21 July 2004
Proposals to Strengthen Voice of Developing Countries and Ensure Smooth Transition to Development Debated in Economic and Social Council
Recommendations of Subsidiary Bodies Considered, along with Proposal for "Bottom-Up Country-Driven" Strategies for Least Developed Countries
NEW YORK, 20 July (UN Headquarters) -- Two proposals aimed at giving developing countries a more effective voice in managing their own development were energetically debated today, as the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) began consideration of the recommendations of its subsidiary bodies.
The two mechanisms proposed would entail converting the present ad hoc group of experts on international cooperation in tax matters into a subsidiary body of ECOSOC, and establishing government-led advisory groups in least developed countries (LDCs) graduating from that category of nations.
Among those advocating the conversion of the ad hoc group of experts into a truly intergovernmental subsidiary body of ECOSOC was the representative of Qatar, who, on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said that the new intergovernmental group should be elected according to the procedure normally followed by ECOSOCs subsidiary bodies and should be responsible for making annual recommendations to the Council on tax matters, including the formulation of norms and the promotion of cooperative practices.
Agreeing, the representative of Barbados said that the United Nations was the most appropriate forum for international cooperation on tax matters, which would be best achieved through the conversion of the expert group. All countries should be involved in norm-setting and rule-making processes. Enhancing the voice of developing countries in international dialogues and decision-making was a fundamental prerequisite for improving global economic governance.
As the representative of Azerbaijan noted, one of the main challenges to developing countries and economies in transition was tax evasion. Combating tax evasion within national boundaries was extremely difficult and, in some cases, out of reach. An effective dialogue among national tax authorities, however, could serve as a countervailing mechanism to combat the problem.
A topic on which there was widespread agreement was the need to ensure the smooth transition of graduating LDCs. Speaking on behalf of the European Union, the representative of the Netherlands suggested that transition strategies should incorporate case-by-case, bottom-up country-driven aspects, towards which the establishment of country-specific round tables involving the national government, resident coordinator, donors and international organizations was welcome.
Thankful for the recent recommendation to graduate his country, the representative of Cape Verde said steps would be taken to create a favourable environment to implement graduation. Recognizing that his nation was about to enter into uncharted territory, however, he acknowledged the need to walk carefully, accompanying graduation with continued development.
Likewise, the representative from the Maldives said a combined effort with collective commitment was essential to making a smooth transition without interruption. He supported the recommendation of the Committee for Development Policy to establish an ad hoc country advisory group to work towards that goal, but urged that arrangements designed by the group should be endorsed and formalized by the Council.
Also this afternoon, ECOSOC took action on the reports of several of its subsidiary bodies adopting, without a vote, the reports of the Commission on Sustainable Development, the United Nations Forum on Forests, the Statistical Commission and the Commission on Population and Development, and approving the provisional agendas of their forthcoming sessions.
It also endorsed a recommendation contained in the report of the United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names that the Groups twenty-third session be held in Vienna, Austria, for six working days between March and May 2006. Endorsing two recommendations contained in the report of the United Nations Regional Cartographic Conference for Asia and the Pacific, the Council authorized the Conference to convene for five working days in 2006. It was also agreed that the United Nations should continue to support surveying, mapping and spatial data infrastructure activities in the Asia and Pacific, and continue to facilitate the participation of the least developed countries and the small island developing States.
Action was postponed, however, on the reports of the Committee for Development Policy and the Commission on Science and Technology for Development to a later date, due to continuing consultations.
At the top of its morning meeting and following a request, submitted yesterday, for a legal opinion on the admissibility of ECOSOC overruling a resolution recommended to it by the Commission on Human Rights, on human rights and human responsibilities, Ralph Zacklin, Acting Legal Counsel, stated that ECOSOC did, in fact, have the authority to overrule its functional commissions. The Council then agreed to consider the text introduced yesterday by the Netherlands tomorrow, 21 July.
Presenting the reports for consideration today were: Patrizio Civili, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs; Suchitra Punyaratabandhu, Chairperson of the Committee for Development Policy; Ian Kinniburgh, Director of the Development Policy and Planning Office of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA); Guido Bertucci, Director, Division for Public Administration and Development Management, DESA; Axumite Gebre-Egziabher, Director, New York Office for the United National Centre for Human Settlements; and Alex Andre Trepelkov, Chief, Multi-stakeholder Engagement and Outreach Branch, Financing for Development, DESA.
Also addressing the Council today were the representatives of China, Ecuador, Russian Federation, United States, Switzerland, Belarus, Cuba, Tunisia, Japan, South Africa, Kenya, Indonesia, Jamaica and Ukraine.
The Economic and Social Council will meet again at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 21 July, to continue taking action on the reports of its subsidiary bodies.
The 2004 substantive session of the Economic and Social Council today continued its general segment with consideration of economic and environmental questions, for which it had before it several reports, some of which included recommendations to the Council.
The Secretary-Generals consolidated report on the work of the functional commissions of the Economic and Social Council in 2004 (document E/2004/81) provides an analysis of selected major policy issues addressed by the commissions in 2004, using the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as a guide, and gives an overview of the main common themes that were covered by the commissions in 2004. It also examines the follow-up action by functional commissions to policy guidance provided by the Council in 2003 and reviews key issues relating to the coordination or procedural aspects of the work of the commissions in 2004.
The report recommends, among other things, that the Council requests its functional commissions to contribute to the Councils high-level segment and other segments dealing with the themes related to the high-level plenary meeting of the General Assembly to be held in 2005. It also recommends that the Council encourage the commissions to further promote synergies among themselves with regard to their work towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
Among the reports other recommendations is that the Council should also encourage the Commission on the Status of Women to contribute systematically to the work of other functional commissions by providing practical guidance on gender mainstreaming. The Council should request all international organizations to ensure coherence and collaboration with requests for data on conference indicators and encourage further investment in sustainable statistical capacities.
It was further recommended that the Council should consider ways of promoting closer and more effective interaction between the work of the functional commissions and that of governing bodies of the United Nations funds and programmes. The commissions should clearly identify the operational implications of their work and bring those to the attention of the governing bodies of funds and programmes for their consideration and guidance.
The Council might also encourage that the functional commissions in reporting to the Council, should more clearly identify issues requiring a coordinated United Nations system-wide response. In addition, its subsidiary bodies could present oral reports on issues that do not require extensive deliberations. Consolidation of reports should also be considered.
The Secretary-Generals report on Implementation of the Charter of Economic Rights and Duties of States (document A/59/99-E/2004/83) suggests that the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council consider whether the mandated quinquennial review of the implementation of the Charter of Economic Rights and Duties of States should be implicit in the overall framework of the integrated and coordinated implementation of the outcomes of, and follow-ups to, major United Nations conferences and summits, in particular, as part of the biennial high-level dialogue to monitor the implementation of the Monterrey Consensus of the International Conference on Financing for Development.
The report on the sixth session of the Committee for Development Policy (document E/2004/33, supp. 13) also contained a number of recommendations, including the graduation of Cape Verde and Maldives from the least developed country (LDC) category, as well as measures to ensure a smooth transition into the post-graduation period.
The report also contains recommendations regarding resource mobilization and the provision of an enabling environment for poverty eradication in the context of the implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2001-2010. Commitment to good governance, development strategies and poverty reduction, along matters related to the 2003 triennial review of the list of least developed countries, are also stressed.
The Council also had before it the report on the twelfth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development (9 May 2003, and 14-30 April 2004) (document E/2004/29, supp. 9) and the Secretary-Generals report on inter-agency cooperation and coordination in the follow-up to the World Summit on Sustainable Development (E/2004/12-E/CN.17/2004/3).
Regarding science and technology, the Council had a report on the seventh session of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development (24-28 May) (document E/2004/31, supp. 11). It contains a draft resolution on promoting the application of science and technology to meet the development goals contained in the United Nations Millennium Declaration. By its terms, the Council would decide to make a number of recommendations to national governments and the Commission, including establishing national advisory bodies and their linkages to provide systematic and institutionalized science and technology advice for implementing development strategies.
By a recommended draft decision, the Council would take note of the Commissions contribution to its high-level segment and encourage all stakeholders to consider the reports recommendations.
A note of the Secretary-General (A/59/80-E/2004/61) transmits his report on the first phase of the World Summit on the Information Society, held in Geneva, Switzerland, from 10 to 13 December 2003, and on progress in the preparations for the second phase of the World Summit to be held in Tunis, Tunisia, from 16 to 18 November 2005.
Regarding the environment, the Council had before it the report of the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) on its eighth special session (29-31 March) (document A/59/25, supp.25).
It also had the Secretary-Generals report on products harmful to health and the environment (document A/59/81-E/2004/63), which provides an overview of activities undertaken by United Nations system organizations, as well as other major developments in the area of environmentally sound management of chemicals since the previous triennial review by ECOSOC in 2001.
According to the report, since the previous triennial review, there has been significant progress, particularly the coming into force, early this year, of the Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions. The Conventions have put in place an effective system to deal with certain hazardous chemical products -- an issue underlying the need to publish the Consolidated List. The coverage of both Conventions, however, though legally binding, is still very limited in terms of the number of products reviewed. In accordance with General Assembly resolution 37/137, the list would continue to include data previously collected by the United Nations system organizations for dissemination until most of the products in the list are reviewed for inclusion by the Conventions.
The report recommends that the Council consider online availability of the Consolidated List on a permanent basis, while printing only the updates in all official languages of the United Nations, alternating between chemicals and pharmaceuticals every year. The Council should recommend to multilateral and bilateral agencies that they continue to strengthen capacity-building and technical assistance activities in developing countries and urge the donor agencies to provide additional financial resources in support of national efforts to improve the environmentally sound management of toxic chemicals. The Council should recommend to Member States to participate fully in the process of developing the Strategic Approach to International Chemical Management (SAICM) to its successful conclusion by 2005, in order to achieve the 2020 target on the use and production of chemicals in ways that lead to minimize the chemicals significant adverse effects on human health and the environment.
The report on the fourth session of the United Nations Forum on Forests (6 June 2003, and 3-14 May 2004) (document E/2004/42, supp.22) was also before the Council.
On statistics, the Council had the report of the thirty-fifth session of the Statistical Commission (2-5 March) (document E/2004/24, supp.4 and corr.1), containing, among other things, a recommendation that the Council should decide that the Commissions thirty-sixth session should be held in New York from 1 to 4 March 2005.
Regarding human settlements, the Secretary-Generals report on the Coordinated Implementation of the Habitat Agenda (document E/2004/70), indicates that governments have continued to increase their support for the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) and the Human Settlements Foundation, the Technical Cooperation Trust Fund and the Special Human Settlements Programme for the Palestinian people. The report shows that UN-Habitat has continued to strengthen its cooperation and collaboration within the United Nations system and with women, youth, local authorities, governments and other Habitat Agenda partners, as well as to strengthen its Habitat Agenda monitoring programmes.
The Secretary-General recommends that governments that are in a position to do so increase the non-earmarked component of their contribution, in order to facilitate the implementation of the Habitat Agenda, the Declaration on Cities and Other Human Settlements in the New Millennium, and the relevant commitments of the Millennium Declaration. He encourages the international donor community and all financial institutions to contribute generously to the Technical Cooperation Trust Fund and the Special Human Settlements Programme for the Palestinian people.
The Secretary-General further encourages governments to facilitate partnerships at the national and local levels with civil society organizations, local authorities, and the business sector in implementing the Habitat Agenda and the relevant targets of the Millennium Development Goals. National governments and international agencies are encouraged to review and promote the role of cities in sustainable development as the engines of economic growth and to assess their social risk and opportunity, as well as their potential assets in relation to rural hinterlands. Governments are also encouraged to support the participation of partner groups from developing countries at the World Urban Forum in Barcelona in 2004.
The Commission on Population and Development submitted its report on its thirty-seventh session (22-26 March and 6 May) (document E/2004/25, supp.5).
The Council also received the report on the third session of the Committee of Experts on Public Administration (29 March-2 April) (document E/2004/44, supp. 24). In it, the Committee recommends, among other things, that the Council devote one of its next high-level segments to the theme A service-oriented public administration for the achievement of the MDGs. The Council should recommend to the international organizations and the donor community that they should increase financial, material and technical support to African States, with a view to strengthening governance and public administration institutions on the continent.
Also before the Council was the Secretary-Generals report on the eleventh meeting of the Ad Hoc Group of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters, held from 15 to 19 December 2003 in Geneva (document E/2004/51). According to the report, the Group of Experts addressed: mutual assistance in the collection of tax debts and protocol for mutual assistance procedures; treaty shopping and treaty abuses; interaction of tax, trade and investment; financial taxation and equity market development; transfer pricing; cross-border interest income and capital flight; electronic commerce and developing countries; revision of the United Nations Model Double Taxation Convention and the Manual for the Negotiation of Bilateral Tax Treaties; and the institutional framework for strengthening international cooperation in tax matters.
The Secretary-Generals report on the implementation of the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations related to assistance to third States affected by the application of sanctions (document A/58/346) was submitted by a Secretary-Generals note to the Council (document E/2004/72). The report highlights measures for further improvement of the procedures and working methods of the Security Council and its sanctions committees related to assistance to third States affected by the application of sanctions. It also reviews the capacity and modalities within the Secretariat for implementing the intergovernmental mandates and for addressing the main findings, including recommendations of the ad hoc expert group meeting on assistance to third States affected by the application of sanctions (document A/53/312, chap. IV). The report further reviews recent developments related to the role of the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council and the Committee for Programme and Coordination regarding the issue.
On cartography, the Council received the Secretary-Generals report on the twenty-second session of the United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names (20-29 April) (document E/2004/64). The Secretary-General also submitted a report on the sixteenth United Nations Regional Cartographic Conference for Asia and the Pacific (14-18 July 2003, Okinawa, Japan) (document E/2004/57 and corr.1).
The Commission on the Status of Women submitted its report on the forty-eighth session (1-12 March) (document E/2004/27, E/CN.6/2004/14), which recommends that the Council adopt a number of draft resolutions, including a text on the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan. By its terms, the Council would urge the Afghan Transitional Administration and future Government, among other things to: enable the full and equal participation of women and girls in civil, cultural, economic, political and social life throughout the country at all levels; protect the right to freedom of movement, expression and association for women and girls; and to mainstream the gender perspective into the activities of all of its ministries. The Council would strongly urge the Secretary-General to ensure that the important post of Senior Gender Adviser in the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan is filled immediately.
According to a text on the situation of and assistance to Palestinian women, the Council would call upon the concerned parties, as well as the international community, to exert all necessary efforts to ensure the immediate resumption of the peace process on its agreed basis, and call for measures for tangible improvement of the difficult situation on the ground and the living conditions faced by Palestinian women and their families.
Under a related term, the Council would demand that Israel, the occupying Power, comply fully with the provisions and principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Regulations annexed to The Hague Convention IV of 18 October 1907, and the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949, in order to protect the rights of Palestinian women and their families. It would call upon Israel to facilitate the return of all refugees and displaced Palestinian women and children to their homes and properties, and upon the international community to continue to provide urgently needed assistance and services.
By another draft resolution, the Council would endorse the agreed conclusions of the Womens Commission on the role of men and boys in achieving gender equality, and by another text, the agreed conclusions on womens equal participation in conflict prevention, management and conflict resolution and in post-conflict peace-building.
The Council also expected to hear the introduction of a draft resolution, submitted by Qatar on behalf of the Group of 77 Developing Countries and China (G-77), on promoting the coordination and consolidation of the work of the functional commissions (document E/2004/L.26). By it terms, the Council would request the functional commissions, in their review of conference implementation in 2005, to ensure maximum complementarity in their work. The Council would also encourage greater cooperation between its functional commissions and the regional commissions, including consultations at the regional level.
Economic and Environmental Questions
Introduction of Reports
PATRIZIO CIVILI, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, introduced the Secretary-Generals consolidated report on the work of the Councils functional commissions in 2004, contained in document E/2004/81.
SUCHITRA PUNYARATABANHU, Chairperson of the Committee for Development Policy, introduced the report of the Committee for Development Policy on its sixth session (document E/2004/33).
IAN KINNIBURGH, Director of the Development Policy and Planning Office of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), said the report on the formulation of a smooth transition strategy for countries graduating from least developed country status, which had still to be issued, proposed two underlining principles to be followed in devising smooth transition strategies. The first -- that one size does not fit all -- meant that the nature, scope and duration of a smooth transition strategy should be decided on a case-by-case basis, while the second -- country ownership -- meant that graduated LDCs should themselves take the leading role in formulating and implementing transition strategies.
Combining those principles, the report suggested the establishment of ad hoc advisory groups by the governments of graduating LDCs to devise smooth post-graduation transition strategies, he noted. Such groups could be supported by the United Nations Resident Coordinator and should include the countrys bilateral and multilateral development and trading partners. The report also addressed the period required for a smooth transition, suggesting that such periods might also vary by case, and it recognized that monitoring should be an integral part of the smooth transition process and a responsibility of the ad hoc country advisory group.
Beyond general principles, he said, the report discussed the major benefits accrued by States as a result of their LDC status, which would have to be addressed in the smooth transition process, namely preferential market access, special treatment regarding World Trade Organization (WTO) obligations, official development assistance (ODA) and other forms of development financing; and technical cooperation and other forms of assistance.
He also introduced the report of the Secretary-General on the Charter of Economic Rights and Duties of States (document A/59/99-E/2004/83).
SULTAN AL-MAHMOUD (Qatar), on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, supported the integrated and coordinated implementation of the goals contained in the outcomes of the conferences and summits. His Group recognized that the functional commissions possessed expertise in their own areas of competence, and that while they should retain their identities, they also had a role in addressing the interaction between common conference goals and follow-up of individual conferences.
He said that the Group believed that the implementation of conference outcomes could only be achieved through strengthened linkages between the normative and operational work of the United Nations. While the commissions were taking steps to enhance linkages with the United Nations funds and programmes, there was still a need to fill the gaps that existed between their normative and United Nations system-wide operational work. There was need for further improvement on the issue of regional cooperation. There should be a clear division between the functions of the regional commissions and those of the functional commissions on the implementation of conference outcomes. While the Council had started to more effectively guide the work of its functional commissions, there was still a long way before those realized their full potential in the system-wide integration of the United Nations activities within economic and social fields.
KOEN DAVIDSE (Netherlands), on behalf of the European Union, said that the progress in development made by the Maldives and Cape Verde should lead to its logical conclusion -- graduation from the list of least developed countries -- as it was crucial to ensure that the LDC list remained credible and focused on the least advanced developing countries. Ensuring a smooth transition was important, however, and general guidelines should be applied to each graduating country, within which framework discussion on specific measures should be carried out with development partners to allow countries to prepare for and avoid disruption of their development.
Specifically, he said, the graduation/transition mechanism should follow from the Committee on Development Policys (CDP) determination -- in two consecutive triennial reviews -- that an LDC was fit to graduate from the list to the General Assemblys fixing a graduation date three years later, to the graduation taking automatic effect at that date. Upon graduation, the Committee should monitor the graduated countrys progress until the next triennial review.
Graduating countries should take advantage of the period between the Assemblys decision and the graduation date to develop specific transition support strategies, he stressed. Those strategies should be conducted on a case-by-case basis in a bottom-up country-driven process, and should be reflected in poverty reduction and national development strategies. Towards that goal, country-specific round tables involving the national government, resident coordinator, donors and international organizations were welcome. Such round tables should be responsible for analyzing specific needs and advising on post-graduation measures, as well as the related time frame.
The Union remained committed to finding constructive solutions to help graduated countries to maintain and enhance their progress, he concluded. In that regard, trade issues and official development assistance (ODA) deserved special attention. On trade, the Union was open to a gradual phasing out of EBA -- everything but arms -- preferences over an appropriate period of time and had recently adopted a simplified GSP system -- generalized scheme of tariff -- preferences for the next 10 years. Moreover, graduated countries might be eligible for other trade preferences under the Cotonou Agreement.
With regard to development assistance, he said that although graduation would make a country ineligible for a number of World Trade Organization and Brussels Programme of Action provisions, donors should continue current programmes and coordination activities. European Union member States and the European Commission linked assistance levels to a range of criteria related to needs and performance, only one of which was LDC status. No sudden decrease in ODA levels as a result of graduation was to be expected.
LIU HANMING (China) said that world sustainable development had been provided with three new opportunities: sustainable development goals had been defined more clearly defined; global economic recovery had led to increased ODA; and there had been more active dialogue and cooperation. All of those had created more favourable conditions for national efforts towards sustainable development.
He said that at present, however, developed and developing countries were divided on the issue of sustainable development, primarily in the areas of responsibility, means and methods of implementation. It was necessary for countries to shoulder their own responsibility and adopt strategies and actions according to their national conditions. Partnership initiatives should help realize the Millennium Development Goals and objectives of the world summit, so as to offer practical help to developing countries. All parties should seek ways and rules to make the partnerships more standard, effective and reliable.
LUIS GALLEGOS CHIRIBOGA (Ecuador) said the proposed draft resolution of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development contained essential elements for making science and technology a driving force for development. One of those elements was that countries should devote 1 per cent of their gross domestic product (GDP) to science and technology. It should be noted that some developing countries currently devoted between 0.1 and 0.5 per cent to that issue. As those had to service external debts, it was necessary to continue to raise awareness of the international community to the contradictions facing the developing countries. Transfer of technology should be costless.
He said that many developing countries did not have basic technologies to access modern technology, thereby raising concerns that the digital divide would widen. He was also worried about the brain drain because of a lack of favourable conditions for the use of knowledge in certain countries of origin. He, therefore, supported measures aimed at retaining those talents. He stressed that South-South cooperation was essential for science and technology for development. Finally, he expressed concern that the so called mid-level countries were not considered to have a need for assistance.
DMITRI MAKSIMICHEV (Russian Federation), addressing the work of a number of functional commissions, noted first that sustainable development was a top priority in the United Nations work, and said that the outcome of the Commission on Sustainable Developments twelfth session had been productive. The review conducted within the framework of CSD-12 had created a solid foundation for agreements to be concluded during CSD-13, including those related to national and regional aspects of implementation of agreed decisions on water, sanitation and development.
As it was important to help States achieve the Millennium Development Goals, he said, he wished to praise the work of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development, which had formulated recommendations and decisions during its seventh session. Those had provided clear cut guidelines on strengthening and using national scientific and technological capacity for development and had identified key areas for international cooperation. On the environment, the eighth special session of the Governing Council of United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and associated ministerial meeting had made important contributions related to water, sanitation and human settlements, as well as to international environmental management, out of which had emerged the decision to develop an intergovernmental strategic plan for technical support and capacity building.
Finally, as an active stakeholder in the debate on forests, his country appreciated the role of the United Nations Forum on Forests, which had consistently built up its role as coordinator, he said. Among the priorities that remained for the Forum to address was how to intensify implementation of the multi-year work programme and fulfil the experts mandate to determine the parameters of the legal regime on the use of forests.
LUIS DE MATOS MONTEIRO DA FONSECA (Cape Verde) said he was aware of the need for the international community to show results, and one of those results could be the graduation of a country from the list of LDCs. He was thankful for the recommendation to graduate his country and announced that steps would be taken to create a favourable environment to implement that process. His country was about to enter into uncharted territory, however, and would have to walk carefully.
He said that the recommendation to graduate had been made with caution, due to the fragile and vulnerable situation in Cape Verde. Greater weight should be given to the vulnerability index during the process of recommendation to graduation. He hoped that the international community would recognize the structural challenges Cape Verde, a small island country, was condemned to live with. His country was firmly on the path to development, but that required, among other things, preferential access to external markets in order to achieve self-sustainability.
Graduation should be a dynamic stage of development supported smooth transition, he said. Graduation should be accompanied by a comprehensive framework, which ensured continuation of the development process. That was a shared responsibility of all, although the primary responsibility rested with the least developed countries themselves.
SAMUEL KOTIS (United States) said that since the Monterrey and Johannesburg Conferences, a consensus had emerged that it was time to focus on the implementation of commitments rather than on negotiations. Implementation of commitments, however, raised the question of how business was done at the United Nations and how to structure the meetings.
He said that looking ahead to the thirteenth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development on water, sanitation and human settlements, the challenge was to seize on the momentum of the twelfth session -- which had seen robust, substantive plenary discussions -- and to build on the best practices and lessons learned. He hoped the Commission would step forward again, rather than falling back to outmoded ways of doing business, and that it would take a practical approach. He encouraged United Nations bodies to study the changes the Commission on Sustainable Development had undertaken and to seek ways to emulate the Commissions success by making their proceedings more interactive, action-oriented and relevant to the challenges faced.
STEFANO TOSCANO (Switzerland) addressed the work of several functional commissions, noting that the Commission on Sustainable Development had, this year, met for the first time since the reform of its working methods. That first session had been a success, characterized by rich and useful debate. The challenge now was to build upon those results and maintain impetus for the second year of the cycle.
On the environment, he stressed that the World Ministerial Forum on the environment and the sessions of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Governing Council had been important to the formulation of international environmental policy. He welcomed the main elements of the Jeju initiative, which brought together the main environmental policy on water. As a major centre of research on chemical products, Switzerland played host to the largest organizations governing chemical policy. It, therefore, favoured effective and transparent management of chemical products so as to optimally protect human health and the environment.
He said that the assessment of the fourth session of the United Nations Forum on Forests had been mixed. The Forum had not adopted decisions in many important areas, nor had it continued the work of other bodies, such as the Convention on Biodiversity. That highlighted the need to reform and revitalize the Forum.
ULADZIMIR GERUS (Belarus) appreciated the outcomes of the twelfth session, and that the multi-year programme of work had made the organizations monitoring a priority. To attain results in the area of water, sanitation and human settlements, the work done during that session should be used effectively.
Regarding science and technology, he said that each played an important role in regional cooperation and in the achievement of the Millennium Declaration. The result of the seventh session of the Commission had supported the coordinated use of the achievements of science and technology to attain development goals. The environment, specifically in Europe, had acted as a tool to create and promote the development process.
SACHIE HERNANDEZ (Cuba) expressed dissatisfaction with some aspects of the report of Committee on Development Policies, as it emphasized mainly the responsibilities of least developed countries regarding mobilization of resources and the creation of a favourable environment for poverty eradication. Most of the barriers preventing those countries from taking measures in that regard were linked to vulnerabilities such as lack of natural resources, macroeconomic instability, capital flight and the inability to create new exports. The report created the impression that the problems of those countries were a matter of a lack of political will rather than the historical exploitation, to which those had been victim. Contradictory conditions were set in the report, such as the need to liberalize interest rates but also to raise the level of internal savings.
She said that the report should have contained recommendations, such as cancellation or elimination of subsidies in developed countries and enhanced access to markets of developed countries, as well as the broader participation of least developed countries in the decision-making processes of the international financial institutions. Why did developed countries not give 0.7 per cent of their gross domestic product (GDP) as agreed? she asked. She did not concur that all of the responsibilities for development rested on the least developed countries alone.
The Committee seemed to demand good governance as a condition for developing countries to receive the resources necessary for the livelihood of their peoples, she noted. In that regard, she asked if developing countries were the only ones to have good governance problems. She agreed that good interaction between government, civil society and the private sector, the honesty and austerity of governments, as well as accountability could be an important set of elements for fighting poverty. She could not accept that good governance was a necessary prerequisite for developing countries to receive development assistance.
MOHAMED FADHEL AYARI (Tunisia) noted that the second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society would be held in his country in November 2005, and reviewed preparations for the summit, including the meeting held from 24 to 26 June in Hammamet, Tunisia. Among the decisions taken there, it had been decided that the Tunis summit would focus on follow-up and implementation of the Geneva documents from the Summits first round, review of the Working Groups reports on governance of the internet and on financial mechanisms. It had also been decided that the outcomes of the Tunis meeting could constitute one or several final documents, which would reflect the areas of interest of the Summit and reaffirm the commitments taken at Geneva.
Regarding the financing phase, he reiterated the appeal of the Secretary-General of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) that support should come from all regions and that any donation -- no matter how large or small -- would contribute to the Summits success. His Government had considered creating a United Nations permanent fund to finance civil society participation, to which it would contribute 400,000 Tunisian dinars (approximately $320,000) to support such participation, primarily from least developed countries and primarily those representing women, children and the disabled. He hoped that the Summit would help to identify ways and means of assisting developing countries in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, in order for them to partake in the benefits of globalization and knowledge sharing.
MOHAMED LATHEEF (Maldives) said his country had demonstrated responsibility through its pursuit of socio-economic development, but it had stressed that a smooth transition be a combined effort with the collective commitment to helping graduating countries progress toward development without interruption. Knowing that graduation was likely to present different countries with different challenges, it was imperative that a smooth post-graduation transition period be decided on a case-by-case basis.
He said he supported the idea of an ad hoc country advisory group to help formulate appropriate transition measures, and emphasized the importance of a three-year period followed by an in-depth study for the assessment of the cost of graduation and the ability of the country to sustain developments after its prospective graduation. He urged the Council to endorse and formalize the smooth transition arrangements designed by the ad hoc advisory group. The Council should consider these proposals and recommendations for a smooth transition strategy and adopt them before it decided on the graduation of the Maldives and Cape Verde. Any attempt to bypass that sequencing would not be acceptable to his nation, he said.
TOMOYUKI OSHINO (Japan), speaking on sustainable development, said his country had been making contributions towards improvements in the areas of water and sanitation. In 2002, it had devoted $1.8 billion of ODA to the water and sanitation sector. That assistance was one third of total world ODA in the field of water and sanitation. Through those contributions, his country would continue to grapple with sustainable development at the community level based on ownership and partnership.
He said his country also attached great importance to education as a basis for sustainable development and had proposed a decade for education for sustainable development to begin in 2005. Disaster reduction was indispensable for sustainable development. He, therefore, invited delegates to attend the United Nations World Conference on Disaster Reduction, which would take place in Kobe in 2005.
XOLISA MFUNDISO MABHONGO (South Africa) said the twelfth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development had offered an opportunity to reflect upon the challenges many still faced in the developing world with respect to water, sanitation and settlements. The session had reinforced the importance of cooperation for achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, and had stressed that the goals would remain elusive without commitments to provide support to developing countries. CSD-12 had laid the foundation for future discussion about outcomes, which should be practically oriented and lead to action for delivery on concrete goals.
Regarding the environment, he noted the establishment of the high-level open-ended intergovernmental working group as a milestone in international environmental governance. The working group should work to enhance capacity and strengthen national institutions for implementation of global and regional environmental agreements. The work of the United Nations Forum on Forests had demonstrated the centrality of sustainable forest management to poverty eradication, and had welcomed the holding of the Africa/Small Island Development States (SIDS) day, which had focused attention on ways to use sustainable forest management for development.
GEORGE OLAGO OWUOR (Kenya) said he welcomed the report of the Governing Council of UNEP and emphasized the importance of its decision on the strategic plan for technical support and capacity building, in which the successful completion of the work of the open-ended intergovernmental working group was anticipated. The UNEP should be provided with stable and predictable resources from within the United Nations regular budget.
ANDRE OMAR SIREGAR (Indonesia) said he attached great importance to the organization of work of the Commission on Sustainable Development, which would provide for a more effective follow-up of its conferences and summits, in particular, those relating to capacity-building and technology transfer. In terms of the environment and sustainable development, Indonesia would host the next meeting on strategic planning to be held in December, and he urged United Nations agencies to cooperate in pursuing its objectives. He welcomed the outcomes of the Forests Forum. He was confident that the Economic and Social Council would provide guidance in its discussion on forests, which was an important topic to his nation.
Action on Recommendations Contained in Reports
Without a vote, the Council adopted a draft decision contained in the report of the Commission on Sustainable Development on the twelfth session, by which it took note of the report and approved the provisional agenda for the Commissions thirteenth session.
It was decided that the Council would revert to the report of the Committee for Development Policy at a later stage, as it would to the report of the seventh session of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development.
Turning to the report of the United Nations Forum on Forests, the Council adopted a draft decision, as orally amended, which took note of the report of the Forums fourth session and approved the provisional agenda for its fifth.
Introduction of Reports
GUIDO BERTUCCI, Director, Division for Public Administration and Development Management, Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), introduced the report of the Committee of Experts on Public Administration on its third session (document E/2004/4).
AXUMITE GEBRE-EGZIABHER, Director, New York Office for the United National Centre for Human Settlements, introduced the report on the coordinated implementation of the Habitat Agenda (document E/2004/70).
ALEX ANDRE TREPELKOV, Chief, Multi-Stakeholder Engagement and Outreach Branch, Financing for Development, DESA, introduced the report on the eleventh meeting of the Ad Hoc Group of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters (document E/2004/51).
FAISAL ABDULLA HAMADA AL-ATHBA (Qatar), on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China (G-77), said that the realization of sustainable human settlements in an urbanizing world remained elusive. Mass exodus to cities and rising levels of poverty had led to higher levels of urban poverty, mushrooming slums and pressure on social services, such as water and sanitation, among others. The lack of sustainable human settlements remained a serious challenge to developing countries. For example, an estimated 56 per cent of the urban population of Africa dwelled in slums.
Achieving the Millennium Development Goal of significantly improving the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020, as well as the related targets on clean water, sanitation and adequate shelter agreed at Johannesburg, required commitment to the provision of resources, capacity-building, technology transfers and the creation of an enabling international environment. Thus, while the level of contributions to the United Nations Habitat and Human Settlements Foundation had increased, the gross imbalance between earmarked and non-earmarked contributions must be redressed to make United Nations-Habitat responsive to demand rather than supply. Developed countries should increase their contributions to the Foundation, with emphasis on non-earmarked and multi-year contributions.
Also speaking on behalf of the G-77 developing countries and China, Mr. AL-MAHMOUD (Qatar), said the Monterrey Consensus had called for strengthening international tax cooperation through enhanced dialogue among national tax authorities and greater coordination of the work of concerned multilateral bodies, giving special attention to the needs of developing countries. Yet, developing countries found existing institutional arrangements unsatisfactory, as they had not adequately addressed concerns or represented the interests of developing States. Inclusive, participatory and representative dialogue on international cooperation in tax matters was urgently needed.
In that regard, the ad hoc Group of experts on international cooperation in tax matters should be converted into a truly intergovernmental subsidiary body of the Economic and Social Council, with the central goal of giving an effective voice to developing countries, he said. Enhancing the Group would give its proposals greater legitimacy. The new intergovernmental group should be elected according to the procedure normally followed by Economic and Social Councils subsidiary bodies, with members serving as governmental representatives, and its membership should be expanded and allocated on an equitable geographic basis. Also the group should be responsible for making annual recommendations to the Economic and Social Council on tax matters, including the formulation of norms and the promotion of cooperative practices.
STAFFORD ONEIL (Jamaica), aligning himself with the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 and speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said a fair and universally accepted way of dealing with issues of international taxation would allow developing countries greater facility in mobilizing domestic and external resources toward development. CARICOM, however, had noted with concern the various initiatives by major international bodies that sought to develop principles and guidelines for international tax cooperation without the full participation of developing countries and countries with economies in transition.
He found it untenable that an organization such as the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) would attempt to dictate policy that would bind States outside of its membership. Greater transparency was required in a process that potentially had such a fundamental impact on the economic sustainability of development. CARICOM, therefore, supported the recommendation that the United Nations Ad Hoc Group of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters should be converted into an intergovernmental body within the subsidiary machinery of the Council.
Mr. OWUOR (Kenya) said the problem of human settlements would only be resolved by giving it due attention and providing the necessary means of implementation. Noting that contributions to the United Nations Human Settlements Foundation had increased in the last two years, he wished to commend those nations that had continued to support the Foundation, as well as the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat).
He said that imbalance between earmarked and non-earmarked contributions persisted, however, with earmarked contributions remaining higher, making it difficult for United Nations-Habitat to plan and implement its work programme. The donor base had remained low, leading to over reliance on a few contributors. He urged all States to contribute to the Foundation with an emphasis on non-earmarked resources.
ANDREI KONDAKOV (Russian Federation) welcomed progress for international cooperation on a broad range of tax matters and noted that the work of the ad hoc group of experts had undergone significant change over the past few years, which had elicited notable interest among both developed and developing countries. Against the backdrop of significant growth in international trade and investment flows, particularly due to e-trade, the tax bodies in developing countries and countries in transition had encountered problems in collecting taxes on international transactions. International cooperation on taxation and the exchange of information was needed to counter the flight of capital. Thus, he hoped the Group would be successful in carrying out its functions and increasing its contribution to international cooperation on tax matters, including by concentrating on the priorities of countries in transition and developing countries.
With regard to the United Nations-Habitat agenda, he praised the progress achieved, including through the renewal of the agendas strategic concept, which had taken into consideration the outcomes of other United Nations forums.
United Nations-Habitat should help to identify priority areas for achievement of international goals on human settlements, including through improvement of infrastructure, water supply, sanitation, the situation of slum dwellers and the participation of low- and middle-income individuals in investment programmes. It should also participate in the work of United Nations bodies with complementary mandates and examine the regional and national aspects of its agendas implementation. Although the focus of the agenda rested on Africa, Asia and Latin America, there should also be consideration of the situation of economies in transition.
LIQUN LIU (China), aligning himself with the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77, said that the developing countries had recently explicitly requested that the expert group on international taxation cooperation should be upgraded to a subordinate of the Council. Development of globalization required closer cooperation among countries on taxation, trade and investment. It was essential for the United Nations to reinforce cooperation in the related areas.
He said that, at the groups eleventh session, his country had stated that the United Nations should play a leading role in formulating rules for international cooperation in tax matters, and had expressed support for upgrading the expert group so as to check the outflow of resources from developing countries.
CHRISTOPHER HACKETT (Barbados) said that enhancing the voice of developing countries in international dialogues and decision-making was a fundamental prerequisite for improving global economic governance, based on the principles of justice, equity, democracy and accountability, among others. All countries should be involved in norm-setting and rule-making processes on questions of international cooperation in tax issues. That was the best way to ensure transparency, full partnerships in the implementation of global standards and the creation of non-discriminatory rules applying to all nations.
He said it was untenable that restricted membership entities, such as the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), continued to prescribe norms of behaviour for the international community without the full participation of all parts of that community. Such action violated the spirit of Monterrey and undermined confidence. There was no global intergovernmental forum to consider international tax cooperation questions on an ongoing basis or adequately place the debate in a wider, developmental context. The OECD-initiated International Tax Dialogue (ITD) had been driven by an agenda that was narrow in scope and exclusionary in nature. The United Nations was the most appropriate forum for international cooperation in tax matters, best achieved through the conversion of the Ad Hoc Group of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters into an intergovernmental committee of the Economic and Social Council.
ANDRIY V. NIKITOV (Ukraine), speaking on assistance to third States affected by the application of sanctions, said the increased number of sanctions and their growing diversion required a critical look at experience gained. Third States endured great hardship as a result of sanctions. Every effort should be made, therefore, to minimize impact on third States of measures adopted under Chapter VII. He, therefore, supported establishment of a mechanism to address the problem.
He said an ad hoc expert group established in 1998 had reviewed the issue and its proposals were, to a large extent, shared by the Secretary-General in his relevant reports. The groups report constituted a sufficient basis for reaching an agreement on the practical implementation of Article 50 of the United Nations Charter. All Assembly resolutions adopted on Article 50 had recognized the important role of the Council regarding the issue, and it was time, therefore, for the Council to provide the Assembly with clear guidance on the issues within its mandate. The Bretton Woods institutions could establish a mechanism to mobilize new resources for addressing emergencies flowing from sanctions.
NADIESKA NAVARRO (Cuba), speaking on the subject of public administration, said that the use of such terms such as governance and public management continued to lack clear, internationally agreed definitions. Moreover, the report of the Committee had addressed questions still being debated, such as the roles of the private sector and civil society, among others, within the question of human rights and fundamental freedoms. All of those aspects required greater analysis to find common principles, standards and values for all, in accordance with different levels of development, historic differences and the needs of different political and economic systems.
With regard of the recommendations of the report, she said -- referring to questions to be dealt with at the bodys next session -- that it must be understood that the issue of establishing a methodology for a bottom-up, participatory approach in public administration principles should be transparent and open-ended. It should respect the conditions of countries and regions, in order to avoid the imposition of models, which some might consider to reflect best practices. Her delegation would continue to follow future deliberations in that regard.
HUSNIYYA MAMMADOVA (Azerbaijan) said that one the main challenges to developing countries and economies in transition was tax evasion. Combating tax evasion within national boundaries was extremely difficult, and, in some cases, out of reach. However, she was convinced that an effective dialogue among national tax authorities could serve as an effective countervailing mechanism to combat the problem.
She said that the expansion of an appropriate bilateral-based tax treaty network was essential, and she supported the concept that treaties should maintain an equitable distribution of revenues between contracting States while being conducive to capital flows to developing countries. She welcomed rapid growth of computer ownership, Internet access and e-commerce, but the challenges and opportunities presented by e-commerce needed further examination so as to enable developing countries to benefit from it. She acknowledged the need to revise the United Nations Model Double Taxation Convention, and in her view, the Strasburg Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters of 1988 could be a useful framework.
Action on Recommendations Contained in Reports
The Council taking note of the report of the Statistical Commission on its thirty-fifth session, decided that the Commissions thirty-sixth session would be held in New York from 1 to 4 March 2005, and it approved that sessions provisional agenda and documentation.
The Council took also note of the report of the Commission on Population and Development on its thirty-seventh session and approved the Commissions provisional agenda for its thirty-eighth session.
It endorsed the recommendation in the report on the twenty-second session of the United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names that the Groups twenty-third session be held in Vienna, Austria, for six working days between March and May 2006, to facilitate and prepare the work of the Ninth United Nations Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names.
The Council further endorsed the recommendation in the report on the sixteenth United Nations Regional Cartographic Conference for Asia and the Pacific that the seventeenth United Nations Regional Cartographic Conference for Asia and the Pacific be convened for five working days in 2006, with a primary focus on the continued and strengthened contribution of cartography and geographic information in support of the implementation of Agenda 21.
It also endorsed the recommendation in the same report that the United Nations should continue to support surveying, mapping and spatial data infrastructure activities in the Asia and Pacific, and continue to facilitate the participation of the least developed countries and the small island developing States of the region.
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