11 July 2002
Council Hears Range of Views on Ways to Strengthen Coordination in Implementation of Internationally Agreed Development Goals
NEW YORK, 10 July (UN Headquarters) -- A strong, effective Economic and Social Council was essential for the United Nations to be able to play a leading role in helping the people of the world achieve a better future, Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette said this morning, as the Council met to discuss ways to strengthen coordination between the key stakeholders in implementing internationally agreed development goals.
Making an effective contribution to the realization of the goals set at the various United Nations conferences of the 1990s, she continued, would test all the Council's capacities for achieving policy coherence, monitoring progress and guiding the work of the United Nations system. That was by no means an easy task, since "we are dealing with a complex set of interconnected issues and a broad range of actors". The follow-up must be carried out in an integrated fashion, lest the interconnections were lost and the sum became less than the parts. That was why the Council and the Secretariat must continue to improve their approach and method of work.
The aim, she said, must be to make the Council the Organization's leading development forum, a place where thinkers, policy makers and practitioners could come together and provide intellectual leadership in development policy. It must ensure that actions taken by the various parts of the system were properly sequenced, coordinated and mutually reinforcing, so as to maximize overall progress. Through its various segments, the Council had a unique capacity to orient and affect not only the analytical work of the system but also its operational activities for development and its humanitarian work.
Ivan Simonovic (Croatia), President of the Economic and Social Council, said strengthening the Council was part of the overall strengthening of the United Nations. The Council had great potential for coordination within the United Nations system and between the system and other entities. It was trying to improve cooperation with the Bretton Wood institutions and with United Nations agencies, funds and programmes. It was also the entry point for non-governmental organizations, whose role in the international system was expanding. Strengthening it would be a difficult task, but doing so was in the interest of all delegations.
The representative of Denmark, speaking for the European Union and associated States, said it was high time to bring the discussion of enhancing coordination between developmental, economic, social and environmental areas of the United Nations to fruition in the Council. The implementation at the national level of the Millennium Development Goals and the Monterrey Consensus could not wait -- the leadership in taking the Millennium agenda forward must come from the United Nations and its Member States. The Organization must show that its institutions were useful to all development partners and processes for conference follow-up.
The Council, noted Australia's representative, had become one of the most obvious casualties of the tendency to resort to separate processes in addressing major issues in the United Nations. That had taken the form of mega-conferences and summits, of which there had been too many in the last couple of years. The excessive number of special processes, beyond the established timetable and outside the existing United Nations organs and bodies, had meant not only an unmanageable calendar, but it had lessened the impact of the work of the Council. Instead, focus should be on implementing the Millennium Declaration and the results of past conferences.
India's representative felt that issues relating to economic, social, cultural, educational, health and related matters were within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Economic and Social Council. Often, however, the Council had not fully discharged those responsibilities. It had, for example, not discussed or taken a position on the economic and social impact of economic sanctions. Instead, it had allowed the Security Council to take the lead on that issue.
He added that since the Charter assigned the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security to the Security Council, it was difficult to accept the idea contained in the Secretary-General's report that conflict prevention needed to be addressed in the Economic and Social Council, or that it should consider contributing to a comprehensive discussion on the subject.
Statements were also made by the representatives of Venezuela (for the "Group of 77" developing countries and China), Mexico, Russian Federation, Bangladesh, Japan, United States, Guatemala, Pakistan, Norway, Chile, Peru, China, Dominican Republic, Iran, Uganda and Israel.
Marjatta Rasi (Finland), Vice-President of the Council, also spoke; and Patrizio Civili, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, introduced the reports of the Secretary-General before the Council. A statement was also made by the representative of the International Association of Economic and Social Councils and Similar Institutions.
In the afternoon, the Council also held a panel discussion on improving the Council's role in the follow-up of the Millennium Declaration and other major United Nations conferences and summits. The participants were: Adolfo Aguilar Zinser (Mexico); Dumisani Shadrack Kumalo (South Africa), Council Vice-President; Hanns Heinrich Schumacher (Germany), Vice-Chairman of the Bureau of the Preparatory Committee for the General Assembly special session on children; and Anwarul Chowdhury, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States.
The Council will meet again at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 11 July, to hold a panel discussion on Council reform and enhancing the impact of its work.
The Economic and Social Council met this morning to begin its coordination segment. Over the next three days, the Council will devote its discussions to the topic of "Strengthening further the Economic and Social Council, building on its recent achievements, to help it fulfil the role ascribed to it in the Charter of the United Nations as contained in the United Nations Millennium Declaration."
The Council will have before it two reports of the Secretary-General -- one on the main theme of the substantive session (document E/2002/46), and another on the work of its functional commissions (E/2002/73). (For more information see press release ECOSOC/6007 of 1 July.)
The Secretary-General's report on strengthening of the Council (document E/2002/62) is dated 10 May to take into account the most recent events possible, including the Council's high-level April meeting with the Bretton Woods institutions. The report aims to support the Council's considerations on how to more effectively fulfil the role ascribed to it in the Charter as contained in the Millennium Declaration.
In his report, the Secretary-General states that the Council is challenged to help bring together the United Nations system, the Bretton Woods institutions and other actors in implementing the outcomes of world conferences and the Millennium Summit collaboratively, with a focus on a balanced review and monitoring of outcomes. Globalization is another challenge in which the Council fosters coherence of actions and policies to meet the need for more integrated approaches to peace and development.
The report presents proposals on how the Council can meet its challenges by building on its last reform. It addresses issues related to the Monterrey Conference on development financing, the coming Johannesburg Summit on sustainable development, peace-building and conflict prevention. Suggestions centre on increasing flexibility in scheduling of sessions and better organization of the coordination segment to improve follow-up to conferences and summits. Other recommendations concern the improvement of both the visibility and impact of operational activities, enhancing the Council's management of its functional commissions and outreach of the Council to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil society.
The Secretary-General recalls that the Council is the central coordinating body of the United Nations. He states that the new challenges call for a more flexible and responsive approach towards the Council's organization of its work, since the Millennium Declaration had placed new demands on it as a catalyst in bringing together all actors in the common goals of eradicating poverty and advancing development.
Specific avenues the Council may address include: development of modalities for actors to "stay engaged" in the Monterrey Consensus; integration of economic, social and environmental objectives; assistance in meeting urgent needs with a view towards longer-term development goals; and the comprehensive advance of conflict prevention, peace-building and development. Particularly in the last regard, the Council is reaffirmed in its capacity to harness all actors for implementing the Millennium Declaration as the global community emerges from an "era of commitment" to an "era of implementation."
After an overview of the Council's reform, the Secretary-General offers specific recommendations in each area analyzed. With regard to conference follow-up, he suggests that the Council consider how it can support the Assembly in meeting development goals. It should also consider forming strategic partnerships; conducting collaborative progress reviews; and instituting an intensive preparatory process before high-level segments to consider how actors can "stay engaged" after the event.
In the area of peace-building and conflict prevention, he suggests that the Council could devote a high-level segment to addressing the root causes of conflict and the role of development in promoting long-term conflict prevention. It could also undertake studies on the matter; develop regional perspectives and approaches; establish an ad hoc advisory group on African countries emerging from conflict; and link the policy dimension of the matter with operational activities.
Further, the Secretary-General says the Council could devote more high-level attention to key issues if it considered measures to enhance its functioning and improve its working methods, including by holding segments and meetings throughout the year and tightening the focus of the segments. Oversight and management of subsidiary bodies could be improved if it was considered in the general segment, which could be renamed "management segment." To increase efficiency of outreach efforts, the Council could encourage dissemination of its policy outcomes so as to affect decision-making and policy-setting. And finally, the Council could streamline its own decision-making and reporting methods.
The Council will also consider the Secretary-General's report on the establishment of an ad hoc advisory group on African countries emerging from conflict (document E/2002/12 and Corr.1), in which he reviews discussions with Member States about the creation of a body that would assess humanitarian and economic needs of such countries and elaborate a long-term programme of support for implementation beginning with the integration of relief into development.
Following the introduction, Section II of the report sets out the context and rationale for this undertaking; Section III outlines a set of possible elements of the proposed advisory group and its functions; and Section IV contains concluding observations and recommendations. The Secretary-General notes that the idea of an ad hoc advisory group of the Council -- adaptable, country-specific and working through existing interdepartmental and inter-agency mechanisms, and recognizing the leading role of the concerned country itself -- could add real value to the work of the United Nations.
Such an advisory group would be set up for a limited time, and not as a standing body. It would not superimpose, replace or parallel other coordination structures, nor would it become a regular body for dealing with all African countries. Specifically, such a group would: engage in consultations with and obtain the necessary information from relevant officials of national and international bodies and other organizations; assess humanitarian and economic needs in the concerned country or subregion and prepare a long-term programme of support; and provide advice on how to ensure adequate, coherent, well-coordinated and effective international assistance.
Further to the report, such a group would recommend its findings for adoption by the Council and for consideration in other appropriate settings. The group would be small and representative yet effective, consisting of a limited number of ambassadors drawn from the membership of the Council and its observers, based on the outcome of consultations among the regional groups. It would also include representation from the country concerned. By pursuing such an approach, the Council would highlight the importance of post-conflict peace-building and would emphasize the role that it could play for high-level political visibility and coordination.
Also before the Council is the Secretary-General's report on the long-term programme of support for Haiti (document E/20002/56), which provides an overview of the situation in Haiti since 2001, including the political and institutional crisis that the country is going through and its repercussions on the general economic situation and on the decline of official development assistance (ODA).
The report notes that in spite of this difficult context, the Resident Coordinator and the United Nations country team have continued to provide assistance in various fields, such as governance and the rule of law, in the framework of transition activities following the International Civilian Support Mission in Haiti, as well as poverty reduction and HIV/AIDS. The report provides information on these activities and on progress made in the elaboration of a long-term programme of support for Haiti, including an update on the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) and the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP).
The Secretary-General stresses that the resolution of the political, electoral and institutional crisis existing in Haiti since 1997 is a prerequisite for the formulation and implementation of a long-term programme of support with the Government. The resident agencies of the United Nations have completed the Common Country Assessment (CCA) and the UNDAF in Haiti, which are important tools for any long-term development plan. However, the current political context and the continued decline of ODA to Haiti prevent any significant additional step forward in this process.
Further to the report, efforts currently made by the Organization of American States (OAS) to assist the Government of Haiti in bringing an end to this crisis may open the way for a more favourable environment for international assistance to Haiti. The consideration of a long-term programme of support by international development partners very much depends on the outcome of this initiative. The Secretary-General says the Council may now wish to consider whether it should continue to be kept regularly informed of progress achieved in the elaboration of a long-term programme of support to Haiti or decide to subordinate its consideration of the matter to positive developments in the political situation.
The President of the Economic and Social Council, IVAN SIMONOVIC (Croatia), said that today's theme -- further strengthening the Council -- was crucial to the Council's future. Strengthening it was part of the overall strengthening of the United Nations. Increased global interdependency led to an increased role of the United Nations system.
He said the Council had its great potential for coordination within the United Nations system and between the United Nations system and other entities. It was trying to improve cooperation with the Bretton Woods institutions and with United Nations agencies, funds and programmes. The Council was also the entry-point of non-governmental organizations, whose role in the international system was expanding.
Concerning cooperation with the Bretton Woods institutions, he said discussion had already started about steps to be taken after Monterrey. The Council wanted to increase the density of its contacts with the Bretton Woods institutions. A consensus had been established on an ad hoc working group on African countries emerging from conflict. The Council's coordinating role would be extremely important in that regard. Concerning functioning commissions, he said he would organize a meeting of all available chairpersons of the commissions to review ways in which the commissions could work better, address their working methods, and include NGOs and the private sector in their work.
Strengthening the Council was a difficult task, he said, but one that was in the interest of all delegat- ions. It was therefore important to create a good atmosphere and spirit of coordination after Monterrey and Johannesburg.
MARJATTA RASI (Finland), Vice-President of the Council, said that this year's coordination segment was of particular interest and importance since it would be looking at ways to make the Council's work more effective. Though far from perfect, the Council had come a long way in making its work more specific and focused. She hoped the discussions would result in new and innovative ideas.
She said the first panel, being held this afternoon, would discuss improving the Council's role in the follow-up of the Millennium Declaration and other major conferences and summits. The theme of tomorrow's panel would be reform of the Council with a view to strengthening its impact. The key challenge was to promote a coordinated follow-up to the Millennium Declaration, the recent International Conference on Financing for Development and other major United Nations conferences.
Also, she added, the Council must guide the work of its functional commission and coordinate overall coherency of their work. In addition, coordination of the work between the Council, Security Council and Assembly must be enhanced so as to avoid duplication of their work. Furthermore, the Council must continue to reform its working methods to increase its impact.
Statement by Deputy Secretary-General
LOUISE FRÉCHETTE, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, noted that the rationale for ongoing efforts to strengthen the Council and follow-up to United Nations conferences was clear. The age-old plague of poverty remained as daunting as ever. Inequality within and among nations was growing, with troubling implications. A strong and effective Economic and Social Council was essential for the United Nations to be able to play a leading role in helping the people of the world achieve a better future for themselves and for their children.
Making an effective contribution to the realization of the goals set at the various United Nations conferences and the implementation of their action plans, she continued, would test all the capacities of the Council for achieving policy coherence, monitoring progress and guiding the work of the United Nations system. That was by no means an easy task, since "we are dealing with a complex set of interconnected issues and a broad range of actors". The follow-up must be done in an integrated fashion, lest the interconnections were lost and the sum became less than the parts. That was why the Council and the Secretariat must continue to improve their approach and method of work.
The aim, she said, must be to make the Economic and Social Council the United Nations system's leading development forum, a place where thinkers, policy-makers and practitioners could come together and provide intellectual leadership in development policy. It must ensure that actions taken by the various parts of the system were properly sequenced, coordinated and mutually reinforcing so as to maximize overall progress. Through its various segments, the Council had a unique capacity to orient and affect not only the analytical work of the system but also its operational activities for development and its humanitarian work.
The Economic and Social Council, she went on to say, also had a responsibility to monitor progress towards the achievement of the goals set by the various conferences. Such monitoring provided the essential feedback against which policies and strategies could be assessed and adjusted as necessary. One particular question that the Council might wish to address was what the respective roles of the Council and the General Assembly were in relation to the economic and social parts of the Secretary-General's reports on the follow-up to the Millennium Declaration. It would be helpful to define more clearly the division of labour between those two organs.
She said that the Secretary-General intended to submit to the Assembly in September a number of proposals aimed at further strengthening the Organization, particularly in its work in the economic and social area. The starting point was the same as for the discussions scheduled to take place over the next few days -- how to increase the effectiveness of the United Nations in the pursuit of the goals set by the Member States in the Millennium Assembly and the various conferences. Combined with the measures the Council itself was taking to reinforce its own procedures and approaches, the pragmatic measures the Secretary-General intended to propose could help significantly to reinforce the impact of United Nations work in the social and economic area.
The Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, PATRIZIO CIVILI, introducing the reports, said the two main strands around which the effort of renewed reform is organized were substantive -- to maximize the capacity of the Organization to help deliver the progress that the conferences and the Millennium Declaration had promised -- and procedural -- streamlining and focusing processes and rationalizing the distribution of responsibilities within the Organization.
The major new challenges that the Millennium Declaration had posed for development cooperation, the new tasks that Monterrey had vested in the Economic and Social Council, and the upcoming challenges that would emerge for the Council from the Johannesburg Summit, would make the review mentioned in the Millennium Declaration necessary. That clear mandate from the Millennium Declaration should affect both the spirit and the sense of urgency with which the Council would confront it. Among many factors that made the renewed effort at strengthening the Council promising, he mentioned the effort at reform within the Organization itself.
He said the Secretary-General's report aimed to suggest ways in which the thematic approach that had characterized the Council's work could be more systematically linked to the overall process of implementation of the Millennium Declaration, and applied not only to each segment but also to the relationship among them. It also aimed to help the Council identify aspects of its work where its added value needed to be sharpened, or its contribution deepened, in the perspective of the Millennium Declaration.
While it might not be possible for the Council to act on all elements of reform and improvement outlined in the report, movement was essential to avoid losing momentum. That momentum was not only the momentum for continuous improvement and change that had characterized the Council's work in the past few years, but also the momentum for progress that the Millennium Declaration and Monterrey had generated, and that the Council had a major responsibility for maintaining and nurturing.
VICENTE E. VALLENILLA (Venezuela), speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, said that strengthening the mandate of the Economic and Social Council was crucial to social and economic development, particularly of the developing countries. He noted that all three of the topics for this year's session were important, namely integrated and coordinated follow-up to major United Nations conferences and summits, strengthening the Council's cooperation with other principal organs of the United Nations, and the proposals for improving the Council's working methods.
However, he continued, since negotiations on the World Summit for Sustainable Development were still taking place, it would be premature to tackle immediately the item on follow-up to major United Nations conferences and summits. That should happen after those negotiations were concluded. On the other hand, the Monterrey Conference was of significant importance, and discussion on it could begin in the general segment. He would like to seek the current segment focus on proposals to strengthen the Council's working methods.
Regarding integrated and coordinated follow-up to the major United Nations conferences, he said that such follow-up should include all major conferences and summits. At the same time, he believed that follow-up of the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals fell within the competence of the Assembly. The Council's role was to assist the Assembly in that regard.
The issue of strengthening the Council's cooperation with other principal organs involved a number of complex and sensitive issues, he said. Because of its nature, he felt the item should be addressed at a later stage. He fully supported the Council's role in assisting the Assembly in its follow-up of the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals. On improving the Council's working methods, he did not believe that shortening the substantive session or reorganizing the humanitarian segment would make a positive contribution to the Council's work.
OLE MOSEBY (Denmark), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said an examination of how to strengthen the Council's work and ensure that the United Nations remained a vital player in economic and social areas in the twenty-first century could not take place without consideration of integrated and coordinated follow-up to the major United Nations conferences and summits. He said the Council's previous two sessions had failed to reach any significant conclusions on the issue of follow-up.
He said the European Union believed that +5 and +10 conferences should not be convened automatically: such meetings should be held on a case-by-case basis, as well as on their substantive merits. Existing structures, particularly the Council's functional commissions, should be used for follow-up. To avoid duplication of effort, new institutions should not be created. There was a strong need for the Council to monitor follow-up to major United Nations conferences and the Millennium Declaration in order to provide a comprehensive overview of implementation and progress towards achieving the goals therein.
It was high time to bring the discussion of enhancing coordination between developmental, economic, social and environmental areas of the United Nations to fruition in the Council. The implementation of the Millennium Development Goals and Monterrey Consensus at the national level could not wait -- the leadership in taking the Millennium agenda forward must come from the United Nations and its Member States. The Organization must show that its institutions were useful to all development partners and processes for conference follow-up.
He said the "Staying Engaged" section of the Monterrey Consensus was one building block in that regard. Adhering to the objectives of that section also had implications for the follow-up discussions in Johannesburg. The Monterrey Consensus had also called for stronger involvement of the WTO and enhanced dialogue with the Bretton Woods institutions. Such enhanced dialogue should focus on ensuring sustainable development and reaffirm broad commitment to implementing the Millennium goals at the country level. He added that at this session the Council should strive to organize the next few years of meetings with the Bretton Woods institutions and WTO.
He believed that the innovative modalities used for stakeholder participation in the preparations for the Monterrey Conference and the Conference itself should be continued. He suggested that stakeholders be invited to the Council's informal consultations on such issues, so that innovative approaches for engaging civil society, the private sector and other non-State actors could be applied practically to the regular work of the Council. The Council should, as part of its efforts to promote coordination, insist on mainstreaming sustainable development throughout the United Nations system. He reiterated the Union's previous proposal that "Global Public Goods" be the theme for next year's high-level segment. He also welcomed increased coordination between the Economic and Social Council and the Security Council.
SALVADOR DE LARA (Mexico) said it was suitable that efforts to strengthen the Council should emphasize the need to link the processes of the various United Nations conferences. In that undertaking, it was important to bear in mind that each of the conferences and summits had an essential common element: the quest for sustainable development and poverty reduction.
He said the Council should seek to establish strategic alliances between the United Nations, the international financial institutions and trade agencies. It was also essential to strengthen the Council's capacities to coordinate follow-up of conferences and summits. Regarding the Monterrey Consensus, the Council must maintain the interest and the high political profile of the follow-up and strengthen the association shaped in the Monterrey process, so that the United Nations, Bretton Woods institutions and World Trade Organization (WTO) continued to work hand in hand. The key points of Monterrey must be defined during meetings between the Economic and Social Council and Bretton Woods institutions every spring. The political dialogue in the high-level segment provided another opportunity for a more effective follow-up of the Monterrey and Johannesburg processes, and must be carefully prepared.
An integral part of strengthening United Nations efforts in the peaceful settlement of conflicts was establishing sustainable development and reducing poverty, which were the best tools for eradicating the causes of conflict. In that context, the Council could contribute towards peace, tackling the root causes of conflict and playing a role in conflict prevention. Those efforts should be pursued in coordination with the General Assembly and the Security Council.
YURIY N. ISAKOV (Russian Federation) believed that the Council should make better use of the powers ascribed to it in the Charter with a view to coordination of United Nations activities in the field of conflict prevention and peace-building. He supported the Secretary-General's proposals aimed at setting up closer interaction between the Council, the Security Council and the Assembly in the areas of conflict prevention and securing the effective transition from emergency relief to reconstruction and development. The ongoing elaboration of the mechanisms of the Ad Hoc Advisory Group on African countries emerging from conflict was one of the first practical steps in that direction.
The effectiveness of the present format and methods of work of the Council had been tested and proved, he noted. Any alterations to the present format of the Council must be well founded from the perspective of expected "added value" and the fulfilment of the substantive tasks of the organ. He was prepared to discuss constructive proposals, such as holding separate thematic meetings to consider urgent matters requiring the Council's attention.
However, the proposals regarding the fragmentation and shortening of the substantive session, he said, might compromise the political role of the Council as one of the principal organs of the United Nations. Also, the proposal to decouple the humanitarian segment from the substantive session seemed controversial. Such an approach would conflict with the strategy of ensuring a smooth transition from emergency relief to reconstruction and development.
IFTEKHAR AHMED CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said the Monterrey Consensus had called for addressing issues of coherence, coordination and cooperation between the Economic and Social Council and the Bretton Woods institutions. The most important observation to emerge from this year's dialogues between the Council and the Bretton Woods institutions was the need to ensure the coherence of agendas at the intergovernmental and interagency levels. Integration, once achieved, could ensure a coordinated approach at both international and national levels, which would have a positive impact on the implementation process of the Millennium Development Goals.
Regarding its future role in the area of sustainable development, he said the Council should aim at greater policy coherence and integration with its functional commissions, in particular with the Commission on Sustainable Development, and should promote greater coordination of the activities of its functional commissions and its other subsidiary bodies. It should also enhance cooperation with United Nations funds and programmes.
Peace and security were a sine qua non economic prosperity and growth, he said. The goal of peacekeeping should be pursued as part of a broad continuum, involving conflict prevention, conflict resolution and peace-building. Based on that approach, he welcomed the proposed formation of the ad hoc advisory group on African countries emerging from conflict. In addressing root causes of conflict, the Council and the advisory group had an important role to play. It would be important for the advisory group to liaise and coordinate with the working group on Africa set up by the Security Council. He said the Economic and Social Council had to be flexible and responsive to the needs of the times. It would be helpful if it could convene special sessions on issues of relevance to developing countries, such as information and communications technology, capacity building, and public administration for development.
MASASHI MIZUKAMI (Japan) emphasized the importance of ensuring integrated and coordinated follow-up to major United Nations conferences and summits. Such follow-up was essential, especially in light of recent experiences with "review fatigue" among Member States and the United Nations system, which had limited the global impact of the Organization's collective work.
Japan firmly believed that the follow-up process could be results-oriented and systematic, he said. It could avoid duplication or fragmentation by addressing head-on issues of periodicity, the high number of major review conferences that took place in a year, and repetition of virtually the same arguments on cross-cutting themes in each and every forum of the United Nations. In that regard, he went on, a clear division of labour should be established among the General Assembly, the Council and the subsidiary organs of the United Nations on the work of following up conferences and summits, while making the fullest use of the existing three-tiered structure.
He said Japan was of the view that subsidiary bodies should focus on regular technical reviews of implementation of the conclusions of conferences and summits, fully utilizing their technical expertise within their respective mandates, while the Council itself should review overlapping or cross-cutting themes common to major conferences and summits, including financial aspects of the conclusions. Further, the General Assembly should break its habit of deciding to convene review meetings simply because five or 10 years had elapsed since a conference was convened. Instead, it should consider convening review meetings only when there was a real need and when a worldwide political-level decision had to be made on items that were the focus of the original conference.
Finally, commenting on the working methods of the Council, he said his delegation was of the view that any change in those methods should contribute positively to progress towards the development goals and targets contained in the Millennium Declaration. Additionally, such progress should be examined on a country-by-country basis for a better understanding of where, and in what field, focus for future collective efforts could be directed to help developing countries advance further towards attainment of the Millennium Development Goals.
SICHAN SIV (United States) said that the global conferences of the 1990s had forged a broad global consensus on democracy, free markets, sustainable development and human rights as the ingredients for successful development. The current cycle of conferences had established that tackling poverty required realistic targets for outputs, results and success. That was a significant change in the common approach to development. Donors had committed external resources and developing countries had committed to tackling issues of governance, thus building the environment for public and private investment.
The United Nations system was at the very centre of international support for development, he noted. The Council had a unique function as the coordinating body for that system. It was a venue for assessing international progress, a role laid out in the Monterrey Consensus. It was now time for the Council to demonstrate its ability to address those challenges. The United States appreciated the report prepared by the Secretary-General for the current discussion, which called for improvements on the reforms of recent years to allow for better overall guidance and coordination.
The real challenge to the Council today, he stressed, was implementation, both of the development agenda and of the Council's own mandates and procedures. The Council could be an important forum for advancing development if its members, its bureau and its secretariat agreed to make real and effective use of its coordination mandate and eschew the extensive debate that too often consumed it.
GERT ROSENTHAL (Guatemala) said it was necessary to further define the role of the Council in a more precise manner. Otherwise "we shall continue to disregard the elementary principle of good governance holding that 'form follows function'". In refining the Council's role, the role of the General Assembly and the Security Council should be taken as points of reference, at least in part.
He favoured a decentralized scheme, wherein the main function of the Council would be to ensure coherence, offer an overall vision, and formulate more refined versions of the strategic orientations originating in the Assembly. Further improvements in the mechanisms for communication, information and consultation between the many bodies that were part of the system for governing the United Nations would be required.
Defining the Economic and Social Council's relationship with the other organs, in particular with the Security Council, in the sphere of post-conflict peace-building and consolidation was indispensable, he said. He welcomed the advances made recently in converting the Council into an important meeting point for examining significant topics in the economic and social area, and shared his observations on the set of proposals made by the Secretary-General.
MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) said the mandate of the Council was a broad one, but development had proved to be a difficult task. The potential of the Council in the area of international economic cooperation and promotion of economic and social development was considerable, but remained unfulfilled. With its broad mandate, the Council was well placed for cooperation with governments, the private sector, civil society and regional and global organizations.
He said follow-up to the Millennium Declaration was basically the responsibility of the General Assembly, but the Council could also play a significant role in addressing the developmental aspects of the declaration by coordinating and supervising the activities of its subsidiary organs and giving them policy direction. The Council must assume the responsibility for macroeconomic coordination at the global level. It should also play a more focused role in engaging the Bretton Woods institutions, WTO and civil society in more substantive discussions. It must not lose the momentum generated at Monterrey, and should now devise the modalities for holding substantive dialogue with those institutions, which would enable real evaluation of follow-up action and evolution of guidelines for follow-up to Monterrey and other conferences, both in letter and in spirit.
In the age of globalization and complex emergencies, he said, the roles of the major Organization organs had become more interdependent. The Economic and Social Council should devote a segment to addressing the root causes of conflict and conflict prevention, and should play an active role in discussion of armed conflict. The Secretary-General's proposals regarding the enhanced functioning of the different segments of the Council needed further discussion. It had been proposed to shorten the duration of the operational activities segment. That segment, however, gave coherent policy guidance on a system-wide basis to operational activities for development. It should be strengthened, he said.
OLE PETER KOLBY (Norway) said his country had always been a staunch supporter of a strong United Nations, and had therefore backed reforms that advanced that goal. In both 1991 and 1996, the Nordic countries had produced reports advocating reforms, with the last report focusing mainly on: integration of United Nations activities at the country level, under one country office and the leadership of an administrator; functional integration at Headquarters level to underpin the country level office; governance structure, and clearer division of labour between the General Assembly, Economic and Social Council and the governing bodies of programmes, funds and United Nations agencies; and financing and a more open and flexible recruitment policy.
He said Norway welcomed the Secretary-General's proposal to hold joint meetings or exchanges with the boards of specialized agencies, funds and programmes, as that would facilitate closer interaction between the Council and the more operational parts of the system.
Norway believed that the United Nations had an important role to play in facilitating and establishing a strong partnership between the private sector, NGOs, governments and international institutions, and was therefore pleased with the Secretary-General's concrete suggestions for facilitating accreditation procedures and enhancing the use of observer status. Norway was convinced, he said, that reforms were necessary in order to enable the United Nations to fulfil its mandate in the economic and social fields.
CRISTIAN MAQUIEIRA (Chile) said that it was useful to devote the coordination segment to the discussion of strengthening and reviewing the Council's working methods so as to adjust them to the new realities confronted by the Council. New challenges had arisen, such as the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals and follow-up to the Monterrey Conference and the eventual results of Johannesburg. To make that job easier, the Secretary-General had provided a useful report in which he had offered some wise proposals. The process of revitalization was not an isolated one, and must be understood in the context of similar processes being carried out in the General Assembly.
The complex international agenda in the economic and social areas had necessitated an honest assessment of the Council, he said. While real progress had been made, the Council was still far from realizing its full potential. In its present format, its annual session made it difficult to fully analyze the topics set out before it. If the segments of the session were divided throughout the year, more attention could be devoted to each segment. What was necessary was a mechanism to enable continuity of the outcomes of the different segments. The Council should also deal more closely with the impact on the national level of the major United Nations conferences and their implementation.
He added that as the Secretary-General had also noted, the Economic and Social Council had an important role to play in conflict prevention and peacekeeping activities. That was not meant to diminish the respective competencies of the Council and the Security Council. The revitalization of the Economic and Social Council, which seemed to be emerging at the current time, would necessitate a more dynamic internal coordination than was currently the case. In that connection, he suggested that the Bureau be expanded from five to 15 members.
DAVID STUART (Australia) noted that one of the reasons Member States felt the need to examine how to strengthen the Economic and Social Council was because it did not have the role or the impact that many of them felt it should. Another reason for the Council's weakness had been the fact that for many delegations, membership in the Council had been valued mainly because it meant a vote in elections for other bodies. In addition, the Council had become one of the most evident casualties of the tendency to resort to separate processes to address major issues in the United Nations.
That, he continued, had taken the form of mega-conferences and summits, of which there had been too many in the last couple of years. The excessive number of special processes, beyond the established timetable and outside the existing United Nations organs and bodies, had meant not only an unmanageable calendar, but it had lessened the impact of the work of the Council. Instead, focus should be on implementing the Millennium Declaration and the results of past conferences. Also, all review processes for major conferences in the economic and social field should be through the Council or its functional commissions.
A further weakness of the Council was its composition, he said. For the Council to play a central role in considering the type of issues which had largely been pushed outside its domain, it would have to allow free participation by all interested Member States. A remedy for that would be for the Council to consider open-ended membership, which would allow all Member States wishing to participate to do so with equal status.
MARCO BALAREZO (Peru) said the United Nations system needed an effective Economic and Social Council and every effort must be made to allow the Council to discharge its responsibilities. It was necessary to elevate the international standing of the Council, which played a fundamental role in guiding globalization so that it benefited all countries. Its role as a coordinating mechanism must be strengthened so that clear-cut political guidelines could be provided to the United Nations funds and programmes.
Commenting on proposals made by other speakers, he said holding meetings throughout the year would create a burden for smaller countries. Comprehensive competence would make better management of the subjects possible and avoid overlapping. Review of the relationship with the Second and Third Committees of the General Assembly was necessary. The Council must play a fundamental role in the follow-up to the international conferences and summits, in particular the Millennium Summit and the Monterrey and Johannesburg conferences. Thanks to the efforts of the last couple of years, the international community already had the key elements for a master plan to confront the main challenges facing humanity: poverty, social exclusion, decline of democracy, and economic stagnation in many developing countries.
A coherent follow-up on the national level was also necessary, focusing on fighting poverty, establishing good governance, combating corruption and strengthening of the rule of law. However, without access to international markets, poverty could not be fought and it would be impossible to achieve the development goals without a multilateral financial system. Conflict prevention required an integrated approach that addressed in depth the root causes of conflict. The Economic and Social Council should incorporate that issue into its various responsibilities, provided that the main responsibility fell upon the countries concerned. The implementation of the ad hoc working group for African countries emerging from conflict would depend on critical international support.
SUN XIAOBO (China) said reform of the Council's work should be carried out in keeping with the role ascribed to it in the United Nations Charter and with the principle of enabling the Council to enhance its role in the economic and social fields. It should give further impetus to assistance to developing countries in achieving development. The aim of improving the Council's working methods was to improve efficiency and avoid duplication, as well as strengthen its functions in terms of guidance, coordination, management and oversight of its functional commissions, rather than reform for the sake of reform.
In recent years, the United Nations had convened a series of major conferences and summits of great significance in the economic and social fields, which shared the common goal of achieving development worldwide. As the leading coordinating body within the United Nations system in the economic and social areas, he supported the positive role of the Council in the integrated and coordinated implementation of follow-up to the various conferences and summits. He also supported the Council's in playing a positive role in facilitating follow-up by its subsidiary bodies to those conferences.
RAMON OSIRIS BLANCO DOMINGEZ (Dominican Republic) said it was necessary to strengthen the Economic and Social Council through effective mechanisms. He agreed with the Secretary-General that the various segments of the substantive session should be better coordinated. He noted with concern that while promoting good governance and respect for human rights were prerequisites for development, in some cases, insisting on such conditions could actually limit the achievement of development for some countries.
Turning to the report of the Secretary-General on the long-term programme for Haiti, he said that the situation of the Haitian people had been aggravated by the policies of financial institutions. He appealed to the international community to give urgent attention to those problems, while taking into account the extreme poverty and suffering of the Haitian people. The international community must give its full support and unconditional assistance to the people of that country.
NASROLLAH KAZEMI KAMYAB (Iran), associating himself with Venezuela's statement on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said the Council now played a more effective role as a high-level forum on socio-economic issues and had substantially deepened its relationship with international financial institutions. He welcomed the establishment of the ICT task force as an innovative initiative.
Further involvement of the Council in development should result in more visibility and impact. Participation of other main stakeholders, including the chair of the United Nations Development Group, in the spring meetings with the Bretton Woods institutions and WTO would add to the strength of cooperation.
The Council needed to provide clear guidance on major issues that cut across the funds and programmes, he said. The impact of the Council's guidance on the work of the Executive Boards and on the operational work of the system at the country level also needed to be enhanced. Given the role of the Council as a forum for international development coordination, the enhancement of the overall capacity of the Council and its working methods required a holistic approach and could not be achieved by simply reducing the time dedicated to certain issues.
He said the Council should be ready -- in light of the daunting challenges for the implementation of commitments and internationally agreed development goals, as well as new and urgent developments in the economic and social fields -- to consider how to make effective use of the time allocated to it. It might even consider increasing the duration of its meetings if the need arose.
Statements in Afternoon Session
When the Council reconvened in the afternoon, HAROLD ACEMAH (Uganda) said efforts to ensure poverty reduction and sustainable development would benefit substantially from greater international cooperation and coordination in the formulation and implementation of economic and social policies. But at present, global arrangements were not well suited to promoting such coordination. Only the United Nations system possessed the breadth of membership and the depth of experience to provide a sufficiently comprehensive and balanced framework for that purpose.
He said that within the United Nations system, the Council held the most appropriate mandate for playing a coordinating role under the General Assembly. It was in the interest of all countries, especially those in the developing world, that the Millennium goals were achieved within the agreed time frame. What was needed, therefore, was an effective catalyst to bring all actors together to advance those common goals towards poverty eradication and ensure sustainable development. The Council and its function commissions should be strengthened in order to fulfil their roles.
Recognizing that challenges emerging from new developments in the global economic system called for more flexible approaches to the way the Council worked, he said it was important that the Council be more involved in high-level policy coordination, especially on economic matters. Uganda welcomed the convening, on a regular basis, of high-level meetings with the Bretton Woods institutions and the WTO. Those meetings should be expanded to include an intergovernmental segment and a dialogue with civil society and the private sector.
He also welcomed recent recommendations to introduce greater flexibility in the scheduling of the Council's sessions, including by holding segments and meetings throughout the year. That would enable high-level policy makers from the developing countries to participate in its work. He said the quality of the Council's work would be substantially enhanced if it made better use of special working groups composed of government representatives or senior ministers. The use of independent expert panels was also encouraged, as were increased consultations between the Economic and Social Council and the regional commissions.
BHAGWANT SINGH BISHNOI (India) agreed that a major challenge before the Council was to maintain focus on the implementation of the outcomes of the major United Nations conferences, and to bring together the various actors required for implementation. Effective follow-up would help the Council to fulfil the role ascribed to it by the Charter. The Charter had very clearly delineated the different responsibilities of the principal organs of the United Nations. Issues relating to economic, social, cultural, educational, health and related matters were within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Economic and Social Council.
Often, however, the Council had not fully discharged those responsibilities, he continued. It had, for example, not discussed or taken a position either on illicit trade in natural resources or on the economic and social impact of economic sanctions. Instead, it had allowed the Security Council to take the lead on those issues.
Since the Charter assigned the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security to the Security Council, he found it difficult to accept the idea contained in the Secretary-General's report that conflict prevention needed to be addressed in the Economic and Social Council, or that it should consider contributing to a comprehensive discussion on the subject. The United Nations political, peacekeeping, human rights, development and humanitarian roles were distinct. It was important that those distinctions be maintained if the trust that the United Nations system enjoyed among Member States was to be retained.
RON ADAM (Israel) said the new challenges facing the Council arose from the results of United Nations conferences and summits. However, the real challenges were those on the ground. There had not been much change in the developing countries, despite all efforts. The Council should be the principle interlocutor in the United Nations system for promoting economic and social development, and should serve as a forum for discussion among the various actors. However, organizing meetings and establishing occasional task forces, without providing sufficient resources, was entirely inadequate.
He said the Council should meet throughout the year to respond in a timely and efficient manner to global economic and social issues. The Council should be the responsive body on such matters -- not the Security Council. The substantive session should be shortened and repetition should be avoided. Follow-up to conferences should be comprehensive and holistic, and the number of reports should be limited. "We should speak less and act more," he said.
MOHAMED SALAH MENTOURI, speaking on behalf of the International Association of Economic and Social Councils and Similar Institutions (IAESCSI), said his organization, an intergovernmental group which brought together some 40 regional Councils, aimed to promote mutual understanding and channel diverse experience into sustained economic and social development. It sought to bring about the logic of dialogue as opposed to the dialogue of confrontation.
He said that Economic and Social Council played an important role in civil society. Through their work, aside from promoting dialogue and coordination and cooperation among various other community actors, they attempted to combine the thinking of social partners and intermediary bodies. The Council's expertise was ideal for promoting broader international efforts to develop a permanent and constructive framework aimed at ensuring peace and stability. The IAESCSI believed in constructive action and was resolutely at the disposal of the Council to achieve common ends.
He said that the IAESCSI could also contribute to the enhancement of the Council and advance its causes throughout the world. That was particularly true as the United Nations prepared to ramp up efforts to implement the Millennium goals. His organization would draw on the diverse cultures and experiences of the many nations in which its members lived. The IAESCSI membership was firmly convinced that broad concerted action could bring about sustainable development and identify clear priorities for action, particularly in the humanitarian, environmental and social arenas.
Afternoon Panel Discussion
In the course of today's meeting, a panel discussion was held on improving the Council's role in the follow-up of the Millennium Declaration and other major conferences and summits. Participating were: Adolfo Aguilar Zinser (Mexico); Dumisani Shadrack Kumalo (South Africa), Council Vice-President; Hanns Heinrich Schumacher (Germany), Vice-Chairman of the Bureau of the Preparatory Committee for the General Assembly special session on children; and Anwarul Chowdhury, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States.
Mr. SCHUMACHER (Germany) said the preparation for the special session on children had been highly controversial. There had been a tendency simply to update the 1990 children's summit outcome document, rather than deal with new and emerging issues. There had been a prevailing unwillingness to accept simple cross-references to other United Nations summits. Some delegations had shown no willingness to allow direct quotes from other documents. The negotiations had been dominated by large negotiating blocs and a relatively small number of delegations. The major blocs had a tendency to package non-related issues for final trade-off.
Moreover, despite the Council's broad mandate, its impact in the real world had been disappointing, he said. Whatever the Council decided could have an impact only if there was effective follow-up. There was a widespread feeling that insufficient follow-up must be made a thing of the past. More than two dozen agencies and institutions reported to the Council. All the different aspects of the various outstanding issues could be decided on in the Council. It had the closest ties to other international players -- civil society and other non-State actors. They must be involved in the United Nations process, and the Council was well placed to see that they did.
Mr. ZINSER (Mexico) said the challenges ahead were great indeed and the United Nations must be able to meet them. The Organization should be able to exercise its leadership, which needed "a very active input from the Council." There must be a cumulative effect that would make possible a clearer definition of development as well as the achievement of established targets. A partnership must be coordinated and fostered among the various agencies of the United Nations and other actors, such as the Bretton Woods institutions and NGOs.
The results of the Monterrey Conference, he said, should help facilitate an understanding of the internat- ional community's ability to implement the Millennium Development Goals. The role of the Council was particularly important in the follow-up to the various conferences. Machinery must be designed to render more coherent the work of the United Nations with regard to the aims and targets of the conferences. The Council's role as a forum for political dialogue was also very important. He added that the Council must ensure, in association with the General Assembly, that there was a clearly defined mechanism in place to help implement the mandates emanating from the Monterrey Consensus.
Mr. KUMALO (South Africa) said the role of the Council in following up major conferences was pivotal. The Council had a mandate to promote coordination in the economic and social fields. He hoped that today's deliberations could contribute to improving the Council's follow-up role. The Millennium Summit, the Monterrey Conference and the upcoming Johannesburg World Summit were interrelated and were part of a continuum.
The question of coordination and implementation should be of central concern to all, he said. The United Nations would fail the international community if it did not find ways to improve coordination and synergies. The system should develop new ways of working. There the Council had a central role to play, in part through its interaction with and through such bodies as the Bretton Woods institutions. The Council could also implement strategies to improve coordination in the economic and social fields. It should be empowered to reflect the mandate ascribed to it by the Charter. The function of commissions and other subsidiary bodies of the Council must also be better coordinated.
Mr. CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said implementation was the challenge for the Council -- without it, the Council could not optimize its role. He noted the Secretary-General's emphasis, in his remarks to the Council, on results-oriented, systematic and non-duplicative follow-up to the major conferences. The Secretary-General made a number of recommendations for improving the Council's role. For example, the Council should encourage strategic partnership among the entities of the United Nations system; it should focus on country-level implementation; it should involve civil society in the follow-up process; it should be able to provide specific and clear guidance to its functional commissions; and it should focus on finalizing basic indicators.
He added that the Brussels Conference on Least Developed Countries had entrusted the Council with undertaking an annual review of the follow-up to the Conference. The review would be undertaken from 2003 onwards, he noted.
When the panel opened the floor for discussion, several speakers stressed the need to ensure the implementation of commitments on poverty eradication and sustainable development made by world leaders at the major international conferences. One participant expressed concern about renegotiating previously agreed language and the outcomes of major conferences, but cautioned that negotiators should still ensure sufficient opportunities for new issues to be raised and adequately addressed. Another representative wondered what value the Economic and Social Council could hold for the international community as it emerged from a decade of elaborating development priorities and into a new era that would be focused more on implementation.
A speaker said the Council should consider expanding its membership, particularly to include the participation of representatives from smaller countries or regional groups. Perhaps procedures governing the participation of NGOs could also be reconsidered. Another speaker wondered if the Council was not already overburdened, and whether primary responsibility for conference review might not finally divert the Council from its substantive work. Other concerns were expressed about the need to find ways to streamline the actions of all stakeholders, particularly the Bretton Woods institutions, in the Council's work. One representative asked about the Council's capacity to obtain independent information about country-level priorities and conditions.
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