Opening Remarks by Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs to the Expert Group Meeting on “Accelerating Implementation through National Voluntary Presentations: Next Steps”
New York, 28 January 2010

Mr. President,
Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to welcome you to this important expert group meeting on “Accelerating Implementation through National Voluntary Presentations: Next Steps”.

I am especially delighted to see the participation of such a distinguished group of experts, drawn from countries that have previously made National Voluntary Presentations (the secretariat refers to them as “NVP alumni”), as well as from a broad spectrum of international organizations.

Since their launch in 2007, there have been 21 National Voluntary Presentations at the Annual Ministerial Review of ECOSOC. Combined, they have served as a unique forum for dialogue, for sharing lessons learned and for addressing gaps and obstacles in implementing internationally agreed development goals, including the MDGs.

Two years on, we are witnessing an increasing number of countries expressing interest in making National Voluntary Presentations. I think the increase is a testament to the success of ECOSOC’s ongoing reform.

National Voluntary Presentations have clearly contributed to the outcomes of the Annual Ministerial Reviews and the ECOSOC high-level segments.

But we can do better. Let me share with you a few questions.

How can the experience and lessons learned from National Voluntary Presentations be applied to improve policymaking towards achievement of the MDGs and the overall UN Development Agenda?

How can ECOSOC take National Voluntary Presentations a step further to assist with mobilization of support from international community and building of partnerships?

What are the potentials for National Voluntary Presentations to evolve into a peer review mechanism? Will Member States continue to volunteer if making national presentations may involve peer review?

I think these and other questions on the agenda of this expert group meeting touch upon some of the core elements relating to the strengthening of National Voluntary Presentations. We have an opportunity for a frank assessment of what has worked and what can be further improved in this function of the Council, and in the respective roles that all of us play in it: volunteering countries; experts; UN system; Reviewers; and the membership at large.

Our common aim is to strengthen the role of National Voluntary Presentations as an innovative mechanism that will assist the international community in reviewing and refining development policies and their contribution to the achievement of the MDGs.

As we prepare for the final five years towards the MDGs, we need to renew our concerted efforts to accelerate progress. We must also critically evaluate our past policies, programmes, and practices for this purpose. I am certain that National Voluntary Presentations will be a critical instrument in providing fresh ideas and new approaches to tackle the challenges in implementation.

I am confident that you will have a successful and productive meeting, and that your contributions will help define the next steps of National Voluntary Presentations.

I look forward to receiving the results of your deliberations.

Thank you.