The 19 members of the ECOSOC Committee on Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) will gather for its 2012 Regular Session on 30 January – 8 February and on 17 February at UN Headquarters
The agenda will include reviewing 348 applications from NGOs from both developing and developed countries for consultative status. The areas of focus embrace a wide range of expertise including health, education, environment, human rights and gender issues, among others. As part of its monitoring role, the Committee will also review 375 quadrennial reports from NGOs in special and general consultative status to assess their contribution to ECOSOC.
In accordance with ECOSOC Resolution 1996/31, the Committee is tasked with considering applications from NGOs worldwide for consultative status with the objective of enabling NGOs to: (i) contribute to the ECOSOC agenda; (ii) participate more effectively in the work of the ECOSOC including through attendance in meetings, consultations and contributions to the Secretary General’s reports; and (iii) disseminate the work of the Council, including at the country level.
To enhance the role of civil society as important partners in development, the work of the Committee is intended to strengthen their participation in the intergovernmental process and thereby facilitate the substantive contribution of civil society to the work of the United Nations and in the implementation of the UN development agenda.
2012 has been designated as the International Year of Cooperatives to highlight the importance of cooperatives under the theme “Cooperative Enterprises Build a Better World”
Programmes during the Year seek to encourage individuals, communities and governments to recognize the agency of cooperatives in contributing to sustainable socio-economic development and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
Cooperatives are business enterprises owned and controlled by the members that they serve. Their member-driven nature differentiates them to other forms of business into taking decisions balanced by the pursuit of profit with the needs and interests of members and their communities.
The Netherlands-based Rabobank has earmarked $200,000 to help finance activities during the International Year of Cooperatives focused on promoting the role of cooperatives in sustainable development.
“Historically, cooperatives have found their genesis in times of economic hardship,” said Sha Zukang, UN DESA’s Under-Secretary-General and the Secretary-General of Rio+20, the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development. “This is a testament to their capacity to alleviate the effects of such crises. In fact, in the wake of the 2008-2009 global financial and economic crisis, financial cooperatives proved to be more resilient than their investor-owned counterparts.”
A 2009 study by the European Association of Co-operative Banks, a non-profit organization with approximately 50 million members and with 176 million customers, found that commercial banks, and some public banks, were responsible for more than 95 per cent of bank write downs registered worldwide. Recapitalization (in particular State aid) was also massively directed towards commercial banks and some public banks.
Besides banking and credit, cooperatives are spread across a spectrum of sectors, such as agriculture, fisheries, housing, insurance, services and travel. In its 2008 Global 300 report on the largest cooperatives in the world, the International Co-operative Alliance, a non-profit group with 260 member organizations from 96 countries representing some 1 billion individuals, indicated that the top 300 cooperatives alone had an aggregate turnover of $1.1 trillion, comparable to roughly one tenth of the gross domestic product (GDP) of the United States.
Most of the 300 largest cooperatives are found in the developed economies of France, Germany, Japan, Netherlands and the United States, with 30 per cent engaged in the agriculture and food sectors, 23 per cent in retailing, 22 per cent in insurance and 19 per cent in banking.
In developing countries, cooperatives play a prominent role. In 2009, Brazil’s agricultural cooperatives exported $3.6 billion worth of produce. Cooperatives also play an important role in peacebuilding and bridging ethnic divides. In Rwanda, a credit union system was rebuilt by the World Council of Credit Unions without regard to ethnicity and there are currently 149 credit unions with an estimated 400,000 members.
The UN General Assembly declared 2012 the International Year of Cooperatives, in recognition of the contribution of cooperatives to socio-economic development, especially with regard to poverty reduction, employment generation and social integration. The objectives of the year are to: expand public awareness of the role of cooperatives, particularly in relation to the fulfilment of internationally agreed development goals, such as the MDGs; encourage the growth of cooperatives worldwide; and establish a policy and legal environment conducive to the strength and stability of the cooperative movement.
2nd Intersessional Meeting of Rio+20 was held in New York on 15-16 December
“Let us not for a moment lose sight of the gravity of the task before us. There are high expectations for Rio+20. We must resolve to deliver. Failure is not an option. At Rio+20 we must chart a clear course to the future we want,” said Rio+20 Conference Secretary-General and DESA’s Under-Secretary-General Sha Zukang as the 2nd Intersessional Meeting of Rio+20 opened.
The two day meeting focused on the compilation document and the structure and format of the outcome document. The first day, participants discussed “Compilation document: comments and guidance for the zero draft outcome document,” and on the second day, they addressed “Structure and format of the zero draft of the outcome document.”
At the opening session, Conference Secretary-General Sha Zukang introduced the compilation document to delegates, which was followed by statements from political groups including the European Union and the Group of 77 and China.
Based on a call for submissions to contributions to the compilation document, with the 1 November 2011 deadline, Members States and other stakeholders submitted over 672 contributions to this process. These will serve as a basis for the preparation of zero draft outcome document.
“We need to decide how ambitious we want to be at Rio. The Secretary-General and I have reiterated many times that for the United Nations this is a hugely important Conference. At stake is no less than the effectiveness of multilateralism in addressing humanity’s common future,” Mr. Sha stated further.
“We all know that we face huge sustainable development challenges in the coming decades. Thanks in no small part to Rio 1992, the international community has processes underway to address some of the most pressing challenges – the climate change, biodiversity and desertification conventions; the forest principles and the permanent forum on forests, to name a few.”
Mr. Sha urged for governments to be ambitious and to aim high at Rio+20. He also highlighted proposals made in the submissions, saying that “some common messages and common priorities are beginning to emerge.”
“One of the most interesting – and I dare say unanticipated – developments is the broad interest in measuring progress through a set of sustainable development goals (SDGs for short),” said Mr. Sha.
He also mentioned other priority issues with support including promoting sustainable consumption and production, energy for all, water, oceans, food security, sustainable agriculture, sustainable cities, green jobs, employment, social inclusion, disaster risk reduction, biodiversity and forests.
The Economic and Financial Committee (Second Committee), chaired by H.E. Mr. Abulkalam Abdul Momen of Bangladesh, held its 66th session from 16 September to 9 December
This year’s meeting focused on a range of macroeconomic policy questions and economic development issues, such as, financing for development, sustainable development, human settlements, poverty eradication, globalization and interdependence, operational activities for development, and information and communication technologies for development.
By the conclusion of this year’s session, the Second Committee approved a total of 46 draft resolutions. The approved texts confirmed the Committee’s resolve to address the global and financial economic crisis. Also, for the first time this year, the Committee had co-hosted two high-level joint events with the Economic and Social Council — one of which had featured Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz discussing the sovereign debt crisis.
The Committee had also given a strong signal to the Seventeenth Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20, through its agreement on a cluster of issues under the sustainable development cluster.
The Committee added the item “People’s empowerment and a peace-centric development model” to the agenda, recognizing the interconnection between development, peace, security, and human rights.
In accordance with the on-going process of revitalization of the General Assembly, the Second Committee is engaged in updating its working methods and practices in order to improve the quality of debates and the impact of their deliberations and decisions. As in previous sessions, the Committee held a dialogue with the Executive Secretaries of the Regional Commissions as well as schedule a number of side events as part of its programme of work.
The General Assembly held its fifth High-level Dialogue on Financing for Development in New York on 7-8 December
The overall theme of the meeting was “The Monterrey Consensus and Doha Declaration on Financing for Development: status of implementation and tasks ahead”. The event included a series of plenary meetings, three interactive multi-stakeholder round tables and an informal interactive dialogue of the whole.
The Acting President of the General Assembly opened the meeting, followed by the opening address by the Deputy Secretary-General and statement by the President of ECOSOC. Subsequently, in a series of plenary meetings, chaired by the Acting President of the General Assembly, on 7 December (morning and afternoon) and 8 December (morning), the heads of 55 delegations delivered formal statements.
On the second day, three multi-stakeholder round tables (morning) and an interactive dialogue (afternoon) were held as follows:
Round table 1: “The reform of the international monetary and financial system and its implications for development”;
Round table 2: “The impact of the world financial and economic crisis on foreign direct investment and other private flows, external debt and international trade”;
Round table 3: “The role of financial and technical development cooperation, including innovative sources of development finance, in leveraging the mobilization of domestic and international financial resources for development”;
An informal dialogue was also held on the theme “The link between financing for development and achieving the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals”.
Each of the four informal meetings, chaired by a Permanent Representative, featured presentations by 3-4 keynote speakers, followed by an interactive discussion. The main substantive points of the discussions, held during the plenary and informal meetings, were summarized in the concluding remarks by the Acting President of the General Assembly.
Overall, this fifth High-level Dialogue on FfD demonstrated renewed interest and commitment of Member States to the intergovernmental FfD follow-up process, including its strengthening, especially with the view of the post-2015 development framework. It was generally recognized that the Dialogue largely met its objective to reaffirm political commitment of the international community to the implementation of the agreements and commitments set out in the Monterrey Consensus and Doha Declaration on Financing for Development in the context of the continued crisis and uncertainty in the word economy.
Its outcome in the form of the summary by the President of the General Assembly will be issued as an official document and is expected to provide a substantive input into the preparations for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20).
The Year has included well over a thousand events worldwide, including conferences, publications, art and photo exhibits, field trips and contests
Many of the events have emphasized the year’s theme of “Forests for People,” conveying humanity’s reliance on forests for our well-being and survival. Indeed, the year has provided a means to bring the many voices of the forest sector together and build momentum towards future cooperation in sustainable forest management.
2011 Future Policy Award
Celebrating innovative policies was at the heart of one such event, which challenged policy makers to consider forests as providing better living conditions for present and future generations. For 2011 Future Policy Award, the World Future Council partnered with the UNFF Secretariat, the FAO and the CBD Secretariat to honour Rwanda’s National Forest Policy with the gold medal during a ceremony on 21 September.
The country implemented rigorous policies to foster biodiversity conservation, ecotourism, green jobs and increased forest cover by 37 percent, in spite of continued population and land pressures. The silver medal is shared by the USA’s Lacey Act with its amendment of 2008 and the Gambia’s Community Forest Policy, initiated in 1995.
“Governments are rarely acknowledged for effective policy and this is one instance in which instead of criticism, they were applauded for positive change,” said Ms. Jan Mc Alpine, Director of UNFF Secretariat.
Art, writing and video competitions highlighting the year’s underlying theme have presented valuable information and perspective on forests, creating an environment for dialogue and action. Notably, the call for improvement in our actions has been heeded by future generations of forest stewards in creative and thought-provoking ways.
International Letter Writing Competition
The 40th International Letter Writing Competition organized by the Universal Postal Union, prompted youth to imagine themselves as trees writing to people, advocating protection for the world’s forests and their natural resources. The UPU received more than 2 million letters written by children from 60 of its member countries. This year’s first place is shared by Charlée Gittens from Barbados and Wang Sa from China, for what jury members called “powerful” and “well crafted” compositions. Winners were awarded in their home countries on 9 October 2011 at ceremonies held in honour of World Post Day.
Children’s Art Contest celebrating forests
The Secretariat has also partnered with the Gabarron Foundation for the 2011 International Children’s Art Contest, a program of the Queen Sofia Children’s Art Museum in Spain. This year’s theme of “Celebrate the Forests” challenges kids between 5 and 14 years of age to use imagery to conjure the ecological services provided by forests. The initiative plays an important role in raising awareness from childhood, on the benefits and safeguarding of these valuable natural resources. Since November 2002, the Queen Sofia Children’s Art Museum has created a rich legacy, collecting more than 50,000 works of children’s art from all over the world. The contest will culminate with an awards ceremony and gala in New York in February 2012.
International Forest Film Festival
The first International Forest Film Festival, organized by Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival and the United Nations Forum on Forests Secretariat was announced in October 2010 and received over 165 submissions from more than 30 countries. Winners were selected across six categories, with “The Queen of Trees” taking the award for Best of Festival.
Book presenting articles of 75 authors published
The UNFF Secretariat collaborated with Tudor Rose publishing to produce a fully-illustrated book Forests for People. It offers articles from over 75 authors, many of them senior forest leaders and environmental ministers from around the world, relating their work in sustainable forest management. Their stories draw upon global experiences, reflecting how people are changing their interaction with forests to conserve and replenish its resources. The book will be available at the start of 2012.
The International Forest Heroes Programme and Awards
Worldwide, everyday people are sustainably managing natural resources in passionate, innovative and strategic ways. Pioneered by the UNFF Secretariat, the International Forest Heroes Programme and Awards honours and celebrates the efforts of “unsung” heroes dedicating their lives to nurturing forests.
Fifteen short-listed finalists were announced at Forest Day 5 alongside the UNFCC COP17 in Durban on 4 December. They were selected in a personal capacity by a jury panel consisting of Frances Seymour of Centre for International Forestry Research, Eduardo Rojas-Briales of the Food and Agriculture Organization, Jan A. Hartke of the Clinton Climate Initiative, Emmanuel Ze Meka of the International Tropical Timber Organization and Jan McAlpine of the UNFF Secretariat.
Short-listed finalists are listed in alphabetical order:
Africa: Million Belay (Ethiopia), Mphatheleni Makaulule (South Africa) and Paul Nzegha Mzeka (Cameroon)
Europe: Karl Peter Hasenkamp (Germany), Anatoly Lebedev (Russia) and Mika Vanhanen (Finland)
Latin America and Caribbean: Paulo Adario (Brazil), Monica Hinojosa (Ecuador) and Felipe Milanez (Brazil)
North America: Fred Pinto (Canada), Rhiannon Tomtishen (USA) and Madison Vorva (USA)
Winners from each region will be announced and awarded at the Forests 2011 closing ceremony in February 2012. Their stories and work will be featured on the Forest 2011 website to continue to inspire the work of current and future heroes.
None of these initiatives would have been possible without the support from the following donors: Austria, Croatia and Norway.