DESA News Vol. 11, No. 12 December 2007

Technical cooperation

Fostering youth participation in African development

DESA helps governments and youth organizations harness young people’s potential

Ensuring that young people have a say in development and that youth issues are integrated into national policies are the overarching goals of a series of workshops and advisory missions being undertaken by DESA’s Division for Social Policy and Development in sub-Saharan Africa.

From 5 to 8 December, a workshop in Kampala is intended to improve young people’s ability to contribute to the formulation of national poverty alleviation policies. The training is part of an ongoing project entitled “tacking poverty together” to enhance the role of youth in poverty eradication efforts. Representatives from teams based in Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Sweden, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia will take part. This particular workshop is a joint undertaking of DESA, the National Association of Youth Organizations of Uganda, and the National Council of Swedish Youth Organizations.

For government officials, the Division for Social Policy and Development is holding a separate workshop in Addis Ababa from 12 to 14 December intended to bolster the capacity of governments to assess the efficacy of national youth policies. The governments of six countries – Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria and Uganda – have committed to sharing, strengthening and evaluating their youth policies, and to discussing successful cases and hurdles encountered in the process. Workshop leaders from DESA and the ECA African Centre for Gender and Social Development will also work with representatives of the African Union to align national actions with regional commitments spelled out in the African Youth Charter and adopted by heads of States at the Assembly of the Union in 2006.

In a related move, DSPD undertook an advisory mission to Nigeria from 22 to 28 November to assist the federal Ministry of Youth Development conduct an assessment of that country’s national youth policy. Practical strategies were identified for promoting youth development at national and sub-national levels, in particular through collaboration with youth organizations. Members of the National Small Arms Commission were also consulted on the relationship between youth and armed violence as part of the DESA’s assistance to the small arms control programme of the Economic Community of West African States.

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Merchandise trade statistics to get a facelift

Since standards for the compilation of international merchandise trade statistics were last updated by the UN Statistical Commission in 1997, there have significant changes in the organization of trade and the legal environment in which it is conducted. Not surprisingly given the complexity of international commerce, there is an ever increasing demand for detailed, consistent and timely data for trade policy-making, economic analysis and market research.

To align concepts and definitions of trade statistics with today’s needs, the Statistics Division of DESA is asking national statistical experts to contribute their knowledge and expertise to a review of the current standard, known as International Merchandise Trade Statistics: Concepts and Definitions or IMTS, rev.2. Experts from nineteen countries representing all regions will come together in New York from 3 to 6 December with UN, OECD, IMF and WTO officials to begin formulating recommendations for an IMTS, rev.3.

A series of global consultations will follow – based on issues identified by the expert group participants – with the goal of presenting an updated manual to the Statistical Commission for adoption in 2010. Discussions will be informed by parallel efforts to update the system of national accounts, methods for determining balance of payments, and compilation of statistics on international trade in services. The needs of trade negotiators, customs administrators, policy makers and market analysts will also be explored.

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Workshop on vital statistics in Western Asia

The civil registration system is considered the best way of generating accurate, reliable and timely data on births, adoptions, deaths and marital status, which underpin a wide range of important demographic and economic statistics. Yet not all countries have fully functional civil registration systems, so analysts must rely on alternative sources such as consensus and sample surveys to deduce basic information on human populations.

A workshop to be held in Cairo from 3 to 6 December will assist countries of Western Asia identify needed improvements to civil registration systems, among other things to provide a basis for designing further technical assistance projects in the region. Workshop leaders will guide participants through standards and methods for producing vital statistics, while reviewing national experiences in compiling figures based from alternative sources while ensuring data quality. The workshop has been organized by DESA’s Statistics Division in partnership with ESCWA and the Government of Egypt.

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Macroeconomic modeling to suit the Millennium Development Goals

Workshop in Zambia aims to strengthen pro-poor policies in sub-Saharan Africa

Up to 150 participants from nearly 30 African countries gathered in Lusaka between 29 October and 2 November to explore ways of making macroeconomic modeling consistent with achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. In addition to exploring ideas about how to configure macroeconomic modeling and forecasting tools that are “MDG-ready”, the gathering looked at progress made on attainment of MDGs in the region, and ways of developing pro-poor macroeconomic policies in each of the participating countries.

Government officials, civil society and academia representatives involved in macroeconomic policy, macroeconomic modeling and long term budgeting issues took part in the meeting. The workshop was organized by the UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa and DESA's Division for Public Administration and Development Management.

A number of African countries have started implementing pro-poor growth policies. Finding ways to combine growth with equity poses some of the greatest challenges to African policy makers and development practitioners mainly due to the large disparities in wealth that exist in most of these countries and the difficulty of providing equitable and adequate access to education, skills development, technology, land, and productive assets.

With technical assistance from UNDP, DESA and other organizations, MDG-based planning has been introduced in 43 out of 45 sub-Saharan African countries. At least 23 of these have already drafted or completed MDG-based plans, with 20 countries at various stages of an MDG needs assessment. In Zambia for example, the UN system has assisted the government to ensure that the national development plan, its fifth, is firmly anchored in the MDGs and that it is pro-poor.

Though we are halfway to the MDG 2015 target date, progress in Africa is lagging. According to the 2007 Millennium Development Goals Report, not a single sub-Saharan African country will achieve all of the goals by 2015 if current trends persist. In order to achieve the MDGs, the results of the national MDG needs assessments need to be fully incorporated into national budgets and development plans. Pro-poor growth, energy, environment, and productive and decent employment issues must also be integrated into MDG-based planning processes.

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Community involvement in public service delivery

DESA seeks to engage all actors in policy formulation in Aruba

Civil society organizations are increasingly recognized as legitimate providers of public services especially in developing countries. For example, in Aruba parish churches and other community organizations play a significant role in the delivery of social services to those most at risk.

At the request of the Government of Aruba, DESA’s Division for Public Administration and Development Management participated in a series of meetings from 20 October to 6 November to discuss an information systems project that will draw on data collected by community organizations to supplement official statistical databases and other government information resources. The objective is to pave the way for service delivery to Arubans in need who may not be benefiting currently from government programmes.

DESA's role in the initiative was to propose an institutional framework that would ensure and sustain the participation of the relevant government departments, as well as civil society organizations, churches, and other community-based groups. Among its several conclusions, DESA recommended that members of Parliament be actively engaged from the inception of the project, and that the media be included in the process both to promote the initiative and address transparency and accountability concerns.