Volume 17, No.07 - July 2013

Feature articles

Innovation at the heart of ECOSOC

Photo: © UNICEF/Michael KavanaghThe 2013 High-level Segment of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) is taking place on 1-4 July in Geneva. The Secretary-General’s report emphasizes that science, technology, innovation and culture are critical to the achievement of the MDGs and a successful transition to sustainable development. A Thunderclap campaign running since April has helped youth bring their voices to the world’s leaders.

As the participants of the 2013 High-level Segment of ECOSOC were getting ready in Geneva last week, hundreds of Twitter users were signing-up to share a special tweet with all their followers on 1 July. This campaign, called “Thunderclap” aimed at bringing youth voices to the ECOSOC high-level segment.

“Investing in youth will enable us to solve sustainable development challenges such as poor education, lack of access to health care, high unemployment, violence, conflicts and extremism. This involves reaching out, listening to and learning from young people”, said Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in a video message to promote the campaign, a week before the opening of the High-Level Segment.

With a call to “Innovate your Future”, young people have been encouraged to sustain the planet and ask the world leaders at ECOSOC to help. By sharing a single tweet, Twitter users from all over the world and from all backgrounds showed their support to empower youth. “At the United Nations, we believe that young people have the energy and ideas we need to change the world”, added the Secretary-General in his message.

Science, technology, innovation and culture for sustainable development

The ECOSOC Substantive Session is taking place from 1 to 25 July. It is divided in 5 Segments, a High-level Segment, which opens the session during the first week, a Coordination Segment, an Operational Activities Segment, a Humanitarian affairs Segment and a General Segment.

As part of the High-Level Segment, the theme of this year’s Annual Ministerial Review (AMR) is “Science, technology and innovation (STI) and culture for promoting sustainable development and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.” These fields are presented as enablers for sustainable development and important elements of the post-2015 development agenda.

STI and culture significantly impact each of the three pillars of sustainable development – economic, social and environmental. STI drives the dynamic transformation of economies through productivity growth, which influences economic growth. Over time, economic growth fueled by innovations in science and technology can increase social cohesion, stability, and democratic governance while also increasing energy efficiency, reducing waste, mitigating climate change and embarking on sustainable development pathways. Culturally-based, local and indigenous knowledge as well as skills and endogenous know-how are core resources for coping with climate change, preventing biodiversity loss and ensuring environmental sustainability.

Five regions to report on Innovation for Development

The High-Level Segment will benefit from the reports of five regional consultations conducted in preparation for the AMR in Western Asia, Latin, Asia and the Pacific, Africa and Europe, all focusing on Science and Technology for Development.

The High-level Segment will also include National Voluntary Presentations from France, Nigeria, Peru, Thailand and Viet Nam, who will showcase their national reports on STI and culture and their experiences in promoting sustainable development and achieving the MDGs. It will also host several panel discussions and a thematic debate on the contribution of the Economic and Social Council to the elaboration of a Post-2015 development agenda.

The High-Level Segment will be opened by H.E. Mr. Néstor Osorio, President of ECOSOC. Also addressing the Council during its opening ceremony will be Mr. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General, H.E. Mr. Vuk Jeremić, President of the General Assembly, and H.E. Mr. Ueli Maurer, President of the Swiss Confederation 

Coordination to promote employment and decent work for all

Organized on 5-9 July, the Coordination Segment will focus on following up to the 2012 Ministerial Declaration on “Promoting productive capacity, employment and decent work to eradicate poverty in the context of inclusive, sustainable and equitable economic growth at all levels for achieving the Millennium Development Goals” and to the International Conference on Financing for Development.

There will be a dialogue with the executive secretaries of the regional commissions on the theme of “Regional perspectives on the post-2105 development agenda”. In addition, the annual overview report of the UN system Chief Executive Board for Coordination (CEB) will be presented to the Council. The Secretary-General’s report on “the role of the United Nations system in promoting productive capacity, employment and decent work to eradicate poverty in the context of inclusive, sustainable and equitable economic growth at all levels for achieving the Millennium Development Goals” will provide the background analysis for the debate. In addition, the Segment will also feature a session on financing for development.

A resolution to monitor and implement the QCPR

The Operational Activities Segment, hold from 10-12 July, will focus on progress in implementing the General Assembly 67/226 resolution on the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review of UN system’s operational activities (QCPR). The resolution adopts several important reforms measures with an aim to enhance the relevance, coherence, effectiveness and efficiency of UN operational activities for development.

The reports of the Secretary-General show that the UN system has taken some action in implementing the QCPR resolution. At the same time, some time-bound reform measures require urgent action. In particular, the UN development system needs to advance vigorously on several fronts, in particular harmonization of rules and regulations that govern business operations. At the end of the segment, a resolution is expected to be adopted which will provide further guidance on the monitoring and implementation of the resolution.

A Humanitarian Fair 

The Humanitarian Affairs Segment (15-17 July) provides an essential forum where Member States, humanitarian organizations and other relevant counterparts discuss the challenges, opportunities and activities related to the strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations. The theme this Segment will be “The future of humanitarian affairs: towards greater inclusiveness, coordination, interoperability and effectiveness”; and it will convene two panel discussions. 

The first panel discussion will focus on how humanitarian and development actors must work in ways that seek to reduce and manage the risks posed to people and communities vulnerable to humanitarian crises and the impacts of global challenges. The panel on “Promoting humanitarian innovation for improved response” will focus on how the humanitarian system can create an enabling environment for innovation and how it can ensure the identification and integration of innovations that address operational challenges and opportunities. 

For the first time this year, a Humanitarian Fair will showcase, in the corridors of the Palais des Nations, how innovation can contribute to humanitarian response in more than 20 booths from various UN and NGO partners, representatives of the civil society, as well as regional organizations and the private sector.

General Segment to review reports of subsidiary bodies

At the General Segment (18-25 July), 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 and a report of the Secretary General on South Sudan.

A number of system-wide thematic issues will be reviewed, among them, the mainstreaming of a gender perspective into all policies and programmes in the UN system, the Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the report of the UN inter-agency task force on tobacco control.   


For more information: 

High-level Segment:
Coordination Segment:
Operational Activities Segment:
Humanitarian Affairs Segment:
General Segment:


The world is making big strides towards achieving the MDGs

UN Photo

Several important targets of the Millennium Development Goals have or will be met by the 2015 deadline, but progress in many areas is far from sufficient, according to this year’s Millennium Development Goals Report launched today by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

“The Millennium Development Goals have been the most successful global anti-poverty push in history,” Mr. Ban said. “The MDGs have proven that focused global development objectives can make a profound difference.” The eight goals were agreed by all countries as an outgrowth of the UN Millennium Summit in 2000. 

The analysis in this report, based on a wide range of statistics, shows that the actions of national governments, the international community, civil society and the private sector are coalescing in the achievement of many of the MDGs. At the same time, many items on the agenda remain incomplete. Redoubled efforts are urgently needed, in particular in regions most behind to jumpstart advancement and achieve maximum gains. The report also reveals that our attention needs to focus on disparities across geographical areas and social groups. The results of this report give us a clear indication where our efforts must be directed in the days remaining before the 2015 deadline. 

The Millennium Development Goals Report is an annual assessment of global and regional progress towards the Goals. It is produced by the Statistics Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs and reflects the most comprehensive, up-to-date data and analysis compiled by over 27 UN and international agencies.

Important MDG targets already met or within close reach

The proportion of people living in extreme poverty has been halved at the global level and the world reached the poverty reduction target five years ahead of schedule. About 700 million fewer people lived in conditions of extreme poverty in 2010 than in 1990. Also, MDG drinking water target was met five years ahead of the target date with over 2 billion people having gained access to improved sources of drinking water since 1990.  

Over 200 million slum dwellers benefitted from improved water sources, sanitation facilities, durable housing or sufficient living space between 2000 and 2010, thereby exceeding the 100 million MDG target. Given reinvigorated efforts, the target of halving the percentage of people suffering from hunger by 2015 appears to be within reach. 

Remarkable gains have also been made in the fight against malaria and tuberculosis. Mortality rates from malaria fell by more than 25 per cent globally between 2000 and 2010. Between 1995 and 2011, a cumulative total of 51 million tuberculosis patients were successfully treated, saving 20 million lives. 

Accelerated progress and bolder action needed in many areas 

Environmental sustainability is under severe threat, demanding a new level of global cooperation: The growth in global greenhouse gases is accelerating, and emissions of carbon dioxide today are more than 46 per cent higher than their 1990 level. Forests continue to be lost at an alarming rate. Overexploitation of marine fish stocks is resulting in diminished yields. More of the earth’s land and marine areas are under protection, but birds, mammals and other species are heading for extinction at an ever faster rate, with declines in both populations and distribution.

 Worldwide, the mortality rate for children under five dropped by 41 per cent—from 87 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 51 in 2011. Despite this enormous accomplishment, more rapid progress is needed to meet the 2015 target of a two-thirds reduction in child deaths. Most maternal deaths are preventable, but progress in this area is falling short. Globally, the maternal mortality ratio declined by 47 per cent over the last two decades, from 400 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births to 210 between 1990 and 2010. Meeting the MDG target of reducing the ratio by three quarters will require accelerated interventions and stronger political backing for women and children.

Also in other areas progress has not been sufficient: Access to antiretroviral therapy and knowledge about HIV prevention must expand. In 2011, 57 millions primary school age children were still denied their right to primary education. From 1990 to 2011, 1.9 billion people gained access to a latrine, flush toilet or other improved sanitation facility but more rapid progress is needed to meet the MDG sanitation target. 

A low debt burden and an improved climate for trade are levelling the playing field for developing countries. However, there is less aid money overall, with the poorest countries most adversely affected. In 2012, bilateral official development assistance to least developed countries fell by 13 per cent, to about $26 billion. 

Global attention needs to focus on disparities 

Progress towards the eight MDGs has been uneven – not only among regions and countries, but also between rural and urban areas, men and women, and among other population groups within countries. In 2011, only 53 per cent of births in rural areas were attended by skilled health personnel, versus 84 per cent in urban areas. Eighty-three per cent of the population without access to an improved drinking water source live in rural communities. Also, gender-based inequalities in decision-making power persist. 

Creating a stable foundation for future development action 

The United Nations is working with governments, civil society and other partners to build on the momentum generated by the MDGs, to craft an ambitious, yet realistic, post-2015 agenda. A successful conclusion to the MDGs will be an important building block for a successor development agenda, and volumes of experience and lessons learned from the MDGs will benefit prospects for continued progress. 

“Through accelerated action, the world can achieve the MDGs and generate momentum for an ambitious and inspiring post-2015 development framework,” Mr. Ban said. “Now is the time to step up our efforts to build a more just, secure and sustainable future for all.” 

For more information: 

United Nations Millennium Development Goals Indicators (‎)
United Nations Millennium Development Goals (

Counting 9.6 billion humans on earth by 2050

The current world population of 7.2 billion is projected to increase by 1 billion over the next 12 years and reach 9.6 billion by 2050, according to a report launched by DESA’s Population Division in June. The report points out that growth will be mainly in developing countries, with more than half in Africa. Watch our interview with John Wilmoth, Director of the Population Division, who gives us some insights about the last figures available.

In our video interview, John Wilmoth is highlighting the most surprising findings of this report, mainly focused on fertility rates, on how to cope with the lack of registry systems in developing countries, and on the challenges induced by the global increase of life expectancy.

The report, World Population Prospects: the 2012 Revision, notes that the population of developed regions will remain largely unchanged at around 1.3 billion from now until 2050. In contrast, the 49 least developed countries are projected to double in size from around 900 million people in 2013 to 1.8 billion in 2050.

“Although population growth has slowed for the world as a whole, this report reminds us that some developing countries, especially in Africa, are still growing rapidly,” said the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Wu Hongbo in a press release on the report in June.

New information available

Compared to previous assessments of world population trends, the new projected total population is higher, mainly due to new information obtained on fertility levels of certain countries. For example, in 15 high-fertility countries of sub-Saharan Africa, the estimated average number of children per woman has been adjusted upwards by more than 5 per cent.

“In some cases, the actual level of fertility appears to have risen in recent years; in other cases, the previous estimate was too low,” said the Director of the Population Division in the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs, John Wilmoth, during a press conference in New York.

“While there has been a rapid fall in the average number of children per woman in large developing countries such as China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Brazil and South Africa […] rapid growth is expected to continue over the next few decades in countries with high levels of fertility such as Nigeria, Niger, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia and Uganda but also Afghanistan and Timor-Leste, where there are more than five children per woman.”

Mr. Wilmoth added that changes in fertility rates over the next few decades could have major consequence for population size, structure and distribution in the long run.

China’s population to start decreasing

The report notes that India is expected to become the world’s largest country, passing China around 2028, when both countries will have populations of 1.45 billion. After that, India’s population will continue to grow and China’s is expected to start decreasing. Meanwhile, Nigeria’s population is expected to surpass that of the United States before 2050.

Europe’s population is projected to decline by 14 per cent, the report states, and Mr. Wilmoth warned that the continent is already facing challenges in providing care and support for a rapidly aging population.

82 years average life expectancy by 2100

Overall, life expectancy is projected to increase in developed and developing countries in future years. At the global level, it is projected to reach 76 years in the period 2045-2050 and 82 years in 2095-2100. By the end of the century, people in developed countries could live on average around 89 years, compared to about 81 years in developing regions.

The report’s figures are based on a comprehensive review of available demographic data from 233 countries and areas around the world, including the 2010 round of population censuses.

Source: UN News/DESA

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