18 July 2006

Economic and Social Council Adopts Resolution on Sustained Economic Growth for Social Development

Concludes General Discussion on Humanitarian Affairs Segment

(Reissued as received.)

GENEVA, 17 July (UN Information Service) -- The Economic and Social Council this afternoon adopted a resolution on sustained economic growth for social development under its coordination segment, urging the United Nations system to enhance its assistance to developing countries.

In a resolution adopted by consensus, the Council said that the assistance would facilitate the realization of the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals, and efforts towards the eradication of poverty and hunger, through comprehensive and multidimensional approaches.

The Council requested the Secretary-General to encourage the organizations and bodies of the United Nations system, with the involvement of all stakeholders, where relevant, to undertake studies and analytical work at all levels on the social impact of the realization of the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals.

Also adopted by the Council was an oral decision on the multi-year work programmes for the coordination segment, which the Council was required, by its decision 2005/221, to finalize, prior to the beginning of the 2006 substantive session.  Consultations on the multi-year work programme were suspended, however, pending the adoption by the General Assembly of a resolution on ECOSOC reform.  The Council would need to finalize the multi-year work programme at a resumed session of the Council, once the General Assembly resolution was adopted.  The second part of the decision took note of the report of the Secretary-General on sustained economic growth for social development, including poverty eradication and hunger.

The Council then continued and concluded its general discussion on the humanitarian affairs segment focusing on special, economic, humanitarian and disaster relief assistance, with a number of speakers supporting the strengthening of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the increase in humanitarian emergency assistance.

Speaking under the humanitarian affairs segment were representatives of Switzerland, Colombia, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Republic of Korea, Sri Lanka, India, Mexico, El Salvador, Guinea, Cuba, Argentina, Iran, Ecuador, Azerbaijan, Peru, Venezuela and Belarus.

Also taking the floor were representatives from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), World Food Programme (WFP), United Nations Population Fund Agency (UNPFA) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

When the Council meets at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 18 July, it will hold a panel discussion on "chronically underfunded emergencies", under its humanitarian affairs segment.  It will also take action on draft resolution E/2006/L.13, before concluding its humanitarian affairs segment.

Action on Resolution on Sustained Economic Growth for Social Development

In a resolution (E/2006/L.14) on sustained economic growth for social development, including the eradication of poverty and hunger, adopted by consensus, the Economic and Social Council urges the United Nations system to enhance its assistance to developing countries, upon their request, in facilitating the realization of the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals, and efforts towards the eradication of poverty and hunger, through comprehensive and multidimensional approaches; requests the United Nations system to conduct common country assessments and the United Nations Development Assistance Framework processes under the leadership of national Governments, in such a way as to optimize their harmonization and alignment with national development strategies and priorities, as well as efforts to improve the support for national development priorities and policies, and stresses that full national ownership, participation and leadership are required at all stages of those processes; recognizes the need to improve understanding of the complex interlinkages between economic growth and social development, and requests the Secretary-General to encourage the organizations and bodies of the United Nations system, with the involvement of all stakeholders, where relevant to undertake studies and analytical work at all levels on the social impact of the realization of the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals; invites the regional commissions, in cooperation with other entities of the United Nations system, regional organizations and other regional processes, where appropriate, to further contribute, within their respective mandates, to the implementation and review of the outcomes of the major United Nations conferences and summits in the economic, social and related fields, including, inter alia, sustained economic growth for social development, including the eradication of poverty and hunger; and requests the Secretary-General, in his capacity as the Chairman of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination, to encourage the organizations and bodies of the United Nations system, within their respective mandates, to review their current approaches in the area of economic growth and social development, in order to effectively address and facilitate the realization of the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals, in this regard underlines the need for exchange of experiences and the application, where appropriate of relevant lessons learned, and in this context, requests that these be brought to the attention of Member States and the relevant governing bodies.

Oral Decision

In an oral decision on the multi-year work programmes for the coordination segment, which the Council was required, by its decision 2005/221, to finalize, prior to the beginning of the 2006 substantive session, the Council said consultations on the multi-year work programme were suspended, however, pending the adoption by the General Assembly of a resolution on ECOSOC reform.  The Council would need to finalize the multi-year work programme at a resumed session of the Council, once the General Assembly resolution was adopted.  The second part of the decision took note of the report of the Secretary-General on sustained economic growth for social development, including poverty eradication and hunger.

Statements on Special Economic, Humanitarian and Disaster Relief Assistance

TONI FRISCH (Switzerland) said the idea of workload distribution in a more effective way was fully supported, and the humanitarian segment in the Council would be better focused on strategic matters.  The humanitarian resolution adopted by the Council was a step forward, providing a sound foundation for future work.  On the reform process for humanitarian reform in the United Nations, efforts should continue, in order to provide humanitarian aid as a priority, and Switzerland favoured implementing a functional and operational approach that was integrated into the humanitarian system.  The "cluster leadership approach" should be implemented with caution, and in a limited number of contexts, and its impact evaluated transparently and in a participative manner.

The Secretary-General should renew his efforts to strengthen, in a sustainable manner, the central role of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) to guarantee the quality and the effectiveness of international humanitarian aid.  The systematisation and the professionalization of recruitment and training, as well as more stringent selection procedures and career planning, were decisive priorities for the success of reform of the United Nations operational system.  The primacy of civil humanitarian organizations in humanitarian aid was stressed, and the validity and the relevance of existing instruments governing civilian-military cooperation in crises recognised.  The Member States, regional organizations and all United Nations agencies should implement the guidelines, and OCHA's role was central in this matter.

CLEMENCIA FORERO UCROS (Colombia) said the resolution that was just adopted was important for the strengthening of national capacity to protect the population.  It was important to give sustainability to assistance.  Terrorists had attacked the communities in Colombia and the work of those communities had been destabilized.  Colombia was committed to helping people who were displaced due to violence, and this was given comprehensive attention.  The plan of action to help the displaced people had already been put in place to define and identify their needs.  A significant effort had been made to help the displaced persons.  Strategies had been designed to involve civil society in the plan.  Focus had been made to foster care through the mobilization of resources to provide assistance in education and health to the displaced victims.  

Additional strategies had been designed to return the displaced persons to their places of origin so that they could live peacefully.  The Government of Colombia was making increased efforts to improve the information system with regard to the displaced persons and had created a single registry system, through which a large number of people had been registered, which had provided valuable information to design a policy of funding.  Most displaced persons were without any identities and were not included in the normal development programmes. The recent efforts to register those persons had allowed the Government to make a tailored programme in favour of those people.  OCHA had been of great help in the Government's effort to resolve the problem of displacement.

H. YUDHISTIRANTO (Indonesia) said the theme of the segment was relevant, with regards to the ongoing need for the international community to respond to natural disasters and crises.  Indonesia appreciated the comprehensive analyses contained in the reports on strengthening humanitarian coordination in emergency humanitarian affairs and the efforts to respond to the tsunami.  In the first report, geographical proximity was noted as one of the important elements for response.  Promoting coherence of response and recovery activities, and the most effective and useful response were highlighted, and this was supported.  One of the important gaps in emergency humanitarian assistance was the accountability and reliability of the humanitarian response.  The availability of immediate funds in the future was a great step forward, and in using the fund, it would be important to remain consistent with the General Assembly resolution establishing it, in particular with regards to neutrality.

Indonesia worked to prevent gender-based violence, and said this should show consideration for national policies and programmes.  The affected state had the primary role for developing assistance, but for developing countries, the resources for long-term rehabilitation and reconstruction were often limited, and required the help of the international community.  The most effective long-term solution was to strengthen countries' capacity to respond to natural disasters and other crises.  By supporting national recovery processes, it was possible to enhance sustained efforts for development. 

IFTEKHAR AHMED CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said disasters in their diverse manifestations posed a great challenge to the international community.  Humanitarian assistance should be provided in accordance with the principles of humanity, neutrality and impartiality.  Greater emphasis should be placed on equity in the distribution of such assistance.  Humanitarian funding should go where it was most needed.  The donor community should make available increased amounts of flexible, un-earmarked, predicative funding for relief assistance in a timely manner.  It required the development of improved and more flexible multi-year funding mechanisms.

Bangladesh was a disaster-prone country.  The Government remained committed to reducing the vulnerability of people to manageable humanitarian level.  It had brought a paradigm shift in disaster management from conventional response to a relief approach to a more comprehensive risk reduction culture.  Bangladesh was one the first countries that had instituted a national platform to guide risk reduction efforts.  It was designed as part of the comprehensive disaster management programme.

KIM IL-HOON (Republic of Korea) said that for the cluster leadership approach to be an effective coordination mechanism as it was intended, the approach needed to be further refined, based on a comprehensive and candid analysis on the challenges it had faced on the ground.  Despite tangible improvements made in the area of humanitarian assistance over the past year, there was a need for more strengthened coordination of United Nations humanitarian assistance for the international community to deliver more quickly and effectively.  Each Member State, in close cooperation with international and local communities, should enhance its preparedness against humanitarian crises through building key partnerships at the regional and national levels.  Disaster-prone countries should develop the necessary capacity to cope with potential disasters. 

Humanitarian access to those in need was not fully ensured in many humanitarian crises, resulting in lost lives otherwise saved and extended suffering.  All concerned parties should cooperate fully to secure unimpeded humanitarian access to people in need, based on the spirit of humanitarianism and also in accordance with international humanitarian and human rights laws.  Recent humanitarian crises of unprecedented number and scale offered a unique opportunity to better understand weaknesses and gaps, and all members of the international humanitarian community should take this opportunity to collectively strengthen the humanitarian resource capability through enhanced cooperation and coordination.

DAYARATNA SILVA (Sri Lanka) said the Secretary-General's report was timely and helpful, as tsunami reconstruction had now entered its second year, in particular as to how one should tackle the challenges ahead.  The report provided an update of the recovery process in affected countries and had made some useful recommendations in a number of areas based on lessons learned.  Having suffered from the tsunami tragedy that devastated the livelihood of millions of people and also having observed how the United Nations system spurred in to action for helping countries affected, that subject was critically important to Sri Lanka not only to help itself for recovery, but also to share its experience in handling the unprecedented disaster, with a view to strengthening United Nations efforts at developing an effective disaster management strategy.

In Sri Lanka, the Government had made an objective assessment of post tsunami relief, recovery and reconstruction intervention and the way forward.  That exercise was carried with its development partners and the joint report entitled "post-tsunami recovery and reconstruction" was issued in December 2005.  The report had identified several important issues by drawing upon lessons from the past year's achievements and shortcomings. 

RUCHI GHANASHYAM (India) said a series of major natural disasters over the last two years had tested the capacity of the United Nations system to provide urgent humanitarian assistance.  The system also found itself stretched to its limit on some occasions, and had learnt the lessons of this experience, with the establishment of the Central Emergency Revolving Fund.  India had been intimately engaged in the setting-up of the Fund, which latter had started to be used for countries suffering from urgent humanitarian disasters and when there was a lack of received funds for that disaster.  There was a need to increase the functioning of the Fund.  The response of the United Nations country teams to the response challenges in the field had been the cluster approach; this should be assessed by the different countries involved.

India supported the use of training programmes to strengthen the United Nations Resident Coordinator system.  The report recommended strengthening local, national and other resources.  A holistic and comprehensive approach to disaster management, with greater emphasis on prevention, mitigation and integration was advocated.  Non-governmental organizations and faith-based organizations could play a significant role subsequent to disaster.  National institutions were best placed to understand their own national requirements. 

PABLO MACEDO RIBA (Mexico) said the year 2005 would remain and be remembered as one of the years when disasters had occurred everywhere.  There had been an unpleasant series of events of natural disasters.  About 250 million people around the world had suffered from the natural disasters.  There was a need to strengthen the United Nations system and other members of the international community in providing assistance to the victims of natural disasters.  It was also necessary to go from urgent assistance to development programmes.  As a country impacted many times by natural disasters, Mexico highly valued the efforts made by the international community in helping it.  Mexico was proud to be the founding member of the Central Emergency Revolving Fund to provide assistance to victims of natural disasters. 

Mexico hoped that the exchange of opinion in the session would further strengthen the assistance provisions in the event of natural disasters.  Protection of civilians in conflicts was an obligation of the international community within the context of the Geneva Conventions.

BYRON FERNANDO LARIOS LOPEZ (El Salvador) said due to the effective intervention of the National System for Civilian Protection and early-warnings and constant monitoring, it had been possible to cut back on the number of victims in El Salvador due to natural disasters.  The immediate response of the United Nations through OCHA and other organizations was recognized, and their efforts to coordinate assistance and international support had made it possible to quickly assess the damage done. 

The report of the Secretary-General was very interesting, but there were issues with chapter C, which contained incorrect data with regards to El Salvador.  The United Nations should support Governments of Central America to establish information-management systems that would allow for rapid decision-making in cases of natural disasters, as this would facilitate reconstruction plans.  All Member States should pay attention to the situation that had developed recently in various parts in the world and that should cause all to rethink their commitment to the environment.

BOUBACAR DIALLO (Guinea) said Guinea continued to be impacted negatively by the consequences of conflicts in western Africa.  The consequences of these conflicts were characterized by the extended duration of the presence of refugees on the national territory of Guinea, which had degraded the environment and led to an overload on social housing, resulting in insecurity.  This situation had negatively impacted on the national development programmes.  The Secretary-General, in his report, had appealed for $ 32,874,500 in order to face the humanitarian situation in Guinea.  Although pledges were made, no money had so far arrived and the situation continued to be a concern.  Guinea, thus, was launching an urgent appeal to all its bilateral and multilateral partners, through the Council, to provide Guinea with assistance to cope with the crisis.

JORGE FERRER (Cuba) said the international community was increasingly bearing witness to unprecedented natural disasters, often due to irrational policies and practices put in place by developed countries, which affected the environment, leading to prolonged droughts, torrential rains, and an increase in the frequency and severity of tropical storms.  Cuba worked untiringly to provide solidarity help to mitigate the damage of these natural disasters throughout the world.  It specialised in natural disasters and serious epidemics, and had provided assistance in many parts of the world, including Guatemala, Pakistan and Indonesia.  The Cuban Government had decided to not only send specialist medical brigades, but had created the Latin American Medical School to train doctors from the Caribbean, Asia and Africa in emergency response. 

Tsunamis, hurricanes and other phenomena did not discriminate, but their consequences were felt more dramatically in the underdeveloped world, where they exacerbated the condition of the vulnerable.  Only unconditional international cooperation could help to eliminate the obstacles to international assistance, which limited the ability of the poorest nations to combat these phenomena.  In an international system that was marked by hegemony and the unilateral use of force, Cuba stood for the impartiality, humanity and solidarity of humanitarian assistance, as enshrined in the resolutions of the United Nations.  Aid should not be used as an attempt to undermine the sovereignty of States. 

ALICIA DE HOZ (Argentina) believed that assistance should be increased for humanitarian crises.  Coordination of efforts to maximize the relief operations was necessary.  Within the context of the "White Helmet" initiative, Argentina had been working to strengthen the capacities of its volunteers at all focal points and regions.  The strengthening of the White-Helmets would allow a rapid deployment of the volunteers in cases of natural catastrophes.  The local capacity in assistance should be strengthened through international efforts.  In addition to the strengthening of the White-Helmets, training of the youth in rapid interventions programmes had been carried out.  White-Helmets programmes had been found important to assist victims of natural disaster in Argentina.  Argentina supported all United Nations efforts of coordinating emergency humanitarian assistance work in that direction.

JAVAD AMIN MANSOUR (Iran) said natural disasters were increasing in terms of both numbers and their devastating consequences.  There was no doubt that natural disasters seriously hampered the efforts of not only national Governments, in particular in the developing countries, but also the international community in achieving social and economic development.  The negative impacts of the disasters on the environment, health, sanitation, water, housing and other sectors in every affected society were clear.  The relationship between the emergency, rehabilitation, recovery and the reconstruction and development phase after the disasters in the long run was obvious.  Lack of adequate attention to all the above stages would definitely lead to more vulnerability and waste of time and resources.  Coordination of the various relevant United Nations and non-United Nations actors among themselves and with the national and local Governments at national, regional and international levels was vital. 

Much remained to be done in terms of coordination among international actors, coordination between national Governments and international actors, needs assessments at all levels based on the nature of natural disasters in different regions and countries, increase in the financial resources allocated to emergencies, transfer of appropriate technologies, exchange of knowledge, information and experience, as well as preparedness and development in the long run.  Attention should be drawn to the importance of adequate and timely funding of the humanitarian emergencies, particularly to under-funded emergencies as well as under-resourced sectors. 

ARTURO CABRERA HIDALGO (Ecuador) said reducing disaster through prevention efforts should be one of the tasks of the United Nations systems.  Ecuador supported the strengthening of the United Nations system in its efforts of coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance. 

ELCHIN AMIRBAYOV (Azerbaijan) said the past year had been characterized by many disasters of widely differing range and scope and which had been a challenge to the international community.  The work of the United Nations could not be overvalued.  The disasters stressed that the international community should work towards a disaster-management approach by working with Governments at regional, local and international levels, whilst prioritizing reconstruction as a major priority, sharing best practices and expertise and emphasizing disaster preparedness.  It was important to create an environment for the effective participation of non-governmental organizations and other actors of civil society.

The continued efforts by the United Nations humanitarian system were welcomed, and the cluster leadership approach was a step forwards.  The draft outcome document of the segment was welcomed.  Strengthening coordination of the humanitarian response at the country level remained important to encourage development and reconstruction.  The efficiency of the United Nations system-wide capacity should be reinforced.  It was hoped that the implementation of the new cluster approach would help to deal with the issue of internally displaced persons. 

JOSE ANTONIO DOIG (Peru) said that last year had seen the highest number of victims of natural disasters.  Climate change had had the most disastrous effects, with human beings being the main victims.  The developing countries were directly affected by the phenomenon of climatic change.  The series of humanitarian crises had also had negative impacts on the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals.  The climate phenomenon had had direct effects on the overall development agendas of national governments.  The capacity of the local community to rise against emergencies related to extreme climatic calamities was limited.  It was essential to invest on preventive strategies.  

LUIS NIÑO (Venezuela) said the subject of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief was of particular importance.  In this context, Venezuela had established the Group for Humanitarian Assistance and Efforts Simon Bolivar for civilian protection and the management of disasters.  This was clear evidence of the country's solidarity with sister nations in this regard.  The cooperation was mostly based on the three stages of disaster management: prevention, emergency assistance, and reconstruction/rehabilitation.  Recently, Venezuela, in the context of the region and the inter-agency cooperation of the Organization of American States had set up training camps for experts on disaster prevention, based on successful national experience. 

Based on the cooperation activities and humanitarian assistance, Venezuela had aided a number of sister Nations in the Caribbean and Central America, all of which had been hit by the hurricane season, which had ravaged the area in both 2004 and 2005.  This had been provided both at the emergency relief and the reconstruction/rehabilitation stages.  Venezuela wished to reiterate the fundamental principles of humanitarian assistance as reflected in the annex of the General Assembly resolution, and that it was vital to maintain these principles in the context of the work of the international community to provide assistance and the United Nations work to coordinate it. 

A.L. MOLTCHAN (Belarus) said Belarus expressed support for the efforts of the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and his reports presented last Friday.  Increasing numbers of people were being affected each year by natural disasters, which required effective and rapid coordinated humanitarian efforts to deal with the crises.  Belarus had participated in the help for all the major natural crises that had occurred in South Asia.  Coordination of humanitarian assistance should be strengthened through the funding of additional financial resources.  The process of strengthening of OCHA should not be politicized and should be seen from the humanitarian aspect alone.  Belarus was ready to cooperate with all the United Nations and other actors of the international community in dealing with emergency situations.

LUCA DALL'OGLIO, International Organization for Migration (IOM), said the reports under consideration offered a valuable opportunity for learning key lessons for coordinating humanitarian efforts for crises.  When these occurred, the IOM humanitarian interventions had been primarily concerned with refugees, internally displaced persons, and former combatants, and the provision of non-food items, care, and maintenance, which were also part of the IOM mandate.  The Secretary-General had called for broadening engagement with non-United Nations actors, and the United Nations supported this as part of the need to share responsibility.  In the past few months, the cluster approach had taken place in the work of the United Nations, showing tangible results, with greater collaboration in the inter-agency framework, both at the global and country levels. 

The cluster approach was an opportunity, which highlighted the unique approach of each organization, and capitalized on their strength.  It brought the international community and Governments closer together.  IOM played a critical role in several clusters, including shelter and logistics.  The IOM activities included shelter, and throughout these activities it had shown its commitment to the cluster approach.  On the Central Emergency Revolving Fund, IOM had already used this in several incidents to shorten funding gaps in response to serious humanitarian crises.  IOM would continue to work systemically with its partners in times of crisis. 

KATHLEEN CRAVERO, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said UNDP firmly believed that local ownership and local leadership were crucial both for humanitarian action and for the consolidation of peace and post-crisis recovery.  Indeed, for sustainable recovery to take hold, individuals, communities and governments should have both the confidence and the skills to mange their own recovery processes in a way that reduced risks and vulnerability.  Local capacity building was a prerequisite to strengthening the resilience of societies across the globe.  UNDP was fully committed to strengthening the effectiveness, timeliness and predictability of humanitarian responses.  UNDP shared the growing concern over the chronic lack of funding for many of the world's most serious crises.  Gender-based violence not only devastated lives and fractured communities, it also impeded development.

ALLAN JURY, World Food Programme (WFP), said WFP was aware of the importance of true strategic partnerships to better serve the beneficiaries of its work, and essential to that work were partnerships within the United Nations.  WFP would like to reiterate its call for donor provision of un-earmarked, multilateral and predictable funding.  With flexible funds, the United Nations humanitarian agencies were able to allocate resources to the projects that needed it most, and ensure that distribution of food did not have to be stopped because of a lack of money.  The expanded Central Emergency Revolving Fund was just one tool in improving the predictability of funding for United Nations emergency response.  Equally important was support to individual agencies' emergency funds and increased unrestricted multilateral contributions to the main United Nations operational agencies. 

All humanitarian international actors should be strongly engaged in building national capacity to respond to emergencies with the capacities to build, develop or strengthen related to issues of hunger and malnutrition.  Partnerships with local NGOs were another component of national capacity building.  Humanitarian assistance could also well support local markets, oftentimes precisely where a contribution to greater self-sufficiency was needed the most. 

SIRI TELLIER, United Nations Population Fund Agency (UNFPA) said that the inter-agency real time evaluations that were conducted in Darfur, Pakistan and during the Indian Ocean tsunami crisis showed that a number of cross cutting issues on gender, human rights, and HIV/AIDS were not well incorporated into the current systems of humanitarian response.  Protection of internally displaced persons had been recognized as a weak aspect in the implementation of humanitarian assistance and that lack of protection could be especially devastating for internally displaced women and girls who were at risk of gender-based violence and exploitation.  The scourge of sexual violence, so prevalent in many of today's conflicts, affected not only individuals and their families but was a barometer of the social and political health of a nation.

DANIEL TOOLE, United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), said that in nearly all emergencies, both natural disasters and in complex crises, well over half of the victims were children and women, and all should re-emphasize the importance of the protection of civilians at all times, especially children and women.  UNICEF strongly supported efforts to enhance more reliable, predictable and timely delivery of humanitarian assistance on the ground.  It had begun to strengthen its capacity to both ensure proper coordination of clusters under its leadership, as well as to provide direct assistance to those in need.  There was a need for strong experienced Humanitarian Coordinators to ensure that efforts to protect and assist those in need were focused on results, built on local knowledge and expertise, and were well coordinated to avoid duplication, overlap, or gaps.

Humanitarian access and security of staff and assets continued to pose significant challenges to all humanitarian actors.  Sexual and gender-based violence represented a significant threat to children, particularly young girls.  UNICEF continued to support both humanitarian relief and development activities, and had supported long-term development since its inception.  In the past several years, humanitarian assistance had grown significantly, given the number and scale of disasters.  UNICEF would continue to work closely with its development partners, to ensure that rapid support for the transition from relief to development.  UNICEF was present before, during and after crises, and today, supporting the rights of children required this work for all children, everywhere.

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