CSocD-50 Day Two: Reflection by Ashley Eberhart

It took me a few minutes to realize that the delegate from Thailand was touching rather than looking at the statement he was reading. With incredible dexterity, he spoke about the exclusion of disabled people from poverty eradication efforts, particularly how they tended to be “the first group to be forgotten” in Thai policymaking. His final words, “Today, I am giving up on giving up,” drew a wave of applause from a crowd that tends to transition from speaker to speaker without a sound. It was by far the most moving moment of the CSocD-50 sessions so far. By showing his personal commitment to overcoming the social adversity of disability in his home country, the delegate was a living example of the end goal of these diplomatic efforts.

In the large general sessions that occur daily here at the United Nations, delegates who wish to deliver a statement on their country’s priorities have the floor in almost rapid succession. Many of these statements are fairly vague, some brimming with platitudes that generally agree that poverty is inherently a bad thing. However, what is interesting to see how, like country-specific social issues manifest themselves through their national CSocD-50 priorities. For example, with its declining birth rate and rising proportion of aging citizens, the delegate from Japan emphasized elderly access to social services. Many representatives from African nations, whose population balance has tipped toward younger populations as the older generation is ravaged by HIV/AIDS, focus on the importance of youth empowerment. Romania, lamenting that “young people are studying abroad, and they never come back,” also noted the role of youth as “our top priority.”

In these large sessions, it becomes clear that, while the goal of eradicating poverty is shared by every member of the commission, the objectives deemed necessary to prioritize vary from delegate to delegate. The practical manifestations of poverty are not distributed evenly among nations, and as such a global mandate for governments to improve social development efforts will not look the same in every region. Somewhat like the delegates at the conference themselves, a world “solution” to poverty will come instead in many different colors, cultures, approaches, and personalities.