Vol. 9, no.6 November-December 2005

Dialogue on development | Trends and analysis | Technical cooperation | Publications | Comings and goings | Calendar

H.E. Mr. Jan Eliasson, President of the General Assembly, opens the discussion on 25 October on the 2005 report of the Economic and Social Council and the UN development agenda: http://webcast.un.org/ramgen/ga/60/ga051025pm.rm

in this issue

World leaders express strong committement to the UN development agenda: much now depends on the General Assembly Second Committee to put decisions into effect

World Summit on the Information Society:delegates will focus on the highly political issues of Internet governance and financing to bridge the digital divide

Re-inventing public enterprise:public enterprises have an important role to play in achieving economic growth and social development; in many countries, both developed and developing, public enterprises are the main providers of the social services related to several of the MDGs

Feature article

World leaders express strong commitment to the UN development agenda

Much now depends on the Second Committee to put decisions of the 2005 World Summit into effect.

This session of the Second Committee of the General Assembly is marked by the 60th anniversary of the United Nations and the historic gathering of world leaders at the 2005 World Summit. The World Summit reaffirmed faith in the multilateral system. It also expressed strong, unambiguous commitments to ensure the full realization of the comprehensive UN development agenda generated by the series of UN conferences and summits, with the Millennium Summit prominent among them.

The Summit asserted the vital role that the conferences and summits have played in shaping a broad development vision, in identifying agreed objectives, in galvanizing development policy and programmes at all levels, and in guiding the work of the UN system. It also produced agreement on a number of precise steps to strengthen their follow-up.

First, the Summit committed all Governments, by 2006, to adopt and begin implementing national development strategies for achieving the array of internationally agreed development goals, including the MDGs.

Second, at the Summit, world leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the global development partnership agreed in the Monterrey Consensus.

Third, the Summit resolved to make the goals of full and productive employment and decent work for all a central objective of relevant macroeconomic policies and national development strategies.

Fourth, the Summit reaffirmed that gender equality is essential to advance development, and produced commitments actively to promote the mainstreaming of gender perspectives in the design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of policies and programmes in all political, economic, and social spheres.

Fifth, the Summit reaffirmed wide-ranging commitments on sustainable development, from water and human settlements to energy and changing consumption and production patterns to biodiversity, desertification, and climate change. It noted that efforts in these areas would also promote the integration of the three pillars of sustainable development: economic development, social development, and environmental protection. The Summit recognized the serious challenge posed by climate change and committed the international community to further action through the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. It also agreed to create a worldwide early warning system for natural disasters and to improve the UN’s Central Emergency Revolving Fund, so that disaster relief arrives more promptly and reliably.

Sixth, the Summit decided to strengthen the UN capacity for peacekeeping, peacemaking, and peacebuilding. In a major advance, it produced a detailed blueprint for a new Peacebuilding Commission, to ensure a more coherent and sustained international effort to build lasting peace in post-conflict situations.

Finally, the Summit forged agreement on key aspects of UN reform. Among the most notable is the genuine impetus provided for a stronger, more broadly capable and effective Economic and Social Council. It gave the Council three specific new functions:

  • To undertake ministerial-level reviews of progress towards the development goals, drawing on the work of its functional and regional commissions;
  • To convene a Global Development Cooperation Forum, to discuss coherence of the global development cooperation architecture. This means considering the performance of the range of development actors — state and non-state, UN and non-UN; North-South, as well as South-South cooperation; and the overall flow of resources;
  • And to build its capacity both to respond better and more rapidly to developments in the international economic, social, and environmental fields, and to coordinate response to humanitarian emergencies.

As another function, ECOSOC will also have an important role vis-�-vis the new Peacebuilding Commission, drawing on the innovative mechanisms the Council has created for post-conflict reconstruction and development. Finally, the Summit reasserted the central responsibility given in the UN Charter for ECOSOC to serve as the principal body for system-wide coordination.

The broad scope of the UN development agenda — and the process of its implementation — render these five ECOSOC functions quite closely related. Performing these functions, and producing their envisioned results, will require the Council virtually to revolutionize its substantive organization and ways of work. Much of its ability to do that will depend directly on this session of the General Assembly. The Committee should seize this opportunity immediately to begin putting the Summit’s decisions on the new ECOSOC into effect.

Financing for development

A core principle of the Monterrey Consensus is that developing countries have primary responsibility for their own development. In line with this, they not only agreed to adopt comprehensive national development strategies; they have also paid increased attention to financial and technical cooperation amongst themselves. During the Summit, a number of measures to increase South-South cooperation were announced.

Moreover, announcements in advance of the Summit will further increase aid. Thanks to new commitments, ODA is now expected to increase from $80 billion last year to $130 billion in 2010. And aid to Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to double, from $25 to $50 billion a year over this period. The increase in aid, however, must be effectively reflected in support to the programs of partner countries through their own budgets — and not only through debt forgiveness, technical assistance, and emergency and humanitarian assistance. This is why our World Economic and Social Survey 2005 strongly recommends that international assistance programmes specifically target the amount of aid that is effectively channeled through the budgets of recipient countries. At present, according to estimates of OECD/DAC, only about one-fourth of registered ODA is so channeled.

This is our understanding of the principles of ownership, alignment, and harmonization agreed earlier this year in the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness. If aid commitments are fully met, and the principles and targets agreed in the Paris Declaration fully applied and implemented, we will achieve a major breakthrough in international cooperation, particularly for Sub-Saharan Africa. The debt relief for HIPCs, recently agreed in the annual meetings of the BWIs, represents the third dimension of this breakthrough. In short, the Summit catalyzed a set of major commitments in the areas of ownership, aid, and debt that have led the World Bank to refer to 2005 as the “Year of Development” — a Year that should set the stage for a challenging new “Decade of Development,” leading to 2015.

We have also seen progress on innovative sources of financing. The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization announced a pilot project for the International Finance Facility. The French and Brazilian governments aim to introduce a pilot project for a global solidarity contribution on air tickets. Chile plans to implement such a measure, beginning next year. It has also called for reconsideration of using Special Drawing Rights to provide development finance.

The Summit answered another call in the Monterrey Consensus, when the UN Convention Against Corruption received the ratifications required to become operational.

All these actions represent major support for implementing the Monterrey Consensus and advancing development. Nonetheless, to make a truly major impact, they need to — and should — be extended.

First, while reinforcing the political commitment to a rapid conclusion of the Doha trade round, the Summit made clear that there are still significant challenges in realizing the development dimension of the round.

Second, while welcoming the debt relief initiative for HIPCs, we should not forget that the majority of the world’s poor reside in other developing countries — many of them middle-income countries that also face high debt burdens. Some Summit participants thus stressed the importance of extending relief to a larger number of non-HIPC LDCs and to middle-income countries.

Moreover, conditionality attached to aid often conflicts with commitments to increase the responsibility of developing countries for their domestic development strategies. Only when aid is fully aligned with national development strategies, as agreed in the Paris Declaration, can it be nationally owned and fully effective. On this front, the recent proposals by the United Kingdom and the European Commission are positive contributions, deserving rapid implementation.

Finally, according to Monterrey, this increased responsibility would be matched by adequate voice and participation of developing countries in international economic decision-making. It is time to move from discussing this problem to taking concrete action to address it.

State of the world economy

The Second Committee meets as the growth of the world economy has decelerated measurably over the course of 2005, compared to an exceptionally strong and broad expansion in the previous year. According to our estimates, global economic growth (measured, as we always do, at market exchange rates) will reach about 3 per cent in 2005 and a similar pace in 2006 — although growing uncertainty surrounds these projections given the mounting downside risks.

This deceleration has resulted partly from the maturing of the cyclical recovery in a number of economies and the associated unwinding of earlier policy stimuli. But the world economy has also encountered increasing constraints, several of a structural nature. Most notable are the enormous global imbalances: on one side, the rising external deficit of the United States and, on the other side, growing surpluses in a number of economies, mainly in Asia, Europe and oil-exporting countries. The ever-widening imbalances have increasingly given rise to concerns about their sustainability, about the risks associated with various re-balancing processes, and about the consequences for the stability of world financial markets and global economic growth. The responsibility to address global imbalances falls to countries with large current account surpluses at least as much as to those with the deficits. And the required level of international economic cooperation to address this problem has not been forthcoming.

The recent rise in oil prices is another concern. The strong growth in global oil demand has reportedly moderated recently, but the tight situation in the global oil market has been exacerbated by natural disasters and geopolitical instability. Oil-importing countries, particularly developing and least-developed oil-importing countries, have shown growing signs of deterioration, including rising inflation. Oil prices remaining at such high levels will pose challenges for world economic growth and, in particular, for the economic development of many developing countries.

Besides the conspicuous risks associated with the global imbalances and oil prices, other non-negligible caveats include, for example: a possible lull, or even reversal, in the trend of a substantial appreciation of house prices in a number of large economies; a significant rise in long-term interest rates; and an unwinding of the risk appetite in financial markets, which has been reflected in the unusually low interest rate spreads between assets viewed as more and less risky in financial markets.

At the same time, the broad international economic environment does show some auspicious signs. International trade has continued to grow at a robust pace. Financial markets worldwide have generally remained calm. And the terms of trade for a large number of developing countries have improved considerably. Yet even these supportive factors may hold some risky implications. For example, the exceptionally low risk premium for the external borrowing of many developing countries, if not prudently managed, could lead to excessive capital inflows and sow seeds for financial crises, repeating the unfortunate episodes of the early 1980s and late 1990s.

Against this backdrop, how have developing countries fared in their efforts to achieve the MDGs? The present economic strength of many developing countries demonstrates that substantial progress is possible under the right domestic and global economic conditions. A deterioration in the external environment stemming from the global imbalances would have an untoward effect on both the immediate prospects of developing countries and their longer-term development, including their efforts to achieve the array of internationally-agreed development goals. Therefore, addressing the current global imbalances should be seen as part of the long-term development agenda.

Fair, equitable and inclusive globalization

In the UN development agenda, there is a powerful platform for building a fair, equitable, and inclusive globalization, and fair, equitable, and inclusive societies.

As in previous years, the Committee will discuss the issue of globalization and interdependence. Effective and beneficial integration in the global economy requires a variety of strategic and policy measures and actions. A strong institutional underpinning is thus needed to guide and buttress economic activities and mediate sometimes conflicting interests in the development process. The report of the Secretary-General on this issue addresses this institutional dimension of the challenges of achieving the development goals and integrating into the global economy. The main features of successful institutions include fostering inclusiveness, enhancing accountability and transparency, and facilitating innovation and learning. The report points out that policies and regulatory regimes need to be designed in order to flexibly balance social, economic, and environmental objectives, which in turn requires a transparent, participatory approach.

The Committee continues its consideration on the key issue of the MDGs and poverty eradication. This year, the report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of the First United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty focuses on employment —particularly the centrality of employment for poverty eradication, which received prominent recognition from the Summit. Poverty eradication remains one of the core challenges confronting our generation.

One cound not stress more the importance of the Committee's deliberations and decisions on this agenda item. Poverty eradication is also one of the main goals in the Brussels Programme of Action for the LDCs. Next year, the General Assembly will hold a special session to undertake the five-year review of the Programme. The Committee will make an important contribution in setting the stage for that review.

The Committee will also consider a range of sustainable development issues. These include energy efficiency, which will play an important role in tackling climate change, promoting clean energy, and meeting energy needs. With the world facing significant increases in energy prices, energy efficiency is rising to higher levels of priority in the national agendas of many countries, developing and developed alike. It will also be a focus of discussions for the Commission on Sustainable Development, which will start a new cycle in 2006 on the theme of “energy for sustainable development, industrial development, air pollution and atmosphere, and climate change.”

Finally, international migration remains a central dimension of globalization. One of its key features is the movement of skilled labour and people with advanced education, particularly from developing to developed countries. The acceleration of highly-skilled labour mobility is raising concern about the so-called “brain drain” and the loss of economic potential incurred by the countries of origin. Yet international migration brings many benefits to both home and host countries. For example, financial transfer to home countries can be a major benefit. Worldwide, remittances are estimated to have reached some $130 billion per year, with 60 per cent of that amount flowing to developing countries. Some claim that this figure is larger, closer to $175 to $200 billion a year. Against this backdrop, and having in hand the recommendations of the Global Commission on International Migration that will be presented to the Secretary-General this week, the General Assembly will hold a high-level dialogue on international migration and development in 2006. The Committee is tasked to work out the organizational details for this important event.

This session of the Committee faces important decisions and high expectations. Under the able leadership of the Chairperson, there is reason to be confident that it will measure up to the important role it now has in helping to make the most of the World Summit’s decisions on development, and in fulfilling the UN development agenda.

This article is based on the opening statement of Mr. José Antonio Ocampo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, to the Second Committee of the General Assembly on 3 October. The full programme of the sixtieth session of the Second Committee is available online at http://www.un.org/ga/60/second/ .


OESC adds:

The Office for Economic and Social Council Support and Coordination has organized several panel discussions and other events to support the work of the Assembly and its Second Committee. The events feature renowned academics, as well as representatives of the UN system, civil society and the private sector. http://www.un.org/ga/60/second/specialevents.htm

Contact: Mr. Navid Hanif, Office for Economic and Social Council Support and Coordination, +1 212/963-8415


Global dialogue on development

World Summit on the Information Society

Tunis, 16-18 November

http://www.itu.int/wsis

The second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society will be hosted by the Government of Tunisia. The Geneva phase of WSIS held in 2003 was a landmark gathering that established the foundations of the information society and culminated in a shared vision to meet the global challenges of the new millennium, accompanied by a concrete plan of action. The Tunis phase will focus on the highly political issues of internet governance, and financing to bridge the digital divide. Delegates are also expected to agree on a follow-up process and implementation plan to pave the way ahead. A central operational challenge is the means by which access to information and communication technologies can be provided to all humanity - not just a privileged few - while making the most efficient use of existing resources.

Measuring the information society

15 November

http://measuring-ict.unctad.org

With the huge interest in the information society and the benefits it can bring, countries are looking at how they will measure progress towards their own information society. This event will bring together stakeholders at national, regional and international levels to present a set of core statistical indicators agreed by key international agencies working in the field; to debate the importance of measuring the information society for ICT policy making and development in areas such as education, government and health; and to illustrate the contribution of ICT measurement to the follow-up of WSIS. The event is organized by the Partnership on Measuring ICT for Development, launched during UNCTAD XI in June 2004. Its main objectives are to promote the advancement of comparable ICT data at the global level and to assist developing countries in the collection of ICT statistics. It provides an open framework for coordinating ongoing and future activities, and for developing a coherent and structured approach to advancing the measurement of the information society.

High-level dialogue on governance, global citizenship and technology: the role of Parliaments in the information society

16 November

The event, organized by DESA in cooperation with the UN ICT Task Force, will provide the opportunity to present the audience with key Parliament leaders’ views and crucial initiatives on the role that national and regional assemblies can play in building the information society. It will also provide the platform to launch the Global Centre for Information and Communication Technology in Parliament. The objective of the Centre is to contribute to the empowerment of legislatures around the world to better fulfill their democratic functions by reinforcing capacity of Parliaments to use ICT tools and to place them at the service of the institutional process, citizens’ access to parliamentary activities, and inter-parliamentary cooperation.

Building regional partnerships for the information society: regional perspectives and global dimensions

16 November

The event, co-organized by the UN Regional Commissions, UNCTAD and the UN ICT Task Force will consist of two high-level round tables: one on regional perspectives for the global information society, and one on women in the information society: building a gender balanced knowledge-based economy. The objective of the event is to share experience and discuss how the goals of sustainable and inclusive development in the various continents can be supported by innovative technologies. The results and conclusions of these discussions will be delivered to the WSIS.

Roundtable on bridging the digital divide with broadband wireless internet

17 November

The event, co-organized by the UN ICT Task Force and the Wireless Internet Institute (W2i), will focus on the critical role that broadband wireless infrastructure deployments play in bridging the digital divide. Specifically, the round table, based on the work undertaken over the last two years by W2i in cooperation with the ICT Task Force, will identify best regulatory practices in establishing affordable service, early broad deployment case studies and lessons learned. The multi-stakeholder roundtable will gather together Governments, private sector, academia, NGOs and international development agencies in an effort to stimulate continued momentum and reinforce leaders’ commitment to further accelerate the adoption of broadband wireless technologies in support of universal access.

Panel discussion on achieving better quality and higher cost efficiency in healthcare and education through ICT

17 November

The main objective of the panel, co-organized by Siemens and the UN ICT Task Force, will be to raise awareness of the potential of ICT to improve quality and cost efficiency of vital public services, with specific focus on education and healthcare. Panelists will share case studies to illustrate and quantify the returns to ICT investments in these sectors as well as explore means by which developing countries, in partnership with donors, the private sector and international organizations, can develop and implement education and health strategies that integrate information and communication technologies. Siemens is the Convenor of the UN ICT Task Force Working Group on Human Resources Development and Capacity-Building, which works closely with relevant United Nations agencies and other partners from the private and public sectors, together with educators and researchers in both developed and developing countries, to promote the use of ICT for capacity-building and human resource development.

High-level round table on putting ICT to work for the MDGs

17 November

The round table, organized by the UN ICT Task Force, is the second in a special ongoing series of thematic discussions on ICT for development issues. The round table will build on the results of the 13 September roundtable on innovation and investment: scaling science and technology, especially information and communication technologies, to meet the Millennium Development Goals, held in New York on the eve of the 2005 World Summit. It will promote further crystallization of thinking on effective and sustainable ways to raise awareness of ICT as an enabler of development, and examine how ICT can be applied to the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals. The roundtable will afford a multi-stakeholder cross-sectoral forum with a view to increasing support and commitment, and to promoting scaling-up of successful initiatives in order to accelerate the impact of ICT on development. It will thus continue the work launched in New York, with a view to providing a further contribution to multi-stakeholder follow up and implementation of the outcomes of the 2005 World Summit and WSIS.

Contact: UN ICT Task Force Secretariat, +1 212/963-5796

Panel discussion on strengthening the capacity of national machineries through ICT

18 November

The Division for the Advancement of Women is organizing a panel discussion on strengthening the capacity of national machineries through the effective use of information and communication technologies, to be held as a parallel event during the World Summit for the Information Society. The panel will draw on the lessons learned from four sub-regional workshops and one regional meeting organized by the Division for all national machineries in Africa during 2004 and 2005. Panelists will include one representative of national machineries for the advancement of women from each of the sub-regions.

Contact: Division for the Advancement of Women,Ms. Roselyn Odera, +1 917/367-4352, or Ms. Anna Falth Modersitzki, +1 917/367-3124

Knowledge systems and e-government

The Division for Public Administration and Development Management has also organized several parallel events to take place at the WSIS in Tunis. These events will focus on questions of societal adjustment to the challenge of mass-produced knowledge, and public sector management of knowledge resources. Specific events include:

Contact: Division for Public Administration and Development Management, Ms. Haiyan Qian, +1 212/963-3393, or Ms. Angela Capati-Caruso, +1 212/963-5318

Non-Governmental organizations

The Office for Economic and Social Council Support and Coordination will be facilitating participation of NGOs in the World Summit by:

  • Conducting a panel discussion on 17 November on ensuring ICT access for all, jointly with the Tunisian Mothers' Association, and the UN-NGO-IRENE African Regional Coordinator. The panel, composed of a roundtable including several speakers and six interactive workshops, will be chaired by Mr. Patrizio Civili. Participants will discuss how to implement the Tunis Declaration and Plan of Action that were adopted in April by the Tunis ECOSOC NGO/Civil Society Forum. The main purpose of this event is to come up with recommendations and concrete proposals for civil society and public-private partnership to enhance the outcome of the WSIS at the grassroots level;
  • Supporting the Tunisian Mothers' Association in conducting an ECOSOC NGO panel on e-success stories and best practices on 16 November. The panel will be chaired by Mr. Sarbuland Khan, Director of the Office for Economic and Social Council Support and Coordination, and several presentations related to successful and innovative field activities will be made by NGOs from the North and the South, the DESA NGO Section, training and research institutes, and academia.
  • Supporting the Chinese Association for International Understanding in conducting a panel on the role of Chinese NGOs in bridging civil society, ICT and MDGs on 16 November;
  • Supporting the Tunisian Association for Children's Rights in organizing on a panel on the information society, children's rights and sustainable development on 17 November, in partnership with the Children's Rights Caucus, the International Institute for Children's Rights, OCAPROCE International, DAPSI, FIEM, ECPAT International and Child Helpline. The Panel is a follow-up to the international seminar on children rights and information society that was organized with the help of the DESA NGO Section in January and concluded with the adoption of a declaration on children rights and the information society submitted to the 2005 ECOSOC high-level segment.

Contact: Ms. Najet Karaborni, Office for Economic and Social Council Support and Coordination, +1 212/963-6207

Security Council

Open debate on women, peace and security

New York, 27 October

http://www.un.org/womenwatch/feature/5years1325/

In cooperation with the Interagency Task Force on Women, Peace and Security, OSAGI prepared the Secretary-General's report to the Security Council on women, peace and security (S/2005/636) which includes a system-wide action plan on the implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security.

On 27 October, the Security Council held an open debate on this issue. The debate resulted in a statement by the President of the Council. A number of side-events and activities were organized by UN entities, Member States and civil society organizations in connection with the Security Council debate and the fifth anniversary of resolution 1325.

Contact: Ms. Katarina Salmela, Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, +1 917/367-2252

Economic and Social Council

http://www.un.org/docs/ecosoc/

In the 2005 Summit Outcome document, ECOSOC has been entrusted with the task of ensuring follow-up to the outcomes major UN summits and conferences. To perform these functions, the Council is expected to:

  • Hold annual ministerial-level substantive reviews to assess progress in the implementation of the outcomes of the major UN summits and conferences, including the internationally agreed development goals;
  • Hold a biennial high-level Development Cooperation Forum to review trends in international development cooperation;
  • Respond better and more rapidly to developments in the international economic, environmental and social fields as well as support and complement international efforts aimed at addressing humanitarian emergencies;
  • Play a major role in the overall coordination of and in promoting coherence in the functioning of the funds, programmes and agencies;
  • Work closely with the Peacebuilding Commission.

To facilitate consultations on operationalization of conclusions of the 2005 World Summit, the President of the ECOSOC has presented two working papers. The first is on implementation of Summit decisions relating to ECOSOC (http://www.un.org/docs/ecosoc/documents/2005/ECOSOCSummitfollow_up.pdf )

and the second on a framework for implementation of the internationally agreed development goals including the MDGs (http://www.un.org/docs/ecosoc/documents/2005/Draft_Elements_on_Implementation_Framework.pdf ).

During its resumed organizational session held on 21 October 2005, the Economic and Social Council adopted the theme of "Creating an environment at the national and international levels conducive to generating full and productive employment and decent work for all, and its impact on sustainable development" for its 2006 substantive session.

"Sustained economic growth for social development, including the eradication of poverty and hunger" is the theme for the second year of the multi-year work programme of the coordination segment. H.E. Ali Hachani, the Vice President of ECOSOC, intends to begin informal consultations shortly in order to complete the initial four year work programme before its substantive session in 2006.

Contact: Mr. Navid Hanif, Office for Economic and Social Council Support and Coordination, +1 212/963-8415