Posted on | February 1, 2012 by Stefano Gennarini, J.D. |
This morning the 50th session of the UN Commission for Social Development is beginning its work at UN headquarters. The Commission will meet over the next two weeks to discuss social development and related issues. The priority theme of the session is “poverty eradication”. The agenda of the 50th session can be found here.
The initial discussions at the Commmission for Social Development this morning saw several high level UN staff outlining the main themes and policies, including the President of ECOSOC, the Deputy Secretary General, the Secretary General for the Rio Conference, and the Director of DESA. Most drew attention to the priority theme, that is poverty eradication, as well as an emerging issue that will feature prominently in the deliberations of this session of the Commission: youth unemployment.
The interventions by these high level UN staff had a couple of emphasis that unfortunately characterize much discussion on Social Development at the UN, and that continue to be alarming. Firstly, the constant pitting of the wealthy of this world against the poor. The statement by the Deputy Secretary General, Asha-Rose Migiro, warned that if the gap between rich and poor were allowed to become a chasm it would lead to resentment. Secondly, the assumption that poverty is the root of all social evils. Ms. Migiro again, simply assumed an established causal link between poverty and crime, violence against women, depression, suicide, and all other manner of social ills. While a statistical correlation between poverty and other social ills may exist in certain countries, to elevate it to a causal link ignores that human beings are moral agents as well as rational actors.
Another alarming comment from the high level UN stafF came through the mouth of the UNDESA Director Daniela Bas, who called attention to the Year of the Family 2014. When beginning to speak of the social and economic contributions of the family to society, she firmly affirmed that such contributions are made, by the family “however defined”, possibly a reference to non-traditional forms of households like same-sex couples that adopt children.
Over the next two weeks delegations and other UN Staff will make contributions to the work of the Commission. Each will likely emphasize the social development issues that they believe are most relevant. It is unfortunate that the reductive paradigms and caricatures witnessed this morning will most likely re-surface.
The present session’s agenda and discussions are carried out in the light of this coming summer’s UN Conference on Sustainable Development. The Conference themes are: (a) a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication; and (b) the institutional framework for sustainable development.
The Commission for Social Development has an important role in uniting nations in common policies and efforts to address poverty and development issues. However, if the premises on which it bases its discussions pit rich against poor against each other, make erroneous assumptions about poverty, and give room to radical agendas, it will be difficult to build consensus and to address social development effectively.