Social justice is more than an ethical imperative, it is a foundation for national stability and global prosperity. Equal opportunity, solidarity and respect for human rights -- these are essential to unlocking the full productive potential of nations and peoples.
The World Day of Social Justice is a call for all countries to take concrete actions that give meaning to the universal values of human dignity and opportunity for all. The focus of this year's commemoration - achieving social protection for all - is critical to building fairer, more inclusive and equitable societies.
As we continue to confront the fallout of the global financial and economic crisis, meeting this challenge is more important than ever. For the tens of millions who have lost their jobs since the crisis began, the global recession is far from over. That is one reason why the UN system-wide response includes an initiative to establish a social protection floor. This effort is designed to help ensure access to basic social services, provide people with the tools to generate decent incomes, and strengthen safeguards for the poor, vulnerable and marginalized.
Eighty per cent of the world's people lack access to adequate social protection. Women are especially vulnerable. The purpose of a social protection floor is clear: No one should live below a certain income level, and everyone should have access to essential public services such as water and sanitation, health and education.
Numerous studies have found that a basic social floor is globally affordable. The International Labour Organization and United Nations Development Programme are releasing a new report today that shares 18 innovative social protection floor policies that are making a real difference in the developing world. And, at the recent session of the Commission for Social Development, Member States also addressed social protection systems as a means to reduce inequality and social exclusion for achievement of the MDGs.
At the same time, we must remain steadfast against the forces of discrimination that deny people their dignity based on religion, ethnicity or economic status. We must also take swift action to create an enabling environment for social inclusion and decent work for all.
The pursuit of social justice is crucial to maximizing the potential for growth with equity and minimizing the risks of social unrest. Together let us rise to the challenge and ensure that our work for sustainable development delivers social justice for all.