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Volume 16, No.04 - April 2012

Feature articles


“We hope 120 heads of state and Government in Rio”

"We hope 120 heads of state and Government in Rio"

March was a milestone in the countdown to Rio+20 while we crossed the cape and threshold of 100 days before the Conference. This is also when negotiations have really intensified on the Zero Draft of the Rio+20 Outcome Document released in January, based on 6000 pages of input from various stakeholders.

Rio+20 Secretary-General Sha Zukang went to Brazil in early March to discuss logistical and substantive aspects with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Environment and other officials involved with the Rio+20 preparation.  He addressed the Senate and the Brazilian Commission for Rio+20 (set-up to coordinate the conference in the Host Country).  In a statement, Mr. Sha summarized his expectations for the Rio+20’s successful outcomes in June: 

“We hope over 120 heads of State and Government will attend.

We hope the Conference will adopt a focused political document, building on the Rio Principles, Agenda 21 and Johannesburg Plan of Implementation.

We hope to see specific commitments and initiatives for achieving coherence, integration, but in particular implementation.  Rio+20 will define the action and implementation agenda for the next 10 or 20 years.

We hope to see innovative partnerships launched by Member States, the UN system, business and other sectors of civil society.”

Later in March, the Zero Draft was negotiated in detail at the United Nations Headquarters by Government representatives with the participation of the Major Groups (totaling over a thousand stakeholders).  This marathon of talks began with a round of informal-informal consultations in the week of 19 March, and continued in the framework of the Third Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference on 26-27 March. A fairly high number of changes were proposed that significantly expanded the draft Rio+20 Outcome Document. 

At the end of the session, Mr. Sha commended the participants: “Your dedication shows to the world how much you care about this conference, and about the opportunity it brings. There is no doubt that you want to make the best of Rio+20 and ensure that world leaders renew political commitment at Rio.” He mentioned upcoming challenges on the road to Rio: “Looking ahead, I am also keenly aware of the complexities of the negotiations yet to come. It will be an arduous process. The compilation text is long; the days of negotiations are limited.” 

The next negotiating round will be held in New York from 23 April to 4 May. By then, meetings will be held with key country groupings in order to streamline the text.

In the next weeks, the communications campaign “The Future We Want” will intensify and the Rio+20 website exceeded the milestone of one million visitors on 23 March.

For more information:
100 Day Countdown to Rio �
Zero draft of the outcome document �
Rio+20 website �
Brazilian Commission for Rio+20

Empowering local governance for global development

Empowering local governance for global development

Achieving effective outcomes in local public administration has become increasingly challenging due to ever more complex and unpredictable environment in which governments operate, often with insufficient resources. The focus of  the eleventh annual session of the Committee of Experts on Public Administration (CEPA) will be on local government strategies for more results-oriented public governance.

The goal of this session is to assist stakeholders developing public service capacity building for local-level development, as well as increase transparency, accountability and citizens’ engagement.  In the second year of its multi-year agenda of “Public Governance for Results”, the theme of this session  is “Local public governance and administration for results”. It will be held from 16-20 April 2012.

Intergovernmental Governance and Regimes

What must be met in order to make the most of representative democracy at the local level? A report by Jan Ziekow, a member of CEPA, indicates that “the position of representative democracy at the local level is, in this respect, more difficult than representation at the national level. At such higher levels, interconnections and interdependencies are not as closely knit as for local representatives. The status given to representative democracy at the local level in a particular national context depends very much on culture, tradition, values, social structure, and legal and administration systems and thus it varies greatly.”

The report suggests that a careful balance of the competencies of local authorities and administrations together with a carefully balanced decoupling of local councils from state institutions grants legitimacy, financial power and autonomous self-government to municipalities. It also suggests that a representative democracy that relies solely on institutions legitimized by elections is under constant pressure of proving its legitimacy.

Public Service Capacity Building for Local-level Development

A case study of the Singapore Public Service reveals that “Singapore faced dire economic challenges at its birth as an independent State. The city-State lacked a hinterland it could exploit, and its historical role as an entrepôt was being threatened by its neighbours’ nationalistic economic policies. The country needed to create jobs. Given those challenges, it is understandable that the foremost priority of the Singapore Public Service was to pursue economic growth for the nation.

The Public Service indubitably achieved its mission. Per capita income trebled between 1965 and 1977. By the mid-1970s, the problem of high unemployment had transformed into the challenge of full employment. Singapore is, today, globally renowned for being a wealthy city-State with an excellent public education system, efficient public transport, safe streets and a highly capable and honest bureaucracy.”

Singapore managed to do this by basing their approach to governance on six principles: pragmatism, the avoidance of welfarism, constant re-evaluation, holistic approach to government, honesty, and development of human capital in the public sector.

Transparency, Accountability, and Citizens’ Engagement

Economics is no longer the sole factor to be considered in measuring progress towards development: “This twenty-first century has seen something that is genuinely new: the globalization of values. There is a growing awareness that the problems are global and that on issues such as drinking water, environment, non-renewable resources, endemic diseases, climate change, biotechnologies and health and food security, all countries are affected and the solutions require new forms of worldwide coordination,” argues Ms. Oyhanarte in her report.

“Major development assistance decisions are still based primarily on macroeconomics, but national per capita production is no longer the sole factor to be considered in measuring progress towards development.”

Citizen’s engagement – orderly, concerted action by individuals and organizations – is considered to be one of the best local development management tools. However, to be effective, transparency and access to information have to be in place.

The knowledge of good practices in transparency and citizen’s engagement can be used as a model for the development of joint management and multi-stakeholder partnerships. This creates a network of stakeholders and has a positive impact on the drafting of a public agenda that gives priority to the MDG’s post 2015.

For more information: CEPA 11th Session

Promoting youth employment

As part of the preparatory process for the 2012 Annual Ministerial Review (AMR), The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) organised an exclusive event on 27 February 2012  in New York: “Breaking new ground: Partnerships for more and better jobs for young people”. “Youth joblessness leaves a deep scar that persists well into middle age. It is time for policy makers to become more focused on the structures that perpetuate unemployment.

Governments must open up labour markets that lock out younger workers. They should also strengthen human capital, in particular through education. We don’t have a moment to lose. We have a world to gain.”, said Deputy Secretary-General, Dr. Asha-Rose Migiro, in her opening remarks at the ECOSOC exclusive event, organised in cooperation with the International Labour Organization (ILO), United Nations Office for Partnerships (UNOP) and the United Nations Global Compact.

After an opening plenary, two leadership dialogues took place, on “Innovations in promoting youth employment” and “Building new business models for youth employment”.

The goal of this session was to strengthen the partnership between governments, the private sector and the philanthropic community in advancing youth employment and decent work. The themes explored included issues affecting policy setting for youth employment and innovations for promoting youth employment. The outcome of the deliberations will be submitted to the United Nations Member States during the Economic and Social Council’s High-level session in July 2012.

More information:
Issue Note

The event website: “Breaking new ground: Partnerships for more and better jobs for young people