DESA News Vol. 12, No. 07 July 2008

Trends and analysis

Carbon taxes: bad for the poor?

Finance experts met in New York on 17 June asking whether carbon taxes would constitute a threat to the world’s poor and whether other mechanisms might be more equitable

In preparation for the Doha review conference on financing for development scheduled for November this year, DESA’s Financing for Development Office and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation held a joint workshop on 17 June in New York on the subject of carbon taxes and their potential impact on the world’s poor. Among the participants were Tariq Banuri, Senior Fellow at the Stockholm Environment Institute, Michael Keen of the IMF Fiscal Affairs Department, and Gilbert Metcalf, Professor of Economics at Tufts University in the United States. The workshop was chaired by Ambassador Byron Blake of Antigua and Barbuda.

Some experts have argued that carbon taxes could result in a stable price for emissions, provide for great flexibility in the face of changing economic conditions, create revenues for development and enhance efficiency and equity. However, carbon taxes may also have the undesired side-effect of redistributing income from the poor to the rich. Expenditure on energy, particularly for heating and cooking, weighs more heavily in low-income budgets, so that higher energy prices can in effect redistribute income in disfavour of the poor.

Participants discussed how the regressive impact of carbon taxation might be tackled in order to enhance political acceptability of such an instrument. The speakers also addressed the overall developmental implications of environmental policies, concluding that unless marked progress is made by the international community in meeting the internationally agreed development goals, it is unlikely that the required levels of mitigation and adaptation will be achieved. Financing of climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts is also expected to an important point of discussion at the UN climate change conference to be held in Copenhagen in late 2009.

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Women and men meet online to discuss shared responsibility

DESA’s Division for the Advancement of Women will host an open, online forum on sharing of responsibilities starting 7 July

An online discussion on equal sharing of responsibilities between women and men will run from 7 July to 1 August with the support of DESA’s Division for the Advancement of Women. The consultation is part of the preparatory process for the 2009 session of the Commission on the Status of Women which has as its theme the equal sharing of responsibilities between women and men, including caregiving in the context of HIV/AIDS.

Traditional gender roles and stereotypes often narrowly define the division of labour between women and men, as well as between girls and boys, in the domestic sphere. The HIV/AIDS pandemic has compounded the care responsibilities of women and girls. The online discussion will contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of the causes and consequences of these inequalities and the strategies required to address them.

Each of the first three weeks of the discussion will be devoted to a specific theme. Week one will cover gender stereotypes and the sharing of responsibility in the private sphere. In the second week, participants will turn their attention to the effects of unequal responsibilities on women’s participation in the public sphere. Finally, in week three, caregiving and HIV/AIDS will be the subject of debate and reflection.

In addition to discussing achievements and remaining gaps and challenges, examples of concrete experiences, lessons learned and good practices, including policy interventions to promote a more equal sharing of responsibilities between women and men, will be highlighted. All stakeholders – policy makers, researchers, activists and individuals – are encouraged to share ideas and experiences to provide input to the work of the Commission and further development of global policy in this area.

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Quality assurance in international statistical data

Inter-agency conference in Rome on 7 and 8 July to promote best practices in data collection and dissemination

DESA Statistics Division is co-hosting a conference – together with FAO, ILO, OECD, Eurostat and ECB – on data quality for international organizations on 7 and 8 July in Rome under the auspices of the inter-agency Committee for the Coordination of Statistical Activities. The purpose of the conference is to provide statistical experts from international or supra-national organizations with a forum to discuss specific data quality issues related to their work and exchange experiences regarding the various quality mechanisms developed for improving the collection and dissemination of international data.

This year's meeting will build on the extensive work in the field of data quality assessment that has recently been undertaken by CCSA under the leadership of Eurostat which led to the preparation of guidelines for the Implementation of Quality Assurance Frameworks for International Organizations Compiling Statistics. Topics include quality assessment, peer reviews, country support, data accessibility, best practices in imputation and estimation, and international comparability.

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Industrial statistics update

Experts gather in New York starting 15 July to review industrial classification standard

The DESA Statistics Division will host a meeting of the United Nations Expert Group on Industrial Statistics from 15 to 17 July in New York. The meeting will consider a revised handbook to the index numbers of industrial production, discuss technical cooperation on industrial statistics – including coordination, regional approach, and volunteers for specific areas – and review a prototype of a new knowledge platform on economic statistics developed by DESA.

The Statistics Division collects and compiles indices of industrial production based on responses to periodic questionnaires sent to national statistical offices. The indices are compiled according to the International Standard Industrial Classification of all Economic Activities, Rev.3 categories, at the 2-digit level, for mining and quarrying, manufacturing and gas, water and electricity. The data is then disseminated through the UN Monthly Bulletin of Statistics, the United Nations Statistical Yearbook, and the World Statistics Pocket Book. The UN is the only international organization to publish aggregated data for the index numbers at world levels as well as by economic and geographical grouping.

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Aiming for excellence in public administration education

Taking advantage of the annual conference of the International Association of Schools and Institutes of Administration in Africa, DESA is organizing a workshop on strengthening capacity of institutes of public administration and management development institutes through standards of excellence in public administration education and training in Kampala from 14 to 18 July. The theme of this year’s conference of IASIA is enhancing efficiency, effectiveness and equity in public service delivery.

The workshop is being organized in collaboration with the International Association of Schools and Institutes of Administration, the African Training and Research Center in Administration for Development, the Uganda Management Institute, and the African Management Development Institutes Network. Its main objective is to present the results of recent surveys and studies on educational excellence and explore modalities for the implementation of relevant standards.

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Auditors opine on public accountability mechanisms

DESA’s Division of Public Administration and Development in partnership with the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions will hold a panel on public accountability and good governance on 14 July in New York as part of high-level segment of the Economic and Social Council. Public accountability means that governors are answerable to the governed for their actions and omissions. When government representatives perform well, they warrant the support of the public. When they do not, they owe citizens explanations and compensations. Public accountability, as such, makes sure that there is a continual, transparent and interactive process of correction and repair with an eye on citizen satisfaction.

To ensure public accountability, governments around the world have established supreme audit institutions to achieve the objectives of a coherent and vertically integrated and horizontally responsible governance approach. As overseers of the public purse, auditors have unified their voices under the auspices of the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions, which promotes continuous improvements in the modus operandi of audit institutions worldwide.

What are some of the new and innovative tools and mechanisms of public accountability in governance? How can we make public accountability processes more effective and efficient to make sure that they culminate in sustainable development, including the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals? How can governance actors, including the civil society, effectively participate in the process of anti-corruption initiatives and people-centered development? These are some of the questions that the experts will attempt to answer on 14 July.

Council President Léo Mérorès, DESA Under-Secretary-General Sha Zukang, and UN Special Adviser on Gender Issues Rachel Mayanja will preside. Panelists include Sidney Sokhona, Minister-in-Charge of Relations with Parliament and Civil Society of Mauritania, Jorge Hage, Minister of the Office of the General Comptroller of Brazil, Josef Moser, Secretary-General of the International Organization of Supreme Audits Institutions and President of the Austrian Court of Audit, Jonathan Paris, Senior Adviser at MBI International and Partners, and Adil Khan, former head of the Socioeconomic Governance and Management Branch in DPADM.

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ICT for economic, social – and business – development

GAID and AIT Global are holding their 20th conference in New York starting 10 July on technology’s hidden, innovative potential

The Global Alliance for ICT and Development, together with AIT Global, will hold a conference on sustainable, economic and social development on 10 and 11 July in New York. The event, intended to explore the hidden, innovative potential of ICT will bring technology experts together with senior executives from the private and public sectors, key decision-makers and officials from the United Nations system, academics, and civil society representatives. Some 400 participants are expected.

Attendees will examine the benefits of information and communication technologies for the United Nations, governments, civil society and private sector, and will feature objective tutorials, expert panels, and opportunities for discussions on ICT for development issues, including ICT for sustainable development, ICT management techniques, information security, and Green ICT.

Speakers include Jerry MacArthur Hultin, President of Polytechnic University and former Under-Secretary of the United States Navy, Greg Garcia, Assistant Secretary of Cybersecurity and Communications from the United States Department of Homeland Security, and Andrew McKeon, Assistant District Manager of Al Gore's Climate Project, among many others.

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Pan-American conference of mayors and local authorities

The fourteenth Inter-American Conference of Mayors and Local Authorities on building productive, efficient, and equitable municipalities was held in Miami from 16 to 19 June with the participation of DESA. The conference was organized by Miami-Dade County and Florida International University. About 600 mayors and other representatives of local authorities were in attendance from across Latin America.

In a keynote address to the plenary, Jonas Rabinovitch, Senior Adviser in DESA’s Division for Public Administration and Development Management, noted: “Cities are much more than the mere economic externality of a problem. In fact, there is a close relationship between urbanization and economic success.” According to Rabinovitch, when half of humankind becomes urban, the only way to make cities deliberately work for people is by integrating urbanization with appropriate civic engagement, people-centered policies and modernization of governance and public administration processes.