Press Releases

    ECOSOC/6160
    7 July 2005

    Economic and Social Council Decides on Theme for 2006 Coordination Segment, Discusses Need to Ensure UN System ”Fit for the 21st Century”

    NEW YORK, 6 July (UN Headquarters) -- The eradication of poverty and hunger, along with sustained economic growth for social development, will be the theme of the 2006 coordination segment of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)’s 2006 substantive session, the Council decided this morning as it continued its 2005 substantive session.

    With the adoption of a draft decision contained in document E/2005/L.13, the Council also decided that the multi-year programme of the coordination segment of its substantive session should contribute to the implementation of the agreements reached in major United Nations conferences.

    “This decision is an important step towards a complete multi-year work programme that should help bring more predictability and certainty to the work of the Council”, said Council Vice-President Ali Hachani of Tunisia.  “It will also enable functional commissions and other subsidiary bodies to better prepare their contributions to the work of ECOSOC.”

    Prior to taking that decision this morning, the Council began considering the achievement of internationally agreed development goals, including those contained in the Millennium Declaration.

    Introducing the Secretary-General’s report on the subject (document E/2005/56), Patrizio Civili, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, said that the common effort demanded by the Millennium Declaration and the United Nations development agenda had greatly facilitated the evolution of a more coordinated, cohesive and functional United Nations system.

    However, he said, the system still faced the challenge of transforming its complexity into a source of strength that enabled it to respond in a flexible yet truly concerted way to the challenges posed by the evolving international environment and the changing needs of developing countries.  Achieving that required further efforts within the system, but also a more coherent, integrated policy direction from the intergovernmental process.  The ECOSOC must take the lead in that effort by forging thematic coherence in its work, he concluded.

    In the discussion that followed, speakers substantially agreed with the conclusions of the Secretary-General’s report.  The representative of the United Kingdom, speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, stressed the need to pursue reform vigorously to ensure a United Nations system fit for the twenty-first century –- relevant, coherent, adequately funded and effective.  He emphasized the key role of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination in overseeing further reform of the United Nations funds, programmes and agencies.  In addition, he said that the functional commissions of ECOSOC should continue to have primary responsibility for assessing implementation of conference outcomes.

    Jamaica’s representative, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said that the cultural and organizational environments of both the United Nations system and the constituent organizations had to change in order to internalize coordination efforts.  In addition, the improvements in coordination, coherence and collaboration had to be extended to include the system’s working relationships with other multilateral institutions, including those of the Bretton Woods.

    The representatives of the Russian Federation, Switzerland and the Congo also participated in that discussion.

    In other action this morning, the Council took note of the Secretary-General’s report mentioned above.

    The Economic and Social Council will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 7 July, to hold a panel discussion on achieving internationally agreed development goals.

    Background

    The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) met today to continue the coordination segment of its 2005 substantive session, focusing on the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals, including those contained in the Millennium Declaration.

    For its consideration, the Council has before it the report of the Secretary-General entitled, “Towards achieving internationally agreed development goals, including those contained in the Millennium Declaration” (document E/2005/56), which identifies the core issues that hold the key to the achievement of the development goals and uses them as a tool to review progress in implementation.  It concludes that there is an implementation gap, which needs to be addressed.  To that end, the report makes a number of recommendations for action by Governments, the United Nations system, and the international community.

    The report states that progress in the implementation of the development agenda has been made in several areas, but is slow and uneven.  Given the current pace, neither the Millennium Goals nor the broader United Nations development agenda, of which they are a part, will be achieved.  That lag between implementation and commitments must be bridged.  First and foremost, the United Nations development agenda and its components, particularly the Millennium Development Goals, must be truly embraced at the national and international levels.  Its goals and objectives should be acted on as achievable targets and not approached merely as aspirations or mechanical indicators.  They should be backed by practical strategies and long-term commitments.

    Secondly, the report continues, existing sectoral approaches to development must be replaced by a more integrated, synergistic and holistic framework, which the United Nations development agenda provides.  Thirdly, the necessary resources must be invested in the pursuit of that agenda.  The realization of those goals must be considered a priority by all.  Fourthly, the institutional impediments at the national and international levels that have contributed to the slow pace of progress must be urgently addressed.  Finally, constant monitoring and evaluation are essential to ensure that the process of implementation remains on track.  And that must be a truly integrated process to ensure that the pace of progress is even and that one goal is not being pursued at the expense of others or by ignoring other equally important sectors.

    Among other things, the report recommends that ECOSOC establish arrangements that would enable it to keep under constant review progress in implementing the United Nations development agenda, particularly the Millennium Goals.  The Council should organize peer reviews of progress, drawing on its functional and other commissions, particularly the regional commissions, and other international institutions.

    The Council, the report adds, provides an appropriate platform for serving as a Development Cooperation Forum, where global, regional and national strategies and policies for development cooperation can be reviewed, and policy guidance provided geared to maximizing its contribution to the pursuit of the United Nations development agenda, including the Millennium Goals.  An existing meeting or segment of the Council can be transformed once every two years into such a forum.

    Also, the Council should convene timely meetings to mount coordinated responses to natural disaster and other actual or imminent threats to development, and to provide timely inputs or address developments in other forums that have major implications for achieving the development goals.

    The challenge for the high-level segment, states the report, is to contribute to an ambitious outcome of the Summit, building on the outcomes of the 10-year reviews of the Beijing, Cairo and Copenhagen conferences, held earlier this year.  To that end, ECOSOC needs to endorse the core elements of the development agenda which have emanated from the conferences and summits.  Also, it needs to identify the specific actions required by Governments, United Nations organizations, multilateral financial institutions, the private sector and civil society to implement the agenda.

    Also before the Council is a draft decision (document E/2005/L.13) on the theme for the coordination segment of the substantive session of 2006 of the Economic and Social Council and multi-year work programme for the coordination segment, by which the Council would decide, among other things, to adopt the following theme for the coordination segment of its 2006 substantive session:  sustained economic growth for social development, including the eradication of poverty and hunger.

    Statements

    ALI HACHANI (Tunisia), President of the Economic and Social Council, in opening today’s meeting, said that the achievement of the agreed-upon development goals depended on the creation of synergies within the United Nations system and between the system and other actors.  Today’s session would focus on the actions that needed to be taken by the United Nations and its agencies to achieve those goals.  The results would feed into September’s high-level meeting.

    PATRIZIO CIVILI, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, introducing the Secretary-General’s report contained in document E/2005/56, said that achieving internationally agreed development goals required policy coherence and cooperation for development.  For policy coherence, a policy framework must be elaborated that ensured a coherent, integrated approach to development.  Cooperation, today’s subject, entailed the role of the United Nations system in helping countries to achieve development goals.

    The Secretary-General’s report, he said, emphasized the importance of developing a coherent and integrated policy framework for the national implementation of the agenda.  The pace of progress would depend on action at both the inter-agency and the intergovernmental levels.  The common effort demanded by the Millennium Declaration and the United Nations development agenda had greatly facilitated the evolution of a more coordinated, cohesive and functional United Nations system.

    However, he said, the system still faced the challenge of transforming its complexity into a source of strength that enabled it to respond in a flexible yet truly concerted way to the challenges posed by the evolving international environment and the changing needs of developing countries.  Achieving that required further efforts within the system, but also a more coherent, integrated policy direction from the intergovernmental process.  The ECOSOC must take the lead by forging thematic coherence in its work.

    NORMA ELAINE TAYLOR ROBERTS (Jamaica), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the emphasis should be placed on a regional approach towards achieving development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals.  The effect of efforts to improve coordination of activities was already evident.  Still, the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination report had noted two areas needing to be addressed for better effectiveness.

    First, she said the cultural and organizational environments of both the United Nations system and the constituent organizations had to change so as to internalize the coordination efforts.  There was still a tendency to assess and fund the system and its parts based on specific programme or project outputs.  The result was competition among parts of the system for declining resources in a time when more of the budget came from voluntary resources.  Second, the improvements in coordination, coherence and collaboration had to be extended to include the system’s working relationships with other multilateral institutions, including the Bretton Woods.

    She said the improvements in coordination made added demands on ECOSOC in its role of being the centre for system-wide coordination.  Still, the Council should also turn its attention to the long-term reconstruction and rehabilitation of countries in post-conflict situations.

    MICHAEL O’NEILL (United Kingdom), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said the United Nations system of funds, programmes and specialized agencies had been expanding over time in scale and scope of activities, leading in some cases to significant duplication of mandates and actions between different bodies.  The European Union supported the Secretary-General’s efforts to address that and stressed the need to pursue reform vigorously to ensure a United Nations system fit for the twenty-first century -– relevant, coherent, adequately funded and effective.

    The ECOSOC, he said, had a critical role to play in the follow-up to United Nations conferences and summits.  The United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination should continue to give coordinated guidance to the United Nations system.  He was interested to hear how the Chief Executives Board and the various executive committees would work together to oversee further reform of the United Nations funds, programmes and agencies.  In addition, the functional commissions should continue to have primary responsibility for assessing implementation of conference outcomes.

    It was necessary, he continued, to streamline and improve consistency in the intergovernmental system, with more efficient meetings, clearer focus, and working methods aimed at implementation, rather than reopening existing commitments.  Such changes could strengthen the effectiveness of ECOSOC, its functional commissions and related subsidiary bodies in pursuing the Millennium Goals.  Engagement with civil society and the private sector was also important.

    At the country level, he said, the United Nations should be seen as operating as one team under the leadership of the Resident Coordinator.  United Nations country teams should ensure alignment of United Nations programmes with comprehensive national development strategies reflecting developing country priorities and further harmonized with bilateral donors.  The United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) should be the mechanism for United Nations alignment with national strategies.  The UNDAF Results Matrix should provide the means by which the contribution of the United Nations to those strategies could be evaluated.

    NIKOLAI CHULKOV (Russian Federation) agreed that the achievement of development goals required integration and full alignment of the United Nations system with national priorities and international commitments.  It also required coordinated intergovernmental oversight and monitoring of the development agenda’s implementation.  The ECOSOC bore particular responsibility for the fulfilment of those tasks.

    Council reform should focus, he said, on enhancing the efficiency of the implementation of decisions taken at international conferences, strengthening links between the normative and operational work of the United Nations system, and building its own capacity to address the socio-economic problems of post-conflict peacebuilding and development.

    Agreeing with many of the reform proposals already discussed, he disagreed with the idea of holding “peer reviews” at the annual ministerial level meetings to review and assess the implementation of the outcomes of United Nations conferences, since the “peer” nature of such reviews could not be ensured.  He did not support a radical revision of the structure and timing of ECOSOC sessions in order to realize reform initiatives.  He agreed with the importance of optimizing working methods of the commissions, but not with applying a uniform approach to those commissions’ work.

    THOMAS GASS (Switzerland) said much of ECOSOC’s effectiveness came from its linkages with its own subsidiary commissions and with the operational entities of the United Nations system.  The ECOSOC should systematically build on the work of its functional commissions and organizations in monitoring and reviewing progress on achieving the development agenda.  It should also consider ways to make its own work programme more predictable and reliable, perhaps by taking up the theme of the previous year’s high-level segment for the multi-year work programme of its coordination segment.

    Further, he said, ECOSOC must make sure the instruments are in place to monitor the impact of implementation activities on operational ones.  Operational implications of analytical work should also be identified and brought to the attention of relevant bodies to improve coherence between policy and operations.  While the proposed peer reviews could be useful in exchanging information and strengthening regional cooperation, the exercise could prove complex.  A pilot programme of voluntary peer reviews should be launched.  Similarly, the proposed Development Cooperation Forum for policy debate should be held in the context of the ECOSOC high-level segment or perhaps even replace it.

    In general, he said the thematic focus of both ECOSOC and its commissions should be strengthened, and better use should be made of existing reports and inputs to improve effectiveness.  Finally, ECOSOC efforts should not overlap with other mandates in such areas as responding to natural disasters and other complex emergencies.

    BASILE IKOUEBE (Congo) said poverty eradication was an attainable goal.  However, to meet that goal, the countries of sub-Saharan Africa were expecting a great impetus and greater commitment by the international community.  Despite the common vision of the type of development that was needed and the measures to be taken to finance development, at the current pace, very few countries would attain the Millennium Goals.  Significant progress had been noted in several regions.  However, poverty, unemployment, disease and gender discrimination remained widespread.  Only coherent and concerted action, based on a shared vision of development, would be able to meet the needs of an increasingly interdependent world.

    He encouraged the United Nations system with regard to the implementation of its development agenda.  The United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination could coordinate the combined efforts of the system, thereby ensuring better coverage of the Millennium Goals in the system’s programmes.  He added that the Monterrey Conference had enabled the international community to define a new basis for international development cooperation through partnership.  That partnership required coherent and coordinated action.  The Secretary-General’s proposal regarding reinforcing ECOSOC was along those lines.

    Mr. CIVILI thanked the delegations for their support for the recommendations of the Secretary-General’s report.  The key now was effective implementation, he said, along with acquiring the resources that such implementation required.

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