Geneva, 7 July 1999
A MORE PRO-ACTIVE ECONOMIC UNITED NATIONS
The European Regional Hearing for the United Nations
Millennium Assembly Takes up Sustainable Development
During the afternoon session of the European Regional Hearing for the UN Millennium Assembly organized by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UN/ECE), participants discussed the possible role of the United Nations in promoting sustainable development in the 21st century.
For this segment of the hearings, Mr. Yves Berthelot, Executive Secretary, Economic Commission for Europe, acted as moderator while H.E. Birgitta Dahl, Speaker of Parliament, Stockholm, Sweden; Ms. Marina Ponti, Mani Tese, Milan; Ms. Vlasta Stepova, Vice-President, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Prague; Ms. Lena Kolarska-Bobinska, Director, Institute of Public Affairs, Warsaw; and Ms. Victoria Elias, ECO-ACCORD, Moscow, acted as panellists.
The discussion focussed on the fact that while the United Nations had been at the forefront in the field of environment and poverty alleviation, it had failed to provide a strong leadership to the international community in the field of macro- economics. In the mind of many, the United Nations' role was mainly restricted to human rights, humanitarian affairs and peace-keeping. Its role as economic adviser was totally unknown. Most of the economic thinking and ruling had been left to the Bretton Woods organizations, WTO or the OECD. There was a wide consensus on the fact that the United Nations should strengthen its economic analysis and thinking capacity to avoid that certain countries or certain groups on the fringe of the society, become marginalised in the current process of globalization. On the other hand it was also stressed that governments should take due account of these analyses.
It was mentioned that the Tobin type of tax on financial flows could enhance the transparency of international financial markets and create resources for governments and international institutions to address global challenges such as poverty eradication, the protection of the environment, peace and security.
It was also underlined that the United Nations and the diplomats attending its meetings had lost all contacts with their main constituency, namely the People. There was a need to include "the People" and their concerns in the work of the United Nations, through the participation of civil society in the economic discussions and to give a more formal status to NGOs within the UN system.
It was mentioned that the United Nations should stop considering poverty alleviation as a charity act but as an investment which would profit all countries and all segments of the society.
Some participants stressed the need to put macro-economic issues on the agenda of the Millennium Assembly and thought that the debate on the "new financial architecture" should take place within the United Nations. While the macro-economic approach to world economy was indeed useful, the United Nations should deal with specific problems, in particular the problem of energy and energy efficiency. The forthcoming Conference on sustainable energy due to take place in 2001 would be an example of what could be done.
As far as the environment is concerned speakers stressed the importance of the Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters which should be globalized. Such a convention which gives to NGOs, not only international ones, but national and local ones, the possibility to speak up was indeed a step forward in the field of democracy.
For further information, please contact:
United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UN/ECE)
Palais des Nations, Room 356
CH - 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
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