DESA News Vol. 11, No. 5 May 2007

Global dialogue on development

New agreement adopted on sustainable management of world’s forests

Although not legally binding, the instrument highlights the role of forests in development and sets standards for forest management

After fifteen years of discussions and negotiations on a global approach to protect the world’s forests, countries meeting in New York for the seventh session of the UN Forum on Forests adopted a landmark agreement on international forest policy and cooperation on 28 April. In the words of Pekka Patosaari, Director of the UN Forum on Forests Secretariat, the agreement is a major step towards the creation of a people-centred forest policy. Addressing delegates, Mr. Patosaari declared, “You have sent a clear message to the global community on the critical role of forests in internationally development.”

After two weeks of intense negotiations, the final agreement was reached just after dawn on 28 April. Exhausted delegates nevertheless called the agreement a milestone, noting it was the first time States have agreed to an international instrument for sustainable forest management.

Chair of the Forum on Forests, Hans Hoogeveen, hailed the agreement as an “outstanding achievement” and said it ushered in a new chapter in forest management. The new agreement, although not legally binding, sets a standard in forest management that is expected to have a major impact on international cooperation and national action to reduce deforestation, prevent forest degradation, promote sustainable livelihoods and reduce poverty for all forest-dependent peoples.

More than 1.6 billion people, according to World Bank estimates, depend on forests for their livelihoods. The forest product industry is a source of economic growth and employment, with global forest products traded internationally in the order of $270 billion. At the same time, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 13 million hectares of the world's forests are lost due to deforestation every year, which, in turn accounts for up to 20 percent of the global greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming. The world's forests and forest soils store more than one trillion tons of carbon – twice the amount found in the atmosphere.

For years countries debated whether to negotiate a formal treaty or a non-legally binding instrument on forest management. But many developing countries with significant forest cover objected to any action that would compromise their sovereignty or control over their natural resources. The resulting agreement, however, is considered a reflection of a strong international commitment to promote on the ground implementation of sustainable forest management through a new, more holistic approach that brings all stakeholders together. In addition, the agreement is expected to reinforce practical measures at the country-level to integrate forests more closely with other government policies.

Another area of disagreement that has long plagued forest negotiations concerned a financing mechanism to mobilize funding for sustainable forest management. In this vein, the agreement calls on countries to adopt, by 2009, a voluntary global financing mechanism for forest management.

The non-legally binding instrument will now go to the Economic and Social Council for endorsement.

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Population Commission urges governments to face the challenge of ageing societies

Profound changes in population structure offer opportunities for development with adequate foresight and appropriate national policy action

Governments should tailor national policies to confront the socio-economic changes brought about by population ageing. That is the message conveyed by the Commission on Population and Development in a resolution adopted on 13 April at the end of its fortieth session. The resolution calls on governments to prepare health-care systems to meet the challenges posed by growing demand for long-term care for older persons. It also encourages them to explore ways to boost education, health services and job opportunities for the young and old.

Adopted by consensus, the resolution on changing age structures and their implications for development recognizes that ongoing profound changes in the structure of world population offer a “window of opportunity”, especially where both fertility and mortality are falling and the proportion of working-age adults is on the rise. Yet the text also makes clear that translating that window of opportunity into benefits for development requires national policies and a propitious international economic environment.

Hania Zlotnik, Director of the Population Division, said that failure to embark on the demographic transition posed serious constraints on development. “Clearly we all want longer and healthier lives,” Zlotnik said. However, to ensure the sustainability of human life on earth, increases in longevity need to be balanced by reduced fertility.  Fortunately, the combination of the two will have, in her view, many benefits even if it takes foresight and commitment to realize them.

The fortieth session of the Commission on Population and Development began on 9 April and ran for a week in New York. As a functional commission assisting the Economic and Social Council, the Commission monitors, reviews and assesses the implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development at the national, regional and international levels.

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Dr. Somnath ChatterjiDr. Somnath Chatterji, Team Leader of Multi-Country Studies at the World Health Organization and Dr. Nyovani Madise, Senior Researcher at the African Population and Health Research Center, hold a press briefing on the occasion of the fortieth session of the Commission on Population and Development on 11 April A recording is available online at


Economic and Social Council elects new members to subsidiary bodies

Vacancies filled on Statistics, Social Development and Women’s Commissions, among others

The Economic and Social Council held elections on 25 April to fill vacancies in sixteen of its subsidiary bodies, including the Commission for Social Development, the Commission on the Status of Women, and the Permanent Forum for Indigenous Peoples.

Eight candidates from the various regional groups were considered for the eight vacancies in the twenty-four member Statistical Commission. The Council elected without a vote Togo, Sudan, Lebanon, Oman, Belarus, Lithuania, Honduras and the United States for a four-year term, beginning on 17 January 2008.

The Council also elected Japan, Kazakhstan, Croatia and Colombia by acclamation to the 47 member Commission on Population and Development for a four-year term, beginning in 2008, while postponing the election of five members. It also elected Spain to fill a vacancy in the group of Western European and other States for a term beginning today and expiring in 2011.

Elected by acclamation to the 46-member Commission for Social Development were Ghana, Senegal, Sudan, Japan, Pakistan, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Argentina, El Salvador, Guatemala, France, Germany and United States, for four-year in 2008 and to expire in 2012.

The Council elected to the Commission on the Status of Women, by acclamation, Eritrea, Senegal, China, India, Russian Federation, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Sweden and the United States for four-year terms, beginning in 2008 and expiring in 2012.  The Commission has 45 members in total.

The Council elected by acclamation 20 members to the Commission on Sustainable Development for a three-year term, set to begin in 2008, and which would expire in 2011.  Those countries are Gabon, Libya, Malawi, Namibia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Estonia, Romania, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Venezuela, Belgium, Canada, Germany and Israel. It postponed the election of two members. The Commission is composed of 53 members.

As set out in a Council resolution, eight members of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues were appointed by the President of the Council and eight members elected by the Council.  The term of office for all sixteen members is three years, beginning on 1 January 2008.

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NGO Committee resumes 2007 session

The Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations will resume its 2007 session from 14 to 18 May in New York. New applications for consultative status, applications deferred from the 2007 regular session and reclassification requests will be considered along with selected quadrennial reports submitted by NGOs in general and special consultative status.

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How to eradicate hunger and poverty

An informal meeting opens debate for the upcoming Annual Ministerial Review

Are we making poverty history? How are we doing in the fight against hunger and malnutrition? Those questions were at the heart of Economic and Social Council half-day informal event for the 2007 Annual Ministerial Review which took place on 2 April. After a short plenary, the meeting split up into two parallel roundtables led by policy makers, practitioners and academics, which shed light into those issues under the overall theme of joining forces to eradicating poverty and hunger.

In an opening statement, Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro, stressed that “the old-plague of poverty remains pervasive,” inequality within and among nations is on the rise and while globalization has lifted standards of living for some, it has left many others on the margins.

Ms Migiro stressed that midway to the Millennium Development Goals target date of 2015, the world as a whole still lags in the race to achieve these goals. She identified three key areas for consideration. Economic policies, firstly, need to prioritize job creation as the critical link between growth and poverty reduction. The Annual Ministerial Review process must also consider the links between agricultural productivity and both hunger and poverty, because three out of every four of the world’s poor live in rural communities. These communities need better and more secure rights to land – she said –, to water resources, and innovative credit solutions such as microfinance, along with better access to markets.

Finally, initiatives should be placed within the framework of a global partnership for development. Employment creation and rural support packages in the developing world have to be backed by better aid, greater debt relief and stronger follow-through on the financing for development commitments.

The plenary also featured interventions by Amb. Dalius Cekuolis, President of the Economic and Social Council, and the Secretary-General of the International Association of Economic and Social Councils and Similar Institutions, Bertrand Durufle, who strengthened the link between global level discussions and national implementation.

In the roundtables, Stephen Smith, Director of the research programme in poverty, development and globalization at George Washington University, said mobilization to achieve the Millennium Development Goals where is most needed, in Africa and other low-income regions, has so far seem to have a modest impact. Moreover, the goals do not address concerns of those chronically poor.

Jean-Max Bellerive, Minister of Planning and External Cooperation of Haiti, described his country’s experience in poverty reduction. He stated that Haiti has taken positive steps towards moving its population out of poverty. However, he said, many obstacles remain, the structural weakness of the state being the most basic, which makes the country unable to absorb external assistance. Other barriers to eradicating poverty were politicization of funds, inability to retain human resources, corruption and political instability.

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Joining forces for development aid

Vienna high-level symposium lays the groundwork for the Development Cooperation Forum

At a time when countries have made pledges for the up-scaling of official development assistance and new donors are emerging, there is new momentum for the Development Cooperation Forum. The Forum, which will be held for the first in 2008, is set to become a key mechanism for pushing international development cooperation forward.

With this message, Under-Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs, Jose Antonio Ocampo, addressed a high-level symposium on the experiences of countries in coordinating and managing development cooperation, which took place in Vienna from 19 to 20 April. The symposium is a precursor to the upcoming launch of the Development Cooperation Forum at the substantive session of the Economic and Social Council in Geneva in July 2007.

Participants at the symposium exchanged views on topics such as improving the predictability and stability of development aid to recipient countries, and harmonize donor practices and procedures, which included a presentation on the first UN joint office in Cape Verde. Discussants also explored how to improve the monitoring of aid quality, and lessons learned in ensuring sustainability and development of institutional and human capacities for managing aid.

Ocampo traced a portrait of the status of official development assistance, characterized by a significant recovery since 2002 Conference on Financing for Development, and by additional commitments made in 2005 by the European Union and the G7. Ocampo pointed out that, despite that recovery, the recent surge stemmed from debt relief and emergency assistance in 2005. Indeed, development aid from OECD countries fell by 5.1 percent in 2006 as large debt relief packages were not approved last year. He also welcomed the fast growth of South-South cooperation, and cited as an example the booming Chinese cooperation with Africa.

The two-day discussion was informed by a number of country case studies and presentations that brought in local examples and recent experiences in coordinating and managing development aid from Bangladesh, Cape Verde, Indonesia, Mozambique, Rwanda, Uganda and Viet Nam.

Taking advantage of a multi-stakeholder approach, the symposium included participation from a range of renowned institutions and individuals, including UNECA, OECD/DAC, NEPAD, and CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation. In addition, Victor Borges, Foreign Minister of Cape Verde, contributed with a keynote address on Cape Verde’s vision for development cooperation.

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Ban Ki-moon meets with current and past presidents of ECOSOC

Mr. Ban Ki-Moon

UN Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, met on 16 April with the current and past presidents of the Council regarding the reform process, the need for strengthening cooperation between the three principal organs of the UN, and the Council’s role in promoting development.

From left to right: Markarim Wibisono of Indonesia (2000), Juan Somavia of Chile (1998 and 1993), Marjatta Rasi of Finland (2004), Dalius Čekuolis of Lithuania (2007), Ban Ki-Moon (Secretary-General), Ali Hachani of Tunisia (2006), Munir Akram of Pakistan (2005), Ivan Simonovic of Croatia (2002), and Martin Chungong Ayafor standing in for Mr. Martin Belinga-Eboutou of Cameroon (2001).