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Statement by Denmark at the High Level meeting on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the World Summit for Social Development

17.12.2015  18:42
Statement by Denmark at the High Level meeting on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the World Summit for Social Development on Friday 11 December, 2015.
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Madame President, distinguished colleagues and guests

As Denmark’s Permanent Representative I feel honored and privileged to speak here today on behalf of Denmark at this session on the importance of outcome of the World Summit for Social Development.

When the Summit took place in Copenhagen in 1995, it was at that time the most significant international conference ever to take place in Denmark. In fact, it was at that time the largest gathering of Heads of State and Government ever to take place anywhere, as well as the very first UN conference on social development. You could actually feel the excitement, the expectations and the extraordinary sense of commitment in the halls of the Conference Center. I remember it - I participated myself back then in 1995 as a young diplomat serving as a liaison officer for the official delegation of Zimbabwe to the Summit.

Denmark was extremely proud to host the Social Summit. Solidarity and inclusive social development have been defining elements in the development of the Danish society as we know it today. It has for more than fifty years been defining elements in our engagement with the poorest countries in the world, and it remains so today.

Madame President,

The main topics for the 1995 Social Summit were the eradication of poverty, the achievement of full employment for all and the enhancement of social integration.  In reflecting on the importance of the Social Summit, and the relevance of the Program of Action also today, allow me to quote from the Summit statement of the late President Nelson Mandela of South Africa: “We are gathered here to answer one question: how does humanity co-operate to build a better life for all.”

This question remains as relevant and pertinent today as it was 20 years ago. It was this question we set out to answer with the 1995 Program of Action, with the development of “Millennium Development Goals” in 2000, with the outcome document “The Future We Want” of the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012, and now again in the historic 2030 Agenda just adopted in September this year.

As part of the 2030 development agenda the social dimension is solidly reflected as one of three overarching dimensions – as we know, the two other being the economic and environmental dimensions. This is of course significant as social development is acknowledged as the integral part of sustainable development, it was recognized to be already in 1995 in Copenhagen. If the ambitious 2030 Agenda is to be achieved it is crucial that we leave no one behind.

That goes for unemployed youth, for older persons with low or no income, for persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, and any other group in risk of marginalization. Today, we still see in many societies that people are being marginalized or are at risk of marginalization – solely because of their gender, or because of their ethnicity, or because of their sexuality or because of other factors. We need to ensure that such groups are not left behind, that they are included and that their human rights are respected and protected.

Creating and ensuring equal opportunities for all citizens is not a simple task – but it is possible. Clearly, it is the responsibility of governments, but it is equally clear that governments will have to partner with a wide range of stakeholders to get the job done - including the social sectors. Allow me to give one example of what this can mean in real life.

“The Specialists” is a social economic company in Denmark with the purpose of using the specific resources and skills that people with autism and similar challenges have. The employees work as business consultants on tasks such as software testing, programming and data-entry for the public and the private sector. The company is a leading participant in a global movement to create jobs for people with autism and similar challenges, people who otherwise often face exclusion. Today there are “Specialists” in 11 countries besides Denmark.

It is examples like this that we have to build on in order to continue the positive developments towards more inclusive job markets as in this instance and more inclusive societies overall.

Madame President,

We have come a long way in implementing the 1995 Program of Action but clearly we are still short of achieving social development for all. We need to continue the fight against extreme poverty, against exclusion of groups and countries, against the suppression of individual’s human rights. It has to be an integral part of the Post-2015 Agenda, and it can be done.

Let me conclude by another quote – this time from the 1995 Program of Action, Chapter 5 on implementation, which in its first sentence read: “Nothing short of a renewed and massive political will at the national and international levels to invest in people and their well-being will achieve the objectives of social development.” Let that guide us in the work ahead on finalizing and implementing the Post-2015 Agenda, and let me assure you of Denmark’s continued strong engagement in the fight for a better life for all.