Concluding High-level Segment, Economic and Social Council Adopts Ministerial Declaration on Tackling Jobs Crisis, Promoting Sustained Growth, Development

10 July 2012
ECOSOC/6532

Concluding High-level Segment, Economic and Social Council Adopts Ministerial Declaration on Tackling Jobs Crisis, Promoting Sustained Growth, Development

10 July 2012
Economic and Social Council
ECOSOC/6532
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Economic and Social Council

2012 Substantive Session

23rd & 24th Meetings (AM & PM)

Concluding High-level Segment, Economic and Social Council Adopts Ministerial

Declaration on Tackling Jobs Crisis, Promoting Sustained Growth, Development

Opening 2012 Coordination Segment, Council Approves Admission of Tunisia,

Libya , Morocco as Members of Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia

Committing to a “powerful road map on jobs” through the adoption of a far-reaching Declaration, Government representatives in the Economic and Social Council capped the body’s 2012 high-Level segment, and, opening its next phase — on coordination — held a dialogue with the heads of its regional commissions.

Adopting a Ministerial Declaration by consensus — though with several delegations expressing serious reservations — Council members concluded the week-long high-level segment, which had focused on the theme “promoting productive capacity, employment and decent work to eradicate poverty”.  The segment had been set to conclude yesterday but was extended to allow more time for negotiations on the outcome.  By the terms of the text, they committed to work together to promote the inclusive and equitable economic growth that was needed to reach the Millennium Development Goal targets.

Recalling the outcome of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (“Rio+20”) which closed just weeks ago in Brazil, the Declaration also had Ministers and heads of delegation resolved to take urgent action to achieve sustainable development, which was closely linked with both job creation and efforts to eradicate poverty.  They also acknowledged the need to further mainstream sustainable development at all levels, integrating economic, social and environmental aspects and recognizing their inter-linkages.

However, the reference to the Rio outcome — and, in particular, to the implementation of a “green economy” — was the crux of many of the reservations to the text.  In that regard, several representatives said they would have preferred the Declaration to refer to those issues “in the past tense”, as they had already been considered in Rio; still others stressed that the green economy was “but one tool” among many that States were free to choose in order to implement sustainable development.

“With the adoption of a forceful, comprehensive Ministerial Declaration, the Council once again deftly demonstrated another special strength,” Economic and Social Council President Miloš Koterec said in closing remarks:  “To forge a workable international consensus on difficult issues.”  He congratulated delegates for coming together to advance the common good, and added:  “When you see young people on the street yearning for work, then you see how important it is for us to get our act together.”

As for the work of the Council, he said that going forward, the 54-member body was committed to strengthening its work by improving the national voluntary presentation framework, increasing global policy coordination and better positioning the Development Cooperation Forum as the premiere forum coordinating such assistance.

Among the proposals he wished to advance was the need to re-examine the format and staging of the Council’s work, as consideration should be given to a more “clustered” approach, which linked the substantive session’s work with that of the functional commissions and subsidiary organs.  Convening substantive meetings on specific themes throughout the year was a good way to better realize effectiveness as a system.  He proposed taking those reform initiatives to a ministerial meeting in September, with the General Assembly’s review of resolution 16/16 during its sixty-seventh session marking another “paramount” occasion for the Council to spotlight “the change agenda”.

“We now have a powerful international road map on jobs,” said Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, as he made a statement to mark the close of the high-Level segment.  The Declaration set out unequivocally the commitment to place job creation “front and centre”.  It also recognized the need for social equity and environmental protection.  He urged Member States to consider how best to develop the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development that had been mandated at Rio, as well as ongoing work on the post-2015 framework.  In both, “there is a natural role for the Economic and Social Council,” he said.  Linking the Rio outcomes with that framework was another coordinating role for which the Council was well-suited, he said.

The Council also opened its annual coordination segment, which this year would focus on following up to the 2011 Ministerial Declaration on "implementing the internationally agreed goals and commitments in regard to education" and to the International Conference on Financing for Development.  It held two interactive dialogues relevant to that theme, including one — on “regional perspectives in youth and development” — in which the heads of the United Nations regional economic commissions reported on the state of youth in their regions and on efforts to combat the challenges they faced.

Key among those, stressed Sven Alkalaj, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), were extremely high levels of unemployment.  The jobless rate among young people in Europe was approximately 20 per cent — and almost 50 per cent in Greece and Spain.  With monetary policy pushed to its limit, additional Government spending was the only remaining avenue available to help reduce unemployment over the next few years, he said, outlining policy actions that were needed to reduce unemployment.  Among those were additional regionally coordinated fiscal stimulus, improved education and training programmes and active labour market policies.

“Investing in youth makes good economic and social sense,” agreed Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).  That Commission was working with countries across the region to strengthen such national youth policies, she said, including linking education and training programmes to labour market demands and increasing government spending on such education and training.

For its part, the Latin American and Caribbean region was learning from the past, becoming more economically prudent, more socially progressive and slower in growth, said Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).  The region faced an urgent need to recast a new development agenda centred on equality and with environmental sustainability as one of its themes. 

“The passion of the young has prevailed over the wisdom of the old,” said Rima Khalaf, Coordinator of the Regional Commissions and Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), recalling an Arab proverb.  The political developments in the region have brought a new sense of purpose and propelled youth issues to the top of the policy agenda, she said.  The majority of Arab countries were attempting to address youth issues through wider socio-economic development strategies.  Countries had also implemented youth-specific policy programmes, offering social protection and unemployment insurance, among other benefits, to young people.

Abdalla Hamdok, Deputy Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), described Africa as “a continent on the rise”, and a youth population that was “in the vanguard of political and governance changes”.  However, he said, young people continued to be marginalized, as education had failed to prepare African youth to be useful in the labour market.  One of the policy responses was the African Union’s “African Youth Charter”, adopted in 2006, which aimed to improve youth participation in decision-making at all levels of governance and civic life.

In other action today, the Council approved, by consensus, the admission of Tunisia, Libya and Morocco as members of ESCWA, as proposed in document E/2012/15/Add.2.  It also took note of the Secretary-General’s reports on: progress in international development cooperation (document E/2012/78); promoting productive capacity, employment and decent work to eradicate poverty in the context of inclusive sustainable and equitable economic growth at all levels for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (E/2012/63); and macroeconomic policies for productive capacity, employment creation, sustainable development and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, in the context of sustained, inclusive and equitable economic growth in pursuit of poverty eradication (document E/2012/74).

Beginning on Monday, 2 July, the opening day of the Council’s 2012 substantive session, the high-level segment included the annual ministerial review, which heard voluntary presentations from nine countries on their efforts to reach the Millennium Development Goals.  Their presentations were delivered by Ministers and other senior officials from Algeria, Brazil, Ecuador, Kenya, Mauritius, Qatar, Russian Federation, Senegal and Ukraine.

The week’s events also included the Development Cooperation Forum, which was structured around a series of round-table discussions and policy dialogues that addressed the future of such assistance.  Over two days, delegates examined how to unlock financial resources, make development cooperation more equitable, better tap private philanthropic organizations and gear development cooperation towards sustainable development.

The Council will reconvene tomorrow, Tuesday, 11 July, at 10 a.m., to continue its coordination segment.

Background

The Economic and Social Council met today to conclude the high-level segment of its 2012 substantive session, and begin its coordination segment.

For those discussions, delegates had before them the Secretary-General’s report on regional cooperation in the economic, social and related fields (document E/2012/15/Add.1/Add.2).  The report’s first part examines youth and development issues in the context of promoting productive capacity, employment and decent work, and inclusive economic growth.  The second part covers developments in selected areas of regional and interregional cooperation, including:  policy matters addressed during the regional commissions’ Ministerial sessions, efforts to promote coherence at the regional level, and cooperation with non-United Nations regional organizations to promote development.

Delegates also had before them a report on the Economic situation in the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) region:  Europe, North America and the Commonwealth of Independent States in 2011-2012 (document E/2012/16), which states that growth throughout most of the region had been slow in the last five years, the Central Asian economies being the exception.  Real gross domestic products (GDP) were below those achieved prior to the 2008 global crisis.  Against that backdrop, the report details how the region was impacted by the crisis.  It also discusses the impacts of the euro zone crisis on various economies and provides insight into the current economic situation as it related to unemployment, inequality and poverty, the Millennium Development Goals and regional trade.

The report entitled Overview of economic and social conditions in Africa, 2012 (document E/2012/17) states that the slowdown of the world economy restricted African economies’ policy space in 2011.  Their limited resources were channelled to long-term development priority areas, such as infrastructure and education.  External financial assistance fell, however, as donor countries, especially the euro area countries, implemented fiscal consolidation.  The report concludes, among other things, that African countries must enhance domestic resource mobilization, improve economic governance and human capital, and promote entrepreneurship.

African economies also should continue to diversify their production and export base, the report finds.  The traditional compartmentalized approach to social development must be replaced by a development perspective that recognized the interrelatedness of social indicators and used such information to prioritize interventions that had the greatest positive externalities or spillover effects on other development indicators.  Further, investing in girls’ education should be recognized as an investment in maternal and child health.

The Summary of the Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2012 (document E/2012/18) provides a growth outlook for 2012, describing the second stage of the 2008 financial crisis on Asian economies.  It looks at policy challenges and options for managing the growth and inflation balance, coping with capital flows, addressing unemployment, dealing with disaster risks and supporting a “rebalancing” of Asian economies.  Further, it looks at the long-term effects of high commodity prices, the need for continued manufacturing-led growth, and how to avoid the natural resource curse.

Also before the Council was the report entitled Latin America and the Caribbean:  economic situation and outlook, 2011-2012 (document E/2012/19), which states that in 2011, regional economic growth slowed to 4.3 per cent after a brisk 5.9 per cent rebound in 2010.  As in other years, economic performance across subregions was uneven:  GDP growth was 4.5 per cent in South America, 4.1 per cent in Central America and just 0.7 per cent in the Caribbean.  Amid increased volatility in international financial markets, the region’s growth rate was projected to slacken again in 2012, to 3.7 per cent.

The report finds that the region must prepare to cope with the worst-case scenario, readying measures and considering how to finance them if a changing external environment affects regional economies and calls for rapid response.  A key component of such strategies should be protecting and encouraging job creation with rights.  The region also should build its capacity to face an adverse external environment by deepening trade and financial ties among the countries, which ultimately could require changing the financial architecture in keeping with the needs of the moment.

Finally before delegates was the Summary of the Survey of Economic and Social Developments in the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia Region (ESCWA), 2011-2012 (document E/2012/20), which states that despite economic recovery in 2011, the outlook for 2012 was “particularly gloomy”, characterized by a significant risk of downturn, which would significantly impact the region through lower demand for exports and reduced remittances.  If market fundamentals weakened sharply, oil prices might also drop below break-even prices for fiscal sustainability in oil-exporting countries.

Those events could reduce fiscal space in oil-exporting countries, the report finds, in addition to the already-strained fiscal situation in the more diversified economies.  The region’s social situation was fragile, given the high unemployment rates.  A global downturn would magnify existing problems, aggravating uncertainty and making political transition more difficult.

Opening Remarks

Declaring open the Coordination Segment of the Council’s 2012 substantive session, Council Vice-President MOOTAZ KHALIL (Egypt) touched on the theme — namely, the role of the United Nations system in implementing the internationally agreed development goals and commitments in regard to education.  Much more needed to be done to realize the rights of all people to education, he said, calling for stronger partnerships both within the United Nations system and with other stakeholders.

In that vein, he briefly outlined the segment’s agenda, which would include over the next three days, along with today’s dialogue with Executive Secretaries of the regional commissions, follow-up to the Ministerial Declaration of 2011, follow-up to the International Conference on Financing for Development, the presentation of the annual overview report of the United Nations system Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB).

He said that the 2011 Ministerial Declaration had called on the international community, including the United Nations system, to strengthen the coordination and implementation of existing policies, programmes and follow-up mechanisms for the Education for All initiative by strengthening regional partnerships and cooperation, including North-South, South-South and triangular cooperation.

In addition, concern was expressed over the persistently high levels of youth unemployment worldwide and, in that regard, the need to design education and training programmes that improved employability and individual capacities through skills development was emphasized.  In the course of its deliberation on that matter, he said, the Council would take stock of the Organization’s progress in the field of education through the angle of coordinated and/or joint initiatives, among other partnerships.

Describing a number of panel discussions that would complement that work, he went on to say that the Council was expected to adopt three draft resolutions:  one on the role of the United Nations system in implementing the internationally agreed development goals and commitments in regard to education; one on financing for development; and one on the requests of Tunisia, Libya and Morocco to become members of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA).

Dialogue with Executive Secretaries of the Regional Commissions

This morning, the Council held a dialogue and interactive discussion with the Executive Secretaries of the United Nations regional commissions on the theme “Regional perspectives on youth and development”.  The session’s five panellists were:  Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP); Sven Alkalaj, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE); Rima Khalaf, Coordinator of the Regional Commissions and Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA); Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC); and Abdalla Hamdok, Deputy Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).

Speaking first, Ms. HEYZER provided a brief snapshot of the situation of youth in the Asia-Pacific region, where over 60 per cent of the world’s youth resided.  Due to rapid population ageing, the number of youth in East and North-East Asia had already begun to decline, she said, while almost half of youth were concentrated in South and South-West Asia.  The region was on track to meet the Millennium Development Goal targets on education, including for gender parity in that sphere.  Nonetheless, barriers remained for vulnerable youth to access education.  Young men and women were spending more years in school, delaying their entry into the labour market.  Meanwhile, though unemployment in the Asia-Pacific region was relatively low compared to other parts of the world, youth were still three to five times more likely to be unemployed than adults.

“In Asia-Pacific, many countries have been able to successfully tap the demographic dividend,” she said, referring to the utilization of a large working-age population.  It had been estimated that one third of the economic growth of East Asia was driven by the increase in labour supply arising from a large youthful population, she noted in that regard, pointing to a mix of education policies, investment in human capital, macro-economic stability and related factors as precursors to that success.  Several challenges still faced young people in the Asia-Pacific region, however, including a lack of access to sexual and reproductive health services and a high vulnerability to health risks, such as HIV infection.

Young people in the region were highly connected, she said, and they were engaged in promoting good governance through such mechanisms as a highly developed youth civil society in the Philippines and youth parliamentarian forums in Pakistan and Timor-Leste.  They were a driving force for economic development, she added, noting that there was a national policy to increase employability in Bangladesh, a national strategy to generate jobs in Viet Nam and a national initiative to promote entrepreneurship among youth in China.

The Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific was working with countries across the region to strengthen such national youth policies, including linking education and training programmes to labour market demands and increasing Government spending on such education and training.  “Investing in youth makes good economic and social sense,” she said in that respect.  It was also necessary to enhance inter-generational contracts in order to generate decent jobs for youth in the formal sector, create a sustainable tax benefit system and promote universal social protection through a “life-cycle approach”, she said.

Mr. ALKALAJ said that the most immediate challenge facing Europe’s youth was unemployment.  The unemployment rate was approximately 20 per cent — and almost 50 per cent in Greece and Spain.  It was especially high for migrants and persons with disabilities.  With monetary policy pushed to its limit, additional Government spending was the only remaining avenue available to help reduce unemployment over the next few years, he said, outlining policy actions that were needed to reduce unemployment.  Among those were additional regionally coordinated fiscal stimulus, improved education and training programmes and active labour market policies.

The European Union’s “New Skills for New Jobs” initiative sought to improve the match between labour market needs and the skills and training that students received.  Unfortunately, cuts to such programmes had been made as part of austerity measures in many countries.  He said that transition economies’ school systems and training programmes had yet to adapt to the needs of a market economy, and many previously attempted policies to enhance youth employment — such as lowering minimum wages, short-term contracts and others — usually did not work.

The region needed to better integrate youth from disadvantaged groups, such as migrants and the Roma community, into the educational system and labour markets.  Additionally, Europe should create “innovative, dynamic and green economies”, he said, which required more students to complete secondary and tertiary levels of education, and family planning and child care facilities to reduce the economic costs of motherhood, among other policies.

Touching on several of the additional challenges facing young people in the region, he said that some 10 per cent of children in transition economies were moderately or severely stunted.  HIV/AIDS was still a major problem in Eastern Europe.  Further, Europe had the lowest birth rates and the oldest populations of any world region.  “Young people will have to pay the bill,” he said of future costs facing the region.  Finally, Europe had a history of conflicts, and the economic crisis had only exacerbated challenges in problem areas.

Ms. KHALAF recalled an Arab proverb, “the passion of the young has prevailed over the wisdom of the old,” which she said captured the region’s strategies since the Arab Spring uprisings.  Development in Arab countries must be viewed in the context of demographic trends, namely, a large youth socio-economic cohort that represented 20 per cent of the total population.  Significant progress had been made in terms of enrolment in education over the past decade.  However, one out of every four young people — even those that were educated — was unemployed.  Young women still suffered a double challenge due to their gender; along with young people in rural areas and those with disabilities, the trend of increased unemployment was highest among young women.

“All of this is not new, but the political developments in the region have brought a new sense of purpose and propelled youth issues to the top of the policy agenda,” she said.  The majority of Arab countries were attempting to address youth issues through wider socio-economic development strategies.  General employment programmes had been rolled out in countries such as Jordan and Morocco.  Countries had also implemented youth-specific policy programmes, offering social protection and unemployment insurance, among other benefits, to young people.

Reviewing the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory — where young people existed in the context of the Israeli occupation — she said that the Palestinian strategy on unemployment necessarily had to be more holistic, focusing on increased participation in state-building, empowerment, capacity development and the investment in youth with limited means.  “The ultimate goal is to allow the region to capitalize on its new quest for freedom, democracy and dignity,” she said of the Middle East and North Africa overall.

To that end, harnessing the potential of youth required a more concerted effort that empowered them to participate in the making of their own future.  There was a need to address the multiple levels of exclusion — political, economic, social and cultural — as well as to build the capacity of young people to participate in decision-making.  She said that ESCWA was therefore working in such areas as advocacy for promoting youth inclusion and related policy reforms, strengthening national capacity of member countries in the formulation of targeted youth-related strategies, organizing training workshops, encouraging research related to youth needs, and others.  It was also organizing a series of discussion forums and workshops to allow the voices of youth to be heard.  “The youth have proven to be active agents of economic, social and political transformation,” she concluded, calling on Council members to recognize that a “new era is dawning” in that respect.

Ms. BÁRCENA said “youth is the critical link between the present and the future.”  Today, the Latin America and the Caribbean region was learning from the past, and was becoming more prudent in macroeconomic terms, more progressive in social terms and slower in economic growth in 2011 and 2012 than in 2010.  The region faced an urgent need to recast a new development agenda centred on equality and with environmental sustainability as one of its themes.  Young people in the region had greater access to education but less access to employment.  They had greater access to information but less access to power.  They were more adaptable to productive change but more excluded from that process.  Latin American young people found themselves in harsh realities, such as dire public finances, inflation and deficits.  About 10.5 million young people aged 15 to 29 years lived in extreme poverty, or 30.3 per cent of those living in poverty. 

Two keys to closing the social inclusion gaps affecting young people were education and employment, she said.  Completing secondary school was vital for youth because that was “where inclusion begins”.   The region was falling short of its goal of achieving a 75 per cent rate for secondary education.  Murder and suicide were the primary cause for young people’s deaths in the region.  The main challenges for reducing social inclusion gaps included:  promoting capacity-building for young people, especially those from lower-income groups, through greater progress in school; access to quality education and training, and access to information and communications technology; facilitating the education-employment link through labour intermediation policies and closer coordination between the labour market and school leaving; and placing special emphasis on social investment in groups of young people in a particularly vulnerable situation, such as rural youth, indigenous youth, adolescent mothers and young people exposed to violence. 

Mr. HAMDOK said Africa was “a continent on the rise” and that it continued to change at a rapid pace.  The view of Africa had shifted from a continent of poverty and misery to one with a vast potential.  African youth were in the vanguard of political and governance changes, contributing to the anti-colonial struggle and battling against apartheid.  Youth had led the Arab Spring in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.  In the African Union’s definition, those 15-35 years of age were youth and this group constituted and would continue to constitute a huge percentage of the population.

Young people were marginalized, he said.  Education being provided had failed to prepare African youth to be useful in the labour market.  One of the policy responses was African Youth Charter, which was adopted in 2006 by African Union Head of States and Governments and had come into force in 2008, aiming to improve youth participation in all spheres of society including decision-making at all levels of governance and civic life.  Moving forward, ECA was organizing a major international conference on “Youth and Democratization in Africa:  Comparative Experiences and Lessons Learned” in October.  At the national level, several African nations had established national Youth Councils, Youth Employment Schemes and Youth Parliaments.  Involving youth representatives in governance processes such as the African Peer Review Mechanism was essential as well.

In the ensuing interactive dialogue, speakers praised the “accurate and lively” presentations of the panellists, as well as the work of the regional commissions in general.  Many also described national and regional policies — including, in particular, measures characterized as South-South cooperation — that were aimed at reversing high rates of youth unemployment.  In that vein, a number of delegates agreed with the panellists that there was a need to better utilize available policy space to tap into the potential of a large, unemployed youth population around the world.

Youth had become the most creative part of society, added one speaker in that regard, noting that they were the driving force of the social and economic situations in many countries.  The representatives of several States also queried the panellists.  For example, the representative of Ghana asked Mr. Hamdok what measures had been taken to ensure that the African Union’s African Youth Charter was implemented.  What processes were in place to ensure the provision of quality education that was in line with the world’s changing labour market? he asked.

Similarly, the representative of Cameroon — stressing that “young people do not represent the future, they represent the present” — asked Mr. Hamdok what cooperation efforts were being undertaken by ECA to back the African Union’s other broad-based programmes in support of the region’s youth.  Meanwhile, the representative of the United States asked if there were any assessment measures that had been particularly useful in learning which policies worked best to combat youth unemployment, and whether there was a way to involve youth themselves in that assessment process.

In addition, the representative of Tunisia proposed that the regional commissions include, in their next reports, an assessment of youth unemployment policies and recommendations on how national policies could better respond to the jobs crisis.

Responding to those comments and questions, Mr. HAMDOK said that ECA had played an active role in the development of the African Youth Charter, and would continue to engage in the monitoring and assessment of its implementation, including through an annual report.  To Cameroon’s representative, he added that the Commission was engaged in a number of activities, and cited, in that respect, the Africa Development Forum, which addressed the leadership development of African youth.  With regards to methodology and evaluation, he said that active market labour policies worked best when they were conceived with the active participation of youth themselves, and when they had development outcome objectives.

Other panellists, including Ms. KHALAF, also touched on development issues in their responses.  Political aspects could not be separated from developmental ones, she stressed in that respect, adding that human development could not be achieved in the absence of freedom and rights.  Therefore, ESCWA was expanding its focus on development concerns, she said.  Ms. BÁRCENA turned to the related issue of peace and security, noting that indicators of citizen security were crucial to her Commission’s work across Latin America.

Ms. HEYZER addressed the issue of sustainable development, saying that ESCAP would take up that issue going forward, as a follow up to the recently concluded United Nations Conferences on Sustainable Development (Rio+20).  Meanwhile, Mr. ALKALAJ said that ECE was presently undertaking a reform process.  It was conducting informal consultations among its member States, he said; a reform document would be presented to members by September and would be finalized by the end of the year.

Action on Ministerial Declaration

Following the panel discussion, Economic and Social Council President MILOŠ KOTEREC said the 54-member body had “come a long way” in the preparation of the text of the Ministerial Declaration (document E/2012/L.10*) for its high-level segment, “Promoting productive capacity, employment and decent work to eradicate poverty in the context of inclusive, sustainable and equitable economic growth at all levels for achieving the Millennium Development Goals”.  The Bureau was keen on adopting the Declaration because it dealt with a subject of utmost importance.

“When you see young people on the street yearning for work, then you see how important it is for us to get our act together,” he said in that respect.  He was aware that some delegations still wanted more time to consider the Declaration.  However, he felt that more time would not help in this case, and instead urged them to record their reservations.  “This is your text,” he stressed, adding, “Let’s end the [high-Level] session on a high note.  We need to send a strong message to the world.”

The Ministerial Declaration was then adopted by consensus.

Several delegations then took the floor to clarify their positions or note reservations to the text.  Speaking first, the representative of the United States said her delegation was pleased to join consensus on the Ministerial Declaration, which rightly highlighted the importance of shared commitment to overcoming hurdles to decent employment for all in the twenty-first century.  Her delegation wished to clarify, however, that paragraph 10 of the text related only to those obligations and commitments already undertaken by States.  Further, all the elements of the Declaration should be interpreted in a manner consistent with international law and with the United Nations Charter.

The representative of India said that his delegation had joined in the consensus in the spirit of constructive engagement.  However, he said, “this was a big opportunity for us to underline that employment is important,” and added:  “I wish we had gone to full mile on that, and said so in so many words”.  Among other clarifications, he said that India understood paragraphs 27 and 46 did not refer to matters of compliance with International Labour Organization (ILO) resolutions, but instead meant that States were to undertake their own measures.  “The ink is not even dry on the Rio+20 outcome document,” he said.  The Council should have used the present opportunity — the first meeting of a major United Nations body following the summit — to have stressed that the Rio text needed to be put into “quick effect.”

Ireland’s representative, speaking on behalf of the European Union, recognized that achieving consensus had not been an easy process.  Less than three weeks ago, Rio+20 had reaffirmed the overarching role of the three pillars of sustainable development.  It had highlighted the inclusive green economy, and the fact that each country should implement it in its own way.  Among others reservations, the European Union regretted that specifics regarding that issue did not make it into the final Declaration.  The green economy was critical for poverty eradication, decent job creation, food security and ecosystem resilience, he said.

The representative of Bolivia would have liked a few more hours to “fine-tune” the document, he said.  More time would likely have changed operative paragraph 5, he added, stressing that it would also have been important to pay homage to the Rio conference and its conclusions.  Bolivia was opposed to the way the paragraph was put forward.  Rio+20 had already reached conclusions on those themes, therefore it was not appropriate to say that the Council would “address” those issues.  Instead, the paragraph should have read in the past tense and not reconsidered what was already accomplished in Rio.  It should have further motioned that countries had the sovereign right to choose their own approaches and tools for sustainable development.

The representative of Ecuador also expressed reservations with regard to paragraph 5, which reflected the content of paragraph 2 of the Rio outcome.  He agreed that the themes of Rio+20 had already been dealt with.  Ecuador had hoped instead for an outcome dealing with “follow-up” to that conference.  Furthermore, he said, there had been a number of attempts to reinterpret the section on the green economy.  That was one of the tools available to countries, but each country should take its own approach in achieving sustainable development.

Panel on Partnerships for Development

In the afternoon, the Council held a panel discussion on “Mobilizing partnerships for development, including in the field of education”.  Moderated by John Hendra, Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), the panel featured presentations by:  Robert Orr, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Strategic Planning, Executive Office of the Secretary-General of the United Nations; Qian Tang, Assistant Director-General, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); and Martin Mogwanja, Deputy Executive Director, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Launching the discussion, Council Vice-President KHALIL said that for over 50 years, partnerships had been integral to the United Nations work.  Today, the need for collaboration was greater than ever amid increasingly complex and interdependent challenges, combined with the growing reach of non-State actors.  There was also a clear need to maximize the potential of partnerships for advancing the Organization’s development agenda.  He expressed hope that today’s discussion could shed light on the ways in which collaboration with the United Nations and other actors — including the private sector and civil society — could be strengthened.  Examples of partnerships in support for the Education for All goals would be considered.

Mr. HENDRA laid out four broad points participants should keep in mind for today’s discussion:  how important had partnerships become at the United Nations?  They had become a top priority of Secretary-General; what had worked best?  An early agreement among partners was key to success.  Desired goals and clear responsibilities for each partner must be articulated up front; partnerships should not be a substitute for Government efforts; and finally, there was a need for new norms and innovative partnerships.

He asked panellists to address such issues as what specific measures could be taken to maximize synergies and ensure impact of partnerships under the current economic climate and financial constraints and how the Council could effectively contribute to strengthening partnerships.

Taking the floor first, Mr. ORR said it was a healthy sign that partnership was much talked about in the context of development.  The financial crisis had reduced the resources of the United Nations, and there was the need to find ways to reverse that trend.  The critical importance of partnerships had been recognized in many outcome documents adopted at major conferences on development, including last month’s Rio+20 conference.  He also said that partnerships could and should be enhanced in several different ways, including, among others, by enhancing their efficiency and effectiveness, improving accountability, lowering transaction costs and ensuring a more systematized approach.

Next, Mr. TANG said the Education for All initiative was a global commitment made in Dakar, Senegal, at the 2000 World Education Forum.  Six goals had been set to provide quality basic education for all children, youth and adults by 2015.  A number of strategic initiatives had emerged, involving a range of stakeholders:  Governments, international and regional organizations, donors, development banks, civil society and the private sector.  UNESCO was tasked to coordinate those efforts and maintain collaborative momentum.  Education for all would only be achieved if it was grounded in a broad societal movement, he said, and nourished by viable Government-civil society partnerships.  As alternative service providers, civil society actors were sources of new thinking.  They were informed critics, advocates and played an important role as policy partners.  UNESCO’s civil society partnership coordination mechanism facilitated dialogue among close to 300 national, regional and international member organizations.

In addition, the roles played by the private sector in education were multiple, he continued.  It was a service provider, funder, innovator, policy advisor and advocate.  Technology companies — such as Microsoft and Samsung — had been particularly active in the education movement and UNESCO was working with them on teacher training and distance learning.  Describing partnerships, he said that in 2007, UNESCO and the World Economic Forum launched the “Partnerships for Education” initiative, which facilitated the development of a multi-stakeholder partnership.  The project was in a transition phase towards a “global alliance” of cooperative partners, which would provide a forum for debating the post-2015 education agenda.  Cooperation with the private sector was relatively new for UNESCO, and in that regard, it needed a more innovative approach to cooperation with it.

Mr. MOGWANJA said “education is a basic human right and is indispensable to other fundamental rights.”  Tackling today’s complex challenges required partnership of multiple stakeholders, and for UNICEF, such collaboration was becoming increasingly important.  The private sector was a key actor.  UNICEF was partnering, for instance, with the World Economic Forum. 

Also, it was partnering with the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the Hamburg Society in the Schools for Africa initiative, which had provided quality education to 5.5 million children.  He announced that a similar programme was being planned for Asia.  In addition to those regional initiatives, country-level programmes were also being implemented. 

He went on to say that public-private partnerships faced an equity dilemma.  Low-fee private schools proliferated, due to the poor quality of public education and other factors, but this type of education could not be a solution to universal education.  This only increased the burden of the marginalized households.  The shrinking fiscal space worldwide was making it difficult for Governments to make education a priority, he said.  Corporations needed to seek quick returns.  Public-private partnerships could add value but also could be overused.  There was a need to bear in mind that the interests of excluded children came first.

Partnership should be based on results, he declared, adding that it must have comparative advantages and deliver greater value for the money.  Those potential benefits and goals must be identified up front.  Monitoring performance was challenging but vital.  There was also a need for a clear exit strategy because some partnerships continued after they were no longer effective.  To be launched this year, a new Global Initiative on Education would raise the political profile of education post-2015.  What was needed were better — not more — partnerships.  “Partnership is a means, but not an end in itself,” he said.

Mr. HENDRA then asked the panellists a host of questions to stimulate discussion.

Responding to a question about key lessons learned, Mr. ORR said it was important to leverage the United Nations strengths, first and foremost, its universal membership.  The coherence challenge was very real both on the ground and globally.  Aspirations to transformational change required engaging the political level, he said, noting that transparency and accountability were important in unleashing that kind of change.  “We do need capacity that could serve the whole United Nations system,” he said, noting that smaller agencies, funds and departments could benefit disproportionately.

“Partnership is not free,” he said.  It was hard work and required a lot of staff time.  Costs must be lowered for everyone.  One idea would be to replicate the same offices across the United Nations system, because interaction with the Organization now was “extremely frustrating” for external partners.  The perception was that “we are not as user friendly as we ought to be”.  The volume of partnerships that UNICEF had was impressive.  Its machinery was impressive.  But even it could benefit from having common services to identify common partners.

Mr. TANG, asked for his views on using partnerships to advance the post-2015 agenda and about the Council’s most useful role in that regard, said that last year at a UNESCO conference, the agency was asked to undertake two key responsibilities:  to lead debate on the post-2015 education agenda, and to help each country carry out a national assessment of achievements and challenges.  As for the Economic and Social Council, he said it had a much larger scope.  Through the Council, he hoped the scope of the education discussion could be enlarged to achieve consensus.

Responding to Mr. HENDRA’s question about addressing systemic challenges that hindered public-private partnerships in education, Mr. MOGWANJA said the key was flexibility.  There was no one-size-fits-all approach and partners must have a clear idea of the goals at hand.  He also recommended investing in monitoring, so that all members of partnership could see progress towards the goals.  United Nations agencies responsible for the “rights approach” must strengthen their advocacy for children in need of education.

When the floor was opened for the interactive dialogue, respondent Rebecca Winthrop, Director of the Center for Universal Education, Brookings Institution, agreed that engagement with the private sector was a new area for education actors.  She asked panellists how more financing for education could be mobilized through the private sector.  Some $7 billion from major United States corporations went to health interventions in the developing world; only $500 million went to education.  She underlined the importance of being action-oriented with the private sector, moving engagement out of corporate social responsibility areas and into profit-making.  That was how the health sector had mobilized private-sector resources.  She also asked about ways the United Nations could better share information.

Other delegates lamented that perennial bottlenecks cropped up in public-private partnerships for education, commenting that academia was often biased against private-sector participation, due in part to the long-term commitment required.  For their part, companies often only wanted to invest in higher education, where there were higher fees.  One delegate asked about private-sector involvement in technical schools to build specific capacities.  Another speaker asked about how to engage children and youth in education.

Responding, Mr. MOGWANJA said technical schools were most appropriate for private-sector involvement.  For every engineer trained at university, five technicians were needed to work at various institutions.  There should also be commensurate investment in the technical level at private universities, to ensure that engineers could function effectively in any economy.  It also had been shown that technicians could start their own small- and medium-sized enterprises, replicating the impact of their education.

To the point about community involvement, he said education was itself a community activity.  There was every possibility for youth to be engaged in the provision of education through support for community schools, child care and contributing in different ways to the education system.

Mr. TANG tackled the issue of measuring learning outcomes, saying that area required attention.  After the Arab Spring, ministers from Arab countries visited UNESCO and requested curricula in education for peace and human rights.  Partnerships were needed to develop indicators that measured learning outcomes from such education.

To a query on the issue of children leaving school due to health reasons, Mr. ORR said it was important to ensure that United Nations country teams were empowered to look at those problems in a multifaceted way.  On other matters, he said financing was among the top issues to address.  It was tough to attract private-sector interest in education.  Central questions must be asked about what kind of partnerships were needed.  He argued that the civil society dimension of the education partnership was pivotal.  Chasing the private sector could ultimately lead to disappointment and he cautioned against “over-privatizing” the conversation.  Just as important as extending resources was a focus on extending reach.

Closing the meeting, Mr. KHALIL said “education is still a valid goal” and in the run-up to 2015, there should be a focus on Millennium Development Goal 2 (universal primary education).  A vision for pursuing education after the deadline must also be developed.  There were different types of education — including training for employment.  New aspects — such as education on peace, tolerance, or human rights — must be addressed along the way, bearing in mind that there was no one size fits all approach.  A number of lessons had been learned from partnerships, he said, which were an important complement to Government efforts in achieving development goals.  “We need more and better partnerships,” he said, citing accountability, impact, effectiveness and sustainability — including financial sustainability — as important in that regard.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.