DESA News

Volume 14, No.5 - May 2010

Global dialogue on development


Focusing on transport, chemicals, waste, mining and consumption

Achieving green growth through better management of materials throughout their life cycle will be central to this year’s session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD-18) that will take place in New York from 3-14 May

The Commission starts a new two-year cycle that will review themes of waste management, transport, chemicals, mining, and the 10-year framework of programmes on sustainable consumption and production. It will also discuss sustainable development in Small Island Developing Countries.

Transport

Transport is the largest end-use of energy in developed countries and the fastest growing one in most developing countries. Furthermore, adequate, efficient, and effective transport systems are important for access to markets, employment, education and basic services critical to poverty alleviation.

However, current patterns of transportation development are not sustainable and may compound both environmental and health problems. There is, therefore, a need for urgent action, ranging, inter alia, from the promotion of integrated transport policies and plans, the accelerated phase-out of leaded gasoline, the promotion of voluntary guidelines and the development of partnerships at the national level for strengthening transport infrastructure, promoting and supporting the use of non-motorised transport and developing innovative mass transit schemes.

During the Commission’s ninth session in 2001, countries agreed that international co-operation is required in order to ensure transport systems support sustainable development. Countries stressed the importance of efficient and affordable transport systems for poverty alleviation and the need to mitigate adverse externalities to health and the environment. Support for greater use of public and non-motorized transport was expressed.

Chemicals

A substantial use of chemicals is essential to meet the social and economic goals of the world community, and these can be used with a high degree of safety when best practices are followed. Two of the major problems, particularly in developing countries, are lack of sufficient scientific information for the risk assessment, and lack of resources of assessment of chemicals for which data are at hand.

Gross chemical contamination, with grave damage to human health, genetic structures and reproductive outcomes and the environment, has been continuing within some of the world’s most important industrial areas, and restoration will require major investment as well as the development of new techniques.

This session thus will focus on expanding and accelerating international assessment of chemical risks, harmonization of classification and labelling of chemicals, and prevention of illegal international traffic in toxic and dangerous products among others.

Solid and hazardous waste

At the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002, Governments reaffirmed the importance of solid waste management. They called for priority attention to be given to waste prevention and minimization, reuse and recycling. They also called for the development of environmentally sound disposal facilities, including technology to convert waste into energy.

“Environmentally sound management of hazardous wastes” is crucial for sustainable energy efficiency. Effective control of the generation, storage, treatment, recycling and reuse, transport, recovery and disposal of hazardous wastes is, according to Agenda 21, “of paramount importance for proper health, environmental protection and natural resource management, and sustainable development.”

The session will try to preventing or minimizing the generation of hazardous wastes as part of an overall integrated cleaner production approach; and eliminating the export of hazardous wastes to countries that prohibit such imports among other objectives.

Solid wastes include all domestic refuse and non-hazardous wastes such as commercial and institutional wastes, street sweepings and construction debris and, in some countries, human wastes. Hazardous waste is frequently intermixed with other waste, posing particular management challenges.

Mining

Minerals are essential for modern living, and mining is still the primary method of their extraction. To date, it appears that the main constraints to sustainability in the mining sector derive from the ever-increasing demand for mined resources, the consumption of resources (mostly energy and water) needed to extract and process metals, and the increasing pollution generated by the extraction process.

This holds true for both large-scale, often multinational corporate, operations as well as for small-scale or artisanal ventures. Mining will, therefore be a focus of CSD deliberations and one of the five themes reviewed during CSD-18/19 biannual cycle.

Partnerships Fair and Side Events

The Partnerships Fair will provide registered “Partnerships for Sustainable Development” with the opportunity to showcase progress, network, identify partners, and create synergies between complementary initiatives and finding opportunities for replicability and scaling up.

As CSD-18 will review progress in the areas of Transport, Chemicals, Waste Management (Hazardous & Solid Waste), Mining, and the 10 Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption & Production Patterns, the Secretariat is particularly encouraging partnerships working in these areas to take advantage of the CSD Partnerships Fair activities to share their experiences.

Side events sponsored by major groups, governments, UN agencies and other international bodies have already an established place at the sidelines of the official meetings of CSD.

The side events provide an informal opportunity for a broader exchange of information, experience and diverse views, and will be organised during the lunch and evening breaks of the 18th session of CSD.

For more information: http://www.un.org/esa/dsd/csd/csd_csd18.shtml

Addressing vulnerabilities of Small Island Developing States

CSD-18 SIDS Day on 10 May will serve as prep com for the Mauritius Strategy +5 High-level Review in September 2010

In accordance with UN General Assembly Resolutions, a high level meeting is to be convened during the sixty-fifth session of the General Assembly to carry out a five-year review of the progress made in addressing the vulnerabilities of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) through the implementation of the Mauritius Strategy for Implementation (MSI).

The high-level event is preceded by three regional review meetings, one for each of the SIDS regions. The outcomes of these review meetings will inform SIDS Day during CSD-18, which will serve as the Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) for the high level review in September 2010.

SIDS Day will also consider progress towards the sustainable development of SIDS within the framework of the thematic cluster under review by the Commission.

The Secretary-General’s Report “Review of Implementation of the Mauritius Strategy” (E/CN.17/2010/9) will be presented at SIDS Day. The objective of the report is to provide an initial global synthesis of the national and regional MSI+5 reviews, in order to inform deliberations of member States at the SIDS Day during the 18th session of the Commission for Sustainable Development. Based on the recommendations expressed by member States, a refined report will be submitted for the consideration of Member States at the 65th session of the General Assembly in September 2010.

For more information: http://www.un.org/esa/dsd/dsd_aofw_sids/sids_csdspecdayipm_18.shtml

Securing commitment to sustainable development

First Preparatory Committee for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD 2012) will be held from 17-19 May in New York

At the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, the international community adopted Agenda 21, an unprecedented global plan of action for sustainable development. Ten years later, the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation was adopted highlighting concrete steps for better implementing Agenda 21. However, the progress has been slow in achieving internationally agreed goals, and challenges remain in achieving the goals of the three pillars of sustainable development, particularly in the context of the current global crises.

On 24th December 2009 the UN General Assembly adopted a Resolution A/RES/64/236, agreeing to hold the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) in 2012 – also referred to as ‘Rio+20′ or ‘Rio 20′.

The Conference will aim at securing renewed political commitment to sustainable development, assessing the progress and implementation gaps in meeting already agreed commitments, and addressing new and emerging challenges.

The Member States have agreed on the following two themes for the Conference: green economy within the context of sustainable development and poverty reduction, and institutional framework for sustainable development.

The first meeting of the Preparatory Committee will discuss the substantive themes of the Conference and pending procedural matters, and will also elect the Bureau.

The Conference will bring together a range of participants, including heads of State and Government, national delegates and leaders from non-governmental organizations (NGOs), businesses and other major groups to focus the world’s attention and direct action toward addressing difficult challenges our planet is facing, including reducing poverty, conserving our natural resources, overcoming financial and economic crisis.

For more information: http://www.uncsd2012.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=52&Itemid=55

High demand for consultative status of NGOs

2010 Resumed Session of NGO Committee will be held in New York from 26 May to 4 June to examine applications for consultative status and consider reclassifications and quadrennial reports

The Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) is a standing committee of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), established by the Council in 1946. The main tasks of the Committee are the consideration of applications for consultative status and requests for reclassification submitted by NGOs, the review of quadrennial reports submitted by NGOs in General and Special categories and the implementation of the provisions of Council resolution 1996/31 and the monitoring of the consultative relationship.

The Committee reports directly to ECOSOC, and the two reports of its annual regular session (usually at the end of January) and resumed session (in May) include draft resolutions or decisions on matters calling for action by the Council.

At the 2010 resumed session, the Committee will have before it 104 new applications from NGOs seeking consultative status with ECOSOC and 145 deferred applications, as well three reclassifications. The Committee will also consider 214 quadrennial reports from NGOs in Special and General consultative status.

For more information: http://www.un.org/esa/coordination/ngo/

Rural women are critical to poverty reduction

On 22 April, the Economic and Social Council convened a Global Preparatory Meeting for both its Annual Ministerial Review (AMR) and Development Cooperation Forum (DCF) to be held during the Council’s 2010 substantive session

Chaired by the President of the Council, H.E. Mr. Hamidon Ali (Malaysia), the morning session focused on the theme of the AMR: “Implementing the internationally agreed goals and commitments in regard to gender equality and the empowerment of women”, and featured a panel discussion on the issue of “Who feeds the world in 2010 and beyond?–Rural women as agents of change and champions of global food security”.

The meeting was co-organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the International Fund for Agricultural Development, with support from the World Food Programme and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, as well as a number of other United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations. Panelists included H.E. Ms. Florence Chenoweth, Minister of Agriculture of Liberia, Ms. Carol Kramer-LeBlanc, Director for Sustainable Development, Office of the Chief Economist, United States Department of Agriculture, Ms. Myrna Cunningham, Director, Center for Indigenous People’s Autonomy and Development and Ms. Carmen Griffiths, Coordinator, GROOTS, Jamaica, and was moderated by Ms. Marcela Villarreal, Director, Gender, Equity and Rural Employment Division, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

The meeting highlighted the critical contribution of rural women to poverty reduction, food security and economic and social development. Panelists stressed that, on a global scale, women make up a substantial proportion of the agricultural workforce and produce more then half of all the food being grown. It was noted, however, that they face tremendous challenges; women farmers often suffer from ill health, have less access to land and financial resources, experience limitations on their mobility outside of their homes, and are often not included in community-level decision making or in decision making within producers’ organizations.

Panelists underlined the fact that gender equality and women’s empowerment is no longer purely a moral issue. Their increased access to resources such as land, credit, technology, training and marketing can lead to improved agricultural productivity and production. Women’s education was underscored as a critical prerequisite. Increases in incomes and overall improvements in women’s lives in turn have an immediate positive impact on the well-being of household members, particularly on the nutritional status and education of children.

The panel called the Council’s attention to the need for concrete, priority actions to support the role of rural women as major stakeholders and agents of change. In particular, it urged the development of appropriate legal frameworks and a policy environment that allows tapping into the agricultural productivity potential of this critical 50% of the overall population.

Other highlighted recommendations included the adoption of a comprehensive approach to rural women’s empowerment that addresses access to resources, safety nets, health education and the issue of violence against women in an holistic fashion; to promote country-led investment plans in agriculture that prioritize women, including their specific technological needs; to adopt cross-cultural planning tools that can help address and integrate women’s needs and their ethnical diversity into policy-decision; to make visible the contribution of rural women’s to the economy by ensuring gender-sensitive collection and desegregation of data; to ensure rural women’s participation and representation in all policy decisions regarding agriculture and food security; and to develop a strategic agenda and adequate government institutions that can effectively promote gender equality and empowerment of women. The adoption of these recommendations were pivotal for strengthening the role of women in agricultural development.

For more information: http://www.un.org/en/ecosoc/newfunct/gpm2010.shtml

Towards achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment

54th session of the Commission on the Status of Women was held in New York from 1-12 March

Thousands of government officials and representatives from civil society and the media converged at UN Headquarters in New York to assess what progress has been achieved, since the historic Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995, in the promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment.

The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action – the comprehensive global policy framework to achieve the goals of gender equality and empowerment of women – covers twelve critical areas of concern: women and poverty, education and training of women, women and health, violence against women, women and armed conflict, women and the economy, women in power and decision-making, institutional mechanisms for the advancement of women, human rights of women, women and the media, women and the environment, and the girl-child.

The contributions of senior UN Officials, including the Secretary-General and the Deputy Secretary-General, the Under-Secretary-General of DESA, the President of ECOSOC and the Assistant Secretary-General, Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, placed strong emphasis on implementing commitments and ensuring that all opportunities would be seized in 2010 to give new impetus to the promotion of gender equality and women’s enjoyment of their human rights. The Commission was also introduced to the new Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict by the Secretary-General.

The event allowed Member States, along with representatives of non-governmental organizations and many UN entities, to share experiences, good practices and lessons learned in the implementation of the Platform for Action in a series of high-level round tables and interactive panel discussions, and in many parallel events organized by Member States, entities of the UN system, and civil society. The participation of civil society was impressive, with 3440 representatives from 463 NGOs from all regions of the world attending.

On 2 March 2010, the Commission adopted a Declaration on the occasion of the fifteenth anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women, in which Governments reaffirmed the Platform for Action and pledged to undertake further actions towards its full implementation. The Declaration represents a strong political message to achieve the goals of gender equality and the empowerment of women.

The Commission also adopted seven resolutions. They cover the following areas: women, the girl child and HIV/AIDS; the release of women and children taken hostage, including those subsequently imprisoned, in armed conflicts; the situation of and assistance to Palestinian women; women’s economic empowerment; eliminating maternal mortality and morbidity through the empowerment of women; ending female genital mutilation; and strengthening the institutional arrangements of the UN for support of gender equality and the empowerment of women by consolidating the four existing offices into a composite entity.

Moderator’s summaries for all panel discussions highlight main issues and recommendation, and four of these will be transmitted to the ECOSOC Annual Ministerial Review. This outcome will also contribute to the High-Level Plenary on the MDGs that will be held in September 2010 in the context of the 65th session of the General Assembly.

For more information: http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/beijing15/index.html