Italy aligns itself with the statement made by the European Union and wishes to add a few remarks in a national capacity.
We share the Commission’s focus on empowerment as an instrument of social development. As the Secretary-General has noted, empowerment is closely related to poverty eradication, full employment and decent work, and social integration. Today I wish to address these three issues, with an emphasis on poverty eradication, a growing challenge that Italy has addressed with innovative responses.
Today’s high unemployment rates and rise in relative and absolute poverty illustrate the urgent need to bridge this gap. In 2012 there was a major increase in abject poverty in Italy, from 11.2% to 14.5% of the population: the largest such increase in the European Union.
Italy has thus launched a pilot program to combat abject poverty through active inclusion principles, aimed primarily at families with children in difficult working conditions. These measures are being implemented in twelve major cities in 2014 and will be extended throughout the country in 2015.
The experiment is part of a national anti-poverty program called “Inclusion and Activation Support.” It focuses on adults and children and sets down specific commitments for the beneficiaries in terms of: contact with social services, active job search, compliance with training projects, school attendance and performance, and healthcare prevention and treatment.
If we are to build an environment in which people can express their full potential and actively participate in the development of society, human rights and fundamental freedoms must be promoted and respected. Italy advocates a rights-based approach to empowerment in all fields.
Employment and decent work are instruments of empowerment. Italy is a strong backer of the International Labour Organization’s efforts to advance the decent work agenda worldwide, and has helped finance the ILO International Training Center’s programmes in North Africa, Somalia, and Myanmar.
In times of crisis, social protection policies play a pivotal role in stabilizing aggregate demand and increasing resilience to economic shock. In the long term, they promote social integration. This is why Italy is a traditional sponsor of the United Nations’ Social Protection Floor Initiative.