DESA News Vol. 13, No. 03 March 2009

Trends and analysis

Setting strategic goals for ICT in Parliament

Hungarian National Assembly will host the third high-level meeting of the Board of the Global Centre for ICT in Parliament on 6 March in Budapest

Since its inception in 2006, the Global Centre for ICT in Parliament has grown considerably. It became the main hub for all matters relating to the use of ICT in support of parliaments’ most important goals. It is a unique and innovative mechanism of cooperation and partnership which brings together the United Nations, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the national and regional parliaments and development agencies.

The Board of the Global Centre for ICT in Parliament is composed of eight Presidents and Speakers of Parliament, the President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations and the President of the Association of Secretaries General of Parliaments.

Taking into account the results achieved so far, the Board will be called upon to set the strategic goals of the Centre for the next years and to reaffirm its political support and commitment to the initiative.

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Making development happen

Experts meet in New York to review the list of least developed countries and consider global public health, climate change and the recent financial turmoil – and what this all means for developing countries

The Committee for Development Policy will hold its 11th plenary session from 9-13 March, and with the Economic and Social Council’s (ECOSOC) 2009 Annual Ministerial Review soon approaching, deliberating on its theme of global public health is a main topic on the Committee’s agenda.

In particular, the Committee will examine the persisting inequalities in health as these inequalities have significant implications for achieving internationally agreed goals on public health. In the absence of well-targeted efforts to provide necessary health care services for worse-off, neglected and disadvantaged groups, achieving a particular average target will not necessarily indicate that living conditions for all have improved.

At the international level, the Committee will examine whether and how new approaches for development cooperation embodied in the global health partnerships (GHPs) – alliances among public and private entities – have an impact on health inequalities. It will then recommend ways in which GHPs and other formats of international aid can help reduce such inequalities.

The Committee will also conduct the 2009 triennial review of the list of the least developed countries (LDCs). Its objective is to identify those low-income countries that would be eligible to join, and those LDCs already on the list that would be eligible for graduation from the category.

LDCs are made up of low-income developing countries which face severe structural impediments to growth as indicated by high economic vulnerability to external shocks and a low level of human capital development. There are currently 49 countries identified as LDCs, including the Maldives and Samoa, whose graduation has already been taken note of by the General Assembly.

Another item on the agenda of the 11th session is the relationship among climate change, sustainable development and the challenges of development finance. The Committee will consider international funding activities in adaptation, mitigation and technology development. Among the various topics under review, the Committee will examine the prospect of a set of new financial mechanisms to broaden the scope of climate change-related activities. The Committee will also consider private sector and market-based funding for mitigation actions as well as responses to the spillover effects of the transboundary impacts of mitigation.

In addition, the Committee will address the current financial turmoil and its implications for developing countries: With the unprecedented financial turmoil and the deceleration of the world economy, is there scope for counter-cyclical fiscal stimuli and improved access to compensatory financing? What are the prospects for globally concerted efforts to finance fiscal stimuli and to avoid a disruptive realignment of exchange rates?

The Committee draws on the best minds in economics, and among environmentalists and social scientists from around the world, it delivers informed and independent perspectives on the problems of development analysis to its parent organ, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

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Reviewing statistics of trade in goods and services

Task forces on International Merchandise Trade Statistics and on Statistics of International Trade in Services will meet in Bangkok from 10-12 March

The major item on the agenda of the Task Force on International Merchandise Trade Statistics (TFIMTS) from 10-11 March will be the revision of the international recommendations on IMTS. The draft revised recommendations are scheduled to be submitted to the Statistical Commission for adoption at its forty-first session in 2010.

The meeting will discuss the results of the first round of worldwide consultation and the recent virtual meeting of the Expert Group on IMTS as well as further work during 2009 and beyond that will include an update of the compilers manual, implementation and critical issues for IMTS. Besides other methodological developments, issues related to trade databases and trade analysis are also on the agenda.

The Task Force on Statistics of International Trade in Services (TFSITS) from 10-11 March will discuss the revision of the Manual on Statistics of International Trade in Services (MSITS) with the aim of submitting it for the approval of the United Nations Statistical Commission in 2010.

On the agenda of the Task Force is also a compilation guidance to support the use of the MSITS, problems of data quality and historical consistency, the experience and plans in ECLAC and APEC region, TFSITS web-site and newsletter, upcoming seminars and expert group meetings.

The Joint Session of the Inter-Agency Task Forces on IMTS and of SITS will cover overlapping issues of trade in goods and services and discuss the report from the Statistical Commission and the Working Group on the Impact of Globalization on National Accounts, Coverage of trade statistics including goods for processing and intra-firm trade of multinationals.

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Financing sustainable forest management

Informal consultations from 12-13 March in Rome will develop proposals for the development of a voluntary global financial mechanism, portfolio approach and forest financing framework

In November 2008, the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) convened an open-ended ad hoc expert group on this topic in Vienna. At this meeting, experts recognized the need for more discussion on this issue, in particular, it was recommended that Members States provide written contributions to support further elaboration of the proposals. Opportunities should also be sought to conduct additional meetings on the sidelines of other forest-related events, including the 19th session of the Committee on Forestry of the Food and Agriculture Organization taking place in Rome from 16 to 20 March 2009.

In this regard, a consultation meeting is being held in Rome from 12-13 March at the FAO Headquarters, to further the work of the UNFF expert group. Participation by all Member States is welcome to this meeting.

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Asia prepares for the Annual Ministerial Review

Three regional meetings in Asia will tackle specific health issues in preparation for the ECOSOC Annual Ministerial Review

The 2009 Annual Ministerial Review (AMR) is right around the corner. Happening on 6 to 9 July, preparations are already underway to ensure the success of the event. Among these activities are three regional consultations in South Asia, Asia Pacific and Western Asia regarding public health.

There is a need to address specific health challenges because these challenges vary greatly between regions. The regional meetings will bring together stakeholders from different countries at a regional level and provide the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) with a snapshot of key challenges of the international health agenda. Each country will also have a chance to share lessons learned and best practices which have been tested in their own regions.

The first of these consultations will take place in Colombo, Sri Lanka from 16-18 March, where the South Asia Regional Meeting will focus on “Financing Strategies for Healthcare”. Given the current global financial crisis, this topic has indeed become a key issue on the global health agenda.

In Beijing, China, an Asia-Pacific Regional Ministerial Meeting will discuss “Health Literacy” from 29-30 April. Finally, in Doha Qatar, the Western Asia Regional Ministerial Meeting from 10-11 May will focus on “The Growing Burden of Non-communicable diseases”.

Leading experts from governments, including local governments, regional organizations, United Nations system organizations, NGOs, foundations, academia and private sector are set to participate in the regional consultations. The regional format of the meetings encourages each sector to assess their progress towards the internationally agreed development goals by region as a whole and to examine disparities according to regions as well.

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ICT’s good use, abuse, refuse towards the MDGs

The IX Infopoverty World Conference, held in New York from 18-20 March, will spur the use of ICT as potent development tools

After fifteen years of digital revolution, eight years of Infopoverty World Conference presentations and hundreds of best practices presented and two years of GAID, the international community seems convinced that a strategic and wise use of the ICTs can constitute a crucial element to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.

Though, it is becoming more and more evident that most development strategies of the main institutions – within the UN family as well as among NGOs and governmental aids – tend to use traditional approaches that do not sufficiently integrate ICTs in their strategies, or leave them at the margins. Those approaches do not allow the optimization of resources and time, which would be instrumental to achieve expectations in terms of concrete results and lasting changes in the lives of population.

Among the issues and topics to be discussed during the event are new technologies for food security towards the World Fair 2015, past and present challenges and obstacles of ICT4D projects, market and research towards demand-driven ICTs in developing countries and the role and contribution of GAID and its initiatives.

The event will also contribute to advancing the achievement of the MDGs by showcasing and supporting ICT-driven programmes and projects for alleviating poverty and promoting development.

Organized by the Observatory for Cultural and Audiovisual Communication (OCCAM) and the InfoPoverty Institute of the University of Oklahoma with the support of the GAID Secretariat, the conference will bring together key stakeholders from the United Nations system and ICTD practitioners for an exchange of experiences and perspectives to spur the use of ICT as potent development tools.

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The wealth in people

Committee of Experts on Public Administration will examine the role of the human factor in achieving the UN Development Agenda at its eighth session from 30 March - 3 April in New York

With the human factor lies the key to sustainable development. Skilled and qualified civil servants in the public sector are indispensable for the creation of an enabling public administration, which can then effectively engender and maintain talent. At the same time, only a capable and competent public sector, which takes accountability and transparency as its core values, can pursue the public good genuinely and resourcefully.

Against this backdrop the eighth session of the Committee of Experts on Public Administration convenes with a focus on the main theme of “Human factor in capacity building and development”. The Committee supports the work of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the Secretariat concerning the promotion and development of public administration and governance among Member States in connection with the United Nations Development Agenda. The session is set to open on 30 March with a welcome address by the President of ECOSOC, the H.E. Sylvie Lucas, followed by the opening statement of the Assistant Secretary General for Economic Development, Mr. Jomo Kwame Sundaram. The Committee will finalize its session on 3 April.

Some of the sub-themes to be covered during the eighth session are: Human Resources Management, Accountability, Transparency and Citizen Trust in Government, Serving in the Information Age, and Leadership and Learning. The Committee will review the United Nations Programme on Public Administration and Finance to take stock of past achievements and plan for challenges ahead.

During the session, the Committee will also finalize its work on the online compendium of basic United Nations terminology in governance and public administration. Its purpose is to identify the most important and frequently used terminology in governance and public administration in order to promote clarity in discussions among Member States.

The theme of ECOSOC’s upcoming Annual Ministerial Review – Implementing the internationally agreed goals and commitments in regard to global public health – from the perspective of public administration will also be examined at the eighth session of the Committee of Experts on Public Administration.

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Global public health goes online

A moderated e-discussion on Global Public Health took place in preparation for the much-anticipated ECOSOC Annual Ministerial Review

The preparatory process for the ECOSOC Annual Ministerial Review (AMR) has so far involved regional meetings and consultations in relation to its 2009 theme of global public health. From 29 January to 26 February, a moderated e-discussion on Global Public Health took place to bring together experts from within and outside of the United Nations system in an online forum where they could share experiences and generate practical input for the 2009 AMR.

The forum was divided into two parts: Part I discussed “Strengthening health systems” until 11 February with 91 contributions and a total of 5,700 subscribers. Part II was about “Emerging and future health challenges” which continued until 26 February.

A conclusion reached after Part I was the agreement on the fact that universal access to primary health care is essential to reduce health inequalities. Participants of the e-discussion offered specific recommendations on how to improve health care, infrastructure and services in remote areas and how to empower vulnerable groups through health education, sustainable health care financing and cross-sectoral partnerships with emphasis on health and education.

Participants of the e-discussion also addressed the shortage of public health workers in Part I. The forum saw a need to focus on the needs of public health workers and emphasized the urgency to train a new workforce. It recommended interventions focused on incentives for public health workers to be able to stay in rural communities and provide high-quality services. The e-discussion also raised the need of setting standards and harmonizing multiple health initiatives in national systems.

Part I concluded with the formulation of innovative forms of collaboration to guarantee high-quality education and training, identifying both as key factors to counter-act migration to cities and abroad as well as dependency of foreign workers.

The second part of the e-discussion on “Emerging and future health trends” proposed national strategies to address the growing magnitude of non-communicable diseases, approaches to enhance trends for global health in the wake of the financial crisis, and innovations for global health partnerships and collaborative arrangements to improve their performance.

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Traditional medicine matters

A panel discussion in preparation for the 2009 Annual Ministerial Review recognized the importance of traditional medicine in modern health care

Of the series of events that were organized to lead up to the 2009 Annual Ministerial Review (AMR), the ECOSOC panel discussion on “The contribution of traditional medicine to the realization of the International Development Objectives related to global public health”, which took place on 12 February, was actually the first preparatory event for the AMR.

The panel highlighted that traditional medicine was a field where the knowledge and know-how of developing countries was enormous and recognized it as a source of hope for improved health conditions at the global level. Traditional medicine is therefore a field where industrialized countries could substantially gain from the experience of developing countries. However, quick developments in this field also raised concerns about the exploitation of local and indigenous knowledge as well as potentially dangerous practices if appropriate control mechanisms were not in place.

The discussion offered policy recommendations at the national and international level in order to integrate traditional medicine into national health systems, to better regulate the sector and to protect and preserve traditional knowledge.

Normative work carried out by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Intellectual Property Rights Organization (WIPO) in the field of traditional medicine was also presented. Practical examples were also given. One was a health center for indigenous populations in Ecuador in which both types of medicines are used in a complementary manner. Another was the development of the Indian traditional knowledge digital library database which includes the names of hundreds of traditional medicines that can only be accessed for patent searches and examination purposes and are thereby protected from misappropriation.

DESA’s Office for ECOSOC Support and Coordination co-organized the panel discussion with the WHO, WIPO and the Secretariat of the Independent Forum on Indigenous Issues, DESA. Panelists included Dr. Xiaorui Zhang, Coordinator for Traditional Medicine, Department of Essential Medicine and Pharmaceutical Policies, WHO; Mr. Antony Taubman, Director and Head of the Global Intellectual Property Issues and Life Sciences Program, WIPO; Dr. Myriam Conejo, Medical Doctor and Coordinator of the Centro de Salud (health center) Jambi Huasi, Quito, Ecuador; and Dr. S. Rama Rao, Officer-in-Charge, WIPO Coordination Office in New York, who delivered the presentation by Dr. VK Gupta, Head, Traditional Knowledge Digital Library, Information Technology Division, Council on Scientific and Industrial Research of India.

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