26 October 2005
General Assembly Takes up Annual Report of ECOSOC, Implementation of Outcomes of UN Conferences, Special Session on Children
NEW YORK, 25 October (UN Headquarters) -- Introducing the 2005 report of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), its President, Munir Akram (Pakistan), told the General Assembly today that the Council could play a central role in promoting the international development agenda and should be strengthened to meet its mandate.
The recent World Summit, he said, had recognized the need for a more effective ECOSOC and had taken several decisions to enhance its role in five specific areas: policy dialogue and implementation; ECOSOC as a development cooperation forum; coherence and coordination; response to emergencies; and peacebuilding.
A number of speakers stressed the need to strengthen the Council -- the principle organ tasked with coordinating the economic, social and related work of the United Nations system -- to enable it to better carry out its mandates.
China's representative said that, to play its role, ECOSOC needed to improve its allocation of resources and manpower, reform its working methods, and form an integrated review mechanism. Coordination between agencies needed to be supervised and a framework developed to evaluate progress. At the same time, the representative of the Russian Federation warned against radical reform beyond the specific recommendations of the Summit.
Speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, Jamaica's representative said it was necessary to think of ways to expand the scope of the ECOSOC's annual spring meeting with the Bretton Woods institutions beyond the current format. The Council must be better able to facilitate networking in the development system and provide greater oversight in global economic decision-making.
The Council, he added, should also give utmost priority to special economic, humanitarian and disaster relief assistance. Natural disasters demonstrated the need to strengthen system-wide coherence and the need to urgently implement the worldwide early warning system.
When the Assembly turned to implementation of conference outcomes and the 2002 special session on children, Malaysia's representative said lack of resources, debt and decline in international funding were among the obstacles in achieving the goals of United Nations conferences and summits. Agencies should help developing countries establish and strengthen national capacities and institutions in that connection.
Myanmar's representative said it was disturbing that, in a world where technology, trade and investment had advanced dramatically, six million children died annually of diseases that could be prevented or effectively treated. Even so, his country had made progress through the implementation of its National Health Plan, such that under-five mortality rates had dropped from 130 per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 66.6 per 1,000 live births in 2003. For all developing countries to make further progress towards the Millennium Development Goals in general, and "a world fit for children" specifically, protectionist trade barriers and agricultural subsidies had to be reduced.
At the outset of today's meeting, Assembly President Jan Eliasson (Sweden) expressed the Assembly's solidarity with the people of Pakistan, who had borne the brunt of the recent devastating earthquake in South Asia. He drew attention to the donors meeting to be held in Geneva tomorrow, which Secretary-General Kofi Annan would be attending, and called on States to be generous in their support for the victims, who would be left without food, clothing or shelter unless aid arrived before winter set in.
[The ministerial-level donors' conference was called to supplement shortfalls in the United Nations Flash Appeal for the South Asia Earthquake.
Of the $312 million sought, only $43 million had been delivered and $43 million more pledged.]
Also today, the Assembly, on the recommendation of its General Committee, decided to include an additional item on its agenda on the granting of observer status to the Hague Conference on Private International Law, and decided to allocate that item to its Sixth Committee (Legal).
Statements were also made today by the Minister of Government Administration and Home Affairs of the Republic of Korea, United Kingdom (on behalf of the European Union and associated States), Belarus, Iceland, Congo, Kenya, Iran, Indonesia and India.
The Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 26 October, to conclude today's debate, as well as take up the global road safety crisis.
The General Assembly met this afternoon to take up the report of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). It was also expected to hold a joint debate on follow-up to major conferences and the 2002 special session of the Assembly on children, as well as to consider the global road safety crisis.
Before the Assembly is the Report of the Economic and Social Council for 2005 (A/60/3), which begins with a listing of Council issues requiring Assembly attention, including enlarging the Executive Committee of the Programme of the High Commissioner for Refugees; coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance; economic and social repercussions of Israeli occupation; travel support for the Commission on Sustainable Development; support to Afghanistan against illegal narcotics; remedies and reparations to victims; and the human rights situations in Myanmar, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and Sudan.
The report also summarizes the Council's special high-level meeting on 18 April with the Bretton Woods institutions, the World Trade Organization and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). In addition, the report contains information on the various segments of the Council's 2005 substantive session. The high-level segment (29 June to 1 July and 27 July) focused on the theme of progress, challenges and opportunities in achieving the internationally agreed development goals of the Millennium Declaration and in implementing the outcomes of conferences and summits.
Another segment included a review of the Organization's operational activities for international development cooperation and a follow-up on policy recommendations concerning South-South cooperation for development. The Council's coordination segment centred on activities towards achievement of internationally agreed development goals, including those contained in the Millennium Declaration. The humanitarian affairs segment focused on special economic, humanitarian and disaster relief assistance.
During its general segment, the Council considered such issues as: follow-up to the International Conference on Financing for Development and review of the 2001-2010 Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries; coordination-related matters such as the long-term programme of support for Haiti and the mainstreaming of a gender perspective into the United Nations system; and implementation of the Declaration on Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples. The report also highlights, among other things, elections, nominations, confirmations and appointments, as well as organizational matters.
The Assembly also has before it a note by the Secretary-General (document A/60/275) transmitting his updated report on the role of the Economic and Social Council in the implementation of and follow-up to the outcomes of major conferences and summits. The report states that progress has been made with regard to the work of the Council and its subsidiary bodies. The thematic unity across the different segments of the Council's substantive session has been strengthened, as has the review of the working methods of the functional commissions. The role of the regional commissions in conference follow-up has also been strengthened.
Additional efforts were needed, states the report, in enhancing cooperation among functional commissions and in strengthening cooperation between regional commissions and the United Nations funds and programmes. The regional commissions and the funds and programmes should develop closer links between themselves to enhance coherence in their work at the regional level. The regional commissions should also play a greater supportive role in infrastructure, trade and technology initiatives of regional bodies.
The Secretary-General's report on follow-up to the special session on children (document A/60/207) presents an updated report on progress in implementing the outcome document of the Assembly's special session on children, held in May 2002. The goals set out in the document entitled "A world fit for children" were focused on promoting healthy lives; providing quality education; protecting children against abuse, exploitation and violence; and combating HIV/AIDS.
The report states that a major intensification of action for children and families worldwide would be required to achieve the stated goals. Many isolated examples proved it was possible to achieve rapid success, but that efforts had to be expanded and better supported with resources and political backing. Of the 190 countries that adopted the outcome document, at least 172 took some action towards achieving its goals; of those, 114 adopted national plans of actions or policies regarding children, while others incorporated child-related efforts into other, broader initiatives. Still, many of those efforts were not linked to national budgeting and implementation mechanisms.
The report concludes that insufficient emphasis is being placed on child protection issues. Adequate and sustained national budget allocations for children were required, in addition to donor assistance. Because of insufficient capacity, budgetary constraints, and sometimes conflict and instability, countries failed to implement programmes for children. National councils, capacity-building of national children's agencies and other efforts were possible solutions.
A sense of inclusion had been developed in the wake of "A world fit for children," and this should continue. Children, in particular, had been considered a major constituency and they had been included in decision-making. This ought to be continued with some setting of parameters for their participation.
With regard to the global road safety crisis, the Assembly had before it a note by the Secretary-General (documents A/60/181 and Corrs.1 and 2), transmitting the report prepared by the World Health Organization (WHO). The report states that the issue remains a neglected and growing public health and development concern. The past year has seen an increasing global consensus on the need to address road traffic injuries as a global public health problem, but mobilizing resources remains a concern for many organizations involved in road safety efforts. The WHO's coordination of the United Nations Road Safety Collaboration was not initially funded by the Assembly, and needs to secure funding for the upcoming years.
The report recommends that the Assembly reaffirm its commitment to having the WHO coordinate road safety within the United Nations system. It also calls on Member States to take several concrete actions. Among those are to include road safety within projects for achieving the Millennium Development Goals, and to support and actively participate in the global Road Safety Week in 2007.
A draft resolution on improving global road safety (document A/60/L.8) would have the Assembly invite States to implement the recommendations of the World Report on Road Traffic Injury Prevention, as well as invite Member States to establish a lead agency, on a national level, on road safety and to develop a national action plan to reduce road traffic injuries. The Assembly would also invite Member States and the international community to recognize the third Sunday in November of every year as the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, as the appropriate acknowledgement for victims of road traffic crashes and their families.
Statement on South Asia Earthquake
JAN ELIASSON (Sweden), President of the General Assembly, expressed the Assembly's solidarity with the people of Pakistan, who had borne the brunt of the recent devastating earthquake in South Asia. He drew attention to the donors meeting to be held in Geneva tomorrow, which Secretary-General Kofi Annan would be attending. He called on all States to be appropriately represented at that meeting, and to be generous in their support for the victims, who would be left without food, clothing or shelter unless aid arrived before winter set in.
Introduction of Economic and Social Council Report
MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan), President of the Economic and Social Council, introduced the Council's report for 2005, saying that all the segments of the substantive session had focused on the theme of achieving the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Goals.
He said a key innovation this year had been a segment on "Voices against Poverty", which had been a refreshing perspective on development and sent out four powerful messages: the systemic basis for widespread poverty, symbolized by the unfair system of global trade and finance, remained intact; economic growth and poverty eradication required deliberate policies to address issues such as growth in joblessness; conflicts created millions of refugees and internally displaced persons, for whom achieving the Goals was remote; and ECOSOC had a unique role in providing system-wide policy coherence and coordination.
Other important messages had emerged during the substantive session in July, he continued. More work would have to be done to reach the Goals, although the United Nations system had come together behind them. International development cooperation remained critical and the link between security and development was inextricable. The number of humanitarian emergencies had increased and the response had to be comprehensive and coordinated. The ECOSOC could play a central role in promoting the international development agenda and it should be strengthened to meet its mandate.
The recent World Summit, he said, had recognized the need for a more effective Council and had taken several decisions to enhance its role in five specific areas: policy dialogue and implementation; ECOSOC as a development cooperation forum; coherence and coordination; response to emergencies; and peacebuilding. A working paper had been put into circulation that could serve as the basis for the Assembly's discussion on ways and means to implement the Summit's decisions on ECOSOC.
OH YOUNG-KYO, Minister of Government Administration and Home Affairs of Republic of Korea, said good governance was of the utmost importance and a prerequisite for the eradication of hunger and extreme poverty. As was agreed at the Global Forum on Reinventing Government, held in Seoul in May, a transparent framework in which Government, business and civil society worked together was necessary to achieve development. The Forum concluded, among other things, that information technology-based strategies must be employed to improve State capacity and public services. It also concluded that the establishment of free and fair markets was necessary to achieve sustainable economic development. Decentralization and the more active participation of civil society in decision-making were identified as key elements for good governance.
Following up on discussions at the Global Forum, his country was planning a centre for States to share experiences concerning good governance and fighting corruption. The Republic of Korea itself was taking steps to improve its own governance, including by making its Government more service-oriented, transparent, efficient, decentralized and respectful of its citizens. To ensure that initiatives were sustained, the Government would encourage civil servants to take the lead in innovations. To achieve that, the Government was organizing work teams and was adopting a customer relations management system. The Government had also taken steps to take advantage of advanced information technology infrastructure as a tool in achieving good governance. In addition, it was working to fight corruption and hoped to ratify the United Nations Convention against Corruption as soon as possible.
MICHAEL O'NEILL (United Kingdom), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said that ECOSOC had made an important contribution in the past year in preparing the groundwork for the Summit and in many other areas. He welcomed the decisions to enhance ECOSOC's efficiency and effectiveness, and looked forward to their implementation.
ANDREI DAPKIUNAS (Belarus) said improvements had been made in the operational workings of the United Nations through ECOSOC. A number of important changes had been made in ECOSOC's working methods this year, which were enumerated in the Secretary-General's report, as well as in that of ECOSOC. He supported the changes since they made the ECOSOC and the Organization more effective.
He anticipated further positive changes as a result of the discussions pursuant to the recent Summit Outcome Document.
HJÁLMAR W. HANNESSON (Iceland) said a wide range of key issues were confronted in ECOSOC this year, but the focus should be on mainstreaming a gender perspective into all policies and programmes in the United Nations system. With ECOSOC's adoption of the resolution dealing with that issue, the United Nations was creating a good precedent which could encourage all Member States to mainstream a gender perspective into their own policies, thereby advancing gender equality.
Gender mainstreaming was crucial to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, he said. Poverty had become increasingly feminized and the majority of people living on less than a dollar a day were women. Moreover, women played a very limited role in the decision-making process, so it was vital that the policy of gender mainstreaming be implemented, monitored and evaluated at all levels. Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security was a groundbreaking step forward in reaffirming the equal participation and full involvement of all women in maintaining and promoting peace. Everyone stood to gain from increased gender equality, and the United Nations was the central instrument for the advancement of those fundamental rights.
LAZARE MAKAYAT-SAFOUESSE (Congo) said that, in the age of globalization, coordinated efforts and concerted action were becoming ever more necessary to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Through links with international financing institutions, ECOSOC had provided a framework for coordinated efforts. The key issue now was to determine how to provide follow-up, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, where progress had been extremely modest, as could be seen in the United Nations report on the Millennium Development Goals. According to that report, half the children under the age of five were malnourished; less than two-thirds of children went to primary school; women, except for some modest exceptions, were not represented in decision-making; there had been far too little progress in reducing infant mortality; and 90 per cent of people with malaria were still dying from it, even as the AIDS pandemic continued to spread.
To address those problems, ECOSOC had to become more efficient and more active in the pursuit of its goals. By creating a renewed Council, a new dynamism would be achieved, which would enable it to more easily achieve its objectives.
BAI YONGJIE (China) said ECOSOC had carried out effective work in the economic and social fields. Its discussions had become more substantive and realistic, mobilizing the attention and political will of all parties on development issues and bringing about consensus on international development cooperation. It had been proven over the past few years that the biggest problem in follow-up was the huge gap between words and actions.
She said the focus of attention should now be turned to achieving the Millennium Goals as the first chapter of realizing all relevant development goals. Action at the national level was pivotal. Only by combining the consensus of international conferences with the wide spectrum of national conditions could countries truly take realistic and effective action. The ECOSOC needed to improve its allocation of resources and manpower, reform its working methods, and form an integrated review mechanism. Supervision also needed to be coordinated between agencies within and outside the United Nations system. A unified and comprehensive framework to evaluate progress on development goals was needed.
She said the Chinese Government had made it a consistent policy to adhere to the principle of children's rights, having formed a legal system for protecting their rights and interests as early as the 1980s. It had implemented the Chinese Children Development Program (2001-2010), and formulated policies to protect poor and vulnerable children and remove development and gender inequalities. As the largest developing country, China still faced many challenges in child-related issues, but would continue to make tireless efforts to seek solutions.
STAFFORD NEIL (Jamaica), speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, said the past year was a significant year for ECOSOC because all of the discussions held were on the theme of internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals. From the outset, there was a conscious attempt to bring focused discussions to the many critical issues of importance to the wider international community. There was a need to think of ways to expand the scope of ECOSOC's spring meeting with the Bretton Woods institutions beyond the current format. The Council must be better able to facilitate networking in the development system and provide greater oversight in global economic decision-making.
Expressing his frustration in some areas, he said he was disappointed that the only outcome for the Council's high-level segment this year was "a mere summary of deliberations". Relevant current issues were on the table, such as the state of the world economy, the eradication of hunger and poverty and employment creation, but none of them could be reflected in a consensus document by the ministers. It was necessary for all participants to work together to strengthen the Council to ensure that the outcome of the high-level segment was more then a summary of the discussions that had taken place. The Council should also give utmost priority to special economic, humanitarian and disaster relief assistance. Natural disasters demonstrated the need to strengthen system-wide coherence and the need to urgently implement the worldwide early warning system.
SOLOMON KARANJA (Kenya) said that it was noteworthy that during the Council's substantive session, delegations agreed that the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals had remained elusive in many countries, especially in Africa. In spite of the numerous plans and strategies that had been put in place by many countries, attainment of the Goals had proved difficult due to a number of limitations that included inadequate resources. The achievement of the Goals would require the concerted efforts of the international community through financial, technical and human resources support.
Turning to ECOSOC's work on fighting HIV/AIDS, he said his delegation appreciated an integrated approach that included prevention, treatment, care support and research. In addition, environmental protection was an important factor in the attainment of poverty eradication and other internationally agreed goals. International environmental governance remained an integral part of realizing sustainable development. Kenya supported the ongoing process of defining elements of international environmental governance, but it should be done within the framework of the Cartagena decision, which aimed to strengthen the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) within its current mandate through an enhanced financial and scientific base.
JAVAD AGHAZADEH (Iran) said the mandate and the role of ECOSOC remained more relevant than ever before. The ECOSOC needed to be strengthened to address adequately and comprehensively all parameters of development. In order to keep pace with the required progress in implementation of the Millennium Development Goals, the Council needed to review the trends in international development cooperation, as a matter of priority, as envisaged in the biannual high-level Development Cooperation Forum.
Suggesting ways to improve the Council, he said national reports on progress made, reports of the United Nations regional commissions and relevant international organizations, and a comprehensive and analytical report on the basis of other reports, could be bases in assessing the progresses and identifying the gaps and constraints at each meeting of the Forum. Implementation of commitments by the developed nations to allocate 0.7 per cent of their gross national product (GNP) to official development assistance (ODA) by 2015, and establishing a timetable by those countries which had not done so, were key to the success of ECOSOC in the realization of its mandates. Much also remained to be done in mitigating the impacts of natural disasters and coordinating humanitarian responses. The international community in general, and ECOSOC in particular, should address natural disasters in a way that would not dismantle efforts for meeting the Millennium Development Goals.
PRAYONO ATIYANTO (Indonesia) said his country extended its deepest sympathy to the people of India and Pakistan and was willing to provide continued support to its brothers and sisters in those countries.
The ECOSOC played a crucial role in the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, he said. The 2005 World Summit provided an opportunity to strengthen ECOSOC. The additional responsibilities it had been assigned should make it more effective in achieving the Goals. Consultations about its expanded responsibilities had to be conducted in an open and transparent manner, and should consider the relationship between ECOSOC, the Security Council and the General Assembly. His country hoped that ECOSOC's undertakings in the future would be practical and action oriented.
The ECOSOC ought to be able to make recommendations and take action in emergency situations, he said. In doing so, it must hold consultations with local Governments. The Secretariat had to provide additional support so that the ECOSOC could do its work.
NIKOLAY CHULKOV (Russian Federation) said his country had been among the first to send assistance to the victims of the recent earthquake. On the ECOSOC report, he welcomed the Council's annual high-level meetings with the international financial institutions. The ideas put forward at the Summit pointed to the desirability of making ECOSOC a forum for development activities, but any changes in ECOSOC's work methods or its role should be within the framework of the parameters of its present mandate. The ECOSOC's agenda for its substantive session, for example, could be optimized but there should not be a radical reform beyond the specific recommendations in the Summit Outcome Document.
Statements on Conference Follow-up, Children
STAFFORD NEIL (Jamaica), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77, said that the recommendations in the Secretary-General's report on follow-up to conferences and summits would help to implement the decisions contained in the World Summit Outcome. Turning to the special session on children, he said that achievement of "a world fit for children" was hampered by insufficient institutional capacity, budgetary constraints, and the existence of conflict and instability. Solutions could include the establishment of high-level national councils for children, capacity-building of national agencies and collaboration between parliamentarians and civil society to promote child-focused budgets.
Jamaica had supported many child-related initiatives and had hosted the regional conference on children in 2000, he stated. It had also adopted a national action plan to address children's rights. Domestic legislation had been enacted to complement that plan. A Child Development Agency had also been established, which was to both promote programmes for children and equip adults to be better parents. The Agency adopted a multi-sectoral approach so that it addressed violence against children, child labour, and the problem of street children.
Jamaica had also taken numerous steps to improve childhood health and was committed to providing free, compulsory education at the primary level, he continued. To combat violence against children, it had established a child-specific National Human Rights Institution, a Juvenile Unit in the police force and a Victim Support Unit for child victims. Although Jamaica was committed to combating AIDS, it was still confronted by significant challenges. It critically needed adequate resources to achieve its targets of reducing the proportion of infected infants by 20 per cent by 2005 and 50 per cent by 2010.
MOHSINA KIDWAI (India) said that much of the work initiated by the preparatory reports for the United Nations reform process had been left incomplete. The Organization needed to provide direction on debt cancellation, meeting ODA targets, foreign direct investment, and transfer of resources and environmentally-friendly technology to facilitate sustainable development and achieve the Millennium Goals. The Summit did not provide clear political direction to the Doha round of trade talks, and that needed to be rectified.
She said most countries would not be able to achieve the Millennium Goals given their current levels of growth and international support. Agreement on how to exploit the beneficial aspects of globalization was still lacking, and making globalization fairer and more equitable remained one of the main challenges. Debt cancellation should be complemented by sharp increases in ODA. Making the Innovative Financing Framework for Immunization operational was particularly important.
The Secretary-General's report that all United Nations organs and specialized inter-governmental bodies would complete reviews of their respective mandates in time for action in the first quarter of 2006 appeared overly optimistic. In the haste to strengthen the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), it was necessary to seek the views of OIOS itself as to areas that required strengthening. Also, a proposed separate independent external evaluation was not part of the Outcome Document, which called for focusing on the entire auditing and oversight system of the United Nations. A separate evaluation would result in a piecemeal approach, which did not have any merit.
HASSAN MALEK (Malaysia) said the outcome document of the special session on children set a particular focus on promoting healthy lives; providing quality education; protecting children against abuse, exploitation and violence; and combating HIV/AIDS. But there had been setbacks in other areas. While many countries had taken actions to translate commitments made in 2002 into national action plans and policies, the overall rate of progress had been uneven.
More still needed to be done to achieve the targets set under the Millennium Development Goals to increase child survival and promote healthy lives, he said. Similarly, greater efforts were required to promote other goals set at the special session, namely providing quality education, protecting against abuse, exploitation and violence, and combating HIV/AIDS. Lack of resources, debt and the decline in international funding were among the obstacles faced in achieving the goals contained in the Outcome Documents of the World Summit, and the special session. Relevant United Nations agencies should continue their efforts in assisting developing countries to establish and strengthen their national capacities and institutions for the promotion and protection of the rights of children. The well-being of children and women were reliable indicators of a healthy society and good governance.
KYAW TINT SWE (Myanmar) said that it remained disturbing that in a world where technology, trade and investment had advanced dramatically, six million children died annually of diseases that could be prevented or effectively treated. Even so, Myanmar had made progress through the implementation of its National Health Plan, such that under-five mortality rates had dropped from 130 per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 66.6 per 1,000 live births in 2003. There had also been substantial improvement in access to safe drinking water and improved sanitation.
For all developing countries to make further progress towards the Millennium Development Goals in general, and "a world fit for children" specifically, protectionist trade barriers and agricultural subsidies had to be reduced. To improve its own economic growth, and especially to narrow the gap between rural and urban areas, Myanmar had instituted the Border Area Development Programme, the 24 Special Development Zones Plan and the Integrated Rural Development Plan. Efforts to increase school enrolment and improve the quality of education were also yielding results. Because of national reconciliation efforts, armed insurgencies had subsided, enabling education to spread to previously disrupted areas. As part of its efforts to combat HIV/AIDS, Myanmar had developed "School-Based Healthy Living and AIDS Prevention Education" and had made it part of its official curriculum.
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