DESA News Vol. 11, No. 4 April 2007

Technical cooperation

Assessing strategies to achieve the Millennium Development Goals in the Arab region

A project to shed light on the determinants for attainment of the Millennium Development Goals

Evaluating and recommending options to ensure the timely achievement of the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 is the aim of a project on assessing development strategies in the Arab region. The project’s inception and first training workshop takes place in Cairo from 2 to 5 April. The workshop has been organized by the Development Policy and Analysis Division of DESA and the regional Bureau for Arab States of UNDP, in close collaboration with the League of Arab States and the World Bank.

A preliminary brainstorming session held last year between 4 and 5 May, and successive inquiries about government interest, country technical capacities, and data availability, helped identify the countries that are ready to participate in the project: Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, Tunisia and Morocco. Sudan lacks much of the necessary data to fully implement the project methodology at this stage, but still will take part in project activities as an observer.

The main goals of the workshop are to introduce the project’s objectives and methodology, establish milestones, provide country teams with training on methodology, identify needs for tailoring the methodology to country-specific conditions as well as prerequisites of data availability and collection, and lastly to familiarize participants with the intended outcomes of the project.

The project involves empirical investigations of MDG costing and financing using computable general equilibrium modeling or CGE as the anchoring methodology. CGE and other methods at the micro level should enable a proper analysis of the determinants for achievement of the MDGs.

Amman Declaration commits Arab countries to good governance with civic engagement

Consensus on the establishment of an Arab Regional Civic Engagement Network

Seventeen Arab countries committed themselves in Amman on 15 March to join forces to build the capacities of governments, civil society and the private sector in civic participation in public policies in the Arab region, in addition to foster their participation in policy formulation, implementation and evaluation. So was reflected in the agreed Amman Declaration on the opportunities and challenges of civic engagement in socio-economic policies in the Arab region, which highlights follow-up initiatives and responsibilities of governments and local authorities, civil society organizations, international organizations and the United Nations.

The declaration is an outcome of a regional capacity-building workshop held last month, as DESA News announced in its March edition. Consensus was also reached on the establishment of an Arab Regional Civic Engagement Network, set to advance capacity building in public policies. The Division for Public Administration and Development Management (DPADM) organized the event, in cooperation with the Jordanian Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation, the National Council for Family Affairs, the UNDP Office in Jordan, and the active participation of ESCWA. The workshop’s opening session included a speech by the Minister of Planning and International Cooperation of Jordan, Ms Suhair Al Ali, and a keynote address by Mr Adil Khan, Chief of the Socio-Economic Governance and Management Branch in DPADM.

Participants found very useful the draft tool kit on civic engagement in public policies introduced by Ms Najet Karaborni, DESA Senior Interregional Adviser, during the workshop’s discussions on capacity-building and requested its publication in English and Arabic.

The need for people to be part of the entire decision-making and implementation process for public participation to be successful was a key conclusion. Participants also noted that effective and result-oriented participatory techniques require comprehensive capacity-building programmes for all stakeholders.

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African Assemblies take first steps towards a common open source parliamentary information system

DPADM has been working since 2002 toward the modernization of parliamentary practices in Africa

Development of African standards for the management of digital parliamentary and legislative documents was welcomed at the International Conference on African Legal Resources subtitled challenges and opportunities of legislative informatics, held in Abuja between 21 and 22 March. A final declaration was adopted by delegations from sixteen African assemblies and the Pan-African Parliament which also hailed the development of the open source parliamentary information system known as Bungeni and endorsed Akoma Ntoso. The conference was co-organized by the Division for Public Administration and Development Management and the National Assembly of Nigeria under the aegis of the Pan-African Parliament with the support of the Global Centre for ICT in Parliament.

By ensuring the effective exchange of machine readable parliamentary documents and automating the flow of information related to parliamentary works, Akoma Ntoso and Bungeni will give African assemblies the opportunity to modernize parliamentary practices and provide advanced information services in a cooperative manner, while opening access to citizens.

The pilot deployment of Bungeni will begin in July. Several parliaments have asked to be included in order to cover different traditions and languages. Angola, Cameroon and Nigeria are the likely to be among the trial participants.

Bungeni and Akoma Ntoso have been developed as part of the implementation of the project on strengthening of parliamentary information systems in Africa, through which DPADM has been working toward the modernization of parliamentary practices in Africa since late 2002. The project has recently evolved into a continental challenge under the Africa i-Parliaments Action Plan, a major initiative undertaken by several African assemblies under the auspices of the Pan-African Parliament.

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Confronting the challenge of employment in Africa

DESA, ILO and UNDP Mauritania organize a workshop linking employment and sustainable human development

Economic growth does not automatically lead to sustainable human development, at least not in sub-Saharan Africa. With this hypothesis in mind, Jean Le Nay, a representative from the Division for Public Administration and Development Management, delivered a presentation at a technical workshop on the challenge of employment in sub-Saharan Africa, held in Nouakchott, Mauritania from 26 to 28 February.

DPADM co-organized the workshop with ILO and UNDP Mauritania. Over one hundred representatives from a dozen French-speaking countries and from ILO, DESA, UNDP and UNIDO attended. Mr Le Nay discussed the employment challenge in the sub-Saharan region. “I tried to show that employment is mostly considered as a by-product of growth in most poverty reduction strategy papers,” says Mr Le Nay, and that “in most Sub-Saharan countries a GDP rate of growth above five percent a year does not guarantee that decent employment is being created.” In most of these countries, he adds, employment is generated in the informal sector and does not contribute to poverty alleviation. “Another approach to growth and development is then requested and sustainable human development is the appropriate reference.”

The workshop proposed to raise the status of employment in national poverty reduction strategy papers coupled with promoting labor intensive techniques through public investment as a major macroeconomic policy.