Volume 15, No.2 - February 2011

Global dialogue on development

Celebrating forest for the people

Launch of the International Year of Forests 2011 will be held on 2 February in the UN General Assembly Hall, part of the High-level Segment of the 9th session of the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF9)

The President of the General Assembly, H.E. Mr. Joseph Deiss, will preside over the ceremony and the programme will open with a video message from Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon. The ceremony will also feature an array of international speakers, from government ministers to Nobel laureates and other members of the international forest community including Under-Secretary General Mr. Sha Zukang, Nobel laureate Elinor Ostrom, Nobel Peace laureate Wangari Maathai, renowned filmmaker Yann Arthus-Bertrand, and Felix Finbeiner, founder of Plant the Planet.

Communicating forest stories through the medium of film is a major component of the International Year. At the ceremony, Mr. Arthus-Bertrand will premiere his film “Forest”, a 7-minute short film made especially for the International Year of Forests. Also, clips from winning films of the International Forest Film Festival will be shown as part of the program.

In addition to the ceremony, celebrations will continue throughout the day. The Croatian government is holding a photo exhibit entitled “Through the Eye of the Forester” in the General Assembly lobby, and the Turkish government will host a photo exhibit on forests in their cultural centre in New York. Finally, on the evening of 2 February, the United States government and MillionTrees New York are hosting a reception at David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center in New York.

We depend on forests

At least 1.6 billion people directly depend on forests for their livelihoods and the majority of them are poor and live in and around forests. It is estimated that approximately 60 million people, mainly from indigenous and local communities, reside in forests. According to FAO data, the annual value of wood harvested from forests is more than $100 billion, and globally, more than 60 million people are employed by forest-based industries (wood, pulp and paper and other processing plants).

“Forests are the intersection of all aspects of human life – forest history, at its core, is about the changing relationships between people and forests,” said the Director of the UN Forum on Forests Secretariat, Jan McAlpine during the opening segment. “At this session of the Forum, we must listen to these lessons from our natural history, and incorporate the voices of the people into forest policies to build a sustainable future for both forests and people.”

Activities in celebration of the Year cover a wide range of public events from tree-plantings to concerts, and field trips to art competitions.

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Measuring global trade – Do we have the right numbers?

The Global Forum on Trade Statistics, to be held in Geneva from 2 to 4 February, will gather policy makers, statisticians and other experts in the field to discuss the best mechanisms to measure trade statistics right

The Global Forum on Trade Statistics, organized jointly by DESA’s Statistics Division and the Statistical Office of the European Communities (Eurostat) in collaboration with the World Trade Organization (WTO), aims to answer the question “Measuring Global Trade Do we have the right numbers?”

This questions has become even more crucial in today’s global economy as nations depend on one another more than ever before, and thus, getting the numbers right on international trade becomes a key element for decision makers from across the world.

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Finding the path to eradicate poverty

This year’s session of the Commission for Social Development, to be held in New York from 9-18 February in New York, will explore the most pressing issues concerning poverty

In addition to the priority theme and in accordance with the General Assembly resolution 55/46 on the implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and of the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly entitled “World Summit for Social Development and beyond: achieving social development for all in a globalizing world”, the Commission will undertake a regular assessment of the implementation of the Copenhagen commitments and the further initiatives adopted in Geneva.

The session is also intended to include the review of relevant United Nations plans and programmes of action pertaining to the situation of social groups: persons with disabilities, youth, ageing, and the family.

In its resolution 2006/18, the Economic and Social Council decided to include the agenda item entitled “Emerging issues” in the programme of work of the Commission. The members of the Bureau, in consultation with their respective regional groups, agreed that the theme for discussion under this agenda item during the forty-ninth session would be social protection.

Second Decade for Eradication of Poverty

This year’s session is part of the celebration of the Second Decade for Eradication of Poverty, which was proclaimed in December 2007 by the General Assembly. The proclamation recalls the outcomes of the World Summit for Social Development and the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly.

The second Decade aims at supporting, in an efficient and coordinated manner, the internationally agreed development goals related to poverty eradication, including the Millennium Development Goals. It stresses the importance of reinforcing the positive trends in poverty reduction in some countries and extend such trends to benefit people worldwide.

The proclamation recognizes the importance of mobilizing financial resources for development at national and international levels and acknowledges that sustained economic growth, supported by rising productivity and a favourable environment, including private investment and entrepreneurship is vital for rising living standards.

During the celebration of the decade, particular focus is given to employment and decent work, including youth employment, working poor, social protection, in particular to vulnerable and disadvantaged groups in the light of the current global crises, support for sustainable enterprises, gender equality, standards and rights at work, and social dialogue.

In implementing these activities the UN system will work closely with social partners, NGOs, civil society, and other actors in order to support national governments to implement internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals, related to eradication of poverty.

Civil society important players for social development

The Civil Society Forum, to be held in New York on 8 February, will take place one day before the opening of the 49th Session of the Commission on Social Development. The outcome of the Forum, which is presented in the format of a declaration, will be read during the first meeting of the session. The participation of civil society has been recognized as a key element for poverty eradication, and so, this year’s forum will constitute an important step for enhancing cooperation among all relevant stakeholders.

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ECOSOC prepares its engine

The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) will hold its 2011 organizational session from 15-18 February considering mostly procedural decisions related to the dates and focus of its upcoming meetings

The Council will also hear a report of the Chairman of its Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti. As part of the session, a number of briefings will be organized including on the world economic situation and prospects, the world food crisis and follow-up to the General Assembly resolution 64/289 on System-Wide Coherence.

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Setting new statistical standards for implementation

From 22 to 25 February, Chief Statisticians from member states around the world gather in New York during the forty-second session of the Statistical Commission

The United Nations Statistical Commission, overseeing the work of DESA’s Statistics Division, is the highest decision making body for international statistical activities, in particular for the setting of statistical standards, the development of concepts and methods and their implementation at the national and international level.

The Commission promotes the development of national statistics and the improvement of their comparability, coordinates the statistical work of specialized agencies, develops the central statistical services of the Secretariat and advises the organs of the United Nations on general questions relating to the collection, analysis and dissemination of statistical information.

The Statistical Commission considers special issues of concern in international statistical development, methodological issues, coordination and integration of international statistical programmes, support of technical cooperation activities in statistics and organizational matters.

This year, the commission will have before it a report of the Secretary-General describing the activities undertaken by the statistical community to mark the first World Statistics Day which celebrated the many achievements of official statistics and the core values of service, integrity and professionalism. The Commission is invited to comment on the relevance and effectiveness of the activities and the proposed options for future celebrations of World Statistics Day.

The General Assembly designated 20 October as World Statistics Day to recognize the vital role that the production of reliable and timely statistics and indicators plays in society. These facts and figures provide an important tool for assessing different situations and needs. Statistics data allow issues to become visible, thus making the identification of needs and the implementation of solutions possible.

In addition, the Commission will consider, among others, gender statistics, including violence against women, energy statistics, economic and MDG monitoring indicators as well as statistics of human development.

The four day meeting will also discuss statistical capacity-building, statistics for development, the population and housing censuses, health, education, agriculture and tourism statistics as well as the coordination of statistical activities. It will also bring up standards on data and metadata exchange as well as global geospatial information management.

DESA’s Statistics Division will also organize again an informal briefing session for those delegates who participate in the Statistical Commission for the first time. This session will take place on 21 February, from 12:00 to 1:00 pm in UN DC-2 Building Room 2330. The purpose of this informal briefing is not only to inform new members about the functioning of the Commission procedures, but also to offer a first opportunity for networking with other Commission participants.

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Calendar of side events:

How can we count on the philanthropic community to support education

ECOSOC will convene a special event on “Partnering with the philanthropic community to promote education for all” on 28 February in New York

The special meeting, which will count on the participation from Member States, the United Nations, Non-governmental organizations and the corporate, philanthropic and academic communities, will aim to gain the support of philanthropic institutions to achieve Education For All, review progress, identify gaps and explore collaborative opportunities in advancing progress in education around the world.

The event is also expected to make substantive contributions to the 2011 ECOSOC Annual Ministerial Review (AMR) on “implementing the internationally agreed goals and commitments in regard to education.”

The meeting will include an opening plenary session followed by two panel discussions on: Staying the course: Enabling access for both girls and boys to complete primary education and promoting education and training for tomorrow’s economy. As the titles clearly state, the key objective of the special event is to increase focus on issues central to the achievement of education for all.

Expecting definite results

The expected outcome of the discussion is three-fold. First, it is hoped to broaden the range of stakeholders involved in the work of ECOSOC, and to increase the awareness among the philanthropic community on the progress made and the challenges faced in achieving the internationally agreed goals and commitments on education.

Participants will explore ways to promote concrete initiatives by the philanthropic community and initiate new partnerships that would accelerate progress in reaching the international goals and targets related to education.

Finally, the meeting will serve as the setting to expand multi-stakeholder engagement in the international community’s efforts to help advance the progress in the area of education.

Receiving support

Announcements of contributions by the private sector/philanthropic community to educational programs around the world will be made on the day of the event. A social media campaign has been launched to gather questions from the public-at-large, to be posed at the event.

All are invited to watch a public service announcement produced by the United Nations Department of Public Information, and to submit questions online.

The event will be broadcast live via the United Nations Webcast and on the main page of the special event.

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Advancing on sustainable development

Intergovernmental Preparatory Meeting for the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD-19), to be held in New York from 28 February – 4 March, will negotiate policy options related to the thematic cluster for the CSD 18-19 cycle

The themes for the CSD 18-19 cycle are transport, chemicals, waste management, mining and the Ten-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns. During the preparatory meeting, each of the different themes will be further discussed in order to prepare solid recommendation for the next meeting of the commission, which will take place from 2 to 13 May in New York.

The meeting will include different thematic segments that are aimed at discussing policy options to address barriers and constraints taking into account lessons learned and best practices. Each of the segments will include panel and interactive discussions. On the last day of the meeting, two multi-stakeholder dialogues will be held. The first will focus on an open dialogue on “advancing the implementation of sustainable development”, and the second will open the floor to explore the “Expectations of CSD-19 within the context of Rio+20.”

Pre-registration for CSD-19 is now open

Pre-registration of accredited Major Groups’ to the 19th session of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD-19) is now open. This meeting will take place from 2-13 May 2011 at UN Headquarters in New York.

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Discussing sustainable patterns of consumption and production

Member States, Major Groups, and UN Agencies met in Panama from 13-14 January to discuss potential programs to be included in the 10-Year Framework of Programmes on SCP (10YFP) to support regional and national initiatives, the structure the 10YFP could take, and the possible visions and objectives it could serve

The meeting was chaired by the Chief Administrator of the Environment Agency of Panama, and was attended by over 110 participants, mainly governments. The Chair of the 19th Session of the Commission on Sustainable Development, the Minister of Environment of Romania also presided. It also served to provide an informal setting prior to the Intergovernmental Preparatory Meeting beginning on 28 February for Member States and Major Groups to consider the shape of the 10YFP, which they might be willing to endorse at CSD-19.

Among the aspects that were considered during the meeting were the vision and goals of the framework, the functions to be performed, the elements of the framework to deliver those functions, the criteria for programmes to add in the 10YFP and its overall structure.

The discussions on the 10YFP must now move to the formal CSD process, where governments will begin to define their negotiating positions. The Panama Intersessional was particularly useful in bringing many developing country representatives up to speed on the issues for deliberation and decision at CSD-19 if a 10YFP is to be endorsed and launched.

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UNCSD Bureau Meetings

9th and 10th Bureau Meetings of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) were held in New York last month

The 9th Bureau Meeting of UNCSD was held on 7 January and Mr. Georgios Kostakos, Officer-in-Charge of the Secretariat of the High-level Panel on Global Sustainability, briefed on the background, composition and proposed plan of work of the Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Global Sustainability.

At the meeting, Conference Secretary-General Sha Zukang introduced the two Executive Coordinators, Ms. Elizabeth Thompson of Barbados and Mr. Brice Lalonde of France. Both Executive Coordinators expressed their enthusiasm at being part of the process and indicated their readiness to support the intergovernmental preparations.

Although several countries have made pledges, the Secretariat shared its concerns on the lack of financial contributions to the Trust Fund. The amount received so far was only US $45,000. In fact, it was noted that lack of funds has already started to affect the planned preparatory activities.

During the Bureau’s tenth meeting, held on 11 January, participants discussed the organization and results of the first Intersessional Meeting, including feedback it had received from its constituencies. A proposal was also made to have an action-oriented roadmap for one green economy.

On the institutional framework for sustainable development, proposals ranged from strengthening the CSD and UNEP, to establishing a Sustainable Development Council, and to creating a UN umbrella body on sustainable development.

The tentative date for the next bureau meeting is scheduled for 16 February 2011.

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Securing renewed political commitment for sustainable development

At the First Intersessional Meeting of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), which took place in New York from 10 -11 January, key participants met to discuss the overarching themes of Rio+20

The purpose of this meeting was to advance the understanding of the subject matter of the conference. The panelists, Member States, UN system and Major groups engaged in lively and interactive discussions expressing their views on benefits, challenges and concerns regarding the objective and the themes of UNCSD 2012.

The intersessional meeting also served as a space to assess the progress to date and discuss the remaining gaps in the implementation of the outcomes of the major summits on sustainable development, and address new and emerging issues. The meeting also discussed the two themes of the Conference – a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication and institutional framework for sustainable development.

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