DESA News Vol. 13, No. 07 July 2009

Global dialogue on development

ECOSOC spurs actions to improve health outcomes for all

The prevailing financial crisis amplifies the importance of the 2009 annual substantive session of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will open the ECOSOC High-level Segment (6-9 July) under the theme of the 2009 Annual Ministerial Review , “Implementing the internationally agreed goals and commitments in regard to global public health.” He will also launch the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Progress Report 2009. Halfway towards the MDGs’ 2015 target date, ECOSOC will explore practical long-term commitments to strengthen and improve the performance and capacity of global health systems.

Eight countries, Bolivia, China, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Japan, Mali, Sri Lanka, and Sudan will make National Voluntary Presentations on their progress in implementing the internationally agreed development goals, including the MDGs. An Innovation Fair will also take place.

Ministerial Roundtable Breakfasts, including on “Digital Health and Development in Africa: Role of Public and Private Partnerships” on 7 July and on “The implications of population ageing for global public health” on 8 July will be organized around the theme of the 2009 AMR. There will also be a Special Event on “Africa and the Least Developed Countries (LDCs): Partnerships and Health” on 8 July.

The Coordination Segment (10-14 July) will focus on the follow up to the 2008 ECOSOC Ministerial Declaration on “implementing the internationally agreed goals and commitments in regard to sustainable development” and UN system’s role in the implementation of these goals.

Four panel discussions on various dimensions and challenges of sustainable development will he held, emphasizing the impact of the financial crisis, climate change, and other emerging threats and challenges, on sustainable development.

During the Operational Activities Segment (15-17 July), Member States will provide guidance to the UN development system for implementing the 2007 Triennial Comprehensive Policy Review of Operational Activities of the General Assembly. The Segment gives special importance to UN operational activities in helping governments respond to the impact of the global crises and health-related issues at all levels. Two dedicated panels will be organized.

ECOSOC will also focus on funding, the UN human resources and harmonization of rules and procedures. Two thematic dialogue sessions will be followed by debates based on six Secretary-General’s reports prepared by the Secretariat. Furthermore, the Council will hold a participatory dialogue with the Executive Heads of Funds and Programmes. Issues discussed will include development effectiveness in the new aid architecture, data collection and knowledge management for development cooperation, and capacity building and innovations in technology. The Council expects to come up with a focused resolution that gives actionable guidance to the UN system.

The Humanitarian Affairs Segment (20-22 July) will discuss the activities and issues related to strengthening the coordination of the humanitarian system of the UN. The theme is “Strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian assistance: Present challenges and their impact on the future”, and the segment will organize two panels.

At the General Segment (23-30 July, Geneva), the Council will review and take relevant action on the annual reports of the United Nations Funds and Programmes and its subsidiary bodies, including its functional and regional commissions, expert and ad hoc bodies, including the ECOSOC Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti. It will also be informed by the Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission about the economic and social aspects of peacebuilding in African countries emerging from conflict.

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General Assembly elects Libyan Minister Treki to preside over its 64th session

President-elect Ali Abdussalam Treki pledged that the priorities be the fight against poverty in Africa, United Nations reform, disarmament and implementation of UN resolutions

H.E. Ali Abdussalam Treki from Libya was elected as the President of the sixty-fourth session of the General Assembly on 10 June. Mr. Treki in his current capacity as Libya’s Minister of African Union affairs has been working on pressing matters of mutual concern to the United Nations and the African Union, including Darfur. He also served three times as his country’s UN ambassador, most recently in 2003.

Following his election by acclamation, Mr. Treki thanked Member States and the previous Bureau, saying he would depend on the assistance of every Member of the Assembly, and would not align himself with any party or group. “My only alignment will be for justice, security, peace and the common interests of the entire international community.”  Declaring that all wars constituted wrongdoing, he said the only ones worth fighting relentlessly were those against fatal disease, poverty, hunger and illiteracy.

Among others, he emphasized that climate change must continue to be addressed firmly and effectively through cooperation among Member States, adding that the world economic crisis must be met with measures to mitigate its impact, taking into account the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals, especially in Africa. It was imperative that all stand up firmly for the full realization of human rights through the provision of the basic necessities for a dignified life.

Stressing that “no country is an island”, he pledged to work with the Member States, and all entities to close the widening gap between rich and poor, and to ensure the right to education, health care, food and fundamental freedoms - which were essential for international peace and security. That would require greater efforts and funding.

Congratulating Mr. Treki, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said his wide-ranging diplomatic experience would be invaluable in forging new levels of international cooperation to solve the world’s common problems, from climate change to hunger, from the economic crisis to the urgent need to meet the Millennium Development Goals through unified action. “We must also keep adapting and improving our Organization to better live up to the ideals of the Charter and the demands of the times.”

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Progress made in negotiations for Copenhagen deal

Bonn Climate Change Talks, held on 1-12 June, concluded with progress on draft negotiating texts, reflecting governments’ proposals on how to step up international climate change action

Delegates from 183 countries discussed key negotiating texts which will serve as the basis for a Copenhagen deal in December. The Copenhagen agreed outcome is to follow on the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol, which expires at the end of 2012.

“A big achievement of this meeting is that governments have made it clearer what they want to see in the Copenhagen agreed outcome,” said Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). “In my view, an ambitious and effective agreed outcome in Copenhagen is in sight - an outcome that provides a strong and definitive answer to the alarm raised by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.”

Michael Zammit Cutajar, Chair of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA), also pointed out that “The next step will be for Parties to refine and streamline the Convention text and to begin drafting at the next session in August, whilst engaging on the specifics of the text.” The negotiating text for consideration by the AWG-LCA, which comprises all 192 Parties to the UNFCCC, covers issues of a shared vision for long term cooperative action, enhanced action on adaptation, mitigation and finance, technology and capacity-building. A group focusing on further commitments for industrialized countries under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP) focused on a proposal for amendments to the Kyoto Protocol, including the future emission reduction commitments of 37 industrialized countries for the second phase of the protocol (post-2012).

However, AWG-KP still needs to decide on the aggregate emission reduction target of industrialized countries, along with individual targets. AWG-KP group was also still far away from the emission reduction range that has been set out to avoid the worst ravages of climate change: a minus 25% to minus 40% reduction below 1990 levels by 2020.

In addition to the two working groups for negotiations, the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) and the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) also met in Bonn. SBSTA made solid progress on methodologies to monitor and report emissions from deforestation, which accounts for around 20% of all greenhouse gas pollution. A key focus of SBI's work in Bonn was the development and transfer of technologies. The Expert Group on Technology Transfer produced three reports (on future financing options, on a long-term strategy and on performance indicators) that provide important input for the content of the Copenhagen deal on technology cooperation.

The Bonn Talks constituted the second in a series of five major UN negotiating sessions this year leading up to the UN Climate Change Conference (7-18 December, Copenhagen). The next meeting, informal consultations comprising the LCA and KP groups, will take place 10-14 August in Bonn, followed by a gathering in Bangkok from 28 September - 9 October and a further gathering from 2-6 November in Barcelona.

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UNPFII to seek further implementation of Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

8th session saw an increased engagement and dialogue of States, indigenous peoples’ organizations and the UN and other IGOs

The 8th session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) (18-29 May, New York) was attended by 1800 participants from indigenous peoples’ organizations, NGOs and academia as well as 36 UN agencies and other inter-governmental organizations, 70 Member States and 15 indigenous parliamentarians from around the world.

There were more that 60 side events that took place during the session, organized by Member States, UN entities, other intergovernmental organizations, NGOs, the secretariat of the UNPFII and others.

The overall atmosphere of the eighth session was one of increased engagement and dialogue on the part of all stakeholders such as States, indigenous peoples’ organizations and the UN and other inter-governmental organizations. This is largely due to the new impetus provided by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Permanent Forum’s new methods of work.

Review of Previous Recommendations

The eighth session was a review year of previous recommendations on economic and social development; indigenous women; and the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People.

Economic and Social Development

In regards to economic and social development, the Permanent Forum found that of the 150 recommendations it has previously issued on economic and social development, more than half of them are being implemented. Other matters that were raised under this issue included the Permanent Forum’s attention to the significant increase in the infrastructure budget of the World Bank, from 15 billion to 45 billion in 2009, for the primary economies of developing states. The Forum noted that the implications of this development such as respecting and protecting the rights of indigenous peoples have to be clearly understood and the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples affected by infrastructure projects, has to be guaranteed.

Indigenous Women

In regards to indigenous women, the Permanent Forum made further recommendations for workshops on indigenous peoples and health, with special emphasis on reproductive health, and on indicators of well-being of indigenous peoples to be used in implementing and monitoring the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Permanent Forum also asked the UN system and states to conduct assessments on the implementation of the Permanent Forum’s recommendations on women, using the framework of the Declaration and also recommended a study on the situation of indigenous women migrants.

Second International Decade on the World’s Indigenous People

In regards to the Second International Decade on the World’s Indigenous People, the Permanent Forum called for the full engagement of states, the UN system and indigenous peoples’ organizations in the mid-term evaluation of the Decade at the national level and called for support for the Trust Fund for the Decade. The Forum also commended Australia and Colombia for their recent endorsement of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

In-depth dialogues with six UN system entities

The Permanent Forum launched a new methodology by organizing in-depth dialogues with six UN system entities: Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO); International Fund for Development (IFAD); United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA); and the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA). The Permanent Forum considered the in-depth dialogues to be a positive experience. Agencies sent high-level delegations and a considerable number of staff to participate in these dialogues. The Forum will adopt statements on each of the six UN system entities after the session. This new method of work will further evolve and improve for the 2010 Session.

Indigenous Peoples and the Arctic Region

The special regional focus was on indigenous peoples of the Arctic region. The challenges identified focused mainly on the effects of climate change on indigenous peoples as well as highlighting the impact of pollution and vector-borne diseases on indigenous peoples’ health, education and culture in Alaska, northern Canada and Greenland. The Permanent Forum welcomed a number of positive institutional developments, namely in Greenland and in Norway and also urged states to provide financial resources to Arctic communities to develop their cultures and adapt to climate change.

Human Rights

The Permanent Forum placed a major focus on discussing how it will discharge its mandate under the Article 42 of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which mentions the Permanent Forum explicitly as a body to follow up and promote the implementation of the Declaration.

The Permanent Forum also welcomed as good practice, the mission it conducted to Bolivia and Paraguay on the slavery situation of the Guarani peoples and urged the UN country teams as well as the two governments to follow up on the recommendations contained in the reports of the mission.

The Economic Crisis

Discussions on the economic crisis was also held as part of the eighth session. As one of the panel members, Mr. Jomo Sundaram, Assistant Secretary-General, DESA, said the global financial crisis had created major challenges and serious social consequences. For example, it is expected the number of working poor to increase by 200 million, and those formally unemployed to rise by more than 50 million. Government social spending was at risk and there was growing unrest, as living standards and social protections declined, and extreme poverty rose. Indigenous peoples will face an uphill battle over protection of their natural resources, particularly water. The UNPFII Chairperson, Ms Tauli-Corpuz , and Mr. Nicolas Ticum of Guatemala, also participated in the panel.

Following the panel, the Forum decided to request one of its members to conduct a study on the impacts of the global economic crisis on indigenous peoples and to identify measures and proposals for governments and the UN system to address these impacts.


In her closing remarks, Chairperson of the Permanent Forum, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, said each agenda item during the eighth session had provided important insights and an opportunity for participants to hear and learn from one another. At the national, regional, local and community levels, challenges remained. “We must be strongly committed,” she stressed. “We need to work towards developing close cooperation with United Nations agencies and Governments to realize our self-determined rights.”

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