2 May 2003


Press Release



GENEVA, 26 April (CEB) -- The Board of Chief Executives of the United Nations System (CEB) held its spring session in Paris on 25-26 April 2003, at the invitation of the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Koichiro Matsuura.

Among the issues discussed was the critical importance of the timely and successful conclusion of the Doha Development Agenda.  The executive heads decided to issue a statement expressing support for efforts to guide trade negotiations towards timely conclusion and urging Member States to adhere to the deadlines established at Doha, Qatar, to ensure tangible progress at the forthcoming Ministerial Conference in Cancun, Mexico in September.  The statement is attached.

The executive heads also considered ways to strengthen system-wide coordination and collaboration with other partners in the follow-up to the World Summit on Social Development.  The CEB discussions, on the eve of the current session of the Commission on Sustainable Development, were intended to contribute to the report of the Secretary-General to the next session of the General Assembly on the implementation of the Millennium Declaration, which will highlight strategies for sustainable development.  In the same context, the executive heads initiated preparations for the 2005 Comprehensive Review of the Implementation of the Millennium Declaration.

The issue of HIV/AIDS and its severe consequences on food security and on institutional capacity in the public and private sectors in affected countries, particularly those in Africa, were also discussed.

The executive heads also continued their reflections on further strengthening United Nations system support for Africa’s development and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).  They were briefed on the work of the World Commission on the Social Dimensions of Globalization; the implementation of education-related Millennium Declaration Goals and the Dakar Framework of Action on Education for All; and the preparations for the World Summit on the Information Society.  The CEB also launched a new system-wide self-administered learning course, “Basic Security in the Field:  Staff Safety, Health and Welfare”.

The next CEB Session will be held on 31 October and 1 November 2003 at the United NationsHeadquarters in New York.

The CEB consists of the executive heads of 27 organizations of the United Nations system and is chaired by the United Nations Secretary-General.  At the request of the Secretary-General, who was indisposed and could not attend the

session, the Director-General of the International Labor Organization (ILO), Juan Somavia, chaired the meetings on his behalf.

Statement on International Trade, Doha Development Round

We, the Executive Heads of the organizations of the United Nations system, affirm our support for the Doha Development Agenda.  We affirm, as well, our commitment to work closely with the World Trade Organization (WTO) to help deliver on the promise of Doha.

We believe that while trade is only one element in the complex developmental equation, a successful and timely conclusion of the Doha negotiations, producing a positive and balanced result and contributing towards the developmental objectives of developing and least developed countries, will help raise living standards and make a significant contribution to meeting the goals and targets for global development established by world leaders at the Millennium Summit and at recent  United Nationsconferences in Monterrey and Johannesburg.

We believe, as well, that in these times of growing global uncertainty, profound challenges to multilateralism, widespread and persistent poverty and increasing socio-economic threats such as the one posed by spread of diseases, progress on the Doha Development Agenda towards its timely conclusion can make a much-needed contribution to confidence, stability, poverty reduction and the developmental efforts of developing and least developed countries.

The Doha work programme is ambitious and wide-ranging.  Given the multi-disciplinary nature of the negotiations, organizations of the United Nations system have a keen interest in supporting their successful conclusion.

In launching the Doha Development Agenda, Trade Ministers placed development issues and the concerns of developing countries at the heart of the negotiations; they made commitments on technical assistance and capacity building to help developing countries participate effectively in the negotiations; they also established timeframes and a final deadline for concluding the negotiations.  It is crucial that all these commitments be fully realized.

We note progress achieved in certain areas of the negotiations and welcome, in particular, the decision to facilitate and accelerate accessions of least developed countries to the WTO.  At the same time, the two factors that are vital to success in the Doha negotiations –- political commitment to the overall endeavour, and willingness to compromise -– have been too little in evidence to date, including in areas of particular interest and concern to developing countries.

We are especially concerned that WTO Members were unable to meet the 2002 deadlines relating to special and differential treatment, access to essential medicines for countries lacking capacity to manufacture such drugs themselves, and concerns of some developing countries about difficulties they are experiencing in implementing existing WTO Agreements and Decisions.

We are equally concerned that WTO Members were unable to meet the March 2003 deadline for agreeing modalities for reductions in support and protection in agriculture.  Agriculture is vital.  A large number of countries have made clear that without progress on agriculture, overall progress in the Doha negotiations

will not be possible.  This is a critical area for most developing and least developed countries.  Indeed, no single change would make a greater contribution to development and poverty alleviation than fully opening the markets of prosperous countries to goods produced by poor ones.

The present disappointments must be converted into renewed political commitment and a determination to negotiate in earnest.  We urge negotiators to address the immediate obstacles so progress can be achieved in all areas of the Doha Development Agenda, as required by the single undertaking commitment.

Progress is urgent.  It is urgent because there are still more than

1 billion people in today's world living without enough food to eat, without safe water to drink, without primary schooling or healthcare for their children.  It is urgent because another 2 billion people are living in conditions only slightly better.  It is urgent too because we have to respond to the devastating and global impact of HIV/AIDS and other diseases and lend our help and support particularly to the thirty million Africans now living with HIV.

In less than five months, trade ministers will assemble in Cancun, Mexico, to review progress in the negotiations and guide the Round towards its timely conclusion.  We urge negotiators to address the difficult political decisions now so solutions can be identified, gaps narrowed and forward momentum injected into the process well before September.

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For information media. Not an official record.