Press Releases

    ECOSOC/6009
    2 July 2002

    Hunger, Health, Education Closely Linked and Must Be Addressed Together, Economic and Social Council Told, As High-Level Session Continues

    Round Tables Held on Africa's Human Resources Development, Partnerships, Strengthening Institutions for Sustainable Development, Policy Coherence

    NEW YORK, 1 July (UN Headquarters) -- The trio of challenges made up of hunger, health and education were closely linked and must be addressed together much more than in the past, Jacques Diouf, Director General of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), told the Economic and Social Council this afternoon. He spoke as the Council continued its three-day high-level segment, which starts its annual month-long session.

    Hunger was not just an effect of poverty, but also a cause, he continued. In societies where hunger was widespread, overall growth was also compromised. The economic growth rate in such countries declined by nearly one per cent yearly. However, he added, human resources development must go beyond the social sectors. It must include the productive and service sectors. It must also enable the potential benefits of trade, aid, technology and knowledge to be tapped by even the poorest countries. The absence of capacity often prevented countries from reaping the benefits of progress.

    Also this afternoon, the Council concluded the preparatory round tables that had been held earlier this year on education, development, health and development, and human resources development. The purpose of those had been to consider synergies between health and education as part of the Council's work toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Patrizio Civili, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, spoke concerning the preparatory round tables.

    Jeffrey Sachs, the Secretary-General's Special Adviser on the Millennium Goals, moderated that event. Presenters were: Carlos Magarinõs, Director General, United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO); James Morris, Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP); Johannes van Ginkel, Rector of the United Nations University (UNU); Thoraya Obaid, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund; Dr. Peter Piot, Executive Director, United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS); and Leslie Wright, Vice President of the Conference on Non-Governmental Organizations in Partnership with the United Nations.

    Also as part of the session this afternoon, four high-level round tables were held.

    Round table A concerned progress toward the Millennium goals for human resources development in Africa. Co-chairs were Kwesi Ndoum, Minister for Economic Planning and Regional Integration of Ghana and Jan Vandemoortece, Group Leader for Social Development of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Moderating was Lincoln Chen, Director of the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.

    Summarizing the outcome in a resumed plenary meeting, Mr. Ndoum said deep concern had been expressed at the slow pace towards the Millennium Declaration targets, including in the fields of education and child mortality. Only one fifth of the set goals had been achieved. However, some countries were coming close to achieving specific goals. It was also emphasized that failure to achieve the set targets in education and health would impact severely on other social and economic targets.

    Round table B concerned partnerships and cooperation for human resources development. Co-chairs were Ann Therese Ndong-Jatta, Gambia's Minister for Education, and Peter Hansen, Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). Moderating was Imelda Henkin, Deputy Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

    In summary, Ms. Ndong-Jatta said speakers had emphasized that the outcome of partnerships was what counted. Official development assistance (ODA) was extremely important if the Millennium Goals were to be met. Partnerships to help in implementing natural disaster relief mechanisms were key. Strengthening confidence-building among all parties was imperative.

    Round table C concerned the strengthening of institutional capabilities for sustainable development (a contribution to Johannesburg). Co-chairs were Jacobus Richelle, the European Commission's Director-General for Development and G.O.P. Obasi, the World Meteorological Organization's Secretary-General. Moderating was Carlos Magariños, UNIDO's Director General.

    In summary, Mr. Richelle said speakers had called for the focus to be on best practices for the future in close adherence to the Millennium Development Goals and the Monterrey Consensus. Speakers had also called for a reinforcement of international institutions and for greater efforts to ensure participation by all stakeholders in the negotiation process.

    Round table D concerned policy coherence and financing of human resources development. Co-chairs were Julio Frenk Mora, Mexico's Minister of Health and Special Adviser on Development Goals, Jeffrey Sachs. Moderating was David Nabarro, Executive Director of Sustainable Development and Health Environment, WHO.

    Summarizing, Mr. Mora said the speakers had emphasized the challenges to further advances, the responsibilities of the various actors, the practicalities of implementation and a range of issues that were the "cutting edge" in the aftermath of recent conferences. The Council had met the challenge to make implementation key. It was now possible to take a clearer stand on the relation of external assistance and national responsibilities. Both donors and recipients of aid had responsibilities, he said.

    The Council will meet again at 7 a.m. Tuesday, 2 July, to continue the high-level segment of its 2002 substantive session through Ministerial Round table Breakfasts.

    Background

    The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) met this afternoon to continue its high-level segment on the contribution of human resources development, including in the areas of health and education, to the overall development process.

    The Council was expected to be briefed on the conclusions of three preparatory round tables on education and development health and development, and human resources development, which were held last February and March. Those meetings provided an opportunity for informal and open discussions of the key issues related to the theme of the segment.

    The Council was then expected to hold four high-level round tables, featuring the participation of ministers, heads of delegations, agency heads, and representatives of non-governmental organizations and the business sector. The topics of those round tables will include partnerships towards the Millennium Development Goals for human resources development in Africa, partnerships for human resources development, strengthening institutional capabilities for sustainable development and policy coherence and financing human resources development.

    Statements

    JACQUES DIOUF, Director General of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), said human resources were at the centre of development -- both as an instrument for its achievement and as its ultimate beneficiaries. Human resources development should, and must be, an integral part of economic and assistance strategies for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Hunger undermined the contribution human resources could make to development by compromising people's ability to improve their lives and eroding labour productivity. Hunger was also linked to learning disabilities, absenteeism and high drop-out rates among school children.

    For those various reasons, hunger was not just an effect of poverty, but also a cause, he continued. In societies where hunger was widespread, overall growth was also compromised, with a yearly decline of nearly one per cent in the economic growth rate. Because they were closely linked, the trio of challenges -- hunger, health and education -- must be addressed together much more than had been done previously.

    Human resources development must, however, go beyond the social sectors to include the productive and service sector. It must enable the potential benefits of trade, aid, technology and knowledge to be tapped by even the poorest countries. It was often the absence of capacity that prevented countries from reaping their benefits. That was particularly true with regard to agricultural trade. Why was the international community not on track to meet the goals of the World Food Summit? he asked. Quite simply, because political will and resources to achieve the goals had not matched the promises and the commitments made. The June Summit in Rome had helped to flag the lack of political and financial commitment to reduce hunger.

    The Declaration adopted by the Summit must serve to catalyze new and innovative ways to get back on track, he said. Action must include recognition of the need for an international alliance against hunger of all concerned parties; intergovernmental negotiations of a set of voluntary guidelines for the progressive realization of the right to adequate food; reversing the overall decline of agriculture and rural development in the national budgets of developing countries, in official development assistance (ODA) and in total lending in international financial institutions; and implementing the outcome of the Doha World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference.

    PATRIZIO CIVILI, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said one of the key recurrent messages was that human resources development was fundamental to the fight against poverty and to the achievement of long-term economic growth. The round-table discussions that had been held had provided a rich forum for a discussion of the issues. The first round-table, on health and development, had seen a wide-ranging discussion on a variety of issues related to the theme. There had been a high degree of consensus that a major investment in health was needed, as was a focus on the poorest and most vulnerable.

    The round-table on education and development had taken up a wide range of issues, including that of higher education, he said. Speakers had stressed the need to improve access to education, especially for girls, and also to ensure that students didn't drop out. The need to emphasize science and related subjects was stressed by some. The third round-table, on human resources development, had addressed the synergies between health and education for achieving the Millenium Development Goals.

    Conclusion of Preparatory Round Tables

    JEFFERY SACHS, the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Millennium Development Goals, introduced the presentations and served as moderator of the review of the round tables and the Non-Governmental Organization Forum. He said the conclusions were overwhelming that if without sufficient investment, sustainable economic development for all could not be achieved. The conclusions also suggested that it was utterly within the reach and means of the international community to achieve the goals set in the Millennium Declaration.

    He said the costs were modest, especially in light of the vast wealth of the world's richest countries. Yet, the gap remained. He hoped the current ECOSOC session would draw attention to the importance of those issues. He reiterated that it would require only the most modest efforts to achieve the highest aspiration -- healthy lives for the world's children.

    CARLOS MAGARINOS, Director General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), said UNIDO had provided to the round-table discussion a concrete example of human resources development by describing a programme to support fish experts in three African countries -- Uganda, Kenya and United Republic of Tanzania. Human assets were key in the development process. Industry was one of the biggest contributors to human resource capacity building.

    Training programmes and technical skills upgrading were among the areas promoted by UNIDO, he said. In 2001, 200 group training programmes had been held, with almost 8,000 participants, many of them from Africa. The transfer of skills and technology would be of great help to developing countries, he stressed.

    JAMES T. MORRIS, Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), briefed the Council on the round table devoted to education and development, highlighting the agency's relevant good practices. He said that WFP's efforts were focused primarily on school feeding programmes, particularly initiatives that provided morning meals or lunches. When in school feeding was not enough to ensure a high level of school enrolment by poor, disabled, or disadvantaged children, the WFP ensured that food was sent home to the parents.

    He said WFP was now overseeing school feeding programmes in some 60 countries. He had recently visited the programmes in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United Republic of Tanzania. Seeing the operations first-hand proved that their effectiveness was undeniable. It was known that school feeding increased enrolment and attendance. It also alleviated short-term hunger. Food at school increased learning capacities and improved in-school behaviour and performance. It also resulted in complementary actions in health, hygiene and sanitation. The WFP was now focused on its Global School Feeding Campaign. He said that just 19 cents per day, per child was a low cost, easily obtainable way to create opportunities for 300 million children that did not attend school at all.

    J.A. VAN GINKEL, Rector, United Nations University, said the University was working in many fields of high level training, including leadership, software development, and energy. He said balance, technological and vocational secondary education, the individual and the institutional and teacher training were important issues that had been focused on during the round table on education.

    As the Secretary-General had said, there was no simple answer to complex issues. There should, therefore, not be single-issue answers to the problems. Only with an educated population could there be democracy and good governance, he said.

    Education must be developed at all levels and in all sectors in a balanced way, he said. Children in primary schools and their parents realized that their future would depend on the opportunities for education later. A job-oriented secondary education system was thus essential. Both the individual and the institutional must be considered when education was being discussed, he stressed. There was a serious shortage of teachers. Teacher training must, therefore, be urgently addressed. That also meant retraining of teachers already in schools.

    THORAYA AHMED OBAID, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), in summarizing the education round table, said that the main conclusion had been that achieving the goal of Education for All and eliminating the gender gap by 2015 would require strong political will, expanded partnerships and adequate funding. The round table had addressed the question of Education for All, including girls' education, technical and vocational education, and higher education. The discussion had also brought out the need to fully integrate and link education and capacity building interventions to poverty reductions strategies, she said.

    Several participants had stressed the importance of political will and national commitment to education, recognizing that this would require difficult choices to be made in resource allocation, she added. Furthermore, it had been noted that countries that had invested serious political capital in the expansion of education had been able to change enrolment and retention figures dramatically. Other participants had stressed the need for stronger and more effective partnerships with the private sector, civil society organizations, especially in local communities, as well as with parents, to support the role of the public sector in expanding and improving education.

    All participants had agreed that there must be a substantial increase in domestic resources for education, as well as in external resources for those countries that had developed good education policies and plans. In that connection, ministers of education had stressed the need for donor coordination of development assistance based on recipient country targets and priorities. It had also been agreed, she said, that for education interventions to be sustainable, they must be demand-driven and country-owned and led. Overall, participants had stressed that basic education must be part of a sector-wide strategy that included the entire system from early childhood, through secondary, technical or vocational and higher education.

    To close the gender gap in education, she said, participants had called for a sustained campaign to provide a girl-friendly environment that addressed cost, appropriate facilities and safety issues. Finally, as education systems attempted to become more effective, it had been stressed that the role of teachers would become more, not less important. All countries, therefore, had an interest in enhancing the status of their teachers, so that the profession could once again attract the brightest and most lively members of society.

    Dr. PETER PIOT, Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) reported that during the round tables, the AIDS pandemic had probably been mentioned as the one phenomenon that touched every aspect of development. Indeed, most of the Millennium Development Goals could not be reached unless that epidemic was brought under control. He said that AIDS posed a triple threat to sustainable economic and human resource development: it killed and weakened people in during their most productive years; it diverted remaining resources, driving households into poverty; and it destroyed the very fabric of society.

    Still, he continued, the problem was not without a solution. "We know what works," he said, adding that the Declaration of Commitment on AIDS that had emerged from last year's special session provided a clear road map with clear time lines and financial targets. The only way to ensure sustainable development was to invest in human beings. He added that, even though there had been increased attention to the issue -- particularly since the creation of the Global Fund for AIDS -- the gap was still huge. What was needed was a 50 per cent annual increase in the current level of funding. It was vital that the reality of the depth of the AIDS pandemic informed every aspect of international development programmes.

    LESLIE WRIGHT, First Vice President, Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations, then reported on the NGO forum, held on 14 June in New York. She said many NGOs had commented about the need for higher status for women worldwide. Countries could not afford to use less than half of the available human resources.

    She said education was primarily the responsibility of the State. However, education consisted of formal and informal structures and each was delivered differently. The NGOs had called for new partnerships with governments, the private sector and the NGO community, in order to work together to provide relevant high-quality education for all, with gender sensitive programmes that encouraged learning for girls. Strong political will was needed to bring girls to school. There must also be a shift in the way girls were treated by society and their families.

    She said a healthy workforce was necessary for human resources development. If workers were not healthy, productivity would suffer. It was the role of the State to promote safeguards to protect the health of workers.

    Peace and security were also necessary for human resources development, she said. The NGOs had called for reduced military and arms spending, to create sustainable environments and to provide additional resources for health and education programmes. The need for increased resources for least developed countries and developing countries to improve health and education, and the importance of investment in the issues facing indigenous peoples, was also stressed.

    Summaries of Afternoon Round Tables

    KWESI NDOUM, Minister for Economic Planning and Regional Integration of Ghana, co-chaired round table A, on "progress towards Millennium Development Goals for human resources development in Africa". He said deep concern had been expressed at the slow pace towards the Millennium Declaration targets, including in such fields as education and child mortality. Only one fifth of the set goals had been achieved. It had been recognised, however, that some countries were coming close to achieving specific goals. It had been emphasised that the failure to achieve the set targets in education and health would have a severe impact on other social and economic targets.

    The round table concluded that there must be a rapid improvement in access to education, health care and clean water. A greater effort was required in reducing the marginalization of women in Africa. There was also a need for stronger partnerships in order to achieve the Millennium Declaration goals, as well as stronger political will, particularly in countries emerging from conflict. All participants in the round table had welcomed the New Partnership for Africa's Development. In addition, even though there was anxiety over present trends, there was some optimism that growth had resumed in some countries, particularly in new democracies, where there was a more favourable environment for the participation of civil society.

    ANN THERESE NDONG-JATTA, Minister for Education of the Gambia, co-chaired the round table on "partnerships for human resources development: what role for development cooperation, including South-South cooperation, city-city cooperation, private sector and non-governmental organizations?" She said a wide range of issues had been discussed. The importance of United Nations partnerships with the private sector and civil society had been highlighted, and it had been stressed that such partnerships could make concrete contributions to the Millennium Development Goals.

    The outcome of partnerships was what counted, she said. Official Development Assistance was extremely important if the Millennium Goals were to be met. Partnerships to help in implementing natural disaster relief mechanisms were key, others had noted. Strengthening confidence-building among all parties was imperative. The need to ensure coherence in partnerships had also been emphasized. The United Nations had a central coordinating role to play. Speakers had also stressed the need for a concerted international effort in human resource development.

    JACOBUS RICHELLE, Director-General for Development, European Commission, summed up the discussions during the round table on "strengthening institutional capabilities for sustainable development (a contribution to Johannesburg)", which he co-chaired. He said it was a pity there was no time to continue the discussion, but it was clear that the vision of what was at stake at the upcoming Johannesburg Summit, as well as what would be accomplished going forward, differed quite substantially among partners. At the same time, all participants had expressed the desire to ensure that the conference was a success.

    Several speakers shared a sense of frustration that much work remained towards the completion of the outcome documents that would emerge from the Johannesburg Summit. One said difficulties had surfaced during negotiations mainly on issues relating to globalization and means of implementation. The most important task was to build on the success of Monterrey -- stakeholders must not call that success into question or destroy what had been achieved there.

    Mr. Richelle said the idea also surfaced that that the focus should now be on best practices for the future, while closely adhering to the Millennium Development Goals and the Monterrey Consensus. Across the board, speakers felt international institutions, United Nations agencies and financial institutions must be reinforced. Many speakers also said that greater efforts were needed to ensure that all stakeholders participated in the negotiation process. Issues such as strengthening scientific capacity and enhancing environmental protection or "environmental democracy" -- particularly the ability of the public to participate in decision-making and access to information -- were also highlighted as integral to capacity-building strategies.

    JULIO FRENK MORA, Minister of Health of Mexico, co-chaired the round table on "policy coherence and financing human resources development". He said several key areas had emerged from the discussion, which had been very coherent. Challenges for further advances, the responsibilities of the various actors, the practicalities of implementation and a range of issues that were the "cutting edge" in the aftermath of recent conferences had been discussed. The Council had been congratulated for continuing its engagement in an era when "implementation was the key word".

    The move from the old paradigm, where achieving growth was key, to a much more integrated approach had been noted, he continued. It was now possible to take a clearer stand in relation to external assistance and national responsibilities, others had pointed out. The responsibilities of both donors and recipients of aid had been stressed. The need for a more productive dialogue at the national level between the ministers of finance and those dealing with social issues had been emphasized.

    Substantial increases in international assistance were needed if the Millennium Goals were to be achieved, he said. Targeted efforts to reduce disease and promote education for all were essential. All had agreed that, despite continued shortfalls, "we are beginning to move in the right direction", he concluded.

    * *** *