While Making Measured Progress, Least Developed Countries Still Need Help Building Productive Capacities, High Representative Tells Economic and Social Council
While Making Measured Progress, Least Developed Countries Still Need Help Building Productive Capacities, High Representative Tells Economic and Social Council
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Economic and Social Council
2012 Substantive Session
42nd & 43rd Meetings (AM & PM)
While Making Measured Progress, Least Developed Countries Still Need Help Building
Productive Capacities, High Representative Tells Economic and Social Council
Reviewing 2011 Istanbul Action Plan, Council also Discusses Haiti, South Sudan;
Adopts Texts on Coherence in Tobacco Control; Science, Technology for Development
A prosperous future for the world’s 48 poorest nations hinged on continued support for building their productive capacities, improving their access to technology and integrating into their national development plans the Istanbul Programme of Action, which aimed to see at least half of those countries graduate from their “least developed” status by 2030, the Economic and Social Council heard today, as it examined those challenges with a focus on Haiti and South Sudan.
Those issues took centre stage as the Council, in day two of its general segment, grappled with how the United Nations followed up on the outcomes of its major summits and conferences, and coordinated efforts to support disaster- or conflict-affected countries. The Istanbul Programme of Action, adopted in May 2011 at the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries, in Istanbul, Turkey, laid out a 10-year plan to help the most vulnerable nations overcome poverty.
Cheick Sidi Diarra, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, introduced the Secretary-General’s first report on the implementation of the Programme of Action, which had, over the past year, become the benchmark against which all future progress in those countries would be measured.
He emphasized that economic activity in the least developed countries was still very vulnerable to exogenous shocks. To be sure, poverty had only declined slowly and most countries had not seen meaningful structural changes during the period under review. Progress in building infrastructure had been mixed, while agriculture had not expanded much in most of those nations.
Despite those hurdles, he said that for the first time, a growing number of least developed countries — though still very few — had met the graduation criteria or were likely to do so in the coming years, he said. Samoa was expected to graduate in 2014, while Equatorial Guinea, Tuvalu and Vanuatu had met graduation criteria for at least the third time, and both Kiribati and Angola had met them for the first time.
Thanks to a strong political commitment, broader visions of the Istanbul Programme of Action were being echoed in national development plans. What was needed now, he said, was for international financial institutions to better recognize the “least developed” category of nations, which would mark an important step towards realizing the priorities agreed in Istanbul.
Striking a similar chord, Guillermo Rishchynski ( Canada) introduced the report of the Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti, providing the latest overview of the country’s reconstruction following the devastating 2010 earthquake. The report made a number of recommendations to the United Nations, Haiti’s development partners and the Haitian Government. It pressed the Government to establish national priorities and take responsibility for national programmes. Partners needed to step up financial resources, as there had been a downward trend in payouts. It also highlighted the need to continue coordination with United Nations bodies, including the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).
During and after its May visit to Haiti, the Group had seen evidence of progress over the last year, he said. A new Government was in place and there was newfound institutional capacity. There also had been a notable shift in the transfer of responsibility of programmes and projects to Haitian partners. A long-term vision for development must ensure a more prosperous future. The challenges were manifold. Donors should be mobilized to assist in stabilization efforts and the Government must show the aptitude and determination to shoulder its responsibilities. “The only thing we cannot envisage is failure,” he concluded.
Josefa Raymond Gauthier, Minister of Planning and External Cooperation of Haiti, agreed, saying that Haiti was a “harbinger of great hope”, but was also fragile. Its status would worsen if international partners failed to help improve its governance and attract foreign investment. Haiti had made gains in the area of education and did have documentation to prove it, contrary to what was stated in the Group’s report. In addition, a budget forecast now anticipated project needs, and other efforts were under way to decentralize decision making to each of the country’s 10 regions. The strategic development plan was a “realistic” programme that sought to make Haiti an emerging country by 2030.
In the afternoon, the Council’s review of the United Nations work moved to South Sudan, with Shamshad Akhtar, Assistant Secretary-General for the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introducing the first-ever report on the implementation of integrated, coherent and coordinated support to a country that faced “formidable” human and physical capacity challenges. Despite its oil wealth, South Sudan ranked among the least developed countries with some of the harshest living conditions.
Amid “daunting and multiple challenges”, the United Nations had made South Sudan’s transition from relief to development its highest priority, he said, noting it had worked with partners to develop an approach that envisioned a gradual shift from providing life-saving services to working under the leadership of national authorities. Through the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF), the United Nations was aligning its plans with national priorities. It also was coordinating efforts between the country team and Resident Coordinator’s office to establish “common operational systems” to streamline programme delivery.
In its interactive discussion on the same theme, Mary Jarvas Yak, Deputy Minister of Finance of South Sudan, said: “We are starting with very little, building institutions of governance from scratch.” The transition was “overwhelming in both scale and complexity”. The main objective — as laid out in the 2011-2013 development plan — was to build a democratic, transparent and accountable Government, managed by a professional and committed public service, and with an effective balance of power between the executive, legislative and judicial branches. With the support of its partners, including the United Nations, South Sudan was rapidly ensuring that State structures could manage core governance functions.
In final business today, the Council, acting on the recommendation of its Commission on Science and Technology for Development, adopted two resolutions and a decision contained in the Commission’s report of its fiftieth session. By the first resolution — “Assessment of the progress made in the implementation of and follow-up to the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society” — the Council urged United Nations entities still not cooperating in the implementation of the outcomes of the World Summit and its follow-up to commit to a people-centred, inclusive and development-oriented information society.
By the second resolution — on “science and technology for development” — the Council decided to make the several recommendations for consideration by national Governments, the Commission and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). In a related decision, the Council took note of the Commission’s report and approved the provisional agenda for its sixtieth session.
The Council also adopted a consensus resolution on United Nations system-wide coherence on tobacco control, which recognized the fundamental conflict of interest between the tobacco industry and public health, including in the work of the United Nations.
Also speaking today was Abulkalam Abdul Momen ( Bangladesh), Chairman of the Peacebuilding Commission, who briefed the Council on the economic and social challenges of peacebuilding in African countries emerging from conflict.
Amanda Serumaga, Team Leader of the Democratic Governance Unit of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in South Sudan, participated on the South Sudan panel.
Mongi Hamdi, of the Science, Technology and ICT Branch of the Technology and Logistics Division of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), introduced the Secretary-General’s report on Progress made in the implementation of and follow-up to the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society at the regional and international levels.
The Economic and Social Council will reconvene at 10:00 a.m. Wednesday, 25 July, to continue the general segment of its 2012 substantive session.
Continuing its general segment today, the Economic and Social Council was expected to discuss the agenda item on the review and coordination of the implementation of the Istanbul Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011-2020.
Delegates had before them the Secretary-General’s reports on the implementation of the Programme of Action (document E/2012/75) and document E/2012/33 (Supp. No. 13). A related draft resolution (document E/2012/L.12) was to be introduced, with no action expected today.
For its discussion on coordination, programme and other questions, the Council had it before a conference room paper on a long-term programme of support for Haiti (document E/2012/CRP.2). A related draft resolution (document E/2012/L.16) was to be introduced for action at a later date.
The Council was also expected to hold a panel on integrated, coherent and coordinated support to South Sudan. Delegates had before them the Secretary-General’s report on implementation of integrated, coherent and coordinated support to South Sudan by the United Nations system (document E/2012/76).
For its discussion on science and technology for development, the Council had before it several reports: (documents E/2012/31, E/2012/31/Corr.1, A/67/66–E/2012/49, A/67/66/Add.1–E/2012/49/Add.1 and A/67/65–E/2012/48).
Introduction of Report by Under-Secretary-General
CHEICK SIDI DIARRA, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, said that the first edition of the report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of the Istanbul Programme of Action for those countries set the benchmark against which future progress would be measured.
Beginning his overview, he said that economic activity continued to be very vulnerable to exogenous shocks, as evidenced by the recent downturn partly caused by the sovereign debt crisis in Europe. Poverty rates had only declined slowly. Moreover, most least developed countries had not witnessed meaningful structural changes during the period under review. The natural resource-based sources accounted for a growing share of their gross domestic products. In addition, progress in building infrastructure had been mixed, and agriculture had not expanded much in most least developed countries. Nonetheless, food security seemed to have improved.
“The share of least developed countries in global trade increased,” he continued, turning to the world markets. However, that improvement came with some caveats. Much of the growth of least developed countries was driven by the boom in exports of natural resources and low-skilled manufactured goods. Stringent rules of origin, preference erosion and non-tariff barriers had limited the effectiveness of new preferential schemes that had been put in place. He highlighted, in that regard, that the World Trade Organization members had agreed to streamline and facilitate the accession progress for least developing countries beginning this month. “It is now crucial that the accession guidelines will be amended to facilitate accession negotiations with least developed countries,” he said in that respect.
On human and social development, he said that most least developed countries had made important strides towards universal primary education, gender equality and empowerment goals. Equally commendable was the build-up of buffers, including through reserve accumulation and the reduction of domestic debt, which had enabled the least developed countries to shield their economies to some extent from the fuel, food price, financial and economic crises. Rising sources of official development assistance (ODA) and other sources of financing had also contributed to that, he said, commending, in that vein, the European Union and Canada for having reached the lower 0.15 per cent target for the Istanbul Programme of Action in 2011 and 2010, respectively. However, he expressed concern that overall bilateral aid to least developed countries declined in real terms according to Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) statistics.
Key achievements in governance included continued commitment to the fight against corruption, improvement in budget execution and reporting and the quota and voice reforms in the Bretton Woods Institutions. The sum of such positive economic and social developments was that — for the first time — a growing number of least developed countries, though still very few, had met the graduation criteria or were likely to do so in the years to come. For that reason, he said, the Istanbul action plan had requested the General Assembly to establish an ad-hoc open-ended working group on smooth transition.
Indeed, thanks to a strong political commitment, priority areas of action and broader visions of the Istanbul Programme of Action were increasingly being echoed in the national development plans and long-term visions of several least developed countries. The governing bodies of many United Nations entities and other organizations had been called on to mainstream the action plan into their respective programmes of work, he said. In line with those commitments, some of those organizations had tailored or continued their normative and operational work to advance development in the least developed countries.
His Office had carved a way forward for the implementation of the Istanbul Programme of Action, and a number of specific activities were contained in that road map. For instance, it called for the establishment of the working group on the indicators to monitor, review and implement the Programme of Action. Others who could help to contribute to its implementation were non-governmental stakeholders, academia and the Global Compact, he added.
Concluding, he said that the first year of implementation of the Istanbul action plan had helped to create a growing awareness of the least developed countries’ development challenges and a consensus, both domestic and among development partners, on the need to address their obstacles. Those efforts should be scaled up, he said, and a larger recognition of the least developed category, particularly by international and regional financial institutions, would constitute an important step towards the effective implementation of the Istanbul Programme of Action.
GYAN CHANDRA ACHARYA (Nepal), speaking on behalf of the least developed countries, said the world’s poorest nations continued to confront structural constraints and unique development challenges. The Istanbul Programme of Action had set the ambitious goal of enabling half of those countries to meet the criteria for graduation from the “least developed” category by 2020. Yet, since the action plan had been adopted in May 2011, those nations remained concerned that they still faced challenges creating decent jobs, building productive capacity, constructing infrastructure and ensuring access to affordable technologies. Further, the countries emerging from conflict faced other issues relating to stabilization and governance and there was an urgent need for more international support for them.
“The growing financing gap continues to be the major impediment in our development efforts,” he said, noting that least developed countries were heavily dependent on official development assistance, foreign direct investment, debt relief and concessional lending. He was concerned that ODA to least developed countries had dropped by 8.9 per cent in real terms in 2011, as compared to 3 per cent to developing countries. He called on partners to move beyond the lower ODA target of 0.15 per cent of gross national income (GNI) in the days ahead. It was high time for donors — and other developing countries in a position to do so — to set progressive quantitative aid targets.
In other areas, he called on the Bretton Woods Institutions to renew the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Debt Initiative, and on development partners to help least developed countries promote measures for enhancing foreign investment. Access to knowledge and technology was also critical. Priority should be given to creating a “technology bank” and a science, technology and innovation support mechanism to that end. Full use of South-South and triangular cooperation would complement North-South cooperation. Integration of the Istanbul action plan into national contexts, and all relevant international processes, was also critical. “We fully acknowledge that our development is primarily our own responsibility,” he said. But least developed countries could not fulfil the priority areas on their own. He urged partners, United Nations agencies and others to fulfil their responsibilities within the framework of a renewed global partnership.
WANG MIN ( China), aligning with the Group of 77 and China, said the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries testified to the strong international commitment to the development of those nations. The Istanbul Programme of Action had identified priority areas with the hope that half of those nations would graduate by 2020. The next stage of work was to translate those commitments into action. It was important to respect the leadership of least developed countries in their own development, with supportive measures consistent with their strategies.
Next, he urged strengthening supportive measures on the basis of priorities established by the Istanbul Programme of Action, paying special attention to productive capacity, trade, agriculture and primary products. ODA pledges also must be fulfilled in a timely manner. Supervision and implementation of the Programme of Action must be strengthened, with international organizations integrating it into their work on the basis of their comparative advantages. He said China would continue to provide assistance to the least developed countries within the framework of South-South cooperation, noting that the two sets of old and new “eight measures” had been implemented for African development.
YUSRA KHAN ( Indonesia) said the least developed countries had admirably and impressively embarked on important development efforts, which had resulted in important gains for them. But despite their impressive efforts, and even with progress complemented by international support through the United Nations programmes launched for them three decades ago, their structural challenges remained a major obstacle. External forces such as the financial, food and fuel crises had tremendously undercut their progress. It was disheartening that many of the least developed countries could not meet the Millennium Development Goals.
It was true that those countries themselves were best placed to identify their development needs and priorities, and were ultimately responsible for their development. Yet, he said, it should not be forgotten that the Istanbul action plan had assured that the least developed countries’ desire and ability to walk the road that many were already enjoying was one that the international community would not leave them to carve out on their own. Regional partnerships and South-South cooperation could contribute to addressing economic and social gaps among countries, and create stability, community building and resilience. However, these should not replace global partnerships or North-South cooperation.
ALISON CHARTRES (Australia) said that the Programme of Action was important because it had refocused attention on the least developed countries in a time of great global change. It was critical not to lose such focus on the countries most in need of international support, she said. The Programme had also risen to the challenge of balancing human and social development, on the one hand, with the need to build viable productive capacity, on the other. Business development, microfinance, science and technology, among other important areas, were a prerequisite for development, she stressed. In addition, the Programme reminded the world of the extent to which global crises — including climate change — threatened to worsen the situation in the world’s poorest countries.
Australia was fully committed to the implementation of the Istanbul Programme of Action across the multilateral system. Five least developed countries in the Asia Pacific region were among Australia’s largest development partners, and the country had programmes in Afghanistan and other countries. She also welcomed the firm commitment of countries in the outcome of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) to prioritize least developed countries in the post-2015 agenda — that “unfinished business” must continue, she stressed in that respect. All development partners had a role to play in supporting the least developed countries, and the Istanbul Programme of Action could help keep the world focused on that agenda.
SÉRGIO RODRIGUES DOS SANTOS (Brazil) said that his delegation welcomed the report on the implementation of the Istanbul action plan, and was pleased that the least developed countries group had made gains in comparison to other, previous eras. However, much work remained to be done. Brazil remained concerned with the uneven and insufficient progress in implementing the Programme and meeting the Millennium targets. Brazil noted with concern the decline in ODA in 2011 and renewed the call for developed countries to fulfil their commitments in that regard. There was a need for appropriate international support in that respect. The report pointed out that the share of agriculture in least developed economies had dropped in the last decade, while it remained the backbone of economies in many of those countries. Brazil also remained committed to providing preferential access to the products of least developed countries, he said.
In addition, he said that his Government continued to back the development of agricultural sectors in countries like Ghana, Chad and Mali. It was a matter of concern that least developed countries still suffered heavily from HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. Brazil had had successful experiences in co-operation in that regard, such as the establishment of an anti-retroviral medication factory in Mozambique. In addition, through the International Public Sector Accounting Standards Global South Solidarity Fund, it had been able to step up its efforts to help least developed countries along with other partners. No counties graduating from the “least developed” category should suffer the removal of support, he said, calling for a package of measures to ensure smooth transition, including as an incentive for countries to engage in the graduation process.
PETER SILBERBERG (Germany) fully supported halving the number of least developed countries by 2020. “We need to make a point of setting the bar high,” he said, adding that some fundamental prerequisites for sustainable development and inclusive growth were peace and security, good governance, rule of law and respect for human rights. External assistance could only complement national efforts.
For its part, Germany was a major contributor to trilateral cooperation, he said, and encouraged least developed countries to make use of that support. Halving the number of least developed countries would require more involvement of the private sector and civil society. In that context, he was interested to learn about progress made in including those actors in the development partnership. Germany was working with 30 of the 48 least developed countries through country programmes. It would contribute to the trust fund for mainstreaming the Istanbul Programme of Action into national contexts in the 2012-2014 period.
Wrapping up discussion, Council Vice-President LUIS ALFONSO DE ALBA ( Mexico) said the Council must do more for the least developed countries, noting that it could contribute more meaningfully on issues vital to their development priorities, including climate change.
Introduction and Action on Texts
LARBI DJACTA (Algeria) introduced a draft resolution on the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011-2020 (document E/2012/L.12), saying the Istanbul Programme of Action aimed to help those countries overcome structural issues to eradicate poverty and graduate by 2020. The goal of the text was to ensure that the least developed countries, development partners, United Nations and other relevant actors effectively implemented the Istanbul action plan priorities in a coordinated, coherent and expeditious manner.
In that context, he said the draft welcomed progress made since 2011, giving top priority to building productive capacity in all sectors of least developed countries’ economies and emphasizing international support in that regard. It also requested the Secretary-General to take steps to undertake a joint gap and capacity analysis on a priority basis by 2013, with the aim of establishing a technology bank and mechanism to support science, technology and innovation for least developed countries. Such efforts were critical for helping those nations increase their competitiveness.
The text also urged drawing special attention to least developed country issues in all major United Nations conferences, he said, citing the need for a robust monitoring, review and follow-up mechanism in that regard. It invited United Nations regional commissions and others to carry out biennial reviews of the Istanbul Programme of Action starting in 2013. In sum, he called for the speedy implementation of the action plan and today’s draft resolution to help countries graduate by 2020, pressing the Council to adopt the text by acclamation.
The Council then turned its attention to a draft resolution on United Nations system-wide coherence on tobacco control (document E/2012/L.18), adopting the text by consensus. The resolution, among other things, recognized the fundamental conflict of interest between the tobacco industry and public health, including in the work of the United Nations.
It therefore encouraged the Ad Hoc Inter-Agency Task Force to promote effective tobacco control policies and assistance mechanisms at the national level, including through the integration of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control implementation efforts within the United Nations Development Assistance Frameworks (UNDAF), where appropriate, to promote coordinated and complementary work among funds, programmes and agencies.
Following that action, GUILLERMO RISHCHYNSKI (Canada), introduced a report of the Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti, saying that the Group’s mandate was to closely follow and provide advice on Haiti’s reconstruction, with particular attention to the country’s long-term development priorities. The report, which was primarily based on the group’s visit to Haiti between 21 and 24 May, provided an overview of the situation with regard to the reconstruction effort and its financing.
In that vein, he said, donors must ensure that commitments to Haiti’s recovery and development were honoured, and efforts should be aligned with, and contribute to, the achievement of Haitian national priorities, in particular by strengthening national institutions. Efforts must be matched by the Haitian Government, he stressed, adding that “building a better Haiti must mean building a country based on the rule of law” and on the will to take control of its own destiny. He applauded recent decisions taken in that direction, but said that much more remained to be done.
The report made a number of recommendations to the United Nations system, to Haiti’s development partners and to the Haitian Government. The Group recognized the need to continue with international development assistance to Haiti, and took account of the continually evolving nature of United Nations involvement in Haiti. It called upon the Haitian authorities to establish national priorities and to take responsibility for development and for national programmes. Partners needed to step up the allocation of financial resources, he said, noting a trend towards a slowdown in payouts.
The report further encouraged donors to make use of the strategic development plan as a framework of support for Haitian ministries, and to help build the capacity of those ministries. Throughout the report, the group noted progress in the recovery situation and improvements in the overall situation of the country. It highlighted essential activities, such as the coordination of joint programmes and the provision of technical aid, and also recognized the need to continue with the coordination with United Nations bodies, as well as with the activities of United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).
As a Haitian national development plan had been created, he called on donors to make use of it as a framework for building their support. Rule of law institutions, which had also been established, should be given the opportunity to play their mandated role in grounding the rule of law and development in Haiti. As with all large-scale initiatives, the Group, he said, recognized that monitoring and evaluation were necessary in implementation of each of those goals. The Haitian Government must also create better communication channels and implement decentralization to enhance the efficiency, effectiveness and scope of programme and projects.
During and after its visit to Haiti, the Group had seen evidence of progress over the recent year. A new Government was in place, and there was newfound institutional capacity. There had been a notable shift in the gradual transfer of responsibility of programmes and projects to Haitian partners. He said that the report recognized the need to establish a mechanism, to replace the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission. In the absence of such a mechanism, the Group was concerned that political will was lacking, and that more needed to be done to integrate the private sector in harnessing Haiti’s potential.
A long-term vision for development needed to ensure a more prosperous and safer future for the country, he said; in that respect, sustainable solutions would take time. Donors should be mobilized to assist Haiti, and the Government must acquire the capacity and display aptitude and determination to take on its responsibilities. “The only thing that we cannot envisage is failure,” he concluded.
Before wrapping up, he also introduced a relevant draft resolution (document E/2012/L.16) which would have the Council extend the mandate of the Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti for another year.
JOSEFA RAYMOND GAUTHIER, Minister of Planning and External Cooperation of Haiti, aligning with the statement to be delivered on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said Haiti was a “harbinger of great hope” but was also fragile; a status that would worsen if international partners failed to continue to help the country improve its governance and attract international investment.
Turning to the report by the Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti, she said it outlined Haiti’s progress in reconstruction and at the political level, especially in the rule of law. It stated that Haiti had made gains in the area of education, but that there were no documents attesting to that progress. She clarified that Haiti did indeed have such documentation. The country’s President had made education the top priority through projects carried out by the Education Ministry. A new follow-up committee also had been created, which worked closely with the Ministry.
On Government reform, she said the Head of State and the Prime Minister were looking forward to initiating such changes, and, among other early steps, a Forum of Directors General had been organized. In addition a budget forecasting plan had been set up to anticipate future project needs and efforts were under way to decentralize decision making to each of the country’s 10 regions. On public-private partnerships, she said Haiti was working with the private sectors in ways that sought to increase tax revenues by 30 per cent. She was pleased that Haiti’s strategic development plan had been well received, calling it a “realistic” programme that sought to make Haiti an emerging country by 2030.
Next, CLAUDE GRANDPIERRE, Special Counsellor of the Minister of Planning of Haiti, said investment in the country was mainly financed by international aid. Better coordination of that aid, based on the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, was needed, as most projects financed by external aid had not borne fruit. There was also a fragmentation of aid coordination, preventing the Government from taking a leadership role. Since 2004, Haiti had built its experience in coordination, he said, citing the 2007 poverty reduction strategy and the Interim Commission for Development in that regard. The coordination framework for Haiti’s 2007 poverty reduction strategy had focused on the basic needs identified at that time: education, health, water and drainage, and energy. Evaluation of those areas had been ongoing at the time of the earthquake.
After the earthquake, the strategy had to be refocused, he said, noting that the Post-Disaster Needs Assessment — carried out with Haiti’s partners — was now the basis for the strategic recovery plan. It aimed to make Haiti into an emerging country by 2030. After the earthquake, “we were cut off from the world”, he said. In efforts to recover the economy, Haiti sought to distribute the tax burden more fairly. Social reforms included a goal to make 80 per cent of all social services accessible by 2030. National, regional and subregional hubs had been established, to ensure that those services were available to people where they lived, in part to prevent people from migrating to coastal areas. A transport policy would seek to build a trunk road network from regional to local centres, to help people in the country’s interior access other areas. Haiti was also working to integrate urban and rural areas through a spatial planning vision.
Turning to education, he said that by 2030, Haiti was expected to be at the same level as its neighbours and offer its talents to the global market. Such a broad vision required thorough work and Haiti must move forward with its partners on “common” priorities. “We must move forward with better coordination,” he said, adding that local authorities must receive presidential directives to enhance coherence and that the Planning Ministry would be the conduit for channelling those directives.
Finally, he said a new Government mechanism to coordinate aid had been proposed, which would include a National Strategic Coordination Committee comprised of the Prime Minister, Planning Minister and Foreign Minister. That Committee would establish the grounds for cooperation. A Coordination Secretariat would ensure that aid was coordinated effectively. Development ministers would also be involved to ensure that all aid was focused on development priorities. A joint mechanism for working with partners would also be established, as would platforms for working with technical and financial partners, including the “Group of 12” donors and South-South cooperation partners. A ministerial ruling was soon expected to legalize that framework. Laws would then be enacted to carry out sectoral programmes and provide civil society a platform for involvement.
NIGEL FISHER, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and Resident Coordinator for the United Nations system organizations in Haiti, then briefed the Council via video link. Reporting on some of the situation since the visit of the Ad Hoc Group in May, he said that there had been a number of positive developments in the country.
Among those, he cited a 19 June announcement to publish a revised version of recent constitutional amendments, which represented a step towards consolidating democratic institutions in Haiti. The amendments simplified the procedures of those intuitions, he said, through electoral reform and other related issues continued to be debated in the Parliament. Elections would be held before the end of the year, and the Government had already earmarked about a third of the financing required to execute them effectively.
The growth and strengthening of the Haitian police force had progressed slowly, and there were now a growing number of candidates for police training. If the target of 15,000 trained officers by 2016 was to be met, however — and the number of MINUSTAH troops subsequently reduced — the number of candidates still needed to be scaled up. Debate on the creation of a second security force continued, he said, explaining that such a force would focus on civil defence, environmental response and border security, among other areas.
Political uncertainties had “put a break” on external aid flows, he said, but recently, progress was being made. There were also ongoing community rejuvenation initiatives, and housing repairs and rental subsidies had reduced the camp population from 420,000 in April to about 390,000 in June. Investment in primary school enrolment was increasing the number of students enrolled, but more efforts were needed. A family allowance scheme was also intended to stimulate school attendance in the poorest families, he said.
Haiti had a new national aid coordination architecture, which had introduced a mechanism replacing the Interim Committee on Haiti. While the Haitian Council of Ministers had ratified it, its implementation required support from the broader international community, he stressed. Meanwhile, disbursement and programme implementation bottlenecks also existed. The transition between international and national partners in the humanitarian sector continued, and was bringing to an end the present cluster system. Some 150 international and 700 national personnel from United Nations agencies were working in Haiti. A strategic framework for 2013-2016, which was being finalized, was fully grounded on national priorities, he said.
At the same time, MINUSTAH was engaged in discussions with United Nations agencies to identify functions which could be taken onboard by the agencies, and those which required joint support. The Ad Hoc Group’s report had stressed that, while some progress had been made, the challenges still facing Haiti were “enormous”. International partners must remain committed in support of the county for taking onboard its own national destiny, he said.
PAULETTE BETHEL ( Bahamas), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that the positioning of Haiti as a democratic, stable and economically viable country continued to be a matter of utmost importance. Earlier this year, CARICOM and Haiti had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which underscored the fact that the support of the Community was of vital support to Haiti for the Community itself. Among areas agreed upon in that understanding were: capacity-building in Government agencies for investment; technical assistance in education, agriculture, public health and other areas; and youth exchange initiatives. The understanding also allowed some products to enter other CARICOM countries duty-free for a period of three years.
Additionally, the communiqué issuing from a recent CARICOM summit reaffirmed the position of regional Governments that all international funding should be redirected to, and managed by, the Haitian Government. CARICOM had undertaken a number of initiatives to provide a sustainable economic future for the Haitian people, she said; among those were efforts to enable Haiti to function within the CARICOM Single Market and Economy. The region also had technical expertise that could he shared with Haiti in the fields of agriculture, marine resources, management and community development. “Ultimately, Haiti’s success will be a gauge of the region’s success,” she added in that regard.
CARICOM fully supported the Ad Hoc Group’s exhortation to the donor community to work with the Haitian authorities in support of the Parliament to help it perform budgetary, legislative, oversight and other tasks effectively. The Community also agreed that there was a need for institutional, financial and other administrative support for the various arms of the judiciary in the context of the strengthening of the rule of law within the country. It was deeply regrettable that, “with the 2012 hurricane season already upon us”, such a large portion of the pledges made at the 2010 International Donor’s Conference on Haiti remained outstanding. While that situation continued, the capacity of the international community to respond to that country’s humanitarian needs had been negatively affected, having a direct effect on the capacity of Haitians to take control of the recovery response. “Those pledges needed to be honoured if they are to have meaning and effect,” she concluded.
OCTAVIO ERRÁZURIZ (Chile), recalling his country had been a member of the Ad Hoc Advisory Group since 2004, said Haiti’s situation had been complicated by a cholera outbreak and a complex international environment marked by a drop in aid flows. Haitians continued to face challenges, which should be addressed by national institutions with the support of the global community. Full achievement of the rule of law was crucial for human rights and sustainable development to thrive. The appointment of a President of the Supreme Court of Justice, and amendments to Haiti’s Constitution all pointed in the right direction, and he encouraged more movement along that path. The holding of municipal elections and by-elections at the end of the year would be a clear sign of the interaction required among the three branches of Government
Haitian national capacity must be bolstered, he said. The global community, whether through the United Nations or bilateral cooperation, must gear its efforts to that area. Addressing the reduction in aid in a clear manner was essential. An enhanced private sector would help foster employment and infrastructure creation would benefit people in their daily lives. MINUSTAH had done vital work to improve security. It also had enabled development through rapid impact projects and others to reduce community violence. Any change to its membership or size must be offset by strengthening development through United Nations agencies in Haiti. He reiterated the urgency of training Haiti’s law enforcement and welcomed the plan for the Haitian national police for 2012-2016. Chile was committed to Haiti and would continue to support it through multilateral and bilateral channels.
YANERIT MORGAN (Mexico) said recognition of the progress and challenges in Haiti had laid the basis for long-term development in that country. She stressed that all stakeholders — Governments, local authorities and non-governmental organizations alike — should work together to avoid duplicated efforts. Haiti’s strategic development plan allowed for the efficient use of financial and other resources being channelled to the country.
For its part, Mexico had established a medium- and long-term cooperation strategy for Haiti’s development, she said, which ensured compatibility with the efforts of the Government and other donors. It focused on health, education, agriculture, civil defence, governance and electoral development. The Mexican President’s visit in April was one sign that Mexico would intensify ties between the two countries. Mexico also had requested entrance into the Ad Hoc Advisory Group, assured it could recommend ways to boost cooperation.
RUBÉN ARMANDO ESCALANTE HASBÚN (El Salvador) endorsed the report of the Ad Hoc Group, but suggested other United Nations bodies, such as the Peacebuilding Commission, might be able to dovetail that endeavour in a complementary way. El Salvador supported the resolution extending the Group’s mandate, and was grateful for the efforts of the international community in Haiti. Such aid was now in line with Haitian national priorities, thereby supporting the principle of national ownership. There was political will among the Member States of the Economic and Social Council to continue supporting the transition from international to national efforts, he said, as well as to continue to address complex issues in a “smooth fashion”.
Mr. DOS SANTOS (Brazil) said that today’s session highlighted the importance of strengthening Haitian institution and capacities. “But it does so against a new backdrop,” he said. Haiti had elaborated a new architecture for international cooperation and had set national priorities. The strengthening of national institutions must go hand-in-hand with the strengthening of the rule of law. He therefore commended recent appointments in Haiti’s judicial structure, as well as the publishing of amendments that would push progress forward in that area. “The rule of law empowers the weakest,” he said, and it cemented democracy and development. It was therefore all the more urgent to strengthen, equip and support the national police as an instrument that could allow the Haitian State to fully support the country’s efforts towards safety and stability. It was also a way to make Haiti an emerging country by 2030, he added.
Brazil was also encouraged by steps taken to eradiate extreme poverty in Haiti, as well as the key participation of women in that process. Processes had empowered the poorest in poverty eradication, along with policies in support of education and the creation of job opportunities. He also highlighted the value of infrastructure projects, especially in the fields of agriculture, health and energy, which could help to set the conditions for sustainable development. Brazil continued to lead plurilateral efforts in the construction of a hydroelectric plant that would bring renewable energy while creating jobs, and had committed $40 million in the building of the plant, which had been defined as a priority by the Haitian Government. Moreover, Brazil was engaged in a long-term partnership built on mutual respect, and would continue to support Haiti in an environment of respect for the country’s sovereignty.
ELIZABETH COUSENS (United States), noting that her country was part of the Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti, said: “Haiti is at a turning point.” It was no longer just recovering from a devastating disaster; it was focused on reconstruction, creating economic opportunities and a brighter future. Since 2010, the United States had committed $1.3 billion in humanitarian relief to the country, and this morning, the United States Secretary of State was meeting with Haiti’s President to discuss a broad range of cooperation initiatives. The United States viewed the new strategic plan for development as an important foundation. United States efforts had focused on infrastructure, agriculture, health, governance and the rule of law.
In other areas the United States was partnering to develop an industrial park, she said, which was on track to employ 20,000 people over the next five years. In the area of agriculture, the United States was taking a holistic value-chain approach to help farmers. United States aid also was providing half of all funding for health. Humanitarian needs persisted and the long-term solution was poverty reduction and employment, powered by national and international investment. The United States appreciated efforts by the Ad Hoc Advisory Group, as well as the police- and troop-contributing countries, to MINUSTAH. Haiti was working to strengthen its capacity to take responsibility for its security. It was important for the international community to strengthen its commitment to Haiti as it looked toward the future.
RYAN NEELAM ( Australia) said his Government saw an important role for the Ad Hoc Advisory Group in sustaining international attention on Haiti, recognizing its role in supporting national efforts for education, employment, rule of law and energy. He commended the Ad Hoc Advisory Group’s efforts to improve international coordination, saying that Haiti was vulnerable to a new humanitarian crisis. In that context, he said it was important that the international community continue to support Haiti’s development. Australia looked forward to continuing cooperation with the Ad Hoc Advisory Group for Haiti’s sustainable recovery.
OLIVIO FERMÍN (Dominican Republic) said that his Government had supported its neighbour in the reconstruction effort, both bilaterally and through the United Nations system. For example, a university in the north of Haiti had been inaugurated with the support of Dominican businessmen. The challenges facing Haiti were still serious, he stressed. In that regard, the responsibility for that reconstruction effort lay with the Haitian people themselves, in cooperation with the United Nations and other partners. His delegation supported the conclusions and recommendations of the Ad Hoc Group’s report, as well as the resolution which would extend the group’s mandate, he said.
GORDANA JERGER, of the World Food Programme (WFP), thanked the Ad Hoc Group for, among other things, raising awareness of the need to support Haitian people through social safety nets. As stressed by Nigel Fisher, those structures would be critical to the social growth and rebuilding of Haiti. The World Food Programme was pleased to continue its strong partnerships in Haiti under the leadership of Mr. Fisher.
In closing remarks, Ms. GAUTHIER thanked the Council for “deciding to stay with us”. Haiti’s Government was fresh and wanted to change the situation throughout the country.
Briefing on African Nations Emerging from Conflict
Abulkalam Abdul Momen (Bangladesh), Chairman of the Peacebuilding Commission, briefed the Council on the economic and social challenges of peacebuilding in the African countries emerging from conflict, namely Burundi, Central African Republic, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The success of the Commission would continue to be measured by its contribution to the success of national peacebuilding processes. In this regard, he recognized the work undertaken by the Chairs and the members of the six country configurations.
Over the last 12 months, the Commission’s Burundi Configuration continued its discussions with the Government on future engagement, through the strategic framework that was adopted in April 2011, he said, adding that the review of that document had been formally adopted by the Commission recently. At the same time, the second Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper had been completed by the Government in cooperation with its partners. The Commission’s focus, going forward, would be to help Burundi mobilize resources to address the Government’s identified peacebuilding priorities. A donor event would be convened in Geneva this fall to generate the much-needed engagement from partners.
On the Central African Republic, he said, the relevant configuration finalized the second review of the strategic framework for peacebuilding in that country and had adopted its conclusions and recommendations. The Commission would continue to support the nation’s efforts to mobilize resources for the priorities incorporated in the most recently finalized and revised second Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper.
Turning to Guinea, he said the Commission’s relevant Configuration had adopted the instrument of engagement between the Commission and the Government. The Statement of mutual commitment reflected the three priorities, namely promotion of national reconciliation and unity, security and defence sector reform and youth and women’s employment policy. The Configuration was conducting mapping of resource flows and actors in Guinea. The mapping exercise represented a practical approach to resource mobilization and should also feed into enhancing the Government’s capacity to develop an effective national aid and coordination and management system.
As for Guinea-Bissau, he said, after the death of President Malam Bacai Sanha, the country had to focus on anticipated presidential elections. But efforts had been stalled following a coup. The Commission had since been striving to facilitate dialogue and coordination among the main international partners of Guinea-Bissau, with a view to support the restoration of constitutional order in the country.
On Liberia, through the linkages of key strategic documents, the Liberia configuration’s plans for resource mobilization were well-aligned with Government priorities in the three agreed-upon peacebuilding sectors — security sector reform, rule of law and national reconciliation. A draft “Resource Mobilization Strategy and Work Plan” was being finalized, he added.
Turning finally to Sierra Leone, he said that Configuration continued its engagement on the basis of the peacebuilding elements identified by the Government, namely, good governance, the rule of law, youth employment, and combating drug trafficking, with gender and regional perspectives as cross-cutting issues. The Commission was now focusing its attention on the preparations for the 2012 elections by providing briefings, highlighting challenges and conveying to the Government and the political parties the expectations of the international community.
As the floor was opened for questions and comments on that topic, the representative of the United Republic of Tanzania asked Mr. Momen to single out the most difficult challenges facing his work.
Responding, Mr. MOMEN said that, in some countries, the most difficult challenge was youth employment, while in others the main challenges included the rule of law. One overarching challenge was insufficient resource mobilization, he said, noting that there would be an opportunity during the upcoming General Assembly session for countries to recommit themselves on that front. In that regard, he also requested Member States both to help identify challenges facing peacebuilding and to come forward to help in those areas.
Introduction of Report and Panel Discussion on South Sudan
SHAMSHAD AKHTAR, Assistant Secretary-General for the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, then introduced a report of the Secretary-General on Implementation of integrated, coherent and coordinated support to South Sudan by the United Nations system (document E/2012/76). That first-ever report on the topic provides background data on the current economic, social and political situation in South Sudan, and highlighted the progress made in those areas since independence, as well as the core challenges facing the country.
“The process of transition has been complex and difficult, as decades of conflict have left deep scars,” he said. South Sudan faced “formidable” human and physical capacity challenges. Despite its oil wealth, South Sudan ranked among the least developed countries in the world, and its living conditions were among the harshest. More than 80 per cent of the population lived on less than $1 per day and a “staggering” one third lacked secure access to food.
The report also highlighted alarming conditions for women, with a 92 per cent female illiteracy rate and a maternal mortality rate that was the highest in the world. The report also spotlights the unpredictable and changing nature of the context of the transition in South Sudan, for example by describing the impact of a disagreement between Sudan and South Sudan on oil revenue-sharing on the latter’s fragile economy.
Keeping in mind the “daunting and multiple challenges” facing South Sudan, he said, the United Nations system had prioritized a number of activities in the country. First, the transition from relief to development was the highest priority for the Organization. It had worked with partners to develop an approach that envisioned a gradual shift from directly providing life-saving services to working under the leadership of and in partnership with national authorities as they developed systems and capacities. Second was the alignment of United Nations plans with national development priorities, through the UNDAF, the South Sudan Development Plan and the United Nations peacebuilding support plan. With regard to that plan, the report notes that, while the objectives and needs identified would remain valid, the security and economic situation had forced a reassessment of the plan’s implementation timelines.
A third priority was support for capacity development, which remained critical. That included working through South-South cooperation schemes, he added in that regard. Fourth, it was imperative to ensure the coordination within the United Nations system by the United Nations country team and Resident Coordinator’s Office. Efforts were being made to establish common operational systems in key areas in order to streamline the coordination of programme delivery, improve efficiency and reduce transaction costs for partners.
Finally, he said, the report called for increased support for Government capacity-building; focusing of efforts on interventions that minimized fragility and strengthened strong, independent institutions; sequencing and prioritizing the development of new strategies with a focus on “Delivering as One”; and complementing technical and operational support at the intergovernmental level through the Economic and Social Council and the Security Council.
The Council then held a panel discussion on the same theme — “Integrated, coherent and coordinated support to South Sudan” — which featured two panellists. They were Mary Jarvas Yak, Deputy Minister of Finance of South Sudan, and Amanda Serumaga, Team Leader of the Democratic Governance Unit of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in South Sudan.
Recalling that it had been a little over a year since South Sudan became a new nation, Ms. YAK said that it was now a “momentous, yet sobering time to reflect on the changing events over the past year”. She presented some critical issues and policy decisions that were aimed at State-building and at ensuring the functioning of Government institutions.
The achievements so far had been impressive, particularly when considered against the backdrop of the “low baseline” in terms of the human, legal and capacity needs resulting from decades of war and marginalization. Critical benchmarks in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement had been met with the support of South Sudan’s partners, she said, including the elections and the referendum. Primary education had been increased and a small network of road and infrastructure had mitigated conflict in some of the country’s communities.
“In South Sudan we are starting with very little, building institutions of governance from scratch,” she said, adding that the transition facing the country was “overwhelming in both scale and complexity”. Moreover, the expectations of the people to “feel the dividends of peace” were very high. The main objective — as laid out in the South Sudan Development Plan 2011-2013 — was to build a democratic, transparent and accountable government, managed by a professional and committed public service, and with an effective balance of power between the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government.
That Plan was a transitional medium-term strategy for development, which included a capacity development strategy to address the human, legal and institutional gaps required to meet South Sudan’s medium-term targets. It was built upon the country’s engagement with the International Dialogue of Peace and Statebuilding, and further articulated core guidance functions in the area of fiduciary management and accountability, public administration, the rule of law, management of natural resources and executive leadership.
With the support of its partners, including the United Nations system, South Sudan was rapidly ensuring that State structures had the capacity to manage core governance functions through gap-filling, mentoring, coaching and technical advisory services. The country’s joint regional initiative with the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) had now deployed 164 qualified and experienced civil service support officers of the intended 200. An additional 120 United Nations Volunteers were also at work on the ground. A longer-term strategy was to ensure that the country implemented a public sector reform agenda, she added, including rationalization of the current civil service. Some sound strides had already been made in presenting audited accounts to the National Legislative Assembly, and an austerity budget had been approved for 2012-2013, she said.
Ms. SERUMAGA said South Sudan was faced with the enormous task of providing basic services to its citizens, while also facing a very small pool of skilled labour to deliver such a task. Together with the United Nations country team and the mission in that country, known as UNMISS, UNDP had provided capacity development support of two kinds: a surge capacity designed to provide immediate support to the strengthening of services and the establishment of the State’s core functions; and mentoring and coaching programmes.
She said that through the Rapid Capacity Initiative, UNDP had deployed specialists to support core functions, including revenue specialists, who had supported an average revenue increase of 138 per cent in five target states, and urban planners, who had recently supported land demarcation for 28,000 new plots for residents and local returnees, as well as financial management and treasury experts, who had supported nine out of 10 states to complete annual work plans and budgets. Law specialists had been dispatched as well, she added.
Under the Intergovernmental Authority for Development programme, 164 civil servants from Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia had been embedded, and twinned with their South Sudanese counterparts to provide mentoring and coaching support to improve business processes, and to provide efficient services, she said. About 70 per cent of such personnel were in the health sector.
She went on to highlight two of the major challenges facing South Sudan: first, demand exceeding supply. Infrastructure and staff were limited in areas where the majority of South Sudanese lived and worked. There was a limited “supply” of technical support of a durable kind. The assistance deployed remained minimal when compared with countries such as Timor-Leste and Mozambique immediately following their own cessation of hostilities. There was need to consider more innovation, including tapping into the wealth of South Sudanese in the diaspora to contribute to the state-building effort. The second challenge was integration of support at the conceptual level that would enable an exit strategy to enable South Sudan to increase capacity to deliver services.
In the ensuing dialogue, a number of speakers reviewed the “tremendous” challenges facing the new nation of South Sudan, citing, in particular, the fact that decades of war had left the country with significant gaps in both socio-economic development and in peace and security. Many said their delegations felt compelled to extend support to South Sudan in whatever way possible, and urged others to do the same.
In that vein, the representative of the United States said that his delegation was deeply concerned by the deteriorating economic situation facing the country at a time of growing humanitarian needs. It would be increasingly difficult for the country to maintain development partnerships if the situation continued unabated. Compounding those challenges were large flows of refugees from neighbouring Sudan, he added, calling on friends of South Sudan to redouble their efforts to ensure that the newest member of the United Nations could put itself on a path towards peace, prosperity and economic development.
A number of questions also emerged from the discussion. One speaker asked Ms. Yak whether she felt that current funding to South Sudan was adequate, and, similarly, whether she felt the country was receiving enough support from the United Nations in institution-building and other key areas. Another speaker wished to know whether there had been any efforts made to bring professionals in the South Sudanese diaspora community back to the country, and whether South Sudan had any plans to build an oil refinery of its own.
Another delegate asked what more could be done by the United Nations system to provide further support aligned with the needs of the South Sudan Development Plan, while yet another wished to hear particular strategies for capacity-building and training among Government officials and other South Sudanese leaders.
The representative of Bangladesh asked Ms. Yak about the “transformative development agenda”, wondering if, in particular, she would assess the delivery on promises made by development partners. He also asked for more information on the regional context, namely, on whether there had been any progress made in achieving a greater peace between Sudan and South Sudan. Finally, he asked Ms. Serumaga if there had been any lessons learned in the management of the South Sudan Recovery Fund.
Other issues raised included the potentially negative impact of the austerity measures which were now in place in South Sudan, the “paralyzing effect” of the lack of an oil revenue-sharing agreement with Sudan, and the importance of the “Delivering as One” initiative in the humanitarian assistance to, and development of, South Sudan.
The representative of Egypt emphasized the importance of regional efforts to assist South Sudan in tackling the many serious challenges it faced, while other speakers commended the work of the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) and other particular partners in South Sudan. Meanwhile, several delegates stressed the role of the Economic and Social Council in identifying actions that could be undertaken by the international community to support all of those efforts.
The representative of South Sudan also took the floor, describing challenges that his country faced in areas such as peace and security. He expressed the commitment of the country to reach a peaceful agreement on all outstanding sources of conflict with neighbouring Sudan.
Responding to the question about harnessing the potential of the South Sudanese diaspora community, Ms. YAK said that the issue was how to attract those professionals to come home. Work was being done on that front, she said, in particular in conjunction with the UNDP, which was implementing a “rapid placement programme”. The international community could also support the return of skilled South Sudanese people, she said.
Ms. SERUMAGA said that the partnership with IGAD could indeed be scaled up. It was important to integrate the public sector reform strategies that must go along with that support. Support for capacity development must go down to the state and county level, he said, responding to another question. On a third — that of the Transitional Agenda — she said that while stabilization was needed, an “integrated concept” was critical to accompany that theory of change.
Introduction of Reports on Science and Technology for Development
Next, the Council turned to the consideration of agenda items “international cooperation in the field of informatics” and “science and technology for development”.
Mongi Hamdi, of the Science, Technology and ICT Branch of the Technology and Logistics Division of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), introduced the Secretary-General’s report on Progress made in the implementation of and follow-up to the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society at the regional and international levels (document A/67/66-E/2012/49 (and Addendum 1)). That two-phase Summit was held in Geneva in 2003 and Tunis in 2005.
The report was prepared in collaboration with other entities, particularly the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). There had been a tremendous growth in information and communications technology, he said. The number of mobile subscriptions worldwide was now nearly 6 billion, with Africa now the fastest-growing cellular phone market. The number of Internet users had more than doubled to 2.5 billion since 2005. There were more than 1.7 billion broadband subscriptions worldwide. European Union led the world in broadband connectivity. In Africa, broadband connectivity was less than 4 per cent, compared with more than 90 per cent in the Republic of Korea.
With those disparities in mind, he stressed the urgent need to address the digital divide. Society and citizens were increasingly becoming dependent on information and communications technology, such as cloud computing, smart phones, social networks, and “micro blogging” to pay their bills or to express themselves. But there were challenges, such as crimes and security issues in cyberspace. “We need to create an information society for all,” with universal assess to information and communications technology, he said.
GARY FOWLIE, Head of New York Liaison Office of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), said that the information society was entering a particularly important period. An overall ten-year review of World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) outcomes implementation was planned, he said, and to that end, the Chief Executives Board (CEB) had tasked the working group on information society to review such progress. A series of open consultations had therefore been carried out, and the results presented to the CEB in April. It was now awaiting action from the General Assembly on the follow-up process.
In a similar vein, he said, a United Nations high-level event on the information society would to be hosted by the ITU in 2014. Last month, the Rio+20 outcome document had clearly recognized information and communications technology as catalysts for the three pillars of sustainable development, he said. In that regard, the ITU-UNESCO Broadband Commission for Digital Development had played an important role in assisting Member Sates to put information and communications technology in the service of development. Finally, he said, a report entitled “Connecting the Next Billion” would be published in the coming months.
FORTUNATO DE LA PENA, the Chair of the Fifteenth Session of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development, then took the floor to present the report of the Working Group on Improvements to the Internet Governance Forum (document A/67/65-E/2012/48), prepared under the chairmanship of Peter Major. Taking into account the results of the first two meetings held by the Group in 2011, it gives a brief account of the establishment and the outcome of its three meetings held at the end of 2011 and in early 2012. The Working Group had not been able to complete its task given the complexity and sensitivity of the subject. Therefore, during the last three meetings, the Group continued to fulfil its task on the basis of the work already completed and in line with the mandate set out in the Tunis Agenda.
The Working Group had made recommendations in several specific areas. Those included sharing the outcomes of Internet Governance Forum meetings, increasing the number of “tangible outputs” and improving the visibility of the Forum. Other recommendations dealt with open consultations, the structure and working methods of the Multi-stakeholder Advisory Group and strengthening of the Forum’s Secretariat. Others had to do with funding, and called for increased voluntary contributions and improvements in transparency and accountability. Further recommendations centred around the expansion of participation, the improvement of online visibility, and the enhancing of all stakeholders’ understanding of the Internet Governance Forum and internet governance-related issues, he said.
OKSANA MELNIKOVICH of ( Belarus ) commended the two comprehensive reports presented to the members of the Council. Her Government noted the important role of North-South technology transfer for development and highly rated South-South partnerships for using technology for development. Belarus also noted the issue of bridging the digital divide contained in the Secretary-General’s report. In that regard, she said that information and communications technology capacity must be fully exploited as it was of vital importance for sustainable development. A mechanism to transfer cutting-edge technologies for renewable energy to developing countries should be established.
A representative of the United Kingdom stressed the importance of involving a wide range of stakeholders, citing two examples of many such initiatives. One of them was the Commonwealth Cybercrime Initiative, which involved not only the Governments in the Commonwealth but a range of other stakeholders, including the business community. This initiative was designed to enhance national capacity to combat cybercrimes. On the Internet Governance Forum, he pointed out that the positions of the Special Adviser on Internet Governance to the Secretary-General and the IGF Executive Coordinator had been vacant, stressing the need to fill these important positions.
Taking the floor next, COURTNEY NEMROFF ( United States) also underscored the need to fill those vacancies. She also stressed the importance of partnering with the private sector, which fostered new technologies and the need to narrow the digital divide. Her delegation commended the success of the Forum as a notable accomplishment. In her Government view, the Internet Governance Forum was an open venue, where partnerships were forged towards closing digital gaps.
In a brief statement, MOHAMED ELKARAKSY ( Egypt) underlined the importance of the full implementation of the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society and the importance of conducting reviews. Egypt offered to host a review conference.
Action on Drafts
The Economic and Social Council then turned its attention to draft resolutions contained in a report on the Commission on Science and Technology for Development’s fifteenth session (document E/2012/31).
The Council adopted without a vote draft resolution I on assessment of the progress made in the implementation of and follow-up to the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society, by which the body highlighted the urgent need for the incorporation of the recommendations of the outcome documents of the 2003 World Summit in the revised guidelines for United Nations country teams on preparing the common country assessments and United Nations Development Assistance Frameworks, including the addition of an information and communications technology for development component.
Next, the Council adopted without a vote draft resolution II on science and technology for development, by which the body decided to make recommendations for consideration by national Governments, the Commission and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.
By the text, Governments, individually and collectively, were encouraged to take into account the findings of the Commission and consider taking such actions as promoting the development of information and communications technology platforms, involving national research institutes and universities, with a view to participating in international research networks and benefiting from opportunities for collaborative learning.
Further, the Council adopted a draft decision on the report of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development on its fifteenth session and provisional agenda and documentation for the sixteenth session of the Commission, by which the body approved the provisional agenda and documentation for the upcoming sixteenth session of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development.
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