- Check against delivery -
I have the honor to speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.
The Candidate Countries the Republic of North Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Serbia*and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the Republic of Moldova, align themselves with this statement.
The report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of the World Summit for Social Development pays particular attention to universal and equitable access to education and health care.
The EU and its Member States are fully committed to achieving inclusive, equitable, and quality education and training at all levels, in a lifelong learning perspective for all and at all stages in life, both within the EU and globally. Universal access to inclusive quality education and training for everyone, regardless of gender or disabilities is a fundamental human right and a prerequisite for breaking cycles of inter-generational poverty, while instrumental in fostering active citizenship, promoting empowerment, and enabling knowledge-based, inclusive and innovative societies.
The international dimension of the EU education, training, and culture policies and programmes, significantly contributes to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and its SDGs, among others by assisting EU partner countries in the internationalisation and modernisation of their education, training and youth sectors, in capacity building, active aging and increasing people-to-people contacts and the possibilities of participation.
The EU and its Member States participated actively in the United Nations high-level meeting on universal health coverage held on 23 September 2019 and take note of the political declaration adopted.
The European Consensus for Development recognizes that health is central to people’s lives and is a key element of equitable and sustainable growth and development, including poverty eradication. The EU and its Member States reaffirm their commitment to protecting and promoting the right of everyone to enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, so as to promote human dignity, well-being and prosperity. They will continue to support partner countries in their efforts to build strong, good-quality and resilient health systems, by providing equitable access to health services and universal health coverage. This is also part of our efforts on supporting social protection for all. The European Union and its Member states participated very actively in the 57th session of the Commission on Social Development that focused on addressing inequalities and challenges to social inclusion through fiscal, wage and social protection policies.
We highlighted that inequalities are more moderate in Europe than in other regions of the world. This is not by chance, but the result of a set of public policies. Significant public expenditure in healthcare, education and training, employment, social inclusion, pensions and long-term care are a key part of the European social model. Yet we recognize that some groups remain at a particular disadvantage in access to quality health care, employment and education, like persons with disabilities. Income inequality in the EU would have been much higher without the redistributive effects of taxes and transfers. This has allowed Europe to perform better than other advanced economies in reducing inequality. Regarding wage levels, statutory minimum wage floors are in place in 22 of the 28 EU Member States and collectively bargained sectoral minimum wages are in place in each of the others.
In the EU, social protection systems have also helped the EU to contain the rise of inequalities that is observed across the globe since the 1980s. Maintaining and updating our model of social protection is possibly the biggest structural challenge for the decade to come in Europe. As part of a Social Fairness package, the European Commission proposed guidance on how to adapt the social protection systems to the changing world of work and to better protect people in non-standard work and self-employment. In this context the EU supports the Global Partnership for Universal Social Protection to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals also called USP2030.
Despite showing relatively stability at the aggregate level, income inequality is significant between generations in Europe. We regret that young people have substantially weaker employment outcomes as compared to adults in almost all EU countries. This is why we introduced the EU youth guarantee to ensure that all young people under the age of 25 years get a good quality offer for employment, apprenticeship, traineeship or education. Although, youth unemployment has reached its lowest level on record in the EU since 2000, further efforts are needed, in particular to reach out to those young people that are hardest to reach, who are often those with fewer opportunities. The new EU Youth Strategy for the period 2019-2027 aims to give young people a stronger voice in EU policy making, and pays particular attention to reaching disadvantaged young people. At the same time, we are also fully committed to addressing inequalities also at later stages in life, including through inclusive adult learning systems including learning systems for elderly persons. With regard to the worldwide increasing number of elderly persons, the EU is as well committed to support the efforts at UN-level to ensure the full enjoyment of all human rights by elderly persons, e.g. by participating in the open debates of the Open-Ended-Working Group on Ageing and the efforts of the UNECE-Working Group on Aging. The EU intends to develop a Greenbook on active ageing to strengthen the rights of autonomy and participation of elderly persons.
Inequalities have also a gender dimension. Balancing work and family life is a daily challenge for women and men all over Europe. Our policies, including a Recommendation on Pay Transparency and an EU Action Plan 2017-2019 on "Tracking the gender pay gap", aim to reduce the gender pay gap. This summer, we adopted a Work-Life Balance directive to help working parents and carers to better combine work with family and caring responsibilities. The Directive establishes new or higher minimum standards for parental, paternity and carers' leave. Violence against Women (VAW) remains an obstacle towards equitable access to social development. Based on the fact that 1 in 3 women in the EU has been victim of a form of violence since the age of 15, the European Commission has made high commitments for women's rights and the elimination of VAW. The expected adoption of a European Gender Equality Strategy and the intention to join the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, are only two examples of the positive steps and commitments of the EU.
We regret that at the EU, 30.2% of persons with disabilities aged 16 and over live in households that are at risk of poverty or social exclusion compared to 20.8% of persons without a disability. In addition, the annual gross employee cash income received by persons with disabilities is 11% less compared to the amount received by persons without disabilities. The EU and its Member States are making significant efforts to address those gaps. The European Union, as a Party to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, continues to mainstream disability issues in the actions to combat unemployment and works towards their full participation in society on an equal basis with others. The adoption of the European Accessibility Act brings hope for significant reduction of accessibility barriers persons with disabilities experience in accessing products and services, hence improving equal access to society and economy.
At the EU, European Pillar of Social Rights is our main guidance for implementing the social dimension of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs. The Pillar is set to deliver new and more effective rights for citizens by focusing on three main areas: i) equal opportunities and access to the labour market, ii) fair working conditions; and iii) social protection and social inclusion. The very first principle of the European Pillar of Social Rights is about Education, training and life-long learning
Adult learning is increasingly important. Low-qualified adults who need skills most are least likely to participate in learning. Going forward, even the most basic tasks in our economy will increasingly require a broader set of digital, communication and people-oriented skills. The European Commission's New Skills Agenda for Europe offers a framework to make that shift, with Upskilling Pathways: New Opportunities for Adults.
A shared, prosperous and sustainable future for all can only be achieved by clearly bringing together the social, economic and environmental dimensions in an integrated and holistic manner. The success of the transition to a low-carbon economy depends on the support of our citizens and, in consequence, policies addressing environmental sustainability and climate stability should be designed such that they are also socially-inclusive and fair.
The newly appointed President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, wants to strive for more when it comes to social fairness and prosperity. Each European Commissioner will have to ensure the delivery of the SDGs within their respective policy area and the European Commission as whole will be responsible for the overall implementation of the Goals.
The newly appointed President of the European Commission intends to propose a legal instrument to ensure that every worker in the EU has a fair minimum wage, a European Unemployment Benefit Reinsurance Scheme, reinforce the Youth Guarantee to fight youth unemployment, develop a European Child Guarantee and create an action plan to implement the European Pillar of Social Rights.
Let me finish by saying that we also take very seriously the global challenges ahead. In this respect, we hope that the European Consensus on Development will be a key instrument to support Social Development around the World. The EU Consensus for Development, which has poverty eradication as its primary objective, seeks to support the achievement of all 17 Sustainable Development Goals in an integrated manner. It also underlines our intention to work more strongly and effectively with all our partners – including by forging new relationships.
* The Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.