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ECOSOC ADOPTS TEXT ON UN SYSTEM STAFF COLLEGE IN TURIN, HOLDS GENERAL DISCUSSION ON UN RESEARCH AND TRAINING INSTITUTES
Also Holds General Discussion on the Review and Coordination of the Implementation of the Istanbul Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011-2020
23 July 2013

The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) this morning adopted a resolution on the United Nations System Staff College in Turin, Italy after a general discussion on United Nations research and training institutes.  The Council also held a general discussion on the review and coordination of the implementation of the Istanbul Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011-2020.

The Council adopted resolution (E/2013/L.26), entitled ‘United Nations System Staff College in Turin, Italy’, which called upon all organizations of the United Nations system to make full and effective use of the services provided by the Staff College and encouraged Member States to continue to support the Staff College

Ecuador took the floor to say it would introduce a revised version of draft resolution (E/2013/L.30), - (E/2013/L.30/Rev.1) entitled ‘United Nations Institute for Training and Research’ for the Council to take action on later this week. 

Before the general discussion on United Nations research and training institutes, the Council heard the presentation of reports. 

Presenting the report of the United Nations Secretary-General on the United Nations System Staff College, Jafar Javan, Director of the United Nations System Staff College, said that the College had continued to enhance its role as a leading educational institution for United Nations staff.  Progress had been made in areas including the level and diversity of its funding base, the thematic focus of its courses and the quality of its services.  The College had provided services to almost 20,000 beneficiaries both through face-to-face and distance learning using innovative training methodologies. 

Sally Fegan-Wyles, Assistant Secretary-General and Acting Head and Executive Director of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research, introducing the report of the United Nations Secretary-General on the United Nations Institute for Training and Research, said over the 2010 to 2011 biennium the Institute strengthened the capacities of more than 50,000 beneficiaries through targeted training and research, in over 185 Member States, with 70 per cent in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Caribbean countries.  Achievements had been seen in the fields of E-Learning, the multiplier effects of training and knowledge-sharing seminars. 

Kim Won-Soo, Special Adviser of the United Nations Secretary-General on Change Implementation, briefed the Council about the ongoing consultation into consolidation of research, training, learning and library services, the final results of which would be shown to ECOSOC and the General Assembly in September 2013.   

In the ensuing discussion, speakers raised questions about the efficiency and cost of the proposed reforms, asking for a detailed cost-benefit analysis, and wondering whether the effectiveness of existing institutions could be diluted by their being merged into a large body.  A speaker welcomed the results-focused approach with an emphasis on supporting policy-making in the United Nations.

During the discussion Algeria, Switzerland, Russia, Italy, South Africa and United Kingdom took the floor.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Council held a general discussion on the review and coordination of the implementation of the Istanbul Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011-2020.

Gyan Chandra Acharya, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, said the report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011–2020 showed slow growth in the economies of least developed countries due to the worsening of macroeconomic conditions in developed counties and domestic factors including insecurity, political instability, a lack of infrastructure and climate change.  Positive aspects were a marked expansion in access to information and communication technologies, an increase in women’s representation in parliaments, a strong commitment to railway and road improvement and increases in school enrolment. 

Tafeere Tesfachew, Director, Division for Africa, Least Developed Countries and Special Programmes, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, said structural transformation away from commodity dependency would take a long time to achieve unless fundamental changes were introduced in the policies and strategies pursued by least developed countries.  Mobilising financial resources for capacity and the creation of employment opportunities for young people was a priority. 

The discussion focused on the challenges faced by least developed countries, including the global economic crisis, and the lack of resources, skills and access to ecologically-sound and sustainable new technology.  A speaker said that timely implementation of the official development assistance commitment to least developed countries was the most effective, and direct, source of assistance.  Another speaker noted that the least developed countries, home to 900 million people, were the most vulnerable group of United Nations membership and although they were not the polluters, they were the countries most likely to suffer the adverse effects of climate change. 

During the discussion Nepal, Benin speaking on behalf of the Global Coordination Bureau for the Least Developed Countries, Angola, China, Ethiopia, Austria, Bangladesh, New Zealand, United States and Nigeria took the floor. 

The Council will reconvene this afternoon at 3 p.m., when it will begin its consideration of the long-term programme of support for Haiti.  During the meeting it will also hear the presentation of the report of the Joint Inspection Unit on financing for humanitarian operations in the United Nations system. 

Documentation

The Council has before it the report of the United Nations Secretary-General on the implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011-2020 (A/68/88–E/2013/81) (A6888Corr.1–E201381Corr.1), submitted pursuant to General Assembly resolution 67/220 and Economic and Social Council resolution 2012/26, in which the Secretary-General was requested to submit a progress report on the implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011-2020 (Istanbul Programme of Action).

The Council has before it the report of the Committee for Development Policy at  the fifteenth session (18-22 March 2013) (E/2013/33), which contains the main findings and recommendations of the Committee for Development Policy at its fifteenth session. The Committee addressed the following themes: the role of science, technology and innovation in achieving sustainable development, as its contribution to the discussions at the 2013 Annual Ministerial Review on the theme “Science, technology and innovation, and the potential of culture, for promoting sustainable development and achieving the Millennium Development Goals”; the vulnerabilities and development needs of the small island developing States; emerging issues in international development in the post-2015 era; issues relating to the least developed countries.

Presentation of the Report

GYAN CHANDRA ACHARYA, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, introduced the Report of the Secretary General on the Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011 – 2020.  Mr. Acharya said that the Secretary General’s report showed that the economies of least developed countries grew slowly, by four per cent in 2011, compared to the annual average growth rate of 7.3 per cent during the last decade.  The slow growth was due to the worsening of macroeconomic conditions in developed counties, and domestic factors including insecurity, political instability, limited access to energy and lack of infrastructure as well as the growing impact of climate change.  A lack of diversification, strategy, competitiveness and low productivity were also responsible.  Poverty rates had not been significantly reduced because of low agricultural and economy-wide productivity, jobless growth and limited absorption of labour in non-agricultural sectors.  Poor health conditions and persistent malnutrition continued to cause the world’s highest infant, child and maternal mortality rates in least developed countries.  One in two persons across least developed countries lived on less than $1.25 per day - almost double the average of developing countries.  A further 260 million people in least developed countries still faced food insecurity, due to limited supply of food. 

On the positive side, access to information and communication technologies continued to expand markedly.  The increase in women’s representation in parliaments, as well as an increase in the installation of democratic systems in least developed countries, was encouraging.  There was a strong commitment to railway and road improvement and important strides had been made in boosting school enrolment at all levels.  Overcoming those challenges and accelerating development in least developed countries required putting productive capacity-building at the core of the domestic, regional and global agenda. 

The report of the Committee for Development Policy E/2013/33 was introduced during the High-level Segment.

General Discussion on the Review and Coordination of the Implementation of the Istanbul Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011-2020

Nepal said that progress in least developed countries was below the level needed to reach the graduation threshold, and a combination of challenges such as weak productive capacity, lack of resilience to multiple vulnerabilities and climate change had been compounded by the global economic environment.  Despite progress, least developed countries were still mostly off-track in meeting the Millennium Development Goals and would not be able to graduate without a structural transformation of their economies. 

Benin, speaking on behalf of the Global Coordination Bureau for the Least Developed Countries, was pleased that the report contained the state of progress of the implementation of the Istanbul Programme of Action.  Over the last few years, because of the economic crisis and the little support received, progress made had been jeopardised.  Additional aid was crucial so that least developed countries were supported in their endeavours despite transitory difficulties due to the global economic crisis. 

Angola noted uneven progress in least developed countries with some experiencing high rates of economic growth while others were struggling.  Angola was one of the largest least developed country economies, but despite efforts by the Angolan Government to reduce poverty, the economy had slowed down in the last four years due to global economic conditions.  International cooperation with bilateral and multilateral development partners was critical to help least developed countries, including Angola, overcome their greatest challenges.
China noted obvious improvements for some least developed countries, but said countries still faced developmental challenges following the global economic crisis.  At the Istanbul Conference the international community firmly committed to support at least half of the Least Developed Countries in reaching the ambitious target of graduation from the group by 2020.  Production, trade and agriculture were the most important areas to ensure sustainable development.  Timely implementation of the Official Development Assistance commitment to least developed countries was the most effective, and direct, source of assistance to those countries.   

Ethiopia said that the main goal of the Istanbul Programme of Action was to overcome structural challenges; it aimed to enable half of these countries to reach the criteria for graduation by 2020.  These goals were ambitious but implementable goals.  The Ethiopian Government was implementing a five-year growth and transformation plan which provided an ideal framework for further accelerating economic growth and aimed at achieving the structural transformation of the Ethiopian economy by accelerating the ongoing inclusive economic development. 

Austria said that it was satisfactory to see the positive results of cooperation; graduation should not be seen as losing advantages.  The report of the Secretary-General indicated that while some improvements had been achieved, major efforts were still needed in order to attain the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, as well as the implementation of the Istanbul Programme of Action.  The focus on least developed countries and their needs had to be duly reflected in the post-2015 development agenda. 

Bangladesh said the lack of resources, money, skills and access to ecologically-sound and sustainable new technology was a major disadvantage in fostering growth in least developed countries.  Bangladesh called on the international community to help establish United Nations regional Science and Technology Centres, and looked for assistance to help it achieve its goal of graduation from the least developed countries group by 2020.  The least developed countries, home to 900 million people, were the most vulnerable group of United Nations membership and although they were not the polluters, they were the countries most likely to suffer the adverse effects of climate change. 

New Zealand said as a country that depended primarily on agriculture it commended the emphasis in the very useful report on sustainable agriculture and renewable energy.  As an island nation in the world’s largest ocean, New Zealand appreciated the special efforts made to ensure the particular challenges faced by small island developing States were not forgotten, particularly countries such as Tuvalu and Samoa.  As a donor country, New Zealand was pleased to reach the 0.15 per cent target for official development assistance for least developed countries. 

United States recalled that the Istanbul Programme of Action identified diversification and strengthening of domestic capacity as key aspects and noted that addressing the challenges of development for least developed countries would require more than official development assistance; sharing the gains of development in all sectors of society would also be needed.  The United States recognised that graduation should not result in disruptive change and coordination between donors and recipients could help mitigate this risk.

TAFEERE TESFACHEW, Director, Division for Africa, Least Developed Countries and Special Programmes, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), said that the goal of achieving structural transformation and diversification away from commodity dependency may take a longer time to achieve unless some fundamental changes were introduced in the policies and strategies pursued by these countries.  UNCTAD had conducted an in-depth analysis of the economic trends in least developed countries and how changes in the global economic environment affected their growth prospects; its Governing Body had decided to mainstream the Istanbul Programme of Action into the work of the secretariat and United’s intergovernmental machinery.  The UNCTAD annual least developed countries report had elaborated on the policy-dimension of the priority areas included in the Programme of Action.  Mobilising financial resources for capacity and the creation of employment opportunities for young people had also been identified as priority areas in the programme of work. 
Nigeria commented on women’s representation in parliaments in least developed countries, and more widely on the economic empowerment of women.  Women were active participants in the Nigerian parliament, and although the number of women Members of Parliament unfortunately decreased at the 2011 elections, Nigeria was committed to reversing the trend and hoped women would do better in the 2015 elections.  Furthermore the President of Nigeria had ruled that over 30 per cent of women held strategic and high-level roles in key offices of the country. 

Concluding Remarks

GYAN CHANDRA ACHARYA, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, said if the poverty trap in least developed countries was to be broken then the international community must target in combination all key areas of human development, economic resilience and sustainability.  Mr. Acharya agreed with comments on access to new technology and said that Member States were soon to take up the issue.  Least developed countries did not want to remain least developed countries for ever.  In a globalized world there was broad responsibility to ensure a mechanism and political leadership was in place to provide substantive support for graduating countries, including within the United Nations network.  Graduation must be a one-way street that led to the next rung on the ladder of development. 

Documentation

The Council has before it the report of the United Nations Secretary-General on the United Nations System Staff College (E/2013/57), prepared in compliance with General Assembly resolution 60/214, in which the Assembly decided that the biennial reports on the activities of the United Nations System Staff College should be submitted to the Economic and Social Council rather than to the Assembly; and which shows the growth of the Staff College over the past two years in terms of outreach of its services, substantive course portfolio and self-sustainability.

The Council has before it the report of the United Nations Secretary-General on the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (E/2013/63), prepared in pursuance of Economic and Social Council resolution 2011/11, and which coincides with the conclusion of the 2010-2012 strategic plan. Over the course of the plan, outreach to beneficiaries by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) has increased significantly, with over 78,000 individuals from virtually the entire United Nations membership having benefited from UNITAR training and training-related services.

The Council has before it the report of the Council on the United Nations University on the work of the University (E/2013/88), which includes its activities and achievements in 2012, institutional highlights and institutional priorities.

United Nations Research and Training Institutes

Presentation of Reports

JAFAR JAVAN, Director of the United Nations System Staff College, presenting the report of the Secretary-General, said that the College had continued to enhance its role as a leading educational institution for United Nations staff; progress had been made in areas including the level and diversity of its funding base, the thematic focus of its courses and the quality of its services.  The College had provided services to almost 20,000 beneficiaries both through face-to-face and distant learning.  In order to complement and enrich training offered by individual agencies, funds and programmes, the College had increased its offer, providing different kinds of learning and training events as part of its efforts to cater to the needs of United Nations staff.  The College had also scaled-up the use of innovative training methodologies to ensure that its courses remained cost-effective and easily accessible to beneficiaries.  The College’s training and learning activities included leadership development; increasing the United Nations system’s effectiveness and coherence; training on key priorities such as human rights and gender mainstreaming; promoting knowledge management; and support efforts in the area of peace and security.  The College was an important strategic partner of inter-agency policy-making bodies from the United Nations Chief Executives Board to the High-level Committee on Programmes and the High-level Committee on Management, supporting their reform efforts through the implementation of high quality learning and training courses.

SALLY FEGAN-WYLES, Assistant Secretary-General and Acting Head and Executive Director of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research, said over the 2010 to 2011 biennium the Institute strengthened the capacities of more than 50,000 beneficiaries through targeted training and research, in over 185 Member States, with 70 per cent in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Caribbean countries.  Achievements had been seen in the fields of E-Learning, the multiplier effects of training and knowledge-sharing seminars, while the Institute had made noteworthy progress in balancing the gender ratio of its beneficiaries, with the overall female to male ratio now 51:49.  The Institute was 100 per cent voluntarily funded and financially its income remained stable, with just over $ 20 million in annual revenue since 2010, although the continued unpredictable and weak nature of non-earmarked contributions, which amounted to less than two per cent of the annual budget, was a major source of concern.

KIM WON-SOO, Special Adviser of the United Nations Secretary-General on Change Implementation, spoke about the ongoing consultation into consolidation of research, training, learning and library services, the final results of which would be shown to ECOSOC and the General Assembly in September 2013.  There were three key issues at stake: continuity – how to preserve existing mandates and brands while seeking synergies and efficiencies; how to maintain independence of research institutions while expanding research capacity through partnership; and governance – how to keep guidance by relevant intergovernmental bodies while enhancing relationships within United Nations system leadership. 

General Discussion

Algeria welcomed the reports and was pleased to see that the number of beneficiaries continued to increase.  Algeria was also satisfied regarding the cooperation between the United Nations Institute for Training and Research and Algeria during the last three years on the basis of a number of agreements, for example for the training of diplomats and high-level officials and for the training and career support of young graduates. 

Switzerland was pleased with the role played by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research.  Concerning the reform in this field, Switzerland highlighted the need to consider different options, including enhancing the coordination between existing bodies rather than the creation of a new one, and requested the Secretary-General to present several options, including detailed cost-benefit analysis, as part of the initiatives for reform.

Russia welcomed the long-awaited reform on a single United Nations database, and said the goals were reasonable, but wondered whether the effectiveness of existing institutions, such as the unique research centre of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, may be diluted within the larger system.  Clarity on how the merger of larger institutions would work was needed, as well as costs of the reform.

Italy said they looked forward to the forthcoming proposal on consolidated training, knowledge and library sharing, and that they were convinced that even specialized agencies would have significant impact over optimal location of service and better delivery and partnerships at a global level, as well as financial sustainability. 

South Africa said that it was useful to receive the presentation as it was very important to keep States informed, especially when approval was sought.  There were a significant number of concerns regarding the proposals put forward and also a number of budgetary considerations.  South Africa looked forward to receiving this information in the context of the General Assembly.

United Kingdom welcomed the fact that the process was being carried out in a transparent manner and the results-focused approach with an emphasis on supporting policy-making in the United Nations as well as the capacities of Member States.  The United Kingdom said that results-based budgeting principles would also be included as part of the proposals that were being developed.


Concluding Remarks

KIM WON-SOO, Special Adviser of the United Nations Secretary-General on Change Implementation, said he had listened carefully to the concerns of Member States, and in fact the slide presentation shared today was the first time anything in writing had been shared with Member States.  The importance of Geneva in the exercise was clear, given that four of the seven entities concerned were based in Geneva.  The report would contain as much cost-benefit analysis as possible and would make a case to show how the expected benefits would outweigh the costs at the consultation stage.  The aim was not to create unnecessary bureaucracy and costs but to reduce them.

Action on Resolutions

Ecuador thanked speakers for their presentations and noted that the United Nations Institute for Training and Research’s programme had never been so diversified.  The outcome of the work carried out and presented in the report was positive and noted.  Knowledge management services, such as the United Nations libraries in Geneva and New York, had been set up by the Council.  The draft resolution, on the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (E/2013/L.30/Rev.1), would be submitted later this week; it was procedural in nature and would request the Secretary-General to informed Member States about consultations being carried out about the future of United Nations bodies dedicated to research and knowledge.

In a resolution on the United Nations System Staff College in Turin, Italy (E/2013/L.26), the Council takes note of the report of the Secretary-General; welcomes the progress made by the United Nations System Staff College, over the past two years, in providing high-quality learning and training to the United
Nations system; encourages the Staff College in its continued efforts to consolidate its central role in inter-agency learning, training and knowledge-sharing, in the light of the current efforts to strengthen United Nations system-wide coherence and increase the effectiveness of the system and staff capacity in key areas; welcomes the increased capacity of the Staff College as a catalyst for inter-agency collaboration and partnership efforts in training and learning; calls upon all organizations of the United Nations system to make full and effective use of the services provided by the Staff College; and encourages Member States to continue to support the Staff College by recognizing its unique inter-agency mandate and its important role in fostering system-wide coherence and strategic leadership.

The Council then adopted the resolution.


For use of the information media; not an official record

ECOSOC13/033E


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