6 July 2005
Regional Assessments of Progress Meeting Anti-Poverty Goals Reveal at Best “Mixed Picture”, Economic and Social Council Told
Sharp Contrasts in Achievement Revealed across, within Regions; Afternoon Panel Focuses on Improving Coordination within UN System
NEW YORK, 5 July (UN Headquarters) -- Regional assessments of progress in achieving international development goals revealed at best a mixed picture, mostly of significant shortfalls, the Economic and Social Council was told today, as it continued its 2005 substantive session.
The Council, in an interactive dialogue this morning with the heads of the regional commissions, explored the status of achievement of the Millennium Development Goals at the regional level; the need for coherent policies and approaches at all levels for implementation of the Goals; partnerships with regional organizations to reinforce synergies and lessen duplication of efforts; and cooperation among the regional commissions in support of the Goals.
The Millennium Development Goals, endorsed by heads of State at the United Nations Millennium Summit in 2000, are a set of qualified targets ranging from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education, all by 2015.
The regional assessments contained examples of sharp contrasts in achievement, Brigita Schmögnerová, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) and Coordinator of the regional commissions, informed the Council. One of the most important underlying messages was that generalizations of global and regional trends neglected vast differences across and within regions, subregions and even within countries.
Regional cooperation, she said, offered countries a way to address common development challenges, particularly achieving the Millennium Goals. There had been a clear recognition of the role regional commissions were playing in advocacy, norm-setting, information sharing, exchange of best practices and capacity-building. While country-level ownership of the Goals was key, regional approaches and South-South cooperation could reinforce good practices at the country level and promote them on a wider scale within developing regions.
José Luis Machinea, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), said, although it was clear that the major responsibility for achieving the Goals lay with individual countries, it was obvious by now that national efforts could not and would not succeed without a supportive and enabling international environment. However, what was not appreciated was the importance of regional aspects in achieving the Goals.
The regional dimension, he added, offered countries an effective instrument for cooperation in facing common development challenges and in reaching the Goals. That was especially important in relation to issues of a cross-border nature, such as trade, sustainable development and natural disasters.
The ensuing discussion focused on a range of issues, including the special needs of least developed countries and small island developing States; the problems faced by middle-income countries across regions; and the crucial role of trade in economic development.
Also participating in the dialogue were Kim Hak-Su, Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP); K.Y. Amoako, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA); Khaled Abdel Hamid, Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA); and José Antonio Ocampo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs.
In the afternoon, the Council began its coordination segment, which will run through 7 July, with a panel discussion on improving the way the United Nations system works, in relation to achieving the Millennium Goals.
Moderated by Patrizio Civili, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the panel provided an opportunity for the Council to assess progress and challenges faced by the organizations of the United Nations system in their efforts to integrate the internationally agreed development goals in their programmes and operations, as well as discuss ways and means to improve coordination by enhancing policy coherence and cooperation among the organizations.
Among the issues raised were the links between the United Nations agencies and the regional commissions in the field, the coordinating role of the United Nations Chief Executives Board (CEB), and distinguishing between coordination and integration in the field.
The panellists were Eduardo Doryan, Special Representative of the World Bank to the United Nations; Frans Roselaer, Director, Department of Partnership and Development Cooperation, International Labour Organization (ILO); Patrice Robineau, Acting Deputy Executive Secretary of the ECE; Jean-Jacques Graisse, Senior Deputy Executive Director, World Food Programme (WFP); Peter Mertens, Coordinator, World Health Organization (WHO); Mourad Wahba, Director, Division for United Nations Affairs, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); and Sarbuland Khan, Director, Division for ECOSOC Support and Coordination, Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
The Council will reconvene at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 6 July, to continue its coordination segment with a general discussion on the achievement of the Millennium Goals.
The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) met today to continue its 2005 substantive session. This morning the Council is expected to hold an interactive dialogue with the Executive Secretaries of the regional commissions on the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. This afternoon the Council will begin its coordination segment with a panel discussion on improving the way the United Nations works, within the context of achieving the Goals. (For background on the 2005 session, see Press Release ECOSOC/6154 issued on 23 June.)
For this morning’s discussion, the Council had before it five reports. The report of the Secretary-General on regional cooperation in the economic, social and related fields (document E/2005/15) states that the Secretary-General, through his reports on regional cooperation, has attempted to engage the Council in a dialogue with the Executive Secretaries on the progress achieved towards linking the activities and contributions of the commissions more effectively with the overall activities of the Organization in the economic and social sectors, as well as to the policy work of the Council.
Among the issues he has raised is the lead role of the commissions as focal points in their respective regions for monitoring and assessing progress towards the achievement of the goals and targets of global conferences, as well as of the Millennium Development Goals, bearing in mind regional conditions and priorities. In the light of the need to provide coherent support by the United Nations system at the regional level to the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals and other international goals, the Secretary-General points to the need for further measures to strengthen coordination of activities of the United Nations system at the regional level.
The regional coordination meetings, mandated by Economic and Social Council, would enhance such measures, states the report. His recent reports also refer to the necessity of effective cooperation between the regional commissions, global departments and the United Nations funds and programmes, especially the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); and between the commissions and partner regional and subregional intergovernmental organizations. The present report explores these issues further.
The summary of the Economic Survey of Europe, 2005: the economic situation in Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States in 2004-2005 (document E/2005/16) provides a summary of the assessment of main economic developments in 2004 and the short-run outlook in the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) region. It explores some selected policy issues such as structural reforms and macroeconomic policy framework in Europe; the policy challenge of economic diversification in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS); financial vulnerability in the ECE emerging market economies; and the upcoming challenges posed by globalization.
The report states that, in the euro area, the cyclical recovery lost significant momentum in the second half of 2004. Export growth, which had been leading the recovery, weakened against the background of a moderate slowdown in the global economy and the adverse effects of the appreciation of the euro on price competitiveness. Domestic demand was sluggish and consequently lacked the vigour to offset the weakening of external demand. Private household consumption remained lacklustre, held back by low consumer confidence and modest growth in real wage incomes, also reflecting the sluggish employment recovery.
In the United Kingdom, states the report, the cyclical recovery maintained relatively strong momentum in 2004. Real gross domestic product (GDP) rose by somewhat more than 3 per cent compared with 2003. Private consumption was again the mainstay of economic growth, supported by wealth effects originating in the housing market boom. But higher interest rates, associated with the gradual tightening of monetary policy, appear to have had a somewhat cooling effect on the housing market, as suggested by the deceleration of house price increases in the second half of the year. Economic growth recovered strongly in Denmark and Sweden in 2004, and economic performance in Iceland, Norway and Switzerland was also quite favourable in 2004. All told, real GDP in Western Europe as a whole rose by some 2.25 per cent in 2004 compared with the preceding year.
Central and Eastern Europe, according to the report, preserved a positive growth differential vis-à-vis Western Europe. Economic activity in the eight new European Union member States from Central and Eastern Europe (EU-8) picked up noticeably in 2004. Their aggregate GDP grew by some 5 per cent led by a strengthening recovery in Poland. All Baltic economies continued to grow at a brisk pace. In 2004, growth in the EU-8 economies became more broadly based, driven by robust consumption and investment expenditures and strong external demand. For a second consecutive year, the CIS was one of the fastest growing regions in the world. With GDP increasing by almost 8 per cent, the whole CIS region, including the largest economy, Russia, continued to benefit from the surge in world commodity prices. In most resource-rich CIS economies, the main factor behind their output growth was the rapid growth of commodity exports (particularly oil and natural gas).
The short-term outlook for Europe and the CIS is for economic growth to continue in 2005, albeit at significantly different rates in the major subregions. The euro area will continue to lag behind the other major regions of the world economy. Central and Eastern Europe will continue to perform significantly better than the euro area. Economic growth will weaken somewhat in the CIS, but average rates will remain well above the European average. While rates of GDP growth in most CIS economies have been impressive in recent years, there are nevertheless concerns about their sustainability.
The overview of the economic report on Africa 2005: “Meeting the Challenges of Unemployment and Poverty in Africa” (document E/2005/17) indicates that Africa’s GDP grew by 4.6 per cent in 2004, the highest rate in almost a decade, up from 4.3 per cent in 2003. Higher prices of commodities, including oil, good macroeconomic management, better performance in agriculture and the improved political situation in many countries, along with increased donor support in the form of aid and debt relief, contributed to this positive outcome. However, given the importance of the European Union as a trading partner with Africa, the relatively slow growth in the European Union may have retarded the overall growth performance in the continent.
The report goes on to say that official development assistance (ODA) to Africa recovered from a low of $15.7 billion to a new high of $26.3 billion in 2003. This recovery was largely driven by debt relief provided through the Heavily Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) Initiative and emergency assistance. The Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) accounts not only for the bulk of ODA as a whole, but also a significant share of ODA to Africa, in particular. Foreign direct investment (FDI) flows increased from $12 billion to $15 billion in 2003 and were projected to rise to $20 billion in 2004. Foreign direct investment flows, however, tended to be concentrated regionally, that is, in North Africa, and sectorally, that is, in extractive industries.
Notwithstanding the favourable growth performance of Africa in 2004 and its projected growth of 5 per cent in 2005, savings and investment remain low, barely exceeding 20 per cent of GDP during 2000-2002, the report continues. Any slowdown in the global economy may have adverse implications for Africa. Moreover, its growth will be underpinned by continued macroeconomic stability; rising African exports in the context of slower global growth; continued improvement in agricultural output, assuming continued good weather conditions; and vibrant growth in the tourism and mining sectors.
With respect to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, North Africa is singled out as a subregion showing remarkable progress. Sub-Saharan Africa, despite reflecting a real growth in GDP since 1998, is making slow progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals, particularly on halving poverty, reducing maternal mortality and increasing the primary education completion rate. Overall, the majority of countries still lag behind and special efforts will be required to ensure that they can achieve the Goals.
The country-level performance of African countries towards achieving the Millennium Goals, states the report, is cause for unrelenting concern but not for despair. Africa’s favourable real GDP performance in recent years is a welcome development, especially when placed in the context of historically low levels of growth. Sustainable growth in Africa will, however, require policy interventions at the economic, social, and political levels. At the economic level, priority must be given to, among other things, minimizing dependency on the vagaries of the climate, through agricultural transformation, and reducing exposure to commodity price shocks via export diversification.
According to the summary of the economic and social survey of Asia and the Pacific, 2005 (document E/2005/18), the earthquake and tsunami disaster of 26 December 2004 took over 280,000 lives and devastated coastal areas and communities around the Indian Ocean. It occurred too late to affect economic performance for 2004, but the impact on economic growth in 2005 will be very severe in some cases. Despite the increase in oil prices, the weakness of the dollar and softening external conditions in the latter part of the year, in 2004 economies of member States of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) grew at their fastest pace since 2000, with broad-based growth accompanied in most cases by low inflation, in part owing to fuel subsidies.
Growth was driven by increased exports, a large part of which were within the region, particularly to China, as well as strong domestic demand, including a revival in capital expenditure, states the report. Prospects for 2005 indicate a slowdown in economic growth in the ESCAP region as the external environment weakens, with a pickup in inflation as higher oil prices affect the general economy. However, forecasts for 2005 are subject to a higher margin of error than before. Nevertheless, increased macroeconomic stability and external strength in the region should enable the economies in the region to withstand most shocks while working to reduce poverty, implementing ongoing reform programmes and sustaining competitiveness.
The report states that the most important feature of the demographic transition in the next half century, with respect to Asia and the Pacific, is the rapid ageing of populations in countries that are still developing. Relative ageing of the older population itself and a rising share of women in older age groups are becoming notable features of the ageing process in the region. Governments will increasingly be under pressure not only to devise innovative mechanisms to deal with issues arising from an ageing population, but also to ensure the long-term viability of social welfare programmes, while minimizing negative effects on the economy.
The diversity of ageing in the region means that different policy responses are called for in different countries, depending on their current and expected levels of ageing. Fundamental changes in policy design, particularly in health and pension systems, will be necessary in many developing countries to minimize the pressures on service delivery, public expenditure and the overall growth potential of the economy.
The year 2005, adds the report, was designated as the International Year of Microcredit, with the objective of promoting the role of microfinance and microcredit in poverty reduction. The Asia-Pacific region has a wide range of experiences in providing microfinance to the poor. The Survey highlights some of those experiences to facilitate a way for many poor people living in the region to improve their lives through their own efforts.
The summary of the economic survey of Latin America and the Caribbean, 2004 (document E/2005/19) states that the region’s economy grew by about 5.8 per cent in 2004, thereby outstripping the most optimistic forecasts, while the region’s per capita GDP expanded by around 4.2 per cent. One of the characteristics of the current recovery that makes it stand out from other events in the region’s economic history is that, for the second year in a row, GDP growth was coupled with a surplus on the balance-of-payments current account in 2004 and that both of these aggregates were higher than they were the year before.
Starting in 2003 but especially in 2004, favourable external conditions began to have a positive effect on the terms of trade. This, in turn, increased the purchasing power of export earnings and stimulated the growth of exportable supply. As a result, exports became the initial driving force behind the recovery of economic activity, in conjunction, especially in the beginning, with an increase in the supply of import-substituting domestic goods. Since the context for these events included high unemployment, low real wages, an underutilization of installed capacity and, in many cases, a recent history of instability, it comes as no surprise that domestic demand was slow to react.
Macroeconomic policy played an important role in this situation in two respects. First, the countries’ central banks lowered interest rates in order to help spur the reactivation of their economies based on a relatively flexible monetary policy that also helped to sustain the nominal exchange rate. Second, the public sector maintained a high savings rate, and although this did nothing to facilitate the expansion of the economy (in the best of cases, it was a neutral factor), it did help to sustain the relative prices of tradables while, at the same time, allowing for a flexible monetary policy.
As exchange rates remained high and the impact of this strategy was, particularly from 2003 on, heightened by the improvement in the terms of trade, the upward trend in exports gradually began to be accompanied by an upswing in investment and, although the response of consumption was slower in coming (owing to low wage levels), GDP growth also started to pick up. This elicited an elastic response from imports, which began to rise accordingly.
This process, which had begun to take shape in 2003, firmed up in 2004. Exports expanded further; the upward trend in investment grew more solid, especially in tradables-producing sectors; and the region began to see a substantial increase in employment together with a slight rise in real wages. This fuelled an increase in overall consumption, although the consumption of durable goods had already begun to climb in response to the reduction in interest rates. As a result, GDP growth accelerated, thereby spurring an expansion of imports and giving rise to a situation not seen in the region in at least the past 50 years.
It is noteworthy that, with the sole exception of Haiti, all the countries of the region recorded positive growth rates in 2004. What is more, for only the second time in the last 20 years, the region’s six largest economies all expanded by more than 3 per cent. The report concludes that in 2005 the region is expected to remain on the growth trend that began two years ago, although its rate of expansion is likely to be somewhat slower than in 2004. Economic activity is expected to pick up, resulting in an average growth rate for the region of 4.5 per cent, which would raise per capita GDP by about 3 per cent.
The summary of the survey of economic and social developments in the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) region, 2005 (document E/2005/20) covers three developmental categories: economic, social and sustainable development. The impact of the current oil boom on regionwide development remains significantly below potential owing to comparatively low levels of economic integration and suboptimal macroeconomic structures in most ESCWA member countries. An increase in productivity is further hampered by institutional inadequacy, caused partly by conflict and partly by the lack of internal creative or absorptive capacity in the small, fragmented markets of the region. Analyses based on long-term trends suggest that the economies of the member countries have performed well below their potential since the early 1980s.
If the Millennium Goals are to be met in the region, states the report, an environment conducive to expanded employment must be created either by an investment-growth nexus or by a redistribution of scarce resources. Being so rich in resources, the region could readily achieve change in a more regionally integrative and tension-defused environment. In a more concrete sense, economic policy should centre on regional cooperation, investment facilitation and job creation; social policy should focus on citizens’ needs and aspirations; and sustainable development policy should seek ways to offset the cost of environmental degradation.
Sound underlying policies would set the stage for changing the course of development in the region. There is evidence pointing to an inverse overall relationship between instability and growth. While there is a tendency to overrate the impact of the oil windfall on current growth, analyses based on long-term trends suggest that the economies of the ESCWA member countries have performed well below their potential since the early 1980s. Although the decline in labour productivity and long-term economic stagnation cannot be attributed solely to volatile oil prices, regional wars and conflict, the revival of the region’s economy requires, first and foremost, an end to military and political conflicts and the creation of a stable environment conducive to both domestic and foreign investment.
Three main factors affect the course of development, namely, war, the uncertainty created by political tension, and how evenly the income and wealth of a society is distributed among its different strata. The economies of the ESCWA member countries grow largely “from without”, driven by commodity prices and political tensions. When oil prices fall rapidly, growth follows suit. In the presence of conflict, and with a history of political instability, the region cannot afford the transitory social costs related to laissez-faire policy measures, particularly given the inherent weakness of its small size. National and regional inequities in the ESCWA region are very pronounced. Its oil-exporters were able to export $830 billion of capital over the last 30 years, while other ESCWA member countries were in dire need of capital.
Since the region is so rich in resources, states the report, change could be readily achieved in a more regionally integrative and tension-defused environment. Issues of poor productive investment and policies for growth with equity, with special emphasis on expanding employment opportunities, should be urgently addressed. If the Millennium Goals are to be met, an environment conducive to expanded employment must be created either by an investment-growth nexus or by a redistribution of scarce resources. Otherwise, the combined leverage of the Goals will not help to reduce poverty and hunger.
Dialogue with Regional Commissions
BRIGITA SCHMÖGNEROVÁ, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), introduced today’s reports, in her capacity as the current Coordinator of the regional commissions. She said the global conferences of the 1990s, as well as the Monterrey Conference on Financing for Development and the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development, requested the regional commissions to play a significant role and to ensure that the regional perspective was taken into account in the global implementation process. That was a clear recognition of the role regional commissions were playing in advocacy, norm-setting, information sharing, exchange of best practices and capacity-building.
The regional commissions, she said, identified gaps and challenges for the regions and put forward policies on which the respective regions had agreed on as necessary for development. Regional development was an important building block towards the central role of the United Nations of promoting development and international cooperation. Throughout their endeavours to achieve the Organization’s development agenda, the regional commissions continued to work closely with other regional partners from outside and within the United Nations, as well as closely with the functional commissions that oversee implementation of the commitments of global conferences.
The United Nations conferences and summits, she noted, underlined the urgency for achieving economic development in developing countries. The regional assessments carried out by the regional commissions revealed at best a mixed picture, mostly of significant shortfalls. They also contained examples of sharp contrasts in achievement. One of the most important underlying messages was that generalizations of global and regional trends neglected vast differences across and within regions, subregions and even within countries. Regional cooperation offered countries a way to address common development challenges, particularly achieving the Millennium Goals. While country-level ownership of the Goals was key, regional approaches and South-South cooperation could reinforce good practices at the country level and promote them on a wider scale within developing regions. Partnership between developed and developing countries was also crucial.
Today’s dialogue, she added, hoped to explore the status of achievement of the Millennium Development Goals at the regional level; the need for coherent policies and approaches at all levels for implementation of the Goals; partnerships with regional organizations to reinforce synergies and lessen duplication of efforts; and cooperation among the regional commissions in support of the Goals.
KIM HAK-SU, Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), made an introduction on the sub-theme “Achievement of the Millennium Development Goals at the regional level”. He said that the reports on regional cooperation highlighted the linkages between national level and regional efforts. The reports also stressed regional particularities, as well as links between regional commissions, regional organizations not part of the United Nations system and United Nations agencies, helping to avoid duplications and build synergies.
Major initiatives of ESCAP, he said, included the first ever Millennium Development Goal regional report, saying a second one was planned, as well. If used efficiently, these reports could stimulate crucial initiatives, such as debt relief. Regional commissions, he concluded, were well-suited for helping to achieve the Goals.
Following Mr. Kim’s introduction, speakers expressed strong agreement that the works of the regional commissions were crucial to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, and that regional commissions should cooperate with other organizations that were not members of the United Nations system.
That was particularly important in regard to countries in transition in Europe and in Central Asia, said the representative of the Russian Federation. The ESCAP, he said, was doing essential and high-quality work in that area. In Europe, he highlighted the need for working on many issues in a cross-border manner. Cooperation with the member States of ESCAP was essential for making progress in the region, he said. In particular, ESCAP was coordinating important work in new transport, information and energy configurations.
The representative of the United Kingdom, speaking on behalf of the European Union, endorsed the need to strengthen the coordination of activities at the regional level, with the regional commissions acting as focal points for monitoring progress towards achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. A sharper focus on the activities of those commissions, complementary to other multilateral institutions, such as the World Bank, in the field of research, was needed.
Other speakers, representing regions outside of ESCAP, commented on the inequalities between countries in their abilities to meet the Millennium Development Goals.
Mr. KIM, replying to the comments, said that such inequalities were certainly true of his region. In ESCAP’s MDG II report, it would become clear that the region as a whole could possibly achieve the desired numbers in poverty reduction, but there would still be great inequalities between countries in achieving those goals. Many, especially in South and South-East Asia were on track to achieve most of the goals and many others, including small island developing states, were not on track to reach any of them. The more successful countries must help those in greater difficulty, he said. Such South/South cooperation was beginning to occur: Thailand, for example, was nearing 0.3 per cent in its ODA contributions.
Ms. SCHMÖGNEROVÁ, Executive Secretary of the ECE, introduced the sub-theme of “Cooperation between the regional commissions and regional organizations in support of the Millennium Development Goals”. She said the regional commissions received their mandates from the Economic and Social Council, including on the best ways to reach the Goals. Every region provided examples of remarkable cooperation between regional commissions and subregional groups, such as that between ESCAP and the Asian Development Bank or the African Union and the African Commission. The relationship between the European Commission for Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) was a good example of cooperation to reinforce the well-known link between security and social development. Other regions could follow the example that could also serve as a basis for an approach to ECOSOC reform.
JOSÉ LUIS MACHINEA, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), focused on the regional dimension of the global partnership for development. Although it was clear that the major responsibility for achieving the Goals lay with individual countries, it was obvious by now that national efforts could not and would not succeed without a supportive and enabling international environment. However, what was not appreciated was the importance of regional aspects in the achievement of the Goals.
The regional dimension, he said, offered countries an effective instrument for cooperation in facing common development challenges and in reaching the Goals. That was especially important in relation to issues of a cross-border nature, such as trade, sustainable development and natural disasters. To boost regional cooperation, he stressed the need to strengthen and deepen subregional agreements through trade liberalization, greater mobility of labour, adoption of common rules and regulations, and macroeconomic coordination mechanisms. It was also important to develop a regional infrastructure network; broaden mechanisms to support countries in times of crisis; establish mechanisms for the sustainable management of shared ecosystems; and establish regional mechanisms for prevention, monitoring and handling natural disasters, among other things.
He added that regional monitoring of the Goals complemented national monitoring efforts by identifying the regional trends and offering comparative approaches, contributing to a shared understanding of the problems faced. Strengthening policy coherence at the national, regional and international levels should remain a critical component for realizing the objectives contained in the Millennium Declaration.
K.Y. AMOAKO, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), said global partnerships today required cooperation between rich and poor countries on numerous levels for activities such as the transfer of technology. Africa’s main concern as a region was to form strong partnerships at the national, regional and special partnerships levels. Partnerships at the national level called for addressing each country’s specific needs and for strengthening cooperation between governments and civil society. At the regional level, the key to forming good partnerships was to streamline and bring coherence into the already existing frameworks, such as the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). On the third big level of forming special partnerships, to achieve aims such as good governance and poverty reduction, the partnerships could be considered as a form of a compact that would address the question of mutual accountability. It would measure not only the level of good governance, but also other factors, such as quality of aid and aid effectiveness.
He said ECA had made a lot of progress in a big push for aid, infrastructure development, debt reduction and market access for the continent. Partnerships with other groups, such as with the OECD, focused on specific actions and targets, as well as on harmonizing activities.
Ms. SCHMÖGNEROVÁ, Executive Secretary of the ECE, introduced reports on cooperation between regional commissions. She said that focal points on particular issues, among the regional commissions, helped tackle particular problems that were common to all regions. The commissions were, therefore, able to share best practices in certain areas, for example in the areas of transport, statistics and information technology.
Such cooperation also had the benefit of encouraging interregional budgeting for such issues, she said. Over the last few years, such budgeting has generated interregional projects meant to build regional capacity toward meeting the Goals. There were now eight interregional projects approved by the General Assembly. Nine more of those projects were proposed for 2006-2007 biennial budgets. In addition, interregional cooperation encouraged South-South cooperation and created synergies among the staff of the regional commissions.
JOSÉ ANTONIO OCAMPO, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, highlighted the cooperation between the Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the regional commissions, especially through the Executive Committee on Economic and Social Affairs. The work done by the regional commissions on the Millennium Goals had been a major contribution to the follow-up of the Goals. The regional commissions had also been active in other follow-up processes in the last few months, particularly the tenth anniversary of the Copenhagen Summit and the High-Level Dialogue on Financing for Development. As of this year, the report entitled “World Economic Situation and Prospects” was produced for the first time with the cooperation of the regional commissions.
He also highlighted the importance of the broad linkages between the different United Nations processes, particularly in light of ECOSOC reform. The ECOSOC was a network, which included the functional commissions and the regional commissions, as well as other bodies. The way to utilize the full network was one of the major challenges ahead for the Council. He encouraged consideration of ways to do that. The regional commissions could play a major role in follow-up to the major conferences, particularly through the mechanism of peer reviews. He also mentioned the possibility of linking the proposed global cooperation forum with the regional commissions. In addition, the broad-based experience within the regional commissions concerning the link between development and security could be used to enhance the activities of the ECOSOC in that area, as well as in the future peacebuilding commission.
Responding to questions and comments, Mr. KIM said that ESCAP had already started work on follow-up to the Brussels Plan of Action for least developed countries. Asian least developed countries were not active in raising their voices, and so the Commission had a forum in order to hear those countries. He was very concerned about the Asian least developed countries, the largest of which was Bangladesh, and their progress in achieving the Goals, the Brussels Plan of Action, the Mauritius Strategy and the Almaty Plan of Action on landlocked developing countries. The Commission was also assisting the least developed countries with environment issues. The ESCAP, together with ECA, was working closely on follow-up to the conferences focusing on least developed countries and small island developing States.
Ms. SCHMÖGNEROVÁ mentioned some traditional dividing lines and some new ones. Among the traditional ones were the division between the European Union and the non-European Union countries and divisions based on gross domestic product. The transitional and emerging economies were growing much faster than the average rate of the European Union States. A new dividing line was the digital divide and implementation of information and communication technologies. The World Summit on the Information Society had provided a framework for speeding up implementation of information and communication technologies and to bridge that divide. Also, many countries still faced enormous challenges from the decentralization transition. Just as South-South cooperation was important, it was equally important, in the ECE, to have cooperation among economies in transition.
Also on the issue of least developed countries, Mr. AMOAKO said that, in looking at the sheer numbers, the majority of least developed countries were in Africa and the majority of countries in Africa were least developed countries. The countries in sub-Saharan Africa were by and large least developed countries. The work done in ECA, whether on trade, transport or gender, was primarily least developed country-focused. Therefore, ECA did not come up with a separate subset for least developed countries, per se. The ECA was working closely with the High Representative for least developed countries, particularly on preparations for the review of the Brussels Plan of Action.
Mr. MACHINEA noted that the best assistance for middle-income countries, who also suffered from problems of poverty, came from progress in global trade negotiations. The agricultural subsidies of the OECD were four times greater than all development assistance put together. Therefore, if those subsidies were not reduced, no amount of assistance could make up for the losses caused by those subsidies.
KHALED ABDEL HAMID, Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), said the overall GDP of his region would have increased by $600 billion since 1990, if there had not been instability or war. Such instability affected not only the growth of the countries in the region, but also the work and assistance offered by ESCWA. Among the proposals made for the upcoming programme budget was to set up a small unit for emerging issues, which would primarily be concerned with recording developments in countries suffering instability, and seek to support those countries and offer technical support.
In the discussion that followed, a few speakers concurred on the importance of trade for achieving the Millennium Development Goals. The representative of Egypt asked how regional commissions could help in making commodity prices more predictable and in the diversification of economies. He also asked how ESCWA worked with other funds and programmes in achieving the Goals. The representative of Thailand congratulated ESCAP on the Asian Highway network, which would increase trade. He spoke also of the need for encouraging greater stability in the financial markets.
Other speakers spoke of instability and country-specific problems impeding development, as well as cooperation between regional commissions and United Nations country teams. The representative of Benin said that everyone was talking about Africa without specifying priorities, which she said should be the least developed countries. She asked what ECA was doing to ensure that those priorities were recognized.
Mr. ABDEL HAMID said that West Asia would need many millions of jobs in the next few years, but investment was lower than other regions. Of course, continued instability affected investment, but that was not the whole picture. Institutions and policies also played a role and ESCWA worked with countries, in that regard. For example, ESCWA worked with the Palestinian Authority to crystallize development in the occupied territories, despite the continuing instability there.
Mr. KIM, replying to the comments of Thailand’s representative, said that in addition to the highway project, ESCAP also paid attention to the amount of investment funds that were available for infrastructure development. A feasibility study for an Asian investment bank was slated for next year.
Ms. SCHMÖGNEROVÁ, speaking on the issue of cooperation with United Nations country teams, said that the technical assistance provided by the ECE focused on the implementation of legal instruments at the country level, which did not provide much opportunity to cooperate with those teams. But upcoming initiatives would allow more intensive cooperation with them, and there was much need to strengthen that kind of cooperation, particularly as concerned the UNDP. She agreed with the representative of the Russian Federation on the need for cross-border cooperation in Europe, especially involving countries that were not candidates for membership in the European Union. The ECE had an important role to play in that area.
Mr. AMOAKO agreed with the representative of Benin that Africa had to be approached in a more country-specific way. The ECA was starting to report indicators in that way, using country-specific information to create broader policies. Thirty-eight African countries, for example, were consulted in drawing the guidelines for information technology initiatives. Turning to the question of Egypt’s representative concerning diversification and dependency, he said that ECA was active in African trade policy and had an adviser in Geneva for trade policy. Tariff policy was at the core of the issue. National policy in the area was also being addressed by ECA, along with many other organizations. A recent study looked at factors that were impeding African trade and it concluded that transport costs were a crucial consideration. Commodity price fluctuations had also been addressed in that same study.
Commenting on cooperation with country teams, Mr. MACHINEA said that ECLAC often worked with the UNDP on mitigation of natural disasters, social issues and trade issues. Many countries asked about assistance directly from ECLAC without going through the UNDP, however, especially when it came to trade issues.
Responding to Mr. Abdel Hamid’s statement, the representative of Syria said he must emphasize that foreign occupation was the primary impediment to development in areas under such occupation.
PATRIZIO CIVILI, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, moderated the discussion on “achieving the internationally agreed development goals: improving the way the United Nations system works”, and introduced the theme. He highlighted the publication, “One United Nations”, introduced to the Council last week, which covered, among other things, coordination among the organizations of the United Nations system in achieving the development goals. Member States now faced what the Secretary-General called the implementation challenge, which was made more complex by an international environment that was changing and evolving more rapidly than ever. The publication focused on the challenges before the United Nations system and addressed such questions as how far coordination had advanced towards making the United Nations a more effective agent and catalyst for change.
Referring to the report as “our accountability report”, he stressed that there was a renewed drive in the system for accountability. The Millennium Declaration had served to advance coordination and to give the system a clear set of objectives and goals. A sign of the new spirit pervading the system was the consensus that the publication should emphasize collaborative efforts, highlighting key examples. Not all the agencies were mentioned and the publication should not be read as a comprehensive account of all the activities of all the organizations of the system. The thrust of the work of the various agencies was crucial to the achievement of one development goal or another. The system had a role to play in monitoring, in ensuring that resources were adequate for the tasks ahead, and in better coordinating policies.
EDUARDO DORYAN, Special Representative of the World Bank to the United Nations, said that, compared to five years ago, the United Nations system had moved concurrently in four areas -- focus, density, the global and the country. On the first, he said that, five years ago, the system did not have focus. There was some divorce between the ends and the means of implementation. What was new in 2005 was the ends (the Millennium Goals) and the means (the Monterrey Consensus and other international commitments). The extended United Nations family now had focus.
Second, he referred to density, which was the quality marked by compactness or pulling together of parts. In 2000, the relationship between the United Nations family was shallow, with no deep agenda. It was much more “supply-push”. What was new today was a movement from supply-push to demand-pull, with the demand coming from the countries themselves. The third concept was global issue. The accelerated pace of globalization had caused dramatic changes. Addressing the resulting challenges often required collective action at the global level. No one agency completely owned any agenda item now. The fourth concept was country. In 2000, countries were not always the centre of activities. In 2005, there was much broader coordination and greater coherence with country needs and strategies.
FRANS ROSELAER, Director, Department of Partnership and Development Cooperation, International Labour Organization (ILO), said his Organization actively participated in United Nations system efforts to improve effectiveness at the global and national levels. Employment, income and productivity were central to ILO’s work and a way to address poverty in a comprehensive manner. In addition, the struggle for decent work tied together all the organization’s efforts that involved other partners. Standards were integrally involved in such efforts, serving as guidance in technical cooperation work.
Labour standards, he said, had come out of the concrete experience of divergent partners and were implemented in coordination with countries in a pragmatic manner. Many partners were involved in promoting such standards. In the struggle against child labour, for example, it was crucial that education for all be achieved. The two initiatives were, therefore, inextricably linked. Further progress could only be achieved under a fully coherent and coordinated framework.
PATRICE ROBINEAU, Acting Deputy Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Europe, said that there was a need for regional forums, in order to follow up on commitments. Transboundary agreements, such as those ruling shipping, the environment and resources, could not be fully implemented otherwise. There also must be cooperation between organizations that were represented by regional offices.
At the national level, as well, he said, experiences and policies could be shared through regional cooperation. The Johannesburg Summit and others have concluded that such a regional approach was essential for development. There was, in fact, a resurgence of regional bodies, which were getting stronger in the trade and economic area. The regional approach must be, therefore, taken into account when coordinating United Nations agencies: United Nations goals should be translated into concrete policies at that level.
Creating consistency in policies also required regional action through the trans-sectoral approach, he said. A system of global reviews implemented in that way could also assure follow-up, which also required a good statistical system. Indicators were generated at the global level and put into use at the regional level, to be inserted into periodic reports. For all the above purposes, regional meetings must be done on both inter-sectoral and trans-sectoral bases. Subgroups for each item could then be utilized for follow-up activities.
In the discussion that followed, speakers focused on implementation of decisions in the field. The representative of the United Kingdom said the Chief Executives Board (CEB) should guide coordination at the country level, since that was ultimately where the Millennium Development Goals would be achieved. A number of speakers called for strengthening the coordination between regional commissions and United Nations agencies in the field. A number touched upon competition between agencies. Egypt’s representative raised a question about coordinating implementation of agreed-upon development goals.
Also raised was the issue of distinguishing between integration and coordination in the field. Italy’s speaker called for examining the United Nations presence countrywide to make sure its entire family conveyed a strong and consistent image. Did the special representative, for example, stand for all the United Nations family working in the field in that country? Jamaica’s representative agreed that activities of the United Nations system in the field should be coordinated. However, she said agencies had discrete mandates and integration might not be appropriate for them. Entities should communicate better to share knowledge, experience and information. Coordination should be aimed at avoiding an overlap of effort, which would also serve to satisfy donors.
The Moderator, Mr. CIVILI, said the CEB and ECOSOC had been reinforcing each other for five years to create substantive inter-agency actions in the field. The CEB and ECOSOC were on the same page on translating decisions into institutional terms. The CEB would continue to look at how to strengthen that coordination. Also, regional hubs and commissions were involved in coordinating United Nations activities on the ground.
Further, he said the United Nations presence at the country level was a priority concern throughout the United Nations system. The question of competition related not just to the United Nations bodies in the field, but also to Member States and donors in terms of their own priorities.
A representative of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) said economic growth was a strong factor in development. The organization’s role in promoting economic development to achieve the Millennium Development Goals could be analysed more carefully, so as to formulate a more rational approach to economic development and to strengthen synergies of those engaged in the field.
JEAN-JACQUES GRAISSE, Senior Deputy Executive Director, World Food Programme (WFP), said that United Nations reform should flow directly from plans to help poor and hungry people. Coherence, coordination and synergy were only means to that end. The Millennium Development Goals continued to frame the WFP’s work; it paid particular attention to opportunities for joint programming in areas where food assistance could be combined with other humanitarian, transitional and developmental activities. Last Friday, for example, the WFP signed an understanding with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) to strengthen cooperation in the areas of nutrition, HIV/AIDS and food for education.
Policy and operational work must be combined through agency cooperation, he said. A relevant example, as cited in the CEB report, is Education for All, an advocacy and policy development initiative led by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The WFP had contributed to the effort through support for school-feeding programmes, in cooperation with other partners. Another noteworthy example of that kind of synergy was the fight against HIV/AIDS. The CEB endorsed an innovative approach to addressing the “triple threat” of HIV/AIDS, food security and governance in sub-Saharan Africa, which had been translated into new ways of inter-agency cooperation.
PETER MERTENS, Coordinator, World Health Organization (WHO), said that a lot of analytical work had been done on progress towards the agreed-upon development goals. Development goals could not be separated from each other, however, and must be seen as integrated. The WHO integrative exercise takes into account both agency capacities and national capacities.
No single organization could afford to work in isolation, he said. In that way, the Millennium Development Goals were an important tool for solidarity. Many agreements for cooperation have, therefore, ensued. The power of global collaboration and partnership had been demonstrated after the Indian Ocean tsunami, as well as in the Live 8 concerts.
The World Health Assembly, which adjourned in May, adopted resolutions that depicted health as a core area for achieving the Millennium Development Goals, and took account of the interdependence of all goals and all countries in regard to addressing health crises. The resolutions called for priority actions that advanced the Millennium Goals to get adequate funding. Integrated development, full country ownership, and agreement on development modalities were also called for. The ECOSOC could provide a forum for a dialogue on the consistency of such development modalities.
MOURAD WAHBA, Director, Division for United Nations Affairs, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), explained the genesis of the CEB report. There had been an attempt to list all the contributions of the various agencies in the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, which proved unwieldy. A unified report of the United Nations system’s work was, therefore, produced, which was, in itself, an achievement of coordination.
The purposes of coordination, he said, included efficiency, as well as necessity when it came to addressing complex development challenges through a complex United Nations system. The CEB report showed how linkages were being made within subject grouping, but not between such groups. In the future, those linkages should be made.
In addition, he said that stronger linkages had to be made between the CEB and the United Nations Development Group (UNDG). The nexus in the so-called “triple-threat”, as well as the handling of complex issues in the environment and crime prevention, might show the way for such linkages. In regard to the coordination role of the UNDP, he said that it should come into play only through assistance to the coordinating role of national governments, when the Programme had such a mandate.
Responding to comments on the links between the United Nations resident coordinator and the UNDP country director, Mr. WAHBA of the UNDP said that there were a few instances where the United Nations resident coordinator also served as the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for development and humanitarian issues. In that case, or other cases where coordination burdens were such that it left little time for other work, the UNDP appointed a country director to handle the day-to-day tasks. In cases where there was a UNDP country director, the resident coordinator remained the UNDP representative and had at his disposal the programme resources of the UNDP. It was not possible to discharge the coordination mandate without access to programme resources, such as those delivered by the UNDP.
SARBULAND KHAN, Director, Division for ECOSOC Support and Coordination, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said that today’s discussion indicated a sense of reciprocal understanding of how the system was moving forward in an effort to align itself into a single strategic direction. The publication illustrated how the system could work not only on process, but also on products. The United Nations system was not built in a day, but it had taken 60 years to
evolve into what it was today. This year provided an opportunity to move forward. It was necessary to consider more, in concrete terms, the role of ECOSOC and the CEB in that process.
Mr. ROBINEAU of the ECE, responding to a question on the work of the UNDP and that of the regional commissions, said there was no problem as long as the respective assets of those bodies and their inherent nature were recognized. The ECE’s focus was more normative work and policy analysis. The ECLAC, for example, had the capacity for economic analysis. There were complimentarities between the UNDP and the regional commissions, and avenues for joint cooperation or the division of labour. If there was any initiative that could be taken by the UNDP or the regional commissions, that could enter into the field of the other, it would be necessary to consult to see how the two could collaborate.
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