ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL HOLDS PANEL ON ‘CONFERENCE IMPLEMENTATION: COMMON GOALS AND COMMON CHALLENGES’

ECOSOC/6067
8 July 2003

ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL HOLDS PANEL ON ‘CONFERENCE IMPLEMENTATION: COMMON GOALS AND COMMON CHALLENGES’

08/07/2003
Press Release
ECOSOC/6067


ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL HOLDS PANEL ON ‘CONFERENCEIMPLEMENTATION:

COMMON GOALS AND COMMON CHALLENGES’


Panellists Stress Need for Implementation of Conference Outcomes;

Describe Action in Areas of Migration and Responding to SARS Outbreak


(Reissued as received.)


GENEVA, 8 July (UN Information Service) -- The Economic and Social Council this afternoon held a panel on “conference implementation:  common goals and common challenges,” which was followed by an interactive dialogue during which issues such as the need for credible progress towards the implementation of the outcomes of international conferences, migration, and the impact of the international response to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) upon future integrated responses to emerging issues were raised.


Rubens Ricupero, Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, said that the first difficulty in relation to assessing progress made in the implementation of conference outcomes was that there was insufficient time within the deadlines to make such assessments.  Moreover, it was clear that globally, there was growing concern about progress in implementation.  This was particularly the case since practically all deadlines agreed upon in Doha and in other conferences had been missed.  This did not mean that they would not finally be implemented, but as yet, they were behind schedule.


Jan Pronk, former Special Envoy of the Secretary-General to the World Summit for Sustainable Development process, said that non-implementation of the outcomes of international conferences should be considered a political problem, which had led people in many countries to lose confidence in governments, in politicians and in the multilateral system.  The non-implementation of political decisions was one reason why the system was no longer credible.  There was a need to make those responsible for implementation accountable; without accountability, the United Nations would increasingly be seen as irrelevant.


Providing an example of how coordination in implementation could be carried out, Brunson McKinley, Director-General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said that IOM had sought to contribute to broad coordination by participating in ECOSOC and in various other United Nations functional and regional bodies, pointing out the linkages and synergies between IOM’s work and development issues.  In addition, IOM intended to strengthen “strategic alliances” with the agencies dealing with the main areas of migration management and crosscutting themes.  IOM had also launched and was institutionalizing a consultative mechanism with non-governmental organizations at both the Headquarters and field level to enhance cooperation and understanding.


David Heymann, Executive Director of Communicable Diseases at the World Health Organization, said that in rolling out the response to the SARS outbreak, WHO had worked within existing international health regulations, but had also incorporated four new activities into its response.  These included accepting information from non-governmental sources about the outbreak, acting outside the realm of the three diseases mandated for reporting, coordinating extensively within WHO, the United Nations system and the public health community at large, and using a decision by the Director-General of WHO to request and visit countries for more information.  WHO was now planning a new system of partnership for global alert and response to infectious diseases.


During the interactive segment of this afternoon’s meeting, the discussion focused on issues such as how to address the credibility gap cited by Mr. Pronk and hinted at by the other panellists, how the rising tide of migration was and should be handled, and how the international response to the outbreak of SARS had affected future responses in similar situations.


Concluding, Vice-President Murari Raj Sharma said that one main theme had emerged -– that working together was the best way to ensure the implementation of the goals, targets and commitments of United Nations conferences and summits.  It was also important to respect commitments made in order to uphold the faith of citizens across the world in the multilateral system.


Initiating the interactive dialogue after the panellists’ presentations was Jeffrey McNeely of the World Conservation Union, who served as lead discussant.  Representatives of the following countries participated in the interactive dialogue:  Peru, the Netherlands, Pakistan, El Salvador, China, Brazil, South Africa, Germany, Argentina, Ethiopia and Nigeria.  A representative of the International Federation of Settlements and Neighbourhood Centres also spoke during the discussion.


The Economic and Social Council will meet again at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 9 July, to continue its general debate on the role of the Council in the integrated and coordinated implementation of the outcomes of major international conferences and summits.


Statements


RUBENS RICUPERO, Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), said he would focus on implementation rather than follow-up, with particular focus on the implementation and translation of commitments made at major conferences and summits into practical deeds in the field of finance and trade.  One difficulty in implementation was that in most cases, such as in Johannesburg and the Millennium Declaration, there was insufficient time within the deadlines to make assessments about the progress of implementation.  It was stressed that in the Doha agreements, a comprehensive set of interrelated cases had been defined.  Hopefully, this would be an appropriate test case for the commitments made in major conferences.  It was true that today, many years after the Uruguay round, people were still discussing whether it had lived up to expectations.  Unfortunately, until negotiations were concluded, it was difficult to pass judgment.  However, it was clear that globally, there was a growing concern about the progress in implementation.  This was particularly the case since practically all deadlines agreed upon in Doha and in other conferences had been missed.  This did not mean that they would not finally be implemented, but as yet, they were behind schedule.  The upcoming meeting in Cancun would represent an important parameter to judge and examine progress.  This could be done by looking at how the Cancun meeting would deal with issues that were particularly sensitive to the least developing countries in the world, such as access to markets and trade barriers.  This would be a possibility to gauge if the process of trade negotiations was really delivering.


JAN PRONK, former Special Envoy of the Secretary-General to the World Summit on Sustainable Development process, said that non-implementation should be considered as a political problem.  People in many countries were losing confidence in governments, in politicians and in the multilateral system.  Non-implementation of political decisions was seen as another reason why the system was no longer credible.  The United Nations did itself a disservice by negotiating for a long time, only to fail to have the outcomes implemented.  This must have consequences for the way in which implementation should be discussed; the discussion should focus on how to implement, when to implement and who should do it.  Review and appraisal needed to be a political task.  There was a need to make those responsible for implementation accountable; without accountability, the United Nations would increasingly be seen as irrelevant.


Many treaties had been negotiated, he said, and if they were operational, they had to be implemented.  However, many treaties had not become operational because an insufficient number of States had ratified them.  The tendency of negotiators to be complacent in the face of this phenomenon was worrisome.  The number of non-operational treaties should be halved, he said, by 1 January 2005, through the appointment of an individual to analyse and raise awareness on the non-ratification of governments that had negotiated treaties.


Using the Kyoto Protocol and Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as examples, he pleaded with those present to understand the depth of the public’s lack of faith as they saw these important treaties not being implemented.  The MDGs should be considered as concrete targets, or the poor of the world would feel betrayed.  Furthermore, the United Nations system should take business and civil society seriously, not as guests sometimes invited to meetings, but as permanent stakeholders together with governments.


BRUNSON MCKINLEY, Director-General of the International Organization for Migration, said many of the themes relating to migration fitted well with the goals of recent United Nations conferences.  These included the capacity of governments to address migration and harnessing migration to promote development, including through building human and institutional capacities.  It also included the efforts to promote the rights of migrants and those to combat trafficking of persons.  Migration was one of the big issues of contemporary society.  World demographic, economic, political and social trends guaranteed that governments and societies would need to put more and more emphasis on migration management in all its variables.  IOM’s recently launched World Migration Report 2003 estimated the number of international migrants at 175 million.  The impact of international labour flows would be felt in almost every important field of government responsibility –- economy, education, health, environment, law enforcement, development and international relations.


Last year, in seeking to provide a schematic view of migration management and to illustrate both the importance of a comprehensive approach to migration and the many linkages between the different elements, IOM had come up with a “Four Box Chart” including migration and development; facilitated migration; migration control; and forced migration and conflict.  This was of course just a guide to what migration could be and to provoke some thought on this issue.  Concerning migration and development, he stressed that when international migration was properly managed and led to decent work, it could have enormous potential for development and achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).  There were three aspects to consider here, including remittances, diasporas and labour migration programmes.  IOM had sought to contribute to broad coordination by participating in ECOSOC itself and in the various United Nations functional and regional bodies, pointing out the linkages and synergies between IOM’s work and all the issues mentioned above.  In addition, IOM intended to strengthen “strategic alliances” with the agencies dealing with the four main areas of migration management and the crosscutting themes.  IOM had also launched and was institutionalizing a consultative mechanism with non-governmental organizations both at Headquarters and field level to enhance cooperation and understanding.


DAVID HEYMANN, Executive Director of Communicable Diseases at the World Health Organization, said that in rolling out the response to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak, WHO had worked within existing international health regulations, but had also incorporated four new activities into its response.  These included accepting information from non-governmental sources about the outbreak, acting outside the realm of the three diseases mandated for reporting, coordinating extensively within WHO, the United Nations system and the public health community at large and using a decision by the Director-General of WHO to request and visit countries for more information.  WHO was now planning a new system of partnership for global alert and response to infectious diseases.


Describing the type of information outside normal channels which was received during the SARS outbreak, he said that the original information received about the outbreak in China was received from a Canadian reporting Web site, not from the Chinese Government, which had not been informed by the authorities of the province in which it had occurred.  Similarly, non-governmental sources had alerted WHO to SARS’ presence in Viet Nam.  Another step in WHO’s response to the epidemic was to make international travel recommendations to deal with hysteria resulting from government and individual responses to inaccurate or exaggerated information.


Highlighting the important role played by new electronic communications technology, he showed that in a number of cases, outbreaks had been avoided as information on how to deal appropriately with the disease was passed to governments and health authorities quickly.  While, the economic impact of the disease had still been severe, the recovery of the travel industry to Hong Kong had picked up quickly after the issuance of WHO’s all clear on that country.  Among the lessons learned from the SARS outbreak was that a disease in one area of the world could affect the entire world.


Interactive Dialogue


Serving as the lead discussant, Jeffrey McNeely, of the World Conservation Union, stressed the important work that was being undertaken by United Nations summits and conferences.  In order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, he suggested that World Trade Organization delegations must be fully briefed about them and their implications before leaving for the Cancun negotiations.  He highlighted the role of institutions such as the Millennium Project, an independent body in charge of implementing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and addressing each of the Millennium targets.  The Millennium Project aimed to propose the best strategies to implement MDGs and ensure that developing countries were supported in their attempts to achieve them.  The interim step of the Millennium Project could help developing countries to package their needs in a manner that was attractive to donor countries.  In this connection, he pointed to the importance of remittances and the private sector. The private sector needed to be involved in these negotiations if they were expected to invest, he said.  Governments must also play their role.  It was disturbing that out of the 2.5 trillion dollars spent on subsidies, 1.9 trillion dollars were spent in manners contradictory to the achievement of the Millennium Goals.


Subsequently, one delegate noted the linkage between the presentations of Mr. Ricupero and Mr. Pronk, particularly in their recommendations, and said that on the subject of measures to be taken in response to the lack of credibility of the multilateral system, what was needed was commitments by countries to implement their undertakings.  He asked Mr. Pronk how the way in which countries’ executive branches individually complied with their undertakings could be changed?


Another delegate asked a related question on the kinds of accountability processes that could be undertaken to ensure that commitments were indeed implemented.


On the subject of viewing implementation as a political issue, another delegate noted that some issues grabbed more attention than others.  How was the international community to make relatively unattractive issues more attractive?


In response to these questions, Mr. Pronk made several suggestions for changing the current system, among which were that, given the overlap of issues in many fora, the international community should cut all inter-governmental fora by fifty per cent in one year.  This would also cut the burden on developing countries, which did not have the capacity to cover all of these fora at the same time.  He also suggested that the Secretariat should show innovative leadership instead of fearing governmental criticism and that governments should not be afraid to disagree, but should welcome the challenge of debate.  Moreover, delegations should use people from outside to act as rapporteurs to bring new issues onto the agenda.  He also suggested that the creation of an elected chamber of representatives to consider economic and social issues should be considered and that renegotiation of the outcomes of conferences and summits should be forbidden.


Mr. McKinley responded that it was up to Member States to support a conference on migration.  Unfortunately, it seemed that the consensus amongst Member States was still not there.  He suggested increased participation by Member States within the IOM Council.  Another suggestion was the idea of creating an experts’ commission on migration.


Addressing some of the questions raised, Mr. Ricupero said that UNCTAD carried out a number of activities in connection with finance and trade in developing countries to attract foreign direct investment, including programmes aiming towards the alleviation of the debt burden and increasing official development assistance.  Concerning the structures of accountability, he said the major responsibility for failures of implementation of commitments usually did not lie with the United Nations but with Governments.  Governments often accepted general commitments whilst raising specific reservations.  However, they had a political responsibility and must not accept commitments they lacked the political will to implement.  Commitments had been made less then two years ago, such as those on intellectual property rights, which had not yet been honoured.  No one could deny that the deadline had been missed.


In the second round of questions, one speaker said that throughout the substantive session of ECOSOC, focus had been put on the lack of political will.  There was also a degree of apathy in the multilateral system.  Concerning migration, he asked for elaboration on the fundamental role played by remittances.


One speaker said the lack of faith in multilateral agencies and the outcome of United Nations conferences and summits was a problem that must be solved.  If even people working for the United Nations were losing faith in the system, there was a need to seriously ensure the implementation of United Nations conferences.  Being from a country that had just survived the life and death struggle of SARS, she thanked all governments and United Nations organizations for their assistance.  SARS had quickly come and gone, but had left behind many questions and areas of exploration to be undertaken in a joint manner.


Tackling the question of implementation, one speaker said it must be addressed through goals, frameworks and resources.  The goals were in place; however, the question was now how to achieve them.  More attention should therefore be put on frameworks and resources.


In response to the preceding questions, Mr. Pronk said that the goals and frameworks did exist.  However, the necessary leadership did not.  Moreover, the attitude of developing countries should be, “give us assistance, but even without, we’ll do it anyways”.  This should lead to real support.


Adding on to Mr. Pronk’s response, Mr. Heymann said that the SARS outbreak occurred at a time when many in the world were questioning the use of the United Nations system.  But WHO had shown that the United Nations system was ready to work together.  It had also shown that low-cost communication –- e-mail and telephone conferencing –- instead of large meetings was effective.


Returning to the subject of migration, one speaker raised the issue of refugees and their treatment, and the phenomenon of re-integration –- which was often connected with foreign direct investment.  Not just the IOM, but also the international community needed to ask themselves how to deal with migration in the future.  Another delegate asked whether IOM had any contact with WTO to share knowledge about migration flows, given the export of workers seeking gainful employment in other countries, and the comparative advantage of some countries in relation to production for trade.  Another delegate asked about the joint work of IOM and the ILO.


On the shifting cultural values in relation to migration, Mr. McKinley said there was need to recognize the phenomenon in developed countries, where gaps in the employment spectrum and shortfalls in pension funding needed to be dealt with and the solution would often be found in migration.  In many countries, migrant communities were also gaining the ability to speak out on a political level.  There were many different ways to conceive of integration, he continued.  It was now more complicated than before, with many migrants not desiring to forsake their nationality or to remain abroad forever.  In a well-organized migration system, it should be possible for such migrants to return home and reintegrate into their societies.


The ILO, said Mr. McKinley, was very active in the area of migrant workers and their conventions were important documents.  ILO was an important stakeholder in multilateral efforts to manage migration better and IOM and ILO had many partnerships.  Turning to the subject of human trafficking, raised by another delegate, he said more must be done to address this problem.  The idea of holding an international conference dedicated to this issue alone was interesting, however there were several other conference processes in which the subject was being addressed.  Furthermore, he said that a dialogue did exist between IOM and WTO.


Finally, on the subject of political flows, Mr. Ricupero said that the economic situation had been very volatile in the last 10 years, to the point where there now seemed to be a major financial crisis every two years.  This was of major concern, because at the present time there was an enormous amount of arbitrage flows due to the low level of interest rates.


* *** *


For information media. Not an official record.