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The most notable instances of rapid global progress have sprung from the convergence of enlightened policy and empowered populations.

Communities flourish as they develop the intellectual, social and moral capacities to make informed decisions about how their agency can be exercised in ways that both contribute to and are enhanced by state services, a statement of the Baha’i International Community (BIC) addressed to the 57th Session of the Commission for Social Development at the United Nations says.

The Commission, which meets annually, is the advisory body to the United Nations responsible for the social development pillar of global development.

The theme for this year’s Commission, taking place from 11-21 February, is addressing inequalities and challenges to social inclusion through fiscal, wage and social protection policies.

“Thoughtful actors the world over are striving to construct social and economic arrangements that reflect the reality that “all beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights,” the BIC statement reads.

“In this light, the measures being considered by the Commission for Social Development (CSocD) can be understood as incremental means of fostering vibrant communities in which members from all backgrounds are both contributing to and benefitting from the common good.”

… is there any deed in the world that would be nobler than service to the common good? Is there any greater blessing conceivable for a man, than that he should become the cause of the education, the development, the prosperity and honor of his fellow-creatures? No, by the Lord God! The highest righteousness of all is for blessed souls to take hold of the hands of the helpless and deliver them out of their ignorance and abasement and poverty, and with pure motives, and only for the sake of God, to arise and energetically devote themselves to the service of the masses, forgetting their own worldly advantage and working only to serve the general good. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 103.

However, conceptions of otherness and basic norms are being called into question as society also shows signs of fracturing, the BIC says in the statement. Key to addressing these social challenges must come through uniting growing numbers in a common cause. Economic arrangements that reduce extremes of wealth and poverty and foster social cohesion therefore are critical.

“The economic policies under review by the Commission have the potential to define a minimum standard below which no individual should be allowed to fall,” reads the statement.

“Such standards seek to ensure that misfortune does not translate into humiliation and setbacks do not compound into calamity. But such policies can also help establish an environment in which capacity is built, in ever-increasing numbers, to contribute to the construction of a better world.”

In this context, “the role of government would come to focus on enabling and empowering rather than simply providing and funding.”

“Experience has shown the ability of virtually any population to refashion society when inspired by a shared vision of the future and committed to a common course of action.”

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