The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) takes interest in each of the topics covered by this item. We will not address them all today, for - as delegations know well - we take opportunities in functional commissions and other bodies to speak to them in more detail and to offer suggestions.
We do, however, wish today to express our hope that the General Assembly will give careful consideration to the issues raised by the Secretary-General, in his report to the Commission for Social Development on public sector effectiveness. This document, as the IFRC said during the Commission's debate, correctly addresses issues of far-reaching importance to all countries, and which are of fundamental relevance to all governments as they develop programs in support of the most vulnerable people.
As the Secretary-General's report (E/CN.5/2004/5) notes, the withdrawal of the public sector from many traditional fields of activity should be of special concern to all, especially those with a social development mandate. An immediate result of this withdrawal, as noted in the report, is the worsening situation of the most vulnerable population. This inevitably falls under and activates the mandate of the National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, which make up the IFRC.
Our purpose today is to ensure that governments understand the importance of building a strong relationship with their Red Cross/Red Crescent Societies - which by law are auxiliaries to the public authorities of their countries in the humanitarian field, thus ensuring that the needs of the most vulnerable are addressed and met.
Unfortunately, this issue has become particularly acute. As the Secretary-General's report makes clear, in recent years there has been a marked decline of resources allocated to social development issues in virtually all countries. Reductions in expenditure on education and the formation of human capital, for example, have been shown to hit hardest in the countries, which can least afford such divestment. The same is true for health, welfare, housing and community amenities.
The report, and the interesting debate which took place on it, is in part reflected by the decision of ECOSOC concerning the work of the Commission at its next session, which will mark the tenth anniversary of the World Summit on Social Development.
The IFRC has noted the recommendation that participation should be at the highest levels and should also include civil society and international organisations. We have also noted the valuable suggestion that this should lead to the integration of a social development perspective in all programs aimed at the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
We are working towards high-level participation in the Commission's Session. The IFRC is also working with others to ensure that the aspirations of the World Summit are fully and professionally reviewed. For our part, we will stress the importance of the participation of affected groups in the development of national social strategies.
One such example of our approach is the belief that in most countries not enough has been done to fully integrate youth in program design and implementation. The concept of participation, inclusion, and of active citizenship, as it applies to youth and the other identified groups, as being relevant to social development planning, have not as yet been adequately applied.
Examples of the positive impact volunteers can have are plentiful. With regard to health services, in the South African region over 25 per cent of the population between the ages of 15 and 49 are living with HIV/AIDS. Nevertheless, with the support of volunteers the National Red Cross Societies were able to reach 650,000 1 young people between the ages of 10 - 24 to improve prevention, knowledge and attitudes about HIV/AIDS.
Young people are not the only ones who deserve special attention; the elderly are often found to be neglected by state welfare and health services. In response to this, the Hong Kong branch of the Chinese Red Cross has engaged older people as volunteers to reach out to other older people who need support at home or in the street.
And more recently, an estimated 12,000 volunteers in Jamaica assisted the Jamaican Red Cross and thus families and individuals throughout the country to prepare for the arrival of Hurricane Ivan. Also their eight Community Disaster Response Teams (CDRT) which are composed of approximately 60 volunteers, who are trained in light search and rescue, first aid and disaster assessment were the first on site to respond immediately to the wreckage left by Ivan.
As we have said in other UN meetings, including during this years' Executive Board of UNDP/UNFPA, youth and volunteer involvement are imperative for the achievement of national growth, not to mention the Millennium Development Goals. It is our hope that this collaboration will become a regular feature of the design and implementation of programs. Ownership of these programs belongs to the citizens of the world, and thus their involvement is indispensable.
We have also taken an active part in aligning the contribution of trained volunteers to country's growth and development. On the 1st of October, in Geneva, the Inter-Parliamentary Union launched a booklet containing a Guidance Note prepared by the IPU, the IFRC and UNV on Volunteering and Legislation. This booklet has been welcomed by members of parliament from many countries. It will be of great value to parliaments, governments, civil society, and the volunteer sector. It will help ensure that legislation and rules in all countries recognize the value and contribution of volunteers to economic and social development.
It is our intention to bring the Guidance Note to the attention of the Commission for Social Development as a strong and positive contribution to the spirit created by the World Summit in Copenhagen in 1995, as well as the 2001 International Year of the Volunteer and the 2000 Millennium Summit. It also stands as a particular example of the value of the partnerships encouraged by Millennium Development Goal 8, which is very important to us, since the contribution of volunteers are so vital for the achievement of the MDGs.
We see social development as a set of issues and themes, which need to be mainstreamed into other debates. We do look forward to drawing the points together at the Commission's important 2005 Session. We also hope that the debates there will lead to a wider recognition of the importance of stronger and more purposeful debate on these issues.
This is especially important if, as we expect, the decline in public investment in the social sector continues. Yes, we know we may have to do more - with less. But at least we can do it on time.