8 July 2005
Economic and Social Council Panel Discussions Focus on United Republic of Tanzania, Work of Functional Commissions
NEW YORK, 7 July (UN Headquarters) -- The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) concluded its coordination segment today with two panel discussions on development goals, with the first focused on the United Republic of Tanzania as an example of a country experience in considering perspectives and strategies on implementing the goals. The second, afternoon, panel featured functional commission chairpersons leading a discussion on progress, challenges and opportunities in achieving the goals.
Economic and Social Council President Ali Hachani (Tunisia) presided over both panels. On the experience of the United Republic of Tanzania, he said the focus on a country-level experience would illustrate the challenges faced by governments and organizations in the field. Panel members represented all the national stakeholders in that country -- namely the United Nations country team, the Government and civil society.
Representing the governmental view were Joyce Mapunjo, Commissioner for the External Finance Department in Tanzania’s Ministry of Finance, and Cletus Mkai, Director General of Tanzania’s National Bureau of Statistics. Representing civil society was Maximilian Kajege, Coordinator of Tanzania’s Coalition on Debt and Development.
Ms. Mapunjo addressed the important link between poverty reduction, the allocation of resources and the relationship with development partners, including in the area of mutual accountability. Mr. Mkai described a common database that had been developed for policy design and by partners in development, saying its qualitative information was at the heart of monitoring poverty. Mr. Kajege said civil society had been given much greater access to decision-makers in the country as a result of the United Nations facilitating communication among the Government, civil society and donors.
Moderating the panel, the United Nations Resident Coordinator in the country, John Hendra, said Tanzania was an emerging model of reform, with a strong sense of ownership and a strong focus on the Millennium Goals. The United Nations played a key role promoting advocacy for the Millennium Goals, supporting integration of the Goals in policy frameworks, supporting the model Poverty Monitoring System, and advocacy for mobilizing external resources.
A World Bank representative told the panel that good economic and social stewardship along with strong leadership on the part of the government made Tanzania an ideal location for the coordinated aid delivery that was making an impact in implementing the Millennium Development Goals.
Also taking part in the discussion were the representatives of Ireland, Guinea, United Kingdom, United States and Jamaica, and a representative of the World Health Organization also participated.
The chairpersons of ECOSOC’s functional commissions and participants in the afternoon panel on progress, challenges and opportunities in achieving internationally agreed development goals were: Ernesto Aranibar Quiroga, Chair of the Commission for Social Development; Adekunbi Abibat Sonaike, Vice-Chair of the Commission on the Status of Women; Sheel Kant Sharma, Chair of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs; Mohamed Saleck Ould Mohamed Lemine, Vice-Chair of the Commission on Human Rights; and Judith Bahemuka, Chair of the United Nations Forum on Forests.
Also, Hermann Habermann, speaking for the Chair of the Statistical Commission; Crispin Grey-Johnson, Chair of the Commission on Population and Development; Javad Amin Mansour, Vice-chair of the Commission on Sustainable Development; Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Chair of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues; and Pedro Teta, Chair of the Commission on Science and Technology.
In opening remarks, the ECOSOC President said the functional commissions formed an integral part of the Council’s overall machinery to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom. The Council Bureau had been meeting with the functional commission chairs for the past four years for exchanges on challenges and opportunities, as well as to promote an integrated and coordinated approach to work on the ground.
The Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, José Antonio Ocampo, said the work of ECOSOC and its functional commissions could become more coherent if a way was found to connect the commissions’ work more directly to ECOSOC’s, perhaps through closely linked multi-year work programmes. Also, the big challenge in making the development agenda effective was to translate the normative and analytic work into operational activities. The functional commissions could better influence the work of funds and programmes by articulating specific actions for them to carry out.
In their presentations, the commission chairs reviewed the work of their Commissions and the steps that had been taken to improve effectiveness, particularly as related to the Millennium Development Goals.
Also speaking in the afternoon discussion were representatives of Cuba, Jamaica, Russian Federation and United Kingdom.
The Council will meet again at 10 a.m. Friday, 8 July, to begin considering the current session’s segment on operational activities for international development cooperation.
The Economic and Social Council met today to continue the coordination segment of its 2005 substantive session. This morning the Council will hold a panel discussion on country-level experiences in achieving the internationally agreed development goals, including those contained in the Millennium Declaration. Focusing on the experience of the United Republic of Tanzania, the panel will help the Council deepen its understanding of the peculiar challenges faced by governments and the United Nations system organizations.
This afternoon, the Council will hold a panel discussion with the chairpersons of its functional commissions and other subsidiary bodies, on progress made, challenges and opportunities in achieving the internationally agreed development goals. (For background on the Council’s current session, see Press Release ECOSOC/6154 issued on 23 June.)
Panel on United Republic of Tanzania
JOHN HENDRA, United Nations Resident Coordinator in the United Republic of Tanzania and moderator of the discussion, said the presentations would focus on Tanzania’s experience in implementing and monitoring the Millennium Goals. They would also touch on the role of the United Nations, in terms of aligning the system’s activities around the national processes.
JOYCE MAPUNJO, Commissioner for External Finance Department, Ministry of Finance, United Republic of Tanzania, stressed the need for national ownership in order for efforts to be successful. Tanzania had started working on the Millennium Goals in 2000 in its first Poverty Reduction Strategy, focusing on priorities such as education, health and HIV/AIDS, among other things. That first Strategy demonstrated the clear link between the national policies and budgetary allocation. It was necessary to make aid more effective in order to eradicate poverty. The lessons learned from the first Strategy had played a key role in formulating the second Poverty Reduction Strategy. Among the achievements of the first Strategy were macroeconomic stability and real economic growth.
However, she noted, despite achievements, it was necessary to do more to advance further in achieving the Millennium Goals. Therefore, the Government formulated the National Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty (MKUKUTA). There was an important link between poverty reduction, the allocation of resources and development partners, she noted. What was required was mutual accountability, as demonstrated in the Paris Declaration, on how to use resources effectively for poverty reduction and the achievement of the Millennium Goals. She also mentioned the Joint Assistance Strategy (JAS), which translated the Goals and the commitments of various conferences into action at the country level and was based on, among other principles, national ownership and government leadership, division of labour based on comparative advantage, and the involvement of non-State actors.
Turning to the role of the United Nations, she said the Organization had played a key role in Tanzania within the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF). The specialized agencies of the United Nations had played an important role in supporting the country. “The UN had been a guardian of the MDGs in Tanzania”, she said. The Resident Coordinator had a special role in coordinating all partners in the development process. The Government was working on a joint review on how to move ahead with the United Nations bodies and on the specific role of the Organization. The United Nations could help in several areas, including good governance and respect for the rule of law. The United Nations was not a parallel system in her country, but was working in areas in which it had a comparative advantage.
CLETUS MKAI, Director General, National Bureau of Statistics, United Republic of Tanzania, spoke on the Tanzanian Socio-Economic Database (TSED), which had been implemented with the assistance of bilateral partners and the United Nations. The database had over 300 indicators and was based at the National Bureau of Statistics, while it was supported by other ministries and departments. It was a successful example of cooperation between bilateral partners and the national Government.
He said that the common database was accessible for advocacy and other purposes, and was increasingly used for policy design and implementation on the part of all partners in development. Its qualitative information was at the very heart of poverty monitoring systems in Tanzania. Information could be grouped by sectors, goals and themes.
Demonstrating what TSED could do, he showed a map and co-related graphs that showed poverty rates and child-mortality according to regions and year. The data could also be disaggregated according to districts and other parameters. A chart on school enrolment showed quick growth that nearly met targets and then levelled off. As the indicators could be disaggregated according to Goals, the TSED was very useful in that context. More refined grouping, according to the various goals, was still a challenge, however.
MAXIMILIAN KAJEGE, Coordinator of Tanzania’s Coalition on Debt and Development, said he spoke for the civil society of his country, most often the group without a voice in government. He said the momentum for debt cancellation in his country had accelerated since the start of the millennium. Implementing the Millennium Development Goals presented an opportunity to open new avenues for engaging in the policy process and for holding the government accountable. It also raised the challenge of developing the new skills and knowledge for monitoring implementation and for advocating mobilizing the resources to reach the targets. As a result of the United Nations relationship to civil society in achieving the Goals, civil society in Tanzania had gained increased access to policymakers.
He recalled that the 2002 Monterrey Conference had been a significant step forward in translating the Millennium Development Goals into action, since the political will had been expressed to expend financial resources for sustainable development and poverty eradication. A common framework for partnerships to achieve goals through concrete strategies had been consolidated later that year in Johannesburg. Since then, Tanzania had made strides in achieving goals in reducing poverty, achieving gender parity in primary education, controlling HIV/AIDS and increasing access to safe water. Significant challenges remained in achieving secondary-education gender parity, combating infant and maternal mortality, reducing malaria and improving sanitation.
Overall, he said, the general population was not well informed about the Millennium Development Goals. The Government was mainstreaming the Goals, but its political will to fight poverty and to improve social well-being was hampered by an under-performing economy, the debt burden, and undelivered donor pledges. The recent push for debt cancellation would ease the burden, particularly if accompanied by increased grant flows. The United Nations played an important role in bridging among civil society, the Government and development partners. It was also helping to build capacity and to finance civil society’s participation in policymaking, including by providing access to information and data communication tools. In brief, the Goals had been embraced and the targets had been used to enrich the poverty monitoring indicators. They also allowed for measuring progress in relation to other countries and for holding the Government and development partners accountable.
Mr. HENDRA, making a presentation on behalf of the United Nations country team, said that what was being seen in Tanzania was an emerging model of reform, with a strong sense of ownership and a strong focus on the Millennium Goals. The country was on track for four of the Millennium Goals -- 2, 3, 4 and 7. The two key policy pillars were the new Poverty Reduction Strategy and the Joint Assistance Strategy (JAS). In such an environment, it was key that the Millennium Goals were fully incorporated into the policy framework, and not a parallel process. Many of the MKUKUTA targets were more ambitious than the Millennium Goals.
He said the United Nations, including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, was playing a key role in five areas: advocacy for the Millennium Goals; support for full integration of the Goals in key policy frameworks; support for the model Poverty Monitoring System; support to initial costing; and advocacy for mobilization of increased external resources. In terms of best practices, he noted the strong sense of national ownership and leadership. Also, “quiet times” had been instituted from May to August for the Government, during which there were no external visits, to focus on budget preparations and national dialogue.
The United Nations team, he said, had supported joint analytical work, provided overall leadership in aid coordination and alignment, and provided joint United Nations support to review the first Poverty Reduction Strategy. Among the key challenges was whether the United Nations was ready to move from an implementation role to a policy advisory capacity under the new JAS.
Questions and Answers
In the discussion that followed, many speakers congratulated Tanzania on the progress it had achieved in coordination and poverty-reduction strategies. Some also asked for specifics on the statistical system and its relationship with other systems, internationally and within the country. Guinea’s representative asked how best practices developed in Tanzania could be transferred to the rest of Africa, particularly regarding the structural position of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as the lead agency, as well as the function and structure of civil society. The representative of the United States asked about the role of the private sector in the process, among other questions.
Regarding statistics, Mr. MKAI said that Tanzania was now in a much better position to share its data internationally with the TSED, though he was not sure all indicators were compatible. Similarly, all competing data systems could not be eliminated in the country. Technical working groups were working on collecting all data and harmonizing it.
On coordination, Ms. MAPUNJO said the JAS was all-inclusive, and all actors subscribed to the Paris Declaration and its principles. The ministries had been sharing their experiences with many other stakeholders from other African countries through various mechanisms, including numerous visits to her country. In regard to the structuring of actors, she said the Poverty Reduction Strategy was very clear on the role of all sectors and agencies, including non-State actors.
Mr. KAJEGE said that civil society was included in activities through a consultative process that also included the private sector. Policy dialogue and monitoring at the grass-roots level was also encouraged. In regard to a question on malaria from the representative of Ireland, he said that it was necessary to make sure that treated nets meet the specifications of the World Health Organization (WHO). Subsidizing the price would help ensure that more people had access to such nets.
In regard to targets, Ms. MAPUNJO, added that the Paris Declaration outlined very clear indicators and goals that were used by all partners.
Mr. HENDRA said that treated malaria nets had been found very effective. Speaking of coordination, he agreed that there was a very clear structure of actors, based on the Rome Declaration. He also affirmed that it was a very inclusive structure. The new UNDAF strategic-results matrix, embedded in the JAS, had also proved very useful. He added that Jeffrey Sachs’ ideas had a large influence in Tanzania, particularly the idea of clear-costing to achieve the poverty reduction strategy. There was not yet a country director, he said, but there was one resident representative who served as coordinator.
A representative of the World Bank said Tanzania was an example of the Bank’s new multi-donor approach to having an integrated development community helping to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Good economic and social stewardship, along with strong leadership on the part of the Government, made Tanzania an ideal location for the coordinated aid delivery that was making an impact in implementing the Goals. Tanzania was implementing the Millennium Development Goals before they were called that, and the country also took international commitments seriously.
In essence, the joint assistance strategy focused on aligning the multi-donor approach with the country system strategy to align assistance with the government’s own goals. Modalities of support focused on budget, rather than stand-alone projects. The country system was formulated jointly at every level, from dialogue through harmonization and alignment. The approach created the framework for a competitive advantage in signing up donors. The approach in Uganda had already attracted 7 to 10 donors.
A representative of the International Labour Organization asked what was being done about unemployment, which exceeded 20 per cent in Tanzania. Other questions centred on sharing best practices; monitoring of implementation; integration of activities and quality control; infant and maternal mortality rates.
Ms. MAPUNJO, of the Tanzanian Finance Ministry, said the Government’s current strategy on achieving the Millennium Development Goals emphasized employment as one of the indicators for measuring progress. It was mainstreamed into the systems, processes and procedures in all governmental activities, including procurement and utilization of technical assistance. In terms of all the goals, the government wasn’t expecting short-term miracles, but it did expect to achieve 80 per cent of its targets in the medium and long term.
She said the current growth strategy was based on linking the results expected, rather than on grouping objectives by sectors or indicators. That allowed for a targeting of actors in implementing the Millennium Development Goals and for setting out the country needs and integrating them with the Goals. Implementation was independently monitored by a high-level forum using indicators.
Mr. MKAI of the Tanzanian Statistics Bureau elaborated on the national monitoring system. On poverty reduction efforts, for example, he said there was a poverty-reduction office within the vice-president’s office, composed of ministers and others who oversaw the poverty-monitoring system and covered such activities as research, analysis and information dissemination. On infant and child mortality, he said a study had been conducted in 2004 and results were just coming in. Great strides had been made in decreasing infant mortality, but not in the maternal.
Mr. KAJEGE of Tanzania’s Coalition on Debt added that civil society participated in spreading the Millennium Development Goals aims by making them known to the people. For example, they provided local translations of government publications.
Mr. HENDRA, the Moderator and Tanzania’s Resident Coordinator, said the Millennium Development Goals were worked into the National Poverty Reduction Programme complete with allocation linkages. To maximize the country experience, countries should: make sure their experience was web-based and web-enabled; codify the work and processes being carried out; benchmark good practice; and bring together joint country donors, rather than individuals.
Panel with Chairpersons
Council Chairman ALI HACHANI (Tunisia) opened the panel with the chairpersons of the functional commissions on the progress made, challenges and opportunities in achieving the internationally agreed development goals. The functional commissions, he said, formed an integral and vital part of the Council’s overall machinery to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom. Over the years, the contribution of the functional commissions had been pivotal and had attracted high-level political and media attention. Today’s panel represented an opportunity to share information on the work of the commissions, as well as collective efforts towards the larger goals being embraced by the Organization.
He said that some of the proposals in connection with the September Summit would have direct impact on the agenda of the Council’s work and, as a corollary, on the substantive contributions that the functional commissions could make. The predictability of the Council’s consideration of substantive issues was of crucial importance to ensure the coherence and relevance of the functional commissions’ contributions. Over the last four years, the Bureau of the Council had been holding annual meetings with the chairpersons of the functional commissions and other subsidiary bodies. Those meetings provided an opportunity to dialogue on challenges and opportunities encountered by those bodies in assessing the implementation of the outcomes of the major United Nations conferences and summits, and in promoting an integrated and coordinated approach to that process.
JOSÉ ANTONIO OCAMPO, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said that the past several years had seen both the growing contribution of the functional commissions to the Council’s work and increased coordination within the wider ECOSOC family. Coordination within the ECOSOC machinery was not an end in itself. It served to improve the machinery’s delivery of services to Member States and their peoples. Today, service delivery for ECOSOC had come to mean implementing the United Nations development agenda. To use that agenda to optimal effect, it was necessary to overcome two key challenges, one relating to the intergovernmental review process and the other concerning the connection between the intergovernmental process and United Nations operational activities.
The existing system for assessing progress in implementing the agenda was too fragmented, too compartmentalized, he noted. The individual functional commissions carry out substantive reviews of conferences. The ECOSOC promoted an integrated and coordinated approach to conference follow-up and review of commitments. That led to a somewhat disjointed review of the agenda, often marked by unavoidable duplication. The coherence in the work of the Council and the commissions still fell far short of the desired level, and might continue to do so until a way was found to connect the commissions’ work more directly to ECOSOC’s, through closely linked multi-year work programmes.
Putting the development agenda into effect, he said, also required tackling the challenge of translating the normative and analytic work of the United Nations into operational activities. At present, the work of the functional commissions did not influence the priorities of the United Nations funds and programmes. It was necessary to consider how ECOSOC could help convey the commissions’ valuable guidance to the United Nations development system. The commissions could ease that process by clearly articulating specific points for action by the funds and programmes.
ERNESTO ARANIBAR QUIROGA (Bolivia), Chairman of the Commission for Social Development, said that his Commission had, at its recent forty-third session, adopted a Declaration which reaffirmed that people were at the centre of development efforts. The eradication of poverty was then an ethical, social, political and economic imperative.
At the same session, he said, the Commission addressed financing for social development in the context of its 10-year review of the Copenhagen Declaration. In that context, he reaffirmed the validity of the Monterrey Consensus and welcomed the recent initiative of the Group of Eight industrial nations to cancel the debt of some of the world’s poorest nations. That action must be made part, however, of an integrated strategy to mobilize new resources to help countries escape hunger, disease and economic stagnation. To that end, all Member States should deliver on existing commitments toward a global partnership.
The forty-third session of his Commission, he said, also decided to organize its future sessions in a series of two-year action-oriented implementation cycles. The priority theme for next year’s session would be the review of the first United Nations Decade for the eradication of poverty. In face of global “jobless growth” of economies, the creation of productive employment was now of paramount importance. Employment and social integration, however, appeared to have been disconnected from economic and social policymaking; those missing links must be re-established within the broader policy agenda.
ADEKUNBI ABIBAT SONAIKE (Nigeria), Vice-President of ECOSOC, on behalf of Carmen Maria Gallardo Hernandez, Chairperson of the Commission on the Status of Women, said that her Commission played a major role in the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action. At its recent 10-year review of Beijing at its forty-ninth session, the Commission affirmed the connection between the empowerment of women and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
Gender mainstreaming and equality issues should be promoted by ECOSOC, she said, within all functional commissions in the period leading up to the September Summit. The Commission was appreciative of the many joint meetings conducted for that purpose.
At the Commission’s recent 2005 session, she said, a decision was taken to continue to prioritize the integrated implementation of the outcomes of major international meetings. Close cooperation would also be developed with other functional commissions of ECOSOC. Predictability, such as that encouraged by multi-year work plans, would be encouraged, as that would assist functional commissions in planning their programmes. In many of its sessions, HIV/AIDS, sustainable development, and many other cross-cutting issues such as technology, had been discussed by the Commission from a gender perspective. It was hoped that such a perspective would enter into the discussion of all of those issues at the World Summit in September.
SHEEL KANT SHARMA, Chairman of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna, said the Commission’s normative activities included the review of statistics on world trends in narcotic drugs and also reviewing the work of subcommissions. It focused on the link between illegal drug trafficking and poverty in helping achieve he Millennium Development Goal.
He said the cycle of poverty, terrorism and crime was among the clusters of threats to human security. The rule of law was a precondition to achieving the Millennium Development Goals and the rule of law was strengthened by universal adherence to international conventions. The conventions on drugs had been widely endorsed, but implementation was far from universal. The Commission coordinated activities with the Office of Crime Prevention and Drug Control in activities that emphasized the reduction of drug demand through a three-pronged approach for “prevention, rehabilitation and treatment”.
However, he said, the promotion of development was an important key to reducing the global drug supply and combating poverty by offering legal alternatives to drug trafficking. The task was enormous, as the Commission’s 2004 report had noted. Illegal opium poppy cultivation had reached new heights in Afghanistan and had contributed to regional instability. A number of steps could improve coordination between functional commissions to speed progress. Themes could be coordinated, for example, or communication could be enhanced through high-level meetings.
HERMANN HABERMANN, representing the Chairperson of the Statistical Commission, said the Commission’s most recent session could be described in the famous words, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. The Commission had discussed 26 reports on substantive issues, including demographic and energy statistics. It had continued its 60-year tradition of working towards a global statistical system based on scientific methods and agreed-upon standards to produce comparable data at the national, regional and global levels. The Commission had also continued to harmonize and rationalize conference indicators, as its main contribution to achieving the Millennium Development Goals and its role as a focal point for reviewing conference indicators. That was a crucial task for member countries, since even those with established statistical systems were overburdened with data requests.
He said the worst of times came on the last day of the session when mission representatives overwhelmed the chief statisticians with issues beyond the province of a technical body. The Commission was well placed to provide expert advice on whether indicators could be measured and how to measure them, what the measurement would cost and how the information could be used. The Commission was not well placed, however, for making decisions on priorities of indicators and on non-technical definitions, such as defining “poverty” -- which needed a political consensus and not a technical one.
Two modest incremental suggestions to serve as a guideline for the future, he said, centred on the fact that the Commission was no longer a “boutique commission” that didn’t attract the attention of higher bodies. Statistics was growing in importance, and that fact should be acknowledged. Chief statisticians of countries should reach out to relevant bodies in capitals to explain their positions and understand how their nation’s interests intersected on the issues. Further, the Commission’s secretariat should work with missions to anticipate emerging issues and to transparently discuss the impact of those issues. The aim, of course, was to resolve political issues ahead of the Commission’s technical session.
JUDITH BAHEMUKA (Kenya), Chairperson of the United Nations Forum on Forests, said that poverty eradication and sustainable development was at the heart of sustainable forest management, and alleviating poverty would be crucial for both achieving the Millennium Goals and the sustainable management of all types of forests. The Forum was the ideal arena for discussions and policy development on that issue. At its fifth session, the Forum held a policy dialogue between ministers and heads of the Forum’s member organizations. A report of the Secretary-General was prepared for that session on the linkages between forests and the internationally agreed development goals.
The report also focused on, among other things, the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, and the linkages between forests and the establishment of an enabling environment for the achievement of the goals, she said. Among the key points featured in the report and the dialogue was that sustainable forest management contributed substantially towards achieving many of the internationally agreed development goals. Setting clear objectives for international forest policy and linking sustainable forest management more closely to the goals were avenues that warranted careful consideration. It was also suggested that national forest programmes should identify the relevance and potential role of trees and forests in achieving the Millennium Goals.
She added that the Forum’s sixth session, to be held from 13 to 24 February 2006, would be of paramount importance as it encouraged the international community to come together to: foster a new paradigm; highlight forests in the broader development agenda, as well as to the achievement of the development goals; agree on a future arrangement; and provide directions on urgent priorities.
MOHAMED SALECK OULD MOHAMED LEMINE (Mauritania), Vice-Chairman of the Commission on Human Rights, said that several of the internationally agreed development goals had been on the human rights agenda for many years, such as access to drinking water and improvement of sanitary conditions. The Commission was discussing such issues in depth. The international agreements on human rights intended to promote the well-being of all human beings. The strategies aimed at achieving the internationally agreed development goals were interdependent and complementary. The 1993 World Conference on Human Rights had recognized that democracy, development and respect for human rights were interdependent and mutually reinforcing. That view was reiterated by the Secretary-General in his recent report, “In Larger Freedom”.
However, he said, human rights would only become entrenched in all societies if there was economic progress and development, which formed the foundations on which those rights must be established in a lasting way. The international community must focus on the fulfilment of all commitments and the promotion of democracy and human rights. It must be understood by all that no situation could justify violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms. That was why the Commission had special procedures to study situations and propose solutions on thematic issues or situations of specific countries. The special rapporteurs on food, education, health and violence against women, for example, had highlighted that the effective enjoyment of human rights was indivisible from development.
The Commission’s working group on the right to development had studied the obstacles to the achievement of the Millennium Goals, he said. The group had recommended strengthening national and institutional capacities of States to enable them to face their challenges and establish effective strategies to attain the Millennium Goals. He added that the Commission had organized informal consultations on 20 June to study the Secretary-General’s proposal to establish a human rights council, and to contribute to the intergovernmental deliberations on reform. The summary of those consultations had been submitted to the General Assembly President.
In the discussion period that followed, several speakers mentioned the need to better coordinate the work of the various functional commissions. Jamaica’s representative said the conversation had lacked a discussion of the linkages between the commissions, many of which had areas of concern in common, as well as the links between respective commissions’ work with specific Millennium Development Goals.
On behalf of the European Union, the representative of the United Kingdom asked how the functional commissions could better coordinate and improve their working methods in that regard. The representative of the Russian Federation said that, in the area of assessment, it was important that the commissions followed up on the outcomes of conferences in their respective thematic areas. Regarding further thematic consistency and coordination, he underlined, however, that it was not desirable for all the commissions to use a single approach.
In regard to the statistical commission, Cuba’s representative said its work was of particular importance as it had to work out indicators for the development goals. In that context, it was obligated to include all the indicators demanded by its mandate, he said.
CRISPIN GREY-JOHNSON (Gambia), Chairman of the Commission on Population and Development, emphasized the centrality of the outcomes of the major United Nations conferences and summits to the achievement of the development goals. The path to fulfilling the eight Millennium Development Goals was through the programmes and plans of action of those conferences and summits, which was why the functional commissions played a central role in attaining the Goals.
Second, he said the ECOSOC and the functional commissions should do their best to harmonize their work programmes, so that related and complementary themes and issues were considered around the same time and in a coherent fashion. The ECOSOC should set in advance its multi-year work programmes for the high-level and coordination segments. The functional commissions could then follow suit within the context of their respective mandates by adopting contiguous work programmes, while still allowing for the requisite periodic reviews of programmes of action.
Third, he recalled that his Commission had a special item on the agenda for its thirty-eighth session, held in April, on the contribution of the implementation of the Cairo Programme of Action to the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals. Those discussions, along with the Commission’s consideration of poverty, HIV/AIDS and international migration, offered an opportunity to contribute to preparations for the September Summit. Fourth, the Commission had reviewed its methods of work, and he hoped the changes made would improve conference follow-up and allow the Commission the flexibility to adjust its work programme, so that it could address any new issues that might fall within the purview of its work.
JAVAD AMIN MANSOUR, Vice-Chairman of ECOSOC, on behalf of Minister Aleksi Aleksishvili, Chairman of the fourteenth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development, said that the Commission had recently completed the first two-year cycle of its multi-year programme of work, focusing on the thematic cluster of water, sanitation and human settlements. The approximately 30 policy recommendations and 100 practical measures that resulted had been submitted to the sixtieth session of the General Assembly as the Commission’s contribution to the upcoming 2005 World Summit.
The implementation-focused reform of the Commission had included seeking closer collaboration with other functional commissions to avoid duplication and to further enhance the potential synergies among the functional commissions.
The Commission, he said, would address energy for sustainable development, industrial development, atmosphere/air pollution and climate change during its second implementation cycle. Those issues were extremely important for meeting the Millennium Development Goals and Johannesburg commitments. In regard to those issues, as a high-level intergovernmental body on sustainable development, the Commission was uniquely placed to contribute to the work of ECOSOC. In particular, its emphasis on an integrated consideration of the three pillars of sustainable development opened up avenues for close collaboration with other functional commissions.
VICTORIA TAULI-CORPUZ, Chairperson of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, said that the Forum was not a functional commission per se, but rather an expert body of ECOSOC. It was crucial for the Forum to participate in dialogue with the other subsidiary bodies of ECOSOC, in order to explore how the lives of 370 million indigenous people could be improved. All the commissions were relevant to indigenous peoples. In addition, she was grateful to some ECOSOC Member States for creating a loose association called Friends of the Forum, as well as to agencies for creating an Inter-Agency Support Group on Indigenous Issues.
Enumerating ways in which the Forum had been improving its method of work, she said that at its sessions in 2005 and 2006, the Forum was focusing on the Millennium Development Goals, to ensure that indigenous people were not left out of the global effort. She then reiterated some practical recommendations for enhancing the collaboration between the commissions, including better communication between the secretariats and participation in each other’s meetings.
She said a major problem for the Forum had been the marginalization of indigenous issues. The biggest challenge, then, remained implementing outcomes of United Nations conferences and summits in a manner that would change the marginalization and oppression of indigenous peoples. In its fourth session, the Forum identified the major weaknesses of the Millennium Development Goals as their not being framed in a human-rights-based framework. A rights-based approach to development was, therefore, necessary, along with the full and effective participation of indigenous people in designing, implementing and monitoring development programmes, policies and projects.
That approach was necessary, she said, because there was evidence that showed that policies and programmes adopted to eradicate poverty of the dominant population had resulted in further marginalization of indigenous peoples, along with worsening of their poverty. In addition, some programmes, such as those meant to achieve universal primary education, could further alienate indigenous children from their cultures, identities and traditional knowledge. It was, therefore, essential that an indigenous perspective be injected into every level of development planning and implementation.
PEDRO TETA, Chair of the Commission on Science and Technology, said science and technology were central to achieving development goals. They were powerful tools for combating poverty by contributing to sustained economic growth, increased market efficiency and growth of employment opportunities. Most countries would not meet their development goals by 2015 if they did not place science and technology at the centre of their development agenda.
He said a most important development to emerge from the Commission’s latest session was the establishment of a joint initiative between the Commission and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) aimed at scaling up and strengthening the research and development capabilities of developing countries. It was basically a network that would connect some 100 existing eligible centres of excellence in developing countries, creating regional hubs of learning to pool resources, conduct joint research and diffuse scientific knowledge. The system should reverse the “brain drain” in developing countries by generating a critical mass of researchers to address development challenges. The estimated operating cost of the network would be about $1 million a year, which would fund three months of training for 50 scientists and engineers each year. Italy had kick-started the project with a $500,000 grant and Pakistan would finance 20 fellowships. Donors were invited to make voluntary contributions and United Nations agencies were welcome to become partners.
On other matters, he said the Commission had decided to adopt a biennial programme of work, the first focusing on policy analyses and the second on operational aspects and implementation. The mandate of the Commission’s Gender Advisory Board would be extended for another five years. The substantive theme for the 2005-2006 intercessional meeting would be the bridging of the technology gap between and within nations, with a special emphasis on multi-stakeholder partnerships. Finally, to reinforce the Commission’s policy advisory role with a particular focus on capacity-building in Africa, the Commission would establish an informal working group as a subsidiary body to work with the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) in addressing priority issues for Africa and in guiding the Commission’s work.
Reacting to the comments made by delegations, Mr. GREY-JOHNSON, Commission on Population and Development, said his Commission had tried to coordinate with other commissions with which it had overlapping mandates. But, much more needed to be done, such as with the Commission on Sustainable Development and the Commission on the Status of Women, to increase the interface with colleagues from other commissions. He urged all colleagues to try and see how that could be injected into the review of the working methods of the various commissions.
Mr. MANSOUR, Commission on Sustainable Development, noted that the functional commissions met during the first six months of the year and ECOSOC held its substantive session in July. Therefore, the only opportunity the chairpersons of the functional commissions had to meet with each other was in July. More opportunities to meet together were needed. A proposal that had been shared with the ECOSOC President was to hold a meeting among the chairpersons of the functional commissions in early January, so they could discuss their roles and agendas. Another proposal was for the chairpersons to participate in the meetings of each other’s functional commissions under relevant agenda items.
Mr. TETA, Science and Technology for Development, supported the need for increased coordination, as well as the proposal to hold a meeting in January.
Ms. SONAIKE, Commission on the Status of Women, agreed that the work of the commissions could be enhanced through communication among them, as well as between them and ECOSOC, perhaps by meeting together more often. Doing so would enrich the performance of the commissions. Ms. TAULIA-CORPUZ, Indigenous Forum, suggested that the commissions could have a specific agenda item on coordination within their respective agendas.
The issues of coordination and reviewing working methods, said Mr. QUIROGA, Commission for Social Development, had been taken up by the commissions. Each commission had discussed the progress made and how to improve working methods. Among the suggestions in that regard was to hold a meeting with the chairpersons at the beginning of the year. While that idea, like others, had advantages and costs, it was necessary to consider them.
A representative of the Forum on Forests, cited the need to establish linkages between the functional commissions, which had not yet been pursued. For example, the Forum had a lot of linkages with the Commission on Sustainable Development. The Forum was only five years old, and at its fifth session had begun a review of its work. It expected to finish the review of its work and future arrangements at the sixth session. Forests played a big role, not only in development, but also in the realization of the Millennium Goals. Therefore, it was important to raise the profile of forest issues within the United Nations agenda.
Mr. LEMINE, Commission on Human Rights, cautioned that, in view of the intergovernmental nature of all the commissions, the role of their bureaus might be limited. Therefore, organizing more meetings might not be the solution. There were a large number of commissions due to the outcomes of various conferences. Governments were faced with a different set of priorities established by each conference, which represented a problem with regard to coordination.
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