DESA News Vol. 12, No. 05 May 2008

Trends and analysis

Keeping track of today’s youth

DESA meeting from 19 to 21 May aims to strengthen research on young people’s well-being

The DESA Division for Social Policy and Development is organizing an expert group meeting on goals and targets on youth in civil society and youth and their well-being, to be held in New York from 19 to 21 May. The meeting will be preceded by a preparatory forum on 16 May that will give young participants an opportunity to debate the topics at hand and develop a clearer understanding of the issues.

The aim of the meeting is to develop a set of goals and targets in areas deemed to have a critical influence on youth development with particular reference to civil society and well-being. These areas include the environment, leisure activities, participation in decision-making, intergenerational relations, information and communication technology, health, HIV/AIDS, drug abuse, juvenile delinquency, girls and young women, and armed conflict. The resultant targets will provide a further framework for monitoring progress towards implementation of the World Programme of Action for Youth, adopted by the General Assembly in 1995 and reaffirmed and expanded ten years later.

Youth, defined as persons aged 15 to 24 years, account for nearly 18 per cent of the world population. In many ways, youth today are better poised than ever before to participate in, and benefit from, global development. The majority of young people around the world are healthy, having survived their childhood years, while only a few decades ago, infant and child mortality rates were considerably higher. Compared to previous generations, young people today are the most highly-educated generation ever. In terms of opportunities in civil society, youth today have the chance to influence society in unprecedented ways, especially through their participation in decision-making and their keen abilities and facility in information and communication technologies.

Although youth today exhibit considerable strength and initiative, they also face a complex and rapidly evolving economic and social environment where new opportunities coexist with major constraints and obstacles. Indeed for many young people, opportunities for self-development and participation in civil society are often constrained by a number of challenges. Changes in family structure and the erosion of traditional values mean that, while young people have more opportunities to exercise their independence, the support systems they were once able to rely upon in times of difficulty are now, in many cases, absent or weakened. As traditional norms are superseded by contemporary mores and values, new lifestyles are emerging that can place many young people at risk in their personal and social lives.

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Lawyers, judges, activists meet on anti-violence legislation

Experts will gather in Vienna on 26 May to analyze legal means of preventing violence against women

The DESA Division for the Advancement of Women and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime are convening an expert group meeting on legislative action to counter violence against women from 26 to 28 May in Vienna. Experts from around the world – lawyers, judges, practitioners and activists representing a range of legal systems – are being asked to analyze approaches taken to eliminate violence against women, identify lessons learned, and recommend good practices for others to follow.

The experts will examine the effectiveness of legislation, legislative reforms over time and the reasons for such reforms, along with methodologies for evaluating the effectiveness of legislative frameworks. They will also present prevailing approaches, in different legal systems, for addressing violence against women, with attention to laws that target different forms and manifestations of violence against women.

Since the 1990s, many States have adopted or revised legislation on violence against women. These laws vary significantly both in terms of the forms of violence they address and the type of action they mandate. Some laws cover specific forms of violence while others deal with multiple forms. Some laws deal solely with the definition and criminalization of violence against women while others provide civil remedies, including protection orders and actions for damages against the perpetrator. Additionally, some laws include provisions mandating preventative and educational measures, services for victims, the establishment of special courts and/or police stations to deal with violence against women, and the application of appropriate procedural law in cases of violence against women.

While progress has occurred, legal responses to violence against women in many instances remain piecemeal and inadequate. A 2006 study undertaken by the Secretary-General on all forms of violence against women notes that only about half of UN Member States legislative provisions in place that specifically address domestic violence, while fewer than half have legislation on sexual harassment, or on trafficking. Even where legislation exists, it is often limited in scope and coverage.

For the Secretary-General, the aim ultimately would be to bring national laws, policies and practices into compliance with international commitments. This would mean ensuring that legislation is in place that adequately addresses all forms of violence against women, acting with due diligence to prevent such violence, investigating, prosecuting and punishing perpetrators, providing access to redress for victims, and removing all laws that discriminate against women.

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National accounts and sustainable development

Leading statisticians will gather in Luxembourg from 6 to 8 May to consider methodological harmonization for sustainable growth and development

The DESA Statistics Division and Eurostat will host a joint conference on international outreach and coordination of national accounts from 6 to 8 May in Luxembourg. The conference is seen as an opportunity to bring together producers and users of statistics from all regions of the world, along with technical and financial partners. The main objective is to promote the System of National Accounts, bearing in mind the international cooperation necessary to support poverty reduction, sustainable growth and development.

More specific objectives include facilitating the outreach of the SNA in developing countries; promoting international coordination in an area where different partners are particularly active at bilateral and multilateral level; establishing directions for development co-operation in the field of national accounts in order to improve coordination and efficiency of aid and sustainability of project results; orienting national statistical systems at country level to improve the quality, production and dissemination of data in a sustainable way.

It is expected that, at its conclusion, the conference will adopt an action plan for implementation in addition to operational recommendations for the attention of the developing countries and their technical and financial partners.

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Public-private partnerships for ICT in Asia-Pacific

Business leaders join forces with development practitioners at annual meeting of ICT alliance in Kuala Lumpur starting 18 May

The Global Alliance for ICT and Development will hold its annual meeting in Kuala Lumpur from 18 to 20 May. The annual meeting will bring together officials from ESCAP, ITU, the World Bank, Islamic Development Bank and other regional and international organizations, as well as experts from civil society and academia.

Access and connectivity, particularly for Asian and island developing States, will be at the top of the agenda, along with innovative funding mechanisms for implementation of ICT infrastructure, services and applications. The aim is to encourage stakeholders who are active in the region to work together to provide affordable ICT for economic growth, employment and development throughout Asia and the Pacific. To that end, participants will have an opportunity to showcase their ICT development projects to potential partners and donors, while public and private sector leaders meet to forge partnerships for the future.

Specific areas of potential collaboration include expansion of broadband backbone infrastructure, regional interconnectivity, rural connectivity, workforce training, localized ICT content and services, and an enabling regulatory environment.

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Coping with climate change

Leading climate change experts discuss carbon footprints at ECOSOC event on 2 May

Against the backdrop of a rising tide of public concern, the Economic and Social Council will devote a special event on 2 May in New York to addressing the risks posed by climate change to the realization of the eight Millennium Development Goals. Andrew Revkin, science writer for the New York Times, will moderate two panels. The first panel will be on learning to cope with climate change and the second on reducing the world’s carbon footprint.

"While the worst effects will occur in the future,” says Council President, Léo Mérorès, “climate change is no longer a far-off prospect. It is already happening.” And the world’s poor and most vulnerable are the one suffering most from its negative effects. Investment in adaptation and mitigation will be needed to strengthen the ability of the poor to cope with the negative impacts of climate change. While it will not be possible to avert all impacts of climate change on development, integration of adaptation measures into development planning can help.

Indeed, to ensure timely realization of the United Nations development agenda, countries need to systematically include climate considerations in development planning, notes Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs. The Economic and Social Council provides a valuable forum for discussing together how to do that.

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UNFCCC Executive Secretary, Yvo de BoerUNFCCC Executive Secretary, Yvo de Boer, briefs the press on 10 April on the outcome of the first round of negotiations on a new global climate change agreement in the recent Bangkok Climate Change Talks (31 March to 4 April).