Organizational session for 1998

General segment

PROVISIONAL SUMMARY RECORD OF THE 34th MEETING

Held at Headquarters, New York,

on Monday, 20 July 1998, at 10 a.m.

President:

Mr. SOMAVIA

 (Chile)

 

CONTENTS

REGIONAL COOPERATION

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Mr. EL-BEBLAWI (Executive Secretary, Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA)) said that the Secretary-General's proposals for the reform of the United Nations had provided additional impetus to effective implementation of ESCWA's own reforms and to the forging of new partnerships with other organizations and bodies.  In March 1998, ESCWA member States had held a special meeting to review reform of ESCWA in the light of the Secretary-General's proposals and of actions taken by the General Assembly.  That meeting had provided ESCWA with further guidance on reform.

In 1997, thanks to the generosity of the Government of Lebanon and all member States, ESCWA successfully relocated its permanent headquarters to Beirut, in a move that signalled a new beginning for that body.  Despite the complexity of the operation, ESCWA's performance record for the year indicated the best results in 25 years, testifying to the effectiveness of the reform process in creating a new organizational culture.

Gross domestic product in the region, excluding Iraq, had risen by 3.4 per cent in 1997, as compared with 5.5 per cent for the previous year.  Declining oil prices were expected to depress growth rates in 1998, while economic reforms, the stalling of the peace process and the continuation of economic sanctions against Iraq continued to affect overall economic performance.

Unemployment, which had reached alarming levels in the occupied Palestinian territories, posed a formidable threat to economic development and social progress.  Environmental issues, particularly water resource management, required urgent attention, while regional trade and transport infrastructure needed to be strengthened.  The reform of ESCWA was being shaped to take account of those issues.

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