16 March 2005 With 10-year reviews of several key United Nations conferences having ended, the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) met today to figure out how to meet the challenges of carrying out recommendations on global socio-economic development as well as population issues and women's struggle for greater equality.
"It is no surprise that great emphasis is being placed by Member States, as well as the United Nations system, on the need to move from policy-making to implementation and from rhetoric to action," UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic Affairs José Antonio Ocampo told the opening ECOSOC meeting to prepare for its high-level segment in late June on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the outcomes of the major UN conferences.
The MDGs includes targets which aim to eliminate or reduce such ills as poverty, inequality, marginalization and low or no economic growth.
The United Nations system would strive to address the implementation gap, to the extent that it could, said Mr. Ocampo, the chief of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA).
"Some of the obstacles to progress in meeting the targets established by conferences and summits, however, present a formidable challenge, such as, among other things, the availability of financial resources," he said.
The most difficult demand was to find the best ways of helping the least developed and landlocked countries, those most marginalized in the global economy, as well as the continent of Africa, he said.
"Resolving conflict, strengthening the weak private sector, building national administrative capacity, in which science and technology play a key role, are among some of the critical inputs in this effort," Mr. Ocampo added.
The senior UN official for groups of developing countries with the problems being spotlighted, Under-Secretary-General Anwarul Chowdhury, said, “It is important to emphasize rural development as a critical step towards bringing about economic transition.”
Governments should empower people to work towards poverty reduction and give a voice to the poor by creating “community-based” strategies, invest in women and girls by giving women increased access to land, property and water and provide education to girls and increase the role of civil society and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to help with solutions to eradicate poverty and hunger, he said.
Meanwhile, for the least Developed Countries' (LDCs) rapidly increasing populations, the impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and unsustainable debt burdens were major factors in maintaining poverty and hunger, Mr. Chowdhury said.
The deliberations of ECOSOC would feed directly into the UN General Assembly's review of the MDGs in September, said the Council's President, Ambassador Munir Akram of Pakistan.
"With this preparatory meeting, ECOSOC provides an opportunity to assess progress made and identify existing obstacles and constraints in attaining the MDGs," he said.
The Council's policy coordination and oversight role would guide the UN's functional commissions and funds, programmes and specialized agencies in a coordinated follow-up to conferences and summits.
One of the papers before the Council said in summary, "Between 1990 and 2001, the proportion of people living in extreme poverty (less than $1 a day) has declined from 28 to 22 per cent, or by 137 million people."
On the other hand, "the number of undernourished in the developing countries fell by only 9 million, or 3 percentage points, while it actually increased in the second half of the 1990s," it said.
An estimated 1.4 billion people were "working poor," living on less than $2 a day, while an additional 186 million people were estimated to be officially unemployed worldwide, it said.
Another paper called on the Governments of developing countries to "craft and implement MDG-based poverty reduction strategies in transparent and inclusive processes, working closely with civil society organizations, the domestic private sector and international partners."