Continuing its 2018 coordination and management segment, the Economic and Social Council today adopted four resolutions and one draft decision on women’s empowerment, and four draft decisions on myriad topics as it took up issues including sustainable development, population and development, and human rights.
Throughout the day, the 54-member Council heard from the heads of several of its relevant subsidiary bodies, who outlined recent sessions and highlighted progress achieved. It also took note of various reports and decided to resume its consideration of several matters at its resumed meeting in July.
By a vote of 27 in favour to 3 against (Canada, United Kingdom, United States), with 13 abstentions, the Council adopted a resolution titled “Situation of and assistance to Palestinian women”, calling on the international community to continue to provide urgently needed assistance and demanding that Israel comply fully with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Regulations annexed to Hague Convention IV, and the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War.
Italy’s delegate, in explanation of vote, said that while the resolution addressed a range of important issues, his country had abstained from the vote in the belief that country-specific issues should be dealt with in the General Assembly.
Under the same cluster, the Council adopted a resolution titled “Mainstreaming a gender perspective into all policies and programmes in the United Nations system”, by which it called on the Organization’s system to work collaboratively to accelerate the mainstreaming of a gender perspective through a series of actions, among them, implementation of the system-wide action plan 2.0.
Introducing the Secretary-General’s report on the topic, Aparna Mehrotra, Director of the United Nations System Coordination Division at the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), said 82 per cent of the United Nations system entities — 54 entities — had gender policies and plans in place, up from 21 entities in 2012. However, persistent structural weaknesses precluded the system from meeting all performance requirements. The system had fallen short in the areas of resource allocation and capacity assessment. Progress was uneven and insufficient to deliver on the 2030 Agenda.
Ion Jinga (Romania), Chair of the Commission on Population and Development at its fifty-first session, introducing that session’s report, said that despite extensive negotiations, Member States had been unable to reach consensus on several issues, mainly sexual and reproductive health and national sovereignty. The report did however contain two draft decisions, which the Council adopted without a vote. Contained in chapter 1, section A, they were titled, “Report of the Commission on Population and Development on its fifty-first session and the provisional agenda for its fifty-second session” and “Report on the flow of financial resources for assisting in the further implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development”.
Introducing the report of the Statistical Commission, Zachary Mwangi Chege (Kenya), that body’s Chair, said that to fully implement the Sustainable Development Goals, significant efforts were needed to strengthen statistical capacities to fulfil the ambition of those left farthest behind. Without a vote, the Council adopted a decision contained in chapter 1 section A of the Commission’s report, regarding that body’s provisional agenda and dates for its fiftieth session.
Introducing the report of the Committee for Development Policy, Sakiko Fukuda-Parr said it had conducted a triennial review of the list of least developed countries to identify for inclusion into and graduation from that list. The Committee had identified 12 countries that met the graduation thresholds. Kiribati was found to be eligible for graduation for the third consecutive time. She noted the gap in international support to countries which had achieved a level of development beyond least-developed-country-status yet remained vulnerable.
Several delegations in the ensuing discussion stressed that graduation must be irreversible, with Kourabi Nenem, Vice-President and Minister for Women, Youth and Social Affairs of Kiribati, stressing that his Government was seeking reconsideration of its graduation from the least developed countries membership. Kiribati remained highly vulnerable to external shocks, he said, adding: “We have not been given a sense of guarantee that our development would not be reversed.”
Bhutan’s delegate, while welcoming the Committee’s recommendation for her nation to graduate from the group of least developed countries, said that as a small and landlocked developing State, it continued to face formidable economic challenges.
The Council also adopted a draft decision deciding that its event to discuss the transition from relief to development would be titled “Transition from relief to development: advancing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in crisis contexts”, an informal panel discussion to be held on 19 June 2018.
The Council also approved the list of non-governmental organizations requesting to be heard at its 2018 high-level segment in July, which was recommended by the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations.
Also speaking today were representatives of Cuba, Italy, Russian Federation, Republic of Korea, and Morocco.
The Council is scheduled to resume its annual coordination and management meeting on 2 July.
ZACHARY MWANGI CHEGE, Director General of the National Bureau of Statistics of Kenya and Chair of the Statistical Commission, introduced, via video link, the body’s report on its forty-ninth session (document E/2018/24). For more than 70 years, the Commission had worked to make data compatible across the globe. The Commission had agreed that its main concern was capacity-building at the country-level in order to meet great demand for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. To fully implement the Sustainable Development Goals, significant efforts were needed to strengthen statistical capacities to fulfil the ambition of those left farthest behind.
He underscored the importance of environmental accounting, agricultural and rural statistics, and disability statistics. The Commission had also recognized the importance of data in the context of migration, he continued, adding that the Bureau had been engaged in negotiations. It had also delivered suggestions regarding disaggregated data. The call for capacity-building efforts on migration data and statistics while building upon existing initiatives and mechanisms was crucial. The Commission also noted the importance of contributing to the high-level political forum on sustainable development. The Bureau underscored the importance of statistical capacity-building. During its forty-ninth session, the Commission also discussed the need to strengthen coordination among United Nations agencies and to make statistics more visible and accessible.
The representative of Cuba urged the Commission to continue to work on a global indicator-framework, which was an important point of departure for the 2030 Agenda. Indicators must continue to be developed while respecting the priorities of each country. Stressing the need to ensure the use of transparent methodologies and to obtain quality data, he said that some of the indicators were insufficient and limited in measuring the scope of targets. Turning to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) framework on the harmful use of alcohol, he said that per capita consumption as the only indicator was insufficient. That would limit the autonomy of Member States in adopting holistic options to curb the harmful effects of alcohol use. He reiterated that the global indicator framework was an essential part of achieving the 2030 Agenda. Its limitations, if not appropriately addressed, could limit the ability to achieve the 2030 Agenda.
The Council then took up a draft decision contained in chapter 1 section A of the Commission’s report, regarding its provisional agenda and dates for its fiftieth session, and adopted it without a vote.
Mainstreaming a Gender perspective in United Nations Policies, Programmes
GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland), Chair of the Commission on the Status of Women, presented the outcome of its sixty-second session, held from 12 to 23 March, stressing that the body sought to take full advantage of all its work methods. “I believed that improved the context for our work and enhanced the impact of our results,” she said. Under the priority theme, “Challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls”, the Commission had reached agreed conclusions, outlining measures to lift rural women and girls out of poverty, ensure their rights and build resilience. They offered a road map for Governments, civil society and women’s groups to support that aim.
She said they also emphasized the importance of implementing the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the 2030 Agenda, drawing links to Sustainable Development Goal 5 (gender equality). The Commission also built on its past work, reviewing the implementation of agreed conclusions from 2003 on the “Participation in and access of women to the media, and information and communications technologies and their impact on and use as an instrument for the advancement and empowerment of women”. Thirteen Member States had made voluntary presentations of lessons learned and highlighted gender-specific challenges and opportunities in the digital age. The Commission complied with the Council’s guidance to provide a recommendation on how best to use 2020 — the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women — for the accelerated realization of gender equality and women’s empowerment. It would submit two draft recommendations for the Council’s action which, respectively, would entrust the Commission with conducting a review in 2020 of the implementation of the Platform for Action and recommend that a high-level General Assembly meeting be convened in September 2020.
APARNA MEHROTRA, Director of the United Nations System Coordination Division at the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), introduced the Secretary-General’s report on mainstreaming a gender perspective into all policies and programmes in the United Nations system (document E/2018/53), which assessed progress and challenges of the Organization’s coordination in promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment. Noting that 2017 was the final year of reporting under the system-wide action plan (2016-2017), she said that since its introduction in 2012, the plan had brought about improvement in the system’s accountability in gender equality.
She said 94 per cent of the United Nations system — representing 90 per cent of the budget — reported on the action plan, with entities reporting progress across all 15 indicators. Significantly, 82 per cent of the United Nations system entities — 54 entities — had gender policies and plans in place, up from 21 entities in 2012. However, persistent structural weaknesses precluded the system from meeting all performance requirements by the 2017 deadline. The system had fallen short in the areas of resource allocation and capacity assessment. From 2016 to 2017, UN-Women held a consultative process to update the system-wide action plan, and, working with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), updated the gender scorecard. The United Nations development system, meanwhile, continued to support Governments in integrating gender equality into common country programming processes. However, progress was uneven and insufficient to deliver on the 2030 Agenda, she said, and the resolution on repositioning of the United Nations development system would offer opportunities in that regard. To achieve sustained gender equality and women’s empowerment, she outlined six actions: sustained leadership; quality support for gender equality and women’s empowerment in the next generation of the United Nations Development Assistance Framework; enhancing and mobilizing financing; addressing persistent capacity gaps; prioritizing production of gender statistics and data in national statistical systems; and ensuring implementation of the zero tolerance policy for sexual exploitation and abuse.
The Council then adopted the resolution titled “Mainstreaming a gender perspective into all policies and programmes in the United Nations system” (document E/2018/L.11), by which it called on the United Nations system to work collaboratively to accelerate the mainstreaming of a gender perspective at global, regional and country levels through a series of actions, among them, implementation of the system-wide action plan 2.0 and enhancing the accuracy of reporting to achieve full annual reporting.
The Council then turned to the report of the Commission on the Status of Women on its sixty-second session (document E/2018/27-E/CN.6/2018/20), which contained three draft resolutions. Without a vote, it adopted draft resolution I, on “Future organization and methods of work of the Commission on the Status of Women”, deciding that the sixty-fourth session, in 2020, would undertake a review and appraisal of the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and the outcomes of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly.
Also without a vote, the Council adopted draft resolution II, titled “Twenty-fifth anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women”, recommending to the Assembly that a one-day high-level meeting be convened on the margins of the general debate at its seventy-fifth session, and that the Assembly President conduct consultations to finalize the related organizational arrangements.
By a vote of 27 in favour to 3 against (Canada, United Kingdom, United States), with 13 abstentions, the Council adopted draft resolution III titled “Situation of and assistance to Palestinian women”, calling on the international community to continue to provide urgently needed assistance and demanding that Israel comply fully with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Regulations annexed to Hague Convention IV, and the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War.
Italy’s delegate, in explanation of vote, expressed concern over the impact of the conflict on women and children in the region. While the resolution addressed a range of important issues, Italy had abstained from the vote in the belief that country-specific issues should be dealt with in the Assembly. Going forward, he encouraged phasing out such resolutions and working with the Palestinian observer mission.
Finally, the Council adopted an oral decision taking note of the Report of the Commission on the Status of Women on its sixty-second session and approving the provisional agenda and documentation for its sixty-third session.
The Council then took note of the report of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (document A/73/38).
Implementation of and Follow-Up to Major United Nations Conferences and Summits
Turning to the report on the “Follow-up to the International Conference on Financing for Development” (document E/FFDF/2018/3), the Council took action on the recommendation contained in chapter 1, requesting the transmittal of the forum’s intergovernmentally agreed conclusions and recommendations to the high-level political forum on sustainable development, under the auspices of the Council.
The Council then turned to the joint consideration of the role of the United Nations system in implementing the ministerial declaration of the high-level segment of the substantive session of the Economic and Social Council and implementation of and follow-up to major United Nations conferences and summits, contained in the Secretary-General’s report on mainstreaming the three dimensions of sustainable development throughout the United Nations system (document E/2018/59).
JUWANG ZHU, Director of the Division for Sustainable Development Goals, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introducing the report and highlighting several main findings, added that since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, the United Nations system had further intensified its efforts to mainstream those goals into its work. The information generated in the report had demonstrated the energetic response of the United Nations system to the 2030 Agenda. The United Nations system had taken unprecedented action to help advance the integration of the three dimensions of sustainable development. The system continued to align its work with the 2030 Agenda by setting up designated coordination efforts.
United Nations system entities were focusing on moving away from silos, he continued, adding that support to Member States was geared towards an integrated approach. There was a clear willingness to enhance cooperation with the United Nations and other stakeholders and to add value at the country level. Mainstreaming the three dimensions of sustainable development was essential in achieving the 2030 Agenda, he said, calling initiatives outlined encouraging steps in the right direction. United Nations entities could learn from each other. Mainstreaming the three dimensions of sustainable development should be part of the culture of the United Nations, he emphasized, called for enhanced synergies.
The Council then took note of the Secretary-General’s report on the mainstreaming of the three dimensions of sustainable development throughout the United Nations system.
The Council had before it a note by the Secretary-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) on the United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force on the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases (document E/2018/49).
Dr. Svetlana Akselrod, Assistant Director General for Non-communicable Diseases and Mental Health of the World Health Organization (WHO), introduced the report, saying it was essential that the related commitments made in the General Assembly were implemented at a higher and quicker rate. The report described joint United Nations action in Bahrain, Bhutan and Cambodia, among others, as well as progress made worldwide. Global joint programmes included the prevention of cervical cancer and reducing the harmful use of alcohol. She said that various thematic groups had been established on the harmful use of tobacco and childhood obesity. The report had highlighted the need for United Nations agencies to improve their response to Member States requests and concerns. Resources must be scaled up to deliver action on the ground.
She said that 2018 was a critical year and called on Member States to participate in the conference on non-communicable diseases to be held in New York in September. She noted two WHO reports which had laid out the health and economic benefits of implementing the most cost-effective way to address non-communicable diseases. Political leadership and responsibility, privatizing and scaling up health systems, and collaboration and financing were all essential.
The representative of the Russian Federation said he agreed with the recommendation of the report in terms of strengthening technical capacity and partnerships between Governments and various stakeholders. Strengthening political commitment was essential, he reiterated, adding that prevention and control of non-communicable diseases had been a major priority for the Russian Federation. His Government had provided financial and technical support to WHO and had invested in various health projects worldwide. He said he looked forward to the 27 September high-level meeting on non-communicable disease.
The Council then decided to resume its consideration of the matter at its coordination and management meeting in July.
SAKIKO FUKUDA-PARR, Vice-Chair of the Committee for Development Policy at its twentieth session, introduced its latest report (document E/2018/33), saying that the body met in plenary session in New York from 12 to 16 March. It contemplated a diverse agenda, which ranged from development challenges to the examination of emerging issues. It also conducted a triennial review of the list of least developed countries to identify for inclusion into and graduation from that list. The development progress of the least developed countries had been a core concern. It also focused on two other important issues including the pledge to leave no one behind and how to enhance effectiveness of the voluntary national reviews of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. In making its recommendations, she said the Committee did not rely on the quantitative indicators in the least developed country criteria alone.
The Committee identified 12 countries that met the graduation thresholds, she said, identifying that as a historic moment for the category. Kiribati — reviewed in 2012 and 2015 — was found to be eligible for graduation for the third consecutive time. However, she expressed concern that the country remained extremely vulnerable. She noted the gap in international support to nations which had achieved a level of development beyond least-developed-country-status yet remained vulnerable. “There is a need for an effective mechanism to ensure that extremely vulnerable countries such as Kiribati or Tuvalu support targeting these vulnerabilities,” she said. In that regard, she recommended the creation of a category of countries facing extreme vulnerability to climate change and other environmental shocks as a possible framework for providing needed support. She noted the progress of other countries including Bangladesh and Myanmar. The Committee had also monitored the progress of countries that had graduated. Some had continued to achieve progress while remaining vulnerable.
The representative of Paraguay, speaking on behalf of the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, commended Bhutan for graduating to non-least-developed-country-status. The Group commended all other countries found eligible to graduate from that category, underscoring the need to continue providing support to them. He urged the need to review the criteria that decided who graduates.
KOURABI NENEM, Vice-President and Minister for Women, Youth and Social Affairs of Kiribati, said his Government was seeking considerable support for reconsideration of its graduation from the least developed countries membership of the United Nations. “Countries must be driven and empowered by their own will, and that when they graduate, they take it on in full confidence, assured by a support system that will guarantee not only their ongoing progress and development but one that will also sustain it,” he stressed. He expressed concern that the decision to recommend Kiribati for graduation from the category had not been clearly defined. Kiribati remained extremely vulnerable to external shocks and the impact of climate change. “We have not been given a sense of guarantee that our development would not be abrupted or reversed post-graduation,” he said.
The representative of the Republic of Korea said her country strongly believed in a graduation process that was sustainable and irreversible, considering the specific situations of each State. She expressed support for Bhutan’s request for a grace period before graduating to allow for it to adapt to its development challenges. Further, she said the introduction of new country categories must be done carefully and must be reviewed before any decision was made.
The representative of Bhutan, associating herself with the Group of Landlocked Countries, said her Government welcomed the Committee’s recommendation for Bhutan to graduate from the group of least developed countries. Bhutan recognized that as a small and landlocked developing country, it faced formidable economic challenges, exaggerated by climate change. For graduation to be successful it must be sustainable and irreversible. She said her Government’s request to align graduation with the national development plan would help Bhutan sustain its graduation status.
The representative of Morocco said it was reasonable for Bhutan to request that its graduation be aligned with its national development strategy. The commercial partners of Bhutan must help facilitate it through its transition. Many countries had demonstrated a “true will” allowing for significant improvements to their social and economic standards. He also emphasized that Morocco would continue to support global efforts for the development of least developed countries in Africa.
The Council said it would resume its consideration of the matter in July.
Population and Development
ION JINGA (Romania), Chair of the Commission on Population and Development at its fifty-first session, introducing that session’s report (document E/2018/25), said the meeting focused mainly on human mobility and international migration. During the debate, delegations shared national experiences to ensure that policies were sustainable and inclusive. Member States acknowledged the significant role of migration and stressed that the rights of migrants must be respected. Cities were often at the forefront of welcoming migrants as well as helping them assimilate. Despite extensive negotiations, Member States did not reach consensus on several issues, mainly sexual and reproductive health and national sovereignty. “In the end, I took the decision to withdraw the text,” he said, noting the two draft decisions in the report. The decisions were proposals for action by the Council. Furthermore, two decisions, adopted by the Commission’s session, had been brought to the Council’s attention for reference. Expressing concern that members had failed to reach consensus on a resolution three years in a row, he called on Member States to help ensure the Commission’s mandate at the national, regional and international level. The Commission had a responsibility to provide guidance to the Economic and Social Council.
The Council then acted on the report’s recommendations, adopting two draft decisions contained in chapter 1, section A, entitled “Report of the Commission on Population and Development on its fifty-first session and the provisional agenda for its fifty-second session” and “Report on the flow of financial resources for assisting in the further implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development”.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
VESNA VUKOVIC, Senior Policy Adviser, New York Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), presented an oral report on coordination aspects of her office’s work, noting that at the end of 2017, there were 71.4 million refugees, returnees, internally displaced and stateless persons of concern to the High Commissioner. With refugee numbers at levels not seen in decades, efforts to ensure comprehensive and predictable responses to ease the burden on host countries were more critical than ever. Central to that work was advancing the outcomes of the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants of 2016, especially on the implementation of the comprehensive refugee response framework, with the process leading to the development of a global compact on refugees.
The Office had engaged a wide constellation of partners, she said, including Governments, humanitarian and development actors, local authorities, faith-based groups and the private sector. Collaboration with non-governmental organizations had been facilitated by the creation of a reference group, while the Global Youth Advisory Council, comprised of 15 young refugees, sought to strengthen refugee voices. The comprehensive refugee response framework now extended to 14 countries. More broadly, the Office had contributed to the Secretary-General’s reform efforts as part of the Sustainable Development Group and through engagement in the Inter-Agency Standing Committee. It also had led inter-agency efforts to prevent and respond to statelessness. Its work with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) on mixed movements had seen the creation of the inter-agency regional platform to steer operational responses to support Venezuelans who had left their country. UNHCR had also made structural changes to enhance its work with partners by reconfiguring the Partnership and Coordination Service and creating a new Division of Resilience and Solutions.
HUI LU, Chief, Intergovernmental, Outreach and Programme Support Section, New York Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), presented the office’s report on economic, social and cultural rights, which examined the link between urbanization and human rights (document E/2018/57). More than half the global population lived in urban areas, a figure expected to reach 66 per cent by 2050, which was why the High Commissioner had focused on the phenomenon’s link with human rights. Both the 2030 Agenda and the New Urban Agenda were anchored in human rights, committing States to ensure that the principles of equality and non-discrimination cut across all the Sustainable Development Goals.
The report recommended that States recognize housing and land as human rights, she continued, rather than commodities, and ensure the security of tenure for all. They should also ensure that urban planning respected human rights, address both homelessness and forced evictions with a cross-sectoral rights-based strategy, and strengthen authorities’ accountability for such. Next presenting the annual report of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (document E/2018/22), she said the additional meeting time granted to it in 2013 and 2014, and in 2015-2017, as well as changes made to its work methods, had allowed it to consider a higher number of reports and to significantly reduce the backlog of those pending consideration, which had stood at 45 in 2011. Under the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Committee had registered 22 individual communications, having adopted the views in three of them. In one, it had found no violation. The Committee had adopted a statement on States’ duties towards refugees and migrants, elaborating on the range of rights to which they should be entitled in the countries through which they transited or in which they sought safe haven and to settle. It also adopted general comment No. 24 on State obligations in the context of business activities.
STEPAN KUZMENKOV (Russian Federation), referring to his country’s sixth periodic report submitted under the International Covenant, said that despite the Committee’s efforts to optimize its modalities, they required improvement. Significant time in the dialogue, which could have been spent on progress made in relation to the Covenant’s articles, had instead been used on theoretical issues. The Committee had been too trusting of information provided by non-governmental organizations through “shadow reports”. At times, information was unverified and offered a distorted picture of events, he said, citing paragraphs 15(b), (c) and (e), 47, 49, 57(b) and (d) of the Committee’s concluding observations on indigenous peoples in his country. Clarifications provided by his delegation had not been taken into account, and he did not agree with references to general comments, notably in paragraphs 25(e), 27, 29, 47(d) 51(g) 55 and 57(e), among others.
During the meeting of treaty body chairs, he said the Russian Federation had stressed that general comments were the private opinions of experts and could not place any new obligations on States. In preparing periodic reports, his Government would be guided strictly by the International Covenant. It was inappropriate to include topics on which the international community had yet to agree, especially sexual orientation and gender identity, and the situation of so-called sex workers. Forcing topics that “fly in the face” of societies was unacceptable, especially the reference to opioid replacement therapy. Further, the Committee’s concluding observations should not include passages not discussed in the period under review. It was inappropriate to link the Covenant’s article 11 to climate change, he said, reiterating that the Russian Federation would be guided by its national interests in carrying out the Committee’s recommendations.
In final business, the Council adopted a draft decision that its event to discuss the transition from relief to development would be titled “Transition from relief to development: advancing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in crisis contexts” (document E/2018/L.12), an informal panel discussion to be held on 19 June 2018.
It also approved the list of organizations cited in the “Requests from non-governmental organizations to be heard by the Economic and Social Council” (document E/2018/67) at its 2018 high-level segment in July, as recommended by the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations.