DESA News Vol. 12, No. 06 June 2008

Global dialogue on development

World economy, aid effectiveness, sustainable development take centre stage at ECOSOC 2008

The Economic and Social Council’s substantive session unfolds in New York from 30 June to 25 July

A reformed Economic and Social Council gets into high gear this year with the first biennial Development Cooperation Forum taking place alongside the Annual Ministerial Review and other significant policy dialogues. The 2008 substantive session, of which the DCF and AMR are a part, takes place in New York from 30 June to 25 July.

The session opens with a high-level segment, from 30 June to 3 July, in four parts. Executive heads of the international financial and trade institutions will kick off day one with a policy-dialogue on the state of the world economy and its implications for the achievement of the United Nations development agenda. The dialogue, which will be moderated by DESA Under-Secretary-General, Mr. Sha Zukang, features Supachai Panitchpakti, Secretary-General of UNCTAD, Pascal Lamy, Director-General of the World Trade Organization, Justin Lin, Chief Economist at the World Bank and a representative from the International Monetary Fund.

The Development Cooperation Forum follows on 30 June and 1 July with discussions of aid allocation, South-South and triangular development cooperation, the impact of civil society organizations, national capacity to absorb aid, and the use of aid to support national development strategies. Some eighty ministers or directors-general responsible for development cooperation in developing and developed countries are expected to attend. Council President, Leo Mérorès, and Secretary-General Ban-Ki-moon will open the event. DESA Under-Secretary-General, Sha Zukang, will introduce the main report on trends and progress in international development cooperation.

At the Annual Ministerial Review, on 2 and 3 July, eight developing and developed countries will report on the progress they have made towards the goals and targets of the United Nations Development Agenda. Ministerial roundtables will address the question of how to put the world onto a sustainable development path.

The high-level segment concludes on 3 July with a thematic debate on rural development, intended as a follow-up to the Council’s ministerial declaration of 2003 on this topic. Taking into account the global food crisis, bio-energy and other emerging issues, the debate is expected to address questions of food security, energy needs, rural employment, water usage, land rights, technology, small business innovation, and market access.

Innovation Fair

To showcase best innovative experiences and mobilize a wide range of stakeholders in support of successful development activities, an innovation fair will be held in parallel to the high-level segment to allow for interaction between policy makers and authors of innovative experiences. The fair provides an opportunity for the private sector, foundations and other civil society organizations to share examples of innovative products, approaches or practices and to disseminate them more widely to Member States and other actors. Innovations in pollution management, energy use, corporate social and environmental responsibility, climate change, desertification, human settlements and slums, community development, biodiversity and a range of other areas will be featured.

Policy review of operational activities

The operational activities segment will provide a platform for the Council to consider the triennial comprehensive policy review of UN system operational activities for development. A series of high-level interactive dialogues and panel discussions will take place, focusing on the role of the UN system in a changing aid environment, strengthening UN development system’s responsiveness to the different needs of programme countries and a dialogue with the heads of funds and programmes. The Council will have before it reports on the management process to implement the triennial review, on the functioning of the resident coordinator system, and a statistical analysis of the financing of operational activities for development.

Humanitarian consequences of natural disasters, climate change, food aid

The humanitarian affairs segment will take place from 15 to 17 July on the theme of building capabilities and capacities at all levels for timely humanitarian assistance, including disaster risk reduction. The humanitarian consequences of natural disasters, including the impact of climate change, and humanitarian challenges related to global food aid will be the subject of two panel debates. Each panel will feature high-level participation from affected governments, relevant UN agencies, NGOs and experts.

On the morning of 15 July, in between the operational activities and humanitarian affairs segments, there will be a related informal event on coordination in the transition phase between emergency relief and sustainable recovery. The aim of this panel is to highlight the efforts that the United Nations and the World Bank are making to promote a common understanding of needs of countries in post-crisis transition and to address the essential of increasing national ownership of the recovery and development process as well as the strengthening of the partnership between the UN and Bretton Woods institutions.

In the margins of the humanitarian affairs segment there will be also several informal side events on issues such as the consolidated appeals process mid-year review, the independent central emergency response fund evaluation, the use of military assets in natural disaster relief, internal displaced persons in the context of natural disasters, gender-mainstreaming and the implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action.

Global oversight and coordination

During the general segment, from 18 to 24 July, the Council will review the reports of its subsidiary bodies and other United Nations entities. The Council will assess the integrated and coordinated implementation of the outcomes of and follow-up to major UN conferences and summits and will review, in particular, progress made in the implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries as well as the coordinated implementation of the Habitat agenda.

The question of mainstreaming a gender perspective into all policies and programmes in the UN system will also be discussed. Finally, the Council will review the work of some UN inter-agency mechanisms, such as the Ad Hoc Inter-Agency Task Force on Tobacco Control and the Ad Hoc Open-ended Working Group on Informatics.

For more information: http://www.un.org/ecosoc/


Rome forum on aid effectiveness

Preparations for the upcoming Development Cooperation Forum will conclude with a stakeholder forum in Rome on 12 and 13 June

To ensure a comprehensive consultative process for the 2008 Development Cooperation Forum, the DESA Office for Economic and Social Council Support and Coordination is supporting several country-led events. A stakeholder forum in Rome from 12 to 13 June, organized in cooperation with the Government of Italy, will conclude this process by engaging parliamentarians and high-level representatives from civil society and local governments in an open and interactive dialogue on their roles in contributing to effective development cooperation.

Through partnerships with the Inter-Parliamentary Union, United Cities and Local Governments, CIVICUS and Action Aid, the one-and-a-half day forum will focus on the critical role these actors play in guiding, managing and monitoring development cooperation. Each covering different aspects of the development process, these actors are all instrumental in ensuring that development cooperation benefits and reaches the people with the greatest need.

The meeting is organized around three segments and common plenary sessions, with presentations, country-based case studies and discussions addressing two main issues. First, aid quality and effectiveness will be considered with an emphasis on the role of civil society actors, parliamentarians and local governments. Second, cooperation at the local level will be reviewed with an eye on recent trends in decentralized development cooperation.

As a major preparatory event for the 2008 Forum, the Rome event is meant to ensure that the perspectives of representatives from civil society, local governments and parliaments on how to enhance effective and coherent development cooperation receive attention at the international level.

For more information: http://www.un.org/ecosoc/newfunct/dcfrome.shtml


Sustainable development forum calls for more investment in research

Sustainable development forum calls for more investment in researchThe Commission on Sustainable Development wrapped up its annual session on 16 May by emphasizing the need for ramping up investment in research and development in innovative and sustainable agricultural technologies and infrastructure in poor countries.

The Commission, concluding two weeks of discussions in New York, examined the obstacles and barriers that have prevented sustainable development in the areas of agriculture, land use, rural development, drought, desertification and Africa. Countries will now follow-up on these issues with policy recommendations at next year’s meeting.

The session also provided a foundation for international discussions on the global food crises that took place in the Economic and Social Council – of which the Commission is a subsidiary body – on 20 May in New York.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in an address earlier this week, said that “after a quarter century of relative neglect, agriculture is back on the international agenda, sadly with a vengeance. The onset of the current food crisis has highlighted the fragility of our success in feeding the world's growing population with the technologies of the first green revolution and subsequent agricultural improvements.”

The Secretary-General stressed that agriculture needs invigorating. “We need to work together to develop a new generation of technologies and farming methods which make possible a second green revolution, one which permits sustainable yield improvements with minimal environmental damage and contributes to sustainable development goals.”

Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Sha Zukang said: “We do need to address the runaway food prices as an emergency. We need to take quick, targeted action to deliver emergency food aid to the people in need.” But he added that crisis management was not enough. “We need to make sure it does not happen again.”

Many countries expressed concern that a number of factors had contributed to the present situation, including climate change, unfair trade policies, poor land management, biofuel production, and a lack of roads and access to markets in rural agricultural areas.

Almost 60 ministers attended the CSD, along with 680 representatives from 126 nongovernmental organizations. Representatives from civil society, including women, farmers, science, business, children and youth, local authorities, workers and trade unions, indigenous peoples and nongovernmental organizations participated far more extensively than in the past.

Participants also elected Gerda Verburg, the Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality in the Netherlands, as the next chair of the Commission – the first time that the subsidiary body of the Economic and Social Council will be led by a woman.

Based on UN press release of 16 May. For more information: http://www.un.org/esa/sustdev/csd/review.htm


General Assembly concludes review sessions of the Monterrey Consensus

Doha preparations advance to next stage as Assembly concludes informal review of Monterrey Consensus

From 14 February to 20 May 2008, the General Assembly convened six informal review sessions on the thematic areas of the Monterrey Consensus. The Sessions were the central part of the preparatory process of the Follow-up International Conference on Financing for Development to Review the Implementation of the Monterrey Consensus (Doha, Qatar, 29 November - 2 December 2008). Each session included an initial panel discussion comprising five experts nominated by Governments and relevant stakeholders, followed by a policy debate.

Review Sessions

The first Review Session (14 February 2008) on chapter I of the Monterrey Consensus, “Mobilizing domestic financial resources for development ,” focused on the role of government, as well as on macroeconomic and social policies in domestic resource mobilization. Speakers highlighted that, since the adoption of the Monterrey Consensus in 2002, developing countries had made important progress in many areas of domestic resource mobilization. However, many challenges remained. Poverty was still on the increase in several countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. Moreover, income inequalities persisted and rates of unemployment and underemployment were still very high in the developing world.

During the second Review Session (15 February 2008) of chapter II, “Mobilizing international resources for development: foreign direct investment and other private flows ”, participants exchanged views on the quantity and quality of international private resource flows to developing countries and discussed policies to enhance the development impact of those flows. Many speakers stressed that private flows could serve to reduce poverty and stimulate economic growth. There was widespread concern, however, that foreign direct investment remains concentrated in a few countries. Moreover, speakers emphasized that while developing countries should create appropriate incentives to attract productive foreign capital, they must be cautious of short-term and potentially destabilizing capital flows.

At the third Review Session (10-11 March 2008) on Chapter V, “External Debt ”, it was stressed that, overall, the debt indicators of developing countries had improved markedly since 2002. Most developing countries had debt management programmes in place and had built reserves, reducing vulnerability. The implementation of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative and Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative had led to a significant reduction of the debt burden of many developing countries. It was also pointed out, however, that there was a considerable transfer of resources from the South to the North, partly because of debt servicing. A large number of countries still faced very high or unsustainable debt servicing burdens. Calls were made for a debt resolution mechanism aimed at guaranteeing fair burden sharing among debtors and creditors.

The fourth Review Session (11-12 March 2008) focused on Chapter VI, “Addressing systemic issues: enhancing the coherence and consistency of the international monetary, financial and trading systems in support of development ”. Participants discussed new trends in international finance, including the increased role of emerging economies, growing global current account imbalances, the emergence of a new generation of financial crises, excessive global liquidity and the continued marginalization of international financial institutions, especially the Bretton Woods institutions. Several discussants noted that international financial institutions had governance, financial and credibility problems. There was a wide convergence of views that the voice and representation of developing countries must be further strengthened in international economic decision-making and norm-setting.

During the fifth Review Session (15-16 April 2008) on chapter V, “Increasing international financial and technical cooperation for development ,” it was noted that ODA trends since Monterrey showed an increase between 2002 and 2005, followed by two consecutive years of decline in 2006 and 2007. Participants expressed the view that the Doha Conference should seek to give greater predictability for meeting the agreed ODA commitments. South-South cooperation, including triangular cooperation, was seen as an important aspect of development cooperation. Emerging donors could contribute to lessons learned from their own development experience. Many speakers highlighted that aid quality and effectiveness depended significantly on national ownership, domestic policies and regulatory frameworks, as well as the alignment of ODA with national policy objectives.

The last Review Session (19-20 May 2008) dealt with chapter III, “International trade as an engine for development ”. Participants called for a universal, rule-based, open, non-discriminatory and equitable multilateral trading system. The Doha Development Round should be concluded by the end of 2008, so that trade could trade play its full part in promoting economic growth, employment and development for all. Participants highlighted the potential for trade liberalization to increase export earnings and promote economic growth. Numerous speakers emphasized the growing importance of South-South trade. Many participants insisted that trade liberalization had to be synchronized with conditions in developing countries. Aid for trade could help build capacity to ensure higher productivity in developing countries and enable them to better compete in the global market place.

Other events in preparation for the Doha Conference

Interactive hearings with representatives of civil society and the business sector on financing for development will be held at UN Headquarters on 18 June 2008. In addition, UN regional commissions, with the support of regional development banks and other relevant entities, have held regional consultations in preparation of the Doha Review Conference.

For more information: www.un.org/esa/ffd