Volume 3, Issue 6 - December 1996 / January 1997

In this issue:

Inside the Glass Tower
Gender Blindness Distorts Peace Process
Earth Summit + 5, Challenge for the 21st Century
Sustainable Development Indicators Advance from Theory to Practice
Quick Action on Desertification Convention Bodes Well for Affected Countries
Pledges for Development Assistance Buck Downward Trend
Africa on my Mind
New Publications at OSCAL
Workshop Promotes Social Dimension of Poverty Eradication
FCCC Expands Electronic Outreach

Inside the Glass Tower

In the past few months several distinguished colleagues have chosen to leave the United Nations in the context of its downsizing.

Among them is John Mathiason, Assistant Director of the Division for the Advancement of Women, who left at the end of October after a career spanning thirty years.

During that period he served both at headquarters and in the field in the areas of rural development, advancement of women and programme planning and coordination. Most recently he was responsible for managing the substantive preparations for the Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing, 1995. Throughout his career John was a respected mentor of many junior colleagues.

John, who has a Ph.D. from MIT, looks forward to continuing his life of teaching, writing and research as an adjunct professor of public administration at the Wagner Graduate School of Public Service of New York University.

From the farm in upstate New York where he has moved with his family, John has answered a few questions by KIOSK on the challenges faced by the organization at this juncture.

John, how do you see the organization developing in the future?

The United Nations came of age at the end of the Cold War and has had a rapid evolution since. Ironically, its first spurt of growth came in the original areas where it was supposed to act: peace and security and, in the context of armed conflict, humanitarian operations. That rapid growth has been met by equally rapid disillusion, as the limitations of a nonsovereign public body to deal with the use of coercive force have become evident.

We are now entering the next phase, where the focus is on addressing the underlying causes of national conflict: poverty, lack of development, lack of education, and on emphasizing the positive aspects of the interdependence of nations: human rights, winwin economic growth scenarios. The very interdependence is creating a new kind of global commons: a space where national jurisdiction is either impossible or irrelevant.

I think that this will grow dramatically over the next decades, as it becomes obvious that there needs to be a strong international public sector supporting the management of this global commons. This will involve monitoring of developments for the purpose of normative regulations, development of new multilateral agreements and new specialized institutions. In terms of the Charter functions of the organization, harmonizing the actions of nations will become the organizations major emphasis.

We already can see the first glimpses of the process. Even while the central Secretariats of the organizations of the United Nations system are downsizing, new organizations are being formed: the Global AIDS programme, the International Seabed Authority, the International Law of the Sea Tribunal, the Global Environmental Facility, the Secretariats of the various conventions flowing out of the Rio Conference. We can see new functions in the Specialized Agencies: the ITU becoming involved in the management of the Internet, for example.

At the level of the United Nations Secretariat, it will mean that the main task will be keeping track of developments in the commons as a way of helping Governments oversee how it is being managed by the increasing number of institutions involved. It will mean rethinking what the Secretariat does and staff it accordingly.

Do you see any obvious reorganization of the Secretariat as needed? If so, affecting what areas, taking what shape?

There is no doubt that merging the three economic and social departments of the Secretariat is long overdue. There are enough exceptions to the supposed division of responsibilities that the lines between the departments are now completely blurred, and this leads to inconsistency and reduced quality of output. Unless there is a strong, central Secretariat unit capable of mobilizing information and doing high quality policy analysis, I doubt if the monitoring of the global commons can be achieved. For the rest, I have doubts. I don't think, for example, that putting UNICEF, UNDP, the High Commissioner for Refugees and WFP under a single structure is very helpful. With the exception of UNDP, they have clearly delineatable functions, a good division of labour, proven effectiveness and reasonable efficiency and so long as they talk to each other the current decentralization works well. I suspect that the Department of Humanitarian Affairs, which was supposed to encourage that coordination, is larger than it needs to be.

UNDP needs a thorough reform. By this I mean it really has to look at its purpose and mission. Most of the assumptions that led to its formation in 1966 are no longer valid. Grantbased technical assistance as preinvestment built on a complex infrastructure is passé. Its overhead is too high. Trying to position itself as the central poverty agency, as an advocate, is not credible. I would prefer to begin to think about a new approach to the role of the UN development agencies, based on a concept of mobilizing public investment in the global commons, emphasizing projects and programmes that address issues of interdependence. This could bring UNDP back to its original function of financing preinvestment.

What are your views on the efficiency drive? What prevents efficiency in the organization, what promotes it?

What we have right now is efficiency with a small "e". It is really about costcutting. When it talks about services, it means page impressions and pencils in meeting rooms. It involves cutting posts without reference to function. I think it is based on a faulty assumption about the nature of the organization. For the most part, we do not produce "products" in the same sense as Siemens or General Motors. We mostly provide an intermediate service that helps Governments reach and maintain agreements. We are process rather than outputoriented.

Real efficiency is related to effectiveness. It starts with defining where the organization is effective, where it has a demonstrated capacity and valueadded in achieving objectives. Then it means providing the resources to those activities that meet the test of effectiveness, and taking them from those that don't. When that has been done, then we can worry about page impressions and pencils in meeting rooms.

One example is the use of electronic means to distribute documents and enhance communications. In the short run, it reduces print runs in the central printing office, but it will probably increase the number of copies printed on individual printers as more people download documents. As more people use the LANs, the intranet, the internet and the optical disk system, it will be necessary to buy bigger servers just to keep up. In the end, it will cost more in dollar terms.

But if the net result is better monitoring, an increase in effectiveness, the electronic means will mean efficiency, even if they cost more!

How in your view is the pressure of retrenchment affecting the organization?

I think that we have to recognize that "retrenchment" really means eliminating all growth in budgetary terms. It reflects the fact that national legislatures all over the world are trying to stop budgetary growth in the public sector, and the UN is financed out of national budget.

The problem is that our response is simple costcutting. That is extremely shortsighted and is focussing attention on the wrong issues. The buyout programme and the "redeployment exercise" were designed to show Member States that we could downsize. But it has been done without the kind of analysis that would have indicated where we should reduce and where we should increase resources. The result has been almost random reductions, whose impact on programme quality is only now being felt.

In the meantime, staff become demoralized. I think it is less by the retrenchment exercise than by the implicit premises of the exercise: that we are a bloated, incompetent bunch of nonproducers. That is both manifestly unfair and wrong in its understanding of how and why the organization works.

And, by assuming that we have to wait for reform of intergovernmental structures before we deal with the Secretariat, we are placed into a hiatus which is likely to last for some time.

Your most recent nine and a half years of service were in the programme for the advancement of women. Can you sum up the evolution in that programme and the challenges and opportunities it is looking to?

I think that an objective analysis of the fifty years of the programme would show that it is one of the most successful programmes in the organization's history. It demonstrates that by addressing the issue of global norms through analysis, mobilization of civil society and the use of the position of the United Nations to articulate values, real change can be promoted.

The ten years between Nairobi and Beijing were particularly decisive. The Division for the Advancement of Women was able to channel the ideas that were being generated by nongovernmental organizations, the organizations of the United Nations system and the best practices of Governments into the intergovernmental process. That process led to some fundamental changes in norms about advancement of women. And we did so without anyone saying we had too many resources. It was a programme that was efficient because it was effective.

It also had its costs. The staff of the Division worked without much material reward. The first real promotions of Division staff only came during the last week of my watch; people worked for a decade without promotion. The staff had considerable hardship: we moved from Vienna to New York in the middle of the preparations for Beijing. There are still boxes that haven't been unpacked.

But it was ultimately worthwhile. I am proud to have served with my colleagues in that great adventure.

In your thirty years of service, what where the most interesting (challenging) assignments? Those that you remember with the greatest pleasure, that provided the greatest professional satisfaction?

There is no doubt that my almost ten years with the Division were the best. There was a clear sense of purpose and a corresponding sense of accomplishment. It brought together all of the good things of my previous twenty years without any of the frustrations. I remember the long days and nights supporting the negotiations on the Platform for Action as particularly rewarding: we could all make a direct, concrete input into a process that we knew would provoke change.

In what area of work do you consider to have made your major contribution?

I suspect that my own contribution will have been in terms of developing an understanding of what the organization really is and what it does well. We are so involved in doing our work that we don't stand back from it to see its context. I spent some eight years in programme planning and coordination, where all we did was examine what other people did in the organization. Moving from there into middle management of a specific programme allowed me from time to time to stand aside and consider what we do. I've tried to convey that understanding to my colleagues and I've started to write about it.

If you were to give advice to a new entrant preparing to serve the UN what would you tell him/her to be ready for, to look for, and to do?

The first thing that she/he should do is to try to understand the nature of the organization, by looking at its history. She should talk to some of the "lifers" and try to place her work in context. She should look at her skills and try to plan how they can be used and refined. She should prepare to be mobile, both from duty station to duty station and from office to office. She should assume that her best days in the organization will be fifteen years into a career but that the enthusiasm that she feels when she first joins has got to be maintained.

Thank you, John.


The thought-provoking remarks of John Mathiason may elicit comments or reactions. Please drop him a line at:
or to KIOSK, at dpcsd@un.org.

Gender Blindness Distorts Peace Process

The Expert Group Meeting on "Political decision-making and conflict resolution: The impact of gender difference" was organized by the United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW) and the International Peace Research Institute, Oslo (PRIO), in cooperation with INSTRAW and UNESCO in Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic, from 7 to 11 October 1996. It was the first expert group meeting focused on gender aspects of peace and conflict resolution organized by the Division in partnership with a mainstream peace research institute. PRIO is well known for its high scholarly standards and expertise in conflict resolution, but it is not necessarily considered to be an equal opportunity employer.

The Meeting was attended by ten experts and twenty-one observers: seven from the United Nations system and fourteen from civil society. The experts, both women and men, represented all geo-political regions. Most of them came from mainstream academic institutions and only a few had heard of "gender difference". However, most of non-governmental observers including women’s rights activists, experts in gender studies, and politicians, had a strong feminist orientation. The dialogue between those two completely different approaches to conflict resolution and political decision-making itself constituted an example of "gender mainstreaming practice". It also made the discussion lively and forced the participants to clarify and substantiate their own arguments. Nothing was taken for granted.

Despite the diverse backgrounds of participants and often heated debate, the Meeting reached consensus that:

  • there was, indeed, a gender difference related to socially constructed and expected identities, which was not due to innate differences between sexes;
  • there were significant differences in women’s and men’s roles, behaviours, attitudes, and styles which resulted from the different social constructions of female and male identities and from their different social positions.

The Meeting also concluded that much of politics has been conducted in a way that was blind to gender difference, and that gender blindness has usually meant that men and male norms were taken to represent the norm for all human beings. It has resulted in making women invisible and excluding them. A broad range of research and experience indicates that women appeared to have different definitions of peace, security and attitudes to conflict resolution, and that the recognition of a gender perspective would mean recognizing that women and men were differently involved in decision-making and conflict resolution and lead to a better understanding of gendered roles in this context.

The meeting emphasized that a gender perspective might develop a fuller understanding of decision-making and conflict resolution process and could change the present conceptualization of political discourse and culture, influencing political agendas, priorities, and broadening the possibilities for conflict resolution, peace-building and reconciliation.

The Meeting further emphasized that if gender analyses were applied in all areas, including peace processes, responses to armed conflict, training and capacity building, it could lead to a different conceptualization of power and security which, in turn, would facilitate more rapid implementation of United Nations norms and principles and encourage innovative, more participatory and inclusive ways of governance.

The results of the Meeting will be transmitted to the forthcoming 41st session of the Commission on the Status of Women which will take place from 10 to 21 March 1997 in New York, where they will serve, inter alia, as one of the inputs to a panel discussion on women in power and decision-making. They will also serve as a basis for the publication of a book on the topic. The results of the Meeting should also facilitate the mainstreaming of gender perspective in all policies, programmes and activities of the United Nations system and other Governmental and non-governmental organizations related to peace, security and conflict resolution improving the design, monitoring, assessment and evaluation of their impact on women and men.

Dorota Gierycz, DAW

The web site of the Division for the Advancement of Women is at:

Earth Summit + 5, Challenge for the 21st Century

Action to promote sustainable development worldwide will be the focus of a special session of the United Nations General Assembly, when it meets from 23 to 27 June 1997.

Earth Summit + 5, as the special GA session is called, is expected to draw the attendance of Heads of State and Government. It will review and appraise implementation of Agenda 21, adopted by the UN Conference on Environment and Development, popularly known as the Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992. Agenda 21, its final document, contains strategies for preventing environmental degradation and for establishing a basis for a sustainable way of life on the planet into the twenty-first century.

Aims of Earth Summit + 5

The Earth Summit Review will:

  • assess global progress made in environmentally sustainable economic development since Rio;
  • show that sustainable development works through stories of "success" detailing efforts being taken by people around the world;
  • identify reasons for failure to meet goals set in Rio and suggest corrective action;
  • highlight special issues -- such as changing patterns of production and consumption, use of energy and transportation, scarcity of freshwater, and identify priorities for future action;
  • call on governments, major groups, and international organizations to renew their commitment to sustainable development.

Preparations for Earth Summit + 5

The UN Commission for Sustainable Development is the coordination center preparing the Earth Summit+5 and related events.

Two official preparatory meetings will be held in New York early in 1997: the Ad Hoc Intersessional Working Group of the Commission on Sustainable Development, from 24 February to 7 March, and the Fifth Session of the Commission on Sustainable Development, from 7 to 25 April.

At these meetings, Governments will negotiate documents to be adopted at the special General Assembly session, including a work programme to cover the next phase of implementation of the Earth Summit agreements and a policy declaration on sustainable development. The inputs to the special session are illustrated in Fig. 1

A number of "lead-in" events are being organized by Governments, UN Agencies and major groups around the world to assess local progress in preparation for the special General Assembly session. The preparatory process is illustrated in Fig. 2

During the official 1997 preparatory meetings planned for New York, a number of parallel events will be organized by major groups. The April session of the Commission will include a week-long series of Dialogue Sessions with Major Groups. Special panels, exhibitions and other parallel events are planned for the special General Assembly session in June.

Several civil society groups and organizations have launched initiatives to mobilize public, raise awareness and increase the role of civil society in the preparation of Earth Summit Review. Examples include:

  • The Youth Indicators Project, which will produce 90 minute television production.
  • Rio + 5, an initiative of civil society groups led by the Earth Council, to make independent assessment of Earth Summit progress and produce reports on sustainable development to complement Earth Summit + 5.
  • Local Authorities will convene the "Pathways to Sustainability" meeting in Newcastle, Australia, in June 1997 to finalize a report on Agenda 21 efforts. The report will be presented to Earth Summit + 5.

All UN Agencies are working with CSD Secretariat as partners in the preparation. Among the expected contribution, in addition to that in the reporting process, are:

  • Report of UNEP Governing Council Meeting (January-February 1997) in Nairobi, Kenya
  • UNDP's Energy Initiative
  • WHO's World Health and Environment Report.

A media campaign is underway through collaboration of DPCSD with DPI, as well as other partners such as youth groups. Media kits (including fact sheets, brochure, poster, etc.) are being prepared (jointly by DPCSD and DPI) and will be launched in January.

Products in the works

  • Success Stories -- cases of people around the world taking steps to implement Agenda 21 and make their communities more sustainable
  • Trends Report -- an analysis by the UN highlighting major trends in environment and development over the past 25 years and their implications for the future
  • Comprehensive Report -- a UN document to provide an assessment of both achievements and non-action since the Rio Conference, and identify emerging priorities between 1992-1997
  • Country Profiles -- information from Member States, including descriptions of what States have done to translate the Earth Summit agreements into action.

For further information, please contact:

The CSD Secretariat:
Division for Sustainable Development
Department of Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development
DC2-22nd Floor, United Nations
New York, New York 10017, USA
Tel: (212) 963-3170
Fax: (212) 963-4260 or 963-1267
Email: dpcsd@un.org

Earth Summit + 5 related information will soon be available on the World Wide Web:

Sustainable Development Indicators Advance from Theory to Practice

The call for indicators of sustainable development was persistent throughout the UNCED process and was manifested by the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992. Much progress has been made in the four years since UNCED.

Indicators are useful because they point to trends and relationships. They provide meaning beyond the attributes directly associated with them. In this sense, they are different from primary data or statistics, providing a bridge between detailed data and interpreted information. Indicators are not new and their use is common in planning and economics where such determinants as GDP, unemployment rates, literacy rates and population growth rate are widely used indicators. Indicators can be used for a variety of purposes such as measuring progress towards pre-established targets and goals or simply getting a picture of where things stand at a particular point in time. They can help guide national policies for sustainable development.

The Process

Building on many national and international initiatives in this field, a Work Programme on Indicators of Sustainable Development was adopted by the Commission on Sustainable Development at its third session in 1995. The objective of the Work Programme is to make the indicators of sustainable development available to decision-makers at the national level. Through a process of feed-back and revision of the indicators it is hoped to arrive at a workable and agreed set of indicators by the year 2000. Indicators, as applied in national policies, may also be used for national reports to the Commission on Sustainable Development and other intergovernmental bodies.

The adoption of the Work Programme was followed by a broadly collaborative approach between DPCSD and more than 25 different organizations of the United Nations, other international organizations, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations and major group partners acting as lead agencies for particular indicators. This resulted in a working list of 134 indicators of sustainable development. They cover social, economic, environmental and institutional aspects of sustainable development and are placed within a Driving Force-State-Response Framework. To facilitate understanding, methodology sheets for each indicator have been prepared giving their definition, meaning and applicability. The methodology sheets were published by the United Nations in October 1996, as: "Indicators of Sustainable Development: Framework and Methodologies"

The special characteristics of this process has been its collaborative nature. Producing the publication on the indicators of sustainable development often meant additional work for all partners involved. Another reason why this process worked was that from the very beginning emphasis was put on a country approach to help governments to set up an indicator programme.

Testing Phase

At present, twelve countries from all geographic regions in the world volunteered to test the indicators over the next three years in relation to their own national priorities and interests. The testing may vary from country to country depending on their infrastructure, expertise and availability of information.

Draft Guidelines for the National Testing were developed by DPCSD and discussed with the Expert Group on Indicators of Sustainable Development in September 1996 in Geneva. Various UN system organizations as well as other intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations active in this field are represented in this Group.

The Second International Workshop, hosted by the Governments of Belgium and Costa Rica from 20 to 22 November 1996 in Ghent (Belgium) brought together producers and users of indicators of sustainable development and potential testing countries. The Ghent Workshop marked the inauguration of the national testing phase. It promoted the use and understanding of the methodology sheets and recommended the use of the Guidelines in the testing phase. The Ghent participants reached a common understanding of the testing phase and made further conclusions and recommendations to enrich this understanding.

Guidelines for the National Testing

The Ghent meeting felt that the Guidelines provide a good basis for setting up testing in participating countries.

The Workshop agreed on the necessity of establishing a National Coordinating Mechanism and a Focal Point in the testing countries in accordance with national priorities, strategies and goals, when organizing the testing. Where feasible, existing mechanisms should be used. Wherever possible, a wide variety of major groups should be included in the national coordinating mechanism. An appropriate network, e.g. through the use of the DPCSD homepage, and good outreach material on this CSD project should keep all partners informed during the testing phase.

When implementing the testing, countries may wish to identify first the "status quo of the indicator use" in their country. This would go in line with the determination of sustainable development strategies, frameworks, indicators and their interlinkages and a review of the related available data already being used within the country. It would then be necessary to select and match priority issues from the strategy with corresponding indicators selected either from the CSD menu or from other sources and to make the necessary arrangements for data collection and compilation.

The continuing process of assessing and evaluating the results of the testing phase should aim at periodic reports, and at the end of the testing period, at a final report of the testing countries. The Ghent Workshop agreed on a timetable for the reporting. The first two reports for the year 1997 (January and March, respectively) will be factual progress reports. The report submitted in November 1997 is expected to be a substantive progress report, that will be repeated annually. DPCSD will provide the testing countries with a format for reporting that will enhance the comparability of the reports and facilitate the sharing of experiences between various countries.

When considering further practical steps to meet the training and capacity building needs, the Ghent Workshop recommended regional workshops and twinning relationships which could make an important contribution to the process. Twinning arrangements could help to make best use of the capabilities of a country in the testing and to share the resources, experience and time.

Things to Look for

Regional meetings to provide briefing and training for interested countries in the use of the indicators, their related methodology sheets, and the Guidelines, have begun with the ESCAP Regional Consultative Meeting on Environmentally Sound and Sustainable Development Indicators, held from 26 to 29 November 1996 in Bangkok, Thailand. The Bangkok meeting provided a platform for information, sharing of experiences and intensive briefing on indicators of sustainable development. It helped to interest more countries in the Asia and Pacific region to consider indicators of sustainable development as tools for measuring the implementation of sustainable development policies and activities, both nationally and regionally.

DPCSD is organizing further regional meetings, e.g. in North and South America and the Caribbean as well as in Africa, funds permitting, during 1997. The Czech Republic offered to host an International Workshop in the second half of 1997 to discuss the first experiences and results encountered in the testing process.

Parallel national and international initiatives and processes are also underway to define additional sectoral and cross-sectoral indicators, for instance in forestry, land management, biodiversity and changing consumption and production patterns, that could be included among the indicators at a later stage. More work is needed to understand the interlinkages between indicators and to integrate their economic, social, environmental and institutional dimensions in more aggregated measures. Those scientific research tasks, such as weighing and aggregation, may also be addressed in the Czech Workshop.

The Road Ahead

The 1997 Special Session of the General Assembly (Earth Summit + 5) will be an occasion to give further attention and focus to the indicators of sustainable development. The progress made so far gives encouragement to the overall aim of having a common set of indicators of sustainable development and more generally accepted methodologies for measuring progress towards sustainable development, as we move into the 21st century.

Monika Luxem, DSD

Indicators of Sustainable Development: Framework and Methodologies is available on the Internet at the web site:


Quick Action on Convention Bodes Well for Affected Countries

The entry into force of the Convention to Combat Desertification (CCD) on December 26, 1996 allows the CCD to take its place with sister conventions on climate change and biodiversity as pillars of the Rio process. The CCD will then become international law for all the countries that have ratified or acceded it.

The next major milestone will be the opening of the first session of the Conference of the Parties (COP), the body that will be responsible for implementing the treaty in the years to come. The COP will take place in Rome in the fall of 1997 and will be hosted by the Italian government with full support from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

At the negotiating level, delegations are within striking distance of completing preparations for COP-1. The tenth session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Desertification (INCD) in January in New York should be able to resolve most, if not all, remaining issues. (see box)

The entry into force of the Convention offers the opportunity to recall the main achievements since its adoption, on June 17, 1994. The speed of the negotiation and ratification process is a token of the momentum building for effective implementation of the CCD. So are the many actions taken by governments, international organizations and non-governmental organization in response to the INCD’s resolutions on urgent action in Africa and on interim action in Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean and the Northern Mediterranean. The increasing involvement of community stakeholders, although with differences from country to country, is particularly encouraging.

In Africa, for example, most affected countries have already organized national awareness seminars, nominated national coordinating bodies, as well as launched the consultative process leading to the elaboration of National Action Programmes (NAP). The first technical workshop for selected African national focal points and their main international partners took place in Mauritania in November. Participants presented and evaluated their experiences in implementing the Convention, then discussed problems and possible solutions.

Progress has been made also in other affected regions, where regional and subregional meetings established detailed action programme recommendations. Among the high number of significant initiatives, the following are worth mentioning: the International Forum on Local Area Development in support of the CCD, co-organized by the CCD Interim Secretariat and the International Fund for Agricultural Development; the Afro-Asian expert meeting, in China; the Afro-Asian NGO forum on South-South cooperation, in India.

Non-governmental and Community based organizations (NGOs, CBOs) are also actively contributing to the elaboration and implementation of National Action Programmes. The number of NGOs accredited to the INCD process is 363 and growing. Through various channels, including EcoNews and the Desertification Circular, they have worked hard to see that governments understand their viewpoints. The rapid establishment of RIOD, the international NGO network for the Convention, represents a practical innovation in facilitating NGO coordination.

"Recent events and actions in various parts of the world have been very encouraging, says Ambassador Bo Kjellen, Chairman of the INCD. The Convention has led to an upsurge in interest in the drylands, their problems and the possible solutions. At the same time, we continue to feel that this is not enough. The Convention is not sufficiently well known and is not yet considered a major element in negotiations on development cooperation between donors and affected countries."

Major challenges ahead include the need to increase the participation of the international community in awareness raising activities and action programme consultations, as well as the need to involve all decision makers and stakeholders to operational implications of the Convention, as well as the need to substantially enhance knowledge of the Convention in developed countries, including those not affected.

Sonia Filippazzi, INCD

Web site: http://www.unep.ch/incd.html


The Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Desertification (INCD) will meet for the tenth time in New York, from 6 to 17 January 1997. Important issues still need to be finalized before the first Conference of the Parties (COP) takes place, next fall in Rome (29 September 10 October) hosted by the Italian Government with the support of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

During the last session (New York, September 313) the Committee's two working groups made significant progress on administrative arrangements for the Permanent Secretariat, the Rules of procedure, financial rules for the COP, the terms of reference for the Committee on Science and Technology, and the scenario for reviewing the Convention's implementation.

Delegates will continue to work on the above mentioned documents during INCD10, preparing the ground for decisions to be taken at COP 1.

Some of the key remaining issues include the functioning of the Global Mechanism and the criteria for selecting the institution which will house it. The Global Mechanism will support the Convention's implementation by helping to mobilize financial resources to support affected countries.

Governments have also started considering the three cities that have expressed interest in hosting the Permanent Secretariat  Bonn (Germany), Montreal (Canada), and Murcia (Spain). They will vote for one of these candidates during the first COP.

Status of Ratification of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification
(*= Accession)
1. Mexico 3/4/95
2. Cape Verde8/5/95
3. Netherlands27/6/95
4. Egypt 7/7/95
5. Senegal26/7/95
6. Ecuador6/9/95
7. Lesotho12/9/95
8. Finland20/9/95
9. Togo 4/10/95
10. Tunisia11/10/95
11. Guinea-Bissau27/10/95
12. Mali 131/10/95
13. Uzbekistan31/10/95
14. Afghanistan*1/11/95
15. Peru 9/11/95
16. Sudan24/11/95
17. Canada1/12/95
18. Sweden12/12/95
19. Denmark22/12/95
20. Switzerland19/1/96
21. Niger19/1/96
22. Mauritius23/1/96
23. Bangladesh26/1/96
24. Burkina Faso 26/1/96
25. Spain30/1/96
26. Micronesia25/3/96
27. Israel26/3/96
28. Portugal1/4/96
29. Panama4/4/96
30. Lebanon16/5/96
31. Algeria22/5/96
32. Gambia11/6/96
33. Malawi13/6/96
34. Germany10/7/96
35. Libya22/7/96
36. Oman*23/7/96
37. Bolivia1/8/96
38. Mauritania7/8/96
39. Eritrea14/8/96
40. Benin29/8/96
41. Norway30/8/96
42. Mongolia3/9/96
43. Central African Republic 5/9/96
44. Gabon*6/9/96
45. Botswana11/9/96
46. Turkmenistan 18/9/96
47. Zambia19/9/96
48. Lao (PDR)20/9/96
49. Haiti25/9/96
50. Chad27/9/96
51. Swaziland7/10/96
52. Nepal15/10/96
53. UK 18/10/96
54. Jordan21/10/96

Pledges for Development Assistance Buck Downward Trend

The 1996 United Nations Pledging Conference for Development Activities was held on 4 and 5 November at headquarters.

Seventy four speakers addressed the conference which was opened by the Secretary-General. In his introductory statement the Secretary-General, among other things, drew the attention of the participants to contradictory signals that required the attention of the international community, to wit, that overall level of resources were declining just at a time when there was renewed consensus on policies and commitments made at the highest level in United Nations Conferences and Summits. The growing gap between resource flows and demands was also mentioned by the Secretary-General as one of the trends that had been identified in the context of resources for development.

Fifty-two countries announced pledges and an additional eight made provisional pledges for a total of more than US$440 million for the organization’s funds and programmes.

With regard to the United Nations Development Programme, the Associate Administrator, in his concluding remarks, indicated that, based on the pledges announced (US$282 million) and taking into account estimates of pledges to be announced, 1997 contributions to UNDP's central resources should be somewhat above the 1996 level of about US$850 million.

Fifty-three pledges were made to the United Nations Children's Fund, a total of US$63.2 million representing about 17 per cent of US$362 million, which is UNICEF's projection for government contributions to general resources in 1997. The Director, Programme Funding, stated in his concluding remarks, that although preliminary estimates of UNICEF's income for 1996 indicated that funding would be slightly lower than the US$1 billion level of the past two years, the downward trend in government contributions to general resources appeared to be reversing.

The Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund indicated in her concluding remarks that contributions to the Fund in 1996 continued to increase by around 2.7 per cent, or to over US$300 million, and expressed her satisfaction at the support given by the donors to the Fund.

Other UN trust funds and programmes received pledges for just above five million dollars.

A number of speakers from donor countries at the Pledging Conference called for the abolition of the Conference; some proposed its replacement by a more effective mechanism. In accordance with General Assembly resolution 50/227, a decision regarding the future of the United Nations Pledging Conference for Development Activities would be postponed pending the results of a review to be conducted by the General Assembly, by its fifty-second session.

Alexandre De Barros, DPCEA

Africa on my Mind

"If you want something done, give it to somebody busy", the old saw goes.

That seems to have been the principle that guided the selection of Makha Sarr as Acting Special Coordinator for Africa and the Least Developed Countries.

The Deputy Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa, Makha Sarr was plucked from Addis to lead from September to February the Office of the Special Coordinator for Africa and the Least Developed Countries (OSCAL) through an especially intense period. This includes the mid-term review of the implementation of the United Nations New Agenda for the Development of Africa in the 1990s (UN-NADAF), serviced by OSCAL in September, the action on it by the General Assembly, and the meeting of the Panel of High Level Personalities on African Development, which preceeded both. He had to be a quick study, and his previous involvement with the work of OSCAL as an official of ECA certainly helped.

"My office in Addis is empty", says he, with the gentle smile and the soft toned voice that are his trade-marks. But this should not belie his energy, and how focused he is on a vision of OSCAL's mission. It is almost impossible to make him speak of anything else.

The statements come fast: "We must exploit what is there, not disperse our energy to do the work of others. We are not the owners of UN-NADAF, but its facilitators and advocates. Our task is to mobilize support and understanding of the real situation in Africa when key issues such as external debt are being tackled."

And who are the UN-NADAF owners? First of all of course the African countries themselves (governments, private sector, civil society, and the people), who can do more to mobilize domestic resources for savings and investment, and develop human resources. Then, the international community, where bilateral development partners, private banks and multilateral financial institutions should continue to cooperate to achieve durable solutions to the unsustainable debt problems of African countries. Finally, the UN system and the foreign private sector, who can join to provide policy advice, institutional support and enterprise-level assistance for the transformation, diversification, and growth of African economies, which is the priority of UN-NADAF and which involves developing human capacity and entrepreneurial skills, generating internal capital, and attracting foreign direct investment.

There have been recently good statements by the Development Assistance Committee of OECD and the G-7, pursues Sarr. Other initiatives include the Bandung Framework for Asia-Africa cooperation, which could be extended to Latin America, and the South-South Conference on Trade, Investment, Finance and Industrialization, organized by the G-77 and to be held in Costa Rica in January 1997. "Our task is to support those initiatives and the move towards implementation".

Indeed, support for implementation is where he sees a key role for OSCAL. How? For example by helping prepare a programme of action for consideration by the Second Tokyo International Conference on African Development, to be held in 1998 and jointly organized by Japan, the Global Coalition for Africa, and the United Nations. The Programme would address a few areas - infrastructure, human resources, entrepreneurship, technology - but with concrete proposals likely to yield results.

And his own role? "Understand what to do, and then do one's best". An acknowledged team player, inclusive in his approach, he is convinced that everyone has a role to play, in the office as on the world stage. If that is not everyone's perception, then he is inclined to suggest rather than to instruct.

Comments on his life in New York? He enjoys the opportunity to take long walks, and the rich film offerings, but notes "I am far from my wife, my complement of twenty-nine years", and from his five children, three grown-up, two adopted little girls, who want to come over "to make sure I am alright".

A professor of applied mathematics and econometrics, educated in his home country Senegal, and France, Makha Sarr was plucked once before, and for good, from his then career in teaching and research, to join ECA. Is he concerned as to what will happen when his six-month stint at OSCAL comes to an end in February? "No", he smiles serenely: and you believe him, but also have a feeling that he is thinking of his empty office, his colleagues, and the work to do - in Addis.


New Publications at OSCAL

Two publications have been recently released by OSCAL in addition to the one reported in the last issue of KIOSK(The Emerging Role of NGOs in African Sustainable Development), They are:

Working Together Towards the Twenty-first Century: Bandung Framework for Asia-Africa Cooperation, and
Partners in Progress: Africa and the International Community

The Bandung Framework is the outcome of the Asia-Africa Forum held in Bandung, Indonesia in December 1994. The Forum adopted a number of useful, innovative and practical recommendations on the following sub-themes:

  • promoting sustainable development in Africa;
  • human resources and institutional development;
  • enhancing productivity in the agricultural sector;
  • financing development; and
  • modalities of development cooperation between Asia and Africa.

Within the framework of increased Asia-Africa cooperation, the Forum facilitated an exchange of views on development issues between senior Asian and African officials in planning and management institutions in their respective countries. The preparation of the publication was requested at the open-ended Inter-governmental Expert Group meeting on South-South Cooperation held in August 1995.

The publication entitled Partners in Progress: Africa and the International Community provides an assessment of the implementation of the United Nations New Agenda for the Development of Africa in the 1990s (UN-NADAF), adopted by the General Assembly in December 1991, and the Tokyo Declaration, adopted at the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD I) in 1993. Within the framework of shared responsibility as enunciated in the New Agenda, both Africa and donor countries have made progress in advancing Africa's economic and social development efforts. The report concludes that notwithstanding these efforts, there is need to further strengthen partnership between Africa and the international community to ensure that the shared vision of UN-NADAF and the Tokyo Declaration becomes a reality. The report highlights a positive trend in economic growth experienced by several African countries in the last 2-3 years, thus providing a favourable political environment to the international community for their support to Africa. The report also includes the role of NGOs in Africa's development.

Both publications were part of the background documents of the General assembly Ad Hoc Committee of the Whole for the Mid-Term Review of UN-NADAF.

For further information, contact Mieko Ikegame, OSCAL, Room DC1-1036, Tel: 963-2166 / fax: 963-3892.

The web site of OSCAL is at: http://www.un.org/dpcsd/oscal

Workshop Promotes Social Dimension of Poverty Eradication

The Division for Social Policy and Development has organised a prototype workshop on the social perspective on development from 2 to 6 December 1996 in New York, with substantive assistance of Development Planning Unit, University College London.


In the light of the observation in 1996 of the International Year for the Eradication of Poverty, the workshop focused on the question of poverty eradication from the social perspective. The workshop considered

  • issues and trends in poverty eradication with reference to socially-sensitive and gender-responsive approaches;
  • policy formulation and evaluation processes; and
  • applications in practice.

The workshop was designed to provide a forum to exchange knowledge and experience on development from the social perspective and an opportunity to strengthen substantive capabilities to formulate and evaluate policies, strategies and programmes for poverty eradication which are socially-sensitive and gender-responsive.


It was organised as an experimental and highly interactive exchange of knowledge and experiences on policy formulation and evaluation among invited participants. It included lecture-conferences and video presentations on key issues and trends, small-group assignments and plenary discussions to consider the results of group work. Workshop participants which included staff of DPCSD, DESIPA and other offices in the social and economic sectors, also reviewed, tested and commented on the scope, organisation and content of the set of pilot resource and training materials prepared for the workshop, so they could be further developed for use by other interested development specialists.


The workshop builds upon joint work between the Division and Development Planning Unit on strengthening capacities for policy design and evaluation from the social perspective. This is discussed in the monograph, Socially-sensitive policies in the context of structural adjustment; a training manual, published by the Unit on behalf of United Nations and United Nations Development Programme (London, University College Press, 1994).

In 1995, the Division organised in cooperation with Training Service/OHRM and with substantive assistance of Development Planning Unit, a pilot workshop on the "social perspective: policy formulation and evaluation" for a select group of United Nations Secretariat specialists in the social and economic sectors at Headquarters and, by correspondence, concerned offices of the United Nations regional commissions, selected UNDP field offices, interested governmental officials and selected development research and training centres and institutions. The evaluation report prepared for Training Service/OHRM on the workshop indicated that the experience was well-received by participants, who submitted a number of practical suggestions for its further development.

The current workshop builds upon the accumulated lessons of these experiences as well as seeks to complement follow up to recent international conferences, the 1995 World Summit for Social Development and the Fourth World Conference for Women in particular.

Andrzej Krassowski, DSPD

The web site of the Division for Social Policy and Development is at:

FCCC Expands Electronic Outreach

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has now been ratified by over 160 Parties. Transmitting information related to the Convention to such a large and diverse group of countries is no simple task. To carry it out efficiently and costeffectively, the secretariat has enlisted a number of electronic methods for the dissemination of information.

Many of these technologies use the Internet. While still in Geneva, the secretariat developed its own World Wide Web site, with the help of UNEP's Information Unit on Climate Change. This web site (whose home page is now located at http://www.unfccc.de) makes available a large amount of information to those with Internet connections enabling them to use the web. This information includes the text of the Convention, information on activities and organizations related to Climate Change, and, of course, the official documents of the Convention.

The advantages of using the web are obvious. First, there is the volume factor. It enables the secretariat to put a large amount of information at the user's fingertips. It is as if he or she were sitting in the Climate Change library. Add to that the speed factor. Users are no longer required to wait for the documents to be printed and mailed to them before they can use the information. Add to that the cost factor. Using the web results in considerable savings for the secretariat by reducing printing and mailing expenses. Last but not least, it is environmentally sound, since it reduces the secretariat's demand for paper products.

These are all advantages, but are there any, perhaps hidden, disadvantages? There may be. Using the web requires highspeed Internet connections. Even though the web is becoming more widespread and cheaper to use, it is not yet available at low cost everywhere in the world. What about those who do not have any connection to the Internet? Indeed, what about those (still many) who dial up to the Internet using lowspeed modems? Relying exclusively on the web will lead to an imbalance in the distribution of information, something the secretariat must strive to avoid.

The secretariat has responded by using complementary technologies. For those with lowspeed connections to the Internet, the secretariat has posted, and continues to post, its official documents on Econet, which makes them accessible to anyone with a 1200 baud modem and a telephone line.

For those with no links to the Internet, the secretariat has developed a CDROM, entitled "Web site of the UNFCCC secretariat on CDROM." As its name indicates so prosaically, this CDROM (first distributed at the second Conference of the Parties) contains the secretariat's whole web site, and also includes a copy of a popular browser. Thus, this information is now available to anyone with a computer and a CDROM drive.

Because computers with CDROM drives are more readily available worldwide than Internet connections, this CDROM, and the use of Econet, makes it possible for the secretariat to achieve a measure of equality in the distribution of information, and in a costeffective manner. Now, for example, the secretariat can put all official documents of the UNFCCC in a single envelope and send them anywhere in the world. Of course, this CDROM will need continuous updating. A second edition will be distributed at the forthcoming sessions of the subsidiary bodies of the UNFCCC.

Another advantage of this CDROM is that it will familiarize newcomers with the web, and illustrate its potential. In this context, one should highlight the CC:INFO/Web initiative, which was developed by the secretariat in order to assist parties, at their request, to develop national Climate Change web sites, so as to facilitate the exchange of information at national, regional and international levels. At the present time, over 10 countries have joined this initiative (Brazil, Egypt, Jordan, Malaysia, Senegal, Seychelles, Thailand, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, Venezuela, Zambia, and Zimbabwe).

In short, these electronic means of information dissemination allow the secretariat to fulfill an important part of its mission more efficiently and costeffectively. They now play an increasing role in its daytoday life.

Fareed Yasseen, UNFCCC

The web site of the Climate CHange Secretariat is at: http://www.unfccc.de


Geneva, 16-18 December 1996
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Ad Hoc Group on Article 13,
Third Session

New York, 1820 December 1996
Committee for Development Planning,
Working Group II (Economic Reform)

New York, 6-10 January 1997
Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women
Presessional Working Group

New York, 6-17 January 1997
Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee for the Elaboration of an International Convention
to Combat Desertification in Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification,
Particularly in Africa

Geneva, 6-24 January 1997
Committee on the Rights of the Child,
Fourteenth Session

New York, 13-31 January 1997
Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women,
Sixteenth Session

Monaco, 14-17 January 1997
Highlevel Advisory Board on Sustainable Development

New York, 2224 January 1997
Committee for Development Planning, Working Group III (Least Developed Countries)

New York, 23 January 1997
Economic and Social Council, Election of Bureau

Geneva, 27-31 January 1997
Committee on the Rights of the Child - Pre-sessional Working Group

New York, January/February 1997
Consultative Committee on UNIFEM,
Thirtyeighth Session

Bangkok, 3-7 February 1997
Fourteenth United Nations Regional Cartographic Conference for Asia and the Pacific

New York, 4-7 February 1997
Economic and Social Council, Organizational Session

New York, 10-14 February 1997
Statistical Commission, Twenty-ninth Session

New York, 10-21 February 1997
Ad Hoc Open-Ended Intergovernmental Panel on Forests, Fourth Session

New York, 18 February 1997
Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of the Child

New York, 24-28 February 1997
Commission on Population and Development, Thirtieth Session