The Commission on Social Development (CSocD), one of several commissions for the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), convened for its 48th session from February 3 to February 12, 2010, at the UN Secretariat in New York. The Commission comprises 46 member states that are elected on a rotating basis, and it serves primarily to address key social development themes and issues, as well as to follow up on implementation of the 1995 Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action regarding social development. While the Commission meets annually to address these issues, this year’s session marked an especially important milestone, as the Commission passed its first-ever resolution on promoting social integration. The resolution seeks to promote integrative policies as necessary in order to “eradicate poverty, promote full and productive employment, and achieve stable, safe, peaceful, harmonious and just societies for all”. Throughout the ten-day session, the Commission held meetings, high-level panel discussions, resolution consultations, and side events, all with a focus on social development and social integration.
As with all UN Commissions and forums, NGOs and civil society play a large and informative role. This year, the Civil Society Forum released an important statement in commemoration of the fifteenth anniversary of the Copenhagen Declaration. The statement advocates for a “Society for All”, encouraging governments to adopt policies and practices to promote the empowerment of all peoples. The statement goes on to emphasize the need of empowerment in order to eradicate poverty, among other goals of the Commission on Social Development, and concludes urging governments to adopt a new, strengthened human rights framework and address all issues of social exclusion within their states. The full text of the statement is available online, through the UN CSocD webpage.
While the Civil Society Forum statement is a tangible example of NGOs’ role within the Commission’s annual activities, side-events held during the ten-day session also allow NGOs to bring their on-the-ground experiences to the forefront of UN discussion regarding social development. During this session, VIVAT actively co-sponsored two successful side-events. The first, called “Climate Change, Poverty and Social Inclusion: Exploring the Links”, was a presentation that linked the ongoing climate crisis to the issue of poverty and social inclusion, illustrating how climate change relates to the topic. The second, called “Mining and Social Inclusion: Free, Prior and Informed Consent”, presented a short movie clip and speaker presentation which both addressed the dire circumstances surrounding mining practices, both in the US and internationally, and advocated for the need for social integration practices to help curtail negative effects of mining on the indigenous peoples of the area, the environment, and the governments themselves. These two side-events allowed VIVAT to link its own work with the work of other NGOs, and focused on the social development side of VIVAT’s work. Upcoming UN Commissions scheduled for later this year, including the Commission on the Status of Women, the Indigenous Peoples Forum, and the Commission on Sustainable Development, will allow VIVAT to hold even more side-events, each linking to the specific area of concern of each respective Commission. We are looking forward to putting together several informative, thought-provoking, and action-inciting events for these upcoming Commissions.