ECOSOC 1996 - On The Road to Revival
At the outset, the absence of the Director-General of WTO and the Executive Heads of the Bretton Woods institutions (and the failure of WTO to be represented at all) from the "policy dialogue" on the world economy drew unfavourable comparisons to the 1995 session when all three of them had attended. At the concluding session, in light of the heavy agenda particularly in the general segment, a number of delegations called for better preparation and a more focussed agenda for future sessions of the Council.
Nonetheless, the Council session was noted for some important achievements. The broad consensus emerging from the high-level segment on drug abuse control is to be welcomed. The Council has thus prepared the ground for the 1998 special session of the General Assembly recommended by the Commission on Narcotic Drugs. The Agreed Conclusions adopted by the Council on the "coordination of UN system activities on poverty eradication" represent a significant step forward in enhancing the effectiveness of the Council's system-wide coordination role. Moreover, for the first time the Council adopted a thematic approach in looking at the work programmes of its functional commissions relating to poverty eradication across-the-board in a comprehensive manner, and providing guidance to them to ensure greater policy coherence and avoid overlap among them. It thus carried out successfully its supervision responsibilities vis-a-vis its subsidiary bodies. The high-level part of the operational activities segment which focused, also for the first time, on collaboration between the United Nations system and the Bretton Woods institutions , resulted in an important resolution (1996/43) by which, among other things, the Council called for the scheduling of a special meeting at a time close to the semi-annual meetings of the BWIs with a view to attracting the participation of Finance Ministries and the heads of financial and trade institutions. Another important decision (res. 1996/41) taken by the Council pertains to the initiation of reviews, at its substantive session of 1997, of its subsidiary bodies, as a follow up to General Assembly resolution 50/227 on "Further measures for the restructuring and revitalization of the United Nations in the economic, social and related fields". Finally, the Council was able to complete its three-year review of its consultative relationship with non-governmental organizations by adopting resolution 1996/31 which updates the twenty five-year- old resolution 1296 (XLIV) of 23 May 1968, that has thus far governed the ECOSOC-NGO relationship.
By its policy discussions and substantive decisions on key issues relating to the work of the UN system, the Council has demonstrated its growing vitality as a central coordinating mechanism. By its continuing and consistent concern with improving its own working methods, enhancing the coherence of its subsidiary machinery and strengthening its relationship with the specialized agencies including, in particular, the Bretton Woods institutions as well as with non-governmental organizations, the Council has also shown that it is alive to the need to adapt to the rapidly changing international environment.
Following are the main highlights of the session:
High-Level Policy Dialogue
The policy dialogue revolved around the themes of globalization, trade, debt, resource flows and cooperation between the United Nations and the Bretton Woods institutions. The President's Summary of the dialogue characterized the current evolution of the world economy as "encouraging" although, it noted, that the performance of "many countries remains below their potential". Developing countries were considered to be making a major contribution to the global economy and in many countries, particularly in Asia and, to some extent, in Latin America, growth seems autonomous from that of developed countries.
It was suggested that globalization offered both opportunities and challenges and that it needed to be extended to include issues such as technology, labour and migration flows. Finding durable solutions to the heavy debt burdens of the Least Developed Countries were of concern to a large number of participants, as were the social effects of structural adjustment programmes. The joint World Bank-IMF initiative to find such solutions was noted as encouraging. In this context, the representative of the World Bank took the opportunity to announce that as far as the Bank is concerned "structural adjustment, as we know it, is dead" and that the "civil war" within the United Nations system on this issue has been settled. With regard to cooperation between the United Nations and the Bretton Woods institutions, there was a general wish expressed to see this cooperation further enhanced without, at the same time, giving rise to new conditionalities by the UN operational system.
High-Level Segment: International cooperation against the illicit production, sale, demand, traffic, and distribution of narcotics and psychotropic substances and related activities
The High-Level Segment, which followed the policy dialogue attracted some 34 participants at the ministerial/senior official level. The debate was characterized by a broad degree of consensus on the policies and action required to meet the drug menace head- on. It was recognized that the narcotic drugs issue was not divided along North-South lines. As the President's Summary indicates, "the drug menace affects developed and developing countries alike. The current trends and patterns of drug abuse and traffic have made difficult the categorization of countries as producer countries, transit States, and consumer countries."
The universal ratification of the international drug control treaties was considered essential. The legalization of non-medical use of drugs was firmly opposed. Money laundering was identified as a major aspect of the problem and the question of the preparation of an international instrument on money laundering was raised. The recent actions taken by the ACC to ensure the increased commitment by specialized agencies, programmes and funds, and the international financial institutions, to include the drug dimension in their programmes of work were welcomed. With regard to the role of UNDCP, attention was drawn to the limited and reduced resources available to the programme from the UN regular budget which was considered insufficient to meet the demands on it. Strong support was expressed for the proposal emanating from the Commission on Narcotic Drugs concerning the convening of a Special Session of the General Assembly on the subject in 1998.
Coordination Segment: Coordination of the UN system activities for poverty eradication:
The Secretary-General's report on the subject was well received. The report covered three sub-themes: system-wide coordination at the country level, the gender perspective and the harmonization of the work of the functional commissions. The main thrust of the recommendations was to deepen and broaden the coordinated approach to the follow-up to major UN conferences that was adopted by the Council last year on the basis of the Secretary-General's report to the 1995 Coordination segment.
The debate in the Council was largely focused on the recommendations of the Secretary-General and indicated a keen interest in the questions raised and broad support for the suggested approach. The main differences related to the question of resource availability and the conditionalities that may be attached to them, national vs. international responsibilities, the role of the government and the character of cooperation between the UN system and the Bretton Woods institutions. The Agreed Conclusions adopted by the Council following intensive negotiations provide comprehensive guidance to the system and to the functional commissions on all three aspects of the theme of poverty eradication.
Operational Activities Segment
Apart from reviewing the UN-BWI relationship in the high-level meetings as noted above, the Council reviewed during the segment, the Secretary-General's report on the implementation of General Assembly resolution 50/120 on the Triennial Comprehensive Policy Review of the Operational Activities for Development. A dialogue was also held with the Executive Heads of UNDP, UNFPA and WFP and the Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF, as well as the UN system country teams from Egypt and Malawi. The report of the Secretary- General proved to be particularly helpful due to its clearly defined focus on selected areas, the clear identification of problems and related recommendations. The resolution (1996/45) adopted by the Council promotes further reforms of operational activities in key areas of harmonization, common premises and common services, and monitoring and evaluation. The ACC statement on the implementation of resolution 50/120 was widely welcomed and the management process for the implementation of the resolution received wide support.
Reform and restructuring
The Council took a number of actions to implement General Assembly resolution 50/227 on "Further measures for the restructuring and revitalization of the United Nations in the economic, social and related fields". With regard to relations with the Bretton Woods institutions, apart from the recommendation for a special meeting, the Council also decided to explore the possibility of "having joint reports prepared by the Secretariat of the United Nations, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the Bretton Woods institutions and the World Trade Organization".
With regard to the various reviews called for in that resolution, the Council has decided to hold a resumed session this year to undertake a review of its agenda. It has also agreed to undertake the review of the mandates, compositions, functions and working methods of its functional commissions and expert groups and bodies at its substantive session next year. For this purpose, the Secretary-General has been requested to prepare a comprehensive document compiling information on the mandates, compositions, functions and working methods of these bodies to be submitted to ECOSOC no later than February 1997. Concerning the reviews of the Regional Commissions, the Council has called on the Commissions to continue undertaking their own reviews and to report to the Council at its substantive session of 1997 on the outcome. The Council will, at that stage, decided how those results will contribute to improving the effectiveness and efficiency of those bodies by eliminating unnecessary duplication or overlapping of work and by ensuring a better structured relationship among these bodies and with ECOSOC.
New and innovative ideas for generating funds
In spite of the controversy previously generated on the issue, the Council unanimously adopted a resolution (1996/48) in which it requested the Secretary-General "to submit a report, to be prepared in cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme, on all aspects of new and innovative ideas for generating funds for globally agreed commitments and priorities, in particular those established at recent United Nations conferences and summits, in particular a review of their feasibility and possible modalities, as well as the costs and benefits of their implementation". At the same time, the Council emphasized that "new and innovative funding should be distinct from funding the regular budget and the peace-keeping budgets of the United Nations, and should be part of global partnership and interdependence".
The Council finally concluded its three-year effort to review and revise arrangements for consultation with non-governmental organizations. The decisions taken by the Council (res. 1996/31 and Dec. 1996/297) will improve the possibility for national and regional NGOs to be accredited; codify arrangements for participation by NGOs in the work of the Council and its subsidiary bodies; decide, for the first time, on broad arrangements for the participation of NGOs in international conferences, thus negating the need to adopt specific conference rules and regulations; and, again for the first time, recommend to the Assembly that it look into the question of granting NGOs rights to participate in the work of the General Assembly and its bodies. (At present NGOs' rights of participation are confined to ECOSOC and its subsidiary bodies.) These are positive developments which will serve to enhance the relationship between the United Nations and non-State actors.
In this segment, the Council addressed a wide range of economic, social, humanitarian, human rights and coordination questions and adopted a substantial number of related resolutions and decisions. There was wide-spread concern among delegations, however, that the agenda of the segment was overloaded and fragmented and needed to be streamlined to achieve a better focus. The Council decided to review this issue at its resumed substantive session before the end of 1996 (2-4 October 1996).
Sarbuland Khan, DPCEA
For further information please check the DPCEA page on the world wide web at: http://www.un.org/dpcsd/dpcea, which leads to recent council documents, and the activities of the Division for Policy Coordination and Economic and Social Council Affairs.
Germany offers premises to UN Convention to Combat Desertification
WomenWatch: Global Information Through Computer Networking Technology
The objective of the Workshop was to contribute to the development of WomenWatch, a DAW, UNIFEM and INSTRAW joint project aimed at facilitating global information exchange for monitoring the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action through the use of computer networking technology. The Workshop resulted in recommendations for the development of WomenWatch and related electronic information networks on global women's issues. Participants included Internet users and producers from developed and developing countries, NGOs and UN partners.
During the course of the Workshop participants held wide-ranging discussions on electronic computer networking technology and its use as a tool for follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women and other related conferences. Improving access, training and links with other communication tools and networks, and developing principles for cooperation between NGOs and the United Nations in the conceptualization and implementation of the WomenWatch project were also subject of discussion and recommendations.
During the discussion, it was considered that the technological changes have left women, both as users and producers, under-represented in electronic communication networking. It was essential for women to get involved and to use computer communication technology to their advantage. While noting the problems of access in many parts of the world, the Internet was considered an important potential channel for making women's voices heard and for disseminating and exchanging useful information for advocacy in the follow-up to Beijing and other global conferences.
Experts recognized that global electronic communications tools were important for advocacy and mobilization and formed part of a broader advocacy programme to achieve the objective of women's empowerment. Three priorities for WomenWatch were proposed in order for it to serve its communities: providing vital information resources, serving as an organizing tool and facilitating outreach activities. They recommended that the project, to be a useful resource, should provide comprehensive information on a timely and comprehensive basis, linked with other existing resources. The Workshop also concluded that WomenWatch required a resource base organized for easy access, and constantly evaluated and maintained. The resources should basically be accessible by e-mail, which was recognized as the primary working tool for the majority of women users of electronic communication systems. Participants underlined the value and potential of tools such as the World Wide Web for raising awareness and educating users in the North, but recommended that repackaging strategies and e-mail query tools to access the information available in the Web should be explored to meet the needs of the vast majority of women without current access to highly developed electronic tools.
The experts concluded that the United Nations has an important role to play in promoting greater understanding and use of computer networks by women and in providing information about the Fourth World Conference on Women and its implementation through electronic means. Joint endeavours such as that proposed by the Division for the Advancement of Women, UNIFEM and INSTRAW, demonstrated the potential for partnership and efficient use of resources in this area.
For further information on the Workshop or on WomenWatch please contact Kristen Timothy or Oliva Acosta at the DAW or check the Division's site on the world wide web: http://www.un.org/dpcsd/daw under "News".
The Habitat Olympics
Yet, as I watch the games, my mind keeps slipping back to Istanbul, Turkey, site of the recently concluded United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II). As I marvel at the wonderful performances of the athletes, I keep thinking, "We did that too." By "we" I mean the entire technical servicing team (you see - already with the sports analogies!) from DPCEA - Margaret Kelley (Secretary of the Conference), Liesel Hardebusch and Nicole Pouilleul (Plenary), Alexandre de Barros and Lydia Bawar (Plenary), Vladimir Zelenov and June Chesney (Committee I), Martiza Struyvenberg and Lorna Fidler (Committee II), Carol Doerflinger, Rosalie Nathan (a substitute player from Conference Services) and Vivian Bonano (Editorial), Maria Thompson (Group of 77 Liaison), June Knesl and your faithful correspondent (Journal and Coordination). Gold medal performers all! And what where our athletic, Olympic-style disciplines, you ask?
Marathon. If you think of the string of major United Nations conferences over the few past years, with the torch having been lighted at the Earth Summit in 1992 and carried all the way through to Habitat this year, by DPCEA among others, mere "marathon" seems almost inadequate. It was more like a series of marathons or a three-year long training session culminating in Istanbul. From Rio de Janeiro to Barbados to Cairo to Copenhagen to Beijing, among others, we so perfected our technique that we had it in our bones. Not only the muscle memory of how to do all the steps along the way and to hang on until the end, but the mental memory as well. Any athlete will tell you that victory is in large part a mental battle. How well we know. Especially when, as was the case at Habitat, the final plenary meeting ended at 3:30 on Saturday morning.
Track and field, especially short- and middle-distance races. Dashing through the halls of any conference centre from office to meeting room and arriving with one's smile (and papers) in place. The marble floors in Cairo were punishing and caused many a temporary injury, but no casualties. In Istanbul the distances between buildings and the long flights of stairs tested not only our speed but our endurance. In other places, over active air conditioners chilled us and music blaring from loudspeakers distracted us, but we soldiered on. And to think that our female colleagues competed while wearing high heels. Bonus points for that choice of uniform.
Gymnastics, both physical and mental. Balance beam - a lesson in how to walk the fine line in negotiations and still end up on your feet. Floor exercise - well, it was truly more like "podium" exercise as committee secretaries and assistants went through their routines in full view of the judges. Oops! I meant to say "conference participants". High bar? Uneven or parallel bars? Flying through the air with the greatest of ease, we often felt that our center of gravity was about 10 feet above floor level and changing moment by moment. The most important thing is to hang on, and we did.
800-meter free-style swimming. No joke! You would have marveled at the variety of strokes used (and the speed) to get from point A (the Plenary Hall) to point B (anywhere else) when the heavens opened up and the rain came down like thunder at the end of the final meeting of Habitat II. More bonus points for all who took part in this event since it was long delayed and did not start until almost 4 a.m.
Any conference, as any Olympic event, is a test, and it demands not only thorough preparation but a foreknowledge of the problems that will arise in the future and the experience to know how to handle them before they become insurmountable. We knew that Habitat II would be such a test, but there were positive signs of success even before the opening. The site of the conference, which was situated in a fascinating neighborhood of Istanbul and overlooked the Bosphorus, was both beautiful and well equipped. Our Turkish hosts could not have been more generous or more willing to help. Locally recruited staff members were hard working and delightful colleagues.
To carry the Olympic comparison further, a conference is both an individual and a team event. Each individual has his or her own responsibilities that merge invariably into the team responsibility, not only within DPCEA but also within the United Nations conference servicing team as a whole. A fall off the "conference balance beam" by anyone can throw the entire process into disarray. We may have checked our balance every once in a while, but there were no falls. The team held on to the end; Habitat II concluded successfully, and we awarded ourselves a communal gold medal.
Bill Bunch, DPCEA
The web site of Habitat II is at: http://www.un.org/conferences/habitat
Busy Schedule for OSCAL: UN-NADAF Review and Related Meetings
Mid-Term Review of UN-NADAF set for 16-20 September 1996
It was announced in the June/July issue of KIOSK that the mid-term review of the implementation of the United Nations New Agenda for the Development of Africa in the 1990s (UN-NADAF) would take place during the fifty-first session of the General Assembly. The date for the review of UN-NADAF has been fixed as 16 September 1996. Acting on the provision of resolution 50/160 of 22 December 1995, the General Assembly established an Ad Hoc Committee of the Whole of the Fiftieth Session to conduct the mid-term review and submit its report to the Fifty-first session of the General Assembly.
The organizational session of the Ad Hoc Committee was held at Headquarters on 20 June 1996. The Ad Hoc Committee elected Ambassador Owada (Japan) as Chairman; and the Ambassador Dangue Rewaka (Gabon), Ambassador Reyn (Belgium), and Ambassador Insanally (Guyana) as Vice-Chairman of its Bureau. The Ambassador from the Czech Republic will serve as Raporteur.
During its meeting from 16-20 September 1996, the Ad Hoc Committee will consider the Secretary General's report on the Mid-term Review of the Implementation of the United Nations New Agenda for the Development of Africa in the 1990s (UN-NADAF). Based on an analysis of the efforts of and the actions taken by African countries and their international development partners, the report highlights the critical issues and development challenges that many African countries were faced with in the mid-1990s. It also recommends, for consideration of the Ad Hoc Committee, certain measures to accelerate the implementation of UN-NADAF within the agreed-upon time-frame. The report underscores the following four major development challenges facing African countries in their quest for achieving sustained and sustainable growth and development:
Additional background/information documents would also be made available to the Ad Hoc Committee on the seminar on the implementation of the New Agenda, held in Tokyo (Japan) on 27 and 28 August 1996, on the emerging role of non-governmental organizations in African sustainable development, and on resource requirements for the full implementation of the New Agenda.
Cognisance of the important role that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) can play in national development, the Ad Hoc Committee of the Whole of the General Assembly decided to grant maximum participation to NGOs in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council and other NGOs that have been contributing to the implementation of UN-NADAF. Accredited NGOs will be allowed to participate in all formal sessions of the mid-term review. To prepare themselves for this event, NGOs are organizing, in consultation with OSCAL, a two-day conference. A major outcome of the conference will be a joint statement that the NGOs will present to the Ad Hoc Committee of the Whole.
The meeting will be divided in general debate and working group sessions. The Ad Hoc Committee established the following two working groups: (i) on the assessment of the national efforts based on relevant inputs from African countries; and (ii) on the response of the international community, including the United Nations system on the implementation of UN-NADAF. An informal drafting group will negotiate the resolution.
Asia-Africa Forum on Combating Desertification
OSCAL has co-organized, with the Governments of China and Japan and the Secretariat for the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, an Asia-Africa Forum on Combatting Desertification. The Forum took place in Beijing (China) during 5-12 August 1996. The main objective of the Forum was to facilitate the exchange of experiences and "best practices" from previous attempts to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought among the affected parts of Africa and other affected regions.
The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, particularly in Africa (adopted in June 1994) requires the affected countries to draw up national action programmes and encourages international cooperation and partnership in combatting desertification. The UN-NADAF and the Tokyo Declaration also urge African countries and invite the international community to contribute effectively to combating desertification in the affected parts of Africa. In the spirit of partnership and international cooperation as recommended in the Convention, the Forum contributed to strengthening the capacity of African countries to design national action plans and generate ideas on specific initiatives for supporting action at the national and regional levels.
The Forum was attended by representatives from the African and Asian countries primarily affected by drought and desertification. The conclusions and recommendations of the Forum will provide a basis for developing concrete proposals for combatting desertification under the framework of Asia-Africa co-operation.
Regional Workshop for Western and Central Africa on the Operationalization of the Principles of the Tokyo Declaration on African Development
The "Bandung Framework for Asia-Africa Co-operation: Working Together towards the 21st Century" (December 1994) called for regularl meetings in the form of sectoral thematic or sub-regional workshops to implement the Tokyo Declaration emanating from the Tokyo International Conference on African Development. Following the convening of the first such sub-regional workshop for Eastern and Southern Africa held in Zimbabwe in 1995, the second sub-regional workshop took place in Yamoussoukro, in Cote d'Ivoire from 23-25 July 1996. The workshop was co-organized by the Governments of Japan and Cote d'Ivoire, OSCAL, UNDP and the Global Coalition for Africa (GCA). It was attended by representatives from Western and Central African countries as well as some Asian countries. The main objective of the workshop is to provide decision makers and technical experts with an opportunity to discuss practical ways and means for operationalizing the principles of the Tokyo Declaration and Bandung Framework.
Further information on the above can be obtained from OSCAL at ext. 3-5006; 3-4780; or 3-2166, or at the web site: http://www.un.org/dpcsd/oscal.
Raj Bardouille, OSCAL
Recommendations for Future Role of Comission for Social Development
Framework for the functioning of the commission
At its substantive session in New York (24 June- 26 July), the Economic and Social Council adopted far-reaching recommendations on the future role and functioning of the Commission for Social Development. The Council agreed that the follow-up to the World Summit for Social Development will be undertaken on the basis of an integrated approach to social development within the framework of a coordinated follow-up to and implementation of the results of major international conferences in the economic, social and related fields.
As a functional commission of the Council, it was decided that the Commission for Social Development, should have the primary responsibility for the follow-up to and review of the implementation of the Summit. The Council called on all relevant organs, organizations and bodies of the United Nations system to be involved in the follow-up to the Summit. It invited specialized agencies and related organs of the United Nations system to strengthen and adjust their activities, programmes and medium-term strategies, as appropriate, to take into account the follow-up to the Summit.
The need for partnership between Governments and civil society
The Council endorsed the need for an effective partnership and cooperation between Governments and the relevant actors of civil society, the social partners, and major groups as defined in Agenda 21, in the implementation of the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action. It stressed the need to ensure their involvement in the planning, elaboration, implementation and evaluation of social policies at the national level.
Commission's mandate reaffirmed and membership increased
The Council reaffirmed the Commission's existing mandate. It further decided that in fulfilling its mandate, the Commission should continue to assist the Economic and Social Council in monitoring, reviewing and appraising progress achieved and problems encountered in the implementation of the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action and advice the Council accordingly. To that end the Commission should:
Multi-year programme approved
The Commission's multi-year programme of work built around the follow-up to and review of the implementation of the Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development and the Programme of Action of the World Summit for Social Development was approved. The Council endorsed the recommendation of the Commission on the need for experts to participate at the meetings of the Commission dealing with subjects addressed in the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action.
It adopted the Commission's recommendations on strategies and actions for the eradication of poverty, in which the Commission called for the implementation of agreed measures to eradicate poverty and for strengthened international cooperation to that end. It also stressed the need for Governments to implement sound and stable macroeconomic, microeconomic and sectoral policies that encourage broad-based, sustained economic growth and development.
Establishment of a support group on ageing
Finally, the Council approved the establishment of an ad hoc informal open-ended support group to assist the Commission for Social Development in the preparations for the International Year of Older Persons in 1999.
James Kanu, DSPD
Intergovernmental Cttee for the Elaboration of an Int'l Convention
to Combat Desertification, ninth session
3 September - December, New York
9-20 September, New York
16-20 September, New York
17 September - December, New York