Following is the speech (English only) by the Chief Secretary for Administration, Mr Donald Tsang, at the opening of the Conference on Social Cohesion co-organised by the Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Council of Social Services at the HKU Graduate House this morning (November 28):
Vice Chancellor, Your Honourable Bernard,
Good morning ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to join you here this morning for this very important conference. Not only are we celebrating the 35th anniversary of the Faculty of Social Sciences - and I would like to congratulate all those involved in developing the faculty to what it is today - but this event also marks the annual conference meeting of the Hong Kong Council of Social Services. So, can I thank you both for organising a conference that takes on board the concept of social cohesion and its policy implications.
This is a very timely event and one that I believe will greatly contribute to a better understanding of the concept in both the academia and the community. It dovetails with the on-going discussions and debate over our population policy released earlier this year. Indeed, the subject you are to discuss over the next two days touches on the lives of everyone in Hong Kong, from our newest arrivals to our longest serving residents; and involves all of us.
In the course of this conference you will unpack the concept of social cohesion and examine its many implications. You will, I am sure, address such questions as: what makes social cohesion possible; how to prevent the emergence of a 'two-speed society' characterised by a prosperous majority and a marginalised minority; how to cap rising unemployment in a globalising economic system; how to alleviate poverty and combat social exclusion; how to address the grievances and concerns of vulnerable groups; how to achieve a sustainable system of social protection; how to improve the standard of public services such as medical, health, and welfare services and ensure that not even marginal social groups are excluded from effective access to them; how to create a new sense of social solidarity and mutual responsibility in a society characterised by the pursuit of individual interest and fulfilment; and how to respond to changing patterns of family life and their effects on children. These are just some of the questions and issues that need to be addressed. I'm sure you won't find solutions to all of them during the conference, but progress will be made.
In discussing them, you will draw on the knowledge and expertise of overseas speakers to give you an insight and understanding of the issues from a global and comparative perspective. At the same time, you will need to visualise these discussions in the context of local concerns and how they reflect our cultural, economic, and political characteristics.
As you debate and deliberate these issues, may I share with you some of my thoughts on the subject.
First, civic organisations provide strategic linkages among different sectors of the people and between the people and the government. They are important channels for building social networks and positive values in society and valuable partners in any government effort to promote social cohesion.
Second, government efforts to promote social cohesion should also try to capitalise on volunteerism and community participation. In my view, it pays to have a community building agenda that promotes the development of community self-help and mutual help groups.
Third, because of the multifaceted nature of social cohesion, its knowledge base is hard to find without thorough research. In this regard, cross-sector collaboration in research and the free flow of research findings are both important. When it comes to policy formulation and implementation, an integrated approach and systemic evaluation are necessary to ensure proper co-ordination of resources and efforts across different areas.
Fourth, given the global nature of many cohesion issues and problems, experts and researchers from different countries and different cultures should work together to share research findings, compare experiences, learn from each other and find solutions to common problems.
Indeed, I am delighted and heartened to find that the conference has brought academia and the community, and local and overseas experts and professionals together. The conference is truly social cohesion in spirit and action. You have a difficult and challenging time ahead, but I am sure your discussions will be most rewarding and enlightening.
Once again, congratulations on your foresight in arranging this conference and I wish you every success in your deliberations.
Ends/Friday, November 28, 2003