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Social Development Should Benefit Vulnerable Groups
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A declaration was adopted Thursday at an international symposium on official development assistance (ODA), stressing that development must advance social justice and equitable development must reach vulnerable groups like women and children.


The Suzhou Declaration, ratified at the International Symposium on ODA for Population and Development, emphasizes the "universal" and "indispensable" right to development for all people, saying human beings are central to sustainable development and priority must be given to investment in human capital, particularly in education and health services.


It says that the benefits of globalization have been unevenly distributed, leading to widening gaps between the rich and poor, between the developed and developing countries, and between different regions within countries and over one billion extremely poor people.


The declaration calls on governments to formulate national strategies and assistance programs to ensure equitable development to reach vulnerable groups such as women, children, the elderly and migrants. "Programs should empower such groups, increase their capacity for decision making and self-management, guarantee their access to equal services without discrimination, and ensure their participation in formulating, implementing and supervising social policies."


It highlights that gender equality and the empowerment of women are essential to achieving sustainable development, calling for increased resources for women's programs.


Serious efforts must, says the declaration, be made to challenge traditional concepts about gender roles, raise women's awareness of their rights and their potential for self-development, address gender-based violence and promote women's equal participation in managing family, community and state affairs, at all stages of decision making and implementation.


Governments should also incorporate women's empowerment and gender equality concerns into the criteria for formulating and evaluating social development programs, it says.


The Oct. 26-28 symposium, held in Suzhou, capital of east China's Jiangsu Province, with over 200 Chinese and foreign officials and scholars participating, reconfirmed the consensus on development reached at the World Summit marking the 60th anniversary of the United Nations in September.


(Xinhua News Agency October 28, 2005)


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