|UNFPA Regional Director Werner Haug opens an expert meeting on inequalities, social inclusion and rights, held in Belgrade, Serbia 15-16 April 2013.|
BELGRADE, 16 April 2013 – Stronger commitment is needed to reduce inequality and reverse the social exclusion of disadvantaged groups, experts said at a two-day regional meeting organized by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), which ended today.
“Evidence shows that societies that are more unequal do worse on a whole variety of indicators ranging from health and life expectancy to the incidence of teenage pregnancy and social mobility. What is more, the negative consequences of inequality do not only affect the poor, but harm societies as a whole, including the rich,” said Werner Haug, UNFPA Regional Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
Empowering disadvantaged groups in society is key to reducing inequalities and promoting social inclusion, participants agreed. Often women, young people, the elderly, migrants, ethnic minorities, the disabled and people living in remote areas find themselves in vulnerable situations marked by discrimination and limited access to rights and services.
“What we need is a shift from static social protection to proactive investments in human capital, empowering people to be better able to take care of their lives,” Haug said.
With the sustainability of social protection systems under threat, this also makes sense economically, he added: “A more inclusive, more educated society will be better prepared to deal with challenges such as the current economic crisis.”
Participants highlighted the critical role of education, throughout the life cycle, as a key investment in human capital and as a means to reduce vulnerabilities, combat stereotypes and promote positive values.
The expert meeting was part of a series of events leading up to a high-level regional conference in Geneva on 1-2 July, which aims to reach consensus on an updated population agenda for the region, two decades after world leaders adopted a Programme of Action at the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo in 1994.
For more information, please contact Jens-Hagen Eschenbaecher, UNFPA Regional Communication Adviser, +90 549 748 36 55, email@example.com