United Nations
General Assembly
Third Committee

Statement


     

13 October 1997

TRANSCRIPT OF
STATEMENT TO THE
THIRD COMMITTEE

by


MR.  NITIN DESAI
UNDER-SECRETARY-GENERAL
DEPARTMENT OF ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL AFFAIRS

Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Delegates,

      I would like to start by congratulating you and other members of
the bureau on your election to this important body.  Earlier this
morning I spoke to the Second Committee and what I say to you should
be seen in the context of my earlier statement.  There are now many
points of intersection between the work of the Second Committee and
the work of the Third Committee particularly after the Copenhagen
Summit on Social Development.  My remarks here are on the issues which
are more directly pertinent to the work of this Committee.

      Mr. Chairman, when I spoke in the morning to the Second
Committee, after looking at the global economic situation, I moved on
to the issue of development cooperation.  What are the matters that
are before us there?  Basically, I argued that development cooperation
cannot be seen simply in terms of the nations of the world working
together for the short- and medium-term management of the global
economy.   It has to take into account areas of interdependence which
go beyond economic relations in the environmental and social area; it
has to take into account the fact that we are aiming at a system where
relations between nations are based also on shared values arising from
solidarity and responsibility to others.  In this context I had
outlined some of the issues which are before us when we consider
questions of development strategy.

      One class of issues relates to the way in which we manage our
economies, our development processes, to take full account of the
environmental imperative.  Another class of issues, arises essentially
because of the widening of global inequalities; the persistence of
poverty, unemployment, social strife; and social discrimination; the
difficulties we have experienced in gender mainstreaming and in
promoting gender equality.  So there is a social dimension which is
missing in development strategy.  The third class of issues, closely
related to the others, arises because certain parts of the world have
been left out of the processes of global development and we have to
accept a special responsibility for promoting development in these
excluded regions.  I refer here to the problems of development in
Africa, in the least developed countries and in certain other special
categories like small-island developing countries and landlocked
countries.  I also argued that the fundamental question we have is not
just how national strategies can take into account the compulsions of
sustainability, the compulsions of social inclusion, the compulsions
of poverty and distributive justice, but also what we need to do at
the international level in order to promote this.  In many ways, the
whole UN Conference process was designed for this purpose - to
identify a role for public policy in these areas which we clearly saw
was not receiving sufficient attention.

      I spoke of what one could describe as a third way - a way which
seeks to avoid excesses both of a highly dirigiste interventionism and
of an unconstrained laissez-faire approach to economic management.  It
is on this question of an alternative way that I wish to spend a few
minutes with you before I move on to the issue of implications for the
work of this Committee of UN reform.  The reason I do so is because in
many ways it is the work of the Third Committee, more than any other
Committee, which is responsible for requiring us to address these
questions.  In none of the Conferences was the issue of the search for
an alternative as clearly manifested as in the Copenhagen Summit for
Social Development.  In no other case was the compulsion to integrate
the social dimension more completely into economic and development
policy articulated more effectively than when the issue of gender
mainstreaming was taken up in the Beijing Conference.  It is for this
reason that in many ways, the work of the Third Committee and the
processes it has engendered has been crucial in bringing the
international community to a point at which these questions are being
raised.

      The alternative that we seek has many dimensions.  One is an
economic dimension.  I spoke of looking for a middle path between
interventionism and laissez-faire.  We are already, most of us, living
in economies and environments where de-regulation, privatisation,
fiscal consolidation are the rule of the day.  It is therefore
unavoidable that when one talks of the changes that are required in
current policies there will be a certain tendency to re-emphasize the
role of the state.  In many ways what we are seeking in looking for
this third way in the sphere of the economy is a balance between the
role of the state and the role of the market - a partnership between
them rather than the domination of one or the other.

      I will not try to elaborate the different dimensions which we
need to address but to stress that this is not just a matter of
safety-nets.  It is not just a matter of social protection.  It is not
just a matter of building into the relations between nations some
elements of concessionality in aid, although that is important.  It is
more a question of looking for structural changes which will integrate
more completely the concerns of distributive justice, social inclusion
and gender mainstreaming into the main framework of policy.  You will
be looking at some of these dimensions later in the course of your
work.   You have before you an agenda item on the mainstreaming of the
gender perspective into economic policies - a preliminary framework
for action.  If you look at this particular paper you will see that
what we have to speak of here are not just the classical issues which
were looked at in the context of social protection or legislative
provisions for women■s equality but much deeper issues of how you
integrate this into national budgets, into taxation, into export
policies, into agricultural commercialization.  I hope that the
discussion on this is fruitful, not just from the perspective of the
issue of the gender perspective, but more importantly, for the broader
issue of what do we mean when we say that the social dimension, the
dimension of inclusion, of poverty eradication, of employment
generation must be integrated into the mainstream of policy.  It will
require us to pay greater attention to issues, for instance, of market
structure.  It will require us to pay greater attention to the issue
of diversity.  We are all living in an environment where there is a
homogenization of the driving forces which shape our economies and our
societies.  And yet, the capacity to respond to these driving forces
varies enormously, and that is the case for diversity.  How in the
face of this homogenization of driving forces can diversity be
maintained and protected.  These are issues that you will need to
address in the work of this Committee and in which this Committee is
uniquely placed to contribute to the global debate.

      We will have to raise questions on the role of the public budget. 
We today often take refuge in the fact that private investment is
increasing and we point to that as some sort of defence, if you like,
of the fact that ODA flows are declining.  What I stressed in the
Second Committee and what I stress even more in this Committee is,
that the role of the public budget is central for the protection of
natural resources and the environment, for targeted programmes of
poverty eradication, employment generation, skill development, for
programmes of social protection, for the provision of basic social
services for all; and for the promotion of sound public administration
and governance.  All of these are activities which have to be pursued
with public resources through public entities.  If this is to be done,
then the fiscal capacity of the public exchequer is central.  These
things cannot be left to the market, even if the market is
appropriately directed through incentives and penalties.  It requires
public resources; it requires overseas development assistance. 
Foreign investment flows are not enough.  This is yet another
dimension that we will have to address.

      The recent report of the UNCTAD on the nexus between
globalization, distribution and growth has warnings on the
consequences of the increase in the distance, the inequalities between
nations, the opening up of substantial differences between the wages
of skilled and unskilled labour, to the hollowing out of the middle
class and to the growing domination of finance over industry.  The
point is that if we are to address these adverse consequences, we will
have to have a policy where there is a sense in which the global
community is managing the market process in a cooperative manner.  

      The implications of this for the work of the Committees of the
United Nations are evident.  One immediate implication that arises is
that we will have to address the issue of UN-Bretton Woods interaction
in this context.  We will have to ask ourselves how do we make the
development policies that come from the United Nations and elsewhere
reflect the concerns of all countries.  How do we make them more
influential when it comes to the decision-making fora where decisions
are taken which shape the environment within which each country
operates.

      Mr. Chairman, I have dwelt on these issues because I believe the
Third Committee has played a central role in bringing us to a point at
which these questions are being asked, at which answers are being
sought.  The challenge before us is to move from this point to a point
at which we are able to influence the shape of the environment which
effects the possibilities of development at the local and national
level.

      Let me move on to the second point which I wish to touch - UN
reform.  It has been said that the unstated theme of this session of
the General Assembly is UN reform.  I speak to you today for the first
time as the Under-Secretary-General in charge of the integrated
department of economic and social affairs.  The consolidation of
DESIPA, DPCSD and DDSMS has only started and in fact, in budgetary
terms, comes into force effectively from the next biennium, the first
of January.  The process is part of a broader process of coordination
and consolidation with began with the establishment of the four
Executive Committees earlier in the year: the Executive Committee for
Economic and Social Affairs, the Executive Committee which deals with
the UN Development Group, the Executive Committee on Humanitarian
Affairs and the Executive Committee on Political Affairs.  The
Executive Committee for Economic and Social Affairs besides DESA,
includes UNCTAD, the five regional commissions, UNEP, HABITAT, UN
University, UNDP, the UN Drug Control Programme and the United Nations
Centre for Human Rights.  It seeks to bring together all of the
entities which are involved in the work in effect of the Second and
the Third Committee of the General Assembly.  The Committee works by
consensus and the focus of its work is very much in terms of
coordination and cooperation.  Our objective is essentially to improve
the quality of service to you and to strengthen the support we provide
to policy-making processes.  The guiding principle of that Committee
as well as of the consolidation of the departments, is the desire to
bring together the analytical and normative functions into much closer
partnership so that each one reinforces the other.  For instance, in
the case of the social sector, the responsibility for the preparation
of the World Social situation rested in one department, DESIPA.  The
responsibility for supporting the Commission for Social Development
and the Commission on the Status of Women rested with another
department, DPCSD.  And the responsibility for undertaking policy
advisory services as well as support for technical cooperation for
social development rested with a third department, DDSMS.  What we are
seeking to do now is to bring this together, not just in one
department but at the divisional level, so the new division of Social
Policy and Development would combine the analytical functions (like
the preparation of the survey of the World Social Situation) with the
function of supporting intergovernmental processes including the
relevant parts of the Third Committee, and enrich these with the
support function that it provides for policy advisory services and for
technical cooperation.

      Our hope is that by doing this, we will be able to ensure that
the operational part of the United Nations system is more directly
driven by the policy guidelines that emerge from its intergovernmental
processes.  It is also our hope that the input and knowledge that we
gain by closer contact with field activities will help to strengthen
the quality of the analytical work that we do in support of
intergovernmental processes.  As part of this process, of bringing the
analytical/normative processes closer to the operational, we are also
developing close working relationships between the members of the
Executive Committee on Economic and Social Affairs and the United
Nations Development Group.  It is our hope that through this joint
action you will see a clearer connection between the outcome of the
policy development processes of the United Nations and its operational
activities in the field of development.  Our purpose, Mr. Chairman, in
this exercise is ultimately to strengthen and enhance the capacity of
the United Nations to respond to the new issues which its political
processes have thrown up for debate, discussion and policy
development.

      We look forward to working closely with you and I am looking
forward to the results of this particular session of the Third
Committee and assure you and all of the delegates that the Secretariat
that supports you will not spare any effort in ensuring an effective
and successful outcome for this session of the Third Committee of the
General Assembly.

      Thank you.

 


This document has been posted online by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA). Reproduction and dissemination of the document - in electronic and/or printed format - is encouraged, provided acknowledgement is made of the role of the United Nations in making it available.

Date last posted: 27 September 2000
Comments and suggestions: esa@un.org