Volume 3, Issue 5 , October-November 1999

In this issue:

Summary of Economic, Social and Related Issues addressed in the Plenary General Debate
Statement of Mr. Desai to the Second Committee
Statement of Mr. Desai to the Third Committee
DESA Support to the General Assembly

General Assembly

Fifty-fourth session
14 September-23 December

Summary of Economic, Social and Related Issues
addressed in the Plenary General Debate

Economic and social issues were addressed by most Member States. Many speakers used this year's general debate to suggest a balance sheet of development and the United Nations' role in it in the second half of the century and to identify challenges for the new Millennium. At the same time, the urgency and concern that coloured the debate on economic and social issues last year were considerably more muted this time. There were no major new analyses of the situation, nor major new global initiatives.

The discussion mainly revolved around the issue of globalization , its impact and its policy implications. The great majority of speakers, in particular from developing countries, voiced their concerns and apprehensions about the phenomenon of globalization. The least developed countries are most marginalized, and the countries hit particularly hard by the financial crisis, expressed such concerns strongly. Other developing countries, that have been doing relatively well in the context of globalization, added their voices to the negative assessment of the current developments with regards to globalization. This reflected their feeling of lack of control over the "rules of the game" for the world economy. A new approach to dealing with the challenges of globalization B one based on democratic participation of all countries and on the basis of commonality of interests and partnership - was called for.

The debate on globalization also received a major impetus from the Secretary-General's opening statement, and many speakers explicitly referred to it in their statements. Most countries, irrespective of their views on the subject of the evolution of the concept of sovereignty, believed that "global problems need global solutions" and that some form of global governance needed to be introduced.

In this context, many speakers underscored that the UN was uniquely suited to develop a required framework of rules and standards. Nonetheless, the functioning of all multilateral institutions had to be reviewed to better reflect the new global realities, as well as the need for a democratisation of international governance. One of the major messages of the general debate was that "the time may have come to revisit the UN Agenda for Peace as well as the Agenda for Development to see where deficiencies lie and what could be done to remedy them" (G77). One of the proposed vehicles for such a review was a special international conference on economic globalization.

Another prominent idea for meeting the challenges of globalization was the strengthening of regional structures and enhancing regional cooperation.

In recent years, a major thrust of the debate on trade in the UN had been on the importance of market access and trade liberalization as a means also for developing countries to export and develop. This year, however, the debate highlighted the deep concern of many developing countries that they are too weak to take advantage of market opportunities. Therefore, these countries have somewhat mixed expectations with regard to the upcoming Seattle round of trade negotiations. While they hoped that the new round would bring further trade liberalization, in particular in areas of export interest for developing countries, many also warned that the WTO trade negotiations should not pressure premature liberalization in areas where developing countries are not able to complete. To bring benefits to the developing world, the round should recognize that developing countries need special and differentiated treatment and give special consideration to Africa, LDCs and small island developing states. In this regard, for many developing countries, full implementation of the Uruguay round is the overriding priority. Beyond this, there was a strong emphasis that the Seattle round of trade negotiations should develop a new development strategy and thus become a "development round".

External debt : There was a strong message that current debt relief initiatives do not go far enough, and that more needs to be done to relieve the debt burden of the poorest countries. Many developing countries called for cancelling the debt of LDCs and African countries in particular. Developed countries appeared more sympathetic than in the past to the need to find a permanent solution to the debt burden of the poorest countries. However, they still very much see the HIPC initiative as the main instrument in this regard.

The need to increase ODA and reach the agreed targets was again a major theme of the debate. The reversal of the decline of ODA in 1998 went largely unacknowledged, as were the statements of a few developed countries committing them to an increase of their ODA. At the same time, a number of donor countries did not address the topic of ODA at all.

Many hopes were expressed for the current General Assembly's work on finance for development . The G77 reiterated that they attach the greatest importance to holding an international conference on that topic, while developed countries reaffirmed their commitment to the Assembly's discussions.

Poverty eradication was characterized as the greatest unfinished task of the twentieth century. Eradicating poverty and hunger should become a primary task of the United Nations and, some argued, the principal criterion of the Organization's relevance and performance. It was pointed out that effectively promoting African development would go a long way towards eradicating poverty.

Gender issues and the upcoming Special Session (June 2000) were addressed by a number of speakers.

A major message of many interventions was the need to maintain the momentum of UN reform in order to adapt the Organization to the challenges of the 21st century and of globalization. The UN should strengthen its efforts in the economic and social area. ECOSOC was seen as a good forum for addressing globalization and a number of speakers called for its strengthening. Further efforts were needed to improve coordination within the UN system and to reduce overlap and duplication in the work of specialized agencies. The need for closer cooperation between the UN, the Bretton Woods and the WTO was stressed, albeit by fewer speakers than before, reflecting probably the progress in the collaboration of ECOSOC and the BWIs.

Environmental issues were addressed in fairly general terms. The commitment to sustainable development was reaffirmed, however, as was the fact that it is a shared responsibility of all states. Developed countries and small island states stressed the need for action by all countries to halt global climate change. The General Assembly could establish a consultative process to improve coordination and management of programmes for the protection of oceans and seas.

Speakers looked forward to the 2000 reviews of the World Social Summit and Conference on Women which would be an opportunity to renew commitments to gender equality and poverty eradication, as well as to reassess the situation and to take measures to reach agreed objectives.

General Assembly
Fifty-fourth session
14 September-23 December

Statement to the Second Committee
By Mr. Nitin Desai
Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs
6 October 1999

Mr. Chairman,

May I first begin by congratulating you and the members of the bureau on your election to the responsibility of managing this last Second Committee session of this millennium. We look forward to working very closely with you in ensuring that we have a satisfactory, satisfying and successful session of the Second Committee,

Mr. Chairman,

I want to use this opening statement at the Second Committee to try and place before you an assessment of the state of global development. The figures for the world economy over the past two years describe a period of a very significant setback to development. The figures are now widely known. The growth rate of global output has slowed down to around 2% and there are very few signs of it really picking up substantially in the immediate future. What is most important is that we recognize that much of this deceleration in growth has taken place in developing countries, where growth has dropped by more than half from over 5% in the 1991-1997 period to under 2% in 1998 with an expectation of it being a little over 2% in 1999. However, in these two years the two very large developing economies of China and India have maintained their growth impulses. If we adjust for this, what has taken place in the other developing countries is a truly severe cutback in growth. The number of countries with negative per capita growth has increased from 18 in 1997 to 40 in 1998. Look at it in terms of the impact on people. 1.2 billion people live in developing countries with negative per capita growth; the corresponding figure just two years ago, in 1996, was barely 160 million. It is clear from the numbers that this deceleration in growth has hit the developing countries much harder than the rest of the world.

The world also witnessed a slow-down in the growth of trade. World trade, which grew between 1991 and 1997 at around 7.5% in volume terms, will grow in volume terms at just around 3% in 1998 and 1999. For the first time since 1991, the dollar export earnings of the developing countries declined. A major reason for this decline was, of course, the very sharp drop in commodity prices. The fall in oil prices probably meant a loss of export earnings in the order of $50 billion to the oil exporters. The decline in commodity prices was not restricted to oil. Non-oil commodity prices also fell by around 12% with very severe cutbacks in export earnings, particularly in the commodity producing countries in Africa and amongst the least developed countries. And for the first time, in the post-war period, the share of primary commodities in world trade in terms of value fell below 20%.

If we look at financial flows, the net transfer of financial resources out of developing countries amounted to as much as $60 billion. What underlies this varies in terms of components. There was a welcome reversal of the trend towards declining ODA. In 1998, according to preliminary figures, ODA probably rose by around 9%. Foreign direct investment (FDI) flows declined, not as much as perhaps was expected last year, but certainly by around 5%. But the big change is in the private lending other than FDI to developing countries which in 1998 will be perhaps only about half what it was in 1997.

I stress this to emphasize the fact that even though the world economic situation looks more stable than it did when the Second Committee met last year, much of the stability has been at the price of the momentum of development in developing countries. In terms of the global economy, the recession, which was anticipated and feared last year, has not come to pass. The principle reason for this was the continued low inflationary growth of the U.S. economy. In some ways, that is also where the current risk factors lie.

In the World Economic and Social Survey , from which I have drawn much of the numbers that I have reported to you, we have projected certain scenarios. One of these is what would happen to the world economy if asset prices were to fall. There seems to be fairly widespread acceptance that the level of asset prices, particularly in financial markets, is exceptionally high and that some type of correction is possible. The Survey assesses the consequences of such a correction in asset prices, through its effect on consumer and business confidence, through the impact that lower wealth will have on spending and through its effect on monetary policy and the possible tightening of credit and interest rates. The numbers indicate that the effects of such a correction in asset prices would be quite substantial. We are talking in terms of global GDP growth dropping at least 1.7% over a two-year impact period.

This leads to a second factor which needs to be taken into account. There is a need to address the issue of how growth impulses can be more balanced across the industrial countries so that it has a positive impact on growth possibilities in the developing countries. The global economy depends on the demand impulses that come from the industrial countries, and so far, they have come mostly from one country, the United States. This leads to the concerns about the macro-economic situation in Europe and in Japan. There are welcome signs of Japanese recovery. One of the more positive assessments in the World Economic and Social Survey relates to expected gains in terms of growth if the Japanese recovery, indicated in the first part of 1999, is sustained over a longer period.

Mr. Chairman,

The issue we need to address in this Assembly is not necessarily that of fine-tuning the global macro-economic situation, but a deeper issue of how the global economy is managed. If we look at the evidence of the past two years, it is clear that the cost of slow down and disruption have been borne very largely by developing countries. We also know of many assessments made of the impact of the crisis within countries. These indicate that the impact of the crisis has been borne very largely by the poorer, less advantaged segments of the population.

Whether we look at it in terms of nations or in terms of groups within nations, the past years have shown that we have an economic system that is alert enough to protect the rich but very tardy in putting together measures and packages to protect the poor. This was true in the crisis affected countries, as well as the developing countries. The latter were in a sense the secondary victims of the financial crisis, hurt by falling commodity prices, changing export prospects, falling financial flows.

The economic system was very quick and alert when it came to rescuing a hedge fund where the minimum contribution required is a million dollars. The package was put together in days. But it has been very tardy in addressing the issue of the debt of low-income countries. The fact that an initiative like the HIPC initiative has taken so long to have an effect on the prospects of the low-income indebted countries is something which we have regretted in this Assembly. But I believe we need to address this point because we cannot run a global economy, either between nations or within nations, which in effect ends up as a welfare state for the rich. That is not our purpose and that has never been our intention in putting together the mechanism of multilateral cooperation fifty years ago when the goals of progress for all and of full employment were recognized. The rethinking now required is not just about how we make the processes of integration and interdependence that we call globalization less vulnerable to shocks - certainly that is important - but how we make them more equitable and more mindful of long-term concerns.

It is my view that this is where this house comes in. What we need when we emerge from this crisis is not business as usual, with perhaps some new arrangements for coping with shocks, but a different pattern of global development more mindful of equity, more mindful of sustainability. I am not suggesting that we revisit the trends towards openness that have taken place over the past decade. What we are looking for is a middle path between autarchy and integration, between dirigism and laissez-faire. These are the challenges which I believe this house faces.

What are these challenges? Let me first mention those which arise when it comes to promoting growth.

There is a class of issues, which relate to the macro-economic management of the world economy, upon which I will not elaborate here. They relate to more effective macro-economic coordination, improved monitoring and surveillance of international financial flows, quicker response to crises, avoiding the moral hazard of a system where private sector imprudence is too readily rescued from the risks that it is meant to pay. We have elaborated upon this in different fora.

Second, we need to recognize that in terms of economic management, policy-makers at the national level and at the global level will have to concern themselves as much with asset prices and asset markets as they do today with the market for goods and services. If you had 10% inflation in commodity prices in any country, an anti-inflation policy would immediately kick in. But if you have even a 20% increase in asset prices, it does not. But today, with the changing patterns of asset ownership, the impact of unjustified increases in asset prices does have an impact on the real economy.

Last year when I spoke to the Second Committee, I had touched on this when I spoke of the shift in the locus of instability from the current to the capital account to the balance of payments. But I think that the focus on assets must also be seen in terms of domestic markets. This is not very unusual. Many people are now saying that the framework of policy management at the domestic level needs to be rethought so we do not think simply in terms of commodity markets, or goods markets or services markets. Asset markets should also be factored into the design of fiscal and monetary policy.

My third point is that financial policies at the national and global levels have to focus not just on volatility and stability, but on the impact that they have on the savings/investment process - on the propensity to save, on the efficiency with which savings are allocated to different uses. There is a developmental dimension of finance, particularly when it comes to the development of new institutions and new instruments.

Fourth, we must recognize that despite the large growth in private sector flows, despite the trends towards privatization within countries, there is a continuing need for public resources for public purposes, both at the national level and at the global level. Much of what has happened over these years has been based on a certain philosophy of fiscal contraction. In country after country, everybody wants lower taxes and better public services. This is rather difficult, and we all find a way out of this by saying "let's reform", so we can have better services and lower taxes. I think it is time to recognize that there are certain public purposes which can only be served through public resources. Yes, there is scope for improvements in efficiency; yes, there is a lot of scope for rationalization of tax structures. But the trend towards fiscal contraction is something which could pose great difficulties in meeting public ends.

I believe that there is a counterpart to this at the international level - the role of development cooperation. In some ways, the non-market transfers, which is what ODA is, represents the equivalent of public resources at the international level. In fact, in most cases they flow from one public entity to another public entity. But I believe one of the challenges is to recognize that we have a continuing role for these non-market concessional flows, despite the large growth in private capital, in order to reduce vulnerability and emerging inequalities, in order to reduce divergences in development performance between countries, in order to address global externalities relating to health, environment and other areas and, of course, in order to fulfill certain basic humanitarian commitments. The other point that I would make on the macro-economic side is that much of globalization over the past decade has been driven by integration in financial markets. I think it is time to recognize that trade is probably the most potent engine of integration and diversification that we have. If you look at past periods of growth, some of the periods of the most rapid, stable growth have been periods of high trade expansion. We need to recognize that the driving force of global integration must be growing trade. And that is why issues of market access, of the effective implementation of the Uruguay round, issues about the capacity of developing countries to gain from the potential generated by the Uruguay round, issues of continuing liberalization, should be at the heart of our discussions on trade. I hope this will be reflected in any talk is of a new round of trade negotiations, which at the ECOSOC many described as a development round. I also hope these issues will be reflected in the forthcoming meeting in Bangkok of UNCTAD X.

I would add that there is a continuing need for differential treatment for developing countries, a point emphasized very strongly in the various statements made in the general debate in the plenary of the General Assembly, and to recognize the importance of national autonomy because one size does not fill all. There is no way can design some sort of policy structure and then say one size fits all, for instance, on deficit management.

There are other matters I hope we can touch on in the course of the debate. However, I believe that the financing for development process, UNCTAD X and Seattle offer the opportunity for addressing some of these longer-term issues on the macro-economic side.

But growth is not all. We also have to worry about the quality of growth. We have recognized in this house the primacy we need to give to poverty eradication. We have recognized in country after country the tremendous problem of unemployment. The figures are well known: 25% of the world's population lives below $1 a day. The ILO has estimated that 25 to 30% of the 3 billion workers in the world are under-employed. 140 to 150 million are totally unemployed. It is also clear from many assessments that growth by itself will not solve this problem. There are assessments which show that if we just relied on the prospects for growth, 4% plus in developing countries, you will not succeed in halving absolute poverty by 2015, a target frequently cited. This target of halving absolute poverty outside a few countries cannot be met except if we have growth with equity, or pro-poor growth, another term that we could use. We also have to address the distribution of employment amongst people, the growing inequality due to the growing spread in wage differentials between skilled and unskilled workers. I hope that the discussions in Copenhagen+5 will be able to address this.

There is another dimension: the sustainability of growth over the long run. This is something which, of course, requires a much longer view stretching back in the past in order to understand why we are where we are and looking ahead at the much longer period in the future in order to see what we need to do now in order to promote sustainability. For lack of time, I will not elaborate on this but I hope when I introduce the item on environment and sustainable development, I will be able to say more on these long-term issues. I hope that they can also be addressed in the context of Rio+10, which will come up for discussion here.

There are also short-term dimensions of this aspect of quality, which we need to address exactly as short-term dimensions on the social side. We have seen this in terms of the exceptional impact of natural disasters over the past two years, due to hurricanes, typhoons, earthquakes, etc. The impact of El Nino alone in Latin America is estimated to be around $15 billion and in the world as a whole, possibly twice that number. We cannot, of course, stop these natural events, but we need to ask ourselves whether there is anything in our development patterns which increases vulnerability to these national events. These matters will be addressed in the context of the discussions on environment and sustainable development.

I turn finally to what I believe is the most central issue - that of integration. I think the challenge that we face today is of integration of different areas of discourse. We have fora where finance is discussed, fora where trade is discussed, fora where social issues are discussed, fora where inequality is discussed, fora where human rights are discussed, fora where sustainable development or environment are discussed. What we need is something that links these together. It is important to recognize that true leverage will only arise if we integrate these areas.

We have spoken in the past of ODA. But the loss to developing countries from the fall in commodity prices exceeds what they gain in way of ODA. The outflow of financial resources, which arises at least partially because of debt servicing, exceeds what we get by way of ODA. We have no institutional mechanism capable of looking at all these issues at the country level or at the global policy level together because they are being discussed separately.

And there are other areas. We speak of poverty eradication as an overriding goal of action, but are we reflecting this in trade policy? If we were to do so would we be ready to take certain actions in trade policy which would be very beneficial for poverty eradication? For instance, allowing tariff free access to exports from LDCs, liberalising trade in the area of labour-intensive, low-technology manufactures like in textiles and agriculture. Where will this integration be discussed? How will poverty eradication get factored into the trade negotiations? This is a key challenge. Our discussions on globalization should be lead to policy integration - not to repeating the technical negotiations which take place in specific fora but to linking different areas of discourse. The Second Committee has built up a certain capacity, a certain history of discussions on globalization and one of the challenges it faces is how to make this discussion move beyond simply an encounter and help shape policy in other areas.

Mr. Chairman,

I have spoken a lot. Some of these issues, particularly dealing with poverty and employment, I shall be elaborating on a little later in the Third Committee. Some of the issues dealing with environment and sustainable development in the long run I hope to elaborate before you the item on environment and sustainable development.

I thank you for the attention with which you have heard me and we look forward to your debate on this and on the other subjects on your agenda.

General Assembly
Fifty-fourth session
14 September-23 December

Statement to the Third Committee
By Mr. Nitin Desai
Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs
6 October 1999

Mr. Chairman,

I would like to start by congratulating you and the bureau on your important responsibility during the millenium's last Third Committee session.

Mr. Chairman,

I have just addressed the Second Committee and the message I conveyed to them is that while prospects for growth are better than what we had expected one year ago the situation for developing countries is grim. The most urgent task is to address the issues of integration and interdependence not just from the point of view of stability but also from the point of view of whether and how we can secure growth with equity and sustainability. I spoke in the Second Committee of the importance of emphasizing not just growth but the quality of growth and one of the most important dimensions of the quality of growth are the issues which this Committee has been handling.

Let me touch on one major issue - poverty eradication. We are all committed to poverty eradication as an overarching goal. We have accepted a goal of halving absolute poverty by the year 2015. There are available studies which assess what are the prospects for achieving this. I have one before me, prepared by the Overseas Development Institute, which shows very clearly that if we have historical rates of growth, which have been around 3-4%, there is no way we are going to achieve this target within this timeframe. The best that we can expect is that the 25% of population below $1 per day will come down to maybe 20%. If we really want to halve absolute poverty by 2015, which is what we have been talking about, then we need not just growth but we need growth with concerns of equity and social justice built into the strategy for realizing this growth. If we do that, if we can build in a bias towards reducing inequalities into growth, then actually their calculations would suggest that we could achieve this halving target even before 2015. The central point of this exercise is therefore to show that the real issue that confronts us is not just that of revival of growth but revival of growth in a manner which is pro-poor. Our strategies must focus on not just growth but pro-poor growth.

We speak of poverty but I may also incidentally mention that it is very closely tied in with the issue of employment, another issue which this Committee has focussed attention on. ILO estimates that of the close to 3 billion workers that we have in the world, 25 to 30% are under employed, 140 million are completely unemployed and that number is probably up by another 10 to 12 million because of the impact of the financial crisis.

Within this group, of the unemployed and the poor, there are certain particular groups who are exceptionally disadvantaged. One such group are youth - out of 140 million who are completely unemployed, 60 million are young people between 15 and 24 who are seeking work and are unable to find it. They are, in many societies, the base on which a great deal of social tensions and social stress is founded.

Second, if you look at the figures on poverty, one of the elements that clearly comes across very clearly is the feminization of poverty, how large a proportion of the households which are poor for a variety of reasons, consist of households which are headed by women.

A third aspect of this syndrome - people who are old. This year is the International Year of Older Persons. All the figures indicate that the proportion of the numbers of people who are over 60 will increase at a very sharp pace. We are talking in terms of something like 2 billion people being over the age of 60 in the year 2050. What we are talking about is not some long-term problem but what we are talking about is people who are already born who will pass the year of 60 in the year 2050.

This issue has been approached, of course, from the point of view of social security, etc. but it does tie in with the issue of poverty and employment. You have a situation where in the developed world, you have growing numbers of older people who are able to work but who, under the normal system of employment which prevails, are not able to find work. On the other hand, in the developing world, you have a situation where because of the absence of social security a lot of old people work far too hard, far too long, well beyond the point at which they ought to work. So the issue of old age is not just one of old age security it's also something which ties in with the issue of employment. I cannot see how we can address this issue of the growing numbers of people who are old unless we also address issues about their entitlements to income, their entitlements to seek employment, and their entitlements to safety, protection, access to health, and even access to education.

The fourth group that I would refer to, which we tend to forget, is the disabled. Five hundred million of them and the issue is again an issue of the extent to which they share disproportionately in the unemployment, share disproportionately in poverty . If you go to developing countries you find a very large proportion of those who are disabled are also in the ranks of those who are poor and those who are unemployed.

In many ways, what is confronting us is a situation in many societies where there is a whole collection of under-privileged minorities rather than an under-privileged majority. If you have an under-privileged majority, you get change. But if you get under-privileged minorities, then the situation is far more complex and has to be addressed more through a social philosophy which promotes inclusiveness, which promotes equity, which promotes distributive justice rather than relying simply on the normal processes of democratic interest politics to meet their concerns and their interests.

What does growth which addresses these excluded groups mean? What does growth which is pro-poor mean? What does growth which is employment intensive mean? One dimension of this is at the national level in terms of strategy, strategies which emphasize employment intensive sectors in the growth process - agriculture, for instance, which look at technology also from this perspective - the green revolution in Asia was one, which certainly helped to spread the benefits of agricultural expansion and growth more evenly, though there are many questions which have been raised. The strategy would look at prospects for non-farm employment and even here there are some questions which have been raised, some evidence that access to non-farm employment is also skewed against the groups that I have been talking of. But the point that I would like to stress in this house is the importance of not treating these just as special categories; not treating issues of poverty and employment simply as issues of special programmes which have to be run in ministries of welfare. The point I would like to stress the importance of injecting this concern about equity, poverty and employment into other areas of discussions. Take trade, for instance. We speak of poverty eradication but at the same time we have trade policies which restrict access to precisely the types of low-technology, labour-intensive, pro-poor activities, like agriculture, like textiles. One example - in my own country one of the most potent instruments of poverty eradication has been the dairy programme. Virtually all the milk cattle in India are owned by small holders. The milk market in India is something which they have been able to take over, dominate through a very complex system of cooperatives. But do they have access to the international market? More than half of the international market in dairy products is taking by producers from the highest cost part of the world because of subsidies. But if we are serious about poverty, then why don't we reflect it in our trade policies? If we are serious about poverty, why don't we reflect it in our financial structures and policies, through micro-credit, for instance.

The point I would wish to stress is, yes, there is an enormous amount which needs to be done by way of designing anti-poverty strategies at the national level but I believe that these national anti-poverty strategies will be that much more effective if we also start recognizing the need to connect our concerns about poverty, about unemployment with other areas of discourse in trade, in finance, in macro-economic management and for that matter, in environmental management - the other areas which are being discussed as part of globalization.

That is what I really wish to end with - the discussions on globalization. These are, of course, discussed in many places - the Second Committee has a debate in this area. What I would urge is that the critical area of discussion in globalization which this house could undertake in this Committee, in the Second Committee, in the Plenary and elsewhere - is not necessarily a strong effort at trying to negotiate specific areas which are within the competence of different bodies. Its real strength is the capacity to integrate across different areas of discourse.

I believe that is what this Committee should also be doing. You are the Committee which has played the strongest role in projecting concerns about gender equality, about equity, about social justice in the work of the United Nations. Much of that was focussed around special programmes for special groups; what I'm urging is that we broaden this consideration so that what you are dealing with is seen as central to development strategy and not just as something which has been handled as an add-on after growth processes are designed.

That is the basic plea which I would wish to make to you and I would suggest to you that you have an opportunity to do this in the agenda which is before you on social development, more particularly, the contributions that you can make to these issues as they come up for discussion in the five-year reviews which will take place in June and in terms of the discussions that you will have on the special programmes that we, in the United Nations, have for youth, for the disabled, for the aged and, of course, in the discussions that you will undertake on the major issue of gender equality and the advancement of women.

Thank you for the attention with which you have heard me.

General Assembly
Fifty-fourth session
14 September-23 December

DESA Support to the General Assembly

The general debate of the fifty-fourth session of the General Assembly reflected a wide range of views on economic and social issues. The substantive work of the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) and Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) got under way as Mr. Desai delivered the opening remarks, centring on the need to integrate the discourse on trade, finance, social, environmental issues and human rights. He called for a different pattern of global development, one more mindful of equity and sustainability.

The Assembly, concerned about the marginalization of developing countries in globalization, decided to include in its agenda an item on "Globalization and interdependence". In collaboration with UNCTAD, DESA prepared an analytical report (A/54/358) on all interrelated issues, which provides a structure for further intergovernmental deliberations in the UN on globalization and its impact. It highlights the comparative advantages of the UN system in designing and implementing a response, both at the national and international levels, to challenges posed by globalization. It addresses the new factors that shape the global environment, the new tasks the UN faces, which traditional UN goals are harder to achieve in the new environment of globalization and interdependence, which policy tools are no longer working and why, and how the set of development actors and partners is evolving. The report contains recommendations to enhance policy coherence of the UN system's response to the challenges of globalization.

DESA is providing substantive support to the consideration of 16 agenda items and has drafted over 20 reports and notes on behalf of the Secretary-General. One of the key items deals with defining an event on financing for development, to take place no later than 2001. The ECOSOC/Bretton Woods institutions meeting in late October might serve to steer the event, whose preparation should allow time for informals, as well as regional meetings along thematic lines.

Under a related item on the financial crisis and its impact on growth and development, a report by the Finance and Development Branch of the Development Policy Analysis Division provides an update on financial flows and policy reforms adopted since the 1998 report on the subject. The report identifies the unfinished business of international financial architecture reform, as per the recommendations of the Executive Committee on Economic and Social Affairs.

In further support of the Assembly's deliberations on this subject, the Branch on 13 October held a panel discussion in the Second Committee of senior officials of IMF and Deutsche Bank, and noted scholars.

On 14 October, Thomas L. Friedman, foreign affairs columnist of The New York Times , gave a briefing on globalization, followed by an interactive period of questions and answers. The event was organized by the Division for ECOSOC Support and Coordination.

In response to General Assembly resolution 52/209 of 18 December 1997, the Division for Public Economics and Public Administration submitted document A/54/451, Report of the Secretary-General on Business and Development for consideration by the Assembly. The report deals with UN activities to promote an enabling environment for the business sector and with the increasing efforts for a partnership with business to meet the norms and goals set in the various UN conferences of the 1990s. Contributions to the report were sought from other UN agencies and bodies as well as from within DESA.

At its 28th plenary meeting on 6 October 1999, the General Assembly, on the recommendation of the Economic and Social Council, adopted by consensus resolution 54/4 on the 21-article optional protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. The protocol sets outs procedures under which individuals or groups of individuals claiming to be victims of a violation of any of the rights in the Convention can, after exhausting domestic remedies, petition the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. The protocol also empowers the Committee, the 23-member expert body established under the Convention, to monitor its implementation and to look into grave or systematic violations of the Convention.

The protocol is the result of four years of negotiations in an ad hoc open-ended working group of the Commission on the Status of Women. NGOs, including women's groups, from all regions of the world helped in the proceedings. Its adoption responds to a recommendation of the Vienna Programme of Action and the Beijing Platform for Action. It is particularly appropriate that it came during this General Assembly session, which marks the twentieth anniversary of the adoption of the Convention by the Assembly. The protocol is now open for signature, ratification and accession.

A report by the Division for the Advancement of Women on the improvement of the situation of women in rural areas outlines the impact of global trends and their policy implications on rural women and their access to productive resources, inputs and services. It draws attention to their continuing poverty in spite of their considerable role in agricultural production and suggests measures to be taken by Governments, international organizations and civil society to improve the situation.

The Division also submitted a report on its forthcoming World Survey on the Role of Women in Development (see details below under Forthcoming Publications).

The Office of the Special Coordinator for Africa and the Least Developed Countries (OSCAL) submitted a report on the implementation of the recommendations of the Secretary-General in his 1998 report on Causes of conflict and the promotion of durable peace and sustainable development in Africa.

The Fifth Committee will start substantive deliberations on the UN scale of assessments beginning the week of 18 October and will continue through the end of the session. It is expected to finalize discussions on a number of outstanding issues and make recommendations to the Committee on Contributions for its triennial review of Member States' assessments in June 2000, when the scale of contributions for the years 2001-2003 will be set.

The Statistics Division will provide substantive and technical statistical servicing to the Committee on some crucial issues such as the key parameters for the formulation of the next assessment scale; realistic conversion factors in arriving at the first approximation of relative capacity to pay of Member States; inclusion in the methodology of external debt-burden allowance for highly-indebted countries ; minimum and maximum rates of contributions; and a review of the income measures and statistical base period applied to the measure capacity to pay.

- on globalization: Sarbuland Khan, Tel. (212) 963-4628, E-mail: khan2@un.org
- on financial flows: Barry Herman, Tel. (212) 963-4747, E-mail: herman@un.org
- on business and development: Jacinto De Vera, Tel. (212) 963-0525, E-mail: devera@un.org
- on women in rural areas: Mac Albert Hengari, Tel. (212) 963-2825, E-mail: hengari@un.org
- on the optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, Jane Connors, Tel. (212) 963-3162, E-mail: connorsj@un.org
- on Africa: Abraham Joseph, Tel. (212) 963-4839, E-mail: josepha@un.org OR Mariama Djibo, Tel. (212) 963-8408, E-mail: djibo@un.org
- on statistics for the Fifth Committee: Cristina Hannig, Tel.(212) 963-4854, E-mail: hannig@un.org OR Felizardo Suzara, Tel: (212) 963-4856, E-mail: suzara@un.org