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I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.
The Candidate Countries Turkey, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Serbia* and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Georgia, align themselves with this statement.
First of all, we would like to thank the Department of Economic and Social Affairs for the preparatory work carried out in advance of this session and the Secretary-General for his report which provides the basis for our debate today. We would also like to welcome the focus of this session of the Commission for Social Development on “Strategies for eradicating poverty to achieve sustainable development for all”.
Today`s debate is strongly linked to the joint efforts we are currently engaged in to effectively implement the 2030 Agenda with its Sustainable Development Goals and targets. This Agenda represents a commitment to eradicate poverty and achieve sustainable development by 2030 worldwide, ensuring that no one is left behind.
The European Union and its Member States are fully committed to be frontrunners in implementing the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs, in line with the principle of subsidiarity.
Sustainable development has since long been at the heart of the European project. The EU Treaties give recognition to its economic, social and environmental dimensions which should be addressed together. The EU is committed to development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. A life of dignity for all within the planet’s limits that reconciles economic prosperity and efficiency, peaceful societies, social inclusion and environmental responsibility is at the essence of sustainable development.
The 2030 Agenda will further catalyse a joined-up approach between the EU’s external actions and its internal policies, including in the area of poverty eradication and the fight against social exclusion, as well as the work for inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all.
Indeed, while all 28 Member States are now recovering from the crisis, poverty and exclusion are still a reality. Across the EU, 119 million people are at risk of poverty or social exclusion. Children and young people are those who are affected the most compared to the rest of the population.
More jobs and growth are the best drivers of bringing people out of poverty or social exclusion. This is why we made this a priority through launching the investment plan for Europe and putting a more social Europe at the heart of Europe`s political agenda, which we aim to achieve through integrated and comprehensive actions.
Our efforts are bearing fruit. Nine million young people have already benefitted from the Youth Guarantee and we have recently topped it up with additional €2 billion to help an additional 2 million young people. Through the European Social Fund we are allocating at least 20 percent of finance to measures combating poverty and social exclusion.
In addition, more emphasis is put on social priorities in the framework of the European Semester – which is the yearly cycle of economic policy coordination within the EU – and also via reform and investment in each EU Member State. This is taking shape through a wide array of policies and actions linking up to economic and social policies. For example, EU Member States are in the process of redesigning their social protection systems to improve the promotion of labour market participation and provide adequate employment security and income replacement. Tax and benefits schemes are also increasingly geared towards providing adequate social support and work incentives. National pension systems are increasingly better reflecting growing life expectancy. Efforts are also being made to ensure that health policies support and reinforce social safety nets and active inclusion strategies.
Furthermore, in support of EU Member States` policies, EU-level actions have been put in place or initiated recently to address long-term unemployment within the EU, which is a key employment and social challenge impinging on Europe`s jobs and growth strategy. Also, a new Accessibility Act is proposed to ensure that disabled and older people can get access to goods and services necessary for them to participate fully in society. The New Skills Agenda for Europe launched last year will help improve the quality of people`s skills and their relevance for the labour market. According to studies, 70 million Europeans lack adequate reading and writing skills, and even more have poor numeracy and digital skills, which puts them at risk of unemployment, poverty and social exclusion.
This comprehensive EU approach resonates strongly with the first recommendation set out in the Secretary-General`s report to this Committee, which advocates for “comprehensive, integrated and coordinated approaches to achieve sustainable poverty eradication”. Indeed, EU experience confirms that structural reforms, innovative active inclusion approaches and solutions, which combine adequate income support, access to quality services and inclusive labour markets, while ensuring equal opportunities for both women and men, are necessary to fight poverty and social exclusion effectively, especially in a context of fiscal sustainability constraints.
In addition, in order for the EU and the euro area to be able to translate our agenda for social fairness into further concrete actions, work is underway towards a European Pillar of Social Rights. This initiative, once adopted later this year, will become a reference framework to screen employment and social performance of participating EU Member States and to drive reforms at national level, while also serving as a compass for upward social convergence within the euro area and beyond.
In order for these actions to become a success, we engage with the relevant EU-level and national public and private actors. This includes promoting various opportunities of exchange for a better dialogue with social partners and civil society to stimulate the sharing of best practices with regard to innovative integrated approaches to combat poverty and social exclusion.
Concerning EU external action, the key objective of our development policy is to help eradicate poverty in a context of sustainable development. It is a cornerstone of EU relations with the outside world – alongside foreign, security and trade policy, as well as the international aspects of other policies like environment, agriculture and fisheries. Providing over half of all global development aid, the EU remains the world’s leading donor.
Late last year, the European Commission and the European External Action Service presented a proposal for a new European Consensus on Development whose objective is to do more, do it better and do it differently. Once adopted, this new Consensus will provide the framework for a common approach to development policy shared by and applied by the EU and its Member States, working together to implement the 2030 Agenda and its SDGs.
The proposal reflects the paradigm shift established by the Addis Ababa Action Agenda – which is an integral part of the 2030 Agenda – placing domestic actions and sound policies at its heart. It reflects the fact that each country has primary responsibility for its own economic and social development and promotes a new global partnership for sustainable development, encompassing policies and financial means.
The new Consensus includes a series of examples of how EU development policy might change in response to the 2030 Agenda, including in the areas closely connected to poverty eradication, such as actions to promote gender equality, youth employment, access to energy eservices, universal health coverage, universal access to quality education and training, adequate and sustainable social protection and decent work for all, as well as focusing of aid on the poorest and fragile states.
The European External Investment Plan which is also proposed, is an example of a ‘smarter’ use of Official Development Assistance to leverage funding from other sources, create quality and decent jobs, and generate inclusive sustainable growth for the benefit of the poorest. It will encourage investments that otherwise would not happen – for example in conflict-affected areas or where economic governance is lacking.
* The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.