DESA News Vol. 12, No. 11 November 2008

Global dialogue on development

Financing for development takes centre stage

World leaders set to gather in Doha from 29 November to 2 December to discuss global economic governance, and other challenging issues of international development finance

Negotiations for the review of the Monterrey Consensus – the North-South development compact agreed in Mexico in 2002 – are taking place in a year of global financial turmoil and record-level global imbalances. The Follow-up International Conference on Financing for Development, to be held from 29 November to 2 December in Doha, also culminates a series of high-level meetings in 2008 on trade and development, aid effectiveness, food crisis, Africa’s development needs and the Millennium Development Goals. Expectations have been raised that Doha will build upon these discussions to advance the UN development agenda.

The initial draft outcome document, prepared under the direction of the President of the UN General Assembly by two co-facilitators (Egypt and Norway), with the support of the DESA Financing for Development Office finds notable expansion in trade, finance flows and in reducing debt burdens since the 2002 Monterrey Conference. But unevenness in the reach of private flows, shortcomings in hitting aid targets and ongoing difficulties of the least developed, landlocked, and small island nations are cited among the areas of concern, along with gaps in international financial structures and mechanisms.

Among the proposals under consideration:

  • The convening of a conference to review the international financial and monetary architecture and global economic governance structures;
  • Enhancing the voice and participation of developing countries in global decision-making in the Bretton Woods institutions and other international bodies;
  • Attention to strengthening the tax base of developing countries and combating tax evasion and illicit capital flight, including by upgrading the UN Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters to the status of an intergovernmental body;
  • While opening-up of domestic economies is essential to take advantage of opportunities provided by globalization, sufficient policy space should be allowed in developing countries to enhance resilience to its risks; thus, governments should be able to control pace and sequencing of liberalization;
  • Efforts should continue to conclude the Doha trade negotiations – the round of development-oriented multilateral trade talks initiated in Doha in 2001;
  • Advocating more effective ways of leveraging the catalytic role of development assistance, achieving a genuine development partnership through reduced conditionality, and continuing to roll out innovative sources of development funding, including special financial mechanisms to meet the challenges of climate change and high food and energy prices within existing frameworks;
  • Identifying comprehensive solutions to the debt problems of low- and middle-income countries.

Weighing in during a brainstorming session with a group of five eminent economists on 24 October, the Secretary-General shared his determination to continue to work on the development agenda with the heads of other international organizations and world leaders, within the framework of the United Nations system. He underlined the fact that he was pledged to advance the voice of the poor, voiceless and excluded, and could do this by demonstrating the organization’s responsibility for leading an “inclusive multilateralism.”

General Assembly President H.E. Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, for this part, has pledged to step up efforts to ensure a meaningful outcome for this important conference, and to work with others to ensure that the gathering responds fully to the additional challenges posed by the current conjuncture. According to Mr. d’Escoto, a lack of fair representation of developing countries’ interests in existing global institutions of economic governance is an important systemic deficiency that needs to be addressed. The Doha Review Conference on Financing for Development provides a “crucial opportunity” to move the reform discussion forward.

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


Harnessing technology for climate change mitigation

Beijing high-level conference from 7 to 8 November to focus on development and transfer of technology to reduce climate change impact

The Government of China and the DESA Division for Sustainable Development are jointly organizing the Beijing High-level Conference on Climate Change: Technology Development and Technology Transfer from 7 to 8 November. The Conference will address the current status and development potential of energy and other climate related technologies, technology transfer, policy options and possible new mechanisms to enhance international cooperation and technology transfer to developing countries, and potential collaboration between the public and private sectors.

Technology transfer is addressed in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and the Bali Action Plan emphasizes the critical importance of technology development and transfer and the provision of financial resources and investment as a way of addressing climate change mitigation and adaptation goals. The aim of the conference is to support the climate change negotiations, particularly the forthcoming meeting of the Conference of Parties to the Convention taking place in Poznan, Poland, from 1 to 12 December. The Beijing gathering will not be a forum for negotiations. Instead, its aim is to serve as an opportunity for UN Member States and other stakeholders to discuss issues openly, removed from the constraints that come with sitting at the negotiating table.

The Conference will be opened by the Premier of the State Council of China, H.E. Mr. Wen Jiabao. In addition to ministers and high-level representatives of governments, senior business executives are invited. Representatives from civil society organizations such as NGOs and academic institutions will also attend along with senior officials from various international organizations.

For more information: http://www.ccchina.gov.cn/bjctc/en/


Financial turmoil calls for coordinated effort at global level

Reform of international financial system, MDG commitments, climate change, food prices top concerns in General Assembly’s Economic and Financial Committee

The General Assembly’s Economic and Financial Committee held its annual debate on 6 to 8 October with opening statements from Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro, and Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Sha Zukang. Professor Ricardo Hausmann of Harvard University delivered the keynote address.

Against the backdrop of a grim world economy, the Deputy Secretary-General expressed concern about the impact of the financial crisis and the rise in food and energy prices on development. She stressed that the Doha Review Conference on Financing for Development was an opportunity to address systemic deficiencies. Noting the uneven progress in the achievement of MDGs, she called for follow up on the concrete initiatives and commitments made during the high-level event on this topic on 25 September.

Under-Secretary-General Sha Zukang noted the shortfall in commitments revealed by the MDG Gap Task Force Report and called on the Committee to build on the momentum created by the recent high-level event, while echoing the Deputy Secretary-General’s concern about the state of the world economy and ability of the international financial system to deal with the current turmoil. He also emphasized the importance of the Second UN Decade on Poverty Eradication, addressing public health in the larger context of development, tackling climate change, devoting more attention to countries with special needs, and strengthening the UN’s development pillar.

In his keynote address, Professor Hausmann noted that export-oriented countries achieve high growth and that the capacity to move through the sequence of product sophistication of their exports was fundamental. He also emphasized the role of governments in supporting this capacity and that having an institutional setup and open markets were essential. He noted that as growth was not part of MDG targets, it affected the way resources were allocated at the country-level.

During the general debate, seventy speakers expressed their views on the global financial crisis, implementation of the MDGs and other development goals, Doha Review Conference on Financing for Development, the rise in food and energy prices, climate change and sustainable development, development cooperation, and countries in special situations.

Several panel discussions were held to enrich the Committee’s debate. On 10 October, a panel discussion on challenges and emerging issues in external debt restructuring assessed the positive contribution of present approaches to debt restructuring, both official and commercial, while at the same time identifying gaps and suggesting possible ways to move forward.

On 20 October, a panel discussion on the Second UN Decade for the Eradication of Poverty, from 2008 to 2017, served as a forum to address priorities for action within the framework and launch the discussion ahead of consideration by the Assembly of the Secretary-Generals’ report on implementation of the second decade. On 24 October, a panel discussion on globalization and health addressed challenges to public health systems and communicable disease interventions in the context of globalization.

Forthcoming special events include a panel discussion on overcoming economic insecurity, on 11 November, and on reconstructing public administration for conflict prevention, recovery and development, on 13 November.

For more information: http://www.un.org/ga/second/


Multiple global crises pose serious challenges to social development agenda

Over a billion people live in poverty and hunger, and many more do not have decent job opportunities, let alone social protection, DESA Under-Secretary-General reminds Third Committee

Warning that multiple global crises would likely pose “serious challenges to the social development agenda,” Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, encouraged the first meeting of the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) not to lose sight of human rights considerations as it tackled its agenda for the year, which encompassed the advancement of women, children’s issues, indigenous issues, racism, the situation of refugees and crime.

Mr. Sha said in a period of increasing economic uncertainty, special effort must be made to guard against backsliding in social development and human rights.  Indeed, the first report of the Millennium Development Goals Gap Task Force showed that Member States were falling short in meeting their “global partnership commitments,” specifically in terms of financial aid, in support of those goals.

He noted that over a billion people still lived in poverty and hunger, and many more did not have decent job opportunities, let alone social protection.  Many continued to lack access to adequate health, clean water and sanitation and quality education.

The Third Committee, he said, played a “major role” in advancing the cause of commonly excluded social groups, such as persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, older persons and women.  He pointed out that, in many cases, their rights were bolstered by normative instruments, such as the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, among others. “The momentum is now present, more than ever before, with normative instruments in the hands of policy-makers and officials responsible for operations,” he said.

In the case of older persons, where no special declarations of rights existed, he said the Committee must urge the General Assembly to step up implementation of the Madrid Plan of Action, which promoted the empowerment of persons within that group.  He also reminded the Committee of its important role in combating violence against women, which remained a significant impediment to progress towards the Millennium Development Goals.

Also stressing the primacy of human rights, Chairman Frank Majoor of the Netherlands noted that the Committee’s meetings coincided with the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which defined the essence of what made all people human.  As such, he encouraged Committee members to focus not on what might divide them in their work, but, instead, on what united them in their common efforts to further strengthen the protection and promotion of human rights for all.

Based on DPI news summary GA/SHC/3914. For more information: http://www.un.org/ga/third/


Women vital to peace in post-conflict zones, Security Council hears

A comprehensive and sustainable peace is not possible in post-conflict situations unless women’s security and participation is a primary objective for peacekeepers, senior United Nations officials told the Security Council today. Gender issues must be addressed in conflict mediation as well as in the deployment of peacekeepers, and women must participate in promoting peace and security, UNIFEM Executive Director Inés Alberdi told the meeting.

“This is particularly important in conflicts in which sexual violence is used as a tactic of war,” said Ms. Alberdi, addressing the Security Council debate on women, peace and security. “If abuses of women’s rights are tolerated through de facto impunity for perpetrators, efforts to restore the rule of law lose their credibility,” she told the 15-member panel. Ms. Alberdi noted that Security Council resolution 1820 – which states that rape and other forms of sexual violence can constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity – acknowledges the importance of women’s security in assuring a durable peace areas experiencing conflict.

She warned the Council that if direct measures are not taken by national authorities to prevent the widespread and systematic targeting of women, the violence will spill over in the post-conflict environment. “We know that in some contexts attacks on women increase after conflict. If countries and the international community do not respond decisively to violence against women, they raise the cost of peacebuilding,” warned Ms. Alberdi. “The cost is in delayed stabilization and reconciliation in countries where the rule of law cannot take root,” she added.

“However, despite their successes, women continue to be marginalized and ignored,” said the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women Rachel Mayanja. “It is our duty and indeed our obligation to millions of women in conflict areas to use the opportunity offered by Security Council resolution 1325 to set in motion perhaps one of the most promising approaches to conflict resolution of this new century,” she added. Resolution 1325, which was adopted by the Council eight years ago, stresses the importance of giving women equal participation and full involvement in peace and security matters and the need to increase their role in decision-making.

Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Alain Le Roy briefed the Council on specific steps his department was taking to incorporate women and gender perspectives into peace and security work. “It is no exaggeration to say that in the last eight years since its adoption, resolution 1325 has changed the way we do business in peacekeeping,” Mr. Le Roy said. He noted that the resolution had galvanised women in post-conflict countries to demand greater accountability from peacekeeping operations to respond to gender issues, and cited the examples of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Côte d’Ivoire and Kosovo, where women’s groups have established regular channels of communications with mission leadership.

“Peacekeepers understand all too clearly that our efforts to avoid conflict relapses in fragile post-conflict countries can only succeed if we ensure that all members of society have an equal stake in safeguarding the peace dividend,” the peacekeeping chief said. Peacekeeping operations have supported the participation of women in elections in a number of countries.

Mr. Le Roy told the Council that it is not enough to have women voting or being elected to office; the real challenge is for women to stay in office and implement gender-sensitive policies. “In Timor-Leste, for example, four women parliamentarians quit office with the first three months of their election to office in 2002. We must first invest in providing technical support to those who are unfamiliar with constitution-making, and with the working of formal political procedures and legislative process,” Mr. Le Roy told the Council.

Following speeches from dozens of Member States, Ambassador Zhang Yesui of China, which holds the Council presidency this month, read out a statement urging the international community to increase the participation and decision-making of women in conflict prevention, conflict resolution and peacebuilding activities.

Source: UN News Centre, 29 October. For more information: http://www.un.org/womenwatch/feature/wps

Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, Rachel Mayanja Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, Rachel Mayanja, addresses the Security Council on 29 October on the subject of women, peace and security. Video recording:

http://webcast.un.org/ramgen/ondemand/sc/2008/sc081029am2.rm?start=00:03:35&end=00:12:55 (9 minutes)