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Volume 15, No.11 - November 2011

Feature articles


Promoting peace, job creation and food security

Promoting peace, job creation and food security

The General Assembly’s Second Committee has many pressing issues to address this fall including poverty eradication, agriculture development and energy efficiency. A new agenda item on “People’s empowerment and a peace-centric development model” has also been introduced. DESA News spoke with Ambassador Abulkalam Abdul Momen, who leads this important work.

On 3 October, Ambassador Momen opened his first official meeting as the Chair of the Economic and Financial Committee, also known as the Second Committee. Pleased with the way the work has started and with a very optimistic outlook, Ambassador Momen shares his thoughts on the tasks ahead this fall. He highlights sustainable development and the Monterrey Consensus as some of the areas where he would like to see more consensus and talks about expected resolutions on price volatility, transition of landlocked countries and on coral reefs. He also gives praise to the Member States for their inventiveness when they addressed critical issues during the general debate.

The Committee addresses many important issues including macroeconomic policy questions, IT for development, food security and sustainable development; is there any matter that you see as more pressing and in need of more attention?

“We do discuss all of these issues. And in addition, we have a special focus this fall on the LDC-IV follow up and on Rio+20. There is also a new item this year on “People’s empowerment: A Peace model”. Critical for people’s empowerment is their participation in governance, to eliminate poverty and hunger and empower them with jobs and education. If we can empower people, they will be capable of making decisions that will bring lasting peace and prosperity. We will also need to include ‘the excluded’, to eliminate all forms of discrimination, provide education, enhance manpower development and to end terrorism in all forms.”

Are you pleased with the way the work of the Committee has started?

“Yes, I am very pleased with the work and it started smoothly due to very good consensus and understanding within the Bureau members and of course, the Secretariat.”

What did you think about the general debate and the issues addressed by Member States?

“I was very impressed. The representatives are addressing many relevant issues and I have also noted that they are coming up with new ideas and innovative ways to address critical issues and challenges, for example on the financing of LDC IV program of action and escalation of food prices.”

Are there any particular issues where you want to see more consensus among Member States?

“I would love to see more consensus, specifically on sustainable development. Creating a sustainable institutional framework would enable us to move forward in a cohesive way to achieving sustainable development goals through building blocks and bridges. The commitments that have been made over the years need to be materialized on the ground and these are the ‘building blocks’ essential for sustainable development. There has to be consensus on a holistic approach between the major pillars of sustainable development like (1) economic sustainability, (2) environmental sustainability and (3) social sustainability. Secondly, on the LDC-IV follow up, I want continuous monitoring and follow up. Thirdly, and long overdue, is a framework for monitoring and following up on the Monterrey Consensus.”

What do you see as the main challenges for the Committee and its work this session?

“Reaching consensus on the Monterrey framework, COP 17 and getting a legally binding agreement on climate issues. Transfer of technology is also a challenge and how we can pass this on from the private sector to the Least Developed Countries.”

Sustainable Development; promotion of new and renewable sources of energy; green economy – are all matters of high priority. Can we expect that the work of the Committee will help push these matters forward?

“We are working towards pushing these matters forward. We have many resolutions coming up including on price volatility, transition of landlocked countries, COP 17 and a new resolution on coral reefs. There will also be a new resolution on agricultural development and people’s empowerment. It is also interesting that we are working with ECOSOC on ‘brainstorming job-rich growth model for development’ and cyber crime prevention. This is the first time that the Second Committee and ECOSOC are jointly arranging a Special event on the ‘current global economic challenges’.”

Other important items before the Committee under “Sustainable Development” include “International Strategy for Disaster Reduction” and “Protection of global climate for present and future generations of humankind”; what outcomes can the international community hope for?

“I am always an optimist. I have no doubt that humanity can meet these challenges. We need to keep the general public aware of these issues. There are also some misconceptions about the scientific findings on climate change and a need to get the facts right. We will work more towards facing these challenges together and on raising public awareness.”

How will the Committee assist in the preparations for Rio+20?

“We are very much involved. The Committee works with others to minimize duplicity. We welcome the Secretary General’s High-powered panel on Global Sustainability and look forward to their recommendations and focus.”

How far have we come in implementing what was decided at the UN Conference on Financing for Development in Monterrey 2002; and in Doha 2008 respectively?

“Much more is needed. These are critical issues. Other issues are lagging behind because of this. Without adequate, predictable and timely financing, many programs and goals will remain unimplemented. If we fail to implement, we may lose credibility. Implementation is very important. ”

There are a number of side events arranged by the Committee; can you highlight some of them?

“We are organizing Special events in six areas; (1) Alternative development strategies for job creation; (2) Financing for development; (3) The follow-up to the LDC IV Conference; (4) Peoples-empowerment: a Peace Model for sustainable development; (5) Food and energy security and energy efficiency; and (6) Means of implementation for sustainable development. We are also organizing together with ECOSOC a joint panel discussion for the first time in history on ‘Investing in productive capacities for job-rich growth’.

Although GDP growth rates in many countries are relatively comfortable and the profit margin for a few sectors, for example, in the USA is very lucrative, unfortunately not that many jobs are being created. We therefore want to have a brainstorming session on job-rich growth model. During the current economic and financial crises, one after another, many traditional global leaders and leaders of international financial institutions, however, remained rather quiet and they failed to come up with effective policy prescription either to enhance or regain global confidence or to guide them with a roadmap. Therefore, it created a vacuum and the UN and ECOSOC should come forward to take up these challenges and enhance global confidence. Secondly, without implementation of internationally agreed programs and goals on the ground, we cannot achieve goals neither can we enhance hopes and dreams of teeming millions. To implement programs and goals, in addition to leadership commitment and hard work, we need adequate, predictable and timely financing. As to how to get there, we are organizing these brainstorming events.”

Having served as the Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the UN since 2009 and also as the President of the UNICEF Executive Board in 2010, Ambassador Momen has a diverse background within the economic and business fields with a Doctor’s degree from Northeastern University and three Master’s degrees from Harvard, Northeastern and Dhaka Universities besides a Law degree. He has chaired the Department of Economics and Business Administration at Framingham State University, served as Expert Economic Adviser to the Saudi Industrial Development Fund (SIDF), Ministry of Finance and National Economy, and held a number of positions within the Government of Bangladesh.

For more information: Economic and Financial Committee (Second Committee): http://www.un.org/en/ga/second/index.shtml

Biographical note on Ambassador Momen: http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2011/bio4320.doc.htm

Online community welcomes UN DESA

Online community welcomes UN DESA

On 24 October, UN DESA officially launched its presence in social media. Pouring in from across the globe including India, Australia, Iran, Italy, USA and Sudan, the response has been very positive. “We are honored to work with you and know that only together can we truly change anything,” stated one NGO working to eradicate poverty through education. Another Facebook user in Nigeria commented, “this is simply good.”

Whether you want to browse the latest economic reports; access MDGs statistics; show your support for Rio+20; know more about the rights of persons with disabilities; youth employment; public service awards or where fertility peaks in the world, UN DESA is the online hub to visit.

Online users can now like UN DESA on Facebook, follow the work of the department on Twitter and access a wealth of information on the department’s Slideshare platform.

“We look forward to sharing our knowledge and our work with you in this new and interactive platform,” said Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs and Secretary-General of the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), in a welcome message on UN DESA’s Facebook page.

With the ambition to raise awareness and showcase the expertise of its divisions, the launch was kicked-off with a 10-day special highlighting each of the teams within UN DESA that make this extensive work happen. This 10-day special will run through 4 November on Facebook and Twitter.

In the long term, the department hopes to add value to online communities, to facilitate knowledge transfer and exchange and to enable the world community to make informed decisions in the field of economic and social affairs.

So far, UN DESA’s social media presence has been appreciated by a variety of online communities from around the world. Since its launch, the group of people who have joined the department on Facebook, or are following UN DESA on Twitter, has increased considerably.

“Thank you for creating this community. I think it will prove to be a wonderful foundation,” said one of the new members of UN DESA’s online Facebook community.

Like UN DESA on Facebook

Follow the department on Twitter

Access a wealth of information on Slideshare

Nobel Laureate briefs about world economy and debt crisis

“The economic challenges are great. And the policy frameworks responding to these economic challenges are not up to the mark. In fact, in many countries, they are going in the wrong direction,” said Joseph Stiglitz, recipient of the 2001 Nobel Prize in Economics as he briefed a meeting held by the Second Committee and ECOSOC on 24 October.

Professor Stiglitz shared his fairly pessimistic view about the global economy and he also explained some of the outcomes of the crisis. “One of the big changes that have emerged in the aftermath of the crisis is the recognition by the IMF that under certain circumstances capital controls are a good thing. A position that the UN has taken and that I took when I was at the World Bank a decade ago. Now it seems to have become part of the conventional wisdom,” he said.

“The global economic situation and sovereign debt crisis” was the theme of the meeting organized by DESA’s Development Policy Analysis Division and the Office for ECOSOC Support and Coordination in cooperation with Project LINK –– Expert Group Meeting of DESA on the World Economy.

To view the presentation by Professor Joseph Stiglitz: http://www.unmultimedia.org/tv/webcast/2011/10/professor-joseph-stiglitz-the-global-economic-situation-and-sovereign-debt-crisis-2.html

For the entire meeting: http://www.unmultimedia.org/tv/webcast/2011/10/professor-joseph-stiglitz-the-global-economic-situation-and-sovereign-debt-crisis.html

UN News story on the meeting:
http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=40181&Cr=financial+crisis&Cr1