Statement by H.E. Ambassador Baki İlkin, Permanent Representative of Turkey to the UN, at the Forty-Third Session of the Commission for Social Development

Baki İlkin 11.02.2005
Mr.Chairman,
Distinguished Delegates,

This session of the Commission for Social Development marks the tenth anniversary of the World Summit for Social Development, as well as the fifth anniversary of the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly.

The World Summit held in Copenhagen in 1995 provided the world leaders with the opportunity to dwell upon the significance of social development and to make actual commitments for the improvement of the social conditions affecting human destiny. On its part the special session of the General Assembly held in Geneva in the year 2000 enabled us to assess achievements, as well as to identify obstacles and to decide on further initiatives to accelerate social development for all. The present session of the Commission for Social Development paves the ground for review of the further implementation of the World Summit and the Special Session, as indicated by the priority theme of the meeting.

Mr. Chairman,

The World Summit was definitely instrumental in raising awareness and in emphasizing the importance of social development issues. It was this awareness that helped the inclusion of a number of social development objectives in the Millennium Development Goals. Progress has been achieved in some areas such as the decline in extreme poverty on a global scale, the increase in access to primary education, the increase in global female literacy, the expansion of democratization and the emergence of civil society organizations as important partners for social development. However, it is a fact that what we have achieved globally so far falls short of expectations and the progress has been uneven in different parts of the world. With regard to the three core themes of the Summit, namely eradication of poverty, full employment and social integration, as rightfully indicated by the Secretary-General in his report prepared for this session, the global efforts aimed at realizing particularly the second and third themes have not been as successful as desired.

Mr.Chairman,

Turkey views social development from an integrated perspective. Thus, Turkey has adopted a comprehensive strategy extending from human rights and fundamental freedoms to other social and economic issues.
The importance of democratization, human rights and fundamental freedoms for social development was emphasized in the World Social Summit. In recent years Turkey is completing a comprehensive reform process, with a view to further strengthening democracy, consolidating the rule of law and ensuring full respect for fundamental rights and freedoms. This far reaching reform process ensured substantial and tangible progress in different fields, including economic, social and cultural rights as well as in anti-corruption measures.

As for eradication of poverty, Turkey's strategic aim is to decrease the disparities in income distribution and to eradicate extreme poverty. The efforts to this end have gained momentum especially after the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals. To name a few concrete steps, Turkey established a Social Solidarity Fund to ensure an equitable income distribution by taking measures for greater social justice and to encourage mutual assistance and solidarity in the society. Since 2001 a Social Risk Mitigation Project has been implemented in cooperation with the World Bank. The Project aims to develop policies for combating poverty and to increase the institutional capacity of the implementing agencies.

The period since 1999 has been one of important structural change in Turkey. Yet, the efforts aimed at full employment have been undermined to a certain extent by economic crisis, the effects of which were aggravated by a major earthquake. During the period of 1995-2003, the growth rate of employment was 2.7 percent, while the labor force grew by 6.1 percent. In 2003, the unemployment rate was 10.5 percent. In order to increase efficiency in the labor market, preparations of a National Employment Strategy have been initiated. This strategy is aimed at enhancing employability, supporting entrepreneurship, adapting to changing conditions; facilitating access, particularly of disadvantaged groups such as women and young people to the labor market. The employment rate increased in 2004 and further increase is expected this year.

As for social integration Turkey has recently been preparing a social inclusion strategy. This strategy aims to facilitate participation in employment and access to resources, rights, goods and services by all. It aims to help most vulnerable and to mobilize all relevant bodies.

Mr.Chairman,

Within the confines of time, it would not be possible for me to share the progress made at national level in my country regarding the 10 commitments of the World Social Summit. Therefore, I will merely touch upon two issues, namely education and gender equality which are of paramount importance for social development.
In 1997 compulsory primary education in Turkey was extended to eight years and Turkey started a Basic Education Programme aiming to reach full enrollment, to switch from double shift to full-day education and to improve the overall quality of primary education. This policy has yielded positive results and has also helped to increase the enrollment rate of girls, thus narrowing the education gap between genders. Turkey has almost reached its goal of eliminating disparity in primary school education.

Another major aspect of the reform process in Turkey is promoting gender equality and empowerment of women. The new Civil Code, the new Law on the Protection of the Family, the new Penal Code and amendments in the Constitution legally strengthened gender equality in Turkey. Beyond doubt, promoting gender equality requires more than legal recognition of women's rights. It also calls for changes in attitudes and in traditions as well as social norms. This is why a "Mentality Transformation Project" aimed at supporting the implementation of laws is being implemented as a priority objective of our Government.

Mr.Chairman,

Before concluding, I also wish to underline the importance of promoting international, regional and sub-regional cooperation for social development, which was actually among the commitments of the World Summit. Within this framework, I would like to refer to the activities of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC). BSEC is a regional organization with a permanent Secretariat in Istanbul. It aims to ensure that the Black Sea region becomes a sea of peace, stability and prosperity, based on shared values such as pluralistic democracy, social justice, human rights and the rule of law, fundamental freedoms, free market and economic prosperity. Furthermore, increased employment and the promotion of social cohesion remain among the major priorities of BSEC. With bodies such as the Black Sea Trade and Development Bank and with the establishment of the Project Development Fund, BSEC facilitates the elaboration and promotion of projects with a high level of regional cooperation and development impact. We should try to benefit from such regional organizations in our common endeavors for social development.

Mr.Chairman,

The current session of the Commission for Social Development is an opportunity to reaffirm our commitments for social development and to revitalize our efforts in this vein. For the way forward we should asses the shortcomings in the strategies which have been implemented in the last ten years and try to rectify them. For better achievements we should treat social development as both an objective and a process involving all sectors and actors of societies.

Thank you.