Fifty-seventh General Assembly
27th Meeting (AM)
SPEAKERS EXPRESS CONCERN OVER SHORTFALL IN FUNDING FOR INSTITUTE AS SECOND
COMMITTEE TAKES UP QUESTION OF TRAINING AND RESEARCH
Meeting also Considers Report of United Nations University Council
The training programmes of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) were a tremendous asset to the work of diplomats in multilateral affairs and merited sufficient funding from the United Nations, the Institute's Executive Director told the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) this morning as it considered the question of training and research.
Introducing the Secretary-General's report on UNITAR, he noted that some 6,000 representatives of Member States benefited from the 10 free seminars, workshops or meetings that the Institute held around the globe every month. Lamenting the current funding shortfalls, he said that repeated appeals to the General Assembly for rent-free space and maintenance of UNITAR's New York and Geneva offices had fallen on deaf ears. On the other hand, two other United Nations research institutes enjoyed rent-free office space in Geneva and one was subsidized by the regular budget. UNITAR should receive the same privileges, he added.
Expressing similar concerns, the representative of Pakistan asserted that no organization could realize its full potential without skilled, well-trained and dedicated personnel. UNITAR’s training activities had become increasingly useful, strengthening the capacity of Member States to participate effectively in intergovernmental parleys. However, the Institute's impressive track record had not been rewarded financially and it was not even provided with rent-free space, he noted.
Pointing out that a substantial proportion of UNITAR’s potential had still not been fully realized, the representative of the Russian Federation said the Institute should become involved in current issues, such as the war against terrorism and extremism, multilateral talks with the World Trade Organization, and the implementation of the Johannesburg and Monterrey outcomes. The Russian Federation intended to help enhance UNITAR’s output in the interest of Member States, he added.
Also addressing the Committee was the Rector of the United Nations University (UNU), who introduced the report of that institution's council. He
highlighted new UNU initiatives undertaken with several Member States, including a programme in Belgium on comparative regional integration studies and a project in Germany on the negative environmental impacts of land degradation such as desertification and flooding.
Japan's representative said the UNU had attempted to coordinate the dozens of multilateral environmental agreements forged since the 1972 Stockholm Conference on Human Environment and the 1992 Rio Earth Summit and to promote international environmental norms. It had also undertaken initiatives and seminars on international environmental law involving experts from universities and think tanks from around the world. He proposed the adoption of a resolution on the University to promote further its interaction with the United Nations system and to maintain the high visibility of its activities and programmes.
In other business this morning, the representative of Venezuela, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, introduced three draft resolutions on globalization and interdependence; implementation of the outcome of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) and the twenty-fifth special session of the General Assembly; and the Third United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries (LDCs).
Other speakers this morning were the representatives of Switzerland, Jordan, Belize (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), Israel, Iceland and Nigeria.
The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. today, when it is expected to take up the question of permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territories and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan.
The Second Committee met this morning to take up its agenda item on training and research. It was also expected to hear the introduction of draft resolutions relating to globalization and interdependence; implementation of the outcome of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) and of the twenty-fifth special session of the General Assembly; and the Third United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries.
United Nations University
Before the Committee was a report of the Council of the United Nations University (UNU), which reviews the University's aims, activities and accomplishments in 2001. The report (document A/57/31) focuses on peace and governance, environment and sustainable development, major cross-cutting issues, capacity development, networking activities, links with the United Nations system and dissemination.
The year began with Secretary-General Kofi Annan's visit to Tokyo, where he formally opened the UNU as the "United Nations House" in Japan. The United Nations Gallery also opened during the year, with exhibitions showcasing the work and values of the Organization, covering such topics as the United Nations Environment Programme International Photo Competition on the Environment, World Heritage Sites and Trafficking in Small Arms.
According to the report, the UNU research and training programme on comparative regional integration studies, set up with the College of Europe and the Flemish Government, began work in 2001. The University also began the pilot phase of a programme on science and technology for sustainability with the Government of the Republic of Korea and the Kwangju Institute of Science and Technology.
The UNU received strong support for a new research and training centre focusing on environment and human security in Bonn, Germany, and has continued talks with Qatar on a new centre in the Middle East, the report says. It also began a new research and training programme on fragile ecosystems in wetland areas in Mato Grosso, Brazil, in cooperation with the Universidade Federal de Mato Grosso and the Mato Grosso authorities.
Among other international gatherings during the year, the report says, the UNU's Centre for Peace and Governance programme organized a conference in cooperation with the delegation of the European Commission in Japan on "Partners in Humanitarian Crises: Conflict Prevention, management and Resolutions -- Towards a Comprehensive Approach" at the UNU Centre in Tokyo. Cooperation between donors, policy makers, non-governmental organizations, the media and victims of conflict to optimize assistance was the key focus of the conference.
The University also organized an international symposium on managing biodiversity in agricultural ecosystems with the International Plant Genetics Resources Institute and the secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Montreal, the report states. The symposium brought together worldwide experiences and ideas on managing agricultural biodiversity, which had an impact on international and national biodiversity programmes and policy.
United Nations Institute for Training and Research
Also before the Committee was a report by the Secretary-General on the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR). The report (document A/57/479) is in response to the General Assembly's request for justification of current rental rates and maintenance costs charged to UNITAR; a proposal for waiving or reducing those costs in line with those enjoyed by other organizations affiliated with the United Nations; and details on UNITAR's financial situation and the use of its services by Member States.
The report concludes that the General Assembly would need to make budgetary provisions for costs involved, and override 1993 provisions requiring that all UNITAR administrative costs and training programmes be funded by voluntary contributions, donations, special-purpose grants and executing agency overheads. Free rent and maintenance for UNITAR would require modifications to the Institute's statute as well as an additional biennial appropriation of $293,000 under the regular United Nations budget in the current biennium. UNITAR must also do its part by paying its current outstanding rental and maintenance bill of $310,974, the report states.
Introduction of Draft Resolutions
VICENTE VALLENILLA (Venezuela), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, introduced the three draft resolutions. Presenting the first text, on the role of the United Nations in promoting development in the context of globalization and interdependence (document A/C.2/57/L.29), he said it expressed the interest of developing countries for a referential framework on globalization. Such a framework would allow for closer vigilance over information technology, technology and culture, and international trade to ensure that globalization is equitable and integral, and to eliminate its negative impact on developing countries.
Introducing the draft on implementation of the outcome of Habitat II and on the twenty-fifth special session of the General Assembly (document A/C.2/57/L.30), he said it called for an overall review and appraisal and strengthening of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) to improve, among other things, the lot of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020, particularly in developing countries.
Presenting the text on the outcome of the Third United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries (document A/C.2/57/L.31), he welcomed the creation of the Office of the High Representative for Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States. He urged United Nations organizations to contribute generously to the proposed special fund for LDCs and to incorporate the principles of the Brussels Programme of Action into their work agendas.
Introduction of Reports
HANS VAN GINKEL, Rector of the UNU, introduced its report, reviewing new initiatives undertaken with several nations. The University had started new activity in Belgium last January on comparative regional integration studies, he said, noting that regional integration would be a major topic on the agenda of many nations and multilateral organizations in the future. Also, an initiative in Bonn, on human security and the environment focused on land degradation and its effects on human security, such as desertification and flooding.
Recent and ongoing UNU activities in the area of peace and governance, he continued, included a project on “Researching Ethnic Conflict in Africa: Ethical and Methodological Issues in Researching Violent Societies"; a conference on the United Nations and South Asia in May; and a study on the feasibility of a coordinated approach to reduce the impact of the steep reduction in capital flows into the developing world. Projects relating to environment and sustainable development had focused on environmental pollution-monitoring and governance in the coastal hydrosphere, biosecurity, e-business, chip design and component-based programming, the use of the Internet in Africa, plant tissue culture and risk evaluation of transgenic crops. In the area of capacity development, the University was addressing natural disaster risk management, coastal biodiversity and food composition data, boidiversity, fisheries, food technology, remote sensing, geothermal energy and peace and environment in Central Asia.
He noted that the UNU had contributed to the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development by hosting a meeting in September 2001 with several eminent policy-makers and scholars. It had provided a unique perspective to the Summit's discussion by concentrating on links connecting globalization, poverty, development, the environment and population. Noting that education had not received a sufficiently important presence at the World Summit, he said the UNU and the International Association of Universities, together with a number of other international and regional organizations, had worked to call additional attention to that issue during the Summit.
Introduction of Reports
MARCEL BOISARD, Executive Director of UNITAR, introduced the report on training and research and expressed his anxiety over the Institute's inability to mobilize sufficient voluntary contributions for its General Fund. He said that UNITAR’s programmes had been running smoothly, benefiting some 6,000 officials from Member States every year. The Institute held some 10 seminars, workshops or meetings each month on five continents and constantly strove to improve and strengthen its programmes.
Noting that for years, the Second Committee had debated the request of UNITAR’s Board of Trustees for free rent and maintenance of its New York and Geneva offices, he said that the Geneva-based United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research and the United Nations Research Institute of Social Development paid no rent, and one was directly subsidized by the United Nations regular budget. UNITAR, whose programmes for training diplomats in multilateral affairs contributed to a more efficient intergovernmental system, should be granted the same privileges.
JULIA LOPEZ (Venezuela), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, commended the UNU’s progress in academic and research work as it attempted to answer questions posed by a highly globalized world. One of the most important elements in promoting sustainable development in developing countries was the training of human resources, she said. The University had done important work in the areas of peace, conflict, good governance, environment and sustainable development. It had also focused on dialogue, water resources, training programmes, scholarships and student-teaching programmes. The UNU continued to work with eight research programmes and centres, three of which were in developing countries, she noted. In order to achieve its main aim -– advancing knowledge for human security and advancement -- it must continue to receive contributions. She encouraged all donors to continue contributing to the University, since it boosted capacity-building, especially in developing countries.
UNITAR had also faced recurrent financial difficulties, mainly due to the drop in contributions from developed countries, she said. Though it had been able to meet operating expenses up to 30 September 2002, it had a huge liability for rent and maintenance. Noting that the continued functioning of the Institute was vital, she supported the General Assembly motion to grant it the required resources.
MASASHI MIZUKAMI (Japan), pointing to the dozens of multilateral environmental agreements forged since the 1972 Stockholm Conference on Human Environment and the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, said that the UNU, in a bid to coordinate those agreements and promote international environmental norms, had undertaken initiatives and seminars on international environmental law involving experts from universities and think tanks from around the world.
He said this was an opportune time to adopt a resolution on the UNU in order to promote further its interaction with the United Nations system and to maintain the high visibility of its activities and programmes. In January 2001, the UNU building had been renamed "UN House" and several United Nations agencies had since set up offices there and were expected to collaborate more closely with the University. He called on more Member States to contribute financially to the UNU.
BORIS AVRAMENKO (Russian Federation) said a substantial proportion of UNITAR’s potential had still not been fully realized. For example, the Institute could become involved in current issues, such as the war against terrorism and extremism, multilateral talks with the World Trade Organization, and the implementation of the Johannesburg and Monterrey outcomes. That would mean drawing up a matrix of methodologies and training specialists among other tasks. Russia intended to help enhance UNITAR’s output in the interest of Member States.
Turning to the UNU, he said it had improved knowledge in security and human development. It was focusing on areas such as the measures required in pre-conflict periods as well as steps during and after conflicts, timely aspects of development problems, the environment, employment, urbanization, the use of resources and information technology. The UNU could also play an active role in addressing problems of globalization, such as coordinating activities on international trade policy and currency, he added.
ARIANE WALDVOGEL (Switzerland) said UNITAR had great knowledge of multilateral negotiations and activities in the field, helping both developing and developed countries in multilateral processes. The Institute’s work also contributed greatly to United Nations efforts and progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals and in implementing the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) debt-relief initiative in Africa.
However, despite repeated appeals to the General Assembly since the 1980s, most countries had not renewed their financial contributions to the Institute. UNITAR received no direct funding from the regular United Nations budget, she said, urging Member States, particularly industrialized nations, to renew funding. Switzerland was doing its part, continuing to contribute to both UNITAR’s regular budget and to the trust fund.
WALID AL-HADID (Jordan), reviewing upcoming programmes and projects of the UNU Leadership Academy, located in the Jordanian capital of Amman, said that a major research project was measuring worldwide public opinion on the challenges of global leadership in the twenty-first century. In another project, the Academy was interviewing selected United Nations leaders to elicit their visions of and insights into the requirements of global leadership in future decades. Those forward-looking projects should help the international community’s efforts to enhance the capacity of the United Nations in meeting present and future leadership challenges.
He said the Academy was also considering training courses for mid-career government officials from Member States of the Arab League. It planned to develop one-week courses that would draw on policy-oriented research undertaken by other units of the UNU system, especially with regard to link between trade and environment governance and conflict prevention.
STUART LESLIE (Belize), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that training and research were critical development tools in the CARICOM countries, particularly in acquiring the technical expertise needed to combat the deadly scourge of HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening diseases, such as hypertension, diabetes, malaria and cholera. E-commerce and mass communications were the norm in the technological age, but many developing countries lacked resources that were crucial to the development process. The CARICOM nations must be provided with the necessary technological skills and equipment, he said, stressing the importance of UNITAR’s e-learning programmes.
He lauded UNITAR's and UNU’s collaborative and effective training programmes and called for the creation of partnerships with CARICOM institutions of higher learning, such as the University of the West Indies. He also applauded the UNU’s $1.3 million dollar project on water and climate change in Central America, South-East Asia and West Africa. The initiative should include the Caribbean region, he said, pointing to the benefits of studies and initiatives on integrated management of the Caribbean Sea conducted through UNU partnership with CARICOM. He urged Member States to continue much-needed voluntary funding of UNITAR and UNU programmes.
AMOS NADAI (Israel) supported UNITAR’s focus on building human and institutional capacity in developing countries rather than simply providing them with aid. Many of the themes in the Secretary-General’s report on UNITAR had been central to his country’s development over the last 50 years. Israel had recognized the importance of investing in education and various other fields, such as good management. By providing developing nations with the tools to help themselves, even those in the worst situations could develop vigorous modern economies. Education and training were central to successful sustainable development, he stressed, adding that he looked forward to further cooperation with UNITAR.
THORSTEINN INGOLFSSON (Iceland) said his Government had signed an agreement in 1978 on setting up the UNU Geothermal Training Programme in Iceland. Since then, professional scientists and engineers from energy agencies, research organizations and universities in developing and transition countries had spent six months in Iceland every spring engaging in highly specialized studies,
research and on-the-job training in geothermal science and engineering. Over the past 24 years of that Programme’s operation, some 279 scientists and engineers from 39 countries had completed the annual courses of whom 43 per cent had come from Asia, 26 per cent from Africa, 14 per cent from Latin America and 17 per cent from Central and Eastern Europe.
In 1998, the UNU Fisheries Training Programme had been started in Iceland, he continued. So far, 43 specialists from 15 countries had completed the six-month specialized training course and cooperation had been established with Uganda, Mozambique, Gambia, Cape Verde, China, Sri Lanka, Viet Nam and Cuba. The aim of the programme was to assist participating countries in building up teams of experts specializing in different areas of the fisheries sector.
Noting that sustainable use of natural resources was the overriding theme of both training programmes, he said that fisheries and geothermal energy were of national importance in Iceland, since about 60 per cent of the country’s export earnings came from fish products and about 50 per cent of its total primary energy was provided by geothermal energy.
AIZAZ AHMAD CHAUDHRY (Pakistan), noting that no entity or organization could realize its full potential without skilled, well-trained and dedicated human resources, stressed the high importance of promoting training and research at all levels in the United Nations. Pakistan placed great value on the significant contribution being made by the United Nations Staff College project as well as UNU and UNITAR. While the United Nations Staff College met the learning and knowledge-sharing needs of United Nations staff, the UNU provided intellectual input through its research documents.
UNITAR had become increasingly useful in providing training services to Member States, he said. They had all benefited from its many focused and interactive courses. Its training activities had enhanced the capacity of Member States to participate effectively in intergovernmental parleys, but despite UNITAR’s impressive track record, the international community had been unable to strengthen its financial situation. It was particularly disturbing that while the Institute continued to provide free training facilities to Member States, it was not given rent-free space by the United Nations.
CHRISTOPHER CHUKKIURAH (Nigeria) noted that UNITAR had provided training for personnel from both developed and developing countries, and that its focal areas had always kept pace with global development trends. It had provided training on such matters as climate change, chemical and waste management, debt and financial management, foreign economic relations and sustainable development. At present, the Institute was organizing more than 70 training courses a year that attracted more than 400 participants from all over the world.
He said that the growing popularity of the Institute’s training activities and the diversity of the participants led to the conclusion that UNITAR was providing a useful service to Member States. However, it was severely hampered by the poor state of its finances. Funding for the Institute came primarily from donations, voluntary contributions and special purpose grants. Increased funding must come from diverse sources in order for UNITAR to be effective in carrying out its responsibilities.
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