Concluding 2012 Substantive Session, Economic and Social Council Adopts Texts on Conference Follow-up, Least Developed Countries, Human Settlements
Concluding 2012 Substantive Session, Economic and Social Council Adopts Texts on Conference Follow-up, Least Developed Countries, Human Settlements
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Economic and Social Council
2012 Substantive Session
48th & 49th Meetings (AM & PM)
Concluding 2012 Substantive Session, Economic and Social Council Adopts Texts
on Conference Follow-up, Least Developed Countries, Human Settlements
‘Let’s Be Bold,’ Says Council President Miloš Koterec (Slovakia), Urging
Members to ‘Build on Session’s Achievements’ to Shape ‘New Vision’ for Body’s Work
The Economic and Social Council wrapped up its 2012 substantive session today with the adoption of nine resolutions and five decisions on a range of topics — from women’s empowerment to human settlements and support for least developed countries — that would allow the 54-member body to assume its rightful place as the hub of coordinated action in setting the post-2015 development agenda.
Giving an overview of the session, Council President Miloš Koterec (Slovakia) said that this year’s high-level segment attracted more than 40 ministers and countless top policymakers, academics and global leaders from business and civil society. During the segment’s annual ministerial review — on employment and decent work — national voluntary presentations were made by Algeria, Russian Federation, Brazil, Ecuador, Ukraine, Kenya, Mauritius and Qatar. The Development Cooperation Forum, meanwhile, had enjoyed a record turnout at its third gathering, demonstrating its worth as a marquee forum for policy guidance.
Turning to the session’s coordination segment, he said the Council skilfully orchestrated follow-up to both last year’s Ministerial Declaration on education and the Conference on Financing for Development. In the operational activities segment, several issues covered were as technical as they were timely: assessing United Nations funding, building better tools to improve coherence, strengthening the Resident Coordinator System and enhancing the efficiency of business operations.
As for the Council’s humanitarian affairs segment, he said this year’s spotlight on the world’s most dire emergencies and improving capacity to confront future challenges was notable for its emphasis on the transition from relief to development. The general segment, which closed today, touched on many vital topics — from post-earthquake recovery in Haiti, to the situation of South Sudan to socio-economic conditions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and from tobacco control to women’s empowerment and information technology.
Indeed, much had been accomplished in 2012, he said, “but we can scarcely afford to stop now”. Pressing ahead required reforming the way the Council conducted business, perceived itself and was perceived by others. The Council was shaping a new vision that spaced substantive meetings throughout the year and better aligned its work with subsidiary bodies.
That vision, he said, placed sustainable development at the Council’s core — and the Council itself at the centre of efforts to build the United Nations’ post-2015 development agenda. The world in which the Council was a hub for policy coherence, responded effectively to emerging global challenges and exerted an influence matched by its inclusiveness was within reach. “Let’s be bold,” he said. “Let’s seize the moment.”
In his final address to the Council, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Sha Zukang said the 54-member body had made “tremendous achievements” over the last five years of his tenure. “It’s all due to your work,” he said. “Our collective relevance, as a consequence, has never been greater than it is today, our collective commitment to multilateralism has never been more reassuring, and our collective mandate to development — and to make the world a better place — has never been more important,” he said, noting that he would leave the United Nations next Tuesday. “I am pleased to have played a part.”
One prominent text adopted today was a consensus resolution on the Council’s role in the implementation of and follow-up to the outcomes of major United Nations conferences and summits. By its terms, the Council underscored the need to implement General Assembly resolution 57/270 B (2003) — which breaks down the roles for Member States, the United Nations system and other relevant stakeholders in such work related to the economic and social fields.
It also requested the Secretary-General to present, within the framework of the review of the implementation of General Assembly resolution 61/16, during the sixty-seventh session of the Assembly, a report with proposals for strengthening the Council, including its working methods, so it could effectively fulfil its functions, giving special attention to the integrated and coordinated implementation of, and the regular follow-up to, the outcomes of all major United Nations conferences and summits
Following the adoption, the representative of Bangladesh said the resolution would go a long way towards helping the Council play its crucial role in the days ahead. Council Vice-President Luis Alfonso de Alba (Mexico) added that the process begun by the resolution would bring the Council — and indeed the entire United Nations — into a “much more prominent role” in global social and economic development.
The Council adopted another consensus resolution, submitted by Council Vice-President de Alba, on the Istanbul Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011-2020. By its terms, the Council called on those countries, their development partners and the United Nations to fully implement commitments made in the Programme’s eight priority areas: productive capacity, agriculture, food security and rural development, trade, commodities, human and social development, multiple crises and other emerging challenges, mobilizing financial resources for development and capacity-building, and good governance at all levels.
Taking the floor after action, Nepal’s delegate, on behalf of the least developed countries, said the text aimed to help least developed countries meet criteria for graduating out of that category. It underlined the need to give particular attention to their concerns in all international processes, including the post-2015 development framework.
Tackling economic and environmental issues,the Council adopted a consensus text on human settlements, expressing concern that there had not been enough progress to counter the growth of slums in the developing world. Governments were encouraged to promote sustainability criteria in planning, construction and management for access to clean water and adequate sanitation. All stakeholders should be included in preparations for the Third United Nations Conference on housing and sustainable urban development (Habitat III) — to be held in 2016.
In the area of women and development, the Council adopted a consensus decision, recommending that the General Assembly consider as a separate item the issue of ending female genital mutilation at its sixty-seventh session under its discussions on “Advancement of Women”.
After action, the delegate of Burkina Faso welcomed the text’s adoption, saying that adoption of a General Assembly resolution on that issue would intensify awareness-raising of the practice of female genital mutilation and the means to fight it at national and regional levels.
In other action, the Council, by a recorded vote of 30 in favour, to 2 against (Canada, United States), with 17 abstentions, adopted a text urging the international community to continue to give special attention to the promotion and protection of the human rights of Palestinian women and girls, and to intensify its measures to improve the difficult conditions being faced by those women and their families living under Israeli occupation.
Making introductory remarks today was Marjon Kamara ( Liberia), in her capacity as Chair of the fifty-sixth and fifty-seventh sessions of the Commission on the Status of Women.
Speaking in general debate today were the representatives of Cyprus (on behalf of the European Union), Mexico, El Salvador, Ukraine, Nigeria, Russian Federation, Ecuador, United States, Chile, Belarus, Czech Republic, Israel, Switzerland, Australia, Brazil, Indonesia, Argentina and Japan.
The Economic and Social Council will reconvene at a time and date to be announced.
On the final day of its 2012 substantive session, the Economic and Social Council was to discuss a number of reports and draft texts that required action by the 54-member body.
On coordination, programme and other questions, delegates had before them the Secretary-General’s report on mainstreaming a gender perspective into all policies and programmes in the United Nations system(document E/2012/61) and a related draft resolution (document E/2012/L.8).
On economic and environmental questions, the Council had before it the Commission on the Status of Women’s report on the fifty-sixth session (document E/2012/27 (Supp. No. 7)). Also on the table, for the Council’s discussions on social and human rights questions, was the Secretariat’s note on results of the forty-ninth and fiftieth sessions of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (document E/2012/4*).
Delegates also had before them texts on the follow-up to policy recommendations of the General Assembly and the Council (document A/67/93–E/2012/79) and (document A/67/94–E/2012/80).
Under the agenda item entitled implementation of and follow-up to major United Nations Conferences and Summits, the Council had before it the Secretary-General’s note report on the main decisions and policy recommendations of the Committee on World Food Security (document A/67/86–E/2012/71) and a related draft resolution (document E/2012/L.32).
For follow-up to the International Conference on Financing for Development, delegates had before them the Council President’s summary on the special high-level meeting of the Council with the Bretton Woods institutions, the World Trade Organization and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development in New York, 12 and 13 March 2012 (document A/67/81–E/2012/62) and a related draft resolution (document E/2012/L.26).
On review and coordination of the implementation of the Istanbul Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011-2020, delegates were presented with the report of the Committee for Development Policy on the fourteenth session (document E/2012/33) and related draft resolutions (document E/2012/L.12) and (document E/2012/L.29).
Further, the Council had before it the annual overview report of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination for 2011/12 (document E/2012/67) and the Committee for Programme and Coordination’s report on its fifty-second session (document A/67/16).
The Council was also set to consider a number of draft resolutions, on African countries emerging from conflict (document E/2012/L.28), on sustainable development (document E/2012/L.25) and on human settlements (document E/2012/L.33). Also awaiting the body’s action were draft proposals on public administration and development (documents E/2012/L.23 and E/2012/L.27) and on International cooperation in tax matters (documents E/2012/L.19, E/2012/L.20 and E/2012/L.30).
For matters related to social and human rights questions, the Council had before it a number of texts (documents E/2012/4*, A/67/61–E/2012/3, E/2012/69, E/INCB/2011/1, E/2012/51, E/2012/51/Corr.1 and A/67/41).
Delegates also had before them a draft resolution on report of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (document E/2012/L.24) and programme budget implications (document E/2012/L.31).
Lastly, regarding organizational matters, the Council was set to consider the Secretary-General’s notes, on election to fill a vacancy in the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (document E/2012/9/Add.15) and on appointment of 24 members of the Committee for Development Policy (document E/2012/9/Add.14).
MARJON V. KAMARA (Liberia), speaking in her capacity as Chair of the fifty-sixth and fifty-seventh sessions of the Commission on the Status of Women, said the fifty-sixth session had heard a rich exchange on best practices. Participants, however, were “greatly disappointed”, when, on 15 March, the Commission was unable to breach divergent views; no agreed conclusions had been taken on the empowerment of rural women. “This is a setback,” she said, especially for the women and girls whose lives the Commission sought to transform. Still, there could be no doubt about the Commission’s role as principle norm-setting and policymaking body on women’s advancement.
The annual session was a time of great dynamism at Headquarters, she said, when gender equality advocates, United Nations officials and others came together to promote gender equality and strategize on how to move that agenda forward. It was incumbent on all Member States to ensure tangible results, and a review of working methods should be undertaken to strengthen the commitment to building, strengthening and advancing the gender equality and women’s advancement agenda. Reaching consensus required compromise.
The upcoming fifty-seventh session would challenge all stakeholders to show political will to advance the cause of women and girls everywhere, she said. The theme — the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women — would offer opportunities to take action. Indeed, violence against women was a universal phenomenon, irrespective of age, income, class and culture. She hoped the session would “break new ground” to end the scourge and she would work with all States for a productive session that achieved far-reaching results.
In such work, the cooperation of all stakeholders was indispensable and she urged an unwavering focus on the elimination of discrimination against women and achievement of equality for women and girls. The expectation for a strong result was already high. Women would be watching closely and holding the Commission responsible. “We indeed carry a tremendous responsibility,” she said, adding that she counted on the Council’s support to help realize the next critical chapter for gender equality and women’s empowerment.
STELIOS MAKRIYIANNIS (Cyprus), speaking on behalf of the European Union, regretted to note that, aside from significant progress in certain sectors such as education, the objectives set out in the Millennium Development Goals related to gender equality and women’s empowerment were far from being achieved. The European Union strongly regretted that no consensus was reached on the agreed conclusions on rural women during this year’s session of the Commission on the Status of Women. “We could have liked to adopt a text of concrete relevance to rural women around the world, addressing their rights, situation and challenges,” he said.
The European Union was of the view that mobilizing the full productive potential of women was essential to achieving economic and sustainable growth to fight poverty and hunger, he said. This was even more the case for rural women as in many countries women were the backbone of local and national food and nutrition security and a critical force in promoting development. In order to meet the Millennium Development Goals, the European Union paid special attention to the rights of women and men to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexual and reproductive health.
To support women in fully realizing their potential, he said it was important to address issues such as harmful traditional practices, including early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation/cutting, and the provision of comprehensive sexuality education, and to ensure the highest attainable standard of health, including sexual and productive health for women and girls.
YANERIT MORGAN (Mexico) acknowledged the work of the Council and its subsidiary body, namely the Commission on the Status of Women. High attendance in this year’s meeting of the Commission showed the importance of mainstreaming gender perspectives. The meeting was attended by many ministers, senior Government and United Nations officials, representatives of civil society, parliamentarians and representatives of regional institutions, among others. In addition, many parallel events were held, including those on women’s empowerment.
Women’s empowerment was fundamental to eradicate poverty and hunger, she continued. There was the need to deal with structural, cultural and social barriers that negatively affected millions of women worldwide. Her Government regretted the Commission had been unable to adopt some recommendations that would have benefited millions of rural women around the world. Mexico reiterated its commitment in that field.
CARLA TERESA ARIAS OROZCO (El Salvador) said she was awaiting a report on the evaluation mechanism, noting that indicators also were needed to promote effective gender mainstreaming tools. She favoured a new architecture based on decentralization and accountability. She welcomed efforts made at the Commission on the Status of Women, especially regarding rural women, whom she said faced double discrimination.
She went on to urge active participation on financing and accountability, which would allow people to participate in the Commission’s work. For its part, El Salvador had supported efforts to achieve substantial results in national policies on women. One programme, sponsored by the First Lady of her country, would grant women services for their basic needs. Women must achieve citizenship. Programmes to guarantee the rights of women would be monitored.
OLEKSIY SHAPOVAL (Ukraine) said his Government would work constantly for implementation of policies that sought to reduce gender inequality in every sphere of life, especially in decision-making and leadership. The Beijing Fourth World Conference on Women, and the General Assembly’s twenty-third special session, known as “Women 2000”, had catalyzed gender policy promotion in Ukraine. Gender equality was anchored in the country’s legislation, especially in the law on “ensuring equal rights and opportunities for women and men”, which offered a policy framework for mainstreaming gender equality into national actions.
But much remained to be done with regard to women in political and economic decision-making, he said, as well as in balancing gender representation in high legislative and executive positions. To that end, a draft law had been submitted to Parliament for consideration. Ukraine fully supported efforts aimed at eliminating all forms of violence against women, and trafficking in women and girls in particular. There was an urgent need to strengthen the rights of rural women and he emphasized the need to protect the rights of women migrants.
Mr. SERIKI (Nigeria) attached importance to such goals as gender equality and women’s empowerment, which were part of the Millennium Development Goals. Today’s discussion was timely because the theme was in line with its national policies. Nigeria was cognizant of the importance of access to aggregated data on gender issues in that regard. The Nigerian Government was creating relevant data through its Bureau of Statistics. Efforts were also under way for the Parliament to make requisite funding available. It was important to implement a “zero tolerance” policy against such practices as discrimination, stigmatization and genital mutilation.
The creation of the United Nations Entity on Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) was testament to the Organization’s commitment to that important issue. However, Nigeria called for improved coordination of the United Nations gender-related work, including of United Nations country teams. His Government endorsed the roll out of a system-wide assessment plan under the United Nations framework. It also called for institutionalizing a financing mechanism.
GALINA S. KHVAN (Russian Federation) said achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment was a challenge facing the international community. A road map had been created by many important documents, which was fully topical and important. “This was a common task that united us, not a reason for polarization,” she said. The Russian Federation acknowledged the key role of the Commission on the Status of Women and welcomed United Nations activities. Providing women equal access to education and job was vital. In Russia, women owned two in five small- and mid-sized enterprises. Her Government was ready to step up efforts on all fronts of this issue.
ANDRÉS FIALLO-KAROLYS ( Ecuador) said in his country, progress would not have been possible without indigenous women. The 1995 Beijing Conference was a milestone in recognizing women’s rights. Recognition of those rights had been integrated into Ecuador’s Constitution. Mechanisms for prohibiting all forms of violence against women also had been created, notably the national plan for eradicating violence against girls, which was launched five years ago. The Commission had helped Ecuador in that work.
Ecuador also had launched a campaign against machismo and another to combat violence against women. However, socio-cultural violence persisted, he said, noting that six out of 10 women admitted they had suffered gender violence. Ecuador would recommit itself at the national level to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment. He also urged implementing the Commission’s resolution 56/4 — on indigenous women as key actors in poverty and hunger eradication.
ELIZABETH COUSENS (United States) underlined the Commission’s inability to reach consensus at its fifty-sixth session and the imperative of reaching agreement next year. Discussing the 2012 theme — empowerment of rural women and their role in development — she said that as workers, farmers, scientists, homemakers and entrepreneurs, rural women were essential to augmenting their families’ incomes and boosting their countries’ economies.
It was regrettable that negotiations on draft agreed conclusions had broken down amid efforts to dilute principles enshrined in the outcome achieved at Beijing, especially on reproductive rights. What had promised to be a useful road map for development had been lost. She urged working together to avoid such an outcome next year, and ensure that crucial progress made was a floor, not a ceiling.
RENÉ ALFONSO RUIDIAZ ( Chile) said his Government had consistently co-sponsored gender-equality related resolutions at the United Nations and had stressed the importance of investing in rural women. However, his country’s Constitution was against abortion. Chile welcomed the role of UN-Women to guide policies in that regard. Chile promoted human rights and was committed to achieving gender-related goals so that women could balance family and work obligations. For instance, his Government revised legislation to extend maternity leave. “Maternity should never be considered an obstacle,” he said.
OKSANA MELNIKOVICH ( Belarus) stressed the importance of national and global efforts in gender issues and said gender equality and empowerment of women were fundamental to the full achievement of all Millennium Development Goals. Measures by Governments must be backed by the efforts of the international community. Poverty, lack of access to employment and education, and such practices as human trafficking had made women more vulnerable. Belarus was deeply concerned about the Commission’s failure to adopt the agreed conclusions on rural women. Some individual States had blocked action on the matter out of their own political motivation. Belarus called on the Council to prevent such a practice from turning into a trend, she said.
TOMÁŠ DUB ( Czech Republic) commended the “visible progress” made by the United Nations in mainstreaming a gender perspective into the Organization’s policies and programmes. He expressed his belief that gender markers would soon be used by all United Nations funds and programmes. Gender equality and the rights of women were long-term priories in his country’s foreign policy and part of the new multilateral development cooperation strategy for 2012-2017. As well, the Czech Republic promoted the role of women in development and the mainstreaming of gender aspects into development programmes. In formulating and implementing humanitarian assistance policies, his country took into full account gender aspects.
He went on to say that in his country’s effort to develop gender balanced projects, such as the business activities of women and their role in rural development, efforts were made that such activities needed to be “owned” by the partner country. “Gender activities can be sustainable only if they involved the local actors, governmental as well as non-governmental,” he stressed. Concluding, he lauded the role of the UN-Women in creating and implementing the system-wide action plan for gender equality and women’s empowerment, and in promoting global standard and norms.
SHULI DAVIDOVICH (Israel) said that there was a direct correlation between a society’s well-being and the status of its women. “Wherever we find free and powerful women, we will also find flourishing and vibrant societies,” she said, adding that the advancement of women was not a “women’s issue”, but one which affected everyone. The international community had made many commitments to those aims “on paper”, but they had not been implemented to their full extent on the ground. The United Nations had a major role to play in helping Member States breathe life into the words of the international conventions on gender equality and women’s empowerment.
In that vein, Israel was disappointed that agreed conclusions had not been reached on rural women during this year’s session of the Commission on the Status of Women. As the Executive Director of UN-Women, Michelle Bachelet, had said a few weeks ago, that entity could not promote gender mainstreaming alone. It must be integrated across the full range of United Nations activities, and partnerships must be strengthened and expanded with women’s organizations and non-governmental organizations. Gender mainstreaming was both an objective and an instrument for development. Israel therefore believed that the United Nations’ global development agenda should seek not only to address and monitor gender gaps, but also transform what lay at the foundation of gender inequalities. Women must have access to health services and information related to their sexual and reproductive rights. Finally, it must be ensured that the empowerment of women and girls was a central pillar of the post-2015 development agenda and of the Sustainable Development Goals.
THOMAS GÜRBER ( Switzerland) was concerned by negotiations around the conclusions of the fifty-sixth session of the Women’s Commission, especially over differences on existing political standards and norms outlined by the international community in recent decades. Terminology approved in Beijing and Cairo had been thrown into question. In that regard, he recalled the norms and provisions adopted in frameworks instruments, including the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, which States were obliged to respect. He urged States to respect women’s rights, regretting that no consensus had been achieved to strengthen the legal and political norms on women. For the Commission’s next session, he recalled that women’s rights were universal, inalienable and indivisible — the very foundation of a balanced social development.
PHILIPPA KING ( Australia) said the Commission enabled all stakeholders to evaluate progress on advancing women’s empowerment and gender equality. Its central role in the international system was self-evident. Australia would like to see negotiations begin prior to the start of the Commission’s sessions, and especially prior to the arrival of high-level participants. Such a change for working methods would be especially important ahead the body’s next session. It was regrettable that the Commission had been unable to adopt agreed conclusions, particularly as the theme had addressed rural women. Such an outcome did not do justice to the work carried out over many years to address the unique disadvantages faced by rural women.
The lack of agreement also was a disservice to rural women, she said, who had overcome the barriers of cost and time away from work to participate in the session. Rural women often suffered multiple disadvantages and international efforts were needed, especially in the areas of education, participation in decision-making and the ability to live in safe and sustainable environments. She was pleased that the discriminatory barriers against rural women had been highlighted by the Executive Director of UN-Women on the margins of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20). She urged that all stakeholders commit to securing outcomes that impacted gender equality, no matter how contentious. There was much to be done to ensure gender mainstreaming in the United Nations.
SÉRGIO RODRIGUES DOS SANTOS (Brazil) said the establishment of UN-Women was a proof to the commitment by Member States to ensuring gender equality and women’s empowerment. After only a year and a half in existence, and with limited funding, the entity had already proved its worth. Brazil joined Mexico and other States in expressing regret over the Commission on the Status of Women’s failure to adopt agreed conclusions at its most recent session. As a member of the Commission, Brazil expressed its renewed commitment to progress at the next session.
YULIANA BAHAR ( Indonesia) said an enabling environment must be created to eradicate poverty. Rural women were in the vanguard of fighting poverty. Gender perspectives should be incorporated into polices, and women’s economic capacity should be strengthened by giving them access to financing. It was vital not to overlook the link between women’s empowerment and food security, she said.
Indonesia’s scholarship program for higher education on agriculture was drawing increased attention. To live a quality life, health care was essential. Indonesia was also taking a number of legislative measures, including strengthening enforcement on violence against women, she said, adding that the Government also joined others in expressing a profound concern for the failure of the Commission on the Status of Women to adopt the agreed conclusions at the end of its most recent session.
GUSTAVO A. ARTILO (Argentina) said he was disappointed that the most recent session of the Women’s Commission had been unable to adopt agreed conclusions on the important topic of rural women. He recognized the work of the Commission’s Chair in that regard, expressing hope that the 2013 session would see agreements that would allow for tangible results on the theme of eliminating violence against women.
TETSUYA KIMURA (Japan) said that UN-Women was producing outcomes in a number of areas specified in its Strategic Plan only a year after its establishment. The entity had an important role to play in coordinating efforts in empowering women and mainstreaming gender within the United Nations system. In that light, the System-Wide Action Plan, adopted in April, provide the United Nations with a set of common measures to assess in its gender-related activities. In addition to cross-cutting efforts, however, it was important to make efforts to promote gender mainstreaming in thematic areas.
Based on that view, Japan had sponsored a resolution on “gender equality and empowerment of women” at the fifty-sixth session of the Commission on the Status of Women, which had been adopted by consensus. In particular, Japan hoped that Member States and United Nations agencies would actively seek to include a gender perspective in the area of natural disaster. The World Ministerial Conference on Disaster Reduction, held in Tohoku, Japan, earlier this month, had been an example of such an effort. Furthermore, Japan recognized the important role of women in economic activities, and had launched a Ministerial-level forum to boost economic revival through women’s empowerment. The forum had adopted an action plan which included awareness-raising for men, as well as a number of positive actions to support women’s empowerment.
Action on Texts
The Council then acted on a number of resolutions and decisions, some of which were contained in reports of its subsidiary bodies.
First, it adopted without a vote, a resolution submitted by Council Vice-President Luis-Alfonso De Alba ( Mexico) on mainstreaming a gender perspective in all policies and programmes in the United Nations system (document E/2012/L.8). By its terms the Council requested the United Nations to continue mainstreaming such a perspective into all its operational mechanisms. The Organization was also requested to continue supporting States in the implementation of national policies to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment by supporting capacity development to national machineries for women’s advancement.
Next, the Council took up the report of its Commission on the Status of Women on its fifty-sixth session (14 March 2011, 27 February-9 March and 15 March 2012) (document E/2012/27), which contained two draft decisions and one draft resolution.
By the first decision, adopted by consensus, the Council decided to recommend that the General Assembly consider the issue of ending female genital mutilation at its sixty-seventh session under the agenda item “Advancement of Women”.
After action, the delegate of Burkina Faso welcomed consideration of the Commission’s report on its fifty-sixth session, as violence against women persisted despite efforts to end it. Female genital mutilation physically and mentally disabled women. Some 150 million women had suffered through that practice and three million women risked undergoing it. Efforts should be strengthened to eliminate female genital mutilation. Welcoming the adoption of the decision, she said adoption of a General Assembly resolution on ending female genital mutilation would intensify awareness-raising of the practice and the means to fight it at national and regional levels.
The Council then turned its attention to the draft resolution on the situation of and assistance to Palestinian women, on which a recorded vote had been requested.
Speaking in explanation of position before the vote, the United States’ delegate expressed disappointment with the text, saying her Government was committed to supporting Palestinians in practical and effective ways. It had a deep interest in improving their humanitarian situation, which was reflected in its many programmes and work to create environments that allowed Palestinian women to advance and lead. The United States was the largest donor to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and contributed significant amounts to bilateral assistance to the entire Palestinian population.
She voiced concern at the situation in Gaza and Hamas’ efforts to limit women’s fundamental rights, including freedom of movement and access to public spaces. She reiterated support for more efforts to ensure the safety of Gazans. The United States also was troubled by the Council’s insistence to consider one-sided condemnations and implored it to refocus its energy towards shared goals. The text did not advance the interests of Palestinian women. The United States President had laid out, in May 2011, his vision for “two States and two peoples”. The goal was a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East. Only through direct negotiations could the parties achieve lasting peace and she supported all efforts that moved the process in that direction.
Egypt’s delegate asked who requested the vote.
The Vice-President responded that the United States delegation had made the request.
By a recorded vote of 30 in favour, to 2 against (Canada, United States), with 17 abstentions, the Council adopted the resolution, by which it urgedthe international community to continue to give special attention to the promotion and protection of the human rights of Palestinian women and girls, and to intensify its measures to improve the difficult conditions being faced by those women and their families living under Israeli occupation.
Speaking after the vote, Canada’s representative said his delegation had voted against the resolution, as his Government was concerned over unbalanced texts on the Middle East that did not address the issues.
Israel’s delegate said the resolution had no place in the Council. Today, the Council had taken an “unfortunate and destructive detour” and the politically motivated text undermined its credibility. The great irony was that an injustice to Palestinian women had been done. It was true that the situation of Palestinian women was far from ideal, as outlined in many United Nations documents. Gender discrimination was embedded in Palestinian legislation in Gaza and the West Bank. Describing the “dire” situation under Hamas, she said “morality police” harassed men and women who mixed openly. Women were prohibited from riding bicycles. The text was inadequate and misleading, doing nothing to address women’s challenges in Palestinian society. Israel strongly objected to the resolution.
A representative of the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine said support in the resolution for Palestinian women under Israeli occupation, and the implementation of international law, came at time when the Palestinian territory was seeing an escalation of illegal Israeli practices, including settlement campaigns and the blockade, which made the resolution’s adoption all the more necessary. Such policies were the real impediment to peace. Palestinian women and girls bore the brunt of those policies, and the resolution called for intensified international measures to improve their situation.
She said the statement by the representative of Israel was intended to shift the Council’s focus away from Israel’s abuses. No other issues facing Palestinian women could compare to the sheer brutality of Israel’s occupation. Palestinians were the only people in the world living under a 45-year occupation that had resulted in untold misery. She urged Israel to focus on the actions of its own Government.
Finally, the Council adopted by consensus, as orally amended, a draft decision, by which it took note of the report of the Commission on the Status of Women on its fifty-sixth session and approved the provisional agenda for the fifty-seventh session, to be held under the priority theme of: elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls.
Speaking after action, the delegate of the Russian Federation thanked the Commission for its report, saying also that her Government continued to have a number of serious questions regarding the summary. The inclusion of draft elements on the unapproved final document undermined the practice of “not to speak of what is still being worked on”. On 6 July 2012, the Russian Federation had drawn the attention of the Commission Chair to that issue. She hoped the wording would be removed from the summary as soon as possible and that the misunderstanding would not create a negative precedent for the Commission’s work.
Acting on a draft resolution submitted by Council Vice-President Luis Alfonso de Alba (Mexico), entitled Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011-2020 (E/2012/L.29), the Council called upon those countries, their development partners and the United Nations to fully implement commitments made in the 2011 Istanbul Programme of Action in its eight priority areas: productive capacity; agriculture, food security and rural development; trade; commodities; human and social development; multiple crises and other emerging challenges; mobilizing financial resources for development and capacity building; and good governance at all levels.
By other terms, least developed countries were also called on to broaden their country review mechanisms, including those for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, the implementation of poverty reduction strategy papers, common country assessments and United Nations Development Assistance Frameworks, and the existing consultative mechanisms to cover the review of the Istanbul Programme of Action.
Taking the floor after action, Nepal’s delegate, on behalf of the least developed countries, welcomed the resolution, whose focus was to ensure the integration and follow-up of the Istanbul action plan by all relevant stakeholders, with the overarching goal to help least developed countries meet criteria for graduation from the “least developed” category. It underlined the need to give particular attention to least developed country concerns in all international processes, including the post-2015 development framework. Its adoption reaffirmed the commitments made for agreed-upon actions in the Istanbul Programme of Action.
Canada’s delegate wondered if resolution E/2012/ L.12 had been withdrawn.
Next, the Council adopted by consensus a draft decision entitled African countries emerging from conflict (document E/2012/L.28), submitted by Council Vice-President de Alba. By that text, the Council took note of the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of integrated, coherent and coordinated support to South Sudan and requested that another report on the subject be submitted at the Council’s 2013 substantive session. The Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission was invited to continue to inform the Council of the economic and social challenges of peacebuilding in the African countries on the Commission’s agenda.
Moving on, the Council, in an oral decision, took note of reports of coordination bodies (document E/2012/67) and (document A/67/16).
Before action on the next draft resolution, the delegate of the United States asked the Chair to suspend the meeting for 10 minutes to review the text.
Shortly thereafter, the Council adopted, by consensus and as amended, a resolution on the report of the Committee on Economic, Social Council and Cultural Rights (document E/2012/L.24), by which it approved, as a temporary measure, the extension of the Committee’s second annual session of 2013 by one week. It also decided to extend the first annual session of its 2014 session by one week. Also by the text, the Council requestedthe Committee to continue to improve the efficiency of its working methods and to include in its future reports information on the impact of the measures adopted by the Committee to address the backlog in the consideration of reports of State parties to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Speaking in explanation of position after action, the representative of the United States emphasized the critical role of United Nations treaty bodies and underscored the depth of the issue on protecting human rights. However, the United States considered it also important to adhere to the budget decided in December 2011, expressing reservation about the financial implications of extending the Committee’s meeting time by two weeks. She said her delegation would disassociate itself from consensus, given the temporary nature of the measure, stressing the importance of cutting costs and boosting efficiency.
The representative of the United Kingdom also regretted that his Government had to disassociate itself from the consensus. His delegations had engaged in the negotiations on the text in a constructive manner. While acknowledging the Committee’s backlog, it was premature to extend the meeting time. The problem was not unique to that Committee, and ad hoc solutions came with limitations. It was necessary to tackle the underlying causes for backlog by such measures as strengthening the treaty bodies themselves. His Government was prepared to accept extension of meeting time by one week in 2013, but it was regrettable that the decision was made to give an extra week also in 2014, by which time the situation could change.
The delegate of Japan said his Government fully recognized the problem created by the Committee’s backlog of States party reports, but coming up with a long-term solution was essential. Given the severe constraints in the regular budget, minimizing additional resources was vital. Despite such concerns, however, Japan had decided to join consensus.
The Council then went on to take note of various reports: the Secretary-General’s note on the outcomes of the forty-ninth and fiftieth sessions of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (document E/2014/4); the Secretary-General’s report related to the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family in 2014 (document A/67/61-E/2012/3); the report of the Board of Trustees on major activities of the United Nations International Crime and Justice Research Institute (E/2012/69); the report of the International Narcotics Control Board for 2011 (document E/INCB/2011/1); the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (E/2012/51 and Corr.1); and the report of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (A/67/41).
Next, the Council adopted by consensus a draft resolution on Human settlements (E/2012/L.33), encouraging Governments to support the work of the United the Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) in line with its medium-term strategic and institutional plan for the 2008-2013 period, on the issues related to cities and climate change. Governments were also encouraged to promote sustainability criteria in planning, construction and management for access to clean water and safe drinking water, adequate sanitation, urban and rural services, sustainable waste management, sustainable transport and disaster risk reduction.
By other terms, the Council encouraged the inclusion of all relevant stakeholders at the local, national and regional levels in preparations for Habitat III, recommending that the General Assembly adopt in a timely manner a resolution on the arrangements for that review conference. It encouraged the United Nations — especially the Regional Commissions and other relevant subsidiary bodies of the Council — to support the preparatory process of the conference, as appropriate. UN-Habitat was encouraged to continue working on the strategic plan for the 2014-2019 period.
Adopting by consensus a draft resolution on the Report of the Committee of Experts on Public Administration at its eleventh session (document E/2012/L.23), submitted by Council Vice-President de Alba, the Council invited the Committee, in the framework of preparations for its twelfth session, to study the effect of practices in responsive and inclusive public governance on development, bearing in mind the need to promote high standards of public sector integrity, transparency and accountability.
By other terms, the Secretariat was requested to increase the scope and depth of its online and offline capacity development training, recognize innovative public sector initiatives by States, and assist the implementation of the 2003 Geneva Plan of Action and 2005 Tunis Agenda, adopted by the two-phase World Summit on the Information Society on issues related to electronic and mobile government. States and institutional donors were invited to consider contributing to the relevant trust funds of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs for extending capacity-building programmes in that area.
Rounding out the morning’s action, the Council also adopted, by consensus, a draft decision on Venue, dates and provisional agenda for the twelfth session of the Committee of Experts on Public Administration (E/2012/L.27), submitted by Council Vice-President de Alba, deciding that the Committee’s twelfth session would be held at United Nations Headquarters from 15 to 19 April 2013. It also approved the provisional agenda for that session.
Turning next to its consideration of the “Implementation of and follow-up to major United Nations conferences and summits”, the Council adopted, by consensus, a resolution entitled role of the Economic and Social Council in the integrated coordinated implementation of and follow-up to the outcomes of the major United Nations conferences and summits, in light of the relevant General Assembly resolution, including resolution 61/16 (document E/2012/L.32).
By the terms of that text, it underscored the need to implement General Assembly resolution 57/270 B (2003) as well as subsequent resolutions relevant to the integrated and coordinated follow-up to the outcomes of major United Nations conferences and summits in the economic and social fields. It also called upon the functional commissions, Regional Commissions and other subsidiary bodies to provide coherent support to the Economic and Social Council in the implementation of and follow-up to those outcomes.
The representative of Bangladesh, speaking following that action, said the resolution would go a long way towards helping the Council play its crucial role in the days ahead.
Also taking the floor on that item, Vice-President DE ALBA (Mexico) said that the process begun by the resolution would bring the Council, and indeed the entire United Nations, into a “much more prominent role” in global social and economic development. It was difficult, at this point, to see how long that process would take. However, he said that its commencement was “very promising”.
Following that, the Council adopted by consensus a draft resolution on follow-up to the International Conference on Financing for Development (document E/2012/L.26), as amended, submitted by Council Vice-President de Alba, on the basis of informal consultations. By the text, the Council expressed deep concern about the ongoing adverse impacts of the global financial and economic crisis on development, including on the capacity of developing countries to mobilize resources for development. It reiterated the United Nations role as a focal point for the financing for development follow-up process and the need to maintain that role to ensure the process’s dynamism. For its part, the Council should continue to strengthen its role in promoting coherence, coordination and cooperation in the implementation of the 2002 Monterrey Consensus and the 2008 Doha Declaration.
The delegation of Algeria, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said the text was critical for the Group, especially operative paragraphs 18 and 19, and thanked all who made dedicated effort in this regard.
The Council then took note of several documents in an oral decision. Those were: a note by the Secretary-General transmitting the report on the main decisions and policy recommendations of the Committee on World Food Security (document A/67/86-E/2012/71); a summary by the Economic and Social Council of the special high-level meeting of the Council with the Bretton Woods institutions, the World Trade Organization and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) (document A/67/81-E/2010/62); and the relevant part of the report of the Committee for Development Policy on its fourteenth session (12-16 March 2012) (document E/2012/33, Supp.13).
Turning to sustainable development, the Council adopted, by consensus, a draft resolution on the report of the Committee for Development Policy (document E/2012/L.25). By that text, the Council took note of the report of the Committee for Development Policy on its fourteenth session, and reaffirmed that a smooth transition was vital to ensuring that countries graduating from the “least developed” category were eased onto a sustainable development path without any disruption.
It therefore emphasized that a successful transition needed to be based, for each graduating country, on its own national strategy for a smooth transition, developed under national leadership with the support of the international community, as appropriate, presenting a comprehensive and coherent set of specific, predictable and transformative measures selected in accordance with the priorities of the country, while taking into account its own specific challenges, vulnerabilities and strengths.
Also by that text, the Council endorsed the recommendation of the Committee that South Sudan be added to the list of least developed countries, subject to the concurrence of the Government of South Sudan, and invited the General Assembly to take note of that recommendation. It further endorsedthe recommendation of the Committee that Vanuatu be graduated from the list of least developed countries, and recommended that the General Assembly take note of that recommendation. It took note of the recommendation of the Committee to graduate Tuvalu from the list of least developed countries, and decided to consider the issue at its next substantive session, allowing the Council an opportunity for full consideration of the particular challenges Tuvalu faces.
Finally, it recalled its endorsement made in 2009, and reiterated in subsequent sessions, of the recommendation of the Committee that Equatorial Guinea be graduated from the list of least developed countries, and urges the General Assembly to take note of that recommendation.
Turning its attention to “International cooperation in tax matters”, the Council then adopted, by consensus, a draft decision on dates and draft agenda for the eighth session of the Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters (E/2012/L.19). By that text, it decided that that session would be held in Geneva from 15 to 19 October 2012. It also approved the draft agenda for the session. Discussion of substantive issues related to the United Nations Model Tax Convention; transfer pricing: practical manual for developing countries; and a revision of the Manual for the Negotiation of Bilateral Tax Treaties between Developed and Developing Countries.
Next, the Council adopted by consensus a draft resolution submitted by Council Vice-President de Alba on the Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters (document E/2012/L.30).
In light of that adoption, a draft resolution by the same name (document E/2012/L.20) was withdrawn.
Following action, the delegate of Algeria stressed the need for developing more participatory decision-making and rule-setting mechanisms, including the need for the Council to examine the strengthening of the institutional arrangements to promote international cooperation in tax matters. It remained disappointing that there had been little concrete movement to fulfil this mandate. He pushed for the upgrading of the Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters into an intergovernmental subsidiary body of the Council.
Elections and Appointments to Subsidiary Bodies
Turning to a number of elections and appointments, the Council first elected, by acclamation, Virginia Bras Gomes (Portugal) to fill a vacancy on the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights arising from the resignation of one of its members, Eibe Riedel (Germany). Ms. Gomes assumed Mr. Riedel’s seat for a term beginning on 1 January 2013 and expiring on 31 December 2014.
As for outstanding vacancies from previous elections, the Council, also by acclamation, elected Chile, Costa Rica, Oman and Switzerland to the Commission on Science and Technology for Development for four-year terms beginning on 1 January 2013. It also decided to postpone the election of one member to that Committee from the Asia-Pacific States, one member from the Eastern European States and one member from the Western European and Other States.
The Council then elected, by acclamation, Jamaica to the Committee for the United Nations Population Award for a three-year term beginning on 1 January 2013. It postponed the election of three members from the African States, three members from the Asia-Pacific States and one member from the Western European States.
It also nominated France for election by the General Assembly to the Committee for Programme and Coordination for a three-year term that would begin on 1 January 2013, and agreed to further postpone the nomination of one member from the Latin American and Caribbean States and one member from the Western European and Other States for election by the General Assembly for terms that would begin on 1 January 2013 and would expire on 31 December 2015; and four members from Western European and Other States for terms that would begin on the date of election by the General Assembly and would expire on 31 December 2014.
The Council also approved the nomination by the Secretary-General of 24 experts to the Committee for Development Policy. Those individuals would serve on the Committee for a three-year term beginning 1 January 2013.
With regard to the pending issue of “System-wide coherence — linkages between the Commission on the Status of Women and the Executive Board of UN-Women”, the President reminded the Council that it had not been able to take appropriate action on that matter during its 2010 substantive session in light of the fact that the Executive Board of UN-Women had not yet been established. At last year’s substantive and resumed sessions, the Council President provided updates on the consultations between the Bureaus concerned. Such consultations had been ongoing.
On the basis on those exchanges and in consultation with his colleagues on the Council’s Bureau, the President proposed that two facilitators be appointed — one with expertise on matters related to the Commission on the Status of Women and one with expertise on matters related to the Executive Board of UN-Women — to conduct negotiations on that issue. The Council would be informed, in due course, as to the appointment of the co-facilitators, he said.
SHA ZUKANG, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and Secretary-General of the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), highlighted three broad accomplishments for the session. First, the Council’s work in 2012 proved that it had grown stronger with each successive year. The annual ministerial review had engaged a broad range of stakeholders, and had helped amplify the United Nations development agenda. The Development Cooperation Forum had strengthened the Council’s role in broadening dialogue on development cooperation, and promoting more efficient collaboration among partners.
Second, the 2012 Development Cooperation Forum provided strategic input on development cooperation and sustainable development. A third broad accomplishment of this year’s session was its high-level engagement by delegations. He was also pleased to see the active participation of the global civil society network.
“In my five years as Under-Secretary-General, the Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the Economic and Social Council have both made tremendous achievements,” he said, adding: “This sounds like a self-congratulation, but it’s all due to your work.”
“Our collective relevance, as a consequence, has never been greater than it is today, our collective commitment to multilateralism has never been more reassuring, and our collective mandate to development — and to make the world a better place — has never been important,” he said, noting that he would leave the United Nations next Tuesday. “I am pleased to have played a part.”
Council President MILOŠ KOTEREC of Slovakia said this year’s high-level segment — on unemployment boosting productive capacity, mainstreaming social protection and strengthening development cooperation — attracted more than 40 ministers and countless other top policymakers, eminent academics and global leaders from business and civil society. One prominent feature was the annual ministerial review, which heard National Voluntary Presentations by eight countries — Algeria, Russian Federation, Brazil, Ecuador, Ukraine, Kenya, Mauritius and Qatar — and debate on efforts to scale up employment.
The necessity of improving global economic governance was another focus, he said, with the Council’s high-level policy dialogue with major international financial and trade bodies aiming to improve coherence and accountability. The Development Cooperation Forum enjoyed a record turnout at its third gathering, and showed its worth as a marquee forum for policy discourse and guidance.
Turning to the coordination segment, he said it skilfully orchestrated follow-up to both last year’s Ministerial Declaration on education and the Conference on Financing for Development. Multilateralism, after all, amounted to little if agreements were not rigorously monitored. As regards the operational activities segment, with its focus on the upcoming Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review of United Nations operational activities for development, several issues covered were as technical as they were timely: assessing United Nations funding, building better tools to improve coherence, strengthening the Resident Coordinator System and enhancing the efficiency of business operations.
As for the humanitarian affairs segment, he said this year’s spotlight was on the world’s most dire emergencies and improving the capacity to confront future challenges. It was notable for its emphasis on the transition from relief to development, especially in the Sahel. The general segment, meanwhile, touched on many bases — from Haiti, to South Sudan to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and from tobacco control to women’s empowerment and information technology. Here, the Council showed its ability to offer thoughtful analysis on complex issues via reports from its Functional and Regional Commissions.
Much had been accomplished in 2012, he said, “but we can scarcely afford to stop now”. Pressing ahead required, above all, significant reforms to the way the Council conducted business, perceived itself and was perceived by others, making the adoption of the resolution on the integrated follow-up to the outcomes of United Nations global summits a crucial step forward. That was why the Council would convene a Special Ministerial Meeting on 24 September. It also was why the Council was working to shape a new vision that spaced substantive meetings throughout the year and better aligned the Council’s work with subsidiary bodies.
He went on to say it was a vision that placed sustainable development at the Council’s core, which placed the Council firmly at the centre of efforts to shape the United Nations post-2015 development agenda and expanded the Council’s diverse constituencies. “The tremendous experience, wisdom and passion of all our stakeholders must be harnessed in our shared pursuit of a better world”, he said. The world in which the Council served as a hub for policy coherence, responded effectively to emerging global challenges and exerted influence matched by its inclusiveness was within reach. “Let’s be bold. Let’s seize the moment.”
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