Tomorrow, February 15 is the closing day of the Commission for Social Development. It has been an engaging two weeks – the first in-person meeting of the commission since February 2020. The Commission meetings were dominated by the impacts of the pandemic, the climate crisis and geopolitical conflicts all contributing to and exacerbating inequalities in access to health, education and jobs. The continual call was for countries to create productive employment and decent work and ensure universal social protection by right to all including all disadvantaged and vulnerable groups. We are awaiting the adoption of the resolution on the priority themes to judge if actions committed to by member states are commensurate with the scale of the problem. Cuba’s representative speaking on behalf of G77 and China put price tag of $3.3 to $4.5 trillion per year as the amount required to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals within the given timeline in developing countries.
The formal program of panels and general discussion were accompanied by activities of the NGO Community delivering the Civil Society Declaration at the opening session, hosting multiple side events on related topics, moderating and speaking as experts on panels, leading at the Civil Society Forum on Friday February 10 and making oral statement at the conclusion of the general discussion on Monday February 13. Many of you were signatories to the Civil Society Declaration.
The Civil Society Declaration in English; La Declaración de la Sociedad Civil en Español; La Déclaration de la société civile en français; A Declaração da Sociedade Civil em Português; إعلان المجتمع المدني باللغة العربية
Group of NGO’s who made oral statements on Monday February 13, 2023
The Congregation co-sponsored a side event on Tuesday February 7 entlitled: “Decent work for all: Ending vulnerability through education and economic empowerment.” The keynote speaker for this event was : Ambassador Amara Sowa, Deputy Permanent Representative of Sierra Leone, who has a distinguished career in education and government. The Ambassador is passionate about education for all but particularly concerned for the importance of KG for all children and education for girls including girls who may be pregnant. The range of projects presented covered multiple issues. Chirag Education Culture and Health Awareness Centre, an NGO under the jurisdiction of Patna Province of the Congregation of Jesus presented on women’s self help groups. Rhea Sethi, Child Development Program Officer at the Red Dot Foundation, Satara District of Maharashtra, India outlined empowerment programs with women and children. Sister Jackline Mwongela, an advocate against human trafficking in Kenya spoke of the vulnerability of young people to traffickers and Sister Silvia Zábavová, an activist and professor working among the Roma community in Slovakia presented various projects conducted since 2011 including a project in cooperation with the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs of the Sloval Republic, called “Prevention and elimination of discrimination against Roma women in the municipality of Jarovnice” This training took place from Oct 2019 to July 2022 and helped 140 Roma women and girls with pre-employment training. It was co-financed by the EU. Anjali Singh, a teacher at the Kolkata Mary Ward Social Centre, Jamshedpur, India shared a beautician training for girls and women as a way to assist with financial issues, increase self-reliance, and empowerment. The session was moderated my two impressive youth leaders. We co-sponsored this event because it echoes in so many way the ministries that Good Shepherd engage in around the world in anti- human trafficking work, skills development, empowerment and financial inclusion with girls, women and children.
The second side event was on Wednesday February 8 entitled “On the Road to 2025: A new Social Contract Implementing Universal Social Protection, Ensuring Full Employment and Decent Work for All” We were honored to have Ms. Hanna Sarkkinen, Minister of Social Affairs and Health of Finland. This event demonstrates the many positive steps forward since 2011that have been taken in embedding social protections systems and floors for all within national legislation and programs. The event was dedicated to the memory of Prof. Michael Cichon. Michael was the inspiration behind and driver of Recommendation 202, founder of the Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors and he has been an inspiring example to so many people around the world. Winifred Doherty has been a member of the Global Coalition since its beginning.
It has been recorded and you can read more about the event and speakers HERE
The Civil Society Forum started on Sunday February 5 during the full day of February 10th. Sude Gorke, an intern at the GSIJP Office facilitated a very engaging Networking Session. She was engaged throughout the Commission and outlines her experience here.
My Experience at the Civil Society Forum and CSocD61
As a political science student, I was overjoyed at the prospect of attending a UN Commission and learning more about international cooperation. Thus far, my education about the UN and other international organizations had only been in classroom settings. Real first hand experience, such as attending CSocD61, has been difficult to come by with the current pandemic crisis. For this reason, I am thankful to the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd and the NGO Committee for Social Development for allowing me to attend this year’s session.
The speakers at each event were highly knowledgeable in the economic and social sectors of governments and voiced their opinions proudly. Many topics were on the agenda, including social protection floors, working towards increasing decent jobs, youth unemployment, and gender equality. These are all topics that affect me as a young woman living in the United States and I am thankful for the speakers for addressing awareness on issues pertaining to not only my future, but also everyone’s future, in which concrete policies and social protection reforms can be realized and upheld.
From attending CSocD61, I have become more hopeful in the prospects of our futures on this Earth. It is not often that you are able to recognize first-hand the work being done on the international level to address our global issues. Witnessing the speakers actually fight for a just labor market gives me hope that the future can be more equitable and equal for us all.
One of the most outstanding speakers of the 10 days has been Dr. Arash Fazli, Baha’i International Community. Dr Arash spoke on February 10th at the Civil Society Forum Thematic Session No 2: Rethinking the Dominant Economic Paradigm – Ensuring Social Protections and Just Transitions in the World of Work. 3pm-4:30pm. Sude Gorke compiled the following notes on his presentation:
- When we look at the post-COVID world, there is a great deal of soul searching that is happening amongst world leaders, because there is a deepening consciousness that the systems of our world are not working, that something fundamental must change, it is no longer enough to tinker with the systems that exist to make small adjustments.
- There is something wrong with the development model that we’ve adopted. Based on neoclassical economic thinking, it was basically one that saw the human being as a bundle of needs and wants and the characterization of the human being was of utility-maximizing, self-interested actor. The understanding was that the kind of structure that we need for society is one of constant consumption and production. You create a society which has at its center the pursuit of economic growth and limitless wealth. This is the fundamental problem; most of our problems in the world stem from this organizing logic; the pursuit of unlimited economic growth.
- The market has become the mediator of all the needs and all the aspirations of humanity.
- Commodification of relationships, everything in human nature.
- Market values crowd out all other values. They become token values and what ends up mattering most is economic considerations.
- The problem is when something that is meant to be a means to an end becomes the end itself. Economic growth has always been a means to an end, the means by which people would be productivity employed so that they could then pursue the higher goals, the goals around which our civilization could flourish. However, what ended up happening was that the means to an end became the end itself.
- If one is saying that endless economic growth should not be at the center of our enterprise, what should?
- The pandemic has taught us a few things about this. We are fragile and even the strongest of us can be brought down very easily. We are completely interconnected. We depend on each other. Dependence is seen as weakness. But actually what you need is a system that is built on this interconnectedness and interdependence.
- We need a new set of values to center our society which are based on reciprocity, collaboration, cooperation– and on the highest aspirations of human societies everywhere is this conception of development as being just the provision of material needs and wants needs to be broadened to include people’s spiritual aspirations. People do not see themselves as just a bundle of needs and wants.
- What implications does this new view of society have for the economy?
- Economic institutions have an organic relationship with the values in society. Neoclassical economists assume that values are givens, that they are there in the world the way you have geographical formations, that you can let society function, you can let the economy function, and it just stays that way. This is not correct.
- Values can strengthen or weaken economic institutions. In our current system, you are under competitive pressures constantly that the system creates that even if a person wants, they cannot even begin to think about assisting others.
- Climate change requires our generation to sacrifice its self-interest for people living in the Pacific. We have to make serious changes to our lives, fundamental changes to our lives. For generations to come. There is no way this generation which is somehow fed on the idea of self-interest cannot develop these qualities.
- Our economic system has to create a new system of awards and incentives so that behaviors which are in alignment with altruism are rewarded.
- Our concept of efficiency must change. Currently, efficiency is based on the least amount of input for the most amount of output. The damage to the environment, cultural practices, and people’s social relationships are all considered externalities and not calculated in the input.
- All economic activity will have to be limited by the goals of sustainability, by the goals of building societies with strong relationships of solidarity, and by the necessity of holding higher aspirations of the people of that society.
The full recording of the session is available HERE. Following his presentation Winifred Doherty made this comment from the floor
The Position Paper of the Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors at the Commission for Social Development 61st Session. Winifred Doherty of the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd prepared the position paper. International KOLPING, International Presentation Association, Social Justice in Global Development, JusticeMakers Bangladesh, and Free Trade Union Development Center Sri Lanka, all members of the Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors endorsed the paper.
Winifred Doherty asked a question during the 9th Plenary Meeting – Multi Stakeholder Session – on February 9 which was moderated by Jean Quinn the Chair of the NGO Committee for Social Development. Full session is available HERE
Acknowledgement – We are grateful to Kimberly Moloche (GSIJP Office) who prepared the shortened video clips
One more outstanding presentation was made by Ms Lara Hicks of UNANIMA INTERNATIONAL at the 7th plenary Session of the Commission “Addressing the social impacts of multi-faceted crises to accelerate recovery from the lingering effects of the pandemic through the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This presentation is impressive and models how we can make effective contributions from experience in ministry to the halls of policy making. Lara’s segment begins at 01.01.10 and is well worth reviewing.