ECOSOC convenes in Geneva for annual substantive session

Opening with the High-level Segment on 4-8 July, the 2011 session of the Economic and Social Council will include a dialogue with the Executive Secretaries of the Regional Commissions on 8 July; a Coordination Segment on 11-14 July; Operational Activities Segment on 14-18 July; Humanitarian Affairs Segment on 19-21 July; and General Segment on 22-29 July

High-level segment focusing on education

The High-level segment will focus on the Annual Ministerial Review (AMR) turning the spotlight on actions and progress made towards achieving the agreed education goals, within the framework of the Millennium Development Goals and the Education for All agenda. The Review aims at promoting practical strategies to increase access to and quality of education around the world as the basis for poverty eradication and sustainable development. The 2011 AMR theme is “Implementing the internationally agreed goals and commitments in regard to education”. It emphasizes the catalytic effect of education on the broader development agenda, including poverty reduction and the transition towards more sustainable patterns of consumption and production.

The period since 2000 was initially one of rapid progress towards universal primary education. During this time, some of the poorest countries dramatically increased enrolment, narrowed gender gaps and extended opportunities to disadvantaged groups. However, the current pace of progress is insufficient to ensure that the education MDGs will be met by 2015.

Although access remains a key issue, policymakers are called upon to look more closely at the issues of quality and equity in education. Poor learning outcomes are often exacerbated by the inequitable distribution of education between and within countries. Increasingly, evidence shows that the completion of a full cycle of primary education does not ensure the acquisition of basic literacy and numeracy skills. For example, a recent survey of 21 developing countries showed that young adults with five years of education had a 40 per cent chance of being illiterate.

For the opening ceremony, the President of the General Assembly, the Deputy-Secretary General, and Mr. Gordon Brown have all confirmed their participation. It is also expected that President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil and President Micheline Calmy-Rey of the Swiss Confederation will partake.

The High-level segment will furthermore include National Voluntary Presentations from Bangladesh; Belarus; Germany; Malawi; Mauritius; Mexico; Pakistan; Qatar; Senegal; Turkey; and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Their national reports offer rich information on success factors and experiences on sustainable development with a focus on education at the country level.

The Segment will benefit from the summary reports of four AMR regional consultations held in Qatar on “reaching women, girls and the marginalized”; in Thailand on “education and the MDGs”; in Togo on “reinforcing quality and equity in education”; and in Argentina on “teachers, quality and equity”. In many of the regional meetings, the limited scope of the MDG goals and indicators for education has been emphasized. Many regions have also stressed the need for improving the quality of education.

There are several important panel discussions engaging Ministers from developing and developed countries, executive heads of UN agencies, and representatives of academia, civil society and the private sector. One of those will forge the link between education and sustainable development, while others will focus on the changing needs of education for the future, education in Africa and the LDCs and mobilizing resources and partnerships for education. The General Assembly mandate for ECOSOC to discuss the critical issue of promoting sustained, inclusive and equitable growth will be carried out through a panel discussion attracting high-level resource persons.

The second Face to Face debate on “Education, human rights and conflicts” will attract experts who will highlight the challenges surrounding access to education, particularly in high-risk environments. It will also introduce new ideas about how to improve the educational system and achieve human rights and educational access, as a contribution to the Millennium Development Goal 2. This event will be broadcasted live on UN webcast and via ECOSOC’s Facebook page.

An Innovation Fair on the theme, “Education For All” will also be organized. It will showcase innovative practices, approaches and projects in education from around the world. A wide range of institutions, NGOs and private sector companies will take part in the fair and a ministerial roundtable breakfasts will also be organized from 5 to 8 July. A series of side events, organized by Member States, international and civil society organizations, will take place at lunchtime or parallel to the formal sessions.

ECOSOC Dialogue with the Executive Secretaries of the Regional Commissions

In ECOSOC decision 2004/323, the Council decided to organize annually a dialogue with the Executive Secretaries of the Regional Commissions immediately after the High-level Segment. This interactive dialogue provides an important forum for the exchange of information between Member States and the Regional Commissions on issues related to regional cooperation and emerging development priorities for the different regions. This year, the Dialogue with the Executive Secretaries of the Regional Commissions is scheduled to take place on 8 July in the afternoon.

At its organizational session, the Council decided that the theme of the interactive dialogue for 2011 will be “Regional cooperation as a catalyst for development: examples from the regions”.

During this dialogue the Executive Secretaries of the Regional Commissions will highlight key examples of regional cooperation that have provided a stimulus for development and accelerated progress towards the MDGs, including in areas related to education, in their respective regions. The presentations will also outline the actions taken and the role of the Regional Commissions in strengthening regional cooperation and in supporting South-South cooperation. High-level representatives from countries and key regional organizations will act as discussants and provide their perspective on the importance of regional cooperation and their expectations from the Regional Commissions.

Coordination Segment to follow up on gender equality and financing for development

The 2011 Coordination Segment will focus on two main substantive areas: Follow-up to the 2010 Ministerial Declaration on “implementing the internationally agreed goals and commitments in regard to gender equality and the empowerment of women” and to the International Conference on Financing for Development.

In addition, the annual overview report of the UN system Chief Executive Board for Coordination (CEB) will be presented. A special event on “The right to development and global partnership for development” will also be organized marking the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Right to Development.

The coordination segment provides an opportunity to identify areas where the UN system should promote more comprehensive and effective approaches and to recommend ways in which support by the UN can be strengthened against the backdrop of current challenges.

On gender equality and the empowerment of women, the Council will take stock of progress made in strengthening a coordinated approach by the UN system in this field, a year after the decision by the General Assembly to create UN Women. The Council will also review how the system uses the cross-cutting issues identified in the 2010 Ministerial Declaration as leverage to accelerate progress on gender related development goals.

Operational Activities Segment to focus on funding, resident coordination system and business practices

This segment will focus on progress in implementing the General Assembly 2007 resolution on the Comprehensive Policy Review of UN system’s operational activities (TCPR). Through this review, the GA assesses the relevance, coherence, effectiveness and efficiency of operational activities and gives a detailed set of guidance on how the UN system should work in developing countries.

The funding of operational activities, the functioning of the resident coordination system, and simplification and harmonization of business practices will be central to this year’s review. Four panel discussions on some of these key issues will support the debate.

The reports of the Secretary-General show that the UN system has launched numerous initiatives to implement the GA guidance on operational activities. For example, the UN Development Group, bringing together UN system organizations with operational activities, is working towards a coherent set of priorities to implement the TCPR and make UN system support more focused and coherent.

At the same time, some important reforms are not advancing fast enough. This is the case for the reforms aimed at improving the resident coordinator system and the accountability of its key actors (resident coordinators, UN country teams, regional directors, UNDG and its management etc). Moreover, the UN system does not assess systematically the sustainability of its capacity development work nor uses sufficiently national systems. Regarding funding of the UN system, there are concerns about the continued overwhelming share of non-core resources, as well as about the predictability of resources and reliance on a limited number of donors.

The expected outcome is an omnibus resolution that will provide guidelines for the preparation of the next Comprehensive Policy Review which the General Assembly will conduct in 2012. The Permanent Representative of Peru, chairing this segment, aims to have the resolution adopted at its conclusion.

On Tuesday morning, on 19 July, the informal ECOSOC event on “The role of the United Nations and the international community in supporting the capacity of the Government of South Sudan to manage the transition”, is scheduled to take place.

Humanitarian Affairs Segment to discuss financing, strengthened coordination and response preparedness

This segment provides an important forum where Member States and humanitarian organizations discuss the challenges, opportunities and activities related to the strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations.

At its organizational session for 2010, the Council decided that the theme of the Humanitarian Affairs Segment will be “Working in partnership to strengthen coordination of humanitarian assistance in a changing world”; and that it will convene two panel discussions, of which the topics will be: (i) “Preparing for the future – predictable, effective, flexible and adequate humanitarian financing and its accountable use to meet the evolving needs and challenges for the delivery of humanitarian assistance”; (ii) “Strengthening resilience, preparedness and capacities for humanitarian response”. Each panel will feature high-level participation from Member States, relevant UN agencies, NGOs and experts.

The first panel discussion will take place on Wednesday, 20 July, focusing on broader issues of humanitarian financing, to make sure that its system can support meeting humanitarian needs both in terms of ensuring rapid and well-coordinated response, as well as the ability to address emerging requirements amid a growing humanitarian caseload. Investment in preparedness, funding tools to support the transition from humanitarian to sustainable development contexts, as well as aligning humanitarian funding tools and those of international financial institutions or regional and national mechanisms, will also be explored.

The panel on “Strengthening resilience, preparedness and capacities for humanitarian response” will take place on Thursday, 21 July. The discussion will focus on improving the understanding of humanitarians’ role in preparedness, and how they can strengthen partnerships with governments, regional institutions and relevant development actors to develop response capacities. As data points to an increase in frequency and intensity of disasters, and the recent large-scale disasters demonstrating some of the limits of capacity of the international humanitarian response system, meaningfully strengthening the resilience of populations through better preparedness of countries and regions at risk is becoming urgent.

In the margins of the Segment, there will be also the annual ‘Consolidated Appeals Process (CAP) Mid-Year Review’ and several informal side events (a list of side-events will be posted shortly).

The Report of the Secretary-General on strengthening the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations will be presented at the Segment.

General Segment to review reports of subsidiary bodies

At the General Segment, the Council will review the reports of its subsidiary bodies and of other UN entities working in the economic and social fields. These bodies include the Council’s functional commissions, regional commissions, expert and ad hoc bodies. It will also consider the report of its Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti. A panel with members of the Committee for Development Policy (CDP) and a briefing by the Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) will also be organized during the General Segment.

For more information:

High-level Segment: http://www.un.org/en/ecosoc/julyhls/index11.shtml

Coordination Segment: http://www.un.org/en/ecosoc/julyhls/cs2011.shtml

Operational Activities Segment: http://www.un.org/en/ecosoc/julyhls/pdf11/11_oa-hls_programme.pdf

Humanitarian Affairs Segment: http://www.un.org/en/ecosoc/julyhls/has2011.shtml

General Segment: http://www.un.org/en/ecosoc/julyhls/gs2011.shtml

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