17 November 2005
Delegates Stress Importance of National Ownership, Strategies as Second Committee Considers Role of Global Partnerships as Catalysts for Development
Speakers Call on Governments to Provide Attractive, Corruption-free Environments
NEW YORK, 16 November (UN Headquarters) -- Underscoring the importance of global partnerships in sparking development, speakers in the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) also emphasized today, the need for partners to respect national ownership and strategies, and for Governments to provide attractive, corruption-free business environments.
Harriet Schmidt, Director of the Office for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, noted that the private sector could share capacities, knowledge and technology, which were especially lacking in those groups of countries, while businesses could partner with the United Nations to expand local markets. In a statement made on behalf of the Under-Secretary-General and High Representative, she added that landlocked developing countries depended on business partnerships, to boost trade and transport within regions.
Agreeing that partnerships could benefit developing countries, Jamaica's delegate, speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, focused, however, on lingering concern among those States, emphasizing the need to protect national ownership of the development process and to consider local strategies. Partnerships should bring into developing countries financial resources, as well as networks, experience and skills, which should be channelled into economic growth. There were various models of development and any partnership must be flexible in applying itself to a variety of local conditions, plans and national priorities. Secretariat-driven until now, partnerships required better intergovernmental management and guidance, with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and country offices overseeing operations.
Addressing governmental responsibilities, the representative of the United States said Governments must ensure attractive environments by creating sound policies and fairly enforcing rules and regulations, rather than depending on businesses to fill that gap. While it was true that good corporate citizenship could have public benefits, including the efficient transaction of goods and services in markets, companies were primarily answerable to their owners, employees, suppliers, creditors and customers.
Switzerland's delegate noted that the Global Compact had become the world's largest network of corporations committed to social responsibility. It now included 2,400 companies and well-known non-governmental organizations, all united in promoting public-private-civil society partnerships on the ground, as well as combating corruption, protecting human and social rights and the environment. Local and national networks were an important aspect of the Compact as they could ease the way for small-to-medium-sized enterprises, and their more modest partners, to become good corporate citizens.
Fiji's delegate outlined ongoing partnerships in the Pacific Islands with United Nations agencies, especially the UNDP, which was assisting with biodiversity strategy; action plans for capacity-building to protect the environment and natural resources; and in meeting obligations under the global conventions relating to biodiversity, climate change and land degradation. Fiji was working closely with the UNDP to conduct a feasibility study on a biofuels project.
In other business, Jamaica's representative introduced, on behalf of the Group of 77, four draft resolutions relating to unilateral economic measures; the International Year of Deserts and Desertification; the Convention to Combat Desertification; and international financial and development institutions on transit transport cooperation in landlocked developing countries.
Other speakers today included the representatives of the United Kingdom (on behalf of the European Union) and China.
Georg Kell, Executive Head of the Global Compact, introduced a report on enhanced cooperation between the United Nations and all relevant partners, particularly in the private sector.
The Second Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 23 November, to take action on various draft resolutions, including several relating to sustainable development.
The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met today to discuss global partnerships. Before it was a report on enhanced cooperation between the United Nations and all relevant partners, in particular the private sector (document A/60/214), which discusses the integration of the business sector and other stakeholders into the Organization's work. Partnerships formed between the United Nations and outside actors could be said to have four functions: advocacy, developing norms and standards, sharing and coordinating resources and expertise, and harnessing markets for development.
For instance, the report says, the United Nations is actively engaging the business sector in the follow-up to the 2002 International Conference on Financing for Development, focusing on how partnerships can improve the reach and effectiveness of development assistance, enhance the climate for private investment and help build inclusive financial systems. Partnerships also continue to transform the work of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD), where 308 partnerships on sustainable development initiatives are profiled in a database to facilitate experience and knowledge sharing. Among other examples are partnerships between the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and over 180 companies, each contributing more than $100,000 to philanthropic initiatives and employee-driven programmes; the Global Compact, which has initiated partnerships with the business sector to address the lack of understanding of corporate culture within the Organization; and others under the purview of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the United Nations Development Group (UNDG).
To build a more conducive environment for partnerships, the report suggests, the United Nations should increase the institutional capacity of country offices; promote the training of staff at all levels; streamline guidelines for partnerships; improve partner-selection processes; build the foundation for smart selectivity through systematic impact assessment; and foster transparency through best-practice exchange. Government support remains critical in this area, especially efforts to provide oversight, progress reviews and resource support.
Introduction of Report
GEORG KELL, Executive Head of the Global Compact, introduced the report on enhanced cooperation between the United Nations and all relevant partners, in particular the private sector (document A/60/214), saying that it took stock of partnerships between United Nations bodies and non-State actors, reviewed partnerships experiences across organizations and identified partnership trends. Partnerships had progressed well across many United Nations agencies, particularly with the Financing for Development Office, the CSD, the Task Force for Information and Communication Technology, the United Nations regional commissions and relevant agencies at work in the field.
The report stressed the importance of local ownership for successful partnerships, and recognized that strong management was necessary for them to be effective, he said. It also identified specific ways to enhance partnerships, including enhanced training of United Nations staff at all levels, streamlined partnership guidelines, a clearer selection process and sharing experiences across United Nations organs, through enhanced transparency and shared information. The Organization had come a long way in learning how to work with the private sector and now must learn from its experiences to further those alliances. Partnerships had exposed the Organization to performance-oriented thinking, which could be beneficial to United Nations reform.
Mr. KELL, responding to a question about the origin of the Global Compact and its work, said it had come about after the Secretary-General had mentioned the idea in a speech to the World Economic Forum. It currently had 2,400 affiliated businesses and civil society organizations from more than 80 country-members, which worked together to promote public-private-civil society partnerships on the ground, and to facilitate, enable and identify good practices.
Noting that Global Compact members comprised large and small corporations from developed and developing countries, he said that its concrete initiatives included the creation of sustainable businesses in least developed countries, carried out in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), as well as a host of environmental projects with UNEP. In two weeks, the Global Compact would meet in Shanghai, China, to take stock of trends and developments in its various partnerships.
Statement by Under-Secretary-General and High Representative
HARRIET SCHMIDT, Director, Office for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, made a statement on behalf of the Under-Secretary-General and High Representative, saying that the private sector could contribute to the development process by sharing capacities, knowledge, and technology, which were especially lacking in least developed countries, landlocked developing countries, and small island developing states. Private businesses could partner with the United Nations to expand local markets by providing access and bridging gaps.
She said that the Brussels, Almaty and Mauritius Programmes of Action, in favour of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged countries, envisaged partnerships with both domestic and international civil society as an integral part of the development process. Through its "Framework for Partnership", the Brussels Programme had provided guidelines for least developed countries and their partners to pursue an integrated approach, genuine partnership and country ownership. Civil society and private sector representatives were also involved in the formulation of the Mauritius Strategy and the Almaty Programme. The opening session of the Mauritius International Meeting last January, for instance, had heard a report from the Civil Society Forum reflecting how major groups had organized and consolidated their positions in preparation for the official meeting. Meanwhile, Landlocked Developing Countries were dependent on State-to-State partnerships in implementing the Almaty Programme, as well as on business partnerships, to facilitate trade and transport within regions. Indeed, the international community would benefit greatly from increased attention to partnerships among all development partners, civil society and private sector partners.
MICHAEL O'NEILL ( United Kingdom), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the international community had placed increasing value on global partnerships, and that the United Nations was recognizing the need fully to engage with the private sector and civil society. It had initiated a significant number of partnerships throughout its agencies, particularly those with field-level operations, and several were becoming catalysts for positive change in managing international development. Partnerships ranged from small-scale development projects with a limited number of local actors, to global initiatives with large number of major participants.
More than 200 partnerships had been launched at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development and they were now playing an important supportive role in implementing the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, he said. In that respect, information and communication technology could play a useful role in enhancing partnership initiatives. The United Nations Information and Communication Technology Task Force was a valuable example of private-public-civil society cooperation.
Welcoming the ongoing international debate on corporate social responsibility, business ethics, accountability and transparency, he said Governments could play a vital role in creating an enabling environment for responsible business practices, and in promoting corporate citizenship through initiatives like the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) guidelines for multinational enterprises, the International Labour Organization's Tripartite Declaration and the Global Compact.
WANG QI ( China) stressed the importance of tapping the full potential of partnerships and energetically pushing to develop them. Of more than 200 partnership initiatives registered at the World Summit on Sustainable Development, only a few were funded by the private sector, demonstrating the need to expand them further.
What mattered in partnerships was effect rather than form, he said, adding that different and more flexible forms should be adopted according to need and conditions in the field, and that they should be managed to ensure quality. At present, there were a plethora of partnership initiatives but no common benchmarks or criteria. Also, the United Nations system should respect specific local conditions to ensure local ownership. The purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter, as well as relevant rules and procedures, must be respected.
THOMAS GASS ( Switzerland) noted that the Outcome Document of the 2005 World Summit contained a clear commitment favouring the participation of local authorities, civil society and the private sector in development. Moreover, the Millennium Development Goals expressly mentioned cooperation with the private sector, notably in the areas of health care and communication. In strengthening such partnerships, Switzerland supported the recommendations contained in the Secretary-General's report to increase the institutional capacity of country offices, with appropriate training of staff at all levels; and to rationalize procedures to establish partnerships, creating the basis for judicious selectivity through systematic impact studies, and encouraging transparency by improving the exchange of data based on experience and best practices.
The Global Compact had become the world's largest network of corporations committed to social responsibility, he said. It now included 2,400 companies, including some of the world's biggest corporations, and the best-know non-governmental organizations, united to promote the 10 fundamental principles of the United Nations in the areas of human rights, social rights, protection of the environment and combating corruption. The Compact could promote much greater participation by the corporate world and civil society in managing that network, and help accelerate progress towards improving the living conditions of an ever greater number of people. Local and national networks were an important aspect of the Compact, as they could ease the way for small-to-medium-sized enterprises and their more modest partners to become good corporate citizens.
MIRIAM HUGHES ( United States) welcomed the emphasis on private sector partnership. As was recognized in many internationally-agreed texts, each country was responsible for its own development, and that being the case, a well-functioning private sector was therefore essential to the development process. For its own part, the United States promoted good corporate citizenship through initiatives such as the 2001 USAID Global Development Alliance, which rewarded partnerships that achieved the highest sustainable impact in developing countries and emerging market economies, as well as the "Partnership for Prosperity" programme, which sought to do the same for United States-Mexico partnerships. As for the Global Compact, the United States saw much merit in it and was keenly interested in its plans to establish an advisory board and tighten its administration.
Corporate leaders had grown to recognize the true worth of being good citizens, she said. Indeed, it enhanced the value of their companies and encouraged further business. However, it was important to place good corporate citizenship in its proper context. While it sometimes had public benefits, such as the efficient transaction of goods and services in markets, the primary responsibility of companies was to their owners, employees, suppliers, creditors and customers. It was the role of Governments to produce social and public goods by creating sound policies and fairly enforcing its rules and regulations. Governments should not shift those responsibilities to businesses.
FILIMONE KAU ( Fiji), noting that the international community stood to gain from effective partnerships taken on by the United Nations, said appropriate support should be given to developing countries in their efforts to enhance local capacities and engender ownership, as well as strong management of partnerships. The underlying issues of absorptive capacity, and the establishment of a more conducive environment for effective partnerships and cooperation, remained critical.
He said there were numerous initiatives funded by the UNDP in the Pacific Islands, including projects to assist with national adaptation plans of action; biodiversity strategy; action plans to help with the priorities and needs of capacity-building to protect the environment and natural resources; and assistance in meeting obligations under the biodiversity, climate change and land degradation global conventions. Fiji was working closely with the UNDP to conduct a feasibility study on a biofuels project to convert sugar to ethanol and to determine the right ethanol/gasoline mix.
STAFFORD O. NEIL ( Jamaica), speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, said that because the phenomenon of global partnerships was newly emerging and experimental in nature, the Group of 77 had not developed a stance on the issue and wished to further reflect on it. Some positive elements should be leveraged, but other concerns still lingered. For example, arrangements must be developed to protect national ownership of the development process, taking into account the national strategies of developing countries. Also, partnerships should bring in resources to developing countries, not just financial in nature, but also in terms of networks, experience and skills that should be channelled to help the development process.
Emphasizing the importance of recognizing that there was no single model of development, he said any partnership arrangement must be flexible enough to be applied to the variety of local conditions, plans, and national priorities existing throughout the developing world. Regarding the management of partnerships, it had been a Secretariat-driven process and there should be better intergovernmental management and guidance. In that regard, the UNDP and country offices could be used to oversee the operation of partnerships, but an overarching system must be clearly devised to manage them properly and avoid overlap.
Introduction of Draft Resolutions
CHERRYL GORDON (Jamaica), introduced, on behalf of the Group of 77, a draft resolution on unilateral economic measures, as a means of political and economic coercion against developing countries (document A/C.2/60/L.36), saying it merited the international community's urgent attention, and stressing that it was time for the United Nations categorically to reject such measures.
She also introduced a text on the International Year of Deserts and Desertification, 2006 (document A/C.l2/60/L.34), underscoring its crucial importance to the further raising of the international community's awareness of desertification, including its impact on land degradation.
Another draft, relating to the Convention to Combat Desertification (document A/C.2/60/L.35), was built on last year's text, she said. It had an added focus on the need for serious political and financial commitment to the Convention, without which Member States would only be paying lip service to the problems of poverty and hunger associated with desertification and drought.
Finally, she introduced a draft resolution on specific actions related to the International Ministerial Conference of Landlocked and Transit Developing Countries and Donor Countries, and International Financial and Development Institutions on Transit Transport Cooperation (document A/C.2/60/L.33), which highlighted the need for more resources and technical assistance for the Office of the High Representative, as well as to the Trust Fund established for that purpose.
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