DESA News Vol. 12, No. 11 November 2008

Trends and analysis

World e-Parliament Conference

Brussels conference from 25 to 26 November brings together legislators, public administrators and technology experts to discuss parliamentary innovation

Information and communication technologies have become essential in supporting the work of legislative bodies throughout the world. As these technologies have matured and grown in sophistication, they have acquired the necessary flexibility and capabilities to assist legislatures in their most important responsibilities: making the laws, conducting oversight of the executive, and communicating with the citizens, who determine who shall represent them. In today’s “wired world” parliaments must capitalize on the benefits of ICT to function effectively, to interact with the public, and to collaborate with other parliaments around the world.

In order to exchange views at a global level on new technologies as tools to strengthen the representative, legislative and oversight functions of regional and national assemblies, DESA, the European Parliament and the Global Centre for ICT in Parliament are organizing the second World e-Parliament Conference in Brussels from 25 to 26 November.

The event is a joint initiative of DESA, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, and a core group of partners established in 2006 to promote the role of parliaments in advancing the goals of the World Summit on the Information Society, as well as the effective use of ICT for the modernization of parliamentary processes. The conference will be opened by the President of the European Parliament, Hans-Gert Pöttering, the Speaker of the People’s Assembly of Egypt, Ahmed Fathy Sorour, the Speaker of the National Assembly of Hungary, Katalin Szili, and the Vice-President of the European Parliament, Mechtild Rothe. The President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, Theo-Ben Gurirab of Namibia, will deliver the keynote address.

Around 300 participants are expected to take part. The Global Centre for ICT in Parliament and its partners will present tools developed in the past year to help parliaments benchmark their technological level and adopt innovations in parliamentary processes.

For more information:

Sustainable forest management comes at a cost

Experts will meet in Vienna from 10 to 14 November to flesh out proposals for funding forest-related initiatives

The Secretariat of the UN Forum on Forests, housed in DESA, is organizing an expert group meeting in Vienna from 10 to 14 November to develop proposals for mobilizing greater financial resources for sustainable forest management. The report of the meeting will be considered at the eighth session of the Forum in April 2009.

Sustainable management of all types of forests has long been the goal of the global community, but the current situation is neither satisfactory nor cause for complacency. Total deforestation during 2000-2005 was 13 million hectares per year. At the same time, there have been significant increases in planted forests and natural expansion of forests, which have significantly reduced the net loss of forest area to about 7.3 million hectares per year. Virtually all net deforestation has occurred in tropical forests in developing countries.

Sustainable forest management is usually less profitable in the short-term than unsustainable harvesting due to higher investment and operational costs. To change the equation requires complex analysis of prices and production costs as well as advanced technical knowledge, along with the need to address such fundamental issues as proper valuation of the wide range of forest goods and services.

To address this problem, the Economic and Social Council decided in 2007 to consider three possible ways of channeling resources to the sustainable forest management initiatives. One approach would be to establish a voluntary global financial mechanism consisting of a global forest fund or some other means of channeling financial resources. Many developing country delegations have supported the idea of a global fund at past sessions of the UN Forum on Forests, but no consensus was reached, reflecting a lack of support from potential donors.

A second idea would be to develop a “portfolio approach” through which various aspects of sustainable forest management could be financed from a variety of sources. A portfolio of funding for sustainable forest management already exists in the sense that there are many sources and types of funding that governments, projects, communities and companies are tapping. While new sources of funding have been emerging, the fact that sustainable forest management has not yet been achieved in many countries indicates that the existing “portfolio” of funding mechanisms is inadequate in terms of availability, accessibility, or overall quantity.

The third approach is to create a “forest financing framework” to increase the coherence of financial support for projects and actions at all levels. The idea is not new and received attention in the context of international development assistance. An explicit framework could define the roles of national, bilateral, multilateral, non-profit sources of funding, and set out a suitable governance mechanism.

For more information:

Women seek greater access to economic resources

Gender experts will gather in Bangkok from 12 to 14 November to identify key issues in women’s economic empowerment, and propose areas for further research

As part of its preparation of the 2009 World Survey on the Role of Women in Development, the DESA Division for the Advancement of Women is organizing an expert consultation on women’s control over economic resources and access to financial resources, including microfinance, in Bangkok from 12 to 14 November. The meeting will be hosted by ESCAP.

Issued every five years, the World Survey on the Role of Women in Development is a flagship publication prepared for the Economic and Financial Committee of the General Assembly. It provides an opportunity to focus attention on the gender equality perspective in economic development.

The 2009 edition will address women’s control over economic resources and access to financial resources, including microfinance, within the broad framework of the economic empowerment of women. Increased access to and control over resources and opportunities not only improves the economic status of women, their households and communities, but also creates a multiplier effect for economic growth. Lack of economic control, on the other hand, jeopardizes growth and poverty reduction, leads to less favourable education and health outcomes for children and can put women at a greater risk of HIV/AIDS and violence.

The survey team will research a wide range of issues to identify policies and programmes most conducive to women’s economic empowerment. Persistent obstacles to women’s economic empowerment will also be addressed. Finally, the survey will take a look at indicators and measures in this area.

For more information:

Knowledge network expansion in the Arab region

DESA-ESCWA workshop on e-m government will be held in Beirut from 18 to 20 November

To explore the issues and challenges of electronic and mobile government development in the Arab region, DESA’s Division for Public Administration and Development Management will hold a workshop in Beirut from 18 to 20 November, in collaboration with ESCWA. Participants will discuss the potential of a global repository of knowledge on electronic and mobile government to promote regional cooperation among international, regional and national stakeholders, and specifically to construct a framework for assessing electronic and mobile government development in the Arab region. Some thirty individuals are expected to attend, among them government officials and agency representatives, along with experts from DESA and ESCWA.

Governments are increasingly becoming aware of the importance of employing electronic and mobile governance to improve public service delivery. It is thought that the ability to access, gather and analyze information improves citizens’ political, economic, social, cultural and behavioral decision-making and leads to economic and social empowerment.

Equitable diffusion of information technology also provides an opportunity to lessen disparities between the “e-haves” and the “e-have-nots,” and strengthen social bonds. Further, since telecommunications infrastructure may be closely related to firm productivity, improved information infrastructure also plays a key role in business sector development, which can be a particularly significant factor in the economic growth of poorer countries.

For more information:

France, Senegal champion digital solidarity

A high-level conference on Digital Solidarity will take place in Lyons on 24 November to help bridge the digital divide

On 24 November, the city of Lyons, France, will host an international conference on digital solidarity at the invitation of President Nicolas Sarkozy, on a proposal made by the President of Senegal, Abdoulaye Wade, and under the French presidency of the European Union. Almost 300 personalities are expected, including several heads of State and government, leading members of territorial authorities, international organizations, NGOs, companies and foundations.

The main themes of the conference will be discussed in a set of morning roundtables on what are considered to be some of the most important priorities of the digital solidarity movement, namely universal connectivity, health, education, and reuse and recycling of electronic waste in developing countries. A session on innovative sources of financing digital solidarity initiatives will be held in the afternoon in view of the Doha review conference on financing for development that gets underway a few days later.

The Digital Solidarity Fund, which is co-organizing the event, is recognized as the only financing mechanism established specifically with the goal of bridging the digital divide. Contributions to the fund are based on the “1% digital solidarity principle” wherein one percent of the value of ICT-related public procurement contracts is donated to support projects in the field. The Global Alliance for ICT and Development, a project backed by DESA, is one of the conference partners.

For more information:

UN agencies join forces on international migration

The DESA Population Division is organizing a seventh coordination meeting on international migration from 20 to 21 November in New York. Participants will discuss the follow-up to the 2006 high-level dialogue on international migration and development by UN system organizations and others, and review current and planned activities of the agencies, funds and programmes. They are also expected to identify emerging issues in the area of international migration and development.

In 2003, the General Assembly had decided to devote a high-level dialogue to international migration and development during its sixty-first session in 2006. It had also been decided that the purpose of the dialogue would be to discuss the multidimensional aspects of international migration and development in order to maximize its development benefits and minimize its negative implications.

At the high-level dialogue in 2006, participants agreed that international migration could be a positive force for development. They underscored that the high-level dialogue had contributed to improve the international community’s understanding of the synergies between international migration and development. International migration was recognized as a persistent phenomenon in human history whose dynamism, intensity and complexity had increased as people gained greater access to information about opportunities abroad, and as improvements in transportation made possible and affordable their movement over long distances. The global character of international migration was stressed.

International migration was further described as a dynamic human link between cultures, economies and societies. It contributed to the free commerce of ideas and experiences and in many instances had been a key engine of material and intellectual progress.

For more information:

Getting a handle on water resources

Environmental data experts will consider international recommendations on water statistics in New York from 4 to 6 November

Increasing competition for freshwater between agriculture, urban and industrial uses has resulted in unprecedented pressure on available resources not least due to increasing population pressures. Many countries are facing conditions of water scarcity or limits to economic development, in addition to deteriorating water quality, making integrated water resources management – and water statistics – increasingly important.

In response to increasing demand from countries for guidance on water accounting, the DESA Statistics Division is holding an expert group meeting in New York from 4 to 6 November to review its recently released draft of International Recommendations on Water Statistics. The new technical standards are designed to support the production of internationally comparable water accounts while assisting in the generation of common indicators such as those on water and sanitation used to measure progress toward the Millennium Development Goals.

DESA’s Statistics Division prepared the recommendations under the auspices of the UN Committee on Environmental Accounting and Environment Statistics, drawing upon a body of experience and work already developed in relation to water statistics and accounts. This includes the work of the London Group, in particular the subgroup on water accounts, the work of the Intersecretariat Working Group on Environment Statistics, in particular the subgroup on water statistics and other bodies such as UN Water and the World Water Assessment Programme.

For more information:

International merchandise trade statistics

Experts gather online from 5 to 26 November to review global norms

The DESA Statistics Division is organizing a virtual meeting of an expert group on international merchandise trade statistics to discuss revisions to the international recommendations on trade statistics. This meeting will be conducted electronically through an expert forum from 5 to 26 November.

The online meeting is an important part of the revision process of the existing recommendations for international merchandise trade statistics which were approved by the UN Statistical Commission at its twenty-ninth session and published in International Trade Statistics: Concepts and Definitions, Revision 2, also known as IMTS, Rev.2. The objectives of the meeting are to discuss the results of the first round of worldwide consultation on the seventeen issues most relevant for setting the scope of the future recommendations, and to agree on how to incorporate them into the future revised recommendations.

To facilitate the discussion, the Statistics Division will provide its initial proposals for IMTS, Rev.3 on all seventeen issues submitted for consultation.

For more information: