Volume 3, Issue 1 - February/March 1996

In this issue:

Climate Change Secretariat Becomes Permanent
King Appointed Director of DAW
Rolodates
Highlights of the 50th Session of the General Assembly
CEDAW - Godmother of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action
ECOSOC Reviews Arrangements for Consultations with NGOs
National Strategies for the Prevention of Suicide
Implementation of Asia-Africa Cooperation
Energy Committee Reviews Policies
Technology Assessment Workshop in Dakar
High Level Advisory Board Examines Sustainable Development Strategies

Climate Change Secretariat Becomes Permanent

After several years as an Interim Secretariat, those of us who service the Climate Change Convention started the new year by formally becoming Permanent. The resulting change in our institutional links will of course have some effect on the way we operate. But more important is what will remain the same -- our strong working relationships and substantive links with our key partners. Sustainable development and Agenda 21 will remain at the heart of our work, and we will only be effective if can continue to work as team with our colleagues throughout the United Nations, especially at DPCSD.

The coming months will be difficult for us as we shoulder a heavy workwork while simultaneously preparing for our relocation to Bonn. Fortunately, the majority of the staff has decided to remain with the Secretariat as we move to Germany. This move is now expected for August, just after COP-2 *. Our new quarters once held the offices of the Marshal Plan - another ambitious effort to build a new future. House Carstanjen is a small, beautiful castle on the Rhine River, and we hope to welcome our DPCSD colleagues there in the months and years to come.

* COP-2, i.e., Conference of the Parties, second session, Geneva, 8-19 July, including: the fourth session of the Ad Hoc Group on the Berlin Mandate (AGBM); third session of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA); third session of the Subsidiary Body on Implementation (SBI); and second session of the Ad Hoc Group on Art.13 (AG13) (see KIOSK, vol.2, no.6)

Michael Zammit Cutajar, UNFCCC


King Appointed Director of DAW

Angela E. V. King has been named Director of the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW) effective 1 February 1996.

Ms. King brings to the post, which is responsible for the follow-up to the Beijing Conference and for managing the central United Nations programme for the advancement of women, a wide experience in the economic, social and political work of the United Nations, in administration and in advancement of women. Ms. King will work in close cooperation with the recently designated Senior Adviser of the Secretary-General on the implementaion of the Beijing Conference, Assistant Secretary General Rosario Green.

Since 1987, Ms. King has served at the director level in the Office of Human Resources Management, as Director of Recruitment and Placement and Director of Staff Administration and Training. Most recently she was deputy to the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources Management and Director of the Operational Services Division. As such she worked closely with the focal point for the improvement of the status of women in the Secretariat on such issues as special measures for women and sexual harassment. She represented the Office at the Fourth World Conference on Women at Beijing in 1995.

From 1992-1994, she was on assignment as chief of mission of the United Nations Observer Mission in South Africa (UNOMSA), one of only two women who have headed a United Nations peace and security mission.

Ms. King joined the United Nations Secretariat in 1966 from the Permanent Mission of Jamaica, where she was one of the first two women foreign service officers posted after Jamaica joined the United Nations and where she worked on matters relating to human rights and social development.

In her early career in the Secretariat, she worked in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs in the preparation of the Report of the World Social Situation, and later in the Branch for the Promotion of Equality between Men and Women where she participated in the first United Nations Conference on Women in Mexico City in 1975 and the second United Nations Conference on Women in Copenhagen in 1980. She has been involved with programme planning and coordination and was the first chief of the Central Evaluation Unit.

The new Director of the DAW has been active in work for the advancement of women in the United Nations Secretariat and was a founding member of the ad hoc Group on Equal Rights for Women and is a member of the High-level Steering Committee on Improving the Status of Women in the Secretariat.

Ms. King has a BA (Hons) in History from the University College of the West Indies and an MA in Educational Sociology and Administration from the University of London, as well as further graduate studies in educational sociology at New York University.

Ms. King has one son.


RO-LO-DATES

5-16 February, New York
UN Conference on Human Settlements
Third Prepcom

5 - 16 February, Geneva
Organizational Session

26 February-1 March, New York
Commission on Sustainable Development
Ad Hoc Working Group on Sectoral Issues
(Atmosphere and Oceans)

27 February-4 March, Geneva
UNFCCC, Subsidiary Body for Scientific
and Technological Advice, Second Session

February-March, Geneva
Administrative Committee on Coordination
First Regular Session

4-8 March, New York
Commission on Sustainable Development
Working Group on Finance and
Consumption and Production Patterns

For more information on current and upcoming meetings, see the new DPCSD online calendar.


Highlights of the 50th Session of the General Assembly

FOURTH WORLD CONFERENCE ON WOMEN

The discussion on follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women in the Assembly was considered in Plenary, the Second Committee and the Third Committee. A record number of speakers in the Third Committee reaffirmed commitments made at Beijing.

Three issues of concern were underscored. The first was how reservations entered by some countries to parts of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action would be reflected in the resolutions endorsing the Platform. The second related to the UNIFEM/INSTRAW merger, and the third to the relative role of the Commission on the Status of Women in the follow-up process.

An omnibus resolution on follow-up was adopted in the Third Committee, after intensive and lengthy negotiations, which;

  • clearly established the role of the Commission on the status of Women at the base of a three-tiered structure of monitoring (CSW, the Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly).
  • accepted the Secretary-Generalþs proposal to undertake a further report on ways to enhance the capacity of the organizations of the United Nations system to support the ongoing follow-up to the Conference in the most integrated and effective way.
  • also called for strengthening of the Division for the Advancement of Women.
The issue of the UNIFEM/INSTRAW merger would be dealt with in the larger context of the further report, but the resolution underscored the different mandates of the two institutions.

A number of other resolutions, related to the outcome of the Beijing Conference, were adopted: on violence against women (trafficking and on migrant women workers), on rural women, on women and development (in the Second Committee) and approving the amendment to permit the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women to have more flexible meeting time. All of these issues involve coordination among a number of organizations of the United Nations system.

1997 SPECIAL SESSION OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY TO REVIEW PROGRESS ACHIEVED SINCE UNCED

Member States reconfirmed their political commitment to the work of the United Nations in the area of sustainable development and to the follow-up to the Earth Summit in Rio by deciding that a Special Session of the GA should be held in June 1997 to review five-year progress achieved since UNCED and that this session should be convened at the highest possible level and as a self-standing event.

The report of the Secretary-General containing proposals on the scope and organizational modalities for the Special session was unanimously well received and laid the basis for GA discussion of this issue.

The Assembly decided that the preparations for the session should be carried out within the framework of the Commission on Sustainable Development, starting from the Ministerial Segment of the CSD in May 1996, continuing at the meeting of the CSDþs Working Group in February 1997 and ending with the fourth session of the Commission in April of that year.

The Assembly decided that the preparations for the Special Session should be broadly based, with the active involvement of bodies and organizations of the UN system, relevant regional organizations and treaty bodies, and provide adequate arrangements for effective contributions from major groups and NGOs both in the preparatory process and at the Special Session itself.

The Assembly highlighted that the ACCþs Inter-Agency Committee for Sustainable Development should ensure a well orchestrated system-wide response to the preparations for the 1997 review.

Furthermore, the Assembly requested the Secretary-General to prepare a large number of analytical reports for the 1997 review, not only assessing the progress achieved at international and national levels, but also examining the main and emerging trends and issues in sustainable development, and suggesting priorities for future action, including recommendations on the future role of the CSD.

SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT

World Summit for Social development

The General Assembly adopted a resolution on the implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development. In line with the language used in Copenhagen, the resolution stresses the need for a "renewed and massive political will at the national and international levels to invest in people and their well- being and achieve the objectives of social development". It proclaims the "critical importance of national action and international cooperation for social development". While governments should formulate or strengthen by 1996 comprehensive strategies for implementing the Summit outcome, the United Nations system should "strengthen and adjust its activities, programmes and medium-term strategies, as appropriate, to take into account the follow-up of the Summit".

The Commission for Social Development will have the "primary responsibility" for the follow-up and review of the implementation of the Summit. The Economic and Social Council will "provide overall guidance and oversee system-wide coordination in the implementation of the Summit outcome". The General Assembly will hold a special session in the year 2000 for "an overall review and appraisal" of the implementation of the Summit. All other entities and organs of the system are invited to play a role in a coordinated manner. The Secretary- General is requested to ensure that the Secretariat will effectively assist with the implementation and follow-up of the Summit.

International Year for the Eradication of Poverty

In December 1993, through its resolution 48/183, the General Assembly proclaimed 1996 "International Year for the Eradication of Poverty". The Social Summit, held in Copenhagen in March 1995, adopted a commitment to eradicate poverty "through decisive national action and international cooperation, as an ethical, social, political and economic imperative of humankind" and reaffirmed the usefulness of an International Year for the Eradication of Poverty.

At its 50th session, the Assembly adopted a resolution on a programme for the observance of the Year and the activities to be organized during the decade.

The International Year shall aim at creating a greater awareness that eradication of poverty is "fundamental for reinforcing peace and achieving sustainable development". The principles to guide the activities to be undertaken at the national and international levels include measures to ensure that people living in poverty have "access to the resources and opportunities necessary to escape from poverty" and "to basic social services". Participation of the poor in the decisions affecting their lives is very much emphasized.

The main objective of the first United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (1997-2006) will be to "pursue effectively the implementation of the outcomes of major United Nations conferences related to the eradication of poverty, in particular the World Summit for Social Development".

TRIENNIAL COMPREHENSIVE POLICY REVIEW OF OPERATIONAL ACTIVITIES FOR DEVELOPMENT

This exercise establishes policies to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of development cooperation supported by the UN system for the next 3 years.

The linkage between governance, funding and enhanced efficiency of means of delivery, and the central role of recipient countries and national governments in the management of the development process were emphasized throughout the review.

This linkage was an essential focus of the Secretary-General's report and it formed the basis of the negotiations.

The resolution adopted (50/120) builds on General Assembly resolution 47/199 and moves the reform of operational activities for development forward in a number of areas.

It continues to focus on such matters as the Country Strategy Note, (CSN) the resident coordinator system, decentralization, delegated authority, simplification and harmonization of rules and procedures, common premises and shared administrative and other services at the country level. The new features of the resolution contains a USG mention of linkages between humanitarian and development assistance; the need for impact evaluation is also required for the first time. A new dimension is added to the question of resources and monitoring and evaluation when it is recommended that evaluation and resource mobilization be undertaken within the framework of the Country Strategy Note.

Further negotiations on governance and resources will be carried out in the context of the informal working group on the restructuring and revitalization of the United Nations in the economic, social and related fields, established by res 48/162.

The new resolution could prove to be ground-breaking in many respects if it is given a forward-looking interpretation by the UN system, particularly the funds and programmes and if governments take consistent positions in the various governing bodies of the system. It should command the strong support of the system since the recommendations of the Secretary-General were broadly endorsed by everyone and most of them were retained in one form or another.

DISCUSSIONS IN THE WINGS OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY, PARTICULARLY ON RESTRUCTURING

DPCSD has been involved in the preparatory phases of these activities both from the standpoint of providing substantive support as well as through preparing a number of reports in this general area including:

  • backstopping the Ad Hoc Open-ended Working Group of the General Assembly on an Agenda for Development and, in particular, drafting the synthesis text containing proposals for institutional change which has been submitted to the Bureau of the Group;
  • preparing the report on the triennial comprehensive policy review which contained a number of proposals which were welcomed by Member States and upon which the final resolution was based;
  • preparing the report on the restructuring and revitalization of the United Nations in the economic, social and related fields which advanced a number of proposals to enhance the capacity of the Council to better fulfill its Charter responsibilities. This report has been well-received and many of the proposals are likely to be reflected in the negotiating text that is now under review; and
  • preparing a report on renewal of the dialogue on strengthening international economic cooperation for development through partnership which has resulted in a resolution which notes "with appreciation the efforts of the Secretary-General to encourage a constructive dialogue for enhancing development and to facilitate actions in that regard;"
  • preparing of a report on improved arrangements for relations between the UN and NGOs which made proposals to modernize the UNþs approach to dealing with NGOs and enhance their capacity to participate in the work of the intergovernmental machinery.
Looking ahead, there is a need for attention to be paid to the importance of coordinating, at both the intergovernmental and Secretariat levels, the work of three reform bodies.

  • The Ad Hoc Open-ended Working Group of the General Assembly on an Agenda for Development, under the chairmanship of the President of the Assembly, supported by Ambassador Oswald of Sweden and Ambassador Mongb‚ of Benin;
  • The General Assembly informal working group on the restructuring and revitalization of the United Nations in the economic, social and related fields under the chairmanship of Ambassador De Rojas, the Deputy Permanent Representative of Venezuela; and
  • The Open-ended High-level Working Group on the Strengthening of the United Nations system, also chaired by President Freitas do Amaral supported by Ambassador P. Shah of India and Ambassador Keating of New Zealand.
DPCSD has set up an internal task force to coordinate support and has established a team of senior officers to provide coordinated assistance, as may be required, to all three exercises.

AFRICA

The General Assembly debate on agenda item 24, þimplementation of UN/NADAFþ, revolved around four major themes: assessment of developments under UN/NADAF; the role played by the United Nations in its implementation; future agenda for implementation, and 1996 mid-term review by the General Assembly.

The Secretary-General submitted two major reports: (i) towards advancing financial intermediation in Africa (A/50/490); and (ii) Implementation of Resolution 49/142 on the establishment of a diversification fund for Africa's commodities (A/50/520).

The debate on the item was productive. First, it brought to the surface wide appreciation of the efforts of the United Nations, particularly the Secretary-General himself, for African development and for keeping Africa high on the international agenda. Second, delegates took note of the Secretary-General's report on Financial Intermediation in Africa and made specific suggestions for follow-up implementation of its recommendations. Third, the debate provided guidelines as to what the delegates expect from the Secretary-General's report for the mid-term review, and a preview of what could be expected at next yearþs discussions on the implementation of the UN/NADAF.

Draft resolution A/50/L40 was adopted following open-ended consultations on the Plenary. This resolution is limited to the procedural issues related to the mid- term review of the implementation of the UN/NADAF in 1996. Member States decided to conduct the mid-term review in a period not exceeding seven days. There will be an organizational session of the Ad Hoc Committee for two days before 30 June 1996 to discuss the conduct of the mid-term review, including its duration. The resolution invited the Economic Commission for Africa to submit a report to the Secretary-General by June 1996 on actions taken and progress achieved by African countries in the implementation of the UN/NADAF.

A collection of reports discussed by the General Assembly under agenda items that were the responsibility of DPCSD is available through the DPCSD gopher.


Godmother of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action

CEDAW, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, held its 15th annual session in New York from 15 January to 2 February 1996 supported by the Division for the Advancement of Women. The Committee is made up of 23 independent experts with competence in the fields covered by the Convention. They are elected by States parties to serve in their individual capacities and represent different geographical regions, cultures and legal systems. CEDAW members come from a variety of disciplines: some are judges, professors of law, medical doctors, economists, diplomats, politicians, sociologists, and advocates for women's rights. CEDAW is the only UN treaty body currently made up entirely of women.

The primary task of the Committee is to monitor the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the all-encompassing legal instrument dealing with women's human rights which was adopted in 1979 and entered into force in 1981. To date, 151 countries have become parties to the Convention. Once a State has ratified or acceded to the Convention, it is obliged to report to the Committee on the extent to which it has put its provisions into practice. The first such report is due within one year of having become party to the Convention, and subsequently every four years. In addition, the Committee can ask for reports from States parties on an exceptional basis.

During the review process, the Committee engages in a free exchange of information (the so called "constructive dialogue") between the representatives of the State party and the experts. The Committee recognizes achievements made and points out shortcomings. It makes useful suggestions to the Government on how to improve compliance with the Convention. At the end of the review process, the Committee adopts concluding comments, which point out factors and difficulties affecting the implementation of the Convention. They also highlight positive aspects and contain more concrete suggestions and recommendations.

During this past session, the Committee considered reports from Belgium, Cuba, Cyprus, Ethiopia, Hungary, Iceland, Paraguay, and Ukraine. Rwanda made an oral report on an exceptional basis.

Two standing working groups met during the session, one to consider ways to expedite the Committee's work and the other one to prepare Suggestions and General Recommendations dealing with issues that have not been specifically spelled out in the Convention, or with themes that cut across a number of articles. Twenty-two General Recommendations have been adopted to date. Notably, the Committee has adopted General Recommendation 19, concerning gender-based violence against women, and General Recommendation 21, dealing with marital and family relations. At its last session the Committee initiated preparation of a General Recommendation on Articles 7 and 8 of the Convention dealing with the political participation of women and their involvement in political decision- making.

In the aftermath of the Fourth World Conference on Women, the Committee now plays another role, that of godmother to the Platform for Action. The critical areas of concern in the Platform are a reflection of the issues addressed in the Convention. The Platform itself refers to Articles of the Convention and states that States parties to the Convention should include in their reports information on measures taken to implement the Platform, thus linking the Committee's monitoring of the protection of women's human rights, as guaranteed by the Convention, with monitoring of the Platform. As such, CEDAW is in the unique position to meet directly with States parties and raise questions on implementation of the Convention and the Platform for Action. The valuable information and exchange which takes place in the Committee will strengthen the overall monitoring of action to empower women and ensure their enjoyment of their human rights.

The work of the Committee is closely followed by non-governmental organizations. They provide to its members important information on the actual status of women in the States parties under consideration and they also observe whether the recommendations made by the Committee and measures planned by Governments in the spirit of implementing the Convention have actually been adopted or whether related plans have been carried out.

Herta Kaschitz, DAW


ECOSOC Review Arrangements for Consultations with NGOs

The 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development represented a landmark event not only for the international community at large, but, in particular for the non-governmental organizations who participated in the Conference in unprecedented numbers and proved, not for the first time, their critical role as catalysts for change, as disseminators of information about the United Nations and its activities and as a source of substantive expertise and practical experience.

In the light of the experience gained during the UNCED process and at the initiative of the Secretary-General, the Economic and Social Council decided in 1993 to conduct a general review of current arrangements for consultation with non-governmental organizations - such arrangements are based on a twenty-eight year-old resolution of the Council.

This article discusses the work of the Open-ended Working Group on the review of arrangements for consultation with non-governmental organizations established by the Council by RES/1993/80, to update, if necessary, the 1968 Council resolution 1296 (XLIV), introducing coherence in the rules governing participation of NGOs in international conferences convened by the United Nations and examining ways and means of improving practical arrangements for the work of the Committee on NGOs and the NGO Section of the Secretariat, (which falls within DPCEA/DPCSD). The NGO Section is the focal point for relations with NGOs in consultative status with ECOSOC.

To date, the Working Group has held the following meetings:

At its most recent session, the Group decided to recommend that ECOSOC authorize it to hold an additional meeting for a period of no more than five working days to enable delegations to continue their work. It should be added that the Group is expected to present its final report to the Council at the latter's 1996 substantive session.

With respect to the status of work of the Group, which was chaired by Ambassador Kamal of Pakistan, at their last round of meetings, delegations spent the bulk of their time in drafting session and worked diligently on what will be a draft resolution on which the Council is expected to act in July.

This revised draft resolution of the 1968 resolution mentioned above, draws on a considerable number of elements which the Secretariat had provided, both in the context of the comprehensive report of the Secretary-General on the subject prepared by DPCEA/DPCSD as well as a proposed draft resolution updating portions of resolution 1296 which, at the request of the Group and its first Chairman, Ambassador Marker of Pakistan, DPCEA/DPCSD had also prepared. The Working Group was able to reach agreement on a considerable portion of this future resolution and was able to identify those areas requiring additional time for careful negotiations. The status of negotiations as of the morning of 23 January is contained in a non-paper which reflects, in boldface, text on which agreement has yet to be reached.

Thus far, three key points originally suggested by the Secretary-General have been incorporated in the text before the Group and do represent genuine progress with respect to existing legislation. These are:

  • the recognition of the importance and growth of national, regional and subregional NGOs, an element that was missing from the 1968 resolution and one that clearly indicates changing times;
  • the broadening of the role of the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations. This is reflected in two ways (a) a decision taken at the 1995 substantive session of the Council (1995/304): whereby, inter alia, the Council decided to annualize the meetings of the Committee and to enable it to meet, as required, on an ad hoc basis for the prompt discharge of its functions, and also decided to enlarge the membership of the present 19-member Committee, and in terms of (b) the Working Group's draft resolution wherein the character of the Committee's deliberations will be expanded to take account of the evolving relationship between the United Nations and the non-governmental sector;
  • the adoption of standard rules for the participation of NGOs in United Nations international conferences and their preparatory processes. The experience of the various conferences in the economic and social sectors - Barbados, Cairo, Copenhagen, Beijing, among others - proved to all concerned that it is critical that there be consistency in preparation for and during all conferences with respect to the accreditation of NGOs.
The Economic and Social Council will pronounce itself with respect to the Working Group at the 6 to 9 February organizational session of the Council, where it will either enable the Group to continue their discussions and hopefully reach consensus on a draft resolution, or will decide to take on this responsibility directly. Stay tuned for more information on the outcome of the Council's final decision ...

For those colleagues who have a specific interest in NGO-related issues, they may wish to refer to E/AC.70/1994/5 which provides comprehensive information and analysis of the historical evolution of the consultative relationship and a contextual framework as it identifies the role of non-state actors in contemporary society and suggests a series of questions and issues relevant to the discussions of the Working Group.

Jennifer Lee-De Laurentis, DPCEA


National Strategies for the Prevention of Suicide

The Department has recently completed a three year programme designed to help societies coordinate better their attempts to prevent suicide.

As the Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development recognizes, stress, isolation and insecurity are intensifying throughout the world. An expression of this situation has been increasing recourse to suicide. Recent research has shown that:

  • world-wide, 500,000 people are officially reported to die by suicide annually. However, actual rates are estimated at about 1,200,000 each year;
  • suicide now ranks among the top-ten causes of death for individuals of all ages;
  • it is among the three leading causes of death for adolescents and young adults: in some countries it is already the leading cause of death for those in their late twenties or early thirties;
  • for the last few decades, trends have been rising particularly among the younger age groups, but the highest rates are still found among the elderly;
  • in many countries - such as Hungary, Japan, Australia and the Netherlands - the number of suicide deaths is much higher than the number of motor vehicle deaths;
  • suicide is not only a problem of the affluent countries: it occurs also in developing countries, in some of which rates are among the highest in the world;
  • in addition to those succeeding in suicide attempts, at least twenty times as many persons make non-fatal suicide attempts serious enough to require medical attention - often they result in irreversible disability;
  • the lives of inumerable other persons - family members, friends, colleagues and care givers - are often profoundly affected, emotionally and financially.
Suicide is costly also for society: attempts are one of the main reasons for hospital emergency admissions and treatment of young people; costs of caring for those disabled physically and emotionally is considerable; loss of years of productive life and of resources already invested in education is significant. Indeed losses from suicide and attempted suicide are estimated at 2.5 percent of the total economic burden due to disease.

The Secretary-General, in remarks made in May 1995 on the occasion of the launching of a Harvard Medical School report on mental health in developing countries, noted that "To secure mental health for the people of the world must be one of the objectives of the United Nations in its second half-century."

In spite of the seriousness of the situation, only a small number of countries have formulated strategies capable of harmonizing the work of all engaged in suicide prevention, or in mitigating its effects. Prevention is widely neglected.

As part of its programme of promoting the carrying out of international instruments on social policy, the Department responded to this serious lack of policy coordination by collaborating with WHO and a number of Canadian specialist institutions (the Faculty of Social Work in the University of Calgary, the Department of Psychiatry in Calgary General Hospital, the Suicide Information and Education Centre and Living Works Education, Inc.) in holding an International Expert Meeting in Alberta in May 1993, to which it transmitted draft guidelines.

This Meeting formulated a set of "Guidelines for the formulation and implementation of comprehensive national strategies for the prevention of suicidal behaviours and the provision of supportive and rehabilitative services to persons at risk and to other affected persons". After wide circulation and revision during 1994 and 1995, these Guidelines are to be published by the United Nations later this year.

Michael Stubbs, DSPD


Implementation of Asia-Africa Cooperation

The Core Group of African Experts on the Implementation of the Tokyo Declaration on African Development (TICAD) from Eastern and Southern Africa, which met in the Seychelles from 19-21 December 1995 (see KIOSK, Vol.2 Issue 6), has come up with a series of recommendations to facilitate and concretize Asia-Africa cooperation in six sectors:
  • public finance;
  • private sector development;
  • trade;
  • agriculture;
  • human resource development; and
  • infrastructure development.
Among many recommendations, the Group of Experts identified financial intermediation, the mobilization of domestic resources for development and informal-sector development as viable areas for technical assistance and cooperation. These areas have also been targeted by the Office of the Special Coordinator for Africa and Least Developed Countries (OSCAL) for follow-up action based on the Secretary-General's report on Advancing Financial Intermediation in Africa (A/50/490), prepared by OSCAL for the fiftieth session of the Assembly and the outcome of the International Meeting on Informal Sector Development, co- organized by OSCAL, UNDP and DDSMS and held in June 1995 at United Nations Headquarters.

To facilitate efficient and effective follow-up of the recommendations, the Core Group urged that they be referred to Governments and regional groupings of Eastern and Southern Africa. The Government of Seychelles agreed to undertake mission to selected countries in Asia to explore the possibilities of holding a meeting of governmental and private sector representatives of Asia and Africa before the Asia-Africa Forum scheduled for December 1996.

***

Asian and African economists and policy makers met in Gaborone, Botswana on 25-26 January to assess the relevance of recent East Asian development experiences to contemporary problems of Southern Afirca. Can those experiences help to draw up policies for growth and sustainable development in Southern Africa? To help answer that question OSCAL discussed the implications of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) and initiatives such as the Asia-Africa Forum on Women, the Asia-Africa Forum on Desertification, the Asia-Africa Forum on Financial Intermediation and the Regional Workshop on the Operationalization of TICAD for Western and Central Africa.

Informal Sector Meeting in Guinea

The second meeting of the International Task Force on Informal Sector Development in Africa will be held in Conakry, Guinea from 22 to 26 April 1996. The meeting is expected to be opened by the Prime Minister of Guinea.

The main objective of the meeting is to finalize the draft outline of the special programme of support for Africa's informal sector development. In addition, informal sector operators in Guinea will host a one-day field trip to show task force members what is happening on the ground and how the informal sector businesses in Guinea are benefitting from the support of international agencies.

OSCAL has been designated as the Secretariat of the Task Force, which are: USAID (USA), GTZ (Germany), GDDC (Italy), NORAD (Norway), CIDA (Canada), JICA (Japan), IDRC (Canada), OAU, DPCSD/OSCAL, RBA/UNDP, DDSMS, ECA, UNCDF, UNIDO, UNIFEM, ILO, INSTRAW, World Bank, IMF, PAC (Canada), Trickle-Up (USA), Countryside Foundation (Cameroon), Lucia Manufacturing Industry Ltd. (Ghana). To assist the Task Force, three special Advisors has been designated: M.M. Awny (Egypt), J.S. Juneja (India) and E.S. Bukuku (Tanzania).

Leslie Wade, OSCAL


Energy Committee Reviews Policies

The Committee for New and Renewable Sources of Energy and on Energy for Development holds its second session from 12 to 23 February 1996 in New York. The Committee is an intergovernmental body of 24 government- nominated energy experts. The main agenda items to be considered at the session are:
  • Follow-up to the first and special sessions of the Committee.
  • Energy and sustainable development: (a) development of energy resources in developing countries; (b) renewable sources of energy with special emphasis on biomass: progress and policies; (c) efficient use of energy and materials: progress and policies; (d) energy and the protection of the atmosphere.
  • Medium-term planning and coordination in energy.
The Committee will consider the reports on these items and make recommendations to the Commission on Sustainable Development and the Economic and Social Council.

S. Arungu Olende, DSD


Technology Assessment Workshop in Dakar

The African Regional Workshop on Technology Needs Assessment in Support of the Transfer of Environmentally Sound Technology and International Technology Cooperation was held in Dakar, 17-19 January.

The workshop focussed on the assessment of technological needs of particular sectors of countries in the African region. The overall objective was to advance the role of sector-specific technology needs assessments as a supportive tool in the transfer and management of ESTs and for the improvement of international cooperation regarding ESTs, under the conditions and needs of countries in the African region.

The workshop was organized by the African Regional Centre for Technology, DPCSD, DSD and ECA.

Lowell Flanders, DSD


High Level Advisory Board Examines Sustainable Development Strategies

The High Level Advisory Board on Sustainable Development held its fifth session in New York from 29 to 31 January 1996. Created by the Secretary-General in 1993 following UNCED, the Board consists mostly of government ministers and academic experts, who are appointed by the SG for two-year terms. This was the first meeting of the second group of appointees, who included Maurice Strong and Mostafa Tolba among those reappointed for a second term. In addition to its deliberations, the Board had two long sessions with the SG. At the opening session, the SG reviewed the UN financial crisis and the Board discussed the obstacles that the crisis and the broader crisis of international development programmes posed for sustainable development. On the final day, the SG listened to the views of Board members on the problems and prospects for sustainable development.

The session had three substantive items on its agenda: the global multi-media communications revolution and its effect on sustainable development; sustainable energy and transport systems; and the role of the Board in the 1997 review of the implementation of the Rio Commitments. On the communications question, the Board had a discussion with Chuck Lankester of UNDP who presented the results of the UNDP Sustainable Development Networking Programme, which was supporting the establishment in developing countries of national electronic information networks connected to the Internet. While there was general support for broad access to modern information technologies, some Board members were concerned that the new technologies would lead to growing social and economic gaps and injustice and would threaten cultural diversity, religious values and even individual freedom.

There was general agreement that the international political and economic environments are, in many ways, becoming less conducive to sustainable development. The OECD countries are focusing on creating jobs; research funding is increasingly limited to short-term problems; and developmental assistance is succumbing to "fatigue", to growing fiscal problems, to pressures of global competition, to reduced political importance following the end of the Cold War, and to an increasingly inward orientation on the part of developed countries. For these and other reasons, no progress is being made toward limiting consumption of natural resources.

Among the exchanges during the session was a rather heated debate between experts from developed countries over strategies for sustainable resource and energy use. One proposed strategy was based on increasing the efficiency of resource use so as to quadruple the goods and services that could be produced with a given quantity of natural resources and energy. This would enable developing countries to quadruple their production of goods and services without increasing their environmental impact, while the developed countries could maintain their standard of living while greatly reducing their environmental impact. The opposing view was that new technologies and improvements in resource-efficiency were not going to solve the problem of sustainability since efficiency was unlikely to keep up with increasing consumption. In this view, the primary responsibility lay with the developed countries to reduce their production and consumption and to avoid exporting their consumerism to developing countries. Each society would have to choose what sort of sustainability it wanted, between a relatively high- consumption "engineered world", of which Singapore was taken as an example, or a more natural, bio-diverse environment with substantially lower consumption.

The members from developing countries, particularly Africa and Asia, emphasized the priority of reducing poverty and improving standards of living. With these priorities, governments were reluctant to impose any restraints on economic growth. One of the parliamentarians from a developed country, while recognizing the importance of changing production and consumption patterns, noted that popular opposition to restraints on consumption made such policies highly risky politically even in wealthy countries.

The SG stressed, and the Board agreed, that it should focus on such long-term perspectives in its contribution to the review of the implementation of the Rio Commitments, since the inter-governmental negotiations would focus on more detailed and short- to medium-term issues. The Board will hold further meetings in September 1996, January 1997 and perhaps around the time of the General Assembly Special Session in June 1997.

Ralph Chipman, DSD