2 July 2008


2 July 2008
Economic and Social Council
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Economic and Social Council

2008 Substantive Session

17th Meeting (AM & PM)



Round Table Addresses ‘Role of Ecosystem Services in Sustainable Development’

The Economic and Social Council today began its Annual Ministerial Review of progress made in implementing the overall United Nations development agenda, and the Millennium Development Goals specifically, as it continued the high-level segment of its 2008 substantive session.

The Council opened the Review, which is one of its two new functions mandated at the 2005 World Summit, with the first four of eight national voluntary presentations from senior government officials of Belgium, Chile, the United Kingdom and the United Republic of Tanzania.

It was the first time countries from the developed world participated in the national presentations, which are interactive and allow for country delegations to pose questions to the ministers of the presenting countries.  The theme of this year’s Review is “Implementing the internationally agreed goals and commitments in regard to sustainable development”.

Council President Léo Mérorès of Haiti said the national voluntary presentations afforded the 54-member body an opportunity to examine specific national policy successes and challenges that continued to hamper the attainment of the United Nations development agenda.  As such, they were the most effective vehicle for connecting Council deliberations with implementation on the ground.

As the first country from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to present, Belgium’s Minister for Development Cooperation stressed the mutual responsibility between donor and partner countries to cooperate as equals in the development arena.  He also reaffirmed Belgium’s commitment to allocate 0.7 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) to official development assistance (ODA) between now and 2010.

He further emphasized that none of the Millennium Development Goals could be taken up in an isolated fashion, particularly Goal 7, which addresses sustainable development.  Taking up the question of integrating climate change into development cooperation policies, he said Belgium was implementing a “climate test”, which would consider the carbon impact of any project.

The United Kingdom’s Director-General of Policy and Research in the Department for International Development stressed, however, that sustainable development must begin at home.  Because the United Kingdom’s carbon emissions per capita were nearly 100 times that of some low-income countries and twice that of many middle-income nations, his Government had committed to cut emissions by 60 per cent by 2050.

Underlining the link between sustainable development, economic growth and poverty reduction, he said his Government had also established an $80 million International Growth Centre that would make specialists available to countries seeking to address growth constraint.  It was also investing in research on the link between economic growth and the environment.

Chile’s Minister of National Planning and Cooperation stressed that social and economic progress had made it possible for her Government to pursue a more ambitious development strategy that addressed goals in terms of “quality” and not simply “quantity”, while acknowledging that some inescapable challenges to sustainable growth remained.  Among those were unequal distribution of income, gender inequality, especially in the labour market, and gaps in its educational system.  The situation of the country’s indigenous people, especially the health and education of indigenous children, also needed more attention, she said.

Halfway to the 2015 deadline to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, the United Republic of Tanzania was also struggling to address illiteracy, poverty and the spread of disease, as well as to integrate the wider internationally agreed development targets, the country’s Minister for Communication, Science and Technology said as he wrapped up today’s presentations.

In order to move forward on the development path, he said the Government of Tanzania needed to scale up domestic resource mobilization and press ahead with efforts to expand the tax base.  Strengthening development cooperation and enhancing aid effectiveness were also key priorities.

The Council also held an afternoon round table discussion on “The role of ecosystems services in sustainable development”, as part of the Review.  The round table featured the participation of a number of experts and practitioners who outlined efforts to show how, by providing a number of services -- be they clean air, water or soil -- the natural world held hidden economic value.  By identifying that value, communities could re-evaluate their natural resources in ways that promoted sustainable development.

The Economic and Social Council will convene to hear the four remaining national voluntary presentations from representatives of Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Luxembourg, Kazakhstan and Finland at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, 3 July.  It is expected to adopt its Ministerial Declaration in the afternoon.


The Economic and Social Council convened this morning, as part of the high-level segment of its 2008 substantive session, its Annual Ministerial Review, during which Member States voluntarily present specific national policy successes, as well as challenges that continue to hamper the attainment of the United Nations development agenda.  The theme of this year’s Review is “Implementing the internationally agreed goals and commitments in regard to sustainable development”.  Also as part of the Review, the Council is expected to hold an afternoon round table discussion on “The role of ecosystems services in sustainable development”.

Making national presentations today are senior development cooperation government officials from Belgium, Chile, United Kingdom and United Republic of Tanzania.  Representatives from Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Luxembourg, Kazakhstan and Finland are expected to make presentations tomorrow, wrapping up the Review.

The Ministerial Review, mandated by the Outcome of the General Assembly’s 2005 World Summit, consists of three main elements: a global review of the United Nations development agenda; a thematic review; and a series of voluntary presentations by countries on their national development strategies.  The Council successfully held its first Ministerial Review last July on the eradication of poverty and hunger.  The theme for the 2009 Review will be on “Implementing the internationally agreed goals and commitments in regard to global public health”.

Opening Remarks

Economic and Social Council President LÉO MÉRORÈS ( Haiti) opened the first session of the Ministerial Review, saying that portion of the high-level segment presented an opportunity to examine specific national policy successes and challenges that continued to hamper the attainment of the United Nations development agenda.  Calling the national voluntary presentations the most effective vehicle for connecting Council deliberations with implementation on the ground, he announced the launch of an online database that captured the development policies and initiatives discussed during the presentations, dating back to their introduction at the 2007 substantive session.

In closing, he gave the floor to David Hales, President of the College of the Atlantic, the moderator for the presentations.

Presentation by Belgium

Launching the country presentations, CHARLES MICHEL, Minister for Development Cooperation of Belgium, the first Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) country to voluntarily present its national experience, said the Annual Ministerial Review was a cornerstone of Economic and Social Council reform.  Indeed, volunteerism must be at the heart of multilateralism.   Belgium fully supported the integrated approach to development, begun in 2005, as economic and social progress could not be undertaken without protecting and preserving the environment.  None of the Millennium Development Goals could be taken up in an isolated fashion, particularly Goal 7.  The Goals provided prospects for common action and were the ideal basis for solid partnerships, particularly South-South partnerships.

Continuing, he said there was a mutual responsibility between donor and partner countries to cooperate as equals, and he called for working specifically with the policies of each nation concerned.  He reaffirmed Belgium’s commitment to allocate 0.7 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) to official development assistance (ODA) between now and 2010.

While implementation of the Millennium Goals was a reciprocal responsibility, he said, developing countries must take the lead.  In Belgium, sustainable development issues were examined by several ministries, in a framework that involved federal and local entities.  There was legislation that provided for the participation of civil society, thanks to the Federal Council for Sustainable Development.  Every four years, the country would create a federal plan for sustainable development, and would be one of the few countries to have placed international cooperation objectives into law in 2009.

He explained that the goal of the Belgium Survival Fund, established in 1983, was to promote food security for the poorest populations in Africa, notably by promoting sustainable rural development.  That Fund was active in 21 countries.   Belgium had also undertaken bilateral and multilateral action.  Direct cooperation had been taken in 18 partner countries in six priority areas in the context of Millennium Goal 7, including conservation of biodiversity.  In that context, he highlighted the Ho Chi Minh City programme as an example of challenges and opportunities faced.

Taking up the question of integrating climate change into development cooperation policies, he said Belgium had organized a conference on climate change in March to answer three concerns, including one about ensuring that efforts for development contributed to adaptation and mitigation.  The conference was part of a larger process to examine the impact of climate change on developing countries, and delegates had considered the need for capacity-building.

Describing lessons learned from implementing Goal 7, he underscored the importance of several issues: national planning; effective ownership by “end users” of assistance (authorities and local populations); and creation of conditions that allowed the most vulnerable to improve the quality of their lives.

Following his presentation, the floor was opened to Belgium’s development partner, Viet Nam.  LE DIEU ANH of the People’s Committee of Ho Chi Minh City, discussing Belgium’s Ho Chi Minh City programme, highlighted implementation aspects of the project and noted that the participatory approach had been successful, but that the community had remained a beneficiary rather than a real actor.

Next, the floor was opened to delegates, who posed questions on various issues, including Belgium’s approach to coordination, cooperation with African countries and a model for low-carbon economic development.

Responding, Mr. MICHEL said Belgium’s thinking was based on the point that the most vulnerable countries would be the major casualties of climate change.  He discussed a World Bank report which stated that 55 per cent of Bank projects were sensitive to climate; 25 per cent of its projects presented the risk of being adversely impacted by climate change; and only 2 per cent of its projects had been “put to the climate test” -- meaning that they had evaluated the risk of being wiped out by climate change at any point.

On reconciling Belgium’s commitment to undertaking sustainable development in line with the strategies of partner countries, he said Belgium approached its action on the basis of dialogue and co-responsibility.  In that context, he discussed a deforestation project in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in which local authorities were involved. On the food crisis, he said that, if States wished to set up a mechanism for self-sustainability for food in developing countries, they must set specific objectives to be examined regularly.  He added that Belgium was among the most “volunteerist” countries in the European Union.

On countries that received assistance, he underscored that real ownership of development strategies by society was essential, as that meant that people could be masters of their own destinies.  That was the point of cooperation.  Elaborating on the role of donor countries in enabling a low-carbon path to economic development for developing countries, he said Belgium was taking up that issue within the context of the “climate test”, which considered the carbon impact of any project.

Presentation by Chile

The next presenter, PAULA QUINTANA, Minister for National Planning and Cooperation of Chile, said that her Government was convinced that sharing national experiences in public policy and development was critical for all countries to move towards the achievement of the noble objectives set by the Millennium Declaration.  During the period since the restoration of democracy, Chile had drawn up and implemented a development strategy that aimed to create a democratic, open and egalitarian society.  The Chilean Government was striving to promote equality and equal participation among all the people of the country.

Chile had, over the past two decades, achieved substantial economic growth, tripling its per capita growth during the 1970s and 1980s.  The poverty rate had decreased and employment had increased.  She said Chile had also launched a sustained public policy effort to boost social development.  Between 1999 and 2007, the economy had grown at an average annual rate of 5.4 per cent.  Further, now, $2 out of every $3 of public spending was earmarked for social investment.  That success had allowed the country to take advantage of the opportunities provided by globalization, and even stave off the negative aspects of that phenomenon.

She went on to say that progress had also been seen in education and in infant and maternal health, with significant decreases in mortality rates.   Chile had made a concerted decision to place individuals at the centre of its social development efforts.  To that end, it had reoriented its social policy from a focus on assistance to a focus on rights.  That policy had allowed the Government to target major vulnerabilities of specific social groups.  To that end, it had created the Chile Solidarity System, which focused on families living in extreme poverty and provided, among other things, guaranteed subsidies and preferential access to basic social and health services.

She said Chile had also introduced subsidies to educational institutions for keeping vulnerable students in school for full-year terms.  In addition, the country’s health indicators had also improved and much work had been devoted to preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS, an effort that had benefited from the help of civil society groups.  Also, starting in the 1990s, Chile had been able to establish institutions that, before that time, had not existed, including, in 1994, the National Commission for the Environment.  That had laid the groundwork for other initiatives in that important sector, including the establishment of several other environmental protection mechanisms and agencies.

She stressed that Chile’s social and economic progress had made it possible for the Government to be even more ambitious, and it was now perusing a social protection system with a focus on rights -- “guaranteed and demandable” –- which provided assistance throughout the lifecycle.  It had also moved from addressing goals in terms of “quantity” to those of “quality”.

Turning to challenges, she stressed that the Government was aware that its poverty reduction efforts needed further strengthening and, especially, they must focus on children, “because in Latin America, inequality begins in the cradle”.  To that end, the Government had launched a programme -- “Chile Grows with You” -- granting benefits to boys and girls towards promoting full development.  The Government was also stepping up its efforts to address gender inequality, especially to promote savings for women and employability of women, youth and girls.  Landmark health reforms had been instituted, covering some 56 major health issues, she added.

Still, she said, some inescapable challenges that could hamper sustainable growth remained and the Government acknowledged that it must decrease unequal distribution of income, gender inequality, especially in the labour market -- both in the general workforce and in management. It must also address unequal wages and identify ways to improve the quality of education.  The Chilean Government also recognized the critical need to improve the situation of the country’s indigenous people, especially the health and education of indigenous children.

Overall, she said, Chile’s political economic and social strategy had placed the country in a position to press ahead with its efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals’ 2015 deadline.  At the same time, it was aware of outstanding challenges and was prepared to go even farther to deepen democracy in the country and to protect and promote human rights of all citizens.

A representative of Chilean civil society then gave a brief overview of the country’s efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals.  He said that, while there had been significant gains towards achieving many of those targets, challenges remained in the areas of poverty alleviation and linking efforts to mitigate against the impacts of climate change with the overall national development strategy.  Civil society was also concerned about the unequal distribution of income in the country, as well as lagging efforts to create quality jobs.  He hoped that some of those issues would be addressed in the new social reform strategy that had been launched yesterday.

He was also concerned that the gains made to address poverty and education challenges had been merely transitory and, if they were not addressed in a comprehensive manner, would crop up again to pose obstacles down the road.  To that end, he called for more consultations between Government agencies, civil society and people affected by or living in poverty.

Following Ms. Quintana’s presentation, Chile’s friends and development partners, represented by Mexico, Spain and Uruguay, took the floor to comment on the Government’s report.

CLAUDE HELLER ( Mexico) said the presentation had been extremely interesting and acknowledged that Chile and Mexico shared similar concerns.  In Latin America, Chile had been recognized as a model of social reform –- especially in poverty reduction -- and economic growth.  At the same time, Mexico was aware that, as a crucial step to ensure sustainable development, Chile needed to press ahead with its environmental protection agenda.  He applauded, in that respect, the creation of the National Environment Ministry in 2007 and expressed the hope that it would play a role in wider Government matters, including the development of energy policy.

JUAN ANTONIO YÁÑEZ-BARNUEVO ( Spain) said his country was pleased with Chile’s progress, witnessed by its greatly improved economic indicators.  He expressed solidarity with Chile in its years-long struggle to combat tyranny and then rebuild a democratic society that was based on democracy and equality.  He had had the opportunity to visit the country every two or three years, and had witnessed the progress first-hand.  Still, despite encouraging indicators in poverty reduction and economic growth, there were challenges to ensuring equality throughout the country, especially for social groups such as women, children and people with disabilities.

GUSTAVO ÁLVAREZ ( Uruguay) said his delegation had been pleased to hear the strategies Chile had set in motion to build a socially stable nation that was based on democracy and equality.  What was most commendable was that Chile had taken major steps to address the situation of specific vulnerable social groups, but had never treated the individuals in those groups as “charity cases”.   Chile, like most middle-income countries, must continue to expand its South-South and international development cooperation to stave off things that could slow growth, including external financial shocks, environmental degradation and, in the broader view, migration.

Responding to those comments, Ms. QUINTANA said that because poverty reduction had been one of the Government’s early priorities, significant gains had been made during the middle of the past century.  Therefore, by the 1990s, Chile had been able to adopt policies that were broader in scope, taking into account the situation of vulnerable groups.  Chile was aware that some challenges remained, but the Government was convinced that, with policies focused on economic growth, democracy and social spending that targeted specific social sectors, the remaining concerns could be effectively addressed over time.

Responding to comments from the wider Council, she went on to say that Chile had been able to focus on rights because the country had been experiencing a long period of social and economic stability.  Now, the challenge was to set up and maintain a sustained system of social protection that focused on youth, health care and education.   Chile had gradually moved away from polices focused on extreme poverty to those targeting the vulnerabilities of children and the elderly, many of whom were living in precarious situations.  Social programmes were also targeting pregnant women and young school-age children. That particular initiative had been essential in boosting women’s participation in the workforce. Chile was also aware of the diversity of its populations and, to that end, was prepared to go even farther to create a social system that ensured rights for all the country’s citizens.

Presentation by United Kingdom

ANDREW STEER, Director-General of Policy and Research in the Department for International Development, United Kingdom, recalling that, 16 years ago today, many delegates present had been returning from the Rio Earth Summit, said there had been both great successes and great failures since that time.  He shared lessons his country had learned from that mixed record, noting first that sustainable development must begin at home.  The United Kingdom’s carbon emissions per capita were nearly 100 times that of some low-income countries, and twice that of many middle-income nations.  That was why his Government had committed to cut emissions by 60 per cent by 2050, and recognized that that level might need to be increased to 80 per cent.

Second, he said, sustainable development required integrated solutions.  For the United Kingdom, that meant rethinking aid flows, as well as policies that could affect developing countries, particularly in the areas of trade, migration and climate change.  Parliament had passed the International Development Act of 2002, which focused only on the sustainable reduction of global poverty, and not on United Kingdom commercial or political interests.  Third, he said, there would be no sustainability without development.  Economic growth had accounted for 80 per cent of all poverty reduction in the past 25 years.  At the same time, inclusive growth was essential for long-term sustainability, and the Government had established an $80 million International Growth Centre this year, which would make specialists available to countries seeking to address growth constraints.  The country was also investing in research on the link between economic growth and the environment.

Fourth, he emphasized that giving information and rights to citizens and consumers could change the world.  In that context, he said the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), stated by the United Kingdom eight years ago, supported the verification and publication of company payments and Government revenues from oil, gas and mining.  Voluntary partnership agreements in forest products were beginning to bear fruit, while a forest programme in Indonesia, which gave land rights to local citizens, was also having a good impact.  Fifth, he said that failing to effectively address climate change might undermine progress in other areas.  Developing a successor to the Kyoto Protocol was the most important international negotiation of the current time.  The United Kingdom was investing $200 million in research and capacity-building in developing countries.  It was also working to ensure a “pro-development” post-2012 climate agreement, which should feature an ambitious goal with credible near-term targets, among other things.

The sixth lesson, he said, underscored that it was time to take water and sanitation seriously.  Economic losses due to lack of access to safe water and sanitation were estimated at $134 billion per year for Africa alone.  He called for more coherent action through the “Five Ones”: one global annual report; one global annual meeting to monitor progress; one national water and sanitation plan; one water and sanitation coordinating group at the national level; and one lead United Nations agency on those issues in each country.  Seventh, he said, the ball had been dropped on agriculture and must urgently be picked up.  The United Kingdom would double its support to agriculture research to $800 million in the next five years.

Finally, he said that, without strong leadership, efforts would fail.  The Growth Commission had concluded that leadership was essential for development, as was the ability to keep promises.  Commitments made in Monterrey and Gleneagles must be honoured, and the United Kingdom was committed to its pledge to move to allocating 0.7 per cent of GDP to ODA by 2013.  At Accra in September, the country would also commit to aligning its development efforts with strategies in partner countries.

In the ensuing discussion, delegates raised various questions, some of which focused on agriculture and the United Kingdom’s efforts to spur the removal of subsidies in developed countries.

On that issue, Mr. STEER said his Government was indeed willing to work on removing such subsidies.  In addition, what was lacking was a paper laying out exactly what low-carbon growth trajectories would look like for low-income countries.  To a question about a target for funds for least developed countries, he said that target was between 0.15 to 0.2 per cent of gross national product.  The United Kingdom was allocating twice the average.  Further, 90 per cent of all bilateral spending went to low-income countries.

Regarding the long-term predictability of aid, he said the United Kingdom had strongly supported the new Adaptation Fund.  The Clean Development Mechanism would not generate enough funds for adaptation and new funding would need to be considered.  On the question of budget support, the United Kingdom believed that putting funds through Government budgets with a clear plan was, indeed, the most effective option.  His Government was not interested in parallel systems.

Taking the floor as the United Kingdom’s development partner, MARIA ARCE MOREIRA of the Development and Environment Group said that non-governmental organization networks were following United Kingdom-led initiatives.  Climate change was a result of unsustainable patterns of consumption and production, and the poor were most impacted by environmental degradation.

JOANNE GREEN, an official from Progressio, another partner, called for managing resources sustainably, particularly water.  She urged the creation of a new vision for development that included a people-centred food system, in which northern consumers faced the impacts of their choices on poor communities and in which Governments moved beyond short-term fixes to the causes of the food crisis.

Mr. STEER added that it was important to recognize that there were aspects of rich country behaviour that hurt people.  What mechanisms should exist for mutual accountability?  The world needed to see reviews of donor aid programmes and of overall coherence.  Serious analysis and commitments were needed ahead of the next climate change summit in Copenhagen.

In his closing remarks, he touched on other multifaceted queries on such issues as creating coherence in the international financial architecture and addressing the structural causes of the current food crisis.  To a question on intellectual property rights in agriculture, he said the United Kingdom had invested in the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research.  To a query on Government involvement in the health sector, he noted that the cost for HIV/AIDS treatments had fallen to below $100, due to interesting innovations and advanced market commitments.  Generally speaking, countries were embracing globalization.   Africa was growing at a 6.5 per cent rate, which would not have been predicted five years ago.  That was due in part to good leadership, good policies and the recognition that trade could help.

Delivering the final national report, PETER MSOLA, Minister for Communications, Science and Technology of the United Republic of Tanzania, said that, at its independence 47 years ago, his country had adopted a socio-economic development strategy that was based on improving literacy, eradicating poverty and combating infections diseases.  Those targets had ironically mirrored the Millennium Development Goals, which would be adopted 40 years later.

Now, he said, halfway to the 2015 deadline to achieve those Goals, the United Republic of Tanzania was still struggling to address illiteracy, poverty and the spread of disease, as well as to integrate wider internationally agreed development targets.  The Government had subsequently adopted the “Tanzanian Vision 2025” and “Zanzibar Vision 2020” to address current challenges.  Those strategies both targeted quality of life; peace, security and unity; good governance and the rule of law; an educated and learned society; and building a strong and competitive economy.

Having worked on macroeconomic stabilization for a decade, the United Republic of Tanzania had started to address poverty as a major policy concern in 1996, within the framework of macroeconomic policies that were already being implemented, he said.  Those initiatives had begun with the formulation of the National Poverty Reduction Strategy in 1997.  It had also completed its first generation Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) at around the same time. He added that the second generation PRSP had put a greater emphasis on growth and income in poverty reduction efforts, as well as governance issues and the integration of Millennium Development Goal policy initiatives into “cluster strategies”.

Turning next to highlight some of his country’s efforts to achieve specific Millennium Development targets, he said that, in the area of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, the country’s average growth rate of 7 per cent was not enough.  Further, malnutrition persisted in some pockets of the country and the current food price spikes were making efforts to improve that sector even more challenging.  On achieving universal primary education, his country had significantly improved gender parity and had removed fees for primary education in 2001.  Still, quality and performance indicators needed to be improved and more teachers needed to be trained at a faster rate.

On gender equality, he said the ratio of girls to boys in primary school had improved to near gender parity.  On health indicators, he said that, while under-age-5 child mortality rates had declined –- dropping from 191 per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 133 in 2005 –- maternal mortality rates had remained stagnant during that period.  That sector remained largely underfunded and continued to suffer from the impact of HIV/AIDS, even though overall HIV-prevalence rates were declining.  The sector also suffered from inadequate quality health services and facilities, and a declining labour force.

He said that, in implementing its socio-economic development strategies, the United Republic of Tanzania had recorded “mixed progress”.  The areas likely to meet the Millennium Declaration 2015 time frame included providing universal education, gender equality in primary and secondary education, improving child mortality rates, improving aid relationships as part of the global partnership for development and improving access to safe water and adequate sanitation.

At the same time, he said, his country was likely to fall short of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger; improving maternal mortality rates; ensuring environmental sustainability; and providing strategies for decent and productive work for youth.  The Government had also recognized that it would need to scale up domestic resource mobilization and press ahead with efforts to expand the tax base.  Strengthening development cooperation and enhancing aid effectiveness were also key priorities.

Following the presentation, Tanzania’s long-term development partner, Denmark, took the floor.  CARSTEN STAUR said there was no doubt that the United Republic of Tanzania had poverty reduction initiatives in place, but it was clear that it did not have enough resources to address all the challenges.  He agreed that the country’s efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals revealed a “mixed picture”, showing progress in some areas and lagging implementation in others.

Turning to specific Goals, he said the Government must make a greater effort in the area of education, especially to reach dropouts and to improve the quality of teachers and schools.  Despite progress in the area of child mortality, the rates were still high, requiring constant attention.  It was also clear that maternal mortality must be addressed, as well.  He also urged the Government to address environmental sustainability issues, including by pressing ahead with its efforts to build a national power grid, especially to ensure that people living in extreme poverty had access to energy and electricity.

Overall, he said, Denmark believed the United Republic of Tanzania was “on a good course”, and while the country needed to reduce its dependency on foreign aid, it must also improve aid effectiveness, broaden its regional cooperation and identify ways to boost private sector investment.

Responding to Denmark and comments from the wider Council, Mr. MSOLA agreed that his country needed to expand its tax base and strengthen private sector investment.  He said the Government was undertaking efforts to address those issues, as well as improve the quality of its schools and academic curricula.  He noted that a pilot programme to strengthen the agricultural sector might soon target rural women, who did most of the farming but were forced to use crude and outdated tools for their work.

On stagnant maternal mortality rates, he said that the situation in the United Republic of Tanzania seemed to be similar to that of other countries and it clearly needed to be addressed.  Improving access to services and facilities and bolstering heath education sectors would be a good start, he added.  Also, the United Republic of Tanzania was developing a programme to address the situation of marginalized groups in the country.

Round Table: Ecosystem Services in Sustainable Development

As part of the Ministerial Review, a round table on “The role of ecosystem services in sustainable development” was held in the afternoon.  Chaired by Council Vice-President Jean-Marc Hoscheit of Luxembourg, it was moderated by Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Hillary Masundire, Chair, Commission on Ecosystem Management, World Conservation Union (IUCN), who also participated as a panellist.

Other panellists included Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary, Convention on Biological Diversity; Magnus Ngoile, Director-General, National Environment Management Council, United Republic of Tanzania; Jorge Mario Rodríguez, Director, National Forestry Financing Fund, Costa Rica; and Dane Gobin, Director-General, Iwokrama International Centre for Rainforest Conservation and Development, Guyana.  The lead discussant was Anna Tibaijuka, Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat).

Opening the discussion, Mr. STEINER said the emergence of the ecosystem framework was important, not least in sustainable development discussions, but also pursuing the Millennium Development Goals.  The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Project, which assessed the consequences of ecosystem change for human well-being and the scientific basis for action to enhance the conservation and sustainable use of those systems, had found that the natural world provided a number of services -- be they clean air, water or soil -- that were typically considered as a “given”.  Yet, as the world was quickly learning, they were neither inexhaustible nor impervious to human activity, and humanity could either maintain their viability or draw them down through poor stewardship and overuse.  He suggested that the ecosystem services concept may be the most interesting articulation yet of how to manage sustainable development in the future.

Mr. DJOGHLAF said that biodiversity was being affected by climate change at the same time as it was part of the solution to that crisis.  One cause of the unprecedented loss of biodiversity seen in the world today was the false perception that nature and its services were infinite.  That illusion was at the heart of the inability of current policies and economic systems to incorporate the values of biodiversity effectively in their political or market systems.  In fact, he said: “We cannot not protect what we do not know; nor can we protect what we do not value.”

Citing both the Stern Report, which explored the cost of inaction on climate change, and the European Commission report on The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, he said economic valuation tools and incentive for conservation of ecosystem were the key to identifying the true value of the natural world.

“Current modern society has uncoupled itself from the real natural world,” he said.  “Worse, it has become blind to mother nature.”  That, despite the fact that green business was the business of tomorrow and tomorrow had started today.  In fact, biodiversity was good business for the world’s peoples -- its poorest, in particular.  Not only could healthy ecosystems help feed the poor, their value in other sectors, such as tourism, were critical.  Raising public awareness of that fact was one way to further the cause of biodiversity and ecosystem services.  One way that was currently being done was through education and entertainment programmes. 

Ms. MASUNDIRE said the strategy that underpinned Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) was a vision of integrated management of land, water and living resources that promoted conservation and sustainable use in an equitable way.  As such, its framework could be understood as an “ecosystem approach” and could be translated into all kinds of resource management programmes.

At a basic level, one way of understanding the ecosystem approach was to recognize that what you flush out of your toilet will come back to you in a pitcher of water, she said.  The core principles of that approach were: objectives should be set according to the people’s choice; actions should be decentralized to the lowest possible level; ecosystems were interconnected; economic issues should be considered and perverse incentives avoided; ecosystems had limits; management should be undertaken at an appropriate spatial and temporal scale; and long-term objectives should be set and achieved through short-term actions.  In addition, all stakeholders should be considered and conservation should be balanced with the use of biodiversity.

Ms. TIBAIJUKA said that more than half the world’s population was urban dwelling, meaning that the pressures that would be put on natural ecosystems largely corresponded to the ecological footprint of the cities and towns where the growing population lived.  Thus, for the ecosystem approach to work, it had to be coupled with urban development strategies.

Current patterns were of chaotic rapid urbanization, she said.  For example, city populations in Africa were growing so rapidly they were expected to double every 10 to 15 years in some places.  Given that, the role of local authorities was central to the discussion.  The land and property rights system would also have to be incorporated in an integrated approach.

Leading off the discussion of specific cases, Mr. NGOILE asked how sub-Saharan Africa could meet the needs of its coastal citizens while conserving ecosystems within the sustainable development framework.  In order to realize and sustain the benefits and development opportunities provided by coastal systems, their true value had to be recognized.  In addition, a viable payment structure for those ecosystem services had to be created.

For that to happen, local communities had to be allowed to set up their own vision of sustainable development while they were also encouraged to balance societal need with conservation needs, he said.  Efforts towards assisting coast communities in such initiatives had to be supported by national Governments and international organizations through, among other things, sustainable financing mechanisms.  In the United Republic of Tanzania, that support currently took the form of the Marine Legacy Fund and the Eastern Arc Mountains Conservation Fund.

Mr. RODRÍGUEZ said that Costa Rica had lost a dangerous amount of its forest cover in the last 60 years.  To combat deforestation, it had established four major forestry laws in the last 25 years, allowing it to evaluate the financial costs of ecological changes and set up a system of payment for environmental services.

That payment system ensured the protection of the environment in a number of ways, he said.  It helped reverse the process of deforestation.  It was also helping develop rural areas, which contributed to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  The programme incorporated the participation of a variety of companies, forestry professionals and Government departments.  To safeguard the system from fraud and ensure its financial footing, external audits were employed.  Overall, support for the programme was growing and it was increasingly being seen as an investment, not merely an expenditure, by the public and the Government.

Mr. GOBIN outlined the work of Guyana’s Iwokrama Centre for International Rain Forest Conservation and Development, which manages a 1 million acre forest to show how tropical forests can be conserved and sustainably used to support local populations economically, socially and ecologically.  It was developing sustainable timber and tourism businesses, and offered training and consultancy services.  Research included how to identify ecosystem services for different natural resources like water, timber and soil, and processes like pollination, and to determine their economic value.

Among the major challenges the Centre faced, he said, was getting people, companies and countries to pay for yet another service.  Owners of forest resources also had to be convinced that, over the short to medium terms, ecosystem services could be viable alternatives to revenues they might gain from extractive processes, such as timber harvesting.  Some of the appropriate valuation models were intangible and developing innovative financial models like green bonds took time.

When the floor was opened, country delegations joined with civil society representatives in pointing to the urgent need to curb climate change through sustainable development strategies.  A few speakers asked for more information on how to capture the economic dimension of the choice between “business as usual” and a more sustainable approach to natural resource management.  The representative of Brazil specifically asked about the possibility that an emphasis on market mechanisms for forest conservation would have a disadvantageous impact on the legally binding obligations of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to reduce carbon emissions.

An appeal was made by a representative of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization for each project to include research and education aspects.  Unless education was part and parcel of all environmental projects, there would be no ownership of the environmental cause.

In closing, the panellists emphasized that ecosystem services were not alternatives and took many forms, from tangible, known sectors like tourism, to more intangible sectors like soil.  The success of many of those programmes, they said, could be seen in terms of before and after pictures of both the physical world and the financial situation of local populations.  Mr. RODRÍGUEZ said the commercialization of environmental services was not enough.  A clean development economy that enjoyed widespread participation of its private and public sectors was necessary.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.