DESA News Vol. 12, No. 02 February 2008

Global dialogue on development

Taking action on employment

Ministers, employers and workers sit elbow-to-elbow at the Commission for Social Development

Practical measures for countries to implement full employment and decent work are expected to be debated during the 46th session of the Commission for Social Development, which is taking place between 6 and 15 February in New York. This year’s gathering – the second of a two year cycle – will focus on the constraints and barriers to implementation of policies that promote full employment and decent work. Building on the 2007 review session, the upcoming policy session is expected to bear fruit in the form of an action-oriented document, which may include a follow-up mechanism destined to keep the issue high on the UN development agenda.

The Commission’s Chairperson, Alexei Tulbure of Moldova, will open the meeting on 6 February, followed by statements by Asha-Rose Migiro, Deputy-Secretary General, and Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs. Carlos Tomada, Minister of Labour, Employment and Social Protection of Argentina, will deliver the keynote address.

Ministers, employers and labour representatives will sit elbow-to-elbow in a high-level panel discussion in the afternoon to share experiences and discuss fruitful ways of easing employment creation. The five discussants include: Sudha Pillai, Secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Employment of India; Sanja Crnkovic, Director of CEPOR, a Small and Medium Enterprises Policy Centre in Croatia; Daniel Funes, employer and Vice-chairperson of the ILO Governing Body; Gladys Branche, of the Sierra Leone Labour Congress, and; Vladimir Spidla, European Commissioner for Employment.

The commitment to create full and productive employment and decent work is indeed a considerable challenge given that 1.5 billion people, or one third of the working age population worldwide, were either out of work or underemployed in 2006, notes the Secretary-General in a report prepared for the session. In contrast to past experience, he says, economic growth in recent years has not been strongly associated with the growth of formal employment.

To better understand the links between economic well-being, employment, and social inclusion, a number of side panels will be held starting 5 February on issues such as universal social protection and its impact on poverty eradication, and employment in old age. The idea of recognizing indigenous peoples’ community-based approach to management of natural resources as a legitimate form of work will be the subject of discussion on 6 February, as will the challenges of youth employment.

On 8 February, the policy implications of the recently launched DESA World Youth Report 2007 will be taken up, along with a panel on the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing and its regional follow-up. The place of disability in the UN development agenda, an emerging issue, will be the subject of a panel discussion on 12 February, followed by a briefing on 13 February on intensification of efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women in the workplace.

In addition to an action-oriented outcome on employment and decent work, it is expected that delegates will conclude the session with further resolutions on ageing and disabilities.

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Top statisticians reflect on relevance, integrity, innovation

Leading practitioners meet in New York starting 22 February to consider labour, social, administrative, migration, gender statistics and a host of other issues

Heads of the National Statistical Offices of over 120 countries are set to gather in New York for the 39th session of the Statistical Commission, which runs 26 through 29 February. New technical norms in the areas of national accounts, tourism statistics, industrial statistics and distributive trade statistics will be before the Commission for review. The Commission will also discuss education statistics, population and housing censuses, development indicators and national statistical capacity building. In addition, information will share information on health, trade and environment statistics.

Of note, statistical development in Africa will be given special consideration this year. ECA has prepared a report for delegates that, among other things, deals with the links between global and regional intergovernmental bodies against the backdrop of a recent trend to revamp statistical functions in major regional organizations. That trend has been in part a response to the repeated demand to address underdevelopment of statistical services in Africa.

The Commission will consider an in-depth programme review of labour statistics, prepared by the Office of National Statistics of the United Kingdom. The opening of national economies to trade, foreign capital and foreign workers brought about by globalization has important implications for the field of labour statistics. Measuring the movement of labour across national boundaries is a serious challenge, for example, and the programme review underscores the need to develop a standardized approach to measuring short-term migration to complement existing standards for gathering statistical data on longer-term migration.

A seminar on new directions on social statistics to be held, on 22 February, before the formal session begins will reflect on the challenges of social statistics, an area often used to monitor social changes or to assess and advise social policies. The meeting will be an opportunity for chief statisticians to share experiences on developing a programme of work on social statistics and is expected to wrap up by examining the possibilities of building a framework to guide coherent measurement.

Another seminar on administrative data sources in statistics, on 27 February, will provide an overview of the register based statistical system in support of the use of administrative data in production of statistics.

A high-level forum on official statistics, on 25 February will allow participants to explore progress and setbacks in the advancement of the global statistical system, as well as consider pivotal issues in official statistics. Concepts such as relevance, integrity and innovation will guide the debate.

“When compiling statistical data, it is essential that statistical analysis matches the needs of each country, as these are different depending on their level of development,” explains Virgilio Castillo of the DESA Statistics Division, which services the Commission. In addition, innovation of ideas and strategies coupled with technological innovation are critical. Technology plays a big part in statistical compilation, projection analysis and sophisticated technological measuring, adds Mr. Castillo. Unfortunately, it remains a challenge for some poor countries.

Joining forces with the Commission on the Status of Women, a joint dialogue will take place, on 28 February, with the goal of developing a set of appropriate indicators to measure violence against women.

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Commission takes up financing for gender equality and women’s empowerment

Financing for gender equality and the empowerment of women will be the priority theme at the 52nd session of the Commission on the Status of Women, to be held in New York from 25 February to 7 March. To enrich the discussion, Ministers and other high-level representatives from national capitals will take participate in a roundtable on this topic on 25 February, followed by two interactive expert panel discussions on 26 February.

The Commission will also consider the emerging issue of gender perspectives on climate change through an interactive expert panel discussion on 28 February. The Commission will review the status of implementation of the agreed conclusions on women’s equal participation in conflict prevention, management and conflict resolution and in post-conflict peace building, adopted in 2004, through an interactive dialogue on 29 February.

The Commission will organize a lunch time panel on 27 February to enable a preliminary discussion on its priority theme for 2009 on equal sharing of responsibilities between women and men, including caregiving in the context of HIV/AIDS. On 28 February, the Commission will hold a joint panel with the Statistics Commission on indicators on violence against women.

A large number of parallel events will be organized by UN agencies, funds and programmes, permanent missions, and non-governmental organizations throughout the two-week session. Over 2000 NGO representatives are expected to attend.

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Haitian diplomat elected to lead ECOSOC

The Haitian permanent representative to the United Nations, Léo Mérorès, was elected the 64th President of the Economic and Social Council at the opening of its organizational session on 14 January.

Mérorès took over from Dalius Cekuolis of Lithuania. In his acceptance speech to the 54 members of the Council, the Haitian diplomat paid tribute to his predecessor for leading the Council through an important year that saw some change in the outlook of the Council in 2007.

He (Cekuolis) capably steered the implementation of the new functions of the Council and … improved its effectiveness,” said Mérorès. He emphasized the importance of building on progress that his predecessor has established and to help bring to fruition improvements and new mandates of the ECOSOC as per the recommendations of the 2005 World Summit Outcome.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, also present at the meeting, was emphatic about the role of the Council in advancing the development agenda. He said the newly formed Development Cooperation Forum will pave the way for an inclusive framework to address the latest trends in development cooperation and the critical issues of aid quality and quantity.

“The UN development agenda, especially the Millennium Development Goals, can be achieved if immediate steps are taken to implement existing commitments…In 2015, we must be able to say that we have done everything possible to follow through on our commitments to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. ECOSOC has a critical role to play in ensuring that we win the race to the Goals and that we advance our global development agenda,” said the UN Secretary-General.

The outgoing Council President, Dalius Cekuolis said the Council is well on its way to becoming “the Charter body that was envisaged by the founding members of this Organization.” He said the Council has raised the visibility of the development agenda by engaging and mobilizing the international community to find practical measures to address poverty.

Two new functions of ECOSOC were introduced last year – the Annual Ministerial Review and the Development Cooperation Forum – providing a vehicle for accelerating implementation of the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals by the 2015 target date.

The new president Léo Mérorès highlighted the theme of the 2008 Annual Ministerial Review which will be implementation of the agreed goals and commitments in regard to sustainable development. He said the Council can provide a forum for the integration of the economic, social and environmental pillars of sustainable development that is presently lacking at the global level.

“I will make every effort to ensure the success of the first-ever biennial Development Cooperation Forum,” said the newly elected President. He added that the Forum, to be held in New York in July, is expected to become the core for global dialogue and policy review on key development cooperation issues.

For more information: http://www/ecosoc/about/bureau.shtml

H.E. Srgjan Kerim, President of the 62nd session of the General AssemblyH.E. Mr. Léo Mérorès of Haiti, President of the Economic and Social Council for 2008, addresses delegates following election on 14 January (16 minutes).

General Assembly advances on Doha

GA President outlines preparatory process for Follow-up International Conference on Financing for Development

The President of the General Assembly has circulated an outline of the preparatory process for the international follow-up conference on financing for development to be held in Doha from 29 November to 2 December this year. It is expected that Heads of State or Government, ministers, special representatives and other high-level dignitaries will arrive at a negotiated outcome reaffirming goals and commitments while setting out measures for further implementation of the Monterrey Consensus of 2002.

Preparatory discussions will take place in New York, starting with a review session on mobilizing domestic financial resources for development on 14 February, followed by a session on foreign direct investment and other private flows the next day. From 10-12 March, negotiators will turn to questions of external debt, as well as the coherence and consistency of the international monetary, financial and trading systems. Increasing international financial and technical cooperation for development will come up in April, followed by dialogue on international trade in May. Hearings with civil society and the business sector will take place in June.

The General Assembly has also called on the UN regional commissions, with the support of regional development banks and other relevant entities, to hold their own consultations during the first half of 2008.

After the review sessions, in the second week of July, the Secretary-General will issue an advanced unedited version of a progress report on implementation of the Monterrey Consensus. By the end of July, the President will circulate a draft outcome document for the consideration of Member States.

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Joining forces on climate change

Thematic debate in General Assembly examines strategies to widen and deepen partnerships

Coming on the heels of the UN Conference on Climate Change and its Bali Action Plan, a thematic debate entitled “Addressing Climate Change: The United Nations and the World at Work” will take place on 11 and 12 February in New York. The meeting is intended to explore how the UN system can best team up with Member States, the private sector, and civil society to address climate change. Partnerships are seen as vital for making headway on adaptation, mitigation, technology, and financing, as well as deforestation, which are the main elements of the Bali action plan.

The debate will open with statements by Srgjan Kerim, President of the General Assembly, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of the City of New York. A panel on 11 February will then examine ways to expand the reach and effectiveness of cooperative ventures. Governments and NGOs are currently joining in partnership with businesses at local, national, regional and international levels. Yet despite recent progress, the current framework backing the transfer, deployment and diffusion of technology is thought to be insufficient. If so, technology partnerships and transfers could make a difference. Twenty trillion dollars of investment in the energy sector by 2030 could make an important contribution to mitigation efforts by spurring movement to low-carbon economies.

In this connection, discussants will consider the critical elements of effective public-private partnerships and how they contribute to the design and implementation of innovative financing mechanisms for adaptation and mitigation. In addition, the debate will look at ways in which partnerships can bolster cooperation among developing countries.

A second panel discussion on the UN response will revolve around questions such as what strategic objectives the UN should pursue to address climate change, how the UN can best achieve those goals, how the UN system can improve the contribution of its activities and partnerships to mitigation and adaptation and ways in which the UN can assist Member States in policy-making on this issue. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Achim Steiner of UNEP, and Kemal Dervis of UNDP, among others, will take part.

The following day, 12 February, will be devoted to plenary meetings in the General Assembly.

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NGO Committee recommends six civil society groups for consultative status

Of the twenty-four applications considered, a further sixteen were deferred until May, and two rejected

Concluding its 2008 regular session on 30 January, the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations decided to recommend six civil-society groups for consultative status with the Economic and Social Council.  It also adopted a resolution and two oral decisions on its working methods in addition to its report.

Recommended for special consultative status were: Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda, a national organization based in Mexico which aims to conserve the natural resources and promote sustainable development of the Sierra Gorda region; Hunter College Center for Community and Urban Health, a New York City-based international organization that addresses urban health issues in a holistic manner; Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology, an international society of all marine professionals with headquarters in the United Kingdom; Santé de la reproduction pour une maternité sans risque, a Niger-based national organization focusing on reproductive health; Africa Humanitarian Action, an international humanitarian assistance organization based in Ethiopia; and Fundación para la Libertad, a national organization in Spain that promotes human rights within Basque society.

Following a lengthy procedural debate, the Committee voted against recommending consultative status for Federación Estatal de Lesbianas, Gays, Transexuales y Bisexuales, a Spanish national organization supporting the rights and social acceptance of people of alternate sexuality. The Committee also decided against recommending consultative status for the American Sports Committee, an international organization that promotes exercise for health, after the representatives of China and Egypt said the range of its activities relating to the Council was much too narrow.

The 19-member Committee recommends general, special or roster status with the Council according to such criteria as the applicant’s mandate, governance and financial regime. Organizations enjoying general and special consultative status can attend meetings of the Council and circulate statements.  Those with general status can, in addition, speak at meetings and propose items for the Council’s agenda, while NGOs that have roster status can only attend meetings.

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