Economic and Social Council Adopts Texts on Sustainable Development Goals, Women, Non-communicable Diseases, as Coordination, Management Session Commences

ECOSOC/6846
7 June 2017
2017 Session, 31st & 32nd Meetings (AM & PM)

Economic and Social Council Adopts Texts on Sustainable Development Goals, Women, Non-communicable Diseases, as Coordination, Management Session Commences

As it commenced its 2017 coordination and management segment, the Economic and Social Council today adopted four resolutions and two decisions, including those recommended by its Task Force on non-communicable diseases and its Women’s Commission, as well as its Statistical Commission, which submitted in its report’s annex more than 200 indicators aimed at measuring the progress towards achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Drawn up by an inter-agency expert group established by the Statistical Commission, the new “Global indicator framework for the Sustainable Development Goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” laid out specific indicators for each of the Goals’ 169 targets.  Acting without a vote, the Council adopted that framework as a “voluntary and country-led instrument” to be refined annually and reviewed comprehensively at the Statistical Commission’s upcoming sessions.

Introducing the resolution via video-link, Wasmália Barata Bivar, Chair of the Statistical Commission, described the framework’s formulation as the Commission’s “biggest challenge”, adding that “the broad scope of the 2030 Agenda and its [Sustainable Development Goals] calls for an unprecedented amount of data and statistics.” 

A number of speakers welcomed the framework’s adoption as well as the “broad, comprehensive and transparent” consultations that had led to its establishment.  While pointing out that the indicators would continue to be refined in the coming years, some delegations also underlined the importance of respecting national priorities during that process.  Still, others described the current framework as a “work in progress” and cited weaknesses that had not yet been resolved.

A text on the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases, which was introduced by the Russian Federation’s representative, was also adopted without a vote.  By its terms, the Council urged Governments, the private sector and other partners to explore financing for the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases, and to mobilize adequate, predictable and sustained resources for the programmatic work of the United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force on the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases.

Prior to that adoption, Werner Obermeyer, Deputy Executive Director of the New York Office of the World Health Organization (WHO), introduced the report of the United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force on the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases, recalling that its 2013 establishment had placed a special emphasis on tobacco.  The work of the Task Force had expanded to include more than a dozen country visits as well as the development of joint programmes for implementation by the United Nations system, he continued.  However, he pointed out that the demand for support in those areas had been handicapped by a lack of resources.

During the general discussion, a number of speakers outlined national efforts to reduce the impact of non-communicable diseases, including through prevention programmes and the elaboration of specific targets.  Several delegates described the harmful use of alcohol, unhealthy diets and physical inactivity as some of the most severe development challenges of the twenty-first century, urging the use of science-based data to combat them.

The Council also took up a number of issues related to the empowerment of women — especially in the context of sustainable development — as well as the mainstreaming of a gender perspective into the United Nations work.  Adopting a resolution on the latter without a vote, the Council urged the United Nations system to accelerate gender mainstreaming in its policies and programmes, including in support of the gender-responsive implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

In addition, it stressed the need for the Inter-Agency Network on Women and Gender Equality and other partners to take concrete actions to promote responsibility for the implementation of relevant performance indicators, calling on them, among other things, to implement the System-wide Action Plan on Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women and launch related United Nations country team “scorecards” beginning in 2018.

The Council also adopted, by a recorded vote of 22 in favour to 2 against (Australia, United States) with 17 abstentions, a draft resolution recommended to it by the Commission on the Status of Women titled “Situation of and assistance to Palestinian women”.  By its terms, the Council demanded that Israel, the occupying Power, comply fully with the provisions and principles of the relevant rules, principles and instruments of international law to protect the rights of Palestinian women and their families.  It also urged the international community to continue to give special attention to the promotion and protection of the human rights of Palestinian women and girls.

Acting without a vote, the Council adopted a decision forwarded to it by the Statistical Commission regarding the dates and provisional agenda of its upcoming session, to be held in 2018, as well as a decision submitted by the Commission on the Status of Women containing the provisional agenda for its next session.

Delivering statements today were representatives of Cuba, Mexico and the United States.  An observer for the State of Palestine also spoke.

The Economic and Social Council will reconvene at 10 a.m. Thursday, 8 June, to continue its work.

Statistical Commission

WASMÁLIA BARATA BIVAR, Chair of the Statistical Commission, introduced, via video link, the report of the Commission on its forty-eighth session (document E/2017/24).  Drawing attention to that body’s 70-year history, she said it had worked tirelessly with Government experts to develop a common language of statistics to serve the global community.  The Commission had approved numerous standards and classifications to improve the availability and quality of official statistics, including the areas of census taking and national accounts. 

“The broad scope of the 2030 Agenda [for Sustainable Development] and its SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals] calls for an unprecedented amount of data and statistics,” she said, recalling that the General Assembly had mandated the body with “its biggest challenge” — that of developing a global indicator framework for measuring progress towards the Goals.   Included in the annex of the report were over 200 indicators aimed at measuring the progress towards achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Describing the Commission’s work to that end — much of which had been undertaken through its Inter-Agency and Expert Group on Sustainable Development Goal Indicators — she recalled that those efforts had culminated in the adoption of the new global indicator framework at the Commission’s last session in March.  The framework, which had received broad support, was now before the Council and would also be passed on to the Assembly for final adoption.  

In addition to laying out the new indicator framework, the draft resolution also outlined specific areas of work for the Inter-Agency and Expert Group as well as criteria for further work on refining indicators.  Another key component focused on statistical capacity-building in order to allow national statistical systems to fully address the 2030 Agenda.  Included among other cross-cutting topics were quality assurance, big data and the integration of statistical and geospatial information, as well as social statistics, national accounts, environmental-economic accounting and the international comparison programme.

The representative of Cuba, noting that the Commission’s consultation process had been “broad, comprehensive and transparent”, called the new indicator framework a good point of departure towards the implementation and monitoring of the 2030 Agenda.  However, progress in refining the indicators must continue to respect the priorities and realities of each country and safeguard the leading role of national statistical offices.  Some specific indicators — including 3.5.2 on the harmful use of alcohol, whose current formulation was a “biased version” of the World Health Organization’s work — did not adequately address many important issues.  She requested that indicator 3.5.2 be included among those submitted for greater consideration by the Commission’s future sessions.

The representative of Mexico said the new indicator framework would offer more relevancy to statistical work aiming to measure the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, while also contributing to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals by building the capacity of countries in that area.

The Council then adopted without a vote the draft resolution contained in Chapter 1 section A of the report of the Statistical Commission, pertaining to the 2030 Agenda.  By the text, it formally adopted the global indicator framework for the Sustainable Development Goals and targets as a “voluntary and country-led instrument”, including an initial set of indicators to be refined annually and reviewed comprehensively at the Commission’s fifty-first and fifty-sixth sessions.

The Council also requested the Secretary-General to facilitate collaboration between national statistical systems and the relevant international and regional organizations, recommending to the former that they explore ways to integrate new data sources while also stressing their coordinating role in the collection of national statistics.

The representative of the United States, speaking after action, said that while his delegation had joined the consensus, he still considered much of the new indicator framework to be a “work in progress”.  Indeed, many of the indicators, including some in “tier one”, contained serious weaknesses that would hinder widespread acceptance and reporting.  Despite such concerns that the United States had brought to the Commission’s attention, many remained unresolved.  the United States would therefore continue to engage through the established process to strengthen the indicator framework, he said, adding that it would also reserve the right to provide further comments on the indicator framework and all other United Nations processes related to the 2030 Agenda’s follow-up and review process at a later date, as many of its own policies remained under review or in development.

The Council then took up a draft decision contained in Chapter 1 section B of the Commission’s report, regarding the provisional agenda and dates for its forty-ninth session, and adopted it without a vote.

Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases

WERNER OBERMEYER, Deputy Executive Director of the New York Office of the World Health Organization (WHO), introduced the report of the United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force on the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases (document E/2017/54).  He recalled that the task force had been established by the Economic and Social Council in 2013 with a special emphasis on tobacco, which had been retained as a key area of focus in this year’s report.  The Addis Ababa Action Agenda recognized the value of tobacco pricing and tax measures as a revenue stream, although the reality was that the health sector received very little of the $270 billion that was collected through such efforts. 

The work of the Task Force had expanded to include more than a dozen country visits as well as the development of joint programmes for implementation by the United Nations system, he continued.  However, the demand for support in those areas had been handicapped by a lack of resources.  It was important not to ease up on the fight against non-communicable diseases, he stressed, particularly given the large number of largely preventable deaths and the billions of dollars in economic losses.

The representative of China noted that in recent years, his country had been working hard to reduce the impact of non-communicable diseases.  In 2016, a prevention and treatment plan for non-communicable diseases was outlined in the country’s national economic and social development plan, including through the elaboration of specific targets.  More than 200 prevention and control demonstration areas had been established to better educate the public on non-communicable diseases.  In addition, medical teams had been deployed to developing countries with the aim of providing them with the best possible medical assistance.

The representative of Estonia called for greater attention to be paid to the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases.  Tobacco use, the harmful use of alcohol, unhealthy diets and physical inactivity constituted some of the most severe challenges to development in the twenty-first century.  It was of utmost importance that science-based data be utilized to minimize tobacco and alcohol consumption.  She noted that her country would be committed to leading the discussion on non-communicable diseases during its upcoming Presidency of the European Union, starting 1 July.

SERGEY KONONUCHENKO (Russian Federation) introduced the draft resolution titled “United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force on the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases” (document E/2017/L.21), noting the progress that had been made in the Task Force’s implementation of its mandate.  With that body’s active support, national strategies to combat non-communicable diseases had been put in place in many countries.  The Task Force would continue to work on raising the awareness of States on the necessity of working to prevent non-communicable diseases; particularly as such illnesses would have an impact on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals

The issue of non-communicable diseases continued to a central priority within the Russian Federation’s health agenda, he said, adding that his country was ready to expand its support to related international efforts.  He reminded the Council that in 2018 the General Assembly would hold its third high-level meeting on the topic to review what had been achieved and to determine the direction of future efforts.  Noting that it would be timely to conduct a conference on non-communicable diseases in July ahead of the upcoming General Assembly meeting, he proposed organizing a global conference focused on financing for non-communicable diseases to raise additional resources.  The positive results of the Task Force’s work and the growing demand for its services was a strong argument for continuing to support the group in order to expand its capacities.

The Council adopted the resolution without a vote, through which the Economic and Social Council urged national Governments, the private sector, bilateral and multilateral donors and regional development banks to explore financing for the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases and mobilizing the provision of adequate, predictable and sustained resources for the programmatic work of the task force.

Further to the text, the Council urged bilateral and multilateral donors to strengthen international cooperation and development assistance to support efforts to build sufficient capacity in developing countries, in particular, with regard to legal, fiscal and regulatory systems with the objectives of developing and implementing multisectoral responses for the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases.

The representative of the United States, speaking after action, underlined that her country had joined consensus on the resolution as it strongly supported efforts to prevent and control non-communicable diseases.  However, the reference to “model policy” found in the resolution should not be interpreted as applicable to industries other than the tobacco industry or to umbrella groups of business and industry representatives that might count among their membership representatives of tobacco firms.  The United States urged all members of the Task Force to maintain transparency, inclusiveness and dialogue with the private sector.

Commission on the Status of Women

DAVID DONOHUE, Chair-elect of the Commission the Status of Women, said that the Commission’s sixty-first session had convened more interactive dialogues with greater multi-stakeholder participation than ever before.  In addition, it had provided greater opportunities for ministerial engagement on the sharing of experiences and lessons learned, including on the Commission’s current theme, namely, “Women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work”.

He went on to note that the Commission had also issued a number of recommendations aimed at strengthening education, training and skill development for women and girls; implementing economic and social policies including macroeconomic and labour policies; addressing the growing informality of work; managing technological and digital change for women’s empowerment; and strengthening the role of the private sector in women’s economic empowerment. 

In addition, the Commission’s agreed conclusions had drawn attention to the close links between women’s empowerment and efforts to end poverty and hunger, ensure universal health care and education and achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all, while also highlighting the important role of partnerships, he said.  The Commission had put emphasis on evaluating the progress in achieving the agreed conclusions from previous sessions, especially challenges and successes in achieving the Millennium Development Goals in the context of the empowerment of women and girls. 

Eleven countries had made voluntary presentations on that topic, he noted, adding that they provided insights into how the lessons learned in implementing the Millennium Development Goals were now being integrated into national efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.  He also drew attention to the theme of the Commission’s next session, which would focus on challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls.

LAKSHMI PURI, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), introduced the report “Mainstreaming a gender perspective into all policies and programmes in the United Nations system” (document E/2017/57).  Since 1997 there had been a significant increase in political will and commitment to gender mainstreaming with established institutional arrangements, such as gender units, gender specialists and gender focal points in the United Nations system and elsewhere.

Yet, at times a less than stellar picture of gender mainstreaming had been presented, she pointed out.  Gender mainstreaming and standalone gender equality programmes were not mutually exclusive and a twin-track approach rooted in consistent and visible policy prioritization and targeted programmes was required.  Political will and commitment from the very top was required, although above all, human and financial resources needed to be delivered for all women and girls.

Under-investment in gender matters continued to impede results, yet it remained the norm, she continued.  The number of staff working on gender issues 50 per cent of their time stood at only 3.5 per cent of United Nations staff.  “This is not enough to make a difference,” she stressed, adding that it could not be business as usual if the international community wanted to improve gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.

However, nothing propelled implementation more than effective accountability mechanisms, she emphasized.  In that regard, the UN-System Wide Action Plan constituted a significant breakthrough, having propelled progress, accelerated gender mainstreaming and provided a clearer and more consistent picture of system-wide strengths and challenges.

She underscored that the resolution before the Council provided very strong actions for the United Nations system to continue to work collaboratively and be accountable for accelerating the full and effective mainstreaming of a gender perspective, including in the context of the gender-responsive implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

The representative of Mexico regretted that not all agencies of the United Nations system had responded to requests for information and noted that the goal of gender equality across all United Nations bodies had not been achieved.  He said he looked forward to the launch of the second plan of action for the whole United Nations system towards mainstreaming the gender perspective in all policies.

The Council then adopted, without a vote, a draft resolution titled “Mainstreaming a gender perspective into all policies and programmes of the United Nations” (document E/2017.L.22).  By its terms, the Council urged the United Nations system to accelerate gender mainstreaming in its policies and programmes, including in support of the gender-responsive implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

The text also stressed the need for the Inter-Agency Network on Women and Gender Equality and other partners across the system to take concrete actions to further promote responsibility for the implementation of relevant performance indicators, and, among other things, called on them to implement the System-wide Action Plan on Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women and launch a related United Nations country team “scorecard” beginning in 2018.

In addition, the Council also called on United Nations system entities to undertake efforts to strengthen gender parity in staff appointments and strengthen collaboration and coordination among staff members working on gender equality and gender focal points, and requested them to continue and increase support to Member States, with their agreement and consent, in the implementation of the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and related national policies.

The Council then adopted a draft resolution titled “Situation of and assistance to Palestinian women” by a recorded vote of 23 in favour, 2 against (Australia, United States) and 17 abstentions.

By the text, the Council demanded that Israel, the occupying Power, comply fully with the provisions and principles of the relevant rules, principles and instruments of international law to protect the rights of Palestinian women and their families.

The Council also called upon Israel to facilitate the return of all refugees and displaced Palestinian women and children to their homes and properties, while also calling upon the international community to continue to provide urgently needed assistance to alleviate the dire humanitarian crisis being faced by Palestinian women and their families.

An observer of the State of Palestine, speaking after action, said that the adoption of the resolution was a resounding reaffirmation of the rights of the Palestinian people, in particular women and girls, who were living under Israeli occupation.  The resolution reiterated, among many other issues, grave concern about the dire situation facing Palestinian women and girls as a result of settlement activities, restrictions on the movement of persons and goods, settler terror violence, the incitement of extremist activities, the arrest and detention of civilians and the blockade of the Gaza Strip.  The resolution reaffirmed fundamental legal principles in the question of Palestine and the search for a just, lasting and peaceful solution.  The vote also underscored the role that the United Nations can and must play in upholding international law.

The Council also adopted a draft decision noting the report of the Commission on the Status of Women on its sixty-first session and approving the provisional agenda and documentation for the sixty-second session of the Commission.  As well, the Council took note of a resolution and decision adopted by the Commission titled “Preventing and eliminating sexual harassment in the workplace”. 

As well, the Council took note of the Secretariat’s transmission of the results of the sixty-third, sixty-fourth and sixty-fifth sessions of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (document E/2017/8).

For information media. Not an official record.