DESA News Vol. 13, No. 12 December 2009

Trends and analysis

Regional meeting on implementing sustainable development

The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe in collaboration with DESA’s Division for Sustainable Development is organizing a Regional Implementation Meeting (RIM) on 1 and 2 December in Geneva

The RIM for Europe and North America will contribute to the work of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) during the CSD 18/19 implementation cycle focused on transport, chemicals, waste management, mining, and the 10-year framework of programmes on sustainable consumption and production. The meeting will be held in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Plan of Implementation of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (JPOI), and will be organized in cooperation with other regional organizations and regional offices of UN funds and programmes.

The RIM will also contribute to the advancement of the implementation of Agenda 21 and the Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21. The meeting will provide inputs to the Secretary-General’s reports and contribute to the CSD work by identifying region-specific challenges and opportunities as well as lessons learned and best practices. The RIM for Europe and North America will also provide for contributions from major groups.

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Minimizing the effects of chemicals to human health and environment

Workshop on Case Studies in the Sound Management of Chemical will be held in Geneva on 3-4 December to share best practices

Experts from both developed and developing countries as well as representatives of United Nations bodies, agencies and multilateral environmental conventions will review progress and share best practices in achieving the 2020 goal on the sound management of chemicals, as set at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002.

The workshop, co-organized by the Division for Sustainable Development of DESA, the Secretariat of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) and the UNEP Chemicals Branch, is part of the preparation of discussions on the thematic topic of chemicals at the 18th session of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD-18).

The participants will discuss principles, trends, lessons learned and challenges in sound management of chemicals, and share best practices and experiences. They will also review and finalize the publication on cases studies entitled “Practices in the Sound Management of Chemicals”, which is an important complementary document to the Secretary-General’s report on chemicals and the Trends Report for CSD-18. This publication will be launched during CSD-18 to facilitate discussions on minimizing the adverse effects of chemicals to human health and the environment.

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Discussing guidelines on integrated economic statistics

The US Bureau of Economic Analysis, in its role as the moderator of the Friends of the Chair of the Statistical Commission on Integrated Economic Statistics, and DESA’s Statistics Division are organizing a meeting on 7-9 December

The meeting in Washington D.C will discuss the draft chapters of the Guidelines on Integrated Economic Statistics developed by the Friends of the Chair Group. The Friends of the Chair Group was established by the Statistical Commission for the purpose of improving the methodology of integrated economic statistics and developing guidelines. The Group includes members from national statistical offices and international organizations. The outcome of the meeting will be suggestions to the lead authors of the chapters for further work on drafting of the Guidelines.

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Reporting MDG data

DESA’s Statistics Division is organizing a workshop on MDG monitoring, in collaboration with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA)

The workshop will take place in Beirut, Lebanon, from 7 to 10 December and bring together representatives from national statistical offices and line ministries to review recommendations for reporting Millennium Development Goal (MDG) data and to establish strategies for dealing with data discrepancies and data gaps at the national and international level.

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Measuring violence against women

DESA’s Statistics Division with the Instituto Nacional de EstadĂ­stica y GeografĂ­a of Mexico (INEGI) are organizing a meeting on statistical indicators to measure violence against women

The meeting will be hosted by INEGI), in its role as the chair of the Friends of the Chair of the United Nations Statistical Commission, in Aguascalientes, Mexico, from 9 to 11 December. The purpose of the meeting is to continue the work on developing indicators in line with the recommendations in the first report submitted to the United Nations Statistical Commission in February 2009.

The meeting will also conduct an in-depth technical review of the methodologies currently applied to observe violence against women; and provide methodological advice for developing a set of guidelines for producing statistics on violence against women, regarding the selection of core and additional topics, sources of data, relevant statistical classifications, outputs, wording of questions and all other pertinent issues.

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High frequency indicators of economic performance

International Seminar on Early Warning and Business Cycle Indicators in Scheveningen, Netherlands will be organized by DESA’s Statistics Division on 14-16 December

In its response to the global economic and financial crisis, the Statistics Division is organizing a number of international seminars on the methodology to generate high frequency indicators of economic performance, their international comparability, the communication strategy of such indicators and the development of additional synthesis indicators on the performance of the real economy and the financial markets for effective monitoring.

The second meeting of the series is the International Seminar on Early Warning and Business Cycle Indicators, hosted by Statistics Netherlands, will discuss the results from the global assessment of a data template of high frequency indicators and country practices in the preparation of GDP estimates, composite indicators, sentiment surveys and their application in tracking the economic crisis.

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Cutting edge solutions presented at World e-Parliament Conference

DESA, the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the U.S. House of Representatives jointly organized the World e-Parliament Conference 2009 at the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington D.C. from 3-5 November

The World e-Parliament Conference 2009 is an initiative of the Global Centre for ICT in Parliament, which was created by DESA and the Inter-Parliamentary Union in 2006. The event assembled more than 400 elected members and staff of ninety-five parliaments from around the world to discuss policies and applications relating to the use of modern technologies in parliaments. Selected presentations were delivered by renowned experts and parliamentary officials to showcase cutting edge solutions and case studies.

At the opening of the Conference, Mr. Sha was joined by Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Anders Johnsson, Secretary General of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, Ahmed Fathy Sorour, Speaker of the People’s Assembly of Egypt and Ildiko Gall Pelcz, Deputy-Speaker of the Hungarian National Assembly in their capacity as co-Chair of the Board of the Global Centre for ICT in Parliament.

Some of the main conclusions that emerged during the debates were as follows:

  • There is an opportunity for parliaments to engage a new generation of citizens for whom ICT is central to their way of life in political and parliamentary processes. In this way, their views could be heard and taken into account as parliaments debate and decide on major policies and legislations.
  • The adoption of open standards will allow parliaments to be more transparent and accountable to citizens. Parliaments will also be better equipped to facilitate regional and global cooperation and integration. Many issues requiring legislative action in today’s globalized world are in fact common problems that require concerted solutions.
  • Access to information underpins citizens’ involvement in political processes and indeed the work of members of parliament themselves. Members’ enormous information needs can best be met by effective and well-resourced parliamentary library and research services making full use of new technologies for collecting, managing and sharing information.

The Board of the Global Centre met as well on the margins of the Conference to discuss its future work programme and to adopt the principles of a 10-year strategic plan for stimulating parliamentary action to develop modern information societies and expanding the use of ICT in parliaments.

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The importance of local authorities

DESA’s Division for Public Administration & Development Management (DPADM) organized, within the framework of the Euro-African Partnership for Decentralized Governance and in collaboration with the Regional Council of Tuscany, two back-to-back events in Florence, Italy

The Pre-Conference on “Women in Local Authorities’ Leadership Positions: Approaches to Democracy, Participation, Local Development and Peace” was held on 5 November and highlighted the critical role that women play in local institutions in Africa. It also laid the foundations for creating a platform for the exchange of Euro-African experiences of women representative of local governments through a virtual network.

Ms. Carolyn Hannan, Director of DESA’s Division for the Advancement of Women, made the opening speech, whereas Ms. Adriana Alberti of DPADM made a presentation on the critical role of women in development: lessons learned from the United Nations Public Service Awards. The event resulted in a Declaration with specific recommendations for future action.

The 2nd Conference of European and African Regional and Local Authorities took place on 6-7 November. The conference aimed to build awareness of the difficulties that local institutions are experiencing as they respond to the development challenges posed by the financial crisis. Ms. Carolyn Hannan also made the opening speech on behalf of DESA, whereas Mr. John-Mary Kauzya, Chief of the Governance and Public Administration Branch, DPADM, made a keynote address.

The event resulted in a Declaration with specific recommendations for future action and a special message to the World Summit on Food Security to be held in Rome between 16 and 18 November 2009, highlighting the critical role that local authorities play in ensuring access to food.

As a follow-up measure, DESA and the Regional Council of Tuscany will explore the possibility of extending the Euro-African Partnership Programme to implement recommendations made at both meetings, which include to establish an Observatory within the Euro-African Partnership Programme that will encourage partnerships and research on decentralized cooperation for the strengthening of decentralized governance and development cooperation. DESA will also establish a virtual network for women leaders in local government in Africa.

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Improving usage of the Internet

4th Internet Governance Forum held its fourth meeting in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt from 15 to 18 November

With more than 1800 participants from 112 countries, the 2009 Forum saw the largest attendance record since its inception in 2006. The participants reflected a diversity of Internet users and came from governments, international organizations, the Internet community, the private sector, civil society and the media.

Discussions in Sharm el-Sheikh, chaired by Tarek Kamel, the Egyptian Minister of Communications and Information Technology, examined ways to improve Internet access by all and to promote local content and cultural diversity, to ensure the safety of the Internet and fight cybercrime and to manage key Internet resources.

The meeting also discussed new issues related to the continued growth of social networks, and the ensuing governance issues that are emerging, in particular the need for new approaches regarding privacy and data protection, rules applicable to user-generated content and copyrighted material, and issues of freedom of expression and illegal content. Parallel to the main sessions on these issues, more than 100 workshops, best practice forums, dynamic coalition meetings and open forums were held around the broad themes of the main sessions and the overall mandate of the IGF.

The Forum, which was set up with an initial mandate of five years that expires next year, discussed the issue of the future of the Forum beyond 2010. Under-Secretary-General Sha Zukang, who led formal consultations on the “desirability of the continuation of the Forum”, stressed the centrality of the principle of inclusiveness and the need for continued discussions on public policy issues related to the Internet in some form. A report on these consultations will be presented to the Secretary-General, who will then communicate his recommendation to the General-Assembly next year.

Many speakers emphasized the usefulness of the IGF as a platform for dialogue, free from the pressures of negotiations. Most of the speakers who supported improvements would like the IGF to refocus its attention on certain points such as international public policy issues; capacity-building; participation by developing countries; improved transparency; improved communications; improved remote participation; creating a data base for best practices; more visibility for outcomes; and possibly, the ability to make recommendations.

Many speakers supported a continuation of the Forum as it is, that is, to continue the IGF as a multi-stakeholder platform that brings people together to discuss issues, exchange information and share best practices, but not to make decisions, nor to have highly visible outputs.

Other speakers, while supporting a continuation of the IGF along similar lines to its current form, called for some changes. The proposed changes ranged from small improvements to major changes in its functioning, such as adding provisions that would allow it to produce outputs and decisions on a multi-stakeholder consensus basis. Most of those participants who supported the continuation of the Forum would like it to continue for at least another five years. The next IGF meeting will be held in Vilnius, Lithuania, from 14 to 17 September 2010.

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Promoting sustainable forest management

First Country-led Initiative (CLI) by the People's Republic of China in support of the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) was held on 17-20 November 2009 in Guilin, China

The meeting, organized by China in collaboration with the governments of Austria, Finland, Germany and the United States of America with support of UNFF, was held on the theme “Forests for People: the Role Of National Forest Programmes (NFPs) and the Non-legally Binding Instrument on All Types of Forests (Forest Instrument).” The Forest Instrument provides a comprehensive framework for national actions and international cooperation to promote sustainable forest management.

The meeting, which marked the first ever Country-led Initiative on the implementation of the Forest Instrument, was attended by over 120 international participants with keynote speakers including Ms. Yin Hong, Vice-Minister of the State Forestry Administration of China, Mr. Thomas Stelzer, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, DESA, and Ms. Jan McAlpine, Director of the UN Forum on Forests Secretariat.

Mr. Stelzer emphasized the linkage of forests and a broad range of economic, environmental and social issues. “Since the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, the international community has kept forests high on the international policy agenda. This political commitment culminated in the adoption of the Forest Instrument in 2007, which is not only aimed at sustainable forest management but also at achieving the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals,” observed Mr. Stelzer.

Ms. McAlpine provided an update on recent developments on forest finance, including the establishment of an intergovernmental ad hoc expert group on financing sustainable forest management, and a “UNFF Facilitative Process” on forest financing.

Participants from various countries, major groups, and Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF) member organizations presented their countries' experiences and lessons learned in implementing national forest programmes and the Forest Instrument to improve livelihoods and eradicate poverty. Participants also met in four working groups, focusing on: policy, legal and organizational frameworks; sustainable production of goods and services; national arrangements to mobilize finance; and capacity building and participatory approaches.

“By developing creative programmes at national and local levels, we can drive home key messages on forests and their contribution to people’s lives,” urged Mr. Stelzer. He also encouraged participants to make best use of the opportunity presented by the General Assembly in celebrating the International Year of Forests in 2011.

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