DESA News Vol. 11, No. 8 August 2007

Global dialogue on development

A more pragmatic and action-oriented ECOSOC

The 2007 substantive session served as a testing ground for the Annual Ministerial Review and the Development Cooperation Forum, while adopting resolutions on hunger, employment, operational activities and a host of other issues

The four-week substantive session of the Economic and Social Council, which concluded on 27 July in Geneva, was a “ground-breaking” meeting, according to Dalius Çekuolis, the Council President, with the new Annual Ministerial Review and Development Cooperation Forum taking centre stage. The two new functions have made the Council “more pragmatic, action-based and action-oriented.” They have infused new meaning in the Council annual meetings, turning them into vehicles to improve the effectiveness of aid and strengthen accountability for the realization of the internationally agreed development goals.

This year a wide range of resolutions were adopted – on the role of the Council in the integrated and coordinated implementation of the outcomes of and follow-up to major UN conferences and summits, on the UN role in providing full and productive employment and decent work for all and on strengthening the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the organization, among many others. With regards to its subsidiary bodies, the Council adopted recommendations contained in the reports of the Statistical Commission and the Commission on Population and Development.

It also adopted a resolution from the report of the Commission on the Status of Women in which it called upon the international community to continue to provide urgently needed assistance to alleviate the dire humanitarian crisis being faced by Palestinian women and their families, and approved a text on the elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against the girl child. Other texts adopted were a decision on the flow of information for the follow-up to the World Summit on the Information Society, and a decision on social development, including new partnerships for Africa’s development.

The Council also endorsed the recommendations of the Committee for Development Policy that Samoa be graduated from the list of least developed countries; and recommended that the General Assembly take note of the recommendation.  It decided not to recommend to the General Assembly the inclusion of Papua New Guinea in the list of least developed countries.

Commitment to eliminate hunger

The Council adopted a ministerial declaration by consensus that signaled the international community’s unanimous commitment to “prioritize actions and allocate resources to eliminate hunger and malnutrition in all countries,” and to undertake measures to increase access of malnourished people to food. The ministerial review focused on eradication of hunger and poverty – Millennium Development Goal one – featuring national voluntary presentations by the ministers of six developing countries: Bangladesh, Barbados, Cambodia, Cape Verde, Ethiopia and Ghana. Ministers provided details of the issues, successes, policy directions and initiatives these countries are undertaking to achieve the internationally agreed development goals.

Five central messages were conveyed. National development strategies are working but not at the pace required; therefore, the implementation process should be speed up and scaled up. The global partnership for development should be more effective. The global economic environment should be made pro-development and pro-poor. Accountability and monitoring of the implementation of commitments should be strengthened. Lastly, emerging threats such as climate change and desertification hamper efforts to realize these goals, and should be urgently addressed.

Towards an inclusive Development Cooperation Forum

The launch of the Development Cooperation Forum served to recognize the forum as an impartial, inclusive and universal platform that will aim to bolster quality, impact and coherence of development cooperation. A key challenge will be to ensure that the process is truly inclusive and country-driven. It is widely recognized that development assistance has a greater impact when it is accompanied by national ownership and government leadership, without overlooking domestic and international accountability.

The Council stressed that predictable and stable funding of operational activities, coupled with effective monitoring of aid quality, is essential to enhance the impact of development cooperation. The Forum is expected to contribute to aid effectiveness and donor harmonization by bringing in a range of voices – from donor countries and UN agencies, to non-governmental organizations, the private sector and academia. With the groundwork in place, participants in next year’s inaugural session are expected to be able to offer strong guidance on coordinated provision of international development assistance.

Resolution on decent and productive employment

During the Council’s coordination segment, a resolution was adopted on the role of the UN system in providing full and productive employment and decent work for all. The Council called on the funds, programmes, and specialized agencies of the United Nations to assess and adopt in their action plans a three-phased approach to promote full employment and decent work.  The resolution calls for coordination of employment and decent work-related activities, and for the promotion of a coherent, mutually-supporting, multi-disciplinary, multi-sectoral approach to the issue. The Secretary-General is requested to encourage the agencies of the United Nations system to review the integration and implementation of the policies and plans to achieve decent and productive employment.

In addition, the Council also decided that to focus on the role of the United Nations system in implementing the ECOSOC Ministerial Declaration of 2007 at its 2008 coordination segment.

Humanitarian assistance: From strength to strength

The Council’s work in the humanitarian segment has moved from strength to strength, Nikhil Seth, Director of the Office for Economic and Social Council Support and Coordination at DESA, said on behalf of Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs. The Council clearly stressed the importance of capacity-building of national, local and regional organizations, promoting broader partnerships among humanitarian organizations, incorporating a gender perspective in humanitarian operations, and improving humanitarian stand-by capacities.

National ownership of operational activities

This was a year for the Council’s triennial comprehensive policy review, and thus a chance to take a critical look at the impact of the UN’s operational activities. Delegates debated the efficiency and effectiveness of UN system support to Member States in realizing national development strategies, and in moving towards the internationally agreed development goals. The importance of national ownership of development objectives emerged as one of the main themes of the policy review, along with the potential for faster transition from relief to development in countries emerging from conflict through enhanced coordination with UN peacebuilding efforts. And, above all, increased and more predictable core resources for operational activities are needed.

There was broad agreement that the review remains the best forum for Member States to evaluate the effect, scope, scale, and distribution of operational activities of the UN system as a whole, and as such is a unique tool of UN reform.

Partnerships in action

The “spirit of partnerships” was a defining feature of the substantive session, said Mr. Seth on behalf of Under-Secretary-General Sha. The practical reflection of partnerships was shown by exhibitors at a first-ever Innovation Fair held during the high-level segment. A dozen UN agencies, along with several non-governmental organizations and private sector firms, exhibited practical solutions for the reduction of hunger, malnutrition and poverty. According to Under-Secretary-General Sha, broad-based participation in the Fair demonstrated that the Council can attract key actors in these important areas of development. Mr. Sha hoped that similar events in future would become the hub for promoting partnerships for implementing the UN development agenda. “ECOSOC has changed,” concluded Mr. Seth, “and, as home to all development actors, it should become the platform to make the changes for economic and social progress everywhere.”

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