27 October 2009
General Assembly
GA/10876

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-fourth General Assembly

Plenary

26th Meeting (AM)


Amid Major Global Financial Contraction, Economic and Social Council Opening


‘New Vistas’ to Strengthen United Nations Coordinated Response to Crises


During Assembly’s Annual Review, Council President Hails 54-Member

Body’s Potential to Bring Together Diverse Players, Stay Focused on Results


As the most severe global financial crisis since the Great Depression continued to threaten progress on the Millennium Development Goals, the Economic and Social Council was opening “new vistas” for collaborative actions, creating new partnerships and sparking engagement with diverse stakeholders to strengthen the United Nations’ coordinated response to such calamities, the President of that 54-member body told General Assembly delegates today.


Presenting the Economic and Social Council’s 2009 report to the Assembly during a joint debate on the follow-up to major United Nations conferences and summits, President of the Council, Sylvie Lucas, of Luxembourg, said the body’s work this year should be seen in line with the overall efforts to help countries weather the global storm, particularly in the area of health.


The 2009 Annual Ministerial Review, held during the Council’s substantive session in Geneva, and which focused on global public health, promoted consensus on relevant issues -- from non-communicable and communicable diseases to health systems to intellectual property rights and financing.  The Ministerial Review had attracted a diverse range of actors from Government, civil society and the private sector, and built political momentum to advance the global health agenda.  “This is a strong rallying point and we need to utilize this potential”, she asserted.


The Council’s other work over the past year included its Special High-level Meeting on the Bretton Woods institutions, the World Trade Organization and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), which offered a first opportunity to exchange views on the global financial and economic crisis.  Among other things, it highlighted the need to deal with the human impact of the crisis to prevent large-scale human tragedy, she said. 


In other areas, efforts to strengthen links between the Council and the Peacebuilding Commission were bearing fruit, and on 29 October, those bodies would hold their first joint event, along with the World Food Programme (WFP), on the impact of the food and economic crises in post-conflict countries.  Ms. Lucas expressed strong hope that the relationship be further enhanced, as the Council undoubtedly had a role in peacebuilding and post-conflict development.


Through such activities, the Council had expanded the range of stakeholders the United Nations could partner with to advance the Goals, she explained.  Her experience as President had shown her the Council’s potential to bring together diverse constituencies on important issues and keep focused on results.  She urged the Assembly to use that potential to its fullest.


During the debate that followed, several speakers welcomed the creation of an ad hoc open-ended working group of the Assembly in follow-up to the 2009 United Nations Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and Its Impact on Development, and then also welcomed proposals to set up lending mechanisms for countries -- especially middle-income countries -- facing financial difficulties.


Others offered suggestions for the Council’s improvement.   Sudan’s representative, on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said that while the Annual Ministerial Reviews were evolving into an effective forum for exchanging experiences and pinpointing obstacles to achieving the Millennium Goals, they could improve with the active engagement of the United Nations funds, programmes and agencies.  The Reviews would be more productive if themes emerged from the information provided by the functional and regional commissions.


Echoing that call, Sweden’s delegate, on behalf of the European Union, said that while steps had been taken to improve the Council’s effectiveness, additional clarity was needed when dividing work between the Council and Assembly, in order to focus the Council’s agenda on issues where it could add value.  A disturbing trend of introducing draft resolutions at very late stages created preparation difficulties for delegations, and risked leading to poor quality decisions. 


Also, there was an inherent problem in the Council’s organization of work for its substantive sessions, he said, in that negotiations on resolutions took place at the same time as plenary meetings, panel discussions and other sessions.  That prevented delegates involved in negotiating sessions from contributing to an interactive session.  He urged more discipline in the timely tabling of resolutions and maintaining deadlines for segments as a way to ease the conflict.


Brazil’s delegate pointed out that the 2002 Monterrey Conference on Financing for Development was the only major United Nations conference that did not have a permanent intergovernmental body to oversee implementation of its outcome and that issue merited discussion.


In other business, the Assembly authorized the United Nations Forum on Forests and the Executive Board of the United Nations Development Programme/United Nations Population Fund to hold one meeting each, in New York, during the main part of the sixty-fourth session, in accordance with their requests, and on the strict understanding that the meetings would be accommodated when conference facilities and services could be made available.


Also speaking today were the representatives of Belarus, Russian Federation and Indonesia.


The General Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. Wednesday, 28 October, to discuss the necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba, as well as the situation in Central America.


Background


General Assembly met today for its joint debate on the report of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), and matters regarding the integrated and coordinated implementation and follow-up to the outcomes of major United Nations conferences and summits in the economic, social and related fields.


For that discussion, the Assembly had before it a letter dated 26 October 2009 from the Chairman of the Committee on Conferences to the President of the General Assembly (document A/64/348/Add.1), requesting the Assembly to authorize the United Nations Forum on Forests and the Executive Board of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)/United Nations Population Fund to hold one meeting each in New York during the main part of the sixty-fourth session, in accordance with their requests, on the strict understanding that the meetings would be accommodated when conference facilities and services could be made available.


Also before the Assembly was the report of the Economic and Social Council for 2009 (A/64/3), a nine-chapter preliminary version of those sections of the Council’s report relating to the organizational and resumed organizational sessions for 2009, and the substantive session of 2009 (this year held at the United Nations Office at Geneva).


The report covers various matters, including those calling for action by or brought to the attention of the General Assembly, and the special high-level meeting of the Council with the Bretton Woods institutions, the World Trade Organization and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).  The remaining chapters focus on the high-level segment, coordination segment, humanitarian segment and general segment of the Council’s 2009 substantive session, as well as elections, nominations, confirmations and appointments, and other organizational matters.


Also before the Assembly was a note by the Secretary-General on a Smoke-free United Nations premises (A/64/335), by which he transmits the report on that matter prepared by the World Health Organization (WHO) in consultation with the Department of Management at Headquarters, offices away from Headquarters and regional commissions.  In the report, the Secretary-General informs the Assembly about the implementation of resolution 63/8 (2008), by which the Assembly decided to implement a complete smoking ban at Headquarters.  In that context, the Secretary-General calls on all staff, delegations and visitors to refrain from smoking on the premises. 


A note by the Secretary-General (A/64/207) transmits the report of the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) on the United Nations Population Award 2009, which says that Dr. Mahmoud Fahmy Fathalla, of Egypt, was selected for that Award in the individual category, while Movimiento Comunal Nicaragüense of Nicaragua was chosen in the institutional category.


Dr. Fathalla was chosen in recognition of his exemplary contributions to the understanding of population issues, designing solutions and advocating action in the fields of family planning, reproductive health, reproductive rights and maternal health.  Movimiento Comunal Nicaragüense was chosen for its achievements in training community leaders, community educators and community health volunteers to improve conditions for the poor, the report adds.


On financial matters, the report says that as of 31 December 2008, the Trust Fund for the United Nations Population Award had a total balance of over $1.8 million.  Interest income for 2008 was $58,226.47; expenditures in 2009 totalled $75,053.13.


For its consideration of the follow-up to outcomes of major United Nations conferences, the Assembly had before it the Secretary-General’s report on the Role of the Economic and Social Council in the integrated and coordinated implementation of the outcomes of and follow-up to major United Nations conferences and summits, in the light of relevant General Assembly resolutions, including resolution 61/16 (A/64/87-E/2009/89), which reviews the links among the various parts of the follow-up architecture to enhance coherence.  It outlines how the Council’s annual Ministerial Review provides substantive coherence in the follow-up to conferences, and how the biennial Development Cooperation Forum, with its balanced participation of key actors, could help advance implementation of internationally agreed development goals.  It also describes how development-focused meetings of the Assembly could provide similar substantive coherence to its work.


The report recommends that the Secretary-General prepare a quadrennial report on the integrated and coordinated implementation of and follow-up to major United Nations conferences and summits and submit the first at the Economic and Social Council’s 2015 substantive session and the Assembly’s seventieth session.


Such a report should be prepared a year prior to the Secretary-General’s report for the 2016 quadrennial comprehensive policy review of operational activities for development of the United Nations, and every four years thereafter.  It should also assess country progress in implementing the outcomes of major United Nations conference and summits and enable both the Assembly and the Council to determine areas in which additional intergovernmental oversight was most needed.


Policy wise, such a report should assess conference follow-up mechanisms, and further, the United Nations effectiveness in providing holistic policy advice for national policy or national development strategies aimed at meeting internationally agreed development goals.  It should also build on relevant ongoing reporting by Member States and make use of both impact evaluation tools and case studies from within the United Nations system.


Finally before the Assembly was the Secretary-General’s report on the Scope, modalities, format and organization of the high-level plenary meeting of the sixty-fifth session of the General Assembly (A/64/263), which recalls that the sixty-fifth session would start on 14 September 2010, and that the Assembly had decided to convene a high-level plenary meeting at the start of that session.  It suggests that the proposed meeting is consistent with the Millennium Declaration and has achievement of the Millennium Development Goals -– and other internationally agreed development goals -– at its core.


It suggests that the Assembly consider holding its high-level plenary over three days during one of the following periods:  Saturday, 18 September, to Monday, 20 September, inclusive; Friday, 17 September, Saturday, 18 September, and Monday, 20 September; or Wednesday, 15 September, to Friday, 17 September 2010.  Under all scenarios, the general debate would begin on Tuesday, 21 September, as scheduled.


As for structure and format, the report suggests convening interactive round table meetings, with Heads of State participating as chairpersons.  Preparatory activities should include informal interactive hearings with civil society prior to the meeting, as had been done at the 2005 World Summit.  Those meetings could be open to accredited representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), civil society organizations, the private sector, Member States and observers.


Regarding the outcome of the high-level plenary, the report suggests that the Assembly adopt a “bold action-oriented political declaration” to ensure renewal of existing commitments and mobilization of coordinated action and funding.


Introduction of report by President of the Economic and Social Council


SYLVIE LUCAS (Luxembourg), President of the Economic and Social Council, introduced the Council’s 2009 report (A/64/3), saying that the most severe global financial crisis since the Great Depression had wreaked havoc on the world economy and risked reversing progress towards the Millennium Development Goals.  As such, the Council’s work this year should be seen in line with the overall effort to help countries weather that storm.


Turning first to the 2009 Annual Ministerial Review, held during the Council’s substantive session in Geneva, and which focused on global public health, she said that, by promoting consensus on relevant issues -- from non-communicable and communicable diseases to health systems to intellectual property rights and financing -- the Ministerial Declaration adopted at the end of the Review “opened new vistas” for collaborative actions, new partnerships and engagement with diverse stakeholders. 


The Ministerial Review had attracted a diverse range of actors from Government, civil society and the private sector, and built political momentum to advance the global health agenda.  “This is a strong rallying point and we need to utilize this potential”, she asserted.


The Council’s other work over the past year included its Special High-level Meeting on the Bretton Woods Institutions, World Trade Organization and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), she said, which offered a first opportunity to exchange views on the global financial and economic crisis.  Among other things, it highlighted the need to deal with the human impact of the crisis to prevent large-scale human tragedy.  A record of discussions had been transmitted to the President of the General Assembly for preparation of the draft final document of the July United Nations Conference on the World Economic and Financial Crisis and Its Impact on Development.


The Council also had made recommendations to the Assembly to ensure a more inclusive intergovernmental process to carry out the financing for development follow-up.  The Council suggested holding its Special High-level Spring Meeting with international financial and trade institutions at least five weeks earlier than currently foreseen, and allotting up to two full days of its annual substantive session to Financing for Development.


The Council intended to fully implement several other mandates entrusted to it by the Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis, she said, adding that she had been asked to conduct open-ended informal consultations on that matter, which were currently under way.


Turning to the Council’s substantive session, she said Member States had encouraged the ongoing strengthening of humanitarian coordination.  The Council had successfully reviewed implementation of the Assembly’s guidance on operational activities, and the concrete outcomes attested to States’ continued commitment to the 2007 General Assembly Triennial Comprehensive Policy Review.  Some of the Council’s recommendations also echoed the broad consensus vis-à-vis the General Assembly on the system-wide coherence process.


In addition, she said the Development Cooperation Forum was now widely recognized as the focal point within the United Nations for holistic consideration of such issues.  In that context, she noted that the first high-level symposium on “Accountable and transparent development cooperation:  towards a more inclusive framework” would be hosted by the Austrian Government on 12-13 November.


Moreover, efforts to strengthen institutional links between the Council and the Peacebuilding Commission were bearing fruit, she said, and on 29 October, those bodies would hold the first joint event, along with the World Food Programme, to consider the impact of the food and economic crises in post-conflict countries.  She expressed strong hope that the relationship be further enhanced, as the Council undoubtedly had a role in peacebuilding and post-conflict development.


On other matters, she said the high number of countries that wished to make national presentations next year testified to the Council’s role as the forum for mutual accountability.  Indeed, next year presented a great opportunity to strengthen the National Voluntary Presentations as the accountability mechanism in helping States fine-tune their development policies.


Through such activities, the Council had expanded the range of stakeholders the United Nations could partner with to advance the Millennium Goals.  The Special Philanthropy Event -- held last February and attended by Member States, as well as the corporate, philanthropic, non-governmental and academic communities -- discussed philanthropy’s role in advancing the global public health agenda.


In closing, she said her experience as President had shown her the Council’s potential to generate momentum towards the timely achievement of the Millennium Goals, bring together diverse constituencies on important issues and keep focused on the results.  She urged the Assembly to use that potential to its fullest in mobilizing action towards realizing the Millennium Development Goals.


Statements


NADIA M. OSMAN (Sudan), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, welcomed the report on the Council’s work in 2009, a critically relevant year for the body’s work, as the economic and financial, food, and energy crises re-emphasized the importance of inclusive multilateralism and confirmed the legitimacy of the United Nations.  Her delegation believed that the global financial crisis had highlighted the urgent need for a comprehensive reform of the international economic and financial system and its architecture.  The international financial institutions needed a clear development orientation.


The “Group of 77” was concerned that implementation of agreed commitments continued to be the Achilles heel of the United Nations development agenda.  The decision of the 2005 Summit encapsulated the agreed commitments of all Member States on development.  The adoption of the Declaration on Global Public Health augured well for a strengthened Council and was groundbreaking in many ways as it paved the way forward for concrete action on many critical issues related to world health, such as the current H1N1 flu pandemic.  It also strengthened the political will to achieve Millennium Goals in child and maternal health, she said.  The Declaration also acknowledged the global financial crisis’ impact on developing countries and stressed that international cooperation and assistance, particularly external funding, needed to be more predictable and more aligned with national priorities.


The Council’s Annual Ministerial Reviews were evolving into an effective forum for exchanging experiences and best practices and pinpointing the obstacles facing countries in achieving the Goals.  The “Group of 77” believed that the Reviews could improve with the active engagement of the United Nations funds, programmes and agencies, she said.  The “Group of 77” also believed that the Reviews would be more productive if themes emerged from the information provided by the functional and regional commissions.  Turning to economic issues, she welcomed the agreements reached during the current session on the outcome of the Conference on the Economic and Financial Crisis.  The “Group of 77” had kicked off the process to fulfil its responsibilities on the Global Job Pact, the agreement with the Bretton Woods institutions, and other issues.  She looked forward to more progress on those issues.


HARALD FRIES (Sweden), speaking on behalf of the European Union and Associated States, reiterated its support for the Council as the principal organ to coordinate the United Nations’ economic, social and related work and as a central forum for debating international economic and social issues.


Last July’s High-Level Segment was a milestone for the recognition of the importance of global public health in economic and social development.  The European Union recognized the Council’s central role in promoting the integrated and coordinated implementation of, and follow-up to, the outcomes of major United Nations conferences.  It also welcomed the Council resolution on implementation of system-wide reforms in the Organization’s operational activities for development, within the context of the Triennial Comprehensive Policy Review (TCPR), as well as the resolution, adopted by consensus, on emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations.  That text sent a clear message of global unity on the humanitarian agenda, needed by today’s increasingly complex humanitarian challenges, he said.


Turning to economic issues, he said the European Union appreciated the adoption of the resolution on the Global Jobs Pact, in line with paragraph 58 of the outcome document stemming from the Conference on the June World Financial and Economic Crisis.  It also welcomed the resolution that called for a strengthened and more effective process for the follow-up to the Monterrey Consensus and the Doha Declaration.  The European Union was committed to full engagement in the process and looked forward to participating in the talks on financing for development of the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) and at the Assembly’s High-level Dialogue on 23 to 24 November.  That Dialogue should focus on substantive issues.


Unfortunately, the European Union saw a negative trend in the working of the NGO Committee and was concerned that the guiding principles for granting it consultative status with the Council were gradually being undermined.  Civil society actors should support the United Nations work by providing a perspective that complemented and sometimes differed from Members States.  The European Union urged the NGO Committee members to work together to defend and uphold the guiding principles agreed by Member States in resolution 1996/31, he said.


Turning to the Council’s working methods, he said that while important steps had been taken to improve the Council’s effectiveness, additional clarity was needed when dividing work between the Council and Assembly, in order to focus the Council’s agenda on issues where it could add value.  To avoid an overlap, it would be useful to investigate the allocation of items to different segments of the substantive session, he said.  There also was a disturbing trend of introducing draft resolutions at very late stages, which created preparation difficulties for delegations, especially the small delegations.  That trend risked leading to poor quality decisions.  Before considering any changes in the rules of procedure, the European Union urged better discipline on that point.


The European Union also urged greater efforts to adhere to assigned deadlines for each segment of the Council so delegations could participate effectively and avoid poor quality decisions.  An inherent problem with the organization of work of the Council’s substantive sessions was that negotiations on resolutions took place at the same time as plenary meetings, panel discussions and other sessions.  That prevented delegates involved in negotiating sessions from contributing to an interactive session.  He urged more discipline in the timely tabling of resolutions and maintaining deadlines for segments as a way to ease the conflict.


ZOYA KOLONTAI (Belarus) said the multifaced global crisis had sharply decreased capital flows to developing countries and jeopardized their efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.  In such an environment, the Economic and Social Council’s work was highly commendable and it was therefore indispensable to continue to strengthen that body’s role in improving the efficiency of the United Nations institutions, funds, programmes, and related organizations.  A particular emphasis in that work should aim to secure system-wide conditions that encouraged equitable international trade, as well as on consultative and technical assistance to developing and middle-income countries.


He said the Council’s main objective in the sphere of financing for development needed to be the implementation of the outcome documents of the United Nations Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and Its Impact on Development held in July 2009 and the Doha Review Conference on Financing for Development of December 2008.  In that regard, Belarus welcomed the establishment of an ad hoc open-ended working group of the General Assembly to follow up on the issues of financial and economic crisis impact on development and was ready to contribute to its activities.  He further welcomed the decisions to increase considerably the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank financial resources for expanded lending to needy countries, and he supported the proposals aimed at developing new lending mechanisms to provide effective assistance to countries facing financial difficulties, including middle-income ones.


Continuing, he pointed out that the adoption by the Council of new forms of partnership between the United Nations and other organizations opened up additional possibilities for enhancement of efficiency of the international efforts, and urged that the practice of high-level meetings with the participation of IMF, World Bank, World Trade Organization and UNCTAD be continued.  He also proposed that a decision be taken at the United Nations 2010 Summit on a mechanism or plan of close cooperation of Member Sates to overcome global challenges.


ALEXANDER PANKIN ( Russian Federation) highlighted the United Nations’ growing role as a universal platform for finding collective ways to solve global problems.  In those efforts, there was a need for coordinating international policy aimed at achieving international development agreements.  For its part, the Council could help develop such a policy and provide a forum for discussing the overall principles for sustainable economic development.


The main task facing the Council was ensuring a coordinated United Nations response to development issues, he said, adding that achieving the United Nations’ potential in global anti-crisis measures required more cooperation with the Bretton Woods institutions and an improved role for the Council in preparations for the September 2010 special session.  Also, cooperation in the area of development should be given particular attention and he expressed hope for a results oriented dialogue in the Development Cooperation Forum.


He commended the Council’s work during its substantive session, notably on health and sustainable development.  In the High-level segment, the Annual Ministerial Review was of practical importance for the United Nations, as, for the first time, there had been an integrated discussion of health in all its aspects.  The Council had mainstreamed health into the development agenda and clarified the political strategy to confront health challenges.  Its Ministerial Declaration provided a good normative basis to step up health efforts.  Also, a good basis had been established for ensuring the long-awaited “Delivering as One” approach.


Such important outcomes confirmed the Council’s role as a central actor in ensuring system-wide coherence, he explained, adding that the outcome document of the International Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and Its Impact on Development had tasked the Council with important missions, including in support of coordinated efforts to deal with the crisis.  For its part, the Russian Federation was ready for constructive dialogue with all partners.  The main intergovernmental platform for follow-up was the Ad Hoc Open-Ended Working Group of the General Assembly.


REGINA MARIA CORDEIRO DUNLOP ( Brazil) said the Council’s report underscored that body’s importance in promoting coordination, coherence and cooperation in the United Nations system.  The Council had to be strengthened with a view to playing a more prominent role in policy discussions and deliberations on substantive development issues.  The global financial crisis had underscored the need to improve coherence between the Assembly and the Council, as well as among United Nations funds, programmes and specialized agencies.


At the same time, several initiatives had been undertaken to improve inter-institutional and intergovernmental coordination, she said.  The Annual Ministerial Review exercise could be important for reviewing progress on policy recommendations, while the Development Cooperation Forum could promote coordination and exchanging information on relevant development cooperation issues.


However, it was clear that more measures were warranted, as United Nations funds, programmes and specialized agencies actions seemed disconnected from guidelines adopted by Member States in the Council.  It was important to foster closer cooperation between governing bodies and United Nations bodies.  The Chief Executives Board (CEB) had taken important measures to implement common strategies, but suffered from a lack of accountability to Member States.  Looking ahead, the United Nations response to the crisis had to take into account the outcome of the International Conference, held in June.


The establishment of an intergovernmental body for financing of development processes was an important step in the right direction, she said, pointing out that the Monterrey Conference was the only major United Nations conference that did not have a permanent intergovernmental body to oversee implementation of its outcome. That merited discussion.


HASAN KLEIB (Indonesia) said the broad vision of shared development priorities envisaged in the historic United Nations conferences and summits remained vital benchmarks for achieving equitable development.  Moreover, the Millennium Development Goals, whose purpose was to sharpen focus on some of the most urgent areas of the conference and summits, had been a tremendous catalyst in accelerating progress towards the wider goal of equitable growth.


Noting that significant advances had been made in the last 20 years and even more because of the establishment of the Goals, she stressed that perceivable challenges still stood out in every region added with new challenges that were piling up waiting to be resolved.  The financial, fuel and food crisis, together with climate change, new diseases and viruses, were some of the emerging problems that if not addressed fully and effectively could contribute to the failure of the international community’s efforts. 


Against such a backdrop, it was necessary to build global partnerships within a new spirit of multilateralism.  To impart new impetus to global partnerships, the first key step was implementation of reforms in all key sectors of the international economy, she explained.  Greater efforts should be devoted to the workings of the international financial architecture so that it became a force of equitable growth.  In the same vein, key structural reforms in trade and development were particularly crucial to the realization of a more open, free and equitable trading system, and in that regard, the need for a successful conclusion of the Doha Development Round of World Trade Organization negotiations and the fulfilment of the 2002 Monterrey Consensus could not be overemphasized.


Given the uneven progress on all fronts of the outcomes of the United Nations conferences and summits, including the Millennium Goals, she believed there needed to be a greater effort to ensure their timely and full realizations.  That not only entailed a concerted effort by Member States but also by the related institutional framework.  The ongoing effort to establish vertical and horizontal links had been a vital measure in promoting wide stakeholder participation and architectural and substantive coherence.  That effort should also be enhanced with close cooperation between United Nations and all other multilateral financial, trade and development institutions in order to support sustained economic growth, poverty eradication and sustainable development, she added.


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For information media • not an official record