DESA News Vol. 12, No. 04 April 2008

Global dialogue on development

Getting back on track to achieve the MDGs

General Assembly President convenes debate on achievements and challenges from 1-2 April in New York

The General Assembly President will convene a thematic debate from 1 to 2 April on the subject of achievements, challenges, and getting back on track to achieve the MDGs by 2015. The debate will focus on the poverty, education and health MDGs, where progress is most urgently required and where experience suggests that positive results have a catalytic effect on the other goals. The discussions over the two days will focus on the most intractable problems, identify lessons learnt and possible additional measures to ensure the attainment of the goals.

The midpoint to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 offers an opportunity for the international community to redouble efforts achieve its objectives. The situation is critical and calls for urgent action. As the global secretariat for economic and social affairs, DESA plays an important role in tracking and analyzing the UN system response.

The meeting will open with a statement by the President of the General Assembly, the Secretary-General and two Heads of State and Government, following which there will be a panel discussion on poverty and hunger. Two additional panels, on education and on health, will be held in parallel later the first day.

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Coherence, coordination and cooperation on the Monterrey Consensus

A special high-level meeting of the Economic and Social Council with the Bretton Woods institutions, the World Trade Organization and UNCTAD will unfold in New York on 14 April

Coherence, coordination and cooperation on the Monterrey Consensus The Economic and Social Council will hold its annual special high-level meeting with the Bretton Woods institutions, the World Trade Organization and UNCTAD in New York on 14 April, the day following the spring meetings, in Washington, of the International Monetary and Financial Committee and the Development Committee. The theme of the consultation is coherence, coordination and cooperation in the context of the implementation of the Monterrey Consensus, a subject that has particular relevance to the Follow-up International Conference on Financing for Development scheduled for Doha in November.

As in previous years, participants will be encouraged to avoid formal statements, instead truly engaging with one another in a series of multi-stakeholder roundtable discussions on leading issues. Topics to be explored include: (1) New initiatives on financing for development; (2) Supporting development efforts and enhancing the role of middle-income countries, including in the area of trade; (3) Supporting development efforts of the least developed countries, including through trade capacity-building; (4) Building and sustaining solid financial markets: challenges for international cooperation, and; (5) Financing of climate change mitigation and adaptation.

All member and observer states are encouraged to attend, as well as accredited intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations. The meeting will conclude with a statement by the President of the Council highlighting the main points of discussion and specific proposals or ideas leading to action-oriented results. A comprehensive summary will be issued subsequently as an official document of the Council and the General Assembly.

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Around the world, people on the move

Spatial distribution remains a top issue for the Commission on Population and Development, which meets in New York in April

The Commission on Population and Development is set to hold its forty-first session in New York from 7 to 11 April. At the top of the agenda is the Commission’s special theme of population distribution, urbanization, internal migration and development – and the many challenges engendered by a population on the move.

All the evidence indicates that people benefit from living in urban areas. Average urban incomes are generally higher than those in rural areas. Urban dwellers also have better access to a variety of services, including education, health, transportation, communications, water supply, sanitation and waste management. Because of economies of scale, it is more efficient and cheaper to provide such services to large and geographically concentrated populations than to populations scattered over large rural areas. Furthermore, access to services tends to be better in larger urban agglomerations than in small cities or towns.

Despite its many positive facets, urbanization is not without its ills. Large cities, in particular, are prone to suffer from environmental contamination stemming from traffic congestion, the concentration of industry and inadequate waste disposal systems. Cities also tend to make demands on land, water and natural resources that are disproportionately great in relation to their land area or their population, whose high average income results in high rates of consumption. Although the concentration of population and economic activity in cities is at the root of these problems, persistent disparities among city dwellers mean that poor people bear the brunt of the negative aspects of urbanization.

Faced with the numerous opportunities and challenges associated with urbanization, many Governments have consistently considered their population’s spatial distribution a concern. As of 2007, 85 percent of Governments expressed concern about their pattern of population distribution, a percentage that has changed little since the 1970s. Acting on that concern, many Governments have adopted measures to reduce or reverse rural to urban migration. Most of those measures have had little success, largely because individuals have powerful incentives to move to areas where the chances of improving their standard of living are high.

Migrants in cities generally do better than people staying in rural areas, and their remittances are an important source of income for the relatives they leave behind. Evidence suggests that urbanization has done more to reduce rural poverty than to reduce urban poverty. Although urban areas account for an increasing share of the poor, the large majority of the poor still live in the rural areas of developing countries. Therefore, strategies to improve the living standards of all must combine policies to promote rural development with those to improve the lot of poor urban dwellers by improving service provision, raising their educational levels, improving transportation, improving access to health services and family planning, strengthening the regulation of land use and facilitating the acquisition of land titles.

By gravitating to towns and cities, rural migrants, including the poor, gain access to opportunities unavailable in their communities of origin and are more likely to contribute to economic growth. A faster pace of urbanization, especially if generated by the economic dynamism of urban settlements and supported by the right policies, is therefore likely to reinforce the overall reduction of poverty and should not be hindered.

Further insights into global population trends can be found in the feature article on shifting populations in this month’s issue of DESA News.

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Hania Zlotnik Hania Zlotnik, Director of the DESA Population Division, briefs the press on 26 February on the results of the 2007 Revision of World Urbanization Prospects (30 minutes)

Elections, nominations, confirmations, appointments

At its resumed organizational for 2008, to be held on 29 and 30 April in New York, the Economic and Social Council will take action on appointments to its subsidiary intergovernmental and expert bodies including the functional commissions, Executive Boards of UNDP/UNFPA and UNICEF, Governing Council of UN-Habitat, Executive Board of the World Food Programme, and others.

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