Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York
Commission for Social Development, Fifty-first Session
The Commission for Social Development took up a number of issues that would set the tone for its upcoming work and, more broadly, allow it to engage in more relevant ways within the United Nations system, especially the Economic and Social Council, whose principal role in the follow-up to major United Nations meetings was elevated by the landmark 2012 Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development.
Daniela Bas, Director of the Division for Social Policy and Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, presented the Secretary-General’s report “Review of methods of work of the Commission for Social Development”, containing Member States’ ideas for strengthening the 46-member body. It examined how themes and emerging issues were selected and the extent to which the Commission, a functional commission of the Economic and Social Council, fulfilled its duties.
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Sarah Cook, Director, United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, presented an overview of that entity’s Commission-related activities during the 2011-2012 biennium. She recalled that in the lead-up to Rio+20, the Institute had launched an inquiry intended to shed light on how the social dimensions of sustainable development should be integrated into debates on the green economy. In October 2011, it had convened a conference titled “Green Economy and Sustainable Development: Bringing Back the Social Dimension”, which had outlined the potentially negative social effects of some approaches to the green economy.
She said the Institute’s future work would focus on understanding how social and environmental policies could be mutually reinforcing in achieving sustainability and equity goals, and how the policies and practices of groups — small farmers, workers in the informal economy and social enterprises — were organizing to transform production and consumption the relations for a sustainable economy. Relevant to that was the Institute’s work on social policy, which sought to understand how countries were responding to changing global and domestic challenges, she continued. Its research went beyond examining the symptoms of disadvantage to looking at the drivers underpinning persistent disadvantage. She expressed hope that the research would help shape policy on social protection floors and other issues.
In the coming year, the Institute would examine how emerging economies were expanding their welfare systems to address new risks, including climate change, and whether “new social contracts” would merge to support inclusive, sustainable and equitable societies. Turning to gender, she said the Institute played a leading role in researching gender issues. It had co-hosted a workshop in Geneva to help United Nations agencies understand how to better coordinate research taking place within the system. It had also examined how policy changes that strengthened women’s rights occurred, and analysed why some issues were picked up by national and global policy actors, while others were not. Finally, she said that proposals by the Secretary-General’s Change Implementation Team would significantly change the Institute’s status, since it proposed merging its research and training institutes and libraries into a single entity under the Secretariat. That would profoundly affect the Institute’s governance, its scope for independent research and its relationship with the Commission, she said.
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