Volume 2, Issue 5 - October/November 1995

In this issue:

Beijing '95: A Power of Women
Spotlite: The Forests Panel and its Secretariat
An Agenda for Development continued ...
Operational Activities Reviewed by GA
Follow-up to the Social Summit
The Challenge of African Development
ISU Launches DPCSD Web Site

Beijing '95: A Power of Women

During a break in the proceedings of the final meeting of the Main Committee at the Fourth World Conference on Women - a meeting that started around 9:00 p.m. on Thursday evening and didn't end until 4:00 a.m. Friday morning, I made my way to the Committee room to consult with colleagues. We were really down to the wire since the Conference was scheduled to conclude on Friday, and the Committee had yet to reach agreement on key paragraphs of the draft platform for action.

The room was filled to overflowing. Clutches of delegates were quietly discussing the last sticking points in the platform. Conference officers and DPI staff members were patiently waiting for the meeting to set off again. Our own technical and substantive servicing staff members were going over their notes to ensure that they concurred on agreed wording of this or that paragraph. Many people had taken advantage of the break to steal a cat nap. Stretched out on the floor or leaning against the wall, they were fast asleep but, I felt sure, ready to spring back into action at the bang of a gavel.

I marveled at the gathering. Women wearing business suits or t- shirts emblazoned with "I sent a sister to Beijing", women in sweatshirt, jeans and tennis shoes, women in brilliantly patterned African dress or in the somber Middle Eastern chador. I wondered how all these women, and men as well, had gotten to this place at this time. What force had brought about this congregation of commitment, this constellation of partnership? The answer, of course, lies in the question. Commitment. Partnership. A multiplicity of wills to change the status quo. A gathering of strength to carve a new path for the future.

I wondered then how to describe the disparate elements ranged around the room, how to gather them into one band. Although, as individuals, they came from different points of origin and at times differed in point of view, there was nonetheless a collectivity at work in Beijing - one that had slowly forged itself through the arduous task of working towards agreement on the language of a final document.

Was there a collective noun for such a group, I asked myself? One speaks of a swarm of bees, a flock of birds, a school of fish. The answer, when it came, was so simple that I was startled. It was one of the first words that had come to my mind when I began working on the Conference - it was a power. A power of women.

Bill Bunch, DPCEA


The Forests Panel and its Secretariat

The Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF) held its first session from 11-15 September 1995. The Panel, which was established by the third session of the Commission on Sustainable Development, decided upon a very ambitious and comprehensive work programme to be completed over the next 18 months.

The Panel will meet four times to have substantive discussions on different programme elements, as decided in the terms of reference established by the Commission. The range of topics, covers in broad terms the five following categories:

  • implementation of UNCED decisions related to forests at the national and international levels including an examination of sectoral and cross-sectoral linkages;
  • international cooperation in financial assistance and technology transfer;
  • scientific research, forest assessment and development of criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management;
  • trade and environment relating to forest products and services; and
  • international organizations and multilateral institutions and instruments including appropriate legal mechanisms.
The next meeting will be held in Geneva for up to two weeks between 11-22 March, 1996. The third meeting will be held during 2-13 September 1996, provisionally also in Geneva, while the fourth and last meeting will be held sometime early in 1997 in order to finalize the report of the Panel to be submitted to the fifth session of the CSD, to be held in the spring of 1997.

A small secretariat in the Division for Sustainable Development is servicing the Panel. Collectively the IPF Secretariat includes experts from Asia, Africa, Latin America, Europe and North America. It bring together a very wide range of backgrounds, skills and rich experiences. The coordinator of the secretariat is Mr. Jag Maini of Canada. Mr. Maini, an ecologist, was formerly Assistant Deputy Minister with the Canadian Forest Service in the Government of Canada. He has represented Canada at UNCED and has been actively involved in post-UNCED international initiatives on forests. Other staff of the Secretariat of the Panel are being made available from Agencies and other organizations, as well as being reassigned from within the Division for Sustainable Development. Presently, the other five staff members include:

Elisabeth Barsk-Rundquist, Sustainable Development Officer, assigned from the Division for Sustainable Development. Elisabeth, a chemical engineer, has been working with energy issues at the United Nations for the past thirteen years, and has served as the focal point for the issues of toxic chemicals and hazardous waste, respectively Chapters 19 and 20 of Agenda 21;

Maria Fernanda Espinosa, Information Officer. Maria Espinosa is an anthropologist and will be available to the Secretariat on a part-time basis. She has been working with indigenous peoples' organisations for the local management of resources, including in protected areas. She has also been involved in UNICEF's work on primary environmental care.

Roslan Ismail, Senior Forestry Officer, seconded from the International Tropical Timber Organisation. Roslan Ismail is a computer scientist and statistician who prior to his appointment was the Director of the Techno-economic Division in the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia. He was a regular member of the Malaysian delegation to ITTO and has been involved actively in forest related strategic studies for the past seven years.

Tage Michaelsen, Senior Forestry Officer, is seconded from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Tage Michaelsen is a forester and has been with Forest Conservation at the FAO Forestry Department since 1984. He joined FAO in 1971 and has since then been active all over the world in areas ranging from watershed management and lecturing to forest conservation. Tage Michaelsen is also the designated Focal Point for FAO's Task Manager role in follow-up to UNCED Agenda 21, Chapter 13, "Managing fragile ecosystems: sustainable mountain development".

Milagre Nuvunga, Forestry Capacity Programme Officer, made available by the United Nations Development Programme. Milagre Nuvunga is a forester who has been working with forestry and wildlife issues since 1982. She was the Head of the Forestry and Wildlife Directorate in the Ministry of Agriculture of Mozambique, and previously was the Head the Forestry Research Centre of Mozambique.

For more information on the IPF, please contact Maria Espinosa (212) 906 5647; fax (212) 906 6973; or Elisabeth Barsk-Rundquist, tel: (212) 963 3263. fax (21-+2) 963 1795, e-mail: barsk-rundquist@un.org.

An Agenda for Development Continued ...

The last time we reported on progress towards completion of an Agenda for Development by the Ad Hoc Open-ended Working Group of the General Assembly, matters did not look very promising. The Group had just finished its first session without much accomplishment and its then chairman, Amara Essy of Côte d'Ivoire, who was also the President of the 49th session of the General Assembly, expressed his disappointment about the lack of progress.

Since then, however, the Group has advanced considerably. In May, at its second session, the Group reached an accord on a basic structure of the Agenda. Three broad chapters were agreed to, covering:

  • setting and objectives,
  • policy framework and means of implementation, and
  • institutional issues and follow-up.
The Group also found common ground on a number of sections within each chapter and consequently was able to begin discussions on the contents.

With this skeleton in place, it became possible to flesh out the various parts of the Agenda. Different groups of countries and individual states contributed texts for consideration and discussion and the Group requested its two vice-chairmen, Ambassadors Mongbe of Benin and Oswald of Sweden, to prepare, for its third session, what was termed a synthesis text which should reflect as much as possible the various positions of the members of the Group.

At the end of August, the Group met for its third and final session of the 49th session of the General Assembly. It had before it the synthesis text, which covered only the first two chapters, mainly because the Group had not conducted any real discussion on the chapter on institutional issues. Still, a major step forward was the Group's unanimous acceptance of the synthesis as the basis for negotiations. The Group went through a detailed reading of the first two chapters and held extensive discussions on the third.

Although finalizing an Agenda acceptable to all will be far from simple, when compared to the tabula rasa it faced in February of this year, the Group has every reason to feel satisfied. Large sections of the Agenda, particularly with respect to social development, seem already to be acceptable. Other parts require adjustments, mostly in terms of emphasis, but there remain parts where reaching agreement will be difficult, most notably in the chapter on institutional issues which touches on the difficult matter of UN reform.

On 18 September the Group's chairmanship was handed over to the new President of the 50th session of the General Assembly, Diogo Freitas do Amaral of Portugal. The Group will thus continue its work during the current session of the General Assembly and it has asked its vice-chairmen to prepare, based on the discussions, a revised synthesis text comprising all three chapters

It has been three years since Brazil first proposed the crafting of an Agenda for Development. It would be a fitting occasion if the Agenda for Development could be adopted by the United Nations at its fiftieth anniversary. This may not occur on 24 October, but the Agenda's adoption can be expected during this anniversary year.

Johan Scholvinck, DPCEA

Operational Activities Reviewed by GA

What is the impact of the United Nations system's country-level activities? How effective have they been in helping recipient countries to integrate the United Nations system's development support into national policies and programmes? How coordinated are different organizations of the UN system in the use of resources, programmes and activities at the country level? What kind of changes would be needed in the policies, means and modalities of the United Nations system to ensure optimum impact on national development?

These are questions that Member States discuss once in three years in the General Assembly to take appropriate policy decisions. The comprehensive triennial policy review of the United Nations system operational activities, to be discussed by the Assembly during the current session, coincides with the Fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations and agenda for development.

The Department for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development, which has the primary responsibility in the United Nations Secretariat to provide substantive support to the General Assembly and ECOSOC in this respect, undertook a two-track preparatory process: detailed questionnaires to Governments, United Nations system organizations and the resident coordinator system; and case studies through country missions. Responses were received from 109 resident coordinators, 24 recipient countries, 8 donor countries and 26 organizations of the United Nations system. Review missions were undertaken in 14 countries.

The entire process, including the preparation of questionnaires, was undertaken in close cooperation with the organizations of the United Nations system. The Consultative Committee on Programme and Operational Questions (CCPOQ) considered this subject at its last two sessions. A preliminary report was submitted to ECOSOC at its regular session last July (document E/1995/98) which was well received by governments.

Subsequently, the Secretary-General took into consideration the views and suggestions expressed by Member States in revising the document submitted to ECOSOC and, in addition, submitted recommendations to the General Assembly which will be reviewed in early November. The recommendations cover questions such as:

  • the role of ECOSOC in relation to United Nations funds and programmes;
  • enhancing the effectiveness of the resident coordinator system;
  • improving the substantive dialogue among all development partners at the country level;
  • ensuring the active involvement of the Bretton Woods institutions in the work of the United Nations system at the country level;
  • promoting the Country Strategy Note by Governments, the programme approach and national execution as a means for greater integration of UN system support within national programmes;
  • achieving harmonization and simplification of rules and procedures;
  • strengthening national capacity to manage development assistance efficiently as well as enhancing administrative coherence and simplifying the rules and procedures of the system.
The decisions and directives emanating from this session of the General Assembly will provide the principal basis and mandate for the work of the United Nations funds and programmes, and specialized agencies, for the next three years and will constitute a key step in ensuring political and financial support for UN system development work.


3-20 October, Paris
UNESCO Executive Board
147th Session

10-12 October, Washington D.C.
IMF/World Bank Annual Meetings of the Boards of Governors

12-13 October, New York
Administrative Committee on Coordination
2nd regular Session

23 October-3 November, Washington D.C.
Intergovernmental Conference on Protection of Marine Environment

30 October-3 November, Geneva
Ad Hoc Group on the Berlin Mandate (Climate Change)

30 October-3 November, Zimbabwe
The African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN)

30 October-4 November, New Zealand
Montreal Process Group on Forests

October, New York
Joint Meetings of the
Committee for Programme and Coordination and the
Administrative Committee on Coordination

2-4 November, Japan
World Conference on Local Initiatives for Sustainable Development

6-17 November, Indonesia
Conference of the Parties for the Convention on Biological Diversity

13-30 November, Rome
FAO Conference, 28th Session

28 November-1 December, Czech Republic
Workshop on Education for Sustainable Development

Follow-up to the Social Summit

The Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action were reviewed by the Commission for Social Development at its April 1995 session, and by ECOSOC at its July 1995 session. They now go to the General Assembly for formal adoption and decisions as to the follow-up.

The Summit called for a wide variety of actions to eradicate poverty, increase employment and improve social integration, including efforts by the United Nations, other international organizations, Member States and non-governmental organizations. This effort, even the United Nations effort, is too broad to be directed by one body, department or agency, but must be a decentralized effort. Furthermore, a number of the actions called for by the Summit overlap with those called for by other recent conferences, such as the Children's Summit, UNCED, ICPD and the Women's Conference. A primary question therefore is that of a focal point for follow-up to the Summit.

At the inter-governmental level, the Commission for Social Development claimed "a central role" in the follow-up, a claim that was considered by ECOSOC. It could, however, be somewhat difficult for the Commission to fulfil this role as it is one of the smallest Commissions and has been meeting biennially, with the next regular session in 1997. It has therefore been proposed that it be enlarged and meet annually. The Commission itself was unable to agree on this question, and ECOSOC offered a partial solution by agreeing on a "special session" for 1996, with a further review of the membership and frequency of meetings next year. The other Commissions of ECOSOC would hopefully consider the follow-up within their mandates and report to ECOSOC.

At the Secretariat level, DPCSD will have a major role, particularly in servicing ECOSOC and its subsidiaries. UNDP sees a major role for itself, particularly with respect to the eradication of poverty, which "will become UNDP's priority number one". ILO will presumably be the lead agency for employment. And the DPCSD Division for Social Development will certainly have a major role with respect to social integration. The structure or nature of a focal point for coordinating all efforts has not yet been worked out. The Summit Secretariat is budgeted until the end of the year.

Concerning the integrated follow-up for the recent conferences, Mr. Speth UNDP Chief, has proposed five inter-agency task forces:

  • basic social services for all;
  • access of the poor to productive assets and livelihoods and full employment;
  • enabling environment for poverty eradication and social development;
  • gender equity and the advancement of women; and
  • sustainable agriculture, food security and environmental resources.
This proposal is being discussed by senior officials of the UN system, and the decision of the Secretary-General is to be reported to the General Assembly.
Ralph Chipman, WSSD

The Challenge of African Development

Peace and Development in Africa

There is now consensus within the international community on the interlinkages between peace, stability, human rights, good governance and development. As a result, there is a new urgency to look at the root causes of conflicts and to establish mechanisms for the prevention of conflict in Africa. The Office of the Special Coordinator for Africa and the Least Developed Countries (OSCAL), as part of its mandate to raise issues critical to African economic recovery and development, co-sponsored a High Level Symposium on Peace and Development in Tokyo on 11-12 October 1995 to further promote awareness of the need for conflict prevention and resolution and to contribute to the efforts of the international community to achieve peace, security and stability in Africa.

Eighteen prominent persons from Africa, donor countries and international organizations, who are actively involved or are knowledgeable in the prevention, management and resolution of current conflicts in Africa, participated in the High-Level Symposium.

Operationalization of the Tokyo Declaration on African Development

The regional workshop for Eastern and Southern Africa on the operationalization of the Tokyo Declaration was held on 25-27 July 1995 in Harare, Zimbabwe, in response to the request of the General Assembly resolution 48/214 which called for the effective follow-up to Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD).

The workshop recommended strategies to promote peace, stability and development, capacity building and human resource development, and private sector development, as well as Asia - Africa cooperation, with specific recommendations for follow-up.

With respect to Asia-Africa cooperation, the workshop emphasized its potential importance in contributing to the recovery and development of Africa. Towards this end, several recommendations were made, including: 1) the organization of a volunteer expert exchange programme between Asian and African countries in areas of education, health, agriculture, tourism and private sector development; 2) the secondment of Asian officials in both public and private sectors to selected agencies and institutions in Africa and vice versa; 3) increased specific budgetary allocations should be set aside for Asia-Africa cooperation, supported by triangular cooperation, including support by more advanced developing countries; 4) special treatment to African countries in the context of the liberalization of trade and investment by Asia-Pacific Economic Operation countries, and; 5) the encouragement of investment by Asian firms in African privatization programmes and joint-ventures.

With regard to follow-up action, the formation of a small expert core group from Africa was recommended. Eight experts from Angola, Botswana, Eritrea, Kenya, Seychelles, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe were mandated to identify priority areas for Asia-Africa cooperation and make actionable recommendations for consideration by a future meeting of the Asia-Africa Forum. The first meeting of this small expert core group will take place in Seychelles from 18 to 22 December 1995.

Mobilization of domestic savings in Africa

Given the decline in overseas development assistance to Africa, the Secretary-General's report on financial intermediation systems and practices in Africa, requested by resolution 48/214 for consideration during the 50th Session of the General Assembly, is very timely.

The objective of the report, prepared by OSCAL, is to formulate policy recommendations with a view to stimulating private sector development in general and to promote the mobilization of domestic savings in particular. The report, entitled "Towards Advancing Financial Intermediation in Africa", states that financial systems of African countries remain in the primary or intermediate stages of intermediation. For advancing financial intermediation, there are certain preconditions to be met, such as restoration and maintenance of a reasonable degree of macro-economic stability; development of human capital and management systems; building expertise in maintaining appropriate portfolios of financial assets; and establishing information channels.

An important means of promoting financial intermediation is to promote interlinkages between the dynamic informal finance sector, such as sous-sous, tontines, teener, and formal financial systems to harness, in the most cost-effective manner, the savings and credit potential of the system.

A series of briefings was held on the report on the morning of 6 September 1995 for African Permanent Missions, in the afternoon for the Permanent Missions of OECD member-states and, on 7 September 1995, for Latin American and Caribbean and Asian Permanent Missions to the United Nations.

First Meeting of International Task Force on Informal Sector Development in Africa

The international workshop on informal sector development in Africa, co-organized by DPCSD/OSCAL, UNDDSMS and UNDP/RBA and which took place from 13-15 June, 1995, adopted a series of recommendations, including the formation of a Task Force on Informal Sector Development in Africa. The objectives of the Task Force are to act as a means of information exchange on international support for the informal sector; to derive recommendations for appropriate national policies and international support measures; and to draw up recommendations on appropriate measures to improve the framework for the informal sector. The Task Force will devise a specific and organization-wide programme of action that would bring together various members of the U.N. system and international development agencies in support of informal sector development in Africa.

The first meeting of the Task Force will be held on 21 and 22 November 1995 at U.N. Headquarters.

Leslie Wade, OSCAL

ISU Launches DPCSD Web Site

Organization-wide Internet services are closer than ever to becoming reality with some 200 UN Secretariat users expected to be online by the end of the year, including as many as two dozen in the DPCSD New York office. Among the features that will be offered to new cybernauts is direct access to the alluring World Wide Web whose visual appeal and straightforward point-and-click retrieval mechanism consistently impress novices and experts alike. At the request of the USG, the Information Support Unit has begun construction of a web site specifically for DPCSD that provides a framework for guiding researchers in international economic and social development through the broad substantive work of the Department and out into the world beyond.

The new DPCSD web site integrates earlier initiatives by the Climate Change, Desertification and IYF Secretariats, and fully exploits the extensive online document collection developed and maintained by ISU on the UNDP gopher server, just as the Social Summit and Women's Conference home pages have done. Reports of proceedings with hypertext links, parliamentary documentation, public information material, and customized links to other resources constitute the basic web service. An improvement over the existing DPCSD gopher, this service brings together the collective effort of DPCSD by promoting all seven of the Department's substantive programme areas, including DPCEA and OSCAL, not previously represented online.

Through an auto-answering electronic mailbox, anyone, anywhere who has access to an Internet mail gateway, regardless of whether they are directly connected to the Internet, can retrieve the full collection of DPCSD materials. This coordinated presentation, and almost global reach, adds tremendous value to the Department's information programme. Besides supporting internal users and promoting an inclusive approach to economic and social development, the DPCSD web, gopher and e-mail outlets link DPCSD over fast electronic networks to its most important audiences: Governments of Member States, international organizations and NGOs. ECOSOC has consistently called for just this kind of enhanced, timely, user-friendly and cost-effective access to United Nations information.

An essential mandate of the Department is to support intergovernmental negotiating processes, in particular by developing and coordinating United Nations policies in the economic and social fields. The first priority facing ISU in this respect was to make DPCSD parliamentary and other documentation available to our core constituency worldwide in an easily-retrievable format, and this need has been met through the establishment of basic gopher and web services. The second major task will be to turn the DPCSD gopher and web sites into strategic monitoring and policy coordination tools that promote DPCSD's role as an integral player in the global effort to achieve economic and social development. How might one go about this?

An initiative of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Working Group of the General Assembly on an Agenda for Development demonstrates one intelligent, creative approach. The Working Group has compiled a Compendium of specific goals, targets and objectives set by Member States in the programmes of action of recent global conferences, and correlated these with assessments of the progress of implementation of those targets. The result is a detailed chronicle of a selection of major agreements of the General Assembly, by subject area, and corresponding monitoring by the United Nations Secretariat.

Elaborating on this approach, it should be possible for any Internet user, and in particular those within DPCSD, to search an online database of goals and targets and retrieve sections of national reports or other documents that describe progress achieved in their implementation. In practice, this assumes that two things are possible: first, that the body of relevant documentation, and in particular national reports, can be converted to electronic format; second, that these documents, whether they describe goals or assessment, can with some effort be divided into segments that lend themselves to indexing following a standard vocabulary for the economic and social fields.

Consider an example: suppose a social affairs officer at DPCSD has been asked to prepare a report on the status of African youth. Following a procedure not more complicated than turning on a computer, the staff member is able to search the DPCSD web site to find goals relevant to youth arising from the New Agenda for the Development of Africa, Social Summit and Women's Conference negotiations. A second refined search reveals the text of previous Secretary-General reports addressing youth specifically in Africa, plus related sections of national reports submitted by countries in the African region.

While the vision of an advanced DPCSD web site is very far from coalescing into a practical plan of action, there are three more modest goals that the Information Support Unit may achieve in relatively short order. Knowing that information content is the most important feature of any online service, the collection of online documentation relevant to DPCSD will continue to be expanded and enhanced. An ISU plan to re-organize the UN materials on the UNDP gopher, endorsed by DPI, should reduce confusion about just who is doing what in the development and maintenance of that system.

A second task will be to develop and promote a consistent, easily- recognizable, online image for DPCSD through the introduction of graphic design guidelines for web pages published by the Department. A useful advisor in this respect may be the Department of Public Information whose experience in designing public information materials for different media could be of some assistance in the creation of a high-quality, professional look.

Finally, links to other resources in the economic and social fields need to be expanded and properly organized. The involvement and contribution of divisional focal points will be essential in this enrichment of the gopher and web systems.

The address of the DPCSD home page is http://www.un.org/DPCSD/. The DPCSD gopher can be found at gopher.un.org. Select "United Nations Secretariat", then "Department for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development". Those without desktop Internet access may visit the ISU electronic library in DC2-1382 where a public Internet work station is available from Monday-Friday, 9 - 5:30. Or, try the auto-answering electronic mailbox by sending the above web address in the body of a message to agora@www.undp.org.

Patrick Spearing, ISU