25 July 2012
Economic and Social Council
ECOSOC/6543

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

Economic and Social Council

2012 Substantive Session

44th & 45th Meetings (AM & PM)


Economic and Social Council Continues General Segment, Takes up Matters

 

Regarding Decolonization, Regional Cooperation, Environment

 


Council Weighs Socioeconomic Impact of Israeli Occupation on Palestinian

Territory; Considers Reports on Habitat Agenda, Committee on Development Policy


Continuing its general segment, the Economic and Social Council today took up a host of issues, including implementation of the Declaration on Decolonization, regional cooperation and socioeconomic challenges in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.


The Council’s busy day also included the adoption of recommendations on economic and environmental questions.  It also adopted five decisions, including one on statistics, three on population and development, and another on cartography. 


In remarks on the impact of the Israeli occupation on the people living in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Rima Khalaf, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), highlighted several social and economic consequences of Israel’s violations.  “Israeli measures affecting Palestinians are increasingly being viewed as institutional and systemic rather than ad hoc,” she declared.


“[A] blatant demonstration of a policy aimed at altering the character and status of the Occupied Palestinian Territory” was Israeli settlement construction, which was illegal under international law, she said.  Some 40 per cent of the West Bank had been seized by the Israeli authorities for settlement use, she added.


Describing how Palestinians had been denied access to water and other resources and how the economy and the job market had been stymied, Ms. Khalaf noted that unemployment stood at a “staggering” 30.3 per cent in Gaza and the area’s gross domestic product (GDP) remained at 35 per cent lower than its 1994 level.


In his opening statement, Diego Morejón (Ecuador), speaking also in his capacity as Chair of the Special Committee on Decolonization, said that the last regional seminar in Quito had shed light on the socioeconomic aspects of decolonization and the decision had been made that United Nations specialized agencies should take part in the work.  He said that the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development ( Rio+20) had recognized the Council’s role in integrating the three pillars of sustainable development, a topic that was important to non-autonomous territories.  Their challenges could be better addressed through the participation of the relevant stakeholders and on a case-by-case basis.


In the general debate that followed, a majority of the speakers commented on the Palestine issue, with a few delegations discussing regional cooperation.   Indonesia’s delegate said it had been “far too long” that Palestinians had suffered at the hands of the occupiers of their lands.  He expressed support for the Palestinian people’s aspiration to achieve freedom and for their full United Nations membership.


A representative of the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine said losses caused by Israeli occupation to the Palestinian economy ranged from $6 billion-$7 billion annually, which equalled more than 84 per cent of the area’s GDP.  With the end of the occupation, the Palestinian economy would be able to ensure sustainable development, and hence, the independent State of Palestine would not need foreign aid, which usually was associated with political conditions.  “The Israeli occupation is the main devastating factor for the Palestinian economy,” he said. 


The delegate of Israel argued that presentations made today ignored the rocket fire from Gaza and Hamas’ brutal rule that had caused hardships for Palestinians in Gaza.  The Council’s discourse did not serve anyone who sought a peaceful resolution in the Middle East, and it only demonized Israel and blocked any avenue for peaceful reconciliation, she added.


In other business, the Council held a separate debate encompassing such topics as sustainable development, statistics, human settlements, environment, public administration and development, and international cooperation in tax matters.


The representative of Bahamas, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that developing countries should have their unique perspectives reflected in a much broader intergovernmental discussion on tax matters than that which currently existed.  It was not enough that such countries had a “seat at the table”, but they must equally be permitted to have a “voice at that table”, she said.


On sustainable development, the delegate of China said action in the next stage would entail, among others, identifying multiple sets of flexible, non-mandatory targets which could serve as useful references to States in developing national development strategies.


Also today, several draft resolutions were introduced by sponsoring delegations, with action expected by the end of the week, when the Council’s 2012 substantive session was set to wrap up.  The texts included those on decolonization, the socioeconomic impact of the Israeli occupation on people living in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, human settlements and international cooperation in tax matters.


Introducing today’s reports were the Director of the New York Office of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), who introduced the report on the coordinated implementation of the Habitat Agenda (document E/2012/65); the Director of the Development Policy and Analysis Division, Committee for Development Policy, who introduced the Committee’s report on its fourteenth session (document E/2012/33); and a representative of the New York Office of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), who introduced the report of the UNEP Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum on the work of its twelfth special session (document A/67/25).


The draft resolution on decolonization (document E/2012/L.22) was introduced by the representative of Ecuador.  The text on the socioeconomic impact of the Israeli occupation on the Palestinian people was introduced by Algeria’s representative, on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, and Turkey.


Algeria’s representative, on behalf of the Group of 77, introduced the draft resolution on human settlements (document E/2012/L.13).  He also introduced the draft resolution entitled “Dates and draft agenda for the eighth session of the Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters” (document E/2012/19).


The representatives of Brazil, Belarus, Russian Federation, Syria, Bangladesh and Venezuela also spoke in the general debate on decolonization, regional cooperation and the socioeconomic impact of the Israeli occupation on the Palestinian people.  The delegate of Syria and a representative of the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine exercised the right of reply.


Also taking the floor in the debate on economic and environmental questions and other issues was the Prime Minister of Tuvalu.


Other participating delegations included Cyprus (on behalf of the European Union), Mexico, Venezuela, Belarus, El Salvador, Russian Federation, Ukraine, Brazil, Argentina and Chile.


The Council will reconvene at 10 a.m., Thursday, 26 July, to continue the general segment of its 2012 substantive session.


Background


The Economic and Social Council continued its general segment today, taking up a number of issues.  For its discussion on the implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples by the specialized agencies and the international institutions associated with the United Nations, the Council had before it several reports (documents A/67/64, A/67/84-E/2012/68 and E/2012/47).


On regional cooperation matters, delegates had before them the Secretary-General’s report on regional cooperation in the economic, social and related fields (document E/2012/15, Add.1 and Add.2), as well as those of its regional commissions (document E/2012/16, E/2012/17, E/2012/18, E/2012/19 and E/2012/20).


It also had before it a note by the Secretary-General (document A/67/91-E/2012/13) containing a report on the economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan.  Related draft resolutions were to be introduced (documents E/2012/L.21 and E/2012/L.22).


For its consideration of economic and environmental questions, the Council had before it the Secretary-General’s note on the periodicity and scope of future reports on the implementation of and follow-up to outcomes of major United Nations conferences and summits (document A/67/82-E/2012/64).


Other reports for that discussion — some of which contained draft texts — pertained to sustainable development (document E/2012/33 (Supp. No. 13)); statistics (document E/2012/24 (Supp. No. 4)); human settlements (documents E/2012/65 and E/2012/L.13); environment (document A/67/25 (Supp. No. 25)); population and development (document E/2012/25 (Supp. No. 25); public administration and development (document E/2012/44 (Supp. No. 24)) and a related draft resolution (E/2012/L.23); international cooperation in tax matters (documents E/2012/45 (Supp. No. 25), E/2012/8), E/2012/L.19 and E/2012/L.20); and cartography (document E/2012/46 (Supp. No. 26)).


Decolonization and Regional Cooperation


DIEGO MOREJÓN ( Ecuador), speaking also in his capacity as Chair of the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples (also known as the Special Committee on Decolonization or “C-24”), said support to those territories was important.  His Government would later present a draft text on support to non-self-governing territories by specialized agencies and international institutions associated with the United Nations (document E/2012/L.22).  At the last regional seminar in Quito, participants had discussed socioeconomic issues related to the decolonization process, highlighting the need for well-targeted support.  The decision had been made that United Nations specialized agencies should take part in that regard.


He went on to say that the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development ( Rio+20) had recognized the Council’s role in integrating the three pillars of sustainable development, a topic that was important to non-autonomous territories.  Their challenges could be better addressed through the participation of the relevant stakeholders and on a case-by-case basis.  In sum, the Special Committee was ready to work with the Council, through United Nations activities, to ensure that non-autonomous territories achieved full self-government as the final step of decolonization, as well as sustainable development.


Next, RIMA KHALAF, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), introduced the Secretary-General’s note which contained ESCWA’s report on economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan (document A/67/91–E/2012/13).


She said Israeli measures affecting Palestinians were increasingly being viewed as institutional and systemic rather than ad hoc, as the note documented.  Under the Israeli occupation, Palestinians had continued to suffer deaths, injuries and incarceration.  Among those killed during the reporting period were 12 children.  In violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, Israel continued its policy of demolishing Palestinian structures and homes.


Another blatant demonstration of a policy aimed at altering the character and status of the Occupied Palestinian Territory was Israeli settlement construction, which was illegal under international law, she said.  The Special Rapporteur on adequate housing had concluded that Israeli settlements were the “new frontiers of dispossession of the traditional inhabitants […] of the Palestinian territory”.  In total, around 40 per cent of the West Bank had been seized by the Israeli authorities for settlement use.  The reporting period had witnessed a disturbing 30 per cent increase in settle attacks against Palestinians.


She went on to say that Israel continued constructing the 708‑kilometre‑long separation wall, contrary to international law.  The wall de facto annexed some of the most fertile lands in the West Bank, directly affecting hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and completely severing East Jerusalem from the rest of the territory.  The Israeli five-year blockade of the Gaza Strip constituted a sustained case of collective punishment imposed on an entire civilian population.  In violation of international law and relevant conventions, Israel not only prevented Palestinians from accessing and utilizing their natural resources, but also depleted, endangered and polluted them.


Palestinians lived under conditions of significant water stress, she continued, emphasizing that economic and human development in the Occupied Palestinian Territory was arrested by Israel’s exploitation and deliberate “de-development” policies.  Unemployment remained high at an average of about 21 per cent for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and a “staggering” 30.3 per cent in Gaza alone.  Further, Gaza’s gross domestic product (GDP) remained at 35 per cent lower than its 1994 level.  Social and health indicators were also worrying, including a high rate of depression among pregnant women and the harassment of school children and teachers by Israeli settlers, she said.


General Debate


YUSRA KHAN ( Indonesia) said it had been far too long that Palestinians had suffered at the hands of the occupiers of their lands.  Israel had defied all calls for peace and there had been no sincere attempt to stop the killing of civilians.  Palestinians’ livelihoods had been systematically cut off by over 250 types of obstacles to their movement.  Indonesia shared the Palestinian people’s aspiration to achieve freedom and reiterated support for their full United Nations membership.


She said it was important that the two parties resume peace talks and adopt a more positive stance, efforts that must be accompanied by international support to ensure progress for Palestinian state-building efforts.  General Assembly resolution 66/118 factored into those efforts, and Indonesia joined the call for Israel to stop violating international humanitarian law.  Indonesia also was deeply committed to providing support for Palestinian state-building, through capacity-building programmes for Palestinian human resources.  It reiterated its solidarity with Palestinians for an independent Palestine on the basis of 4 June 1967 borders.


SÉRGIO RODRIGUES DOS SANTOS ( Brazil) highlighted Israel’s lack of compliance with international humanitarian law.  Development strategies played a key role in sustainable peace, a fact widely recognized by the United Nations and international financial institutions.  Israel was an obstacle to the Palestinian Authority’s efforts to establish an economic and material basis for a Palestinian State.  The fact that the occupation was not receding, and was compounded by continued settlement building, endangered the prospects for a two-State solution.  Brazil was troubled by restrictions of movement, checkpoints and administrative measures that hindered Palestinians’ access to basic services.  “This unjust system translates into hardships for the Palestinian population,” he said.


Gaza was also a deep concern, he continued.  The area’s unemployment was the most eloquent testimony of the impacts of the blockade, which he urged Israel to lift.  A forum set up by India, Brazil and South Africa was sponsoring projects in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, such as a sports centre in Ramallah and rehabilitation of the hospital centre for the Palestinian Red Crescent.  The unsustainable economic landscape in Gaza and the West Bank was a reminder of the risks of political inertia, as persistent hardships only fuelled radicalism.  He urged an end to the occupation and a realization of the Palestinian economic potential.


OKSANA MELNIKOVICH ( Belarus), discussing regional cooperation, recognized the role of regional commissions in the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.  As for the report on the economic situation in the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), she called for more active involvement of the relevant countries in analysing information.  Paragraph 35 of that report, on links regarding employment, should be further clarified.  The report did not contain any recommendations on improving the economic situation, especially in middle-income countries.  That could help regional development as a whole.


In other areas, she welcomed the report’s mention of regional processes, stressing the importance of further developing them.  The role of ECE should be enhanced to support economic integration, and she underscored importance that it work to overcome disparities in countries under its remit.  Any efforts to examine its work should not include a review of its mandate, but rather make clarifications about priorities.  Belarus was concerned that technical cooperation was sourced from extrabudgetary resources, which might make cooperation unsustainable.  Focusing too much on the environment also was not strategically viable.  She called on the Council to pay attention to measures to integrate approaches and ensure sustainable development at the global level.


Mr. BERDYEV ( Russian Federation) stressed the importance of regional cooperation, which he said was a prerequisite for economic growth and development.  President Putin, in his note to diplomats, said the country was prepared to strengthen multilateral regional alliances, including with such neighbours as Belarus.  The Russian Federation had contributed to the work of ECE and the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), including a voluntary monetary contribution $1.2 million.  He also stressed the need for bolstering regional integration spanning over a range of fields, including economy, energy, trade, transport and statistics.  Reviewing the structure and activities of those Commissions was also necessary.


RABII ALHANTOULI, representative of the Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations, said the report reflected clearly the vast suffering and losses endured by Palestinians caused by Israel.  Losses to the Palestinian economy ranged from $6 billion-$7 billion annually, which equalled more than 84 per cent of the area’s gross domestic product (GDP).  With the end of the occupation, the Palestinian economy would be able to ensure sustainable development, and hence, the independent State of Palestine would not need foreign aid, which usually was associated with political conditions.


“The Israeli occupation is the main devastating factor for the Palestinian economy,” he said, and a parallel source of income generation for the occupying Power, as the confiscation of Palestinian land provided it with opportunities to invest in the construction of illegal settlements.  Women, men, elderly and children were enduring illegal practices, including abuse at Israeli military checkpoints.  Attacks also were carried out by militias of illegal Israeli settlers against unarmed Palestinian civilians.  Despite those difficulties, Palestinians still hoped for a just and comprehensive peace based on the two-State solution along pre-1967 borders.  He urged the Council to support the draft resolution submitted under the agenda item, as it contributed to upholding the economic and social rights of peoples, especially those living under foreign occupation.


RABEE JAWHARA ( Syria) said the facts and figures in the ESCWA report were only the “tip of the iceberg” in terms of the immoral practices of the Israeli occupation.  Israel continued to impose a policy of killing and terrorizing citizens.  The most recent massacres had taken place on 15 May and 5 June 2011 during a commemoration of Al Nakba.  Syria, in a letter to the Secretary-General, had offered information on those two events, which had only added to the long list of crimes against humanity by Israel.  Israel continued to prevent humanitarian workers and those from non-governmental organizations from accessing the occupied Syrian Golan.


“These are important facts that must be underscored,” he said, especially now when international voices were being raised about ensuring access to humanitarian aid in conflict areas.  Israel was “starving” Syrians in the Golan.  Its soldiers had used natural resources and deprived Syrian residents of that land by limiting their exploitation to Israeli settlers alone.  Moreover, the occupying Power had set fire to Syrian villages.  Israel also had deprived Syrians of their main sources of income by destroying olive trees and imposing a siege that aimed to deprive Syrians from marketing their apple crops.  That had increased poverty and unemployment in the area.  Resolutions remained unimplemented due to countries that supported Israel’s inhumane practices against the Arab people.


SHULAMIT YONA DAVIDOVICH ( Israel) said she did not intend to refute every allegation raised, as that would not advance any professional discourse.  In any case, there was a debate on the situation in the Middle East and the Palestinian Question under way in the Security Council today.  The Economic and Social Council was not the place to discuss such political issues.


Not surprisingly, presentations made today ignored the rocket fire from Gaza, and ignored that Hamas’ brutal rule had caused hardships for Palestinians in Gaza.  It was unbelievable that the Syrian representative would speak on such issues, when that country’s own regime had raped and tortured Syrian civilians to maintain its brutal rule.  Today’s discourse did not serve anyone who sought a peaceful resolution in the Middle East.  It only demonized Israel and blocked any avenue for peaceful reconciliation.


MUSTAFIZUR RAHMAN ( Bangladesh) said the situation in the Palestinian Territory as reported by ESCWA was “just appalling” and it was deteriorating by the day before the eyes of the international community.  Human rights law appeared to be subdued, given the occurrence of such violations, including reports of torture, as well as destruction of property and unabated construction of settlements, which were in utter disregard to international law.  His delegation invited all concerned parties seeking a peaceful solution to join in exerting pressure on Israel to stop the construction of illegal settlements and fall back to the 1967 borders in compliance with United Nations resolutions.


VICTOR OVALLES-SANTOS ( Venezuela) said his delegation joined in the condemnation of Israel, making a strong appeal to Israel to end its unjust blockage and other illegal activities.  Denying access to water and other daily needs was a clear violation of international humanitarian law.  Israel continued to prevent Palestine from economic and social development in a legitimate way.


Right of Reply


The representative of Syria, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said the “representative of the occupation” had tried to distort the crimes being committed in the occupied Arab territories, which violated human and moral principles.  The situation in Syria had resulted from terrorism and extremism that was backed by countries aiming to undermine Syria in service of Israel, in order to help it with its occupation.


A representative of the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine thanked those who had expressed support for international law and the rights of Palestinians living under occupation.  He also thanked the Council for paying the necessary attention to today’s agenda item.  He regretted that Israeli delegate’s comments were “not very serious”.  Indeed, there was a debate in the Security Council on the situation in the Middle East.  The Economic and Social Council was discussing the economic and social aspects of that issue.  The Israeli side was still “lost in its delusions” and took a defensive position.  That must stop.  The relevant resolutions must be implemented because words had fallen on deaf ears in the occupying forces.


Introduction and Actionon Texts


JENNY LALAMA ( Ecuador) introduced the draft resolution on support to non-self-governing territories by the specialized agencies and international institutions associated with the United Nations (document E/2012/L.22), which aimed to facilitate cooperation between the United Nations and administrativePowers, especially in the implementation of General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV).


Among other things, she said, it urged United Nations specialized agencies that had not done so to provide assistance to non-self-governing territories.  The text also welcomed that the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) continued to maintain close links with the United Nations specialized agencies, and called on all stakeholders to prioritize the provision of assistance.  It also requested the Council President to pay close attention to those issues with the Special Committee on Decolonization.  She invited the Council to adopt the text by consensus.


Turning to regional cooperation, the Council, in an oral decision, took note of several reports submitted under that agenda item:  documents E/2012/15, E/2012/15/Add.1, E/2012/15/Add.2, E/2012/16, E/2012/17, E/2012/18, E/2012/19 and E/2012/20.


Following that action, TERRI ROBL (United States), discussing the Council’s oral decision on document E/2012/15/Add.2 (regional cooperation in the economic, social and related fields), said paragraph 11 of that report brought to attention a resolution adopted by ESCWA reflecting its views on Palestinian membership in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and efforts to attain full membership in other bodies.  She disassociated the United States from that part of the oral decision.  Efforts towards UNESCO membership were premature and distracted from negotiations to create a secure Israel and independent Palestine living side by side.  The only path to a Palestinian State was through direct negotiations with Israel.


KEITH MORRILL (Canada), discussing paragraph 11 of document E/2012/15/Add.2, disassociated his country from that report.  He noted that a number of States, including Canada, had voted against UNESCO membership, as it was not appropriate for UNESCO, nor helpful for broader discussion of the issue.


Ms. DAVIDOVICH ( Israel) said her delegation was not a member of the Economic and Social Council, but wished to record its objection to document E/2012/15.Add.2, which contained ESCWA resolution 307 (XXVII).  That text would not help Palestine’s path to statehood.  Such a path should be sought through direct negotiations between Israel and Palestine, and not through talks carried out in New York or elsewhere.  A unilateral step taken by Palestine would only take the process further away from its goal.


LARBI DJACTA (Algeria), taking the floor on behalf of “Group of 77” developing countries and China, as well as Turkey, introduced the draft resolution entitled economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan (document E/2012/L.21). 


He said the text stressed the need to preserve the territorial contiguity, unity and integrity of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and to guarantee the freedom of movement of persons and goods throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, as well as to and from the outside world.  Also by the text, the Council called on Israel to restore and replace civilian properties, vital infrastructure, agricultural lands and governmental institutions that have been damaged or destroyed as a result of its military operations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.


Further to the text, he said, the Council would call on Israel to end immediately its exploitation of natural resources, including water and mining resources, and to cease the dumping of all kinds of waste materials in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan, and reiterated the importance of the revival and accelerated advancement of negotiations of the peace process on the basis of relevant United Nations resolutions, the Madrid Conference, the Arab Peace Initiative and the Quartet Road Map.


He said operative paragraph 16 was similar to that of last year’s resolution, but reflected the current reality on the ground.  Lastly, he urged the member states on the Council to adopt the text by consensus. 


Economic and Environmental Issues


CECILIA MARTINEZ DE LA MACORRA, Director of the New York Office of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), introduced a report on the coordinated implementation of the Habitat Agenda (document E/2012/65), saying that the world was presently experiencing the unique phenomenon of rapid urbanization.  Because of the subsequent demand, the development of adequate urban infrastructure and basic services, as well as effective urban planning and design, were of the utmost importance for the creation of inclusive, economically prosperous and energy-efficient cities.  The increasing demographic and economic dominance of cities, combined with emerging global challenges, compelled leaders to rethink the urban agenda in order to adopt new approaches to those challenges.


About 800 million people currently lived in slums, and that number could increase to 2 billion over the next 25 years if cities did not act decisively to address the slum challenge.  Few countries had put in place adequate policy, legislative and regulatory responses to “unleash the immense potential of cities”, she said in that regard.  During the reporting period, UN-Habitat had continued to strengthen its coordination with agencies within the United Nations system and at the global level.  It had encouraged Governments and partners of the Habitat Agenda to include the issue of sustainable urban development, including the expansion of equitable access to land, housing, basic services and infrastructure, in their contributions to the “Rio+20” summit preparatory process and at the Conference itself.


UN-Habitat had undertaken a review of gaps and emerging challenges during the implementation of local Agenda 21 since 1992, and on the basis of that review, it had proposed eight sustainable urban development targets addressing national urban policies; urban planning and design; slum prevention and improvement; urban space; urban ecology;, water, sanitation and waste management; urban energy and mobility; and urban job creation.  Also at the global level, UN-Habitat continued to strengthen and deepen its cooperation and collaboration within the United Nations system and through inter-agency coordination mechanisms.  It also continued to work closely with the International Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction by contributing to the worldwide campaign on “Making cities resilient — my city is getting ready”.


Other areas of significant partnership during the reporting period were in the areas of youth and gender, she said.  Through the United Nations System-Wide Action Plan for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (SWAP), UN-Habitat continued to build capacity and strengthen gender mainstreaming.  It also continued to strengthen the engagement of urban youth in developing effective strategies for addressing issues including employment, governance, citizenship and the improvement of living conditions.  Jointly with UNDP, it had organized the Youth 21 Forum in Nairobi in early 2012.


In addition, during the global observance of World Habitat Day 2011, UN‑Habitat had launched the Global Report on Human Settlements 2011, entitled “Cities and Climate Change”.  It continued cooperating with the Commission on Sustainable Development, the Environmental Management Group, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and other bodies, and at the regional level, it provided substantive support to ministerial conferences on housing and urban development in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean, she said.


During the reporting period, UN-Habitat had continued to support Governments and Habitat Agenda partners in areas including capacity-building and technical and advisory services, urban planning and design, urban economy and others.  Governments were encouraged to establish national urban policies that addressed development needs through improved planning and design, pro-poor urban legislature, land policy and governance frameworks, effective local economic policies that generated decent jobs, especially for youth, and the effective delivery of urban basic services, especially to poor communities.  Countries were further encouraged to consider the recommendations contained in the report in order to promote sustainable urbanization and the role of local communities in sustainable national development through environmentally sustainable, socially inclusive and economically productive cities.


ANA CORTES, Development Policy and Analysis Division, Committee for Development Policy Secretariat, introduced the Committee’s report on its fourteenth session (document E/2012/33), which had been held in New York from 12 to 16 March and addressed four major topics.  The first topic was the theme adopted for the Annual Ministerial Review on “promoting productive capacity, employment and decent work to eradicate poverty in the context of inclusive, sustainable and equitable growth at all levels for achieving the MDGs”.


The second topic addressed concerned the principles and possible contours of the post-2015 United Nations development agenda, she said, noting that the Committee had developed a research agenda to analyse and propose alternative development strategies to improve global well-being.  The third topic addressed by the Committee referred to the 2012 triennial review of the least developed countries, which the Committee defined as low-income countries suffering from severe structural impediments to sustainable development.  The identification of least developed countries was based on three criteria:  gross national income (GNI) per capita, the human asset index and the economic vulnerability index.  In that regard, the Committee recommended that the Republic of South Sudan be added to the list.


Turning to graduation form the “least developed” category, she said the Committee had reviewed the cases of Tuvalu and Vanuatu, which had met the criteria in 2006 and 2009 respectively.  It had also verified that those countries continued to meet the thresholds for graduation in 2012 and recommended that both graduate from the category.  In making that decision, the Committee took into account Tuvalu’s reservations, and stressed the need to abide by the principle of equal treatment over time and across countries.  The triennial review also indicated that Angola and Kiribati were eligible for graduation for the first time, implying that they would be considered in 2015.  The Committee remained concerned that the General Assembly had not yet taken note of its 2009 recommendation to graduate Equatorial Guinea.


Smooth transition mechanisms were the last topic addressed by the Committee, she said, noting that several of its suggestions had been included in the report by the “Ad-hoc Working Group of the General Assembly to Further Study and Strengthen the Smooth Transition Process for the Countries Graduating from the LDC Category”.


MUNYARAZI CHENJE, from the New York Office of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), then introduced the report of the UNEP Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum on the work of its twelfth special session (document A/67/25).  In the 40 years since UNEP’s inception, the Governing Council had adopted about 700 decisions and four declarations on environmental challenges, he said.  Meeting four months before the “ Rio+20” Conference, the Council had considered diverse issues and adopted decisions which contributed to the success of the Conference.  For example, the Council had addressed issues related to the institutional framework for sustainable development.


The ministers had recalled their commitment to strengthening UNEP’s role as the leading global environmental authority that set the global environmental agenda and promoted coherent implementation of the environmental dimensions of sustainable development within the United Nations system.  The Rio+20 outcome document reinforced that commitment.  The Council had also considered the “green economy” in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication.  Today, there was an elaborated section in the Rio+20 outcome document on that issue, acknowledging the green economy as one of the most important tools available for achieving sustainable development.


The UNEP Governing Council had considered the 10-Year Framework Programme on sustainable consumption and production.  In its decision SS.XII/7, the Council invited Governments to support the adoption of the Programme at the nineteenth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development.  World leaders had also adopted that Framework Programme in the Rio+20 outcome document, he said.


General Debate


WILLY TELAVI, Prime Minister of Tuvalu, said the report by the Committee for Development Policy contained the recommendation that Tuvalu be graduated from least developed country status.  In four paragraphs, the Committee recognized Tuvalu’s extreme smallness, its limited productive base, the peculiar nature of its income sources and the acute vulnerability of the islands.  Those obstacles to economic progress also had been noted in its 2009 report, and in that regard, he brought to the Council’s attention an apparent “change of tone” on Tuvalu’s relevant handicaps.


For example, he said, the Committee’s 2009 report had emphasized Tuvalu’s extreme smallness, whereas today, it described Tuvalu as “having a very small population”.  “Why cease using an extreme word to describe a situation that remains extreme?” he asked.  That introduced an unnecessary bias.  On the question of productive capacities, the 2009 report rightly described as “almost negligible” income derived from productive sectors.  Now, the income base was described as “remaining limited” — an astonishing understatement.  Revenue sources were also analysed as if things were improving on the islands.  The 2009 report correctly described inflows as volatile.  Tuvalu’s extreme exposure to environmental and economic shocks had not diminished.


Overall, nothing had changed over the last three years, he said, noting that the productive economy was still near to non-existent.  Accordingly, if there had been strong reasons to doubt Tuvalu’s progress, and the pertinence of its graduation, those reasons had not diminished.  Efforts to soften that reality only misled the Council.  The concept of equal treatment, in the abstract, sounded fair.  From the Committee’s view, if a few small island least developed countries were graduated on the basis of a given rule in the recent past, the next nation in line ought to be dealt with in the same way.  However, treating Tuvalu in the same way denied what United Nations advocacy had set in stone:  special but differentiated treatment, which was the foundation of least developed countries.


With that, he urged the Council not to be misled by views that undermined the spirit of advocacy.  A one-size-fits-all paradigm was wrong.  In short, the section of the report that dealt with Tuvalu’s graduation was fundamentally flawed.  “This is what brought me to New York,” he said, urging the Council to suspend the question of Tuvalu’s graduation until it heard the Committee’s views in 2013.


MARIA ZOUPANIOTIS (Cyprus), speaking on behalf of the European Union, emphasized that gender equality could not be guaranteed without ensuring the sexual and reproductive rights of women, as well as the provision of other health services.  She welcomed General Assembly resolution 65/234, which extended the Cairo Programme of Action on Population and Development beyond 2014.  The European Union would give priority attention to investing further in human capacity, livelihood skills and human employment, she said, as well as the promotion of sustainable and inclusive economic growth and sustainable development.


Domestic revenue mobilization was growing in developing countries, as reflected in Busan, she said, referring to the discussions at last year’s conference on aid effectiveness.  Indeed, accountability, development financing and national ownership were all increasing, leading to a lower dependence on foreign aid.  The United Nations was well placed to continue, through the Committee of Experts, improving global tax cooperation, she said.


PAULETTE A. BETHEL (Bahamas), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that the Community welcomed the special one-day meeting in the Council on international cooperation in tax matters.  The Community was of the view that the success of the meeting was indicative of the potential of an intergovernmental body on tax cooperation within the context of the United Nations.  Despite the commitment made in Monterrey towards a more democratic, inclusive and participatory approach to decision-making and norm-setting, regrettably, progress had been slow in the area of international cooperation on tax matters.


Reaffirming the role of the United Nations in that regard, she said that the Organization’s broad and diverse membership ensured that the development dimension and other unique perspectives, realities and priorities were brought to the fore in the consideration of those issues.  The Secretary-General had stated that “the lack of a truly global, all-inclusive norm-setting body for international tax cooperation at the intergovernmental level, which would offer developing countries a ‘seat at the table’, continued to be a fundamental gap in this area”, she recalled.  CARICOM remained concerned that existing arrangements did not provide for the voice and participation of all developing countries.  The need for an inclusive and truly global United Nations-centred body, as called for by the Secretary-General, persisted.


The Community recognized that the Untied Nations Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters had done useful work in supporting national efforts towards efficient tax administration and policies.  It had developed important tools and guides relating to ways in which countries would effectively work together on tax issues.  CARICOM was of the view that such excellent work should not be perfunctorily noted, but should be supported and enhanced, and to that end, should be directly linked to an intergovernmental process.  In that context, the Community supported the calls for the conversion of the Committee of Experts into an intergovernmental subsidiary body of the Economic and Social Council, a process which would address many of the deficiencies which had been identified in respect of international tax cooperation.


Developing countries should have their unique perspectives reflected in a much broader intergovernmental discussion on tax matters than that which currently existed, she concluded.  It was not enough that such countries had a “seat at the table”, but they must equally be permitted to have a “voice at that table” and to fully partake, once there.


YANERIT MORGAN (Mexico), discussing the report by the Statistical Commission, welcomed the progress on crime statistics and noted strengthened efforts to fight organized crime, and arguments favouring that non-economic data be used to measure progress.  Mexico had taken note of the twelfth special session of the UNEP Governing Council.  She highlighted two decisions in that regard.  On international environmental governance, the General Assembly had been invited to develop a system-wide strategy and another strategy for responsible consumption and production.


She reiterated the commitment made at Rio+20 to raise UNEP’s profile through a negotiated mandate to be considered during the Assembly’s sixty-seventh session.  She recognized UN-Habitat’s efforts on climate change, especially through Habitat III, which Mexico considered particularly relevant.


JULIO ESCALONA OJEDA ( Venezuela) said world leaders at the Rio+20 Conference had recognized alternative development models, which should be taken into account by UNEP.  It was clear that social and environmental problems had worsened and the United Nations should not become a mechanism that put forward ideas of “economic realism”, especially those that reflected the views of countries unwilling to change their consumption and production patterns.  Banks were making billions in profits.  It was necessary to regulate banks and financial markets, and that effort should be carried out by the General Assembly.


He went on to say that such work was fundamental to peace, humanity and the planet.  The United Nations should ensure the implementation of agreements on the basis of common but differentiated responsibilities, to ensure that the environmental paradigm respected nature.  The Secretary-General’s report on the Habitat Agenda showed that 93 per cent of global population growth was occurring in developing countries, which carried serious social and environmental consequences.  Venezuela had implemented policies to guarantee justice, democracy and respect for human rights.  Also, there was a great housing deficit around the world, which should be a priority for the United Nations and addressed through increased financial resources to UN-Habitat.  He was surprised that the report on human settlements did not make any financial recommendations.  Diversity, solidarity and cooperation were goals on which to hone efforts.


OKSANA MELNIKOVICH ( Belarus) said her delegation had continually advocated the role of the United Nations and the Economic and Social Council in the integration of all the components of sustainable development.  Underscoring the importance of implementing the outcomes of the Rio+20 summit and of combating climate change, she said that the international community must consider that green technologies were key in that regard.  Also critical was ensuring access to renewable energy for all countries, she stressed, adding that Belarus attached due attention to developing a new global climatic agreement following the expiration of the first Kyoto Protocol, and to developing national capacities for combating climate change, including through the provision of international support.


Belarus further welcomed the decision of the President of the General Assembly to convene a special session on follow-up activities to the International Conference on Population and Development beyond 2014, she said.  The issue of demography was extremely topical in Belarus, which had recently slowed down the rate of population decline and was implementing a programme for “demographic security”.  The country was also taking steps to strengthen support for families with regard to the raising of children, increasing life expectancy, supporting mothers and strengthening the spiritual and moral foundations of the family, among other areas.


CARLA ARIAS OROZCO (El Salvador) said that, with regard to sustainable development and its three pillars — economic growth, social development and environmental protection — eradicating poverty was critical, as was increasing income and employment for all, especially those living in poverty.  She expressed concern at the growing adverse effects of climate change, which primarily affected developing countries, and reaffirmed the importance of strengthening international environmental governance in that regard.  With regard to the Statistical Commission’s report, she reiterated that for El Salvador, having a reliable statistical basis was very important to formulate policy and to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.


With regard to international cooperation in tax matters, she supported the adoption of a resolution on that item, which furthered the exploration of a new international subsidiary body of the Council on that area.  With regard to El Salvador’s membership in the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), she commended the results of the International Conference on Population and Development beyond 2014.  With regard to the content of the related draft resolution, she said that a paragraph should be included noting that demographic definitions were created at the national level, in particular with regard to adolescents and young people.  That text should also point out the potential of young people that were migrants and should mention the participation of voluntary groups, as well as recognize the Cairo Action Plan.


ALEXANDER S. ALIMOV ( Russian Federation) said Rio+20 had reaffirmed sustainable development as the basis for balanced decisions on social development, economic growth and environmental protection.  The Council and its subsidiary bodies had a key role to play in that regard.  The Russian Federation attached importance to the “package of measures” adopted at Rio, considering them indivisibly linked and mutually reinforcing.  He reaffirmed the commitment to strengthen the Council as the body to coordinate the three pillars of sustainable development.


He said his Government was also keen to strengthen UNEP as the main United Nations body to improve cooperation on environmental issues.  It was satisfied by the Rio+20 outcome on strengthening UNEP to promote the environmental dimensions of sustainable development.  That work would be helped by introducing universal membership to the UNEP Governing Council and improving UNEP’s governance and accountability systems.


He attached great importance to strengthening cooperation to implement the Plan of Action adopted at the Population and Development Conference in Cairo, and supported the decision adopted at the forty-fifth session of the Commission on Population and Development.  Differences had emerged in interpretations of that outcome and the Russian Federation had joined consensus.  Each State could make recommendations on that resolution, in line with its economic policies, and taking into consideration its ethnic and cultural values.


OLEKSANDR NAKONECHNYI (Ukraine) said that the Rio+20 Conference was not only a “crucial milestone” in achieving the Millennium Goals, but proof of global partnership for development and the international community’s commitment to multilateralism.  However, in spite of the important advancements in promoting sustainable development and eradicating poverty, the progress, region to region and country to country, had been “mixed and uneven”.  That put achievement of several Millennium targets, including eradicating hunger and combating diseases, at risk.  Challenges continued to threaten progress in the most vulnerable countries, in particular African countries, and serious constraints faced middle-income countries, as well.  In order for sustainable development to be achieved, support from the international community was needed. 


He went on to herald the Green Industry Platform Initiative, launched by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), UNEP and other United Nations partners, stating that the process made through that framework should culminate in the establishment of a United Nations world environment organization.  On a national level, he said the Rio Conference had spurred a debate in his country on sustainable development, and efforts were under way to translate the outcome document into concrete action.  Earlier in the month, Government officials, representatives of civil society and academia had met in Kiev for a national round table on the Rio Conference.  Some of the first priorities included the revitalization of a national sustainable development council and the inter-agency working group on adaption of the new United Nations green course to national policies and strategies.


LEONARDO DE ALMEIDO CARNEIRO ENGE ( Brazil) said that the documents currently before the Council on the issue of international cooperation on tax matters had guided the work of the special session on 15 March.  Cooperation in that area required that sufficient resources were mobilized, he said, recalling that the Monterrey Consensus on Financing for Development had called for paying due attention to the special needs of developing countries.  International cooperation was critical to dealing with such matters as cross-border tax evasion, tax competition and assisting developing countries, among others.


In order to do so, he continued, there was a need for a “truly global forum” to discuss international tax norms.  Such a body would derive legitimacy from democratic working methods and universal membership, he stressed.  In that vein, Brazil supported the setting up of an intergovernmental norm-setting body on tax matters, and believed that the Committee of Experts should be transformed into such a body, with more predictable resources provided to it.


JOSEFINA BUNGE ( Argentina) said that the three pillars of sustainable development should be dealt with in a balanced way.  Growth and economic development should be inclusive and sustainable, allowing economies to favour decent work and reduce inequality.  Argentina was committed to decent work as an additional Millennium Development Goal, taking it into account in all public policies.  It was important to pay attention to the particular situation of middle-income countries, which fell under the broader category of developing countries.


Continuing, she said that those countries shared certain elements — in particular inequality of income, which led to economic and social distortions.  Infant mortality and maternal mortality, limitations to education and health services and other indicators were examples of types of poverty that were not necessarily reflected in a GDP-centric approach.  Her delegation was therefore convinced of the need to rethink the current classification criteria.


With regard to production technology and sustainable patterns of consumption and production, she stressed the responsibilities of developed countries and said that Argentina supported the principle of common but differentiated responsibility.  Argentina did not agree with including the idea of human security in the report, and believed that humanitarian aspects should not be linked to security.  There were questions with regard to cross-cutting issues and implications that could not yet be fully understood, she said.  Finally, she stressed that there was no single development model that could be applied to all countries, and each country should choose its own path.  Any global principles and goals in that regard should be made with the participation of all, she concluded.


WANG QUN (China) said it was high time for the international community to uphold the spirit and principles of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), especially the principle of “common but differentiated responsibility”, and work together to implement the Conference’s outcomes.  In the next stage, the international community should focus on three areas.  First, on sustainable development, it was necessary to identify, in the priority areas, multiple sets of flexible, non-mandatory targets that could serve as useful references to States in developing national development strategies.  At the same time, attention must be paid to the relationship between the “Sustainable Development Goals” and the Millennium Development Goals, with the Sustainable Development Goals complementing, rather than undermining or replacing, the Millennium targets.


Second, concerning the institutional framework, the intergovernmental high-level political forum agreed in the Rio outcome should cover all three pillars of sustainable development, and give developing countries greater representation and decision-making power, he said.  That forum should also focus on financial assistance, technology transfer and capacity-building to facilitate the sustainable development of developing countries, especially least developed countries, small island developing States and African countries.


Third, in the transition towards a green economy, he said, due respect must be given to national conditions, and the undiscerning application of rigid standards and targets should be avoided.  As an important way to achieve sustainable development, the green economy should first and foremost contribute to poverty eradication.  The international community should create favourable external conditions for the transition of developing countries towards a green economy, and guard against “green barriers” and “green protectionism”.


RENÉ RUIDIAZ ( Chile), speaking on adolescents and young people, a topic contained in the report of UNFPA, said that in Chile, life was protected constitutionally from conception onward.  Chile did not accept the report as acceptance of abortion.  He asked that that point be reflected in the record.


Introduction and Action on Drafts


The Council then turned to the report of the Committee for Development Policy on its fourteenth session (document E/2012/33), which contained three recommendations for action.  Vice-President LUIS ALFONSO DE ALBA ( Mexico) said a draft proposal of the same name had been submitted to him on the basis of informal consultations and the Council would take action on it the following morning.


Next, the Council turned its attention to a draft decision contained in the report of its Statistical Commission’s session (28 February-2 March 2012) (document E/2012/24).  It adopted the decision without a vote, taking note of the Commission’s report and deciding that the Commission’s forty-fourth session shall be held in New York from 26 February to 1 March 2013.  It also approved the provisional agenda and documentation for the forty-fourth session.


Introducing the draft resolution on human settlements (document E/2012/L.13), Mr. DJACTA ( Algeria), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77, acknowledged UN‑Habitat’s goal of achieving the Habitat Agenda.  While aware that progress had been made in improving the lives of slum-dwellers, it had not been enough to curb the increase in slums.  The number of people living in slums was close to 1 million.


He said that Habitat III would be an opportunity to address the new challenges of information and communications technology and urbanization.  The draft recalled General Assembly resolution 66/207, which recognized the continued need for predictable financial contributions to UN-Habitat, in order to ensure implementation of the Habitat Agenda.  He hoped the text would be adopted by consensus.


Turning its attention to specific environmental questions, the Council took note of the report of the UNEP Governing Council on the work of its twelfth special session (document A/67/25).


The Council then turned to three draft decisions contained in the Commission on Population and Development report on the forty-fifth session (15 April 2011 and 23‑27 April 2012) (document E/2012/25).


Without a vote, the Council adopted decision 1 on special session of the General Assembly on follow-up to the International Conference on Population and Development beyond 2014, recommending to the Assembly that the special session to be held during the Assembly’s sixty-ninth session should take place immediately preceding the general debate of the sixty-ninth session.


Before adopting that decision, however, the Secretary of the Council noted that there would be budgetary implications associated with it.  The Secretary-General would submit details of those implications when the modalities of the meeting were determined.


The Council next adopted without a vote decision 2 on the timing of the consideration of the report on world demographic trends, by which it decided to change the timing of the consideration of the report by the Commission on Population and Development to even-numbered years and, accordingly, decided that the Commission would next consider the report on world demographic trends at its forty-seventh session, in 2014.


In decision 3 on the topic, the Council took note of the Commission’s report on its forty-forth session and approved the provisional agenda for the its forty-sixth session.


On the next item, “Public administration on development”, the Council took up the report of the Committee of Experts on Public Administration on the eleventh session (16-20 April 2012) (document E/2012/44 (Supp. No. 24)).  A draft proposal on that topic (document E/2012/L.23) would be considered at a later date.


Taking up a report on dates and draft agenda for the eighth session of the Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters (document E/2012/19), which contained one draft decision and one draft resolution, the Council heard an introduction of the draft resolution by Mr. DJACTA (Algeria).  The draft recognized the need for continued consultation with regard to the strengthening of international arrangements to boost cooperation on tax matters, he said.  It also contained provisions aimed at strengthening the ministries of finance and tax authorities in developing countries, and supported the desired levels of public and private investment and efforts to combat tax evasion.


Following that presentation, the Vice-President of the Council said that those draft proposals would be acted upon at a later date.


As for assistance to third States affected by the application of sanctions, the Council Vice-President said no advanced documentation had been submitted under the agenda item, and thus, no draft was before the Council.  The Council had concluded its consideration of that item.


In final action, the Council turned to the draft decision contained in the report of the United Nations Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management on its first session and provisional agenda and dates for the second session of the Committee (document E/2011/46), adopting it without a vote.


The Council also decided to schedule consideration of three reports to a resumed session of the Council in 2012:  the report of the United Nations Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management on the work of its second session; the report of the United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names on the work of its twenty-seventh session; and the report of the tenth United Nations Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names.


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For information media • not an official record