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Tuesday, 1 February 1994
Page: 104

(Question No. 725)


Mr Ruddock asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Human Services, upon notice, on 13 December 1993:

  (1) Is the UN convening a social development summit at heads of government level in March 1995; if so, (a) will it be held in Copenhagen, (b) what core issues will it concentrate on, (c) has a major theme been set, (d) how long will it last, (e) has sufficient time been allocated for its purposes to be achieved, (f) how many nations are expected to participate and (g) has Australia been invited to attend.

  (2) Will Australia attend the summit; if so, (a) will the Prime Minister represent Australia, (b) how many officials will Australia send, (c) at what level will the Australian officials be, (d) will Members of Parliament be among the officials, (e) who will select the officials and (f) will there be additional Australian delegates; if so, which bodies will they represent.

  (3) Have objectives been set for the summit; if so, (a) what are they and (b) do they conform with Australia's interests; if not, why not.

  (4) Is it intended to agree upon a declaration and a plan of action at the summit; if so, (a) what will they achieve and (b) what input will Australia have in drafting them.

  (5) Will Australia be involved in preparatory activities before the summit; if so, (a) what activities, (b) will Australia's involvement be at (i) international, (ii) national or (iii) local levels, (c) will any Australian non-government agencies, commercial enterprises or individuals be involved, (d) what are the anticipated outcomes and (e) what related activities will Australia be expected to engage in after the summit.

  (6) Has the UN established a preparatory committee to organise the summit and draft statements for agreement at the summit.

  (7) Will Australia be a member of the preparatory committee; if so, (a) who will represent Australia, (b) how many Australian officials will be involved, (c) at what level will the officials be and (d) will the same officials represent Australia at all meetings of the preparatory committee.

  (8) Will Australia submit proposals to the preparatory committee; if so, (a) who is drafting the proposals, (b) when will drafting be completed, (c) when will they be submitted and (d) will he provide a copy to me when they have been completed.

  (9) Will the work of the preparatory committee be supported by a special unit based in the UN Department of Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development; if so, (a) what is the composition of the special unit and (b) are any Australian officials members of the unit.

  (10) Has the preparatory committee approved two expert group meetings comprising two experts from each region chosen by the UN; if so, (a) have any Australians been chosen to attend the meetings and (b) what are the regions chosen by the UN.

  (11) Is the Mexican Government convening a conference on poverty alleviation; if so, (a) on what date will it be held, (b) how many nations will attend and (c) will Australia send delegates; if so, (i) how many, (ii) who will select them and (iii) will any Members of Parliament attend.

  (12) Will any Australian non-government organisations (NGOs) attend the summit or meetings of its preparatory committee.

  (13) Has Australia established a national committee on the summit; if so, (a) what is its composition, (b) are any NGOs represented; if so, who, (c) how often does it meet and (d) will he provide me with copies of the minutes and other documentation released by the committee.

  (14) Did the UN call upon each member state to produce a report on its circumstances which are relevant to the summit's core issues by November 1993.

  (15) Was or is Australia preparing a report; if so, (a) what was or is the composition of the team preparing the report, (b) what consultations took or have taken place in preparing the report, (c) when will the report be submitted to the summit and (d) will he provide a copy to me when it is completed.

  (16) Is the International Council on Social Welfare (ICSW) undertaking a wide range of activities in connection with the summit; if so, (a) what activities has it undertaken, (b) are (i) Australia or (ii) Australian NGOs involved in the activities; if so, to what extent, (c) what input does Australia or Australian NGOs have into the publishing of a quarterly newsletter by the ICSW and the International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA) about developments in the summit process and (d) what input will Australia have into a series of issues papers by the ICSW aimed at identifying problems and possible responses in each of the core areas to be covered by the summit.

  (17) Was a seminar held on the summit in conjunction with the ICSW's Asia-Pacific regional conference in Singapore in 1993; if so, (a) which nations and NGOs participated and (b) what were the outcomes.

  (18) Is it a fact that national and international members of the ICSW are being encouraged to publish their own issues papers about aspects of the summit's core issues in which they are especially interested; if so, (a) what issues papers have been published and what are their (i) subjects and (ii) titles and (b) will Australian members of the ICSW publish issues papers.

  (19) Have the ICSW and ICVA proposed the establishment by the UN of an NGO fund to help NGOs become involved in summit activities; if so, (a) does he support the establishment of the fund, (b) how much will Australia contribute if it is established, (c) have other nations indicated support, (d) what level of funding is the ICSW and ICVA advocating and (e) does he support the proposed level of funding.

  (20) Is the ICSW encouraging the establishment of broadly based national NGO forums or community forums on the summit.

  (21) Have any forums been established in Australia; if so, (a) which forums, (b) which NGOs are involved, (c) what has been the outcome to the date of answering this question and (d) does he support their establishment.


Mr Howe —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

  (1) The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) at its 47th session, in consensus Resolution A/Res/47/92, decided to convene a World Summit for Social Development at the level of heads of State or Government. A copy of the resolution has been provided to the honourable member.

  (a) Yes, from 11 to 12 March 1995.

  (b) Operative paragraph of UNGA Resolution A/Res/47/92 states     that the core issues affecting all societies to be addressed by the Summit are:

  The enhancement of social integration, particularly of the more disadvantaged and marginalised groups;

  Alleviation and reduction of poverty; and

  Expansion of productive employment.

  (c) UNGA Resolution A/Res/74/92, stated that Member States were "convinced that a world summit for social development should contribute to efforts by all countries to foster sustainable development and to promote policies against poverty and unemployment in all societies". The objectives for the Summit set out in the resolution are:

  To further the objectives of the Charter of the United Nations, as stated in Article 55, to promote "higher standards of living, full employment, and conditions of economic and social progress and development", and "solution of international economic, social, health and related problems", with particular focus on social development aspects;

  To express a shared world-wide commitment to put the needs of people at the centre of development and of international cooperation as a major priority of international relations;

  To stimulate international cooperation at the bilateral, regional and multilateral levels, through governmental, private and non-governmental initiatives, in order to assist in the implementation of nationally appropriate, effective and efficient social policies and to formulate strategies which will enable all citizens to be actively engaged in those policies;

  To formulate strategies on goals, policies and priority actions that could be adopted at the national, regional and international levels to address, in the different development realities, core issues of shared universal concern in the field of social development, giving particular attention to the needs of the least developed countries;

  To create international awareness of and address the modalities to attain the necessary balance between economic efficiency and social justice in a growth-oriented, equitable and sustainable development environment, in accordance with nationally defined priorities;

  To address, in creative ways, the interaction between the social function of the state, market responses to social demands and the imperatives of sustainable development;

  To identify common problems of socially marginalised and disadvantaged groups and promote the integration of those groups into society, highlighting the need for societies to equalise opportunities for all members;

  To promote programs to ensure legal protection, foster effective social welfare programs and enhance education and training for different groups in all societies, including the marginalised and disadvantaged groups;

  To assist in ensuring a more effective delivery of social services for the more disadvantaged sectors of society;

  To highlight the need to mobilise resources for social development at the local, national, regional and international levels;

  To make appropriate recommendations regarding more effective action by the United Nations system in the sphere of social development, in particular, measures and policies for the revitalisation of the Commission for Social Development.

  (d) The Summit will be held on 11-12 March 1995.

  (e) The first Preparatory Committee Meeting to be held in New York between 31 January and 11 February 1994 will consider this matter.

  (f) All Member States of the United Nations and observer nations, in accordance with the established practice of the General Assembly, have been invited.

  (g) Australia co-sponsored resolutions relating to the convening of the Summit that have been adopted by the United Nations General Assembly (A/Res/47/92 and A/48/627). Australia will participate actively in the preparatory process for the Summit. Australia's Permanent Representative to the UN has been elected as a member of the Bureau for the Summit.

  (2) Yes.

  (a) to (f)

  The matter of the leadership and composition of Australia's delegation to the World Summit for Social Development and its Preparatory Committee meetings has yet to be considered by the Government.

  (3) Yes, these are contained in UNGA Resolution A/Res/47/92.

  (a) See answer to (1)(c).

  (b) Australia co-sponsored the UNGA Resolution A/Res/47/92.

  (4) The possible outcomes of the World Summit for Social Development will be discussed during the preparatory process for the Summit. A declaration and/or a plan of action are possible options for consideration. Australia will participate actively in the preparatory process.

  (5) Yes.

  (a) to (e)

  It is the Government's intention to participate actively and constructively at the global and regional levels in the preparations for the Summit. The Government is concerned to ensure that the outcomes from the Summit are practical and capable of being implemented by national governments and the UN system. These outcomes should result in a greater awareness of social policy issues at the national level, a practical acknowledgment that economic and social development must go hand in hand and that social development issues must be given a much higher priority at the national and global levels.

  The Summit should also result in an enhanced capacity for the UN and its specialised agencies to deal more effectively with issues of social policy as an essential part of the Organisation's broader agenda for reform.

  The holding of the Summit provides an opportunity for all Australians to consider, in a domestic and a regional context, the issues that have been identified in UNGA Resolution A/Res/47/92.

  (6) Yes. The United Nations decided to establish a Preparatory Committee open to the participation of all States Members of the United Nations and members of the specialised agencies, with the participation of observers in accordance with the established practice of the General Assembly.

  (7) Yes.

  (a) to (d) See answer to (2)(a) to (f).

  (8) Yes.

  (a) to (d) The Government will send a Submission to the UN before the first Preparatory Meeting (31 Jan-11 Feb 1994) in response to the Secretary General's Note WSSD NVI/93 of 11 August 1993. The Centre for International and Public Law at the Australian National University was commissioned to provide initial draft input to the Government's Submission. The final form of this Submission will represent the outcome of consultation within the Australian Government. The Submission will be available as a public document once it is lodged with the United Nations.

  The matter of further Government contributions to the preparatory process will be determined in the light of the first meeting of the Preparatory Committee.

  (9) Yes.

  (a) It is my understanding that ten UN officials are currently working in the special unit.

  (b) There are no Australian officials seconded to the unit. I am not aware that any Australian nationals are members of the Unit.

  (10) At an organisational session of the Preparatory Committee the Secretary-General was asked to organise, as part of the preparatory process, expert meetings focused on the core issues of the Summit and financed by voluntary contributions. Two expert meetings have taken place, hosted and funded by Sweden and the Netherlands. One examined the issue of productive employment (Sweden) and the other, social integration (Netherlands). The Preparatory Committee, at its first session, will consider the reports from the two Expert Meetings.

  (a) No.

  (b) The representatives of the five regions chosen by the UN were selected from the accepted political regional groupings which exist to negotiate within the UN:

  Latin America and the Caribbean Group

  Asian Group

  Africa Group

  Western Europe and Others Group

  Eastern European Group.

  (11) Yes.

  (a) The Conference was held between 8 and 11 September 1993.

  (b) The conference was attended by delegates from 63 countries representing government, international agencies, non-government organisations and academics.

  (c) The Government did not send a representative to the conference.

  (12) See response to (2)(a) to (f).

  (13) No.

  (14) Yes. See response to (8)(a) to (d).

  (15) Yes. See response to (8)(a) to (d).

  (16)-(21) Information that would enable answers to be given to these parts of the honourable member's question is not available to the Government. It is suggested that information be sought from the International Council on Social Welfare and, where appropriate, from the International Council of Voluntary Agencies.