This guest post was written by Gabriela Taveras. Gabriela is a sophomore student at the School of Diplomacy and International Relations. She currently serves as a School of Diplomacy Youth Representative to the United Nations and as a Representative for the United Nations Association of the Dominican Republic in New York and the Dominican capital, Santo Domingo. In the Seton Hall community, she serves as President of the UNA-USA Campus Chapter. The Dominican Republic is her homeland, and her particular areas of interest include International Development and Peace & Conflict Resolution, which she hopes to pursue through future graduate studies. Ms. Taveras’ picture was used as the image for this post


At the UN, 2015 is a year that symbolizes a hopeful new period where international development can make historic strides. This year, actors of change worldwide are truly making their voices heard, motivated by the momentum of the 70th anniversary of the United Nations and a soon to be adopted Post-2015 Development Agenda.

It is with this backdrop that civil society from all parts of the world convened in New York City for discussions on “Rethinking and Strengthening Social Development in the Contemporary World”, which was the main theme of this year’s 53rd Session of the Commission for Social Development. Laura Maria Craciunean, one of the panelists in attendance and law professor at the Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu, best echoed the importance of the session’s theme when she said that “human rights must be a means and an end to sustainable development.”

The wide range of speakers and country representatives present made one point evident: where there is a will, no obstacles are daunting enough to stop the desire to make a change in the world. The role of chairperson for this session fell under the responsibility of Ms. Simona Mirela Miculescu, the Romanian Permanent Representative. Member State and UN representatives discussed both the impact of social development and how it can be improved through sustained, committed, and consistent investment. NGO representatives had the opportunity to ask the presenters questions, which made for a dynamic debate that truly exemplified the UN’s democratic foundation.

Morning and afternoon sessions were ripe with different approaches on the importance of social development and how to best invest in it. In that regard, many representatives raised some compelling points, and shed light on some groundbreaking proposals that could be used as an example for other governments or even grassroots movements at a more local level.

Gabriel Rivera Conde, President of the Specialized Technical Committee of the Information System of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of Mexico, made an eye-opening presentation on the Mexican government’s efforts to integrate into society without infringing upon their culture. He also elaborated on his government’s strides against poverty, and the mechanisms it employed to ensure a successful achievement of the Millennium Development Goals at a local level:

Milton Reyes, Vice-Minister of Youth, Dominican Republic, emphasized the right that persons with disabilities have to an accessible environment, especially where tourism is concerned. He noted that pregnant women and persons with disabilities are consumers just like everyone else, and they sometimes do not go to hotels because they do not represent fully accessible spaces where their needs are taken into account.

In this regard, the government created the National Council on Disability, which has an all-inclusive agenda that facilitates persons with disabilities with insurance and an education. Mr. Reyes also remarked how this council has been in charge of building new academic facilities where accessibility and a revamped curriculum are top priorities. The Dominican Republic is starting the implementation of an accessible tourism model, which would cater to the 15% of the world population that has some sort of disability. It is also planning the first “Conference in Latin America and the Caribbean on Accessible Tourism”, which will be celebrated May 27-28 of 2015 in the Dominican Republic.

Ultimately, the conference left all of us attendees with a resounding lesson that we should take to heart: each and every one of us should strive to be the change that we wish to see in the world, and this change only begins when we have faith in what our abilities can help us achieve.

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