DESA News Vol. 11, No. 11 November 2007

Trends and analysis

Top economists assess implications of financial turbulence in 2008

Project LINK network convenes in Addis Ababa to discuss global economic outlook

The semi-annual expert group meeting on the world economy, also known as Project Link, will be held from 12 to 14 November in Addis Ababa. Jointly organized by DESA, ECA and the University of Toronto, the 2007 fall meeting of the economists’ network will assess the implications of global financial turbulence for world economic prospects in 2008. Also of concern are the risks associated with further deterioration in the housing slump in the United States, and the possibility of a disorderly resolution of global imbalances that could conceivably accompany a steep decline in the value of the US dollar.

About fifty economists from more than fifty countries and several international organizations will take part in the conference. The outlook for global and regional economies will be the main topic of discussion. The LINK global economic outlook, prepared by DESA’s Development Policy and Analysis Division, will be considered alongside presentations of the IMF and World Bank. International policy issues, including some especially relevant to Africa, will also be examined.

Project Link is a non-governmental and cooperative research activity integrating independently developed national econometric models into a global econometric model. It provides a consistent framework for undertaking quantitative studies of the international economic transmission mechanisms and of the effects of international and national policies, developments and disturbances on the outlook for the world economy. LINK forecasts are incorporated into the World Economic Situation and Prospects, a flagship publication of DESA produced jointly with UNCTAD and the regional commissions each year.

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Citizen participation, a prerequisite of accountability

DESA and INTOSAI team up to foster civic engagement for public accountability

Audit has an essential role in holding persons acting in the public interest to account. By tracking expenditure, it controls corruption and brings cost-efficiency in public expenditure. Yet “audit on its own – without the backing of democratic governance, rule of law, freedom of access to information and free media – does not experience much success, either in controlling corruption or in improving service delivery,” says Adil Khan, Chief of the Socio-economic Governance and Management Branch of DESA’s Division for Public Administration and Development Management.

According to a UN study on public accountability in different governance environments, some countries have increased their investment in the audit function only to find that poor governance compromises the value of the results. To explore the actual and potential roles of civil society in fostering public accountability, DPADM will hold a workshop on 9 November for those attending the 19th Congress of the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI) in Mexico City.

DESA, INTOSAI, and the International Budget Project are ongoing partners in the promotion of opportunities for civil society engagement with audit institutions. Experts convened by DESA in 2005 found that, whether through formal or informal processes, collaboration between the two sectors can foster accountability and encourage service delivery targeted to people’s needs.

Civil society groups can take part in audits directly, as is the case in the Philippines, or they can serve as watchdogs by demanding follow-up action to audit findings and pushing governments to implement recommendations, as in Argentina. They can draw attention to entities that should be the subject of audits, as they do in the Republic of Korea, or carry out independent audits that complement the government’s role, as is done in the State of Andhra Pradesh in India.

The DESA panel on public accountability at INTOSAI is intended to strengthen the link between the monitoring and assessment of government expenditures, and public accountability. Panel members will discuss how to reform audit institutions so as they become a tool of citizen empowerment.

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Expert group meetings on climate change and sustainable development

DESA is promoting a series of events to exchange information and ideas on the challenge of climate change for the future well being of mankind. Addressing the climate change challenge will require actions at both national and international levels. Accordingly, two expert group meetings are being organized in New York. The first one, taking place on 12 and 13 November, and organized by DESA Division for Sustainable Development, will tackle issues of how to integrate climate change into national sustainable development strategies by examining concrete national experiences and drawing lessons from them. A second meeting, taking place from 19 to 20 November, is hosted by the Committee for Development Policy in cooperation with the Stockholm Environment Institute and the academic journal "Development". It will explore possible avenues to strengthen international cooperation for development to address the climate change challenge.

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Measuring the economically active population in censuses

The Statistics Division in collaboration with ILO is organizing an expert group meeting in New York from 5 to 9 November to review the draft Handbook on the Collection of Economic Characteristics in Population Censuses. The Handbook draws on the experiences of countries in measuring economic characteristics of the population, while providing detailed technical and operational guidance on the implementation of recommendations on economic characteristics outlined in the Principles and Recommendations for Population and Housing Censuses, Revision 2.

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World e-Parliament conference spotlights parliamentary cooperation

DESA’s Under Secretary-General Sha stresses the role of parliaments in boosting an inclusive and equitable information society

The World e-Parliament Conference ended in Geneva on 12 October with broad consensus on practices that ICT should be tapped to modernize parliamentary functions, and improve dialogue between legislators and the public. The conference brought together 70 delegations, made up of members of parliament, ICT directors and staff, librarians, researchers and legislative officials.

Under Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Sha Zukang opened the meeting on 11 October, reminding participants that “ICT should not be treated as a goal in itself, or as a substitute for developing and modernizing institutions, be they executive, legislative or judiciary.” Rather, promoting ICT should serve to complement and enhance those development efforts.

“Parliaments can make a difference for the advancement of an inclusive and equitable information society.” Similarly, they can create space for political dialogue and consensus to give direction to national information society strategies and policies. Organized by DESA, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, and the Association of Secretaries General of Parliaments, the conference showcased innovative experiences that will be included in a first ever Global Report on ICT in Parliament scheduled for release in February next year.

More than sixty-five members of the Global Network of IT Experts in Parliament also agreed on modalities of work and themes that are a priority for the group. Members will prepare joint studies on the use of mobile devices and websites by legislatures, as well as security issues and development of an e-learning tool for parliamentarians based on open standards and XML. The conference was preceded by a regional meeting of Latin American parliamentary officials, on 9 October, which gave birth to a similar network for the region.

“Well-equipped in ICT and well-informed,” said Mr. Sha, “parliaments can help build better societies and a better globalization.”

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Experts call for policies that strengthen intergenerational ties

Policy interventions that foster the links between children, youth and older persons were strongly recommended by an expert group on intergenerational solidarity that met in New York from 23 to 25 October. Experts noted that demographic shifts and changing family patterns call for policies that encourage sharing of responsibility for the care of both the younger and older generations. Policies should not reward one generation at the expense of another, experts concluded, and no single age group should be fully responsible for the care of others. When care giving is shared, it is much more manageable.

In the delivery of care, partnerships between organizations yield the greatest benefit. Social service agencies, schools, healthcare providers, and community groups are all structured and funded differently, but efforts should be combined, where possible, for the sake of intergenerational programmes. Similarly, collaboration among government agencies can promote a national perspective that is more valuable than each part on its own. A report of the meeting is expected to be issued as a DESA publication.

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