22 July 2002
Regional Challenges, Interregional Cooperation for Sustainable Development Focus of Discussion in Economic and Social Council
Holds Dialogue With Heads of Economic Commissions for Europe, Asia and Pacific, Latin America and Caribbean, Africa, Western Asia
NEW YORK, 19 July (UN Headquarters) -- Managing the common environment and sharing natural resources equally made regional and interregional cooperation vital, said Kim Hak-su, Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), as the Economic and Social Council continued its general segment today, with a focus today on regional cooperation and sustainable development.
"In the wake of dwindling resources, cooperation ... also offered an efficient means for training, capacity-building, guidelines implementation and knowledge sharing", he said. Interregional cooperation would also greatly assist in promoting economic, social and environmental security and in implementing global initiatives.
Introductory remarks were also made this morning by Brigita Schmognerova, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE); Jose Ocampo, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC); K.Y. Amoako, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA); and Huda Osseiran, Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA).
Ms. Osseiran said efforts to achieve sustainable development in the ESCWA region needed interregional integration and communication on priority areas. ESCWA countries had worked hard to improve education and literacy, but formidable challenges remained in peace and security, poverty, unemployment, natural resource management and technology.
She noted that interregional integration of policies, positions and approaches directly supported efforts to reach sustainable development within a comprehensive framework. Commerce, climate, technology, ozone depletion and ecosystems could not be tackled within a single political region.
Several speakers in the discussion that followed highlighted the importance of interregional cooperation in realizing sustainable development goals. The representative of Burkina Faso said that cooperation would lead to a sharing of best practices, which could assist various countries.
Others noted that poverty had remained a core concern in achieving sustainable development. Some regions had specific obstacles to overcome, such as desertification and water access. Africa clearly faced serious challenges, which others shared, such as producing electricity and alleviating poverty.
The representative of Chile praised ECLAC's tremendous contribution to economic and social development. Key among its constructive contributions had been organizing a series of events in the region, including the Summit of the Americas and Summit of Heads of State and Government in Latin America, where important mandates had been handed down in cooperation with multilateral organizations.
During the ensuing question and answer period, Mr. Hak-su of ESCAP noted that the Asian regional high-level meeting for the World Summit for Sustainable Development had identified seven areas of concern. Among those, cleaner production, sustainable energy and access to fresh water were ESCAP priorities, and would continue to be so.
Responding to a question on the Carribbean, Mr. Ocampo said that resources coming to the region had all but disappeared, and he forecast a slump in investment. The slowdown of the United States economy had strongly affected export sectors closely linked to that country, and the events of 11 September had disrupted tourism.
Mr. Amoako, answering a question on Africa, said the number of countries in that region with low sustainable development indices had increased from 16 to 19 from 1974 to 2000, and only three countries with high sustainability had remained stable. Resolving the problem was mainly a question of resources and institutional capacity, particularly in the field of technology.
During the afternoon session, the Council adopted a draft resolution on reconstructing the conference structure of ESCAP. By the text, the Commission decided to revise its conference structure, including thematic and sectoral priorities, as well as subsidiary structure. Its subsidiary structure would be changed to consist of three thematic committees -- on poverty reduction, managing globalization and emerging social issues.
The Council also adopted a draft resolution on the place and date for the next session of ECLAC, which accepted the invitation of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico to host the thirtieth session of the Commission, and approved the session for the first half of 2004.
The representatives of Botswana, Guatemala, Suriname, Peru, Dominican Republic, United States, India, Grenada, Denmark (on behalf of the European Union), Romania, Russian Federation, Republic of Korea, Ukraine, Belarus, China, Brazil and Mexico also spoke.
The Council will meet again at 10 a.m. on Monday, 22 July, to continue its general segment.
The Economic and Social Council met this morning to continue its general segment -- scheduled to run through 25 July -- with a dialogue on "interregional cooperation for sustainable development: regional challenges ahead".
The Executive Secretaries of the five Regional Commissions, the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), the Economic Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the Economic Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) are expected to participate in a dialogue with the Council.
Before the Council will be the summaries of the surveys of the economic and social developments in the five regions, as well as several reports of the Secretary-General, including one on the regional follow-up to world conferences and global meetings.
Guiding the Council's work will be the Secretary-General's report on regional cooperation in the economic, social and related fields (document E/2002/15 and Adds. 1-3, and Add 3/Corr.1). The main report provides the Council with an update on the actions taken by the regional commissions from 1999 to 2002. The report notes that given their dual role -- as "outposts of the United Nations" and "the regional expression of the Organization in their respective regions" -- the regional commissions area able to bring global concerns to their respective regions and regional perspectives to their global debates.
The report goes on to highlight the significant substantive issues discussed at the commissions' sessions of other forums in 2002, in light of emerging regional issues and priorities and as regional follow-up to the Millennium Declaration.
It also details interregional cooperation for sustainable development and highlights challenges in the areas of poverty eradication, globalization, domestic resource mobilization and capacity-building, among others. The regional reviews addressed critical environmental and natural resource issues, including land and biodiversity, oceans and coastal resources, freshwater resources and climate change.
The main report's three addenda cover regional follow-up to world conferences and other global meetings (Add.1), a review of the regional commissions' cooperation with other regional bodies (Add.2), and the resolutions and decisions adopted by the commissions during Spring 2002 that require action by the Council (Add.3).
The addendum on matters calling for action by the Council contains two draft resolutions requiring Action by the Council. The first, approved by ESCAP at its fifty-eighth session last May, is on reconstructing that Commission's conference structure. By that text, the Commission decided to approve the revision of its conference structure, including its thematic and sectoral priorities and subsidiary structure. Among the changes was the revision of its decision to revise its subsidiary structure to consist of three thematic committees, on poverty reduction, managing globalization and emerging social issues, respectively.
The second draft contained in the report is submitted to the Council by ECLAC and was approved at the Commission's twenty-ninth session last May. The text, on the place and date of the next session of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, accepts the invitation of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico to host the thirtieth session of the Commission, and approves the session for the first half of 2004.
Also before the Council will be the summary of the Economic Survey of Europe, 2001 (document E/2002/16), which notes a progressive slowdown in the rate of expansion of the global economy in 2001, and a parallel deterioration in the short-term outlook. The dominant feature was the synchronous cyclical downturn, the first since 1975, in the three major economies -- the United States of America, Japan and Germany -- which ended in recession.
However, according to the report, that slowdown masks the striking resilience of the transition economies against deterioration in the external economic environment. The strength of the Russian economy was a major factor behind the buoyancy of economic activity in the Commonwealth Independent States (CIS). The report goes on to note that the effect of the 11 September terrorist attacks on the United States had been to worsen the economic outlook, at least in the short-term. However, their generally depressing impact on consumer and business confidence throughout the world economy has waned in early 2002.
The report states that there is a broad consensus among forecasters that the economy in the United States will recover in the course of 2002, and that in its wake, the rate of economic growth in the rest of the world will strengthen as well. The short-term economic outlook remains highly uncertain, however, not least because of the persistence of very large domestic and external imbalances in the United States economy, which pose a major risk to a sustained cyclical recovery.
The Council will also have before it a summary of the economic and social situation in Africa 2001 and recent economic trends in Africa and prospects for 2002 (document E/2000/17). According to the report, Africa grew faster than any other developing region in 2001, reflecting better macroeconomic management, strong agricultural production, higher than expected exports under the United States' African Growth and Opportunity Act, currency depreciation in the largest economy -- South Africa -- and the cessation of conflicts in several countries.
Gains were made, however, amid the turbulence created by the global economic slowdown and the 11 September attacks on the United States.
Africa's average gross domestic product growth -- some 4.3 per cent in 2001 -- masked wide disparities, however, with growth ranging from 65 per cent in Equatorial Guinea to 7 per cent in Zimbabwe, the report continued. Economic growth remained fragile. At current rates, Africa would not achieve any of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. Yet there were many reasons for cautious optimism about Africa's medium-term prospects, including opportunities created by the United States' African Growth and Opportunity Act, the European Union's "Everything but Arms" initiative, the New Partnership for Africa's Development, the launching of the Doha development round and the African Union.
Ultimately, Africa's development depended on how it addressed economic and political governance, resolved civil conflicts and responded to the need for deeper economic and social reforms.
According to the 2002 summary of the economic and social survey of Asia and the Pacific (document E/2002/18), gross domestic product (GDP) growth declined sharply in 2001 both globally and in the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) region. The slowdown in world trade growth was particularly evident in the information and communication technology (ICT) sector and economies with a preponderance of ICT-related manufacturing activities and with high trade-to-GDP rations. East and South-East Asia were most affected by the slowdown. While some economies and subregions remained relatively immune initially, the dramatic suddenness of the global slowdown and its intensity slowed GDP growth in these economies as well. The events of 11 September aggravated the slowdown through a loss of business and consumer confidence.
Signs of a global and regional upturn were mixed as of early March 2002, the report says. On the balance, however, evidence of a gentle recovery in both the global and regional economies was becoming more evident. The majority of ESCAP economies were expected to exceed their 2001 GDP growth rates in 2002. A benign inflationary environment, spare capacity and comfortable external positions indicated that most economies in the region had considerable leeway to compensate for the loss of external demand through domestic stimulus measures.
Such measures, however, should not put at risk sound macroeconomic fundamentals over the medium term. The 2001 slowdown must be seen against the backdrop of the achieving the Millennium Development Goals. While there was optimism that most of the goals can be achieved in the region, it would require preparation of the necessary policy strategies. Achievement of the goals in the least developed countries depended upon donor countries increasing official development assistance to 0.7 per cent of gross national product.
Also before the Council was a summary of the economic survey of Latin America and the Caribbean in 2001 (document E/2002/19). It says that the severe slowdown in the world economy in 2001 has cut short the recovery that began in 2000, dashing hopes that the region was about to embark on a new growth cycle. Regional output grew at a slow pace: GDP growth amounted to only some 0.4 per cent. Growth prospects for 2002 were not promising -- some 0.5 per cent -- due to the crisis in Argentina and the slow growth expected in other economies. Given the magnitude of external factors that buffeted the region's economies during the year, they did well in withstanding a large part of the destabilizing shocks. The one exception, however, was Argentina, which had been in the throes of crisis for the last three years. Without detracting from macroeconomic advances made under adverse circumstances, the succession of stop-go cycles over the past decade has resulted in a low long-term growth rate. That rate is lower than what the region needs to reduce high unemployment levels and improve standard living conditions.
The deterioration in the region's economic situation was the result of an adverse international economic environment, the report says. The harder than expected landing of the United States economy exacerbated the slowdown in industrialized countries. Unlike the crises of the 1990s, which was confined to a limited group of countries, the 2001 slowdown engulfed the entire region. Capital inflows to the region were also down sharply. The terms and conditions under which the countries had access to external financing continued to be worse than had been before the Asian crisis. The most severe constraints were experienced by Argentina, and to a lesser extent, Brazil and Ecuador. Domestic economies were most affected by the adverse international environment. Macroeconomic policy was tightened. With some exceptions, real variations in interest and exchange rates created less favourable monetary conditions that those seen in 2000.
The Council will also consider the Summary of the economic and social developments in the region of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) (document E/2002/20). That report notes that economic growth in that region was relatively meagre in 2001. Estimates indicate that the combined real gross domestic product (GDP) of the ESCWA members, excluding Iraq, registered a growth rate of 2.1 per cent. That represents a substantial decline compared with the 4.5 per cent registered in 2001. Moreover, given the region's annual population growth rate of 2.4 per cent, the real per capita GDP becomes a negative 0.3 per cent for 2001.
According to the report, the considerable deterioration in the overall economic conditions in the region in 2001 is attributed mainly to the sharp slowdown in worldwide economic growth. That has had a direct effect on the demand for oil, the main contributor to GDP and export in the region. Furthermore, the 11 September attacks on the United States intensified the world economic slowdown and negatively affected non-oil sectors in the region, particularly tourism and transport. Middle east violence also adversely impacted the region's foreign direct investment (FDI), on which the region is becoming more dependent for economic growth and development objectives.
The report goes on to state that the region's oil sector performed poorly in 2001 -- both production levels and prices fell in during the year. For most of the ESCWA members with more diversified economies, labour market conditions remained generally unfavourable, and, in most cases, deteriorated for those seeking work in 2001. The report says that the size of the population in the region has grown fairly rapidly and increased form 94 million in 1980 to 166 million in 2000, characterized by a large youth segment. It is estimated that 19 per cent of the total population are young people of 15 to 24 years of age. Unemployment among that sector is a critical issue.
According to the report, the outlook for economic and social developments in 2002 is no brighter than 2001. The real GDP in the region is expected to grow around 2 per cent and the oil sector is expected to perform relatively poorly in 2002. Demand for labour in the region is expected to be low because economic growth is not sufficiently high to absorb the annual increase in the supply of workers. It is recommended that the region accelerate the process of economic diversification, moving away from oil towards greater reliance on gas, petrochemicals, aluminium and other light industries, in addition to the service sector.
BRIGITA SCHMOGNEROVA, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), first highlighted the major trends related to three dimensions of sustainable development - economic, social and environmental.
In the economic field, she noted that Western Europe and North America had experienced significant growth in gross domestic product (GDP) per capita over the past decade, and that trend had been accompanied by structural changes in the production system, with a shift from material and energy-intensive sectors to services. In the social field, poverty and unemployment were problems faced at varying degrees by the region as a whole. In some countries, the number of people living in poverty had grown from 2 to 3 per cent to 30 to 40 per cent of the total population.
Trends in the environmental field showed that technological innovations had helped reduce the energy and material intensity of many consumer goods, and a small but growing number of consumers were also making lifestyle changes to lessen the health and environmental impact of their consumption patterns, she said. But the increasing volume of goods used and discarded and the structure of consumer demand in key areas, such as energy and transport had outweighed many of those gains.
She went on outline several major challenges facing ECE countries, both in national policies and regional and subregional cooperation. The first concerned the issues of poverty, income disparities and intergenerational solidarity in the context of the ageing population, budgetary constraints and economic competition. Social policies needed to be revisited accordingly and linked to employment, lifelong training, social protection systems and other social transfer schemes.
The second challenge was to accelerate the process of moving towards more sustainable patterns of production and consumption. Technological innovation, fiscal measures, including subsidy removals, regulatory measures and various forms of awareness-building needed to be further developed to reduce the energy intensity of production processes and the degree of pollution which they generated. A third challenge was the preservation of the "global commons" -- air, water and biodiversity.
The fourth challenge was to strengthen governance and participatory democracy for sustainable development. That meant enhancing practices and institutional mechanisms which, on the one hand, fostered public participation in decision-making in all dimensions of sustainable development and, on the other, increased integrity, transparency and accountability on the part of public entities, both at national and local levels.
The ECE was focusing on three approaches in fulfilling its regional role, she said. The first approach was the support of subregional and regional processes engaged in the ECE region and related to sustainable development. Second was the development of legally binding instruments, focused on two major groups -- the five ECE environmental conventions and their related protocols and ECE agreements, norms and standards geared to promoting sustainable transport. The third approach was to support countries with transition economies in their own efforts to move towards sustainable development.
KIM HAK-SU, Executive Secretary, Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), said the region had entered the new century with an enormous challenge to improve the quality of life for hundreds of millions of its people. Many still lived in poverty and suffered from illiteracy, malnutrition, poor access to energy services, water and sanitation. Other issues of human health, particularly HIV/AIDS, population ageing, transboundary pollution and desertification, plagued them.
He said that management of the eco-regional landscape and the equitable use of shared natural resources made regional and interregional cooperation absolutely essential. Further, the global sustainable development process had shown that several issues were common to all regions. For example, "unsustainable" development trends in all regions had been attributed mainly to poverty, the negative impacts of globalization, heavy debt burdens, natural disasters, and a lack of mechanisms for the participation of stakeholders, including civil society. The involvement of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and women in formulating policies was imperative.
Interregional cooperation provided opportunities for promoting economic, social and environmental security and adopting a coordinated response for implementing global initiatives, such as Agenda 21, the action plan for sustainable development of Small Island Developing States and international conventions. Moreover, in the wake of dwindling resources, cooperation as a methodology also offered an efficient means for training, capacity-building, guidelines implementation and knowledge sharing. As the regional outposts of the United Nations and as part of their mandate and institutional landscape, the Regional Commissions were well positioned to contribute.
JOSÉ ANTONIO OCAMPO, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), said the concept of sustainable development had become a frame of reference for the international agenda, not only with regard to environmental issues but also concerning the way the international community dealt with issues of poverty, gender, population and human settlements.
New non-State actors had been engaged, and the private sector together with civil society had become more involved in the search for solutions to the environmental challenges of sustainable development. He said that although the international community took up these principles and agreements enthusiastically, the initial momentum had begun to wane as time passed.
The World Summit on Sustainable Development to be held in Johannesburg in August should open up new opportunities for reaffirming political commitments, making the global agenda more cohesive, strengthening its implementation and forming operational linkages with regional and national agendas, he said.
Turning specifically to the sustainable development challenges facing the Latin American and Caribbean region, he said the area had yet to fully and effectively incorporate the Rio Agenda and had not been able to move beyond a fragmented approach to sustainable development. Much remained to be done concerning the application of coherent policies in the areas of finance, trade, investment, technology and environmental sustainability, for instance.
Thanks to the processes initiated at the Rio Summit, during the last decade it had been learned that addressing the problem of environmental deterioration seen in Latin American and Caribbean countries at intermediate and even early stages of the development process could not be postponed any longer. He said the region was facing the twofold challenge of achieving its dynamic integration into a globalized world and of surmounting the equity gap, exclusion and environmental deterioration by shaping a modern vision shared by all members of society.
K.Y. AMOAKO, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa, said that when the Earth Summit was held in Rio in 1992, some 200 million Africans were living in extreme poverty, on less than $1 per day. Today, 100 million more had joined them, many because of HIV/AIDS. The African people and their environmental sustainability were at high risk. The regional preparatory meeting for the World Summit on Sustainable Development, held in Nairobi, had identified 26 areas for action. Among the most urgent was poverty reduction.
He said that if current trends continued, only 10 countries in Africa would meet the poverty reduction, education and health targets of the Millennium Development goals. There had been a renewal of social investment, but the net growth overall was still not high enough to meet the global poverty reduction target. More debt reduction was needed. True, the "Monterrey" aid increase might boost levels from those of the early 1990s, and Doha and other trade initiatives were promising, but the continent was really "fighting for its life".
International solidarity on the question of HIV/AIDS must be strengthened at the upcoming summit in Johannesburg, he stressed. If African children survived the AIDS pandemic, they would find the environment in far worse shape than the one enjoyed by their parents and grandparents. If present global climate trends continued and Africa was a full degree warmer over the next half century, there would be 10 per cent less rain in southern Africa and the Horn, and 15 per cent less in the already parched Sahel. If present trends continued, the African forest would shrink by 25 per cent over the next half century, and residents of the low-lying coastal areas would have to move inland because of a rising ocean.
On the question of water, Africa utilized only about 4 per cent of the Abundant freshwater resources of its rivers and lakes, he said. Yet, the fast growing population continued to place such a high demand on available water that Africa was one of only two regions in the world facing water shortages. It had been estimated that in 25 years, the number of African countries experiencing water scarcity would increase from 14 to 20. The fourth major challenge was desertification. Recent resources to reverse that trend were welcome but had not come close to matching the severity of the problem, which required a much more dramatic response.
Soil degradation was the fifth challenge, he continued. With the prospect of another decade of erosion, agreement was needed on making its reversal a global priority on par with the main priorities identified at Rio. The initiative proposed by The Global Environment Facility warranted full endorsement. With those challenges in mind, he welcomed the emphasis in the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) on sound governance and investment. More efficient power grids, better transport systems and transboundary water sharing would all pay environmental and economic dividends.
HUDA OSSEIRAN, Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), said it was clear that efforts to achieve sustainable development in the ESCWA region required not only regional consultation and coordination, but also interregional integration and communication on priority areas of mutual concern.
At the regional level, ESCWA countries had worked hard to improve education, literacy, health and opportunities, she said. Life expectancy had increased, and fertility rates had fallen. New regional initiatives had also proved fruitful. Progress was also evident in the establishment of the electricity grid and gas pipelines between ESCWA countries. However, significant regional challenges remained -- the lack of peace and security, poverty, unemployment, inadequate natural resource management, unsustainable consumption and production patterns, lack of research and appropriate technologies, and the limited capacity of civil society to become actively engaged in the sustainable development process.
It was also necessary to recognize the importance interregional cooperation in meeting sustainable development goals, she continued. Several sustainable developmental challenges and constraints did not affect ESCWA member countries alone, but also neighbouring Arab, African and Mediterranean countries. Accordingly, it was useful to develop common approaches towards shared concerns, and ESCWA had chosen to face those challenges from an interregional perspective.
She noted that it was important to recognize that interregional integration of policies, positions and approaches to sustainable development directly supported efforts to achieve sustainable development within a comprehensive and integrated framework. Commerce, climate, technology, ozone depletion and ecosystems could not be addressed only within the context of a single political region. Neither could poverty or peace and security. The management of international rivers and shared water basins in the ESCWA region, for example, was particularly challenging. Efforts had therefore been made to work with counterparts in other regional organizations and agencies to address those issues.
The representative of Chile said he supported ECLAC's tremendous contribution to economic and social development. While ECLAC was committed at the regional level to implementation of the Millennium Development Goals and was indispensable for their attainment, the Community might define even broader and more ambitious goals. Among its constructive contributions had been organization of a series of events in the region, including the Summit of the Americas and Summit of Heads of State and Government in Latin America, at which important mandates were handed down in cooperation with multilateral organizations.
The representative of Peru thanked the Executive Secretaries of the regional Commissions for their presentations. Those had reflected some common themes, including that poverty had remained a core concern, at the very heart of the work of the Commissions. Some regions had some specific characteristics relating to the sustainability of development. The ECA executive had flagged some key objectives, such as desertification and water concerns. Everyone called for strengthening regional and subregional approaches. Peru also supported the formulation of plans at the national level. He asked the Secretaries for their views on how Agenda 21 could be implemented.
The representative of Botswana said it was clear that Africa had serious challenges facing it, which were shared by other regions including the production of electricity and the alleviation of poverty.
The representative of Guatemala said this year had been the third year of economic recession in Latin America. She asked why that was. Was it the international situation that had prompted it or mistaken economic paradigms?
What exactly had brought it on?
The representative of Suriname said that achieving sustainable development had been the central theme in every presentation. Interregional cooperation was, in her view, extremely important, particularly in realizing sustainable development goals. She hoped the conference in Johannesburg would be successful, not only in its conclusions and recommendations in writing, but also in the implementation of those suggestions.
The representative of Burkina Faso was pleased to see that the regional bodies were establishing links among themselves. That would lead to a sharing of best practices, which could assist various countries. Particularly welcome had been the appeal made by the Executive Secretary of ECA to help Africa resolve its current crisis. There was now an opportunity through NEPAD to provide support and increased assistance to that continent in dire need.
Response of Regional Representatives
Ms. SCHMOGENEROVA, responding to the question of ECE's role in sustainable development, drew attention to the Commission's progress in environmental issues. Five environmental commissions had been developed under the ECE umbrella, which had also supported certain processes in the region, through, for example, the "Environment for Europe" conference. Another important conference had taken place in July in Geneva. Initiated by the ECE, it had brought together representatives from three different sectors -- transport, health and the environment. The aim of the conference was to take into account health and environmental aspects when formulating transport policies.
On the issue of ageing, she reminded participants that there would be a ministerial regional conference in September, organized by the German Government and the ECE. Efforts would be made to conclude a declaration of principles and regional strategy on ageing issues, which were particularly important in Western Europe, the United States, Canada and countries with economies in transition. Key players among the transition economies were Poland and the Russian Federation, which had experienced economic and investment slowdowns. The Russian Federation was undertaking enormous reform efforts. There were no indications of dramatic developments, however.
Mr. HAK-SU of ESCAP, responding to the question about implementation of Agenda 21 and ways of achieving it, said the Asian regional high-level meeting for the World Summit for Sustainable Development had identified seven areas of concern. Among those, cleaner production and access to fresh water resources were very much reflected in ESCAP's programme. It was highlighting cleaner and sustainable energy, and would continue to address that issue. ESCAP was also participating in a system-wide water access programme with UNESCO and would participate in a third water forum in Japan in 2003. ESCAP would be launching a new programme on disaster management, especially as it related to water.
As for the question on cooperation with the High Representative of Least Developed Countries (LDCs), he noted that Asia had the largest number of absolute poorest countries. To demonstrate the issue's importance, he had relocated the LDC section below his office. ESCAP had launched a poverty centre with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to monitor progress in poor countries and would soon be releasing a publication on Asia-specific poverty. The first volume would come out next year and the second the year after. The department working with LDCs and landlocked countries would be meeting next year, and he looked forward to working closely with that Office.
Mr. OCAMPO of ECLAC said that ECLAC was implementing an interregional cooperation mechanism to follow-up the conclusions of the Madrid Conference on ageing. That work was under way at ECLAC's office of demography. On the substantive points raised this morning, he said that Agenda 21 had had some impact in the region, particularly by strengthening certain institutions responsible for sustainable development. Indeed, all of the relevant institutions had experienced considerable change during the 1992 Rio Summit and just afterwards.
Also, he said, since the Rio Summit, there was a far more extensive substantial regional network than had been the case before the process began. Nevertheless, many of those institutions remained marginal in terms of development of their public policy apparatus. From the Johannesburg Summit should emerge a full integration of all dimensions, particularly on the economic agenda. New tools were needed, emanating from both regional and multilateral arrangements.
On investment, he said he was forecasting a slump. That transfer of resources to the region had all but disappeared. Further, the slowdown of the United States economy had had a strong impact on those export sectors that were closely connected to the United States. The events of 11 September had also had an unsettling impact on tourism in the Caribbean.
MR. AMOAKO of ECA, responding to the question about sustainable development challenges faced by LDCs, landlocked or small island countries, said the Commission had identified several areas. The Commission was particularly involved with those issues since most LDCs, small island or landlocked countries were in Africa.
As for the question on growth rates, he had stressed in his statement the challenges faced by Africa in that respect, he said. A report to be released before the Johannesburg conference would include a sustainable development index, which would track the performance of countries from 1974 to 2000. The bad news was that the number of countries with low indices had increased from 16 to 19 during that period, and only three countries with high sustainability had remained stable. It was mainly a question of resources and institutional capacity. If Johannesburg was to make a difference, it must focus on institutional capacity. Technology could make a big difference in Africa. The issues of health and poverty were key, and the right technologies could make a big impact.
Ms. OSSEIRAN of ESCWA said that at the policy level, ESCWA had conducted studies and was providing technical assistance to Member States and incorporating development planning into economic and environment plans. Her region suffered from aridity and a lack of water resources. It had established a mechanism for renewable energy with emphasis on solar and other forms of energy and was seeking to address the water issues, especially water management.
With regard to raising awareness, she said the Commission had issued a number of documents in Arabic to narrow the gap flowing from the dearth of material in that language on sustainable development. As part of the Commission's effort to sensitize the public about environmental issues, it had distributed pamphlets on the issues of water, energy, and the social and the economic aspects of sustainable development. To another question, she said that ESCWA had only one LDC -- Yemen - which would certainly be part of the Commission's efforts to promote sustainable development.
Additional questions and comments
The representative of Grenada said that sustainable development had been the catch phrase of the international community for many years, even preceding the Rio Summit. In certain Caribbean islands, banana sustained life for a large segment of the population, yet banana on the world market was under severe challenge by the World Trade Organization, which was compromising export revenues through the subsidization of countries, such as the United Kingdom. Could the panel address the irony of promoting sustainable development while failing to sustain the key revenue source in the Caribbean islands?
The representative of Suriname asked, regarding cooperation with the new High Representative for LDCs, Small Island Developing States and Landlocked Countries, about efforts targeted directly at Caribbean countries. Also, could the panelists address the question of the role of ICT, which had been recognized as a very important tool for achieving sustainable development? The international community had been urged to mainstream ICT in the developmental process. She also asked whether the Secretaries could speak about the human rights-based approach to sustainable development. Another area of concern was the number of boys dropping out of school in her region.
The representative of Nepal underscored the value of cooperation within the United Nations system as well as with Member States, the Bretton Woods institutions, the World Trade Organization (WTO) and other stakeholders, towards realizing the Millennium Development Goals and the outcomes of the various regional and international conferences. He was pleased that the regional commissions were working more closely within the United Nations system than ever before, although he was not fully comfortable with their depiction in the relevant report as outposts. Rather than being outposts, regional systems were part and parcel of the main system.
He said it was essential to work together, not only globally and across regions, but also within regions with regional stakeholders, the governments, private sector, civil society and community groups. The "need of the day" was not only the further cross-fertilization of ideas and beating around the bush for new ones, but to "brace ourselves" for real implementation. Regional commissions must find a way to engage more effectively and actively with the regional stakeholders, on the one hand, and enhance interface within the United Nations system, particularly with ECOSOC, on the other hand.
The representative of Chile said the recent Brazilian meeting had come up with a mandate that ECLAC develop a set of strategies for sustainable development. There could be many domestic factors in the region, but others related to trade and the flows of direct foreign investment. He asked ECLAC to speak more about how the Commission could address the economic situation in the region.
The representative of the Dominican Republic noted that financing for the environment was vital and asked ECLAC how sustainable development could be achieved at the regional level.
The representative of the United States asked how much regional commissions collaborated with other regional organizations. She also asked how often the five regional Commissioners met with each other to share best practices.
Mr. HAK-SU of ESCAP, responding to questions from the United States and Nepal, said the Commission was revitalizing and reforming itself and was following the Secretary-General's second wave of reform closely.
Regarding cooperation among commissions, he said the Commissioners met with each other three to five times per year, and rotated as coordinators for those events. The meetings were great opportunities to share experiences, including best practices, and the commissioners had also discussed how they could work more actively with ECOSOC.
As for Nepal's question, ESCAP had focused in the past on poverty and technical assistance. What was needed was some kind of balance between what was proposed and what was actually operational. ESCAP had addressed poverty reduction and various social issues. It was giving technical assistance, conducting an environmental training programme and providing training in trade and negotiation skills.
Mr. OCAMPO, responding to questions relating to ECLAC, said the regional fragility was a result of factors that were both domestic and external, requiring strong action at both levels. Further impetus should be given to regional and subregional efforts, especially for developing countries, which had been "losing headway" at the national level. Fiscal policy and the environment was a new topic being addressed by ECLAC, firstly through a comparative analysis of how public resources were generated in connection with sustainable development and how public expenditure was channelled.
He highlighted wide-ranging economic cooperation that supported the free trade of the Latin Americas. ECLAC had been one of the agencies that had prepared platforms of action for The Panama Platform, which had connected Mexico with Central America.
On the question of children, he said that a recent activity had been the programme of cooperation with the Inter-American Development Bank, aimed at realizing the Millennium Development Goals. Activities in the region had been geared towards setting up local mechanisms to follow up efforts under way by national mechanisms. ECLAC had prepared an initial report on ways of meeting the poverty reduction goals.
The representative of India, referred to the comment made by the Executive Secretary of ESCAP that joint efforts were being undertaken with UNDP and ESCAP to monitor implementation of the Millennium Development Goals. What kind of monitoring was envisaged and what kinds of arrangements had been made with Member States? Perhaps the regional commissions could wait until the conclusion of the upcoming Johannesburg Summit.
Mr. KIM HAK-SU of ESCAP said the question about whether ESCAP had the mandate to monitor implementation of the Millennium Development Goals had already been raised at the Commission's session by the Indian delegation. He hoped the word could be "flexibly interpreted". With respect to a question about type II partnership, that was similar to what was being done with "extrapository" funding, he explained.
Mr. AMOAKO of ECA said, responding to the question on information and communication technologies (ICT), that the Commission had championed ICT for many years in Africa. By 1996, it had developed the African Information Society initiative -- a blueprint for Africans using ICT. In cooperation with many development partners, ECA was currently preparing ICT plans and programmes. With SISCO Systems, the World Bank and others, it had initiated an ICT training programme for African women. In recognition of those efforts, the Canadian government had recently voted on $25 million to assist with an ICT centre for Africa.
Regarding the question on cooperation with the other commissions, ECA spent at least 25 per cent of its resources working on regional cooperation activities.
MS. SCHMOGNEROVA of ECE, responding to the question on ICT, said that recent experience had shown ICT was important for development, although perhaps that had been slightly overestimated. The Commission was continuing its efforts in various ICT applications, such as trade, enterprise development and e-government. It was currently carrying out a project to make ICT friendly for women in entrepreneurship.
Regarding the question about cooperation with other regional organizations, the ECE's most effective cooperation had been in the economic dimension of security. It also cooperated with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in its work with transition economies. Lately, it had greatly increased its cooperation with the European Union.
Point of Order
A point of order was called by the representative of Grenada, who noted that his question on the banana industry in his country had not been answered.
Mr. OCAMPO of ECLAC, responding to the question about the banana industry, said that Grenada must adjust to sharp changes in the rules for banana production. It needed new technology to compete internationally or it must develop alternative activities. The issue was difficult because of differences of opinion among developing countries that were members of ECLAC.
Introduction of Report
KIM HAK-SU, Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), and the Current Coordinator of the Regional Commissions, highlighted the dual role of the regional commissions as "outposts" of the United Nations and as part of regional institutional landscapes. The summaries of economic surveys, which were based on the commissions' annual surveys, contained valuable information and policy analysis of important regional trends and issues. The regional commissions accorded high priority to the yearly meeting with the Economic and Social Council, as it provided an opportunity to interact with the Council on issues of major concern to the international community and the respective regions. The Council should explore ways of further integrating the regional perspectives in global debates.
MORTEN LYKKE LAURIDSEN (Denmark), on behalf of the European Union on interregional cooperation for sustainable development, said that the Union was committed to promoting an action-oriented outcome and its effective implementation at the World Summit on Sustainable Development. The outcome must be focused in terms of reinforced commitments by all countries and balanced in terms of the three integrated dimensions of sustainable development -- social, economic and environmental. Within their respective mandates, the regional commissions and the cooperation among them would play an important part in efforts to achieve sustainable development. The Union was determined to play a major role in global efforts to achieve sustainable development at all levels.
He said that implementation of the Millennium Development Goals would require a substantially increased effort and good governance by individual countries and the international community as a whole. The Monterrey Consensus marked a major step towards achieving those goals; the Union welcomed the increased ODA commitments and underlined the need for making those available. While the primary responsibility for sustainable development lay with the countries themselves, international cooperation, including interregional cooperation, was of major importance, especially for the poorest countries. The Union Strategy for Sustainable Development, adopted in 2001, set out its long-term objectives at the global level.
At the same time, he continued, the Union recognized that successful regional cooperation could provide the elements for strategic partnerships between regions. Those could contribute significantly to enhancing the international system of cooperation aimed at promoting sustainable development, among other objectives. Negotiations among the Union and its 77 partner countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific on regional economic partnership agreements would commence in September. Those agreements were intended to be flexible tools for regional development. The Union also reaffirmed the importance of the work launched under the Doha Development Agenda. The Union's initiative, "Everything But Arms", provided duty- and quota-free access to all exports originating in the least developed countries, except arms, was an example of its support.
He said that globalization offered the positive prospect of stimulating economic growth and improving living standards, but uncontrolled economic activity might result in negative pressure on the environment and risk social cohesion. A framework was required at global, regional and national levels, in which market forces could be harnessed to maintain and increase growth while preserving the environment for future generations. The Union also supported regional implementation of the Madrid Plan of Action on Ageing adopted at the Second World Assembly on Ageing this year. Towards that objective, the ECE would hold a ministerial conference in Berlin in September.
ALEXANDRU NICULESCU, (Romania) said he was pleased to note that under Romanian chairmanship, cooperation with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) was actively pursued through new common actions, which included the colloquium on the economic dimension of conflict prevention that was held in Switzerland in November 2001. Jointly organized with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union, it was for the first time also open to private sector participation.
As a result of it, a new initiative designed to mobilize private contributions to the developmental activities of the ECE and the OSCE in post-conflict and conflict-prone areas of the region was born, he said. The initiative aimed at ensuring that primary economic and environmental causes of conflict were removed or mitigated. He said that cooperation between OSCE and ECE also included the preparation for and follow-up to the annual OSCE Economic Forum and the promotion of the Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters. As a result, the OSCE and the ECE secretariats would prepare a catalogue of ongoing activities where the future cooperation could be strengthened with the participation of other key partners.
He added that Romania had an interest in the third coordination meeting for the ECE region to be held later this year. That meeting would review the new developments in countries of Eastern and Central Europe, and Commonwealth of Independent States countries, and would focus on the two priority areas of: the economic and social aspects of security in Europe; and the regional process for the follow-up and monitoring of the World Summit on Sustainable Development.
Mr. PANKIN (Russian Federation) said that the regional commissions were now reacting more quickly to global challenges, as they worked to fulfil their functions as regional outposts of the United Nations. They had been particularly timely in identifying and elaborating strategies to address globalization and the information and communications technology revolution. The most important task before the commissions was to coordinate regional plans that would ultimately contribute to global development. It was also important for the commissions to play a leading role in coordinating the activities of various bodies and programmes in the United Nations system.
The Russian Federation supported ESCAP's recent restructuring, which would lead to closer links between the Commission and present day realities and the countries of that region. On the ECE, he said it had been important that the Commission had worked to update its activities. Russia was interested in helping countries in the region with economies in transition.
He said the role of the Commission's work in the areas of sustainable development should include the setting up of a forum for the exchange of experience on questions involving the environment and sustainable development. Such a forum would also be helpful for promoting interregional dialogue on the results of regional reviews and studies, which could be of great importance for the implementation of decisions taken by other commissions or international bodies. Russia supported the proposal of the Secretary-General for private sector participation and coordination with the regional commissions.
CLAUDIA SERWER (United States) said the role of the regional commissions in fostering economic and social development was vital. The commissions were useful forums for discussing a wide range of issues and providing technical expertise, as well as opportunities to monitor progress, collect data, conduct studies and set up technical standards for the benefit of their member states. It was critical for the commissions to capitalize on their comparative advantage. They must focus on their respective mandates and expertise and on the issues that served the interests and needs of their member states. They should complement and reinforce, rather than replicate other organizations.
The United States welcomed the adoption of a new structure for ESCAP, which focused on key issues such as poverty alleviation and emerging social issues. The new streamlined structure focused ESCAP's leadership role in economic and social development areas in which it had a comparative advantage. It should also allow ESCAP to respond to its members' needs. The United States commended ECLAC for its critical work in helping member states seize the benefits of globalization. That Commission's formal oversight structure -- the Ad Hoc Working Group on Priorities -- had given member states a mechanism to revise its work programme in order to respond to important regional issues.
The United States was also pleased with the efforts of the ECE to improve its work. She highlighted the groundbreaking work done by the ECA on African regional economic organizations. The ECA's critical work in support of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) had been exemplary, as were the Commission's efforts to include civil society in discussions on Africa's economy. The United States also supported the revised medium-term plan of ESCWA and its statement that its ultimate contribution was to assist member countries in creating enabling environments that would stimulate the achievement of sustainable development.
LEE HO-JIN (Republic of Korea) underscored the importance of the regional commissions in their dual role as "outposts" of the United Nations and the "regional expression of the Organization in their respective regions". The Commission's work over the past year had provided informative regional perspectives on globalization, region-specific preparation and follow-up to world conferences and regional initiatives, such as peace-building. As an active member of ESCAP, his country welcomed the discussion at its fifty-eighth session on issues of poverty, employment and technology in the context of sustainable social development.
He said that through its 11 thematic working groups, ESCAP had been able to address a variety of issues affecting the region. Particularly welcome had been the establishment of a working group on information and communications technology. He hoped it would succeed in confronting the challenges posed by the digital divide in the region. Of the issues addressed by the working groups this year, he emphasized the need to expand cooperation between ESCAP and the Bretton Woods institutions, Asian Development Bank and regional organizations. He commended ESCAP's active pursuit of joint initiatives with other regional commissions. For three years, for example, it had worked with the Economic Commission of Europe (ECE) on the Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia.
OLEKSII HOLUBOV (Ukraine) said the regional commissions had continued to develop their activities in line with the two fundamental functions assigned to them, namely to respond to specific needs of their regions and to be regional outposts of the global United Nations. The mandates and work programmes of the regional commissions should continue to be driven by regional needs and should reflect the priorities set by their members. The commissions could greatly contribute to improving coordination efforts of the regional activities within the United Nations system.
As a European State aimed at European integration, Ukraine was especially interested in strengthening the activities of the ECE, he said. He supported the initiative of the Eastern European States at the Commission's fifty-seventh session which was aimed at expanding the scope of the ECE's technical assistance, improving its efficiency and providing it with adequate funding. Technical cooperation should be demand driven and focused on producing tangible results. The Commission should reinforce its fund-raising activities and strategies. ECOSOC had a key role to play in ensuring that the United Nations regional structures served as a key element of international cooperation. ANDREI POPOV (Belarus) commended the fact that the United Nations regional commissions had been active participants in serious interregional projects and in stepping up efforts to involve the specialized agencies in its work at the regional level. He emphasized the contribution of the ECE within its mandate to expand cooperation on the European continent. Activities of the ECE were of great practical importance for member states and included projects such as the protection of the environment and the development of sustainable energy. The ECE's work had increased in recent years and new areas of work had emerged, reflecting its ability to change along with the changing European landscape. The Commission's increased activity, however, had not been accompanied by an adequate increase in its resource base. Overall, the question of reforming the activities of the regional commissions should be discussed in a package.
WANG QI (China) said fair, open and non-discriminatory regional economic development would not only help expand economic trade cooperation in the region, but would also facilitate the liberalization of multilateral trade investment. China had always attached great importance to the economic cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region and had made efforts to foster even closer cooperation in the areas of trade, transportation, communication, tourism, infrastructure, the environment and the development of natural resources.
As the only multidimensional regional economic organization in Asia and the Pacific, ESCAP had made important contributions to economic and social development. In the face of new realities emerging in the wake of rampant globalization, China hoped ESCWA would put its unique capabilities to expert use, particularly in coordinating regional as well as multilateral economic cooperation. The theme of this year's ESCAP annual meeting -- on sustainable social development in a period of rapid globalization -- provided a good opportunity for regional actors to discuss ways to join forces and offset the negative impacts of globalization, as well as strengthen their exchanges and cooperation in economic and social development.
MARIA VIOTTI (Brazil) highlighted the contribution of ECLAC to regional integration and efforts to expand and strengthen coordination with subregional bodies. She believed that ECLAC should continue to cooperate with the implementation of an action plan to broaden the free trade areas of the Americas. Brazil was convinced of the fundamental role of all the commissions in the follow-up of regional contributions to major United Nations conferences and meetings.
She said the Latin American and Caribbean initiative that had been incorporated into the Johannesburg platform was of particular importance to all regional strategies under consideration during the run-up to the Summit for Sustainable Development. The success of that initiative and its implementation would depend not only on the countries in the region, but other members of the international community, as well. She believed that the Summit would lead to the significant strengthening of regional initiatives aimed at broadening cooperation.
CARLOS VALERA (Mexico) said the economic overview for 2001 by ECLAC fully coincided with studies carried out by Mexico in the same area. He expressed his gratitude to the regional commissions, in particular ECLAC, for the significant role they played in the preparatory stage for the International Financing for Development Conference last year. The Monterrey Consensus was the best expression of a new architecture for international development. Mexico was convinced that ECLAC would continue to play a leading role in follow up to Monterrey agreements.
Recommendations Contained in Document E/2002/15/Add.3
The report contained a draft resolution on Restructuring the conference structure of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), recommended for action by the Council.
The Council adopted that resolution without a vote.
The report also contained a draft resolution on the place and date of the next session of ECLAC, recommended for adoption by the Council.
The Council also adopted that resolution without a vote.
Before concluding its work this afternoon, the Council took note of the reports before it on transport regional cooperation and follow-up to international conferences and summits.
The representative of India asked if the Council would also take action on a draft included in a report relating to the upcoming World Summit on Sustainable Development (document E/2002/39). She requested that no action be taken on that text until after the Summit.
Mr. HAK-SU, ESCAP's Executive Director, said that report was not before the Council today. The resolution in question had been approved by the Commission during a regional preparatory meeting. He agreed that there would be no implementation of the draft until after the Summit.
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