DESA News Vol. 11, No. 9 September 2007

Global dialogue on development

Climate change expected to dominate GA general debate

High-level dialogue on financing for development will also take place on 22 and 23 October

The General Assembly general debate, which provides Member States the opportunity to express their views on major international issues, kicks off on 25 September in New York. This year, the debate will unfold under an overarching theme, “Responding to climate change,” that was proposed by the President of the 62nd session, H.E. Dr. Srgjan Kerim.

The practice of selecting a specific issue of global concern for the session dates back to 2003, when the General Assembly decided to introduce this innovation in an effort to enhance the authority and role of the world body. The annual debate traditionally features statements by dozens of heads of State and Government as well as foreign ministers.

Prior to the general debate, on 24 September there will be a high-level event organized by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on climate change. Mr. Ban has described climate change as the “defining issue of our era,” and hopes that world leaders will begin to map a way forward in advance of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali this December. The Secretary-General will also present his report on the work of the organization immediately prior to the general debate.

Rather than its usual period of nine working days, this year’s general debate will last only seven days, until 3 October, to allow for the convening of a high-level dialogue on inter-religious and intercultural understanding and cooperation for peace, which will take place on 4 and 5 October. In addition, a high-level dialogue on financing for development will be held on 22 and 23 October, and a commemorative high-level plenary meeting devoted to the follow-up to the outcome of the 27th special session on children will be convened on 11 and 12 December.

At its 62nd session, the Assembly will address implementation of the internationally agreed Millennium Development Goals and follow-up on UN management reform. It will also continue to deal with issues such as sustainable development, HIV/AIDS, system-wide coherence and revitalization of the General Assembly. The Economic and Financial Committee (Second Committee) and the Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee (Third Committee) will discuss the items on the agenda related to economic questions and social and humanitarian issues, respectively. The Committees seek where possible to harmonize the various approaches of States, and present their recommendations, usually in the form of draft resolutions and decisions, to a plenary meeting of the Assembly for its consideration.

The Assembly is the chief deliberative, policymaking and representative organ of the UN, a forum for multilateral negotiation. While it is empowered to make only non-binding recommendations to States on international issues within its competence, it has, nevertheless, initiated actions – political, economic, humanitarian, social and legal – which have affected the lives of millions of people throughout the world. The Millennium Declaration, adopted in 2000, and the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document, for example, reflected the commitment of Member States to reach goals to achieve development, poverty eradication, promote the rule of law, meet the special needs of Africa and protect the environment, among others.

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Thumbs up to eleven resolutions at the Geographical Names Conference

The conference hears special presentations from the UN, WHO and Google Earth

The UN Conference on Standardization of Geographical Names, the forum that ensures accurate use of geographical names, concluded its ninth session on 30 August looking to the future. It passed eleven resolutions, including a call for the creation of a Portuguese-speaking unit within the UN Group of Experts on Geographical Names. Other significant developments included resolutions on the promotion of recording and use of geographical names common among indigenous, minority and regional language groups, continued support for toponymic training courses, and approval of a 25th session of the UN Group of Experts in Africa in 2009.

“The past five years have brought accelerated growth in digital aspects of geographical names standardization, as well as in communication of the names information around the world,” said Helen Kerfoot, Chairperson of the UN Group of Experts, which met on 20 and 31 August, immediately before and after the Conference. Ms. Kerfoot added that “much has been accomplished in different parts of the world in the past five years, but clearly much remains to be done in the field of geographical names standardization.”

The Conference, which was attended by over 300 delegates from 91 countries, heard special presentations from representatives of the UN, WHO and Google Earth. They said their need for consistent names data was vital to the provision of timely humanitarian relief, to political and administrative decision-making at the provincial and district level and to the provision of up-to-date information linked with satellite imagery presented on the world wide web.

A total of 250 papers were presented on a wide variety of topics ranging from the creation of national names authorities and the development of national gazetteers to activity in relation to the handling of names in different writing systems, the production of national toponymic guidelines and the safeguarding of names as part of a nation’s cultural heritage.

A new technical reference manual for the standardization of geographical names, compiled by three UN working groups and published by the DESA Statistics Division, was launched along with a prototype global database aimed at disseminating names of countries and major cities in the world with a population of more than 100,000.

Since the eighth conference held in Berlin in 2002, there have been two sessions of the UN Group of Experts, which was established in the 1960s to further the national standardization of geographical names and promote the national and international benefits to be derived from standardization. Between sessions much of the ongoing work has been carried forward by the twenty-two geographical and linguistic divisions and the ten technical working groups.

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