DESA News Vol. 13, No. 08 August 2009

Global dialogue on development

Submitting communications on the status of women

Individuals, NGOs, groups or networks have until 14 August to submit complaints, appeals or petitions to the Commission on the Status of Women

These communications should contain information relating to alleged violations of human rights that affect the status of women. The Governments concerned will have an opportunity to respond confidentially in writing to the allegations made, and the Commission on the Status of Women will consider these communications and any replies thereto in a closed meeting during its next session in March 2010.

The aim of the procedure is to identify emerging trends and patterns of injustice and discriminatory practices against women for purposes of policy formulation and development of strategies for the promotion of gender equality.

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Call for Major Groups’ inputs for the reports of CSD-18

Major Groups are encouraged to provide substantive contributions by 17 August

The 18th session of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD-18) will take place in New York on 3-14 May 2010 and review the state of implementation of goals and targets for Transport, Chemicals, Waste Management, Mining and the 10 Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption & Production Patterns.

The CSD Secretariat welcomes inputs from major groups’ organizations that will contribute to the CSD-18

review process. Major groups are encouraged to make substantive contributions in the form of:

1. Brief written inputs to the Secretary-General’s state of implementation reports, focusing on best practices and lessons learned in implementation. Deadline for submissions: 17 August 2009

2. The Major Groups’ Discussion Papers, one from each of the nine major groups summarizing their sector’s progress in relation to the thematic areas, identifying obstacles and constraints to implementation and new challenges to be met by major groups to expedite implementation. These papers are compiled through a consultative process undertaken by the CSD‐18 major groups organizing partners and used in interactive discussions. Deadline for submission: 30 November 2009

3. Case studies and examples of best practices, which can be submitted through the CSD Secretariat’s website

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Global cooperation fundamental for achieving public health challenges

Ministerial Declaration adopted by consensus at ECOSOC’s high-level segment from 6-9 July in Geneva calls for global cooperation to tackle public health challenges in the face of interrelated food, economic and climate crises

The Declaration expresses concern that the financial and economic crises are “undermining and slowing or reversing the development gains of developing countries”. Cooperation is also vital “to meet emerging, new and unforeseen threats and epidemics,” including the A (H1N1) influenza virus and other potential pandemics. In spite of some progress made in the past decade in boosting global health, the Declaration points out that there are implementation gaps. “In particular, we are deeply concerned that maternal health remains one of the largest health inequities in the world” and thus, the ministers “call on all states to renew their commitment to prevent and eliminate child and maternal mortality and morbidity.”

Over the course of the four days, more than 500 participants representing governments, multilateral organizations, aid agencies, civil society, private sector and academia discussed how the world, in the face of the global financial and economic crisis, can maintain and accelerate its commitments to global public health and ensure that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are achieved.

In her introductory remarks, ECOSOC’s President Sylvie Lucas said that multilateral approaches and international cooperation have the greatest potential for success, stressing that there is a unique opportunity to maximize multi-stakeholder participation in promoting collaborative action on the global health agenda through the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

Ambassador Lucas also called on governments to take a leadership role in developing effective health systems, and that more sustained investments are needed to support the health agenda.

She also said that the growing challenge of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) needs to be given high priority, stressing that NCDs and injuries cause 60% of the deaths globally. In terms of the fight against neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), she noted that modest investment would have an enormous effect and take a heavy burden of the shoulders of the most vulnerable, especially in developing countries.

Addressing the meeting, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that Health is the foundation for peace and prosperity, urging that investments in health are investments in society. “They save lives and benefit economies through improved productivity. Prevention efforts can avoid huge future expense”.

Mr. Ban mentioned that he is especially concerned about maternal health, noting that this is the goal where there has been least progress. “Maternal health care is a barometer of how well a health system functions. If women have access to hospitals, clinics or trained community health workers, they are less likely to die in childbirth. These same facilities in turn reduce the burden of illness and deaths from other causes”.

Annual Ministerial Review

ECOSOC also organized during its High-level Segment, the 2009 Annual Ministerial Review, where national voluntary presentations were made by Bolivia, China, Jamaica, Japan, Mali, Sri Lanka and Sudan. The presentations highlighted the challenges they are facing and each presentation generated active discussion and engaged the Council.

Some presentations generate proposals, for example, Jamaica proposed to hold a special session of the General Assembly on Non-Communicable Diseases and revise the MDG-6 targets to include on such diseases. This idea was also picked up by other countries in the General Debate. Barbados and Guyana proposed that there should be a UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on NCDs. Oman and Qatar suggested that an official indicator on deaths from NCDs be added to MDG 6 during the upcoming 2010 MDG Review process. Furthermore, Guyana proposed that an additional MDG should be developed to address the issue of affordability and accessibility to diagnostics and medicines for NCDs.

High-level policy dialogue

The high-level segment also held the high-level policy dialogue with the international financial and trade institutions on current developments in the world economy, special event on Africa and LDCs, and two thematic roundtables: “Social trends and emerging challenges and their impact on public health: renewing our commitment to the vulnerable in a time of crisis” and “Trends in aid and aid effectiveness in the health sector”.

In the thematic roundtables, participants discussed the challenging issues of financial and economic crisis; the public development aid for health; Non-communicable diseases, and the diseases related to climate change; Microfinance as a platform for health; Human resource challenges in healthcare; Migration and demographics.

Also present at the meeting, Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said that while the financial and economic crisis poses many challenges, it should also be seen as an opportunity to reform health systems, and to rethink the direction and nature of financing for health care. “Hence developing an agenda for health financing means not only more money for health, but also more health for the money”.

Innovation Fair

During the four-day segment, ECOSOC organized its 2009 Innovation Fair, where Member States, civil society and UN system representatives discovered at first hand some of the innovative projects and products that can have a positive impact on the achievement of the health-related MDGs.

Coordination segment

During this segment, held from 10-14 July, focused on the theme of “the role of the United Nations system in implementing the 2008 Ministerial Declaration on the internationally agreed goals and commitments in regard to sustainable development.” Through the general debate and the four panels organized during the segment, Member States engaged in active discussions with national policy-makers, chairpersons of the functional commissions and the governing bodies of UN organizations, as well as executive heads of UN organizations.

Delegations expressed concerns on the negative impact by the global economic and financial crisis that may create a setback in the achievement of the MDGs, and noted that the UN must make more progress in coordinating early and collective responses. Efforts by the UN system to improve its coordination, particularly in adaptation policies to climate change and mitigation, were welcomed but there was a strong call for further strengthening this mechanism. In addition, various efforts by the UN system to respond to the crises were welcomed. Many delegations called for the Economic and Social Council to give top priority to the developing countries, in particular the poorest and the most vulnerable ones, in order to help them by mobilizing adequate and sustainable resources, transferring technologies and building capacity.

Operational activities segment

The 2009 operational activities segment, held from 15-17 July, once again attested to the important role of the Council in the coordination and monitoring of UN operational activities for development in line with the guidance of the General Assembly provided through its comprehensive policy reviews. Through three panels, two dialogue sessions as well as the general debate of the segment, Member States engaged in in-depth discussions with national policy-makers, executive heads of UN organizations as well as UN country teams on a range of important issues with a view of addressing the most imminent as well as longer-term challenges in promoting the implementation of General Assembly resolution 62/208.

Building on its review of system-wide progress in implementing the 2007 Triennial Comprehensive Policy Review (TCPR), the Council adopted a resolution which recognizes the advances of the UN development system in this regard, while encouraging UN system organizations to speed up implementation in several areas. In particular, the Council called on the UN development system to continue broadening system-wide support to the resident coordinator system, while underscoring the importance of strengthening its management and accountability.

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Partnerships and health for LDCs

2009 Special Ministerial Breakfast Roundtable on Africa and the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) was held in Geneva during the ECOSOC summit on 7-8 July

During the ECOSOC High-level Segment, the Global Alliance for ICT and Development (GAID) together with UNOPS, OSAA and OHRLLS organized two events: a special Ministerial breakfast roundtable on digital health and development in Africa and the least developed countries (LDCs) on 7 July and a special event on Africa and the least developed countries on 8 July.

Special attention was given to Africa and the LDCs, since these areas are far off track in meeting internationally agreed upon goals on reducing child mortality, improving maternal health and combating infectious disease (MDGs 4, 5 and 6). Participants noted that the world has the knowledge and means to address global health issues and that new technologies and innovative applications are transforming communication and access to information. This is changing the development landscape by improving prospects for the most disadvantaged groups, including women, youth, disabled and the rural poor, of getting connected to and taking advantage of the health information and services.

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Impact of financial and economic crisis on development

UN summit of world leaders in New York from 24-26 June adopted outcome document on the causes, impacts and responses to the current crisis

By its resolution 63/303 of 9 July 2009, the General Assembly endorsed the Outcome of the Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and Its Impact on Development, held in New York from 24 to 30 June 2009. The 59-paragraph document sets forth a global consensus on the causes, impacts and responses to the current crisis; prioritizes the prompt, decisive and coordinated actions that are required; and defines a clear role for the United Nations.

From this perspective, the Conference represents a milestone in an ongoing and concerted engagement by all States Members of the United Nations to address the causes of the crisis, mitigate its impact on development and devise mechanisms to help preventing similar crises in the future. Salient features of the conference outcome are summarized below.

Causes, impacts and responses to the crisis

It is recognized that the drivers of the current financial and economic crisis are complex and multifaceted. This crisis is connected to multiple, interrelated global crises and challenges, such as increased food insecurity, volatile energy and commodity prices and climate change. Many of its main causes are linked to systemic fragilities and imbalances of the global economy. Major underlying factors included inconsistent and inefficiently coordinated macroeconomic policies and inadequate structural reforms.

Failures in regulation, supervision and monitoring of the financial sector were compounded by over-reliance on market self-regulation, overall lack of transparency, financial integrity and irresponsible behaviour, such as excessive risk-taking, inflated asset prices, reckless leveraging and unsustainably high levels of consumption. Financial regulators, policymakers and institutions failed to appreciate the full measure of risks in the financial system or address the extent of the growing economic vulnerabilities and their cross-border linkages.

It is acknowledged that developing countries, which did not cause the crisis, are nonetheless severely affected by it. The crisis has produced or exacerbated serious, wide-ranging yet differentiated impacts across the globe. These include: rapid increase in unemployment, poverty and hunger; deceleration of growth and economic contraction; negative effects on trade and payment balances; dwindling levels of foreign direct investment; large and volatile movements in exchange rates; growing budget deficits, falling tax revenues and reduction of fiscal space; contraction of world trade; increased volatility and falling prices of primary commodities; declining remittances to developing countries; sharply reduced revenues from tourism; massive reversal of private capital inflows; reduced access to credit and trade financing; lower public confidence in financial institutions; decreased ability to maintain social safety nets and provide social services, such as health and education; increased infant and maternal mortality; and collapse of housing markets. As a result, the crisis threatens to have calamitous human and development consequences and further endangers the achievement of national development objectives, as well as internationally agreed development goals, including the MDGs.

While developed countries and emerging economies have already taken action to stabilize financial markets and restore confidence in the financial sector, strong and urgent actions are needed to counter the impact of the crisis on the most vulnerable populations and recover lost ground in the progress towards the MDGs. An adequate share of additional resources will need to be made available to developing countries, especially the LDCs.

In the spirit of renewed multilateralism, Member States commit themselves to a comprehensive global response aimed at inter alia: promoting economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all; safeguarding economic, development and social gains; ensuring long-term debt sustainability; providing sufficient resources to developing countries without unwarranted conditionalities; revitalizing open trade and investment; and fostering an inclusive, green and sustainable development. Also, they call for strengthening the role of the UN development system; reforming the international financial and economic system and architecture; fostering good governance at all levels; and addressing the human and social impacts of the crisis.

Lines of action

The challenge is to ensure that actions in response to the crisis are commensurate with its scale, depth and urgency, adequately financed, promptly implemented and appropriately coordinated internationally. In this context, the outcome document breaks new ground in a range of substantive areas.

Making the stimulus work for all

While a number of developed and emerging market economies have implemented stimulus packages, the majority of developing countries lack fiscal space to implement countercyclical measures to combat the effects of the crisis and spur recovery. Therefore, developing countries will need a larger share of any additional resources – both short-term liquidity and long-term development financing. To this end, G20 countries are called upon to follow through with their commitment to make available an additional $1.1 trillion programme aimed at revitalizing the world economy and further consider addressing the financial needs of developing countries, especially low-income countries.

Developing countries facing an acute and severe shortage of foreign reserves because of the fallout of the crisis, which is affecting their balance-of-payment situation, should not be denied the right to use trade defence measures, in accordance with WTO rules. In addition, they should be able to impose temporary capital restrictions and seek agreements on temporary debt standstills between debtors and creditors, in order to help mitigate the adverse impacts of the crisis and stabilize macroeconomic development.

In view of the recent improvement of the IMF lending framework, there is a need for further streamlining of conditionalities. Developing countries must have the necessary flexibility to implement countercyclical measures and pursue timely, tailored and targeted responses to the crisis. New and ongoing programmes should not contain unwarranted conditionalities. Multilateral development banks are called upon to move forward on flexible, concessional, fast-disbursing and front-loaded assistance designed to assist developing countries facing financing gaps.

It is recognized that domestic policy space, especially in the areas of trade, investment and international development, is now often framed by international regimes, disciplines, commitments and global market considerations, which have presented challenges to many developing countries seeking to fashion a national response to the crisis. Therefore, those countries have called for opportunities to exercise greater policy flexibility within the scope of these constraints as a necessary component to recover from the crisis and to address specific national concerns. It is for each country to evaluate the trade-off between the benefits of accepting international rules and constraints posed by the loss of policy space.

Containing the effects of the crisis and improving future global resilience

Apart from the economic and financial sectors, there is a need to address the human and social impacts of the crisis. Short-term mitigation measures should take into account long-term goals, especially those related to poverty eradication, sustainable development, gender equality, health, education and sustained economic growth. Closer cooperation and strong partnership between the UN development system, regional development banks and the World Bank are required to mobilize and provide additional resources for social protection, food security and human development through all sources and channels of development finance. The current economic situation calls for strengthening the ability of the United Nations to fulfil its development mandate, given its unique role as an inclusive forum to fashion appropriate responses to the crisis and mitigate its impact on developing countries.

In the area of international trade, the impacts of the crisis include the loss of export revenue, diminishing access to trade finance, reductions in export-oriented and infrastructure investment, as well as lower fiscal revenues and balance-of-payment problems. Therefore, Member States undertake to resist all protectionist tendencies and rectify any protectionist measures already taken and to contribute to monitoring efforts of WTO. In accordance with existing development-oriented commitments, they reiterate their call for an early, ambitious, successful and balanced conclusion to the Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations. In addition, they resolve to resist unfair and discriminatory treatment of migrant workers and the imposition of unreasonable restrictions on labour migration.

An effective response to the crisis requires timely implementation of existing aid commitments. There is an urgent need for all donors to deliver on their commitments towards achieving the established ODA targets, in order to substantially boost the resources available to push forward the international development agenda and to assist developing countries to more effectively respond to the crisis in accordance with their national strategies. In addition, the conference outcome emphasizes the importance of ongoing efforts to improve aid effectiveness, to pursue South-South and triangular cooperation, to explore new voluntary and innovative sources of development finance and to promote green economy initiatives.

The outcome document calls upon States to redouble efforts to honour their commitments regarding debt relief and stress the responsibility of all debtors and creditors on the issue of debt sustainability. To mitigate the negative effects of the crisis on the indebtedness of developing countries and to avoid a new debt crisis, donors and financial institutions should consider increasing grants and concessional loans as the preferred modalities of financial support. In addition, there is a need to explore enhanced approaches to the restructuring of sovereign debt based on existing frameworks and principles, as well as a more structured framework for international cooperation in this area.

Recognizing the potential of expanded special drawing rights (SDRs) to help increase global liquidity in response to the crisis, the conference outcome calls for early implementation of the new general SDR allocation of $250 billion, as agreed at the London G20 Summit, and for keeping under review the allocation of SDRs for development purposes. In addition, it acknowledges the call by many States for a more efficient global reserve system, including the possible function of SDRs in any such system and the complementary roles to be played by various regional arrangements.

Improving regulation and monitoring

The current crisis has revealed many deficiencies in national and international financial regulation and supervision. Member States recognize the critical need for expanding the scope and enhancing the effectiveness of regulation and supervision of all major financial centres, instruments and actors, including financial institutions, credit rating agencies and hedge funds. They call for effective, credible and enforceable regulations at all levels to ensure the needed transparency and oversight of the financial system. Each country should adequately regulate its financial markets, institutions and instruments, consistent with its development priorities and international commitments. Relevant international institutions should improve their ability to provide early warning of macroeconomic and financial risks and the actions needed to address them.

All tax jurisdictions and financial centres should comply with standards of transparency and regulation. Member States reiterate the need to promote international cooperation in tax matters, including within the United Nations, through inter alia double taxation agreements and exchange of information. Measures to enhance regulation, supervision and transparency in the formal and informal financial system should include steps to curb illicit financial flows in all countries.

Reforming the international financial and economic system and architecture

This crisis has added new impetus to ongoing international discussions on the reform of the international financial system and architecture. There is consensus on the need for continued reform and modernization of the international financial institutions to better enable them to respond to the current challenges and needs of Member States. In particular, there is an urgent need to further reform the governance of the Bretton Woods institutions, on the basis of fair and equitable representation of developing countries, in order to increase the credibility and accountability of these institutions. The heads and senior leadership of the international financial institutions, particularly the Bretton Woods institutions, should be appointed through open, transparent and merit-based selection processes, with due regard to gender equality and geographical representation.

In this context, Member States call for an expeditious completion of the reform process of the World Bank’s governance and of an accelerated road map for further reforms on voice and participation of developing countries, with a view to reaching agreement by April 2010. They also call for inclusive consultations on further reforms to improve the responsiveness and adaptability of the World Bank. Similarly, they recognize the need to undertake, as a matter of priority, a comprehensive and fast-tracked reform of IMF. Based on current trends, the next quota review is expected to result in an increase in the quota shares of dynamic economies, particularly the share of emerging market and developing countries as a whole, to be completed by January 2011. Furthermore, Member States welcome the expansion of the membership in the Financial Stability Board and the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision and encourage the major standard-setting bodies to enhance the representation of developing countries.

The way forward

The outcome document requests the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council, as well as the UN funds, programmes and specialized agencies, to take full advantage of their advocacy role to promote recovery and development of the developing countries, especially the most vulnerable among them. In particular, it calls for enhancing the coherence and coordination of policies and actions between the United Nations, international financial institutions and relevant regional organizations; further development of the UN development system’s comprehensive crisis response in support of national development strategies; and strengthening international cooperation in the area of international migration and development.

The General Assembly is invited to establish an ad hoc open-ended working group to follow up on the issues contained in the outcome document and to submit a progress report before the end of its 64th session. In the case of ECOSOC, the conference outcome reiterates its two previous mandates, namely: to recommend a strengthened and more effective and inclusive intergovernmental process to carry out the financing for development follow-up; and to examine the strengthening of institutional arrangements to promote international cooperation in tax matters.

In addition, ECOSOC is requested: to consider the promotion and enhancement of a coordinated response of the UN development system in the conference follow-up; review the implementation of the agreements between the United Nations and the Bretton Woods institutions in collaboration with these institutions; and make recommendations to the General Assembly regarding the possible establishment of an ad hoc panel of experts on the world economic and financial crisis and its impact on development.

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