We convene today to advance critical items on the global agenda: poverty
eradication, employment generation, and social integration. These are complex
issues. They will not be solved easily. It is on us to find the ways to empower
people, communities and nations to move the obstacles from their path - and
travel down the road to success.
A Jewish proverb says, "You shall eat the fruit of your own work and you
shall be happy." It teaches us that empowerment, work and happiness go hand in
The secret of Israel's success can be summarized in two words: empowered
people. We are a nation of pioneers who took our destiny into our own hands. In
just sixty years, Israel transformed from a developing country into a powerhouse
of technological innovation. We have moved from cultivating apples to designing
Apple Computers and harvesting oranges to building Orange mobile phones. We did
so with very few natural resources, relying only on our wealth of brainpower and
The Israeli experience shows that human capital is the greatest natural
resource of all. It proves that the best way to attain sustainable development
is to put citizens in charge of the process. If you invest in your people - and
empower them through education and a democratic political system - they will
shape a better future for the country. As the Secretary General's report aptly
puts it, "It is people's own actions that empower them, rather than those of
Israel's entrepreneurial spirit lies at the heart of our development
At home and abroad, Israel works to empower women, youth, and marginalized
groups with the tools to create the future they want. MASHAV - Israel's Agency for International
Development Cooperation - uses targeted skills training programs to bring the
power of entrepreneurship to all corners of the world. MASHAV has trained more
than 22,000 young people in Latin America, in cooperation with the Young
American Business Trust.
For more than a decade, MASHAV has been working with the United Nations
Economic Commission for Europe and the Mount Carmel Training Center, to organize
skills promotion workshops for women entrepreneurs from the Caucuses and Central
Asia. These women are learning skills that empower them to find and create
decent work, move out of poverty and become active members of society.
We are advancing the same kind of efforts at home. We have created special
programs to empower members of the ultra-Orthodox and the Arab sectors of
Israeli society climb the income ladder. The Appleseeds Academy is one of them.
It provides technological training to more than 100,000 people per year. Another
program is led by the Israeli economic development fund Koret, which is
partnering with Microloan giant KIVA to help Bedouin and Arab Israeli women set
up their own microenterprises.
People with disabilities are at the heart of Israel's empowerment agenda.
Last year, we ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with
Disabilities. This marked another milestone in Israel’s continuous work to fully
integrate our 1.5 million citizens with disabilities. Citizens with disabilities
enjoy numerous protections under Israeli law. For instance, the Equal Rights for
Persons with Disabilities Law prohibits discrimination in all domains of life
and mandates that all public buildings be accessible.
Too often, cumbersome regulation and failed public policies stand in the way
of empowering too many people around the world today. This is unacceptable.
Instead of standing in the way of empowerment, laws and regulation should create
enabling environments in which entrepreneurship flourishes.
Entrepreneurship empowers individuals to create employment for themselves and
their communities. Entrepreneurs are pioneers and problem-solvers. They can
tackle the toughest challenges around them - from poverty to environmental
This year, the General
Assembly adopted a resolution on Entrepreneurship for Development presented by
Israel together with nearly a hundred co-sponsors. The resolution calls on
governments to foster entrepreneurship as a means to empower citizens, fight
poverty and achieve sustainable development. We hope it will mark a milestone in
the way governments think about the empowerment of their citizens.
Empowerment policies are not complete if they do not include social
protection and provide basic entitlements. Access to education, health and
housing are critical in the economic empowerment of poor people. When these
basic needs are met, the poor have a better chance to find decent work, improve
their living standards, and become fully integrated in society.
Talent, drive, and passion are found in all societies. These powerful forces
can change our world for the better. But people are only free to act if
governments remove the obstacles from their path. By empowering citizens
politically, economically and socially, governments can allow their people to be
the drivers of their own success. That, we believe, is the surest path to