DESA News Vol. 11, No. 10 October 2007

Global dialogue on development

Economic and social issues in the spotlight at 62nd General Assembly

Edmund Phelps, 2006 Nobel Prize winner in economics, delivers keynote address on 8 October

The General Assembly Second Committee, responsible for economic and financial affairs, and the Third Committee, devoted to social, humanitarian and cultural matters, dive into their respective programmes of work starting 8 October. The Second Committee will consider such issues as protection of global climate for present and future generations and operational activities for development of the UN system as its 62nd session heads into high gear this month. Items slated for review include follow-up to, and implementation of, the outcome of the International Conference on Financing for Development; macroeconomic policy questions, including the international financial system and external debt crises; globalization and interdependence; information and communications technology; and poverty eradication.

Other topics before the Second Committee are permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and of the occupied Syrian Golan, over natural resources; sustainable development; implementation of the outcome of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements, and strengthening of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme; implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification; operational activities for development; groups of countries in special situations, such as least developed and landlocked developing countries; and training and research.

This year, the Second Committee is chaired by H.E. Ambassador Kirsti Lintonen of Finland. Vice-Chairpersons are Peter Le Roux of South Africa, Hassan Ali Saleh of Lebanon, and Melanie Santizo-Sandoval of Guatemala. Tamar Tchitanava of Georgia is serving as Rapporteur. Raymond Osbourne Wolfe of is Chairman of the Third Committee. 

The DESA Office for Economic and Social Council Support and Coordination is organizing several panel discussions and other events to support the work of the Assembly and its Second Committee. The panel discussions and keynote addresses feature high-level experts, including renowned academics, representatives of the United Nations system, civil society and private sector.

Edmund Phelps, 2006 Nobel Prize winner in economics and Professor of Economics at Columbia University, will deliver a keynote address on 8 October. Dr. Phelps’ Nobel award-winning work on employment, capital accumulation and intergenerational trade-offs has had great impact on macroeconomic policy-making. Mr. Phelps is expected to share his perspectives on the application of his theories to economic policy in developing countries in order to improve development outcomes.

On 9 October, a roundtable will take place on the UN development system response to different countries’ needs and priorities in their efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. The event is related to the triennial comprehensive policy review of operational activities, and seeks to introduce fresh perspectives on coherence in the work of the UN development system at the country-level. The roundtable will provide an opportunity to address linkages between the policy review and recommendations of the High-level Panel on System-wide Coherence, and to discuss progress of the “Delivering as One” pilot.

A panel discussion on the Doha development round will take place on 25 October. The panel will deal with the benefits that could accrue to both developing and developed countries from the successful conclusion of the Doha Development Round of Trade Negotiations and the obstacles that impede this achievement. Panelists will present their outlook on the WTO negotiations and propose actions to be taken to overcome the impasse. Pascal Lamy, Director-General of the WTO will participate, along with Supachai Panitchpakdi,, Secretary-General of UNCTAD, Denis Redonnet, European Union Commission Deputy Head of Cabinet for External Trade, Roberto Azevedo, Under-Secretary-General of Economic Affairs in the Ministry of External Relations of Brazil, and other speakers to be confirmed.

For more information:

Comprehensive policy review of operational activities

Triennial comprehensive policy review to adopt norms for all UN organizations through 2010

This year, the General Assembly will conduct a triennial comprehensive policy review of operational activities for development of the broad UN system, a thorough and comprehensive assessment of action taken by the UN family to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and impact of activities in the field.

The Economic and Social Council reviewed an analytical report of the Secretary-General on this issue in July. Now, in October, it is the Assembly’s turn to consider the issue, aided by a second report containing recommendations of the Secretary-General for managing operational activities through 2010. Both reports were prepared by the Office of Economic and Social Council Support in DESA. A comprehensive statistical analysis of the financing of operational activities for development of the UN system in 2005 and 2006 will also be presented.

Recommendations cover a range of territory, including: substantial and sustained increase of non-earmarked funding for operational activities; improvements in results-based management; efficiency and coherence of the UN system; development of a comprehensive financial reporting system; reinforcement of national ownership and leadership of activities, in particular of capacity-building efforts; mainstreaming of South-South and triangular cooperation, as well as gender and women’s empowerment; enhancement of the role of the UN system in transition from relief to development; strengthening of relevance, coherence and effectiveness in the delivery of operational activities at the country level; improvement of UN staff capacities and knowledge management; and emphasis on development of evaluation capacity in recipient countries, along with strengthened evaluation functions in the UN system.

Once delegates have had a chance to deliberate on these matters, the General Assembly is expected to adopt a resolution providing further guidance to the UN system for the next three years. The policy directives mandated by the Assembly are considered norms to be applied by all funds, programmes, specialized agencies and other affiliated UN entities.

The research conducted by DESA to prepare for the policy review has involved intensive consultative processes with Member States and with all UN organizations in addition to independent, credible, and evidence-based evaluations involving document reviews, surveys and field visits.

For more information:

World leaders call for coalition to confront climate change

Over 150 countries attend the largest-ever gathering on climate change

The largest-ever gathering of world leaders on climate change ended on 24 September with a call to forge a coalition to speed up a global response to an issue that Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, has identified as one of his top priorities. National action on climate change is important, but the climate challenge must essentially be confronted within a global framework, “one that guarantees the highest level of international cooperation,” suggested the Secretary-General to top officials from over 150 nations, including 80 Heads of State or Government.

This framework must include bolstered leadership by industrialized countries on emissions reductions, the provision of mitigation incentives for developing countries – without compromising economic growth or poverty reduction efforts – and an increase in support for adaptation, especially in least developed and small island developing States.

The world’s immediate challenge is to transform our common concern into a new consensus on the way forward, Mr. Ban said. “This journey begins in Bali this December. It will succeed or fail based on the strength of the leadership and commitment displayed by the people in this hall.” It is hoped that negotiations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Bali, Indonesia, in December will help move governments towards a new political and legal arrangement by 2012, when the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol ends.

The President of the General Assembly, H.E. Dr. Srgjan Kerim, appealed to countries not to lose the current momentum, and proposed creating a comprehensive roadmap to guide the way forward for the UN system and its Member States: “To outline the instruments we have and structures necessary to address climate change.” Mr. Kerim announced that at the beginning of next year he will convene a thematic debate to begin to forge that consensus and elaborate the steps the UN should take to enhance its contribution.

The Secretary-General concluded with an appeal to world leaders: “We hold the future in our hands. Together, we must ensure that our grandchildren will not have to ask why we failed to do the right thing, and let them suffer the consequences.”

For more information: