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Commission for Social Development – Meeting of the 59th Session

Statement delivered by Ambassador Mariangela Zappia, Permanent Representative of Italy to the United Nations, and the UN Youth Delegates Italy at the Meeting of the 59th Session of the Commission for Social Development on “Socially just transition towards sustainable development: the role of digital technologies on social development and well-being of all.” —


Madame Chair,

Italy aligns itself with the statement delivered by the European Union and wishes to add a few remarks in its national capacity.

As highlighted on many occasions over the last months and notably during the UNGASS of last December, the social impact of the pandemic has been profound. The most vulnerable and the most marginalized have been the first to be hit and are also those who have been suffering the greatest and more lasting consequences. As a result, inequalities are now rising further.

Against this background, we are confronted with two main priorities. On the one hand, we have to make sure that the COVID19 vaccine be dealt with as a global common good, which means that its production, distribution and delivery must be handled on global scale, based on the principles of fairness, equity and inclusion. The same principles must apply to tests and treatments, so as to avoid that the virus continues to act as a driver of additional social inequality.

On the other hand, we have to ensure that social equity and inclusion be at the center of the national, regional and global efforts for recovering better. Any prospect of a truly sustainable recovery depends, to a large extent, on our capacity to build societies which are not only greener, climate friendly and more economically resilient, but also more equitable and more inclusive.

In this context, the role of digital technologies is bound to be key. The pandemic has shown, like never before, that the digital tool can be decisive in multiple ways: from allowing a minimal level of medical consultations to guaranteeing access to some essential services; from permitting the continuation of some economic activity, with variable limitations, to preserving family and social contacts. At the same time, the pandemic has emphasized the transformational power of the digital instrument, by exponentially increasing the value of existing digital industries and by creating opportunities for new electronically-based activities.

Madame Chair, the need to overcome the digital divide more pressing than ever. Promoting equal access to digital – by reducing age, social and geographical gaps – has become indispensable for achieving social inclusion and providing opportunities for all. This implies pursuing active investment policies to increase digital training, reduce access cost and eliminate barriers to disability, and strengthen and expand connectivity nets. In parallel, it requires providing adequate support to the people and sectors mostly impacted by the digital revolution, helping them to re-train and to converge towards different jobs and activities.

Overcoming the pandemic by handling the vaccine as a global common good, positioning social equity and inclusion at the center of recovering better, maximizing the social potential of digitalization, while minimizing its negative repercussions: these objectives are at the core of the program of work of the Italian Presidency of the G20 in this crucial year. Italy is firmly committed to steer the process in a way that brings concrete results.

Allow me now to pass the floor to the Italian Youth Delegates, who will complete our national intervention.

Thank you Ambassador Zappia,

Madame Chair,

We are honoured to participate at the general debate of the 59th session of the Commission for Social Development, and we would like to thank our Country for this opportunity.

Social inclusion is a pivotal concept in the youth field since it includes a broad range of sub-topics, Digitalization, on the other hand, is a fairly recent topic to the society at large and to some specific categories, such as youth

During the pandemic, Digitalization has made its way into youth lives even more severely, representing a chance to keep their past habits, such as going to school and socialize with their friends. This has not only determined a swift development of the digital world but also a new landscape for inequalities caused by varying access to digital tools and exclusion or inclusion within the digital realm. Now accepted as part of everyday life, digital tools are often assumed to offer a precious way to include more young people, especially those hard to reach due to different kind of barriers. Yet, social inclusion, as it relates to the digital world, is about more than just access to technology and can be considered a complex, multidimensional concept.

Putting resources into digital learning and training for young people is an essential investment in building social cohesion, and in reducing the unsustainable inequalities that are blocking human development and economic growth.
Yet, we would like to highlight that being digitally competent is more than being able to use the latest smartphone or computer software — because it also is about being able to use such digital technologies in a critical, collaborative and creative way, while keeping up with the upcoming challenges that the world will face during and after the Covid19 Pandemic.

In this context, we should look at the intersection between young people’s social inclusion and digitalization, in order to understand how the development of the digital world promotes or inhibits inclusion. The pandemic has exposed gaps, fragilities and inequalities and young people are often on the front lines of this injustice. Unfortunately, there has also been little discussion of the implications for the youth field, across research, policy and practice, and we hope that this year’s debates of the CSocD will fill this gap.

As stated by the Secretary-General “education and digital technology are two of the most important investments we can make, as we respond to COVID-19”. This would help us to build the foundations for a strong recovery and for a quicker achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

To conclude, we hope that the current situation will be interpreted as a generational opportunity to reimagine education with new technologies, through the development of modern, relevant curricula and skill: let’s not waste this chance.

We thank you.