Statement by Mr. José Antonio Ocampo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs to the 63rd Session of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific
Almaty, 21 May 2007

Let me start by expressing my great pleasure to be with you today, both to celebrate ESCAP’s 60th anniversary and to have the opportunity to visit your beautiful country. I would also like to extend my gratitude to you, Mr. President, for your invitation and your generosity, and to the people of Kazakhstan for their hospitality. And I wish to congratulate Mr. Kim Hak-Su for his contributions to ESCAP during his years at the helm of the Commission. Prior to my current position, I had the opportunity to head the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, ESCAP’s sister organization, and I know the crucial role that the regional commissions play as a bridge between the global UN agenda and regional processes.

Mr. President,

The United Nations is built on three pillars: peace and security, human rights, and development. I want to stress here the centrality of the third. Indeed, the United Nations’ contributions to ideas, policy analysis and policy-making in the development field clearly rank among the UN’s most significant achievements.

Since 1990, the most important expression of our development mission has been the global development agenda that has emerged through a remarkable series of UN conferences and summits. This ambitious agenda stresses concrete goals and deliverable results, with a strong call for equality of all human beings, for equity as a guiding principle of public policy, and for partnership to realize the ambitious goals set by the international community. We see this especially in the Millennium Development Goals: eight concrete development targets, covering health, education, the environment, and development cooperation, with the overarching goal of cutting extreme poverty and hunger in half by 2015.

At the mid-point in the timeline to achieve the MDGs, marked progress has been made in reducing poverty worldwide. All major regions except sub-Saharan Africa are now expected to reach the target of cutting in half the proportion of people living in extreme poverty by 2015. As the Secretary-General mentioned, the success in the Asia and Pacific region has been particularly impressive, although challenges and great disparities within the region remain as impediments to achieving the array of MDGs and other internationally agreed development goals.

The core challenge that falls within the realm of international cooperation for development—here in this region and elsewhere—is less a matter of reaching new political agreements than of overcoming the “implementation gap”, to use the UN jargon. To do this requires a good system for tracking progress towards the goals and better accountability for keeping the commitments made through United Nations processes.

While the UN does this in many ways, I would like to underscore two new mechanisms being launched this year by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC): the Annual Ministerial Reviews of progress towards the development goals; and the biennial Development Cooperation Forum.

The Annual Ministerial Review should serve precisely as an accountability mechanism on how countries are meeting the goals and targets to which they have committed through UN Conferences and Summits, and this evaluation should feed into domestic debates in all our member states. The review will encompass national voluntary presentations of implementation experiences; regional consultations, and the global discussion to take place for the first time in Geneva in July.

In a complementary way, the Development Cooperation Forum will provide a unique global platform where all actors involved can engage in a dialogue on the key issues affecting development cooperation in all its forms—multilateral, North-South, and South-South—as well as its effectiveness in supporting the achievement of the MDGs and other development goals.

These new functions of ECOSOC are also a major component of the drive within the UN system towards greater coherence in our work—the intensified effort to “Deliver as One”. We all stand to gain from a stronger UN system pursuing a more cooperative approach at the global, regional, and country levels. Only by “working as one” can the UN system respond to challenges that know no borders and mobilize the immense wealth of knowledge that lies within its organizations: the Secretariat, Regional Commissions, Funds and Programmes, and Specialized Agencies. And only by “working as one” can the system use its resources in a cost-effective way and maximize their impact for those most in need.

The High-level Panel on System-wide Coherence has put before member states some important proposals for strengthening the coherence of UN actions at the country level. A number of them build on the 2004 Triennial Comprehensive Policy Review of Operational Activities for Development, the major mechanisms used by the General Assembly and ECOSOC to oversee the operations of the UN system at the country level. We are now preparing the 2007 Review, which the Assembly will conduct this Fall, based on guidance by ECOSOC and an analysis prepared by the Secretariat. The UN has also launched eight “one UN” pilot countries, where the UN system is working with the countries that have put themselves forward to explore better ways to work together more efficiently in supporting national governments’ development priorities. Two of them belong to the ESCAP region: Pakistan and Vietnam.

Coherence also means strengthening the link between what the UN does in the analytical and normative area, on the one hand, and the operational area, on the other—and thus between the “non-resident” and operational agencies, and between the global, regional, and country-level operations of the United Nations.

In my view, one of the key challenges we face is how to increase coherence of UN actions at the regional level. Whereas at the global and country levels, there are coordination mechanisms accepted by all parties, nothing of the sort exists at the regional level.

Regional coordination involves two different functions. The first is organizing support for cooperation at the national level. In this respect, it is essential to forge a closer working relationship between the UN Regional Commissions and UNDP regional centres, but also between the Regional Commissions and all the regional offices of the Specialized Agencies, Funds and Programmes.

The second function of regional coordination is supporting regional and sub-regional processes as such. Agencies should agree on a clear division of labour to avoid competition in support of regional processes. And Regional Commissions should act as the coordinator when several agencies are involved. I strongly believe that the UN’s effectiveness would benefit markedly from creating a single overarching coordination mechanism at the regional level, chaired by Regional Commissions.

Mr. President,

Progress in implementation of the UN Development Agenda demands an ever more strengthened, dynamic, and effective partnership among all Governments, institutional stakeholders and actors from the private sector and civil society. Although the road will not be easy, together we can bring to life the agenda’s compelling vision for inclusive, equitable, and participatory societies.

I commend ESCAP, on its 60th birthday, for its contributions to this great global effort. And I wish you continued success in your important work for the region and for the world.