Press Releases

    Round-up

    ECOSOC/5990
    30 July 2001

    ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL SUSPENDS
    2001 SUBSTANTIVE SESSION

    Four Weeks of Meetings Focused on Bolstering Development Efforts of African Countries,
    Information Technology Transfer, Disaster Relief

    (Reissued as received.)

    GENEVA, 27 July (UN Information Service) -- The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) suspended its substantive work Thursday evening following a four-week session which focused on supporting the efforts of African countries to achieve sustainable development, on aiding the transfer of information and communications technology (ICT) to African and other developing nations, and on improving responses to humanitarian emergencies and natural disasters.

    The ECOSOC did not complete all the work on its agenda. Pending matters will be addressed in New York when the Council reconvenes in late fall -- dates for the resumed meetings have still to be set.

    The theme of the Council's high-level segment this year was "the role of the United Nations system in supporting the efforts of African countries to achieve sustainable development". Much support was expressed for the "New African Initiative", a multilateral agreement among African nations to set and observe a series of principles for economic and social progress, including national ownership of development efforts, government transparency and accountability in fiscal, legal and regulatory matters, and strengthening of democracy. The Initiative appealed for these measures to be backed by international steps to increase official development assistance (ODA), lighten African foreign debt burdens, and eliminate trade barriers to African exports.

    As a result of the high-level segment, the Council adopted a Ministerial Declaration that urged help for African countries in monitoring and managing their external debt, expressed deep concern that Africa's efforts to develop human resources were being challenged by HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases, and called for strengthened efforts by industrialized countries to dedicate 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Products to development assistance. The Declaration invited the Secretary-General to take the requisite measures to ensure an effective and coordinated response of the United Nations system to the New African Initiative.

    The needs of Africa also were featured in much of the rest of ECOSOC's activities. The Council devoted its coordination segment to the sharing of technology as a way of boosting economic progress in developing countries, including African nations, with the emphasis placed on improving access to information and communications technology (ICT). In agreed conclusions on the matter, the Council, noting that participation in the globalized economy required competence in ICT, called, among other things, for developed nations to share with developing and transition-economy countries their experience in promoting and establishing ICT sectors so that mistakes could be avoided and benefits maximized.

    The ECOSOC operational-activities segment consisted of a triennial policy review of United Nations activities for development and featured, among other things, discussions with the United Nations system "country teams" for Tanzania and China. Agreed conclusions for the operational-activities segment included a contention that reductions in resources for United Nations development work unfortunately were affecting the efficiency, impact and the very function of the United Nations system and its cooperation with developing countries.

    During the Council's humanitarian segment, it was noted repeatedly that natural disasters and other emergency situations were occurring more frequently and had their most devastating impacts on developing countries. A Vice-President's summary of the debate contended among other things that natural disasters needed to be given a higher priority in light of increasing global vulnerability; that more effort should be put into prevention and mitigation of those and of disasters linked to conflict; that responses to disasters had to include long-term measures and a smooth shift from emergency to recovery and development efforts; and that there was a serious lack of funding for United Nations humanitarian activities.

    Council President Martin Belinga-Eboutou, in closing remarks on the 2001 substantive session, said that each of the session's segments had been a success in that it had given rise to high political debate and had encouraged effective resolutions and decisions; and that everyone would recognize that the substantive session reaffirmed the role of the Council as a dynamic forum that brought to the forefront new initiatives.

    Among those participating in the high-level segment this year was Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who said in an address that few of the many past development attempts of the United Nations system in Africa had been effective -- in fact, such programmes often had been perceived by African men and women expected to implement them as the work of remote bureaucrats with no understanding of African conditions. In the future, he said, there should be an expanded international commitment to African development based on support for local African programmes for economic advancement.

    Others addressing the high-level segment included Hage Geingob, Prime Minister of Namibia; Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa (by video link); Sadako Ogata, former United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees; Horst Kohler, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF); James D. Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank; Mike Moore, Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO); Rubens Ricupero, Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD); Carlos Magarinos, Director-General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO); and high-level Government officials from Nigeria, Ghana, Iran, Belgium, Morocco, Germany, Cuba, Croatia, Cameroon, Switzerland, Belarus, South Africa, Indonesia, Canada, Burkina Faso, Denmark, Russian Federation, Czech Republic, Tunisia, Burundi, Italy, Mozambique, Sweden, Norway, Andorra, Uganda, Romania, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Namibia, Luxembourg, and Bulgaria.

    During its general segment the Council, in addition to adopting scores of resolutions and decisions recommended to it by subsidiary United Nations commissions and committees, adopted a series of measures generated by its own members and relating, among other things, to HIV/AIDS; genetic privacy and non-discrimination; implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples by the specialized agencies and the international institutions associated with the United Nations; the situation of Palestinian women in territories occupied by Israel; the economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the occupied Arab territory, including Jerusalem, and the Arab population in the occupied Golan; the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction; and the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism.

    High-level Segment

    After several days of intense debate on the high-level theme of "the role of the United Nations in supporting the efforts of African countries to achieve sustainable development", the Council approved a ministerial declaration (E/2001/L.20). In the document, the Council resolved to give full support to the political and institutional structures of emerging democracies in Africa, and to encourage and sustain regional and subregional mechanisms for preventing conflict and promoting political stability. Further, the declaration stated the Council's aim to ensure a reliable flow of resources for peacekeeping operations on the continent, and to help Africa build up its capacity to tackle the spread of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and other infectious diseases.

    The ministerial declaration also called on the General Assembly to improve the process of assessing and monitoring progress in the implementation of the commitments on Africa made in the Millennium Declaration, as well as major United Nations conferences and summits, and it requested the Council to play its full part in the process. While the declaration recognized that African nations had undertaken their own efforts to solve their problems, it noted that the countries still faced multi-faceted challenges. It recognized the need to promote the role of women in social and economic development, including by assuring their participation in the political and economic life of African countries. It further recognized the need for an increased focus on the rights and well-being of children, in particular their health and education. The Council invited the Secretary-General to take the requisite measures to ensure an effective and coordinated response of the United Nations system to the New African Initiative.

    The Council considered it crucial for Africa to recognize the critical links between peace, democracy, national efforts towards the promotion of good governance, respect for all internationally-recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms and sustainable development. The declaration called on the United Nations to mobilize political support and resources for implementing the various United Nations poverty eradication initiatives and programmes for Africa through strengthened partnerships with African Governments, bilateral donors, the Bretton Woods institutions and civil society organizations. The ministerial declaration further expressed the Council's deep concern that Africa's efforts to reverse its low human capital development were being severely challenged by a worsening health crisis, including HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases. It called on all funds, programmes and agencies which had not yet done so to mainstream AIDS prevention into their activities. And the document also showed the Council's grave concern that if current trends continued, the majority of African countries would be unable to achieve the international development goals. Therefore, it resolved, the United Nations system should, among other things, provide policy advice on appropriate domestic strategies, and strengthen the capacity of African countries to monitor and manage their debt.

    Coordination Segment

    After intensive debate on the topic of the role of the United Nations in promoting development, particularly with respect to access to a transfer of knowledge and technology, especially information and communication technologies (ICT), the Council adopted agreed conclusions noting that the majority of the world population still lived in poverty and many had not yet reaped the full benefits of the ICT revolution, and that reality exposed many countries, especially in the developing world, to technological dependence and monopolistic pricing of technology, knowledge products and services; that transfer of technology should be suited to the particular needs of developing countries and their development policies, including for permanent, non-formal and distance education, training of educators, creation of local content, e-commerce, telemedicine, online administrative procedures, promotion of access to ICT, and creation of better work opportunities; that the developed countries should share with developing and transition-economy countries their experience in promoting and establishing ICT sectors in their own economies so that mistakes could be avoided and benefits maximized; and that in order to bridge the digital divide and promote access to and effective use of ICT in developing countries, transparent and consistent legal and regulatory frameworks had to be established, along with sound policies in relation to ICT.

    The Council said international efforts should include transfer of technology, particularly to developing countries, on concessional and preferential terms; that the private sector should be encouraged to accept and implement the principle of good corporate citizenship -- that is, bring values and responsibilities to bear on a conduct and policy premised on profit incentives in conformity with national laws and regulations; and that special programmes should be designed in cooperation with other partners for the least developed countries and Africa in the field of ICT.

    Operational Activities for Development Segment

    In agreed conclusions following several days of debate on the topic of operational activities for development, the Council noted that the main problem facing the United Nations in launching projects in the area of international development cooperation was the reduction in the flow of regular resources, in spite of a recent rise in these resources; that the reduction of resources unfortunately affected the efficiency, the impact and the very functioning of the United Nations system in its cooperation with developing countries; that effective coordination within the United Nations of development efforts was vital; and that regardless of the improvements made to date, there was still much to be done in developing countries with respect to coordination and programming.

    The Council also said the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) should increase harmonization and coordination between national and international bodies and the United Nations and the Bretton Woods institutions; and that there was a need to develop national capacities, and a need to have a link between international objectives under the Millennium Declaration and national development objectives.

    Humanitarian Affairs Segment

    After lengthy debate in its humanitarian affairs segment on the theme of "strengthening the coordination of the emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations", the Council, in a Vice-President's summary, expressed grave concern about the serious lack of funding for United Nations humanitarian activities and agreed that more support should be given to the Consolidated Appeals Process; noted the concern of many delegations at the uneven level of funding between crises in different geographic locations, with some pointing out the corollary between lack of funding and lack of attention or media interest on the world scene; noted the importance of sustaining humanitarian gains by having mechanisms for funding the smooth transition from relief to development; remarked that many delegations had urged that positive consideration should be given to the Secretary-General's recommendations that the use of the Central Emergency Revolving Fund be expanded to include assistance for natural disasters, for protracted emergencies and for staff security; stated that all delegations were gravely preoccupied with the increase in the number and impact of natural disasters; said there was general consensus that natural disasters needed to be given a higher priority in light of the increasing vulnerability of populations to natural hazards; and reiterated the importance of gaining access to vulnerable populations to provide humanitarian assistance, with many delegations noting that this should be done in the context of the principles of neutrality, impartiality and humanity.

    The summary also said there was consensus on the fact that the plight of internally displaced persons represented one of the major humanitarian issues and that the scale of this problem was increasing; noted that many delegations had expressed support for the establishment of a small non-operational unit within the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) to focus on the internally displaced; noted that children were the main victims of all emergencies and cited particular concern expressed about children in conflict, including with respect to the increasing numbers of child soldiers and rising sexual violence against girls; and highlighted the need to increase national and regional capacities for preparing for and responding to natural disasters, particularly in the areas of early warning systems, contingency planning, response mechanisms and disaster reduction and mitigation.

    Other Council Action

    During the Council’s session, it adopted a number of resolutions, decisions and measures recommended to it by its subsidiary commissions and committees. It also adopted a series of measures generated by its own members.

    They included measures:

    -- on genetic privacy and non-discrimination, urging States to ensure that no one shall be subjected to discrimination based on genetic characteristics and urged States to protect the privacy of those subject to genetic testing and to ensure that genetic testing was done with the prior, free, informed and express consent of the individual or authorization obtained in the manner prescribed by law and in accordance with public international law;

    -- on implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples by the specialized agencies and the international institutions associated with the United Nations, recommending that all States intensify their efforts in such agencies and institutions to ensure full and effective implementation of the Declaration; and reaffirming that the recognition by the General Assembly, the Security Council and other United Nations organs of the legitimacy of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories to exercise their right to self-determination entailed, as a corollary, the extension of all appropriate assistance to those peoples;

    -- on the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, expressing deep concern at the increasing number and scale of natural disasters; and endorsing the proposal of the Secretary-General, within the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction programme, to launch a review of the implementation of the Yokohama Strategy for a Safer World, with its focus on prevention and mitigation;

    -- on the joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, urging all organizations and bodies of the United Nations system, in particular the co-sponsors and secretariat of the Joint Programme, to give priority to the full implementation of the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS through support to Governments in their expanded national responses to the epidemic;

    -- on the situation of and assistance to Palestinian women, in which the Council demanded that Israel comply fully with the provisions and principles of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, among other international agreements, in order to protect the rights of Palestinian women and their families;

    -- on economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the occupied Arab territory, including Jerusalem, and the Arab population in the occupied Golan, stressing the need to preserve the territorial integrity of all of the occupied Palestinian territory and to guarantee the freedom of movement of persons and goods in the territory; calling upon Israel to cease such measures as closure of the occupied Palestinian territory, the enforced isolation of Palestinian towns, and destruction of homes and the isolation of Jerusalem; and reaffirming the inalienable right of the Palestinian people and the Arab population of the occupied Syrian Golan to all their natural and economic resources;

    -- on the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism, emphasizing the need for the promotion of a responsible and sustainable tourism that could be beneficial to all sectors of society;

    -- on revitalization and strengthening of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), recommending that the General Assembly consider the approval of a supplement for the year 2002 in order to provide the Institute with one more year of financial security; and inviting the General Assembly to consider requesting the Joint Inspection Unit to conduct a review of the INSTRAW Trust Fund and an urgent evaluation of the activities of the Institute, including options for the Institute's future;

    -- on a Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, deciding to convene the first annual session of the Forum at United Nations Headquarters from 6 to 17 May 2002 without prejudice to any future venue of the Forum;

    -- on the implementation of the plan of action for the eradication of tsetse flies from Africa, calling attention to the seriousness of the tsetse and trypanosomiasis problem and its increasing significance as a constraint to Africa's sustainable development and the alleviation of rural poverty; taking note of the decision of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the Organization of African Unity to free Africa of tsetse flies; and calling upon all Member States, organizations of the United Nations system and the international community to fully support this initiative;

    -- on human rights education, calling upon all Governments to reaffirm their commitments and obligations to develop national strategies for human rights education that were comprehensive, participatory and effective;

    -- on a long-term programme of support for Haiti and on the practical modalities for its implementation, calling for the Secretary-General to report to it at its substantive session of 2002 on progress achieved;

    -- on protection against products harmful to health and the environment, requesting the Secretary-General to continue to disseminate the Consolidated List of such products as widely as possible and to look into the possibility of online dissemination of the List;

    -- on integrated and coordinated implementation of and follow-up to the outcomes of the major United Nations conferences and summits, terming the goals and targets in the economic, social and related fields contained in the Millennium Declaration and the outcomes of the major United Nations conferences and summits, supplemented by the outcomes of their reviews, to be a comprehensive basis for actions at the national, regional and international levels;

    -- on a Europe-Africa permanent link through the Strait of Gibraltar, welcoming the cooperation on the project established between the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), the Governments of Morocco and Spain and specialized international organizations; and welcoming the progress achieved on project studies;

    -- on mainstreaming a gender perspective into all policies and programmes of the United Nations system, deciding to establish under its agenda item "Coordination, programme and other questions" a regular sub-item on the topic;

    -- on enlargement of the Executive Committee of the Programme of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, recommending that the General Assembly take a decision at its fifty-sixth session on the question of enlarging the membership of the Committee from 58 to 61 States;

    -- taking note of the understanding concluded between the International Labour Office (ILO) and the authorities of Myanmar regarding an objective assessment to be carried out by an ILO high-level mission with respect to the practical implementation and actual impact of the framework of legislative, executive and administrative measures reported by Myanmar within the overall objective of complete elimination of forced labour in law and practice; and requesting the Secretary-General to keep the Council informed of further developments;

    -- approving a calendar of United Nations meetings and conferences for year 2002;

    -- deciding to adopt the following themes, respectively, for the high-level and coordination segments of the Council's substantive session of 2002: the contribution of human resources development, including in the area of health and education, to the process of development; and strengthening further the Economic and Social Council, and building on its recent achievements, to help fulfil the role ascribed to it in the Charter of the United Nations and as contained in the United Nations Millennium Declaration;

    -- on the Third United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries, deciding to recall paragraph 111 of the Conference Programme of Action for the decade 2001-2010, and deciding to revert to this issue at its resumed substantive session;

    -- on implementation of the Habitat agenda, reiterating the need for Habitat to participate in all aspects of the work of the Administrative Committee on Coordination and its subsidiary machinery;

    -- on the annual overview report of the Administrative Committee on Coordination, inviting the Committee to ensure that the reform of its subsidiary machinery strengthened inter-agency bodies and processes which had specific mandates from intergovernmental bodies, particularly those related to the coordinated implementation of outcomes of United Nations conferences and summits;

    -- on the need to harmonize and improve United Nations informatics systems for optimal utilization and accessibility by all States, requesting the President of the Economic and Social Council to convene the Ad Hoc Open-Ended Working Group on Informatics for one more year to enable it to carry out, from within existing resources, its work of facilitating the successful implementation of the initiatives being taken by the Secretary-General with regard to the use of information technology and of continuing the implementation of measures required to achieve its objectives;

    -- and, on the global campaign for poverty eradication, deciding to keep the matter under review and inviting the Secretary-General to report to the Council in 2002 on the matter.

    General Segment

    Fifty-one decisions recommended by the Commission on Human Rights were approved by the Council. Summaries of these measures may be found in press release ECOSOC/01/48. Among other things, the Council approved a decision Requesting the Commission Chairman to appoint an Independent Expert to study the current international framework related to protection of persons from enforced disappearances; approved appointment of a Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation of indigenous populations; and authorized the Subcommission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights to appoint Miguel Alfonso Martinez to carry out a study on the question of human rights and human responsibilities.

    In addition, the Council approved extension of the mandates of Commission Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan, Iraq, Myanmar, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Burundi; extension of the mandates of Special Representatives on human rights situations in Iran and Equatorial Guinea; extended the mandate of the Independent Expert on the human rights situation in Somalia; extended the mandate of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on internally displaced persons; and extended the mandates of Special Rapporteurs on the use of mercenaries, on the right to education, on toxic wastes, on freedom of religion and belief, on the sale of children, on torture, and on extrajudicial executions. In addition, the Council approved extension of the mandate of the Subcommission's Special Rapporteur on traditional practices affecting the health of women and girl children, and the mandates of Commission working groups on the right to development and on enforced disappearances.

    Summaries of several measures recommended by the Commission on the Status of Women and approved by the Council may be found in press release ECOSOC/01/48.

    Summaries of several measures recommended by the Commission for Social Development and approved by the Council may be found in press release ECOSOC/01/48.

    Summaries of a series of measures recommended by the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice and approved by the Council may be found in press release ECOSOC/01/48.

    Summaries of a series of measures recommended by the Commission on Narcotic Drugs and approved by the Council may be found in press release ECOSOC/01/48.

    Summaries of measures recommended by the United Nations Forum on Forests and approved by the Council may be found in press release ECOSOC/01/50.

    Summaries of measures recommended by the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations and approved by the Council may be found in press release ECOSOC/01/50.

    Summaries of measures recommended by the Commission on Science and Technology for Development and the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources for Development and adopted by the Council may be found in press release ECOSOC/01/51.

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