Volume 15, No.12 - December 2011

Trends and analysis

Strengthening processes for national voluntary presentations

Expert Group Meeting on Strengthening the NVP Process through the Development of an Analytical Framework and Regional Knowledge Networks (RKN) is taking place in New York on 30 November and 1 December

The Office for ECOSOC Support and Coordination (OESC) of DESA will convene this meeting, bringing together experts and policymakers from the NVP community, as well as representatives from governments, civil society, UN regional commissions, and other UN agencies and organizations.

The purpose is to develop and propose a standardized analytical framework for the NVP; discuss implementation arrangements to establish regional knowledge networks in Africa, Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Western Asia; strengthen capacity for NVP review and follow-up; and make recommendations to UNDESA on proposals for an NVP analytical framework and establishing Regional Knowledge Networks (RKN).

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Reviewing development goals performance

Regional consultation for Asia and the Pacific in support of the ECOSOC Annual Ministerial Review (AMR), is being arranged in Kyoto, Japan on 7 December 

OESC is organizing this first regional consultation in preparation for the 2012 AMR, with the objective of undertaking a review of the overall performance of the region in achieving the development goals related to productive capacity and employment (2012 AMR theme).  

Additionally, the consultation will support preparations for and enable countries to engage at an early stage in the process leading to the AMR session to be held during the ECOSOC high-level segment in New York, in July 2012.

The consultation will support the global review by focusing on aspects that could foster productive capacity and employment in the countries of the region. The outcome of this review would contribute to the analysis in support the Council’s deliberations in July, and would also feed into the preparation of the Secretary General’s report on the AMR theme.

The meeting is being held in collaboration with ILO and UNESCAP, in tandem with the ILO Regional Meeting which is taking place on 4-7 December.

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Workshop to prepare for the 2012 Annual Ministerial Review

Training workshop on productive capacity, employment and decent work, preparing for the 2012 Annual Ministerial Review (AMR), will be held in New York on 14 December

DESA’s Office for Economic and Social Council Support and Coordination (OESC) is organizing this training workshop for DESA staff, which will bring together experts from international organizations, academia, civil society, the private sector and foundations as resource persons.

The main objective of the workshop is to increase staff knowledge of challenges and policy options to accelerate progress towards the achievement of full and productive employment and decent work and sustained, inclusive and equitable growth and to identify key priorities to be addressed in all activities leading up to July 2012 ECOSOC substantive session.

The issues identified at the workshop will help define the focus of the different AMR preparatory events held at the global, regional and national levels. They will also serve as an important input to the report of the Secretary-General on this year’s theme, which will serve as a key input for the Ministerial Declaration to be adopted by ECOSOC at the high-level segment in July 2012.

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Ageing populations to be discussed

Expert Group Meeting on the National Transfer Account Manual: Strengthening Capacity in the Production and Use of NTAs will take place in Belo Horizonte, Brazil on 6-7 December

DESA’s Population Division is organizing the meeting in collaboration with ECLAC, ESCAP and ESCWA with the main objective to improve the production and use of national transfer accounts (NTA) by national policy analysts in developing countries.

This gathering of international experts will assess NTAs as a way of addressing the socio-economic consequences of changing population age structures.

The information produced will guide national policies adapt to the changing living conditions of different generational groups, including children and the elderly.  The participants will also provide feedback on the NTA manual contents for the final version.

The meeting will be held in conjunction with the 8th Annual Meeting on National Transfer Accounts to discuss intergenerational approaches to social and economic policy. 

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Meeting addresses mortality crises

On 14-15 November, experts gathered in New York to address the mortality crises associated with violence, natural disasters, famine and the growing burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs)

The main objective of the meeting was to review the state of the art in regard to evidence and understanding of crises that cause significant rises in mortality and to discuss how current knowledge on this issue could inform the preparation of mortality estimates.

Organized by the Population Division of UN DESA, the theme of the meeting was “Mortality Crises: Conflicts, Violence, Famine, Natural Disasters, and the Growing Burden of Non-communicable Diseases”. It brought together scholars from, among others, Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, the Harvard School of Public Health, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the London School of Economics, John Hopkins University, the International Rescue Committee, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization.

Challenges in collecting reliable data from areas in conflict and measuring mortality were addressed by  Prof. Greenough of the Harvard School of Public Health. Prof. Roberts of Columbia University focused on mortality caused by the conflict in Iraq. Mr. Brunborg from Statistics Norway presented the work carried out by statisticians working for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia to buttress the case of the prosecutors in proving the commission of genocide. Prof. Dyson of the London School of Economics talked about the effects of famines and underscored that they not only had an effect on mortality but were also related to major drops in the number of births.

Mr. Mathers of WHO presented a review of the approaches that WHO follows in integrating estimates of excess mortality associated with different crises into their overall mortality estimates. Mr. Pedersen, Research Director of FAFO, Norway, discussed the strengths and limitations of the methods presented.

The presentations were followed by a brainstorming session focusing on methodological issues whose purpose was to identify best practices and discuss whether the use of a harmonized approach was possible when the types of crises were so varied, their impact differed markedly not only between countries but also within national populations, and the nature and quality of the data available were also so different.

The major outcome of the brainstorming session was that more work was needed to assess the strengths of the approaches presented and reduce their limitations. A harmonized approach was not yet a possibility.

The meeting also focused on trends in mortality from non-communicable diseases and of the major risk factors associated with non-communicable diseases. Mr. Mathers presented the estimates currently available on trends in the major non-communicable diseases and the methodology used to assess attributable risk to the different causes of death.

There were separate presentations on the  impact of cigarette smoking on mortality trends and differentials by sex in developed countries; on the effects of body weight on survivorship, and on the impact of alcohol use. Special presentations on increasing body weight and its impact on disease prevalence in China and on the different countries of Latin America and the Caribbean followed.

A major finding was that the prevalence of cigarette smoking explains the relatively slow increase in life expectancy that has prevailed in the United States in relation to other European countries and that increases in cigarette smoking among women in the United States explain the declining differences between male and female life expectancy at age 50.

The prevalence of tobacco use is also the major cause of the differences in mortality trends by sex after age 50 among European countries. In the United States, the recent success in reducing cigarette smoking is expected to improve the survival chances of people over age 50 in the next few decades.

With respect to body weight, the data presented showed that obesity was associated with higher prevalence of non-communicable disease, especially diabetes. The evidence also showed that higher mortality was associated with underweight. The lowest levels of risk of disease and death were found among the overweight, that is, the category of people with a body mass index in the category just above that considered normal.

These findings imply that there is more uncertainty about the effect that the increasing levels of body mass in developing countries may have on future mortality than there is in ascertaining the detrimental effect on survival of the increasing proportions of people in middle income countries who smoke.

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New revision of the UN Model Double Taxation Convention adopted

Following five days of intense negotiations in Geneva at the end of October, the Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters adopted the 2011 Update of the UN Model Double Taxation Convention between Developed and Developing Countries

This culminated the work of the Committee over the past 10 years, since the last update of the UN Model in 2001.

This new revision of the UN Model has been long-awaited by the international community, especially by developing countries which seek assistance in negotiating modern bilateral double-tax treaties reflecting their current circumstances and policy priorities.

The UN Model Tax Convention, as well as the OECD Model Tax Convention have had a profound influence on international treaty practice. They form the basis for most of the treaties between countries, aiming at protecting taxpayers against double taxation, with a view to improving the flow of international trade and investment as well as the transfer of technology, while retaining appropriate taxing rights to Governments.

The particular aim of the UN Model is to facilitate entering of bilateral tax treaties by developing countries, which would contribute to attaining their development goals. The similarities between the models of the UN and OECD reflect the importance of achieving consistency, while the important areas of divergence reflect different memberships and priorities of the two organizations.

The UN Model generally preserves a greater share of tax revenue to the “source State”, the country where investment or other activity takes place. While the OECD Model preserves a greater share to the “residence State”, the country of the investor, trader, etc. The UN Model thus normally allows developing countries more taxing rights on income generated by foreign investments in these countries.

The main updates of the UN Model are: (1) it provides for mandatory binding arbitration (for countries wishing so) when a dispute cannot be resolved under the usual Mutual Agreement Procedure, (2) it confirms and clarifies the importance of exchange of information under the UN Model; (3) it provides the rules under which States may assist each other in tax collection; (4) it addresses possible tax evasion related to taxing capital gains; and (5) it deals with income from independent personal services in line with the OECD Model.

The Committee also addressed other important areas of its work, including the Practical Manual on Transfer Pricing for Developing Countries. The complete draft Manual is expected to be adopted at the 2012 session, providing much needed assistance to developing countries in practical application of the arm’s length principle.

It also discussed its future work, including the agenda for its 2012 session. It decided to devote substantial attention to the Manual on Transfer Pricing as well as the Manual for the Negotiation of Bilateral Tax Treaties. The Committee also decided to establish a Working Group on Tax-treaty Issues relating to Climate Change mechanisms, including Emissions Permits and Clean Development Mechanism credit. The next annual session will be held on 15-19 October 2012 in Geneva.

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