Press Releases


    Round-up

    ECOSOC/6092
    28 July 2003

    ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL SUSPENDS
    2003 SUBSTANTIVE SESSION

    Session Focused on Rural Development, UN Development Activities,

    Coordination Issues, Humanitarian Affairs, Implementation of Summit Outcomes

    (Reissued as received.)

    GENEVA, 25 July (UN Information Service) -- The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) today suspended its substantive work following a four-week session, which focused on rural development, increased United Nations cooperation and coordination in its development activities, the importance of assisting countries facing complex humanitarian emergencies, including armed conflicts and natural disasters, in the transition from relief to development, and the need to implement internationally agreed upon development goals.  A resumed substantive session will be held in the fall to deal with matters, which were deferred during the session.

    Opening this year’s high-level segment on “promoting an integrated approach to rural development in developing countries for poverty eradication and sustainable development”, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said rural development was rightly the theme of the high-level segment of ECOSOC.  Three quarters of the world’s poorest people -- defined as those living on one dollar or less per day -- lived in rural areas.  Some 900 million such people drew their meagre livelihoods from agriculture and other rural activities and they were on the frontlines of drought, desertification, and environmental degradation.

    Among other steps which needed to be taken to ensure rural development and empower these resourceful and resilient individuals, developed countries would need to allow agricultural products from developing countries to reach their markets, unimpeded by direct or disguised barriers such as subsidies, the Secretary-General continued.  The overriding task of the international community must be to stimulate economic growth.  As a central United Nations agency for development policy and policy coherence, ECOSOC must ensure that the United Nations system brought all its capacities to bear on these challenges -- in an integrated fashion, and working in concert with the full range of partners.

    As a result of the three-day high-level segment, ECOSOC adopted a Ministerial Declaration that called for the reduction and elimination of agricultural subsidies and urged developed countries to implement the commitments made at Doha to facilitate market access for the products of developing countries.  Among other recommendations, the Ministerial Declaration stated that “without prejudging the outcome of negotiations, reduction of, with a view to phasing out, all forms of export subsidies, substantial reductions in trade-distorting domestic support and enhanced market access for developing countries” were needed in the agricultural sector.

    In its operational segment, ECOSOC focused on operational activities of the United Nations for international development cooperation and stressed that predictable contributions to the core/regular resources were the bedrock of its activities.  During this segment, two panels were held -- one on resources for operational activities for development and another on lessons learned from field-level evaluations.  Contributing to these discussions were heads of United Nations funds and programmes, government ministers and high-level officials, who all called upon donor countries to increase substantially their contributions to the operational activities of the United Nations development system.

    During its coordination segment, ECOSOC focused on the coordinated and integrated implementation of the outcomes of and follow-up to major United Nations conference and summits.  It was stressed that without urgent and effective implementation of the agreed goals and commitments made during the Financing for Development Conference and the World Summit for Sustainable Development, the Millennium Development Goals would not be realized.  New impetus had been given to ECOSOC’s work by a recent General Assembly resolution which highlighted the central role of ECOSOC as a coordinating pool between the United Nations system, governments and development partners.

    In its humanitarian segment, ECOSOC held three panels on the themes of humanitarian financing and effectiveness of humanitarian assistance, the transition from relief to development, and the impact of HIV/AIDS and other widespread diseases on humanitarian relief operations.  Particular attention was paid to developing countries facing complex humanitarian emergencies, including conflicts and natural disasters, and the importance of strengthening the coordinating role of ECOSOC in humanitarian assistance.  The need for assistance in the transition from relief to development and humanitarian financing was also stressed.  ECOSOC called on the United Nations system to improve and increase consistency in the way in which humanitarian needs were assessed and urged the Emergency Relief Coordinator to develop a global humanitarian financing tracking system.

    Gert Rosenthal, President of the Economic and Social Council, made concluding remarks at the end of the four-week session and said it had been a long and intensive session.  He noted the most manifest achievements and lessons to be learned and highlighted the main issues raised during the segments of the substantive session.  Action taken on African countries emerging from conflict; least developed and small island developing countries; status of women and the gender mainstreaming; and the need to strengthen the work performed by ECOSOC in the development process, were also highlighted.

    ECOSOC also adopted the themes for its substantive session of 2004.  The high-level segment theme will be "resource mobilization and enabling environments for poverty eradication in the context of the implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2001-2010".  The two themes for the coordination segment will centre on the implementation of gender-mainstreaming; and coordinated approaches to promote rural development in Least Developed Countries.

    High-Level Segment

    The theme of this year’s high-level segment was “Promoting an integrated approach to rural development in developing countries for poverty eradication and sustainable development”.  Opening the segment, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said rural development was rightly the theme of the high-level segment of ECOSOC.  Three quarters of the world’s poorest people -- defined as those living on one dollar or less per day -- lived in rural areas.  Some 900 million such people drew their meagre livelihoods from agriculture and other rural activities and they were on the frontlines of drought, desertification, and environmental degradation.

    The overriding task of the international community must be to stimulate economic growth.  As a central United Nations agency for development policy and policy coherence, ECOSOC must ensure that the United Nations system brought all its capacities to bear on these challenges -- in an integrated fashion, and working in concert with the full range of partners.  During the high-level segment, four ministerial round tables were held.  They focused on natural resources and rural development in developing countries; an integrated approach to implementation of the Millennium Development Goals in the area of rural development; global partnerships for rural development; and rural/urban interface and slums.

    As a result of the three-day high-level segment, ECOSOC adopted a Ministerial Declaration that called for the reduction and elimination of agricultural subsidies and urged developed countries to implement the commitments made at Doha to facilitate market access for the products of developing countries.  Among other recommendations, the Ministerial Declaration stated that “without prejudging the outcome of negotiations, reduction of, with a view to phasing out, all forms of export subsidies, substantial reductions in trade-distorting domestic support and enhanced market access for developing countries” were needed in the agricultural sector.

    ECOSOC also urged the Member States of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to implement their commitments under the Doha Ministerial Declaration, including that concerning special and differentiated treatment for Least Developed Countries.  ECOSOC also stressed the need to support the efforts of commodity dependent developing countries to diversify their exports as a means of increasing export earnings and improving the terms of trade, given the market fluctuations to which they were vulnerable.  In addition, countries that had not yet done so were encouraged to make concrete efforts towards the target 0.7 per cent of gross national product as official development aid to developing countries.  ECOSOC recalled that external debt relief could play a key role in liberating resources to be directed towards activities consistent with the attainment of sustainable growth and development.

    Operational Activities for Development Segment

    After intensive discussions on the operational activities of the United Nations system for international development and cooperation, the Council adopted a resolution on “progress in the implementation of General Assembly resolution 56/201 on the triennial policy review of operational activities for development of the United Nations system” by which it reiterated that regular/core resources were the bedrock of the operational activities of the United Nations and called upon all donor countries to increase substantially their contributions to the core/regular budgets of the United Nations development system.  Within the context of this segment, the Council considered issues related to the follow-up to policy recommendations, including United Nations summits and conferences, reports of the Executive Boards of United Nations Funds and Programmes and economic and technical cooperation among developing countries.  Among other issues, stress was placed upon the need to ensure increased core funding for the United Nations operational activities.

    During the course of the operational activities segment, the Council held two panels, one on resources for operational activities for development and another on lessons learned from field-level evaluations, as well as a dialogue with the Executive Heads of the United Nations Development Programme, United Nations Children’s Fund, United Nations Population Fund and World Food Programme and a dialogue with the United Nations Country Team for Senegal.

    Coordination Segment

    After a spirited debate within the scope of its coordination segment, the Council adopted a resolution on the “role of the Economic and Social Council in the integrated and coordinated implementation of the outcomes of and follow-up to major United Nations conferences and summit,” through which it welcomed the General Assembly resolution on the same topic and decided to take the necessary steps for the effective implementation of the provisions of that resolution that are relevant to the work of the Council and its subsidiary machinery and to keep this implementation under review.  The Council also welcomed the request by the General Assembly for the establishment of a multi-year work programme for the coordination segment of the Economic and Social Council, based on a focused and balanced list of cross-sectoral thematic issues common to the outcomes of the major United Nations conferences and summits.

    The Council’s consideration of its role in the integrated and coordinated implementation of the outcomes of and follow-up to major United Nations conferences and summits had been given particular significance, according to Murari Raj Sharma, Vice-President of the Council, due to the new impetus given to the Council’s work by the General Assembly’s Working Group on the same issue.  Jean de Ruyt, who along with his fellow Vice-Chairperson of the General Assembly’s Working Group Nana Effah-Appenteg addressed the Council, said that the Council had a central role to play as a coordinating pool, where governments and other development actors could come together with the United Nations to examine common themes.

    Humanitarian Affairs Segment

    Following an engaging and highly-informed discussion over two and one-half days, during the course of which three panels were held on the themes of humanitarian financing and effectiveness of humanitarian assistance, the transition from relief to development, and the impact of HIV/AIDS and other widespread diseases on humanitarian relief operations, the Council concluded its consideration of the humanitarian affairs segment with the adoption of a resolution entitled “strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations”.

    With the resolution, the Council called upon all parties to armed conflicts to comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law, human rights law and refugee law and urged all States to take necessary measures to ensure the safety and security of humanitarian personnel.  Under a section on the transition from relief to development, the Council stressed the importance of addressing the situation of the Least Developed Countries affected by conflict and natural disasters and improving their institutional capacity.  On humanitarian financing and effectiveness of humanitarian assistance, the Council called upon the United Nations organizations to improve and increase consistency in the way in which humanitarian needs were assessed and urged the Emergency Relief Coordinator to develop a global humanitarian financial tracking system and to refine the comprehensive system for the collection and dissemination of data on humanitarian needs and contributions.

    In concluding remarks on the humanitarian segment, Carolyn McAskie, Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, noted that humanitarian concerns must be addressed collaboratively.  Members had emphasized the need to consolidate peace and to provide economic alternatives to conflicts, so as to avoid countries in transition slipping back into conflict.  They had also encouraged donors and the international community to provide flexible funding; assist in the capacity building of national governments; involve political and economic actors in the formulation of humanitarian policy; examine both the nature and distribution of resources; and agree on a definition of humanitarian finance, thus enhancing policy coherence.

    Other Matters

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

    They included measures:

    -- On the World Solidarity Fund, endorsing its establishment to work on poverty eradication and sustainable development;

    -- On the World Tourism Organization, recommending it become a specialized agency of the United Nations;

    -- On Ad Hoc Advisory Groups on African countries emerging from conflict, reiterating the need to undertake assessments of lessons learned based on the initial experience of such Ad Hoc Advisory;

    -- On an Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Burundi, deciding to establish the Ad Hoc Group and to entrust the President of ECOSOC with the task of holding consultations and making recommendations on the composition, terms of reference and relevant modalities for the creation of the Group by the end of August 2003;

    -- On an Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Guinea-Bissau, deciding to extend the mandate of the Group with the purpose of following closely the humanitarian situation and economic and social conditions prevailing in the country and providing an assessment of its work through a report to be submitted to the Council;

    -- On a long-term programme of support for Haiti, requesting the Secretary-General to report on progress achieved in implementing the long-term programme of support for Haiti;

    -- On the Joint United Nations Programme on Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, urging the organizations and bodies of the United Nations system to intensify their support to governments, with a view to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), as well as the goals and targets contained in the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS;

    -- On the World Summit on the Information Society, inviting countries to be represented at the highest political level at the two phases of the Summit and requesting the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), in the context of its role in the preparatory process for the Summit, to intensify its public information campaign to raise global awareness of the Summit;

    -- On the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), expressing deep concern over the weak implementation of the Programme of Action and calling on all development partners of the LDCs to honour their commitments regarding the effective and expeditious implementation of the Programme of Action and to effect their support in terms of official development assistance, foreign direct investment, debt relief, capacity-building, market access and supply-side support to reforms;

    -- On the International Conference on Financing for Development, deciding to include representatives of the Trade and Development Board of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development in the high-level meeting of the Council with the Bretton Woods institutions and the World Trade Organization;

    -- On the provisional calendar of conferences and meetings for 2004 and 2005 in the economic, social and related fields, approving the calendar of conferences and meetings for 2004 and 2005 in the economic, social and related fields;

    -- On the need to harmonize and improve United Nations informatics systems for optimal utilization and accessibility by all States, requesting the convening of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Working Group on Informatics for one more year to enable it to carry out its work of facilitating the implementation of initiatives for the use of information technology;

    -- On mainstreaming a gender perspective into all policies and programmes in the United Nations system, calling on Member States and all other actors of the United Nations system to continue to mainstream a gender perspective into all activities at all levels;

    -- On the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples by the specialized agencies and the international institutions associated with the United Nations, requesting the United Nations system and international and regional organizations to examine and review conditions in each territory so as to take appropriate measures to accelerate progress in the economic and social sectors of the territories;

    -- On a Europe-Africa permanent link through the Strait of Gibraltar, welcoming the cooperation on the project for the link through the Strait of Gibraltar between the Economic Commission for Africa, the Economic Commission for Europe, and the Governments of Morocco and Spain and specialized international institutions and efforts made to date in deep-sea drilling work;

    -- On the Report of the Committee for Development Policy, deciding to include Timor-Leste in the list of least developed countries;

    -- On support for the New Partnership for Africa’s Development;

    -- On preparations for an international meeting to review the implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States;

    -- On the report of the Committee for Development Policy, deciding to defer consideration of review of the list of least developed countries, including the question of graduating Cape Verde and Maldives, to its resumed session;

     

    -- On the enlargement of the Executive Committee of the Programme of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, recommending that the General Assembly, at its fifty-eighth session, decide on the question of enlarging the membership of the Executive Committee from 64 to 66 States, with Egypt and Zambia becoming members;

     

    -- On information and communication technologies for development, welcoming the achievements of the Task Force thus far, its orientation towards the use of information, and communication technologies in the advancement of the development goals of the Millennium Declaration;

    -- On the revitalization and strengthening of the International Research Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), amending its statute to improve the functioning of its work;

     

    -- On the enhancement of the functioning of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in regard to the operation of the mechanisms of the Commission on Human Rights;

     

    -- On the economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and the Arab populations in the occupied Syrian Golan;

     

    -- On the delegation of formal authority in matters of personnel of UNFPA to the Executive Director of the Fund; as well as

    -- On public administration and development; coordinated implementation of the Habitat Agenda; and the review of indigenous issues within the United Nations system.

    General Segment

    Over 30 decisions recommended by the Commission on Human Rights were approved by ECOSOC.  Amongst others recommendations, ECOSOC approved extensions of the mandates of Commission Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights in Myanmar; the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Burundi, Iraq; as well as the mandates of Special Rapporteurs on the right to food; adequate housing; independence of judges and lawyers; violence against women; housing and property in the context of the right of return for refugees; and appointed Special Rapporteurs to undertake work on discrimination in the criminal justice system; on indigenous peoples’ permanent sovereignty over natural resources; and small arms.

    ECOSOC also approved the extension of the mandates of the Commission's Independent Experts on the effects of structural adjustment on all human rights and the situation of human rights in Somalia.

    It extended the mandate of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders; requested the Secretary-General to appoint an Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan and an Independent Expert on technical cooperation and advisory services in Liberia.  Further information on the action taken on the recommendations of the Commission on Human Rights can be found in Press Releases ECOSOC/03/38 and ECOSOC/03/39.

    Summaries of a series of measures recommended by the Commission for Social Development and the Commission on Population and Development and adopted can be found in Press Release ECOSOC/03/35.

    Summaries of a series of measures recommended by the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs and the Commission on the Status of Women and adopted can be found in Press Release ECOSOC/03/37.

    Summaries of a series of measures recommended by the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations and adopted, including the decision to suspend the consultative status of the NGO Reporters sans frontiers for one year, can be found in Press Release ECOSOC/03/40.

    Summaries of a series of measures recommended by the Commission on Sustainable Development and adopted, including decisions on the status of non-governmental organizations and other major groups accredited to the World Summit on Sustainable Development, can be found in Press Release ECOSOC/03/41.

    Summaries of a series of measures recommended by the Commission on Science and Technology and the Conference on Standardization of Geographical Names and adopted can be found in Press Releases ECOSOC/03/41.

    Summaries of a series of measures recommended by the United Nations Forum on Forests; the Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods; the Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues and adopted can be found in Press Release ECOSOC/03/42.

    Summaries of a series of measures recommendations by the five regional Commissions and adopted can be found in Press Release ECOSOC/03/34, including the decision to allow the admission of Timor-Leste as a full member of the Economic and Social Council for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

    (For the Press Releases mentioned above, please consult www.unog.ch and select “United Nations News from Geneva”.)

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