20 July 2005

Strategies for Least Developed Countries, UNAIDS, Report of UN System Chief Executives Board among Wide Range of Issues Taken up by ECOSOC

NEW YORK, 19 July (UN Headquarters) -- Donors should support national development strategies to build capacity in the least developed countries  to deal with such challenges as geographical disadvantage, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) was told today, as it continued the general segment of its current session with a focus on implementation and  follow-up to major United Nations conferences and summits along with other matters related to its coordinating functions.

Introducing a report on the countries in his mandate, Anwarul Chowdhury, the High Representative and Under-Secretary-General for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, said 43 per cent of the least developed country population still lived in extreme poverty.  Donor support for national strategies to deal with AIDS, overpopulation or conflicts would make the people agents of progress, and not just recipients of aid.

The Council took up a wide variety of coordination items, including:  the International Conference on Financing for Development; the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2001-2010; the Secretary-General’s report on the Council’s role; reports of coordination bodies; proposed programme budget for the biennium 2006-2007; Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS); the Calendar of conferences and meetings in the relevant area; and informatics, including the ICT Task Force.

Also taken up today were questions related to economic and environmental questions, with a focus on science and technology; the Declaration on decolonization; regional approaches to development goals; and occupation in the Middle East.

Speaking of the associated reports in general, Sarbuland Khan, Director of the Office for ECOSOC Support and Coordination, said they contained details that pointing out the direction for reform of the United Nations development system.  The concrete policy recommendations provided the basis for a comprehensive debate.

Introducing the report of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board (CEB) for Coordination, the Director of the CEB New York office, Qazi Shaukat Fareed, said the Board had improved the system-wide United Nations ability to provide a broader response in conflict situations.  It had also improved the system’s ability to deliver assistance.  The Board had become a substantive tool enabling the Council to carry out its function.  The CEB annual report should be taken up directly by the Council to clarify the relationship and lead to even more effectiveness.

In introducing other reports, Peter Piot, the Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), said the world could halt the AIDS epidemic if the political will to do so was affirmed at the September Summit.

Michael Laing, Coordinator of the Information and Communications Technologies Board, outlined improvements in the information technologies of the Secretariat, including wireless access to the Internet and making the Official Document System freely available on the Web.

A report on the Middle East was introduced by Beng Yong Chew, Officer-in-Charge of the Asia and Pacific Division in the Department of Political Affairs.  Sulafa Al-Bassam, Chief of the New York Office of the Regional Commissions, introduced a report on a Europe-Africa permanent link through the Strait of Gibraltar.  Gala Lopez, Chairman of the Special Committee on decolonization, also addressed the Council.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Jamaica (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), United Kingdom (on behalf of the European Union), Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Benin, China, United Republic of Tanzania, Russian Federation, Bangladesh, Brazil, Mexico, Cape Verde, Ethiopia, South Africa, Thailand, Azerbaijan, Tunisia, Syria, Israel, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates.  An observer of Palestine also spoke.

Additionally, the Council took note of a number of documents.  One was the summary of ECOSOC’s special high-level meeting with the Bretton Woods institutions, the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).  Another was the Secretary-General’s note on implementing the Monterrey Consensus.  Also, the report of the Committee for Programme and Coordination on its forty-fifth session and the calendar of conferences and meetings in the economic, social and related fields.

Prior to taking up the day’s agenda, the Council completed its consideration of reports of Ad Hoc Advisory Groups on African countries emerging from conflict.

The representatives of Brazil, Nigeria, Gambia and Pakistan took part in that debate, as did a representative of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

The Council will meet again at 10 a.m. Wednesday, 20 July, when it will continue the general segment of its current session with a focus on economic and environmental questions.


The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) met today to continue the general segment of its current session with a focus on implementation and follow-up to major United Nations conferences and summits, followed by a debate on various aspects of coordination, programme and other questions before taking up a number of other general segment issues.

Under the item on conferences and summits, the Council was expected to take up reports on follow-up to the International Conference on Financing for Development (documents A/59/823-E/2005/69 and A/59/719-E/2005/12).  Also, a review and coordination of implementing the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2001-2010 (document A/60/81-E/2005/58) and the Secretary-General’s report on General Assembly resolutions on the Council’s role (document E/2005/61).

Under the umbrella of coordination, programme and other questions, the Council was expected to take up:  reports of coordination bodies (documents E/2005/63 and A/60/16, Supplement No. 16); proposed programme budget for the biennium 2006-2007 (document A/60/6); Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) (document E/2005/59); the Calendar of conferences and meetings in the economic, social and related fields (documents E/2005/L.12 and E/2005/81); international cooperation in the field of informatics (document E/2005/67); and the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) Task Force (document E/2005/71).

On other general segment questions, the Council was expected to take up economic and environmental questions with a focus on science and technology for development (document E/2005/31, Supplement No. 11); implementation of the Declaration on independence for colonial peoples (documents A/60/90-E/2005/80, E/2005/47 and A/60/64); a regional perspective on achieving development goals under the question of regional cooperation (documents E/2005/15 and Adds.1 and 2; and E/2005/16-21); and results of occupation in the Middle East (document A/60/65-E/2005/13).


FEDERICO DUQUE ESTRADA MEYER (Brazil) congratulated Guinea-Bissau on its peaceful and successful round of elections.  There were now good prospects for a durable peace, but the support of all partners was now required to tackle long-term challenges.  The monitoring of the Ad Hoc Advisory Group was still required in that effort, and he supported the extension of its mandate.

DOTUN ODUNEYE (Nigeria), aligning herself with the statement of Jamaica on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, also commended the Ad Hoc Group on Guinea-Bissau for its work, as well as the Government’s efforts to consolidate the peace.  Much work still remained in the socio-economic sphere, however, and she called on the partners to continue to assist in that area.  The security sector urgently needed reform, as well.

CRISPIN GREY-JOHNSON (Gambia) said all reports indicated that the economy of Guinea-Bissau was steadily showing signs of increased good health, basic social services were being restored and strengthened, and financial management had been significantly improved.  He noted that public servants were receiving their salaries with greater regularity, and there was generally more transparency and accountability in Government.

He congratulated all those involved in the recent presidential elections and said that without the determination of the Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Guinea-Bissau and its dynamic Chairman, Ambassador Kumalo of South Africa, the international community would have tired of the situation and would have allowed State failure.  He also thanked those who contributed funds to help Guinea-Bissau through its recent elections, in particular, the European Commission, Netherlands, France, Sweden, Portugal and Brazil.

In concluding, he spoke in favour of an extension of Ad Hoc Advisory Committee’s mandate by another six months or so and he called on the international community to provide the requisite support to help that fledgling democracy.  Plans for holding a donors’ conference should be accelerated and implemented without delay and, in any case, before the end of 2005.

ASAD M. KHAN (Pakistan) said his country associated itself with the statement made by Jamaica on behalf of the Group of 77.  He said his country attached great importance to work of the Ad Hoc Advisory Groups and to the need for a coherent, systematic approach.  He also expressed support for the establishment of a Peacebuilding Commission, currently under discussion in the General Assembly.  He went on to express support for the recommendations of the three Ad Hoc Advisory Groups, and said his delegation supported the continued role of those Groups.

ADO VAHER, of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said that he was pleased with the work of the Ad Hoc Advisory Group and with the recent advances in the political transition, the peaceful first round of presidential elections and the upcoming second round of presidential elections.  But, children in Guinea-Bissau still faced severe challenges, including high mortality from mostly preventable causes in an environment characterized by widespread poverty and limited capacity in public authorities.  He said women and children continued to bear the greatest share of hardship and suffering from the aftermath of conflict, including violence, displacements, sexual exploitation and abuse, destruction of social infrastructure and decreased access to basic social services, such as health, education and water.

In Guinea-Bissau, UNICEF and the United Nations country team had worked with the Government and other partners to design and support programmes that responded to the needs of children and women in a flexible manner, taking into account the continuously evolving situation.

He said UNICEF programmes had responded to deterioration of basic social services available to the neediest and most vulnerable segments of the population in the areas of childhood development, health and nutrition, education, water and sanitation and HIV/AIDS.  In an effort to leverage results for children, partnerships were established with country team members, civil society at large, and national and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

During the last three years, he said, UNICEF support was key to the doubling of girls’ school enrolment in key districts, and it had helped to implement a successful birth registration campaign and a national bednet re-impregnation drive initiative.  He said initiatives were also under way to increase school enrolment, expand basic services to the most vulnerable, and maintain routine immunization coverage at around 80 per cent in as many parts of the country as possible.  The UNICEF was also supporting government efforts to provide social services in remote areas.

However, implementation of the Guinea-Bissau programmes faced several challenges, including a lack of security and stability and the ongoing sexual exploitation and abuse of children, child labour and numerous HIV/AIDS orphans and conflict orphans with little or no access to basic services, such as health and education.  The near collapse of the social sectors was particularly notable in the health and education sectors at district levels.  The UNICEF looked forward to the donors round table for Guinea-Bissau now scheduled for October and would stress that the country required and deserved increased attention from the donor community.

Introduction of Chief Executives Board Report

QAZI SHAUKAT FAREED, Director of the New York Office of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board (CEB), introduced the CEB annual overview report (document E/2005/63).  He said the report would show that the Board had increasingly organized its work to give impetus to reaching the Millennium Development Goals.  Notably, it had focused on support for African development by providing logistical assistance to the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).  It had also addressed the collective challenge presented to the system by the complex demands of combating organized crime.  It had led the system-wide response on confronting the linked elements in organized crime and armed conflict.  In addition, the CEB had focused on improving the coherence of the United Nations system at the country level, including by more closely aligning system tools with national programmes.

In addition, he said, the report would show that the CEB had improved the system-wide ability of the United Nations to manage armed conflict, advance peacebuilding and provide a broader response to conflict situations.  Its attention to the spread of technology and to knowledge-sharing had improved the system’s ability to deliver its assistance.  The CEB had also turned its attention to staff safety and security in the field, to building a common culture among staff, to improving system-wide accounting standards and to enhancing accountability and transparency.

In brief, the report showed the CEB as a substantive tool for enabling the Council to carry out its coordinating function.  It was time for the report to be taken up directly by the Council.  That would clarify the relationship between the CEB and the Council.  It would also lead to greater effectiveness and efficiency in the revitalized Council carrying out its intended role.

ANWARUL K. CHOWDHURY, High Representative and Under-Secretary-General for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, introduced the report on those countries.  He said an effort had been made to make the report action-oriented.  Positive developments for the least developed countries included the increase of official development assistance (ODA) commitments and flows, the debt-cancellation and market-opening initiatives of the Group of Eight (G-8), and the outcomes of recent conferences.

The development indicators of the least developed countries were so low, however, that without great progress in those countries, the Millennium Development Goals could not be achieved, he said.  The report focused on interactive approaches, country ownership and partnership.  It was through genuine partnership with civil society, the private sector and the international community that progress could be achieved.  Partners in the United Nations system and other international institutions should strive for unified approaches.

Forty-three per cent of the population of the least developed countries was still living in extreme poverty, he said.  That population was increasing rapidly, and that challenge was compounded by the spread of HIV/AIDS, conflict, and geographical disadvantages.  To redress the lack of capacity to address those problems, donor support for national development strategies was recommended.  In that way, the people of the least developed countries could become not only recipients of progress, but also its agents.

SARBULAND KHAN, Director, Office for ECOSOC Support and Coordination, introduced the discussions with a brief review of Groups’ reports.  He pointed out that details of the reports suggested the way forward in reforming the United Nations development system.  They contained concrete policy recommendations that should provide the basis for comprehensive discussions and, ultimately, a positive outcome.

BYRON BLAKE (Jamaica), on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said that the discussions of the past weeks in ECOSOC confirmed that the lack of financial resources had been the major handicap in the implementation of the decisions of the major United Nations conferences and summits.  There were, however, some hopeful signs coming out of the recent G-8 Summit, which could provide a basis for progress.

The agreements of the G-8 needed, however, to be broadened into commitments of the United Nations at the September Summit, he said.  There was also concern over the process for managing the delivery of ODA and the implied selectivity for eligibility as a Heavily Indebted Poor Country (HIPC), which excluded 50 per cent of such countries.  The treatment of other countries with severe problems, as well as systemic issues, also needed to be considered further.  He reiterated that, through the continued mobilization of internal resources through South/South cooperation, the Group was prepared to make its contribution to financing development in the South.

CHERRYL GORDON (Jamaica), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said the Assembly resolutions on strengthening the Council’s role were of particular importance to her Group.  In carrying out its function of coordinating the integrated follow-up to conferences and summits, however, the Council must make sure to preserve the distinct identity of each outcome.

Moreover, she said, the Council must take advantage of ongoing efforts to strengthen the role of the functional commissions by urgently completing the multi-year programme of work for ECOSOC’s coordination segment.  That would enable both the Council and commissions to introduce thematic coherence and predictability into work programmes.  Comprehensive reviews of implementation could also be undertaken.  Also, there should be greater efficiency in Council reporting procedures, in particular, between the Council and its subsidiary, regional and other bodies.

Ms. Gordon then spoke on behalf of the Group of 77 with regard to agenda item 6, review of and coordination of the implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2001-2010, and delivered a number of recommendations on the report and its finding.

She noted that actual trends revealed persistent challenges to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals in most least developed countries and said that, in order to reverse those trends, the international community would need to take the steps necessary to provide the least developed countries with the requisite resources to allow for the fulfilment of the commitments set out by the Brussels Programme of Action and in the Millennium Goals.  To that end, the Group called for developed countries that had not yet done so to reach the target 0.20 per cent of their gross national income as ODA to the least developed countries, and for all development partners to align their support to the national development strategies of the least developed countries aimed at achieving the goals and targets as contained in the Programme of Action.

She also stressed the importance of the participation of the least developed countries in the annual review of the Brussels Programme of Action by ECOSOC and requested that the Secretary-General take appropriate measures to ensure the participation of least developed country representatives through funding from the regular United Nations budget.

She said the Group welcomed the General Assembly decision, reflected in resolution 59/244, paragraph 5, to hold a comprehensive review of the implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action in 2006 and suggested that the Secretary-General undertake consultations with Member States, the United Nations system of organizations and all relevant stakeholders, with a view to assisting the least developed countries with the preparation of their reviews at the national and regional levels.  The Group also recommended that the methodological structure of the annual progress report on the implementation of the Programme of Action be improved, placing greater focus on results, performances and analysis, rather than reporting on progress.

In closing, she recommended that the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Countries and Small Island States develop a comprehensive advocacy strategy aimed at raising greater awareness with regard to the weak implementation of the commitments, goals and targets of the Brussels Programme of Action.  Those steps should also mobilize greater support and more actions for an effective and timely implementation.

FERNANDE HOUNGBEDJI (Benin), aligning herself with the statement of the Group of 77, expressed reservations over the complicated sequence of subjects in the ECOSOC segment.  She also said the report on the least developed countries still lacked relevant analyses that would allow the measurement of progress.  The dire poverty in the least developed countries did not allow room for such non-specificity.  The Brussels Action Programme contained measurable objectives connected to the Millennium Goals, and the evaluation of that programme could only be done according to those concrete measurements.

Reiterating the elements of the Brussels Programme, she said that international governance had not been emphasized enough.  She congratulated development partners that had met their commitments for ODA in that context for 1993, including Norway, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Netherlands, Ireland and France and others for whom she did not have the relevant figures.  She called on all development partners to meet their commitments.

ZHANG YISHAN (China) said that, as a vulnerable group in the global economy, the least developed countries could hardly be expected to meet the development goals on their own, and badly need international support and assistance.  Trade, in addition, was the engine for economic growth, and preferences granted the least developed countries under various schemes remained underutilized by them, due to their supply-side constraints, lack of trade-related capacity and non-tariff barriers.  Assistance was needed on those fronts, along with more relaxed market access for products of the least developed countries.

He said that ODA was a critical element in the development of the least developed countries, and he called for its maximization.  He also expressed hope that the debt-relief initiative of the G-8 would be extended to benefit all

50 least developed countries.  Over the last 50 years, a great number of least developed countries had received aid from China, to the best of its ability, including technical and in-kind assistance.  His Government had already cancelled the debt of 31 least developed countries and had contributed to capacity-building and trade liberalization for them.

CELESTINE MUSHY (United Republic of Tanzania), speaking on the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2001-2010, noted that his country’s 10-year plan to achieve the Brussels Programme of Action targets by 2010 has been integrated into a newly adopted National Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty (MKUKUTA). That programme reflects Tanzania’s Vision 2025 aspiration, which envisions the achievement of the five main attributes of high quality livelihood:  peace; stability and unity; good governance; an educated and learned society; and a competitive economy.

However, he noted that the Secretary-General’s report pointed out that the overall performance in all least developed countries was insufficient to meet the goals of the Brussels Programme.  In the case of the United Republic of Tanzania, great strides had been made in many sectors, but the country still lagged in some areas. That demonstrated that countries such as his required international support to complement their efforts.  Despite good performance at the macro-level, the challenge of sustaining gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 6.7 per cent over the coming years would only be possible if the development partners honoured their commitments to provide financial resources in a timely and predictable manner.

He went on to note that Tanzania continued to depend largely on external resources to finance development and he urged developed countries to eliminate tariff and non-tariff barriers in the agricultural sector, including subsidies so as to remove obstacles and distortions in the prices of commodities produced in least developed countries.  In that regard, concerted efforts were needed to ensure that agriculture was at the centre of the Doha Development Round, he said, adding that successful conclusion was imperative to the implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action and the Millennium Development Goals within the framework of MKUKUTA.

ALEXANDER V. ANANIEV (Russian Federation) said that the political momentum set into motion at the Monterrey conference was still strong.  He favoured strengthening the role of ECOSOC in such development issues, particularly the creation of a coordination forum that met regularly and better integrated the Bretton Woods institutions.  The Secretary-General’s recommendations for the reform of the functional commissions were also highly useful.

In order to speed up the implementation of the Programme of Action on the least developed countries, useful measures included 100 per cent debt forgiveness for such countries.  Russia, along with its G-8 partners, was providing such relief.  Expansion of world trade on a more just basis would also hasten development of the least developed countries.  His country was lowering tariffs on the products of many of them.

IFTEKHAR AHMED CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said his country had reduced its poverty headcount to 42.1 per cent in 2004.  A national information and communication technology (ICT) policy was aimed at building an ICT-driven nation, with a knowledge-based society.  A High-Tech Park with modern infrastructure was being developed, with access to the information superhighway through a submarine cable network.

Sadly enough, he said, the least developed country market share was still less than 1 per cent of the global total.  Steps should be taken to give least developed countries an access to global trade that:  was duty-free, quota-free and simplified with regard to rules of origin; eliminated protectionist measures; offered financial and technical assistance to least developed countries, including aid for trade funds; and provided free access to developed markets for temporary movement of natural persons.

In addition, he said, the vulnerable least developed countries needed assistance in managing the effects of climate change and environmental contamination.  Debt sustainability must be redefined as recommended by the Secretary-General, with all outstanding least developed country debts being written off and future assistance in the form of unconditional, grant-based direct budgetary support.

Mr. MEYER (Brazil) said that the positive developments in debt relief and other areas should be augmented with expansion of the debt initiative, further trade liberalism and increase in ODA.  He also fully supported the launching of innovative financing methods for a variety of initiatives.

CARLOS RUIZ MASSIEU (Mexico) said that a stronger voice for underdeveloped countries in the international financial institutions was still needed.  He congratulated those countries who had made commitments to achieve increased levels of ODA.  Quality of aid was now being considered and measures should soon be adopted for that purpose.  Concrete proposals for innovative financing should be completed soon, along with concrete measures to increase the participation of the private sector in development.  The international community should also pay attention to middle income countries, which are often not large receivers of ODA or debt and trade schemes.  Conditions must be created to assist such countries to become donor countries.

JÓSE MARIA SILVA (Cape Verde) said that total implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action goals, some of which were also Millennium Development Goals, would require assistance to improve national statistical systems.  He expressed his country’s satisfaction with the recent G-8 decision on debt forgiveness for developing countries and went on to stress the urgent need for debt forgiveness for all developing countries in need of such support.  He also pointed to the need for assistance with regard to the development of infrastructures conducive to the building of dynamic economies.

SALEUMXAY KOMMASITH (Lao People’s Democratic Republic) said his country had made progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals, but a lack of ownership with regard to the specific aims of the Goals was a major constraint.  Raising awareness was a costly and time-consuming undertaking.  Least developed countries also lacked human and institutional capacity with regard to statistics.  Capacity-building should be based on a genuine partnership in both expertise and technology transfer.

He said the least developed countries faced an enormous task in attracting direct foreign investment (FDI).  Measures to create an investment-friendly climate did not guarantee an inflow of investments.  The infrastructure for a profit-based access to markets required partnerships between least developed countries and development partners.  Also, assistance should be in the form of grants, rather than loans, to the poorest community.

TERUNEH ZENNA (Ethiopia), aligning himself with the statements of Jamaica on behalf of the Group of 77, and of Benin on behalf of the least developed countries, said that the global community was coming closer together than ever before in the effort to bring development to the least developed countries.  Ethiopia had long held a people-centred concept of development and had made significant progress in decentralization, along with parliamentary elections.

In addition, he said, the human capacity problem was being addressed, along with improvements in the health and education sectors.  The challenges were still overwhelming in the area of building capacity to make globalization work for Ethiopia.  Official development assistance had a large role to play in that regard, and all donors should meet their targets.  The least developed countries had not yet been able to expand their trade significantly, and for that reason it was important to tackle supply problems and other obstacles.

JAMES KARIUKI (United Kingdom), speaking on behalf of the European Union, noted that the Union had already spoken extensively on maters covered in agenda items 6 and 8 and, therefore, the Union had no formally coordinated statement.

However, in commenting on the statements made earlier this morning on item 6 (a), he noted that the Union leaders, as have others, welcomed the recent  G-8 decisions on least developed country debt and trade, and he reiterated the Union’s commitment of duty-free, quota-free market access for all least developed countries and its commitment to further aid for trade and commerce.

The Council then turned to considerations of coordination body reports, programme budget, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), and calendar.

PETER PIOT, Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), said that now, for the first time, it was possible for the world to halt and reverse the AIDS epidemic.  The momentum was there in terms of political and financial commitment, in terms of success and evidence, in terms of harmonization and collective effectiveness. 

He said the capacity on AIDS at the country level was still being strengthened.  But providing technical support and capacity-building was one of the key roles of the United Nations system.  With the tremendous growth of funding for AIDS, truly joint programmes on AIDS would be established in all countries.

The AIDS epidemic continued to be a make-or-break issue of our times, he emphasized.  It was an exceptional and unprecedented threat and not just another disease.  But it could be defeated by three actions.  First, the political effort must be sustained and every world leader must leave the September Summit with a commitment to fight the disease at the national level.  Second, the financial resources must be raised to mount a full-scale response in the low- to middle-income countries.  And finally, the effectiveness of the global response must be further improved though a harmonization of efforts.

OLEG SHAMANOV (Russian Federation) said that HIV/AIDS was an extremely important question, undermining progress in public health and depriving people of a decent life.  The Russian Federation was, therefore, actively working to generate international action at all levels.  At the spring conference held this year in Moscow, the topical problems and the socio-economic problems of the scourge were discussed, particularly within the Commonwealth of Independent States.

The dynamic of joint action must be increased to fight the epidemic, he said, and he supported recent agreements in that regard.  He called for the adoption of the “three ones” principles of HIV/AIDS coordination in all countries.  A long-term approach to counteracting AIDS also needed more consideration.  He supported the programme recently adopted by UNAIDS to counteract AIDS at the national level.

JALEL SNOUSSI (Tunisia) welcomed the United Nations’ renewed commitment to NEPAD and any efforts to provide financing for that partnership.

SHELDON MOULTON (South Africa) said he was encouraged by the efforts of the CEB towards system-wide goals to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.  Political will was needed for progress in the United Nations system, and he expressed hope that it would be generated at the coming Summit.  He welcomed recent coordination with NEPAD, but many challenges still needed to be addressed.  More international support was needed to make that partnership work, however.

Listing various reports that described progress towards the Millennium Development Goals and support for NEPAD, he said all the reports came to the conclusion that Africa was far from realizing the levels of support it required under the new partnership to eradicate poverty and achieve sustainable growth and development.  Business as usual could not continue.  He called for durable, predictable support for Africa and an increase in the quality of assistance.

The United Nations needed to play an advocacy role to assure that Africa remained in the centre of the agenda, he said.  The international system should examine ways in which they could support NEPAD priorities.  It was important to bear in mind that NEPAD provided a framework to achieve the development goals in Africa.

ITTIPORN BOONPRACONG (Thailand) described the HIV/AIDS emergency and said that his country was willing to share its holistic approach to curbing the spread of the disease.  It recently organized workshops in Kenya and South Africa to share such knowledge in a South-to-South manner.  Fighting the scourge required joint efforts at all levels.

JANE HAYCOCK (United Kingdom), speaking on health on behalf of the European Union and in reference to the intervention in response outlined in item 7 (g), said the Union was supportive of the recommendations made, especially regarding the fight against AIDS as it applied to women and girls.

MICHAEL LAING, Coordinator, Information and Communications Technology Board, in his report on international cooperation in the field of informatics, highlighted the recent practical efforts, using the information techniques of the Secretariat, to improving the working conditions for delegations.  He said highlights of the recent accomplishments included wireless Internet access being made available throughout the Headquarters, making the Official Document System freely available over the Internet.  He also said the United Nations web page had been updated and now acted as a portal.  He also noted that information was now available on electronic displays and many more displays would be available in the future.

Mr. KHAN, speaking in his capacity as Executive Coordinator, United Nations ICT Task Force, said his task force was founded to mobilize information and communications technologies in the service of development and, in particular, for achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  In that effort, scepticism had given way to new perceptions and attitudes.  However, not enough attention had yet been paid in economic analysis and policy-making to the significance of ICT for economic growth.

Handheld devices that were Internet-enabled could open up the information gateway, especially in Africa, where mobile phone growth was exploding, he said.  In the final year of its mandate, the Task Force would continue to play an important role in the follow-up to the Geneva phase of the World Summit on the Information Society.  During its mandate, it has provided a global policy platform for multi-stakeholder interaction and consensus-building, which were both necessary for the complex task of making technology work for development.

NORMA ELAINE TAYLOR ROBERTS (Jamaica), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said the positive outcomes of efforts by the Ad Hoc Working Group were evident.  Services to missions and the working environment of delegations had improved.  A draft resolution would be introduced to extend the Working Group’s mandate for another year.  It deserved support.  Also, the ICT Task Force was promoting multi-stakeholder dialogue on the role of ICT in development.  Its goal of promoting the mainstreaming of ICT in national policies and strategies made it deserving of support and strengthening.

RACHEL BRAZIER (United Kingdom) said, in a brief statement on behalf of the European Union, that in the Union’s opinion, the Group had shown real progress with regards to improving the working life of the delegates.

ANDREY PIROGOV (Russian Federation) also expressed positive response to the report on science and technology and its potential impact on the Millennium Development Goals and on fighting poverty and on developing knowledge-based economies.  He agreed with the main objectives identified by the commission, including strengthening of science and technology education, support of venture capital, a focus on standards for intellectual property, and the use of research and development.  The Russian Federation would actively participate in the programme as it applied to activities in 2005 and 2006.

On a global alliance on the development of ICT, he called for global coordination of ICT in order to achieve Millennium Development Goals.  In concluding, he said he supported the work of the Group and hoped it supplied a bridge between the growing needs of the States, the development of ITC and the work of the Secretariat.  He also welcomed efforts to provide new services, including the plan for the fall of this year for a new manual for delegates on use of the Internet.

Mr. SNOUSSI (Tunisia) warned that ICT development could potentially widen the divide between developed and developing countries and might be one more way of marginalizing some.  He agreed that ICT was important in the efforts aimed at achieving development, but noted that there must be a balance between the goals of economic interests and personal development.

YASHAR ALIYEV (Azerbaijan) said that access to ICT was essential for development, especially for isolated and rural areas.  Insufficient attention had been paid to the area, though.  Therefore, multi-stakeholder partnerships should be mobilized to pursue the agenda; he appreciated the work of the Task Force for Financial Mechanisms for ICT.

In his country, the importance of ICT had been recognized.  An enabling environment and market incentives, including measures towards reducing entry barriers to the marketing of ICT networks, the promotion of effective regulation and fair competition had been established.   A long-term National Strategy on ICT for Development had been adopted and constituted a road map of strategic goals, and the Government was increasing its financial support to the ICT sector.

Mr. KHAN, replying to comments on ICT, said that ECOSOC had initiated the multi-stakeholder approach to expanding access to ICT.  The approach had been successful in bringing the United Nations agenda to the World Summit on the Information Society and should now bring the results of the World Summit into the mainstream of United Nations discussions on achieving the Millennium Goals.  In that effort, the process should remain open.

BENG YONG CHEW, Officer-in-Charge, Asia and the Pacific Division, Department of Political Affairs, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on assistance to the Palestinian people.  She said both sides had agreed to disengagement and, while there were many challenges ahead, the recent recommitment to progress was a step towards the road map.

SALAFA AL-BASSAM, Chief, Regional Commissions New York Office, introduced a report on the socio-economic repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, and the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan.  Economic indicators continued to show negative trends, including a high unemployment rate and evidence of malnutrition.

In the occupied Syrian Golan, she said, there was a shortage of health services and Syrian workers continued to suffer from unemployment and job insecurity.  She said the drastic effects of Israeli occupation highlighted the urgent need to accelerate the peace process to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the Middle East problem.  In addition, on behalf of the regional commissions, Ms. Al-Bassam introduced reports on regional cooperation that included a project for a Europe-Africa permanent link through the Strait of Gibraltar.

GALA LOPEZ, Chairman of the Special Committee on decolonization, said the successful implementation of the actions called for in the resolutions adopted by ECOSOC and the General Assembly under the agenda item “Implementation of the Decolonization Declaration by the Specialised Agencies and the International Institutions Associated with the United Nations” served to assist the territories significantly in the development of their capacity to assume the responsibilities of self-government.

He also said the Special Committee encouraged United Nations agencies, other organizations and bodies of the United Nations system that already had existing provisions consistent with the long-standing ECOSOC resolutions, to strengthen existing measures of support and formulate programmes of assistance to the remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories within the framework of their respective mandates in order to accelerate the progress in the economic and social sectors of those Territories.  A positive example of support provided to a Non-Self-Governing Territory on its way towards decolonization was the assistance of the United Nations Development Programme ((UNDP) to Tokelau, which is entering the final stages of its transition to statehood in free association with New Zealand.

YUAN YUAN (China) said that his country highly valued regional cooperation because it was an important way to encounter globalization.  Many new regional trading arrangements were emerging and could effectively supplement the international trade regime.  China had participated in many such arrangements.  It also took its participation in the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) seriously.

Mr. FEDORCHENKO (Russian Federation) found regional commissions very valuable for the improvement of the situation in various regions.  They served to translate global policy into action programmes in the regional or country level, and had been useful in translating the Millennium Development Goals at the regional level, as well. They also served as a nexus of cooperation between United Nations agencies.  Interaction between regional commissions and other regional partners could ensure complementarity of the efforts of the respective partners.

FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria), referring to the report on the repercussions of the Israeli occupation, said that the subject had been discussed in many forums and Israel ignored all their resolutions.  Its barbaric practices had continued.  The report showed the increase in unemployment and the deterioration of the health situation.  There were also health effects from the disposal of radioactive material and children were endangered, in going to school, by Israeli attacks.  He also affirmed the negative effects of settlements, roadblocks, construction of the separation wall and other Israeli practices.

MOSHE SERMONETA (Israel) expressed disappointment that ECOSOC was being misused to discuss a political issue and, moreover, that the situation was being depicted in an inaccurate and one-sided way.  The report set parameters for the statistics it used to suit its convenience and changed them just as conveniently when the same parameters would discredit its own argument.  The report also took the Palestinian situation out of context, ignoring the effects of terror and corruption within the Palestinian Authority.

He urged the Council to desist from considering further biased and non-credible reports, as they only served to make things worse.  A basic motivation of reforming the United Nations was the prevention of politically motivated reports such as this one.

ANDRE OMER SIREGAR (Indonesia) noted that the Asia-Pacific region has had mixed performance with regard to Millennium Development Goal performance.  He said that some Asia-Pacific countries would reach the specified targets by 2015, but some would have difficulty reaching the targets.  To address the problem, planning was under way for a regional Millennium Development Goal meeting, which should serves as opportunity for Asia-Pacific countries to devise a plan for a way forward and to discuss how the international community could aid countries in the region in achieving their goals.

PRAYANO ATIYANTO (Indonesia) said in separate statement focused on the Palestinian situation that, as the result of illegal Israeli settlements, the Palestinians were experiencing geographic fragmentation and children were facing greater difficulties in achieving education and other needs.  The Millennium Development Goals targeted for 2015 would be extremely difficult for the Palestinians to achieve, unless the international community intervened. He further stated that ending the Israeli occupation was a necessity and the only available option.  In order to make that happen, action must be taken to make the road map a reality.

ABDULLAH M. AL RASHEED (Saudi Arabia) said that the problem that that report dealt with was the occupation and, if it were to disappear, adverse conditions in that part of the world would improve.  He wished to reaffirm that that point must remain a part of ECOSOC’s work.

AMMAR HIJAZI, Observer of Palestine, said that the Israeli occupation has led to a catastrophic economic situation for the Palestinian people.  Economic development could not be achieved under the present conditions of repression, he said, and his people looked to the United Nations to give the matter its urgent attention.

MAJDI RAMADAN (Lebanon) said there was a good reason for keeping the item on the ECOSOC agenda -- ECOSOC’s mandate was to take actions to eliminate poverty and work to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. In addition, Israeli settlements had been determined to be illegal and an impediment to development.  Israel was building a wall that not only eroded the land, but was usurping the water in the region.

SAEED RASHED S. ALWAN AL-HEBSI (United Arab Emirates) said the item should stay on the ECOSOC agenda as long as the occupation continued.

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