UN Commission on Social Development

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37th Session, 1999

 

Agreed Conclusions of the 37th session of the Commission for Social Development

Follow-up to the World Summit for Social Development:
priority theme: social services for all

Introduction
A. General Principles and Goals
B. Delivery and provision of social services to promote social development
C. Partnership

Introduction

1. Social services are an integral part of, and positively contribute to, social and economic development. Investment in social services will contribute to poverty eradication, peace, equity and equality, social progress and cohesion, economic productivity, productive employment, and full participation of all people in society. In this respect, it is of fundamental importance that Governments either provide social services or ensure universal and equitable access to social services -- especially, in times of economic recession. It is, furthermore, essential that economic, including fiscal, policies pursued by Governments support and encourage the social goals to which they committed themselves at the World Summit for Social Development. International cooperation to enhance social development would facilitate the provision of basic services for all.

2. The primary responsibility for ensuring provision of and universal access to social services rests with Governments. In many countries, the provision of social services significantly benefits from the support of active citizens, non-governmental organizations and voluntary groups, as well as trade unions and private businesses, but Governments have the main responsibility, acting through international, national, regional and local policies, to create an enabling environment to promote the establishment and maintenance of efficient social services and to ensure gender and racial equality and equity in access to social services.

3. The Copenhagen Programme of Action recognizes the need for social services for all, ensuring provision of services to meet the essential needs of the entire population, in particular those excluded from social services; to respond to the needs that exist at different stages in an individual's life span; and to take into account the requirements of population groups with specific needs.

A. General Principles and Goals

4. Universal access by all to social services is a central goal for social and economic development policies. The major objective of social services is to contribute to and to facilitate greater equity and equality of opportunities for every member of society in order to promote the strengthening of social cohesion and to avoid social exclusion. Therefore, ensuring that high-quality, basic social services are available to all must be a high priority for all Governments, requiring them to ensure that the implementation of the Copenhagen Programme of Action is a central political goal, to mobilize the necessary resources, to enhance political will and to recognize the importance of accountability, transparency and participation.

5. In all countries, to a greater or lesser extent, provision of or access to social services is not available to all people at all times. Lack of development is a major obstacle to the provision of social services in many countries. Further significant obstacles include competing governmental priorities and inadequate resources.

6. Governments and other social service providers face a changing environment which poses further challenges and calls for new ideas. The planning and provision of services should take into account changing family circumstances, gender equality and changing responsibilities of women and men, shifts in population age structure, and mass migration and displacement of people.

7. Access to social services for all is essential to enable people to satisfy their basic human needs and to live lives of dignity, safety and creativity while participating fully in society. Services should be based on concepts of full participation and non-discrimination, thereby facilitating greater equity and equality of opportunities for every member of society.

8. Special efforts should be made to ensure that all social services are accessible to those who are living in poverty, are disadvantaged or socially-excluded, or have special needs. Services should be adapted to ensure they remain appropriate to the needs of these groups.

9. Special attention should be given to providing emergency relief to persons suffering from the impact of natural or man-made disasters, and to the expeditious reconstruction of social services after such disasters in order to meet the basic needs of the affected populations. International cooperation in such situations is an important element to address these situations, in addition to national efforts.

10. The elimination of discrimination against women and the empowerment and full participation of women in all areas of life and at all levels, should be priority objectives at the national as well as the international level, and an intrinsic part of social development. Services should be gender-sensitive and designed to take into account and serve the specific needs of girls and women. Public agencies and non-governmental organizations should involve women at all stages of decision making in the planning, management and delivery of social services. Women, especially in developing countries, often bear the negative consequences and the brunt of responsibilities resulting from a lack of social service provision, among other factors. Policies should recognize their contributions and provide them support in these roles.

11. Policy concepts devised to provide and maintain services have to take into account the differences in the social and economic development of individual States. Variations in the range and coverage of services among and within countries may reflect both these different stages of development and cultural diversities. There are also important local and national differences affecting the needs of different population groups, and these should be reflected in policies and programmes.

B. Delivery and provision of social services to promote social development

12. It is the responsibility of the State to promote and protect all human rights, civil, political, social, economic, cultural, and the right to development. Efforts by each State to ensure social services for all are an important contribution to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all.

13. Universal access to social services contributes to realizing the objectives of social development, empowerment of people and efforts of national governments aimed at poverty eradication. Provision of social services should target segments of society living in poverty, with a particular focus on under-served areas.

14. In the context of a people-centred development, social services contribute to the realization of all human rights, including economic, social and cultural rights, for all people, thus enabling them to take up responsibilities and to become active members of society. Social services for all is an important instrument for the eradication of poverty by securing access to basic facilities for the poor. The provision of social services may also help to prevent vulnerable people or groups from falling into poverty.

15. Those who provide or organize social services should assess in what manner services are delivered. Policies should aim to ensure the integration of social services into a system which combines a wide range of different services that are accessible and coordinated with each other and thus provide complementary help and support. The services should be of adequate quality, sensitive to the needs of the service users and be delivered in an innovative, efficient and cost-effective way. For that purpose, for example:

(a) Services should be designed in a manner that best serves their purpose and the needs of the targeted groups;

(b) Several services could be grouped around a basic service to respond to several needs at the same time;

(c) Services could be provided at non-traditional sites where people naturally congregate.

(d) The hours when services are available should be responsive to people's needs;

16. Special attention should be given to improving the quality of management of social services and to the ongoing training of staff. Personnel responsible for the designing and delivery of social services, especially personnel dealing directly with users, should be respectful of the dignity of the beneficiaries. It is important to establish standards for measuring service delivery, based on a common understanding of needs and measurable results. Services should be evaluated on a continuing basis and feedback provided and assessed. The design of services should include provision for information gathering, monitoring and evaluation.

17. The design and delivery of social services should pay due attention to the needs of the individual throughout the entire lifespan, recognizing the family as the basic unit of society and acknowledging that it plays a key role in social development, access to and delivery of social services. In different cultural, political and social systems various forms of family exist. Social services that respond to the needs of children and youth would also contribute to the building of a society for all ages. Older persons should be guaranteed full participation and non-discrimination in access to services which seek to ensure that they continue to have active lives and participate in society. Access to social services adapted to the needs of every person throughout the lifespan would contributes to persons being able to grow old securely and with their dignity and independence preserved.

18. Persons with disabilities and, where appropriate, their families and advocates, should have access to information regarding rights and available services, at all stages and in forms or formats which are accessible to them. Systems for provision of social services must not exclude or discriminate against people with disabilities. Delivery of services to people with disabilities should ensure their functional independence for active participation in the life of society. Where financially feasible, respite care and attendant services should be made available for families which include a person with disability. Appropriately designed social services would enable persons with disabilities to realize their full human potential.

19. In view of the scale of international migration in an increasingly globalized world, attention also needs to be given by Governments to access to, and delivery of, social services to documented migrants and their families. Non-governmental organizations are encouraged to continue to develop these kinds of services.

20. The concerns and basic human needs of undocumented migrants should also be addressed in accordance with the Copenhagen Programme of Action.

C. Partnership

21. Governments have primary responsibility for providing or ensuring that basic services are available to all. The public sector plays a key role in securing universal access by all people to social services. Civil society can play an important role in planning, organizing and providing social services. Public authorities should cooperate with all relevant actors of civil society in order to offer adequate coverage and a wide range of services to the users. Decisions about services can be best made with the full involvement of all those who have a stake in them.

22. There are many forms of partnership between the State and civil society. Depending on the circumstances, different options could be considered for how this partnership might take effect. In some instances Governments may wish to be the main service providers and organize delivery directly with assistance from partners; in other cases, the role of Government might be to establish or guarantee national minimum standards and to enable all relevant actors of civil society, including volunteers, to take a more direct role in provision and delivery of services.

23. Partnership should be based on shared goals, mutual respect and tolerance of different views, joint decision-making as appropriate, and joint commitment to the process. Partnership can be strengthened through mechanisms that facilitate the exchange of experiences, improved standards and feedback concerning service delivery. All actors involved in the provision and delivery of social services should be accountable to the users of the services.

24. In many countries around the world, there are people who still lack access to the most basic services. Community participation in defining and assessing needs and in planning the provision of social services should be encouraged, so as to ensure social services for all, including the poor and disadvantaged. The international community, national governments and community-based organizations need to forge a partnership to undertake poverty and social impact assessments and to plan strategies for the provision of universal access to basic social services for all.

(This document has been made available in electronic format by the United Nations.)

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