 January 1997
Thirty-fifth session
25 February-6 March 1997
Item 3 (b) of the provisional agenda*
Emerging issues, trends and new approaches, and programme
activities of the Secretariat and the regional commissions
relating to social development, including the situation
of specific groups
Report of the Secretary-General
Social welfare and social development activities of the
regional commissions for the biennium 1995-1996
Paragraphs Page
INTRODUCTION ............................................... 1 3
I. ECONOMIC COMMISSION FOR EUROPE ....................... 2 - 15 3
A. Social development and welfare ................... 2 - 5 3
B. Youth ............................................ 6 4
* E/CN.5/1991/1.
97-01305 (E) 030297 /...
Page 2
C. Ageing ........................................... 7 - 12 4
Page 3
CONTENTS (continued)
Paragraphs Page
D. Disabled persons ................................. 13 6
E. Families in development .......................... 14 - 15 6
PACIFIC .............................................. 16 - 40 6
A. The regional Agenda for Action on Social
Development ...................................... 16 - 22 6
B. Youth ............................................ 23 - 25 8
C. Ageing ........................................... 26 - 30 8
D. Disabled persons ................................. 31 - 36 9
E. Human resources development ...................... 37 - 40 11
CARIBBEAN ............................................ 41 - 48 12
A. Social development and welfare ................... 41 - 44 12
B. Youth ............................................ 45 - 46 13
C. Families in development .......................... 47 - 48 13
IV. ECONOMIC COMMISSION FOR AFRICA ....................... 49 - 57 14
A. Social development and welfare ................... 49 - 54 14
B. Youth ............................................ 55 15
C. Families in development .......................... 56 - 57 15
A. Social development and welfare ................... 58 - 69 16
B. Disabled persons ................................. 70 - 72 19
C. Families in development .......................... 73 - 76 19
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1. During the period 1995-1996, the regional commissions have continued to
undertake, within their respective regions, follow-up activities to
international conferences and implementation of international programmes of
action for social development. Particular impetus has been provided by the
World Summit for Social Development, the World Programme of Action for Youth to
the Year 2000 and Beyond, and follow-up to the International Year of the Family.
In response to General Assembly resolution 50/161 on implementation of the
outcome of the Summit, the regional commissions will organize high-level
meetings and/or expert group meetings, as well as other related events, to
evaluate follow-up activities to the Summit. The promotion of policies and
programmes for poverty alleviation and for managing the social consequences of
structural adjustment, social integration and human resource development have
received special attention. Activities targeting disabled persons, crime
prevention, drug demand and human immunodeficiency virus/acquired
immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) prevention have also been undertaken within
the respective mandates of the commissions.
A. Social development and welfare
2. The social problems facing the countries in transition to market economies
are in many ways similar to the problems of the developed economies of western
Europe, which are currently restructuring their economies, with profound
implications for employment and the existing forms of social protection.
Accordingly, the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) and the Government of
France, with the support of the European Community, organized a workshop on the
theme "Managing the social consequences of structural change" in Paris on 28 and
29 November 1996.
3. The workshop sought to examine the impact of structural change on
employment, workers' mobility and the functioning of labour markets, as well as
the goals and forms of the social protection system, the way it operates and is
financed; and to examine what forms of cooperation between the State, the social
partners, local communities and the social welfare agencies might contribute
more effectively to the management of the social consequences of structural
4. Other activities relevant to social development include the work of the ECE
Statistical Division in the field of population and housing censuses.
Currently, the ECE Statistical Division is preparing a set of ECE-Statistical
Office of the European Communities (Eurostat) recommendations on populations and
housing censuses in the region for the year 2000. Those recommendations will be
ready for approval by the Conference of European Statisticians in 1997. With
regard to social indicators and frameworks, the Conference of European
Statisticians, through the ECE Statistical Division, participates in the work of
the Siena Group, which deals with issues related to social monitoring and social
Page 5
exclusion, intergovernmental relations, and social mobility and the integration
of minority groups.
5. With regard to gender statistics, regular meetings are convened by the
Conference to promote the collection of data disaggregated by sex and to assess
and consider the gender dimension in a number of areas, such as unpaid work,
health, employment, living conditions and ageing. For the 1995 World Conference
on Women, the publication, Women and Men in Europe and North America was
prepared. Regarding migration, ECE is participating in the preparation of a new
set of draft international migration statistics together with the United Nations
Statistical Division and Eurostat. The ECE secretariat is also producing the
annual publication Housing and Building Statistics in Europe and North America,
while its statistical yearbook, Trends in Europe and North America, contains
social profiles of all 55 ECE member countries.
B. Youth
6. As part of the its population programme, ECE is conducting a survey
involving men and women aged 20 years and over in 19 ECE member countries and
New Zealand. Based on a common questionnaire containing various retrospective
questions on vital issues, such as the choice of partners and marriage,
decisions to have children and leaving the parental home, the survey will
enhance the study of the effects of various social and economic conditions on
the life experiences of individuals during youth and adolescence. Research
themes to be studied, based on the data collected, include patterns of leaving
the parental home, the impact of family dissolution on partnership behaviour of
the next generation, sexual initiation and the contraceptive practices of
C. Ageing
7. The four-year ECE project supported by the United Nations Population Fund
(UNFPA) "The dynamics of population ageing in ECE countries", was completed in
1996. The project will facilitate research on the social and economic
conditions of the older population in Europe and North America. The project has
assembled a set of cross-nationally comparable depersonalized microdata sets
based on the 1990 round of national population and housing censuses, which will
be used to study the social and economic conditions of older persons in a
selected number of ECE member countries. Research themes to be studied will
include labour force participation status; economic conditions and mobility
patterns of older persons, as well as their living arrangements; and the social,
economic and demographic characteristics of older persons living in
institutions, in comparison with non-institutionalized older persons. The
project is expected to increase the awareness of policy makers and
non-governmental organizations in the field and to enhance national capacities
for formulating and evaluating programmes and policies targeted towards older
people. The following 14 countries have participated in the project: Bulgaria,
Canada, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania,
Russian Federation, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom of Great Britain and
Northern Ireland and United States of America.
Page 6
8. Within the context of the above-mentioned project, a workshop on social
protection, poverty, and older persons at risk was organized by the ECE
secretariat and the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). The
workshop was also part of the activities marking 1996 as the International Year
for the Eradication of Poverty, and constituted a preparatory activity for the
International Year for Older Persons (1999) and the first United Nations Decade
for the Eradication of Poverty (1997-2006). The aim was to define strategies
for providing income security in old age, with an emphasis on the alleviation of
poverty among older persons in high-risk groups. The programme of the workshop
covered four main topics: conceptual issues of poverty in old age; women as one
of the groups at risk, and the process known as the feminization of poverty;
specific issues of poverty among other groups at risk; disabled and single
persons; and ways to create an enabling environment for the improved well-being
of older people.
9. Seventy-nine persons from 18 countries, representing Governments,
intergovernmental organizations, research institutions and international and
national non-governmental organizations, participated in the two-day meeting.
The workshop was the second organized jointly by the ECE secretariat and AARP.
The first workshop dealt with the preparatory activities of the World Summit for
Social Development.
10. Taking into account the fact that countries in the ECE region are
experiencing dramatic population changes that pose unprecedented public policy
challenges, especially with regard to the need to protect the well-being and
income security of various groups of older persons, people with disabilities and
single old women, there is a growing need to monitor closely the status of older
people at risk and to provide policy makers with accurate and up-to-date data
and analysis.
11. In that connection, a general conceptual framework of action was discussed
and adopted at the meeting, covering the areas of general policy instruments;
the difficulty of poverty measurements among older women and older groups at
risk; creating an enabling environment; and issues of social security and the
role of the private sector, as well as of the non-profit sector and government.
Priorities for immediate action were identified; they include the necessity to
develop methodologies for measuring, monitoring and analysing poverty among
older men and women and other groups using primary and secondary data; promoting
the establishment of national and international networks of intergovernmental
and non-governmental organizations, research institutions, scholars and policy
makers interested in furthering joint data collection, research and policy
analysis efforts; acknowledging the role of older persons in the family and the
informal economy; promoting the sharing of family responsibilities, particularly
caring for dependents, between men and women; and adopting programmes that will
facilitate the reintegration of disabled persons into society.
12. Governments were urged to prepare for the coming of an ageing society by
viewing older persons as a potential resource for their societies and to plan
for their reintegration into the labour market or as volunteers in the social
sector. They were also encouraged to review periodically public old age pension
systems and ensure that eligibility and financing mechanisms are in line with
Page 7
the demographic structure, labour market conditions and the changing social and
economic conditions of a country.
D. Disabled persons
13. With regard to disabled persons, the ECE secretariat carried out an
operational programme on rehabilitation engineering. A publication on that
subject was issued and circulated during the World Summit for Social
E. Families in development
14. Another ECE four-year project supported by UNFPA, "Fertility and family
surveys in countries of the ECE region", ended in 1996. The surveys were
conducted on the basis of a common questionnaire containing various
retrospective questions on vital aspects of life, such as childhood, partners,
education and work. The following 20 countries have completed their field work:
Austria, Belgium, Canada, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy,
Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Slovenia, Spain,
Sweden, Switzerland and United States of America. Several other countries may
conduct surveys during 1997-1998, possibly as part of a second round of
fertility and family surveys.
15. Under a successor project, "Sexual behaviour and reproductive health and
fertility regulation", the ECE secretariat is currently completing the archiving
of the standardized Fertility and Family Survey data files along with the work
of standard tabulations, which will ensure that the data are internationally
comparable, of high quality and easily accessible to researchers. In addition
country studies are now being prepared by experts. In the next few years,
selected scholars are expected to produce comparative studies as part of a
comparative research programme launched in late 1996. The project is expected
to make a major contribution to knowledge, and to provide an important source of
information for policy makers on issues related to ongoing changes in the
family; the interplay of work, education and parenting; contraceptive knowledge
and practices; and other issues.
A. The regional Agenda for Action on Social Development
16. The regional Agenda for Action on Social Development, adopted by the Asian
and Pacific Ministerial Conference in Preparation for the World Summit for
Social Development (Manila, October 1994), reflects the regional consensus on
social development priorities and policy and programme imperatives. Further
support for the Agenda in the region has been extended by the Commission for
Social Development in its resolution 51/4. The Agenda's primary focus is on the
alleviation of poverty, which is recognized as the major scourge undermining the
welfare and quality of life of large population groups within the region.
Page 8
17. The secretariat of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the
Pacific (ESCAP) has focused its activities in pursuance of resolution 51/4 of
the Commission for Social Development by providing technical assistance to
members and associate members in support of their efforts to attain the goals
and targets of the regional Agenda. Activities are being implemented to support
national initiatives through policy-oriented research and programme analysis
based on country, subregional and regional studies and demonstration projects;
exchange of experience and expertise through the organization of conferences,
seminars and training workshops; advisory services in support of national social
development initiatives; and exchange of personnel and the provision of training
opportunities through technical cooperation among developing countries (TCDC).
Those activities seek to identify and target the absolute poor, promote the
social assessment of major development programmes, and improve national
capacities and institutional frameworks for the effective implementation of the
18. A regional workshop on the theme "Guidelines for the implementation of the
Agenda for Action on Social Development in the ESCAP region" was held at Bangkok
in March 1996. As a follow-up, two publications are being prepared, one
examining policy and programming issues and the other providing guidelines on
the formulation of coherent national policies and programmes for the effective
implementation of the Agenda.
19. Issues 34 and 35 of the Social Development Newsletter, focusing on social
integration and poverty alleviation, respectively, have been prepared and
disseminated. Issue 36 of the Newsletter, scheduled for distribution in
April 1997, will focus on employment expansion. Thus, issues 34 to 36 of the
Newsletter will review in the regional context the major themes developed at the
World Summit for Social Development and elaborated in its Programme of Action.
20. The implementation of the regional Agenda and the promotion of policies and
programmes for poverty alleviation through the enhancement of social security
have received special attention. An expert group meeting, on the enhancement of
social security for the poor was convened at Bangkok in November 1995.
Subsequently, a document entitled "Towards social security for the poor in the
Asia-Pacific region" (ST/ESCAP/1673), containing studies and recommendations on
alternative policy programme options to enhance social security for the poor,
was prepared and disseminated.
21. In compliance with resolution 51/4 of the Commission for Social
Development, as well as with General Assembly resolution 50/161, entitled
"Implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development",
ESCAP will convene the Fifth Asian and Pacific Ministerial Conference on Social
Development. The Philippines has offered to host the Conference at Manila in
November 1997. A network of government-designated focal points has been
established to assist in the national and regional preparations for the
22. The ESCAP secretariat plans to convene an expert group meeting in May 1997
and a regional senior officials consultation in June 1997. In addition, a
series of advisory missions and national workshops on the implementation of the
regional Agenda for Action on Social Development will assist various countries
Page 9
in the region in their preparations for the Ministerial Conference. To
facilitate the participation of non-governmental organizations and the private
sector in their preparatory activities for the Ministerial Conference, a
non-governmental organizations/private sector forum will be held at Bangkok in
October 1997. The ESCAP secretariat has also issued a document entitled,
"Enhancement of the role of non-governmental organizations in the implementation
of the Agenda for Action on Social Development in the ESCAP Region"
B. Youth
23. As a follow-up to the World Programme of Action for Youth to the Year 2000
and Beyond, ESCAP convened the Asia-Pacific Meeting on Human Resources
Development for Youth at Beijing in October 1996. The Meeting was organized
with the cooperation of the All-China Youth Federation. It reviewed the
regional youth situation and examined national policies and programmes
concerning youth in the light of the Jakarta Plan of Action on Human Resources
Development in the ESCAP Region and the World Programme of Action for Youth to
the Year 2000 and Beyond. A series of recommendations for regional cooperation
in priority areas of human resources development (HRD) for youth were
formulated. The report and recommendations of the meeting constitute an
important regional input to the United Nations World Youth Forum, held at Vienna
in November 1996.
24. In recognition of the tenth anniversary of the International Youth Year,
the theme chosen for the 1995 ESCAP HRD Award was "HRD to promote productive
employment for youth". The Social Work and Research Centre, better known as the
Barefoot College, located at Tilonia, Rajasthan, India, was selected by a jury
of international experts as the winner of the 1995 Award. The Award was
presented at the fifty-second session of ESCAP. The ESCAP HRD Award is
presented annually as a means of encouraging exemplary research and other
innovative achievements in the field of HRD.
25. Training of trainers for youth participation in development continues to be
a regular feature of ESCAP work. In 1996, a series of nine national workshops
were held, involving key youth policy makers, youth leaders and trainers, to
assist in building local capacity to promote constructive social participation
of youth. On the basis of the experience gained during the national workshops,
an HRD course for youth development will be offered on a regular basis, which
could serve as a prototype for national training programmes for government and
non-governmental organization personnel involved in the planning and delivery of
skills development programmes for rural youth.
C. Ageing
26. The rapid ageing of societies in Asia and the Pacific, accompanied by the
increasing proportion and absolute number of older persons in the population,
has triggered concern for older persons in the region, while the economic and
social impact of the ageing of populations poses a growing challenge to
societies throughout the region.
Page 10
27. In response to the need for a concerted effort to tackle the problem of
ageing, the ESCAP secretariat has provided assistance to ESCAP member
Governments in developing comprehensive national policies on ageing. Emphasis
is placed on lifelong preparatory measures for old age. On the basis of a
series of research studies on selected countries and a regional overview on
lifelong preparation for old age in the region, a policy framework has been
formulated to guide national policy and programme development for lifelong
preparation for old age. This covers a spectrum of concerns ranging from income
security and employment to health maintenance, education and housing. Following
an expert consultation on the topic, the framework was adopted by a meeting of
senior officials on a policy framework for lifelong preparation for old age,
held at Bangkok in May 1996. A document reviewing the issues of old age,
entitled "Lifelong preparation for old age in Asia and the Pacific"
(ST/ESCAP/1684), was printed and distributed in November 1996.
28. To enhance public awareness of the major issues pertaining to ageing, the
ESCAP secretariat updated and enlarged the "Annotated bibliography on policy and
programme issues in the field of ageing" (ST/ESCAP/1471), which was first issued
in 1994. Advisory service was provided by the ESCAP secretariat to a regional
meeting of non-governmental organizations regarding issues pertaining to ageing
and older persons, including lifelong preparation for old age.
29. Under the broad theme of cooperation between Governments and
non-governmental organizations for poverty alleviation in the Asia and Pacific
region, and in pursuance of General Assembly resolutions 47/5 and 50/141 on the
proclamation and observance of 1999 as the International Year of Older Persons,
as well as Economic and Social Council resolution 1993/22 on strengthening
national mechanisms on ageing, the ESCAP secretariat has initiated a project on
the development of policies and programmes on behalf of older persons. Project
activities include a workshop on government-non-governmental organizations
cooperation for older persons, held in January 1996. The meeting brought
together non-governmental organizations in the region to exchange experiences in
working for older persons and discuss ways and means to enhance cooperation
between Governments and non-governmental organizations for older persons. The
recommendations from this workshop will be further considered at a forum of
government and non-governmental representatives, to be held in July 1997.
30. In its continuing effort to promote and develop policies and programmes for
older persons, the ESCAP secretariat is preparing a directory of national focal
points on ageing in Asia and the Pacific; a directory of non-governmental
organizations active in dealing with older persons in the region; and a
bibliography of international and regional mandates and relevant documents
concerning ageing and older persons. It is envisaged that those documents will
be issued as a sourcebook on ageing and older persons in Asia and the Pacific.
D. Disabled persons
31. At its fifty-second session, in April 1996, ESCAP endorsed the targets and
recommendations for the implementation of the Agenda for Action for the Asian
and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons, 1993-2002, including the gender
dimension. Thirty-one Governments of the region are signatories to the
Page 11
Proclamation on the Full Participation and Equality of People with Disabilities
in the Asian and Pacific Region. As a result of the ESCAP secretariat's
efforts, several Governments are currently developing national disability
legislation, while others are implementing such legislation. Similarly,
increasing attention is being given to measures that improve disabled people's
access to all services and infrastructure intended for the public, including
public transportation, communications, education, skills development and
employment. In support of the Asian and Pacific Decade, many ESCAP member
Governments have committed themselves to regional cooperation activities,
focusing on strengthening inter-sectoral coordination, inter-ministerial
collaboration and monitoring of progress. There has been an increase in TCDC
exchanges aimed at supporting the organizational development and participation
of people with disabilities in the development process.
32. Through its technical cooperation trust fund for the activities of the
Asian and Pacific Decade, ESCAP has supported the training and information
activities of people with disabilities in the region's developing countries. A
Pacific subregional workshop, held at Suva, Fiji, in February 1996, focused on
developing linkages among, and strengthening the management of organizations of
people with disabilities. ESCAP has also assisted in the development of the
Cambodian Disabled People's Organization and in the convening of the first
workshop of people with diverse disabilities in Viet Nam in October 1996.
33. A training workshop for women with disabilities, held at Bangkok in
June 1995, generated documentation on the gender dimension of the Agenda for
Action for the Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons. As a follow-up, a
publication on the problems faced by women with disabilities was issued and
distributed at the Fourth World Conference on Women and at the accompanying
Non-Governmental Organizations Forum, held at Beijing in September 1995.
Follow-up activities by the trainees included the publication of a newsletter on
the participation in the Beijing Forum and the convening of national workshops
on gender issues in national disability movements.
34. ESCAP is providing technical assistance to three cities (Bangkok, Beijing
and New Delhi) in the development of pilot projects to implement the ESCAP
guidelines on the promotion of non-handicapping environments for disabled
persons, which may be used as demonstration sites for TCDC activities. In
addition, the city of Johor Bahru, Malaysia, has used the guidelines to
incorporate barrier-free design in its urban renewal master plan. Through the
intermediation of ESCAP, technical personnel from developing countries of the
region participated in workshops on access promotion in Japan in 1995 and 1996.
35. With a view to improving the availability of assistive devices for poor
persons with disabilities, ESCAP convened a regional workshop on the indigenous
production and distribution of assistive devices in South India in
September 1995. Preparation of a publication that will include a regional
review and information on production methods for small workshops is under way.
36. Recent publications include: "Promotion of non-handicapping physical
environments for disabled persons guidelines" (ST/ESCAP/1492); "Promotion of
non-handicapping physical environments for disabled persons: case studies"
(ST/ESCAP/1510); "Hidden sisters: women and girls with disabilities in the
Page 12
Asian and Pacific region" (ST/ESCAP/1548); "Legislation on equal opportunities
and full participation in development for disabled persons: a regional review"
(ST/ESCAP/1622); and "Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons: action
targets, gender dimensions" (ST/ESCAP/1669).
E. Human resources development
37. Some two thirds of the 900 million people the world over who lack access to
basic reading and writing skills live in Asia, mostly in South Asia. Literacy
levels are especially low among girls and women in South Asia, with serious
implications for human resource development in the subregion. In collaboration
with a number of non-governmental organizations, government agencies and the
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), ESCAP
has undertaken a series of HRD activities to promote literacy for girls and
women in South Asia.
38. Under a project on cooperation between Government and non-governmental
organizations to promote HRD for women in South Asia through post-literacy
programme development, a post-literacy programme for women is being formulated
in five countries of South Asia. A manual for developing post-literacy
programmes for women, with special emphasis on vocational and functional skills
to improve women's quality of life, will also be developed. Post-literacy
programmes at the local level will be implemented by the national
non-governmental organizations in each country. Another project on the
promotion of literacy for women through capacity-building of local organizations
in South-East Asia and the Pacific has undertaken a needs assessment and
adaptation of literacy programmes to local needs, followed by the implementation
of functional literacy programmes for women at the local level.
39. While rapid economic growth based largely on investment in human resources
has facilitated a reduction of the proportion of the poor in some parts of the
ESCAP region, inadequate investment in human resources has sustained and in some
cases actually increased the concentration of the poor in other parts of the
region. Against this background, the ESCAP secretariat has prepared three
studies on promoting HRD services for the poor, focusing on various issues
related to HRD as a means of poverty alleviation. The publications are based on
materials presented at a regional training seminar on promoting HRD services for
the poor, held at Manila in September 1995.
40. Many developing countries in the region have embarked on comprehensive
rural development programmes to alleviate poverty. An important factor in the
success of many of those programmes has been their emphasis on participation of
the rural poor, not only in the identification of specific means of rural uplift
but also in their design, planning, implementation and evaluation. In
recognition of that achievement, the topic of people's participation in
community development was selected as the theme of the 1996 ESCAP HRD Award.
The winner of the 1996 Award will be selected by an independent jury in
February 1997.
Page 13
A. Social development and welfare
41. In response to the growing importance that Governments in the region attach
to social issues, the Social Development Division and Statistics Division of the
Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) jointly
published, with the financial support of the United Nations Children's Fund
(UNICEF) and UNFPA, the 1995 and 1996 editions of the Social Panorama of Latin
America. Each edition provides a quantitative and qualitative analysis and
information on various social issues, such as poverty, income distribution,
employment, social spending, and equity. The 1995 edition was dedicated to
issues related to family organization and poverty; child labour and its economic
and social consequences; and the gender perspective, with special reference to
women's access to paid employment and the importance of their contribution to
household income. The edition also included a chapter on social policy issues
in the sectors of health, education and social security, and an analysis of
emerging themes, such as urban insecurity, violence and corruption. The 1996
edition includes a diagnosis and evaluation of programmes to alleviate poverty
and an analysis of the main aspects of social integration programmes.
Statistical data is based on household surveys.
42. Concerning social policy reform, several meetings were held and studies
undertaken, leading to the publication of seven issues in the series Social
Policies, dealing with topics such as educational systems, health policy reform
and poverty programmes. Two regional expert meetings were held. The first
meeting analysed the changes in the social structure of several countries in
Latin America during the last decade, while the second meeting evaluated reforms
in the areas of health, education, housing and social security. The meeting
also identified policies to alleviate poverty, improve income distribution and
increase employment and labour productivity.
43. With the financial support of the Government of the Netherlands, the ECLAC
Statistics Division is currently working on a project concerning the diagnosis
and evaluation of socio-economic progress in several Latin American countries
and the impact of social policies. At the same time, with the support of the
Organization of American States, the Division is implementing a joint programme
on the social policies of Latin America. The aim of the project is to provide
technical assistance and training in the formulation and evaluation of social
programmes and projects. Regional courses, with a duration of four weeks, are
held each year; the courses utilize a methodological cost-impact scheme
appropriate for social projects.
44. In response to the World Summit for Social Development, which called on the
regional commissions, in collaboration with intergovernmental organizations and
other interested parties, to organize high-level meetings to evaluate follow-up
to the Summit, ECLAC is exploring the possibility of holding a regional
conference at Sao Paulo, Brazil, in April 1997, with the co-sponsorship of the
Organization of American States, the United Nations Development Programme, the
Inter-American Development Bank, UNICEF, the Pan American Health
Organization/WHO, and the Latin American Economic System.
Page 14
B. Youth
45. During 1995-1996, the ECLAC Social Development Division carried out a
series of activities in support of the World Programme of Action for Youth to
the Year 2000 and Beyond, in close collaboration with the Iberoamerican Youth
Organization (OIJ). In particular, the Division participated in the design of a
theoretical framework and discussion at a series of expert group meetings of the
Regional Programme of Action for Youth Development in Latin America and its
Operative Plan for 1996-1999. The Division also attended the Seventh
Iberoamerican Conference of Youth Ministers (Buenos Aires, August 1996), at
which the Plan was approved by member Governments.
46. The ECLAC Social Development Division held a seminar in April 1995 at ECLAC
headquarters on youth opportunities for secondary education and employment in
Chile. The research reports presented at that meeting were incorporated in the
Social Policy series, numbers 8, 9, 10 and 11. The meeting assigned top
priority to rural youth as one of the most disadvantaged youth sections in the
region. In 1996, with the support of OIJ and UNICEF, the Division published a
book in Spanish entitled Rural youth, modernity and democracy in Latin America.
The Division also provided input to the Interregional Consultation on Rural
Youth, held at the headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the
United Nations (FAO) in Rome in 1995, and provided training for rural youth
workers in a seminar organized by the Rural Youth Network of the Southern Cone
of South America (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay); for the
regional offices of FAO and UNFPA with rural youth reproductive health educators
(Bolivia, Chile, Colombia and Paraguay); and for youth researchers in Mexico.
C. Families in development
47. As a follow-up to the activities of the International Year of the Family,
the ECLAC secretariat has formulated a set of indicators on the situation of
families as a way to promote the development of sound policies aimed at
strengthening the family. The 1995 and 1996 Social Panorama of Latin America,
provide updated social indicators on families and households. The ECLAC
secretariat also published a study entitled "Sobre revoluciones ocultas: la
familia en Uruguay", as part of the project on human development, with the
financial support of UNDP. And in 1995, the ECLAC Social Development Division
distributed in both Spanish and English the publication Family and Future: A
Regional Programme for Latin America and the Caribbean, and kept close contacts
with relevant organizations of the region.
48. Finally, ECLAC participated in meetings organized by the academic
community, such as the Third Iberoamerican Conference on the Family, organized
by the University of Vale do Rios Sinos in Brazil in 1995; the seminar on the
family held by the Universidad de Concepción in Chile in May 1996; and an
international seminar on the Latin American realities of families, organized by
the Universidad de Concepción in October 1996.
Page 15
A. Social development and welfare
49. In view of the growing need to exchange information and ideas on how best
to promote human or socially centred development policies and strategies in the
Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) region, the ECA secretariat has continued
to collaborate closely with intergovernmental organizations, non-governmental
organizations, United Nations agencies and other international institutions, by
hosting and conducting a number of meetings, conferences, seminars and workshops
dealing with a range of issues related to social development in the region. In
addition, the ECA secretariat has undertaken studies and produced a number of
technical publications on social issues.
50. Great emphasis has been placed by the ECA secretariat on the central role
of people's participation in the development of human resources and social
transformation. Accordingly, the ECA secretariat has supported various
activities of non-governmental organizations and has assisted community-based
people's organizations to develop and implement participatory projects and
programmes in various African countries. One such initiative was the launching
of the report Human Development in Africa, which is the main vehicle for
reporting on the trends and developments relating to social and human
development in Africa. The report highlights significant human development
issues and reviews progress achieved and setbacks encountered in the
implementation of commitments made to improve human endeavour in Africa. The
themes explored in the report include goals for the child, health for all and
basic education for all.
51. The Conference of African Ministers Responsible for Human Development, in
conjunction with the follow-up Ministerial Committee of Fifteen, is playing a
catalytic role in the implementation of the various recommendations of the World
Summit for Social Development. Following extensive discussions on the 1995
issue of Human Development in Africa, the follow-up Committee of Fifteen agreed
that its next issue should include measurable indicators to assess the progress
made in advancing social development at the country level. The report also
serves as a tool for inter-agency monitoring at the regional level.
52. As part of its overall efforts, the ECA secretariat continues to
promote socio-economic development in the region. In that connection, two
publications, Report on the Economic and Social Situation in Africa 1995, and
Economic and Social Survey of Africa, 1994/1995, analysing the social conditions
in the region, have been prepared by the ECA secretariat. In addition, seminars
on the social impact of structural adjustment programmes have been held in
cooperation with the Arab Research Centre at Cairo and the National School of
Administration and Magistracy at Yaoundé, Cameroon, in 1995. Particular
emphasis was placed on providing assistance to ECA member States in the
planning, development and utilization of human resources through workshops,
seminars and training. In cooperation with the African Women in Crisis Umbrella
Programme of the United Nations Development Fund for Women, the ECA secretariat
organized a conference on the theme "Legal status of refugee and internally
displaced women in Africa".
Page 16
53. A joint project with UNICEF led to the publication of the Atlas of the
African Child in 1995, as a follow-up to the consensus of Dakar, the World
Summit for Children and the African Common Position on Human and Social
Development in Africa. The Atlas graphically focuses attention on the myriad
problems facing African children; its main message is that developing human
capabilities and meeting the basic needs of the child are the prerequisites and
cornerstones to sustainable human development in Africa.
54. With regard to health problems, a senior policy seminar on the social
impact of HIV/AIDS in households and families in Africa provided an important
forum for experts, policy makers and practitioners to examine the socio-economic
and cultural impact of HIV/AIDS on household families, the individual and
society at large. In addition, the experts assessed the impact of known
HIV/AIDS preventive strategies, such as condom promotion, sensitization
campaigns and the control of sexually transmitted diseases, and suggested other
practical strategies that could be used to halt the rapid spread of the HIV/AIDS
epidemic in Africa.
B. Youth
55. Youth represent approximately 19 per cent of the African population, a
figure that is expected to increase given the present rate of population growth.
It is clear, therefore, that youth represent a vast potential for human resource
development in Africa, particularly when viewed in the light of the adverse
socio-economic circumstances prevailing in the region. Accordingly, the ECA
secretariat organized jointly with the Commonwealth Youth Programme Africa
Centre a regional expert group meeting on youth, drugs and health. The findings
of the meeting indicate that the scope of the drug problem and consequent health
hazards have not spared the African region. The scourge of drug addiction has
spread progressively throughout the continent, threatening all segments of
society, especially young people. Illegal drug production and trafficking is
expanding as an increasing number of African countries serve as production and
transit points. Moreover, available data demonstrate that while sexually
transmitted diseases (STDs) occur among the sexually active population as a
whole between 15 and 49 years of age, the incidence of STDs among youth (15-25)
is particularly high and is increasing rapidly.
C. Families in development
56. The ECA secretariat has prepared a paper entitled, "The impact of political
conflicts and instability on social progress and cohesion in Africa with
emphasis on the family". The paper points out that although there are many
factors that give rise to conflicts in Africa, the most important are unequal
development and gross disparities among different communities within the same
country; absence of democratic process; the inability of States to guarantee the
security of persons; and various exogenous factors. The paper maintains that
the roots of violence in Africa are to be found in power politics, traditional
tribal rivalries and personal vendettas. Since the family is the basic social
unit for nurturing and educating children, and is very often the victim of
Page 17
violence, the paper stressed the need to do everything possible to protect
families both during and after periods of conflict, such as civil wars.
57. Assistance in the form of substantive inputs was also provided by the ECA
secretariat to the African Centre for Applied Research and Training in Social
Development, and the United Nations African Institute for the Prevention of
Crime and Treatment of Offenders. ECA also participated in the Ninth United
Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, held
at Cairo from 28 April to 8 May 1995.
A. Social development and welfare
58. As a result of investment in building the infrastructure for social
services in the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) region
over the past two decades, social development indicators have shown a steady
growth in terms of improved health services and a quantitative increase of
educational output and nutrition. Nevertheless, the region has registered a
decline in the overall social situation. Apart from political factors, the
situation has been exacerbated by a combination of relatively high fertility
rates, high rates of unplanned urbanization (rural/urban migration), and poor
educational systems that do not properly equip graduates to obtain productive
employment. Those developments have led to a worsening of the problems of
unemployment and poverty in the region.
59. The past decade has brought a shift in approach to public service delivery.
Services are increasingly provided in a piecemeal fashion in an attempt to
contain a growing urban crisis. Provisions are motivated by pressure to meet
the needs of an increasing population while adhering to cost constraints. The
predominant feature of the past decade has been an attempt for the public sector
to withdraw from the provision of housing and services, resulting in a marked
drop in the standard, quality and frequency of the distribution of services.
Since the late 1980s, the structural adjustment policies adopted under stringent
macroeconomic conditions in such countries as Egypt and Jordan have been paving
the way for privatizing public services. It is not yet clear how those measures
are affecting the cost, quality and standards of the services delivered and what
their ultimate impact will be on people's living standards and quality of life.
Nonetheless, a rise in the level of urban poverty has already been noted in such
countries that seems to coincide with the downward trend in the provision of
basic amenities to the public.
60. With regard to unemployment, the present trend to privatize the public
sector in an effort to reduce dependence on the welfare state has further
exacerbated the unemployment situation, especially given the high growth rate of
the youth population. More people will be released from long-standing
government employment, with low levels of skills that do not allow them to find
jobs in the private sector. Privatization in particular and structural
adjustment policies in general may be economically feasible, but their negative
social consequences are enormous. At the same time, globalization of the world
economy contributes to the vulnerability of uncompetitive enterprises and can
Page 18
lead to additional unemployment. Those developments have given rise to doubledigit
unemployment rates for the region as a whole during the 1990s.
Unemployment rates in non-oil producing countries are among the highest in the
world, with real wages falling more rapidly than in any other region and the
average worker earning no more in real terms than he did in the early 1970s.
The deterioration in wages occurred even though massive investment in human
capital outpaced that of any other region. With unemployment persisting in most
countries of the region in the past decade and with no solution in sight, the
situation will eventually result in long-term unemployment.
61. To summarize, ESCWA countries are facing a vast number of emerging
challenges involving labour market problems related to labour absorption; the
restructuring of education; the creation of productive employment opportunities;
structural imbalances in the labour market of each country; underemployment in
the public sector; rehabilitation of the unemployed, especially those who
suffered from long-term unemployment; integration of new entrants to the labour
markets, especially youth; restructuring and downsizing of the public sector;
and increasing pressures to pursue market-based growth paths and to open to the
global economy. Solving those problems will require adopting a new approach to
human capital that differs vastly from the past, and such solutions are unlikely
to be found at the country level. The trend to globalize the international
economy implies open access to large markets but at the same time increases
global competition.
62. On the question of poverty, it should be noted that, apart from political
factors such as wars and internal conflicts and the poor management of the
financial and human resources, which play a major role in increasing poverty,
the spread of poverty in the region has also been the result of several socioeconomic
factors that have developed over time, including high rates of
population growth that have not been matched by adequate economic growth;
chaotic rural migration to urban centres, coupled with the development of urban
slum areas; and lack of employment opportunities for new entrants to the labour
market. Moreover, a combination of poor income distribution and ineffective
safety nets has led to the further spread of poverty.
63. The current situation in many countries is one of increased economic
difficulties, deteriorating social sectors and soaring unemployment. Those
developments have led to the impoverishment of the middle class and the creation
of a new group of poor, adding to the complexity of defining the poor and
poverty of the region. The problems generated by the new category of poor will
require specific policies and measures. In certain respects, they are very
different from the traditional poor in that they tend to be better educated,
generally healthy, have smaller families, and are possibly more employable with
properly guided retraining programmes.
64. Other social ills currently confronting the region are related to crime,
family disintegration, drug abuse, and the marginalization and alienation of
certain social groups. Although the magnitude of such problems is still small
compared with the situation in other regions, the fact it has grown at a rapid
rate during the past decade warrants special attention. The spread and growth
of such social problems is directly linked to the rise in poverty and lack of
job opportunities. Poverty, coupled with the inability to find a proper job,
Page 19
can result in frustrations that lead to extremism and violence, hence social
instability. As such, a new social contract that conforms to the new global
realities is needed to alleviate poverty and unemployment.
65. In order to address those complex social problems, ESCWA has increasingly
given top priority to social issues, just as it does to economic matters. In
the area of poverty alleviation, the ESCWA secretariat has undertaken a number
of technical studies on the concept, measurement and determinants of poverty in
Western Asia. In a study on poverty measurement, ESCWA is developing a poverty
estimation model based on private consumption, nutritional intake, enrolment in
primary education, and the infant mortality rate in the countries of the region.
Based on that model, the percentage of the population in various countries has
been estimated for 1992. A second regional study, entitled "Poverty in Western
Asia: a social perspective", provides a poverty profile for the region, with
analysis on the extent, nature and causes of poverty. The study singles out
four issues to assess their correlation to poverty: population dynamics,
employment, health and education. It also identified groups of people most
affected by poverty.
66. The ESCWA secretariat has undertaken several poverty profiles for countries
or areas in the region, including for Iraq, Lebanon, and the West Bank and Gaza.
Once the country profiles and sectoral studies are completed, emphasis will
shift to the evaluation of policy measures adopted by ESCWA member States to
combat poverty. The final stage (1998-1999 biennium) will be devoted to
proposing operational policies aimed at eradicating poverty in the region.
67. Regarding issues related to social integration, ESCWA has concentrated its
efforts on enhancing local community development in selected rural areas of
Syria and Egypt through the mobilization of local capabilities and the
participation of available human resources. The project is supported by the
United Nations Volunteers and the Arab Gulf Programme for United Nations
Development Organizations (AGFUND). A final evaluation was made in
November 1996, with prospects for expansion to include other countries in the
region, such as Lebanon. Several studies and lessons learned from the
implementation of the project will be issued in due course.
68. The ESCWA secretariat provides technical assistance and support to
Governments in establishing sustainable human development networks. In
addition, it provides backstopping to Governments to prepare national human
development reports. The ESCWA Human Development Section is implementing with
the United Nations Development Programme a project entitled "Preparatory
assistance for regional support of national efforts in pursuit of sustainable
human resources". The project aims to implement the concept of sustainable
human development through supporting national efforts to adopt and implement the
concepts and methodologies of SHD. The main goals of the project are to support
national efforts in pursuit of sustainable human development and to establish a
mechanism for the exchange of information and experiences in that field at the
national and regional levels; to participate in the dissemination of information
on successful experiences in sustainable human development and the theoretical
evolution of the concept and methodology of SHD; and to establish an Arab
strategy for sustainable human development and formulate a programme for the
implementation of that strategy.
Page 20
69. To achieve those goals, the following activities have been planned:
creating national networks on sustainable human development in at least four
countries; engaging concerned governmental institutions and scientific research
centres, and establishing a regional sustainable human development network;
holding two workshops on successful practical experiences in SHD, the first at
Cairo on the report of the Egyptian human development experience held in
May 1995, the second at Khartoum on community development; and publishing six
specialized studies on sustainable human development in the Arab world.
B. Disabled persons
70. In the area of social integration and as a follow-up to the World Summit
for Social Development, ESCWA has promoted the study of disability-related
activities towards disadvantaged and vulnerable groups and persons. A study
entitled "The situation of disabled women: their marginalization and measures
for social integration in the ESCWA region" was issued to that end.
71. ESCWA has opened the Arab Regional Computer Training Centre for Blind Women
at Amman. The ongoing project is organized in collaboration with the Regional
Centre for Rehabilitation and Training for Blind Girls at Amman, with funding
provided by AGFUND and the United Nations Voluntary Fund on Disability, and with
support from the Japan International Cooperation Agency. The project aims to
upgrade the literacy levels of blind women and train them in basic computer
skills in order to enhance their employment opportunities.
72. Another disability-related programme activity is the updating of the
bibliography on disability issues in the Arab region, which was published in
1989. The bibliography is being processed on the Integrated Scientific
Information System programme, and will be published in 1997.
C. Families in development
73. The structure of the Arab family has been undergoing radical
transformation. Armed conflicts and political disturbances, rapid urbanization,
industrialization, migration, new technologies and access to information have
led to a gradual erosion of traditional social values and norms. Socio-economic
factors, including the growing participation of women in the labour force, have
had their impact on the fabric of the family in the region, contributing to the
rise of the nuclear family and changing attitudes and values that affect
relations among family members. The extended family is giving way to the
nuclear family, in both urban and in rural areas due to internal and external
migration. Despite that change, an alternative to the traditional family as a
social institution and as a source of cohesion and support within the society
has not emerged, although some of its functions are being assumed by other
74. While traditional family forms remain the norm in much of the region,
changing social and economic realities have imposed increasing pressure among
family members in recent decades. Those changes are posing difficult challenges
for the Arab family and for policy makers concerned with maintaining social
Page 21
stability and cohesion. Such challenges include the weakening of family ties
due partially to spatial mobility; gradual shifting away from extended to
nuclear and more flexible family forms; an increasing emphasis on individual
rather than communitarian social values; and a redefining of the traditional
roles and expectations of individual family members, particularly those of women
as caregivers, towards more egalitarian and task-sharing partnerships within the
75. During the current biennium, family issues are being addressed separately
and within the framework of other activities: a database is to be built on
policies and measures to address the impact of current social changes on women
and the family in the region, and a publication entitled Annotated Bibliography
on Arab Women and the Family: A Critical Assessment is to be issued.
76. As a follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women and the
International Year of the Family, an operational regional programme for action
was formulated to further the advancement of Arab women and cement ties within
the Arab family. Towards that end, an Arab conference on formulating a regional
programme for action and follow-up mechanism was convened one year after the
Fourth World Conference on Women at Amman from 25 to 29 September 1996. The
Arab conference adopted a programme of action identifying concrete projets in
three areas of critical concern to Arab women and the family: poverty,
decision-making and family issues. Activities under the family theme fall under
the umbrella of alleviating women's poverty through their empowerment, and
include a survey of female-headed households on the feasibility of setting up
micro-credit lending facilities for poor women in rural and urban areas and for
female single-headed households; and studying the changing values of youth in
families, with a focus on identity crisis in conflict-stricken areas in the