Rising Inequality, Exclusion Still Threaten Global Well Being despite Impressive Gains in Poverty Reduction, Speakers Tell Social Development Commission

municipalities allocated Euros 128 billion for social housing construction through 2021, support for low income families and individuals, and tax incentives to build new houses.

Ms. HEBLING and Mr. KARANIKOLAS, youth delegates from Germany, encouraged the Commission to address homelessness by tackling the roots of the problem, which include conflict, climate change and exploitation. Social protection policies must be developed for migrants and refugees, one of the delegates said, emphasizing that it is unacceptable for such persons to remain in shelters. Companies that destroy the environment must be punished, while children who are born poor and exploited as cheap labour must be given the opportunity to go to school and have a good life. Do not just say how great your country is; instead, propose ideas about how we can make the world more equal, she said.

Ms. ROLON (Paraguay), associating herself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Friends of Older Persons, said that ensuring universal access to safe and affordable housing is a crucial issue in her country. This was a challenge that forced us to be creative, she said, outlining the revamping of the Government's Ministry of Urbanization, Housing and Habitat. Among the solutions identified is a plan to build 2,500 new houses in key river basin areas, where residents are regularly displaced by cyclical flooding. Efforts are also under way to support the poorest families. While extreme poverty has been reduced in recent years, the Government continues to work to eradicate social exclusion, with a focus on the entire human life cycle. Among other things, the Sustainable Development Commission aims to institutionalize cooperation between the Government and the private sector, including in their efforts to eradicate homelessness and poverty.

Mr. CORPORAN (Dominican Republic), outlining his country's various sustainable development strides, said that it has instituted a paradigm change in its policies for persons with disabilities. Along those lines, it has also strengthened the promotion of accessible tourism at the regional level and is concluding work on a sign language dictionary. In March, Paraguay will present its evaluation and certification of disabilities, which is in line with international standards. Turning to assistance provided to older adults, he said those programmes seek to ensure adequate living standards and promote the right to land titles. For the first time in the country's history, children up to age 12 from the most disadvantaged groups have the chance to be treated with the most modern medical technology. Solidarity pensions for persons with disabilities have been introduced and the country has enacted a national youth plan and a national human rights plan, he added.

FARMAN GURBANLI (Azerbaijan) said that improving affordable housing requires strengthened national social protection policies as well as long term solutions and partnerships between Governments and non State actors. In Azerbaijan, a Mortgage and Credit Guarantee Fund was established in 2005 and has since lent funds for over 30,000 mortgages amounting to more than $820 million. The country created a State Housing Development Agency, aimed at managing the construction of rental buildings that meet ecological and energy efficiency standards and provide affordable housing. Outlining the Strategic Roadmap for the Development of Affordable Housing Provision, he said that it aims to identify favourable land plots, increase the number of beneficiaries of the affordable housing fund and ensure the efficiency of the mortgage market. In addition to State funding, it seeks to attract private sector construction partners through a public private partnership model. Another priority is improving the living conditions of internally displaced persons, he said, reporting that to date the housing conditions of some 300,000 refugees and displaced persons have been upgraded.

Ms. BENEDA (Hungary) said that for his Government, one of best ways to eradicate poverty is to support families and child raising. To that end, 4.6 per cent of Hungary's gross domestic product (GDP) goes towards supporting families, including subsidies for households with three or more children. Overall, since the programme's introduction in 2015, some 125,000 households have received family home start subsidies worth a total of $1.3 billion. The Government also puts strong emphasis on helping families with housing loans, enabling them to reduce their mortgages. Turning to education, he said that 110 sure start facilities for young children have been established throughout Hungary, operating with Government and European Union support.

MIE HENRIETTE ERIKSEN (Denmark), associating herself with the European Union, said that for almost 10 years, successive Governments have sought to know more about the scope and scale of homelessness, including through a biannual survey that provides an important overview of the phenomenon's development and geographic distribution. The most recent survey indicated that mental illness is the main cause of 41 per cent of homelessness and drug abuse 33 per cent. It also revealed, for the first time since 2009, a stagnation in the number of homeless people in Denmark, although the number of homeless among the elderly and in rural municipalities is rising. Going forward, the Government wants to intensify its efforts through a greater focus on the different life circumstances that underpin homelessness as well as the lack of housing opportunities in bigger cities.

Ms. MAROKO (Kenya), associating herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said that the Government invests directly in the three pillars of its protection scheme namely, social security, health insurance and social assistance. Through the latter, more than 1.4 million poor and vulnerable households are provided with a bi monthly stipend aimed at improving their nutrition as well as access to clothing, shelter and medical services. Describing Kenya's four main national agendas an affordable housing plan, a scheme to enhance food and nutrition security, a programme to enhance manufacturing and the provision of universal health coverage she said that they aim to construct 500,000 housing units by 2022 and ensure nutritious food, water, sanitation and education. A Government department has been created to oversee social protection and assistance, as well as to oversee Kenya's cash transfer programme. She also noted that the country is home to some 500,000 refugees who require decent housing and amenities.

Mr. TARUC (Indonesia), associating himself with Group of 77, ASEAN and the Group of Friends of Older Persons, said that like many others around the world his country is experiencing a range of complex urban challenges. Among other things, he said, its National Long Term Vision 2045 is aimed at sustainable urbanization. Its 2011 housing law includes a specific reference to housing support for the poor as well as vulnerable and marginalized groups. We need to think outside the box if countries want to close gaps between the current wave of rapid urbanization and the availability of housing stock, he said. Describing Indonesia's Housing Finance Liquidity Facility, he said that the housing development fund works on the supply side of the market to provide mortgages below commercial market rates. Noting that efforts are under way to integrate the issue of homelessness into that fund, he said that employment training and other amenities will also be included.

ERICA MAGANGA, Secretary for Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare of Malawi, associating herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said that housing is crucial for countries striving to build an inclusive society and reduce inequalities. In Malawi, four out of every five families live in rural areas in substandard homes with grass thatched roofs, which require frequent repairs, and mud floors that attract insects and put their residents at risk of disease. Malawi also has one of the highest rural to urban migration rates in Africa, she said, noting that 76 per cent of the population of the capital city, Lilongwe, lived in sub standard housing or informal settlements in 2015. Malawi is committed to providing affordable housing to all part of its social protection system, and to eradicating homelessness. The Goal of upgrading slums and providing slum dwellers with basic services as laid out in Sustainable Development Goal 11 is enshrined in Malawi's National Housing Policy.

NNAMDI OKECHUKWU NZE (Nigeria), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said that as the country's population grows, with a corresponding rural to urban drive, the Government has over several decades come up with evidence based and statistically informed policies to address the challenges of affordable housing. However, for such policies to be meaningful, they must be sufficiently robust to include the underprivileged and the vulnerable. In that regard, Nigeria's national policy on ageing features a significant affordable housing component. During the last quarter of 2019, the Government has trained more than 400 older persons to produce soap, bread, insecticides and disinfectants. At the conclusion of training, each participant received start up capital to turn their newfound skills into businesses. Through the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Bank of Industry, the Government is also facilitating easy access to low interest credit for mobility aids and other assistive devices for persons with disabilities.

MZOLISI TONI (South Africa) discussed the Government's lifecycle approach to social protection interventions, including social grants, free basic education, clean water, electricity and free low cost housing. Such measures account for 60 per cent of Government spending. He added that the Government's human settlements policy, known as Breaking New Ground, aims to integrate communities which, during the Apartheid era, were systematically segregated along class and racial lines. Efforts now are being put into building more special homes for persons with disabilities, as well as foster homes, shelters for victims of gender based violence and special centres for the frail and the elderly. The Government is also working tireless on an integrated social protection information system that will help determine the extent to which eligible persons are benefiting from social services, ensuring that no one is left behind.

Ms. VEHOVAR (Slovenia) said that her country has an estimated 3,600 visible and 3,000 hidden homeless people. Social protection services are provided by both the Government and local communities. In 2019, the State co financed 19 social security programmes for homeless people, which provided housing support, fieldwork, day centres, counselling and psychosocial support and assistance. In the coming years, Slovenia plans to enhance housing support for homeless people, as well as strengthen activities to increase employment opportunities that would enable homeless people to reintegrate into the labour market. By 2050, older persons will account for about 30 per cent of the population. Therefore, securing adequate housing and care should be a Government priority, she added.

Mr. SZCRUPAK (France) said that his delegation supports the conclusions of the Secretary General's report on homelessness. The fight against homelessness should also address inequality and poverty. In November 2018, the European Union adopted 19 principles, including one regarding social inclusion of the homeless. France has an estimated 140,000 homeless people. The State has provided accommodations for the homeless in cooperation with charitable organizations. France also adopted a Housing First policy in 2011, an idea derived from discussions in the Commission. However, housing alone is not enough to address the issue of homelessness. Psychosocial support is needed, as well, he said.

Mr. SCHALLER (Austria) said that the issue of affordable housing has increasingly become a sociopolitical challenge in recent years. In 2018, there were approximately 23,000 people registered as homeless in his country. The Government has rolled out extensive services to fight homelessness, including by developing facilities to prevent evictions or providing rapid assistance in cases where one's home has been lost despite preventive measures. The second National Action Plan on Disability, covering the period from 2022 to 2030, aims to enhance inclusion both at work and in everyday life. Austria fully endorses the terms of the World Health Organization (WHO) Decade of Healthy Ageing 2020 2030.

Source: United Nations