Press Releases

    ECOSOC/6216
    12 July 2006

    Economic and Social Council Holds Panel Discussion with Chairpersons of the Functional Commissions

    (Reissued as received)

    GENEVA, 7 July (UN Information Service) -- The Economic and Social Council, this afternoon, held a panel discussion with the Chairpersons of the functional commissions.

    Hjalmar W. Hannesson, Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, said the panel was an excellent opportunity to exchange views and make a policy-oriented assessment from the vantage of the commissions and the Council of their individual and collective contribution to the achievement of the United Nations Development Agenda, as well as to consider how the commissions could contribute to the new functions of the Council. 

    Patrizio Civili, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, said there was a great deal of expectation as to the crucial contribution that ECOSOC could make towards the achievements of the internationally agreed development goals, in particular the Millennium Development Goals.  The Council would have to be a force that would impart continuing political momentum to the effort, and at the same time, a force that would give the follow-up and integration processes strong policy and analytical substantive roots.  But, reaping the promise that those functions carried would require the Council and its entire subsidiary to come together. 

    Pablo Macedo of the Permanent Mission of Mexico to the United Nations Office at Geneva, speaking on behalf of the Chairman of the Statistical Commission, said the unified implementation of the United Nations Development Agenda needed to be supported by unified statistics in order to ensure meaningful progress over time and across countries.  The Commission had been working hard to live up to the mandate of serving as an inter-governmental focal point for the harmonisation and rationalisation of indicators, and this was an ever-pressing task.  In the past year, the Commission had conducted a comprehensive analysis of the ability of member countries to collect indicators allowing for progress towards the Millennium Development Goals.  The results had been alarming, and it would be necessary for many to strengthen statistical ability, and a resolution had been suggested to this effect.

    Thomas Gass, Vice-Chairperson of the Commission on Population and Development, said that "population", as it had often been noted, was a subject that cut across all areas of socio-economic development.  That broad scope was very much in evidence in the Programme Action of the International Conference on Population and Development.  Since 1994, the Commission had been proceeding methodically in its consideration of how the Programme was being implemented both at the country level and by the international community, choosing each year a different theme, based on a chapter or a cluster of chapters of the Programme.

    Mehdi Danesh-Yazdi, Chairperson of the Commission for Social Development, said the United Nations needed more than ever to build an effective platform of global policy advocacy and coordination on social, economic and development issues.  Exploring links among the commissions and other bodies was not an end in itself: the Council had a fundamental task of far-reaching importance, namely, implementing the United Nations Development Agenda.  For this reason, individually and collectively, the work programmes of the commissions could strengthen coherence by giving increased importance to the broad themes of the United Nations Development Agenda and the goals continued therein. 

    Carmen Gallardo Hernandez, Chairperson of the Commission on the Status of Women, said that in order to promote coherence in the work of the Council, and its functional commissions, collaboration and coordination between those bodies in terms of themes, schedules, and periodicity of their work programmes should be increased to maximize synergies and ensure integrated follow-up to the UN Development Agenda.  The World Summit had reaffirmed that development, peace and security and human rights were interlinked and mutually reinforcing and that gender equality and empowerment of women was essential for advancing each of those three pillars of the work of the UN.  Since the First World Conference on Women in 1975, the Commission had worked to strengthen the linkages between gender equality, development and peace. 

    Gabriele de Ceglie, Chairman of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, said one of the key elements to implementing the development goals in a unified manner was the coordination of technical cooperation.  It would be helpful for the Council to provide guidelines to the functional commissions explaining how the new functions of the Council would be carried out, the outcomes envisaged, and the support required.  The diverse mandates and work of the functional commissions would need to be borne in mind, and any further enlargement of existing meetings to exchange information should have clear objectives and tangible outcomes. 

    Amr Aljowaily, (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the Chairperson of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development, said the Commission was at present undergoing changes since it was given a new mandate by the Council.  The Commission was also drawing lessons and experiences from other functional commissions dealing with science and technology.  Following the examples of other commissions, the Commission was designing programmes on policies and reviews to its work.  It also had a current mandate to deal with new issues pertaining to science and technology. 

    Hans Hoogeveen, Chairperson of the Bureau of the United Nations Forum on Forests, said that in efforts to reassess the effectiveness and focus of the work, as well as methods of work, the Forum had decided earlier this year, through a draft resolution for the Council's consideration, to adopt four Global Objectives on Forests, the pursuit of which provided a more clear and concise path towards the accomplishment of the development goals regarding environmental sustainability and poverty alleviation.  The Forum strongly supported the prospect of working closely with the other functional commissions to enhance the understanding of mutually interrelated concerns. 

    Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Chairperson of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, said the mandate entrusted to the Forum by the Council required coordination and cooperation with the functional commissions and United Nations agencies, funds and programmes.  Although the Forum continued to make progress in that area, including through the Inter-Agency Support Group on Indigenous Issues, it believed that cooperation among the commissions could be further enhanced.  In that respect the Forum looked forward to participating in meetings of the functional commissions and welcomed the participation of other commissions in its work.

    In the interactive dialogue, delegations raised various issues and questions, including on the role of the Council in ensuring follow-up to the various agreements made at the international summits, including the Millennium Development Goals; the need for the functional commissions to promote synergy in their work; the nature of the functional commissions as the limbs of the Council; the need for proper coordination between the commissions and the Council, and between the commissions themselves; the need for the commissions to reform their work and ensuring that there was no overlap or duplication of energy; the need to ensure that the work of the Council was properly channelled towards effectiveness and productivity, with an impact on the people of the world; and what was the role to be played by good governance in the work of the Council in particular with regards to follow-up at the country level.

    Speaking in the interactive dialogue were the representatives of Finland, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania, Guinea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, United States and Nigeria.

    The next meeting of the Council will be at 10 a.m. on Monday 10 July, when it will hold a Special Event on Avian Influenza: A Global Emergency, until 12:30 p.m., subsequent to which it will meet in plenary on the coordination segment. 

    Statements

    HJALMAR W. HANNESSON (Iceland), Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, said at the 2005 World Summit, Heads of State and Government decided to assign new functions to the Council.  As stipulated in the outcome document of the Summit, the Council should serve as a quality platform for high-level engagement among Member States and with the international financial institutions, the private sector and civil society on emerging global trends, policies and action in the international economic, environmental and social fields.  The Council was also requested to develop its ability to respond better and more rapidly to developments in this field.  Such a mandate could only be understood as encompassing the whole institutional mechanisms that were part of the Council, and foremost the functional and regional commissions. 

    Each functional commission had generated its own momentum, with specific tasks to be performed and constraints to be respected.  But, there had also been much progress in the coherence among the subsidiary bodies of the Council, both substantively and as far as working methods were concerned.  The outcome of the World Summit was a clear call to take an additional step forward and to leverage the success of past efforts.  This panel was an excellent opportunity to exchange views and make a policy-oriented assessment from the vantage of the commissions and the Council of their individual and collective contribution to the achievement of the United Nations Development Agenda, as well as to consider how the commissions could contribute to the new functions of the Council. 

    PATRIZIO CIVILI, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, said there was a great deal of expectation as to the crucial contribution that ECOSOC could make towards the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals, in particular the Millennium Development Goals.  The Council would have to be a force that would impart continuing political momentum to the effort, and at the same time, a force that would give the follow-up and integration processes strong policy and analytical substantive roots.  But reaping the promise that those functions carried would require the Council and its entire subsidiary to come together.  The conferences that together produced the development agenda each focused on a particular development issue and generated its own follow-up mechanisms and consistency to advancing implementation of its outcome.  Those processes would have to be conducted in the awareness that each of the issues being addressed and each of the agreed goals simply could not be separated from other economic, social or environmental aspects of development. 

    Positive synergies, mutually reinforcing policies and actions were a sine qua non as one moved from setting lines of action and targets to achieving actual results and monitoring actual outcomes.  It would be a challenge to relate the work programme and priorities of the functional commissions systematically and in a balanced way to the core policy areas contained in the United Nations Development Agenda.  The aim should be to avoid duplication, while ensuring that those commissions that dealt with closely related parts of the agenda built stronger synergies among themselves and contributed effectively to both the Annual Ministerial Review and the Development Cooperation Forum in a coherent and purposeful way. 

    PABLO MACEDO (Mexico), speaking on behalf of the Chairman of the Statistical Commission, said the Commission continued to be the apex body of the global statistical system.  The Commission retained a technical role, thus contributing to the Council's ambitious agenda fruitfully.  The unified implementation of the United Nations Development Agenda needed to be supported by unified statistics in order to ensure meaningful progress over time and across countries.  The Commission had been working hard to live up to the mandate of serving as an intergovernmental focal point for the harmonization and rationalization of indicators, and this was an ever-pressing task.  In the past year, the Commission had conducted a comprehensive analysis of the ability of member countries to collect indicators allowing for progress towards the Millennium Development Goals.  The results had been alarming, and it would be necessary for many to strengthen statistical ability, and a resolution had been suggested to this effect.

    As a measure to address serious issues, Member States should increase their efforts to strengthen national capacity, with the aim of empowering national statistical systems to compile their own national data in agreement with international statistical standards.  On the important topic of cooperation between national statistical offices, a large number of international organizations had committed themselves to a series of professional principles, covering confidentiality and equal access, among other things, and the Commission was asking for practical implementation of these principles.  The Commission had a standing agenda item on implications of the Council's decisions, and contributed to the work of other functional commissions.  The Statistical Commission was committed to making a technical contribution to the work of the Council. 

    THOMAS GASS, Vice-President of the Commission on Population and Development, speaking on behalf of the Chairman of the Commission, said that "population" as it had often been noted, was a subject that cut across all areas of socio-economic development.  That broad scope was very much in evidence in the Programme Action of the International Conference on Population and Development, which continued to be the primary foundation for the work of the Commission.  The 16 chapters of the Programme covered virtually every aspect of the interplay between population and development, be it longstanding issues such as the environment, the status of women, education and changing population age structures or issues that were currently receiving heightened attention, including HIV/AIDS, reproductive health and migrants. 

    Since 1994, the Commission had been proceeding methodically in its consideration of how the Programme was being implemented both at the country level and by the international community, choosing each year a different theme, based on a chapter or a cluster of chapters of the Programme.  The choice of special themes was always guided by consideration of where the deliberations of the Commission could make a most valuable and timely contribution with respect to the system-wide implementation of the UN Development Agenda and the goals of the Millennium Declaration and the World Summit.  The deliberations of the Commission on Population and Development were not merely a passive reflection of the global development agenda.  The Commission did indeed make significant contributions of its own to the refinement and the enhancement of that agenda.

    Mehdi Danesh-Yazdi, Chairperson of the Commission for Social Development, said it was evident that the interconnected challenges discussed in the 2005 World Summit Outcome pervaded every aspect of development.  In this respect, the close interdependence of economic and social policies had long been recognised.  The World Summit for Social Development had stressed the need to create a framework for action to integrate economic and social policies so they became mutually supportive.  Equally significant, it emphasized the importance of an integrated approach to implementation by stressing the links between poverty, unemployment and social exclusion.  The World Summit also set development efforts in a broader context, and highlighted the interrelated nature of peace and security, human rights, and economic and social development.  In this regard, the United Nations needed more than ever to build an effective platform of global policy advocacy and coordination on social, economic and development issues.

    Although the Millennium Development Goals had been useful in building ownership, the constituencies of the individual functional commissions clearly provided the best examples of ownership of the development agenda.  Exploring links among the commissions and other bodies was not an end in itself, the Council had a fundamental task of far-reaching importance, namely, implementing the United Nations Development Agenda.  For this reason, individually and collectively, the work programmes of the commissions could strengthen coherence by giving increased importance to the broad themes of the United Nations Development Agenda and the goals continued therein.  There was a need for a collaborative process that should fully engage actors from within as well as outside the United Nations system.  Of particular importance was the need to ensure maximum benefit from the expertise and active participation of the regional commissions. 

    CARMEN GALLARDO HERNANDEZ, Chairperson of the Commission on the Status of Women, said that in order to promote coherence in the work of the Economic and Social Council, and its functional commissions, collaboration and coordination between those bodies in terms of themes, schedules, and periodicity of their work programmes should be increased to maximize synergies and ensure integrated follow-up to the United Nations Development Agenda.  The effectiveness of the joint meetings with the bureau of the Council could be enhanced.  Joint meetings between the bureaus of the functional commissions, and collaboration among functional commissions on specific themes could enhance coordination.  The Commission on the Status of Women had past experience of such collaboration with the Statistical Commission, the Commission on Population and Development, the Commission for Social Development and the Commission on Human Rights. 

    The World Summit had reaffirmed that development, peace and security and human rights were interlinked and mutually reinforcing and that gender equality and empowerment of women was essential for advancing each of those three pillars of the work of the United Nations.  Since the First World Conference on Women in 1975, the Commission had worked to strengthen the linkages between gender equality development and peace.  The mandate of the Commission had been further expanded to include reviewing and appraising programmes made at the national, sub-regional, regional, sectoral and global levels.  The 2005 World Summit had identified, among other things, elimination of violence against women and the girl child, combating HIV/AIDS and financing for development as issues requiring immediate attention.

    Gabriele de Ceglie, Chairman of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, said one of the key elements to implementing the development goals in a unified manner was the coordination of technical cooperation.  The importance of coordination and cooperation between United Nations bodies in the area of criminal justice was emphasised.  Given that several United Nations funds, programmes and agencies worked on aspects of the rule of law and criminal justice, and all suffered from resource constraints, it was imperative to enhance cooperation, taking into account their various mandates and areas of expertise.  Better synergies between various providers of technical assistance, starting at the assessment and planning phases, would assist in better utilisation of resources.  Efforts to mainstream crime and justice issues into the larger development agenda should be continued.

    It would be helpful for the Council to provide guidelines to the functional commissions explaining how the new functions of the Council would be carried out, the outcomes envisaged, and the support required.  It should be remembered that the functional commissions had specific and often technical mandates, only some of which could lend themselves to providing general support to the Council's meetings.  The Commission was currently reviewing its agenda and its working methods with a view to streamlining and refocusing its work.  The focus would have to remain on policy and technical matters of international concern in the area of crime prevention and criminal justice.  Careful consideration could be given to further expanding coordination and information meetings between the different bureaus and the secretariat; however, the diverse mandates and work of the functional commissions would need to be borne in mind, and any further enlargement of existing meetings to exchange information should have clear objectives and tangible outcomes. 

    AMR ALJOWAILY (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the Chairperson of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development, said the Commission was at present, undergoing change since it was given a new mandate by the Council.  In order to enhance the use of technology and science for development, the Commission was undertaking follow-up measures to the Tunis World Summit on the Information Society, as recommended by the Council to do so.  In light of the role science and technology played in development, the Commission was giving serious thought to enhance the provision of information technology to all.  The Commission had decided to adopt a people-centred theme in its work, through the adoption of the outcome of the World Summit of Tunis. 

    The Commission was also drawing lessons and experiences from other functional commissions dealing with science and technology.  Following the examples of other commissions, the Commission was designing programmes on policies and reviews to its work.  The Commission also had a current mandate to deal with new issues pertaining to science and technology. 

    Hans Hoogeveen, Chairperson of the Bureau of the United Nations Forum on Forests, said the focus was and should be the implementation of the development agenda, and forests played a crucial part in this agenda.  The issues of poverty reduction and of deforestation both ranked highly on the current international agenda: both were interlinked.  Poverty was seen as a cause of forest loss worldwide, and forest loss contributed to maintain or even increase poverty.  On the positive side of the equation, economic development and poverty reduction would help to improve the forest conditions, and, vice versa, development of forest resources could be an important vehicle for poverty reduction. 

    The conferences and summits of the last 15 years had provided the foundation for the work of the United Nations Forum on Forests; having said this, the current system of international governance of forestry experienced a range of challenges which needed to be addressed to fully capitalise on the possibility to strengthen the link between forest policy issues and the development agenda.  In efforts to reassess the effectiveness and focus of the work, as well as methods of work, the Forum had decided earlier this year through a draft resolution for the Council's consideration to adopt four Global Objectives on Forests, the pursuit of which provided a more clear and concise path towards the accomplishment of the development goals regarding environmental sustainability and poverty alleviation.  The Forum strongly supported the prospect of working closely with the other functional commissions to enhance the understanding of mutually inter-related concerns. 

    VICTORIA TAULI-CORPUZ, Chairperson of UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, said the Forum had competed five years at the United Nations and consistently strived to ensure implementation on its mandate, both within the United Nations system and with national governments.  A key lesson that the Forum had learnt through that process was the necessity of coordination and system-wide coherence on indigenous issues without which its mandate could not be adequately implemented to bring positive change in the lives and well-being of the world's indigenous peoples.  The mandate entrusted to the Forum by the Council required coordination and cooperation with the functional commissions and United Nations agencies, funds and programmes.  Although the Forum continued to make progress in that area, including through the Inter-Agency Support Group on Indigenous Issues, it believed that cooperation among the commissions could be further enhanced.  In that respect, the Forum looked forward to participating in meetings of the functional commissions and welcomed the participation of other commissions in the work of the Forum.

    The Forum took the issues of reform very seriously, and had therefore been reflecting on its methods of work on an ongoing basis to ensure the most efficient and effective use of its time.  At the fourth session in 2004, the Forum had appointed two of its members as Special Rapporteurs to review the methods of work, which included a number of suggestions for formulating recommendations of the Forum and their implementation.  The first session of the Human Rights Council which ended last week, finally adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  That was a historic nodal point in the whole history of the indigenous peoples engagement with the United Nations.

    Interactive Dialogue

    In the interactive dialogue, delegates asked questions and made comments on various issues, including the role of the Council in ensuring follow-up to the various agreements made at the international summits, including the Millennium Development Goals; the need for the functional commissions to promote synergy in their work; the nature of the functional commissions as the limbs of the Council, and if they were not working in that manner then the situation was dire; the need for proper coordination between the commissions and the Council, and between the commissions themselves; the need for the commissions to reform their work and ensuring that there was no overlap or duplication of energy; the need to ensure that the work of the Council was properly channelled towards effectiveness and productivity, with an impact on the people of the world; what was the role to be played by good governance in the work of the Council in particular with regards to follow-up at the country level; the need for strong and rigorous recommendations for the Council to continue to work effectively; the need to make the Council more relevant to the challenges of the world of today; and what the Forum intended to do to protect forests in cases of conflict.

    VICTORIA TAULI-CORPUZ, Chairperson of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples, said the Human Rights Council was at present adjusting its own working methods, and it was important that the two Councils worked in close collaboration.

    Hans Hoogeveen, Chairperson of the Bureau of the United Nations Forum on Forests, said one of the elements of improved coordination also included improved coordination at the national level, in particular with regard to national governing bodies.  It could also mean that it was clear which organization should have the lead in certain areas, which avoided overlap.  Work on reforestation would be done in order to improve the situation, with an increased participation of those at the bottom of the chain.

    AMR ALJOWAILY (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the Chairperson of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development, said that cross-fertilisation could and should be achieved, but the Commission on Science and Technology had done this, working with United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.  The organic link between United Nations Conference on Trade and Development and the Commission could be a model for how to fuse resources and pool efforts in that regard, and that was an issue that could be further developed.  Cross-cutting theme development was also an issue that could be developed.

    Gabriele de Ceglie, Chairman of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, said that the reaction from the floor was very positive.  There was a link between the fight against corruption and that for development. 

    CARMEN GALLARDO HERNANDEZ, Chairperson of the Commission on the Status of Women, said that the rights of families in time of conflict, particularly those of women, had been a concern to the Commission. The Commission was in constant contact with the Security Council, with particular emphasis on the status of women.  The implementation of the recommendations of the Commission at the national level would be assessed next year.  The Commission had a flexible environment in giving response to civil society.

    MEHDI DANESH-YAZDI, Chairperson of the Commission for Social Development, said, on the issue of cooperation between the International Organization and the Commission for Social Development, that the Commission was avoiding duplication of efforts by working closely with the International Labour Organization.  The Director General of the International Labour Organization would also be invited to participate in the next session of the Commission for Social Development.

    THOMAS GASS, Vice-President of the Commission on Population and Development, said the problems of the censuses were related to resources, as these had to be done every ten years.  It was also difficult to get the human resources to analyse the results, after which they had to be disseminated.  What was done was an attempt to mobilise the entire resources needed, but they were often short, and yet studies were often a key activity.  There were a number of instruments that could be used to change the methods of work of all the commissions.  The resolution of the coordination segment was useful in this respect.

    PABLO MACEDO (Mexico), speaking on behalf of the Chairman of the Statistical Commission, said it was important to have quality statistics, and the Council should adopt the resolution which was adopted unanimously by the Commission, and this contained measures to strengthen the carrying out of statistics.

    PATRIZIO CIVILI, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, said the delegations had shown a very genuine interest, and this was a source of encouragement for the representatives of the United Nations system.  Reform gave some content to the dialogue and the coordination functions of the Council through the Millennium Development Goals and the follow-up to conferences and through functions which the Council was called upon to carry.  Coordination in a vacuum often had limitations.  Coordination that was an exercise against certain targets agreed by the international community had many more chances of success and a real impact and had many more chances to make interaction truly meaningful. 

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