Statement by Ambassador Elizabeth M. Cousens, U.S. Representative to the Economic and Social Council on the ECOSOC Ministerial Review

Ambassador Elizabeth Cousens
U.S. Representative on the Economic and Social Council 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
New York, NY
July 6, 2012


Thank you, Mr. President. Ministers, Excellencies, distinguished colleagues, and Friends.

We are fortunate to live at a time of unparalleled opportunity – to roll back poverty, end preventable disease, educate the world’s children, open our societies, advance democratic rights and social justice, and extend the benefits of the global economy to even the most vulnerable groups and populations.

We also need to overcome common hurdles in order to grow our economies and generate the kind of jobs and opportunities that all working people around the world deserve in the 21st century. Growth remains fragile. Job creation lags in many areas. Over a billion of the “working poor” toil in extreme poverty daily, and global unemployment is expected to reach 200 million 2012, including 75 million youth and 84 million women. We must do better.

Let me address five issues central to meeting our shared challenge. First, youth and women need to be at the top of our employment agenda. There are over 3 billion people under the age of 30 in the world today. In some countries, they suffer the highest rates of unemployment, and as Danielle Fong reminded us in her keynote last week, in all countries they represent our best hopes. Women are half of the world’s population yet are persistently underrepresented in the world’s economies and continue to face legal, cultural, and social barriers to productive employment. Rural women are often barred from owning land, inheriting assets, participating in educational and training programs, or holding specific jobs. Women are vastly over represented in fields like domestic work and under-represented in executive positions. In developed and developing countries alike, wage gaps between men and women remain significant. And too many women still do not enjoy full reproductive rights and health, presenting an insurmountable – sometimes fatal – obstacle to their productive employment and wellbeing.

At a time when the global economy is in the fragile stages of recovery, any barriers to the economic empowerment of women and youth are barriers to our shared economic vitality that we can ill afford.

Second, we need to remove basic obstacles that too many people face in improving their daily lives, including those rules and regulations that in every country can make it hard to find jobs, seek education or training, access credit, or start a new business. In the United States, for example, vocational training and industry credentials are the only things standing between three million unfilled jobs and people to fill them. That is why President Obama has called on employers, educators, and community organizations to work smarter together to get students and workers into programs that can move them swiftly into the job market. Just this year, we awarded close to $150 million to two dozen grantees in a new Workforce Innovation Fund through which start-ups, industry leaders, universities, and local unions can work together to ensure that worker training is at the cutting edge of new technologies and the evolving needs of businesses.

We need policy and regulatory frameworks that attract private investment, foster innovation, reduce inefficiencies, and instill confidence, especially for the micro, small and medium-sized business owners who drive job growth in so many of the world’s economies. The United States is therefore focused on working with international partners to reduce administrative and other barriers that are particularly onerous to small businesses. From these efforts, it is estimated that every dollar spent to improve the “enabling environment” reduces the cost of regulatory compliance for small and medium-size enterprises by $29 per year, a multiplier that in 2010 amounted to an estimated $5 billion in savings globally.

Third, education at all levels, including skills development and training, cannot be overemphasized. Last year’s Annual Ministerial Review drove home the imperative of educating youth, in particular, for a lifetime of productive employment in which the labor market will change all around them. We need to ensure that efforts to strengthen productive capacity put human resources and capital at the heart of national development strategies in all countries.

Fourth, we need to focus on job quality and offset vulnerability. As the UN reported just yesterday, “vulnerable employment” remains too high, accounting for an estimated 58% of employment in developing regions in 2011, with women and youth among the least secure. Efforts are needed to address the large number of workers in the informal economy. And it is crucial that we implement active labor market policies, full respect for fundamental worker rights, and strong and inclusive social protection programs.

Fifth, we will only create the jobs we need with broad-based, inclusive, and sustained economic growth, which requires coordinated action and global leadership. Growth is not the only answer but it is an essential part of the answer. It is also a powerful force for poverty reduction, as we have seen in the tremendous recent strides against global poverty led by growth in major developing economies. While there is no single formula, we know that policies and conditions that attract private resources, build human capital, encourage entrepreneurship, foster trade, and promote employment-oriented investment are crucial enablers of growth and can help extend the benefits of growth more widely, particularly to women, youth, the disabled, and other vulnerable or excluded individuals.

Finally, let us be mindful that we are having this discussion in the context of our efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and on the eve of our consideration of what should follow the MDGs in 2015. It will be critical to include cross-cutting issues to which the MDGs gave less attention, including those we are discussing this week related to productive capacity, employment, and the key ingredients for sustained and sustainable growth. ECOSOC can – and should -- provide a valuable platform for exchanging ideas, learning from each other’s national experiences, debating strategies, and sharpening our collective thinking about a next generation global development agenda.

Mr. President,

The United States looks forward to active participation in that debate and to working with all of our colleagues in our common commitment to achieving sustainable development and ensuring shared prosperity and decent work for all people.

Thank you very much


PRN: 2012/154