Press Releases

    ECOSOC/5998
    14 February 2002

    ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL APPROVES AGENDA
    FOR JULY 2002 SUBSTANTIVE SESSION

    Hears Briefings on Coordination Board,
    "World Economic and Social Prospect 2002"


    NEW YORK, 13 February (UN Headquarters) -- The Economic and Social Council took a number of decisions regarding its 2002 substantive session, to be held in July, during its organizational session this afternoon.

    The Council approved the provisional agenda for its 2002 substantive session, as contained in document E/2002/1.

    With regard to the working arrangements for its 2002 substantive session, the Council decided that: the high-level segment should be held from 1 to 3 July; the operational activities segment on 5, 8 and 9 July; the coordination segment from 10 to 12 July; the humanitarian segment from 15 to 17 July; and the general segment on 18 and 19, and from 22 to 24 July. A decision regarding the themes for the operational activities segment and humanitarian affairs segment were postponed to a later date.

    Also, the Council decided that the theme for the item on regional cooperation at the substantive session should be "Interregional cooperation for sustainable development: regional challenges ahead", and that the high-level meeting of the Council with representatives of the Bretton Woods institutions shall be held at Headquarters on either 22 or 23 April, with the exact date to be decided later.

    Further, the Council approved the holding of the first meeting of the Committee of Experts on Public Administration in New York from 22 to 26 July, as well as the provisional agenda for that meeting as contained in document E/2002/9.

    In other action, the Council decided to include in the agenda of its substantive session the application for observer status with the Council of the Intergovernmental Institution for the Use of Micro-alga Spirulina against malnutrition.

    The Council postponed decisions regarding the inclusion in the agenda of the requests for conversion of the International Civil Defence Organization and the World Tourism Organization -- organizations with observer status with the Council -- to specialized agencies of the United Nations system.

    Also postponed was a decision regarding the basic programme of work of the Council for 2003, until the end of the 2002 substantive session, to allow for the conclusion of the International Conference on Financing for Development.

    Also, through adoption of a text on the Commission for Social Development, the Council decided that the terms of office of the Commission's members would be for four regular sessions, beginning immediately after the conclusion of the Commission's regular session held after 1 January following their election by the Council, and ending at the conclusion of the regular session held after 1 January following the election of the States that are to succeed them as members of the Commission, unless they are re-elected.

    Also by the text, the Council decided to extend the terms of office of those members whose terms are to expire on 31 December 2002 until the conclusion of the forty-first session of the Commission, of those members whose terms are to expire on 31 December 2003, until the conclusion of the forty-second session, and of those members whose terms are to expire on 31 December 2004, until the conclusion of the forty-third session of the Commission.

    Furthermore, the Commission, immediately following the closure of the regular session, would hold the first meeting of its subsequent regular session for the sole purpose of electing the new chairman and other members of the bureau.

    Also this afternoon, the Council elected, by acclamation, Yuri M. Kolosov (Russian Federation) to complete the unexpired portion of the term of Valeri Kouznetsov on the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, resulting from the latter’s resignation.

    At the outset of the meeting, the Council was briefed by Patrizio Civili, Assistant Secretary-General of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, on relevant issues of the United Nations System’s Chief Executive Board for Coordination, formerly known as the Administrative Committee on Coordination. In addition, Anatoly Smyshlyaev, Development Policy Analysis Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, briefed on the World Economic and Social Prospect 2002.

    The next organizational session of the Council will be announced.

    Secretariat Briefings

    PATRIZIO M. CIVILI, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, briefed the Council on the recent session of the United Nations System’s Chief Executive Board for Coordination, referred to as the CEB and formerly known as the Administrative Committee on Coordination (ACC). He said the purpose of his briefing was to keep Council members up-to-date on the CEB’s work, particularly on the outcome of its fall sessions and on the outlook for its spring sessions.

    It was possible to identify three broad phases in the system’s approach to inter-agency coordination, including a first, brief phase in the early years, in which the emphasis was on the process and the implementation of the relationship agreements. In a second, much longer phase, a progressive shift took place over the years from ex-post facto coordination to an effort to consult on activities at the programming stage. A new phase in inter-agency coordination emerged in the 1990s around the many global conferences that characterized that decade. The 1990s represented a turning point in inter-agency relations, providing the system with a set of broad policy objectives around which it could rally.

    The 1990s also marked a crucial phase in confidence-building in inter-agency relations, he continued. Conference processes were inclusive and served to create an unprecedented sense of common ownership and common commitment, within the system, to advancing the outcomes of those conferences. The Millennium Summit was both the culmination of the phase and the beginning of a new phase, where the organizations of the system had, in the Millennium Declaration, an overarching policy framework.

    The new name of the ACC was intended to reflect the new stage of play and collective commitment, he said. Chief Executive "Board" rather than "Committee" was meant to reflect the transition from a collection of organizations that came together to compare notes, so to speak, to a collegial body whose participants shared a collective responsibility for nurturing the new reality that the system had come to represent. The construction of a unified policy framework to guide the overall work of the system had made it possible to consolidate several pre-existing bodies into a High-Level Committee on Programmes. That functioned in parallel with a consolidated High-Level Committee on Management, which was charged with the integrated administration of the so-called "common system".

    Last fall, the ACC had considered that the new high-level committees had sufficiently established their role, and that networking among agency specialists in different sectors had reached a sufficient level of maturity to make it possible to replace the rest of the inter-agency machinery. Less formal, more businesslike methods of work would not only serve the interests of cost-efficiency, but would also help meet more effectively the requirements of intergovernmental bodies.

    Regarding the CEB session last fall, executive heads had shared with the Secretary-General how they saw their respective contributions to the fight against terrorism, he said. A common vision had emerged from that exchange. The discussion also addressed the negative economic impact that 11 September would have on meeting the Millennium Declaration targets. The main item on the agenda related to the New African Initiative, now renamed the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). The ACC welcomed the visionary decision by African leaders to launch the new partnership.

    At the global level, executive heads committed themselves to a special effort to ensure that Africa’s requirements were given priority, he said. At the regional level, CEB members agreed to reinforce regional coordination mechanisms. At the country level, it was incumbent on the system to accelerate progress in strengthening the complementarity among the country programme frameworks currently in use within the system, so as to minimize the reporting and other transaction costs of programme countries.

    In the administrative area, the CEB reaffirmed the priority it attached to staff security and safety, he said. In its dialogue with the Chairman of the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) and Staff Representatives, the CEB welcomed new initiatives to modernize the pay and benefits system. At the same time, the CEB reaffirmed its view on the necessity of an independent review aimed at strengthening the international civil service and the capacity of the Commission to provide effective guidance to its future evolution.

    Regarding the Monterrey Conference, he said a rich and extensive exchange of goals had taken place. On the monitoring the follow-up to the Declaration, while the United Nations system’s contribution to progress in attaining the Millennium goals might be modest in financial terms, its contribution in terms of policy was often critical. Executive heads identified a number of areas of "policy tensions" to be addressed to maximize progress in attaining Millennium Declaration goals.

    In term of the CEB’s work programme for the year, the intention was to link closely the selection of themes for the CEB’s regular sessions and the process of reporting to the General Assembly on the implementation of the Millennium Declaration, he said. The Secretary-General felt that reporting processes should serve as active instruments of policy development and of concerted action by the system.

    ANATOLY SMYSHLYAEV, Officer-in-Charge of the Development Policy Analysis Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, briefing the Council on World Economic and Social Prospects 2002, said the weakness in the world economy was widespread, with more than a dozen countries in recession. In the economies of East Asia and Latin America, those well integrated into the world economy were hit hardest by the adverse effects of that weakness. While recovery from the economic downturn was likely in 2002, it would take place slowly.

    The report projected growth of only 1.5 per cent in gross world product in 2002, he said. That modest figure was contingent on a number of economic uncertainties, especially a recovery in the United States. The country’s still high equity prices, low savings rate, and high level of private sector debt made a recovery uncertain. Difficulties in Japan and the current Argentine situation added to uncertainties.

    The slow growth of gross world product in 2001 and 2002 posed difficulties for the developing countries, he added, many of which had experienced a fall in output last year. On a per capita basis, there was widespread setback in East Asia, West Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. In 2002, developing countries and economies in transition would continue to face a frail international economic environment. That included lackluster growth of international trade, weak international prices for primary commodities, and difficult access to and higher costs of external financing. The recovery of those countries was critically contingent upon the recovery from a recession or a slowdown in major developed countries.

    Stagnation in international trade was the key factor in transmitting the slowdown to the developing countries and economies in transition, he said. A few countries, notably Argentina and Turkey, suffered from a combination of domestic and international financial difficulties. While shocks through international financial channels were smaller than had been the case in the international financial crises of 1997-1998, net private capital flows to developing countries and economies in transition went down last year and were expected to decline in 2002.

    Despite increases to China and Mexico, foreign direct investment (FDI) flows to developing countries fell in 2001 and were expected to drop further in 2002, he said. The key to restoring FDI flows to developing countries remained worldwide economic growth, since the basic factors determining the magnitude and directions of those flows had not changed and the potential was far from exhausted in many developing countries.

    There were hopeful signs on the economic horizon, he added. Monetary policy in major developed countries remained accommodative; fiscal stimuli were beginning to take effect; prices of energy were not high; and markets were seeing a tentative rebound in equity markets. Most recently, the Japanese yen had depreciated noticeably against the United States dollar. The depreciation might ameliorate the weakening Japanese exports and ease the deflationary pressures.

    While the report analysed the situation in Argentina, since its preparation, new developments had taken place, he said. He would tend to revise downward the projected gross domestic product (GDP) decline. Argentina had revealed key fiscal policy guidelines for 2002 and the peso was fully floated on Monday. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) had not endorsed the latest Argentina economic programme, holding a total of $22 billion of a package that was committed earlier. Given the heightened uncertainty and increased difficulties in the economy, the projected decline was now about 7 per cent, and a surge in inflation was expected to an annual rate of some 40 to 50 per cent.

    The current challenge for policy-makers worldwide was not only to get the global economy out of its current slowdown, he added. It was important to sustain the longer-term agenda that sought to ensure that developing countries could participate more effectively in the globalized world economy. There was need for further progress in resolving the debt problems of developing countries through the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative and through better arrangements for private sector involvement in middle-income countries. The forthcoming Monterrey Conference was one opportunity where progress could be made on those and related issues.


    * *** *