DESA News Vol. 11, No. 2 February 2007

Global dialogue on development

New impulse and greater depth in discussions on global social issues

Commission for Social Development, 45th session, New York, 7-16 February

The Commission for Social Development has renewed itself by setting in motion a two year-cycle intended to add greater depth to its work. The new architecture, which builds on the successful experiment of the sister Commission for Sustainable Development, will consist of two segments – review and policy. The review session will take place in the first year of each cycle, and the policy session in the second year. The priority theme for 2007-2008 is promoting full employment and decent work for all, taking into account the relationship of employment with poverty eradication and social integration. José Antonio Ocampo, Under Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, will open the session on 7 February. Les Kettledas, Deputy Director-General of Labour Policy and Labour Market Programmes of the Department of Labour of South Africa, will deliver the keynote address.

This review session will look at the state of world employment, provide an overview on the topic by experts rather than policy-makers, and identify areas that require particular attention. It will also evaluate plans and programmes of action for social groups, including older persons, youth and persons with disabilities, and take up the impact, challenges and opportunities of youth employment under the topic of emerging issues. In addition, the Commission will conduct its regular assessment of implementation of the Copenhagen commitments of 1995, and further initiatives endorsed during the five-year review in Geneva in 2000.

A novel approach in 2007 will be the issuance of a chairperson’s summary at the conclusion of the session with action-oriented strategies, replacing the usual negotiated resolution that will be left to the policy segment next year. The approach should inject greater depth into discussions, for example by increasing the number of dialogue panels to three from only one as was the case in previous sessions. The panels will cover macroeconomic policy for full employment and decent work on 7 February, moderated by Under Secretary-General Ocampo, labour mobility, youth and families on 8 February, moderated by Jomo Kwame Sundaram, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, and good practices for promoting employment and decent work on 9 February, moderated by José Manuel Salazar, Executive Director of the Employment Sector of ILO.

While the first week is devoted to employment, in the second week the focus will shift social groups, in particular to older persons and youth. Presentation of the World Youth Report 2007 on 12 February will encourage discussion on youth participation from multiple perspectives. A major challenge for this social group is unemployment, which hits young people between 15 to 24 years the hardest. It is estimated that 86.3 million youths were without work in 2006, comprising 44 percent of the world’s unemployed.

Ageing continues to be a major global concern. The world is ageing rapidly. Last year, for example, one out of every nine persons was aged 60 or older. By 2050, one in five will be in this age group. As Alexandre Sidorenko, UN focal point on ageing, reminds us, “In the Madrid conference, the power of ageing was compared to that of globalization.” The Madrid Plan of Action indeed called on societies to adjust to ageing. Small adjustments entail, for instance, increasing the age of retirement. “But others such as introducing new complementary systems of income security in old age, beyond social nets, also need to be enhanced,” stresses Sidorenko.

In this connection, the Commission lays the groundwork this year for the 2008 review of the Madrid International Plan of Action on ageing. A panel devoted to this theme on 12 February will consider the extent to which the recommendations of the Madrid conference are included in the policies of the Member-States. An in-depth evaluation of priorities will subsequently be undertaken in the 2008 policy discussions.

Resolutions on ageing, youth, development of Africa and, possibly, disabilities are expected at the end of the session.

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Discrimination and violence against the girl child

Commission on the Status of Women, 51st session, New York, 26 February-9 March

At its fifty-first session from 26 February to 9 March 2007, the Commission on the Status of Women will devote priority attention to the elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against the girl child. Ministers and other high-level representatives from national capitals will contribute to a high-level roundtable on the topic on 26 February, followed by two interactive expert panel discussions on 27 February.

The Commission will also review the status of implementation of its agreed conclusions of 2004 on the role of men and boys in achieving gender equality through an interactive dialogue on 2 March. Under the agenda item “emerging issues”, there will be an interactive expert panel discussion on the elimination of all forms of violence against women in follow-up to the Secretary-General’s in-depth study at national and international levels. The Commission will have a preliminary dialogue in a parallel event on its priority theme for 2008, on financing for gender equality and the empowerment of women, in preparation for next year’s session.

Numerous parallel events by UN agencies, funds and programmes, Permanent Missions, and non-Governmental organizations will be held throughout the two-week programme. In addition, the Division for the Advancement of Women, in coordination with the NGO Committee on the Commission on the Status of Women, will hold two round table discussions in advance of the session. The first, on 15 February, will look at elimination of discrimination against the girl child. The second, on 20 February, will discuss effective strategies for ending violence against girls.

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Commission for Sustainable Development gets a head start

Intergovernmental preparatory meeting for the 15th session, New York, 26 February-2 March

The Commission for Sustainable Development is starting its engines for its next session, which will be held between 30 April and 11 May. An intergovernmental preparatory meeting with broad-based discussions on energy for sustainable development, industrial development, air pollution and atmosphere, and climate change will take place this month, from 26 February to 2 March.

The purpose of the meeting is to identify policy options and possible actions to take on these themes. Participants will concern themselves 27 February with providing energy for all by means of better access to reliable and affordable energy services, on promoting energy efficiency, bolstering the use and transfer of renewable technologies, and using financial resources from all sources for investment in energy infrastructure. The same day in the afternoon, the debate will revolve around the question of an enabling environment for industrial development, and capacity-building efforts to help developing countries diversify exports in particular by small and medium enterprises.

In the air pollution realm on 28 February, delegates will consider the challenges of reducing both outdoor and indoor air pollution from traditional biomass fuels. Climate change will dominate the afternoon meeting, with interactive discussions on how to encourage international cooperation to both mitigate and adapt to this global concern.

On Thursday, 1 March, a meeting will be devoted to linkages and cross-cutting issues such as the role of women and partnerships.

Conclusions that emerge from the interactive discussions will be incorporated into a chairman’s draft negotiating document that captures a range of policy options and possible actions for implementation. The Chairman’s draft will be made available for consideration by the Commission of Sustainable Development in April.

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100 of the world’s leading statisticians to gather in New York

Statistical Commission, 38th session, New York, 27 February-2 March

Representatives from about 100 national capitals, many of them heads of national statistical offices, are expected to gather in New York this year as the Statistical Commission celebrates its 60th anniversary. Against the backdrop of the anniversary, the thirty-eighth session of the Commission will focus on education statistics, among other issues, assisted by an in-depth review undertaken by the Government of Canada.

One of the current challenges in education statistics is the lack of an international conceptual framework that provides an understanding of what gets measured. This is a clear shortcoming given the importance of such a framework to a global statistical system. Another concern relates to the use of different definitions and methods in measurement, for example of the number of children in school. Is the problem with data quality, or with the use of different concepts such as enrolment and attendance, asks Statistics Canada.

The Commission will also make technical recommendations on the population and housing censuses of the 2010 round of national surveys, and on the national income accounts revision to be adopted in 2008, as well as discuss development indicators and national statistical capacity-building. This latter theme indeed builds on the 2006/6 Economic and Social Council resolution on strengthening statistical capacity, which called attention to the need to strengthen national statistical capacity and, thus, to produce reliable and timely statistics and indicators for use in monitoring of national development policies and achievement of all development goals.

The Commission will also share information on migration, energy and finance statistics, and hold a joint panel discussion with the Commission on the Status of Women on the measurement of elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against the girl child.

Commemorative events mark the Statistical Commission’s 60th anniversary

The Statistics Division is rolling out the red carpet for the Commission’s sixtieth anniversary. Among its list of many achievements, the Commission counts standardization of statistical methods, adoption of the System of National Accounts, launching of the World Population and Housing Census Programmes, and the adoption of the Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics.

Commemorative events include a one-day seminar on 23 February on the evolution of national statistical systems. The seminar has been organized as a forum for the exchange of information on innovative approaches to meeting managerial challenges of a national statistical system. The themes of the discussion comprise the establishment of the system, including its legal framework, the management of resources and communication, for example in to keep up with fast changing technological developments, and the evolution of an efficiently functioning system.

The commemorative programme follows with a high-level forum on 26 February on the way forward for the Statistical Commission and the global statistical system. This half-day event, by invitation only, deals with the impact of new information needs. The forum features a high-level panel made up of users and producers of statistics who will give their views on how the global statistical system has evolved, the role of the Statistical Commission and the challenges that the Commission must face to move the global system forward.

Under Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, José Antonio Ocampo, will deliver welcome remarks, while Katherine Wallman, head statistician in the United States Office of Management and Budget, will serve as moderater. Panelists include representatives from national Governments, international organizations and civil society – including Ivan Fellegi of Statistics Canada, Pali Lehola of Statistics South Africa, Hervé Carré of the European Commission, Francios Bourgignon of the World Bank, Stephen Roach of Morgan Stanley, and Luis Beccaria of the Instituto de Desarrollo Econ䮩co y Social of Argentina.

A seminar on innovative technology in data collection, to be held on 28 February, and a dialogue on statistical development with international agencies on initiatives in statistical capacity building, on 1 March, will wrap up events.

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NGO Committee recommends 92 NGOs for consultative status, while rejecting two others

Regular session of 2007, 22-31 January, New York

The Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations wrapped up its 2007 regular session on 31 January, two days ahead of schedule, recommending ninety-two non-Governmental organizations for consultative status with the Economic and Social Council out of 147 applications. Two NGOs were not recommended for consultative status – the Coalition gaie et lesbienne du Qu꣥c, and the World Sindhi Institute. Four applications were closed. The Committee had before it six requests for reclassification, of which it recommended five. It reviewed 106 quadrennial reports, an unprecedented number, and took note of 100 of them with six deferred to May.

As a standing Committee of the Council, the 19-member panel uses various criteria to recommend general, special or roster status with the Economic and Social Council, including the applicant’s mandate, governance and financial regime. Organizations that have general and special consultative status can attend meetings of the Council and circulate statements of a certain length.  Those with general status can, in addition, speak at meetings and propose items for the Council’s agenda, while NGOs with roster status can only attend meetings.

The Chairman of the Committee, Pedro Roa Arboleda of Colombia considered the early completion of the Committee’s work a sign of the high efficiency of all participants.

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