Press Releases

    ECOSOC/6171
    21 July 2005

    ECOSOC Session Continues with Focus on Economic, Environmental Questions, Work of Functional Commissions

    NEW YORK, 20 July (UN Headquarters) -- Energy for sustainable development, industrial development, atmospheric pollution and climate change will be the themes of the next session of the Commission on Sustainable Development, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) decided today, as it adopted two draft resolutions and three draft decisions on that body, along with a resolution on the triennial review of United Nations operational activities.

    As it continued the general segment of its 2005 substantive session with a focus on economic and environmental questions, this morning the Council also postponed action on a draft on forests, and discussed the Secretary-General’s consolidated report on the work of the Council’s functional Commissions, as well as reports on human settlements, forests and transport of dangerous goods. 

    In the afternoon, the Council took note of 12 reports to close its operational activities segment, introduced 11 drafts on a range of subjects for later action and discussed the report of the Statistical Commission.  It also endorsed the recommendations of the report of the Eighth United Nations Regional Cartographic Conference for the Americas.

    According to today’s decisions on the Commission on Sustainable Development, the Commission’s fourteenth session -- a review session -- will take place from 1 to 12 May 2006. The intergovernmental preparatory meeting for the fifteenth session will be held from 26 February to 2 March 2007 and the fifteenth session itself -- a policy session -- will take place from 30 April to 11 May 2007.

    The Council also decided to provide travel expenses for members of the Commission’s bureau from developing countries and countries with economies in transition. It also recommended that the General Assembly permit support to representatives and experts from those countries to be provided from the Commission’s Trust Fund.

    The resolution on the triennial comprehensive policy review of operational activities for development of the United Nations system concerned refinement of data related to development targets and achievements. It requested that the Secretary-General update an analytical matrix of results and outcomes achieved through the actions outlined in his report on the implementation of General Assembly resolution 59/250. It encouraged, within that matrix, the use of quantifiable targets and measurable outcomes, within well defined time frames towards capacity-building in developing countries. 

    In regard to the Secretary-General’s report on statistical data, the text requested the Secretary-General to refine the data to better reflect the distinction between contributions made for humanitarian assistance and for long-term development cooperation, as well as expenditures and actual contributions channelled through the United Nations.

    The Council postponed action on a draft regarding the fifth session of the Forum on Forests, pending further consideration by delegations. The representative of the United Kingdom, on behalf of the European Union, expressed deep disappointment that the Forum failed to agree on a text on the future International Arrangement on Forests. She said that significant changes to the current Arrangement were necessary to reverse the current trends of deforestation and forest degradation worldwide.

    Croatia’s representative reminded delegates of his country’s initiative concerning the proclamation of an International Year of Forests. Forests, he said, could provide the means to eradicate poverty, reduce land and resource degradation, improve food security and provide access to safe drinking water and affordable energy while, at the same time, preserving the environment and biodiversity for future generations. Also affirming the importance of forests, Switzerland’s representative called for more focus on the environment, in general, in reaching sustainable development.

    A number of Secretariat officials introduced the reports on the varied topics discussed today.

    The representatives of Jamaica (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Canada, Brazil, Cuba and Spain introduced resolutions for later action.

    Also speaking in various contexts today were the representatives of China, Russian Federation, Iceland, Kenya, United States, Indonesia and Azerbaijan.

    The Economic and Social Council will continue its general segment at 10 a.m., tomorrow, 21 July.

    Background

    The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) met today to continue the general segment of its current session with a focus on economic and environmental questions, as well as to take up draft resolutions. (For background on the current session, see Press Release ECOSOC/6154, issued on 23 June.)

    For its debate on economic and environmental questions, the Council has before it reports on:  the work of the Commission on Sustainable Development (documents E/2005/29, supplement 9 and E/2005/33, supplement 13); science and technology for development (document E/2005/31, supplement 11); human settlements (documents E/2005/60 and A/60/8, supplement 8); environment (document A/60/25, supplement 25); United Nations Forum on Forests (document E/2005/42, supplement 22); and transport of dangerous goods (document E/2005/53).

    Further, it has reports on: statistics (document E/2005/24, supplement 4); population and development (document E/2005/25, supplement 5); public administration and development (document E/2005/44, supplement 24); international cooperation in tax matters (document E/2005/45, supplement 25); assistance to third States affected by sanctions (documents A/59/334 and E/2005/62); and cartography (document E/2005/83).

    In addition, the Council has before it the Secretary-General’s consolidated report on the work of the Council’s functional commissions (document E/2005/74).

    The report on the work of the Commission on Sustainable Development (document E/2005/29, supplement 9) contains two draft resolutions expected to be taken up by the Council. One concerns support to the Bureau in preparing for the Commission’s future sessions, and the other concerns travel support to those sessions. The report also contains three draft decisions, one on the term of the Bureau, one on dates of the Commission’s meetings, and one on the report of the thirteenth session with a provisional agenda for the fourteenth.

    The report of the Forum on Forests (document E/2005/42) contains a draft resolution on the Forum’s fifth session and a provisional agenda for its sixth.

    The Council is also expected to complete the operational activities segment of its current session by taking action on draft resolutions on follow-up to policy recommendations of the General Assembly and the Council (documents E/2005/L.16 and E/2005/L.29).

    Expected to be introduced are drafts on: implementation and follow-up to conferences and summits (document E/2005/L.31); the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) for the Decade 2001-2010 (document E/2005/L.28); international cooperation in informatics (document E/2005/L.33); long-term support for Haiti (document E/2005/L.20); Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) (document E/2005/L.18); ad hoc advisory groups on African countries emerging from conflict (documents E/2005/L.25 and L.30); implementation of the Declaration on independence for colonial countries and peoples (document E/2005/L.22); regional cooperation (document E/2005/L.21); economic and environmental questions (document E/2005/L.27); and human settlements (document E/2005/L.26).

    General Segment

    BYRON BLAKE (Jamaica), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said that, in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, there was a need for significantly enhanced access to and utilization of existing and more efficient emerging technologies. The recommendation of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development to collect and compile case studies on successful experiences and best practices in science, technology and innovation, which could have positive impacts on the Goals, was consistent with the Group’s policy position, especially where such experiences and best practices were in other developing countries.

    But he noted that the Commission’s call on national governments to ensure that foreign direct investment projects in infrastructure make maximum use of local research and development and participation did not indicate how that could be achieved consistent with World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, which discouraged the use of performance requirements.

    He noted with appreciation that the Commission devoted one segment of the session to the Science, Technology and Innovation Policy (STIP) of Iran. He encouraged the Commission to continue examination of such practical cases upon request of interested governments, and urged the international community to extend support to developing countries seeking to implement the Commission’s recommendations for building up their technical capacities and capabilities. The Group attached great importance to science and technology in the effort to overcome the development challenges confronting the countries of the South and looked forward to ECOSOC adopting the resolution, he added.

    Economic and Environmental Questions

    SARBULAN KHAN, Director of the Office of ECOSOC Support and Coordination, introduced the consolidated report of the Secretary-General on the work of the functional commissions of the Council in 2005 (document E/2005/74). The report provided, he said, broad policy information to ECOSOC and its subsidiary bodies.  It aimed to allow ECOSOC to provide more coherent guidance in environmental issues. Since the 1990’s the functional commissions had played a key role in the implementation of the international development agenda.  This year, the report covered the work of the commissions over the past five years, since the Millennium Summit.

    The recommendations in the report sought to provide more coherence and linkages within the United Nations system, he said. For example, they aimed to ensure that such matters as employment and social integration are integrated into the broader United Nations development agenda. It recommended predictability in the work of ECOSOC, so the commissions could provide their inputs in a more systematic manner. In conclusion, he requested that ECOSOC deal with the nuts and bolts of how to bring the Council machinery in line with the United Nations development agenda.

    SUCHITRA PUNYARATABANDHU, Chairperson of the Committee for Development Policy, introduced the report of her Committee (document E/2005/33). She said that the main theme of the report was reconstruction, development and sustainable peace in post-conflict countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. The Committee recommended that the attainment of the Millennium Goals should be a shared responsibility between sub-Saharan countries and their development partners.

    In its preparation for the 2006 triennial review, she said the Committee considered improvements in the criteria for the identification of the least developed countries. Regarding the latter, it recommended, for example, that when a least developed country “graduated” from the list and was then hit by a natural disaster, the international community should mobilize support in the context of a transition strategy, as in the case of the Maldives.

    AXUMITE GEBRE-EGZIABHER, United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), said clean water, sanitation and the elimination of slums were keys to eradicating poverty. With that in mind, the UN-HABITAT intended to focus on an alignment of its work with the Millennium Development Goals consistent with eliminating slums. The agency intended to concentrate on a strategy that envisaged cities without slums, and the analysis of key social and environmental trends, which had a direct impact on the UN-HABITAT goals and the Millennium Goals agenda, while examining best practices and developing new tools to provide housing for the poor.

    SULAFA AL-BASSAM, Chief of the Regional Commissions New York Office, reviewed the Secretary-General’s report on the work of the Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods and on the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals, and its two sub-committees. The report contained a draft resolution by the Committee of Experts. It also contained a review of the implementation of ECOSOC resolution 2003/64, of 25 July 2003, covering the issuance of mandated publications, and another review of the Implementation of the Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods, Model Regulations and Implementation of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS).

    A third section of the report, she continued, reviewed the work of the Committee during the period 2003-2004M, and a fourth section included the programme of work and schedule of meetings for the period 2005-2006. Turning to the draft resolution, she said Section A of the text pertained to the work of the Committee regarding the transport of dangerous goods, Section B covered the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals, and Section C put forward the Committee work programme for the period 2005-2006. It also requested that the Secretary-General submit a report to ECOSOC in 2007 on the implementation of the present resolution.

    CHERRYL GORDON (Jamaica), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77, said sustainable development could not be achieved without the provision of the means for implementation, including official development assistance (ODA) and technology transfer and access to environmentally sound technologies. 

    The Group would continue to emphasize that the future work of the Commission on Sustainable Development must have as its basic framework the comprehensive volume of commitments constituted by the Rio Declaration, Agenda 21, the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation and the three “Rio conventions”, she said. She urged all to take detailed stock of the outcomes of the Commission’s thirteenth session with a view to guiding work in future sessions.

    In a separate statement, Ms. Gordon, again speaking on behalf of the Group of 77, said the challenges of sustainable human settlements and adequate shelter for all still persisted and continued to require urgent attention. That challenge could only be successfully addressed through a comprehensive, holistic strategy that included decisive efforts to fulfil the commitments made at “Istanbul+5”, the Millennium Summit and the World Summit on Sustainable Development.

    She also highlighted the persistent imbalance between earmarked and non-earmarked contributions to the United Nations Human Settlements Foundation. Earmarked contributions had remained higher, making it difficult for UN-HABITAT to plan and implement its work programme. She also noted that the donor base had remained narrow, leading to an over-reliance on a few contributors.  She added that the Group wished to state for the record its support for the Secretary-General’s recommendations outlined in his report.

    ALICE WALPOLE (United Kingdom), speaking on behalf of the European Union (EU) and associated countries, said that ECOSOC should provide clear policy guidance to the United Nations system on the implementation of the outcomes of the major United Nations conferences and summits in the economic, social, environmental and related fields, and the achievement of the Millennium Goals.

    In regard to the functional commissions, she said that those bodies should pay appropriate attention to all aspects of sustainable development. Currently, there was too much focus on the economic perspective to the disadvantage of social, human rights and environmental issues. At the same time, the commissions should not become politicized. She endorsed the outcome of the Commission on Population and Development, the Commission on Science and Technology for Development and the Statistical Commission.

    Finally, she welcomed the establishment of the Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters.

    LIN LIQUN (China) said that sustainable development was a huge task faced by all countries today.  The deterioration of the global environment continued and it was economically difficult for many countries to reverse that trend.  Developed countries should transfer environmentally-friendly technology in addition to providing grants and capacity-building toward that end. China had developed its own guidelines for sustainable development, as well as an economic model that encouraged rational and optimal use of resources and energy.

    VLADISLAV IVANOVICH FEDORCHENKO (Russian Federation) said the work programme of the Commission on Sustainable Development needed to better reflect implementation activities.  Implementation activities should be coordinated to ensure that mandates were adhered to and there was no duplication of work.

    He said the issue of forests was vital to sustainable development and a global forest policy must be adopted. The Forum on Forests must be strengthened and the support of other organizations concerned with forests must be nurtured.  Croatia’s initiative for an International Year of Forests deserved support. The question of forests must be viewed in the context of the broader social and environmental issues involved and in relation to the Millennium Development Goals. 

    He supported the work programme contained in the draft related to the transport of dangerous goods and the globally harmonized system of classification and labelling. Necessary funding and support must be given to the Committee of Experts carrying on the work.

    HJÁLMAR W. HANNESSON (Iceland) said investments in water gave the highest returns, since lack of clean water and adequate sanitation were by far the greatest causes of diseases. Many coastal and island developing States were heavily dependent on living marine resources. The 1995 Global Programme of Action for protecting the marine environment from land-based activities (GPA) was the only global mechanism addressing the link between freshwater and coastal/marine environments.  The Johannesburg Plan of Implementation had affirmed the Global Programme in achieving development goals, including the Millennium Goals. Governments should strengthen the mechanisms to implement the Global Programme.

    Further, he said poverty could not be reduced without taking radical measures to improve access to energy, since 2 billion people still did not have access to electricity. Measures to consider included:  improving efficient use of energy sources; developing new technologies; and increasing the use of renewable energy resources.  New energy carriers such as hydrogen could help developing countries leapfrog into the modern industrial economy. 

    He noted that geothermal energy was fundamental to his country’s economy.  In 1978, the United Nations University had established a Geothermal Training Program in Reykjavik to provide relevant training. A total of 318 specialists from 39 countries had completed the programme. They were among the leading specialists in geothermal research and development in developing countries and contributed to the development of renewable energy.

    STEFANO TOSCANO (Switzerland) said that in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, the environment must receive its due attention. Therefore, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) should be strengthened. He welcomed the results of the last session of the Commission on Sustainable Development, especially the declaration that the issue of clean drinking water could not be separated from the protection of forests and wetlands. 

    He welcomed progress on the management of chemicals and waste products, as well as UNEP activity concerning heavy metals. In regard to forests, he expressed disappointment that no agreement was reached at the fifth session of the Forum, and called for concrete and quantifiable measures for preserving forests, as well as attention to forests in other bodies. 

    IVAN NIMAC (Croatia), aligning himself with the statement made by the United Kingdom on behalf of the EU, reminded delegates of his country’s initiative concerning the proclamation of the International Year of Forests. That initiative would facilitate, in small and large countries alike, renewed national efforts under the aegis of an international year and bring forest issues into the spotlight.

    Forests, he said, could provide the means to eradicate poverty, reduce land and resource degradation, improve food security and provide access to safe drinking water and affordable energy.  Through the sustainable management of their ecosystems, economic benefits could be obtained while, at the same time, preserving the environment and biodiversity for future generations.  He requested support for the initiative.

    MOHAMED LATHEEF (Maldives) said that six days after his country celebrated its graduation from the least developed countries, it was hit by the Indian Ocean tsunami, which destroyed 62 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) on the spot. In addition, as former United States President Bill Clinton described last week, the Maldives was undergoing a particularly slow economic recovery and also experiencing a funding gap of $100 million to $200 million.

    Expressing gratitude for all assistance given so far, he appealed for a bridging of the funding gap.  The ECOSOC had pledged, upon the graduation from the LDCs, to ensure a smooth transition for the Maldives. The transition had been anything but smooth. Therefore, he requested that a decision be made to recommend to the General Assembly to withhold the graduation process of Maldives until it had recovered its socio-economic status at pre-tsunami levels.

    JOHN K. NYAMIOBO (Kenya) noted that his country had made important advances recently in the area of human settlements. But he noted that the imbalance between earmarked and non-earmarked contributions to the United Nations Human Settlements Foundation and to the UN-HABITAT made their work more difficult. He urged donors to make more contributions, especially non-earmarked contributions.  He expressed his country’s appreciation of the work done by UN-HABITAT, Finland and other partners in the slum-upgrading programme.

    ANN M. LOW (United States) complimented the Committee on Development Policy on much of its work, but said she did not endorse all of its recommendations, especially those covering the criteria for least developed country status and graduation from that status. All nations in similar circumstances should receive similar treatment and the least developed country criteria should reflect that.  She called for one set of criteria for entry onto the least developed country list and one set for graduation from that list. She also said that all countries should have the right to decide how their own individual consultative mechanisms were organized.

    TRI THARYAT (Indonesia) said he was pleased to announce that his country would host the global celebration of Habitat Day on 3 October this year. The issues within the mandates of UN-HABITAT and the Forum on Forests were particularly relevant to achieving the Millennium Goals.

    HUSNIYYA MAMMADOVA (Azerbaijan) said the report of the Commission on Sustainable Development was a comprehensive guide to taking action, and provided useful information applicable to implementation and coordination, areas in which the Council played an important role. It reflected the fact that key areas such as information-sharing and partnerships should be strengthened. Her country was preparing its review of progress in sustainable development with an eye toward the September Summit.

    She said the question of sustainable development with regard to human settlements should focus on meeting the needs created by the presence of refugees and displaced persons, including issues of land use and infrastructural development. Forced relocations should be carefully considered from those angles.  Challenges should be addressed, including the development of indicators to measure progress in implementing sustainable development efforts. Reporting procedures should be streamlined and countries should be given technical assistance for the review process.

    Mr. KHAN, Director of the Office of ECOSOC Support and Coordination, said he was surprised to hear from the representative of the United Kingdom that there was an imbalance in focus -- in the report on the work of the functional commissions -- on economic issues to the detriment of environmental and rights issues.  Reading out the table of contents, he said that it seemed evident to him that all the cross-cutting issues in sustainable development were dealt with in an integrated manner.

    Action on Drafts

    The Council took up the drafts contained in the report of the Commission on Sustainable Development (document E/2005/29, supplement 9). Without a vote, the Council adopted the two draft resolutions and three draft decisions contained therein, relating to the Commission’s work.

    The Council then took up the report of the United Nations Forum on Forests (document E/2005/42).

    Ms. WALPOLE (United Kingdom), on behalf of the European Union, said the Union was deeply disappointed that the Forum failed to agree on a text on the future International Arrangement on Forests at its fifth session in May. Failing also to agree on a ministerial statement, the meeting could not convey the strong statements made during the meeting underlining the global importance of forests and the substantive contribution they made toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

    She said that significant changes to the current International Arrangement on Forests were necessary to reverse the current trends of deforestation and forest degradation worldwide.  Throughout the session, the EU had clearly stated its support for a legally binding or equivalent instrument and the establishment of clear goals and targets, she reiterated.

    Ms. LOW (United States) asked that action on the Forum’s decision be postponed until all delegations had a chance to review it. 

    The Council next took up the draft resolution on progress in implementing the Assembly resolution on the triennial comprehensive policy review of operational activities for development (document E/2005/L.29), submitted by the Chair. The draft was adopted without a vote.

    The Council then took note of the following reports:

    Report of the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (document E/2005/4-DP/2005/13);

    Annual report of the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (document E/2005/5-DP/FPA/2005/2);

    Annual report of the Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (document E/2005/6-E/ICEF/2005/3);

    Annual report of the Executive Director of the World Food Programme for 2004 (document E/2005/14);

    Report of the Executive Board of the United National Children’s Fund on the work of its first, second and annual sessions of 2004 (document E/2004/34/Rev.1-E/ICEF/2004/7/Rev.1);

    Report of the Executive Board of the United Nations Children’s Fund on the work of its first regular session of 2005 (document E/2005/34 (Part 1)-E/ICEF/2005/5 (Part I) and Add.I);

    Report of the Executive Board of the United Nations Development Programme/United Nations Population Fund on its work during 2004 (document E/2004/35);

    Report of the Executive Board of the United Nations Development Programme/United Nations Population Fund on its first regular session of 2005 (document DP/2005/14);

    Report of the Executive Board of the World Food Programme on the first, second and third regular sessions and annual session of 2004 (document E/2005/36);

    Report of the High-Level Committee on South-South Cooperation on its fourteenth session (document A/60/39);

    Decisions adopted by the Executive Board at the annual session 2005 (document DP/2005/30); and

    Extract from the report of the Executive Board of the United Nations Children’s Fund on its 2005 annual session (document E/2005/L.15).

    Introduction of Drafts

    The representative of Jamaica, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77, introduced seven draft resolutions related to the Council’s coordination role: the Council’s role in the integrated and coordination implementation of outcomes and follow-up to conferences and summits (document E/2005/L.31); implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2001-2010 (document E/2005/L.28); an integrated approach to rural development in developing countries for poverty eradication and sustainable development (document E/2005/L.27); the need to harmonize United Nations informatics for optimal use of all States (document E/2005/L.33); Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Burundi (document E/2005/L.25) and on Guinea Bissau (document E/2005/L.30); and human settlements (document E/2005/L.26).

    Canada’s representative introduced the draft on the Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti (document E/2005/L.20).

    Brazil’s representative introduced the draft on UNAIDS (document E/2005/L.18).

    Cuba’s representative introduced the draft on support to Non-Self-Governing Territories by the United Nations system (document E/2005/L.22).

    Spain’s representative introduced the draft on the Europe-Africa fixed-link through the Strait of Gibraltar (document E/2005/L.21).

    Continuation of Discussion

    DIEDRE MILLS (Jamaica), on behalf of the Group of 77, reiterated the importance which the Group attached to the work of the Statistical Commission. The Commission’s work provided an important intergovernmental platform for the creation of an integrated system on the collection, processing and dissemination of international statistics.  She welcomed the attention drawn by ECOSOC to the need for statistical capacity-building in developing countries.

    She said the Commission should be further strengthened within the United Nations system and she reiterated the need for greater emphasis on indicators to monitor Millennium Goal 8, to help ensure that concrete action was taken to advance the implementation of commitments.

    ALEXANDER PANKIN (Russian Federation) said he supported the important work of the Statistical Commission and called for a strengthening of the international cooperation that would assist the commission in its work, particularly in the areas related to population and development. But he also expressed concerns about the negative impact that politicization would have on the Commission’s work.

    Matters Brought to Council’s Attention

    AGIM NESHO (Albania), Council Vice-President, drew attention to 14 recommendations in an excerpt of a report by the Eighth United Nations Regional Cartographic Conference for the Americas (document E/2005/83).

    In addition, he drew attention to the revision of programme budget implications for a draft decision on indigenous participation in an expert group meeting on the Millennium Goals, contained in a report on the fourth session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (document E/2005/43).

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